Chapter 38 - Let’s Make A Deal

Masquerades 101 by Emily


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Synopsis: Nicole and Victor deal with the people on the phone. It's also time for Thanksgiving.

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Content Warning: Homophobic characters


Nicole


The phone call continued to surprise me. “Umm. What do you need from us?” I asked.


“Our clients wish to negotiate a deal.”


“Your clients?” I asked. “A deal? Who are you?”


“We’re attorneys representing Tau Kappa Fraternity.”


“Attorneys? TK?”


“We’d rather discuss details in person. It would be in your best interest to hear what we have to offer.”


“OK, fine,” I said. A voice in the back of my head was telling me to make this somewhere public. For all I know these so-called attorneys were also TK alumni with the power to glamor me. “Student Union, 5 PM.”


“OK. Thank you.” they said and hung up. 


I went to text Victor, when I remembered he didn’t have a phone yet. Therefore I returned to class and stewed on what this meeting could possibly be about.


* * *


Victor


I was still in a lot of pain, so I decided to call out sick for my classes. I emailed my professors to ask for makeup work. Meanwhile, It was time to change the bandages.


I stood in front of the mirror and carefully started pulling off the bandages from my face. I finally saw my hidden eye. The white of my eye was veiny and bloodshot. The eyelid was red, puffy and swollen. There was dried blood just under my eyebrow. The good news is that I could see out of the eye.


I took the rest of the morning to clean myself up. I showered, shaved my face - only my face, and reapplied clean and smaller bandages to the areas of my face that needed it.


Sometime around lunch time, Nicole came in without knocking.


“Don’t you have your own apartment?” I said, half-jokingly with a smile.


“Don’t you have a new cell phone yet?” she replied.


“My dad said he has it at home. I’ll get it when I go back for the holiday.”


“Anyway we have a meeting.” she said.


“A meeting?” I asked. “With who?”


“Some lawyers,” she said.


“Lawyers? OK, good. These must be the lawyers my dad hired.”


“These guys were not hired by your dad. They were hired by TK.”


“TK? But we’re pressing charges on Brandon. Nobody else.”


“They want to meet with us anyway. I picked a public spot at 5 PM.”


“Shouldn’t they have called my lawyers and not you?”


“I don’t know,” she said. “They could’ve sent Damen and his brothers, but instead are sending lawyers. I feel like they’re going to ambush us with some legal BS.”


“Should I call my dad?”


“No.” she said. “I have another idea.” She went over to the wall and knocked on it. “He owes you for helping him with a math class and for picking out his spring schedule.”


“Who? Dave?”


Next came the knock at the door.


“Remember, he’s never met this body.” she said.


I answered the door and Dave was standing there.


“What’s up dude?” he asked. “Hey you’re looking good. Less bandages.”


“Hi Dave” I said, letting him into the apartment. “We.. I mean I have a favor to ask.” 


“Name it.” he replied. “Anything.”


“Oh yeah, Dave, this is Nicole. She’s one of my friends.”


“Yeah” he said, smiling at her. “You’re the one who kicked the shit out of that asshole and saved Victor over here.”


“That’s me.” she modestly replied.


“So what are you doing at 5?” I asked. “We have to meet with some lawyers from TK to discuss what went down Saturday. We were hoping you could come with us.”


“To meet lawyers?” he looked hesitant. “I’m only really studying sports law. You know contracts and stuff.”


“We just need someone as a witness to make sure those guys aren't doing anything shady.” Nicole chimed in.


He hesitated for a moment. “OK,” he said. “I’m in. It’s the least I could do for not being here Saturday.”


“How’d you do Saturday?” Nicole asked.


“I came in for a few plays in the 4th quarter. Had some nice sweet blocks.”


“That’s great.” I said. “Maybe you’ll work your way up to first string yet.”


“Nah” he said. “The season’s almost over. And I don’t want to wish injury on anyone. Listen, I need to run to class. Catch you both at 5?”


“Yes.” I said, I looked over to Nicole.


“Student Union.” she said. “Let's meet by the coffee shop.”


“Catch ya later dude.  Dudette.” Dave waved bye and left my apartment.


“See.” Nicole said to me. “That’s how you make and maintain friends.”


I nodded.


“Not going to class today?” she asked me.


“I can’t.” I said. “I still have headaches and it still hurts to do any major physical activity. Walking to class would suck. I called out though.”


“I’m not judging, Vic.” she said. “I get it. Heal up. I should get going too. Is there anything I can get you?”


“I’m good.” I said. “Some of my instructors already emailed me work to do. So I can keep busy.”


“OK.” she said. “See you tonight.”


* * *


At 5 PM, Nicole, Dave and myself met at the Student Union. Right on time, older men in business suits showed up. They were certainly out of place on a college campus. Students would give them a weird eye as they walked about the student union getting dinner or heading to class.


They introduced themselves as lawyers for Tau Kappa and handed us business cards. We introduced ourselves, then Dave as our witness. We escorted them to a table that was in the corner. Quieter, yet still in visible sight from everything else going on.


The lawyers were direct. “Our clients would like to remain out of your lawsuit against Brandon Flynn.” one of them said. The other one handed over two sheets of paper. 


I shared my paper with Dave.


“In addition” the one lawyer continued. “Our clients will share character evidence against Mr. Flynn to Mr. Machado’s attorneys.”


“We’ll give you a minute to read the waiver,” the other lawyer said.


Nicole, Dave and I glanced at each other.  Then we sat there in silence as we read the paperwork. I’m an artist. This waiver form gave me a headache. Or maybe it was the head injuries from this weekend. 


When I noticed Dave and Nicole had finished reading, I turned to them for their interpretation. “Can you summarize?” I asked.


“So what this says” Dave said. “Is that you will not pursue TK legally with respect to the events of…” he glanced down at the paper again. “Saturday November 17. This past Saturday.”


“They think that we think that Brandon was acting on behalf of TK.” Nicole said. 


“Why would they think that?” I asked the lawyers.


“You, Mr. Machado were at the Tau Kappa residence on November 3rd, accusing the fraternity as an accomplice in Mr. Flynn’s past transgressions against you. Namely the incident on October 28th, and the subsequent incident on October 31st.”


“Umm.. right.” I was at a loss for words considering most of that was Nicole. “How did you know about the restaurant incident?”


“It was in the October 31 police report.” the lawyer responded. “As you can see, the fraternity has a probable reason to believe you’d include them in the lawsuit.”


“Victor only went to the TK house to get more information on Brandon.” Nicole said since she was Victor at the time. “He never accused them of anything.”


“Then you’ll have no problem signing these waivers.” the lawyer said.


“Can we have a private conversation for a moment?” Nicole asked.


The lawyers nodded, and Nicole, Dave and I huddled up outside of hearing distance from the lawyers.


“Brandon admitted to me that he wasn’t involved with TK anymore.” Nicole said. “I mean.. he could’ve lied though.”


“He hasn’t been a member for 3 years.” Victor said. “So what do we get if we sign this?”


“According to the document.” Dave said. “They will assist your dad’s lawyers and hand over all incriminating evidence against Brandon.”


“So they’re using Brandon as a fall guy for all of the shit they’ve done.” Nicole said. 


“What shit?” Dave asked.


“It’s all hearsay.” I said.


“Right.” Dave said. “They are the party house. Coach says to stay away from them. A few players got into hot water from partying there a few years back.”


“I want to hold them responsible for all of the women they’ve taken advantage of over the past decade.” Nicole said.


“What dirt do you have on them?” Dave asked. “Wait - no, don’t tell me, I shouldn’t know.”


“It’s best you didn’t.” I said. “But we have zero tangible evidence.” 


“This guarantees that they leave you alone if you leave them alone.” Dave chimed in.


“So it’s a truce.” Nicole said, sounding frustrated. “I don't like it.  What if we don’t sign this?”


“They won’t cooperate in the Brandon trial.  They may sue you both if you slander TK during it.”


Nicole shook her head in frustration.


“Then do we even have a choice?” I asked.


Nicole stewed on that for a moment. “Fine, we’ll sign it.” Nicole said. “Maybe Karma will catch up to them in the future.”


We returned to the table. The lawyers handed us a pair of pens and we signed the waiver promising we would not pursue TK legally for whatever shit Brandon did.


The lawyers left as quickly as they came.  We thanked Dave and he headed to football practice.


“I’m not happy with this,” Nicole said.


“I know.”


“They know they did some shady shit too.”


“Well, now we can’t pursue them legally.”


“Legally, no.  But perhaps magically.  Let’s pay Tyler a visit.” 


“Tyler?”


“Yeah.” she said. “They have a genie.”


* * *


We started walking towards Tyler’s apartment. I was visibly in pain, and Nicole noticed.


“I can walk slower,” she said. “I can also call for a Safe Ride to drive us.”


“I’ll be fine,” I said. “I just need to take my mind off of it.”


“OK.” she said. “Just think, tomorrow you get to go home for Thanksgiving.”


Thanksgiving. Shit. That’s right. I had forgotten. We continued walking.


“Um Nicole,” I said. “About that. We need to talk about Thanksgiving.”


“What about it?” she asked.


“Well, I may have kinda told-off your mom last week. I may have disinvited you.”


“Oh. How bad?” she asked.  She didn’t seem surprised.


“Well when she threatened to stop paying for college, I may have told her I was really a man. I defended Tyler, our friends, your Aunt Shirley, then I hung up on her.”


I saw her close her eyes and sighed.


“You’re mad at me.” I said.


“No.” she said. “That was only a matter of time before she set you off I suppose.”


“But I am going to have to do damage control.”


“You don’t have to. You can come home with me.”


“With you?”


“You’ve already met my family as me. And they met me as you. And Hanna adores you.”


“Maybe, Victor. I need to at least see if I can fix my own family first.”


* * *


We knocked on Tyler’s door. Josh opened up.


“Nicole. Victor” he said. “My favorite body swappers. What’s going on?”


“We’re here to talk to Tyler.” Nicole said. “I’m not sure if you heard, but we’re back in our original bodies again.”


“They’re at class right now.” Josh said. “That’s good to hear you’re back home. Come on in, take a load off. Tell me what’s on your mind.”


We walked in. I wasn’t quite sure how much Josh knew about what was going on. But he was at the tailgate when Tyler found out about the swap.


“We wanted to talk to them about that whole genie business. We have an idea for another wish” Nicole said.


“Oh this I want to hear.” Josh said.


“Well, I’m sure you heard that we got into an altercation with Brandon on Saturday.” Nicole said.


“I heard,” he said. “That was awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you both.”


“Well, Brandon’s going to stand trial, but we believe that TK isn’t innocent in the whole thing. But we just signed a waiver to not take legal action against them.”


“What do you think TK did?” Josh asked.


“We believe they’ve been using the genie powers to take advantage of women, to get their way and to infiltrate campus leadership and the state government.”


“Hmm, That’s an intriguing assertion.” Josh said. “And what do you want the genie to do about it?”


“I don’t know,” Nicole said. “Karma?”


“That would be great, wouldn’t it.” Josh said. “I have a few ideas on how such a wish would be worded. We just need to get Tyler to wish for it.”


“When do they get back?” Nicole asked.


“An hour, maybe more,” Josh said.


"I used to come by after seven." I chimed in. I smiled thinking about how happy Tyler was to see me after a long day. My smile faded as reality hit me. "Well their girlfriend did anyway."


Nicole looked at me with an annoyed look as if I should’ve told her this before we came here.


“Sorry I forgot Tyler had class this evening.”


“Speaking of.” Josh said. “How are you doing, Victor?”


“I’m hanging in there.” I said. “Better than this morning.”


“If you ever need to talk, let me know.” Josh said to me, then looked at Nicole. “Same goes for you too, girly.” 


“Thanks Josh,” she said.


Standing there talking with Nicole and Josh I realized for the first time since the accident that maybe I do have friends. I’ve been trying to be alone, but Nicole and now Josh are showing genuine concern for me.


* * *


“Vic, how are you doing?” Nicole asked as we were walking away from Tyler’s place. “How are you feeling? In case you were sugar coating it for Josh.”


“That was the truth.” I said.  “I’m feeling better. Physically at least.”


“Do you want me to spend another night?”


“I think I’ll be OK.” I said. I looked at her and smiled.  “I mean, if you want to cuddle some more I guess I’m available.”


She chuckled and nudged my shoulder. “Maybe another time,” she said.  “I’m going to go home to Lexi.  Please don't hesitate to call if you need anything.”


“OK” I replied. “Cuddle with Lexi, see if I care.”


She laughed.  “Lexi wishes.  Vic, I’m glad you’re in a better mood.”


“Me too.”


We parted ways.  She walked towards her apartment and I walked towards mine.


Near the edge of campus, I heard someone call my name. 


“Victor,” they said.


I turned around to see a young girl sitting on a park bench.  She was a little young to be on a college campus.  How did she know my name?

“Hello?” I said back to her.


“You asked to see me.” she said.


“I…” I thought about it. She was very out of place sitting there in the evening by herself. “Are you the genie?”


“I am,” she said.  “Sorry for the appearance.  I’m trying to keep a low profile these days.”


“A young girl on a college campus by herself isn’t really a low profile.” I said.


“Oh right.” she said.  Suddenly she aged 10 years in seconds.  Now she looked like a typical college student. 


Something like this should’ve freaked me out, but considering what I’ve been through the past 3 months, it wasn’t surprising.  


“Sorry.” she said.  “When you’re thousands of years old, you forget that something like 10 years is major to humans.  Victor, sit.”


I sat down next to her.  “Why the disguise?”


“Well, I’m hiding from TK.  The fewer people know my identity the better.”


“What’s real and what's not.” I said.  “I’ve been changed and manipulated so that I don't know who I am.”


“You are the same person you were when we first met,” she said.  “Of course people do grow and mature naturally over 3 years.”


“Can you shed some light on what’s happened to me? Maybe fill in some blanks?”


“Sure.” she said.  “When we met 3 years ago, you were being abused by Brandon.  He was jealous of your money.  He and a few of his buddies were glamoring you to do things you would never have done.”


“I don’t have memories of that.” I said.


“You asked me to remove them.” she said.


“I did?”


“We actually had long conversations at night when Brandon wasn’t around.  You told me about your high school friends.  You told me how Brandon was treating you.  You told me how he was manipulating you into paying for everyone.  Into taking out friends of his. You told me he and his friends were sexually assulting you. You asked me to make it stop .  I agreed.  In exchange for you breaking the lamp.”


The genie waved her hand and suddenly I got a whole bunch of new memories.  I was sitting in my freshman year dorm room talking to a guy in a genie costume.  I remembered the late-night conversations. He convinced me he was a real genie. I remember crying and pleading for him to do something about my roommate situation.  I remember the deal.  I remember picking up the lamp and smashing it.


“So I broke the lamp and set you free.”


“Yes you did.” she said.  “And I am eternally grateful. I kept my promise and removed the painful memories.  In hindsight I may not have removed enough of them.”


“Why do you say that?” 


“You became a loner. The Victor that came to college was not a loner.  He was excited to meet new people and excited to make new friends.  He was very outgoing.  I felt bad.  When I was given the opportunity to make it up to you, I took it.”


“The swap?”


“Tyler wished for the perfect girlfriend.  While it may not have seemed like it, I was trying to play matchmaker for the two of you. I knew your past. I knew Tyler’s.  Humans have real hangups when it comes to gender and sexuality.  If it wasn’t for that you two would’ve gotten together much earlier. I did the best I could given the wish parameters.  My regret is really what that wish did to Nicole.”


“Why didn’t it work on her?”


“It was the same magic.  It’s just that you took to your new identity easier because of Tyler.  Nicole didn’t have anyone until she finally told the truth to Madison.”


“Did I really fall in love or was that magic?”


“Making people fall in love goes against my abilities.  The best I can do is play matchmaker.  So that was really you and Tyler.  You both fell in love without any magic.  You still love them right?”


“Yes I do.”


“That settles that. I had nothing to do with it.  They still love you too for what it’s worth.”


“Why did I enjoy being Vicky so much?”


“I don’t really know.  I thought maybe you’d have the answer to that.  I just assumed you were enjoying being Tyler’s girlfriend, not necessarily Vicky.  If you’re telling me you enjoyed being Vicky too, then maybe that was inside of you all along.”


“She’s a part of me” I whispered.  I turned to the Genie.  “Not a big part.  But a part.”


“Anything else you need to know?” the genie asked. 


“I don't think so,” I said.  “Thank you for coming out to see me.”


“If you have any more questions - talk to your new friends.” she smiled and vanished in a cloud of smoke.



* * *


Nicole


My phone conversation with my mother was short. I told her I was still coming. She said OK. We didn’t talk about the previous conversation she had with Victor.


On Wednesday, I met my dad outside my apartment like I used to do. We rode the way in silence like normal as my dad listened to his favorite radio station. He mumbled something about his music being better music than today’s music. He was baiting me into a political conversation that I wasn’t ready for. I didn’t take the bait and instead thought of what I wanted to tell them.


We arrived at my childhood house. It seemed smaller now. Maybe having been to Victor's house changed my perspective on things.


We both walked inside. I went to my room. Dad went to his recliner in front of the TV. Mom was likely cooking or doing laundry.


I laid down on my bed and checked my messages. I got two messages. The first one was a message from Victor informing me he has a phone again. The other one was a heart emoji from Madison. I responded to Victor with “it’s about time” and responded to Mads with another heart emoji.


It was a low-key quiet night. I came out to eat dinner. While mom was working on tomorrow’s dinner, dad got fast food. Like usual it was only for him and mom, and I was left to prepare my own meal. 


At the back of the freezer I found a vegetarian stir-fry I bought over the summer. I took out a skillet and cooked that for dinner.


Dinner was quiet as Mom and Dad took their meals to eat in front of the TV. I kept a safe distance by eating at the kitchen table. Nobody asked any questions of me as if I wasn't there. I didn’t even know what I wanted to say to them.


They asked me only one question.


“Why do you have a bandage on your arm?” Mom asked me.


“I umm” I said.  “I fought off an attacker. He scratched me up, but I managed to subdue him.”


Both Mom and Dad looked at me for a moment as if I had two heads.


“Fucking cities.” Dad said, turning his attention back to the violence on TV.  “You shouldn’t go back.”


Did he just not care? “I was almost raped, Dad.” I rasied my voice. “My best friend was in a coma for two days.”


“That school was your choice.” Mom said.


Now it was my turn to look shocked.  I balled my first in anger.  I wanted to cry.  They didn’t care.  I told myself to breathe and I got up and walked to my room.  I did some of my breathing exercises to calm down.  I didn’t leave my room the rest of the night.  



* * *



I managed to forget about the victim blaming while I slept.  Unfortunately I’m still in their home for another 3 days.  I woke up and Mom and Dad were preparing Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen. Mom was complaining about my vegetarian diet and how much she’s being convinced when they saw me in the threshold.


“You didn’t bring your gay boyfriend” she said. “At least I only have one extra mouth to feed.”


As hard as I could, I couldn’t turn the other cheek this time. “First of all Tyler is trans, not gay.” I said. “Second, we broke up.”


“Thank God!” Dad chimed in. “Now maybe you’ll go find a real man,”


“No thank you” I said. I looked them both in the eye. “I’m bi. I’m dating a girl now.”


I saw both of their faces turn red. It's the same look they get when anyone brings up Aunt Shirley.


“I didn’t raise no dyke,” Mom yelled. A predictable response from her.


“I thought we went through this.” Dad raised his voice.


“What?” I said, raising my own voice. “When you forbid me from dating a girl I loved in high school? When you threatened to cut off my college tuition? When you told me I’d go to hell? When was that Dad? When you threatened you’d disown me?.”


“You said you were a man last week. You’re clearly confused. You need to leave that place and get your head on straight.”


“It doesn't matter if I was a man last week.” I said. “I can come home tomorrow and completely change my mind. I can decide who I am and who I love and change my mind. And that should be allowed. All I ever wanted is for you to support me and love me.”


“Those so-called friends are just corrupting you.” Dad said. “We do support you. We provide you food. We sent you to college.”


“So the bare minimum.”


“That’s enough.” he said. “We are your parents and we demand love and respect.”


“Sorry Dad,” I said. “Respect is earned. If you put more effort into earning my respect as you do hating everything that is different than you, maybe this conversation would go differently.”


They didn’t say anything, but I could tell they were fuming.


“You know what?” I said. “If you can’t show your own daughter the respect she deserves, then you don't deserve me in your life. I have friends who love me. I have friends who will support me.”


“If you walk out that door, don’t come back.” Dad said.


“Thank you for reinforcing this decision” I said.


I calmly walked to my room and grabbed my bags. I barely unpacked because I had a suspicion I may have to do this very thing. 


As I was stuffing clothes back into my bag, I pulled out my phone and dialed Victor. 


He answered immediately. “What’s up?”


My voice was quivering “Can you pick me up? I…”


“You don’t have to explain, '' he said. “I’ll be right there. Can you text me your address? I’ve only been there once.”


“Thank you” I said, hanging up. I quickly texted him the address.


I picked up my bags and walked right out of my parents house without saying a word. And they let me do it. They were standing there watching me and I didn’t make eye contact with them. I kept walking all the way to the edge of the gravel driveway. I would’ve sat on the porch, but I wanted to be as far away from my parents as possible.


* * *


Twenty minutes later, I saw Victor’s car pull up to the driveway. Victor got out of his car and helped me put my bags into the trunk.


Dad burst out of the house. “We’re cutting you off,” Dad said.


Victor was primed for a fight, but I motioned him to stand down. This was my fight.


“Fine.” I replied. “It’s not as if you were paying my way anyway. I talked to Aunt Shirley. She’s been paying for college the entire time.”


He was shocked that I knew the truth. He didn’t have a comeback for that.


“Don’t you dare come back.”


I looked at my father of 21 years. I feel a certain love for him. There were times long ago when I was daddy’s little girl. But that was back when I was young and impressionable and didn’t know about the real world. I used to hang on his every word. Belittling people that didn’t look or act like us. I did those things too because my parents did. And likely their parents before them. 


I looked at that hate filled house one last time. My mother was standing on the porch next to my dad with the same hate-filled expression. I didn’t fail them. They failed me.


“I don’t plan on it,” I said. 


Victor and I got into his car and drove away from my childhood home for the last time.


* * *


During the ride, Victor reached over and held my hand. “I’m sorry. I stormed away from my parents house once before too. I know how you feel.”


“This is a little different, Vic.” I said. “I was just disowned by them. Your parents never disowned you.”


He nodded. “I’m still sorry. In some ways this is my fault. I’m the one who set them off.”


“This was a long time coming. You setting them off may have saved me from future awkward holidays where I have to put on a happy mask in order to be around them. No more. I’m going to be myself from here on out.”


This was a weight off my shoulders.  It still hurts though.  


We rode another ten minutes in silence.  We stopped at a stop sign in front of a playground full of 10 year olds running around.  Victor looked at them then looked back at me.


 “I met the genie,” he said.  “Last night when we parted ways.”


“Oh?”


“Apparently I actually did fall in love with Tyler.  It wasn’t genie magic.”


“I mean I fell in love with Tyler too.” I replied. “They're a good person.  What are you going to do with that new information? Are you going to try to rekindle something?”


“I don’t know yet.” he replied.



* * *


When we pulled up to Victor’s house, it felt like deja vu. We both got out of the car, and instantly Victor’s family were all over me. Giving me hugs, wishing me a “Happy Thanksgiving.” No one asked why I was there or why Victor left to get me. Maybe Victor told them. Maybe they saw it in my eyes.


They were to have an early dinner, so it didn’t take long for us to sit around the table.


“Nicole, I heard you were a vegetarian,” Mrs. Machado said. “I’m sorry I didn't have enough time to make a proper meal for you. I did, however, throw together a vegetarian casserole.”


Throw together was an understatement. It looked good and smelled even better.


“You didn’t have to do that.” I said.


“It was nothing,” she smiled.


We all sat down and Victor’s father led us in a blessing before we ate. We held hands. I held Victor’s and Hanna’s hand.


“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive. From Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Thank you O Lord for watching over this family. Thank you for watching over Victor, Hanna, and Nicole. Thank you, O Lord for giving us the strength this past week to heal our emotional and physical scars. Amen.”


We repeated “Amen.”


I was shocked he mentioned me in his blessing. I tried to hide my emotions, but wound up having to wipe my cheek with a napkin.


“So, Nicole” Mr. Machodo said, looking at me. “I heard congratulations are in order.”


Hanna started shaking her head at her father, trying to get him to stop.


This must’ve been about Vicky’s engagement. I put my hand on Hanna’s shoulder. “It’s OK. Umm… we broke up. The engagement is off.” I glanced at Victor who was looking down.


“Aww.” Mrs. Machado said. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”


“It’s OK” I said. I reached for Victor’s hand under the table. “Things will work themselves out.”


After that initial bombshell, I was quiet for most of dinner. The rest of the family talked about school, family, and the football games on TV. They seemed to avoid talking about what happened on Saturday, despite Victor still having bandages on his face.


Victor after the initial sadness of being reminded about the botched engagement was all smiles. I remember what he said about the last time he was here. The fight with his dad. About storming away like I just did to my parents. A year later it appears everyone has forgiven each other and moved on. I didn’t see this same future for me and my parents.


I wasn't really in a talkative mood, so I just ate and listened and took in the warmth of being around a loving family.


“I was thinking,” Mr. Machado said. “We can resume our tradition of hosting a holiday party for your friends.”


“That would be awesome!” Hanna said.


“What’s this tradition?” I asked.


“Well, before Victor went to college we used to have a holiday party for all of Victor’s and Hanna’s friends every year.” Mrs. Machado said.


“That sounds fun.” I said.


“Maybe.” Victor said. “I’m not sure who would come.”


“I bet everyone would come,” I replied. “Why’d you stop?”


Nobody said anything for a moment, until Victor spoke up. “Cause I didn’t have any friends.”


“Well you do now.” I said.


I saw a slight smile on Victor’s face. He might be pretending to have this loner thing going on, but deep down he must realize he has friends again.


* * *


Tyler


I spent dinner being quiet. My parents knew better than to probe. While I didn’t come out and say it, they knew it had to do with my engagement. They tried to cheer me up, but it wasn’t working. After dinner, while my parents were doing the dishes I retreated into the living room to be alone. That was until Aunt Kira came and found me.


She sat next to me. At first she didn't say anything and I thought that maybe I got lucky and she wasn't going to.


“So, Ty” Aunt Kira said.


I guess I wasn’t so lucky.


"I wasn't going to say anything at dinner, since I know your parents didn't want to sour the mood, but it hurts me to see you this down. Wanna tell me what happened?"


I let out a long sigh that probably told her more than I wanted. "Not really. I'm still trying to figure some of it out."


"Sounds pretty bad. I'm willing to listen if you think it will help."


I turned to face her and could see the concern in her eyes. Fine, I'll hash this out with Aunt Kira. But how do I word this without starting a conversation I don't want to have? "Well... for starters, it turns out my fiance is actually a he."


"Wow, that's a sizable revelation.” she said. “I take it that's something you're not completely comfortable with?"


I felt myself choking up thinking about what I had lost. "I think I could be okay with that, but it's very clear that he can't be with me."


"That doesn't sound like the person we met two weeks ago. That person was very into you."


I thought back to that weekend. To the moment when Taylor made her entrance. To Vicky's reaction. No, to Victor's reaction. It might have been Nicole's face, but that look of desire was definitely Victor's true self shining through. But that wasn't me.


"Maybe he is into Taylor, but that doesn't help me." I spat through tears. When did I start crying?


Aunt Kira put her arm around me. Her embrace soothed me some and my shaking decreased. When did I start shaking?


“Does he have a name?” she asked.


“Victor”


"Clearly you're not going to be over Victor any time soon. I've been there myself. Are you two on speaking terms?"


I nodded. "I haven’t actually seen him since Monday. But we've even played games together in the evenings."


"That's a good sign. Communication is important."


"But it hurts so much to be near him knowing that I can't be with him."


"That sounds really painful. But it also sounds like neither of you are ready to let what you had go."


"We've admitted that we both still love each other."


"Well, I'm going to remain optimistic that you two will work things out. Can you try to do the same?"


I nodded even though I wasn't sure how things could work between us. I have a wish left, but Victor was very adamant that I not use it to fix our relationship. I know Josh wouldn't twist the wording this time, but I can't risk it. I just have to accept that Victor is straight, and so am I.


But, am I straight? I never really reflected on my sexuality. I’ve only ever reflected on my gender. I’ve always just assumed that since I was attracted to girls I was straight. How much of that is real attraction and how much is envy? I don't think I've ever really given much thought to that. I know that when I met Nicole I would have given anything to be able to go out into the world looking like her, even if only for a day. She is a very attractive girl by society’s standards. But was I ever actually attracted to her?


I’ve spent so much time reflecting on my gender. I thought I had it figured out. I’m both Tyler and Taylor. But has it been more than that? Is Taylor just my feminine side? Is she my brain's attempt at helping me understand women? Is she ... the real me? I mean I want to be able to be Taylor from time to time, but I don't hate being Tyler. If I can be Tyler with a Taylor mask couldn’t I also be Taylor with a Tyler mask? Why do those even need to be masks? 


"Aunt Kira?" I asked in almost a whisper. "How did you know that you were trans?"


"Well it's different for everyone.” she said. “I suppose I always knew, but it took a while before the internal pressure overpowered the external pressures of society before I was able to really admit it to myself. I don't know what it was for Victor that magically made him come out to you, but you can't blame yourself."


"Oh it was magical alright." I chuckled through my tears. If she only knew. "But, no I don't blame myself. I was wondering if you could tell me if you thought I might be trans as well. I’m worried I’m just using my status as non-binary as an excuse to not fully transition."


"Ty," she looked at me with a serious expression, "Only you can tell you who you are. You need to listen to yourself and be honest with yourself. You've been exposed to these topics far more than most kids. I know you've had your own journey of exploration, but given the timing of this question, I need to ask why you are wondering?"


"Like I said at the start, I'm still trying to figure some of this out. While I think that me becoming Taylor full time could possibly save my relationship, I know that he wouldn't want me to do that just for the relationship. But I can't help but to wonder if that is what I want anyway. All of my recent outings as Taylor have all been with him, so I am having a hard time separating the love and acceptance from what I really want."


“The only piece of advice I can give you is to be who you are. Don’t be who you’re not. Especially for anyone else. And as I've mentioned before when you first started your journey. Tyler or Taylor, you have a loving supportive family around you.”


I nodded and smiled. She hugged me and got up and returned to be with my parents.


I sat there with my drink for a moment before I decided to put on a smile and join the rest of my family.


* * *


Nicole


After dessert, it took all of my effort to stop Mrs. Machado from cleaning out the guest bedroom just for me to spend one night in. I tried to insist I didn’t want to be a burden for only one night. I could always sleep on the couch and just hitch a ride back to school tomorrow.


It was Hanna who figured out a compromise. “Slumber party!’ she said. “Lets get some sleeping bags from downstairs and me and Nicole can sleep in my room!”


“I’m not forcing our guest to sleep on the floor.” Mrs. Machado said.


“Pleeeeeese,” Hanna begged.


Mrs. Machado looked at me to see if the “slumber party” was an acceptable compromise. 


I nodded in acceptance.


Hanna gleefully squealed as she started walking away towards the basement to retrieve the sleeping bags. “Thank you mom!” 


That’s how I found myself sitting on the floor in Hanna’s room. She loaned me a t-shirt and pajama bottoms.


“So Nicole.” she said. “Tell me about Madison.”


“Madison?” I asked. “How do you know...”


“Victor told me you two are kinda an item.”


I heard Victor yell from the other room. “I told you that in confidence.”


“We're all sisters here, Victoria!” Hanna yelled back.


Victor said something inaudible.


Hanna looked at me, waiting for me to answer her question.


“Madison is one of my best friends. We were kinda seeing each other right before the swap back.”


“When you were a guy?”


“When I was a trans woman. She found out the truth about a month ago. She oddly enough wasn’t repulsed by me having a dick.”


Hanna giggled at my use of the D word. “So she’s into girls too?”


“She is. Very much so. She’s been into me as long as I can remember. But I was with Tyler… And I was trying to be straight for my parents.”


“So if she is into you and you are into her, why aren’t you an official item?”


“We were - for an evening.” I said. “Then I went and messed everything up by losing my cool after Vicky’s engagement.”


Hanna grimaced. “I kinda figured that would happen. I warned Victor not to keep that a secret for too long.”


“I asked her to wait for me while I figure my shit out.”


“If I was you. The moment I get back to campus, I would find Madison, sweep her off her feet and apologize for being a bitch.”


I chuckled. “Maybe I’ll do that.”


She smiled at me. “It’s good having you here, sis.”


I smiled. “OK Hanna.” I said. “Neither of us have ever had sisters. We finally have one. What do you want to do tonight?”


Her face lit up with ideas. 


* * *


Tyler


The next morning when I woke up, there was a folded note on my nightstand. It looked to be Aunt Kira's handwriting. It read, "Who do you want to be right now?"


Jeez Aunt Kira, I just woke up and you're already filling me with existential dread? I assume she wants me to choose between Tyler and Taylor this morning.


I could smell cinnamon in the air. Dad must be making his famous cinnamon swirl pancakes. He doesn't just make them to cheer me up, but I have a lot of fond memories when he did just for that reason. 


I pictured myself downstairs at the dining table with my family. We are all reminiscing over the past, laughing, and having too many pancakes. That would make a wonderful holiday card this year. The four of us are leaning together, all ready for a nap after a wonderful meal. I can see it now. Mom and Dad wearing their matching flannel pajamas, Aunt Kira in her silk pajamas, and Taylor in her nightie and sweatpants.


My eyes shot open. Is that who I am in my head? Am I really Taylor? Is that what I want?


I dropped the note. My hands were shaking. I reached down to pick up the note, and I saw that something was written on the back: "That is who you are".


Just then I heard eggs cracking. I don't have much time to get Taylor ready to go downstairs.


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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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Joejedfjsj

Nicole is getting particulate adopted at this point. And I completely support that.
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Joejedfjsj

Damn auto correct, practically
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Elron

Whew, you had me thinking there was another new term I knew nothing about. 'Particulate Adopted' - Being adopted one tiny piece at a time. Well, it sounds right.
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Emily

I does seem that way doesn't it.
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marter

I'm happy for Taylor!
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Emily

Me too! ::Happy egg noises::
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Elron

Masquerades 101, Chapter 38 A Review By Elron Chapter 38.1 – A Phone Call At least Nicole had the sense to make the meeting in a public place. Still, things could go wrong, but not as likely. I think she should have tried to get more information out of them, but I’m guessing the caller was being as terse as possible.
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Elron

Chapter 38.2 – Nicole, Victor, and Dave Good idea bringing in a witness to whatever TK’s lawyers have planned. Unfortunately, Dave isn’t even a starting lawyer, he’s only a sports law student. Too bad they could not have gotten a practicing lawyer to help them out. TK’s people are professionals and know what they are doing, and making it look like they are doing the kids a favor while they are at it. Be very careful.
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.3 – The Meeting]] So they want TK left out of any legal proceedings against Brandon. In return they will assist in the legal process against Brandon. But they sure don’t show their hand as to what that entails. No details, no evidence, just a promise. In legal terms, a ‘pig in a poke’. In my own legal opinion, however, the kids are all signing under duress because of the implied threat that Dave brings up by not signing. So it is questionable whether the waiver would even hold up in court, since they didn’t have any professional legal counsel to review and advise before signing.
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.4 – Over the River and Through the Woods – to Where?]] I’m glad Victor warned Nicole about the phone call with Nicole’s mom, and that he had the good sense to invite Nicole to his house for Thanksgiving. Nicole was right, blowing up the bridge would have happened sooner or later. Gotta say, bringing someone home for Thanksgiving implies relationship (that’s when I met my wife’s family) so maybe Victor and Nicole have a future together?
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.5 – The Genie is IN]] Josh really played it cool with Victor and Nicole. It’s interesting that he already has ideas for just the right wish to fix things, but will our 3 impulsive meddling kids actually listen and think before acting? And more reinforcement that Victor does indeed have friends. I like that. He needs those constant reminders. And in college if a girl had offered to spend the night no guy would have said no, especially given the bond they now share. Even if it really was just to sleep.
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.6 – I Dream of Jeannie]] SO glad the genie came to visit Victor. They have a lot of catching up to do, what with all the wishes and mind alterations that went on. This is a really dark chapter in Victor’s life, and my review. I can’t believe all the things they did to Victor. And were the ‘buddies’ all members of TK? Is that who the waiver was protecting? Aside from the Brandon stuff there is a lot of introspection in this section. Identifying why the wish didn’t work the same way for Nicole, because she didn’t have anyone. What if she had chosen to get close (closer) to Kayla, Mads, or even Lexi while in Victor’s body. Could she have adapted to being a guy? Could have had a much different outcome to the story. Finally, the genie really breaks down the ‘love’ aspect of the relationship in a way that Victor can understand. So the Victor/Nicole relationship meter goes down a little and the Victor/Tyler/Taylor meter goes up. Is that a 3-way?
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.7 – Over the River and Through the Woods – In the Wrong Direction]] Nicole going home to her biological family was a huge mistake. There’s just no way it could have ended as anything other than a complete disaster. Maybe worse than Nicole’s nuclear reaction to Vicky’s engagement. BTW, I remember having the ‘respect is earned, not demanded’ argument with my parents at about that age. Is that a common thing or a coincidence? And I have no idea what started that argument anymore. At least Nicole had the good sense to call Victor and take him up on his offer to spend the holiday with his family. And the big question of Victor and Tyler. Did the Victor/Nicole and Victor/Tyler relationship meters just move?
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.8 – Nicole Finds her Place(mat) ]] So glad to see Nicole spending Thanksgiving with a family that truly cares about her. No judgement, no questions, just unconditional love. And a bonus – the sister she never had. Even if Victor and Nicole don’t wind up as a couple, she should see if Victor’s parents would adopt her. Although holding hands under the table definitely pushes the needle towards Victor and Nicole as a couple. (I’m rooting for them, BTW.)
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.9 – Tyler and Taylor, Part 1 ]] Tyler is lucky to have Aunt Kira there when Tyler is in such a vulnerable state. Almost like having the genie around, she has the wisdom of Solomon to help Tyler and Taylor sort out what is going through their mind, and their heart.
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.10 – Hurricane Hanna ]] Nicole is so unused to a family that cares about each other she almost blows it with the Machados. But Hanna to the rescue. I’ll be Nicole never attended, and certainly never hosted, slumber parties growing up. Not just because of the way her parents behave, but because they would have seen that kind of activity as gay, and therefore contagious. And not only is Hanna hosting Nicole’s first-ever slumber party, she is giving Nicole advice on how to fix everything with Madison. Although I would think Hanna would want to play matchmaker with Victor and Nicole. BTW, what if Hanna invited Victor to the slumber party? Victor’s parents would likely object, but Victor certainly has connections to both Hanna and Nicole. It might be fun for him.
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.11 - Tyler and Taylor, Part 2 ]] Again with the wisdom of Aunt Kira. And the egg metaphor. Taylor has arrived. RIP Tyler?
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Elron

Chapter 38.1 – A Phone Call^p At least Nicole had the sense to make the meeting in a public place. Still, things could go wrong, but not as likely. I think she should have tried to get more information out of them, but I’m guessing the caller was being as terse as possible.
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Elron

[[ Masquerades 101, Chapter 38 A Review By Elron Chapter 38.1 – A Phone Call ]] At least Nicole had the sense to make the meeting in a public place. Still, things could go wrong, but not as likely. I think she should have tried to get more information out of them, but I’m guessing the caller was being as terse as possible.
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.2 – Nicole, Victor, and Dave ]] Good idea bringing in a witness to whatever TK’s lawyers have planned. Unfortunately, Dave isn’t even a starting lawyer, he’s only a sports law student. Too bad they could not have gotten a practicing lawyer to help them out. TK’s people are professionals and know what they are doing, and making it look like they are doing the kids a favor while they are at it. Be very careful.
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.3 – The Meeting ]] So they want TK left out of any legal proceedings against Brandon. In return they will assist in the legal process against Brandon. But they sure don’t show their hand as to what that entails. No details, no evidence, just a promise. In legal terms, a ‘pig in a poke’. I think they could have held out for some tangible evidence and/or cash so that the TK lawyers could have shown some sincerity in their intent. If the kids knew what they were really getting into, they could have negotiated a more bulletproof contract. In my own legal opinion, however, the kids are all signing under duress because of the implied threat that Dave brings up by not signing. So it is questionable whether the waiver would even hold up in court, since they didn’t have any professional legal counsel to review and advise before signing.
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.4 – Over the River and Through the Woods – to Where? ]] I’m glad Victor warned Nicole about the phone call with Nicole’s mom, and that he had the good sense to invite Nicole to his house for Thanksgiving. Nicole was right, blowing up the bridge would have happened sooner or later. Gotta say, bringing someone home for Thanksgiving implies a relationship (that’s when I met my wife’s family) so maybe Victor and Nicole have a future together?
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Elron

[[Chapter 38.5 – The Genie is IN]] Josh really played it cool with Victor and Nicole. It’s interesting that he already has ideas for just the right wish to fix things, but will our 3 impulsive meddling kids actually listen and think before acting? And more reinforcement that Victor does indeed have friends. I like that. He needs those constant reminders. And in college if a girl had offered to spend the night no guy would have said no, especially given the bond they now share. Even if it really was just to sleep.
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.6 – I Dream of Jeannie ]] SO glad the genie came to visit Victor. They have a lot of catching up to do, what with all the wishes and mind alterations that went on. This is a really dark chapter in Victor’s life, and my review. I can’t believe all the things they did to Victor. And were the ‘buddies’ all members of TK? Is that who the waiver was protecting? Aside from the Brandon stuff there is a lot of introspection in this section. Identifying why the wish didn’t work the same way for Nicole, because she didn’t have anyone. What if she had chosen to get close (closer) to Kayla, Mads, or even Lexi while in Victor’s body. Could she have adapted to being a guy? Could have had a much different outcome to the story. Finally, the genie really breaks down the ‘love’ aspect of the relationship in a way that Victor can understand. So the Victor/Nicole relationship meter goes down a little and the Victor/Tyler/Taylor meter goes up. Is that a 3-way?
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.7 – Over the River and Through the Woods – In the Wrong Direction ]] Nicole going home to her biological family was a huge mistake. There’s just no way it could have ended as anything other than a complete disaster. Maybe worse than Nicole’s nuclear reaction to Vicky’s engagement. BTW, I remember having the ‘respect is earned, not demanded’ argument with my parents at about that age. Is that a common thing or a coincidence? And I have no idea what started that argument anymore. At least Nicole had the good sense to call Victor and take him up on his offer to spend the holiday with his family. And the big question of Victor and Tyler. Did the Victor/Nicole and Victor/Tyler relationship meters just move?
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.8 – Nicole Finds her Place(mat) ]] So glad to see Nicole spending Thanksgiving with a family that truly cares about her. No judgement, no questions, just unconditional love. And a bonus – the sister she never had. Even if Victor and Nicole don’t wind up as a couple, she should see if Victor’s parents would adopt her. Although holding hands under the table definitely pushes the needle towards Victor and Nicole as a couple. (I’m rooting for them, BTW.)
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.9 – Tyler and Taylor, Part 1 ]] Tyler is lucky to have Aunt Kira there when Tyler is in such a vulnerable state. Almost like having the genie around, she has the wisdom of Solomon to help Tyler and Taylor sort out what is going through their mind, and their heart.
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.10 – Hurricane Hanna ]] Nicole is so unused to a family that cares about each other she almost blows it with the Machados. But Hanna to the rescue. I’ll bet Nicole never attended, and certainly never hosted, slumber parties growing up. Not just because of the way her parents behave, but because they would have seen that kind of activity as gay, and therefore contagious. And not only is Hanna hosting Nicole’s first-ever slumber party, she is giving Nicole advice on how to fix everything with Madison. Although I would think Hanna would want to play matchmaker with Victor and Nicole. BTW, what if Hanna invited Victor to the slumber party? Victor’s parents would likely object, but Victor certainly has connections to both Hanna and Nicole. It might be fun for him.
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Elron

[[ Chapter 38.11 - Tyler and Taylor, Part 2 ]] Again with the wisdom of Aunt Kira. And the egg metaphor. Taylor has arrived. RIP Tyler?
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