Chapter 42 - Epilogue

Masquerades 101 by Emily


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Synopsis: Three years later...

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Saturday, March 26, 2022


Victor



My phone alarm went off. I fumbled around for it as it fell off the nightstand and onto the floor. I got out of bed, picked it up and dismissed the alarm.


I attempted to stretch and instead felt my equilibrium off. I steadied myself on the nightstand. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that extra drink last night at the rehearsal dinner.


A saw a pile of bedding roll over. “Uh, it’s too early.” it said.


I pulled the comforter off Taylor’s head. “Good morning. We have 40 minutes to get out of here.”


“No, you have 40 minutes, I have an hour” she re-covered her face with the comforter and rolled back over.


I hopped into the shower and cleaned off. I was under instructions to not wash my hair, yet shave my legs. I quickly did what I needed to do and got out of the shower, got dressed into a pair of shorts and a casual button down shirt.


I returned to the sleeping mass of bedding that was my wife. “Tay, honey, it’s your turn.” Her face appeared and I kissed her exposed lips. “See you tonight.”


“Hmm.” she said, pulling the covers off. “See you tonight. Good luck!”


I walked out of our hotel room and down the hall to Nicole’s room. I knocked on the door. A second later she opened up.


“Good Morning.” she said, buzzing with energy.


“I’m glad you’re wide awake.” I said.


Nicole gave me a big hug “I’m so nervous, Victor.” she said. “I’m wired.”


“So you don’t want coffee?” I asked.


“Whoa whoa, I need coffee if I’m not going to fall asleep when getting my hair done.” she said. “OK, I’m going to shower now.”


“You haven't showered yet?” I said.


“I was practicing my vows” she replied, walking into the bathroom and closing the door behind her.


Well I had some things I needed to do anyway. I sat down on her bed and picked up the phone. I called room service. “Hi yes, this is the bridal suite, I made a pre-order for breakfast.”


“It’ll be right up,” Room service replied.


I hung up the phone and sat there in silence, and played on my cell phone. Hanna was due up here in ten minutes. I reviewed today’s itinerary. Makeup, hair and nails, lunch, flowers, photography. 


Five minutes later, room service arrived with a box of coffee, various fruits, mini-omelets and pastries.


I heard the shower turn off.


After room service set up the food and left, Nicole poked her head out the bathroom. “All clear?”


“Yeah.” I said as she walked out in a white cotton robe that was embroidered with “Bride.”


There was a knock on the door and I went to answer it. It was Hanna and I let her in. “Welcome to the bridal suite” I said.


Hanna and Nicole hugged and said their “good mornings”, then we each poured some coffee and started picking at the fruit and omelets.


“I got gifts for you both.” Nicole said, rummaging through her bags. She pulled out matching cotton robes and flip flops for us.


“That’s so awesome.” Hanna said, draping her robe around her. The back of Hanna's robe was embroidered with “Bridesmaid.”


I looked at mine. My robe was embroidered with “Man of Honor.” I smiled and put it on over my shirt, and kicked off my socks and shoes. I pulled out my phone and looked for the playlist Nicole and Hanna asked for. I pressed play and some sweet jams started playing. 


Nicole started nervously swaying to the music.


There was a knock at the door. Hanna checked on it. It was the wedding coordinator escorting the hair and makeup stylists.


The stylists started setting up and we agreed on the order. Hanna was to go first, then me, then Nicole.


The wedding coordinator went over the itinerary with me to make sure I kept the girls on schedule.


As Nicole and I watched Hanna get her hair and makeup done, I sat down and kept her company. We reminisced about the past 3 years. About how we first met. About the 3 months we lived as each other. About graduation. About my own wedding 2 years ago. 


“Vic, you’re up.” Hanna said. Her hair was styled up with a few crossing braids in her hair. 


I sat down in the chair and one of the stylists gave me a weird look.


“Are we doing the same thing, sir?” she asked.


I confidently said, “Yes we are. I’m the Man of Honor after all.” After all, I’ve been growing my hair out since I discovered I was genderfluid. I’d love to see my hair done up like Hanna’s.


I intently watched the stylist style my hair through the reflection of the room mirror. It was so surreal watching her put in braids and hair products, then paint my fingernails and toenails and then do my makeup. I wanted to be as elegant as Nicole and Hanna. Well, not as elegant as Nicole. Rule number 1 of being a bridesmaid is to not show up the bride. 


It was a legitimate concern I had when Nicole asked me to be her Matron of Honor and even more of a concern when she asked me to wear a dress. Sure I’ve gone out with the girls in femme attire several times over the past 3 years, but I didn’t want to draw attention from Nicole on her wedding day. She assured me I wouldn’t and told me she wanted me as her number one bridesmaid more than the optics of a man in a bridesmaid dress. Granted, I was the second choice after Madison won the Lexi sweepstakes. She could’ve asked Hanna or Taylor, but she asked me. Her telling me that certainly put me at ease with the decision. My only caveat was to call me the Man of Honor. In fact, I looked forward to showing off Vicky in public.


Before I knew it, I was done and it was Nicole’s turn. 


“You look amazing Vicky,” Nicole said. 


Hearing her call me Vicky again put me in the right mood. I smiled and looked in the mirror and agreed. “Wow, they did an amazing job.” I had been experimenting with makeup occasionally, but the professionals did an amazing job. “I can’t wait to see what they do for you” I said to Nicole. “You’re going to be a beautiful bride.”


“Better than Taylor?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.


“Hey now,” I said, sticking out my tongue.


While Nicole was still getting her hair and makeup done, Mom came into the room to join us for lunch. We started getting our dresses out of their garment bags and hanging them up on the bellman cart. Nicole’s dress was obviously white and Hanna’s and my own were a pale pastel green.


The photographer was next and took a picture of us posing in our robes. Then the flowers came and Mom and Hanna gushed over the bouquets.


I took this opportunity to slip into my dress in private. 


I grabbed my own bag from the corner then took the dress from the bellman cart and into the bathroom. I shed the button down shirt and shorts.


I started by opening my bag and pulling out some medical tape. I taped my pecs together to create the illusion of cleavage. I pulled out a strapless bra I got for this occasion and pulled it on. Then I pulled out the modest silicone breast forms I got as well. I stuffed them into the bra and adjusted it. I only wanted enough to fill out the dress.


I then stepped into my bridesmaid dress. It slid on nicely and I loved the feeling of the dress on my skin. I pulled the straps over my bra and shoulders and admired how I looked. 


I saw Vicky in the mirror. “Hey girl.” I whispered. I smiled, and twirled the dress in private. When I got that out of my system I returned to the room where Nicole was done with her hair and makeup and Hanna was already in her dress.


Mom saw me and had a great big smile as she looked at the 3 of us.. “You girls look so beautiful.” she said.


“Thanks Mom,” Nicole said with a big smile.


Mom came over to me and gave me a hug. “You’re beautiful too Victor.”


“Thanks Mom.” I said, hugging her back.


“Alright, it’s my turn to get dressed,” Nicole said.


With that, I pulled Nicole’s dress off the cart and the Machado women all helped her get into her dress.


* * *


Taylor


We were sitting around in Madison’s room drinking wine, listening to Lexi’s playlist and waiting for the photographer. Naturally, Madison got a bottle of Malbec for the occasion. We were already done with hair, makeup and nails. Despite us wearing tuxedos, our hair was done up and our makeup done professionally.


Between songs, I turned to Lexi. “Lexi, how are you doing? I haven't seen you since the bachelorette party. We didn’t get to really chat at the rehearsal dinner.”


“It’s been busy being Josh’s campaign manager,” she said. “But I get to see the country.”


I chuckled. “Congress isn’t quite ready for Josh’s intensity.”


“No they are not.” Lexi laughed.


“I remember being his campaign manager when he won Student Body President.” I replied. “He didn't ask this time around.”


“He knew you and Vic wanted to settle down a bit.” she replied.


“Is he coming today?”


“Yeah he is.” she replied. “I made sure to add this to his calendar. He’s flying in this morning.” Lexi held up her wine glass. “Mads get in over here.” 


Madison came closer to us.


“Ladies,” Lexi said, holding up her wine glass. “To Mads and Nicole. Cheers,” We each echoed “Cheers” and clinked each other’s glasses.


After taking a sip, I stood up and smoothed out the gray tuxedo I was wearing. 


“These tuxes are so confining.” Lexi said, standing up with me. She was wearing an identical gray tuxedo. We each had matching green ties that matched the bridesmaid dresses. “The shirt is like, choking my neck. How do guys do this?”


“You get used to it at some point,” I said. “And you realize how powerful wearing a nice fitting tuxedo looks and feels.”


“I guess,” she said. “What is this?” She held up a handkerchief. 


“Here” I said, folding the cloth into a square and stuffing it in her jacket pocket. “Remember.” I told her. “Only button the top button of the jacket.”


Lexi laughed. “Tay, I remember when I gave you advice on how to dress like a woman. Here we are, you giving me advice on how to dress like a guy.”


When I was done with Lexi, I saw Madison standing there, unusually quiet. She stood there in her all white Tuxedo, one hand in her pants pocket the other holding the glass of wine.


“Need help?” I asked Madison. “I’ve never seen you this quiet.”


“I think I’m good.” she said. “Nervous. Excited. Anxious.”


“I saw her this quiet once before.” Lexi said. “Right before she proposed to Nicole.”


“Well, be careful with that wine.” I said. “Red wine and white tuxedos don’t mix. Should’ve maybe got a white wine.”


“You know me and my Malbec.” Madison responded.


I laughed. “I know. Come here, let me straighten out your tie.”


She moved closer to me and raised her head. I took her wine glass and handed it to Lexi, then I adjusted the tie knot on her neck. 


“That is a hot tuxedo, Mads,” Lexi said. “All white.”


“Hey - I’m still a bride.” she said.


Lexi handed Madison back her wine glass when I was done with the tie.


There was a knock at the door, Madison who was closest checked the peep hole. She recognized the people on the other side of the door and let them in.


Two guys came in. One older, one younger. 


“Ladies, this is my dad and brother. Guys, these are my bridesmaids Lexi and Taylor.”


“Pleasure to finally meet you both” Lexi said.


“I’m so proud of you,” Madison’s dad said, hugging her. “You look so beautiful.”


“Thank you Dad.” she said.


There was another knock on the door. This time it was the photographer. “Show time, ladies,” Lexi said, taking our wine glasses.


* * *


Victor


We had just gotten done taking pictures, and now we were waiting in the private room of the country club reserved for our half of the bridal party. Mom and Dad came and joined us as well for some pictures of the family.


“Vic, why were you and Taylor late yesterday for the rehearsal?” Mom asked, trying to make small talk.


“I was stuck at the office putting together a last minute presentation before the weekend.” I said. “Don’t worry, Taylor let me have it the whole ride here.”


“If you were working with us in the family business you wouldn't have been late” Dad said.


“Dad, I was late because I’m good at what I’m doing which is why I’m leading this marketing campaign.”


“You’re right, son,” he said. “I was just teasing. You know I’m very proud of you for going down a path of your own choosing and being successful.” He turned to Nicole and Hanna. “I’m proud of my daughters as well.”


That got an elated expression from Hanna.


Nicole, meanwhile, was standing there in her bridal gown pacing. 


“Nicole, you’re beautiful,” I said. “Everything's good. There’s nothing to be nervous about.”


“I know.” she said. “I’m going over my vows in my head. Why are you nervous? Stop pacing. You’re making me nervous.”


Was I pacing? “Well, I’ve never given a Matron of Honor speech,” I replied.


“You’ve given so many presentations over the past year, you think you’d be used to it by now.” she said.


“It's a completely different audience,” I replied. “And I’m wearing a dress!”


I heard a restrained laugh coming from my dad.


“Daaaad” I said. “We talked about this.”


“I know, I know,” he said. “I’m not entirely comfortable with this whole gender liquid stuff.”


“Genderfluid, Dad,” I said. “And you don't have to be comfortable with it. I’m the one who is wearing a dress.”


“He is absolutely beautiful, Dad,” Hanna interrupted. Hanna stepped in front of me and adjusted a strand of hair that fell out. “Thanks Nana” I smiled.


The wedding planner poked her head into the room. “We’re ready to go. It’s the mother of the bride’s time to be escorted.”


Mom got up and gave Nicole a hug. “We’re proud of you and Madison.”


* * *


Nicole


“Mr. Machado,” I said to him. “How are you doing?”


“I’m great,” he said. “I’m holding it together. I’m trying not to cry.”


“No, no. don’t say that.” I replied. “Now I’m going to cry.”


“I’m just proud of you kids.” he said.


“Stop, nobody cry!” Victor said. “We’re on in a minute!”


I stood there and looked at Victor, Hanna and Mr. Machado. This was it. I was getting married. This was never how I imagined this day growing up. I imagined a room full of bridesmaids. I imagined a groom on the other side of that door. I imagined my biological father here. But this. This was so much better. I had my new sister and brother here. Victor, who supports me and lifts me up. Hanna who reminds me to live, have fun, and not take life so seriously. My new unofficial father. A man who took me in with no questions asked and treated me more like a daughter than that other guy I share genetics with. On the other side of that door and down the aisle were my 2 best friends. One of them will soon be my wife. Madison is the love of my life and treats me like royalty. Lexi is the rock that keeps me steady. Taylor, my ex, who is new to being a woman, has such youthfulness and innocence, and reminds me not to be afraid to be myself.


The wedding planner came into the room. “Alright everyone, it’s time to line up like we rehearsed.” she said.


We all stood up. Hanna was the first one at the door.


I picked up her bouquet from her chair. “Forget something?”


“Right!” she said, taking the flowers from me. “I was just testing you.”


The door opened and we could hear the procession music. With that, Hanna slowly walked down the aisle like we practiced.


I stood face to face with Victor. We hugged and he gave me a peck on the cheek. 


“Good luck, sis.” he said.


With that, Victor picked up his flowers and slowly walked down the aisle and the doors closed behind him.


I picked up my bouquet and looked at the closed door, anxiously.


Mr. Machado stood up and offered me his arm. 


I let out an exhale. Here we go. I looped my arm around his and I could feel my jaw start to quiver.


“Breathe, Nicole,” he said. “You’ve got this. You’re going to knock ‘em dead! You have a beautiful fiancée waiting for you at the end of that aisle.”


I took a deep breath.


The doors opened and the string quartet started playing the song I chose for my walk down the aisle. 


Once I stepped through the door, I saw a room full of our wedding guests. I saw familiar faces in the crowd. Josh, Kayla, my co-workers, Madison’s extended family. A room full of smiles and love.


I looked straight ahead. At the very end of the aisle was my bride, Madison. She had a great big smile on her face. She was wearing a white tuxedo. My soon to be wife looked dashing. It was her idea for her to wear a tuxedo. She saw it on Pinterest and simply had to do it. She jokingly asked If I wanted to wear a tuxedo, and I quickly dismissed that. I pretended to be a man long enough back in college. I let her have this one.


We started slowly walking and I focused on Madison and tried not to let seeing familiar faces take me out of the moment.


We stopped in front of the altar and I hugged Mr. Machado. “Thank you… Dad,” I said, embarrassing him slightly.


He then hugged Madison, then took his seat next to Mrs. Machado and Aunt Shirley. I saw him wipe a tear from his cheek.


I gave my bouquet to Victor as I took Madison’s hands. Madison walked me to the center of the altar as we faced each other. 


Behind Madison, I could see Lexi and Taylor, both looking great in their tuxedos.


I returned my attention to Madison and I got lost in her eyes. Before long we were saying our vows. Then we were saying “I do.” Before I knew it, the officiant was announcing us as a married couple. Madison and I kissed in front of our family and friends.


“We did it.” Madison whispered to me. “You’re mine now.” she laughed.


“No, you’re mine,” I replied, laughing.


* * *


Victor


At the reception I was the first one to give a toast. I looked at my notes one last time, put them away and took the microphone.


“Hello everyone” I said. “I’m Victor, brother of the bride and Man of Honor. I first met Nicole senior year of college 3 and a half years ago. Nicole and I hit it off initially at first. We were so close I think often our friends would confuse us for each other.” That got a laugh from the audience. “Then we didn’t get along! Then we did again! Through all of it, we had some good times and some bad times. The one constant was that we realized when we selflessly helped each other, we were always able to pull ourselves through the worst of the times. Nicole became like a sister to me - we fought constantly!” More laughter. “Our other sister Hanna can attest to that.”


“Damn right!” I heard Hanna yell and more laughter. 


“But we loved each other and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her. And Madison. Can you believe I met Madison the same day I met Nicole. The moment I met Madison, I knew she was hopelessly in love with Nicole even if Nicole didn’t know it. Madison has become a best friend to me as well. Mads and I share a passion for art. It would be me and Madison dragging Nicole and my wife Taylor out to art exhibits and museums. What I learned almost immediately was that Mads brings out the best in Nicole. And if she doesn’t, Mads will give her an earful.” Laughter. “Together they make one hell of a couple. They’re the first ones around when my wife or I need something. Even though I got married first, I would often look to Nicole and Madison for relationship advice. How they treat each other. How they keep the romance going. How they compromise. How they make up after they fight. I already consider them both sisters, and today just makes it official.” I took a breath and held up my champagne flute. “So I want to propose a toast to the happy couple. Nicole and Madison. Cheers.”


Everyone took a sip and there was applause. I hugged Nicole, then Madison and I handed the microphone off to Lexi and sat down in my seat next to Taylor.


“You did good, honey,” Taylor said, giving me a kiss.


“Hi everyone, I’m Alexis. I’m the Best Woman and best friend of both of the brides.” she said into the microphone. Lexi took a breath and looked at the brides. “Look at you both. My sisters. So beautiful. Well, you finally did it. You finally tied the knot. It’s the job of the best man to embarrass everyone right?” The guests laughed. “Well there are so many embarrassing stories I can tell. More stories than Victor and Taylor even know about. Yeah - I’m that friend. The often sober, more logical friend. Whenever shit is going down, I’m the one at the center of the storm, trying to calm it. So let me tell you, I’ve got some stories.” Laughter. “Sorry, No. No, I'm not going to embarrass them. I am however going to tell them both how much I love them and how much they have changed my life. I never knew when I rushed that sorority that I’d find life-long friends in Nicole and Madison. We were sisters. Of course it didn’t take long for me to realize my sisters were crushing on each other. Hard. That certainly made for some awkward nights out. Thankfully Victor and Taylor came around or I would’ve been the third wheel!” Laughter. She deadpanned and spoke closer to the microphone, “I become the fifth wheel.” More laughter. “Nah, but seriously, I’m so thrilled they finally figured out that they were meant for each other. I’m so glad I got a front row seat to watch them meet, become friends, fall in love, and finally to get married. I wish for them an eternity of happiness. Cheers.”


* * *


It was mid-morning. What a night. Taylor and I walked into the restaurant in silence and found an empty table. Taylor was wearing sunglasses and just gave me a smirk. Through our 2 years of marriage I learned those non-verbal cues that told me “I’m hung over, don’t talk to me yet.” Taylor ordered a mimosa. I needed something stronger and ordered a Bloody Mary.


We were in the middle of eating our brunch buffet when Hanna showed up and sat with us. 


She only gave a casual smile. “I haven’t drank so much since my 21st birthday.”


“That was only last month.” Taylor replied.


“Hmm.” Hanna nodded, taking a sip of a mimosa.


Next Lexi joined us. “Good Morning Machados!” she said.


“Too chipper, Lexi,” I said.


“Sorry I’ll tone it down.” she said.


Minutes later, Nicole and Madison pulled up another table to ours and sat down.


“There’s the brides!” Lexi said.


“You disappeared last night after the reception.” Hanna said.


“Oh Hanna, when you get married you’ll disappear after the reception too.” Taylor said.


Nicole and Madison giggled.


“What did we miss at the after party?” Nicole asked.


“Lots of craziness.” Hanna said. “I think Aunt Shirley drank my dad under the table.”


“That’s not surprising,” Nicole said with a laugh.


“I seem to recall a certain college girl getting hot with Madison’s brother.” Lexi said.


Hanna turned bright red.


“Hanna!” Madison said. “Were you making out with my brother?”


Hanna shrugged. “I mean, he’s my age...”


“I’m keeping my eye on you, girl.” Madison replied.


“Mads, I even saw your dad dancing with us.” I added.


“I’m glad he had a good time.” she replied. “Oh, before I forget, Hanna, are you still available to return the tuxes? We need to get home and pack for the honeymoon.”


“Yeah.” she replied. “I have some time before I need to get back to school.”


“Great.” Madison replied.


“Speaking of tuxes, all three of you looked great last night.” Hanna said. “So dapper.”


“Thank you,” Madison responded. “I was inspired by a few pictures on social media. I know I couldn’t get Nicole in a tux.”


“Nope,” Nicole added. “That was not going to happen.”


“Originally I was just going to have me and Vic wear tuxedos,” she said. “But then I thought it would be sharper if my side wore tuxes and Nicole’s side wore dresses. Since Victor OK’d it, it was done.”


“Everyone looked great - especially the Machado sisters,” Lexi said. “Nicole, Hanna… and Vicky.”


I smirked. 


“Vic, did anyone give you a hard time?” Nicole asked.


“Nope.” I replied. “All of you except Hanna have seen me in a dress, many of the other guests already knew I was genderfluid. Those who didn’t complimented me on it. Maybe some strangers gave me sideways glances.”


“When else have you worn a dress?” Hanna asked.


“We convinced Vicky to go clubbing in a dress last year.” Lexi said. “Just us girls. He… she had a blast.”


I nodded. “I did. I had forgotten what it felt like to be Vicky, and being in the presence of you ladies really brought her out.”


“Well Vic, you were stunning in that dress last night.” my wife agreed.


“Well you looked great in that suit.” I replied to her.


“Tay, have you missed wearing suits?” Lexi asked.


“I dunno,” she said. “I hadn’t thought about it. I definitely pulled off the look,” she said. “But I’m OK being an occasional tomboy over being an actual boy.”


That elicited a laugh from the table.


“It almost felt like old times.” she said and then looked at me. “I mean those 3 months where I was the boyfriend and you were the girlfriend.”


“I certainly don’t miss those 3 months” Nicole chimed in.


“When’s everyone leaving?” Lexi asked.


“In a few minutes.” Nicole said. “The car is already packed.”


“We’re spending another night here.” Taylor said.


“Yeah” I replied. “I wanted to take my wife on a date night while we’re still on vacation here.”


“We should get going,” Madison said, chugging the rest of her mimosa.


We all said our goodbyes and told the happy couple to have fun on their honeymoon. Shortly after, everyone left to go check out and it was just Taylor and I. We paid our tab and walked up to our room.


“You know, Vic,” Taylor said, opening the door to our hotel room. “I wasn’t lying. You were hot in that dress.”


“I know,” I said, chuckling. “You were hot as well.”


“No, seriously” she said, closing the door behind her. “I was actually getting horny for you during the reception.”


“Really?” I asked. “Me in a dress?”


“Yes, you in a dress.” she said. “Remember, when I first met you, you were wearing a dress. I remember you in that purple dress and your hands were covered with wing sauce. I wanted to ravage you then.”


I laughed. “I wonder if Nicole still has that dress.” I reminisced.


“If you ever want to… role-play Vicky and Tyler, I’m up for it.” she said. “Maybe tonight?”


I stood there in our hotel room in silence. That does sound fun. “Are you serious?”


“I got you thinking about it.” she said.


“It’s tempting.” 


“Let's go intercept Hanna before she returns those tuxes.” she said. “You still have your dress. We were already planning a date night tonight. But this time it would just be Tyler and Vicky.”


Both Taylor and I stood there smiling at each other. I started daydreaming about putting that dress back on. About Taylor wearing that tuxedo. Out on the town, having drinks, obnoxiously flirting. Then my mind fast-forwarded to getting back to our room. Me unbuttoning her tux. My dress, sliding down to the floor.


“I um…” I said, clearing my throat. I smiled “Are you asking me on a date Tyler?”


“I am, Vicky.”


“Absolutely.”


* * *


When I first met Taylor, she told me that everyone goes through life wearing masks. She was talking about a video game and societal expectations at the time, but 3 years later, I can see how right she was.


We all go through life wearing masks. We hide away parts of ourselves because we’re afraid the world will see our true self. I was afraid the world would see my heartache. Nicole was afraid she couldn’t conform to her parents’ expectations. Taylor was afraid of how being her true self will affect how people treated her. 


When I first met Nicole, our Freaky Fall forced us into a situation where we saw behind each other's masks. Seeing behind our masks was a very intimate and frightening experience for both of us. After that, it was easier to see how the world saw us because we now had the perspective of another. With my mask off, I did the scariest thing imaginable, I opened my heart to love. Once Taylor took her mask off for me, there was no turning back for either of us. We saw our true selves and that’s who we fell in love with.


It wasn't easy for Nicole to watch me find happiness initially and she retreated behind her mask once again. She couldn’t hide behind it anymore though. I saw through it, and so did Madison. The other side of the coin of not knowing how the world sees us, is seeing things that are obvious to everyone else. It was obvious to me that Madison only had eyes for Nicole. While it hurt us all to see Nicole at her lowest, Madison was the one who saved her. She had always seen who she was behind her mask and was patient while Nicole realized it.


When we swapped back we found we could no longer hide behind our masks to each other. When we started working together, we realized neither of us was alone anymore. I could lean on my new sister to have my back, and she could lean on me to have hers.


Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if Taylor didn’t make that wish. Would all three of us still be in hiding? I don’t worry too much about it because I know that I’m no longer alone. I have my family and I have my sisters to help me through anything.


THE END


Author's Notes and Acknowledgements



Wow. 1 year and 42 chapters later right? First of all, I want to thank ETSD for the idea that led to Masquerades 101. I wasn’t really into body swap stories, but he gave me a dream sequence that spurred my imagination. He also spent countless hours reading and rereading my drafts and ideas, and providing me feedback on the direction each chapter was taking. His feedback was invaluable and it was a pleasure working with him on this project.


I also want to acknowledge my proofreaders. Aside from ETSD, dgenerateone was the other official editor. Back in Act 1, NatalieRobyn was also an editor and kept some of those early chapters on track. I had a number of Discord members who would also send me post-publish corrections as well. Phina and Elisa were very gracious to spend their own time pointing out and helping me to correct stuff that slipped through the editing process - which was a lot! You never really consider how hard editing a novel is until you start writing.


Of course I also want to thank all of the readers - especially those who interacted with me on the various fiction platforms during the course of the story. Without you, this wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable and I likely wouldn't still be writing.


What can I say about M101 that hasn’t already been said? This story turned out to be a very different type of story than my previous novels, and even the short stories I wrote in the past year. I originally set out to write a body swap that included an MtF story and an FtM story. But that’s not what came out of my keyboard when I sat down to write. Victor’s story was going to be one of romance, Nicole’s story was going to be one of dysphoria. A woman literally trapped in a man’s body. It was hard at times writing Nicole’s portion of the story because it hit so close to home for many readers. It angered characters in the story. It angered readers. I certainly caught flak from some readers for veering off from traditional TG fiction wish fulfillment themes, but I wanted M101 to mirror questions many people have about gender. It’s not clean in real life. It’s messy. People experiment. They experiment some more. They learn about themselves in the process. And Nicole, Victor, and Taylor still aren’t done growing at the conclusion of the story. I see their journey only just beginning as they enter adulthood.


Again, thank you again for joining us on this journey.


The Making of Masquerades 101 - by ETSD


In December 2010 I woke one morning after having a peculiar dream. Usually my dreams are quite visual and follow a structured (although usually bizarre) narrative. This dream was more of a glimpse into an emotional state. I spent the first hour or so of that day trying to unravel the web of emotions my unconscious mind had presented me. Behind those emotions was a tale of a boy that got caught up in someone else's wish.


Ten years later, a promising new author finishes her second story and announces that she has set up a Discord and is open to taking suggestions for her next story. I looked through my notes (I have outlines for dozens of stories I keep telling myself I will write one day), and rediscovered my notes about that dream. This was not a story I was ever going to write, and it seemed like it would fit with this author's style, so I reached out and submitted the concept.


She agreed that it seemed like a good fit, and immediately started outlining her next story. Before I knew it there was a rough draft of chapter one in my inbox, and shortly thereafter the story was showing up on fiction sites. The rest is history.


I have been reading fiction like this for over twenty years. That has led me to wanting to see things outside the normal formula. One of the first questions Emily had was about Victor potentially being trans or an egg. I didn’t really want to go that direction. There are so few stories where the temporary female returns to being male, let alone wants to stay that way. And this was more a story about relationships than it was about gender identity. Well that’s how it started, but it’s hard to keep a gender crossed body swap story free of such things. Regardless, one of the focal conflicts was “how do you reconcile that you fell in love with a guy while you were a girl and that you are now a guy again and don’t want to be a girl?”.


I tried to push for more casually attired females throughout the story. This is one of my pet peeves in fiction. Every man who finds himself a woman quickly finds themselves in a tight dress and high heels with their makeup done to the nines. While there is no problem in people wanting to go all out, I have never understood anyone’s (male or female) desire to do so. Drop me into a story where I get to magically be an attractive woman (I’d prefer cute or pretty over beautiful) and you are going to get a lot of t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. As such, I personally would love to see more fiction where the new female just wears comfortable clothes.


The most interesting part of the story for me was the ending. The dream I had took place after the swap back, but wasn’t the actual ending to the story. This meant that we had to build the story backwards from the moment in the dream, and then attempt to extrapolate forward to the ending. Definitely an interesting exercise in creative writing.


I've never submitted an idea to an author or worked with an author on a story before. Emily was engaged from the first correspondence. She saw the real story shining through my rough outline. She took great care to make sure things didn't stray too far from my original dream despite my insistence that her story was only based on that dream and if it was better for straying that mattered more. She also wanted to get to know me as a person. Over the course of more than a year she has honestly engaged in hearing me drone about who I am, how I feel, and what my life has been like. I don't have anyone else in my life who has ever cared enough to try to get to know me more than "likes and dislikes". Through our chats I like to think that I have provided some insight that has helped her on her journey as an author and a person, but even if that is not the case, it has been wonderful finding someone that I consider a friend.


While Emily was very upfront with how she would add, modify, or remove details to take my dream and turn it into her story, she held enough details back that I was able to be surprised along the way. This was greatly appreciated as I have greatly enjoyed all the twists and turns. One of the biggest differences was that my dream didn't have an ending. It was just a snapshot in time (specifically the boy after returning to his own body struggling to accept that he is still part of the friend group). The other notable differences would be the genie (there was no specified source of the wishes in the dream), and the size and composition of the friend group (in the dream it was approximately six girls and six boys).


I had concluded that a genie would be a good fit as two wishes had been granted in the dream leaving a third to resolve the story, but did not mandate such a detail. Emily saw the potential of including not only the existence of a genie, but making the genie a character and giving them a backstory that tied everything together. Of course, said backstory necessitated the addition of an evil fraternity that was completely absent from the dream, but it really helped to bring the right level of mystery and drama to the story.


The friend group was something that I would have loved to have closer to the dream. It would have provided a slower acceptance of being in a friend group, more opportunities for different characters to push the boy towards discovering new things as they all have unique perspectives, and most importantly it would have made the fight epic. While the actual fight was not in the dream because the boy was not there for it (similar to Vicky showing up late), it was clear from what he had been told that many of the friends disagreed during the fight and each of them had wildly different takes regarding what lies had been told and how the situation played out. Some of the friends didn't even join the disagreement until they had something particularly poignant to add. But pulling off that version of the fight would be no small feat, and requires so much time dedicated to such a wide cast, that I completely understand limiting the group how she did.


Having the story told from three perspectives was such a great choice. I would have written the story from only the boy's perspective. It allows the reader to be surprised by more of the details as there is more opportunity for them to emerge from the background. But Emily saw that this story isn't about the reader being surprised along with the main character through experiences, it is a story about three people who all have their personal problems brought to the forefront by a wish, the struggles they have, the truths they discover, and ultimately how they grow into the people they are because of everything. That story needs to be told from multiple perspectives so that the reader can see how they all helped each other.


It’s been a fun experience working together on this story, watching the story unfold, seeing the reactions from the community, and reflecting back on it all. It wasn't until act four that I recognized myself in the story. Every detail I revealed in conversation was put right into the story. I wasn't asking for the story to be about me, but if you have read Emily's other work, you know that her stories are about the people who inspire them. So which character do I see myself in? All three. I am no stranger to anger management issues and toxic family members (Nicole), I have struggled to find acceptance from others and tend to keep to myself all the while wanting to be part of a group where I can openly and happily be my best self (Victor), and my personal journey of understanding myself has not been easy and I have tried to avoid it by occupying my time with gaming (Taylor). Towards the end my hands would shake while reading and I realized this is because I am looking deeper into a mirror with every word.


Now we are at the end. It is sad to not have a “next chapter” to look forward to, but I don’t feel a desire for the story to be anything more than it is.


***


An excerpt from an early conversation that involved Tyler’s third wish also being made without much thought resulting in him becoming Taylor despite him never wanting such a change (Tyler wasn’t non-binary yet, and Taylor wasn’t trans yet). In this scene Taylor has revealed herself to Victor in the cafeteria at lunch about a week after her final wish:


Victor: Why did you make another wish?

Taylor: Because I missed you, I missed us ... dearly.

Victor: Why did you wish to be a girl?

Taylor: I didn't. Well not exactly anyway. My wish was worded ambiguously ... you think I would have learned my lesson by now.

Victor: You don't seem too upset.

Taylor: I was ... at first. But then ... well I guess I realized nothing about this feels wrong. In fact, the more I thought about it ... the more everything felt right.

Victor: So ... you're happy like this?

Taylor: I think so? Yes. Well ... I am happy, but I could be happier. The only thing missing in my life is ... a boyfriend.

Victor: <Eyes go wide> You mean ... ?

Taylor: <Eyes beginning to tear up, betraying her desire to remain strong as she puts her heart in his hands> If you'll have me. We don't have to rush into anything, or pick up where we left off. Hell, we can approach this however you want. I just don't want to go another day without you in my life.

Victor: And you'll never have to.



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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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marter

This story was a such a joy to read and follow this past year. Thank you for sharing it with us.
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Emily

Thank you for reading and all of your interaction over the past year!
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Joejedfjsj

Has it been a year already. Once again a great story has graced our screens. Thanks for the story, can’t wait to see what you do next
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Emily

Thanks for reading. I have a few ideas I'll let my discord members vote in. But I may do some shorts before jumping into my next novel
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Elyssa

Only thing I can say is, it's unique. There aren't any other books like this.
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Emily

Well, thanks for reading and making it all the way to the end!
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