TG Universes & Series:
Synopsis: A young man is dropping his sister and her friends off at Bikini Beach and overhears a problem with lifeguard staff. When Anya asks him to help out so the Park can be open for the day, the young man doesn't know what he's getting himself into.
This story was posted to the TG Fiction group years ago, and was on my web site, but somehow, it never made it onto FM or here. I hope you enjoy.
This story and the Bikini Beach story theme are copyright, all rights reserved. Use of the characters or theme without the express permission of the owner is a violation of copyright law.
Mitch downshifted as he pulled off the main road into the parking lot. Without warning, a huge front-end loader loomed in front of him, and he had to stomp on the brake pedal and swerve to avoid a collision. Under Mitch's skilled hand, the nimble sports car darted around the heavy equipment, then dodged the parked cars and weaved back into the traffic lane, slowing quickly as the brakes bit. As he silently cursed, Mitch heard his sister and her friends giggling. "Not funny," he said angrily.
Beth, Mitch's younger sister, grinned. "The sign _did_ say 'Warning, Construction'," she said, trying but failing to sound innocent. Behind her, in the back seat, her friends giggled again. Beth was all of fifteen, showing promise in the developing curves of her trim body. The two girls in the back seat were of similar age, although one was mildly chubby, and the other was more physically mature.
Mitch clenched his jaw and ignored the girls. Not that they weren't attractive, but Mitch was in college, and high-school girls were beneath him; their teenage attitudes and giggling seemed so immature to him. "Looks like there's something going on by the gate," he observed. "You want to get out and walk?"
Indeed, the gate area was packed with people and cars lined up to drop off passengers. With part of the lot closed and full of construction equipment and trailers, it was chaotic.
Beth winced. "Yeah, we'll walk." She opened the door and climbed out, grabbing her tote bag, then moving the front seat so her friends could climb out as well. Just as she was about to shut the door, she hesitated. "Can you wait a sec?" she asked. "In case they're not opening or something?"
Mitch started to frown, but shrugged instead. "Yeah, why not. It's not like I've got something better to do." After Beth closed the door, he glanced around to make sure he wasn't blocking anyone, and then turned off the key.
He watched a moment as the girls walked toward the gate, but the construction activity grabbed his attention. He couldn't help himself - he'd spent the last two summers doing heavy construction work to help pay for his college, so he was naturally curious. In a brief survey of the site, he deduced that the crew was doing the dirt-work for an addition to the park. It didn't look like a big job as construction jobs went. Still, since he hadn't been able to find a construction job so far this summer, he couldn't help wondering if they might be hiring.
He started to turn back to the watch the milling throng of women, but he did a double-take and snapped his attention back to the construction. He frowned as he focused on the cab of the front-end loader. He'd seen women on construction sites, but seldom did they drive the really big equipment. He hadn't been imagining things; there was a blonde driving the loader. He glanced around. Another woman was driving the dump truck, and there was a female surveying crew. Mitch's eyes narrowed as he glanced around some more. It seemed that every single member of the construction crew was female.
"Damned feminist bullshit!" Mitch cursed. Having women doing construction work was one thing, but having an all-woman crew? It wasn't that he was a chauvinist, but from his experience, he _knew_ that there were some construction jobs that were simply too difficult for most women - and even for the average man, for that matter. Even so, if they didn't have a single man on the crew, it was unlikely that they would hire him.
He turned his gaze back to the line, forgetting for the moment the oddity of the construction crew. He smiled in appreciation of some of the more attractive women. While the customers came in all ages from toddlers to retired, a good number looked to be of college age. _These_ were real women, all grown up and mature and curvy. Not like the high-school crowd, with their braces and still-developing curves and silly interests and attitudes.
For the briefest of moments, Mitch wondered why he _shouldn't_ join his sister and her friends for a day at the beach. He knew the thought was appealing, but he also knew he wouldn't. He _couldn't_. Not like his cousin Al, who was as big a letch as he'd ever met. No, Mitch appreciated female beauty without thinking of them as objects. He laughed to himself. Al would be drooling, his tongue on the ground, as he made crude and crass comments of a very lewd nature, even to some of the women. Mitch might stare - discretely - but he wouldn't stare - and he definitely wouldn't drool. Spending a day at a park _full_ of bikini-clad women would definitely make him uncomfortable.
Mitch sighed. Much as he relished the thought of a day of relaxation at the water park, he needed to spend the day job hunting. He needed to earn money for his fall tuition. He'd gotten a couple of leads, and he knew that if there really _were_ job openings, they wouldn't last long. Too many other people were in the same hunt for jobs as he was. Taking the day off was out of the question.
It was only a few moments before another oddity struck Mitch. There were almost no men in line. Maybe the odd guy or two, but just about every customer was female. He glanced again, and looked back at the construction crew. Overhead, he caught a billboard in the corner of his eye, and he turned his attention to the advertisement. "Bikini Beach," he read aloud. "A water park for women." He glanced at the line. "So what - they let in only women?" He shook his head at the sight of the few guys. "Those guys are going to be disappointed, then." He frowned as he noticed that the line didn't seem to be moving. A moment later, he spotted Beth and her friends coming back toward his car.
"What's up, squirt?" he asked as soon as she was in range.
Beth frowned. She _hated_ it when he called her that. "They're not opening today. At least, not all of the park."
Beth shook her head. "I don't know. The girl in the booth wasn't too clear, but they're not letting everyone in." She looked dismayed at not being admitted. "Can you come up and try to talk to her? Maybe you can at least find out what's going on."
Mitch sighed. Beth should have been able to do something like that on her own, but she was extremely shy. "I guess," Mitch answered even as he unbuckled his seat belt.
Beth's friends started climbing into the car. "We'll wait here," one explained quickly as she settled into the seat. "I don't feel like walking across the parking lot again if they aren't going to let us in."
Mitch trudged slowly across the asphalt, with Beth falling in beside him. She was silent as they walked, and Mitch didn't feel much like talking. After working his way through the crowd, Mitch and Beth got to the booth.
"'Excuse me," Mitch said firmly when he saw the girl inside wasn't paying attention.
Inside the booth, the attendant seated behind the window was turned away, talking in an animated fashion with another young lady. The second girl immediately caught Mitch's attention - there was something about her manner and expression that said she was in charge.
The attendant started and turned to the window. "Yes?" she said impatiently. "How can I help you?"
Mitch pushed his annoyance at the girl's attitude from his mind. Something was going on, and she was probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by the crowd. "My sister and her friends said there's a problem and they aren't being admitted?"
The girl at the window sighed. "Yes, sir," she said. "We're not opening the Tropical Paradise section of the park today."
The girl sighed again, more heavily this time. As she started to answer, the girl behind her touched her on the shoulder. "Let me handle this, Norma," she said. "I'm Anya," she said, smiling at Mitch. "We're having some, er, technical difficulties here. We're short on staff and …." Anya stopped mid-sentence, and her eyes widened. "Uh, maybe you can help out."
Mitch's head spun at the sudden change. "Me? How?"
Anya smiled. "You _do_ have your lifeguard certificate? The one you got from the Boy Scouts two summers ago?"
Mitch frowned. Almost as soon as he heard they were short of staff, he'd wondered about a lifeguard job for the summer. "Yeah. So?" Inwardly, he was wondering how on earth Anya knew that.
Anya's eyes twinkled, as if she was amused. "Would you mind discussing this with my grandmother? She owns the place, so she's in charge." She stepped back, and in a moment, was standing beside Mitch and Beth. "Over this way." She gestured toward a low gray building sitting beside the fence. Gently guiding Mitch by the elbow, she led him to the door that faced the parking lot. As she opened the door, she glanced at Beth. "Why don't you wait by the booth? We'll be out in a moment."
Inside, Mitch's eyes were adjusting to the dimmer light, so he let Anya lead him to a leather chair facing a massive wooden desk. Behind the desk, there was an even larger leather chair, with its back toward him and the desk. "Grandmother?" she said softly.
The chair swiveled, and revealed an older woman seated in the chair. "Do you think he'll be willing to help?" she asked bluntly.
Anya frowned. "Grandmother, where are your manners?" she chided.
The old woman started, then she nodded sheepishly. "I'm sorry," she apologized quickly to Mitch. "It's been a little - hectic - this morning, Mitch." She extended her hand. "I own this water park, and Anya helps me run it. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance."
Mitch shook her hand hesitantly. "Nice to meet you as well." He frowned. "Anya said I might be able to help?" He felt a sudden chill that the older woman had known his name.
The old woman nodded. "We have a little problem. Three of my lifeguards are on vacation. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but two other girls were in a minor car accident coming in to work. They're in the hospital being checked out. The upshot is, that we're short of lifeguards. I need two more guards to meet the minimum. Otherwise, I have to close half the park today."
Mitch frowned. "And you want me ..."
Anya nodded, still smiling. "You don't have a job to go to today, you could certainly use the money, you have the certification, and we need a lifeguard."
Mitch felt nervous. How had the girl known that he needed a job? For that matter, how had she known earlier that he was a lifeguard? Well, the leads he had were long-shots, and he didn't want Beth to be disappointed. "Uh, yeah."
At that moment, the other door to the office opened, and a tall blonde walked in. She wore a one-piece red suit, a towel wrapped around her hips. The white stripe on her suit marked her as a lifeguard. "You wanted to see me, boss?" she said bluntly. "Things are pretty busy."
The old woman glanced her way. "Yeah, Liz. This young man might be able to help out."
The girl stopped and scanned Mitch. He felt like he was being thoroughly scrutinized. "Who certified you?"
Mitch frowned. "BSA." He saw what he thought was a look of disbelief. "Through the reciprocity agreement with the Red Cross," he added quickly.
The girl nodded skeptically, and then she began to question Mitch in great detail, making him feel like he was in an inquisition. Finally, Liz nodded at the old woman. "He knows his stuff. He might do - _if_ he can handle it."
Mitch bristled. "I _know_ I can handle lifeguarding," he said firmly. "I did it at the Scout summer camp for several weeks the last two summers. I made three significant rescues, too," he added to accentuate his qualifications. Mitch remembered the hassle of taking two weeks off work to staff the Scout summer camp. He'd enjoyed being staff instead of a camper, but his construction boss hadn't been too happy. He'd almost lost his job.
Anya smiled enigmatically. "That's not what she was talking about." She saw Mitch's confusion. "You see, this is a park for women."
Mitch frowned as he glanced among the three women. "I read the sign." His eyes widened. "You want to know if I can behave, right? You want to know if I can act like a professional even though I'm surrounded by women, is that it?"
The old woman shook her head, smiling. "Not quite. This park has all-female clientele and staff. My clients want - and need - a haven, a place safe from leering and offensive men - like your cousin Al."
Anya saw the confusion - and concern - on Mitch's face. "Do you believe in magic, Mitch?" she asked, taking the conversation in another unexpected direction. "No, you don't need to answer. I can tell - you're skeptical, even though you know there are some ... odd ... things that happen. Am I right?"
"How are you doing that?" Mitch demanded. "That's the third time ..."
"Fourth, actually," Anya said with a wry smile. "Magic is real. This park uses magic to make sure it's a safe haven for women, without any chance of men misbehaving. You see," she added in a softer voice, as if betraying a state secret, "we use magic to make the men into women."
Mitch glanced around the room, looking for any sign that the women were pulling his leg. He found none. He felt a chill run down his spine. "Okay, you want me to believe in magic, and then let you turn me into a woman so I can be a lifeguard?"
The old woman nodded. "That's pretty much it."
"Oh, don't worry. It's not permanent. It's just for the day!" Anya added quickly.
Mitch looked among the women, his mind racing. On the one hand, he could do something for the day and earn some money. On the other hand, they were asking him to believe in magic and then to permit them to change him into a woman - or so they claimed - for the day. And they had read his mind - four times!
Anya sensed his reluctance to believe. "Look," she said, trying to break the stalemate, "why don't you go to the men's locker and _watch_ someone change in the shower? Then you'll know we're serious."
"The shower changes people?" Mitch felt dazed. "Okay, I guess I can do that."
His eyes still wide, Mitch sat in the office a few minutes later. "This is real!" he exclaimed softly and repeatedly.
"Yup," Anya said with a nod. "Just like we said." Liz was absent; she'd gone back to work. Half the park _was_ open, after all.
"Now - about our offer," the old woman said directly.
Mitch shook his head, still in disbelief. "You said I'll change back - sometime tonight?" Seeing the nod, he frowned. "How do I explain this to my family?" he asked. "Or do you do something about that, too?"
Anya smiled. "You come and go pretty much as you please. If you're out late until after you change back, no-one will think anything of it. Not a problem." Her eyes twinkled again. "No, not like that. We sometimes get together for a movie or videos. You can hang with us 'girls' until you change back."
"Now, as to salary...." The old woman picked up her pencil and wrote on a paper, which she then pushed toward Mitch. "Is that satisfactory?"
Mitch stole a quick glance at Anya, who gave him a small affirmative nod. Mitch swallowed hard, and then nodded. "Yeah. That's fair."
The old woman extended her hand. "I think you're going to enjoy working with us today. I'll work on the paperwork, and you can sign it when you get a break. In the meantime, you need to get changed and get on duty before my customers riot! Anya, I'm afraid you're going to have to work today."
Mitch closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath, and turned on the shower. Bracing himself, he stepped into the water, expecting a cold blast. Instead, the water was warm, a warmth that was penetrating and very soothing. He started to relax, but he caught himself. A few moments ago, he'd seen a man enter this same shower and leave a woman. Anya had let him examine the shower stalls closely, so he could be sure there was no trick. Now, it was his turn. He was both nervous and intrigued.
Around him, the mist seemed to be faint pink. Mitch wondered if this were an aspect of the magic. If so, he reasoned, it made sense. After all, pink was for girls. His senses were alert, ready to pick up the changes.
They weren't long in coming. A few wisps of hair seemed to slowly crawl into his peripheral vision, indicative of his hair magically growing longer. He reached up his hand to touch the hair, and he felt the strands, longer and fine and very un-masculine. As he stared at the hair, still growing longer, he wondered - it was his own hair color.
For a brief moment, Mitch felt disappointed. He'd imagined that he'd change into a stunning blonde lifeguard - perhaps even like Pamela Anderson. Instead, his hair seemed to be staying brown, even as it grew longer. It didn't bode well for looking like a Baywatch babe. Then Mitch wondered why he'd thought like that. It shouldn't have mattered - unless he was secretly figuring that if he had to be a woman, he wanted to be attractive.
Mitch's view shifted to his hand. It seemed - different. Ignoring the hair for the moment, the growth of which had slowed considerably, he stared at his hand as it began to slowly shift. Rough, strong fingers softened, becoming finer and more delicate. Fingernails, chipped and torn, became smooth and well-manicured. His entire hand slowly reduced in size as the feminizing magic overtook it.
Mitch felt a slight tingle, and he looked down, away from his hand. The red fabric of the male swimsuit was shifting, flowing like liquid, crawling up over his stomach even as the leg openings pulled up and tightened around his thighs.
His crotch tingled, and the noticeable bulge in his shorts began to shrink. Mitch felt a stab of panic, and he clutched at the vanishing organ. It was still there, but smaller, and he saw and felt a feminine hand pressing against a small lump. In moments, to his amazement, even that small lump was gone, and he knew - without seeing it directly - that he had no male organs. The gentle but insistent tugging inside him let him know that what was left of his testicles were now internal organs, rearranging themselves into ovaries, while a slit formed as his new external genitalia. He moved his hand away, and beneath the still-fluid cloth, his crotch was flat.
Mitch glanced down, and saw his feet, now small and delicate, and with painted toenails. Above them, his legs were no longer hairy and powerful, but were smooth, hairless, and gently and sexily curved, ending at the bottom of his swimsuit; the leg openings had moved well up on his wider hips. He craned his neck around, and saw a rounder rear-end behind him. He reached behind, touching the foreign flesh, feeling the rounded derriere on his backside. Slowly, his hands worked around and up, over his hips, up to his narrower waist. The womanly hands moved across his flat stomach, his slight beer gut atop the strong abs now gone.
The swimsuit fabric solidified, its metamorphosis complete. Twin straps went over Mitch's shoulders, connecting the upper front - still covering a flat chest, Mitch noted - to a high back.
Even as he stared, he felt an ever-so-slight tingle in his chest, and as he watched, fascinated and a touch horrified, he saw tiny bumps appear as his nipples began to push outward. Slowly, they expanded beneath the fabric into tiny cones, which in turn pushed out even further. Now, the cones firmed into little nubs - firm nipples - beneath the cloth, and pushed out even more. Slowly, inexorably, the budding breasts grew. Mitch's mouth dropped open in shock at the rate of growth and the size - from his perspective, the growth on his formerly flat male chest looked enormous. Still, the cones grew, until finally, they stopped.
Mitch felt a bit of relief, but only momentarily, for the conical breasts continued to grow, but not outward. Now the mounds were rounding, filling out, transforming from the breasts of a mid-teenager into the rounder, fuller breasts of a young woman. His hands reached up to the growing flesh mounds, hesitantly touching and then cupping the unfamiliar weights on his chest, as his mouth hung open in amazement.
Around him, the pinkish haze slowly cleared, while Mitch noted that his boobs had stopped growing. He felt them, cupping them awkwardly, testing the sensations and the weight. From above, they looked huge, foreign, even alien. From his hands, however, Mitch knew they weren't too large; his hands - smaller than they had been - easily cupped the breasts.
Slowly, Mitch realized that the transformation was complete. He was a young woman. Unsure of himself, he reached up and turned off the shower, then stepped from the stall. Feeling a bit awkward as his wider hips swayed, he stepped toward the door, toward the courtyard where Anya was waiting.
Mitch stopped at the door, his mouth agape as he stared into the mirror. The girl facing him was pretty. "Not spectacularly gorgeous, but also not plain," he thought, "just pretty." The girl in the mirror was fit, slender, and even athletic in her build. Her red swimsuit - the same as Liz had been wearing - advertised her role as a staff lifeguard.
Her eyes were the same hazel color as Mitch's. Her face was noticeably similar, even though the cheekbones were a touch higher, the nose a bit daintier, and her chin softer and more feminine. Her lips were a little fuller than Mitch's had been, but only by a bit. Her hair was the same color, but was longer, hanging down toward her shoulders in the sides and back, and swept from a central part to behind her ears, which had, from the magic, become pierced, complete with studs!
Without knowing why, Mitch turned to the side, rotating his head so he could check out the girl's figure - _his_ figure! His rear was rounder, softer, and more feminine. His tummy was much flatter, and his breasts were prominent without being ridiculously large. As he turned back, Mitch realized that he was now a very decent-looking girl.
The door opened, and Anya smiled at him. "Couldn't resist seeing the results, I take it," she said lightheartedly.
Mitch gulped, and then he smiled. "Well, would you?" His eyes widened at the soft contralto voice emanating from his mouth. "Wow! This is ... amazing!" He found himself enchanted by his new voice.
Anya smiled. "I know you'd like to stare for a while, but you've got to get to work so we can open the Tropical section." She took Mitch by the arm and led him from the locker.
As he walked beside her, he realized that she was also wearing a red swimsuit. "So you're the other replacement?" She nodded. "Okay - what do I do?"
Anya laughed. "You've lifeguarded before. That's what you'll do." They came around a corner and into a small hut marked 'Staff only.' "Liz," she announced to the woman who was clearly impatient, "where do you want us?"
Liz glanced at an assignment board. "I can cover the Junior Academy if you can get the Wave pool." She looked at Mitch. "Let's start you with something easy - maybe the catch pools on the bottom of the mountain?" She saw the confusion on Mitch's face, and pointed to the map. "Okay, we're here. There are two main sets of water slides on the volcano. You'll watch the catch basin here," she pointed to a map, to a set of pools at the bottom of mountain. "It's pretty easy work to start."
Mitch nodded. "Okay. I think I can handle that." His eyes were still wide at the unfamiliar and somewhat sexy sound ringing in his ears.
Liz noted his expression and chuckled. "It'll take a bit to get used to the new you."
Mitch shook his head. It was strange - he'd been changed into a woman, and yet everyone was acting like it was no big deal. Maybe not for them, perhaps...
Anya called out. "Mitch?"
Mitch stopped, his train of thought broken.
"You need a name that's a little more ... feminine." Anya saw the confused look on his face. "After all, we can't run around calling you Mitch all day, can we?"
Mitch turned toward Anya; from his expression, it was evident that having to choose a female name might have been more than he could handle. "I ... I don't know," he stammered, shaking his head.
Anya read his body language. "How about something simple, like Michelle?" she suggested. She saw the horrified look on Mitch's face.
Liz also recognized Mitch's consternation. "Too close to his real name," she said firmly. Based on the very subtle easing of Mitch's shoulder muscles and the furrows on his brow, she knew that her assessment was correct. "How about something a little less close, like Melinda?"
Mitch thought for a moment. "Melinda. I guess that'll work," he agreed. He turned back down the path and trudged toward where Liz had indicated his duty station lay.
Melinda squirmed on the lifeguard chair and sighed. It _felt_ different - her butt was more padded, and her hips wider. Not much, but just enough to emphasize the difference in her anatomy. Overhead, the large umbrella provided generous shade from the warm morning sun. Melinda knew it was going to be a hot - perhaps even brutal - day.
The girl and her mat splashed into the pool; Melinda watched with a bit of boredom. She was watching the catch basins of three rides - all relatively close, and all quite boring.
The only excitement had been the small girl - too small, really - who'd slipped off her mat at the bottom. She wasn't a strong swimmer; in fact, she could barely stay afloat. Melinda had to jump in to give the girl a hand. When Melinda pointed out to the mother that the girl shouldn't be riding, since she wasn't a good enough swimmer, the mother had become a little irate. In fact, the mother had verbally assailed Melinda for even daring to suggest that her precious little girl couldn't ride the slides.
Fortunately, or perhaps through her magical senses, the old woman arrived on the scene even as the mother was expressing her displeasure. Very firmly, but politely, the boss told the mother that her child was _not_ going to ride the slides, because the old woman did not want an accident to spoil the day. If the mother didn't like it, she could take her business elsewhere. In a huff, the woman stormed off.
The old woman smiled at Melinda, then assured her that Melinda had used good judgment. Then she practically ordered Melinda to take a short break. As Melinda walked slowly toward the lifeguard shack, she realized that her hands were trembling. That caused her concern - Mitch had never allowed himself to be intimidated. Now, as Melinda, she was definitely smaller. Melinda had to ask herself - did being a woman make her less confident, less certain, more easily intimidated?
She strode into the shed, safe from pushy patrons, and sighed heavily. Inside the small building, across from the safety equipment, a refrigerator hummed next to a drinking fountain and a small counter with a sink and microwave. Melinda opened the fridge and peered inside. After a quick scan of the contents, she retrieved a coke and closed the door. She stepped out of the building to the 'porch' and eased herself into a lounge chair. Overhead, the fan spun, pushing a gentle breeze down to the row of chairs. It was a nice setup; Melinda thought briefly that working for the old woman seemed to be a pretty good deal.
"Hi." The voice behind Melinda was unexpected but friendly. "New here?"
Melinda spun her head quickly to the intruding voice. "Uh, yeah," she answered. "I'm just a temp."
The newcomer smiled. "You must be the one subbing for Jill and Leanne."
Melinda felt a little guilty, as if she was intruding on a private little group. "Yeah. I was just dropping off my sister this morning just after they found out about the accident. Uh," she continued awkwardly, "how are they? I hope they aren't hurt too badly."
The young lady eased into a chair beside Melinda. She looked to be around twenty-two or twenty-three, with a nice figure and long wavy red hair held back in a ponytail. She was wearing short shorts and her pink "Staff" T-shirt was tied below her bust to bare her navel. A couple smudges of dirt or grease were visible on her forearms and one on her cheek. Even with grease as her only makeup, Melinda thought that she was possibly the most beautiful woman Mitch had ever seen.
"No, they're okay. Mostly. The doctor wants to keep Leanne overnight to make sure she doesn't have a concussion. Jill has a broken arm, so she'd going to be out of work for a few weeks."
"I'm glad they're going to be okay." Melinda took another sip of her soda. Melinda considered the girl as she talked; she was the type of girl that Mitch would never have even a chance of talking with, let alone asking out.
"I'm Jenny. I run the machinery around this place."
"I guessed that - from the grease," Melinda said with a smile. "I'm Mi ... er, Melinda," Melinda gulped, catching herself. "Pretty nice park. You do a good job keeping it running."
Jenny had an enigmatic smile on her face. "So, how are you adjusting?"
Melinda practically choked. "Adjusting?" she asked hesitantly.
Jenny laughed aloud. "Yeah. To the 'big change'."
Melinda frowned. "It is _that_ obvious?"
"Oh." Melinda took another sip. "I don't get one thing. Why can't I tell which customers used to be guys before _they_ got changed, when you and Anya can? They seem to be so ... natural."
Jenny laughed again. "Well, to let you in on a trade secret, the magic gives the men some of the ... skills ... that women need. Even with the magic, though, you learn to tell. It takes a bit before they get so comfortable being women that we can't tell. As to your _own_ changes, well, you'll get used to it quicker than you might think."
Melinda shook her head. "I'm just subbing for the day. I'm not planning on getting used to it." She glanced at Jenny again. "It's hard to get used to."
Melinda sighed. "I'm smaller. Weaker. My step is wrong. My hair gets in my face. And these," she gestured at the bulges on her chest, "just ... I don't know. They bounce, they jiggle. They're in the way." She shuddered. "I don't think I could _ever_ get used to it."
Jenny grinned. "Your hips are a little wider, so your balance is off. And the rest - well, that just goes with being a woman. It took me a while to get used to it, too."
"You?" Melinda asked, her mouth hanging open in astonishment. "But ... you're so ... feminine! So pretty!"
Jenny blushed. "Thanks. But yeah, I'm changed, too." She looked thoughtful. "Been so long that I've almost forgotten what being a guy was like." She smiled. "And in case you hadn't noticed, you're a pretty cute girl yourself."
Melinda felt her cheeks reddening. "Me? I'm not sure I'd call this body attractive." She was glancing particularly at her moderate breasts.
Jenny laughed. "Contrary to what a lot of men think, there's more to beauty than big boobs. You should see what happens when guys who thinks like _that_ comes through. They usually end up with enormous knockers." She laughed even harder. "You should have seen Greg - Anya's boyfriend - one time! I swear his boobs were bigger than his head!" The mental image made her wipe a tear of mirth from her eye.
After a moment, she gave Melinda the once over. "You're cute. You're the girl you would have been. Nice. Kind of a girl-next-door." She smiled again. "And I bet you're a pretty nice guy, too. The boss is a fantastic judge of character. You gave up your plans for the day because we needed help. You didn't back out by being changed into a girl. You know, there are a lot of happy customers because of what you did. Pretty selfless, if you ask me."
Melinda laughed. "The money she offered didn't hurt."
Jenny laughed. "Touche. That's how she _persuaded_ me, too!"
"I'd like you to take a shift at the wave pool," Liz, standing below the lifeguard's chair, called up to Melinda.
"What's up?" Melinda asked, puzzled.
"I like to rotate the staff. It prevents boredom and familiarity. Keeps the lifeguards on their toes," Liz explained.
Melinda started to climb down even as her replacement started climbing up the other side of the chair. "Makes sense." She grabbed her towel and fell in beside Liz. "Can I ask something?"
Liz shrugged and kept walking. "Sure."
"How long have you worked here?"
Liz thought for a moment. "A little over two years."
"You like it here?"
Liz nodded. "Yeah. It's a great job, and the boss is wonderful." She stopped at the foot of another chair. "Kiki, take a break, and then take over at the Academy." She glanced at Melinda. "You think you'll be okay here?"
Melinda climbed up in the lifeguard chair and glanced at the pool. It was a huge wedge-shaped wave pool - pretty standard fare for a water park. Every few seconds, a large hydraulic ram at the narrow end shoved a huge volume of water, forcing a large wave to roll toward the sandy beach on the wide end. The swells at the deep end were several feet in height, and by the time the waves got to the beach, they were large enough that a few of them even broke and curled over. Several women and girls rode boogie-boards, some body-surfed, and a few kids frolicked and crashed into the waves.
"There you are!" The voice below and to Melinda's left sounded familiar. She looked down - and started when she saw Beth. Melinda's eyes widened. "I was looking for you."
"You ... know who I am?" Melinda stammered. Until this moment, she'd not considered what would happen if she bumped into Beth.
Beth grinned. "Sure. I mean, it's not like there are a lot of lifeguards who look like they could be my sister."
"How ... how did you know I'd change?" Melinda asked, trying to keep her attention on the swimmers.
"Anya told me," Beth confessed. "And she told me where you were working."
Beth's smile changed to a wry grin. "You're worried I'm going to tell someone, right?" She saw the answer in Melinda's eyes. "Yeah. Like I'm going to say that you got magically changed into a girl and spent the day in a women's swimsuit being a lifeguard?" She laughed. "They'd lock me up." She smiled again. "Your secret is safe with me, _sis_!"
"What about your friends?" Melinda asked cautiously.
"They got into a volleyball game. I said that I wanted to walk around." She shrugged. "I doubt they even know that you changed, and _I'm_ sure not going to tell them." She looked closely at her older sister and grinned. "I just wanted to see how you were handling being a girl."
"Look, I'll talk to you later; I'm on duty," Melinda said, suddenly feeling annoyed at her little sister.
"Shut up!" Melinda was on her feet, staring intently out into the wave pool. Something was wrong. She sensed it. Quickly, she surveyed the deeper parts of the pool. There! Under the large swell, in the deepest part of the wave pool, a head bobbed, face tilted upward, barely above the water. A hand splashed weakly, barely above water. Then the head and arm vanished, the hand making a last desperate splash before the water closed over it. In a moment, the situation changed from boring to very tense. Melinda shoved her whistle in her mouth and blew hard. "Out of the water! Now!" she commanded loudly, even as she tossed her sunglasses aside.
Melinda barely thought of procedure - she had surveyed the pool layout as soon as she had taken her station, so she'd be ready — in case. "In case" happened, and because of her training and foresight, her actions were almost automatic. The spot she'd seen the girl vanish was in the deeper, narrower part of the wave pool - fifty or sixty yards from her chair. With the rescue tube trailing her, tethered to her body, Melinda dove from her chair in a long, flat shallow dive. She was swimming hard even before she broke the surface.
A wave caught Melinda, halting her progress and throwing her a few yards back. Still, she swam. Another wave, and then another tossed her. She felt the urgency of the situation, and a growing sense of frustration. She was _fighting_ the waves; the rolling water had become her enemy.
As a wave lifted her, Melinda glanced around, looking for her bearings in the water. She spied the chair and another landmark, and figured she was close to the spot. Taking a quick breath, she dove under into the water.
The water was much murkier than Melinda had thought. The beach was sandy, and the backwash of the waves had made the sand swirl into the water. With the turbulence of the water above, her visibility underwater was severely limited. She swam in a quick circle, straining her eyes to see in the dim light, fighting the surging water.
When her lungs ached, she pulled on the strap, which fastened her to the rescue tube, and surfaced for air. She glanced around again, looking for both her bearings and any other lifeguards. A few quick strokes against the water put her back where she thought she'd seen the girl go down. Another deep breath and she dove back underwater.
As her lungs began to ache again, she thought she spied something. Melinda struggled, but the wave against the tube was pulling her away, back toward the beach. She fought the tugging, and knew instantly that it was a losing battle. The water was simply too powerful. Still, if this were the girl, the waves were going to keep moving her. She _couldn't_ lose sight of her. Melinda knew that time was against her.
It was against all procedures. It was foolish. Melinda knew it. But she slipped the strap over her shoulder and let the rescue tube go. Her lungs were searing, afire with their overwhelming need for oxygen. Still, she fought, desperately clawing her way through the water. As her ears roared, her vision starting to fade, she felt something brush her hand. Desperately, she grasped it, then pushed her way toward what she hoped was the surface. Her hand tangled in a mat of hair, she clawed with one hand, kicking desperately with her feet, thrashing toward the world above. In the recesses of her mind, she knew that this was extraordinarily dangerous. With the swirling waves and oxygen deprivation, she could easily become confused and swim deeper instead of toward the surface.
Melinda felt her hand break the surface. A fraction of a second later, she pushed her head above water. She gasped for air, managing to get a breath before a wave crashed over her. Renewed by the breath, she pulled and tugged. He head was back above the water, and she gulped in more air. Miraculously, her hand was still holding to the victim's hair. Melinda ducked under water and wrapped her arm around the girl from behind, then kicked back to the surface. She cursed her body, smaller and weaker and less capable of doing the hard work that she _had_ to do. The rescue tube, which would have made her job _much_ easier, was gone, carried who-knows-where by the waves.
Towing the girl, both heads barely above the water and battered by the rolling waves, Melinda swam with the waves, allowing the water to help her. After what seemed an eternity, her foot touched the bottom. Then the other foot touched. Now half-dragging the victim, Melinda pulled and backed as quickly as she could toward the shore.
"Give me a hand with her!" Melinda barked as she continued to pull. Most of the crowd stood, transfixed by the spectacle, but two older women rushed into the water and grabbed the girl.
"On her back!" Melinda ordered as soon as they had the girl out of the water. She knelt beside the girl, hoping against hope to find her still breathing. She wasn't. Melinda glanced up at one of the ladies. "Go get help. Now!" she barked.
She turned her attention back to the girl. Airway - Melinda tilted the girl's chin up and opened her mouth, checking for obstructions.
Breathing - Melinda already knew the girl wasn't breathing. She pinched the girl's nose shut, took a breath, and blew into the girl's mouth, watching and seeing the girl's chest rise with the incoming air. She lifted her head, allowing the rescue breath out, and then repeated the breathing. Two successful rescue breaths. She was on autopilot now, not thinking but doing what she'd been drilled to do.
Circulation - she felt for a pulse even as she watched for any sign of motion. Just as she was about to bend over the girl to administer compressions, she saw a faint motion. Quickly, she gave another rescue breath.
Melinda had been told, numerous times in several training sessions, that when one administers CPR, the victim is likely to empty the contents of his or her stomach. As she lifted from the next breath, the girl coughed violently, causing a gush of water from her lungs to spew. Melinda took that as a hopeful sign as she re-cleared the airway. She gave another rescue breath. This time, even before she was done, the girl convulsed and the contents of her stomach were ejected all over Melinda. Ignoring the disgusting fluid, Melinda wiped her mouth and then wiped the girl's face. Once more, she gave a strong rescue breath, and paused.
"I've got it," a strong voice called from the other side of the victim. Melinda glanced up and saw another staff member kneeling beside the girl. A duffel bag - now open - was beside the newcomer. "I'm Dr. Chastity, the staff physician," the woman added to reassure Melinda as she set about her job.
Melinda sank back on her heels, feeling suddenly overwhelmed. As the doctor continued to minister to the girl, who was now breathing fitfully, Melinda felt hands on her shoulders. She glanced up at Anya, squatting beside her.
"Come on," Anya said as helped Melinda to her feet. Melinda stood, feeling numb. Anya grabbed a towel and handed it to Melinda, who wiped off her face. Then Anya led her back from the beach. "Let's go to the doctor's office."
Anya was silent as they walked; Melinda walked as if on autopilot. They entered the small first-aid hut, and Anya guided Melinda to a chair. Almost as soon as she sat down, Melinda started shaking badly. She sat in the chair, leaning forward, her body trembling almost uncontrollably.
In a few moments, the doctor returned, with another staff member. The two of them carried a litter on which the near-victim was lying. They lay the girl on an exam table, and the doctor quickly placed an oxygen mask on the girl. The doctor turned momentarily toward Melinda. "Good work," she said.
Anya glanced up to the doctor. "The ambulance is on the way."
"Good." The doctor picked up a clipboard and handed it to Melinda. "You _do_ realize you're going to have to fill out reports," she said, almost reluctantly.
Melinda sighed. "Figures." She reached for the clipboard, but Anya stopped her. "You can do that in a few minutes. We have to do something." She gently took Melinda's arm and led her out of the shack. Wordlessly, not giving Melinda any clues, Anya led her to the office.
The old woman was waiting inside, along with Liz and another woman. The old woman was sitting beside the second woman, her arm around the second woman's shoulder and talking to her in a comforting tone. The woman seemed quite distraught; Melinda guessed that she was the mother of the girl Melinda had saved.
The old woman glanced up, and her face lit up. "Ah, Melinda! Come in." She turned to the second woman. "Mrs. Sheldon, this is Melinda. She's the one who saved Tanya."
The second woman's face lit up and she practically leaped up, wrapping herself around Melinda in a tight embrace. "Thank you," she said, her voice trembling. Melinda felt wetness on her cheek from Mrs. Sheldon's tears. "Thank you for saving my baby." She was crying openly, her sobs of gratitude and relief making her tremble. "How can I thank you?" She stepped back a moment, looking at Melinda.
Melinda felt her cheeks burning; she wasn't expecting, nor did she really like, this type of attention. "I was just doing my job," she protested.
Mrs. Sheldon shook her head. "I _have_ to do something! You saved my little girl!" she protested, hugging Melinda tightly again.
Melinda felt very awkward. "I was just doing my job," she protested again, a bit stronger this time. "That's all I need - to know that I made a difference."
The old woman smiled as she looked out the door. "Dr. Chastity is moving Tanya to the ambulance now," she said. "You probably want to ride with her, don't you?"
Mrs. Sheldon started, but she let Melinda escape her embrace. "Oh, yes!"
Anya took Mrs. Sheldon's arm and led her to the office door. Outside, the gurney with Tanya was rolling into view. Mrs. Sheldon rushed to her daughter's side.
In the office, Melinda sighed, glad to be rid of the overly-thankful mother. The old woman gestured for her to sit, and Melinda eased herself into a seat. "Thank you. That was ... embarrassing."
The old woman smiled as she sat down beside Melinda. "I know. I also know people who would have taken advantage of the situation and a mother's emotions to get something. You didn't. That says a _lot_ about you."
Melinda squirmed. "Now _you're_ embarrassing me," she protested softly.
The door opened again, startling Melinda. This time, it was Liz. She saw Melinda sitting with the old woman, and she moved to a chair. "Good job," she said simply.
The old woman frowned. "But?"
Liz glanced sharply at the old woman and sighed. "You know you broke just about every rule in the book, don't you?" She frowned. "What in the hell were you thinking when you dropped your tube? And I heard about your dive from the ..."
The old woman held up her hand, cutting Liz off.
Melinda glanced up at Liz, and her expression got defiant. "The surf was catching the tube, pulling me away from the victim. It was impeding my rescue. And the waves were moving the girl around - in turbid water. I didn't have the luxury of a slow, by-the-book, picture-perfect rescue," she said, her voice angry and defensive.
Liz' expression quickly changed; she thought Melinda was challenging her authority as head lifeguard. "You could have changed it from a one-victim rescue to a two-victim rescue. Then where would we be?"
"But I didn't! I made the rescue!" Melinda replied quickly.
"You took one _hell_ of a chance!" Liz retorted angrily. "That's not the way we ..."
The old woman grasped Liz's arm, silencing her. At the same time, she glared at Melinda. "Stop it! Both of you!" she said sternly.
"Stop it!" the old woman repeated to Liz. She took a deep breath. "I let you run the lifeguard program the way you see fit, right? Have I ever second-guessed your judgment?"
Liz glared at her. "No," she finally answered.
The old woman wasn't done. "You remember how you felt when your platoon louie second-guessed you when your squad used pretty unorthodox methods to take out the machine gun bunkers?"
Liz scowled. "We got the job done."
"Exactly," the old woman said. "You argued that he wasn't the one on the scene, and that he wasn't the one qualified to make a judgment." Her voice softened. "That's exactly the way you need to treat your lifeguards."
Liz glared at the old woman for a moment as she contemplated the dressing-down she'd received.
"Besides," the old woman added, "you _know_ you'd have done the exact same thing. Wouldn't you?"
Liz continued to scowl, but her eyes weren't focused on Melinda or the old woman. It was clear that she was deliberating the boss' words. "Yeah," she replied. She turned to Melinda. "Sorry," she said softly. "I shouldn't have questioned your judgment."
Melinda nodded, and then looked down. "I'm sorry, too. Not that I made the rescue. I _had_ to do what I did. But I guess I should have taken some time to learn the procedures and rules before I started guarding."
Liz stuck out her hand. "Are we okay on this?"
Melinda glanced at the old woman, then she took Liz' hand. "Yeah."
The old woman smiled and looked at Melinda. "You've had a pretty stressful day. Why don't you finish up the paperwork, and then take the rest of the day off."
Melinda frowned. "You're still short-handed, aren't you?" She saw the old woman nod. "You paid me for a day of work, and the job isn't done. You need a lifeguard on duty, not lounging around." She stood abruptly. "Right?"
The old woman shook her head, a wry smile on her face. "Right."
Melinda waited for Liz to rise. "Let's get back to work, then, okay?"
Liz grinned and took Melinda's arm. "Sounds like a plan to me."
As the two stepped out the door, the old woman called out. "Liz?"
Liz halted and turned. "Yeah, boss?"
"Don't forget the club tonight."
Liz started, and then she grinned. "Don't worry. I'll make sure she's there." She let the door close and turned back toward the park.
"The club?" Melinda asked hesitantly.
Liz smiled. "One of the 'rules' of the park. Whenever someone makes a rescue, Grandmother treats her to a nice dinner at the Palm Club. Everyone goes. It's a great time!"
Melinda's eyes widened. The Palm Club? That was one of the ritziest, most exclusive clubs in town. Melinda knew she'd be way out of her league in a place like that. Plus, she was only a substitute, not a true staff member. "I can't ..."
Liz grinned. "You can't back out. Tradition." Then her grin broadened. "And we'll get your sister and her friends home in a cab, so you can't use _that_ as an excuse!"
Melinda had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. As soon as the dinner was mentioned, she'd been working on excuses to not go, because the thought of being out in public in this body made her nervous. Apparently, Liz and the others weren't going to let her back out.
Melinda took a quick glance around the table as she put a small forkful of fish into her mouth. The old woman, Anya, Liz, Jenny, and several others from Bikini Beach were seated around the large round table in the corner of the Club. A few women that Melinda hadn't seen at the park had joined the group. Dr. Chastity was with a woman who was _very_ clearly her lover.
It seemed a happy group - except for Melinda, who was feeling very self-conscious. She wasn't used to being the center of attention or being treated as a hero. Even more so, however, was the fact that there were a lot of men who seemed to be looking at Melinda.
When she'd gotten back to the locker room at the end of the day, she'd discovered that her male clothing had changed completely. Her underwear had become a matching pink panty and bra set - with delicate lacy trim, Melinda discovered to her shock. Her jeans were much more feminine and tight, and her simple T-shirt was now a blouse that hugged her new figure and showed more than a little bosom at the base of the low-cut neckline. Another discovery shocked Melinda; there was no wallet - in its place was a small purse with a small 'touch-up kit' of makeup. Anya had insisted on helping Melinda with her makeup, so that Melinda was now the picture of a fashionable young woman out for a night with her girlfriends.
She squirmed uncomfortably, staring down at her plate after she'd met eyes with a young man who'd been looking at her. Beside her, Jenny laughed lightly. She looked up at Jenny, her eyes angry.
Jenny set her hand lightly on Melinda's arm. "I'm not trying to embarrass you," she said. "It's just kind of fun to watch you. It reminds me of how uncomfortable _I_ was when I started."
Melinda sighed, shaking her head lightly. "It's hard. I can't get used to guys looking at me."
Jenny laughed again as she took the carafe from the center of the table and poured more wine for herself and Melinda. "Remind yourself that it's just for tonight," she said with a grin before taking a sip.
Melinda's eyes widened momentarily, and then she smiled. "Yeah, I guess so - just for tonight." For a brief moment, she considered whether she'd already had too much to drink; she felt a little woozy. She dismissed the thought; she'd only had two glasses of wine. Two _small_ glasses.
As she took another bite of her dinner, she thought she saw Anya giving Jenny a stern, almost warning, look. She blinked, and Anya's expression was again smiling and warm. Perhaps, she thought, she'd just imagined it.
Melinda carefully set her fork down. "Excuse me," she said as she started to rise. "I have to ... uh ..."
The old woman smiled knowingly. "The phrase used to be 'powder your nose'." She gave a quick look of exasperation. "Heaven knows what the women _today_ call it!"
Anya touched her grandmother's arm as she laughed. "Usually, _my_ age group just says we need to visit the ladies room." She glanced at Melinda. "It's pretty simple, actually. None of this 'secret code phrase' stuff so common among the older generation."
Melinda tried to laugh, but it felt awkward. She _knew_ she was a guy inside, but right now, the rest of the ladies were treating her as if she'd _always_ been a girl. "I guess I have to visit the ladies' room." She pushed her chair back.
Before opening the door, Melinda paused, taking a deep breath. She was trembling inside. While doing her business in one stall, she'd heard a couple of girls talking - very bluntly - about what they expected from the evening. When she came out, the two had very distinctly flashed a warning with their eyes - Melinda better not interfere with the guys _they_ picked out. Then the girls left with an air of superiority, while Melinda washed her hands and wondered about their snooty attitude. Was it that they really were the rich snobs they seemed to be, or was it that they were putting on airs while they trolled the club for guys? And their language — she was shocked to hear girls talking worse than sailors when in the privacy of the ladies' room.
Outside the door, the group from Bikini Beach was sitting at their table, waiting for her return. And there were guys, some single and looking to hook up with some young lady for the evening. _That_ was the part that scared Melinda the most - the attention from the guys. Still, she couldn't hide forever.
She took a deep breath, steeled herself, and started back to the table. Compared to the relative quiet of the restroom, the noise of the club was almost overwhelming for a brief moment. Melinda forced herself to walk back toward the table.
"Hi," a masculine voice said from beside her, startling her.
"Oh," she said, spinning her head to see the interloper even as she tried to calm her nerves. "Hi." She realized that the man had quickly slid in front of her, forming a temporary block in her path. Melinda recognized the move instantly - it gave the man a chance to get face-to-face contact without being too rude the process. Done right, it looked almost natural. Almost.
She looked over the man quickly. He was twenty-four or five, probably in sales or marketing based on how he was carrying and presenting himself. Well-dressed in a casual-professional manner. Hair done neatly. Confident, even a touch cocky.
"I haven't seen you around the clubs," he said to strike up conversation. "Are you new around here?"
Melinda felt butterflies in her stomach. "Uh, I guess you could say that," she answered carefully.
The man smiled. "Well, I have to say your choice of clubs is outstanding. This is one of the best clubs in town."
"I ... uh ... thought it was pretty nice."
"Good food, good service, and a great deejay for dancing. One couldn't ask for much more in a club," he smiled warmly, "except for someone to enjoy it with. Can I get you something to drink? Or perhaps you'd favor me with a dance?" His charm was on overdrive.
Melinda felt a bit of panic. How, she wondered, did women avoid these kind of smooth-talkers without being catty or rude? "Uh," she stammered, "I'm ... uh ... with a group."
The man's smile didn't wane. "Oh, surely they'd understand if you excused yourself for a dance, wouldn't they?" he asked hopefully.
Melinda felt a hand slip around her waist, while another hand clutched her shoulder. She started, even as she turned her head to the newcomer. She felt her heart restart when she recognized Jenny's long red hair.
"_There_ you are, lover" Jenny said to Melinda in a sultry voice. "I was getting lonely without you." She gave Melinda a quick wink that the man couldn't see, and then gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "You want to dance now, or after dessert?" Jenny leaned her head on Melinda's shoulder, while her hand around Melinda's waist pulled her tightly against the redhead.
Melinda felt her legs getting rubbery as her nerves finally started to give out. She was barely aware of the man making some lame excuses. She hardly noticed as Jenny held her tightly and guided her back to the table as if Jenny and Melinda were lovers.
Mitch felt his head pounding, and he winced at the bright light. He screwed his eyes tightly shut to avoid one distraction as he rolled and sat up. That motion caused his head to throb, and he winced again. Slowly, the pounding subsided to a mere thrum, and Mitch carefully pried his eyes open.
He was on a bed, in a bedroom that was definitely not masculine in its decor. He started to rise, and he realized that he was naked. Mitch sat back down, pulling the blanket back over his lap, and he scanned the room.
His clothes - his _male_ clothes - were neatly piled on a chair in one corner. Two doors were shut; Mitch guessed that the smaller door opened into a closet, while the larger door led out of the bedroom. Still another door stood ajar, and Mitch could see a bathroom beyond. Deciding that he could brave the situation, Mitch stood and scooted to the chair, his eyes on the door as he scooped up his clothes.
Moments later, mostly clothed and having relieved himself, Mitch twisted the doorknob and pulled the door open. He heard some activity, so he peeked around the corner.
He was in an apartment. Not a large apartment at that, but very nice in its decor and furnishings. The mystery was _whose_ apartment? If it hadn't been for the feminine décor, Mitch's discomfort would have turned to full-fledged terror. Slowly, he followed the noise until he came to a small kitchen that opened across a bar into the main room.
"Sleeping Beauty is awake," Jenny said with a smile from the kitchen area. She was wearing a robe that was partially open, revealing her underwear beneath. She saw Mitch's stare and glanced down, then with a grin, she retied the robe.
"What ... happened?" Mitch asked slowly. At Jenny's gesture, he eased himself onto a stool.
"Want something to eat? I'm afraid I'm not a big breakfast person. Usually, I just have a half English muffin and some yogurt, so I'm not stocked with bacon and eggs and such." She smiled, her eyes twinkling. "Got to keep the figure, you know."
Mitch started to shake his head, but the effort caused the low background bass drum in his brain to thump noisily. He winced. "Right now," he said softly, "that would be just fine."
Jenny split the English muffin, popped it in the toaster, and pulled out a container of strawberry yogurt. "I've got water, OJ, and grapefruit juice." She grinned over her shoulder again. "I'm not much on coffee, either. Sorry."
"OJ is fine," Mitch answered. Jenny shut up while she finished making the simple breakfast for her houseguest. Finally she stood across from Mitch. "So, what happened?" Mitch repeated. "I ..."
Jenny grinned. "You don't remember how you got here, do you?"
Mitch looked down, embarrassed. It'd been a long time since he'd had so much to drink that he didn't remember things. It'd happened only once, in fact. "Yeah," he admitted softly. "At first, I didn't even know _where_ I was!"
Jenny laughed softly. "Well, since you were pretty hammered, and since you were going to change in the middle of the night, we figured it would be better to let you stay with me." She saw Mitch look up sharply. "My apartment is right next to the park - and your car."
"Oh." Mitch sounded a bit disappointed.
"So how much _do_ you remember?"
Mitch swallowed some muffin and took a drink of juice. "We were at the Palm Club. I think I'd had a bit too much to drink. I remember going to the bathroom, but then ..."
Jenny laughed. "You don't remember me riding to your rescue from J. Ainsley Tarrington, the Third?"
Mitch frowned again. "I ... I wasn't sure if that was real." His frown deepened. "You . kissed me."
Jenny laughed. "Yeah, and Anya and the boss nearly tore my head off over that." She saw Mitch's confusion. "They thought I was flirting with you earlier."
Mitch felt more disappointment. "Were you?"
"I told them it was a good way to rescue you." Jenny dropped her gaze. "But maybe I was - a bit."
Jenny looked up. "Oh? Does that mean ... that maybe you ... enjoyed me flirting?"
It was Mitch's turn to look down. "I don't know." He shook his head slowly. "I mean, you're awfully attractive."
Jenny smiled. "Thank you. Do you realize how cute you are? Were? As a girl, I mean?"
Mitch shook his head. "So, if you were flirting ..."
Jenny laughed. "You want to know if I took advantage of you while you were drunk?" She shook her head. "No. I promised the Boss that I wouldn't, and I didn't."
Jenny looked down again, biting her lip. "I was _really_ tempted," she admitted softly. "But I managed to keep my panties on." She paused for effect. "And yours, too," she added with a laugh.
Mitch walked across the asphalt toward the office, a note in his hand. When he'd gotten to his car, the morning crowd hadn't started arriving, so he figured he'd slip out of the park before the women started arriving. Then he found a note under the wiper.
At the door of the office, he paused and thought for a moment. What was the note about? All it said was "Can you please stop by the office before leaving?" He reached for the intercom button.
Before he could press the button, the intercom came to life. "Please come in," the old woman's voice called.
Mitch pulled the door open and stepped inside. The old woman was in her chair behind her desk, facing the door. Mitch gulped - she was very obviously waiting for him.
"Please have a seat," the old woman said with a pleasant smile. "And don't worry - you're not in trouble."
Mitch slid into a chair. His mind was racing - he had a million questions, and felt like he had no answers. "Why ... do you want to talk to me?" he blurted out.
The old woman laughed lightly. "Let's start with your questions. You wonder if what you experienced is normal. The answer is yes. It's not always so ... exciting. But it's pretty normal. You're lucky - you got to experience a bit of life on the other side, so to speak."
Mitch frowned. "But ." He was trying to formulate a question, but he couldn't quite put it into words.
"Was it really so different?" the old woman asked.
Mitch thought. "No, I guess not, except for the thing in the club."
The old woman smiled sadly. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of young men who treat women as prey. So, yes, you did experience a bit of the down-side. But the rest is pretty much the same."
"By the way, the mother of the girl you saved came by earlier." The old woman pushed an envelope across her desk. "She wanted to thank you."
Mitch cautiously took the envelope, and even more cautiously opened it. His eyes widened as he counted the zeros on the check. He closed his eyes a moment, then he slid the check back into the envelope and pushed it back to the old woman. "I can't accept this," he said slowly. "It's not for me. It's for _her_!"
The old woman seemed surprised. "But . Melinda _is_ you!"
Mitch shook his head. "I was just doing my job. I'm not even a hero - not as a guy, anyway!" He saw the slow nod of the old woman's head. "I can't take it. Maybe Melinda earned it, but not me."
"That doesn't make sense," the old woman said. "You and Melinda are the same person."
"No, we're not," Mitch answered slowly. He started to rise, turning toward the door. Then he paused and glanced at the old woman. "I appreciate the job, and I appreciate the chance to learn a bit about a woman's world." He turned back toward the door.
"Mitch," the old woman called. "What are you afraid of?" she asked when he'd met her gaze. "Are you embarrassed that you were a girl yesterday? Or are you scared by _how_ successful you were as a young woman?"
Mitch's mouth opened almost instantly to reply, but the words never came out. After a moment, he closed his mouth again. He stood at the door, one hand on the knob, looking at the old woman for a bit before he dropped his gaze. "I don't know," he finally admitted.
The old woman sat, a sad smile on her face. "You know, it seems to me that most people tie their identities too closely to how they look on the outside rather than what they are on the inside."
Mitch's eyebrows rose as he contemplated the woman's words. "Maybe," he said slowly. He forced a thin smile. "I have to admit that the last day has given me a lot to think about." He turned back toward the door.
"By the way," the old woman called out in a firm voice, halting Mitch mid-stride, "I'm still short a lifeguard. Jill has a broken arm and two cracked ribs, so she can't do much lifeguarding. Are you interested in a job for a couple of weeks?" She saw the surprise on Mitch's face. "You didn't have anything else lined up anyway," she added.
Mitch's jaw dropped. "But ." He shook his head. "Look, I could get away with staying out overnight once. But for several days or more? I couldn't get away with that. And I couldn't go home as _her_."
The old woman smiled. "What if I could promise you that you _could_ get away with it? If I could alter reality for a couple of weeks so that everyone around you thought you'd always _been_ Melinda?"
Mitch started to say something, but he stopped. Finally, he laughed. "I shouldn't be surprised that you could do that," he said.
"Can I think about it?" Mitch asked, uncertainty in his voice.
The old woman sighed. "Think quickly. I have a park to open."
Mitch looked into the old woman's eyes. Somehow, he knew that the offer was genuine. "You know I could use the money, right?" He saw the old woman's nod. "I suppose it beats being unemployed." He smiled nervously. "I guess I can try it for a couple of weeks."
The old woman rose and shook his hand. "I think you're going to enjoy your time with us," she said with a smile. She reached down to her desk and picked up a card and handed it to Mitch. "Now, please swipe this through the employees' gate and get changed so I can get the park open."
As Melinda came out of the shower, she nearly ran over Jenny. "Hi," she said, laughing at Jenny's open-mouth stare of astonishment.
"Uh," Jenny stammered, uneasiness in her voice, "I didn't expect to see you here."
Melinda smiled. "The boss needed a sub for a few more days. I happened to be free." She shrugged. "It works out for everyone."
"How long are you going to be ..."
Melinda grinned. "Like this?" She laughed. "A couple of weeks."
Jenny gulped. "You _know_ that after the club, this is going to be kind of ... awkward," she said uncertainly.
Melinda turned down the path toward the lifeguard shack. "I've got to get to work." She glanced over her shoulder at Jenny. "And I don't think it'll be too awkward."
Jenny frowned. "Yeah, but you're not the one who's going to have to control yourself."
Melinda laughed. "Well, maybe you can think of it as a challenge. Can you seduce the new girl before she changes back?" She saw Jenny's mouth drop open in astonishment, and she could practically hear the thoughts running through Jenny's mind. Melinda thought - if Jenny and she _did_ hook up, it would be a very unique experience. And Jenny was _damned_ cute!
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