Chapter 4 - Research

Masquerades 101 by Emily


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Synopsis: Victor and Nicole reconvene to discuss how to swap back.

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Tyler


I approached Nicole, and stopped for a moment. She was eating a hamburger. I never saw her eat a hamburger before. She looked so happy at that moment.


She took a big bite, and I watched her close her eyes and chew what she just ate in a moment of ecstasy. Wow. This was certainly a side of her I had never seen before. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her just smile like that.


She opened her eyes and looked gleefully at her side fries. She picked a fry up, dipped it in ketchup and ate it. Chasing that down with another bite of the burger, she stared off into the distance.


There was burger grease dripping down her hands. I looked around in the student union’s food court as people ate and went about their own business. I felt guilty for watching this. As if I was interrupting something intimate and private.


I wanted to say something. I was just too mesmerized by watching this. She’s usually so dainty while eating her salads and yogurts. Sometimes I can get her to eat out at a restaurant, she never eats a lot. She’s quite the cheap date in that regard.


I moved closer, but stopped myself short before she could see me. She texted me earlier to tell me she couldn’t talk and she was still angry. Would she be angry that I interrupted her lunch?


No. I need to apologize.


I was about to make my move, but then I saw Nicole’s friend Alexis walk by. She saw Nicole then joined her at the table. I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, so I decided to give Nicole her space. My apology will have to wait until she’s ready to talk. I turned around and continued my way to class.


* * *


Victor


I was about to take the last bite of my first burger when Alexis showed up right in front of me and sat down.


“Hey, Vic.” she said. “Whatcha eating?” 


I tried to reply “a burger” but it came out muffled due to a mouthful of food.


She laughed. “Just wait until Nicole finds out about this.”


I swallowed my food. “Why? What’s wrong with a burger and fries?”


“Nicole is a vegetarian.” she replied, laughing.


I nearly coughed up my food at this revelation. “Oh, shit.” I said. “What am I going to do? Is she going to be pissed?”


“Don’t worry about it. Your secret is safe with me, Vic.”


“Thanks.” I said. I wiped my hands with a napkin. “What about fries? Can I eat fries?”


She shrugged then eyed the second burger still wrapped in foil. “Jesus, Vic. Did you buy two burgers?”


“I was hungry. The only thing I had for breakfast was a spoonful of that... stuff that Nicole gave me.”


“OK.” she said. “I’d just be careful how much you eat. Don’t make yourself sick. Remember, that body is not used to greasy fast food.”


I nodded as I ate another fry.


“OK Vic.” she said standing up. “I need to run. Are you going back to mine and Nicole's place after class?”


“Yeah, I think so.”


“See you then!” she said, leaving me with the remainder of my food, which I quickly devoured so I can get to my next class. 


* * *


Nicole


I was finally done with Victor’s classes. It was not a hard day of class at all, but it was long and grueling, and I had no interest in sitting in each of those classes. I wonder what degree VIctor is actually going for.


Either way, I was eager to get home and start working on changing back into my body, and giving Victor back his.


I walked into my empty apartment, and put Victor’s things down on the counter. 


I was also hungry. My typical yogurt this morning was not enough. I opened the fridge and pulled out a pre-packaged salad, and brought it and my laptop to the couch. I kicked off Victor’s sneakers and opened up my laptop. I still have that internship application to work on. 


I started tinkering with the essay I was working on last week, while eating my salad. My essay was about the business acumen I learned during my 3 years in my business classes. I highlighted the group projects I led, and the business plan I did for my project management class last year. I read a few lines to myself and changed some of the words to include more powerful verbs instead of passive ones.


A few minutes later Alexis came home and looked me up and down. “You changed clothes.”


“It was much too hot for the jeans I wore this morning.” I replied.


“How was your afternoon as a guy?”


“Lame.” she said. “I expected fist bumps and getting invited to frat parties, job offers, fights and girls swooning over me, but apparently Victor leads a boring life.”


“Are you disappointed?” 


“I just want this to be over with.”


“Have you tried peeing standing up?”


“What? No.”


“That’s the first thing I would’ve done if I turned into a guy for a day.”


I shrugged.


There was a knock at the door.


“Come in.” Alexis called.


Victor trudged in looking pale. I stood up to greet him and my body.


He had his arm around his stomach and looked sick. My body looked like hell.


“Victor, what’s wrong? What happened?” I asked.


“I think I’m going to be sick.” he said, putting his arm against the wall. He dropped my purse and binder onto the floor. It was then I saw that his - or rather my - flat tummy was pooched out.


“Victor, what did you do? You look 5 months pregnant.” 


Lexi laughed. “Half a day as a girl, and you get knocked up. Vic, you surprise me..”


“I overate.” Victor said, glancing at Lexi. “You were right.”


“Remember that’s my body.” I said, raising my voice. “I can’t believe-”


Victor cut me off by raising a finger up. We were all silent waiting for him to say what he was going to say. He then dashed into the bathroom.


I turned to Lexi. “What happened? What was he talking about? What did he eat?”


She shook her head. “I’m sworn to secrecy.” 


“What? Lexi, you’re MY roommate. He’s a complete stranger.”


“Just be nice.” she said. “He’s our guest, and you’re stuck with him until you can figure this out.” Alexis walked over to the bathroom door. “Vic, are you OK? Do you need anything?”


“I’m going to be a while.” I heard my voice say through the door.


I simply shook my head and returned to the couch to work on my application.


* * *


Victor


Twenty minutes later, I finally came out of the bathroom. I felt awful. There were times when I’d eat a whole pound of pasta back at home and felt sick later. But that was during high school when I was 17. That was in a different body. Different metabolism. This, right now, felt worse than that. I also felt a large amount of guilt too. This wasn’t my body, plus Alexis warned me about overeating. Needless to say I was embarrassed.


I walked back into the living room. Nicole was sitting on the couch working on her laptop. “I feel much better.” I said sitting down at the counter top. I didn’t make eye contact with her. 


Nicole closed her laptop and joined me at the kitchen counter. “So how did today go?”


“You were present and accounted for, for each class.” I replied. I handed her back the binder that magically appeared on the counter. “All of your syllabuses are inside this - in no particular order.” I returned the question. “How was your day?” 


“Same.” she said. “Although your theater teacher is convinced you might need public speaking classes now.”


“Wonderful.” I said, rolling my eyes.


Alexis came out of her room. “So Vic, how was it?”


“Oh - fine.” I repeated “Nicole wasn’t dropped from any classes.”


“No no.” she said. “How was spending the day as a girl?”


“Fine I suppose. ” I replied. “Having all eyes on me was weird. Then there was the hair and the boobs and the way I walked. Those things kept reminding me I was in a different body. The hardest part was trying to be Nicole. Honestly, once the day got going, it felt like any other day.”


“Great.” Alexis said. “Maybe after you figure out how to swap back, you can try again sometime. Maybe all of us can have a girls’ night out, give you a proper day as a girl that doesn’t involve going to class.”


I chuckled. “No thanks. I’m eager to get this bra off. It’s digging into my ribs.” 


I noticed Nicole giggling to herself out of the corner of my eye.


Alexis herself chuckled and walked back to her room. “Good luck. Let me know if you need anything.”


“OK.” Nicole said. “Let’s figure this thing out and change back.”


Just then Nicole’s phone buzzed on the counter. She let out a loud sigh. “It’s my boyfriend.”


“What are you going to do?” I asked.


She glanced at me and glanced back to the phone. She held it out to me. “You’re going to answer it.”


“What? Me? What am I going to say to your boyfriend?”


“I’ll coach you through it.” She said, answering it, and handing me the pink iPhone. The name “Tyler” showed up with a picture of him.


I put the phone to my ear. “Hello?” I said.


“Oh thank God, Nicole.” he said. “I was worried you would never answer.”


“Speaker phone.” Nicole whispered.


I put the speaker phone on and laid the phone on the counter. “I’m sorry. It’s just been a very long day.”


“Can I come over?” Tyler asked.


Nicole shook her head.


“No. That’s not a good idea.” I said.


“Why not?”


Nicole whispered, “I’m still mad.”


“I’m still mad at you.” I replied.


“Listen, I’m really sorry I snapped at you. I didn’t mean it. You know that I love you. I miss you.”


Nicole silently smiled.


“I saw you at lunch.” he added.


I glanced at Nicole. Shit. He saw ME at lunch. “You did?”


“You looked so happy that I didn’t want to interrupt.”


Nicole had a surprised expression on her face.


“Yeah, I uh - was hungry and needed a quick bite between classes. No biggie.” OK Tyler, let’s change the subject.


“I’ve never seen you eat like that before. And with a burger too.” he said.


Nicole punched my shoulder. Hard. “Asshole.” she whispered.


“Ow.” I replied, rubbing my shoulder. “I didn’t know.” I whispered back.


“Wrap this up.” she whispered.


“Listen Nikki,” Tyler added before I could say anything else. “I want to come over to apologize.”


I looked to Nicole, but she gave no cues on what to say. I already told Tyler no once already. I sighed and decided to do a little improv. “You really hurt me Tyler.”


“I don’t want to ever hurt you.” he responded. “You are my everything.” I could hear his voice wavering. Seriously? This guy is a goober. I bet Nicole could do better.


Nicole, in my body, had a tear rolling down her cheek. OK. Maybe she loves this goober. I should stop judging.


“I know.” I replied. “Just give me a few days of space please.”


“As you wish Nikki.”


“Thank you Tyler. I promise things will go back to normal soon.” 


“I love you.”


“I love you too.” I responded as I rolled my eyes and hung up the phone.


“Thank you.” Nicole whispered, wiping the tear from her face. This seemed like the first time I didn’t see Nicole in control.


“You miss him, don’t you?” I stated matter of factly.


“We had a fight, the moment we got back from summer break yesterday. So I haven’t really gotten a chance to spend time with him since the spring.”


“You didn’t see him over the summer?”


She shook her head.


I nodded. I haven’t been in a relationship in a long while, but I understood that feeling of longing. 


Since we’re doing the phone calls thing, I figured I’d address the missed call from my mom. “Can you call my mom for me?” I asked.


“Yeah.” she said. “I can do that for you.”


I dialed my mother on my phone, turned the speakerphone on and slid it to Nicole.


“What do you call her?” she asked.


“Just Mom.” I replied.


“Hello?” my mom cheerfully answered.


“Hi, Mom.” Nicole said.


“Hey Victor! How was your first day of class?”


“It was good.” Nicole replied. “My classes seem easy.” She looked at me with a smug smile that I didn’t appreciate.


“That’s great!” Victor’s mom replied. She paused for a moment. I know that pause. She’s about to talk about something on her mind. “You know honey, I really wish you would’ve come home for the summer.”


I knew it! Nicole looked at me for an answer. I thought about it, and whispered, “I just couldn’t. I hope you understand.”


“I just couldn’t, Mom.” Nicole answered. “I hope you understand.”


“But that’s just it Victor, I don’t understand.” Mom replied.


Dammit, Mom. I whispered to Nicole. “I don’t want to talk about it.”


“I don’t really want to get into it right now.”


“OK, honey.” Mom replied. “If you insist. You know you can always talk to your father and I. We do love you and miss you.”


“I know, Mom.” Nicole answered. “I miss you both too.”


I heard my mom sigh. “But anyway. There was something I wanted to tell you. What was it? Oh - so guess what. I was at your sister’s cheer practice yesterday and I saw Lindsey’s mom there.”


That’s a name I certainly didn’t want to hear. I briefly looked away from Nicole and glanced out the window.


“Oh?” Nicole said with little enthusiasm as she was looking at her now unkempt masculine nails. “What does she have to say?”


“She said that Lindsey got engaged last month.”


I let out an audible gasp. I was speechless. I felt like I was given a gut punch. I looked back at Nicole and the phone.


Nicole returned my glance and whispered. “Who is Lindsey?”


“My high school sweetheart.” I whispered back.


“Oh no.” Nicole said out loud.


“That’s what I thought too.” Mom replied hearing Nicole’s reaction.


I turned away again in despair. Trying to hide the tears from Nicole. I think she noticed though.


“Who did she get engaged to?” I heard Nicole ask. I cringed because I already knew the answer.


“Your best friend, Alan.” Mom replied. “Do you still talk to either of them?”


Nicole and I shared a knowing glance. She could see the betrayal - the anger - the pain of the last summer before college written all over my face. She shook her head. She saw the tears in my eyes and knew instantly. “Behind your back?” she whispered to me as I nodded. She turned her attention back to the phone. “Of course not mom. Why would I talk to them after what they did to me? My best friend stole my girlfriend!”


Those words have never left my mouth before as I’ve been internalizing that pain over the past 3 years. Hearing it now come from my own voice and mouth hurt even more than I thought it would.


Mom was silent. This is the first time she’s heard this too. I kept it all to myself. The hurt. The heartbreak. The anguish of being betrayed by my girlfriend and best friend.


“Listen Mom. I need to go.” Nicole said looking at me with pity.


“Ok, honey.” Mom said. “Have a good rest of the week. Talk again on Sunday? Dad wants to know what classes you’re taking.”


“Yeah, Mom. Talk again Sunday. Bye.” Nicole hung up the phone and looked at me again. “Wanna talk about it?”


“No.” I replied.


“Is that why you don’t go home?”


“I said I don’t want to talk about it!”


“OK.” Nicole relented.


We sat there in silence for a minute. I tried to regain my composure. Here I was in a girl's body, crying about something that happened in high school in front of a girl who’s in my body. It’s ridiculous. I was over the whole Lindsey and Alan thing. At least I was until this moment.


I took a deep breath. “I guess we have things to do.”


“Yeah.” she said.


“Maybe we should keep each other’s phones.” I suggested. “Since we can’t answer our own.”


“Yeah” Nicole agreed. “That makes sense.”


* * *


Nicole


It was awkward for a few moments, but the time to dwell on those phone calls was over. “OK, I think we should get to work.” I said to Victor.


“Yeah.” he agreed. “Where do we start?”


“Research!” I replied. While I don't know where to begin for this particular problem, that’s never stopped me in school. I’m a business major and it's my job to figure out the best course of action.


I saw the disgust in his face… I mean my face. Whatever. Clearly he wasn’t used to doing research.


“Lexi!” I yelled down the hall. “Can Victor borrow your tablet for research?”


“Sure!” she replied walking down the hall and handing Victor her tablet. Lexi returned to her room to leave us to our tasks.


I handed Victor a piece of paper and pen then sat down on the couch with my own laptop. I did a web search for body swaps. The top results were all movies and books. I found some interesting scientific studies. 


One was doing research using VR and how it affects people’s memory and emotions. Interesting. I might have to bookmark that one. I’ve only been a guy for half a day and already I was going out of my mind.


I found an advertisement for a body swap. Well that’s interesting. I clicked on it only to find a service that used VR headsets with a pair of people. Damn. That’s not what I was looking for. I bookmarked that anyway as I might use this for a unique marketing assignment in the future.


After 15 minutes of this I was frustrated. “I can’t find any rational explanation for....” I said out loud and waved my hands over this male body I’m in. “...this!”


“Maybe it’s not science.” Victor said, looking up from the paper was writing on. “Maybe it’s magic?”


“Magic doesn’t exist, Victor”


He shrugged. “Maybe magic is just science that we don’t yet understand?”


I stewed on that thought for a moment. “Can I borrow my phone?” 


Victor tossed me my iPhone. I searched through the contact list and found who I was looking for. Amanda, a girl who lived down the hall last year. I dialed the number.


“Hello?” Amanda answered.


“Hi Amanda, you’re Wiccan right?”


“Um... Yeah… Who is this?”


“This is Nicole from last year. Do you practice witchcraft? I need a favor.”


“What? I don’t know who you are, dude.”


Oh shit. I totally forgot I have Victor’s voice for a moment. “Um… this is Nicole. I swapped bodies with some guy, and now I need to swap back. I thought maybe you could cast a spell or something.”


“What the fuck, asshole.” she said and hung up.


I was silent for a second as I looked at my phone with disappointment. “Bitch.” 


Victor was sitting there laughing at me.


“Well at least I had an idea how to get us out of this situation. What do you have?”


“Well.” he said, sitting up and putting the tablet down. “I noted all of the popular body swap movies, noted how the swap happened and how they changed back.”


“Movies?” I yelled. “Come on Victor, are you even taking this seriously?”


“I am taking this seriously, Nicole.” he retorted. “I’m an artist, and there are many times where life inspires art. Art imitating Life. Yes these movies are works of fiction, but there’s the potential to be some hidden truths in there.”


“OK.” I sighed. I’ll humor him. “Fine. What do you have? What causes people to body swap?”


“Various things.” he said. “I have a running list. Sometimes it’s a magical item. You know, ancient statues, ancient skulls, ancient Idols, alien artifacts, ancient dagger, enchanted earrings, enchanted video games, enchanted cell phones, shooting stars, mind transferring potions, fortune cookies.”


“Great. Have you come in contact with any of those?”


“No. But I could certainly go for Chinese take out.”


“Neither have I. Wait - you’re hungry again? Anyway - keep going.”


“Sometimes it’s an action. A wish. Peeing in a water fountain. A kiss on a wedding day. A car accident. Reincarnation.”


“A wish? Did you make a wish to be me?”


“No. I didn’t know you 12 hours ago. Did you wish to be me?”


“No. We don’t have to wish to literally be each other. Did either of us desire for a change?”


“No. While my life isn’t glamorous, I’m happy with myself and I'm waiting to get out of college and into the real world. Maybe start my art career, travel the world. How about you? Any regrets?”


“My life is perfect.” I replied.


“If you say so.” he said.


This made me angry. Who was he to judge me? “I have friends. A loving boyfriend whom I will marry someday. I’m in a great major and will get a job straight out of college. What do you have?”


“I dunno. You’re right.” he said. “But I don’t think anyone should say their life is perfect.”


I expected Victor to argue back with me. Which is what I wanted at this particular moment. But he seemed to be a very calm and collected individual, and seemed to go out of his way to avoid conflict. Winning this particular argument left me feeling empty.


Alexis poked her head in. “If neither of you wished this, maybe someone else did?”


“Who would wish for this?” I asked.


“Maybe that girl you just called a bitch put a curse on you both.” Lexi laughed. 


I threw a couch pillow at her and she ducked back into her room.


Victor sighed. “We’re no closer to figuring this out.”


“Well, it sounds like we’re either looking for an ancient artifact or someone who knows both of us and wanted us to switch places. I mean.. If we’re going off your art imitates life theory. Do we have any mutual friends?”


‘No.” I said. “Although I did recognize one person today.”


“Who?”


“Your friend Madison.”


“How do you know Madison?”


“I don’t. We had the same class a few semesters back. I only casually recognized her. She did seem upset you didn’t go out with her last night.”


“Well.” I said. “So we have our first lead. I think we should go see Madison.”



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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for my to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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