So now, after I have done such an amazing job of building this story up... For your reading pleasure: "The Tiresias Factor"
BTW I would skip the Foreward.
Having lived contentedly as a man for a number of years, I awakened one morning in an unfamiliar bed in a strange city (and in an earlier decade) to find myself inhabiting the body of a woman, considerably younger in years than the man I had been.
I never learned how it happened - various apocryphal accounts have reached my ears over the years - one that I had arranged it myself with a team of university surgeons, another that I was chosen at random by some malign (or beneficent) deity to be the object of some cosmic prank, and yet a third that I had always been the woman whose body I inherited through no act of my own.
A surgical hypothesis is quite untenable, as I bear no scars on my body and my female parts are complete and authentic in every detail. The third account is of course untrue because I know very well what I had been (although I have no way to prove it, of course).
So that leaves the deity theory, which I suppose is as plausible as any - in which case, it must have been a beneficent one: had it really been meant as a prank, it misfired, for I soon came to like being a woman, despite some of the more obvious inconveniences. Sort of like Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch, I suppose: I could not have ended up in a nicer place, though I protested at first.
As to why it happened, there is similarly no explanation, no reason. The essence of this chronicle is simply that I was transformed - after more than three decades of being male, I awoke one fine September morning in someone else’s apartment, to find myself a young woman and I have been female ever since, with few regrets, after the initial shock wore off. As I said, no one knows why this transmutation occurred, least of all me. This chronicle is my story - a plain catalogue of events - starting with that fateful morning.
It has been fifteen years since my strange awakening, yet I do not appear to have aged even a day, like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, who underwent a similar metamorphosis. But Orlando was only a character in a novel, and I am a real woman, not the figment of some high-strung novelist’s overheated imagination.
The War has been over almost two years now, and all the men and boys are back home. Televisions have begun to appear in significant numbers; Xerox machines are still years away and there are no seat belts in automobiles. No one knows what a microwave oven is, or a computer, or a compact disc - phonographs still turn at seventy-eight revolutions a minute. When one’s telephone rings, it rings with the sound of a real bell and not with some shrill electronic warble. There are no answering machines, no voice mail, no Internet.
But nylons, thank God, are no longer in short supply and they are becoming positively cheap. Women’s clothing is looser again, more comfortable, skirts are not so tight nor hemlines so long. We can wear trousers, too, even blue jeans, when we feel like it - outside war production plants - without incurring disapprobation or attracting censorious looks. We become more emancipated (emphasis on the second syllable), almost daily, but even as late as this year, 1947, we are still essentially wives, mothers and homemakers, which is quite to my liking. Militant feminism is still more than a dozen years away. I can wait a few centuries, if need be.
I became a bride only last June; it is now June again and I have just returned home from the hospital with my newborn twin girls. My episiotomy stitches are driving me crazy, and with six feedings a night, tender breasts and cracked nipples, I am up most of the time, so I am taking advantage of my enforced wakefulness to chronicle what has happened to me, though I do not flatter myself that my story is of any special importance, or even terribly interesting.
Some, or much, of what I shall relate will probably shock you: in my earliest days as a woman ... my earliest hours as a woman ... I did things I would never want my husband to learn of, but I did really do those things, and they are fair game for any narrative that purports to be truthful, however shameful and decadent I may now consider those deeds to have been.
So, Dearest Reader, you must forgive me my past indiscretions, some of them committed in the heat of irresistible passion by a woman largely ignorant of the incendiary properties of her own body. You must judge me by what I now have become - a respectable married woman young enough to be a devoted wife and new mother...but old enough to be considered irremediably depraved in the eyes of earlier generations more parsimonious with their forgiveness of feminine weakness: had I lived, say, in the 17th century, I would likely have been burned as a witch. Perhaps those burned as witches were really no different from me, and were also transmuted - and very unfortunate - men.
But metamorphosis goes back to much earlier times. The Greek gods, for example, had a curious penchant for transmuting mortals: Io, into a heifer; Leda, a swan; Daphne, a shrub; Narcissus and Hyacinthus, flowers; Arachne, a spider. Greek mythology is rife with other, similar instances of the gods’ playfulness - or wanton perversity, depending on how one regards it.
As for man to woman, myth holds that Tiresias, soothsayer of Thebes, happened one bright summer day upon two mating snakes and killed only one of them - the female. As punishment, Pallas Athena, (ever an unforgiving disciplinarian), changed him into a woman.
But it was not until she changed Tiresias back again into a man several years later (for killing the male snake, this time), that he understood he had been punished at all! From then on, even after he became blind, Tiresias would wander about Thebes, filled with bitter remorse, buttonholing any and all who would listen, to whine about Pallas Athena’s nasty trick, for he had discovered that life as a woman was a far more refined - and more satisfying - existence than poor men could ever imagine, much less attain.
According to Tiresias, the ratio of sexual pleasure was ten for women to one for men; in other words, there is not the least question who gets the short end of the stick.
Tiresias relished being female and doubtless regretted relinquishing the supreme sexual gratification granted to women, gratification which may be recompense, or inducement, for suffering the dangers and tribulations of bearing children - giving them birth and then raising them, washing out their diapers, feeding them, blowing their snotty noses and drying their tears every five minutes.
Without such inducement, women, had they a choice, might very well say, "No, not on your life, that’s not a fair bargain!" and the human race would peter out. Of course, nowadays - I mean in your era, Dearest Reader - a woman does have a choice: she can take the wonderful sex, avoiding babies entirely, or, for that matter, take only the babies and avoid the sex. Everything’s topsy-turvy at the end of the twentieth century: I am glad I don’t live there right now.
The myth, however, is silent about whether Tiresias had any babies, but it is pretty darn certain he steered clear of snakes for the rest of his life.
In any event, I am in full agreement with Tiresias, though I hope not to share his ultimate fate of being changed back into a man. (You won’t catch me killing snakes of either sex!) You see, being a man is no bowl of cherries, I can assure you, and although being a woman certainly has some disadvantages at times (such as maddening itches in intimate places and other annoyances, which my natural delicacy forbids a more detailed description of), I would not trade my present condition for the world. Ten-to-one are pretty impressive odds, when you think about it.
If the reader is a man, he will have to take my word for it that life deals a better hand to women, but if she is a woman, she will likely just smile at my naïveté, for what Tiresias said is self-evident to anyone lucky enough to have been born female.
Those who were born female must forgive me for extolling the transcendent pleasures and privileges (and responsibilities, to be sure) bestowed upon our sex - which its born members may well take for granted, but for which I now thank God, who must certainly be female, every day of my transmuted existence.
If you are a man, be warned that the same could happen to you; if it does, you will have to make the most of it, as I did. You really won’t have much choice, for it is a timeless biological principle that function follows form: when one is changed, one can be female and happy or female and miserable, but one can’t be male - that’s simply not one of the options. I chose to be female and happy, and so I am and so I hope to remain.
I shall start at the beginning, with my strange awakening...
I DISCOVER A WOMAN IN MY BED AND LEARN I AM SHE
I surged awake violently from a frightening dream, like a swimmer too long underwater who shoots straight up through the surface gasping for air. I found myself sitting bolt upright on the edge of my bed, gripped by an icy panic, struggling to capture the fugitive essence of my dream. But I could grasp only the faintest impressions, fleeting and fragmented, the clearest being that I was about to be late for an important appointment and had just knocked on a Official Door of sorts to announce my arrival, when I discovered, to my intense mortification, that I was dressed as a woman, though no one else in my dream appeared to take the least notice.
My mouth tasted of stale liquor, I was nauseated, my left temple was throbbing and my bladder was almost painfully full. I brought my fingers up to my head and gingerly touched where it hurt: sure enough, I could feel a tender goose egg, the hair over it matted and tacky, like varnish not thoroughly dried. I withdrew my hand and brought it before my face to inspect the stickiness on my fingers.
My jaw dropped as I struggled to focus my eyes in the half-light. It was not the film of blood on the pads of my fingers that riveted my gaze, but the hand itself: small, white and delicate, with tapered fingers and perfectly manicured, enameled red nails. My other hand, I quickly confirmed, was the same. I glanced from one to the other, turning them over several times, palmwards and back, unwilling to credit the evidence of my own eyes.
But I could not avoid the conclusion that these were my hands: when I willed them to turn, they turned. When I wanted to flex the fingers to examine their elegant nails, they flexed.
My heart sank and I emitted a gasp - a gasp in a feminine register, such as had never passed my lips before - and with that gasp my heart sank even further...
Someone indeed seemed to be knocking softly at a door, the door to this room, I supposed. A light double tap. It seemed less real than the feminine hands which I continued to stare at in open-mouthed stupefaction.
I ignored the knocking.
...The room was not mine, I could see that at once, even in the dimness. It was too large and high-ceilinged. The bed was much softer than mine. And, even worse, I found myself wearing a silky-satiny nightgown or negligée, a pink one, no less, with a flouncy pink bow at the front, a bow that stood out from me, as if supported by ...
Just a moment... Let me get this perfectly straight: a pink satin nightgown - or negligée (the difference, if any, was academic under the circumstances) - with a pink bow in the front, centered just below an unmistakable cleavage...
There must be some mistake. Perhaps if I could find someone in charge, this could be straightened out in a jiffy, like switched-round seats on an airplane.
But there was no mistake: I ran my hands rapidly over face, neck, torso, belly, hips ... I could barely absorb the alarming discoveries my fingers were making as they flitted over my body: fine facial bones, hairless upper lip, chin and cheeks, a delicate neck, full breasts with firm nipples, skin so smooth it seemed to be oiled, no hair anywhere besides on my head, except for ... except for a silky tuft at the base of my belly, just above the confluence of my thighs. A high, narrow waist, rounded hips and ...
Hold on, not so fast! ...Flitting back to that tuft, my hand cupped just below it a compact promontory, softly cleft, dropping down into ... an awful vacancy between my legs. My heart froze and I found myself struggling to breathe...
That double tap again!
Once more I ignored it: I had more pressing matters to deal with than to answer a door.
...No mystery about what I was feeling with my fingers: a woman’s body - nothing novel for my fingers, really -I had touched women’s bodies before in my time - except that I could feel this woman’s body feeling my fingers feeling it - that is, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that the woman’s body my fingers were touching was mine.
"Oh, my God. But I’m a man!" I heard myself say ... in a clear but unsteady soprano.
At the sound of that voice I felt a sour lump at the base of my throat, as if I had swallowed a golf ball coated with vinegar. The nightmarish panic rose again in a wave of nausea...
* * * * *
A more thorough inspection of my altered anatomy was abruptly curtailed by the sound of the door handle turning. The door opened a crack. I shot under the bedclothes and pulled them up over my face like a shield.
"Who’s there?" I demanded, still sounding several octaves too high.
"It’s only me, Prudence, miss," responded a soft female voice, its tone respectful and mild. "The doctor’s downstairs, miss. May I come in?"
The voice sounded innocuous enough, so I heard myself answer, in the outrageous falsetto which I could not manage to shake:
"All right, come in if you like, but don’t you dare look at me. I’d like a look at you first."
Drawing the bedclothes down as far as the bridge of my nose, I peered over them and watched the door open further to admit a diminutive red-headed young woman wearing a housemaid’s black uniform, the skirt of which came down below her knees more than halfway to her ankles. Her maid’s white cap and apron were frilled and she wore black stockings and black shoes with broad, military heels. She carried a feather duster tucked under one arm like a swagger stick.
She seemed to have no interest in looking me over, for, after a perfunctory glance towards the bed, she approached with efficient steps a set of draperies which she began briskly to open, letting a painful explosion of yellow morning sunlight flood the room through a pair of French doors.
I raised my arm, lithe and white, to shield my eyes. Peering beneath it, I was startled to see a large room furnished in a ghastly amalgam of early art-deco and imitation French Empire styles.
The now-open draperies were of heavy brocade and framed a pair of tall French doors. Woodwork and walls, painted dove grey, rose to a high ivory ceiling. Soft, silver-colored carpet covered the floor. My bed, a four-poster canopied affair, was draped with a pink organdy veil (or was it voile or chiffon? - I'm afraid I was not quite up on my gauzy feminine fabrics that morning), tied back at the sides and the foot with broad silver-colored satin ribbons; the veil was diaphanous enough to see the ceiling through it. The headboard was of quilted silver satin, as was the bedspread. The sheets were satin, too, but pink, and not quilted, of course.
To one side of the French doors stood a long, low ‘modern’ dresser in bleached oak; to the other, a matching mirrored vanity covered with a disordered array of brushes, lipsticks, nail polish and various bottles, jars and tubes, several half-squeezed, their caps missing. The end of the room, to my right, held the white-paneled door through which the maid had just entered; at the opposite end of the room, to my left, were two matching mirrored doors, both of them shut.
Between the mirrored doors was a gas fireplace with a set of ceramic fake logs painted dull red at the bottom to simulate embers; the white mantel was marble, flanked by flattened columns carved in a Corinthian pattern. On the mantelpiece squatted a broad ormolu clock with a corpulent porcelain cherub on each side, supporting the dial with pudgy hands.
The clock read almost a quarter to seven.
Several slim alabaster pedestals, holding swirled-glass vases of white gladiolas, stood on the carpet along vacant stretches of wall. One of the pedestals supported a stylized and elongated head, presumably female, sculpted in grey marble, which, had it been of wax, one might have supposed had been left a trifle too long in the sun.
To the left of the entry door stood a japanned Victrola, from whose side projected a hand-crank; to the right, a well-stocked rolling bar. Four or five plump armchairs upholstered in thin-striped pink-and-white damask, a matching davenport, a small faux-Directoire writing desk (also in bleached oak), and several occasional tables completed the furnishings. A reproduction of a Fragonard pastoral painting, depicting dandified shepherds (with lyres) in pursuit of overweight dryads and nymphs, graced one of the walls. The dryads and nymphs had abandoned their lyres in the meadow the better to flee.
Empty cocktail glasses cluttered the side tables.
With a groan I fell back on the pillows, my head throbbing worse than before.
Having illuminated the room’s splendors for my edification, Prudence advanced to the bed. She was a pale-orange redhead, no older than nineteen or twenty, with unflecked green eyes and colorless, nearly invisible lashes. Her face was covered with freckles so dense they were almost confluent. A bold port-wine stain stamped her left forehead and cheek, spilling over onto one eyelid. It resembled a map of Australia. She stood at the foot of the bed and, realigning her duster under her arm, addressed me again:
"Please do wake up, miss. The doctor’s here now. Mr. Rafferty telephoned last night and said to expect him at seven, but it’s only twenty ‘til and he’s already downstairs and keeps pulling out his watch and pacing. He’s in one of his moods, miss. May I show him right up?"
I tried to clear my head, tried to remember where I had been the previous night that had given me such an ugly hangover, how I got this bump on my head and why I was now in someone else’s bedroom, not to mention in someone else’s body - of the opposite sex.
Did I say ‘of the opposite sex?’ Yes, well, this was clearly a matter of no slight concern. But such a technicality, no matter how upset it had made me a few moments earlier, would just have to wait, as more than anything else I needed to empty my bladder. Call of nature, couldn’t be helped. But of a very changed nature, as I was shortly to learn.
So I dropped my arm to the covers and, ignoring the matter of the impatient doctor, replied with my most pressing question:
"Could you please tell me where I might find a bathroom?"
The girl cocked her head to one side and gave me a compassionate look. Paying no attention to my question, she said:
"You must have scrambled your brains something awful last night, miss, I’m sure. Mr. Rafferty said you couldn’t remember a thing, but I thought he was just using a figure of speech. May I show the doctor up, miss?"
This rejoinder of hers was of no interest whatever to me: I needed to go rather badly. So I rephrased my question:
"Look, Prudence, if that’s really your name, I don’t know who this Mr. Rafferty is and I really don’t care what he said, or that this doctor is early, or why I’m seeing a doctor in the first place, or even why I have this bump on my head. Just tell me where the bathroom is around here - I would like to use it. Do you mind terribly?"
Prudence’s green eyes grew wide and her birthmark appeared momentarily darker, but she said nothing. She merely tilted her nose, stuck out her chin and sniffed, as if to assert a superior dignity, then raised her arm and pointed disdainfully at the first mirrored door on my left. Arising from the bed, I was momentarily off balance -- my center of gravity was lower -- but then I glided off rapidly in the indicated direction, amazed at the untutored feminine grace of my gait (‘Where did I ever pick that up?’ I wondered), entered the bathroom and locked the door.
I ENCOUNTER PLUMBING DIFFICULTIES
I needed time to think! What was I doing in a woman’s body, in a strange apartment with an old-fashioned, red-headed maid and some doctor in attendance upon me, waiting ‘downstairs’? Where was I, what was I? Who was this strange blonde woman? Things were happening far too fast. There was too much to absorb.
I gazed about me. The windowless bathroom was glazed, walls and floor, in pink Italian tile and all the fixtures were of heavy pink porcelain. The faucets of the sink and tub were the old-fashioned kind: fat, four-spoked porcelain handles with black ‘H’s’ and ‘C’s’ on little glazed white disks at their centers. Thick towels bearing the crested monogram ‘E. B.’ in elongated art-deco letters were draped over heavy towel bars, and there was what appeared to be a heated towel-rack, between a stall shower and a large bathtub, hung with similar monogrammed towels. Next to the toilet, and of about the same height, stood what appeared to be an oddly shaped sink, which I finally guessed must be a bidet. The room was a perfect pink study in art-deco porcelain and plumbing.
Wherever wall tile was absent were mirrors, which reflected an attractive and shapely young woman, perhaps twenty-seven or twenty-eight, of medium height, looking somewhat the worse for wear, clad in a pink satin nightgown with, sure enough, a large satin bow at her prominent décolletage. She wore her pale blonde hair in a medium bob, turned up in waves at the ends and rather mussed at the moment. The hair on the left side of her head was clumped and darkly discolored.
As I watched, spellbound, the woman slouched indolently, shoulders hunched just a bit, one knee bent, other leg straight, bearing her weight. She planted one hand, fingers splayed, on her forward hip, while her other hand absently stroked the hollow at the base of her throat. It was sort of a Jean Harlow pose, well-studied and clearly habitual. I had done nothing to assume such a pose: my body seemed to have arranged itself all on its own. Then she thrust out her chin and at the same time gave her hair a petulant toss, as if to say, "I beg your pardon, but if you have a problem with me, I haven't the slightest interest in hearing about it."
Stunned, I stared back at the blonde in the mirror, returning her defiantly incurious gaze. Her languid eyes, large and blue under pencil-thin eyebrows and long amber lashes, had ugly purple half-circles beneath them. Her cupid’s bow lips were set in a moderate frown, etching faint parenthetical creases at either side of her mouth. She appeared pale, tired, frowsy, unhappy and cross.
This was me in the mirror, you see, whoever me was. But why was I striking Hollywood poses when such urgent business attended? Still stunned, I looked my reflection up and down one more time, then insistent vesical pressure got the better of curiosity, and I found myself standing at the toilet, my fingers automatically scrabbling from a lifetime of habit (though now with enameled red nails) for what I no longer possessed. I realized, with a start, as my heart sank again, that I had to ... sit down, so I turned around, lifted the skirt of my nightgown and dutifully ... sat.
I felt foolish, embarrassed, humiliated. Then I waited. And waited. And waited.
‘Doesn’t this girl know how to go?’ I finally wondered. But still nothing happened; an oppressive silence filled the tiled room where the faintest sound echoed like a reflection between two facing parallel mirrors.
It was my first experience with the frustrating dichotomy that would come to dominate my existence for the indefinite future. This blonde woman, whoever she was, certainly knew how to make me do some feminine things - witness my gait, my classic stance, neither of which I could have acquired in ten years of practice, but she evidently was leaving to me the tedious business of attending to commonplace bodily functions.
But I certainly hadn’t the foggiest idea how a girl goes besides that it seemed prudent (for fairly obvious reasons) to sit down first, which I had obediently (and expectantly) done, sans result. I almost felt as if I were being taught some sort of lesson and was being punished for not having learned it quite correctly enough.
As my bladder was rather full, I was more than eager to be a star pupil. So I continued to sit there, hands primly folded, like a girl in church waiting for the sermon to start.
Again ... nothing! I bit my lower lip; hot tears of frustration welled up in my eyes. I thought I would die of a burst bladder if something did not happen quite soon to relieve me.
This was all frightfully humiliating, of course - you know how it is, being unable to figure out some new piece of equipment: I had always been a fairly good hand at dealing with technical questions and such, and here I was completely stymied by a straightforward problem in hydrodynamics.
Eventually some obscure female muscle I didn’t even know I possessed must have given out, or the blonde woman relaxed it, and, with a rude hiss that ended as abruptly as it had begun, it was all over - the shrill cascade echoed in the still air of the bathroom for a second or two, bouncing off all those Italian tiles like a marble dropped into a bathtub.
My mind now off my bladder, I continued to sit there, stalling for time, my brain thick and muzzy, trying to get my bearings. I could hear Prudence in the bedroom, bustling about, clattering bottles and glasses and muttering something I could not make out. I could tell she was being deliberately noisy to remind me of her presence.
‘Let’s see,’ I asked myself. ‘What can I figure out so far? Last night I went to bed a man in my own bedroom, and now, here I am, awake and a woman, perched on the john in a strange apartment with antediluvian bathroom fixtures, a bump on my head and a red-headed maid named Prudence who dresses like a character in a silent movie. And a doctor downstairs.’
Well, I already knew all that, and it wasn’t much help.
I was about to get up, but then I remembered girls have to - please forgive my indelicacy, Dearest Reader! - wipe themselves first. Fashioning sort of a powder puff from an ample fistful of toilet paper, (I had decided for the moment to treat my new apparatus more or less like a live grenade about to explode, so I was hesitant to touch anything down there if I could possibly help it), I gingerly dabbled at myself, arose, pulled down my nightgown and flushed.
As I washed my hands, I replayed in my mind yet again the little information I had, like a refrain:
‘I seem to be female, a condition which does not appear to be an optical illusion and which is not going away. In fact, it feels suspiciously permanent. I have a maid named Prudence, with a birthmark that gets darker when she is angry. There’s a man named Rafferty, who apparently has arranged for a doctor to see me and said doctor is, at this very moment, cooling his heels impatiently downstairs. I must be someone with money or someone who has got her hooks into someone with money. Doctors don’t wait on people without money.
‘Am I married? Is this Rafferty chap my husband? But Prudence called me "Miss," whereas "Ma’am" would be the correct form of address a maid would use for a married mistress. Is Rafferty my employer, then, or my lover, or perhaps something worse?
‘Anyway, how long can I sustain this female charade?’ I wondered, considering how hard a time I had just had using the bathroom, and I was unsure whether I could even do that a second time. How much would this blonde woman do and what would she leave up to me? I knew nothing first-hand of the day-to-day workings of a woman’s body, that much was certain, and this blonde had already proven herself a trifle erratic in sharing her knowledge, leaving me in the lurch at a most inopportune moment.
This was a challenge not to be lightly dismissed: I recalled the myriad jars and tubes and brushes I had just seen on the little bleached-oak vanity. Were those now mine? I had no idea what they were even for, not to mention how to use any of them. I quailed as I envisioned those endless supermarket aisles - which I had hitherto hurried through, eyes averted, on my way to the shaving cream, say, or the light bulbs - devoted entirely to feminine products, doubtless essential to maintain certain standards of personal appearance and daintiness, about which I knew as much as I did of advanced astrophysics, which is to say - nothing. Well, almost nothing: I seemed to recall that women’s clothing had buttons all on the wrong side and things that fastened in back with long zippers or rows of delicate hooks, but that was about the extent of my knowledge of feminine mysteries.
And now here I was, nominally a woman, yet I couldn’t handle even an elementary female call of nature, much less wield an eyelash curler or clip on a barrette...In short, I saw some very practical impediments looming in my immediate future.
I MAKE DR. STRYKER’S ACQUAINTANCE
I desperately needed some answers. So why not let this doctor come upstairs to see what he wanted and what he might tell me about who I was? It seemed a good bet. So I dabbed some water on my face, dried myself with a monogrammed towel and quietly stole back into the bedroom. The little maid was collecting glasses and bottles, setting them on a lacquered Chinese tray. As I entered she glanced up with an expectant expression, lips pursed, eyes wide and unblinking.
"Yes, miss?" she asked, hoping I would come to her rescue and ask her to show the doctor up. Which is precisely what I did.
"Thank you, miss," Prudence said, backing out of the bedroom, tray in hand. "I’ll bring Doctor Stryker right up, then."
She left, closing the door behind her. I plumped up the pillows, slipped back into bed and arranged myself in a semi-recumbent position, propped up against the padded headboard, bedclothes tucked almost under my chin. But to my surprise I found my hands unaccountably tugging the bedclothes back downwards, exposing quite a bit more of my décolletage than I had intended, leaving me feeling uncomfortably cool, a shortcoming I wanted to rectify but somehow could not bring my hands to do.
Instead, I rapidly patted my hair here and there with the tips of my fingers (notwithstanding that it was still matted and bloody on one side), reached behind myself and tautened the bodice of my nightgown to greatest advantage, then straightened my spine and pulled back my shoulders just the tiniest bit. These maneuvers, albeit unfamiliar, had the odd feeling of long habit behind them.
I realized, with a jolt, that my minor adjustments in posture had thrust my breasts forward to no small degree. With another jolt I perceived that I had been primping - one couldn’t call it by any other name - an action alien to my whole being, yet I had done it as if to primp were the most natural thing in the world.
My intention had been merely to present myself as a proper girl should, who is expecting a house call from her personal physician. Had you asked me exactly what that entailed, I would not have been able to answer you, because, in fact, I hadn’t the vaguest idea: I had done it quite unconsciously and in spite of myself.
At this point, of course, I was already beginning to consider myself a proper girl. But please don’t take that ‘of course’ amiss. What I mean is, I had to be a proper something, didn’t I? And judging from what I had just seen in the bathroom mirror, being a girl seemed a fairly plausible something to be, and besides, I didn’t see that I had too many other options, given my present appearance.
Prudence tapped twice at the door and I asked her to enter.
The moment she opened the door, a large, heavy-set man barged past her into the room. He was wearing a shoddy, brown three-piece suit, creaseless and bagged at the knees, and carried a doctor’s black satchel. He advanced several steps then stopped for a moment and regarded me with an ill-concealed leer.
The man was not too far south of sixty. His sparse, greasy hair adhered to his scalp in conglomerate strands. A scaly pink rash ran in the groove at either side of his nose, itself invested with a fine lacework of purplish vessels. He had bulging beige eyes like a grouper’s, which did not seem to blink. He wore a high stiff collar, begrimed at the margins, and scuffed brogues. A tarnished silver watch chain draped a substantial expanse of brown vest, erratically perforated by cigarette burns.
This was the good Dr. Stryker, I presumed, but I said nothing.
Dragging an armchair, he approached the bed, placed his satchel on the bedside table and, rubbing his hands briskly together, sat, legs widely splayed to allow adequate compass for his embonpoint. Still leering, he pulled his chair close to me, leaned forward and spoke:
"How are we this morning? Noggin still a bit sore? Rafferty told me you were KO’d for a coupla hours."
I gazed at him distrustfully and thought it best not to reply. I clutched at the bedclothes, slowly drew them up to a more protective position and un-arched my back.
Dr. Stryker transformed his leer into his best bedside smile, yellow of tooth, grouper's eyes dead, forehead inert. He groped under the covers and extracted my arm. His thick fingers clutched my wrist and began taking my pulse as he retrieved a watch from his vest. I could see he chewed his nails. His breath smelled metallic, like an empty tin can. A trapezoidal patch of grey stubble he had missed with his razor showed beneath his chin to one side.
"A little weak, but not bad at all for the morning after a knockout," he ventured, dropping my arm onto the bed as if it were a dead rat he had just removed from a trap. He pocketed his watch. Then he took me by the shoulders and turned me so that I was facing him. I averted my eyes.
"Now lemme have a look at that bump," he said.
I winced as I felt a sharp pain where his fingers, none-too-gently, palpated the goose egg.
"Ow," I squealed, grabbing his forearm, "Don’t touch me there!"
Ignoring my protest (or in response to it), he brusquely pushed my hand out of his way, then probed my head all the harder, as if to hurt me the more - which he did - and continued:
"Still oozing a trifle. That’ll stop soon. Prob’ly could use a coupla stitches, but I’d hafta shave that spot and I don’t have the time and the scar won’t show through your hair anyhow, so don’t worry, it won’t hurt your precious looks, sweetheart. And don’t play with it or it’ll cut loose again."
He paused, then touched it once more, this time not so hard, and demanded:
"How’dja get that, anyway? Rafferty said you slipped on the dance floor, but from the look of it, I’d say you was slugged. Sassing it up again, I bet. You gotta learn when to keep that pretty little trap of yours shut or one of these days you'll end up on a slab at Bellevue with a tag on your toe..."
Little danger existed that Stryker would be up for the Nobel prize in medicine whatever the year was. It also appeared that he had more than a professional curiosity about this accident of mine, but as I was unable to enlighten him further, I kept silent.
Stryker bore in like a dentist drilling a tooth:
"C’mon sweetheart, ‘fraid to tell me how you really came by that lump? Usually you yammer your head off and no one can get a word in edgewise. So whassamatta, cat got your tongue?"
His voice held a sneer only thinly disguised. It was more than clear that this man disliked me, had disliked me for quite a while, I guessed.
This time a response was in order, even though I felt an unaccountable urge to scratch out his eyes, realizing, with a bit of a pleasant shock, that I now had the perfect nails to do it, too - long and sufficiently pointed to inflict pain, if not outright injury. But I kept them sheathed for the moment, swallowed tightly, and replied, my mouth dry as cotton:
"Look, Dr. Stryker, you speak as if we’re acquainted, but I’ve never laid eyes on you before. As for this bump, I really can’t remember the first thing about it. In fact, I have no idea where I am. And what year is it, anyway? Everyone’s dressed like characters in a vintage film, including me, and this room looks like a bad period stage set. What’s going on? I really would like a clue."
Not half bad! At last I was getting the hang of modulating this new voice of mine. It sounded almost convincing, too, the words innocuous enough, the tone nicely laced with just about the right level of venom.
The doctor shot a glance at Prudence, who, with arms folded and lips primly compressed, arched her eyebrows as if to say, ‘See? What did I tell you?’
Frowning, Dr. Stryker pensively scuffed with bent finger at the rash alongside his nose, then, inspecting his fingernail briefly, turned back to me, raised his eyes, and, disregarding my question, replied:
"Could be a concussion, but not very likely. More prob’ly just hysterical amnesia. I’ve seen it lots of times in dames like you. A little spat with the boyfriend, then - Whamo!" He struck the heels of his hands together in a sharp glancing motion, "They go right off the deep end. All you really need is a good slap up the other side of your head, but that’s not my line of work. So what say I give you your hypodermic now ‘stead of later, you sleep for a coupla hours, wake up fresh as a daisy and remember the whole shebang - it’ll all come back to you. So just roll over, sweetie pie and everything’ll be hunky-dory ..."
No, everything wasn’t hunky-dory at all! In fact, nothing was hunky-dory. Amnesia, my foot! Frilly nightgown, female body or not, I quite well knew who I was (I definitely wasn’t his sweetie pie, that much was certain!) It was this strange blonde woman, this vile doctor, this freckle-faced maid with her birthmark, this horrid apartment and everything else I knew nothing about.
I could see that this man was not about to enlighten me, either, for he had already opened his bag, unwrapped a green cloth and began to assemble a slim glass syringe, to which he affixed a short needle. He snapped off the neck of an ampoule, drew up a brownish solution, and holding the syringe high against the window light, ejected the air. A few fine droplets spurted from the tip, flashing like tiny diamonds in the slanting morning sunshine. He laid the syringe on the bed table. Then he started to pull down the sheets.
I seized the bedclothes with both hands and yanked them back up again, taut, to the level of my eyes. I glared at the doctor over this mask with all the malevolence I could command. Me roll over for him? Not on your life!
"Look, Bitsy," Dr. Stryker sighed, "let’s have none of that **** out of you. You know what to do, we’ve been through this a million times. It’s the same stuff I’ve been giving you every day for the last eight months now. Just a little laudanum, it’ll make you feel a whole lot better. It always does. You don’t have to beg me for it this time, that’s all. So just roll over, doll, and pull up that cute little nightie of yours, ‘less you want me to do it for you. C’mon, sweetie pie. Now. I don’t have all morning. Roll over."
Dr. Stryker was clearly feeling out of sorts because I was delaying his breakfast. I wondered what his bedside manner would be like after he had eaten, surmising it would be even more sadistic once he could take his mind off his stomach and give patients his undivided attention. But despite such detached speculation, I was scared out of my wits, so I quavered:
"Don’t touch me! Leave me alone, I don’t want any laudanum. I don't want anything. Just get out!"
And then, quite against my will and to my considerable surprise and chagrin, (after all, I was trying to be firm), tears sprang to my eyes and I began to wail in pure fright, my tremulous soprano muffled by the sheets and blanket.
The doctor sighed again, then shot another glance at Prudence as if to say, ‘Ready?’
Sensing impending disaster, I pulled the covers completely up over my head, like a tent. Without any warning Stryker jerked the bedclothes off me with one hand and with his other easily flipped me over onto my stomach like a rag doll: I discovered my new self was not at all up to resisting a man’s strength. I was the weaker sex now, you see, and utterly vulnerable. I was being deeply humiliated, yet there wasn't a thing I could do about it.
I felt my nightgown being drawn up and my posterior exposed to the cooler air of the room. My hands rushed behind me in frantic protection. I screamed as shrilly as a gym teacher’s whistle.
This is where Prudence came in. She was fast and surprisingly strong for so small a woman - one pounce and she was kneeling on my legs; she quickly immobilized my arms with her grip and easily pulled my hands out of the way while Stryker pinned down my neck with his knee, forcing my face into the pillow so I could barely breathe, much less scream again. I could wiggle my feet, and since that was about all I could move, I wiggled them piteously, but to no avail.
I felt a wet dab on one buttock - a sudden coldness as the alcohol evaporated - then the jab of the needle and an ache that spread quickly and dissolved. Prudence released me and I felt myself being covered again, but not before the good doctor’s meaty hand gave one of my buttocks - not the one he had injected - a prurient squeeze, followed by a quick but accurate grab from behind, I am ashamed to say where.
That beastly man! Now I really wanted to rake his face deeply with my nails, but I was afraid to try: I couldn’t weigh more than a hundred-and-twenty, and the good doctor looked as if he could easily tip the scales at twice that avoirdupois, at least. Burning with shame and indignation, I lay still and endured.
I heard him collecting his things and stowing them in his satchel, which he closed with a snap. Then I heard his receding footsteps pad across the carpet.
"Sweet dreams, gorgeous. That oughta hold you for a while. I’ll be back tomorrow at the usual time and have another look-see, and oh, yeah, like I told you yesterday, we’ll deal with your other little ‘problem’ Thursday, maybe Friday, so lay off the sauce - if you can. On second thought, better hit the sauce, it’ll prob'ly help you," he snickered, leaving the room without closing the door.
I remained prone, sobbing into the pillow, now soaked with my tears, furious at my mistake in having admitted that horrid man into my bedroom and humiliated at having forcibly been given an injection in my rump, in front of my own maid, too, who had abetted the action! But, I supposed, the same thing would have happened anyway had I refused to see him - he would have barged in and he and Prudence would have administered my little shot without benefit of prior examination, as worthless as it had been.
What had I learned, then, by my mistake?
Well, my name is Bitsy and Dr. Stryker has evidently been here a number of times. I am apparently quite fond of laudanum - isn’t that some form of morphine? I wondered if bumps on the head were - or would become - a frequent occurrence. The doctor's admonition to lay off (or to hit) the sauce jibed with my awful hangover and the stale liquor taste in my mouth — I was evidently a habitual drinker. And Stryker had mentioned my other problem - as if I didn’t have enough problems already, he being one of the biggest. Well, no use worrying about too many problems at once ... I’d learn all about it in due time, I figured.
I decided to rifle the room at first opportunity to find this Bitsy’s purse - perhaps she would have a driver’s license, or a library card (though I doubted the latter). Besides, I had a feeling I would be needing some money.
I could feel my body already relaxing as the laudanum kicked in. Stryker had been right: it did make me feel much better: I was no longer nauseated, and the bump on my temple no longer bothered me. A soft pastel kaleidoscope played in my head, projecting elongated and symmetrical shards of spectral colors onto the backs of my eyes from within.
I heard Prudence say, as if from a great distance:
"Sorry I held you down, miss, please don’t be angry. It was for your own good. You just needed your medicine and didn't know it. Now get some more sleep. I can give you a good three or four hours. Mr. Rafferty left a note saying a Mr. Bradshaw would be coming by at three. So I’ll be back at eleven to run your bath, bring breakfast and then we’ll get you ready." Her voice reverberated as if she were speaking from the depths of an empty rain barrel.
Bradshaw? Another strange man in an expanding universe of strange men. Should I ask Prudence who Bradshaw was? Could she be trusted at all, now that she had helped Stryker inject me? I was unsure, so asked nothing, and heard Prudence tip-toe out of the room after drawing the draperies closed again. The door shut quietly and I was alone once more: the ‘we’ll get you ready’ echoing in my mind. Ready for what?
* * * * *
By now I felt rather relaxed, to say the least. Relaxed and fuzzy around the edges. I rolled onto my back and began dreamily to explore my transmuted body, at once shocked and pleased at how smooth and soft and curvy I had become. It felt remarkably pleasant to cup both my new breasts in my hands and even more pleasant to stroke my nipples in circular fashion; they promptly responded by becoming quite firm and even more sensitive.
I soon became aware of a delectable tingling my stimulation had aroused in quite a different location: within moments my curious fingers found that dread vacancy between my thighs and the obligate aperture nestled therein.
Aperture? Did I say ‘aperture?’ No, surely not! A surge of denial: this was all a bizarre and sophisticated conjurer’s trick, a dreadful illusion! I couldn’t possibly have one of ...one of those down there! (The very thought of the anatomical term for what I was touching was as yet wildly inconceivable as applied to myself.) Ridiculous, impossible, an outrage! Not to mention the nuisance and bother: I had enough problems each month just paying my bills without having that to worry about for the next twenty or twenty-five years.
How humiliating! How inconvenient! Yet there it was. And right beneath my fingertips, too - yielding, penetrable and virtually pleading for deeper inspection.
Yes, Dearest Reader, I am ashamed to confess that despite my mental revulsion, I was sorely tempted to continue exploring: the touch of my fingers resting so lightly on such exquisitely sensitive skin felt... well, far from disagreeable, to put it rather mildly (in fact, it was sensual in the highest degree). Yet, at the same time, I was reluctant to go any further, as if by refraining I might stave off for a little time longer the inevitable admission of what I’d become.
Then again, I reasoned, if what I was touching was real (and I knew deep inside, of course, that it was), then it was mine, and, dammit, I had a proprietary interest in it for the first time in my life. So I had a perfect right, no, a duty to explore a bit further...
What to decide?
What would you do, Dearest Reader, were you to find yourself in my situation? Oh, I see. You might be sorely tempted as well? I thought as much...
Well, then. Perhaps I needn’t feel so terribly guilty about my second confession: I quickly discovered how to caress my outer lips by stroking them slowly with the gossamer touch of two fingers, one on either side of the cleft they concealed, accelerating my stroke as I reached their sensitive apex. When I brushed them with almost no contact at all -as lightly as if they were rose petals or butterflies’ wings and not human flesh - the pleasure induced was so very electric that it forced me to gasp.
I drew up my legs and parted them slightly to afford my fingers more comfortable access, only to be startled by yet another novel sensation: a softening deep in my belly, an incipient vastness - a sensation implausibly linked to the soft lineal crest just above where my inner lips joined (or, to be a bit more precise, to the delicate organelle which that crest enfolded) - linked as if by a finely-drawn filament through which trickled a faint but high-voltage current.
The organelle itself, about the size and shape of a diminutive pea, defied direct touching - it was too sensitive - but when I gently flicked from it side to side by rolling my fingertip over its protecting labial folds, the resultant sensation was... well, intensely gratifying would be an understatement - my touch shot a much stronger reciprocal current back in the other direction, that is, inwards, softening me further and augmenting my feeling of vastness. Now a gentle warmth suffused upwards, filling my abdomen and approaching my chest... I gasped once again.
I was stunned to discover this latest feminine mystery (of vastly more interest than clothing with buttons the wrong way around, to be sure): never before had I attained so much (and such intense) physical pleasure with so little exertion - a minimal excursion of merely one finger.
Speaking of which, my fingers had thus far remained superficial, but this deeper sensation raised a new question: should I explore this now not-so-dread aperture, or abstain - and persist in denying what was becoming more undeniable (and more pleasurable) with each passing moment?
Another dilemma of pleasure versus self-restraint, surrender versus continued denial!...
Once again I ask, Dearest Reader: what would you have done? I was, you see, doing no more and no less than discovering for myself how function indeed follows form, while at the same time learning firsthand the true magnitude of what I shall call the Tiresias Factor.
But I was let off the hook and did not have to decide thanks to Dr. Stryker’s injection: my eyelids were simply too heavy and I could not ward off sleep any longer.
As consciousness receded, I thought, ‘Well, I shall just have to resume this a bit later!’ comforting myself that I had at least something pleasant to look forward to, blissfully unaware of just how soon I would be coming to terms with several of my brand-new anatomy’s more notable features.
Then I drifted off to sleep, languidly revolving in a scintillating vortex of magenta and violet, having been female for less than an hour.
I SEE MYSELF IN THE ALTOGETHER AND AM NOT ALTOGETHER DISPLEASED
My day began in earnest after Prudence returned to get me ‘ready,’ as she had put it.
When she woke me again, the sun was higher and the room not quite so flooded with light; it was at least bearable. My head still ached, though not as badly and my nausea was gone. After having re-opened the drapes and loudly declaring, ‘Rise and shine, miss,’ Prudence went into the bathroom and turned on the tub. She came back into the bedroom to tell me she would return with breakfast in an hour and left me again to my own devices.
The mirrors were misted with vapor I when I fluttered back into the bathroom. I closed the door and slipped off my nightgown over my head, then let it spill to the floor where it lay at my feet in a shimmering puddle of satin. Now I stood completely revealed, like Venus served up on her seashell, my reflection hazy because of the mist on the mirrors. I wiped off one with a towel and beheld myself nude for the very first time, clouds of steam swirling about me.
I gulped. The sight was impressive: had I been a man, I would have gone wild with desire at the sight of myself. As it was, I was not precisely repelled.
My breasts were high: each one full and round below, with a charming, pendulous concavity above. The right breast was a tiny bit lower than the left, but this infringement of symmetry served only to draw attention to the loveliness of the pair. Their dusky red areolas were almost three inches across, with nipples like undersized cherries. My narrow waist was high, too, and broadened below into steep, rounded hips without bulge or angle, framing a milky-white and slightly protuberant belly, along the center of which, from my navel on downwards, ran an almost imperceptibly faint sepia line like the seam on a bean. My legs, long and shapely, appeared phosphorescent through the vapor.
My gaze could not long avoid the mound at the base of my belly, crowned with its tuft of silky blonde hair, nor its brief vertical cleft which ran downwards to vanish between my thighs. Fascinated - and appalled - by that mound (and its fissure), as trim and compact as a bird’s downy breast, I still dreaded discovering what I knew perfectly well must lie within.
That is, I remained too petrified to proceed: this time, not somnolence, but my full force of will restrained my curious fingers, for they were burning to confirm the inevitable truth. My hands reluctantly came to rest on the gentle convexity of my abdomen, thumbs touching over my navel, fingers fanned downwards, their lovely, enameled nails forming an arc over my mons veneris like so many little red warning lights.
Suddenly seeing myself endowed with the very anatomical feature I had until now found so powerfully attractive in other women brought vividly to mind quite a few novel prospects, previously not physically feasible with regard to myself, which promised to alter fundamentally certain aspects of my existence for the rest of my life. Of these, some were unsettling to contemplate, while others, I confess, were not altogether displeasing, despite my hope, (now rapidly fading), that the entire scene was some sort of delusional fantasy.
In short, I remained of two minds on the matter.
I stood mesmerized before my reflection for several minutes at least, vacillating between panic and the craving to abandon myself to all the implications of what my eyes were riveted upon. Coming down, for the moment, on the look-but-please-don’t-handle-the-merchandise side of abandonment, I snapped out of my trance and, with arms raised above my head, fingertips touching, pirouetted slowly two or three times, enchanted with the view from the rear: I had a perfectly molded derrière, surmounted by twin indentations, one at either side of the base of my spine, reminiscent of the curlicues cut into a ‘cello.
But I needed to get a grip on myself, otherwise I well might have ogled my reflection forever, or, even worse, I might have started exploring again, and God only knew where that might have led, and I did not exactly want to find out, not right then, anyway. I shuddered with a premonition that I’d be discovering rather more than I’d like know, and pretty soon, too, whether I wanted to or not, and in the meanwhile I was just wasting time with such speculation, as I needed to get myself ‘ready:’ this Bradshaw was coming at three, and I had no idea what preparations were going to be called for nor how long they might take.
My mouth still tasted of stale liquor, so brushing my teeth was the first order of business. I opened the medicine cabinet to find it crammed with various pill bottles, lotions and creams, and a little box of Ivory Snow, but there was a toothbrush, too, and a flat blue and white metal can, shaped like a small liquor flask, bearing a label: ‘Dr. Greenwood’s Hygienic Effervescent Dental Powder.’ Uncapping it, I shook a little into the palm of my hand, wet the toothbrush, dipped it in the white powder and stuck the brush into my mouth.
Ugh! The stuff tasted like wintergreen, my least favorite flavor, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I began to brush. My vigorous brushing induced a rhythmic swinging of my breasts: a rather unique sensation, hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Suddenly the thought flashed through my head, ‘If I had some pasties I bet I could twirl them!’ It felt like one of those repetitive déjà vu thoughts, one I probably thought every morning when I brushed my teeth while standing in front of this very sink and mirror.
But I was taken aback at the thought ...me and ... pasties? How immodest! How ludicrous! Proper girls don’t wear such things! What ever put such a thought into my head? But modesty melted away when I realized I knew where some were, too, right there in my bedroom, in my dresser, bottom drawer, middle compartment. They were silver-tasseled ones and had never been worn - a prank gift from a man named Paul Malone.
I received this startling image as clearly as it had been part of my own memory. Then I saw myself smile a little smile of triumph around the toothbrush. But what was I smiling for? I hadn’t ordered any smile onto my lips ...
This was the limit! First I find myself inhabiting some woman’s body and now I’m having her memories, too! But it was too complicated to figure out in my present condition, so I just kept on brushing and tried to forget about my breasts and the pasties and Paul Malone.
As I brushed, my breasts swinging freely, I glanced over at the tub, which was now almost full. Prudence had added some bath powder, so a stiff mantle of bubbles was cresting the rim. I shut off the taps, went back to the sink and rinsed out my mouth. Getting rid of that stale taste finally made me feel almost human.
Now for my bath.
The water was a bit on the hot side, so it took me a while to lower myself in. The tub was huge, the kind with cast iron griffin’s feet gripping cast iron balls in their talons. A chrome-covered reel attached to the wall at one end of the tub held a thin retractable clothesline for hanging out delicate items to dry; it had a white bead at the end of the line that hooked into a grommet on the opposite wall.
I easily submerged myself up to my chin, then lay back and luxuriated. But my hair, I suddenly remembered: it’s all matted with blood over that lump! So after I had soaked for a while, I ducked my head, then slowly worked my fingers into the hair around the lump, gradually washing out the encrusted blood and freeing the strands. The bubbles remained white, but wherever water showed through them it was tinted a thin, rusty red.
Hanging from a nickel-plated hook at the head of the tub was a telephone shower on an articulated hose: I used it to rinse my hair. I found a glass bottle of Halo on a stand next to the tub and gave myself a thorough shampoo, being careful not the get my scalp wound bleeding again: I succeeded. Finally I pulled the plug, stood, soaped myself carefully and rinsed off with the telephone shower.
As I toweled myself dry, I was fascinated to discover that I was unconsciously following quite a different drying pattern and rhythm from that to which I had always been accustomed: I patted myself delicately rather than wielding the towel like a shoe-shine rag. The process itself had a certain sensuality, too, instead of being merely a chore.
Once dry and glowing, I slipped into the fluffy white robe Prudence had laid out on the heated rack and cinched up the tie, pleased with the narrowness of my waist. Then, before I realized what I was doing, I had fashioned a tall turban about my head out of one of the towels, something I could never consciously have done had my life depended upon it! Yet, there it was, symmetrical, firm and perfect, as if I had been doing it every day for ten years.
‘Now I’m making towel turbans? That’s terrific! Next thing I know, instead of shaving each morning I’ll be washing out my undies and stockings right here in this bathroom,’ I grimly reflected, recalling the retractable clothesline and the little box of Ivory Snow.
Such, in fact, (and more) would turn out to be precisely the case, and much sooner than I could have ever imagined, but for now I could just dimly perceive that there was some vague underlying feminine force controlling my actions and even my thoughts: witness my gait, my stance, my unconscious primping and having burst into tears and now this intricate turban. How this control was being exerted was a mystery: the interface of my will and this force was so smooth and seamless that I had to catch myself in the act to become aware it was happening at all. Yet at other times I felt completely alone in my transmuted body, without the slightest idea how to proceed, as when I had tried to empty my bladder.
At least my words were still mine, though their cadence and delivery were decidedly feminine. But that smile a bit earlier. Why exactly did I smile? Then I felt myself smiling again, quite independent of my volition. It had to be this Bitsy, of course, beginning to get through to me. For an instant I felt completely at ease in my body, then all became strange and awkward again.
* * * * *
When I glided back into the bedroom, clad in my white robe and turban, I found Prudence had not yet returned, so I meandered over to the dresser. Sure enough, buried deep in the middle compartment of the bottom drawer, under some folded woolen sweaters redolent of naphtha, I found a slim, hinged box with rounded corners, covered in shimmering black taffeta. I sprung the catch: nestled in fine tissue paper within, which crinkled crisply when I opened it, lay a pair of silver-tasseled pasties. Under the paper was a thin, square-cut bronze key, its triple-curved head bearing the inscription: ‘ITC #2788’ stamped in characters imprecisely aligned. And a card, filled out in a near-copperplate hand, which said: ‘For Itsy Bitsy, wear these when you get chilly. Paul. January 12, 1932.’
The implications of such a gift, along with the card, were somewhat unsettling. So: there’s Rafferty, Stryker, Bradshaw and now Paul Malone. Apparently, I had quite a number of men in my life, and apparently I sometimes went about scantily clad (not in private, either) if this Malone had given me some pasties to wear when I "get chilly." I mentally filed away the information for future reflection, and in the meantime snapped the box closed, reburied it under the sweaters and slid the drawer shut.
I approached the French doors and gazed out: they gave onto a tiny balcony overlooking a walled-in yard sharing back and side walls with yards of similar size. In the center was a compact Japanese garden set with small red maples appropriately gnarled, the main feature of which - a miniature, steeply-arched wooden bridge - spanned a shallow cement pond in which a dozen or so orange (and parallel) carp seemed suspended in sharp silhouette against the light blue painted bottom. A fountain played through the top of a low grey stone shrine in the pond, dimpling the water's surface. Brilliant sunlight engraved every detail of leaf, bark and stone like an etching.
It appeared as if the building I was in - on the third or fourth floor - was one of a solid city block of nearly identical structures. No view of the street could be had from this vantage, looking south, I guessed, judging from the angle of the late morning sun. To the west, in the adjoining block, was a much taller building, apparently a fancy apartment house of perhaps twenty stories, richly ornamented about the windows and below the roofline with scrolled rose-colored stonework carved in an elaborate salamander-and-gargoyle motif. The balcony one of the penthouse apartments was fringed with the dense shiny leaves of topiary shrubs and dwarf espaliered trees, including several bearing bright red fruit which could only be apples.
I opened the doors to admit the low, permanent thrum common to any great metropolis - not unlike the whoosh a large seashell makes when held up to the ear - punctuated by the high-pitched beeping of old-fashioned automobile horns and an occasional distant squealing of brakes. Nearby a truck ground into low gear and someone began dragging an ashcan over the sidewalk. The faint and faltering sound of a piano being practiced floated in, ebbed away on a contrary breeze then flowed back even louder for a moment or two before disappearing entirely. A small flock of trained pigeons swooped in noiseless formation across the narrow expanse of visible sky, wheeled tightly and vanished, leaving a single white feather behind turning over and over in erratic arcs as it slowly descended.
I felt as powerless as that feather. Transfixed, I followed it with my eyes and pondered the meaning of what was happening to me.
'Why?' I asked myself, 'why me?' I brought both hands to my breasts, cupped and lifted them, feeling their weight - and was pleased. Somehow holding my breasts made me feel serene, self-contained, complete. I pulled off the turban and shook out my hair - that felt nice, too. Then I brought the towel up to my face and dried a tear that was running down my cheek - now I was displeased and regretted my change: I was a bundle of conflicting emotions.
Prudence’s light double tap startled me.
I closed the French doors, turned around and cried, "Come in!" And as I did so I realized with all the clarity of the sunlight in the little garden below that what was happening to me had no special meaning at all - I had tumbled through some inexplicable fissure in time and existence and would now have to live my life from this time forwards without understanding the why and wherefore any more than one can understand the why and wherefore of having been born.
I felt suddenly hungry.
I AM SERVED BREAKFAST AND PRUDENCE SPILLS THE BEANS
Prudence entered wheeling a glass-shelved food trolley and began setting up a breakfast service on the little Directoire table. The coffee smelled wonderful, but I could not as yet smell anything else, for oblong silver covers, each with a central knob in the shape of a miniature pinecone, topped all the dishes.
Prudence began pouring coffee and opened what she assumed would be standard breakfast-time light conversation:
"Cook ran out of your favorite marmalade, miss, so she sent up peach preserves instead. There’s three soft-boiled eggs on English muffins, fried potatoes, bacon, sausage and ham, waffles, melon, your martini and four slices of toast..."
I felt ravenous now that the nausea had passed, but as I was now an altogether smaller and less substantial creature, I doubted I would be able to handle this meal. Even as a man I could never have considered downing such an enormous breakfast, yet if this was now my usual daily fare I was surprised at not being at all fat or even slightly plump, although I had appeared in the mirror to be suitably padded in all the appropriate places. And a martini for breakfast? I disliked gin at any time of day, but in the morning? I must have a cast iron stomach!
I sat down at the table and shook out a starched linen napkin. Prudence uncovered the dishes. I surveyed the masses of food, indecisive about what to try first and ... to my amazement, I grabbed the martini and thirstily gulped it down in almost one swallow.
"I’ll take another of those," I said, dabbing my upper lip with my napkin and extending my glass.
Prudence, not missing a beat, refilled it from an iced cocktail shaker with a rounded top, from which protruded a little spout whose cover she had unscrewed.
As I hoisted the glass, she said, "There’s still more here, miss," and raised the shaker questioningly. Still guzzling, I signaled with my free hand that I’d take the rest; Prudence emptied the shaker into my glass as soon as I had put it back down as if this were strictly routine. This time, though, I let the full glass remain on the table. With my empty stomach, cast iron or not, I could already feel a buzz from the gin: these were strong martinis.
I contemplated my eggs for a moment or two, then, as I began carefully to cut them, soaking the muffins with the yolks, I asked:
"Prudence, what day is today?"
"Sunday, the fourth, miss," she replied, burnishing a water spot off the cream pitcher with her sleeve, not bothering to look up. Apparently my asking the day of the week was so common a question as not to raise in Prudence the slightest degree of alarm.
"And the month?"
Prudence put down the pitcher and glanced at me, looking troubled. Her eyes briefly shifted to the lump on my temple.
"Why, it’s... it’s September, miss."
"And the year?"
Now Prudence looked as if she were about to cry. "Why, miss, can’t you really remember anything at all? It’s 1932, of course." And she actually did start to cry.
I handed her my napkin, which she used to dab at her eyes, and I tried to calm her.
"Look, Prudence," I said as soothingly as I could, "I had a nasty shock last night, and I really can’t remember a thing, not even my name. You’re going to have to help me out if I am ever to get back to being myself, because you’re the only one I can talk to. The only other person I’ve talked to today is Dr. Stryker, and I wouldn’t mind never talking to that hateful man again, or even seeing him, for that matter. So why don’t you pull up that chair while I’m eating and you can start answering a few questions for me."
Prudence glanced at me doubtfully, paused as if to think it over, then pulled one of the upholstered chairs over to the table and, defiantly folding her arms, sat down facing me, pouting. She sniffled once, then lowering her hands to her lap, intertwined her fingers and regarded me expectantly, though not without suspicion.
I began to butter a slice of toast.
"Who am I, Prudence? What’s my name?"
To my great relief I saw that Prudence really had decided to play the game. She answered:
"You’re Bitsy Bennett, miss, I mean, Miss Elizabeth Bennett."
"How old am I?"
"Twenty-nine, I think, miss.
"Where was I born?"
"You never told me miss. You only said you were from the Midwest. You told me you grew up on a wheat farm."
"Did I finish high school?" I asked, slathering the slice with peach jam.
"I wouldn’t know, miss. You say different things to different people. I heard you once tell a man you went to Vassar, but you told me you never finished eighth grade."
"Where are we, what’s this place?"
"Why, it’s your apartment, miss."
"Where is it?"
"The address, miss? It's 116 East 55th Street. You've lived here three years."
"East 55th Street in Manhattan, New York City?"
"Where else, miss?"
"How big is it?"
"It's four stories, a row house, miss. Kitchen at street level, dining room and drawing room on the main floor, your bedroom's on the second floor, and the servants up top."
"Do I own it?"
"Oh, miss, I wouldn’t know anything about that." Prudence shifted uneasily in her armchair.
"How many servants do I have?"
"There's just me, Mrs. Cernik (she's the cook) and Slade, the chauffeur."
A chauffeur named Slade sounded ominous. Perkins or Williams would have been more reassuring. Suddenly fearful of any male in proximity, I immediately asked:
"Where's Slade, Prudence."
"It's his Sunday off, so he probably went over to Jersey to see his sick mother."
Men named Slade don’t have sick mothers to visit: this was beginning to sound like a cheap detective novel. I began munching my toast. (I happen to be really fond of peach jam, by the way) and resumed my interrogation:
"Does Dr. Stryker really come here every day?"
"Yes, miss, every afternoon. He always gives you a hypodermic. Sometimes you call him and make him come early. And if he’s late, you get pretty upset."
"I see," I said, wondering just how badly addicted I was to morphine and when I would, in fact, start looking forward to the doctor’s next visit. Well, I was probably fixed for the rest of today, thank goodness. But I was dismayed to learn that the loathsome Stryker’s "usual time" was in the afternoon, which meant that I would start looking forward to his next visit with lively anticipation come late tomorrow morning.
"What happens if Dr. Stryker misses a visit?" I asked.
"Oh, miss, you get crazy. One time you completely wrecked this room we’re in, that’s why the furniture’s brand new. You set fire to the closet and got hold of a revolver and shot out two of the windows! I can’t believe you don’t remember it. The police came, but Mr. Rafferty smoothed things over. I almost gave my notice and would have, too, if it wasn't for positions being so hard to find and all. Now Mr. Rafferty gets pretty upset himself if the doctor is late even by an hour."
‘I’ll bet Rafferty gets upset,’ I thought to myself: he probably had to pay for the furniture. I guessed that Rafferty owned the place and everything in it, down to the last stitch of clothing I wore - except for the pasties (which I never wore) and about which he almost certainly knew nothing. That might explain why Bitsy had buried that box so deep in the drawer. There was no telling what he would do if he found that note. Bitsy was either pretty brave or pretty dumb - or both.
I decided to ask the big question:
"Who’s Mr. Rafferty?"
Prudence turned pale and swallowed hard. It was a good question, I could see.
"Um," Prudence began to stammer, "um, M-Mr. Rafferty runs an import business, the Manhattan Crating and Forwarding Company. It’s all on his card: ‘Francis Rafferty, President, Manhattan Crating and Forwarding Company, 521 West 37th Street, CHickering 6-3886.’"
"What does Mr. Rafferty import, Prudence?"
"Oh, I wouldn’t know that either, miss. But I think it’s some kind of art. I’m sure you must know all about it. I mean you must have known all about it until that bump on your head."
"Who pays you, Prudence?"
"Oh, you do miss, sixty-eight dollars and fifty cents, every month."
"Do I pay you with a check?"
"No, miss, never, it’s always cash, I never saw you write a check for anything."
By now I had discovered that this Bitsy had a phenomenal appetite. I had already finished the eggs, muffins and bacon and was plowing my way through the fried potatoes and sausages, washing down each mouthful with the delicious coffee. I found myself actually looking forward to the ham and waffles. This was proving to be a very full breakfast, in addition to being an informative one.
I decided to push my luck, and asked:
"Do I work, Prudence?"
Prudence gulped hard. She cast her eyes downward, then softly replied:
"Well, miss, sometimes you’re in a show - you dance and sing, mostly. Bitsy Bennett’s your stage name. Once in a while you bring home a program. I’ve read all of them, not that I look through your personal things, miss, I would never do that, but you threw these in the trash. I still have one or two, if you’d like to see them. Mostly you’re in the chorus, but you’ve had a couple of solo roles, too. Your name’s usually down near the bottom of the program."
Prudence, I saw, had no illusions about the star quality of her mistress. She looked up at me and smiled wanly.
"Is that all I do?" I continued.
Another silence. Prudence again lowered her eyes, extinguishing contact, and murmured:
"Well, what else?" I asked, fearing the worst.
And the worst came immediately. Prudence flushed almost the same shade as her birthmark and replied in an almost inaudible whisper:
"Sometimes Mr. Rafferty asks you to... to - to entertain - his ... his business associates."
‘Oh, my God!’ I thought, ‘what have I been turned into? An available chorus girl, some sort of private New York City geisha, kept in line with a morphine habit?’
I might have been able to come to terms with having being made a waitress, a librarian, a teacher or a telephone operator; a nurse, a salesgirl, or even a nun - but a moll, a floozie, a call girl? Rotten luck!
Trying to stay calm, I compulsively went on with my breakfast: I cut the waffles into small squares, then did the same with the ham and scraped the pieces onto the waffles with my knife. I emptied a small pitcher of maple syrup over the plate. As I began mashing the resultant mess with a fork, I looked up and asked:
"And just where do I entertain these ‘business associates’ of Mr. Rafferty’s?"
"Right here, miss, in this room."
Well, I reflected, that explains this Bradshaw fellow, then, whom I am no doubt going to ‘entertain’ at three today. I doubted that ‘entertain’ meant I was expected to play the ukulele or do card tricks, so this was bound to prove quite interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I was beginning to wish I were dead! But I needed these answers, Prudence was getting jumpy, and I did not want to push my luck too far, yet I still had a couple of questions.
"You said it’s 1932, Prudence, and here I am drinking martinis a mile a minute and that bar by the door is covered with full liquor bottles. Where does the booze come from?" I asked, then shoveled in a forkful of waffles-syrup-and-ham.
"Oh, that’s easy, miss. Mr. Rafferty has lots of business associates who travel to Europe. They buy liquor in the duty-free shops on the Cunard and French Line steamers. Mr. Rafferty told me it’s perfectly legal to bring liquor in through the duty-free shops and that I shouldn’t ever worry about it. They must travel a lot, because they usually drop off a couple of cases a week."
I was not too sure I was glad to discover that Bitsy was not the only dumb one around here. Could it be that neither of these two girls had a clue as to what was going on?
I polished off my waffle concoction and washed it down with another cup of coffee. I had just about had my fill of asking questions (and of breakfast), but there was one more I simply had to put to the maid.
"Who’s Paul Malone?" I asked, shoving the empty waffle plate away with a fork and hooking an enameled fingertip over the edge of the melon bowl, which I smoothly dragged into position.
Prudence blanched and licked her lips quickly, then stared at me without speaking.
"Well, who is he?" I speared a melon chunk with my fork.
"Oh, miss, please don’t ask me about Mr. Malone."
"Well," she replied, "For one thing, he’s dead. He was killed this February in an auto accident. It was in all the papers. It was during a snowstorm. His car skidded through a guard rail on the Storm King Highway, up near Bear Mountain, and went off the cliff into the Hudson. It took them three days to find the car, about a mile down the river, and with him still in it. It was terrible, he seemed such a nice young man, and sweet on you, too, miss.
"For another thing, some say he was murdered, but the police could never find any evidence. I wish you could remember, miss. Then I wouldn’t have to answer any more of these awful questions. Mr. Rafferty told me never to talk to anyone about Mr. Malone, so I really can’t tell you anything more, miss. Besides, you already know, I mean knew, all about it."
‘Can’t tell or won’t?’ I wondered, finishing up the melon and patting my mouth with my napkin, which Prudence had returned after drying her tears. My interrogation about me was over, for now, anyway, but I was going to need Prudence more than ever for my next step: being Elizabeth Bennett.
As I was to all outward appearances a woman and hadn’t the slightest idea how to regain my former corporeal self, I was determined to make the most of a bad situation, starting right there and then. What else could I do, after all? And I would need Prudence to give me all the pointers she could. And perhaps things wouldn’t be so terrible: after all, things are never as good as one hopes nor as bad as one fears. There might be a silver lining in this for me, after all.
So I pushed my chair back from the table, drinking down the last martini as I stood. I thought Bitsy could probably use it. Aloud, I said:
"Absolutely marvelous breakfast, Prudence. Tell cook to nix the marmalade from now on and keep sending up the peach jam instead. And thanks for being so helpful. I believe I’ll be back to myself pretty soon, especially if you keep answering my questions. Now let’s get me ready."
But to Bitsy, I inwardly pleaded:
‘If you’re in there at all, Miss Bennett, please don’t leave me alone now,’ hoping she would pick up on the hint.
GETTING DRESSED TO THE NINES
Beyond the other mirrored door to the left of my bed was a sizeable closet-cum-dressing room stocked with elegant clothing arranged both by color and weight. Hanging there were at least a hundred outfits, (a number with Paris labels, I noted, as I riffled through them), not to mention coats for all seasons, many with fur collars and cuffs, several all fur (at least two mink, a silver fox and a sable). Above the hanger rods were shelves crowded with hats (many with veils) - a blaze of feathers, flowers and fake fruit. Beneath stood long ranks of shoes three pairs deep, from dainty silver sandals (ankle straps studded with rhinestones), to glossy, patent leather pumps with four-inch heels. A central set of built-in white drawers held lingerie, gloves of various lengths and colors, as well as scarves, muffs and stoles - bearing at each end furry shrunken heads with needle-sharp teeth and sightless obsidian eyes unanatomically clustered together with tiny clawed feet.
My hands knew precisely what I wanted, rapidly selecting various items, passing them, one by one, to Prudence to hold. Between Prudence and Bitsy (who had indeed picked up on the hint), I had little difficulty insinuating myself into these alien feminine garments and their appurtenances (known, I have since learned, as ‘accessories’) - panties, brassiere and slip (all trimmed in matching, hand-made lace), girdle and silk stockings, not to mention chemise, frock, long shoulder sash, three-inch heels, (Bitsy had evidently rejected the four-inchers out-of-hand as far too perilous for a novice), earrings, brooch, bracelets and pearls.
There seemed to be some neat little trick or other required for each separate item, but my fingers were up to the task: I hadn’t the slightest difficulty, even with the brassiere, about which I was worried the moment I extracted it from its drawer and regarded its forbidding construction: I never could quite get the hang of buckles and straps, even on something as coarse as a knapsack, and these straps were insubstantial and silky, the metal slides microscopic. And those delicate hooks and eyes, too! But I was surprised at the flexible ease with which I was able to reach both hands round to my back and fasten the brassiere without any fumbling.
When I remarked that my clothing fit me as if it had been custom made to my measurements, Prudence informed me it had been, in fact, including my lingerie. Not convinced, I pulled another pair of panties from the drawer and looked at its label. It read, "Made for E. Bennett. Mme. Binner, Corsetière, 548 5th Avenue, New York." The "E. Bennett" had been microscopically hand-embroidered in lilac onto a tiny but legible satin label neatly let in to the side seam.
The sensation of wearing clothing that conforms precisely to one’s every curve was not only completely novel, but luxurious - almost sinful - for its implication that other people had spent many hours, or even days, of their time constructing garments that could fit only one person, in this case - me. I was a bit curious to learn exactly how Mme. Binner had set about obtaining my most intimate measurements. She certainly had done an excellent job, particularly with the panties, the downy soft gusset of which so snugly conformed to my outer lips that it felt almost as sensual when I had stroked them a little while earlier.
I must admit that I felt I was encasing myself in some sort of armor - the fifteen-inch girdle alone, with its surgical elastic, its reinforcements of whalebone, its panels and stays, looked as if it could stop a crossbow for sure - though I was becoming somewhat queasy about what sort of protection this feminine paraphernalia might provide against men (I was already dimly aware of having become a desirable property). But to watch myself putting it on, (as I did with intense fascination), I could have been dressing myself like this all my life.
It was the same with my makeup - my hands were as deft as a surgeon’s. Soon the purple shadows under my eyes were just a memory, my cupid’s bow lips (little lines at the corners erased) perfectly carmined, no shine could be detected on forehead, nose or chin and my cheeks radiated a healthy pink to contrast with the powdered, cadaverous pallor of the rest of my face, neck and shoulders.
Yes, Dearest Reader, I even powdered my shoulders. Thirties girls like to be white all over!
As I sat at the vanity applying my makeup, Prudence brushed out my hair, carefully avoiding my lump. Then I leant more closely towards the glass and angled my face in various planes to catch the light better. With my little finger extended and eyes opened widely, I titivated my makeup with rapid, meticulous dabs - a spot on my cheek, a corner of my mouth, the angle of my jaw on one side - expertly blending powder and rouge just as an artist blends paints on a palette. I quickly ran my tongue round the inside of my lips, the better to inspect the perfect margin between lipstick and skin, then rolled my lips one final time to even the gloss. I sat back to survey the results from greater distance again: I was satisfied.
My toilet complete, I pinned on a small crushed-velvet beret, a white one, and cocked it jauntily over my left temple, concealing the bump. Now I really looked like a Hollywood starlet: I turned towards the mirror, rested my chin on one shoulder and made big eyes at myself, watching the involuntary smile spread over my face yet again. I knew Bitsy was pleased.
I must admit I wasn’t displeased. The dress was a knockout: a floor-length hostess gown in ice-green satin with closely fitted (and low-cut) bodice, slim skirt flared well below the knees, full sleeves and tight wristbands; an oversized baby-blue satin rose adorned each wrist and one shoulder. The toes of my shoes were revealed in front, but at the back was a long, narrow train which glided over the floor with each step. The garment shimmered as I moved. It clung closely to my curves and gave not-so-subtle hints of my hollows, creating a far more erotic effect than had I been naked.
Arrayed in such slinky attire - aware of the softly jangling bracelets on my wrists, the pinch of my earrings, the brush of pearls over my cleavage, the little hat perched on my head - oh, I could go on, Dearest Reader, and bore you with the obligatory litany - the frisson of slip against stockings, of stocking against stocking, the gentle, elastic tug of six garters whenever I moved, the friction of the silky brassiere cups on my nipples, the …. But enough is enough! - I felt, for the first time ... well, I felt practically feminine.
But also terribly vulnerable: the dawning realization that I now really was a soft and penetrable creature sent a brief shudder down my spine and made my heart momentarily flutter. The combination of these several sensibilities struck me as singularly titillating - and somehow risky, too: a dress, open to the air below, simply does not afford one the sense of protective security granted by trousers, and now I possessed something, rather delicate and private, which at that very moment seemed as if it certainly needed protecting. I felt a new sexual power, too - a power to attract - but a power inextricably linked with a certain elemental level of danger. I shuddered again, but this time with vague and pleasant anticipation.
All in all, I was no longer quite as frightened by this new body of mine now that it was so perfectly (and so sensually) draped, but I remained slightly queasy, as if under an ill-defined threat, not knowing for certain where all this was leading, but nonetheless wanting to get there, and rather soon, too.
The best way I can describe the premonition is how a small child feels who realizes that she is about to be tickled: she wants to bolt, to get away, but she also wants to be tickled. Sometimes, her anticipation is so keen that she will start giggling before the ticklers’ fingers actually touch her. I hadn’t exactly started to giggle, but I did feel a spontaneous twinge in that untouchable little spot I had rolled under my fingertips before I had fallen asleep.
I also felt as if Bitsy Bennett was really showing off for me: she had dressed me, after all, with Prudence’s help, and had made me up to be a thoroughly stunning creature, and she knew how to move, too. In that outfit, I could glide across the room as if I were on invisible castors, my feet apparently motionless, my train following smoothly behind me.
But moving also presented a problem: I discovered I had to be mindful of how I moved my shoulders and arms - if I did not constrain my movements, my dress would slip off one or the other shoulder, along with a clutch of shoulder straps, so moving about, even daintily, required one hand to be always free to deal with unexpected exigencies of this slippery clothing. And my shoulders and back felt chilly, not to mention the bare expanse of my upper chest: I was quite unaccustomed to go about with so much acreage of skin exposed.
The one false note in my outfit was the beret - even I could tell hats and hostess gowns didn’t go together, but my goose-egg constrained me to wear it, and I was pretty sure this fellow Bradshaw was not likely to be an expert on feminine fashion. Most men would be delighted to get anywhere within two blocks of me, I conjectured. Bradshaw probably wouldn’t notice the hat.
I opened a vial of rose water and touched its glass stopper behind my ears, over the veins of my neck, on the inside of my wrists. I smiled again, this time on my own recognizance. I was almost ready for Bradshaw.
Almost ready, because, after three martinis and all that coffee, I had to use the bathroom again. But this time Bitsy went easy on me and showed me exactly how to manage such a elaborate operation, otherwise I would have hamstrung myself on all those layers of garments - with their straps and buckles, hooks, eyes, slides, fasteners, stays, sashes, garters and tabs - and collapsed on the floor in a helpless snarl. I did it all in the proper order, too, so I felt quite proud, not that I could do it, say, in the dark yet.
Nonetheless, spending five minutes undoing all those intricate layers and then another five minutes doing them up all over again just for the sake of a ten-second event is not exactly something one wants to undertake lightly, so my advice is, when you’re a girl dressed to the nines, back off a bit on the liquid refreshment. Men unquestionably have the advantage in this department, no two ways about it. (Tiresias probably overlooked this drawback because he had never found himself in such fancy duds.)
When I returned to the bedroom (or should I say boudoir), Prudence was replenishing the bar, then she brought in a couple of ice buckets and set out clean ashtrays. She drew the gauzy outer drapes to subdue the light in the room, opened the Victrola and wound it fully. Finished, she stood in the doorway and regarded me with a puzzled expression, unable to comprehend how it could possibly be that I didn’t know who I was, but had known where all my clothing and jewelry were kept.
She shook her head once, smiled lopsidedly, and, closing the door, went downstairs, clearly feeling quite a bit better now that things seemed to be getting back into the groove.
I shook my head, too, but I didn’t smile. I couldn’t understand the paradox any better than Prudence. I contemplated the door Prudence had passed through and wondered when I would have enough courage to go through it myself and see what sort of world lay beyond.
1932! Manhattan! The Chrysler Building would be just two years old, the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge brand-new. Was 25-year old Katherine Hepburn still making her name at the Morosco, bounding down a stairway with a stag on her shoulders? Who was opening at the Met this season? Mayor Jimmy Walker would just have just resigned because of his flagrant affair with a floozie. Was Cole Porter singing ditties at the new Waldorf-Astoria towers yet? Where did I get my nails done? I was burning with curiosity.
No, I wasn't quite ready for that yet, not on my first day, but I was ready for Bradshaw, at least. I knew Bitsy had dressed me provocatively - for display, for plucking, even. Perhaps the silver lining lay in this direction, though the prospect still made me queasy... and impatient, too: despite my misgivings, I was half looking forward to my encounter with Bradshaw, a sort of rendezvous with my new destiny, I suppose. I began to think there could be worse fates than waking up as a twenty-nine year old woman in 1932...
It was two-fifty five by the mantelpiece clock.
I LEARN HOW TO ENTERTAIN A MAN
Bradshaw was late.
Wanting to kill time, I gazed about the room seeking diversion. Not a book was in sight, not even a telephone book. No magazine or newspaper, either. I rippled over to the Directoire table and opened a drawer: within lay a boxed deck of playing cards with its tongue half-torn out, several straight pens and a pen wiper (clean), two bottles of ink: one black, one green, both full. A box of stationery - expensive writing paper and envelopes with deckled edges: "E. B." was engraved in mauve beneath a pretentious embossed crest. The box looked unused. Some small change - a few liberty quarters, one or two buffalo nickels and a handful of pennies, none of them bearing dates later than 1932. A nail file with a broken tortoise-shell handle, five or six hairpins ...
Closing the drawer, I gazed around me again and wondered, ‘What in the world does this girl do for amusement?’
I absently helped myself to a cigarette from a cut-crystal box on the table. After lighting it with a heavy sterling table lighter shaped like an Arabian lamp, I cupped an elbow in one hand, threw back my head, gazed up at the high ivory ceiling and deeply inhaled. The smoke filled my lungs and felt awfully pleasant; I exhaled a straight jet and watched it swirl upwards. I took another deep drag, then another and another, wondering why I hadn’t discovered the pleasures of smoking years ago, and soon the cigarette was gone. I stubbed out the lipstick-stained butt in an ashtray then shimmered over to the Victrola and began rummaging through the records on its uppermost shelf. There was quite a collection.
I picked one at random, a Decca release, thick, rigid and black with a dark maroon label. I placed the record on the turntable. Moving the tone arm to the left switched on the machine; I lowered the needle and the strains of Artie Shaw and his orchestra, playing "Digga, Digga Doo," filled the room, somewhat reedy and not very loud but perfectly clear.
I glided back to the table and helped myself to another cigarette, then flopped myself into one of the armchairs and slouched so far down that I was practically horizontal. I crossed my thighs, jiggled my uppermost foot to the rhythm and blew smoke at the high ivory ceiling until the record was over, the needle hissing and clicking in the central catch groove. The record had lasted exactly one cigarette.
I arose, glanced vacantly about me for a few moments, then decided to mix myself a martini for the next number (as I had had nothing to drink since breakfast), so I undulated over to the bar, leaving the needle tracing the catch groove over and over at the end of the record with that hypnotic "swshhhh-tick, swshhhh-tick" that no one ever hears any more, a wonderful sound that has receded forever into oblivion, like barrel organs, cash registers and ice cream truck bells. I mixed the drink as if out of ingrained habit, without thinking about it, and, vaguely aware that a girl needs her daily green vegetable, chucked in a few extra olives to be on the safe side.
The drink was wonderfully strong and delicious and felt warm on the swallow. ‘Gosh,’ I thought, ‘I never knew martinis could taste so absolutely marvelous!’ After a few more initial (and generous) sips, I sloshed in an additional gurgle or two of gin to top off the glass (to the rim and beyond, the overflow spilling onto the carpet), breezed back to the table and lit a third cigarette, then flitted over to the Victrola again and lifted the tone arm from the center of the hissing record. I slapped on another: it was Bing Crosby singing ‘Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams’ in a young voice. This record lasted exactly one drink-and-a-cigarette.
I repeated this soothing ritual until I had listened to six or eight records and the level in the gin bottle had grown remarkably lower. I was beginning to feel a bit full on account of all the superfluous olives and became much more aware of my girdle’s inelastic restraint. I made a mental note not to wear it if I was planning to consume quite so many martinis in future, or else to see if my wardrobe had one slightly more commodious so I could consume as many as I liked without any discomfort. But girdle notwithstanding, how absolutely marvelous to relax in a soft armchair and blow smoke at a high ivory ceiling, listen to such absolutely marvelous records, jiggle one’s foot and guzzle martinis! I could do it forever...
* * * * *
I realized with a start that Bitsy had just shown me exactly what she did for amusement. Of course, she didn’t speak to me outright, or even communicate by consecutive thought in our sometimes overlapping consciousnesses, but she had answered me nonetheless. I could see she was rather a low maintenance sort when it came to entertainment: cigarettes, bootleg gin (the vermouth didn’t count as it was only a whiff), and some old 78 records were all she needed to keep us blandly occupied for hours - perhaps even for days - on end.
And now I was hooked on cigarettes and martinis, and God knew what else! (I had no doubt I would find out exactly what - besides laudanum - now that I was beginning to understand Bitsy). And I had been amused, too: time had passed quickly - according to the fat cherubs on the mantelpiece, it was now almost a quarter to four. Cigarettes, gin and records didn’t seem so bad, after all. I was beginning to enjoy being Bitsy. Whether she enjoyed having me around, I was as yet unable to fathom.
I was about to indulge in another pleasant round of entertainment, but at that very moment I heard the distant ring of a doorbell, a muffled opening and closing of doors, then, about a minute later, the tread of two pairs of feet - one light, the other heavy - alighting carpeted stairs.
The by-now familiar twin knocks. As musically as I knew how, I lilted:
The door opened.
"Mr. Phillip Bradshaw!" announced Prudence in her best professional maid’s voice. A tall young man hesitated on the dim landing behind her, craning his face first over one of the maid’s shoulders, then over the other, then backing off a foot or two into the shadows. He looked pretty nervous.
"Thank you Prudence. I’ll ring if I need you," I heard myself saying.
Prudence turned and went back downstairs, but not before signaling me with a "go-get-him" sort of a wink. Which rather shocked me, given how reluctant she had seemed at breakfast in describing my duties. Prudence probably got some vicarious thrill from them: between her freckles and her purple birthmark the poor thing probably had not received a great deal of male attention in her lifetime, but, then, one can never tell. Maybe some fellows quite fancy freckles and birthmarks. In any event, she could hardly have had less experience than me in such matters, so perhaps I was wasting my pity.
I turned to the young man and said:
"My dear Mr. Bradshaw, won’t you please come in? I’m Elizabeth Bennett, but my friends call me Bitsy, so you must call me Bitsy as well. Mr. Rafferty has told me so much about you."
Flexing elbow and wrist to make my forearm resemble a swan, I languidly held out my hand to be kissed (while equally languidly resting the back of my other hand on my hip and inclining my torso ever so slightly away from him), but instead Bradshaw awkwardly attempted to shake it, making the satin rose quiver. Dropping my shaken (but unkissed) hand, I gently tugged with it at his elbow and steered him into the room, chattering:
"Please do come in, Mr. Bradshaw. It’s rather warm for the season, don’t you think? But by December New York is usually chilly. December’s a grand month to visit Bermuda. Bermuda is absolutely marvelous, Mr. Bradshaw - have you ever been? No? You simply must see it. The hibiscus is so very fragrant at sunset! I do Bermuda every December, but this winter I’m doing Nassau instead. Nassau is famed for its fairways, they tell me. Are you a golfer by any chance, Mr. Bradshaw? When it comes to lawn sports, I prefer croquet: far less walking, and, of course, golf has all those mashies and putters and drivers and things while croquet just needs a little hammer on a long wooden handle. Croquet’s rather like polo, don’t you think? Except the handles are longer, of course, and there's horses. And no wickets, either. Have you been to Belmont this season? ..."
I continued to prattle on in this vein for at least a couple of minutes.
Where had I acquired such fatuous patter? It appeared Bitsy and I were working at cross-purposes: I was trying to break the ice my way, and Bitsy was trying in hers, and it came out all wrong. But it didn’t matter what either one of us had said, for the young man hadn’t heard a word anyway: he stood in the middle of the room, mouth slightly agape, and stared at me.
So I stopped chattering and stared right back at him. I felt Bitsy curl my lips upward in a slightly wicked anticipatory little grin as my eyes finally took in the man standing before me.
* * * * *
Phillip Bradshaw, at least six-foot-two, had entered diffidently into my boudoir. Had not Prudence taken his hat, I was certain he would have been holding it in both hands by its brim, in mute supplication that I not bite him. He appeared young, inexperienced and terrified - almost as inexperienced and terrified as I was.
But Bradshaw was gorgeous, with thick black hair parted in the middle, combed almost straight back from a sharp widow’s peak and well-brilliantined, a thin pencil moustache limning his upper lip, large brown eyes, slightly hooded, under dark and angled Irish eyebrows. The nose was forceful and straight, with arched and slightly flared nostrils, giving it a chiseled appearance. His shoulders were broad, unusual in city boys who get little physical exercise. I guessed he had grown up on a farm or a ranch, but his hands did not appear blunt or callused. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-four or twenty-five.
He wore a cheap but immaculate navy blue double-breasted suit, with faint, light grey pinstripes; a handkerchief neatly folded into three cusps peeked out of the breast pocket. His silk tie, in the new Windsor knot, was of a deep purple hue. His black wingtip shoes shone as if he had spit-polished them, as most likely he had.
‘Wait just a minute here! How can I possibly be admiring such details in a man?’ I thought, drawing myself up sharply, thoroughly appalled. Trying to dress and act like Elizabeth Bennett was one thing, but finding a man sexually attractive - which is how I suppose I was responding to this... this absolutely marvelous-looking young man - was an entirely different kettle of fish - the very concept was innately repulsive. Finding myself suddenly female - well, I couldn’t help that, could I? But being sexually attracted to men was definitely not part of the deal as I understood it. It was women to whom I was attracted! My body may have been co-opted, but surely not my mind, my most intimate property. Men didn’t interest me in the slightest. Or so I had always thought up to that moment.
I had not yet learned, you see, just how closely function follows form, or, to put it another way, how closely linked are one’s mind and one’s body.
For there was no doubt about it: in my heart, in my breast, in my limbs - even in my face and my fingers - I detected a subtle but wrenching desire to be held and protected- not as a child desires to held and protected, but in a wholly different way, a desire bound up with a yearning to soften and yield and submit. Then, too, an odd attraction, a lascivious twinge, flowed through me like a magnetic flux, physically aligning me towards Bradshaw as if he were some uncharted ferrous anomaly and I a deviant compass needle, having unexpectedly lost true North and now passively swinging towards him - a deviant needle quivering on its gimbals in excursions of rapidly diminishing amplitude, then settling dead on, fixed towards a new pole - all this before he even said a word.
He really was gorgeous, you see. I could hardly keep my eyes off him. I thought I could feel my nipples harden, but, of course, I dared not touch them for verification. Not then, in any case. Every fiber of my being felt alert and on edge. The tension between us was almost electric.
Then Bradshaw opened his mouth.
"Oh, Miss B-B-B-B-Bennett, I am so glad to m-m-meet you," he stammered. M-M-Mister Rafferty has told me so much about y-y-y-you!"
The needle spun aimlessly about for a moment, as if to calculate the negative value of the unexpected stammer, but then, quickly discounting it in view of everything else, aligned itself once again to its new pole as unequivocally as before.
‘Yeah, I’ll bet Frank told him about me, right down to the mole on my left breast!’ I inwardly muttered. But it was not like Frank to take on a stutterer; this boy must really have something special about him, besides his good looks. Why was Frank offering me to him? I was usually offered to older men, most of them married, some of them senior cops or assistant D.A.’s. Even a judge once in a while. I was determined to discover the reason, but I said:
"Can I fetch you a pick-me-up, Mr. Bradshaw? What’s your poison? I’m doing martinis." I was pleased that I had sounded almost coherent this time.
"B-B-B-B-Bourbon and water’ll do just f-f-fine, M-M-Miss Bennett, if you’ve got it. M-m-m-mind if I smoke?"
"Bourbon and water it is, then, and, no, of course I don’t mind. And please do call me Bitsy," I replied, shimmering over to the bar to fix his drink, cocking one hip as I stood there, stretching the satin to maximum tension and savoring the effect I had to be making. I froze for an instant as it suddenly occurred to me that I had stood this very way at this very bar mixing a drink - many times before.
I could feel his eyes burning holes in my dress the moment I turned my back on him and could almost feel the heat of their gaze warm up a few degrees when I cocked my hip: the light must have struck my derrière just right. With her showgirl’s intuition, Bitsy had most likely arranged the lights in the room to display herself to greatest advantage when standing at the bar mixing drinks. At any rate, Bradshaw was definitely a very hungry boy, and Frank was probably saving quite a bundle on wages or bonuses by sending him my way on a Sunday. Right then, I decided I was not going to work this afternoon - this one was strictly for me, and for whatever I could pry out of this kid about Frank.
Just a second! What was I thinking? No, that was Bitsy thinking: I knew nothing of Rafferty, though I had assumed his first name was Frank. I certainly knew nothing of cops, assistant district attorneys or judges! Bitsy was beginning to come through quite a bit more clearly. But what was she up to? She was going to land both of us in hot water if she didn’t watch out!
After gliding back across the room, I handed Bradshaw his drink - he thanked me, took a long swallow and placed it down next to the Victrola so he could light his cigarette, and was shaking out the match when I reached for a smoke of my own. He dropped the dead match in the ashtray and promptly struck another. I came very close, put my fingers on his wrist to steady his hand (he was trembling like a man in front of a firing squad), inclining my face towards the flame. My cigarette lit, I inhaled, then straightened up, my fingers lightly brushing his wrist as I withdrew them. I gazed into his eyes, slowly blinked once or twice, dropped my eyelids to half mast, then exhaled the smoke straight into his face. He smiled uneasily, revealing a set of white, even teeth: this boy was not helping some dentist’s kid get through Harvard, that was clear.
Then I shocked myself by saying:
"You know something, Mr. Bradshaw? You’re cute." And I actually reached up and pinched his cheek. Imagine, me pinching a man’s cheek! But I couldn’t help myself.
Bradshaw blushed a dark beet color, and I changed the subject:
"Tell me what you do for Mr. Rafferty. Are you in the import-export business, too, Mr. Bradshaw?" I drawled, and blinked several times, leaving my eyes wide and inquiring.
"Well, n-n-not exactly," he stammered, "I just drive a t-t-t-t-t-truck."
BITSY FINDS HER VOICE
So! One of Frank’s drivers. These were the fellows who made runs down from Canada, bringing booze in from Quebec and New Brunswick, crashing the border at no-name crossings in New York, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. Or else up from the Carolina coast, where they rendezvoused with fast motor launches inbound from Nassau, guiding them to lonely beaches by flashing their headlights. The New York market was huge: a fellow could make ten thousand dollars a month with just two or three trucks working four days a week.
Manhattan Crating had sixteen trucks, and they worked pretty much around the clock. The drivers were key - they had to be young and tough and able to drive fast along back country roads, all by night, until they got within fifty miles of the city, where the traffic was heavier and it was safe to drive in daylight. They got two hundred dollars a run, tax-free of course, two-fifty in summertime when the nights were shorter, and if they got caught, well, that was too bad: they would get one-to-three in Dannemora, no expenses paid, and if they talked, well, Frank had his own people inside, and everyone knew it, especially after one ex-driver left Dannemora feet first, after having met with a freak accident in the prison tailor shop involving a flatiron. But no one could prove anything, of course.
Proving anything was exactly what I had wanted to do for a long time. I hated Frank Rafferty, you see, hated him almost as much as I hated Dr. Stryker. (At least Frank didn’t have greasy hair and thick fingers, and he knew how to shave.) But last night, I made the mistake of teasing Frank about his bad dancing - teasing him in front of his men. Frank was always a wretched dancer, and last night he had stepped on my hem, half tearing off one of my favorite dresses. I was furious, so I made a snotty remark - Stryker had been right. I asked Frank where he had learned that absolutely marvelous new step and did it have a name? Could he teach me? Frank hit me on the side of my head with a sap, as hard as he could - he still carried a sock full of sand in his hip pocket, just like in the old days when he worked on the docks.
It was lights out ‘til this morning. Then the next thing I know, I wake up shut out by some strange dame in my body who doesn’t seem to know where things are and can’t even get herself dressed - and she just about does me out of my laudanum this morning. I’ll show her a thing or two before this day’s out or my name’s not Bitsy Bennett ...
‘Whoa, Bitsy! Stop!’ I thought, as forcefully as I could. ‘Please stop!’
This was the limit! Somehow Bitsy had managed to switch on a whole flood of her thoughts, complete with editorial comments, right smack in the middle of my consciousness, and I was picking it all up, like a radio broadcast: at last Bitsy was finding her voice. This was like having a Siamese twin in one’s brain! Not that Bitsy used words of more than one or two syllables, but her thoughts were so vivid that I could easily provide the translation. She was clearly no fool.
And Bitsy did know quite a bit about Rafferty’s line of work, though not so much more, in the general sense, than I had suspected, but in substantially finer detail, to be sure. Whether I knew enough from what Bitsy had just thought, enough to send Frank and his boys away for a long time so that we could both live in peace, (because if she feared and hated Frank Rafferty, why, then, so must I), well, I doubted it, not unless Bitsy had some pretty good hard evidence stashed away somewhere that I could get my hands on, and the right people to give it to. Then there was the immediate problem of my morphine addiction and what to do about that. Running off, without making secure prior arrangements for some steady source, or some alternative, could be fatal.
* * * * *
But I could not pursue this diversion one second longer! I had been well underway on my maiden voyage of entertaining a man, after all; he and I had been in the midst of a promising conversation (of sorts) when Bitsy had interrupted us. So, as no real time had elapsed since Bradshaw’s last words, I picked up the thread where he had left off about being a truck driver...
...To my intense disbelief, I heard myself dreamily saying:
"Oooooh, a truck driver! How absolutely marvelous! I just adore truck drivers, I hear they can go all night without stopping...Is that really true, Mr. Bradshaw?"
Bradshaw blushed to the roots of his brilliantined black hair, but I merely smiled my most innocent girl-next-door smile (as if girls next door dressed like this), changed the subject again and asked if he would like to hear some music.
"How about a little Dorsey Brothers?" I suggested. "They have some absolutely marvelous new dances. And why not sit down, Mr. Bradshaw, take a load off and loosen your tie while you’re at it. No, not there," (he had gone for an armchair, but I took his elbow again), "over here, on the davenport, you’ll find it much more comfortable."
Bradshaw dutifully sat on the davenport but didn’t even loosen his tie.
"Golly, I like the D-D-D-D-Dorsey Brothers. W-w-what d’you have of theirs?" he asked, picking up his drink again and draining it.
"‘Golly"?’ I thought. ‘This boy is too precious, still wet behind the ears!’
"How about ‘I’m Getting Sentimental Over You’?" I asked, and, before he could reply, I put it on. Undulating back to the davenport and planting myself directly in front of Bradshaw in my best Jean Harlow pose, I studied him up and down for a full thirty seconds, then pulled him up by both hands and asked him to dance. It was a slow number, especially by ‘30’s standards, which favor frenetic music.
Bradshaw was an atrocious dancer. He trod on my toes four times in the first thirty seconds (but miraculously avoided my train). So when Jean Bowes, in her plaintive, minor-key voice, sang:
"Won’t you please be kind
And just make up your mind
Please be sweet and gentle, be gentle with me
Because I’m sentimental over you,"
And just make up your mind
Please be sweet and gentle, be gentle with me
Because I’m sentimental over you,"
I plastered myself up tightly against him like ivy on a brick wall, so that his clumsiness didn’t matter a bit. I did, however, manage to peel myself off him at intervals to play it five times.
When the number was over for the last time, Bradshaw was good and aroused. As soon as the record stopped, he sat down abashedly on the davenport before I did, breaking etiquette, self-consciously crossing his legs in an almost feminine fashion. I knew precisely what he was feeling and how awkward it was to conceal the evidence of it. His forehead was glistening with perspiration and he began fumbling for another cigarette.
"Oh my, Mr. Bradshaw, you’ve gone and overheated yourself! Why don’t you take off your jacket - it’s perfectly all right - and I’ll go open the French doors," I squealed, ostentatiously not glancing below the knot of his tie. As I shimmered over to open them, he removed his jacket, but the tie still remained. On my way back to the davenport, I quietly closed and locked the entry door. Bradshaw didn’t see me do it: he was wiping his face with his handkerchief.
When I returned, I perched myself sideways on the edge of the davenport, hands on my knees, face turned upwards towards his, my eyes wide with rapt admiration, my whole posture betokening maximum interest of Woman for Man. I blinked eagerly, then I scanned my eyes rapidly back and forth and up and down over his face in classic ‘30’s Hollywood style, ending up fixed on his lips.
Bitsy was teaching me all sorts of maneuvers... I thought she was moving a trifle too fast, but her will mysteriously compelled me to follow her script as surely as if she had an iron grip on my neck: I still had to obey her regardless of what I thought.
Bradshaw began to apologize:
"I’m awfully s-s-sorry, Miss B-B-B-, I mean B-B-B-Bitsy. I know I’m not a very good d-d-d-dancer. I grew up on a dairy f-f-farm, see, never lived in a city until last year. D-D-Dad went bust, the b-b-bank foreclosed all our land and the cows and the dairy equipment. T-T-T-T-Times are real bad. I used to d-d-d-deliver milk to the city, so being as I was handy with t-t-t-t-trucks ..."
"Not a very good dancer! Oh, no! You dance divinely, Mr. Bradshaw, you’re absolutely marvelous. Really, you should be in the pictures!" And I giggled. I actually giggled in sort of a silvery peal. I was so taken aback that I brought my hand up to my mouth as if I had hiccoughed, but Bitsy stopped me before I actually said, ‘Oh! Beg your pardon.’ A giggle was what she had ordered.
Flattery - if you look like me - will get you everywhere, and I already knew it. Besides, you can say just about anything at all to a man, it really doesn’t make any difference, as long as you’ve already gotten his sexual attention and your delivery is right. (Well, in that case, your delivery is irrelevant for that matter, you know.) I had certainly gotten Bradshaw’s attention, so by now I felt certain he was falling under my spell and was relaxing a bit, though in the place I was mainly interested in (though I could hardly bring myself to admit it), I was hoping he wasn’t relaxing at all.
Then I unknotted his tie and very slowly pulled it off. He offered not the slightest resistance. I threw the tie round his neck again and used it to pull him towards me as if it were a halter, but I just gave him a peck on the forehead and released him.
He blushed again and I could see a fresh stammer about to work its way out. So to forestall another "I’m s-s-s-sorry, M-M-M-Miss Bennett," I quickly suggested another drink, to which he acceded without hesitation and with a mercifully monosyllabic, "Sure."
When I returned with two drinks - one for us both - there was an unmistakable ... rigidity to Bradshaw’s demeanor, although Bitsy and I regarded it from quite different perspectives, she from that of a connoisseur of such matters, I with the distaste one naturally feels for another man’s arousal, although I confess I found myself to be rather strangely conflicted over Bradshaw’s.
Regardless of how I felt, however, I could see I was along for the ride, for better or worse, and could pretty well guess where Bitsy was taking me. I was reasonably certain that Bitsy was about to change my perspective to match hers, permanently, I suspected.
Bitsy wasted no time, feeding me another line right away.
"Here, drink this, it’ll help you relax," I purred, handing Bradshaw his glass, this time sitting down so close to him on the davenport that he tried to slide over, but he was already practically up against the arm and couldn’t escape, so I plumped myself down tightly beside him, our haunches pressed so close together that I could feel one of my garter tabs gouge into my thigh as it came up against something hard in his pocket, which I guessed was either a knife or the barrel of a small automatic.
"It’s a cosh, Honey, not a knife or a gun."
Bitsy was thinking to me again.
"Frank’s boys always carry some sort of weapon, but they keep away from guns because of the Sullivan Law: a gun adds a mandatory five years to a sentence if they’re caught with one on a job, so only a couple of Frank’s boys ever carry them and then only on special occasions."
I was grateful for the reassurance.
"You’re quite welcome, Honey, Now get back to work. You know even less than I thought, so we’ve still got a long way to go."
Bradshaw took the glass, stuttering something that never quite made it to the surface, because I began to stroke the back of his neck with one hand, while I unbuttoned his shirt with the other. I stole a quick glance at his trousers to ascertain whether his interest was about to wane or intensify (as if I could not guess), but all the same something compelled me to look. His interest had certainly not waned in the least. Quite the contrary.
What on earth was I stealing glances at? And how could I actually be unbuttoning a man’s shirt? This should have been repellent to me, but despite my inherent mental distaste for what I found myself doing, I could no longer ignore the now familiar warm softening, this time more intense and accompanied by a delectable lubriciousness, arising in that terra incognita between my thighs which I had hitherto been loathe to explore (well, almost loathe) in my earlier attempts at denial, when I had barely succeeded in suppressing my curious fingers. When was that, all of three hours ago?
It felt like an eternity.
But now the warmth deep inside me had a far more urgent carnal edge to it: I slightly shifted my thighs one against the other and felt a sharp thrill in my ...in that spot; it flickered briefly up into my belly, straight into what I supposed was my womb (but what could I know about that?)
It felt absolutely marvelous, there was no denying it. I was still half-terrified by what I was doing, but there was no turning back, for I knew I was about to receive another lesson from Bitsy, like it or not, and I was becoming more certain by the minute that I would. Like it, I mean. And like it a lot. Bitsy was turning out to be... well, to be an absolutely marvelous teacher.
With my toes, I pried off my heels and slid one leg high up against the other to the limit the narrow skirt of my dress would allow, feeling - and hearing - the fine whizz of taut silk over silk. O! What an absolutely marvelous feeling!
My heart began to trip at a crazy pace. I felt a divine liquefaction spreading within me - and knew that I was almost ready to yield.
BITSY TURNS UP THE HEAT
Bitsy now upped the ante.
I leant my head back against Bradshaw’s shoulder and gazed up at him, deep into his eyes. I half-closed mine again and parted my lips just the tiniest bit, as if they had to part of themselves. I saw his pupils dilate, then, briefly, his nostrils. I knew all too well the tensions seething inside him. I knew them, but I was not feeling them. No, I was feeling something quite novel, tensions of quite a different order and magnitude, a level of sexual excitement far beyond all imagining. I was on the verge of losing what little control I still had, and... I wanted to lose it.
Bradshaw apparently sensed it (or I hoped he had): he abruptly emptied his glass in one gulp and plunked it down on the side table. Before I knew what was happening, he was kissing me wildly as he ran his big hands over my face, my sides, my back, my belly, my thighs. I loved it. I didn’t want him to stop.
He didn’t stop for quite some time, but neither did he go any further. I supposed he would need some special encouragement, which by now I was almost willing to render.
As for myself, I was already quite encouraged: when Bradshaw finally came up for air, I found myself not merely warm down below: it felt more like a smoldering fire that was about to burst into flame, which would very soon demand to be quenched, and in only one, rather obvious, way, repulsive as that way seemed to me intellectually, while physically speaking, there was no repulsion whatever - quite the contrary.
I shifted my thighs again and was alarmed to discover yet another new and unaccustomed sensation which I can only describe as a kind of ... moist friction. More than moist, really: I am embarrassed to say I was... I was ...
* * * * *
Forgive me, Dearest Reader, but I simply can’t tell you: it’s far too embarrassing! Oh! You think I’ve already gone too far and have forfeited all rights to embarrassment? Well... perhaps you’re right, so I’ll tell you if you insist, but don’t blame me if you find it indelicate!
Very well. Here it is: I was wet, audibly wet - whenever I altered position I could hear what I can only describe as a kiss - a soft, distant smacking of lips, which was, in actual fact and to my considerable mortification, precisely the source of this humiliating sound, though the lips responsible were those which modesty forbids me to mention lest, Dearest Reader, I offend your delicate ears.
And while on the shameful subject of wetness, I am further chagrined to confess that my custom-made panties (trimmed with genuine Chantilly lace, let me remind you) had by now become soaked through in the gusset by an overabundance of my intimate fluids, the evaporation of which caused just the faintest chill on the outside of my lips (the same ones which modesty forbids me to mention), in delicious contrast to the moist warmth within me.
In other words, I was ... Let’s see, how can I put this without giving too much offense? I suppose I was beginning to... flow... "flow" is the word that I want, for want of a better to describe what was transpiring down there. Yes, "flow" is quite apt. Now I felt an desperate urge for Bradshaw to ...to...
* * * * *
Dearest Reader, please forgive my rudely interrupting the pace of my narrative at such a critical juncture, but words fail me here; they are powerless to convey precisely how an aroused woman feels, especially when it is her very first time, so I am afraid you must exercise your imagination. After all, I can’t tell you everything and still remain within the bounds of maidenly modesty. Suffice it to say that I was now almost mad with desire to get a lot closer to Bradshaw, and I was in a big hurry to do it, too.
But first, having unbuttoned Bradshaw’s shirt, I removed it. He heaved an inarticulate moan, said nothing and blushed again. Underneath he wore the usual ‘30’s ribbed cotton tank top, which revealed his powerful shoulders and chest. Bradshaw evidently had pitched quite a few tons of silage in his years on the farm: he was beautiful, like a Michelangelo sculpture. He made Johnny Weissmuller look like a rachitic teenager.
I ran my hands over his shoulders, down his arms and over his chest, his face, his neck. I seized Bradshaw’s hand and slid it inside the front of my dress and under my bra, pressing it against one of my breasts. Then Bitsy... I ... we ... or ... well, someone touched his trousers in front and it wasn’t Bradshaw. Well, ‘touched’ is really not the proper word for what actually happened. In fact, there is no proper word at all. I - I’m mortified to admit it was me after all - I grabbed hold.
Bitsy had known, of course, exactly what I would grasp in my fist, which I was unable fully to close (not that my new hands were particularly tiny - they were of normal size for a woman, I was maybe a six). Good God! This boy had nothing at all to stutter about, and, thankfully, he remained silent. He gave a sudden start, as if he wanted to get up and leave, but, at the slightest movement of my hand, he obediently settled back down right away with another half-stifled moan and cupped my breast more firmly. Emboldened, he slowly slid his other hand up under my slip and got as far as my thighs, where they gently overflowed, smooth and milky, above the confining dark welts of my stockings.
Then he ran smack into my fortified girdle. Like the portcullis of a castle besieged, it defied being breached.
I couldn’t breach it, either, you see. As much as I wanted to - and by then I did urgently want to - I could barely part my thighs as much as an inch, so vise-like was the grip of this impregnable garment, which, you must understand, came halfway down my thighs. Thirties girdles are designed not only to hold up a girl’s stockings and to mold her a bit in her hips, derrière and tummy, but to keep her legs always demurely aligned, that’s partly why we stand and move the way we do - we have to.
Now I learned another reason for such feminine armor - like a kind of chastity belt, it denies access. But access was what both of us wanted, and right away, too. All intellectual umbrage regarding my ‘unnatural’ attraction to Bradshaw, so repellant just a few minutes before, had vaporized like dew in the sun under the heat of my burning desire to achieve consummation. Nothing else mattered now - not my previous state of existence, not the humiliation of my audible wetness, not what others might think (certainly not what this Bradshaw might think) and, for all I cared, Prudence could be watching through the keyhole. I felt an intense gnawing, a crass and raw greediness. I craved satisfaction - and now!
So the girdle had to go, but how to do it?
With a flash of blithe inspiration, I sat up, index finger raised, and brightly mouthed the time-honored cliché:
"Why don’t I go and slip into something more comfortable, Mr. Bradshaw?"
I wriggled away, stood and faced him as he sat on the davenport, our fingers again intertwined, our arms extended, our color quite high. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears and I was beginning to tremble.
"Yes, Miss Bennett, why don’t you," he replied, blessedly stutterless for the moment.
With a superfluous "Don’t go away, now," I disengaged my fingers and rippled off to my dressing room as quickly as ever I could, the friction induced by my legs whipping me up to a wilder frenzy with each rapid (but nonetheless dainty) step. I prayed that Bitsy wouldn’t play any tricks on me.
Not now! I wanted what I knew was shortly coming my way and I wanted it far more than I had wanted to use the bathroom this morning, to give you some small idea of the intense urgency gripping me. I wanted this man more than anything I could ever remember! And without Bitsy’s help, I knew would have just about as much trouble getting myself out of these booby-trapped duds as Bradshaw would have had getting me out of them: the fires might be long extinguished by the time we had both finished figuring it all out.
Bitsy did not desert me: I peeled everything off in a trice... well, in two trices, dropping my clothes (save the hat) in a luminous heap, then I wrapped myself in a sky-blue silk Japanese robe with an embroidered stork on the back, short enough to leave a lot of leg showing. I dared not remove my beret, however, for fear of exposing my goose egg, rationalizing, ‘How marvelously avant garde to make love to a man while wearing nothing but a white, crushed-velvet beret!’
When I hurried, barefoot, back into the bedroom, Bradshaw was sitting on the bed in his shorts, busily removing his Paris garters and long black socks.
He glanced up at me, failing to notice, or to comment upon, my beret. The whites of his eyes were showing above. Then he stood and stepped out of his shorts.
Horror-stricken, I covered my mouth with both hands as I drew in my breath and took two quick little steps backwards. Had I still been wearing my heels, I’m sure I would have stumbled and fallen.
I GO ALL THE WAY (BUT NOT QUITE)
Phillip Bradshaw was built like a farm animal, a sizeable one (a Clydesdale sprang to mind). He was actually rather alarming, considering my own petite scale - I felt myself redden as a hot wave of panic swept through me. I thought that perhaps I should call the whole thing off right then and there and say I had suddenly remembered an overdue library book to return, a nail appointment or maybe a funeral or something, I’ve had an absolutely marvelous time, thanks awfully just the same, let’s get together next week over coffee perhaps, but I really don’t have the slightest desire to get maimed.
I was a novice in such matters, of course, never having encountered another man in... - in flagrante, so perhaps my sudden misgivings were no more than a reflection on my own former modest dimensions. But Bitsy was presumably no novice: I fervently hoped she knew what she was getting me into, or, rather, what she was getting into me, if the reader will forgive a rare lapse of delicacy.
Bitsy knew. Or at any rate, she gave no signal to stop, and, despite a few lingering mental misgivings regarding the ... delicto part of the deal, I didn’t want to stop anyway: I had quickly reviewed the various alternatives, you see, narrowing them all pretty much down to one, and that one, which should be perfectly obvious to the most innocent reader, now interested me in the keenest possible way.
Not that I had any choice. I didn’t: between Bitsy’s goading and the flagrant demands imposed by this new body of mine, I felt as helpless as a marionette controlled by its strings.
Besides, a lovely young woman clad in nothing more substantial than a scanty silk Japanese robe and a white crushed-velvet beret ought not fail to consider the all-too-solid physical presence of a Very Large and Muscular Man towering over her only three feet away, displaying his ... his strongest intention of proceeding regardless of her views. Under such circumstances a dispassionate and scholarly debate on the pros and cons of the matter is somewhat unlikely to follow. Especially after all she had already done to raise the gentleman’s... expectations. Such failure perhaps might enjoy something less than an enthusiastic reception by the Large Man and could even occasion a fresh lump on the lovely young woman’s head: I thought of the cosh in Bradshaw’s pocket and the damage it could do to a girl’s face.
Bradshaw’s astounding proportions certainly did put a bit of a fly in the ointment, but, as they say, "in for a penny, in for a pound." So I gulped a couple of times and decided to go for it, as going for it, you see, was my only solution. As I’ve already told you, whatever mental misgivings I still might have harbored were by now pretty feeble and I was, well, frantic to get on with it. And, although my earlier (though superficial) inspection had revealed my... aperture... to be, at first touch, rather too modest to accommodate anything remotely like Bradshaw, (it had seemed, in fact, surprisingly small, especially considering the mileage Bitsy had most likely put on it), I suspected I was probably a lot more elastic down there than I thought.
After all, I hastily reassured myself, women manage to deliver babies via the very passage at issue, though I had heard somewhere that childbirth could be pretty uncomfortable. I quickly tried to imagine the size of a newborn’s head, shot another glance at Bradshaw (and shuddered), then mentally weighed their relative calibers. Heartened (only minimally), I reasoned that this couldn’t possibly be that traumatic...
But, as I’ve said several times over, I had no option anyway, so I gulped once again, took two steps closer to Bradshaw and removed my hands from over my mouth. Obediently I undid the tie at my waist and very slowly, as if in a dream, drew open my robe, first revealing my breasts (their nipples now fully erect), then exposing the rest of my female nakedness to a man for the first time in my life.
Bradshaw’s eyes left my face, glanced downwards in two distinct movements, coming to rest on my little mound. He planted his hands on my waist and slid them down over my hips... my head lolled backwards, my eyes closed like a doll’s and I began to go limp ... time seemed suspended ...then he embraced me so suddenly my breath was expelled like air from a bellows ...he began kissing the base of my throat, but it tickled, so I brought my head forward, then our mouths were greedily kissing, our bodies clinging together like a couple of magnets, our hands frantically caressing each other’s burning skin as if the world were coming to an end in less than ten minutes so we’d better get this over with on the spot or forever forfeit the chance.
By now I was flowing and molten below: there was not the least question that I was ready. Bradshaw, however, evidently was not, in defiance of all appearances. Only after what seemed like several interminable minutes of groping and petting did he finally slide the open robe from my shoulders: I dropped my arms to my sides and it slowly shimmered off me in a silky cascade. I went half insane with anticipation of what had to come next as the sensuous fabric rippled lightly over my skin and noiselessly slipped to the floor.
I could not bear to defer consummation even one instant longer: I wanted Bradshaw inside me in the worst possible way, trepidations of relative size be damned! I stood tip-toe on one foot and with my other leg tried to climb up around him, but he was too tall and my leg kept on slipping.
Suddenly Bradshaw scooped me up as if I weighed no more than a feather, his hands supporting my bottom; to keep from toppling backwards, I clasped my hands round his neck and circled his waist with my legs. He kissed me full on the mouth, I closed my eyes to enjoy it and the next thing I knew, he had tossed me onto the bed: I bounced a couple of times and when I opened my eyes found myself looking straight up through my bed’s diaphanous canopy at that high ivory ceiling.
On my back with my thighs immodestly parted, I became aware of yet another shocking sensation: that my new lips were now gaping, revealing my soft penetralia, which felt incandescent - incandescently pink, I imagined. I gasped (yet again) to feel so exposed, so defenseless and vulnerable. And also, I need hardly mention, so outrageously wet.
But still all I saw was the ceiling, no Bradshaw...
‘What is he waiting for, an engraved invitation? Doesn’t the man know what to do?’ I asked myself. How humiliating to be so dependent and passive, to have to wait to be pleasured, to endure the slightest delay!
Yes, Dearest Reader, Bradshaw was late once again.
Aching desire teetered on the verge of becoming blunted by angry frustration. I craved penetration: I wanted this man and I wanted him now! Did he expect me to stop right in the middle of everything, get up, dash to the desk and draw him a picture?
Or could it be that he now found me repulsive? I felt irresistible, and short of tearfully begging Bradshaw if he wouldn’t, please, pretty please, mind getting on with the business at hand, there was really nothing further I could do to exhibit my readiness, which I thought should have been abundantly clear to the dullest of men.
‘What’s the matter with him?’ I wondered, almost panicking, ‘Could it be he thinks me too forward? Perhaps he favors a slightly more subtle approach in a woman?’
But when a woman’s flat on her back, en deshabille (except for a white crushed-velvet beret), with her legs spread apart and all her wares on display, it’s rather late in the game for the subtle approach - too late for the old home-cooked candlelight dinner and warm apple pie routine. So it was now strictly a matter of ‘what you see is what you get, so take me or leave me.’ I was certain Bradshaw could see plenty of me (there was, after all, not much more of myself I could show him), so why the hell didn’t he come and take me?
I was about to abandon all hope, fearing Bradshaw hadn’t the nerve to continue, when at last he hove back into view and loomed over me, larger than life and threateningly real. At the sight of him poised above me, I almost lost my nerve again, but there was no time to lose it, as he got right down to work.
He at first probed ineffectually at my softness, that is, in not quite the right spot, a bit painfully and without penetration, so my hands hastened downwards to guide him.
No sooner had I aligned him in the proper direction than I felt an unfamiliar pressure, a yielding, a momentarily uncomfortable distention ... a brief, agonizing pause... then ...
O! ...O!... O, O, O! ...O, my God!
Bradshaw entered me!
* * * * *
Yes, Dearest Reader, this man actually entered me in an exquisitely prolonged and seamless glissade that I hoped would go on forever. But all good things must come to an end: Bradshaw had penetrated me as deeply as our bodies allowed, (which was a lot deeper than I could ever have believed, to at least a handsbreadth above my navel, it seemed), then he lay still, his weight pressing me into the mattress.
‘My God,’ I thought, ‘this is utterly impossible, this can’t just have happened to me!’ That singular feature of Bradshaw’s, so alarming to contemplate only moments before, was now hidden from view, completely buried inside me.
Outrageous! Inconceivable! But there it was - an absolutely marvelous fait accompli. I had taken all of this enormous man into myself, yet I did not feel maimed in the slightest: au contraire, I was transported.
Even so, the shock of being thus transfixed made my eyes round with surprise and forced me to draw in my breath with yet another one of my by now almost habitual gasps, (but this was a big one), as when you slice your finger deeply on a really sharp kitchen knife: I couldn’t breathe at all for perhaps fifteen seconds...
Bradshaw was now supporting his weight with his hands on my outspread wrists, immobilizing my arms, so with him now inside me, I was literally pinned to the bed, able to move only my head and my legs, so I thrashed my head side to side several times, then felt my heels rise at least two feet into the air in a reflex I could not (and did not want to) suppress. With a soft shudder I felt myself fall yet another notch further open: my legs now spread apart to the physical limit my hips would allow (which, Dearest Reader, was appallingly wide). A hot glow surged through me like a stain rapidly spreading, up deep into my chest.
Then I wrapped my legs about Bradshaw, linked my ankles together and cinched them up like a knot, spurring him into me one last little bit. Now he filled me completely.
* * * * *
Of course, it’s all well and good to be theoretically mindful of what’s next on the program: I had been on the other side of this equation, after all. But when you’re a woman for the first time in your life and you’re what’s next on the program, well, believe me, you have no idea of exactly what’s coming. So being entered by a man for the very first time is a bit of a shock, to say the least. Especially by a man of Bradshaw’s proportions.
By the time I caught my breath again, the stark reality of my metamorphosis had been literally driven home in such forceful terms that there could be no doubt any longer just what I was: in my present position further denial would have been an insane delusion.
And my present position, you ask? My present position... Oh, sorry! I must have somehow gotten distracted ... My present position, yes, of course ... Why, I thought I had been rather explicit: on my back, looking up at that high ivory ceiling, gloriously impaled on the bed by a man.
* * * * *
I apologize, Dearest Reader, for such a belated and apparently recalcitrant conversion, for having been dragged, kicking and screaming, at least part of the way. All my life I had followed a strict policy of not jumping to hasty conclusions: I’m from Missouri, as they say, and have to be shown.
And I had been. Shown, I mean. And more. I needed no further convincing. No question what I had become. Bitsy had changed my perspective, all right, by precisely 180 degrees.
When Bradshaw began to move inside me he felt so excruciatingly divine that I thought I might swoon. (Please don’t laugh at the word: as an experienced woman now I was entitled to use it.) It felt like ...
* * * * *
...Oh, I am sorry! Forgive me once more, Dearest Reader, if words fail me again: pretty language simply cannot describe what it’s like for a woman to have a man stirring deep inside her. And if I cannot say it prettily, it’s best not to say it at all, for I am, by nature, a creature of refined sensibilities: though I am not averse to titillating a reader with delicate prose, I could never countenance being even the slightest bit coarse.
At all events, it certainly seemed that Tiresias had known pretty well what he was talking about: if things kept on the way they were going, ten-to-one would be just about right on the money. So I’ll leave it at that.
* * * * *
But back to my story: I was, of course, now expecting Bradshaw to take me up to the top and push me over the edge.
To my intense dismay, however, I found Bradshaw was not much better a lover than he had been a dancer. After all, he was really not much more than a boy. Two or three not very noteworthy thrusts ... and he was finished: I felt a sudden warmth and a soft pulsing within me, he quivered, groaned and lay still, almost crushing me with his weight as he released my wrists and covered me completely. My hands free, I balled them up into fists and felt like pummeling the man, but instead I only bit my lip and cursed inwardly while my eyes burned with tears of shame and frustration. I remained silent, however; I was not about to let my disappointment show.
So this time Bradshaw had been early when he should have been late! I hadn’t even come close to the top... So much for truck drivers going all night. This one couldn’t even finish a short Sunday drive. I revised the odds drastically downwards to perhaps three-to-one. Well... all right, I would have to grant fairly high marks for the intensity of the anticipation, for the exquisite wetness and for the stunning sensation of being so profoundly impaled. O.K., four-to-one, maybe. But as far as I was concerned, the jury was still out until I could really go all the way.
So Bitsy had trumped me - she no doubt knew just how this big, dumb sexual tyro would perform. She had taken me up to the skies, then had dropped me without a parachute. But I had to laugh through my tears: after all, how many girls lose their virginity less than a day after having any virginity to lose?
I INTERROGATE BRADSHAW AND GO OVER THE EDGE
Now, however, my disappointment notwithstanding, I still had more work to do: what could I learn from this fellow Bradshaw to further my darker purpose of getting a noose around Frank Rafferty’s neck?
I put both my hands on Bradshaw’s shoulders and pushed, barely budging his bulk, so I said, softly:
"Mr. Bradshaw, you were absolutely marvelous, you’re a big dear, but you’re suffocating me - I can hardly breathe!" Only the last part of the statement was strictly true, of course, but it got the desired result: he detached himself, lay beside me and started absently running the tip of his index finger around one of my nipples.
Now it felt a trifle annoying so I asked him if he’d mind getting me a cigarette. He retrieved the pack from his jacket across the room and we both lit up and lay on our backs beside one another.
After the obligatory ritual of blowing smoke at the ceiling for five or six minutes, it seemed as good a time as any for a question.
"Tell me, Mr. Bradshaw, how long have you worked for Mr. Rafferty?" I asked.
"Oh, a little m-m-m-m-more than I year now. I s-s-s-started last August." His stammer was returning.
I took a long shot:
"Did you know Mr. Malone?"
"Paul, the ph-ph-ph-ph-photographer? S-s-sure I knew him. Nice guy. I could n-n-never figure out why he was m-m-m-m-mixed up with this outfit. He was making g-g-g-g-good money on Madison avenue, shooting fashion. M-m-m-m-maybe he liked the excitement, I don’t know. It was t-t-t-t-too bad about that accident."
I thought to myself, ‘Malone a photographer? That card with the pasties about my "getting chilly"’ ... Things were beginning to add up. Perhaps Rafferty was into more rackets than just bootlegging liquor, but I said:
"Only it wasn’t an accident."
"N-n-n-n-no, of course not. Everyone knew Paul was on to something, one or two of the boys even thought he was a stoolie, but he was too s-s-smart, Mr. Rafferty could never p-p-p-p-pin anything on him, and P-P-P-Paul’s work was always high-class. But then he must have tripped up, and M-M-Mr. Rafferty found out, w-w-w-whatever it was. Slade was with Malone that n-n-n-n-night, they s-s-s-s-stopped to change drivers and that’s when S-S-S-S-Slade let him have it behind the ear with a blackjack, then he pushed the car over. I was in the c-c-c-c-car right behind."
I could barely believe my luck: an amateur lovemaker and an amateur gangster all wrapped up in one great big, stupid, stuttering package! He must be one terrific truck driver, then! And it was no great reassurance to learn that Slade, who slept upstairs right above me in the servants’ rooms, was a hit man. (Men named Slade usually are.) Of course, if Rafferty found out what Bradshaw had just told me, my life wouldn’t be worth one of those Buffalo nickels. But Bitsy liked living dangerously, that was quite plain, and maybe, perhaps, she already knew all this anyway.
"I sh-sh-sh-sh-shouldn’t have said anything, Miss B-B-B-B-Bennett, Please don’t t-t-t-t-tell anyone I ever said a word. It’d be worth my life."
Not so stupid, after all. So I said:
"Don’t worry, Mr. Bradshaw, my lips" (the ones I can mention) "are sealed, and, besides, you haven’t told me anything I didn’t already know," I lied, "But I’m afraid I must start dressing for dinner. I really don’t want to kick you out of bed, you know, you were absolutely marvelous, but I really must get up and make myself decent."
Almost before I had finished speaking, Bradshaw had started picking up his things and began dressing. I lay back and wistfully watched him disappear into his clothing. He did have promise, but I was not in any position to be his teacher, to tone down his hair-trigger approach to lovemaking.
Or was I?
That’s when I had my second Big Inspiration of the day: I recalled, from prior experience, the amazing recuperative powers of twenty-four year old men. Bradshaw would no doubt be ready again almost immediately, and this time, with his edge taken off, he would doubtless turn in a much better performance - from my new perspective, that is. I could not afford to let such a solid opportunity vanish before my very eyes, so, just as Bradshaw was pulling on his trousers, and before it would be too late, I said:
"May I call you Phillip? Yes? Well, look, Phillip darling, to be perfectly honest, you were so absolutely marvelous that I can’t bear your leaving just yet. Dinner can wait; why don’t you come back to bed and we can do it all over again..."
"G-g-g-golly, I could g-g-g-go for that," he replied, and in two shakes Bradshaw was on the bed, kneeling over me. My hand - all timidity now absent - found him and in no time at all he was fully restored and I eagerly opened my legs to receive him and felt his enormous bulk glide into me effortlessly, without that initial painful distension (though it took my breath away again) - if anything he penetrated me even deeper than before as he vigorously pounded me into the mattress with thrust after powerful thrust, my hips rocking in unison with his, my back arching up off the mattress as hot currents of pleasure coursed through my body. This was certainly becoming the best ride of my life.
This time Bradshaw left my hands free, and I found I was biting my finger to suppress any screams, so I grunted instead as each thrust went home, while my other hand was spasmodically kneading one breast.
Bradshaw did not disappoint: he treated me to a thorough and perfectly exquisite half-hour of... of, well, of what do you think?
I do apologize yet again, Dearest Reader, but I can’ t quite bring myself to say such a word! He treated me to at least half an hour of ... you name it ... at slow tempo, quick time, with me on my back, on my side, on all fours and finally, on my back again (I was embarrassed to ask Bradshaw if I could get on top, and, besides, being on my back somehow seemed the most natural) - a half-hour that brought me to that edge I so desperately wanted to reach and then Bradhsaw launched me far beyond into completely novel realms of sexual pleasure that defy all written description.
About two or three minutes before reaching that edge, I pulled my finger from between my teeth and slid my hand downwards, cleaving between our abdomens to reach the actual junction of our perspiring bodies. My fingers desperately sought that erstwhile untouchable little button (which modesty, though fast disappearing, still forbids me to name) -now more swollen and firmer than before and able to sustain direct digital contact (but only my own - when Bradshaw clumsily touched it, I had brushed him away: it demanded to be fingered just so.) Men haven’t the foggiest idea just how sensitive it really is.
But don’t get me distracted! As I was saying, I began to massage it just so and heard myself releasing a series of rapturous squeals in time to his thrusts, culminating in an almost eerie, thin shriek, like that of seabirds spiraling dizzily high overhead up and up towards the sun on hot summer afternoon winds, as my first orgasm (as a woman, I mean) inundated me like crashing surf, triggering rhythmic and rippling pulsations deep in my penetralia just as Bradshaw delivered his ultimate thrust and exploded inside me with a heavy groan and his body went rigid - triggering rippling pulsations to milk every last droplet of Bradshaw’s essence out of him and to sweep it all up deep into me.
Wave after wave of blissful release swept through my body to the very tips of my fingers and toes. Bright lights dazzled my brain, my hips bucked uncontrollably and I felt my breasts jouncing in every direction before I subsided with a long sigh of fulfillment, my limbs softly twitching, happy tears streaming down my face.
Bradshaw left me panting, spent, utterly satisfied, my hair wet and matted, my ivory skin mottled in irregular patches of red and bedewed with fine perspiration.
After all that, my... my...
Very well, Dearest Reader, I may as well come out with it now - at last - especially as it had just given me such unmitigated pleasure... After all that, my v***** was virtually steaming and had become so soft, hot and relaxed and was so profoundly wet that I could hardly feel him inside me at all: I felt magnificently open.
Bradshaw had certainly vindicated the reputation of truck drivers - and had also vindicated Tiresias. Ten-to-one? At the very least. I was having a bit of trouble, now, recalling my former existence. In fact, its memory had already become almost as elusive as the dream that had awakened me early that morning. And I didn’t mind it a bit. Lying there, serene, eyes half closed, practically purring with contentment - I found I really had little desire to recall it, in fact. I understood precisely why Tiresias had felt cheated when Athena changed him back into a man, why he whiningly crept about Thebes for the rest of his life, bemoaning his loss. What a terrible punishment — being turned back again!
‘To hell with Rafferty, Stryker and the rest,’ I thought - ‘I can manage despite them, and manage quite well as long as I can get paid in such coin.' At least once a day, but being so wonderfully serviced even more often would be quite acceptable, too. I would never object.
* * * * *
After we had puffed up another cigarette storm, Bradshaw got out of bed and got himself dressed, not saying a word. When he was done, I got up, too, and slipped on my robe. I walked him to the door, unlocked it and then pulled his handsome face down to mine by both ears and kissed him full on the lips.
"Bye," I chirped, "Thanks for coming - it was the best... time I ever had - no kidding." (There was no need to lie this time - I was still glowing.) "We’ll have to get together again soon. Now do be careful, Phillip," and I reached up and softly pressed two fingers to his lips.
"G-g-g-g-good-bye, Miss Bennett," he said. "You were swell! I have to drive up to C-C-C-Canada tomorrow, and I don’t know if Mr. Rafferty will let me see you again: this was s-s-s-s-special, for bringing in a b-b-b-b-big shipment early. Thanks, Miss B-B-B-B-Bennett, you were very n-n-n-n-nice to me. I hope I didn’t hurt you."
"Don’t be silly, Phillip. You didn’t hurt me at all. I loved every moment."
Then he turned, went down the stairs and was gone. It was the last time I ever saw Phillip Bradshaw.
I pushed the door closed and leaned against it, hands behind me, flat against the door. I had cleared some pretty tough hurdles since I woke up only a few hours ago, and, despite the shock of my transformation, Dr. Stryker and the morphine, I felt rather exhilarated. I tilted my head upwards and smiled a tight little smile at the ceiling. Suddenly I gave a quick jump as if someone had jabbed me with a pin: something warm was trickling down the inside of one thigh.
In the heat of the moment I had forgotten that I was now completely on the other side of the sexual equation! I certainly didn’t need any new hurdles - the very last thing I wanted right now was to get pregnant! In a panic, I fluttered off to the bathroom to figure out how to use the bidet.
I could almost hear Bitsy laughing inside me. The little bitch!
END OF BOOK ONE
Despite this being the end of book one, to my knowledge Edith never posted any other stories in this universe. There were some that I know she posted shortly before the site went down, but they were never archived so they are pretty much lost.