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Lucky             by: Brandy Dewinter           2000, All rights reserved

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Chapter 7

 

"BBRREEEEEPPP!!!!" The phone shrieked.

I sat up quickly in bed and the top of my head blew off.

I know that’s what happened because I distinctly felt it smack the ceiling before slamming back down onto whatever had remained behind. My hands were exploring the damage, trying to figure out how to get things straightened out since I was sure it had stuck 30 or 40 degrees out of proper alignment, when the phone went off again.

"BBRRRREEEEEPPPPP!!!!"

If I could have spared the time, I’d have picked the bed up and used it to smash that evil thing, but by this time my head wasn’t the only problem intruding into my morning. At least this time, I didn’t have any long hair to mess up. I also didn’t have anything left to make a mess with, though I had a hard time convincing my stomach muscles.

The stupid phone must have stopped ringing at some point. I’d like to say that was what saved it, but I wasn’t much of a threat right then. After a while I did manage to stir enough to get a cup of water and a cool washcloth, but I figured the floor was doing a good enough job of holding me up that it wouldn’t have been polite to look for another place to sit. Sure would have been nice if it quit dancing around so much, though.

"Tim!?" Someone’s voice woke me up again.

"Tim, where are you?" Musta been Bud. Too stupid for Katy. Where did he think I was?

"Tim, are you all right?" Right after the phone. I was gonna kill him, right after I destroyed the phone. Too stupid to be let live.

Then the sonuvabitch laughed and I decided to move him to the head of the line.

"Oh, Pie-eyed, you should have learned that lesson the first time."

It turned out Katy was there, too, as her voice proved. "Shut up, Bud. This is not the time for that."

The washcloth was taken from my eyes and replaced a moment later cooler and wetter. For that, at least Katy would be allowed to survive.

Unless it turned out she was the one who had called me earlier.

"C’mon, Tim, time to get moving," Bud insisted. It was easier to go along than argue, so I let myself be lifted to my feet. Katy wrapped a robe around my shoulders and after a couple of eternities I was sitting, more or less upright, in a much too bright sunroom while she started the coffee.

"Have you had anything to eat yet?" she asked. Not a good idea.

When the toast appeared in front of me, though, I decided that anything would be better than what I was already tasting in my mouth, so I choked down a few bites, and some coffee, and then some more of each.

"Hold your head back, Tim," Bud said with a smirk, "so the blood doesn’t drip out of your eyeballs onto the tablecloth."

"Shut up, Bud," I snarled. So did Katy. She added a pretty good whack to his head, but doing the same would have required me to lift my arm at the shoulder and not just at the elbow. That might have caused my head to tumble off my neck, so I let him off easy.

Just then the doorbell rang and I made the mistake of turning to look toward the front hall. This time the top of my head stayed in place. The sides blew out and bounced off the walls hard enough to crack the plaster, but the top stayed in place. Didn’t help the alignment any.

Lonna showed up, all bright and cheerful and I added her to the list of those who had to die.

"Oh, dear," she said. Then she spoiled any claim to real sympathy by giggling. I was trying to decide whether she should go before or after Bud and missed whatever else she had to say.

When I tuned back in, she was saying, "I cleaned up your wig and reset it. You can either get dressed again, or I’ll help you finish taking off your forms and things."

Bud blushed for some stupid reason, and left the room to go turn on the TV.

"Do we have to do either?" I asked grumpily.

"Um, no, I don’t suppose so," Lonna said. I thought about nodding and decided it would be as likely to cause my head to fall off as to help realign anything, so I just closed my eyes and leaned back on the wall behind my chair.

"So, I guess your night out as Tami was pretty much of a bust, huh?"

Lonna asked quietly.

"Being Tami had nothing to do with it," Katy declared before I had a chance to say anything. Not that I was in any particular hurry.

"What do you mean?" Lonna asked.

"Tami got drunk last night. Tim did that once upon a time, too.

Nothing about that changed because of Tami."

"Oh," Lonna said quietly. There was sympathy in her voice, but curiosity as well. "So, um, Tim, does that mean you might be Tami again some time?"

"Not right now," I sighed, closing my eyes.

I must have drifted off, because the next thing I knew the afternoon sun was shining into my sunroom and everyone else had left. That was too bad, really, because for the first time in what seemed like a very long time, I felt more like living than dying. I can prove it, too. The first thing I did when I got up was to go get something to eat instead of smashing the phone. A bit later and I was stepping into the shower. By this time, I was more used to washing my bosom than not, and it wasn’t a hard decision to shave my legs. Just preserving options, you see.

As a result, Lonna’s choice was still staring me in the face when I looked in the mirror. After the night before, where Tami had really come to life, it seemed wrong to be sort of half and half. A bosom and short hair didn’t go together. It had been okay when I was practicing how to walk, but I was way past ‘practicing’. However, I was still well within the range of my current hangover and deciding just seemed like too much trouble so I compromised by wearing a concealing set of sweats that hid most of the conflict. It wasn’t until I was sitting in front of the TV watching nothing that I realized I had grabbed one of Trish’s warmups instead of my own.

Putting off the decision only worked until the next day, though. Wearing breast forms and a bra with my own jeans and a t-shirt just didn’t make sense. Even leaving my hair short and no makeup seemed discordant when I also had jiggling tits. I either needed to take off the breast forms and be Tim, or do an honest job of being Tami.

Could I do that on my own? I knew I couldn’t do the merry widow thing, at least not as tightly as Lonna had pulled it. But I still had the other waist cincher, and she said she brought back the wig. . .

Even in my own mind, I had a hard time justifying what I was thinking about doing based on simple curiosity, or on some sort of self-challenge to see if I even had the ability. But it was much harder to figure out any other reason. At some point I just recognized that I had decided without an equal insight into why.

The result wasn’t up to Lonna’s standards, that’s for sure. But darned if it wasn’t Tami that was looking back at me from the mirror a couple of hours later. I dug up one of Trish’s blouses, a dark red one that looked about like a man’s shirt, yet was soft enough that I thought it would be comfortable. That idea lasted until I realized it didn’t button up nearly far enough. Which reminded me that when Trish had worn it she wore a short slip-thing and let it show. I loved that look, sort of a peek at something forbidden without really showing anything. Anyway, I certainly remembered it, and in a few minutes I was wearing it.

None of my jeans would fit over the hip pads that were part of my body shaping, and none of Trish’s were long enough. I was standing there in the red blouse and tan stockings (which I wore to hold the padded fanny shaper in place) when the phone rang. It hardly seemed like a surprise. After all, it had been most of a day since anyone had called. It added to my recognition - okay, my guilt - about just how much my friends had been helping me and when I answered it was with a very soft and gentle tone.

"Hi, Tami," Katy’s voice said, picking up on that tone. "I’m glad to hear your voice. How are you doing?"

"Okay. I just got dressed and I’m feeling almost human again."

"Wow, that would be an improvement."

"Thanks a lot," I said, then apologized. "I’m sorry. I know I deserved that. I was pretty unpleasant yesterday."

"Yes, but you had a good reason," she snickered. "So, you say you got dressed?"

"Uh huh." Well, mostly.

"Good. I’ll be right over," she said, leaving me once again holding an unconnected phone. Standing there in my shirttails and stockings seemed sort of, I don’t know, provocative somehow, so I was in the closet looking for something to wear when I heard someone calling my name. Or, um, Tami’s name. Whatever.

"Yes?" I called out.

"Oh, there you are," Katy said with a grin. "Hey, nice outfit. That dress is a bit short, though, don’t you think?"

"This isn’t a dress, it’s a blouse," I said, then blushed at the grin she was showing. So, okay, I fell for it. Then I blushed again as the grin she wore turned to a much sharper, more appraising look after I turned around.

Instead of laughing though, she paused as soon as she saw me and said, "Hey, you really look good. Did Lonna come by?"

I just shook my head. For some reason, admitting that I had done it all myself made me even more embarrassed. Go figure. I kind of slipped of into another spiral of distracted thought for a moment, snapping out of it when Katy grabbed my arm and pulled me back into the closet.

She rooted around for a second then said, "Here, put this on," handing me a denim skirt that I had forgotten about. Trish seldom wore skirts when she could wear jeans, though she wasn’t as fanatic about it as Katy. Or hadn’t been, or . . . well . . . .

"It’ll be okay," Katy tried to assure me, mistaking the sadness that showed on my face for worry. "You look fine, just right for an afternoon at the mall." Then she tried to lighten things with a giggle and a smirking, "Or at least you will be when you get that skirt on."

I pulled back, though not hard enough to dislodge her hand. "What do you mean, ‘at the mall’?"

"We’ve got to go shopping. That skirt looks good, but you need some jeans. And some other shoes, and, well, some things of your own. Bud’s got a consultation today, so I thought I’d hit the mall after I checked on you. Now we can go together."

"I don’t think so," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because, well, I mean, I’m, um, well, just look at me!"

"So?"

She was doing some sort of verbal judo thing on me again. She sounded like she had no clue at all why I was concerned. Not even a hint. So what did I tell her? I was the one who had dressed as Tami. No one had held a gun to my head that morning. Why did I go to the trouble?

"You can’t tell me you never went shopping with Trish," Katy said, finally, smiling to show she knew she was bailing me out. "Just think of this as reviewing another memory."

That excuse was wearing thin. I knew it, but I clung to it as the easiest way to avoid really looking inside myself. I stepped into the skirt and managed to get it zipped up the back (why do they do that on women’s clothes, anyway?), then looked around from some shoes. I was reaching for my running shoes when Katy interrupted yet again.

"Oh, no, you can’t wear those. They don’t work with that outfit at all."

"Trish sometimes wore sneakers with jeans or a casual skirt," I claimed.

"I know she did, but her feet were smaller than yours. Those running shoes don’t, um, help."

Oh. That was just almost enough to make me blow off the whole idea. But Katy was bustling forward with my low black heels and once again it was easier to go along than to argue. I’d been doing that a lot lately. Funny thing, but now that I thought about it, I had done that a lot with Trish, too. Not with editors or publishers or, oh, plumbers or whoever; others with whom I had to interact professionally or on a business basis, but I had always been a pushover for a pretty girl. Well, at least Lonna wouldn’t have been able to claim I was just mirroring Trish.

I had to switch things to another purse, again, and Katy insisted on a necklace and some clip-on earrings, then we were out the door. In daylight.

And then we were at the mall. In daylight. The world didn’t come to an end. No sirens went off. No chanting crowds with pitchforks and torches lined up. I know, because I was expecting it any second and I kept looking around for signs of impending doom.

"Calm down," Katy ordered. "The fastest way to get people to wonder about you is to look like you have something to hide."

"Well, I certainly do have something to hide," I snapped back.

"So? That doesn’t mean you have to advertise it," she whispered as we approached a door. How had we gotten so far from the car already?

The door opened just before we got there and the guy coming through smiled and stepped to the side, still holding it for us. It’s a good thing I was with Katy, because she just sailed on through and I got tugged along in the wake. It wasn’t the first time I’d had a door held for me, thanks to Bud the night before, but I still wasn’t up to accepting it as a sort of unthinking reflex. Apparently the guy holding the door didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, because he just smiled as I passed and then let the door close behind me. I wanted more than anything to look back and see if he was staring at me, but I didn’t.

Ha, I guess that means I didn’t want it more than anything at that, or I would have looked back. Instead, I just hurried along in the pull of the vacuum in Katy’s wake.

Don’t ask me how I ended up with pierced ears.

Getting some jeans seemed fairly normal. After all, I’d been in a fancy ladies powder room. How much worse was a dressing room? And I guess I knew we’d end up getting some shoes before I even left the house. But Katy did some more of that verbal judo thing on me to get me seated on a stool near a jewelry counter in Neiman’s, wearing my new jeans and getting holes punched in my ears. So okay, I do know how I ended up with pierced ears. I had complained about the pinch of the clip-on earrings, and, well, the rest just seemed inevitable.

It was only later, armed somehow with the fairly intimidating set of instructions on how to care for my ears while they healed that I finally managed to put a stop to Katy’s plans. That was when she tried to go into Victoria’s Secret.

"Not today," I said, stopping at the doorway.

"Oh, c’mon, it’ll be fun."

"Not today."

I didn’t raise my voice or anything, but she realized I had reached my saturation point for a while, and nodded.

"Okay, let’s go get a cup of coffee."

It took a lot of my remaining powers of concentration to remember the proper way to sit, even in jeans, and how to hold my shoulders up and my head erect. I wanted to slouch, but that wasn’t what Trish did, and wasn’t what Katy did, and now it wasn’t what Tami did, either. So it wasn’t very relaxing. Especially since it felt like every guy in the place was staring at me.

Katy’s musical laugh tinkled softly in the air, and she said, "You’re a hit, girl. Five will get you ten that at least one of those young studs comes over here."

"I don’t want that!"

"Too bad," she said, eyes twinkling. "Actually, every girl likes the attention. The problem is knowing how to turn him off when it’s not the right guy."

"Let’s leave, then," I suggested.

"No way. It’s going to happen anywhere, as long as you keep wearing jeans that tight."

"You made me pick this size!"

"Yep," she said, remorseless. "And you’re lookin’ good in ‘em."

I was about to say something else, but the waiter arrived and I had to resurrect smile number 14. Before I had a chance to start complaining again after he left, Katy asked me a question I realized I really should have been considering.

"What else do you need to do, to understand your memories of Trish?"

"What else?" I repeated. Stupidly. Tami wasn’t any better at conversation than Tim. Too bad.

"Yes," Katy confirmed, then she began to build up steam as her enthusiasm started to grow. "You’ve done the dinner out bit, and the shopping bit, and, um, well what else? Oh, you’ve kind of done the things around the house, like the treadmill. And you’ve learned how to move like she did, and how to dress like she did. Bud wasn’t the only one who thought you were Trish last night."

"Really?"

"Yep. It’s a good thing he saw you first. Lord knows what I would have dropped. You don’t look quite the same in better light, of course, and, well, you know how as you get to know someone better you start to notice details, but the first impression is awesome."

I just nodded. At some level, I think she knew that I was still trying to answer her first question. The real one. What was left?"

"I’ll never really be like Trish," I said softly.

"No, you won’t. But you can remember her. And even more importantly, you can understand her in a way that few husbands ever will."

"Yeah, I suppose so." Still not very sparkling at conversation.

"Seriously, uh, Tami, are you feeling better?"

It was a serious question, and one that deserved a better answer than I had to give. Which was actually progress, once I thought of it. Every single minute of every single day hadn’t been focused on my loss, on Trish, any more. Being Tami had distracted me, at least. Had it done any more than that?

Katy poked at my arm and said, "Earth to Tami, are you in there?"

"Hmm, oh, yeah. Just thinking." Well, Duh! What else would I have been doing?

"And . . ?"

"Oh, um, I guess I don’t know. I mean, I can tell a difference. I’m getting out and all, and, well, last night, I mean, two nights ago was fun for at least a while."

I grimaced with the memory of the parts that weren’t much fun, but I was also remembering the laughing and the feeling of, oh, belonging with the other girls.

"Is that enough?"

"I, uh, don’t really know. I mean, I think I understand now, in some way or another, about getting on with my life. But, I don’t know, I still feel there’s something missing."

"There always will be," Katy said gently.

"That’s not what I mean. I know Trish is gone, and that hole will never really be filled, but there’s something else. Something that was part of Trish that I still feel is just past my fingertips."

Katy stared at me for a long moment and I straightened up in my seat, thinking I had done something graceless. But I realized her gaze had drifted on to look at something else, the men who had been watching us when we sat down. Then she looked back at me with a raised eyebrow, as though she were expecting me to say something. When I didn’t respond, not surprisingly since I didn’t know what she was after, she said.

"Tell me some more about Trish. Tell me what she would be doing right now, if she were out with me."

"How should I know?"

She just gave me the raised eyebrow thing again. After a moment, I got the message this time. If I didn’t know, then there was something about Trish I didn’t know or understand, and would not remember about her.

"Okay, I see your point. What would she be doing?"

"I asked you first. I’m serious. Think about it."

Since I knew she wanted to see if I had gotten her point, I thought out loud, sort of wandering through my memories. "Well, I think you said that I dress a lot like her so it’s not the clothes or anything. And I move like her. Those things are sort of, oh, I was going to say ‘natural’ now, but you know what I mean. She was a lot more outgoing than I am, but I’m not sure I could do that."

"Why not?"

"Well, that’s a, um, personality thing, not a feminine thing."

"So?"

"So, um, well, it’s just not me to laugh and giggle and whatever."

"You did two nights ago."

"Yeah, but that was just going along with you and Lonna. It’s not the same."

"No, it’s not. But what is different about it?"

"Well, for one, you two were having fun and I just, um, tagged along.

Trish would have been leading the party."

"Really?"

What sort of question was that? Katy knew Trish was all bubbly and full of life. Twice as much as anyone else I knew, at least.

"Sure."

Katy sat back in her chair for a moment, and looked quizzically at me. When she spoke, she was quiet, speaking as much to herself as to me. "Actually, I never thought of her that way. When we were out together, without you around, she was pretty much the way you were the other night. She’d laugh along with us, sometimes even starting the laughter with some smart comment, but she wasn’t really leading things. Can you believe that?"

"Um, well, I guess so. If you say so."

"I say so," Katy said firmly. "If you want to have it confirmed, you can ask Lonna."

"No, sorry, I didn’t mean to doubt you. It’s just that the whole time I was with Trish, she always seemed so happy."

"Yes, she did," Katy said again, then waited.

"Are you saying Trish was only all bubbly and things when she was with me?" I guess I’d like to believe that.

Katy’s eyes were soft and gentle, but her head was shaking, not nodding. "No, it wasn’t only when she was with you."

"I don’t understand."

"Look, Tami, I’m still trying a lot of ideas on for size in this," she began, ominously. It wasn’t that she was trying to sound particularly ominous, but when she seemed to head off on a tangent, I got the impression she was trying to break something unpleasant to me. "I think I can accept, even understand what you’re trying to do. Not many men, not many people would care enough about their spouse to try and understand them as well as you are doing. I know you did that even before she, um, before we lost her, but what you’ve done since is really intense. Are you ready to learn something you apparently didn’t know about her?"

"Damn, Katy, with that sort of buildup I don’t have much choice. I can’t NOT know, now."

"Oh, yeah, sorry. Well, here’s the situation. Trish loved to flirt."

"You mean, with other men? I don’t believe it!"

"With all men, you most of all. She just enjoyed the attention of men. It made her feel good about herself to know that she was attractive to men, and that good feeling, that enjoyment bubbled out of her whenever she was around men she found attractive."

"But she would never do anything with another man. I mean, she never did, and never would have!"

"I know what you mean, and you’re right. I’d bet everything I have that she was 100% faithful to you. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t like the knowledge that she was attractive to men - especially you, but to other men, too. Didn’t you ever enjoy looking at a pretty girl, besides Trish I mean?"

"Well, of course, but that’s . . . "

"Different?" Katy supplied when I ran down. But the question mark in her voice was as clear as if she had marked it on the table.

"Yes, of course that’s what I mean," I said, after a minute. But the bigger question still remained. "So, um, what does that have to do with anything? So Trish enjoyed flirting, as you said, or at least enjoyed knowing she was attractive? So what?"

"You tell me."

"Damn it, Katy, I’m getting tired of these guessing games."

I could see her struggle with herself for a minute. She looked back at the table with the guys again, then said, "I’m not trying to railroad you on this, and you can tell me that I’m wrong, of course. But I think what you’re missing out on, in understanding Trish, is her enjoyment of the attention of men. If you want to really understand Trish, you need to understand that enjoyment."

"You mean I need to flirt with guys? Get real!"

"Well, it may not be necessary to, um, well, actively flirt or anything. But a woman likes to know she’s attractive to men. It’s an affirmation as old as the species, where the need is literally to be able to attract a mate. It makes you feel good about yourself in a way that has kept us in curlers and heels for a thousand years. All I’m saying is that Trish understood that. And if you really want to understand her, you need to understand, too."

Did I? Did I really want to understand her that badly? Just what would I do to capture and absorb my Trish before she slipped away from me?

 

 

 

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Lucky 2000 by Brandy Dewinter. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.