By Karen Singer
Monica stopped at her front door and turned to look back at her apartment. Everything in it was clean and neat as a pin. Desperately so.
It was only her second day going back to work, but already her old confidence was beginning to return. She was glad, she needed it. The break-in had brought back too many bad memories, way too close.
She had been acquitted of course. Completely exonerated. The hearing had only been a formality. The broken bones and severe bruises had been documented over and over again by the doctors. The police couldn’t stop it. They didn’t have the authority. He was her husband, and domestic issues were matters they had little jurisdiction over.
The bastard was bad enough when he was sober, but when he drank…. Their tiny home in West Virginia was shabby. More so because he would grab things in his rage and throw them, messing the house horribly, just because he knew that she hated it.
So many people had told her to leave him, but where could she go? Besides, for better or worse, he was her husband, and a girl’s gotta have a…. If only she had just packed up and left. Then she wouldn’t have had to shoot him. The bastard. But he had nearly killed her that night, drunker than usual. And she had wound up back in the hospital again.
He was dead now. Most everybody agreed that she had done what she had to. But still, she noticed the odd looks from everybody. And she knew they talked about her. So she left, going from waitress job to waitress job. Just getting by. Now she had a job with a big company, no longer putting food on tables for the tips. It was only in the shipping department, but it was a big step up for her. Her new apartment was proof of that. It wasn’t exactly in the best neighborhood in town, but compared to most of the places she had lived, it was actually somewhat decent. Not to mention, it was her first place in a long time where she finally lived by herself. She wasn’t going to let the ghosts take that away from her, not after coming so far. She would fight back, and nobody was going to stand in her way!
She went out her door and locked all three locks on it before she left. Would the locks keep the ghosts away? She could only hope.
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Susan had spent another anxious night. The second now since she had sent Steve to St. Thomas. She had gone to sleep without hearing from Karen. But Karen had written her, she had just done it much later at night than ever before.
Now Susan sat at her desk and considered what Karen had written. Most of it had been exactly what she wanted to hear. Steve had spent one of the most humiliating days of his life. But it was what had happened at the club that concerned her the most. It concerned her mostly because Karen was so confused.
Karen had said she had failed. Karen had said she had been more than ready to make love to the guy in the club…more than ready to humiliate Steve completely. And then Karen had said that Ellie had shown up. And Karen had said that after seeing Ellie again, she didn’t want to make love to a guy anymore. She had only wanted Ellie.
What had gone on in that love making session between Steve and Ellie? Susan was almost jealous.
The seeds of Karen had been created out of Steve’s sexual desires and memories. Granted, they were desires that Susan had slowly and painstakingly changed and reshaped to meet her requirements, but at their base, they had been about sex. Freudian and Jungian theories aside, sex was in her opinion the most potent force out there. If you knew how to manipulate it, you could do anything. Karen was proof of that.
The potent sexual force, and Steve’s normal sexual drives, coupled with the sex he had had with Ellie at just the wrong moment, had damaged Karen. It wasn’t major damage. Not really. But to Karen it was a tremendous blow to everything she knew about herself. Karen was still too new, too young to know how to handle it by herself. After what had happened, it was still possible that sometime in the future Steve would find himself having sex with a guy somewhere. But right now, that was highly unlikely.
Susan had little choice. They had come so far. With the situation Steve was in, Karen needed the self-confidence. She would have to explain to Karen that it was okay for her to be a lesbian, or even bisexual. To want to have sex with other girls, or men, as she chose. She would have to tell Karen that many women were that way, many more than Karen ever guessed. She would have to tell Karen that what she felt was fine and normal. It was the only way. In the short time she had to create Karen, Susan hadn’t been able to even think about all the possibilities, let alone program Karen to deal with them all. Karen might live in and adult man’s body and share his memories and experiences, but for all intents and purposes, Karen was a child. A human child. She needed time to learn and grow.
Managing Steve’s little trip from so far off was proving difficult – more so than Susan ever thought. She wrote her reply back to Karen.
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The beach felt empty to Steve as he laid soaking up the sun. All night long he had felt anxious, sad about something. He just didn’t know what exactly, except that he knew it was centered around Ellie. Did he love her? That was something he hadn’t considered. He had always avoided the “L” word. It was far too much fun going out with as many girls as he could. He certainly didn’t ever want to get tied down to just one girl. That would cramp his style.
His style? He thought about the girl’s bikini bathing suit he was wearing just then. Not exactly his style…his normal style.
He opened his eyes against the glare of the sun and saw Mandy and Ellie. They began laying out their beach towels on either side of him. He closed his eyes again without saying a word. Something cold fell on his stomach and he jumped. He found a bottle of sun-tan lotion on his stomach.
Mandy was just laying down on her towel. “Do my back for me,” she said as she laid face down. She reached around behind her and untied her bikini top.
Steve’s body and mind went into high gear. Do her back? Rub his hands all over her delicious looking back. Touch her soft wonderful skin? “With pleasure,” he said as he picked up the bottle of suntan lotion she had thrown on him. Mentally, he was still thinking, “With more pleasure than you can possible imagine.”
Steve rubbed the lotion thoroughly into Mandy’s back, then he did her legs, then he went back to her back again, pretending to rub more lotion in. But instead, he was really giving her a light massage.
“Mmmmm,” Mandy purred. “Ellie was right, you have great hands.”
Ellie looked over at them to see what was going on. “Do me next,” she said, rolling over and undoing the top to her bikini too.
Ellie…. Steve’s heart jumped.
Grabbing the lotion, he moved over and began rubbing it into Ellie’s back. Touching her brought back memories of love, aching memories. He rubbed her back and legs lovingly. Just touching her again made him feel….
“How did it go last night?” Mandy asked as he was lovingly massaging Ellie’s back.
The question spoiled the quiet reverie he had entered. “Last night?”
“With the guy?” Mandy asked.
“Oh…okay, I guess. How did you know?”
“Ellie saw you. How was he?”
Steve was shocked. “What do you mean?”
Mandy propped herself up, being careful to keep the front of her bikini in place. “Sex you idiot. How was he?”
“Oh. We didn’t. I didn’t….”
Ellie rolled onto her side where she could see him. “You mean you didn’t? Why? That’s what you were there for, wasn’t it? I saw you kissing him, and it sure looked to me like you liked it!”
Steve tried to figure out an answer. He hadn’t liked the kiss at all, it had been horrible! But his body had obviously been giving off other signs. “I’m not sure what happened,” he said truthfully. “I really didn’t want a guy. I like girls better. Much better!” Was there a pang of sadness about that somewhere deep within him?
Ellie laid back down again and turned away from him. “And you had to be flake, didn’t you,” she said quietly.
Steve laid down again too. The mood had been broken.
“When do you go home?” Mandy asked.
“We leave tomorrow.”
Steve thought about that. Despite all their humiliation and teasing, he was going to miss them. Ellie especially. “What are your plans for the day?”
“We don’t have any,” Mandy replied. “How about you? Planning on spending the entire day in your room again?”
Steve sighed. “I wish I could. I guess I’m going shopping again later. I have to.”
“Sure you do,” Mandy replied. A minute later she looked up at him. “Tell you what, you need a few pointers with your makeup and things. Why don’t we come by and help you out? Then we can help you with anything else you need to shop for. Sound like a plan?”
Steve felt the fear of continued humiliation rolling into his stomach again. What choice did he have? And Ellie would be there. “Sure,” he finally replied. “Why not.” Other than Ellie, he wasn’t really happy about it at all.
--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---
“No, not like that. Do it this way,” Mandy said as she once again tried to show Steve how to use his mascara.
Steve stopped and looked at his eye in the bathroom mirror. The lashes were stuck together and big clumps of makeup were sticking all over them.
“Wash it off again,” Mandy told him.
He sighed as he began rinsing his face for the hundredth time. He had taken too long in the shower again and had only, just barely, had time to throw on some underwear and the dress he had worn yesterday. But at least after the shower he had noticed how much better he felt. Long showers could be very therapeutic, something he had always believed in.
“What are you sleeping in?” Ellie called from the bedroom where she had been going through all his clothes.
“I don’t usually sleep in anything,” Steve answered as he once again picked up the tube of mascara and prepared to do battle with his eyelashes.
“I’ll add a nightgown to the list,” Ellie answered from the other room.
The list. Ugh! The witch had demanded that he go shopping and buy lots of feminine things every day. He knew now that – somehow – the damn witch was always watching. He couldn’t escape her. He hated it, but he supposed that in their own humiliating way, Mandy and Ellie were really helping him. How was he to know what things girls always needed? He didn’t really care.
“That’s better,” Mandy coaxed as Steve tried desperately to apply the mascara correctly without poking his eye out. He looked in the mirror to check the results. His lashes on that eye looked longer, fuller. Much more feminine. He shuddered inside. Why was he doing this?
“Okay, now the other eye,” Mandy said with a slight degree of exasperation. “Geez, for a sissy, I’d think you would know a lot more about this.”
Steve just looked at her then went back to the task of not blinding himself.
By the time that Mandy declared that his face was finally “suitable,” she had given him an awful lot of instructions, for not just makeup application, but also for things like skin care tasks that he barely even remembered. The truth was, he wasn’t interested enough to even try to remember any of it.
“Much better,” Ellie declared from the door of the bathroom. “And surprisingly, almost pretty. Don’t you think?” she asked Mandy.
“Hmmm,” Mandy said, taking a closer look at Steve’s face. She looked back at Ellie, “He’s starting to look almost like a real girl. Well, his face anyway.”
Steve wasn’t exactly thrilled about the compliment.
“Okay sister, get those clothes off and let’s get you dressed.”
“What’s wrong with this?” Steve asked.
“You wore that yesterday! You can’t wear it again!”
Steve sighed as he pulled the dress back over his head. He knew he wasn’t going to win. He felt naked and embarrassed standing in front of them in just his bra and panties, even though they had seen him every day down at the beach in his bikini.
Mandy and Ellie both looked into his closet while he waited behind them. What humiliating things would they find for him to wear today? He realized it really didn’t matter, everything he had would be humiliating.
It turned out to be another short skirt set, this time in blue. A bracelet and necklace, his things in the purse he could wear over his shoulder, and the wedge shoes once again on his feet…and he was finally ready. Mandy re-combed his hair a bit and stepped back to look at the results. “Geez, you could almost pass for a girl now. Not really, but closer anyway.”
Steve had mixed feelings about whether or not that was a good thing.
To a blind man maybe,” Ellie added. “Or at least one who’s horribly nearsighted.”
Her comment didn’t help Steve’s feelings either.
--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---
They lunched downtown again. Mandy and Ellie spent most of the time talking about the things they had done that they enjoyed the most. Steve mostly listened. The girls were going home tomorrow. They both had a list of last minute things in their heads that they wanted to buy before they left. The list of things they had for Steve was much longer.
“Hey,” Mandy said before they paid the bill. “Give me your email address.” She started digging into her purse for something to write on.
“What for?” Steve wondered.
“So we can write to you, of course,” Mandy replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Steve didn’t really see the point in it since he’d never see either of them again, but he figured, why not. So he told her.
Then the shopping began. Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as humiliating for Steve as it was the day before. In fact, because Mandy and Ellie were leaving, it seemed almost frantic. As they made their way through store after store, the girls bought the things they needed while making sure that Steve was getting everything on their list for him too. Another purse (why?), a scarf, lots of jewelry, lots of underwear, sleepwear, another bikini bathing suit, more skirts and tops, another dress, and another pair of shoes.
As he sat on the bus riding back to the hotel, he wondered what was he going to do with it all. One thing was for sure, he’d probably need another suitcase just to get it all home. And that thought stopped him. Get it all home? Why? What was he going to do with it at home? He didn’t need any of it. He had not resisted one bit in anything that the girls had suggested he buy, mostly because he feared the witch too much. He had already bought it all now and that was that, but why should he keep any of it if he was never going to use it again? He wouldn’t need another suitcase at all. That realization felt a bit like a small victory.
As they walked back into the hotel lobby, Steve realized that his time being near Ellie was almost over. Despite all the humiliating things she had done and said to him, he was going to miss her terribly. Did he love her? He didn’t think so. There was just something deep down inside him that felt so connected to her. As they waited for the elevator, he searched for something to say to her, anything to delay for just a moment. “Ellie,” he began. “Um…are you going to the beach party tonight?” He was hopeful.
The elevator doors opened. She shook her head. “Yeah,” she said softly, “but not with you.” Her statement struck home a little too hard. Steve just stood there and watched as Ellie and Mandy stepped into the elevator together. It was over and he knew it. The elevator doors began to close and Ellie reached out at the last second and stopped them. She stepped out again and kissed him quickly on the cheek. “You were the best,” she whispered. “But please don’t go to the party tonight. I need someone else.” Then she turned back into the elevator again. The doors closed. She was gone.
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Susan sat at her desk and considered her next move. Tomorrow would be Friday, Steve’s last full day in St. Thomas. She had told him that he could wear pants for the trip home if he cooperated and did everything he was told. For the most part, he had done wonderfully. Of course the two girls who had hooked up with him had been more than helpful. A major stroke of luck there.
But the chance for Steve to wear pants really had nothing at all to do with how well he cooperated. She had made her plans long ago and wasn’t about to change anything now. Steve was going to get to buy his pants tomorrow, but it was going to be on her terms, and somehow she didn’t think he was going to be overly happy about it.
It was still early, but she wanted to have the instructions ready for Karen, before Karen logged into her account later that night. She began writing.