By Karen Singer
Hot! Almost searing hot! And so bright! He felt like his skin was on fire. His mouth was dry too, he needed a drink. With the lethargy that often comes from taking an afternoon nap, he gradually became aware of other things. There were lots of odd noises – birds, and people, and…an odd soft rushing sound. Almost peaceful really. Peaceful enough that it added to his drowsiness and he didn’t want to open his eyes. But the uncomfortable heat and light, mixed with the other things were beginning to add up in his brain. Something wasn’t right.
He opened his eyes and immediately had to shield them from the glare of the sun. He sat up and looked around, still trying to clear the cobwebs that were fogging his brain. As he gazed around him, his brain refused to comprehend what he was seeing. It was impossible! It couldn’t be! He had to be dreaming, but it looked so real. But the cobwebs in his mind were totally gone now and he knew that what he was seeing was all too real.
He was on a beach – with lots of people. The odd rushing sound he had heard was the ocean, the tiny waves of water rolling in very lightly against the shore. And then it sunk in fully, the last thing he remembered was driving up the highway away from town toward the mountains. And now, somehow, he was here on this beach instead – wherever here was. Panic moved into the pit of his stomach and made plans to remain there for a long, long time.
People were staring at him again. He looked down at himself. The first thing he saw from his sitting position was his toes – bright red again. The only clothes, if you could call them that, that he was wearing was a skimpy woman’s bikini bathing suit, the fake boobs in it were weighing heavily against his chest. He pounded his fist into the sand and winced as the long red nails on his fingers dug painfully into his palms. The witch had done it to him again. Somehow she had found out about what he had done to her apartment and had now gotten back at him for it. But where was he? Certainly not any place he recognized.
He looked around again. He was sitting on a large beach towel. There were palm trees back behind the beach and a huge hotel up on the hillside. The beach was loaded with people and there were small watercraft darting about in the huge bay in front of him. People were having fun everywhere he looked. But where was it?
He wanted to run. He wanted to find somewhere to hide, but he didn’t have a clue where to go. Still searching, he didn’t see any place where he could hide. It was a big beach, packed all too full of people. Lots of people. All too many of whom were staring at him.
There was a woman’s straw bag next to him. Maybe it held a clue as to where he was. Ignoring the looks of everyone around him, he grabbed it. He had to pull a pair of pink flip-flops with big flowers on them out of it first, then he dumped the whole bag out on the beach towel he was sitting on. Various women’s things tumbled out. Makeup, sunglasses, several different colors of nail polish, an emery board, a small mirror, a hair brush, suntan lotion…. Ah-ha! A woman’s wallet! It looked all too much like the one he had found himself with in the mall the week before. He grabbed it and opened it. His driver’s license and credit cards were inside, along with a good bit of cash. He breathed a tiny sigh of relief.
He went back to the rest of the pile of things on the towel. He found his keys, once again on that same too large and feminine key ring from last week too. Then he noticed a small white plastic card in the remaining items on the towel. He picked it up and looked closely. It appeared to be a hotel room key with an outline drawing of the hotel he had seen up on the hill. He glanced up at the hotel again just to make sure – they matched. The printing on the card said Reef Club. No room number of course. At least now he had a destination, someplace he could go to get away from everybody staring at him.
He quickly picked up everything he had just dumped out of the bag and threw it all back in again. Feeling like every little movement was drawing more and more attention to him, he stood up and grabbed the towel and the straw bag and headed quickly toward the palm trees and the hotel up on the hill. Every step felt like a major humiliation as he was forced to notice how many people were gawking at him. How had she done it? The witch!
There was a flight of wooden steps he had to climb up to the hotel. Then a wide sidewalk he could follow. But the sidewalk was getting hot and his feet weren’t used to going barefoot. Hating the very thought of it, he was forced to pull the stupid flip-flops out and put them on his feet. Would the humiliations never end?
He entered the hotel and was immediately faced with a problem, it was a maze. There were corridors and elevators everywhere. Which way was the front desk? He did his best to follow the signs, guessing which ones would lead him toward the front. He may have been inside, but that didn’t mean that there weren’t a lot of people around to gawk at him.
Eventually, several wrong turns later, he found the front desk. The lobby was large and spacious, and naturally there were a lot of people passing through it. He had to wait in a short line to talk to one of the attendants behind the desk, all the while feeling incredibly self-conscious and horribly embarrassed. He wanted to dig a hole and bury himself so badly, but that was unfortunately impossible – as was his whole situation. If only everybody would stop looking at him!
Finally, he got his turn. The girl behind the desk was smirking at him with amusement. He couldn’t blame her. “Um...” He didn’t quite know where to begin. “I think I’m staying at this hotel, but I don’t know my room number.” He quickly fished the room key out of his straw bag and showed it to her.
But the girl seemed to recognize him – unfortunately. “Of course you’re staying here. You talked to me earlier this morning! Remember?”
Steve of course didn’t remember any of it. He shook his head. “No, not really.”
The girl shook her head too. “Well, I’m still going to have to see your ID just to prove who you are.”
Steve could understand that. He had to rest the straw bag on the tall desk and stand on his toes to see into it to find the lady’s wallet inside. But as soon as he showed the girl his driver’s license she said, “Room 611. Elevators are over there. And maybe you should slow down on the rum drinks, so you remember better.”
Slow down on the drinks? If he ever got the chance, he’d wallow in some drinks – strong ones – and a lot of them! But at least he now knew what room he was in. However, he had also noticed that the girl didn’t even have to look his room number up. He didn’t think that was a particularly good sign.
“Have a nice day,” the girl said as he headed toward the elevators.
“Yeah right!” he thought. “Too late for that now!”
His room was elegant and spacious, all decorated in tropical colors. He had a spectacular view of the bay behind the hotel. The bed was king size. He even had a comfortable sitting area with a couch and two chairs. The TV was new and large. The room was beautiful. But one of the first things he noticed was his laptop set up on the desk. He turned it on and confirmed that it was his.
Also on the desk, right next to his laptop, were a bunch of brochures. He picked them up and nearly died. He couldn’t believe where he was. He was in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Way out somewhere in the Caribbean. What was he doing there? How had he got there? Impossible! Impossible! Impossible!
And how the heck was he supposed to get home again? Obviously, his car wasn’t right outside in the parking lot like he hoped.
He found a plane ticket next to where the brochures had been. He studied it carefully. Evidently, he had left home in the wee hours of Saturday morning. He looked further. His return flight wasn’t booked until next Saturday! Was he supposed to stay a whole week? Not a chance! As soon as he could, he was getting out of there!
But first things first. He needed his own clothes. He opened the closet. There was a flowered dress and what looked like some kind of skirt and blouse hung up in there, but nothing that looked the least bit masculine. He found a pair of ladies shoes with nothing but straps and what looked like a cork wedge heel on the floor. Where were his clothes? He finally spotted his suitcase in the corner of the closet, but when he opened it, it was completely empty.
He searched the drawers. He found the two other pairs of women’s panties he had packed in his suitcase, along with the bra he had worn in the mall the week before, but no male clothes of any kind. Where were his clothes?
He went into the spacious bathroom. There was a woman’s pink razor by the sink. Where were his things? What was he supposed to do?
He once again searched every nook and cranny he could find in the room, but nowhere did he see anything that looked the least bit like his clothes. The reality of the situation finally sank in fully. He was stuck once again with only women’s clothes to wear. He wanted to scream! He would have to go out dressed totally humiliatingly once again – just to buy himself some new clothes. And then, he still had to get home from there. St. Thomas? The Virgin Islands? Impossible!
He removed the bikini top he had been wearing and rubbed his sore chest from where the breast forms had been pressed so tightly against it. As he suspected, the breast forms looked like the ones from last week too. How had the witch done it? He tried to pull the long nails he was wearing off his hands, but they wouldn’t budge. He also couldn’t find any nail polish remover anywhere in the room. But by then, he no longer expected to.
He was pleasantly surprised to see that the makeup he was wearing washed right off. He felt like that was a major victory. He finally took a shower to wash all the sweat and sand off his body. The shower felt wonderful. It was by far the best thing that had happened to him all day so far. But when he got out of the shower and saw his reflection in the mirror, he got another small shock. The outline from the bikini he had been wearing was all too plainly visible. He’d have to be careful to cover that up when he got dressed.
But he wasn’t quite ready to face putting on any of the women’s clothes that were in the room. He kept his towel from the bathroom wrapped around himself instead, but there was some tiny bit of his mind that was trying to get him to slip a pair of the panties on. He forced the thought away angrily and picked up the phone instead.
“Hello, operator? Can you give me the number for the airport? … Oh, you can? That would be great.” He waited while the hotel operator transferred his call. A few transfers later, he was talking with a representative of the airline he had the ticket for. “I need a seat on the first flight out tomorrow,” he said.
“I’m sorry, all the outbound flights are full,” the airline representative replied. “I’m pretty sure everything is completely booked up for the rest of the week. But I can check if you want.”
“Yeah, please do that,” Steve replied. All the flights were full? He doubted that. They just wanted more money.
“I’m sorry,” the representative came back with a few minutes later. “As I said earlier, all flights this week are already full.”
“Wait a minute,” Steve replied, “I have a ticket here for next Saturday. Is that still good?”
The airline clerk got Steve’s flight information and confirmed that, so far, his seat on that flight was just fine. But unfortunately, no matter what Steve tried, he couldn’t get a flight out sooner – on any airline. Frustrated once again, he hung up the phone. What was he supposed to do in St. Thomas for an entire week?
He looked at the clock by the bed. Five o’clock. It didn’t seem that late. But then he started to wonder something else. He picked the phone up again. “Hello, operator? I know this sounds like a dumb question, but what day is this?”
The operator was all too kind. “We get asked that question a lot. I think all too many of our guests don’t keep perfect track of the days when they’re here. It’s five o’clock on Sunday.”
Sunday! What had happened to Saturday? Or Friday night for that matter? “Thanks,” he said simply and hung up the phone again. The witch! How had she done this to him?
He rubbed his face, trying to figure out what to do. Late Sunday afternoon…and he had no male clothes at all. He’d have to try to buy some as soon as possible. He picked up the phone again. “Hello, operator? … Yeah, it’s me again. Listen, does this hotel have a store where I can buy some clothes?” He listened to her answer. “Not till tomorrow? Is there anywhere else I might get some tonight?” Once again, he was not pleased with what he heard and hung up the phone. Well, if he had to, he could stay right where he was until morning and wear nothing but his towel, if he even needed that. And room service was a great option for dinner. Pleased with his plan, he laid back on the bed and turned the TV on.
But five minutes later, the problems began. At first it was distracting thoughts about the women’s clothes in the closet. Then it was thoughts about makeup. A few minutes later, a huge desire to find the bar downstairs soon turned into a desire to go out for dinner. He fought each thought as best he could, but they seemed to get stronger and stronger. He began pacing around the room, unable to sit still as his mind was bombarded with thoughts about the need to get out of the room. The thoughts kept building and building, nearly driving him insane, but he kept fighting them. It wasn’t until the horrible itching began all along his back, that he finally realized that no matter how much he didn’t want to, he absolutely had to go out somewhere.
The damn witch was doing it to him again. She was forcing him to do what he didn’t want. Somehow her voodoo magic was making him have the worst feelings imaginable, driving him to do what he desperately didn’t want to do. He could just imagine her holding some kind of voodoo doll and sticking pins in it or sprinkling other things over it to drive him crazy. He tried his best to fight it, but the longer he tried, the worse the itching and insane desires grew.
He finally couldn’t take it anymore. With the awful dread of more humiliation already building, he faced his closet to figure out what he was going to wear. That damn witch and her magic! She couldn’t just leave him alone. She had to push him to humiliate himself once again. It wasn’t bad enough that she had done things to him before that humiliated him without him knowing it, now she was forcing him to go out and do his own humiliation. To go out and humiliate himself in front of the whole world. The damn witch! He would get her back if it was the last thing he ever did!
He stood staring at the few clothes in his closet. All women’s clothes, and not even a pair of pants he could wear. The desire to get out of the room was so strong he could no longer fight it, but the simple act of getting up to get dressed had lessened the itching somewhat, and it also lessened some of the driving tension he had felt. Unfortunately, it was also fueling an opposite tension, one closely aligned with fear and humiliation.
But what should he wear? There was a skimpy dress with big colorful flowers all over it, and what he guessed was a skirt and a frilly blouse to go with it. The skirt looked like just a large piece of material with some kind of tropical pattern all over it. He figured that it was better than the big bold flowers on the dress – if only just slightly. He pulled it, along with the blouse, out of the closet. He found a pair of his panties and put them on. As much as he hated them, he was now fairly used to the panties and they didn’t pose that much of a problem for him.
He figured out that the skirt was supposed to wrap around him then fasten at his waist. It would mean that the skirt would really be slit all the way up, but it looked like it wrapped far enough around that it shouldn’t be a problem.
He picked up the blouse to pull it over his head, but he couldn’t. He wanted to, but he just couldn’t move to do it. Those powerful driving thoughts were back again. Thoughts that said something was missing. Something was wrong. He couldn’t get those thoughts out of his head and he couldn’t get the blouse on his body. He had to have something else? What? What? What? He found himself completely panicked over it. Finally, he figured it out. He had to have the bra on too. The witch! What had she done to him?
But once he finally got the bra on, he was faced with the same problem once again. He still couldn’t pull the blouse on. He had to have something else. Sighing, he gave up and slipped the breast forms into the bra. The blouse slipped easily over his head and he adjusted it into place. The witch! He’d kill her…if he ever got home again.
Instead of wearing the shoes with the wedge heels in the closet, he found the flip-flops he had worn earlier and put them on. Did they have to have such big flowers on the top? Of course they did.
He picked up his room key and pulled the wallet out of the straw bag and headed for the door. But he couldn’t go out yet. As much as he both didn’t want to leave the room and the desire to go drove at him, he simply couldn’t open the door. Something else was missing. He had to have something else. What now? The panic over it grew steadily. And then a thought flashed through his mind and he winced. No! He wouldn’t do it! But the feelings that were driving him to do things he didn’t want were getting stronger again. Still he fought it. Beads of sweat began forming on his brow, and still the powerful feelings were growing stronger. Then the itching all over his back began again, driving him nearly insane.
“Okay!” he screamed. “I give up!” Resigned, he grabbed the straw bag and carried it into the bathroom where he dumped the contents out on the counter. It took him almost half an hour to figure out how to get all the makeup on that the witch seemed to be requiring of him.
Feeling totally silly, totally humiliated, and angry beyond belief, he grabbed the straw bag with all of its contents and finally left the room. The overpowering force driving him lessened greatly the minute he stepped into the hallway. Breathing a sigh of relief, he headed for the elevators, and what he knew would be further humiliation.
The moment he entered the elevator, the driving force left him completely. He breathed another big sigh of relief. Could he go back to his room now? The minute he thought that, his back began itching again until he banished all such thoughts from his mind. He wasn’t going to have any choice in this at all.
He decided that the first thing he needed was a good strong drink, so as soon as he got down to the lobby he located and headed for one of the hotel’s smaller bars. As he entered, he realized that his timing was bad, the bar was just beginning to fill up with early evening customers. He took a seat at the very far end of the bar, hoping to be hidden at least a little. But the bartender seemed to recognize him.
“Hey, hey…it’s the lady-man.” His accent made the word ‘man’ come out sounding like ‘mahn.’ “Welcome back!”
Steve didn’t know whether to be surprised or not that the bartender seemed to know him. Lady-man? He guessed that was as good a description as any. He just wasn’t too fond of it. He also wasn’t very fond of how loud the bartender seemed to be talking to him. It was making people stare at him.
“What’ll it be today?” the bartender asked. “Same as last time?”
“Last time?” What had he had before?
“Of course, lady-man. Our island specialty, pina-colada. Remember?”
Steve didn’t remember at all. What sounded better to him was a good shot of whiskey instead of something sweet. He was about to ask for one, but suddenly his mind was inundated with the thought of how good the sweet fruity drink would be. He gave in. Obviously he wasn’t even going to have a say in what kind of drink he got. “Okay. I’ll try one.”
Steve really didn’t want anybody paying any attention to him, but unfortunately the bartender kept talking to him while he made the drink. “So, lady-man, I see you found our nail salon like I suggested. How was it? It looks like they came out very, very pretty.”
Steve really wanted to say he hated them. But as he held his hands up to look at the dreaded nails, he was suddenly filled with the feeling of intense pleasure and satisfaction at the sight of his long red nails. “Yes, I love them,” he found himself saying without realizing he was going to say anything. The witch! He’d pay her back good for this!
Finally, the bartender delivered his drink and he sipped at it cautiously. It was good, really good, even by his male standards. He sipped greedily at it and ordered another one – only stronger. “Is there a quiet place around here where I can get something to eat?” he asked as he watched his second drink being made.
“Quiet place? Not around here,” the bartender replied. “Best place is probably right where you’re sitting. I can order you a sandwich or something if you like.”
Steve looked around. For a small bar, there were all too many people around, but someplace else would probably be only worse. But would the witch allow him to stay right where he was and not expose himself further? He searched inside himself…no feelings against it, as far as he could tell. He allowed himself one more hopeful thought, maybe the witch had grown tired and wasn’t watching him anymore. Maybe! “That would be great,” he finally answered.
After his dinner, and four more pina-coladas, Steve was very relieved to find that he was able to go back to his room. The strong drinks were making his head swim. He gratefully undressed completely and fell sound asleep the minute he hit the bed.
But Karen wasn’t sleeping. She logged into Steve’s computer and once again sent an email to Susan.
Whee! What a fun day I had. I’m afraid that Steve is more than a bit lost right now and unfortunately were both a bit buzzed from too many drinks. But as much fun as I had today, I can’t wait till tomorrow. Steve is about to find out something that he’s really not going to be happy about! Whee! What fun!
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Monica fluffed the pillow a bit, turned out the lamp, and laid down on Diane’s couch. Since the break-in, she hadn’t been able to face going back to her apartment. Diane had been kind enough to allow her to spend as much time as she needed at her place. It was good to have friends. She’d had so few growing up.
But Monica also knew that tomorrow, she absolutely had to face her apartment again and begin cleaning up. She dreaded it. She absolutely dreaded it! She never wanted to see that apartment again. And now after what had happened, how could she ever feel safe there again?
For the thousandth time since Friday night when she had gotten home, she remembered walking up to her apartment with Mike, and noticing the broken area around the door frame. She remembered pushing the door open, and screaming. Things blurred a bit from there. But she still remembered Mike physically picking her up and dragging her out of the apartment so she wouldn’t touch anything. She had been screaming then, and she was still screaming five minutes later when the police showed up. Mike had continued to hold her tightly.
According to Diane, Mike had called her sometime after the police had arrived. Monica barely remembered going home with Diane. What she did remember, all too graphically, was having to go back Saturday morning with Diane to talk to the police. There had been some sickening yellow plastic tape across her door to keep people out. She herself didn’t want to go in there. The minute the policeman had pulled that yellow tape off and pushed the door open. She had broken down and started crying all over again. Just the sight of her apartment had made her sink to her knees, crying right there on the walkway in front of her apartment.
The policeman had been kind and patient, but he couldn’t wait forever. He had eventually forced her to get up and go inside and look around. But looking around from inside at the entire destruction only made matters worse.
What was missing? What had they been looking for? The questions came time and time again. The policeman posing possibilities, and she had no answers. She wasn’t rich. She didn’t own anything valuable. And in that mess, how could she even begin to know what was missing and what wasn’t?
When they left, the policeman put the yellow plastic tape up again across the door, but he told her it would be gone later that day and she could have her apartment back. But she didn’t want it back. She didn’t want to go anywhere near it ever again. She felt so violated. She felt more raped than if someone had beaten her up and forcibly had sex with her.
For the last two days she had lost count of the number of phone calls she had gotten from “friends” who had heard about it. Every last one of them were people she worked with. The only people she knew in this city. Her boss even stopped by Diane’s house to talk with her. She had been moved by his kindness and his offer to take a few days off if she needed it. She was more moved when Mike showed up later to check on her. He had been an okay date. Good, but certainly not great. But he went way up in her estimation by showing up to check on her like he did.
And now she was going to have to go back. Back to start cleaning it up. Back to try to make sense of it all. Why? Why had someone done that to her? The police had said that whoever had done it had obviously been looking for something. What had they been looking for? She couldn’t imagine anyone thinking she had anything valuable. She had just moved in a few weeks ago, and she was barely getting by. She didn’t own anything valuable.
But like it or not, she had to go back. She had to start…facing it. She would take a few days off to try to clean it all up. Diane would be there to help after work and so would Carla.
She pulled the blanket Diane had given her up higher over her body…over her head. She closed her eyes, and once again the image of her apartment came all too clearly to her. She cried…again. She felt violated. She felt raped. The ghosts of her past had found her. There was no place safe. There would never be anyplace safe. The feelings of depression grew again, like they did every night. She cried herself to sleep like she had done since it happened.