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JDL23

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  1. Sorry about that! I meant to post the link with the actual timestamp. It starts around 39 min. 45 sec. in.
  2. So, on the latest episode of "Always Open," the girls were discussing issues with pregnancy and bladder control. Barbara, at one point, just straight up says, "I wish it were socially acceptable to wear a diaper." You can watch the video for yourself here.
  3. Aww, way to go, Lili!
  4. Thanks, everyone, for all your kinds words! I'm glad you all liked this story so much. To be honest, I had my doubts about finishing it early on, but it's encouragement like this (plus some time) that helped me get this far.
  5. Hey everyone, it's the final chapter. Thank you so much for sticking with this story. Expect to see it up on the main site sometime soon! --- Fourteen: That’s A Wrap, Folks Three dozen eyes tracked me around the room. I didn’t move. I didn’t speak. All I could do was stand there, in total silence, and wait. At the head of the classroom, Greg finished his introduction and turned to me with a smile. “They’re all yours, J-Man,” he said. I flashed him a grin. “Much obliged, Greg.” Greg sat down near the front of the class, and I took his spot at the podium. It felt surreal being on this end of the education system, even though I was used to having an audience. And that feeling didn’t get better when I realized that most of these college kids were only eight or seven years younger than me. There weren’t all that many years between us. Ah, well. After my previous month, this was nothing. “Morning, guys and girls,” I said. Clapping my hands together, I looked around. “So, who here has ever seen community theater...?” *** Dust floated through a shaft of sunlight in the window. It swirled around, caught up in a sudden gust from my feather duster. A few quick swipes removed another layer from my den’s shelves and added to the mixture in the air around Emily’s head. She glared up at me from underneath the TV table. Well, more like she pouted, which was still pretty adorable. “Ugh,” she exclaimed, “I am taking the longest shower after this.” “You want some company?” I teased. “Keep dreaming, girlie.” “Hey, you girls shower together all the time, right?” “Ha! Only in your wildest porn collection.” “Like yours is any cleaner?” I brandished my feathery tool at her. “Apparently, you’ve got a thing for guys in women’s clothing—” She jumped up from her crouch. I dodged the snap of her dusting cloth from her left, and then the playful slap from the right. Emily giggled through her fury, and I couldn’t help but laugh, too. It had been a memorable two weeks. In that time, the only contact we got from Mr. and Mrs. Parcher was through their attorney, which suited Emily just fine. Several signed pieces of paper later, all of her ties were finally cut. No more guilt trips. No more surprise calls. No more private detectives. Emily was a persona non grata, and she was free to give up the house that she could no longer afford on her own. She was also free to have a few late-night crying sessions. I took it upon myself supply all the requisite cuddles and tissues so she could sleep. But once the house went up for sale, she began to pack up all her things. I offered my help with that, so long as she could help me prepare my place for a new housemate. What amazed me the most, though, was how little we saw of the “other” Jordan. I still occasionally put on my wig and a cute skirt, but Jordan Baker only came out once the sun went down and all the dishes were put away. Emily, to her credit, treated me about the same in both personas, so my alter ego wasn’t needed as much to help with the transition into a real couple. But when she did come out, the sex was pretty mind-blowing. Back in the present, I took up a box marked “Fragile.” I gave it a cautious shake, heard glassware tinkling around inside, and gently set it back down on the floor. Emily watched me with her arms crossed and a teasing smile. “Look,” she said, “if it’s marked with a ‘G,’ that’s from my grandmother, so don’t break it.” “Okay. How about the stuff marked ‘M’ or ‘D’?” “All stuff from Mom and Dad.” Emily shrugged. “Break as much of it as you want.” “Don’t mind if I do!” I threw back my head and let out a wild cackle. Then, without missing a beat, I spun around, sweeping my leg up for a devastating kick that would destroy a small shopping bag marked "M." Of course, I froze my leg in the air a few inches above the bag and glanced over my shoulder at Emily. She shook her head and smiled. “You’re such a dork.” “I know you are, but what am I?” “My new idiot landlord, apparently.” I withdrew my leg and frowned. “Hey, now. That’s not fair. I’m letting you stay here rent-free.” “Uh, remind me how that works again?” “Ok, maybe not entirely for free. You’re paying me back in groceries, an extra hand with keeping the place clean, and, you know, the general pleasure of your company.” Emily went quiet for a moment. I could see how much those kinds of compliments affected her. And every time I saw that, I let loose a mental flurry of insults against the nonsense that George and Virginia had put into her head growing up. How could such a talented artist have so little concern for herself? “You really mean it, don’t you?” she finally said. I smiled and walked over. Putting my arms around her, I whispered, “You know it’s true.” Emily sighed into my shoulder. “It’s okay if I keep asking you that a hundred times over, right?” “Sure. And I’ll answer the same every time.” She sighed again, and her fingers dug into my shoulders. I closed my eyes, and we took a much-needed break in our chores. Around us, the dust swirled through a shaft of sunlight and settled across us without protest. *** “...Now, the really cool thing is, no matter what, you’re never really alone on stage. It might say in the script, ‘And here is where Prince Hamlet delivers his soliloquoy,’ but that’s not true. He’s got characters like Ophelia and Claudius spying on him. He’s not supposed to know this, of course, so he thinks he’s just thinking out loud. And more importantly, you’ve got an audience watching you. Intruding on a private moment like the filthy voyeurs they are.” I paused and soaked in the class’s laughter. Then, with a chuckle, I stepped back. “Well, that about wraps up my lecture.” I glanced around the room. “Any questions?” Several hands shot up. I called on a black girl in a yellow sweater. “Is it really hard to get into theater?” she asked. “Like, you know, are you giving up your life to be on the stage? Or is it something you can manage with other projects or jobs?” “Good question!” I answered. I thanked her with a quick nod, then swept my gaze over the room. “So, if you’re a sad little geek like me, then, yes, the theater will devour every waking second you have.” I paused for another round of laughs. “No, but seriously, you’re already figuring out as college students how to find the right work-life balance. Trust me, it took me a few years to get it right, too...” *** Not even a day after we finished moving her in, Emily became the center of the neighborhood’s attention once again. Maureen, Janice, and Alice organized a small get-together at my place. An “impromptu housewarming party,” as Maureen put it. Complete with angel food cake and white wine. Even though I’d been living there for years without the same treatment, I didn’t complain. I mean, how could I when I saw the giant grin on Emily’s face the entire night? I had to admit, for all her gossipmongering, Maureen was an excellent hostess. She whipped up the cake herself, and her neighbor Alice—whom I now suspected of being more than just her neighbor, given the way they smiled at each other when they spoke—had brought the wine from a friend with a vinyard. Janice, meanwhile, spent the entire evening bending poor Emily’s ear about her grandchildren and about parenting, and then apologizing every time she brought up the subject of parents, and then awkwardly complimenting Emily’s dress for the fortieth time. Now, that last part made me laugh. Emily had originally picked out that floral print dress for me. That was the other surprise of the housewarming party. None of the three older ladies made a single comment or query about my crossdressing. I couldn’t decide if they were too embarrassed to ask or if they were actually being respectful. And then, I decided I didn’t care either way. The little smile and thumbs-up that Emily gave me from across the room was all I needed to see. *** “...And that’s all you need to know about the AEA.” I shrugged. “To be honest, though, you could look up all this and more on your phones in, like, two seconds. But thank you for your question... Josh, was it? Yeah, thank you, Josh. It’s good to get informed early on.” I scanned the room for more eager faces. As I did, my eyes caught something on the periphery. I half-turned and noticed a familiar face smiling at me through the window of the door. “Sorry,” I said to Greg. “I think I need to cut this short if that’s cool.” “Hey, no problem.” Greg turned and raised his voice for the entire room. “We had a great time as it was. Right, guys?” A chorus of yeah’s and a round of applause came back to us. I laughed and shook Greg’s hand. Then I offered waves and smiles back to the room as I headed out. In the hallway of the community college building, Emily stood next to a small bench across the way. She wore a green dress underneath a white cotton jacket. For some reason, as our eyes met, I got the strangest feeling of déjà vu. Like we’d met under the same circumstances not too long ago. But I shook my head and took a step toward her. Emily fell into my arms with a giggle. “How’d it go?” “They’re sharp,” I replied, pausing for a kiss on her cheek. “The next generation’s in good hands.” “Awesome. I’m so glad we got to do this.” “Me, too. Wanna celebrate?” Emily looked up at me, teasing her bottom lip through her teeth. For the briefest moment, I felt like I’d said something troubling. “Um, sure,” she said. “I was, uh, gonna suggest the Adams Bistro, but... well, that’s not exactly a place I want to visit anytime soon.” I nodded. “Sure, sure. Consider it crossed off the list of suggestions.” “But, you know, there’s that little Asian market on the way home. How about I treat you instead to a plate of spaghetti and a bottle of Merlot?” I chuckled, looping my arm around her shoulder. “As served by a cute girl like you? Count me in.” “Don’t forget. This cute girl can pin you down anytime she likes.” I grinned at her enthusiasm. Then, as I looked her over, I got a terrible impulse in mind. Without no warning, I slipped my hand down from her shoulder to the small of her back. Very gently, I teased a finger across her waistline, where I felt—and heard—a distinct crinkling. “Oh!” Emily’s face turned bright red. She glanced around the empty hallway. Then her eyes found me again in a vicious glare. “Really? You want to check me now?” “Relax, Em.” I grinned as we made our way back to the front doors. “It’s not so bad. Besides, if you need changing, I’d rather find a bathroom now than have you sit in it for too long.” “Hmph. You’re such a dad.” “And you’re cute when you’re mad. It’s only fair.” Emily opened her mouth to respond, but she stopped herself. I noticed a sudden, sinister glint in her eye. I didn’t resist when she slipped her hand down my side and gave the back of my jeans a not-so-gentle swat. I had to flinch when I heard the diaper underneath rustle in response. “For a Daddy,” Emily teased, “you sure do you enjoy being diapered, too.” Now it was my turn to blush. “You know, it’s not so bad when you’re trying to build your confidence. I forgot I was even wearing it halfway through the lecture today.” “That’s good!” Emily’s grin was merciless. “Practice for later tonight.” “Oh, don’t worry. I think cute little Jordan will make an appearance.” She laughed, and I slid my arm tight around her waist. Emily leaned into me, utterly carefree, and we pressed on through the doors, out into the quad, and back to my car. Overhead, birds were chirping, and a soft orange shine from the early evening sun touched everything we saw. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to be out on a fine autumn day, in boring old Thebes Park of all places. If you’d told me last summer that I’d be happy to be there, I’d have laughed in your face and called you crazy. Well, I’d still laugh in your face now, but that’s only because I’m crazy, too. It helps considering the company I keep. THE END
  6. Janice told Jordan that Maureen Davis was there witnessing (read: eavesdropping on) the dinner with Emily's parents. Compared to the questions that the neighbors all got from a private detective about Emily's female roommate, she pieced the rest of it together. I realize now, though, that that tidbit might not have come through in my writing. Thanks for reading, though. Only one more chapter left!
  7. Thirteen: Like There’s No Tomorrow Honestly, it was the silence that was the worst of it. We sat around a table in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by other families enjoying their wine with fresh-baked salmon and roasted chicken. Emily gripped onto my hand as she faced down the death glare from her parents. George and Virginia Parcher sat across from us, their drinks and dinner untouched. George didn’t offer a word as we sat down. He didn’t seem willing to even acknowledge that we were there anymore. Virginia, meanwhile, was less willing to keep quiet. She offered a sniff of disapproval when her eyes finally settled onto me. “It’s disgusting, what you did,” she declared. “It’s worse than fraud. It’s perverted! It’s hideous! I can’t even begin to describe how awful you’ve been!” Shouting matches in public were, sadly, nothing new to an actor. I didn’t mind the eyes and ears that turned our way once she spoke. And I’d even memorized my lines for the occasion. Nothing that Virginia had hurled my way was a surprise. I’d expected to get about this much abuse. “I know,” I finally said. “I’d like to apologize. I can’t offer any excuse for what I did.” “Jordan, don’t,” Emily started to say. Her mother, however, cut her off with another glare. A waiter came and went, refilling half-empty glasses of water and, unusually, not bothering to ask how we liked our dinner so far. He must have read the temperature of our little party. “I always thought that you were wasting your time here,” Virginia continued, “but I’d never imagine that you were being so outrageous, Emily. I mean, dear God. Living with an unmarried man? Dressing him up as your roommate? Have you no shame?” Her eyes snapped toward me, her stare as black as coal. “Do either of you? Or are your father and I the only sensible people left on this earth? We must be, because they’d never let us back into the country club if they knew about this. About the things you’ve done! Your whole neighborhood was talking about all those horrible things—” “Mother, please!” Emily’s voice came out in a harsh whisper. “Keep your voice down!” “Oh, so now you’re concerned about your propriety? Well, there’s a surprise!” “Mother, you’re being petulant and you know it. I really am sorry I deceived you, but it... it wasn’t as if I had any choice!” “No choice? Emily Louise, you had every right to—” “No, Mother. No, I didn’t.” Emily’s eyes flashed up to her parents, and this time, she was the one glaring daggers in their direction. “If I had to choose between my independence as an adult and being married off to the likes of Calvin Winchester, then guess what? I’m gonna damn well choose the former. Even if I have to convince my next-door neighbor to dress up like a girl to sell it, because that’s how much I hate this whole thing.” I couldn’t have been prouder of Emily when she said that. True to our agreement, though, I said nothing in her defense. It was the hardest thing in the world to sit there and keep silent, but I did my best to radiate strength at her. And I saw that confidence that her parents kept trying to shatter rebuild itself piece by piece, right before my eyes. Virginia, however, didn’t like the confidence one bit. She glowered in her next salvo. “Calvin Winchester is a fine young man. He’s good-looking, he comes from a respectable family, and he’s set at his father’s company to make more than enough money for the both of you. You’d be out of your mind to turn him down.” “Well, guess what, Mother? I am.” Emily blinked. “Turning him down, I mean. Not that I’m out of my mind.” “Hmph. So you say.” Her gaze snapped over to me again. “And you’re going to defend her on this? Honestly, if you were really her friend, you’d tell her to stop being so silly.” “Don’t drag him into this!” Emily protested. “I asked him to be here.” “Why? So you could humiliate us further?” “Mother, please. Your voice. You’re the one who’s being embarrassing—” “Emily, that’s enough.” All eyes shifted to George, who had finally spoken. He remained seated, completely still except for a subtle twitch of his mouth. In the corner of my eye, I saw Emily shrink back, her body language already conceding defeat. A scared little girl when Daddy spoke up. “You watch your tone, little lady,” George continued. “You’ve abused our trust and our money long enough. You need to straighten yourself out.” Emily opened her mouth, but he didn’t give her a moment’s pause. “It’s come down to this. Either you come back home and accept Calvin’s proposal, or you’re cut off. For good.” “Cut off?” I didn’t recognize the tiny voice that came out of Emily’s mouth. “Daddy...” “Emily, that’s final. Do you understand?” I didn’t say a word. To his credit, George didn’t look at me. I wasn’t even part of the equation in his mind. This was a long time coming between him and his daughter. Looking over at Emily, I saw tears in her eyes. It took every ounce of willpower not to offer her a handkerchief or stroke her hair. I did neither of those things. My role required perfect stillness. Whatever Emily did then, I couldn’t interfere. Really, that was the whole point of this meeting. To prove that she was her own person. That her life was hers. Emily closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. “Mom? Dad?” She lifted her chin. Her eyes opened and she looked at her parents. “I think we’re done here.” “Think about what you’re doing,” George hissed. “We’ll cut you off, Emily. Say goodbye to that house. All those car payments. All those free tickets. All gone.” “I won’t miss it.” “Emily!” “Sorry, Dad, not this time.” Emily pushed herself away from the table. She stood, as did I. “Let’s go, Jordan.” I nodded. “Right behind you, Em.” I turned back to her parents and nodded. “Good night.” Emily led the way out of the bistro, even with half the restaurant’s patrons watching us go, even with the shocked silence of her parents trailing behind us. As soon as we cleared the doors, I reached for her hand and held on tight. She smiled through her tears and squeezed my hand back. *** Neither of us said a word on the drive back to my house. Lights flashed across the windshield, guiding through us half-empty streets in the dead of night. I barely noticed the familiar contours of the neighborhood as we pulled into my driveway. I got out first and went to open the door on Emily’s side. She didn’t speak, even as we reached for each other’s hands and walked all the way inside. I barely even noticed how cold it was. She jumped me the moment I closed the door behind me. One second, she was perfectly still, and the next, she was throwing herself at me, her arms around my waist and her lips pressed against mine. I stumbled back a few steps, but caught myself against the door. I kissed Emily back. I kissed her back hard. We moaned and sighed against each other for a long time. I didn’t bother turning on the lights. Making out in the dark, empty living room was fine by me. “Jordan...” Emily moaned into my ear as she pulled herself away. “Jordan, I... God, I-I love you. You were so good, you were amazing...” “Me?” I brushed my lips against Emily’s forehead. “Honey, if anyone was amazing tonight, it was you. Only you.” My hand traced a line across her cheek. “I’ve never been prouder to know you than I am right now.” “Christ, though. My house. I’m... I’m gonna have to give it up now.” “I know. We’ll figure something out.” “We will? Jordan, I couldn’t ask you to—” “You never have to ask,” I said, maybe a touch more delirious than I realized. “I-I don’t care either, Em. Maybe it’s the adrenaline talking, but screw it. Stay with me. I don’t know how we’ll manage it, but we will. Because, after this? I don’t want to deal with those awful parents of yours ever again. This was...” I rubbed at my eyes. “Geez, this was the best thing they could’ve done for you. For both of us.” Emily nodded. “I think you’re right.” My heart skipped a beat. “Is... is that a yes?” “Are you kidding? Of course it is!” Emily leaned in to steal another kiss. “Mmph. God, yes. Let’s do this, Jordan. Let’s do this and never look back!” My heart sang when I heard those words. I enfolded Emily into my arms and carried her off to the bedroom. For this night, for at least this moment, we could forget the rest of the world and just be happy. *** The next morning, before Emily could wake up, I got changed and headed out early. It was a cool, foggy morning, with no glare in the overcast sky. With the weather and my mood in perfect sync, it seemed like as good a time as any for a little walk. I wandered up and down familiar streets, looking at them with new eyes. I’d driven these streets as both a man and a woman. I’d been two different Jordans, and my neighbors knew about both of them. So which one was I to them? Or was I not even someone worth knowing anymore? The question nagged me all the way through a small park and along the main boulevard. I wore my sweater’s hood up and tried to ignore every older, white couple I passed by. Their faces reminded me too much of George and Virginia’s disapproving stare, even if they were just nice folks out for a stroll. After some backtracking, I decided what I needed was a little bit of C and C to go with my R and R. C and C, of course, meaning carbs and coffee. Fortunately, I’d wandered back enough that my usual coffee joint was only half a block away. I dropped my hood and let out another sigh. I didn’t feel great as I pushed open the front door to the shop, but at least I’d have something to take the edge off. “Jordan!” My blood ran cold at the sound of her voice. I almost backed out of the shop, but Janice McCain came up to me with a sweet smile. Same as she ever was, then. “H-hey, Janice,” I murmured. “How’s it going?” “Jordan, come on now.” Janice surprised me by putting a hand on my shoulder. She guided me out the doorway and back to the open sidewalk. “Don’t worry about lil’ old me. What about you?” “Me?” “It’s okay, hon. I... I know everything.” I closed my eyes and sighed. “Christ, Janice, for once, could you not be such a gossip hound?” Janice drew back. Her eyes dropped to the pavement, and my heart did, too. I shuffled my feet around and stuck my hands in my pockets. “I’m sorry. I’m... I’m sorry to snap at you like that.” My eyes refused to part from my sneakers. “You didn’t deserve that.” “No, it’s... it’s fine. Really, Jordan.” Her sympathetic tone caught me off-guard. I looked up and saw Janice smiling at me like a kindly old grandmother. Which, as it took me a second to recall, she already was. “I’m sorry to spring this on you. I can’t begin to imagine how you must feel.” “How I feel,” I replied, “is fucked up.” Janice nodded. “I guess you would.” Then she brightened. “But I must say, Maureen Davis told me she saw you and Emily at the Adams Bistro last night. She told me the whole story.” “Oh, God. She saw all that?” “Yes! And I must say, we’re all so proud of you!” “Well, it was only a matter of... wait, what?” I blinked. “What? Proud?” Janice nodded again. “Dear, you have no idea how long we’ve been worrying over poor Emily Parcher. She’s such a sweet thing, but she’s unsteady. And we couldn’t imagine a better fit for her than someone like you. Someone with a good head on his shoulders.” Her teeth flashed in a grin. “Oh, and you should’ve heard the way Maureen talked about how you stood up to her parents. Honestly, the nerve of some people! How Emily turned out as well as she did, I’ll never know!” “Yeah...” My head was spinning. Without even thinking, I grabbed the pole of a nearby parking zone sign by the curb. It was a grimy, decades-old pole, but at least it kept me from falling over onto the street. “Oh, but don’t worry, dear.” Janice patted my shoulder again. “We don’t think any less of you for your little, er, dress-up with Emily. Whatever makes you two happy is none of our business.” “I’m sure...” If my sudden insecurity were to get any worse, I felt I’d regret not wearing a diaper. The tightness in my bladder contrasted with the constant spinning in my head and stomach. “And, you know, if you ever need any help, you come talk to us.” “Help? Help with what?” “Well, I mean, I’m sure Emily’s parents meant what they said, didn’t they? They’re cutting her off?” “It sure looks that way.” “Then, you know, if you two need anything like new appliances or help with moving boxes, just let us know.” Janice winked. “The neighborhood is here to help!” I was at a loss for words. Everything I thought I’d known about Janice McCain and her little clique had fallen apart. The fact that she spoke so casually about my private life still irked me a little, but I could forgive it for how generous she was revealing herself, and her friends, to be. “I... well...” I shrugged. “I guess...” Then I smiled. “‘Thank you’ is what I’m trying to say.” “Don’t mention it, kiddo.” Janice pulled me in for a hug. “Now, as our dear Emily’s savior, can I at least buy you a cup of coffee?” “Janice, I think I’ll let you this one time...” *** When I came back, Emily was sitting at my kitchen table, fully dressed and clutching a mug full of hot tea. I noted the half-eaten piece of toast on a plate by her elbow. It matched the expression she wore: vacant and thoughtful, like she’d forgotten she was hungry halfway through. “Em?” I leaned over, hands planted on the tabletop. “Hey, Earth to Em?” “Hmm?” Emily blinked. When she noticed me standing over her, she blushed. “Oh! Hey.” “Good morning to you, too.” “Excuse me for not being so chipper. I’ve got a lot on my mind.” “I can tell.” I pulled out a chair across the table and sat down. When I flashed her plate a questioning gaze, Emily sighed and pulled it closer to herself. She took another bite of toast, but nothing in her face said that she relished it at all. “So,” I added, “I just had a bizarre encounter.” “What do you mean?” I proceeded to tell Emily the whole story about running into Janice. Her face went through several emotions over the course of the tale. Silent horror. Wide-eyed amazement. By the end of it, I noticed that she’d set down her tea, which had lost its steam over several minutes. Her hands gripped each other on top of the table, wringing her fingers out before she could speak. “That’s... geez, that’s not what I expected.” Emily blinked. “You’re sure we’re talking about the same Janice?” “I know, right?” “Well, that is sweet of her. I can’t deny that.” “But what about you, Em?” “What about me?” “I mean, what do you want to do next?” Emily was silent for almost a full minute. When she raised her eyes from the table to my face, her lips curved into a tiny smile. “I thought that was obvious after last night,” she answered. My heart did a backward somersault in joy. “Emily...” “Shh.” Her finger reached across the table to press against my lips. Emily was halfway out of her chair. Then she stood the rest of the way and circled over to me. I made room for her as she plopped onto my lap and slid her arms around me. Emily’s head dropped onto my shoulder, and I cradled her to my chest, pulling up her legs like a little girl. She let out a happy sigh, and I responded with a lingering kiss to her forehead. With each passing second, whatever else we’d done or said the night before was forgotten. All that old pain, all that long-suffering dread. All cleansed at last.
  8. Hmm, very interesting, Rachel... I've also heard good things about "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." I really might have to give that show a watch now.
  9. I'm surprised and pleased with how quickly I wrote up this next chapter. Hopefully, the last 2 or 3 will be just as easy! __ Twelve: We Have a Reservation One after another, the text messages came and went that evening. Emily’s parents blew up their daughter’s phone within ten minutes, all while I sat beside her on my bed, cradling her in my chest. The only exchange that mattered, though, was the final one. Mom: Your father and I will need to discuss this matter with you in person. Mom: We’ll be at the Adams Bistro next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Mom: DON’T be late, Emily Louise Parcher. Emily: Yes, Mother. Emily: I won’t be late. Promise. When the texts finally stopped, Emily hung her head and sniffled. I brushed a finger against her cheek, and I cringed when I felt tears running down it. “Tell me it’s going to be all right,” Emily whispered. “I-I don’t care if it’s not true. Just... I don’t know. Lie to me. Just tell me it’s going to be—” “Shh.” I held her close. With one hand cradling the back of her head, I reached down and took the phone away from her. Emily didn’t resist. She melted into my arms, and I mentally let out a stream of curse words at her parents. I hated them, and I made no bones about it. I hated how they could so easily turn my sweetheart’s confident spirit into a crumbling facade. Say what you might about my folks—and I could say plenty—but I knew that their criticisms came from a place of love. The more I learned about Emily’s family, the less sympathetic I could feel toward them. Had all their smiles and all their courtesy from before been one big act? I’d made them breakfast, showered praise on their daughter, and made every allowance for their visit. And all I got back was a cloud of suspicion to tear away the peace in my life. Liar, a small, petty voice spat out in my head. You gave up that peace when you took Emily up on her harebrained little ruse. I couldn’t deny it. I sighed into Emily’s shoulder and pondered our next move. “Two days,” Emily whimpered into my chest. Her fingers tightened. Her breath came quicker now. Small, hitching coughs into my t-shirt, matching my heartbeat. “I... I can’t... we can’t be... not like before... Jordan, I... I’m so sorry...” Now I was the one ready to cry. But for both our sakes, I held it together. It was a reversal of my usual method, having to pull back my emotions rather than channel them into a performance. “Listen,” I said, stroking her hair. “Listen. It’s not over. Not yet. I don’t know what they’re going to say. I don’t know what they’ll do. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.” My voice hardened. “We’ll find out together, Emily. I promise you that much.” “To-together?” Emily looked up at me, her whole face wet and slick. “Jordan, you can’t—” “Oh, can’t I?” I shook my head, smiling sadly. “Em, what kind of boyfriend would I be if I ran from this? Hell, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t own up to it? If I wasn’t scared to dress up like a girl for you, to playact with your parents for you, to wear diapers and expose every part of myself for you...” I grinned. “Well, I mean, hell. Do you think your folks being mad is gonna scare me that much now?” The more I talked, the easier it became to believe my own words. Certainly, seeing Emily’s tragic expression made it easier. I wanted to channel the other Jordan into my voice, into my face, into every gesture. Let Emily see my love like that. Let her parents chew on that open affection of someone they treated with such contempt. I let out a long breath, and half of my anguish went with it. Closing my eyes, I tried to put aside all the anger, all the sorrow. “Hey,” I said. “We’ve got two days. Your folks will come and deliver their doom, and you’re right, it feels like the end of the world.” I didn’t even flinch when Emily whimpered again. Instead, I hugged her closer. “But hey, we’re not gonna focus on that right now. Right now, we’re gonna do what makes us happy. Forget your folks. Forget the neighbors. Let’s just be Emily and Jordan again, okay?” “O-okay...” Emily sniffled and wiped at her nose. “Thank you...” I bent down and kissed the top of her head. Emily chuckled, and I almost leapt for joy. “Come on, baby girl,” I whispered. As I stood, I pulled her up alongside me, letting her melt into my side like the scared child she was. “Come on now. There’s a Netflix marathon waiting for us in the living room. I’ll make you some tea and give you all the blankets you need. Would you like that?” “Mm-hmm.” Emily’s eyes rose just long enough to blink back fresh tears. “A-and maybe you could look over some sketches later? I-I’ve got to get them ready for publishing tomorrow.” “I’d be happy to, Em. Whatever you need.” *** That night was an endless vista of ice cream spoonfuls, cups of tea, and a blanket fort on the couch, all set to the sweet serenade of a Stranger Things binge on Netflix. Emily left a near-permanent crease in my side, having more or less fused to my body. Not that I could blame her. I didn’t let it show, but I needed to know she was going to be there for me, too. A month before, I wouldn’t have dreamed up any of this. But late into the night, I wondered how I could have ever gone without this. Every little rise and fall of her chest into mine was enough to keep my spirits high, even while staring into the abyss. Emily fell asleep on the couch. She curled up underneath the blankets, fatigued from crying and a sugar overload—one that I was at fault for encouraging. Like any good roommate, I tried to find the best way to carry her from the couch to the bedroom. I managed to wrap up her into a blanket in the same way I’d make a burrito. Emily snored against my shoulder as I carried her down the hall. With one toe, I gingerly nudged my door open. Then it was a short dash inside and a gentle deposit of my precious cargo onto the bed. “Gngh... Jordan?” Emily’s voice came out from behind the fleecy edge of her blanket. I saw a pair of hazy eyes peer at me, blinking slowly. “That you...?” “Shh.” I reached over to stroke her hair. “Not a word. It’s time for bed.” “Mmkay. Th’nks...” I chuckled and brushed at her cheek. “Don’t mention it. Now, then, missy. Let’s get you changed.” “Don’t need a...” “What’s that? Sorry, I didn’t catch that.” Emily blinked again, a little more furiously. A hand shot up from under the blanket to rub at her face. She sniffled and looked right at me. “I was saying,” she insisted, “that I don’t need a diaper this time.” I swallowed. “Well, uh, sure you don’t. That’s your call.” Emily stared at me for a second longer. Then she extended her hand out from the blanket roll I’d made. With a single outstretched finger, she flicked me right on the tip of my nose. I flinched. “Ow! The hell, Em?” “Idiot,” she replied sweetly. “You’re supposed to fight me on this.” With a wink, she added, “I’m really asking you to make me wear a diaper. You know, take charge like you’ve been doing all night. It means a lot to me, okay?” Still rubbing at my nose, I put on a fake look of outrage. “Well, sure I do! But geez, Em! I can’t always take a hint like that. A little more talk, a little less physical violence, okay?” “Aww, did I hurt the poor widdle baby’s feelings?” “Says the girl about to be wearing a diaper!” Emily giggled. She squirmed around on top of the bed, a fleecy little caterpillar ready to break out her cocoon. I sighed and leaned over to plant a kiss on her forehead. Then I stood and went over to the closet. My original, long-neglected package of diapers was waiting for me there. When I came back with a handful of changing supplies, Emily had already tossed off the blanket. She stretched and yawned, arching her back like a feline. I stood and waited while she removed her clothes. No, not even that fazed me anymore. Of all the things we’d experienced that day, the sight of my nude neighbor didn’t bother me, or excite me, in the slightest. I felt ready for just another quiet evening in bed with her. Emily kept quiet, too. She didn’t offer a single word as I sprinkled on the powder and put a fresh diaper on her. She stared up at the ceiling. Not a single clue as to what she was thinking, though I had plenty of guesses. When it was over, she smiled up at me. “Okay, your turn!” I laughed and rolled onto the bed beside her. “How can I say no to that face?” Truth be told, I was just grateful to see a little joy in her eyes again. I knew she was putting on a show for me. Maybe for herself, too. I didn’t take my eyes off Emily as she proceeded to change my diaper. Every so often, I caught glimpses of the sad, lonely girl I’d seen earlier, but she kept her focus on adjusting the new garment between my legs and sticking on every tape perfectly. “My little one’s ready for beddy-bye!” she sang. Her eyes fell half-shut, and then she tumbled on top of me. I grabbed her right before she hit and guided her onto the bed beside me. How sweet we must’ve looked. A couple of dorky kids in t-shirts and adult undergarments. I hit the lights, and Emily hit the sack. We lay together, our fingers locked under the covers as the room turned quiet once more. “Hey, Jordan,” Emily whispered. She turned toward me. “You asleep yet?” “It’s only been a few minutes, Em.” “Okay, good.” Her eyes sparkled in the darkness. “I just... I want you to know something.” “Go ahead.” I watched her chew on her bottom lip. Not a good sign. “I just... I wanted to say...” Emily fumbled for words, chuckling as she did. “Ahh, it’s funny, I mean. But, like, on any other night, you know... maybe I’m crazy, but I think I would have asked to get a little more... physical with you.” The room fell silent again. Everything except for my own rapidfire heartbeat. “Uhh... oh-okay...” I swallowed. “I see.” “Not that I don’t find you attractive,” Emily added, her eyes widening. “I do! I really, really do. It’s just tonight, with all this stupid shit going on... I’m just not in the mood. And that sucks.” “Yeah, it does,” I admitted. Then I tried for a smile. “And let me tell you, you’re missing out on all the joys of sex with diapers.” Emily giggled again. I laughed and slid my arm underneath her shoulders. With a single tug, I brought her up against my chest. Her head slid against my shoulder, and I sighed when I felt her breath, warm and soft, tickling the side of my neck. “Someday,” I promised her. “Someday, we’ll get there. But let’s just sleep for now, okay?” “Okay. I love you, Jordan.” “Love you, too, princess.” And with one last kiss to the forehead, we tried to find some rest. *** Thursday night, 7:25 p.m. We sat in the parking lot of the Adams Bistro. I kept my hands on the steering wheel, staring out at all the finely dressed folks coming in and out of the restaurant. We’d dressed well, too. We’d come dressed as ourselves. No wig, no fancy makeup, and certainly no diapers. Just Jordan Kim and Emily Parcher, in the flesh. I didn’t need to look over at Emily to know what she was thinking. I could hear her turning in her seat, trying to spot a pair of familiar faces passing by. Her hand gripped mine. I gripped hers back. It was all we could do to stay sane. “Okay,” Emily whispered. “Just... okay. Deep breaths. Big, deep breaths...” “I’m fine, Em.” “I was talking to myself.” She paused. “Oh, good. I’m talking to myself. Em, you’ve lost it.” “Hey, Em. Knock knock. It’s me, the guy sitting next to you. You’ll be fine.” “You keep saying that like it’s true—” “It will be true.” “How? How could you possibly know that?” Her hand tightened around mine. I didn’t flinch. Her eyes darted at me. That didn’t scare me either. “Please tell me you’re not still acting for my benefit, because I don’t think I could bear that.” I swallowed. “You’re right. I’m not acting. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m so deep in shock that I will turn into a puddle on the ground if I’m not careful.” I shrugged. “But, hey. That’s life on the stage for you. You put aside the nonsense and remember your lines and find your mark. And that’s what I’m gonna do tonight.” When she didn’t respond right away, I squeezed her hand a little tighter. “It’s what we’re gonna do, Em.” “Only a few minutes left.” Emily sounded harsh, but her smile told me otherwise. “We could just take off right now. Hit the Pacific Coast Highway. Drive somewhere else and start over.” Now I had to turn and look at her. “Seriously, Em?” “Come on. It’s not the worst idea I’ve had.” “True. Remember that time you made me dress in drag?” “Oh, please. Remember that time you said yes?” We laughed, and I lifted her hand to kiss it. I let out a few deep breaths, waiting for the butterflies in my stomach to settle. The car and the parking lot around us came back into focus. Street lamps cast a phosphorescent glare over the nearby bistro, where the gilded front doors swung open and shut continuously. The Thebes Park dinner crowd hadn’t stopped since we’d arrived. No point in putting it off any longer. Emily and I got out of the car. We walked together toward the restaurant, our fingers locking together as we made our way inside.
  10. They're wealthy, manipulative, and locked into their own little world. I never implied they were normal.
  11. Eleven: Neighborhood Watch With our would-be day out suddenly tarnished, neither Emily nor I wanted to keep things going. We beat a hasty retreat to the old neighborhood. And since I was out and about in men’s clothes, identified as Jordan Kim, I decided to stop in and check out my neglected house. Nothing there surprised me. The mail had piled up while I was away, and it was more ads and junk than anything else. I saw a thin layer of dust along the bookshelves and tables that needed cleaning off. And worse still, an equally thin mask of grime had formed around my bathoom sink drain. Apart from those traits, the house looked exactly as I’d left it. But the more I wandered through its halls, the more like a stranger I felt. I saw everything through the other Jordan’s eyes. The drapes my mother had picked out—a rare concession for me. Acting books and screenplays left in a pile on a desk. A handwritten grocery list of ingredients that I’d never gotten around to buying, but when I looked a little closer at it, I saw that Emily had gotten them all for me when we lived together. By the time I came back to my kitchen, I found Emily waiting for me there. She perched on a stool, a cheap piece of furniture I’d gotten with a set from IKEA. Her eyes wandered over to me and her face twisted up into a scowl. “Boy, Mom sure knows how to pick ’em, huh?” Emily waved her phone at me. “If you’ve got any old phone numbers, can I borrow one? I might need to throw them off the scent.” “I would if I could.” With a shrug, I headed to the counter and checked the empty fruit bowl. At least I’d been smart enough to dump all that before I moved next door. “Any chance that they’re going to make another visit down here?” “Please, God, no.” “It could happen, Em. Just saying.” “And that’s what scares me the most.” Emily chewed on her bottom lip. “Are you comfortable with playing my roommate again?” I turned to her, my face twisted into disbelief. “Seriously, do you even have to ask?” “Well, I mean, it worked out the first time...” “And it’ll be fine the next.” “Until they get suspicious. You know they will!” “Then they will, and...” I shrugged. “I don’t know. We’ll answer that when we cross that bridge.” Emily nodded, though she didn’t look convinced. It crushed me to see the worry written across her face. It was that fateful day at the coffee shop all over again. After all the work and joy we’d accrued in this ongoing farce, building back her self-esteem piece by piece, and then one little text message had wiped out our progress in a heartbeat. Oh, the things I wanted to shout at her parents. But I couldn’t do that. Not yet, at least. I leaned against the counter. “In the meantime, are you busy with work at all?” “No. Why?” “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this place is a bit of a mess.” I gestured around the kitchen and over to the living room. “If you’re free, I could use a hand tidying up.” Emily smiled. “Sure. It’d be nice to take my mind off this whole other mess in my life.” “That’s the spirit!” *** Early the next morning, I needed to clear my head. Emily stayed asleep on the couch, curled under her blanket, looking quite adorable. If I didn’t get outside, I’d be hanging around her the entire day, and I’d more of a creep than a boyfriend if I did that. Once I was out the door, I knew I’d made the right call. The air was fresh, the streets were full of cars pulling out of driveways, folks going off to work, and I couldn’t miss the smell of dew on the grass. My eyes closed, and I let go of all the misery and tension from the day before. Then I began to jog. I let the morning go at its own pace. My legs carried me up one street and down another. Before long, I was out of breath and reeking with sweat. I found my way down the next block and across the street, right in time to see a line of people out the front door of the neighborhood coffee shop. And as I jogged over to take my spot in line, I recognized a certain shade of brunette hair dye two spots in front of me. I raised my voice and called out, “Morning, Janice!” “Jordan!” My neighbor moved out of line and walked over to me with a grin. “How are you? I hardly see you around anymore!” “I’ve been studying,” I replied. “Lot of acting gigs to consider. Lot of scripts to read, you know?” It was technically the truth, from a certain point of view. “Oh, good for you! I always knew you’d get more work! I’m sure you’re having a better run with work than I am with my grandchildren!” Janice leaned in conspiratorially. “You know, my youngest Margaret is expecting another, but between you and me, I think she’s ready to divorce that good-for-nothing Paul. I’ve always wondered she waited so long! Don’t you think so?” I smiled and nodded. Janice had three daughters, all fully grown, with the youngest fresh out of college and married to her high school sweetheart. I’d never heard good things about the marriage of Margaret and Paul Danvers. They also seemed to have more kids every time I heard about them. Truth be told, I knew that Janice couldn’t resist being a gossip about her own family. It wasn’t one of her best qualities, though I supposed that, given the degree of affection she showed to Margaret, she wasn’t all that bad a person. Meanwhile, the line got shorter and we drew closer to the barista at the counter. With only one person ahead of us, I felt ridiculously comfortable. Everything was quiet and ordinary today. All right then. One day to figure things out, to put our lives back together. Emily would be fine. I would stand by her through whatever nonsense her parents threw our way. “Oh, Jordan, did you ever get a visit from that Mr. Winchell?” I blinked and turned to Janice. Her question took another second to fully register in my head. Then I blinked again and said, “Uhh, no. Sorry, who’s that?” “Ohhh, you are missing out!” Janice leaned in again, and as she did, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. “The other day, I was tending to my garden, and this gentleman in a suit came walking right up to me. So I said hi, and he said hi, and he said he was with this private investigation service. I said, ‘Oooh, isn’t that fascinating work?’ He said it was, and then he—and this is so tantalizing—he asked me about any new people who’d moved into the neighborhood recently. Like any single, young women in particular.” My jaw dropped, probably low enough to whatever my stomach had been, which had turned into a queasy ball that hit the floor and kept on falling. “Oh?” I asked. “So... so, you think this, uh, Winchell guy was checking up on Emily’s new roommate?” Janice flashed back a teasing grin. “I’m sure I couldn’t say. But, you know, Alice did tell me over cocktails the other night that she hasn’t seen the new girl in over a week! Can you believe it? It’s like she doesn’t exist anymore! So strange!” She sighed. “But then, poor, sweet Emily. She did always attract the weird ones, bless her heart.” It took all the decency instilled by my Korean mother not to sock her in the face for that remark. Not that she would’ve understood why. I forced a grin and said, “Well, she’s an artist, Janice. It comes with the territory.” “It sure does!” Janice laughed and turned around just as the barista waved her ahead. *** I took a bottle of water to go and raced back home. Sweat and tears be damned, I had to make it back on time. I took shortcuts through side streets and away from the main road. Every familiar path now looked treacherous. I imagined eyes peering at me through open windows. I pictured men in black hats driving past me in nondescript cars, taking notes and snapshots. Somewhere in my mind’s eye, a giant manila folder was being pulled from an office drawer with the name Emily Louise Parcher on it. Some faceless detective was flipping through the papers contained within, and paper-clipped to each one was a blurry photo of me in drag. My neighborhood was rated as one of the safest in Thebes Park, and the town itself was one of the safest in the state. But right then, I didn’t feel safe at all. My own neighbors had sold me out. A goddamn tidal wave of innuendo was about to crash through my house—and through Emily’s, too. Heart pounding and feet throbbing, I managed to veer back onto my street. Somewhere along the way, I’d dropped the water bottle, or maybe I’d chucked it in the trash. I couldn’t quite remember which it was. With years of actor’s training to call upon, I stopped behind a small hedge in Maureen Davis’s yard to catch my breath. I used everything I had in my toolkit—visualization, breathing from the diaphragm, the Alexander Technique—to regain my composure. When I reappeared from behind the hedge, I wasn’t frantic anymore. I took a calm, collected stride back to my front door, in full view of any nosy neighbors. When I opened the front door, I took a deep breath. Okay Jordan, I told myself. Don’t lose sight of what’s important. Deep breaths, man. I stepped into the house, and within minutes, I was in the living room. Emily had left her blanket folded up on the couch. My eyes scanned the room and the hall beyond it. A second later, I noted that my bedroom door was ajar, and someone had turned the lights on inside. Yellow haze poured out into the hallway, setting a rather ominous atmosphere. I plunged ahead and went to open the door. “Em? Are you in here?” “Jordan...” Her voice set me on edge. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding, and I opened the door all the way. She sat on my bed, her legs folded underneath her. She had taken one of my big sweaters from the closet and wrapped herself in it like a little kid. The sleeves comically hung loose over her hands, but I could still see that she held her phone in one palm. When I saw the bags under her eyes and heard her sniffle, my heart cracked right away. “Hey,” I whispered. I was at her side in an instant. My arms slid around her shoulders, and I cradled her head against my chest. Emily sniffled again, and she turned her face into my bicep. I stroked her hair, whispering some random, soothing nonsense into her ear. To this day, I still don’t know what I said to her, but it seemed to calm her down. Maybe it was just hearing my voice that helped. With another sniffle, Emily wiped at her nose and looked up at me. “S-sorry...” “It’s okay. Just tell me what’s wrong.” I smiled. “I’m here to talk.” “Yeah...” Emily blinked back tears. She closed her eyes and tilted her head away. “Yeah, okay. It’s... it’s over, Jordan.” “What do you mean?” “The... the gig. The charade. It’s all over now.” “Em—” “My parents fucking know!” Emily waved her phone at me. Now the tears fell, and the sob strangled her every word. “They know that Jordan Baker doesn’t exist! They know that you went missing the whole time she was around! It’s all there! No Jordan Baker in Thebes Park! No records, no witnesses! It’s... it’s all fake, and they know it now!” Her face twisted up into a scowl, and she pressed her hands to her cheeks to soak up more tears. I sat there, speechless and stunned. I couldn’t even hold her close and comfort her like before. I couldn’t do anything now. I’d done enough, hadn’t I?
  12. Aww. It's nice to finally see these two together again!
  13. Aww, thanks for that. I'm glad you're so into it. Stay tuned!