"Arrgh . . . you rotten pile of junk!"
The image on my desktop monitor mocked me with the accursed "Fatal Error detected in Module. . ." dialogue. "Dialogue"? A dialogue suggested meaningful give and take. In this case I could either press one icon and get more "Details" (as if the meaningless technobabble provided would some how do me good), or I could press "Terminate Application" in which case I'd loose my entire morning's labor with my computer illustration program.
Some meaningful give and take!
My work just sat there behind the "error dialogue" . . . tantalizing . . . out of reach. It was gone. I'd been struggling with this accursed computer for four weeks now. I knew that once that "Fatal Error" window appeared I was in the same predicament as were the passengers of the Titanic when the lookout cried "Iceberg ahead!" I was about to sink below an onrushing "wave of the future".
The worst part was the system forced me to click on that damned icon thus consigning my work to some electronic bottomless pit! It was like being forced to pull the rope that dropped the guillotine on your own neck!
Screeching some of my favorite four letter words I slammed my fist against the side of the monitor. It landed with a satisfying thump. I immediately turned a guilty eye toward my open office door. Refined professional women didn't curse like longshoremen and try to batter inanimate objects into submission.
It had been a little over a year now since I'd assumed the persona of "Pamela Wright, Female Graphic Artist". It was becoming more and more rare for me to "slip up" and let my masculine nature peek out of my otherwise perfect disguise.
Rare . . . but it still occasionally happened.
Like now . . .
Sure enough, a wide-eyed face peered around the corner of my open door as Carl my secretary tried to determine the cause of my latest outburst.
"Uh . . . problems Ms Wright?"
"It's this damn computer again Carl! The blasted thing just "ate" a whole morning's work."
"Did you save the work to disk? If you did you can always go back to the last place that you saved it and . . . uh . . . "
I guess the expression on my face was sufficiently thunderous to tell Carl; a) I hadn't saved my work, and b) nobody likes to hear helpful advice after its too late to be of any use.
I glared at Carl for a moment then turned back to my treacherous computer. Reluctantly, I pressed the "Terminate" icon and watched four hours of work go down the drain. I stabbed a finger against the Power button and turned the diabolical machine off. Then I stood and strode past Carl, shoulders set, face grim. "If anybody's looking for me I'll be in Mr. Arger's office."
The vacuous blond who manned my half-brother Josh's receptionist's desk was filing her nails as I came stalking past her. As usual she tried to muster some kind of protest at my breach of office protocol by simply barging into the Managing Partner's office. And as usual, I simply ignored her.
Josh had several file folders out on his desk when I barged in, slamming the door behind me. He looked up, took quick stock of my expression and set the folder he was reading aside.
I rested my fists on his desk and leaned as close to his face as possible. "It's that damned computer system you installed last month. It just trashed a whole morning's work!"
"So? Can't you just rework it?"
"How'd you like me to rework your face? Damn it Josh! This 'labor saving intranet' that you blew all that money on has made my life a nightmare! I can't get anything done using it, and I can't go back to the old 'manual' method because none of the other departments will accept my 'non-media' submissions! And of course, on those few occasions when I actually can get something accomplished on the computer, who ever I try to send it to either can't receive it because their system's down or if they do get it, they loose it, or they accidentally trash it, or . . . !"
Josh held up his hands to ward off my assault.
"Calm down will you? I understand that we're having a little 'adjustment difficulty' . . . "
" 'Adjustment difficulty'?! Is that what you call it when . . . "
Josh's voice rose above my own.
'. . . so I've taken steps to get things sorted out."
I paused in my tirade and looked at him suspiciously. "What kind of 'steps'? If you think I'm gonna spend my nights learning how to program a computer or . . . "
"No, no . . .nothing like that. I've decided that we're a big enough firm with complex enough needs that we ought to hire a full-time professional staff to support our new technology."
" 'Professional staff'?"
Josh nodded and indicated the folders on his desk. "Um hmm. I've already started interviewing candidates for the position of "Systems Manager" for our intranet."
I was still dubious. "And when is this miracle worker going to be available so I can finally get some work done?"
"As soon as I find the right person for the job. This is going to be a critical position PJ. You don't just hire the first geek with a pocket protector to walk through the door."
Mollified, I straightened up, lifting my fists off Josh's desk and placing them on my hips. "All right. But let's expedite the procedure as much as possible, okay? I swear; if that Computer Chip From Hell fouls me up one more time I'm gonna open my window and see if the damn thing's smart enough to fly!"
"Relax, okay? You'll see. This new technician is going to change your life!"
"God! Have you seen him yet? He's gorgeous!"
I carried my brown bag lunch and my diet soda over to where Beth DiAngelo and several of the girls from the secretarial pool were trying to find the time to both eat lunch and digest the latest company gossip.
I seated myself in the last vacant chair at the table and began to rummage in my bag. Perhaps something more interesting than the weight-conscious lunch I'd packed this morning had appeared inside since then. Nope. Still just the Tupperware container of celery/carrot sticks, the one rather dull tuna fish sandwich (light on the mayo) and an orange. Ah, the sacrifices we women make in the name of our figures.
Judy, (one of the girls from the pool) leaned forward and with a conspiratorial smirk on her face murmured, "Well, I don't know about you girls, but I think I'm going to start having lots of problems with my word processor!"
I looked up from my disappointing culinary explorations. "Who are we talking about?"
Beth was the first to answer. "The new computer technician. The one who's going to get the internet working right."
She waved a hand in dismissal. " 'Inter' . . . 'intra' . . . whatever. Just so long as he's 'inta' girls!"
That provoked a general round of giggling. I just raised an eyebrow and took a bite of my dry sandwich. "Good looking, is he?"
Judy took up the tale again. "Haven't you seen him yet? He's soo . . . He looks just like . . . "
Beth: "A cross between Mel Gibson and Fabio . . . best features of both."
Judy: "With the most gorgeous dark brown hair . . ."
Carol (another of the "pool girls"): " . . . and those eyes . . . he looked at me when he came by to survey the equipment. One gaze from those soft brown eyes and . . . oooh!"
Beth: "Best of all he's got 'technician's hands' . . . long and nimble. And you know what that means . . ."
Another round of giggling.
I racked my brain for 'female conventional wisdom' regarding a man's hands. Oh yeah. Supposedly the length and size of a man's hands were directly proportional to the length of his . . . er . . . I sole a surreptitious glance at my own small, slender hands. Hey, conventional wisdom wasn't always right.
Beth brought this particular topic to a conclusion by announcing, "Well ladies . . . at this point I'm going to proclaim it's 'every woman for herself' as far as the new man is concerned. 'May the best woman win.' Unless that woman isn't me!"
More giggling. But this time I thought I detected just a bit of an edge to the mirth.
There was a soft tapping at my door.
"Ms Wright? Hi. I'm Gene. I'm the new System Manager. Do you have a moment?"
Despite all the time I've spent living as a female, I still judge appearance based on my male perspective. Let's face it; sensibility is a matter of life experience. With the exception of the last year, all my experience has been masculine. But that's not to say I don't know 'handsome' when I see it. The girls hadn't been exaggerating and I could see what all the fuss was about. The fellow standing politely in my door was about 5' 8", with long legs, trim waist and broad (though not excessive) shoulders. He had an aristocratic, nicely rounded face topped with wavy dark brown hair. And his eyes . . . yeah . . . they were a luminous, limpid brown. No wonder there was friction starting to appear amongst some of the office's best girl friends.
"Oh sure. Come on in Gene. You don't know how glad I am to meet you! Maybe you can finally get this damn idiot savant to start behaving." I gestured to the computer crouching on my desk mocking me with its arcane superiority.
He chuckled and stepped in carrying a small tool bag. "Do I have to give you the same speech I've been giving the other women? It's just a tool you know. It doesn't have a personality, or intelligence. It can't form a grudge or plot to overthrow the government or anything like that. Once I've got the LAN connections sorted out, so long as you stay within some very simple protocols . . . pretty soon you'll wonder how you ever got along with out it."
I raised a dubious eyebrow. "Well . . . I'm willing to give it one more chance. How's that?"
He favored me with a smile and then began typing some command into the keyboard. I tried to follow what he was doing for a few moments, but he rapidly lost me as he began calling more and more mysteriously lettered screens up onto my monitor. I felt like a brand new wizard's apprentice watching his master invoke subtle demons.
"So Gene . . .where did you learn to do this kind of thing?"
He continued to work his incantations. With his eyes still on the screen he said, "Six years as a Canoe Club ET."
"I beg your pardon?"
He stopped typing for a moment and looked over at me with a shy grin. "Sorry. I get distracted when I'm working and I sometimes slip back into the jargon. I was an Electronics Technician for six years in the Navy. I got out two years ago."
"Really? Gee, I bet you've seen some fascinating parts of the world. I've fantasized sometimes about sailing off to distant ports . . . seeing fabulous places . . . 'meeting' exotic new people." I give him my patented sultry smile. I was just trying to be friendly, mind you. If I'd been having this discussion in my masculine guise a grin and a knowing wink would probably have replaced that smile. I wasn't making a pass or anything. Truly, I wasn't. I was just trying to be companionable and break the ice.
I was surprised to get a forced smile and a quick view of his back as he turned again to the keyboard. "Oh . . I've made one or two port calls. Mostly in the Persian Gulf and India. I was in Desert Storm. But you have to be a bit careful with 'exotic people' when you're a . . . stranger in a foreign port. There. That should take care of your connection problems for the moment. I'll be sending around a memo about protocols and the like. Well . . . thanks again for your time. It was a pleasure meeting you Ms. Wright."
And he was gone.
Was it something I said?
Judy: "Maybe he's gay."
Sarah: "Oh God . . . please no! Do you think?"
Lunchtime had found me again sitting with the girls. I took a dainty bite of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (I had to remember to go shopping today after work. I was out of tuna fish.) "I take it we're talking about Gene again?"
Beth: "Who else? Have you had any luck with him? I know he was up in your office last week."
"He was just checking out my equipment."
That provoked a round of giggles.
"My computer equipment, thank you. Goodness, don't you ladies have anything better to occupy your minds?"
A chorus of "no" 's and some more giggling.
Beth: "In any event, I'll take that as a 'no luck' from you too P.J. Gee, maybe he is gay."
I'm still surprised occasionally by the insights that I'm able to obtain living in my assumed gender. One of the greatest surprises for me was the similarity of conversational topics that came up when you gathered a bunch of women together away from masculine influence. Before I'd lived amongst them . . . as one of the 'herd', so to speak . . . I'd always thought that women talked about clothes and makeup . . exchanged recipes . . . discussed relationships in hushed, giggled tones. That's what they talked about when I was around in my Peter-persona. But put me amongst them in my Pamela disguise . . . remove the necessity to conform to the prim and proper stereotype that society foisted on them and things quickly changed. Though all those topics might come up, it just blew me away to discover that a common theme was a very open discussion of how much everyone was 'getting' and by whom. It was all so similar in tone and tenor to the thousands of masculine conversations I'd had over the years that it was som etimes difficult for me to stay 'in character'.
Also, for some reason . . . I found it a little embarrassing.
"Just because he isn't interested in any of you, that doesn't necessarily mean he's gay. Maybe he just doesn't find any of you attractive."
The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying.
I ate alone for the rest of the week.
"Gene, may I ask you something of a personal nature?"
He was in my office, making some kind of complex and completely incomprehensible adjustment to the cabling on the back of my computer. He paused for a moment and gazed up over the top of my desk behind which he was kneeling.
"Umm . . . sure . . . I suppose so." I could sense he was already becoming defensive.
"When you were up here last week . . . did I say something to offend you? If I did, I want to apologize."
He set his screwdriver down and thought for a second before replying. "No. You didn't say anything. In fact, it's probably me who should apologize. I know I was a bit abrupt with you. It's just . . ."
I let him take his time.
"Ms. Wright . . . "
"Pamela . . . please . . . " I expected a smile in exchange for that offer of intimacy, but I didn't get it. He just plowed ahead.
"It's just . . . well . . . ever since I've been here, it seems that I can't turn around without some woman trying to . . ." He quickly looked up, his eyes growing wide in embarrassment. "Oh, it's not like I thought you were trying to . . . I didn't . . . I . . . it's just that I'm getting a little paranoid I guess and when you started talking about . . . "
I raised a hand and chuckled. "It's alright Gene. No offense taken. I eat lunch everyday with some of the girls and I guess it'd be no surprise to you that you've been the main topic of discussion for these last few weeks."
He finally grinned sheepishly. "I just never expected to be a 'sex object'. I thought that only happened to women in the work place."
"Oh, trust me . . . it does." Heck, I'll let you in on a little 'secret from behind the lines' my fellow male. "But women have needs and interests too you know. You might be surprised what we 'hens' cackle over when we're alone."
The grin became a bit rueful. "Yeah."
I was beginning to take a real liking to this poor beleaguered male. "Look, Gene. In the interests of inter-gender understanding, and your sanity, let's make a pact. If you'll promise to keep your 'hunkiness' to the absolute minimum, I promise to curb my raging hormones and refrain from trying to seduce you on everything but alternate Fridays. How's that?"
That got me my first genuine, unguarded laugh from him. He stuck out his hand. "Deal!"
As Bogie said in Casablanca, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Gene was in fact a rather shy, private person. He didn't open up to just anyone. You had to take the time to get to know him. That perhaps was why none of the other women had had any luck. But I'd taken the time, or at least indicated that I was willing to get to know the person before I turned back the covers and started patting the empty space beside me in bed.
In truth, I think that my office became something of a refuge for Gene. He certainly started finding more and more reasons to work on my desktop computer. After a while, it became kind of a game. He'd find some excuse to take the cover off my machine, he'd tinker for a few minutes, and then we'd just begin chatting. At first, he tried to make his visits sound plausible. He'd describe some complex operation that needed immediate execution as he removed the screws on the back of my unit. But by the second week, I began to suspect that he was just throwing together some jargon to justify his presence. Monday found him installing a software upgrade. Tuesday he needed to reset the jumpers on my LAN connector. Wednesday he stated a need to clean the power supply fan. On Thursday, he explained that he'd come up to "empty the shift register bit bucket". By Friday, he was "greasing the logic gates" and I was beginning to giggle.
I started leaving him little doodle cartoons in his electronic mailbox. The first was a line drawing showing "Gene, the Computer Missionary" in pith helmet and explorer's togs standing in a jungle clearing staring at a computer sitting on the ground. It was centered in a rope loop that trailed back to a bent-over tree . . . you know . . . that silly trap that Elmer Fudd is always using to try and catch Bugs Bunny. Peering over the bushes in the background were a bunch of female Amazons with bones through their noses smiling expectantly. I followed that one up with two men in pith helmets sitting in a huge iron pot over a roaring fire. As the Amazons did a victory dance around them, the stranger was speaking to Gene, the Computer Missionary.
"I came to fix the copy machine . . . you?"
That earned me a little drawing of my own from Gene. It wasn't much more than a stick figure holding what I finally figured out was a tool kit in one hand . . . and a bunch of cartoon-ish daisies in the other.
I was so careful when I saved it to disk. It's still sitting here, in the top drawer of my desk.
The Christmas holiday season was rapidly approaching. Josh, the inveterate party animal, had instituted a new corporate policy. Every year, in early December, he'd ordained that the senior staff would have a one-week "retreat" away from the offices. In public it was stated that this was to be a chance for all the "movers and shakers" at W,N&A to meet together and "develop synergy"
Nobody was fooled. Everyone knew it was just a way for the privileged few at the top of the corporate ladder to spend seven days living it up at some swanky resort on the company's tab.
Being the artsy "bohemian", I was very torn about all this. On the one hand, I felt a natural outrage at this bourgeois decadence. On the other hand . . . I'd never been to Sun Valley, Idaho. I'd heard it was absolutely beautiful, particularly in the winter.
In the end, my wanderlust won out.
We flew in on Sunday night aboard one of the regional air carriers. The W,N&A contingent was large enough (twenty three souls all told) that we pretty much had the little turboprop all to ourselves. A pair of vans met us at Sun Valley's small, but very modern air terminal and whisked us off to the "Bitter Root Lodge". The building was . . . well . . . the best way to describe it was to say it was a three-story, one hundred room, log cabin. That's not quite apt, because it sounds very "Ma and Pa Kettle". Though the décor was definitely "frontier modern", it was also very swank and "top drawer". Josh's taste for the finer things was still intact. This was a world class, four star resort. And the setting was simply spectacular! Rugged, snow covered mountains rose almost from the edge of the rear parking lot. There was also a series of natural hot springs and . . . "hot creeks?" . . .visible through the woods to the north. Apparently, the lodge had been built near enough to one of the springs f or the boiling water to be piped directly to a large, Olympic-sized swimming pool and a smaller . . . umm. . . it was kind of a cross between a wading pool and a hot tub. Big enough to seat at least a dozen folks in parboiled luxury.
I spent Sunday evening settling in to my room and just drinking in the view outside my window. If the opportunity arose, I'd have to see if I could find an art supply store in town. It had been a while since I'd done any drawing or painting just for the fun of it. I could have spent a whole year trying to capture the wonder that nature had provided just outside the door.
I don't know how much Josh was spending for this week but I'm sure it was well into four figures for all of us. However, even though I'm sure Josh paid top dollar for the accommodations, winter was not the "off season" for Sun Valley. The lodge was at capacity with skiers and other outdoors types. As a result, we all had to share a room with another member of the W,N&A staff. Since Beth D'Angelo was the only other female staff member invited along on this little junket, you can imagine with whom I wound up sharing a room.
I was a little put off by this arrangement at first. It was one thing to spend my days at work in my Pamela disguise. There I could always maintain a bit of "personal space". My disguise was as perfect as technology could make it and I've never been "made" as far as I can tell. But would the technology, as perfect as it was, hold up in the intimate confines of a small motel room? Would it continue to pass muster twenty-four hours a day, for a full week, in close proximity to a real woman?
More than that, I felt a bit uncomfortable for Beth. She was a good friend and I would be taking advantage of her innocence regarding my real gender. I mean, we'd be dressing in the same room. We'd be using the same bathroom.
We'd be sleeping together.
I don't really know what I was expecting. I had these weird visions of Beth parading around in her underwear. Or worse; Beth, in the buff, doing wild, intimate things to herself while I looked on. I don't know why I imagined that that's what women did in the privacy of their motel rooms.
And of course, nothing like that occurred. Beth has a normally developed sense of modesty. While we were still sharing the room, she'd dress in the bathroom . . . at least as far as lingerie. I never once caught a glimpse of her completely nude and frankly, even though Beth has a very attractive body, I was just as pleased that that was how things worked out.
I'm also pleased to report that for the period that we were sharing the room, I never once got even the vaguest impression that Beth suspected anything out of the ordinary. All in all, the experience was not that different from sharing a motel room with another male . . . with the exception that Beth had the most annoying habit of borrowing my makeup.
You'll notice that twice I've said ". . . while Beth and I were still sharing the room . . . ". On the Monday that we arrived, Josh scheduled a working breakfast. Over a fine omelet he outlined the schedule of our 'working groups'. It was a very impressive, productive schedule that he proposed. Of course, he then ruined the effect by canceling the afternoon session right after he announced it. It was perfectly obvious to anyone who was paying even the least attention that the schedule was purely for show. This was playtime. There was no real expectation that anyone actually attend the sessions.
As a result, as soon as the morning meeting broke up, the testosterone-laden males of our group promptly went off in search of suitable female companionship. As I've said, there was no shortage of skiers and outdoors types and before dinner that evening, there had been a rapid reshuffling of rooms. Even Beth had managed to attract the attention of a (I must admit) very handsome young orthodontist from Denver. Though Beth nominally continued to bed in our shared room, she made it very clear that I had no need to leave the light on for her every night.
While I was happy to have the room to myself, I must admit, I felt a bit of perverse jealousy. Since I had no interest in seeking out "suitable male companionship", I was left as "odd girl out". I have to admit, by the next morning I was already searching for something to do. I even showed up for the morning briefing session.
As fate would have it, I didn't show up alone.
Gene walked through the door almost on my heels.
We sat around for a few minutes in rather stilted silence waiting for someone . . . anyone from W,N&A to arrive, but of course, nobody did.
Gene finally broke the silence. "Well. It looks like we're not even going to get fed. It's a sure bet that the meeting is off. Would you like to . . . go out and get something to eat? Im famished."
And that was the beginning.
As it turned out, Gene hadn't found any "suitable companionship" either. Being the two "oddballs" we just sort of gravitated together. We spent the rest of the day exploring the town of Sun Valley. I managed to even find a small art supply store where I purchased a pair of artist's tablets and some charcoals and watercolors. Gene rose another notch in my estimation by indicating a genuine interest in my artistic endeavors. He even asked if he could watch me at work sometime . . . if that wouldn't be too great a distraction.
Again, that thought rose unbidden in my mind. It was really a shame that Pamela wasn't a genuine woman. In Gene, I think any real girl would have found a very attractive mate. The best I could hope for was a continuing friendship.
At least . . . that's what I believed at the time.
Around six o'clock, Gene mentioned that he was getting a bit hungry. Did I want to join him for dinner? We might even go bar hopping after, if that was all right with me.
It sounded innocent and fun and it wouldn't be the first dinner date that Gene and I had had. (As we'd gotten to know each other better at work, Gene had finally taken the plunge and asked me out to dinner. Two other "nights out" had followed.) Besides, it wasn't like I had other pressing plans.
When I think back today on how that evening turned out . . . I can only wonder about the mysterious workings of whatever hand it is that guides my fate.
We got back to the lodge around midnight.
Gene parked the car far enough away from the entrance and in a dark enough location that I no longer had any doubts concerning the source of the tension that I'd sensed for the last hour or so. I'd felt that very same anxiety more times then I cared to remember sitting in my father's car after a heavy date with my high school sweetheart. I had the strangest little thought. 'Did she ever feel the same anxiety?' I supposed she did. This had the potential for being a very . . . personal . . . encounter. It was only natural to feel apprehensive.
The question was; what did I do now?
As I've already said; over the last few weeks Gene and I had had three other dinner dates. On the first occasion, he'd simply said goodnight. On the second, he'd gotten a chaste little kiss on the cheek. The third date had earned him a full kiss on the lips. I hadn't objected to it. In many European and Eastern cultures it's not at all uncommon for one man to kiss another full on the lips. It's we Westerners who seem to have invented the "hang up" about such shows of affection. I like to think that I'm cosmopolitan enough to show (genuine) affection for another man by kissing. Gene was funny and interesting . . . and just generally fun to be with and I wanted to continue the friendship that I felt was growing between us. Were we two men, I'd have no problem at all putting a companionable arm around his shoulders. Since I'd chosen to play a woman's role, I'd committed myself to a woman's conduct. A kiss was how a woman displayed that level of affection for her man. Maybe it was my disguise at work, helping to ease my masculine inhibitions again, but I found it was not all that unpleasant kissing Gene.
But now I could tell; the stakes had risen to the point where a friendly little kiss was no longer sufficient.
We just sat there in the darkness . . . the tick of the rapidly cooling engine the only sound in the car. Gene looked out his window. I looked out my window.
Again . . . what did I do now?
The tension I was feeling from him (in truth that I was feeling as well) indicated that tonight Gene was going to expect more. Did I just smile, thank him for the lovely evening, get out of the car and make a mad dash for my room?
There were names for women who pulled that kind of stunt on men and I didn't want it applied to Pamela. Also, if I did that it would probably be the end of my friendship with Gene. Nor would I blame him for it.
Oh heavens . . . was it really all that terrible? Tonight might just consist of a little heavy "petting". And even if it did go farther . . . well . . . I'd done that before too. I'd lived through it. Heck, on one occasion I'd surrendered to the romance and even enjoyed it, in a detached, fantasy-dream kind of way.
Gene brought the matter to a decision point by leaning over and nuzzling my cheek.
What the hell . . . maybe it would be just "petting" . . . if not, maybe I could recapture that "fantasy-dream" feeling . . .
I turned my face to his and met his kiss, raising my hand to his cheek. The kiss became more passionate. Soon I felt one of his hands caressing my shoulder. Where was his other hand? Oh, there it was . . . on my thigh. Okay . . . heavy petting. I gave him a little moan of desire and laid my left hand atop the one on my right shoulder, then guided it down onto my breast. I couldn't feel exactly what he was doing with the proffered treat, but there was sufficient pressure against my chest (my real chest) that I figured he must be making the most of the offer. In my opinion that called for another moan and a little more ardor in the continuing kiss and I supplied both.
Whoops . . . that hand on my thigh was now under my skirt, starting to work its way upward. This was rapidly progressing past the "petting" stage. It was rapidly getting both serious and somewhat uncomfortable . . . not for the intimacy, (which wasn't great but was bearable) but because I was rapidly getting pressed uncomfortably against the doorframe in an awkward, bent-necked hunch. I tried to shift position and only succeeding in bumping the back of my head against the seatbelt bracket. The small gasp of pain was genuine this time. Gene, bless him for a gentleman, immediately removed his hand from my breast and murmured a breathless little "Sorry". Women are supposed to be moved by tenderness and consideration in their partners and I figured that I should show a little appreciation. I pressed more eagerly into the kiss and quickly replaced his hand atop my fake boob adding a little pressure of my own with the hand atop his. Then I softly whimpered "Don't stop . . . "
Ah well . . . we were "down to it". That hand on my thigh had reached my hip and the fingers were beginning to slid under the lower hem of my panties. How the heck did this work? I'd followed my customary procedure and put my panties on over my sheer-to-the-waist panty hose. I'd reasoned that we would probably be dancing tonight. For that reason, I'd chosen a 'dancing dress' that came with a matching bikini brief, the kind that you could "flash" without undue embarrassment when your skirt flared out. It was beneath these panties that Gene was trying to work his hand. Did he already know that there was still a layer of fabric between those probing fingers and his ultimate goal? If not, was I supposed to let Gene figure out the current situation . . . or should I help him or . . . What did a genuine woman do in this situation?
At the worst possible moment that old joke about the couple screwing came back to me; "Oh darling, if I'd known you were a virgin I'd have taken more time!" "Well lover, if I'd known you had more time I'd have asked for a chance to take off my pantyhose."
Apparently Gene had indeed figured out that he still had another obstacle to overcome because the hand withdrew from beneath the panty and began to try and work itself higher up under my skirt. I tried to shift position a little lower . . . Gene tried to move a bit higher so as to be able to mount me better . . . My right knee slammed against the gear shift lever . . . By reflex, I bucked up and backwards . . . Surprised, but aware of the cause of my sudden pained hiss Gene tried to move up and off to allow me to ease my discomfort . . . and succeeded in 'braining' himself against the roof of the car . . . By reflex he dodged down and forward . . . Our foreheads collided with a solid thump and I saw stars.
By the time the sparkles cleared Gene was off me and back sitting (awkwardly) behind the steering wheel, rubbing his forehead and muttering words that I couldn't make out.
So much for passion.
I tried to be a good sport. "Darling . . . maybe if we . . . "
He held up his left hand and continued to rub his forehead with his right. "No . . . no . . . It's my fault. We're both a bit too old to be fumbling around in a car. Let's go inside."
That was probably best.
It was because we were both distracted . . . and a little drunk . . . and the layout of the lodge was still unfamiliar.
Instead of walking the longer distance to the front entrance, we detoured around the corner of the building making for the side door that led to the corridor to our rooms. We needed to skirt past the Olympic-sized swimming pool, (the one heated by the natural hot spring,) and then make our way down a short flight of steps to reach the door.
Steam was rising off the water of the pool in the below-freezing night air. I didn't think much of it. I was trying to map out a strategy for the least involved, (read "shortest") yet most satisfying sexual encounter I could plan. We made it past the pool without incident. As my left foot hit the top of that short flight of stairs down, I turned to look back at Gene . . . to offer him an encouraging "come hither" gaze. (I actually felt a bit bad about the fiasco in the car.)
The steps were a sheet of glaze ice, formed when the steam from the pool condensed back out of the cold air.
My feet went out from under me and I pitched butt-first down them. I bounced once, then slid on my side a full two feet before landing in the smaller "hot tub" style relaxing pool.
The one filled with BOILING water direct from the hot spring.
I hit my left temple hard against the side of the pool as I fell in stunning myself. If Gene hadn't jumped in after me and lifted my head above the water there's a very real chance that I might have drowned.
We flailed for a second then I finally gathered my wits sufficiently to indicate to him that I was all right.
The water was HOT! Burning HOT! You'd think that after almost a year of parboiling myself every work-night as a prelude to freeing myself from Pamela, I'd be used to hot water by now.
Hot water . . .
Pamela . . .
Oh Dear God!
I started to flail in earnest, trying to extricate myself from the boiling water . . . when a sudden familiar relaxation of pressure against my skin and a simultaneous gasp of surprise from Gene informed me that it was too late. My "suit" had reverted to it's "donning" state; that horribly artificial caricature of a woman. I turned to Gene, a half-formed explanation already starting to babble out of my mouth.
I caught sight of his face in the reflected light of the lodge . . .
His gasp hadn't been surprise at my sudden metamorphosis.
It had been at the sudden sick realization that his disguise was also in peril.
There, right next to me in the tub, was a horribly artificial caricature of a man, wearing Gene's clothes and staring wide-eyed both at his predicament and my own.
We struggled out of the pool then just stood there staring at each other. The chill air quickly dropped the temperature of the suits back within the 90-104 degree temperature range and they promptly assumed their "normal" mode. Pamela "morphed" back into Pamela. Gene "morphed" back into Gene. By the time we reached the side door of the lodge the only cause for comment any passerby would have concerning our appearance would be our soaking wet clothing.
My room was closer so it was there that "Gene" and I now went.
I unlocked the door though my fingers were now shaking from the cold. Oddly, the thought that kept running through my mind at this moment was; 'At least now I know that no matter how cold the air temperature, apparently it's my skin temperature that matters as far as the "mode" of the suit goes.' I'd always held in the back of my mind the question of what would happen if the surface temperature of the suit ever dropped below 90 degrees. Would it revert to it's "dormant" state, trapping me in a walking, talking "papery feeling, vaguely feminine-shaped cut-out"? Apparently not. I was freezing, but to all observers, it was a cold, shivering woman who fumbled with the key to her door as her male companion chaffed his arms and danced from foot to foot.
We got inside. I shut and locked the door behind us, turned on the bathroom light and grabbed every towel off the racks. "Gene" was already shedding his shirt and slacks. I followed suit. There was no need for modesty at this point, both because of our previous shared intimacy . . . which now seemed not nearly so intimate . . . and because we both now knew that even when we'd shed every stitch of clothing, neither of us would be truly "in the buff".
It would just look that way.
Undressed, I tossed "him" a towel and then proceeded to briskly rub myself down with the other. It wasn't that I was trying to dry myself off. It didn't matter that much to me if 'plastic Pamela' was wet or not. I was just trying to generate a little heat. Finally because of the exertion of vigorously rubbing myself the shivers subsided. "Gene" seemed to be recovered as well. An uncomfortable silence ensued while we both tried to look anywhere but at each other.
To his credit, it was Gene who first broke the silence.
"Well. I guess we have some things to tell each other."
"Yeah. I guess we do."
There was another uncomfortable silence. Still looking at my toes I offered, "I suppose in your case it has something to do with getting the job?"
He nodded. "Um hmm. May I ask . . .?"
"The same . . . to get my current job."
Silence descended again. We just looked at each other.
Finally, I managed a vague gesture at "his" appearance. "I never knew that Nu-Gen made a male version. I see they've maintained their high quality standards and . . . uh . . . attention to detail. It's . . . quite impressive."
He started to smile. "I thought, 'What the hell? If you're gonna do it, do it in a big way.' " I got a return gesture in my direction. "You're no 'small miracle' yourself."
I tried not to grin. "Thank you."
And then the spell broke and we were both laughing till our sides hurt. We eventually wound up sitting next to each other on the foot of the unused bed. The laughter subsided. We sat there for a moment, then I turned and offered my hand. "I'm Peter, by the way." The figure next to me smiled shyly and offered a hand in return. "I really am Jean . . . but with a 'J'." I suddenly realized that I wasn't absolutely sure, even now, of the true gender of the person sitting beside me. Gently shaking the offered hand I asked, "Is that Jean short for Jeanette . . . or Jeanelle . . . or . . .?" My companion's smile grew a bit broader. "No. Not short for anything. It's just Jean. But my middle name is Marie. That should answer the question you're tap-dancing around." I smiled in return. "It does. Thank you."
We sat for another moment's silence though this time it was not nearly so uncomfortable. Rather, there was already a sense of tentative camaraderie forming in the air. Then Jean turned to me and in a soft, still masculine though now beguiling voice murmured, "I'd really like to meet you Peter." My lips curled into a mischievous grin. "Funny. I was just thinking the same thing about you."
The tub in the bathroom was not large enough for both of us to soak at the same time, and we couldn't decide who should "unmask" first. Finally, Jean left for her own room and I quickly busied myself in the 'de-conversion' process.
Twenty minutes later, I was simultaneously trying to towel my (genuine) light brown hair and button the one 'Peter shirt' I'd brought with me, when there was a soft tapping at my door. I suddenly felt a case of butterflies the like of which I hadn't felt since my dating days during high school.
Was Jean pretty? I immediately berated myself for such a chauvinist thought. Wasn't I always bragging about how feminist-conscious I'd become, now that I'd lived in both "worlds"? It was the "person" who mattered. Beauty was only skin deep. (And who knew that better than I?) Jean and I would build a relationship based on our shared circumstance, and it would be an interesting, fulfilling friendship for that reason.
Just . . . please . . . don't let her be too ugly.
I opened the door.
Ever since I first donned Pamela, my life seems to have been a wild roller coaster ride of positive and negative happenstance; outrageous predicament resolved by miraculous chance. Bad breaks seem to always balance out with lucky ones.
I guess I must have had one "bad break" outstanding on the ledger.
Standing at my door was a tall, attractive woman. Perhaps she'd never be a fashion model, but I bet she never lacked for a date if she wanted one. She had a soft, heart-shaped face framed in wavy dark brown hair that fell just above her shoulders. 'Gene's' limpid brown eyes searched my own cornflower blue. Sensuously full lips, alluring even without any hint of lipstick, curled into a knowing, welcoming smile. Her figure was hard to determine as she was wearing fairly loose fitting, unisex clothing. (Now there was one distinct advantage 'Gene' had over me. 'He' didn't have to carry 'clothes for two'. A woman could wear loose-fitting male clothing and be considered 'fun'. If Peter ever tried to wear one of Pamela's dresses, first; it would be too tight, and second; he'd probably get hauled away.) However, her clothing was not so baggy that I couldn't get the sense of a very womanly body beneath their folds. We stood there, looking at each other for a moment, and then in a very masculine baritone, Jean whis pered, "Peter, please, let me in." I offered a rueful little smile by way of apology and stood aside. In Pamela's contralto (which wouldn't depart for a good five hours) I murmured, "I guess we aren't very 'conventional' yet, are we?"
We sat on the foot of the same unused bed and compared notes. Jean's story was almost a carbon copy of my own. She'd been trying for just less than two years to land a job for which her training made her eligible. Interestingly, her resume wasn't all that fictional. She really had served six years in the Navy as an electronics technician. One of those years really had been spent as a combat sailor in the Persian Gulf aboard an aircraft carrier. For some reason, I now found that very sexy. Upon her discharge, she'd headed out into "civie land" (as she called it) ready to parley her impressive training and experience into a top-paying technical job.
And like my friend Beth DiAngelo, Jean had discovered that it was still a "man's domain" out here in the dog eat dog world of commerce.
At every business where she applied, the senior technicians (men one and all) weren't ready yet to accept an "emotional, illogical, period-once-a-month female" into their fellowship. She'd drifted from one minimum wage drone job to another. Then she'd seen the ad announcing W, N & A's need for a systems manager. It was a job tailor made for someone with her expertise. She'd applied. Josh had turned her down flat. (I didn't think this was the appropriate time for me to mention my relationship to Josh. I did think it was time for me to have another long talk with him.) Jean had seen the handwriting on the wall. She'd already encountered Nu-Gen's web site while "surfing" and using the last of her savings from her military pay, she'd acquired "Gene". When a 'male' with Gene's qualifications had appeared in his office, Josh had jumped at the prospect. (Yeah, I really had to have a long talk with Josh.)
I gave the precis's of my own experiences and then we lapsed back into that companionable silence.
After a moment, Jean laid a tentative hand on my thigh. "Peter . . . "
"Please, call me PJ. I prefer that my friends call me that."
That earned me a bewitching smile. "Okay . . . 'PJ' . . . I like that." The smile shifted from bewitching to genuine contrition. "PJ, I . . . I'm sorry about earlier. When we were together. In the car . . . I thought . . . I mean . . . You can understand that I'm not very good at reading 'signals' yet. I thought that you wanted . . . That you expected me to . . . "
A rueful little smile crossed my lips. "You're right. It's a 'small world'. I was having the same trouble . . . the same uncertainties about your 'signals'."
She chuckled (so beguiling in that baritone) but the contrition remained. "PJ . . . it's important that you know; I didn't really mean to deceive . . ." She looked away, down at the hand on my thigh. "No . . . That's not true. I did mean to deceive you." Then she again met my eyes. "But please believe me; I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted to . . . to be with you . . . to keep this . . . what we have . . . "
I found I could smile warmly and lay my hand atop hers. "No apology necessary. Particularly if you can believe I wasn't trying to hurt you either, that I only wanted the same thing. Can't we just say to each other; 'no harm, no foul'?"
She nodded and that bewitching smile returned. "Yes. Please."
More companionable silence.
This time, it seemed so natural and effortless when I leaned over and gently laid my lips against hers. Apparently she thought so too. Her hand rose to the back of my neck to gently press our lips even closer together.
Beth looked across the breakfast table with the most smug little smile playing across her lips.
"Well, well . . . I guess I dont need to ask."
Pamela just buttered a slice of whole-wheat toast and returned the smirk with a pleasantly neutral smile. "What do you mean Beth?"
Add a little note of frustrated curiosity to the smirk. "Come on, girlfriend! You've got so much of 'that glow' that you're just about incandescent!"
I just shrugged and smiled that neutral smile and ate my toast.
She gently beat her fists on the table and her feet on the floor. "Oooooh . . . Come on! Give me the dirt!"
I raised an eyebrow. "'Dirt'?"
"Pamela! Did you and he . . . you know . . .?!"
"Oh, that." I finished the toast and then took a sip of coffee to prolong her agitation. Finally I surrendered and gave her the (genuine) little grin that she was expecting. "Yes. We did . . ."
" . . . Twice!"
"PJ, what size are you? . . . I mean . . . what size is Pam?"
I stuck my head out of the bathroom where I was working on my makeup. We were going to try another night "on the town". Perhaps this time it would be a bit more fun, now that we were in on each other's secret. Actually, I was kind of looking forward to it.
'Gene' was standing staring at the open suitcase sitting on the stand in the corner.
"Size 12 . . . why?"
'He' turned and looked at me. "What time does your voice spray wear off?"
"In about an hour. Thank you for reminding me. I'd better take a shot before we go."
"Wait. PJ . . . umm . . . "
Again I stuck my head out of the bathroom, my lipstick half applied, and looked more closely at 'Gene'. He was staring longingly into my suitcase. "What is it, hon?"
"Well. You know . . . I can sometimes fit into a size 12. I was just thinking . . ."
'Gene' gave me the cutest wide-eyed beseeching look while biting one fingernail. "I really want to go dancing with you. I mean . . . with PJ . . . I mean . . .oh, you know what I mean."
I guess my grin showed my willingness without my needing to say a word because 'Gene's' face split into a wide grin. I waved a hand in surrender. "Okay, babe. But all I've got for Peter is a pair of jeans, a cotton shirt and Nikes. Pretty casual. That kind of limits where we can go."
"I bet I've got some slacks and a blazer that would fit you. And you don't have big feet. I bet we could find shoes that would fit each other." Her excitement was contagious. "Please . . . let's try, okay?"
I finally nodded, unable to deny such enthusiasm. Still, I didn't want to seem to "easy" and therefore decided to add a condition. "Okay. But it'll cost you. You get to be the girl tonight. I'll hold the door for you, and pull out your chair . . . I'll even pick up the tab. But tomorrow night it's my turn to be the lady."
'Gene' tried out a little pout that was spoiled both by his apparent gender and by the fact that his eyes never lost their mirthful twinkle. "No fair! You've already had lots of chances to be the female." I folded my arms and tried to look adamant (and probably succeeded as well as Gene and his pout). "None of that counts. We didn't know which game we were playing then." The pout dissolved into a giggle. "Deal!" 'Gene' clapped his hand and then put them between his knees, giving his shoulders a little shake in the process. For Jean, that would have been a most fetching gesture. When 'Gene' did it, it looked positively bizarre. I chuckled and pointed with my thumb at the door. "Go change . . . alright? I'll see you back here in half an hour."
Jean appeared at my door thirty minutes later looking very "Annie Hall-ish" in navy blue blazer and slacks, pale blue shirt and subdued blue knit tie. I let her in and as soon as the door was closed, she promptly began to strip. I just stood there in my bathrobe with one eyebrow raised. She must have felt my scrutiny because she paused, the slacks and blazer off already, struggling with the tie.
She wasn't wearing any underwear.
She followed my gaze . . . you can guess what I was staring at . . . and her cheeks took on a lovely pink tinge. But she smiled too. "Sorry. Navy manners. Spend enough time shoulder to shoulder with a hundred other women in ship's berthing and you start to loose some of your modesty."
"Hey. No need to apologize . . . no need at all."
That got me what I deserved. Her self-conscious smile became three shades more sly. She finished undoing the tie. Very slowly and deliberately she unbuttoned then removed the shirt, turning it into a strip tease as she did. Then she just stood there, shameless, inviting my inspection.
Between Jean and Pamela, I think Pamela has the better body all things considered. But it's not really fair to compare something 'calculated' using computer aided design technique with the random beauty of nature. And it's a close contest anyway.
Jean looked me up and down and finally her gaze locked on my . . . er . . . below my belt. A very knowing, very feminine smile crossed her lips. I didn't even need to look down to know what she was admiring.
Now it was my turn to gain a little color on the cheeks.
I cleared my throat. "Let's call that one a draw, okay?"
She giggled and then scampered over to my open suitcase. She tossed me my one pair of male briefs and then began to pick up and consider each item of Pamela's underwear. As I slipped into the briefs I said, "Look for black silk. I've got a pair of Giancarlo's designer panties and a matching bra in there." She didn't look up but instead began to dig a little faster. "Cool! Where'd you find them?" I chuckled. "I'll tell you the whole story sometime." She finally found what she was looking for and held the panties aloft like a prize. "Oh PJ, they're beautiful!" She began to slip them on. "I hope they fit!" They did. They were perhaps a little more sung then on me . . . or rather on Pamela . . . but somehow I didn't feel like criticizing. Jean next found and donned the bra. I felt a moment's stab of envy when she very deftly reached behind herself and fastened the catch without the slightest apparent difficulty. "How do you do that? I still can't do that without struggling." She glanced over her shoulder and smiled. "You've been a woman for . . . what? . . .a year? I've been one for twenty-eight. It comes with practice. Put your clothes on. I want to get going." She turned back to the suitcase and I started to button 'Gene's' shirt. I felt the oddest sensation as I did. I've heard that for some people part of the thrill of cross-dressing is a feeling of guilty pleasure that comes of wearing someone else's clothing. But to feel that odd sexual tension while I, a man, was buttoning a man's shirt . . . strange.
Jean was still rummaging in my suitcase. "Don't you have anything but pantyhose?"
"Why? What's wrong with pantyhose?"
She straightened up and turned to me, her luscious feminine charms barely concealed by my underwear. (I bet the next time I wanted to be "Pamela; Sex Kitten" I'd only have to wear that bra and panties under any outfit and the memory of tonight would do the rest.) Again I got that pouting expression (that worked just fine this time) as she placed her fists on her gorgeous hips. When she spoke, it was in a whimpering little-girl voice. "Pantyhose isn't sexy. I want something hot! I've got a good-looking man I'm gonna try and seduce tonight. Don't you have a garter belt and stockings?"
Goodness. I felt another little stab of embarrassment. But I guess if I was going to be the beneficiary, I could survive a little humiliation. "In the pocket on the lid."
"Ooh, Pamela . . . you little vixen! I can see why you don't keep these out in plain sight. These are hot!" In repayment for my embarrassment, Jean fastened the garter belt around her hips then made quite a show of sitting on the edge of my bed, meticulously rolling each stocking in her fingers and then carefully sliding them up her legs.
At this point I didn't care if we went out tonight or not and I said so. But Jean would have none of that. "You promised!" I went back to putting on the rest of 'Gene's' suit and Jean browsed my wardrobe till she found a 'swingy' little red dress that came to slightly above my . . . Pamela's . . . knees. Since Jean was a bit taller than I was, it came to mid thigh on her . . . just long enough to make modesty with the tops of her stockings not too big a problem.
With the dress on, she again invited my inspection . . . even turning once just fast enough that the skirt flared out sufficiently to grant me a peek at my own lingerie. I nodded my approval as I finished knotting the tie. She spent a seemingly endless twenty minutes using my cosmetics to "fix her face" (women!) and then we were on our way.
On balance, it was a wonderful evening. That it got off to a bit of a rocky start was, I first thought, my fault.
We went to a nice little "burger and beer" restaurant down the road from the lodge. We both played our roles. I made sure to be very macho and masculine . . . always opening doors, holding coats, pulling out chairs . . . that sort of thing. Jean reciprocated by being coquettish and flirty. I paid close attention to her. I hoped she wouldn't notice that I had an ulterior motive for my attentiveness, but half way through dinner she set her fork down and gazed into my eyes.
"PJ, are you having fun?"
"Sure! Aren't you?"
"Well . . . you seem . . . I don't know . . . I'd say a bit distracted, but you never seem to take your eyes off me."
"Can you blame me?"
She gave me a pleased smile at the compliment but refused to be sidetracked. "No, seriously. Is something on your mind?"
I lowered my eyes to the table and added a sheepish grin to my blush. "Okay. You caught me. I haven't been out on a date in a while, certainly not since I've had Pamela. I confess. This is the first time I've ever had both the interest and the opportunity to . . . well . . . You might say I've been 'taking notes' for my own deportment when I'm playing my alter ego."
Her hand flew to her mouth to try and stifle the giggle, but she failed. Then she blushed too, looked down at the table and whispered. "Ditto."
After that, the night was glorious. Both of us began playing our roles to the hilt. She flirted and vamped and made very good on her threatened seduction. For my part I strutted and postured and basically behaved like somebody suffering from testosterone poisoning. Anybody watching must have thought we were right out of a bad romance novel or something. But we both knew what the other was doing and it added a delightful "gamesmanship" element to the whole evening.
We didn't get home till after the bars closed at 2 A.M.
We spent the night in Jean's room. I couldn't say whose seduction worked better since each of us spent the rest of the night in bed "having our way" with the other.
So far in my career as Pamela, I've had sexual intercourse in my feminine guise three times. Well . . . three and a half, if you count that abortive attempt in the car last night. Two of those occasions; being raped by Kevin Sprage, and when I'd 'bedded' Jerrod Peru, had been unpleasant . . . in the extreme. The third time (with Anthony) had been magical, but entirely unplanned and with such a dream-like quality. And that fumbling attempt with Gene had been . . . well . . . It certainly could be improved upon.
As Pamela, I'd also seduced a man . . . well . . . an experienced boy. Apparently, I had at least some small talent for it, considering my success with Jerrod Peru. Again, the experience had been unpleasant . . . in the extreme.
Tonight, 'just because I could', I was determined to see what it was like for a woman to plan and execute the satisfaction of her carnal needs . . . deliberately and methodically . . . for her own pleasure.
I determined that the first step would be to get myself into the proper frame of mind. To "get into character" as the actors say. That would require some imagination on my part. But I am an artist after all. I make my living off my vivid imagination.
She is charged with excitement.
Her long blonde hair cascades over her smooth shoulders and laps against the rose circles of areola. She examines herself critically in the mirror over the desk of her motel room. Slender hands caress taut belly, sleek waist . . . Her eyes close and her head tilts back in ecstasy as they slide in erotic self-exploration up her sides until they cradle firm breasts. A small moan of desire escapes her lips as she fondles the soft, willing flesh. Soon . . . soon . . . if she has her way another's hands will replace her own.
Time to prepare.
Her clothing is laid out in readiness. The choice of attire is, for once, gloriously simple. Only certain items are right . . . are fitting for tonight.
The first item to attract her attention is a pair of black silk panties. They are delicious and decadent and gloriously inviting, both to the wearer and to any observer lucky enough to be granted a glimpse of their forbidden beauty. She takes them into her hands and rubs the glossy fabric against her cheek. They have a subtle, ephemeral musk . . . not an odor (for that would be coarse and crude) but rather a deeply arousing memory of passion past . . . and a promise of pleasure to come. Seating herself on the end of her bed, she bends from the waist, the pressure of her thighs against her breasts a momentary distraction as she slips first one foot then the other into the silken garment. Soon, she feels its close embrace against hip, cheek . . . and the very heart of her desire. She cannot resist and the fingers of her right hand trace her womanhood, now pressing the silken fabric within herself as the fingers of her left hand caress her face . . . stroke her warm, moist lips. She lingers for a moment, but there is more to do and finally, with a soft sigh, her hands return to their work of selecting the next item of clothing.
The bra is a poor substitute for the caress that she desires, but the satiny touch against her eager breasts will have to do . . . for the moment. She slides first one strap, then the other over her shoulders, pausing each time to flick her golden tresses over the opposite side. Then, with a simple flick of her hands, the snaps are fastened and her bosom nestles within the shimmering fabric. She smiles at herself in the mirror. A small victory is attained . . . a small rite of passage is completed.
Bra and panties . . . but these are the final treat . . . the penultimate morsel for her lover's delight . . . to be concealed and withheld until the moment is right. Now she needs to attend to that which she will display for the entire world to desire . . . that which she will first use to tempt and tease . . . incite and inflame.
The garter belt with its straps and fasteners is just snug enough around her waist that the whole provokes a delightfully wicked mental image of bondage and restraint. Usually, this is not something that she desires. But tonight . . . who can say what her lover's pleasure will be? Will silken cords encircle her ankles? . . . her wrists? . . . wrists that she will lift in tearful supplication to her dominating lover? And if her beseeching face sways him, who shall be the conqueror? . . . and who the conquered?
The stockings have always been her special favorite. What can be more feminine than the silky, shimmering gauze that caresses her and lend her the illusion of flawless tanned flesh . . . that slip like a dream between her thighs as they move against each other . . . that allow her skirt to flow over her legs with such a liquid grace?
But they are delicate, these stockings. One does not simply stick a foot into them and tug them into place. That would be tantamount to violation! No. They must be handled gently . . . lovingly . . . Her legs must insinuate themselves into the stockings' silken embrace, just as her lover must tenderly cajole and caress if he wishes entry into her most intimate realm.
The shoes are a passionate, evocative red. Just shiny enough to make one wonder if they will betray by reflection the closely guarded secret of their wearer's under-dress. What a clever enticement! Subtly erotic in their own right . . . they will not betray . . . they will only provoke passion by reminding of the still undisclosed delights . . . just as she intends for all her ensemble.
The dress is the crowning glory. It too is red . . .the color of passion and flame. It hugs her hips and dips low over the cleft of her bosom. It reveals by concealing. It accentuates each achingly feminine curve. It hints at wild abandon yet admits nothing but virginal modesty. It conceals all of her carefully prepared secrets . . . shielding her silk and lace from all but that one fortunate enough to be admitted at her whim. And it offers substitute comfort until she should choose to grant that admission by fondling her legs with an invisible lover's touch . . . caressing with each movement.
Her makeup is carefully considered. The rose shade of lipstick that might call to mind other rosy, moist flesh. Blusher to counterfeit a maiden's innocence even when her thoughts are wicked and wild. Subtly dark eye shadow and liner to magnify the deep azure of her eyes, creating a depth that can encompass and entrap any man.
Finished, she once again stands before the mirror in critical contemplation. Then smiling in anticipation of the conquest of which she is now certain, she spins with a dancer's grace. Her hands aid the billow of her skirt as it grants one last fleeting glimpse of the silk, lace and concealed treasures that she will henceforth deny to all but the lover whom she eagerly awaits.
(Yeah. I think I'm in the right frame of mind to see if I can't beat Jean's performance of last night. For the next few hours, I simply surrendered to the role.)
His knock on her door is promptly answered.
He can't help but smile at her choice of wardrobe, just as she grins in recognition of his own familiar blue blazer, shirt and tie. She steps aside, granting him entry. He closes the door behind himself and then moves to take her in a strong, masculine embrace. She surrenders for a moment, but then presses her hands against his shoulders.
"Gene! Please!" Does he read shock and flustered desire in her wide-eyed smile? Or is she only pretending outraged modesty in an attempt to lure him on? The increased pressure of her hips against his as her hands continue to press him away leads him to think it is the latter. She frees herself from his embrace. "I'll be ready in just a moment. I have to fix my face."
"How do you fix perfection?"
That earns him a musical giggle as she disappears into the bathroom with a swirl of fabric and the click of heels on tile. "Flattery just might get you everywhere!"
Smiling, he seats himself in his accustomed place on the end of the unused bed. His experienced eye has already informed him that her make up is complete. She is just teasing him . . . forcing him to wait upon her whim. So that is how the game will be played tonight? Fine. Let her have her moment. He has a stratagem of his own that should pay back all her clever deceits and wiles.
After what seems an unduly long wait, (but is in fact only a few minutes) she emerges from the bathroom and stands with hands folded modestly against her skirt. "Well? Do I look good enough that you won't be completely embarrassed to take me out in public?"
"You're a vision." And so she is. (A petty little stab of jealousy clamors for attention, but it is easily ignored.) He stands and holds her faux fur coat open for her. She allows herself to bundled within its embrace and then turns to favor him with a seductively soft smile as she gathers the fur collar against her throat.
The evening is a delicious reprise of the night before. She flirts and teases. She hints at wanton desire and then professes demure shyness if he tries to act on the hint. She insists on all female prerogatives. He must open each door and allow her to precede him. He must hold each chair, must help her remove and don her coat at each new locale. She seems to delight in selecting the most expensive items from each menu, and then perversely takes only a few bites.
She won't dance to any but the slowest, most romantic tunes. Their first "close dance" is a bit awkward. By the third tune he has begun to understand the fundamentals of "leading". She simply presses herself against him, forcing him to make all the decisions, flaunting her soft curves against his taut physique as she occasionally smirks mischievously into his eyes.
On the stroke of midnight, he offers her her coat. "Come on. I've got a special treat planned."
When she realizes that he is returning her to the lodge, there is a genuine note of disappointment and resistance in her voice. "Gene! It's too early! If you think you can have your way with me for this little effort, you've got another 'think' coming!" He parks the car near the front entrance then takes her hand in his and presses it to his lips. "Who says that I don't have something very special planned?" She turns away facing forward once more. The coquettish vamp is back as she folds her hands in her lap. "Humpf. Well . . . we'll see." He alights then opens her door. She offers him a languid hand and allows herself to be assisted out of the car. Her nose is held high in mock disdain as her hips swing in a sultry strut to the front door of the lodge.
He pauses as they pass the front desk. "Just a second. I've got to get my key."
The desk clerk comes out of the back office at the ring of the desktop bell. "Yes? Ah, Mr. Cavanaugh! Everything's ready. Here's your key."
With a wicked gleam in her eyes, she shamelessly takes his left arm and rubs herself against his side. "Darling, please . . . hurry." Then she grins wickedly at the desk clerk as he tries to maintain a neutral expression. Gene simply takes the key from the clerk's hand and gives him a knowing wink.
She moves off with that same sultry strut, but he stops her with as she moves off down the hallway. "No, hon. This way." He indicates the elevators and is secretly pleased to see a flicker of genuine surprise and uncertainty on her face. She points off toward their rooms . . . their former rooms. "But . . . ?" He shakes his head and again indicates the elevators. "Uh uh . . .this way."
The elevator opens on the top (third) floor of the lodge and he takes her arm in his, leading her toward the suite that he previously "scouted out" this afternoon. The key turns in the lock and this time he insists that she 'enjoy' her prerogative and stands aside, bowing her into the darkness. She takes a few tentative steps inside then he switches on the lights and closes the door behind them.
"Oh Gene . . . is this . . . ?"
"Yep. 'Bridal Suite'."
With a wonderfully mischievous grin she slips her hands beneath his blazer and strokes his chest. (He feels a secret, electric tingle that no other man would feel if a woman's hands pressed against that part of his body.)
Her lips come close to his and he can feel the warmth of her breath. She comes just close enough to make him think a kiss is imminent, but at the last instant she pulls away again, still grinning mischievously. "Does this make me Mrs. Cavanaugh?"
He offers her a salacious leer and puts his hand on her hips. "No . . . this makes you 'Mrs. Smith'."
She murmurs a pretended whimper of consternation and bites her lower lip in sham dismay. "But what about my reputation? You'd let all the world think I'm just a cheap little slut?!" Before he can answer, her hands are guiding his down from her hips and then up beneath her skirt. "Well . . . I guess there's nothing now but to make the best of it."
They spend the next minutes undressing each other. She prolongs the operation as much as possible with repeated demands for caresses and kisses, often removing his hands from their manipulation of her clothing and directing them to fondle and stroke recently bared flesh.
Finally every item of clothing lies discarded upon the floor. She wraps one leg around his and presses his face between her hands . . . presses her lips against his . . . forces her tongue between his barely parted lips.
She disengages only when he sweeps her off her feet and into his arms. She shrieks with laughter as she is carried out onto the enclosed private balcony. The laughter dies when she sees what awaits them there . . .
. . . a bubbling hot tub . . . just large enough to accommodate two in intimate closeness.
He holds her for a moment, her arms around his neck, as she regards the steaming water. Then she offers him another kiss.
This time she can sense that there is no sham or pretense in his ardor. He allows himself to be lowered into the warm water then helps her to climb in.
In just a moment, the heat and the water begin their metamorphosis.
Each explores the other's disguise . . . seeking entry . . . seeking reality . . . seeking the eager, genuine flesh beneath the façade.
I don't know if I started to awaken when she slipped out from beneath the covers, or whether I noticed her departure at all and it was something else that awoke me. I only know I drifted to wakefulness and realized that I was alone beneath the silken sheets. I looked around in the darkness, at first confused by my surroundings. Then from a diffuse glow that came in through the unfrosted glass above the hot tub I saw her sitting cross-legged on the balcony, gazing upwards.
Softly, I too climbed out from the warm comfort of the bed and joined her.
She didn't acknowledge my presence. She just kept looking upwards. I followed her gaze. Landscape lighting that bathed it in a soft white glow illuminated the lodge building. It was this light that provided our only illumination. In that ethereal light I could see that clouds had gathered again after we'd retired. Snowflakes drifted downwards out of the black infinity of sky, appearing as if by magic out of the gloom . . . each crystalline flake materializing as a delicate point of light. It would swirl and dance in each errant breeze it encountered on its descent, then finally come to rest on the pane of glass over our heads.
There, the heat still lingering from our tryst in the hot tub rapidly transformed the delicate crystal into a shimmering drop of water that ran, tear-like, down the pane before it ultimately vanished from sight.
I gently rested my hands on her shoulders as I knelt behind her, like her mesmerized by the spectacle. She placed one hand atop mine, and with the other she reached up and tried to brush tears out of her eyes.
"Why are you crying?"
She gave up trying to conceal the tears . . . tears that I could hear in her tremulous voice. "I'm afraid."
"Afraid?" I slid my hands down her back then encircled her waist. She hugged my arms within her own and leaned backwards against me, seemingly trying to loose her self in my embrace. "What is there to be afraid of?"
Still she watched the dance of the snowflakes. "The future."
I nuzzled her neck, drinking in the perfume of her hair. "Are you afraid that this is just a 'one night stand'? It isn't . . . "
"No. That's what frightens me. Oh God . . . P.J. . . . I think I've fallen in love."
We just remained like that for a moment, my arms around her waist, her arms drawing mine tight, drawing herself against me. Then I brushed my lips against the top of her shoulder. The soft words seem to come, of their own volition, from somewhere deep with me . . . from a depth and a heat that I'd never felt before . . .
"Jean . . . I know I have."
I felt the warmth of her tears as the fell upon my arms, tight within her embrace.
"What will we do?"
"We'll hold each other . . . and love each other . . . and we'll make it last forever."
She disengaged herself from my caress and turned to face me. In the reflected light I could see the crystalline shimmer on her cheeks . . . so alike to the glistening brilliance on the window above. "Make what last forever? A lie? We met because of a lie. Everyday at work . . . another lie. Can we live like that? I don't think I can."
"What I feel for you isn't a lie. What we have . . . I've never felt this way before. This is real. Jean . . . I love you. We can find a way to make it work."
"For how long? A month? A year? The rest of our lives? I've only just met you and already I know that's what I want . . . a lifetime with you. I love you. And you love me. Peter loves me. And I want that like nothing I've ever wanted before. But everyday we'll have to hide the thing we want most. We'll go to work, and we'll pretend to be something we're not. Maybe for a while we can play at 'Gene loves Pamela'. But that's a game. It's not real. And because of that, it will come between us . . . this masquerade. After a time it won't be a game anymore. It'll be . . . a barrier . . . a hindrance."
Finally I couldn't bear to see the pain on her face and I gathered her against me again. "There's an answer . . . we'll find it. We'll make it work."
"Will you stop being Pamela? Can you? Can I stop being Gene?"
I just held her and stroked her hair . . . trying not to acknowledge the sudden uncertainty . . .
. . . trying not to feel the fear . . .
The next day we left for home and a return to the normal routine.
We tried . . . Jean and I . . . "Gene" and "Pamela"
For a while it worked. We became fodder for the office gossip mill. Gene brought Pamela flowers. Pamela left silly, sappy cartoons on the net for Gene. For a while, we managed to play at 'Gene loves Pamela' just as Jean had predicted.
And as the weeks turned into months . . . it became a hindrance, again, just as Jean had predicted.
I could see 'Gene' anytime I wanted. I could touch 'him' . . . hold 'him'. But I was 'Pamela'. I had to do it in a soft, feminine way. I had to play my role. I had to live the lie. I couldn't sweep Jean into my arms and just hold her . . . feel her soft against me. After a time, seeing 'Gene' only made me frustrated . . . angry . . . only reminded me of what I could not have till after work and on the weekends. The woman I loved was inaccessible for five-sevenths of my life . . . on a good week!
My work started to suffer. My inspiration had evaporated like those snowflakes on the window over the hot tub. Near the end, the firm probably would have had as much luck giving one of the secretaries an "Etch-a-Sketch" as they had depending on me for commercial artwork.
The company's intranet which had been running so smoothly that I had begun to wonder how we'd gotten along with out it . . . started to suffer more and more serious breakdowns.
It was all falling apart.
It happened on a Friday.
I came into my studio, dreading another day of work . . . dreading another eight hours of playing my role. There was an image on my computer monitor that hadn't been there before. Eagerly, I sat at the screen and studied the picture. Sometimes I got messages or notes from 'Gene'. Messages that hinted of Jean's authorship as far as was possible.
There on the screen was that little stick figure holding the bunch of cartoon daisies.
The caption read; "I love you. I'm sorry. I can't do it anymore . . ."
I sat staring at the screen for the longest time. Then it all just became a disjointed series of memories . . .
. . . the computer room where 'Gene' kept his office . . . the hum of air conditioners, diffuse white lighting, flickering monitors . . . emptiness . . .
. . . corridors . . . the repeated question; "Has Gene been by this morning? Have you seen him today?" Always the same answer; "No."
. . . riding the bus toward Jean's apartment in the middle of the morning . . . wondering if they'd missed me at work . . . wondering if it mattered to me if they had . . .
. . . her apartment . . . my key in the door . . . the note on the counter . . . "Please try to understand. I need to be alone now. I need to think. But always know; I love you." It was neither addressed to me nor signed by her . . . it didn't need to be.
She was gone . . .
I arrived in my studio, as Pamela . . . for what I'd determined was the last time.
Josh's secretary took the message for him. She told me he was in a meeting and wasn't to be disturbed. He'd be down to see me as soon as he was again available. I thanked her and hung up.
I pulled out my letter of resignation and re-read it one more time.
Jean had asked me, "Could you stop being Pamela?" I'd thought about that all weekend. Finally, sometime Sunday afternoon I'd realized; if it was a choice between Pamela and Jean . . . then there really was no choice. If that meant I couldn't be an artist anymore, then so be it. To have Jean I'd happily stock shelves at the local discount store . . . or pump gas . . . or wait tables in the restaurant down the street . . .
Just before 9 o'clock Josh strolled through my office door and seated himself in his familiar spot on the edge of my desk.
"You wanted to see me?"
I just handed him my resignation. He took it, glanced once at his wristwatch then quickly skimmed the page. I didn't really know what reaction I'd get from him. I confess I was a bit surprised when he simply nodded once and handed the letter back to me.
"I wondered how long it would take for you to finally get around to this."
"That's it? You don't care that I'm quitting?"
"Of course I care. You're a damn good commercial artist and the firm will hate to loose you. More than that, you're my brother, and I hate to see you throw away a good job. But as your brother, I'm also glad you're finally willing to stop this charade."
I shook my head and just stared at him. "It was your idea in the first place . . . and you've never really approved of it."
He wouldn't meet my gaze. "No. I never have. In the beginning, I saw it how you once described it; 'A desperate response to a desperate situation'. But when the desperation was gone and still you kept up the act . . . no . . . I never approved of that."
"What do you mean, 'kept up the act'? What choice was there? What choice is there?"
At last he looked up and met my eyes. "PJ . . . I'm the managing partner now. I run this firm. I can hire whom ever I want. If I want to hire my brother, who's to say I can't?"
I think I actually smiled though I'm sure it was a rueful smile. "And nobody will think it odd that "PJ" for "Pamela Jane" walks out the door and "PJ" for "Peter James" walks in? You dont' think that one or two people might think that one hell of a coincidence?"
Josh just shrugged and looked at his watch again. "So? It's a coincidence . . . an incredible one. People might even wonder if Peter is Pamela or Pamela was Peter all along. But considering how well you've pulled off the deception I doubt that supposition will seem any less unlikely than the coincidence. And if they do wonder . . . well, let them. I won't tell them the truth if you don't. And after a year or two . . . folks may still wonder occasionally . . . but what difference will it make?"
We just stared at each other for what seemed like an hour or two.
Josh was right.
I didn't need to be Pamela anymore. It would be strange for a while . . . I'd get odd looks . . . Conversations would die when I walked up to the water cooler. For a while it would be uncomfortable.
For a while . . .
But no more uncomfortable than I was now.
Josh broke the spell by looking at his watch . . . again . . . (This time it really started to infuriate me that he had something he considered more important than this conversation.) Then he stood to leave. "Well, think about it. You've got time to decide." He started to go, but I stopped him in the door.
"You're right Josh. There's really nothing to think about. My resignation as Pamela stands. You'll be getting Peter's resume this afternoon."
He just nodded and smiled over his shoulder at me. "I think we can find a place for him in the firm."
I returned my brother's smile. "People are still going to think it one hell of a coincidence though. You've got to admit."
His smile softened and grew a bit broader. If ever I've wondered if my brother loves me that smile put the doubt to rest. "So what? There are lots of strange coincidences in the world." Another glance at his watch! Then he stepped aside and I understood what it was he had been timing so carefully. "Hell, I just got out of a meeting with the new Computer tech. Would you believe, I've just replaced one 'Gene' with another one down in Computer Maintenance?"
She was standing there, had been standing there, hidden behind Josh, holding a tool kit in one hand and a bunch of cartoon-ish daisies . . . real ones this time . . .in her other.
And that's my story.
I suppose that sounds a little final. It shouldn't. I'm not at an ending . . . quite the opposite. These last few months have been very much about new beginnings.
Jean and I . . . some things are just meant to be.
It's been three days now since Jean abandoned her former guise and assumed another. I think this one will last. Like 'Gene' before her, Jean Cavanaugh is no more.
For three days now she's been Mrs. Jean Wright.
We're on our honeymoon . . . sharing a certain Bridal Suite in a certain Idaho resort community. We came by our occupancy honestly this time.
She's funny . . . and smart . . . and beautiful. A woman I've always dreamed of . . . recognized for the first time just down the hall on a magical night not even one year ago. We share secrets . . . and fantasies . . . and dreams. She's my soul mate, my partner, and my best friend.
I think I love her more with each passing day.
And we have something that very few couples have . . . understanding.
And what of Pamela you ask?
As I say, Jean and I have a unique understanding of each other.
So, if you gentlemen are ever in a bar some night . . . and you spot a gorgeous blonde with china blue eyes . . . make sure you find out her name before you get too serious with her.
If she tells you her name is "PJ" . . . it's probably best to move on. For although she's hot and sexy and though she'll flirt with you shamelessly . . . tease you and tempt you and make you think that it's all there for you . . . don't believe her. It's just a game. You'll never get her home.
You see . . .she's not really interested in you. She's just killing a few minutes waiting for her real lover to arrive.
She's just waiting for Mr. Wright.