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Lucky             by: Brandy Dewinter           2000, All rights reserved

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Chapter 8

"I don’t know . . . ," I said, stalling. At one level I didn’t want to admit that there was ANYthing I wouldn’t do to be closer to my Trish. But, flirting with guys? And how else would I get that feeling of enjoyment in my attractiveness to men? Did I even WANT to enjoy that feeling, regardless of how much pleasure Trish had taken from it?

My knee-jerk answer was not only no, but Hell, NO! But . . .

But if Katy had truly identified something that was a key part of my Trish, and I didn’t even know it, then how could I just let that part of her go?

I finally realized I was lost in another fruitless spiral again, so I punted the ball back to Katy. "What do you think I should do?"

"I’m probably not the right person to ask," she said. "I’m not into the flirty thing much myself. I like jeans too much to do something just to be more attractive to men. When I feel like kicking up my heels, I just go to a country-western club and boogie."

"With Bud?" I asked, surprised. I never figured him for a dancer.

"You’d be surprised," she said, causing me to jerk as she read my mind. "He’s really a good dancer. And maybe the best part of it is that he doesn’t mind if I dance with someone else. He’s knows I’ll be going home with him."

I just nodded, too distracted to have anything useful to say. I just couldn’t see myself ‘boogying’ in a country-western bar.

Katy must have seen the idea roaming behind my eyes, because her own lit up with enthusiasm and she said, "It could work. You can get some boots, and a hat. If Trish doesn’t have a western shirt I’ll loan you one. You get out there in those tight jeans and I guarantee you’ll attract men."

"I don’t think so," I said. "What if someone comes on to me?"

"Then you’d know you succeeded," she said, laughing.

"I don’t know . . . ," I said. Which, as I realized after a moment, was what I had said first after she made her, um, observation that I didn’t understand this aspect of Trish. Which meant I wasn’t making any progress.

I gathered up my purse and all the things I had bought and said, "I need to think about this for a while."

"Okay," she agreed lightly. "Why don’t you let me call Bud and we’ll all go out to supper together? He should be back at his office by now."

I’m not sure she noticed my nod. She certainly didn’t wait for it, pulling her phone out even as she spoke. In minutes everything was arranged. At least the place we would be going to was casual.

Bud was waiting for us when we arrived. I was about half expecting him to act surprised or something, but I realized that Katy had mentioned my name, uh, that is, Tami’s name on the phone. In any event, he just smiled and pulled her chair back. Because of the arrangement of seats, he managed to reach mine the same time I did and pulled my chair back for me, too.

"You don’t have to do that," I said. "It’s me, remember?"

"Yes, I remember," Bud replied. "But when you look like a lady, you should be treated like a lady."

"That’s it!" Katy blurted.

"What’s ‘it’?" Bud asked, beating me by just enough that my voice sounded like a soft, off-tone echo of his own words.

Instead of answering, Katy started in on her question game again.

"Bud, how would you describe Trish?"

"Vivacious, cheerful, attentive," he answered, then looked at me and said, "pretty."

"Not drop-dead gorgeous?" Katy said, smiling.

"Uh, well," Bud stalled, then smiled himself and continued, "there’s only one woman in my life I think of that way."

"Smooth," I muttered, distracting them from each other.

Katy snickered in a sort of half-embarrassed, half-pleased way, then said, "See what I mean, Tami? Girls like to be complimented."

Turning back to Bud she continued, "I told Tami that Trish loved knowing she was attractive to men. If Tami is really going to understand Trish, she’s going to have to understand that feeling."

I could see the wheels churning behind Bud’s eyes for just a second, then, like a screen fade in a cheap movie, they became blank and non-committal. The lawyer was now sitting at our table.

"Yes?" he said, prompting without any judgment. At least, not any apparent judgment. But he hadn’t gone into lawyer mode because he was really neutral about the idea.

"Oh, lighten up," Katy said. "I just suggested that she get herself some boots and come to the club with us. Dance with some guys. Let them flatter her a little. That sort of thing."

"That’s the ‘it’ you were talking about?" he asked.

"Well, no, not really," she admitted. "Tami didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of ‘boogying’ with guys."

Bud’s eyes tracked over to me. For some reason I felt like I had to say something; to volunteer some information even though he hadn’t asked. For an insane half-second, I wondered if that were something they taught in lawyer school.

"I, uh, didn’t, um, don’t feel right about, well, flirting with guys."

"Then don’t do it."

"Yeah. Well, um, the problem is that she, that is, Katy convinced me that this was part of Trish. And . . ."

I ran down, not sure what to say. This gave Katy the chance to explain her new idea.

"But, see, there’s another option. If she goes somewhere that is really elegant, very feminine and ladylike, then she won’t really have to ‘boogy’ but she’ll still feel attractive. We just need something more formal than a country-western club."

"What do you think of that?" Bud asked me.

Darned if I knew. I hadn’t considered the idea of some sort of fancy place where everyone was pretty much guaranteed to be a gentlemen. At least, as along as I could pretend to be a lady.

"I’m not sure," I said. Before I could work up any good objections, Katy chimed in again, anticipating an argument I hadn’t even thought to make.

"Bud could take you somewhere."

"Bud?! No way! For God’s sake, he’s your husband!"

"I think I knew that," she said, poking him in the arm and giving him a look that made me very quiet for a long second. She didn’t notice, and didn’t seem the least bit bashful about having volunteered him. "Look, you’re still not getting it. The whole point is an evening out where you can learn to accept and enjoy being attractive to men. Since you DON’T want it to go any further, who better than Bud to be your escort?"

"Oh, how about, like anyone? Sorry, Bud, but you know what I mean. Geez, if I have to do something like that, I could go out with you, or with Lonna."

"Wouldn’t be the same. You need someone to open doors for you, and to hold your chair for you, and whatever. It’s part of the package. And unless you let some guy pick you up right off the bat, you won’t get that. Besides, you saw the other night how when girls go out together, guys get sort of shut out. It’s just different."

There I sat, dressed as a woman, having been out drinking and almost picked up in a bar, and I was making a big fuss about spending an evening with my best friend. Regardless of any other considerations, Bud was certainly ‘safe’ in that I didn’t need to worry about unwanted advances. I still thought the idea was stupid. Not that it wasn’t something that had been part of Trish. She had enjoyed looking good, and I realized now that it wasn’t only my own interest that she appreciated. It was still something that I couldn’t imagine ever enjoying myself, though, even in a sort of formal, distant way. Wanting to be attractive to men, I mean.

But there wasn’t any real risk, and Katy was so sure. I sighed and said, looking at Bud, "Would you do that?"

He sat for a long second, too. Looking at me, then at Katy, then back. Finally he said, very quietly "If you want."

"Gee thanks, old buddy. Mercy date, huh?"

"No, uh, Tami, you know that’s not it. You very much look and act like an attractive woman. You’d probably be able to go into the bar here and get picked up in a minute, by someone who didn’t know, um, who you are."

"But you do know."

"I admit, I’m having trouble understanding this whole thing."

"Me, too," I admitted, holding up a hand to stop Katy from interrupting.

He looked at me for a long time. Maybe a minute. Then he said, "But I remember the way you were just a couple of weeks ago. I’ll take you as a live Tami over that might-as-well-be-dead Tim, even if you . . . well, I’ll do it. If this helps you get your life together again, then I’ll be glad to help."

"Wait a minute. This is just a sort of, I don’t know, experiment or something. To help me understand Trish better. This is not a permanent thing."

His silence said so much I was ready to argue some more, but this time Katy did interrupt.

"Where would you go?"

Like I had a clue. I just shrugged and looked at Bud. He smiled, for the first time in quite a while showing genuine humor, of a sardonic flavor. "It’s a good thing you have a good lawyer. While you were, um, indisposed and I was taking care of your bills, I sent in some money for tickets to a writer’s banquet of some sort. I figured you could decide later if you wanted to go. Maybe now is the time to decide."

I remembered something about that from somewhere. Not from this year, but . . . "Was that the, oh, what’s it called? Something too cute for words. The ‘A Muse, Inc. Ball’?"

"That was it," Bud agreed.

"That’s more of a fundraiser for writer’s workshops than a banquet. Trish and I went one year, and mostly it’s standing around in too-fancy clothes trying to appear artistic and elegant at the same time. We got bored and left early."

"Sounds perfect," Katy said, smirking. It sounded boring, like I said, and she knew it. But it would have lots of leering would-be romance writers who thought they were experts on passion and womanly charms. Don’t let the names on the book covers fool you. Most romance writers are horny guys with vivid imaginations. Come to think of it, that did sound about perfect.

And it also seemed less threatening than all the sensual tension of a redneck dance club. At some point in there the decision was made. I felt myself smiling with relief, though what I had to be relieved about was unclear, and said, "I guess I’ll need an escort."

Bud stood from his chair and bowed low over my hand, "Miss Piper, would you do me the honor of allowing me to be your escort to the ball?"

"Why, Mr. Weiserman, I thought you’d never ask."

 

When I got home there was a message from Lonna to call her. She wasn’t available when I called back, and when she did call I was running the vacuum and didn’t hear the phone. Very domestic of me, don’t you know. Anyway, the first sign I had that she had come over instead of continuing with the phone tag was when the doorbell went off. I nearly panicked - a sensation that was becoming all to familiar - at the thought of a neighbor or something coming to talk with me while I was still dressed as Tami. But the doorbell rang again and I decided I was going to have to do something, and do it as Tami.

Anyway, I answered the door to find Lonna standing there, looking a bit worried until she saw me, then looking very surprised.

"Why, Tami, I didn’t, um, expect to see you here."

"Why not?" I asked with a silly little artificial giggle Trish had used to tease. I knew that one really well. Before Lonna could answer, I dropped the punch line, "I do live here, after all."

You know, that might have been the first time I really saw Lonna blush. She had certainly triggered one on my face enough times, but this was the first time she looked, I don’t know, vulnerable or something.

It took my breath away. In just that heartbeat she went from a nice friend - who happened to be a very beautiful woman - to . . . to something I didn’t want to admit, even to myself. That part of me was for Trish, and her only. Forever and ever.

I don’t know what was showing on my own face, but all of the sudden Lonna’s face showed real concern. "Are you okay?"

"What? Huh? Oh, sure. I’m fine," I said, recovering enough to stand back and let her in.

She tried to cover whatever her own feelings were behind a mask of professionalism. "You look really good. Did Katy come by and help you?"

"Oh, um, she came by, but all she did was help me get some jeans that fit. I did the rest myself."

There it was again. Feeling worse because I was good at it. Of course, the ‘it’ was being able to make myself look like a pretty woman, so ‘it’ was a bit strange.

"Really? I may have to start taking tips from you," she said, laughing. At least it broke through whatever tension was between us.

I was about to do the hostess thing and offer her some coffee when she said, "So, how have you been?"

"Fine."

"Just fine? I come in and find you’ve gotten dressed and gone shopping, when the last time I saw you it wasn’t clear whether you’d live or die and you’re just ‘fine’? I was worried about you, and now I find you’ve been out having fun."

"Oh, sure. It was just a hangover."

"Some hangover remedy. I’ll have to recommend it to Bill."

"Bill?" Then I remembered and laughed when I got her implication.

"Oh, sorry, now I remember. Yeah, you’ll have to tell him."

"Seriously," she said, "are you doing okay? With everything, I mean, not just the hangover."

"I guess so," I said with a slow nod. "Katy has this idea for something else to try, and it might be a good idea."

"So that’s why you dressed as Tami?"

"Um, no, not really. I was already dressed when she came over. It just seemed like, I don’t know, something to try on my own."

"Well, you did it really well. Are you beginning to like it?"

"I don’t know, really," I admitted. "I know that I feel more alive when I’m Tami than I was feeling as Tim, but I’m not sure that’s a cause or more of a result from getting out. You guys have really been, uh, getting me to do things."

"I think you could say we’ve had an influence on you, yes," Lonna said dryly, but in her eyes there was still a lot of conflict.

Maybe I had just had enough conflict for the day - the emotional kind - mostly with myself, but still too much. Anyway, I decided I was not going there any more, so I grabbed Lonna’s elbow and pulled her to the kitchen. "C’mon, we can talk over coffee."

The logistics of that campaign occupied both of us for a few minutes and when we sat down, Lonna looked a lot more cheerful, though the real topic of conversation hadn’t changed.

"So, what’s Katy’s new idea? I’ll bet it’s outrageous. It’s amazing what a girl who looks so down-home conservative can come up with."

"Outrageous isn’t the half of it. She wants me to go out on a date with Bud."

"A what?" Well, she was the one who said she expected something outrageous.

"You heard me. Katy thinks I’m still holding back on, well, I don’t remember how she put it, something about enjoying being attractive to men. As long as it makes me nervous, she thinks I still can’t really understand Trish."

That put another frown on Lonna’s face. You could see she was really considering the idea. And becoming convinced. "You know, she may be right."

"I know. I already sort of agreed. In fact, I’m glad you came by. I think I’m going to need some more help." And why wasn’t there a sigh of exasperation in my voice when I said that?

"What sort of date is it?"

"Very fancy. There’s this writer’s ball that I get an invitation to every year. I need to look like a real lady. It will take every bit of your magic."

Lonna’s eyes lit up, whether it was with pleasure for me or just at that thrill of the challenge was unclear, but her enthusiasm was obvious.

"Oh, that could be so much fun! I just know you’ll have a, oh . . ." she laughed, interrupting herself. "I was going to say you’ll have a ball, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?"

She launched into a runaway dissertation on styles and "looks", interrupting herself to ask when and where and what sorts of things the other women would be wearing, and . . . I was more than merely overwhelmed, answering when asked with what I could remember.

It finally got to be too much for me and I took advantage of a pause (even she had to breathe) and asked, "Why are you so excited about this, about helping me?"

She jerked like I had hit her, then visibly gathered herself together and thought for a moment. "I don’t really know. I guess I always envied Trish. She and Tim had such a wonderful relationship. I, uh, guess I just wanted to be part of it. And, well, this is something I can do. The makeup and things."

"That sounds way too lonely for such a pretty girl," I said gently.

"I . . . oh, you just don’t understand," she accused, probably with some validity.

"Help me to understand," I said.

Her voice was so faint that I had to really strain to hear her. "Tim made Trish happy. I could see that. Goodness, she practically wore it like a sign. Can you believe how incredibly precious that is? I’ve been in way too many relationships, and in not one of them did I ever feel the sort of happiness that Trish always showed."

"Trish was the one that was special, not Tim."

"I think they were both special," she countered, smiling and reaching out to pat my hand.

"So are you," I said with a smile, trying to lighten the tone a little, but not really succeeding. "You’ve done so much for me. Spent a lot of money, too, haven’t you?"

"Oh, that’s not important. What’s important is that you seem so much more alive than that day you told me about Trish."

"It is important," I said, and then bit my tongue. I was about to ask her how much I owed her, then realize it would make all her friendship seem mercenary. I couldn’t do that right after she had shared such an appreciation - and envy - for what Trish had meant to Tim. And Tim to her, I guess.

I fell back into a spiral of reminiscence for a long moment, to see Lonna looking at me with a very tender expression in her eyes. It sparked a war in my conscience, and not about dressing up for once. But it was also an area that I didn’t want to get into. I wasn’t ready even to admit to myself that such thoughts were possible, let alone that they might be appropriate. Someday.

I let my own hand reach out to pat Lonna’s hand, still resting on my own. Dredging up smile 14, I said, "I’ll need to make that up to you somehow. But in the meantime, I guess you need to go look through Trish’s fancy clothes to see what we can use."

She smiled, too, a quick flicker on her lips that never touched here eyes, but she shook her head. "No way. You need a full-length gown, and none of Trish’s will be long enough. Besides, you ought to have your own. Every girl needs at least one formal."

Back in her area of expertise, she soon regained her momentum and the energy of her planning. But a complex shadow of sadness and tenderness and several other things I didn’t understand never left her eyes.

 



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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.