Something Feels Strange - 19

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Something Feels Strange…

By Tiffany B. Quinn

Before going to bed, I log into my email account and what do I find? Another email from Joey! Laurie gives me an I-told-you-so look when I tell her.  He sent the email late in the day and attached another of the pictures taken yesterday. He asks how my day went and if I've found out anything about the race on Saturday.

Ugh!  What do I do? I decide to ignore it for the time being. I feel bad to ignoring someone who is trying to be friendly, but Laurie has me concerned that Joey is looking for more than just a friend. Maybe if I send him a thank you email late tomorrow he'll take the hint that I'm not interested in establishing a romantic relationship. Why can't we just be buddies?

Chapter 19: A Night Out

The cool breeze feels good after the climb. The view from up here is phenomenal—it’s definitely worth the climb.

I am sitting on a mountain peak which overlooks a mountain pass and taking a long drink from a water bottle. The Major and Tom are with me. Our little ‘family’ group have spent the morning driving around and exploring the regions north of Anchorage, and have finally ended up at a state recreation area that includes some historic mine buildings and some absolutely spectacular alpine scenery.  After poking around the old mine buildings for a while, the three of us decided to hike up to a small lake nestled in a natural bowl on the side of a mountain overlooking the recreation area.  The mile-long hike to the lake was easy, but the lure of the summit only a thousand feet higher up caused us to continue to the top by scrambling across a small snow field and up some loose rock.

Laurie and the rest of the ladies decided to continue exploring the mine buildings. I think Laurie was not keen to get too far away from the outhouses given her current monthly predicament. She has been a frequent visitor to bathrooms the last couple of days. I don’t think that she would have liked the final scramble anyway.

“Wow, you’re a pretty good hiker for a girl,” Tom observes.

“Didn’t you think a girl could do it, then?” I ask, somewhat indignantly.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” he replies, blushing.

“So what did you mean?” I ask expectantly. I decide to try the girl trick of making him squirm for making a stupid comment. It is interesting to watch how uncomfortable he gets.  His father isn’t helping him either. The Major just sits back and allows Tom to either dig his own grave or find a graceful way out of the hole that his mouth has dug for him.

Tom sputters as he tries to come up with a good save. “Most of the girls I know would have needed some help getting up here—that is if they would have even tried. You just seem like one of the guys the way you just go for it.”

I arch my eyebrow and frown. “So now I’m ‘one of the guys’? Maybe I should lower my voice and start flexing my biceps,” I say, holding my arms up in a muscle-man pose.

Poor Tom is getting really red by now. I wonder if I should let him off the hook mercifully.

“Ugh! That didn’t come out right either,” he says in frustration.

The Major smiles as he finally provides his son with some advice, “Give it up, Tom. There are times when you just can’t win so just cut your losses and let it go.”

To me he says, “I think what my son is trying to say is that he doesn’t know any pretty girls like you who are as good at this kind of activity and he is happy to have you with us today. I don’t think that he has learned how capable girls can be in the outdoors when they choose. Maybe we should send him on a hike with Private Clawson for an educational experience.”

I laugh at the suggestion. “Tom, you might be right about most girls but I am not most girls. However, you need to learn how to be a bit more diplomatic like your father. And watch out for stereotypes. Come to think of it, you hike pretty good for a guy! After all, I know plenty of guys who would never have made it up here either.”

This got a great laugh from the Major. Tom—on the other hand—was not amused.  His pride had taken rather a beating and he is careful in his comments as we trek back down the mountain to join the others.

At one point, when Tom is out of earshot, the Major says, “You have come a long way this week, Princess. The way you handled Tom back there was a very typical response from a strong-minded woman. You will have to reach out to him now that you’ve put him in his place and let him know you are not out to get him personally.”

“I’ll try,” I say. “I didn’t mean scare him off, just to make him think a little before he opens his mouth and puts his foot in it.”

As we re-cross the little snow field I make a snowball which I toss at Tom while he is not looking. This act touches off a three way snowball fight that has us all breathless and laughing by the time we call a truce. I was the big loser in the fight. Let’s face it, this female body is not much of a match in a snowball fight with an older teenage male and his father. Regardless, we all had fun and Tom seemed to feel better afterwards. We had a lot of fun on the rest of the tramp back to the car. I even managed to squeal and giggle like a girl during the snowball fight and as we poked fun at one another on the way down the mountain.

---< >---

“What a pain!” I exclaim in frustration. Everyone—except Laurie—seems bewildered by my total inability to do an acceptable job of applying eye shadow after four tries. We—Laurie, Ashley, Kimi, Shelley and I—are all in Ashley’s bedroom adding the finishing touches for tonight’s grand entrance.

“Haven’t you ever dressed up for a date?” Shelly asks in frustration. “I’d think that even a tomboy would have to apply makeup from time to time. I’ll never understand the few girls at our school that don’t know about makeup. They don’t have boyfriends either.”

“Tina hasn’t dated much,” Laurie says—‘at least, not as a girl’ I add to myself. “She just sticks to the basics.”

“I’m pretty good at it. Let me help,” Ashley volunteers.

I am delighted to accept her offer; I don’t know why, but I guess I feel embarrassed by my lack of girl skills and resolve to spend more time learning.  I pay close attention to what Ashley does, asking questions about the finer points as she goes.

It is twenty minutes later when, finally, we troop into the family’s front room as a group.  Ashley’s parents and two younger brothers are there.

“Oh my,” Ashley’s mom exclaims. “You girls are certainly going to be the center of attention tonight. I feel sorry for the poor boys. They won’t be able to watch the movie at all. I just have to get a picture of this!” If my folks had seen what the Alaskan girls were wearing, they wouldn’t have let them out of the house. Even so, I have to admit that we all look pretty hot, though I think Laurie is the best looking of the bunch in her new skirt and blouse. I can’t help but wish that I was the guy taking her out tonight.

I still feel rather exposed in my new dress and am constantly fiddling with hem, trying to make it longer. There is a lot of free space in the skirt and I don’t feel very covered. I keep worrying that the strapless bra is going to fall down too.

“Stop that, Tina,” Kimi says, as I tug at the hem of my skirt again. “It is not going to get any longer.”

When Ashley’s dad comes back with the camera, they pose us in front of the big fireplace and take several pictures. I dig my cell phone out of my purse and have him take a couple of pictures with it. Ashley’s dad promises to email us a few of the pictures taken with his real camera.

In no time at all, we are crammed into Ashley’s little car and heading for the theatre.  There is much excitement in the air as the girls predict the effect we will have on the other members of the group. Me—I’m just trying to figure out how to sit in the small back seat of the car without showing my panties—what there is of them—to the world.  It is a good thing there are only girls here!  I spend a lot of the drive thinking about how I might manage to exit the back seat of the two-door car gracefully.

Parking is hard to come by at the theatre and there is already a long line of people stretching out of the door into the parking lot.  Fortunately, some of our group are near the front of the line.

Mercifully, the only parking spots that we can locate are on the far side of the crammed parking lot, so  I can get out of the car without a big audience. Somehow, Laurie and Kimi manage to  exit gracefully from the back seat with their knees together. I try to imitate them but it is awkward and my efforts are not nearly as smooth. I just wish it was dark outside, but no, I have to do it in broad daylight—does it ever get dark here? Exiting a small car gracefully in a short skirt is just something else that I must practice.

I totter through the parking trying to balance on my new heels. Someone decides that we need to link arms and make our entrance as a group. What is it with girls?  Everything seems to be a group activity.  As I get dragged along I have to admit that it is kind of fun.  At least I can hide in the little group.

Glancing at the rest of the crowd gathered at the theatre, I realize that we are very overdressed for the occasion—most people are very casually dressed.  I see only one other skirt in the crowd. We really stand out, but I suppose that is the idea. As we approach the line to where Tom and his friends are waiting for us, we attract several whistles and I see at least two girls elbow their dates when the boys became distracted.

Our contingent is pretty big—half the swim team must be here. Laurie and I are introduced to more than a dozen other kids, mostly guys. We get lots of positive comments from them about our outfits. One of the girls took Ashley aside and asked her why she didn’t tell the other girls what we were doing.  She felt that we made the rest of them look bad. The other girls in the group are pretty cool towards our little gang. The guys, on the other hand seem unable to stay away from us. I feel like I am on display when I’d much rather melt into the crowd.

“Wow,” Tom exclaims, “You all look great tonight! Ashley, you should have said something, I would have dressed a little nicer.”

“Do you have anything nicer?” Ashley enquires. “I’m beginning to think that all you own is jeans and hiking clothes. Anyway, I like you just the way you are. We just felt like doing something special tonight. Tina here thought that she needed to look nice and we decided to join her.”

That’s not how I remember the story, but it’s not worth fighting about.

A guy named Don decides to get friendly with Laurie and I. “So,” he says, “I hear that you girls only here for a couple of more days.  How has your visit been?”

The poke in the ribs that I get from Laurie seems to indicate that I should field this question. “It has been very interesting. Alaska is a lot different from what I imagined. I’ve been learning a lot on this trip.” About more than Don will ever know!

“What have you been up to?” Don asks.

I spend some time telling him about our two trips and the shopping excursion.  I also mention that I have been preparing for tomorrow’s race. Somewhere in the conversation, I note that Laurie has struck up her own conversation with another boy. I can’t hear what she is saying but I don’t think that she is doing that flirting thing again. I hope not.

While I am chatting with Don, two other boys and a girl join us.  One of the boys, Jerry, has lived in Southern California; his family is military also. The girl, Connie, is originally from Texas—her parents are in the oil business.

Eventually the line starts to move and we make it into the lobby of the theatre where we order pizzas and drinks for the movie.  We end up ordering a mix of pizzas, breadsticks, and pitchers of soda pop. One of the girls decide that WE need to use the restroom before getting seats, so we send the boys to stake out our place while all eight of us girls head for the ladies room. The herd instinct is strong with girls, I've noticed.  It seems that every other girl in the theatre has the same idea because there is a long line for the toilets. It is mad house in here.

While we are waiting our turn Connie asks, “Tina, you don’t wear a dress and heels often do you? I’ll bet Ashley and her pals put you up to this.”

“How’d you guess?” I ask.

“You need to quit fussing with the hem of your dress and you’re not real steady on those heels,” she explains.

I sigh, “Yes, the others put me up to it. Something about learning how to express my femininity. They told me that I’m too much of a tomboy in everyday life. I’ve never gone out like this before and I’m not sure that I like it.”

“Well, Ashley, Kimi, and Shelly are a bit over the top most of the time,” she says, matter-of-factly, “but you do look pretty nice. I have to admit that I’m glad that you’re leaving this weekend.  Jerry can’t seem to take his eyes off you. I’ve been trying to attract his attention for a year now and this is the first time that he’s asked me out. I doubt that I could compete with you if you decided to grab him for yourself. I think that Don and a couple of the other guys are having the same problem so at least he would have some competition.”

“Neither of us is in the market for a boyfriend,” I try to assure her. “Laurie has a very steady boyfriend at home and I don’t have time for one.”

“Yeah,” she says unconvinced, “just make sure that your hormones stay in check tonight, girl. I’d hate to lose in one evening all the ground I’ve made with Jerry over the past few months. You don’t know how hard it’s been to get him to take me out.”

I sense that Connie is placing a shot across my bow. I get the warning.

“Look, Connie,” I tell her. “Neither of us are here to cause trouble. Believe me, right now I don’t want to stir up any romantic entanglements. You can have Jerry, if that’s what you want. I won’t be doing anything to attract him, or any of the other boys, tonight.”

“You already have, Sugar.” she says. “Dressing like that has only one purpose—to attract guys.”

A stall comes available and I welcome the opportunity to break this conversation which is beginning to get intense. After finishing our necessary business, Laurie joins me at the sink where she suggests that we touch up our lipstick.

“What’s up with that girl?” she asks.

“She has the hots for Jerry, one of the boys I was talking with in line,” I tell her. “This is the first time that she’s gotten him to take her out and now she thinks that we are here to steal him.  She’s a tad jealous I guess and was politely telling me to stay away from him.”

“So,” she asks, “are you going to steal him?”

“Laurie!” I hiss at her in an urgent whisper. “Why would I do that? I’m not into guys, remember? I have a girlfriend. Even if I was, why would I want to hurt a girl that I just met, particularly when I will be gone in less than forty eight hours?”

“I don’t know,” she says, “I just thought that you might want to practice your feminine wiles where you won’t get stuck with an attachment. Don’t you think that he is kind of cute?  As a matter of fact, don’t you think all the boys are pretty cute? I think that Don is a regular hunk. Swimming really develops those luscious chest and shoulder muscles. Try letting go of Chris for a few minutes and look through the eyes of Tina.”

Our time is up in front of the mirror and we are crowded out of the way by others. As we leave the restroom I grab her by the arm and drag her into a corner of the packed lobby out of earshot of the rest of our group.

“Why are you doing this?” I demand angrily.

“What?” she asks innocently.

“You know what,” I fume at her. “Why are you pushing me at guys? It seems that you have forgotten that I’m your boyfriend.”

“I only see Tina here,” she shoots back. “Tina needs to learn how to be a girl. Part of being a girl is to listen and respond to what our bodies are telling us.  I just think that you will be happier when you learn to let go of Chris and act like the person that your body says you are. Look, I am, and will be, faithful to Chris.  I really like him, but he’s not here right now. Tina is and it’s my job to help Tina find herself. I don’t expect you to jump into bed with any of these guys but I don’t want you to deny it if your hormones kick in and cause you to have the normal feelings that go with the body that you currently occupy. The sooner you learn how to deal with the feelings that every girl has the better.”

Don comes out to find us and spots us in a heated debate in the corner.

“Hey, girls, the movie’s about to start,” he informs us cautiously.

“Save us a place,” I tell him with a glare. “We’ll be there in a minute.”

Turning back to Laurie, I inform her, “I am not having any female hormonal urges tonight. I am having a hard enough time dealing with this dress and the heels. They are more than enough of a distraction for me. I don’t have time to worry about being distracted by boys so if you want to help me you can just back off a bit.”

“Okay, Tina, “ she relents. “I’ll back off, but I won’t run interference for you either. Just let me know if you get in over your head and I’ll help where I can.”

Inside the theatre, I discover that Don has saved me a place at a booth table with him, Jerry and Connie. Connie doesn’t appear to be too happy about that. Tom and Ashley have included Laurie in their group with another guy.

The seat that Don saved for me is between him and Jerry.  I realize that this won’t go down too well with Connie, so I ask Jerry to trade places with Connie so that Connie and I can get to know each other better while we sit together between the two boys.  Jerry looks disappointed but Connie seems to appreciate the change in seating arrangements. 

For me the big challenge is to sit and slide gracefully into my place at the table wearing this short dress. I realize that I can’t just climb in like a guy so, keeping my knees together, I sit while smoothing the skirt of my dress under me then turn and slide into place.  It is awkward, but I manage to maintain my dignity. It feels so strange to have my legs so exposed and a bit of a draft up the skirt.  It is also proving difficult to get used to the feel of the strapless pushup bra and exposed shoulders. I am aware that Don and Jerry have spent a fair amount of time admiring my breasts. Swell—maybe the pushup bra wasn’t such a great idea. I am wishing that I had brought a light coat so I could cover up.

Our food arrives just as the movie’s opening credits roll, so the opportunity for conversation evaporates.  I’m fine with this.

It seems strange to be eating while watching the movie. We make some noise passing the pizzas around the various tables until everyone gets what they want, then settle in for the show. We are crammed into a booth style seating, but I still think that Don is getting more cozy than he needs to be. At one point his hand ends up on my thigh. I make a point to remove it and after that he pretty much behaves himself. I do catch him glancing at my chest from time to time and wonder if I was ever so obvious when I was a guy. I’m pretty sure that there is nothing wrong with Don’s hormones. Me—I’m feeling defensive so I don’t have any inclination to check out the people around me—especially Don.

Once everyone is settled and the ground rules established, I finally allow myself to focus more on the film. For a while I forget my predicament and just get lost in the action. I suppose that is why most folks go to movies—to forget about the cares of real life for a while. The strange part the situation is that I can’t decide whether to identify with the hero or the heroine. I find myself projecting into both roles. I can really connect with the hero but I find that I have a new connection with the heroine as well. I find myself asking how she can run and fight like she does wearing a tight skirt and heels. I find myself wishing that I could look that good and be as capable. I can’t decide if my new observations are good or bad. As the closing credits begin to roll, I find myself slowly returning to the reality of my current situation with a few new issues to think about.

“Tina,” Don asks, “are you coming to Leah’s house with us? We’re planning on having a party there tonight.”

“Yeah,” Jerry adds, a bit too enthusiastically for Connie, “You can ride with us if you’d like.”

I’d been told about this gathering earlier and don’t plan on going.

“I’d love to, guys,” I reply, “but I have a big race in the morning so I need to get to bed pretty soon.”

I can see the disappointment in their expressions. Connie looks very relieved; then Laurie catches up to us with a couple of boys in tow.

“Hey, Tina,” she says, “are you going to the party?”

“I wasn’t planning on it,” I answer with a sinking feeling. “Who’re your friends?”

“Oh, sorry,” she says, “This is Harry and Sam. They invited us to ride with them to the party.”

“If you remember,” I reply rather testily, “I have a race in the morning and need to get to bed.  I’m hoping that someone can give me a ride home.”

“We can drop you off on the way,” offers Harry.

“Gives us a minute please,” I tell everyone as I drag Laurie off to the side.

“Before you get your panties all in a twist,” she says cutting me off, “I am not running around on Chris. I promise that I am not flirting or chasing guys. I am just relaxing and getting to know some new people. Think about it. If you were here by yourself as Chris, you would do the same thing. So don’t go getting all jealous on me.”

“It would be easier if two girls had invited you instead of two guys,” I point out.

“Look at the girls,” she says. “They’re all distracted by the guys. None of them are interested in the new girls.

“Listen,” she continues, “I know that you need to get home and get some rest and I’ll go with you if it’s important to you.”

“But you’d like to go to the party,” I observe.

“Yeah, I would. I think that it’s nice to meet new people,” she says, “and I’d like you to come with me. We’d have some fun together and further your training. However I’d rather not upset you. You’re important to me.”

She sure knows how to put me in a dilemma. So, do I put my foot down and have her come home with me or give her my blessing to go to the party? If I make her stay home, she is likely to be resentful and the lack of trust on my part might actually be damaging to our relationship. If I let her go without me, I’ll be jealous and worried. If I go with her, I won’t be in any shape for the race tomorrow. There is no good outcome to the decision before me.

In the end, I decide to let her go without me. That is the riskiest of the options but the only one where only I am potentially harmed. I decide that I need to work on having faith in her and confidence in our relationship.

---< >---

The quiet rustling sound that I hear is what must have woken me up. Without moving, I can see Laurie preparing for bed by the dim light in the room. I can also see the bright red numbers on the digital clock. It is 11:45 and Laurie is down to her underwear. She certainly does have a nice figure. She slips off her bra but leaves her panties on. I get just a glimpse of her bare breasts before she slips on her nightgown. I find myself disappointed that, after spending almost a week managing my own new female breasts, this first view of hers is rather an anti-climax. It does absolutely nothing to arouse me.  But then again, I haven’t been sexually aroused all week by anything or anybody.

As I pretend to be asleep, Laurie quietly slips into bed with me and lies facing me. I fully open my eyes and softly say “Good evening, girl friend.”

“Oh, Tina,” she quietly replies, “I tried not to wake you. I’m sorry!”

“’T’s okay,” I reply, “I wasn’t sleeping well anyway. You’re back fairly early. Did you have a good time?” Part of me is hoping that she had a miserable time.

“I guess it was all right,” she tells me. “That Don guy must be hard up for a girlfriend. When we got to the party he stuck to me like glue: it got to be annoying pretty quick. He’s a nice boy but he’s nothing like Chris. I kept finding myself comparing all the guys to Chris and they always came up short. I know that you’re still here, but I miss having your arm around me. I miss being a couple. It is like I have lost my best part. What’s so frustrating is that you’re not really gone but I still can’t have what I miss. I don’t know if this make sense but in a lot of ways it would be easier for me if you were away at camp.”

“Me too,” I reply dejectedly. “If I was at camp, then I wouldn’t have so many of the confused feelings I have. I find it difficult to be around you as Chris in hiding but, strangely, I like being with you as a girl friend. I feel like two different people—sometimes at the same time. On one hand I want to hold you as my girlfriend and enjoy the sexual tension and excitement that exists in such a relationship.  On the other hand I am enjoying learning about girl things with my best girl friend—someone who will always be there for me. I really liked being your boyfriend and I really like being your best girl friend. I know that I can’t be both at once, but I’m not sure that I can switch between them.  Am I making any sense?”

“Yes,” she says, “I feel a lot the same way. I really really like Chris and I like having a boyfriend that makes me feel warm all over.  I like being held and kissed. I really like being with Chris and long to be with him again. On the other hand, I am finding Tina to be a great friend who needs me. She also helps me see life from a different perspective and the result is I think I’m becoming a better person by hanging out with her. There are lots of things that I can share with Tina that I would never feel comfortable sharing with Chris. I love Tina as a sister and really enjoy her. I know that I can’t have both, but I like both. This situation is really awkward.”

“Laurie, I’m afraid of letting go of Chris for the summer,” I say with some anguish in my voice. “I’m afraid that it will be hard to bring him back.”

She reaches over and puts her arm around me and pulls me close so that our foreheads touch like two girls sharing a secret. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” she whispers to me. “Look how well you’re adapting to being Tina without any prior experience. It should be much easier to go back to being Chris than it has been becoming Tina. Besides, I will do my best to accelerate the transition when it happens! In the mean time, I like having you, Tina, to be my favorite cousin and I will do everything in my power to help you be the best girl that you possibly can be. Being a girl is not all bad, you’ll see!”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I confide, “I’m so afraid that, if I let myself go, I’ll like it too much to go back.”

“Well, girl, it seems to me that you’ll have to go back to being Chris. After all, how would you explain Chris’s disappearance? I would miss him terribly. Just think, if you didn’t switch back then we’d both need to find new boyfriends; and let me tell you, girl, guys like Chris are rare and very hard to find. Anyway, letting yourself go may make the transition back to being Chris harder, but not unbearable, and I think that it will make your summer much more fun. Think about it, girl friend.”

I do think about it—a lot—before I finally get to sleep.

 ---<>---

Thanks to Gabi for her work on this chapter. She had her work cut out for her! We'll miss her!