Bikini Beach: Vicky's Story


Bikini Beach: Vicky's Story
ElrodW

We first met Vicky when she and four soon-to-be transformed guys sneaked into Bikini Beach for a late night swim. This is the story who Vicky is, who she _truly_ is, how she came to be there that night, and what's been happening to her since.

(Note: Vicky first appeared in BB: Midnight Swim, and has been a continuing character in BB: Nerds — Holiday Queen and BB: Nerds — Date Rape Avenger.)

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Bikini Beach: Vicky's Story

This story is copyright by the author. It is protected by licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Rob sat in the hamburger shop, waiting. Anya had made him promise to be here at four. He glanced at his watch, and saw that it was precisely 3:59:02. Rob grinned. GPS synchronized watches were pretty cool — to a nerd. And Rob was a self-admitted nerd.

The bell tinkled on the door, announcing a new arrival. Rob turned, and saw Vicky walking in. She looked very nervous, and she glanced as if looking for someone. When she saw Rob, her expression didn't lighten. If anything, she looked even more worried. Still, she came slowly to his booth. "May I?" she asked softly.

Rob smiled. "Please," he answered. "Did Anya send you?"

At the mention of her boss (technically, Anya wasn't the boss, but everyone knew that her words carried a lot of weight), Vicky blanched. "Uh huh," she nodded, unsure of herself. She slid into the seat, pausing to make sure her skirt was down. "Did she say anything?"

Rob shook his head as a slight frown crossed his features. "What's going on here, Vicky?" he asked, concern echoing in his words. "Is something wrong? Are you ...?"

Vicky shook her head, emphatically denying that anything was wrong. "No, nothing's wrong," she answered quickly. Too quickly. There was something in her voice ....

Rob cocked his head, puzzled. "So what is it, then? Anya didn't give any clues."

Vicky looked at Rob, and then looked down. After composing herself for a moment or two, she looked back at Rob. "I know how you feel about me," she started hesitantly. "You don't make any secret about it, you know."

Rob blushed, but only slightly. "Well, I can't help it," he said, defending himself. "You're a pretty special girl ..."

Vicky shook her head, cutting him off. A tear started to roll down her cheek. "No," she said, and the strain in her voice was plain to Rob. "No, you're far too nice a guy for me," she protested weakly.

"But ..."

Vicky shook her head, silencing Rob again. "I have to tell you something," she said. Anguish dripped from every word. She wanted, more than anything, to avoid having to tell Rob her story. At the same time, she knew that she had to. Anya had helped her understand. And now, Vicky was on the hot seat.

"I'm listening," Rob said softly. Every fiber of his being was focused on Vicky, on the words she felt were important for him to hear.

Vicky wiped a tear. "I wasn't always like this - the 'nice girl' you think I am."

**********

Vic Martin paused outside the main doors, waiting. The buses were long-since gone, and the noise of teenagers at Kennedy High had faded for the day. Only Vic and a few others were left, and only because they'd just been released from the prison of detention. Within seconds, his partner in crime skipped down the steps, laughing all the way.

"Well, Vic?" Jim Hayes asked gleefully, "Was it worth it?"

Vic grinned broadly. "Yeah, but that was after only one day. We've got nine more days of this."

Jim and Vic started walking to Jim's car. "Man, I wish I could have seen the face of the poor girl that turned on the water."

Vic laughed aloud. They'd found a simple chemical mixture that produced dense white smoke when it got wet. How to use it properly was Jim's inspiration. One afternoon, once classes were done and the building was empty, they slipped back into the school. With Jim watching, Vic had carefully removed the traps from three sinks in the Home Economics room. While Home Economics was considered a passe course these days, a lot of girls, and a few boys, took the "Life Skills" class, which dealt with things like how to apply for a job, sticking to a budget, cooking, and how to keep a place for yourself. Jim and Vic carefully dried out the traps and the sinks, and put a handful of the magic powder in each sink trap and reassembled the drains. After that, it was just a matter of waiting for some poor girl to turn on the sink.

It happened second period, when Jim and Vic were in English. The fire alarm sounded insistently, and as they joined the flight from the building, they could see the choking white smoke pouring into the hallways. The duo laughed until they hurt as they stood outside waiting for the fire trucks and the all clear.

They hadn't laughed so heartily when they were summoned to Principal Nelson's office. He'd seen their amusement at the spectacle, and obviously suspected them; after all, they had both been involved in a great many prior pranks. They got the full riot act. Endangering students by faking a fire. Unauthorized use of chemicals from the lab. Breaking and entering. As they walked away, Vic had a pang of remorse; this one had crossed the line, he realized. If anyone had been hurt in the rush to escape, it would have been his and Jim's faults. They were lucky to escape with only 2 weeks detention, and only because they couldn't _conclusively_ prove that Vic and Jim had done it. Jim, however, felt no regrets; to him, it was still a big joke. He laughed all the way home.

**********

A week after their detention was over, Jim approached Vic in the cafeteria. "What's new, buddy?" Jim asked simply.

Vic knew that Jim was up to something. Rarely did he have the broad grin without also having a caper. "I don't know," Vic answered coolly. "What's the plan?"

Jim laughed. "You got me figured out," he said with a grin. "Okay, you know what happens in two weeks?"

Vic's eyes narrowed. "The spring pageant," he answered quickly. Everybody knew the spring pageant was coming up. The winner at that contest would go on to the city pageant, and from there to state, and finally to Miss Teen USA. It was considered very important to the 'beautiful' girls. "So what's the plan? Blower up their skirts like last year?"

Jim laughed at the memories. "Nah, it's been done." The fact that he and Vic had done it made him proud. "I was thinking about doing something a little different this year."

Vic's eyes narrowed. "Itching powder in their bras? Blackening soap in the makeup? Whoopee cushions on the stools?"

Jim grinned and shook his head. "No, no, and no." He reached across and patted Vic on the cheek. "Victor, my boy, you're thinking small potatoes here. This is the pageant. It's time to pull out all the stops!"

Vic bristled at Jim's put-down. "So what's the plan, hotshot?"

Jim grinned and he leaned closer. "What would you say if we got a couple of guys entered in the contest?"

Vic snorted. "Guys in drag? Come on, this is a big pageant!"

Jim's grin widened, to the point it looked like it would split his face. "I learned a few tricks in theater this year. With the right makeup, and some good costuming tricks, we'd look like girls right up until we pulled off our wigs!"

Vic started to listen, but then his eyes widened. "Whoa," he interjected. "What do you mean, 'we?'"

Jim smiled. "I mean 'we'. Look, we're seniors, right? And this is our chance to go out with a bang, right?" Vic nodded slowly. He still didn't like the idea, but Jim was persuasive.

Vic nodded grudgingly. "Okay, so how does this work? How do we get entered?"

Jim grinned. "Already done," he announced softly. "I entered us this morning."

Vic stopped mid-stride and turned toward Jim. "Wait a sec. What do you mean, you entered us? What makes you think I'm going to go along?"

Jim raised his hands, palms facing Vic. "Whoa, Vic. Calm down a bit." Vic's reaction was familiar, and Jim knew how to handle this. "I just thought you'd like to be in on the greatest gag of the school year. I thought you'd like the moment of glory."

Vic started to reply, but he stopped. He turned and started walking again. Something was nagging at him, hinting some feeling of danger. Still, this would be a great gag .... "Okay, so what do we do?"

Jim grinned and fell in beside Vic. "I'll figure out what we need. Then we get it and show up at the pageant. Simple."

**********

'Simple' turned out to be not so simple. They needed suitable dresses. For Jim, with six sisters, that part was relatively easy. But Vic had only his younger sister, five years his junior, and he was a bit larger than Jim, so they couldn't just 'borrow' a dress from Jim's sister. A week and a half passed, and they still hadn't found a dress for Vic.

The second major problem came when Jim went to 'borrow' some props and makeup from the theater department. Due to the numerous pranks, many of which involved Jim, some departments had tightened their policies, which meant that Jim didn't have unrestricted access to the makeup and props. They'd even tried subterfuge, with Vic trying to distract the manager while Jim pilfered the supplies. Perhaps the manager suspected something, or perhaps she was just following the new policy; she locked up the cabinet before she left Jim alone.

"Okay, hotshot, now what?" Vic asked sullenly as they walked out of the school. "The pageant's this weekend, and we're still nowhere near ready."

Jim frowned. "I don't know," he admitted. "Maybe we can go to a costume shop or something."

Vic shook his head. "I don't know," he said slowly. "Most of those places sell pretty cheesy costumes, and they're kind of pricey, too." Their failure to pull off this gag would be a first, and despite his misgivings, Vic didn't want that failure hanging on him.

Jim nodded his agreement. "Maybe we can find something in the mall," he said, trying unsuccessfully to interject some hope.

Vic merely shrugged. "Okay, it's worth a try."

**********

Vic shook his head sadly as they exited the food court. "Nada," he said. "Zero. Zip. I guess we're not going to make this one."

Jim opened his mouth to reply, but then he stopped. "I guess you're right," he finally agreed. "Let's go to the arcade and play some games. Maybe we'll get an idea there."

As they turned the corner to the arcade, it was Vic who noticed the shop. It was a curious little store, with a full storefront and a weathered door. Over the door hung a weathered wooden sign which read 'Spells-R-Us'. "Hey, what about that store?" he asked Jim. His hopes had suddenly rebounded, based on a cursory examination of the articles in the display window.

Jim followed Vic's gaze, and soon his eyes lit up with hope as well. The shop seemed to be a catch-all curio shop. A few costumes, a few old books, a weathered steamer trunk, some mystical-looking jewelry, and even a couple of games and videos filled the display case. "Maybe," Jim said with a grin. He changed course abruptly, setting a new course for the odd little shop.

The sound of a bell tinkling as the door opened was as foreign to the mall as the door itself. Vic stepped inside, not really looking where he was going, his eyes and head turning and craning to examine the strange little shop. A rack of costumes filled one corner. A large case displayed more jewelry, while a shelf held some curious, and probably very old, little crystal vials and jars. Games, including computer games, were stacked haphazardly on a table, while books spilled from a bookcase onto the floor. A bearskin rug hung on one wall. A shelf full of weird science-fiction props nearly blocked view of another shelf with convenience items such as aspirin and sunscreen.

"What a weird store!" Jim exclaimed in hushed tones. All the place needed were cobwebs and a thin layer of dust, and it would seem to have come straight from an old horror movie set.

"Why, thank you, Jim," a voice called from behind the boys, startling them. "I think." They spun and spotted a curious little man, whose appearance fit this store perfectly. He wore an old robe, which appeared to be more a costume than a bathrobe, and his beard and mustache reminded Vic of Merlin from the Disney cartoon 'The Sword in the Stone.' It seemed that he'd appeared out of nowhere.

"Uh," Vic stuttered, still trying to regain his composure after the startling appearance. "We, uh ..."

The old man chuckled. "No, Vic, I'm not Merlin. He's much taller, and he's got a really poor sense of humor."

Vic's jaw dropped. This old man had known his name — and what he'd been thinking. "Did you just ...?" Vic started to ask.

The old man laughed, an amused chuckle. "Yes, Vic, I did just read your mind. I'm a wizard, you know, and we do that sort of thing." His eyes twinkled, and he winked at Vic. "What a refreshing change. It beats having to answer that inane 'How did you do that' question all day!" He laughed again. "Like Jim was about to ask me!"

Vic glanced at Jim, his eyes betraying his nervousness. This was eerie, and Vic was none too comfortable. Jim, too, was unnerved, but he braced his shoulders and put on a brave front.

"So how can I help you today?" the old man asked. His eyes seemed ever sparkling, as if he were enjoying a perpetual joke.

Vic frowned. "Aren't you going to tell us what we're looking for?" he asked slyly.

"Touche," the old man roared. "You just want to look around a bit, right?" He stepped behind his counter, behind an antique-looking cash register which sat next to an electronic credit card system. The contrast was humorous.

Vic smiled. This old man was okay, he started to think. "And after we look around a bit, you'll tell us what we really wanted, right?" He watched the old man smile in acknowledgement. "How about we save a bit of time?" He gave Jim a nudge; Jim had been looking at a computer game. "We're looking for some costumes, and some theatrical makeup. Girl's costumes," he added as his cheeks flushed red. "Uh ... for a costume party."

The old man smiled knowingly. "A party? If you say so." He walked from behind his counter to the rack of costumes, with the boys following. He rifled through the rack, and pulled down a formal gown. After giving it a quick once-over, he held it up to Vic. "Hmm. I think this will work for you."

Vic's eyes widened. The gown was very nice, but there was no way it would work for him. He started to protest, but the old man cut him off. "Oh, yes, I know the waist is too narrow, and it does seem a bit low-cut, and it is kind of tight, which would, uh, give away the show, so to speak?" He was referring, of course, to the fact that Vic's equipment would cause an unsightly bulge in the garment. "Trifling details," he muttered. "We can take care of that." He set the dress aside and strode to a large display of underwear. After a bit of rummaging, he pulled out a couple of ladies' undergarments: a bustier, which to Vic looked like a combination of a strapless bra and a corset; and what looked to be a very tight and sturdy pair of panties, albeit with a padded posterior. While they were far from sexy, they did look quite restraining. "Ah, I think these will do the trick," he muttered. Again, he held up the garment to Vic. "Yes, that will do nicely."

Vic frowned. "You expect me to wear those ... those ... things?"

"Whenever you build a house, you've got to get the foundation right, you know," he clucked. "You wear these, and they hold your stomach in, making it appear that you have a narrow waist. The same thing for the crotch. Oh, sure, they may be a bit tight, but the effect is, ah, shall we say magical?" His eyes glimmered as if he were laughing at his own joke. He tossed the garments on top of the dress. He stroked his beard. "Hmm. What else?" he mumbled to himself. After a few seconds of staring in the general direction of the ceiling, he held up a finger. "Of course." He took off at a fast pace across the store. Jim and Vic exchanged a puzzled look, then they followed him.

The old man was rummaging through a bin of shoes. "Er, you're a size 9 1/2, aren't you?" he asked as if he already knew the answer. He fished a bit longer before pulling out a pair of high-heeled pumps. He looked at them, then across the store at the dress, then back at the shoes. "Yes, I think these will do."

Jim peeked around Vic. "Look, don't you just have a costume ...?"

He got no further with his question. The old man wheeled on him, his eyes narrowed. "Listen, sonny," he began, his voice low and insistent, "when you do a gag, you can either do it half-assed, and get half-assed results, or you can do it right. Now do you two want to do this half-assed, or do you want to do it right?"

Jim cringed from the verbal lashing. He was behind Vic, and he moved ever so slightly, decreasing how much of him was visible to the strange old man. Vic, who'd been asking himself the same question, slowly nodded. "We do it right," he agreed.

The old man smiled. "Okay." He put the pumps on the counter, and then he thought aloud, "Now where did I put those?" he asked himself, stroking his chin. After a second, his eyes lit up. "Oh, yes." He turned and ducked behind a curtain; above the door was a sign reading 'Employees only'. Vic and Jim, spying the sign, decided it would be better to wait. Within moments, the old man reappeared. He was carrying a strange beige item, which he promptly flopped on the counter, and an old wooden case.

And as soon as it hit, it unfolded. Jim suppressed a giggle, while Vic flushed. "Uh, what are those for?" he asked.

The old man smiled. "Hollywood prosthetics. Breast forms. They're to make sure you have," he held his hands out from his chest, "cleavage. To fill out the dress, you know."

"But they don't look ... real," Vic protested.

The old man smiled and plunked the wooden case on the counter. He flipped the brass latch, and unfolded it. As the lid folded up, inner trays lifted, folding up and open. Inside the lid was a mirror, and the trays held various makeup items. "Got this from Greta Garbo," the old man said. "Did wonders for her career." His mouth dropped as he saw the boys mouthing the name, not a vestige of comprehension on their faces. "Greta Garbo? The actress?" He shook his head. "No cultural background," he mumbled in disgust.

"Okay, so that's stage makeup, right?" Jim asked, recognizing some of the items in the case. He continued to gaze into the case. "It looks like there's more, too. Fake nails and stuff?"

The old man nodded toward Jim. "Very good. I see all that time in drama wasn't a total waste."

Vic looked over the contents of the counter and frowned. "I think I'll need a wig, too."

The old man smiled and walked to the costume rack. He glanced around a shelf, then he retrieved a wig. It was moderately long, mostly straight, and had a slight inward curl at the bottom. The front was in straight bangs. All in all, it was simple and cute. Blonde, but not a 'bimbo blonde.' "I think this is just right."

As the old man walked back to the counter, Jim elbowed Vic aside. "Er," he interrupted, "can you put together the same kind of thing for me?"

The old man stopped and turned. A smile slowly formed, spreading into a grin that made Vic shudder. "Why, yes. Yes I can." His eyes twinkled. "I was waiting for you to ask." Vic had a brief feeling of dread at the old man's entire demeanor, but it quickly passed, replaced by anticipation of their gag.

A few minutes later, Jim's costume was ready. While Vic's gown exposed some cleavage from its scoop neckline, Jim's was very daring. The sleeves hung off the shoulders, and the neckline not only required a strapless bra, but was going to reveal some serious cleavage. In contrast to Vic's soft blue gown, Jim's was daring ruby in color, and his shoes matched perfectly, albeit with even higher heels than Vic's. Jim's wig was honey blonde, long, and curly. And where the prosthesis for Vic was maybe a C-cup, Jim had insisted on something a bit larger. The old man smiled as he produced a double-D cup. Jim's leering grin let the old man know that he was pleased.

"Okay," the old man said as he surveyed the two piles. "You'll need a few accessories, like nail polish and pantyhose. But you can pick those up cheap at a department store. And if you want earrings or necklaces, you can probably borrow them from your mom or sisters. Now did you boys want to rent or buy this?"

Vic's head snapped toward Jim, who had glanced Vic's way. The heads turned back as one. "Rent," they said in harmony.

The old man smiled and nodded. "Okay, that will be thirty-five dollars each, plus a fifty-dollar deposit for the makeup kit." He started to place the kits into a bag for each boy. He rang up the purchases and took their money. "I appreciate the business," he said with a smile. "I hope you guys are the hit of the pageant."

Jim gave Vic a sly grin. "I'm sure we will be," he answered. Neither boy noticed the subtly wicked grin nor the way he spoke as if he already knew the outcome.

As Vic grasped the door handle, the old man called out after the boys. "Oh, yes, I almost forgot. There are directions with each item. Be sure to read and follow the directions."

Jim nodded without really hearing. "Sure, sure," he called. His mind was already on the pageant.

**********

Vic peered out of the men's locker room, then gave the door lock a twist. Even though they were going to reveal themselves to the entire school in a few hours, he didn't relish the thought of being caught getting into the girl's clothing. He saw Jim starting to strip, and he did a double-take. "Did you shave? You know, your legs and stuff?"

Jim scowled, trying to hide the way his cheeks were flushing. "Well, that dress kind of shows them off, you know," he said defensively.

Vic grinned. "Yeah, I know." He pulled up his pants, showing off his smooth legs. "Me too."

Both boys stripped to their shorts, then they laboriously applied the breast prostheses. They'd taken the precaution of practicing once, and consequently, they knew how long the process was going to take. It was mid-afternoon, and the pageant didn't start for almost four hours.

Jim applied the spirit gum to Vic's form, then waited until it was just right. He pressed the form onto Vic's chest, wrapping it to the side of his ribcage and up near his collar bones, carefully smoothing out the edges and making sure it was firmly adhered. When he was sure it was stuck, the two traded places. Next came the makeup on the prostheses. Jim smoothed liquid latex over the seam, molding it until the seam was nearly invisible. As soon as the latex was dried, he began to apply the base. Next, he selected a tone of cake makeup which most closely matched Vic's skin and liberally applied it to the entire form and most of Vic's upper torso. When he was done, he stepped back and whistled.

"What?" Vic demanded, frowning. He really didn't like being whistled at like that.

"See for yourself," Jim said with a grin.

Vic strode into the bathroom, and gasped when he looked in the mirror. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "They look almost real!"

Jim nodded. "Yeah. Now do me." Vic repeated the process, under Jim's constant verbal direction. And when Vic was done, the effect was no less realistic. "This stuff is like magic," Jim said in awe as he considered the realistic and bounteous cleavage on his chest.

Vic felt a tremor of unease at Jim's words, like some kind of warning he couldn't quite catch. The feeling passed quickly. He glanced at his watch. "Wow! That took a long time."

Nails came next — the artificial nails from the makeup kit that they glued in place. After a bit, the adhesive dried, and they carefully painted them. Jim had selected long nails with rusty red enamel to match the lipstick he'd selected, while Vic went with less daring nails and clear enamel. It seemed much less feminine; while Vic would never admit it, he was starting to get nervous at just how far the transformation was going. Jim had laughed off his worries the last time they practiced; it was just a gag. Vic checked his watch again. "Think we'll make it?" he asked, worried about the time.

Jim nodded. "I'm going to pee now, before I start getting in the rest of that stuff. I'd suggest you do the same." He saw Vic's puzzled look. "After we get all made up, are you going to use the ladies' room, or the men's room?" Vic got the point.

Next came the bustiers, the tight garments that helped mold their waists. As the old man promised, while they were a bit uncomfortable, they were also very effective at making their bodies look more feminine. Vic sucked in his stomach, and it still took all of Jim's strength to fasten the bustier. Vic felt like a vice was squeezing his waist, and it was quite uncomfortable. The nice thing about the garments was that the tops perfectly matched their artificial bustlines and reduced the pull and tug of the artificial weight on their chest and shoulder muscles. Then came the panties. Again, they squeezed and constrained their bodies; Vic tucked his willy between his legs as he pulled the garment on. With these precautions, the garment left him with a very smooth crotch, and the padding gave him a rounded tush, like a girl. Vic felt a tremble when he saw himself — this was looking just a little too realistic. Next came the pantyhose; Vic had bought a pair, suffering the humiliation of the checkout lane, because it just didn't seem right to use his mother's pantyhose. But Jim had just 'liberated' a pair from his sister. Finally, they got to their dresses.

Vic started to put on his shoes, but Jim stopped him. "You don't want to walk in those things any longer than you have to, do you?" Vic understood. In their practicing, they'd tried to walk. While they did gain some skill, their feet really hurt from the effort. "You do my makeup, and I'll do yours."

Vic sat Jim on the bench, then began to apply the makeup. More than Jim, he'd been terrified of putting on makeup. He had no experience, unlike Jim's drama-club enhanced skill. He was deathly afraid of looking like a zombie or mutant freak. So the boys practiced a couple of times, and by now, Vic was comfortable, if not good. The makeup went on quickly; first the base, then some shading and highlights to make Jim's cheeks look higher. The same trick, applied to his nose, gave the illusion of a smaller, more feminine nose. A little eyeliner and eye shadow emphasized Jim's eyes, giving them a softer, more feminine look, and some carefully applied lipstick and liner created the illusion of sexy pouty lips. Vic stepped back to admire his work, and he was totally shocked. The effect couldn't have been more perfect; if not for his close-cropped hair, Jim looked like a very sexy girl! And even Vic's hair could easily have been mistaken for the 'short sassy' style some girls seemed to love!

Jim was much faster at doing Vic's makeup. Again, to their mutual surprise, the effects of the makeup were fantastic. They were nearly done, Vic noted with relief. So far, they'd spent over three hours. Finally, they put on their jewelry,

Jim and Vic made one final stop at the head, then they slipped on their shoes. They teetered a bit as they walked around to familiarize themselves with the shoes, especially Jim in the higher heels. But again, they boys had practiced a bit in the preceding nights, so they weren't going to make total fools of themselves or break their ankles. Still, it took a bit of getting used to.

Last, with fifteen minutes to spare, Jim pulled on his wig. It fit well, and with the remainder of the package, Vic gasped. "Wow, man! You look ... hot!"

Jim smiled, not the silly grin of a high-school prankster, but a demure smile of a girl who just got a compliment. "Thanks," Jim said, his voice shifting up a bit as he worked to mimic a girl's voice. He tottered into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. "Wow!" he echoed softly, a breathy and sexy sound. "I think I could even win!" He came back out in time to see Vic pull his wig out. "Hey," Jim said, keeping his voice sounding as feminine as he could, "I thought you were going to be a blonde."

Vic shook his head, holding the long brunette wig. "Nah. I tried it the other night, and blonde just didn't work for me." He, too, was working on his voice, and the effect was not bad. "I _borrowed_ this from my cousin's salon when I got the nail polish and that other stuff." He slipped the wig on, taking care to tuck his hair under the cap. A little minor adjustment, and he flipped the long tresses off his shoulders and down his back. With his fingers, he parted the hair draping into his face and walked to a mirror. He took his comb and worked on the hair, ending up with a reasonably straight part as he swept the hair back behind his ears. As Jim giggled, Vic struggled with a pair of barrettes in his hair, securing the long locks. Finally, he put on a pair of earrings and a faux pearl necklace. He turned and smiled at Jim. "Well, how does it look?"

Jim's eyes widened. "Wow! This is so cool! We look really really good!" He giggled, a very girly sounding laugh. "We might even win!"

They gathered their supplies and slipped out to Jim's car, stashing everything in the back seat. They got back to the gym just in time to start checking in for the pageant.

Most of the contestants had been using the girls' locker room and the drama makeup room to primp; no one had seen Jim or Vic getting ready. As Jim leaned over to sign in, Vic saw one of the girls glaring at him. Vic had to suppress a giggle — the real girl considered Jim to be a serious competitor. And then Vic saw Jim's reaction, and he had to do a double take. When Jim noticed the girl frowning at him, he smiled pleasantly, then straightened and thrust his chest out, emphasizing his bust line. With a slight lifting of his chin, Jim turned from the registration table and sauntered off. Vic had to marvel at the way he walked in his shoes — his stride was perfect, as if he'd always worn heels, and even including a sexy wiggle in his butt.

Vic turned his attention back to the table to finish his registration. As he signed in, he heard the girl. "I bet they aren't even real," she hissed to her friend. Vic hid his smile; the comment was more true than the girl could possibly imagine. He straightened, avoiding Jim's haughty chest display, and thanked the girls.

Vic and Jim had little time to interact during the evening. They were busy with the pageant — modeling their gowns and making their little 'save the world' speeches. An hour and a half passed quickly, and then the first round ended. The judges debated, and then pared the forty-six contestants to twelve. Vic was not surprised to be eliminated; the competition was stiff. But to his shock, he found himself a little disappointed, and even jealous, when he was cut out but Jim made the semi-finals. He felt the bustier and girdle constraining him, but it seemed that he was getting used to them; they weren't bothering him quite so much.

The pageant got very boring for Vic, since he was no longer competing. He sat with the other 'eliminated' contestants, watching the remainder of the contest. He was happy for Jim when Jim actually made the final five contestants, and then he was shocked at his own feelings. He should have been laughing his head off. Vic imagined it was just his ability to carry off a gag that kept him from blowing their cover. And something else bothered him. When Jim — Tanya, as he was calling himself — had been announced as a finalist, he reacted just like a girl, letting out a shriek of surprise and delight, and clasping her hands over her mouth. Just like the other girls. Vic knew — he absolutely knew — that Jim was acting, and he was doing a hell of a job.

It was getting late. The pageant had started at eight, and because of the number of contestants, it was nearly ten when the finalists were announced. Vic glanced at his wrist, and cursed under his breath. He'd left his watch with his other things, since it was a very masculine watch. This was taking too long.

Jim gave a very convincing 'I love the world, and want to help save it' contestant speech, sounding very sultry and sincere at the same time. Vic suppressed a laugh, and got an elbow from the contestant sitting beside him. Vic grinned at that — the girl was going to be so surprised when he unmasked.

They announced the fourth runner up, and it wasn't Jim. They announced the third runner up, and it still wasn't Jim. Vic was thoroughly enjoying this — Jim was in the final three, and this was truly going to be their best gag. Nor was Jim the second runner up. It was down to Jim and another girl, a blonde with hooters nearly as big as Jim's fake ones.

And then they announced the winner, and Vic was stunned. Jim had won. Against all possible odds, Jim won. He had been so convincing as a girl that he'd beat some very pretty girls in the pageant. Vic laughed to himself. Just getting in was a good gag, but this? This was going to be talked about for generations to come. Sure, Jim was going to be known as the prankster of the century and Vic's role would be soon forgotten, but this was worth it.

Vic frowned as he watched Jim's reaction to the victory. He clasped his hands over his mouth, just like a girl, as he cried and shrieked with surprised joy. He actually gave the runner up a very feminine kiss on the cheek as he hugged her. Then they put the tiara on Jim's head and handed him the huge bouquet. He made a ceremonial stroll down the runway, waving in a most feminine way and smiling, even making the occasional wipe of his eye as he faked tears of happiness. Vic was impressed — Jim was playing this one to the hilt.

There followed a dizzying swirl of activity. Photographers took picture after picture of the new queen, her court, and all the contestants. While this was going on, the traditional spring dance began in the adjoining ballroom.

Jim, as the winner, had the obligation of a lot of dances. The principal, the homecoming king, the captains of the football and basketball teams. It seemed she had a long dance card, all obligated by custom. And Vic was busy, but for a different reason. Guys he knew were asking him to dance, and he had to invent reasons not to dance. For one thing, he didn't want to dance with a guy. It would just be too weird. The second thing was more for self-preservation; Vic was afraid that he'd break his ankle dancing in the heels, even though he was getting around in them better than even he realized.

At one break, Vic glanced at the clock, then got a cup of punch for himself and one for Jim. He sauntered over to Jim and handed him the punch. "Well," Vic whispered to his pal, "when do we unmask?"

Jim smiled demurely at a guy, then answered in a low whisper. "I've got another dance or two. Then we'll both go to center floor and reveal ourselves."

Vic sighed with relief. "I was starting to think you weren't going to remember that part. Remember the instructions the old man gave us. We need to get out of this by midnight."

Jim grinned. "Yeah, just like Cinderella," he scoffed. "Don't worry. I haven't forgotten." He smiled at yet another enamored guy. "This is going to be one for the record books." The music started, and Jim's next dance partner interrupted Vic. "Got to go. See you in a few minutes."

Vic walked back to the punch bowl, glancing with concern at the clock. It was twenty minutes to midnight, and despite Jim's bluster, he didn't really want to ignore the warnings. The old man had seemed just a little too much like a wizard.

A guy eased up to Vic. "Hi. You looked great in the pageant tonight."

"Thanks," Vic said without enthusiasm.

"Would you like to dance?"

Vic glanced at the guy, then shook his head. "Sorry, but I have a sore ankle. I sprained it a couple of weeks ago, and the doctor told me I have to take it easy." He smiled, trying to look apologetic.

The guy shrugged. "Well, if it means anything, I think you should have won."

Vic suppressed his gag reflex. How many times had he heard this line tonight? All from guys who wanted to get to know his new female self better. "Thanks. I'd love to talk some more, but I promised my mom I'd be home by midnight."

The guy glanced at his watch. "Oh? You're late, you know."

Vic's mouth dropped. He glanced at the clock again. It clearly said eleven forty-five. The guy followed his gaze. Then he pulled up his watch for Vic to see. "That clock is about twenty minutes slow. Always has been, you know."

Vic felt a surge of panic. The old man had said midnight! And he was late! Then Vic fought off the feeling. Surely his nervousness was just superstition. Still ....

Vic caught Jim as he left the dance floor. "Jim, it's after midnight! Remember the old man's directions?"

Tanya looked at Vic with a blank stare. "What are you talking about, Vicky?" she asked, her voice even softer and more sultry. "Why did you call me Jim?" She wrinkled her brow, pausing to brush some of the stray blonde locks from her face. "Are you feeling okay?"

Vic felt his head spin. He saw the look in Jim's eyes. There was no recognition of his words. And his voice! Vic realized that Jim's voice sounded even more feminine than he'd been faking. Vic gazed at Jim. "Uh ... I guess I'm not feeling too well," he stammered. He turned, walking slowly from the dance floor. As he walked, certain sensory inputs found their way through his mental fog. His voice. He recalled when he'd just talked to Jim. His voice was a nice alto, just like he'd been doing all night. Only he hadn't been trying just now. It had come out that way.

Vic felt his stomach turn, and felt like he was going to be ill. He started toward the men's room, then he got confused. He couldn't waltz into the men's room. On the other hand, could he really use the ladies' room? He finally stumbled blindly to the ladies' room. Vic felt himself stagger, and he caught himself on a sink. He looked up, and found himself staring at himself in the mirror.

It was, and yet it wasn't Vic's face that stared back. Vic tried to convince himself that it was because he wasn't feeling well, but he thought his nose looked smaller, his cheeks higher, and his face softer. He staggered into a stall, closing the door behind him. For a long minute, Vic wasn't sure if he was going to throw up or not. Finally, the urge passed. Vic stood, trembling, trying to take in all the confusion swirling around him. His feet — he wasn't feeling the discomfort of the heels as acutely, as if he were used to wearing them. Vic searched his senses to feel the constricting bustier; his eyes widened and his concern turned to panic as he realized that he didn't feel it clamping vice-like around his waist. It was still there, true, and he could feel it, but it seemed far less tight than it had. Likewise, the girdle was far less noticeable. Vic's heart rose to his throat; the panic was turning to sheer terror.

Vic glanced around, his face pale with fright, then he slipped into a stall and closed the door. He lifted his dress, then pulled down his pantyhose. His crotch, seen through the valley of his artificial cleavage, was as flat as when he'd first put on the girdle. Only now, something seemed wrong. With a tremble of trepidation, Vic slid his fingers to the waistband and slowly, fearfully, pulled the girdle down.

A cry of fear escaped Vic's mouth as he gazed upon his crotch. His willy, his symbol of manhood — it was gone. As if by magic, which by now Vic firmly believed in, his dick was nowhere to be found. Nor were his testicles present. No balls, no scrotum. No dick. Only a mound of soft pubic hair in a neat triangle. And then he felt the urge to urinate.

Vic sat slowly on the toilet, his eyes wide with fright. He wondered how it was going to work, this different anatomy. He let his muscles relax, using the same controls he'd used as a guy, not six hours ago. The result was profound relief of the pressure. And then Vic fretted over how to clean up the mess. Unlike a guy peeing, he found himself all wet and messy. He dabbed the toilet paper on himself cautiously until he felt dry.

Vic was shaking with fright. The clothing he'd gotten — it had changed him. His lower body was now clearly and undeniably female, and from the strange sensations he felt when he wiped — the feeling of a slit being parted by the toilet paper and that strange tickling feeling - Vic was filled with a sickening certainty that he had IT, the one critical piece that marked him as of the female sex. He strongly suspected that the magic had changed him that thoroughly, but he was afraid to confirm it. Vic sat for a long time, not having the first clue of what to do.

And then a thought hit Vic. If the girdle had done that to his crotch, then .... He lifted his hands to his chest, slowly moving them to the protrubances, carefully moving them inward, inch by painful inch, fighting his instincts to not touch them for fear he'd find out they were now real. And yet, he had to know.

Then came the touch, when Vic's hands made contact with the dress, with the bulges behind the fabric. And with that touch, Vic cried in anguish. He'd felt the touch — in the skin of his chest. He knew — without a doubt — that the breasts were no longer stage appliances glued on, but were now real breasts. His breasts! Just like his crotch. And ...

Vic examined his hands. They seemed a bit softer and finer, and even more tellingly, he couldn't find any seams in his fingernails. The artificial nails were as real as his boobs, now a part of his body. And the makeup ... Vic pulled his girdle and pantyhose back up, then flushed the toilet. He walked nervously back to the mirror and stared long and hard at himself. Now he knew that the earlier vision hadn't been a trick of his stomach discomfort. He touched his nose, a pert little feminine nose. His eyes seemed softer, and not just because of the makeup. They appeared a bit bigger, but only because Vic's face seemed a bit smaller. It made him look more feminine and more vulnerable. His lips were a bit fuller, looking more like a girl's mouth. And the earrings — Vic tugged at them, only to feel the pain of a sharp tug on pierced ears.

Vic felt a wave of nausea again, this time from his horror at the changes and of what it meant. Jim — his reaction had been that of a real girl. And he — she — hadn't seemed to know what Vic was talking about. Which meant that ... Vic reached for his hair and tugged at the wig. To Vic's enormous relief, he felt it slid on his head. It wasn't attached, hadn't become a part of him. With sickening certainty, Vic knew that Jim's wig was now a part of Jim — Tanya — and that it had somehow changed Jim's mind. And only because of a fluke, his dislike of the blonde-haired wig, had Vic been spared that. He still had his mind, but now in a fully-female body - unlike Jim, who was now as female in mind as he — she — was in body.

Vic staggered out of the restroom, then, tears of unknown origin streaming down his cheeks, he stumbled toward the door. Behind him, he heard someone calling, "Vicky? Are you okay?" The brisk night air hit him as he fled the school, his heels no impediment to his half-walk, half-run. It wasn't until four blocks later that the temperature really became apparent to Vic, so distracted had he been by his awful predicament. With no sweater and a short-sleeved dress, Vic was shivering as he turned the last corner to his house. And then he froze as he started to step up to the door, to the waiting back porch and his sanctuary. Was it really his sanctuary? What were his parents going to say? How would they react to a strange girl coming in, pretending to be their son? Or had they changed too, like Jim / Tanya, altered by some powerful magic to think they'd always had a daughter?

His body shivering from the combination of cold and fear, Vic opened the door and slowly crept inside. There was a faint light, probably in the living room. Vic knew that his dad would be up, probably playing solitaire or watching TV and waiting for him. Even as a boy, he'd always found his dad waiting for him. Sometimes it seemed so comforting. Now, it was terrifying.

Vic paused to slip his feet out of the shoes, and he gasped as he picked them up. They were ... smaller, as were his feet! The magic had given him smaller, daintier feet, with painted toenails even! Vic wanted to cry, to scream in anguish, at the horrible changes that had been inflicted on his body. And yet, he feared doing even that, as he knew that the scream would be his new girl voice, echoing tauntingly in his ears, reminding him yet again of the changes.

As Vic tiptoed up the stairs, he heard his dad. "You okay, sweetie?" he asked.

Sweetie? Since when had his dad called him sweetie? Vic cringed inwardly at the name. It was so ... girlish! Another stabbing reminder. And while one fear had been calmed, his parents apparently recognized him as a girl, another was stirred. The change was incredibly far-reaching. He feared that no one would ever remember Victor, the boy he'd been born as. Crying inside, Vic answered. "Sure, dad," he said softly. Then he padded upstairs, only to be mocked by a room that wasn't his own, a room decorated with lace and frill and girl things. Vic collapsed on the pink bed, burying his face in the pillow, crying uncontrollably, until finally sleep buried his agony. And even in sleep, terrible dreams intruded, tormenting Vic, reminding him of his new status as a girl.

**********

A light touch on his shoulder awakened Vic. "Honey, don't you think you ought to get up today?"

Vic recognized his mom's voice, and for a moment, he wondered why his mom was in his room, let alone calling him honey. But only for a moment. It was impossible for Vic to ignore the feelings of something — somethings — pressing into his chest, between him and the bed. The hair, even if it was only a wig, swirling about his face and neck, rubbing it in a way Vic's shorter hair never had. The feeling of being confined around his waist. Vic rolled over, brushing the hair from his eyes, and slowly sat up, knowing that last night hadn't been a dream. From the sensations his body was sending to his brain, there was no mistaking that he was in a girl's body. He turned to his mom.

"Glad you're awake, sunshine," she said with a smile. She looked at Vic, seeing his puffy, tired eyes. She looked over his wrinkled dress. "Are you okay?" she asked, and her voice echoed the concern of a mother for her daughter.

Vic looked down at his body, then back at his mom. "Yeah," he lied, and the voice haunted him again with its soft feminine tones.

Vic's mom frowned. "No, you're not," she said with certainty. "You look like you didn't sleep too well." She sat down on the bed beside Vic. "Look, Vicky, I know you didn't win last night. Tanya called, and she said she'd come by to pick up your dress so she could return it. She told me how you did." She gave Vic a quick hug. "She was pretty concerned about you, you know. Tanya's a good friend, even if she is a little, you know, dingy." She wrinkled her nose at the word, making it clear that she thought Tanya was an airhead.

"Mom," Vic protested, drawing out the word. He wanted his mother to leave, to let him wallow in his misery.

His mom would have none of it. "Now how about you get out of that dress before Tanya gets here." She opened the closet doors, revealing a vast array of clothing — all feminine. "Your dad kept your breakfast warm." She came back to the bed, and to Vic's horror, she took the wig off Vic's head. She clucked and shook her head. "I really wish you and your friends hadn't cut your hair off," she chided. "I just can't imagine what you were thinking! So some rock singer has short hair — that doesn't mean you needed it." She ran her fingers through Vic's hair, which for a boy, was moderately long. For a girl, the hair was rather short. "I'm glad you decided to grow it out again, though. You have such pretty hair." She walked to the door, then turned one last time. "If you want, we can go to the salon today. My offer still stands."

Vic looked up uneasily at her mother. "I'll think about it," he said evenly. His mother smiled, then left Vic alone in his new room.

Vic agonized over his new wardrobe. First, he peeled himself out of the dress, then out of the bustier. He stared with a strange fascination at the breasts on his chest, the lovely and all-too-real orbs which hung so perfectly. From Vic's viewpoint, they seemed incredibly large, sticking out seemingly forever in front of him. He turned, looking at his profile in the mirror, unable to keep from giving his body a visual exam.

Perky. That's what Vic would have called these boobs on any girl. Perky. Not too big, not too small. Nicely proportioned. Almost no sag, full and inviting, and capped with large brown nipples. Vic was entranced, and it took a few seconds for him to tear his gaze from the boobs. His eyes wandered down, to the narrowed waist. The bustier, when he'd removed it, was snug but not uncomfortable. Not like last night. His tummy was flat and trim, displaying not a hint of fat, and with the widening of his hips, his waist looked deliciously female. Vic shuddered at the thought; if he was reacting to his own body this way, he knew how other guys would react. Did react last night. His hands, seemingly out of control of his conscious mind, traced the outline of his waist and down to his hips. Again he turned a bit, and gasped as he saw the rounded shape of his derriere, a definitively feminine form. His gaze continued, down his softer, more slender legs, then back up, pausing at his flat crotch, and on up to his face.

From the way he appeared in the mirror, Vic knew that he'd lost a couple of inches in height. While he'd been about five-ten as a boy, he figured he was five-seven or five-eight now, a respectable height for a girl, but far from manly stature. And there was his face. He hadn't imagined it last night. His face was softer, finer, much more female. Cute. Not beauty star, but definitely cute.

Vic trembled when he realized that he'd been lusting after himself. His mind, his male thought patterns, found this girl attractive. Even his hair, in a short cut, didn't diminish the fact that he was totally, undeniably a girl. From his head to his toe, Vic was female.

**********

Clad in the plainest clothes he could pick out, a pair of white shorts and a light blue knit top, wearing flats to avoid walking in heels, Vic drove his mother's car while his mother yakked away. Vic would have preferred his second-hand Camaro, purchased with hard-earned money from summer and after-school jobs, but the car, too, had been changed. In place of the sports car, Vic now owned a little Neon. And if that wasn't bad enough, the car was a kind of bright pink color. Vic had wanted to see it crushed into a tiny cube of metal when he first saw it.

They drove toward the mall. Vic had let his mother convince him to go to the salon, to get his hair styled into something a bit more feminine. She said it would make him feel better. Vic didn't believe it, but he wanted desperately to get out of the house, away from the damning room that reminded him of his new state. Vic parked, and the two walked inside, his mother still chattering away. Vic shut her out; it seemed that she talked incessantly. So and so had the nerve to wear such and such to their last bridge club. Someone's daughter was pregnant — how shocking. Didn't her parents teach her any values? The church potluck supper was next weekend, and was Vicky still going to help serve? On and on it went, mindless prattle to Vic.

Inside the mall, Vic wanted to go straight to the salon. But his mother had other ideas. They went to the new boutique, to look. A half hour and a new dress for Vic later, they wandered into another store, to repeat the entire process. It took almost two hours to get to the salon.

By this point, Vic wanted to end the entire ordeal, so sick was he of his mother's incessant talk and her 'ritual' of shopping, which seemed to consist of looking at everything in a store at least twice, trying on at least twenty outfits, then buying one of the first outfits she'd seen. Vic stood silently by his mother, his anger at his situation rising.

"Hi, Vicky," one of the stylists said cheerily. "You here for a cut, or just tagging along with your mom?"

Vic started to open his mouth, but his mother cut him off. "No, Sara, Vicky wants something nice and pretty today." She glanced at her daughter. "Since she's over that 'bald' phase, she wants to look pretty again." The way she said it left Vic with no uncertainty of how her mother felt about short hair. If it had to be short, it had to be feminine. No two ways about it.

The shop had just gotten a new electronic imaging system, and the girl was gushing over it to Vic's mom. Before Vic knew what was happening, they'd taken a picture with a digital camera and were starting to browse through hair styles. Vic was totally unenthusiastic about the process; his mother was focusing on styles that would make him look more like a girl, not less. Vic's mind was wandering.

"How about this one, dear?" It was Vic's mom again, intruding on his daydream escape from this awful reality. "I think it's so cute," she gushed.

Vic glanced a the display and cringed. It was a cute style — for a girl. In fact, Vic found it quite attractive — only not on him! The hair was layered, making the most of Vic's short hair, with gently curled bangs. Short and sassy. Feminine. Vic hated it. "Mom," he started to protest.

Vic's mom cut off the protest. "That's perfect," she said to the stylist. As the stylist started toward her area, Vic's mom gave her a pat on Vic's shoulder. "I know, I know. You want something a little simpler. But you're growing up, and you need to look like the pretty girl you are."

**********

Vic felt ... disgusted inside. They were walking back toward the mall entrance, and guys were staring at him. At him! His mother smiled, as if she were proud that her girl was pretty enough to attract attention. Vic cringed every time he saw a guy's head track his motion. It was too weird.

As they turned a corner, Vic spotted a strange little store, an old-time storefront with display windows and an antique door. His emotions churned; on one hand, he wanted to go in and demand to be changed back. And he felt a strange urge, as if the old man were somehow beckoning him into the store, perhaps to complete his transformation — like Jim. But Vic had seen the power of the old wizard, and he was afraid. The debate raged in his head for an agonizingly long few seconds. Finally, fear won out. He'd seen what happened to Jim, now an airheaded bimbo who didn't remember anything. Vic feared such a fate, and he knew it was well within the old man's power to give him the same fate as Jim. He quickened his pace, away from the curious little store.

**********

It took two months. Two months of living in denial and hope. Two months of fighting this damned body. Two months of pretending that it wasn't real, that he was going to wake up some morning and he'd be his old self again. Two months of his mother reminding him of things that should have been well-trained in a young lady. Two months of working to adjust to being a girl instead of a guy.

And his friends...Tanya was as much a friend as Jim had been, but now girls he had dated -- or just casually known -- like Brittany and Nicole were his lifelong friends. The guys he really had grown up with were distant, treating him carefully, trying to impress him like ... like any other girl.

His first period had scared the living hell out of Vic. The cramping wasn't too terribly painful, but when it lasted three days, it got real old, and Vic knew he'd been very hard to live with. The bleeding sucked, but having to insert tampons into himself was worse. His breasts seemed extra-sensitive, and he felt uncomfortable. When it ended, Vic was nearly ecstatic.

Makeup was a pain, and it took a long time, much practice, and a lot of prodding by his mother before Vic was any good at it. He didn't hate it any less, but he could at least do a passable job. The same was true of picking his clothes. As a guy, Vic had just grabbed clothes from the dresser. His wardrobe was simple — a couple pairs of jeans, a couple pairs of Dockers, a few knit shirts, and a bunch of T-shirts, most with movie themes or logos. Shoes? Simple as well. Two pairs of tennis shoes and a pair of Rockports. Dressing couldn't have been easier.

That was Vic. Vicky was far different. Underwear? Vic wore Fruit-of-the-Loom briefs. Vicky had panties in various colors and various levels of lace and frill. Pink, light blue, beige, white. Lacy, flowery, plain. G-string skimpy, bikini cut, modest. Vic hated his panties. Worse, however, were the bras. There seemed to be a bra to match every pair of panties, again ranging from daring to pushup to very concealing. Every time he put on a bra, it reminded him that his chest was visibly female, and amply so. No guy, unless he was blind, was going to miss Vic's chest. And the bras didn't do much to minimize or conceal his charms; most actually did the opposite, enhancing and uplifting to make his curves even curvier.

And Vic felt like his mother was watching his every move with suspicion or doubt. Every time Vic cursed when he smudged his makeup, his mother looked worried. Each time he tried to go to school with his hair barely combed and _no_ makeup, his mother fretted. Whenever Vic sat spread-legged in the easy chair, his mother's brow furrowed.

Finally, his mother couldn't take any more. Vic almost broke down when his mother confronted him, asking through teary eyes if her little girl was having problems or ... her voice had broken ... experimenting with drugs. Vic understood why his mother had been so watchful. It was as if Vic had changed drastically, and all the things Vicky _should_ have known, all the habits Vicky _should_ have had, Vic didn't have. He wasn't acting like a girl — and his mother had noticed. She was even suggesting having Vicky go to a psychologist.

Vic had panicked at that suggestion. He feared that if he went to a shrink, the psychologist would eventually make him blab, and then he'd be labeled as a loony. 'Magic, indeed!' they'd all cluck as they locked him away. Vic knew he had to work harder so his mom wouldn't be so worried — or suspicious!

For the first month, Vic wore shorts as often as he could. Most of the other girls wore skirts, but Vic just couldn't make himself do that. Finally, one week he didn't get his laundry done, and he was forced to wear a skirt. Vic picked the most modest skirt he could find, and when he saw himself in it, he cringed. Shorts weren't so bad; they didn't remind him with every motion that he was stuck as a girl. The skirt, however, did. Slowly, however, Vic accepted that he could wear skirts. With either skirts or shorts, Vic had to choose a top, and this was confusing as well. Not only did he have to color-coordinate the clothes, but his choice was impacted severely by his choice of underwear. Vic learned the hard way what happens when a girl wears a dark bra and panties under a light blouse. He felt humiliated and near tears when he got home from that experience. And Vic learned to watch the neckline. Some of his blouses had scoop necks, and Vic only tried one once. That was enough. He felt like walking cleavage by the time he got home. After that, the necklines were modest.

By the end of the second month, as graduation neared, he had moved on and was occasionally wearing a dress. He was getting skilled in choosing outfits, and was accomplished in makeup. Vic was doing well as a girl — and hating every minute of it. And then he caught himself.

**********

One Saturday morning, Vic was sitting on the sofa, watching TV. There really wasn't anything good on, but he didn't have anything better to do, and so he sat, carefully filing a snag out of one nail. And then a top-of-the-hour news summary came on. Just a typical, run-of-the-mill newscast. The lady reading the news caught Vic's eye. He stared at her, and then he snorted his disgust. 'I'd look better in that outfit than she does,' he thought to himself. 'I've got a better figure for it.'

And then it hit him, like a hammer. He'd just thought of himself as a she, as a girl. Comparing clothing and figures to a lady on TV. His mouth dropped in horror as he realized what he'd been thinking, and then he saw the nail file, the carefully manicured nails he was working on, the dainty way he was sitting, with his legs crossed in a proper ladylike manner. He screamed inwardly, a desperate cry of anguish. He'd actually thought of himself as a her. She. Vicky. Vic ran upstairs, slamming the door behind him, and he flopped on his bed. He — she — cried for hours when she realized what she'd done. She wasn't thinking of herself as Vic any more. She was thinking of herself as Vicky, a girl. She'd compared her body with another girl, she'd been sitting like a girl, she'd been filing her nails like a girl. Hell, she'd even missed the sports tilt to the newscast, so distracted was she by the feminine thoughts. The change was subtle but frightening — it meant that she was starting to accept her new life. She cried all through the afternoon, helpless to prevent the gush of tears, even hating herself for crying like a girl.

At five, a knock sounded at her door. When she didn't answer it, the knock sounded again. "Vicky? Are you all right?" her mother called.

Vicky barely turned her head. "I'm okay," she sniffled.

"Can I come in, honey?" Vicky lay, silent and crying. Without an objection, her mother took that as permission to enter. She padded to the bed and sat down, resting her hand lightly on her daughter's back. "Are you sure you're okay, sweetie?"

Vicky didn't move. "No, I'm NOT okay!" she said emphatically. "I ... I'm not sure what I am."

Her mother misunderstood. "I know this is a tough time for you, with finals coming up, and graduation near. I know it's tough to choose a college." She paused, waiting for some response, but she got none. "Your father and I are here to help if we can. You know we can't help worrying about our little girl."

Vicky reared up, her face contorting. "I'm NOT your little girl!" she screamed. As she watched the shock spread across her mother's face, Vicky fled the room, tears flowing down her cheeks, her anger at her situation leading her into the unknown. She had no plan — only a need to escape. She ran past her father who was coming in from working in the garden.

"How's my princess today?" he asked innocently.

Vicky's reaction stunned her dad. "I'm not your princess, dammit!" she snapped. She opened the door forcefully, causing the glass to rattle. Angry, confused, she stomped to her car, then slammed the door shut behind her. The tires squealed as she pulled hastily out of the driveway, leaving her parents standing on the porch, staring after her in shocked disbelief.

*************

The party was a typical senior party. Someone had gotten some beer, and the group Vicky hung out with had gone to the lake. As night fell, the guys lit a campfire and they all sat around, talking and drinking. It was times like this that Vicky felt most out of place. The girls, when they were together, talked about girl things — guys, fashion, and college. To Vicky, these things were alien, subjects that had absolutely no interest to her. She wanted to talk guy talk — sports and cars. But when she was around the guys, they got all google-eyed.

One of the guys mentioned baseball. Vicky finished her gulp of beer. "Yeah, maybe they've got a couple of hitters, but their bullpen stinks," she said firmly.

The girls froze, and the guys got a deer-in-the-headlights look. Vicky was on their turf, and they were shocked. "Yeah, how do you know so much about baseball?" Other guys joined in the ribbing.

Vicky started to stammer an answer, her senses dulled by the beer, but one of the girls came to her rescue. "That's what the guy said on the news last night," she said. It gave Vicky her out — she didn't have to pretend to know sports, and the guys could save face.

Vicky wasn't going to go for that. Between the beers she'd been drinking and her defiance at being dismissed as a 'mere girl', she was feeling angry and rebellious. "Who says a girl can't know about sports, huh?" She was angry at the way the guys had been treating her. "Who says?"

The guys glanced at each other, uncertain of what they'd done. "Uh, I guess a girl can like sports," one of them finally stammered.

Vicky glared triumphantly at them. "Damned right," she stammered. She downed the rest of her beer, then glared at the guys. "Get me a refill," she demanded of no one in particular. When none of the guys moved, she sneered, "I thought men were supposed to be courteous to women!" She turned, staggering; Vicky had grossly underestimated her capacity for alcohol, and she was _extremely_ drunk. "What's the matter? Don't you think I'm a woman? Aren't you going to treat me like a woman?"

Brittany sidled up beside Vicky and lightly touched her arm. "I think maybe you've had enough to drink, Vic," she said softly.

Vicky yanked her arm away. "Don't you tell me when I've had enough to drink," she snapped. She turned back to the guys. "Well? You guys want to treat me like a woman? No! Cause you can't. None of you guys can make me feel like a woman!" She weaved about drunkenly, her steps unsteady. She slapped away Lisa's hand, then grabbed the glass of beer one of the guys had fetched. Without a breath, she chugged the beer. "That's better," she slurred. Vicky yanked her blouse up, exposing her bra. "You see these?" she stammered as she pulled the knit top over her head. "I've got titties! So you're supposed to treat me like a woman!" She unclasped her bra, baring her boobs. "See?" Her voice was angry, defiant.

Brittany and Nicole, two of her friends, flanked Vicky and tried to cover her up. They were getting embarrassed for their friend, and they knew they had to help her before her drunkenness got her into trouble. "Come on, Vic," Nicole whispered in her ear. "You're drunk. How about we take you home?"

Vicky would have none of it. She pulled herself away from Nicole. "I'm stuck like this! I'm stuck being a woman, dammit!" she screamed. "So how come I don't feel like a woman?" She stalked toward one of the guys. "You think you can make me feel like a woman?" She saw him gulp, and she spun drunkenly toward another guy. "How about you? Think you can handle me?" Before any of her stunned friends could react, she reached down and unclasped her skirt, letting it slip down around her ankles. A drunken stagger, and she kicked the skirt away. She grabbed the half-full glass of beer one guy was holding and swigged the contents. Then she grinned wickedly. Her fingers tugged, then she slid her panties down, exposing her crotch. "How about it?" she teased. "Think you can make me feel like a woman?"

**********

Vicky woke up slowly, feeling the throbbing in her head. She opened an eye, and clamped it back shut as the light caused a pulsing wave of pain. Slowly, painfully, she sat up, glancing around. She was in her room, but she didn't know how she'd gotten there. The last thing she clearly remembered was ... getting angry at the guys.

Vicky slowly glanced down at herself. She felt as if there was something dried on her, making her skin feel itchy and uncomfortable. She was wearing her blouse — barely — and her skirt was very disheveled. She had a sickening feeling; cautiously, she lifted up her blouse, only to confirm that she wasn't wearing her bra. Not only that, but there was something dried on her boobs.

Slowly, Vicky lifted her skirt. No panties. And the same dried mess around her crotch, although this one was tinged slightly with red. Vicky sank back onto her bed, knowing with a sickening certainty what she'd done even as she struggled to remember.

It was all a blur. She slowly, vaguely remembered. She'd been drunk — that explained the hangover — and then she got angry at how the guys were treating her. Like a girl. Did she strip? From the state of her clothes, she knew she must have. And then ... what? Challenge the guys to make her feel like a woman? Vicky shuddered; the hazy notion slowly gelled into a shadowy memory. The girls — they'd tried to stop her, she realized. But she'd been too angry, and she pushed them aside. God, had she even called them a bunch of goody-goody bitches?

And then ... Vicky remembered one of the guys on top of her, and the painful pressure as he penetrated her. Had she been a virgin? She must have; she wasn't near her period, so the blood would have to be from her hymen. Vicky's head spun, painfully each time, as she tried to recollect the events. How many of the boys had she screwed? Two? More than that, she seemed to recall. Four or five. And ... Vicky felt like retching as a memory slowly materialized ... had she done one guy orally?

Without warning, another thought smashed into her battered brain. She'd gotten laid. Multiple times. Without any protection. She knew for a fact that she wasn't on the pill, and she had a sinking feeling that the guys hadn't taken any precautions either — which explained why she had the dried mess on her thighs. Vicky's mind raced — how long had it been? She'd had two periods, and they were thirty days apart. And the last one had been — how long ago? Was it two weeks or three? Vicky cursed Vic for not paying attention in biology or sex ed. When was she fertile? When could she get pregnant? Three weeks. That was how long ago. It had only been her second period, and a memory like that didn't fade easily. So that meant that ... either she was just past her prime time, or she was just before it.

Vicky slowly levered herself off the bed; her head pounded, and her stomach was churning. As she felt her tummy turn over, she raced for her bathroom, barely making it to the bowl before her abused stomach emptied itself into the porcelain.

**********

Vicky flounced down the stairs, her boobs barely restrained by the bra and spilling cleavage through her scoop neckline. Her skirt was very high above her knees, exposing all the leg that it could, and her makeup was trashy. "Bye," she called as she trudged toward the door.

Vicky's mom looked up from the kitchen table. "Dinner is almost ready. Where do you think you're going?" She was trying hard not to sound judgmental, but was failing. She'd noticed a drastic change in Vicky in the past few weeks.

"Out," Vicky snapped as she pulled open the back door. Nothing more of an explanation for her mother.

"Dressed like that?"

Vicky glared. "What's wrong with the way I'm dressed? Would you rather I went out naked?" She turned back toward the door.

"Aren't you going to eat?"

"I'll get something." The door slammed behind her, and moments later, her car screeched out of the driveway. Vicky's mom watched after the sounds, her eyes distant and sad. She didn't understand, and Vicky wasn't going to open up to her.

**********

"So then, like, I go to bed with him," one of the girls laughed. "And boy, was he hung!" A small gaggle of girls was sitting on the benches outside the main mall entrance. It was getting dark, with the sunset barely visible through thickening clouds.

Another girl frowned. "No way," she said in disbelief. "Like, he's gay!"

Vicky laughed with the others. "Yeah," she echoed. "No way he's going to pick you over one of his boyfriends!"

The first girl, Amber, frowned and took a drag on her cigarette. "Maybe he's gay, but he likes girls, too!" she protested through her exhaled smoke. "If you don't believe me, like you can go ask him!"

One of the other girls snorted her disbelief. "Yeah, like right. Like he's going to tell if he's bi!" She snatched the cigarette from the first girl and took a puff. As she exhaled the acrid smoke, she suddenly glanced up at the sky. "Oh, shit!" she spat. "It's starting to rain."

Vicky stood quickly. "Inside?" Like the other girls, her attire was quite risque. A skimpy red top bared her navel, with only spaghetti straps for shoulders, drawing attention to her breasts. Her skirt wasn't much less revealing; a clingy black mini, it emphasized her rear, with a hem that let guys know exactly how long her legs were. Her makeup was far from austere; her lips were very red, and a generous helping of eye shadow made her look cheap and trampy. Vicky's hair hung in a style that loudly proclaimed, 'danger' to any guy in a committed relationship.

Amber shook her head. "Like there's any action in there?" Amber dressed much like Vicky; trashy seemed to be the uniform of the day for the girls outside the mall.

Another of the gang nodded. "Yeah. Hey, why don't we go to the Villa?"

Vicky frowned. "I haven't been there. Is it any good?"

Amber grinned. "Great club. Good music, lots of people. Yeah, it's good." As one, the girls started to walk away from the mall.

"Vicky?" A faint voice called from behind her, and she turned. Brittany was running to catch up to her, a tiny umbrella deployed to stop the raindrops.

Vicky stopped. "Hi," she said simply.

Brittany looked around, then she scowled. "It's been a while," she said, trying to make conversation.

"Yeah," Vicky answered noncommittally. "I've been around."

Brittany glanced at the other girls quickly, and Vicky could see the contempt in her gaze. "Yeah, I've noticed." She glanced around once more. "Can we, uh, talk?"

Vicky shrugged. "You guys go on ahead. I'll catch up in a sec." With a sneer toward Brittany, the other girls pranced off. Vicky turned back to Brittany. "Your nickel."

Brittany gazed up and down Vicky. "I was just wondering if, you know, everything was okay. Like, you've changed."

Vicky placed her hands defiantly on her hips. "Who made it your business?" she said angrily. "Like, you and my mom keep asking if everything is okay." Her voice dripped venom. "Well, I'm not okay, all right? I don't like what I've been turned into, and I'm pissed about it. Is that what you wanted to hear?" She glared at Brittany, who stood, open mouthed in shock. "Look, why don't you go back to your prissy little friends with your 'daddy's little girl' crap? Why don't you just leave me the hell alone, okay?" Vicky turned and stomped away, leaving Brittany standing, stunned, wondering just what she'd said.

As Vicky caught up to her 'gang', she heard them talking about Brittany. The words were not kind; Brittany and her ilk thought they were too good for Vicky's gang, according to the girls.

Vicky popped the door locks and slid into the driver's seat. "Bitch," she muttered to herself as she thought of her one-time friend. In fact, as Vic, she'd dated Brittany a few times, but without any success. "She and her kind ought to get their brains fucked out. Maybe that'd knock them off their high horses."

Amber laughed. "Yeah, that'd serve those goody-two-shoes cunts just right, wouldn't it?" She pulled another cigarette from her purse. "Speaking of which," she said after she lit the smoke, "I hope I can find a good healthy man tonight."

The Villa was on the seedier side of town. Half the streetlights didn't work; Vicky was lucky enough to park under one that did. On the short walk from the car to the club, the girls dodged a couple of drunks and a hooker. Vicky felt a slight pang of conscience; perhaps her mind was telling her exactly what path she was on. She dismissed it as they entered the smoky club.

Club was a less fitting term than meat market. Within twenty minutes, as she nursed her first drink, Amber pranced off the dance floor leading a guy. She introduced him to Vicky, and then she got his three buddies to join them. After one more drink, an informal deal was struck; the four guys, Vicky, Amber, and Carla left the club together.

**********

Vicky awoke wondering where she was. Her senses reeled; she remembered going to the Villa. Then things began to clear. She was in bed — with a bunch of people. She sat up, staring around her, taking inventory. Amber and Carla were naked — as was she. And there were two guys — no, three — in bed with them. She heard loud snoring from the floor, and she confirmed her hazy memories. There was a foul taste in her mouth, like charcoal. Vicky winced as she remembered smoking some pot.

Amber slowly rolled over, and as she did, she bumped into and awoke one of the guys. In moments, they were screwing like bunnies. Vicky felt bile rising in her stomach; she slipped out of the bed and into a bathroom.

The girls piled into Vicky's car much later — after being pressured into another round of sex. Vicky dropped Amber off, with a promise to meet at the mall that evening.

As they pulled away, Carla pulled a cigarette out of her purse and lit it. She offered one to Vicky.

"No thanks," Vicky said, trying to sound casual. She just couldn't picture herself smoking. On the other hand, she really hated her situation, so how much worse could it make it.

"Suit yourself," Carla said as she took a drag. She puffed away for a bit. "I thought the guys were okay," she said simply.

Vicky glanced at Carla, then nodded. "Not too bad," she agreed. "But I've had better."

"Yeah, so have I," Carla agreed. "Hey," she suddenly said, "can you swing by the clinic? I've got to get my prescription renewed."

"Prescription?"

Carla laughed. "The pill, you dope!" She studied Vicky for a moment. "I suppose you get yours through your mom's doctor."

Vicky felt her mind racing. Sure, she knew about birth control — at least the technical details. Vic had learned all that stuff with the rest of his class. "Uh, I guess."

A stunned expression appeared on Carla. "You guess?" Her mouth hung nearly open. "Are you telling me you're not on the pill?"

Vicky slowly shook her head. "My mom wouldn't understand," she finally said, hoping it wouldn't sound too dumb.

Carla shook her head, laughing. "So go to the clinic. Like I do. Your folks never have to know."

"Clinic?" Vicky knew she sounded very naíve.

"The free clinic." Carla glanced at Vicky, then she nodded to herself. "Okay, you're coming with me. We need to get you on something before you get knocked up. And keep your mom from really having a cow."

**********

Vicky glanced into the bleak dorm room. Off-white paint, freshened by the annual touch-up coat while the students were out for the summer. Two tiny desks, one on either side of a window. Closets flanking the entrance. Two twin-sized beds along the walls. Spartan, efficient, and for some reason, disgusting. A typical dorm room. At least she felt a bit thankful that she was finally at college — away from the judgmental eye of her mother.

"You mind if we get some hanging bunks?" Vicky turned, still in the doorway, and saw a girl standing in the hall. "I'm Brenda. I take it you're my roommate?" She sounded less than pleased.

Vicky gave her new roommate Brenda the once over. Brittany had once said that she and Vicky had planned to room together as soon as they found that they had both been accepted at the same school. Of course, that had changed once Vicky had started hanging out with Amber and Carla, and the rest. Brittany wasn't even in the same dorm. And Vicky was stuck with Brenda, who seemed to be the same sort of "nice girl" as Brittany was.

Brenda was wearing a neat blouse and skirt, prim and oh-so-proper. Her shoulder-length hair was very stylishly done, and even on registration day, she was wearing earrings and a necklace. Not costume jewelry either, Vicky realized. A faint hint of perfume wafted through the air. Vicky guessed that Brenda was a stuck-up sorority wanna-be. "I'm Vicky. And yeah, I guess we're rooming together." Vicky didn't try to hide her lack of enthusiasm.

Brenda cleared her throat, and Vicky realized she was still blocking the door. "Oh, sorry," she apologized, and she backed out of the door, allowing Brenda in.

"I prefer the right side," Brenda announced imperiously. She was letting Vicky know that she expected to have her way.

"Fine." Vicky tossed her bags on the left bed. She sat on the bed, trying it out. It squeaked. Vicky glanced at Brenda. "Figures. Just when I get my moaning under control, I get a squeaky bed," she said, deliberately baiting Brenda. She'd already decided that she didn't like Brenda one bit. She seemed too ... confident. Too self-assured. "Well, you might just have to get earplugs, because I'm sure not going to give up sex." She watched Brenda stiffen, and Vicky laughed to herself. "You know, there's not much room for a stereo or anything. Maybe we ought to set up bunks like some of the other girls have."

Brenda's jaw clenched, then it relaxed. "I certainly don't know anything about making a bunk bed. And I really doubt you do either." The battle lines were drawn.

Vicky stiffened. Okay, that's how she wanted to play it. "Well, if we showed a little tit to some of the guys, I'm sure we'd have a bunk set up before dark," she said casually.

"Well, I never!" Brenda huffed. She marched out of the room, leaving Vicky laughing at her hollow victory.

Vicky was wandering down the hall, checking out the bathrooms and lounge, when she spotted a couple of girls watching TV. As soon as she saw their outfits, Vicky knew that they weren't like her roommate. They were more like her old mall gang. "Hi," she said as she slipped into a chair. "What's on?"

The girls barely took their eyes off the television. "I don't know. Some talk show about fathers arguing with their mama's boys."

The other girl nodded. "Pretty funny, too," she added. "These guys are such wimps."

"I'm Crystal," the first girl said.

"Vicky."

"Hi, Vic," the second girl said. She saw Vicky stiffen at the abbreviated name. "Or isn't that good? I'm Valerie."

"No, I really hate Vic," Vicky answered, barely containing the sudden swell of emotion. Anger, resentment, pain. It was all there.

"I take it you aren't trying to pledge a sorority," Crystal observed. "Neither are we."

Valerie nodded. "We're not the prissy type."

Vicky smiled. "Great. Neither am I. But the roommate from hell is. You should see what I got stuck with."

"So what's your major?"

Vicky shook her head. "Don't know," she answered. "My folks want me to go to college, so I'm here." She shook her head. "I almost didn't have the grades for it." She spoke truly; her grades had really taken a pounding after the change. If Vic hadn't started with such a high GPA, Vicky wouldn't have been admitted.

"Tell me about it," Crystal said. "My folks think I'm some kind of little princess, and I'm going to study pre-med or something." She mocked them with a sugary-sweet voice. "Yeah, like they should wake up and smell the coffee. Like I'll ever do pre-med!"

Vicky laughed with them. "You know any good clubs around here?" she asked.

Valerie narrowed her eyes, staring at Vicky. "Not for freshmen," she said cautiously. "You know we're too young to drink."

Vicky laughed aloud. "Yeah, like that's ever stopped me before! So you know any good clubs or not?"

Crystal stared at her for a second, then a grin broke over her face. "Yeah, there are two or three good ones. Oh, and there are the frat parties, too."

Val nodded. "Yeah. The Alphas are doing a rush party tonight. Wanna come with us?"

Vicky smiled. "Thanks. I'd love to." Then she grinned cryptically. "Of course, you might have to come home without me."

*****************

Nearby, a toilet flushed. It was loud — like it was next door. Vicky painfully pried her eyes open. It was barely light outside; She felt her head pound — another hangover on its way. Well, she knew how to stop that. She levered herself up from the bed, and saw that she wasn't alone. Vicky shrugged. No big deal. She padded to the dresser, and then she had to think a moment. Where was she? The Alpha house? No, she realized almost instantly that she wasn't there. Where had the party been? She fought the throbbing in her head, the pressure in her bladder, and slowly, she tried to sort out a swirl of memories, a blur of a semester.

Had it really been that long? Almost four months. It seemed like just a few days. Vicky reached for a glass from the dresser; it looked like it was about half full of beer. As she raised it to her lips, she saw them. Irregularly shaped little pills. Vicky knew, somehow, that it was methamphetamines.

Vicky felt her knees go weak. How long ago was it? Two months? Three? She and some of the girls had been going back to her car after a night at the club. They'd bumped into a hooker; usually they did, given the location of their type of club. The girl had seemed angry, as if they were cutting into her territory. And then, she'd asked if Vicky wanted any meth or crack. Vicky flinched, and the hooker laughed at her. She said that she'd see Vicky sooner or later. It wasn't so bad. Besides, it was better to get paid for it and have drug money.

It was like the hooker was predicting the future. And now, on this dresser, were the pills. And the worst part was that Vicky couldn't remember if she'd taken any or not. Is that why she had such a headache? And why she was having trouble remembering where she was?

Panic was gripping her, its icy fingers making her feel helpless and small. She frantically searched for her clothes, settling for her skirt and panties. She took a T-shirt from the guy's closet when she couldn't find either her blouse or bra. One shoe was missing. She dressed hastily, and she fled the room barefoot, then the house. It was a long walk, with her head pounding and her fighting tears, but Vicky slipped into her room, closing the door behind herself. She sank to the floor, and tears started to flow.

Vicky tried to remember. It was so hard. Had she been drunk that much? The parties merged, fusing into a blurry memory of beer and dancing and guys. Guys. Lots of guys. One entire frat house on one of her wilder nights. V-train. That's what one frat called her. Was it a nightmare, or had she really initiated a freshman pledge class all by herself? And this floor -- with the sorority girls pledged and gone -- the girls who were left, like her and Valerie and Crystal, had a very unflattering nickname -- the Third Floor Whore Corps.

Vicky cried and cried. What the hell was she doing? Why? She was a ... whore. A slut. And she didn't even remember why she was acting like she was. Sure, there was the pain of Vic, of the change. But this? She was on a path of self-destruction, a path that would lead her to working the streets. Just like the hooker had told her.

Vicky was scared. She felt trapped, helpless. She hadn't asked for the change, and it happened. She hadn't asked to be stuck as a girl, but she was, and she hated it. And she had no idea how to change, to get off this train to hell.

Vicky heard the knocking at the door, but she ignored it. Crystal called out to her, but she ignored that, too. The sun crossed the sky, a sliver of light arcing across her floor, and still she lay on the bed, angry and hurt and confused and crying.

Finally, sometime after six, Vicky sat up on her bed. Her stomach growled angrily; she hadn't eaten for over twenty-four hours. She opened the refrigerator to get something — anything! — to eat or drink. She spied a slice of leftover pizza and picked it up, but as she raised it to her mouth to take a bite, her stomach turned. The cold pizza was totally repulsive to her right now. She slowly put it back into the refrigerator. As she started to scan again, looking for some food that wouldn't turn her stomach, she saw her 'special' pitcher. To get around the rules against alcohol, she kept a pitcher of pre-mixed screwdrivers in the fridge. It was handy sometimes, like now.

Vicky watched her trembling hand as she reached for the pitcher. She was weak from not eating. That was it, she told herself. That's why she was shaking so badly. She held the pitcher, just inches from pouring a glass, and Vicky stared at it. It was alcohol. A sudden, chilling thought intruded into her brain; was it the alcohol that was making her shake? If so, was she an ... alcoholic?

Vicky nearly dropped the pitcher at the horrifying thought. An alcoholic? She fought the concept. She couldn't be. Not her. Not at nineteen. She stared at her shaking hand again. No. It couldn't be true. Slowly, deliberately, Vicky poured the drink, fighting against the seemingly uncontrollable shakes. She set the pitcher down, then she raised the glass. Slowly, carefully, she took a sip, then another. Then she downed the glass. As the warm fire spread within her belly, she started to feel calmer, less unsettled. The angry growling was gone, replaced by a comfortable feeling. She started to put the pitcher back into the refrigerator ...

... only to stop. Slowly, she pulled the pitcher back out and poured another drink. Just to steady the nerves, Vicky kept telling herself. The second drink went down more slowly than the first, and the warm feeling grew. She poured herself a third drink.

**********

Vicky stared blankly at the desk. Her head pounded, and she looked like she hadn't slept in days. Around her, people were moving and talking, but she didn't seem to notice. Even now, after all that had happened, she was trying to figure out what had happed — since the screwdrivers, that is. That's all that she clearly remembered. Valerie and Crystal — had they been with her joyriding? She shook her head; she honestly couldn't remember all the details.

"Okay, she's released to your custody." The police sergeant was talking to Vicky's parents, sitting on either side of her. "Her court date is listed. If she fails to appear, you forfeit the bail, and she will be further cited. Do you understand?" The sergeant was old, and he looked sympathetically at Vicky's parents - but not at Vicky. Perhaps he'd had the same experience with his own children, and he understood what the parents were going through.

"Yes, we understand," Vicky's dad said. His jaw was set, clamped tightly as if to contain the emotions seething within, and his eyes burned with simmering rage. Vicky didn't dare even look at him.

"Okay, you're free to go," the sergeant said sternly. As Vicky and her parents rose, he shook his head sadly, a move noted by Vicky. How many times had he seen kids bring anguish to their parents?

The walk to the car was longer than Vicky could have imagined. On one side, her father fumed and stewed, his anger barely restrained and visible for all to see. On the other side, her mother walked stiffly, as if numb, clutching Vicky's arm tightly. In the dim light of the street lamp, the tracks of tears glinted on her cheeks.

The drive home was terribly uncomfortable. Neither of the adults spoke, and Vicky merely sat in the back seat, silent and fearful. It wasn't until they were inside the house that her father spoke again.

"What the hell were you thinking?" he demanded loudly as he paced in front of the couch. Vicky cowered on the sofa, fearing the rage that she'd never seen in her father before. "Drinking - that I could understand. After all, it's college. But driving? And then fleeing an accident?" He stopped and turned to face Vicky. "What were you thinking?" he screamed.

Vicky stared at the floor. Her father's anger was getting her angry as well. He'd taken his sweet time about getting bail posted, just so that she had to spend a night and most of the next day in jail. She didn't want to speak to him right now, not the way he was screaming.

"And your grades - you're going to flunk out! I'm paying for your college, and this is the way you act? Partying instead of studying. Drinking. What else? Drugs? Sex?" He spun on his heel and stalked around the room some more. "Well, it's going to end. Do you hear me, young lady? It's going to end one way or another! Even if I have to disown you!" He glared at Vicky, then stomped out of the room. "You try to talk to her," he ordered Vicky's mom. "I can't get anywhere." He slammed the door behind him as he walked out.

Vicky's mom was sitting on the couch beside her. Her face showed not rage but sadness. "Vicky, honey," she started, "I don't understand all this." She dabbed away a tear. "You were such a good student. Such a good girl. Now all this. What's going on?"

Vicky barely moved. "I'm not a 'good' girl," she muttered. "I don't want to be a good girl."

Her mother shook her head. "Have you been doing anything else? Besides the drinking?" Her question sounded small and afraid. Even though she had a good idea of the answers, she didn't want to know. But she had to.

In answer, Vicky sat stonily on the couch, staring at the floor with a scowl on her face.

Vicky's mom shook her head sadly. "Honey, you can always talk to me about it. Just remember that." She dabbed at the tears. "Well, when the break is over, you'll go back to college. Without a car. We're going to have to drop you from the car insurance because of this, so you won't be driving. And even after the car gets fixed, it's going to be some time before your father trusts you to drive again." She shifted her position, still trying to initiate some type of contact with Vicky. "I don't understand it. You know better than to drink and drive." She shook her head. "You're lucky no one was hurt. From what the police say, you probably don't remember, but the other car was totaled. Your blood alcohol was point eighteen, which means you were pretty drunk. And you're underage." She shook her head in exasperation. "You just don't seem to get it! You could go to jail for this, Vicky!" she said insistently. "Jail!" For several seconds, her mother sat, staring at Vicky, waiting for some type of response. None came. "Go to your room and think about it," her mother finally commanded.

**********

"Is that why you resent your father?" The man, dressed in slacks, turtleneck shirt, and blazer, sat in his chair with a notepad in his lap. He peered alternately at his notepad and at Vicky through his glasses.

"I don't know," Vicky answered noncommittally. She slouched in another chair. Unlike the professional appearance of the man, Vicky looked like a typical troubled youth. Her hair was in the rebellious frizzled style, and with her low-neck, high-midriff shirt and short ,short skirt, she looked like a tramp.

The man glanced at his watch. "Your individual time is almost up," he said. Disappointment was clear on his face. "You're hiding something, I think. Something that's troubling you, making you go to these extremes of behavior." He glanced at his notes. "And yet you won't let me help you."

Vicky snapped a bubble, mainly because she knew it annoyed Dr. Morris. But she said nothing.

Dr. Morris frowned. "You know, Vicky, I thought we could get to the root of your problem, help you cope with what's troubling you." He took off his glasses. "You know that if I think you're not cooperating, I can file a report to that effect, and you'll be in violation of your probation."

Vicky snapped another bubble. "Yeah, I know."

"Doesn't that bother you?"

Vicky shrugged. "My life is crap anyway. What difference would it make?"

"What makes your life so bad?"

Vicky frowned. "Mom thinks I'm some sweet little princess. She treats me like I'm her innocent little girl."

"And you're not?"

Vicky snorted derisively. "I don't want to be a sweet little girl! I hate being a girl!" She started, her eyes widening, as she suddenly realized that she'd almost slipped. Vicky felt a chill. If she told Dr. Morris what had happened, he'd never believe her. Delusional, he'd say. And then what? Locked away in a funny farm for the rest of her miserable life? Or brainwash her, program her into being the perfect little Stepford wife?

Dr. Morris made a couple of notes. "Well, we've got to stop here." He stood, folding his notepad as he did so. "I'll see you again on Thursday, right?" He smiled pleasantly. "Now if you'll just wait in the waiting room while I talk with your mother ..."

Wordlessly, Vicky rose and padded out the door. Dr. Morris noted her demeanor, her walk, everything. It was his job to note every little detail about his patients. He sat down and pondered the girl. In every way, she was an enigma. She didn't have any signs of hating her parents. Nor of rebelling against their authority. She didn't seem to be trying to prove she was her own person. But still ... what was it she'd said? That she didn't want to be a girl? Dr. Morris frowned as he thought.

"Doctor?"

The words took him by surprise. He jerked his head and saw Vicky's mom already sitting in the chair, waiting and looking anxiously at him. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said with a smile. "I was thinking about something Vicky said." He saw the woman's eyes widen in hope. "No," he corrected quickly. "I'm still trying to get through to her. But I think I'm starting to pick up some clues." He opened the notepad and flipped through the pages. "Tell me, what was Vicky like as a little girl? Was she a tomboy, or did she play with other girls and the more traditional girlish toys and dolls?"

**********

The door closed heavily behind Vicky as she flung her book bag onto the desk. It missed and crashed to the floor, spilling books and notes all over the floor. Vicky didn't notice. She slumped onto her bed face-down, her head barely propped up on a pillow and her arms. There was something noticeably missing from Vicky. Her eyes were lifeless, dull. No spark, no hope, no joy.

The phone rang, but Vicky ignored it. After a couple of rings, the answering machine clicked on. "Vicky?" her mom's voice called through the machine. "I know you're out of classes. Are you going to pick up the phone?" The voice paused. "Your dad and I would like you to come by for a good home-cooked meal tonight. I'll be by to pick you up around five. Hope you have a good day. Love you, sweetie." The phone clicked off.

Vicky was still slumped on her bed when her mother knocked on the door. When Vicky didn't answer, her mother peeked in. "Vicky? Are you ready?"

Vicky slowly turned. "For what?" she asked, feigning innocence.

Her mother sighed, then glanced at the answering machine. "Didn't you get my message? We want you to have dinner at home tonight."

Vicky sighed heavily. "I don't really want to, mom," she protested. "I've got ... uh ... some things to do." It wasn't even a good effort at lying.

"No, you don't. Now come on. We don't want to keep your father waiting." Her mom picked up Vicky's purse, then took her arm. Vicky didn't resist; she didn't want to fight her mom. She just stood and followed her mom out of the dorm room.

Vicky wished that her mother would just shut up as they drove home. She was talking about everything - the neighbors, the weather, the vacation they were going to take. Everything, that is, except Vicky.

Dinner was a catastrophe, as far as Vicky was concerned. Her dad asked about her grades. Vicky's answer was very general, at which point her dad said she should be able to make better than Bs and Cs. Vicky knew he'd already seen her grades, since they were automatically sent to the students' home address. Had she picked a major yet? What about the theater club or the student union board? The school newspaper sounded like fun. All hints from her parents that she should get involved in campus activities. Vicky didn't care for any of them.

On the other hand, she knew better than to tell her parents to butt out. She didn't feel like having another argument. And Vicky didn't eat much; she complained that her stomach was bothering her a bit. In truth, which her mother could plainly see, Vicky didn't really care. Not about school, not about extracurricular activities, not even about eating. Her counselor had noticed, too. She was suffering from depression, he'd told her mom. He speculated it was because of guilt over the accident and fear that she had a permanent record. He tried to get Vicky on anti-depressants. But she'd refused. No pills, she'd said quite firmly. The doctor even threatened to make it a condition of her cooperation, but Vicky called his bluff. Her mom kept hoping that it was just a phase she was going through, that she'd get over it in a little bit. But the phase was going on for months, and Vicky showed no sign of 'getting over it.'

When she got back to the dorm, Vicky sat down to study. Out the window, Vicky could see that the sun hadn't set yet, thanks to the lengthening spring hours, but the shadows were long and dark. Street lights had not yet flickered to life; they would real soon as the inevitable dusk fell. It was her intent to study. But as usual, thoughts of her life interrupted. The lengthening shadows outside merged with the shadows of her mind, becoming one in a dark, lonely, forbidding universe to Vicky. A thought leaped suddenly to mind, stunning her. One year. It had been one year since the pageant, since her change. One year since her life had been thrown in to chaos.

Vicky fought the rising sense of futility. One year, and she was still stuck. One whole long, miserable year. She tried to do open a book to study as a way of distracting herself, but she felt all alone. And her friends? What friends? The guys were gone, lost to her, maybe forever. And the girls she'd been hanging around with - the so-called friends - were nothing but a bunch of shallow, angry girls. They were insecure and they showed it in their behavior and dress. Vicky glanced at her own outfit. It was the 'uniform' of the rebellious, a very skimpy and tight-fitting red blouse and a pair of very short shorts. And the drinking and partying and sex ....

Crystal. A friend? Vicky felt a shudder inside. Crystal had four tattoos; with her long pink and brown hair and nose ring, she was visibly rebelling. Her skirts barely covered her crotch. When she wasn't stoned, she was drunk. She'd been pregnant twice before she got out of high school, ending both in abortions. She earned some of her drug money as an exotic dancer, including some 'extra' activities. Crystal was the type of girl guys wanted nothing more than to fuck. Vicky had a sudden flash of insight: Crystal was worth no more than twenty or twenty-five bucks to a guy, enough to cover a movie or drinks and then get a lay in return. After that? No guy would ever call Crystal back, not after they'd had their needs satisfied.

Angie? Valerie? They were cut from the same cloth. Suddenly, the rumors that Angie had slept with the English teacher in exchange for a decent grade seemed plausible. Valerie wasn't into drugs as much as Crystal, but she still experimented. And she slept around - even more than Crystal and Angie.

Vicky sorted them in her mind. Amber. Carla. Rhonda. Crystal, Angie, Valerie. The faces started to blur. All of them were trash, tramps and whores. Not a one of them was a true friend. Not one of them would have lifted a finger to help Vicky - or each other, for that matter - not if it interrupted their 'pleasures'. And all of them were on the fast track of self-destruction.

And Vicky was becoming one of them. The realization struck her like a knife thrust deep into her heart. She was trash. She had become a little slut, a worthless piece of ass to any guy. Hell, she even had a record now, and was well on her way to flunk out of college!

Everything she'd ever wanted was gone. Vic - gone! College - fading fast. Nice girlfriend - gone! Friends - gone! Everything. She sank to the floor, her eyes slowly leaking tears as her face paled. There was nothing left. Nothing! She could have adapted, gotten by, in this new body. But no, she'd ruined that, too! She had no friends left, no one who cared. She had no reputation, either. She was a whore, a slut, a tramp. Worthless.

Like a robot, Vicky slowly stood up and walked to her dresser. She opened the top drawer and rummaged around, extracting a bottle. Numbly, she walked back to her desk and sat down. She opened the bottle; the little pills spilled out onto the desk, some rolling onto the floor. Vicky didn't seem to notice. She pushed some of the pills into a tiny pile. For a long time, she stared at the pills. Then, slowly, she clutched the pills into her hand. She opened her hand, palm upturned, and stared at the sedatives. With her other hand, she reached for a half-full glass of water.

The knock on the door sounded insistently. Vicky stopped, and then she let the pills spill back onto the desk. "Come in."

Brittany peeked in the door, and slipped in. "Hi," she said simply. "I hadn't seen you for a while, so I thought I'd see how you are."

Vicky started trembling, and then the tears started flowing. Her hands were shaking visibly, uncontrollably; the glass she was holding slipped out and spilled on the desk. She turned away, ashamed to let Brittany see her.

Brittany knew something was wrong. She sat down on the corner of the bed, right next to Vicky's chair. Her hand reached gently to Vicky's shoulder. "Are you okay?" she asked softly.

Vicky dropped her head into her hands. Her sobs were audible, and her whole body trembled.

Brittany's eyes widened when she saw the bottle and the pills all over the desk. She turned Vicky, somehow, so that Vicky was facing her. "You can talk to me," she said soothingly. "You always talked to me. Remember?"

Vicky looked up slowly. Her eyes were bloodshot and sunken. Her anguish was a mask visible on her once pretty face. "No," she said softly. "I don't remember." Tears streamed down her cheeks. "I don't remember." She practically fell forward onto Brittany's shoulder, bawling and shaking while Brittany held her tightly, trying to comfort her.

After what seemed hours, Vicky slowly straightened. She wiped at her cheeks, smearing the tears as she did so. "I'm sorry," she managed to stammer.

Brittany took Vicky's hands. "No," she said firmly. "You don't need to apologize."

"But ... but I was so ... so mean ... to ... to ... to you!" Vicky blabbered through her sobs. "I thought you hated me!" She wiped at the tears again. "I wouldn't blame you if you did, either."

Brittany shook her head. "You were always my best friend," she said. "I can't forget that."

Vicky shook her head. "But I don't deserve it. I don't deserve any of it!" She was crying again. "I messed up my life so badly, I don't deserve anything any more!"

"Yeah," Brittany nodded, "you've messed up." She stared into the wide eyes of Vicky. "But you can get it all straightened out - if you want to."

Vicky shook her head insistently. "No, I can't," she said. "I can't ever get it back."

"But ..."

"No," Vicky said insistently. "I can't. And I'll tell you why." She dropped her head. "You're going to think I'm crazy, but I have to tell somebody." She looked up at Brittany, half expecting Brittany to try to stop her. Instead, she saw a patient look on the girl's face, a look of concern and support.

"A year ago, at the pageant? You know, the one Tanya won?" She watched Brittany for any reaction; there was none, so she continued. "Well, Tanya wasn't always Tanya. It was Jim and I. Only I wasn't Vicky, I was Vic. A guy. We were going to pull a little prank, enter the pageant in drag for fun? Well, we found a weird little shop in the mall. A magic shop." Vicky's words were quickening, as if she felt she had to get the entire story in before Brittany told her it was nonsense. "The guy who ran it gave us some costumes and makeup and stuff. Only, it was really magic, and Jim and I changed into Tanya and Vicky." She stifled a shudder at the memories. "But I didn't change all the way. Tanya doesn't remember being Jim or the magic shop or anything. But I didn't put on the wig, and I remembered everything!" Vicky's eyes were wide with fear that Brittany would think she'd flipped. "And everyone else remembers us as Vicky and Tanya, not Vic and Jim!" She felt the tears starting to flow again. "You don't know how awful it's been being stuck like this! I'm not a girl!" Vicky sobbed. "Not inside, anyway! And I can't get back to being Vic, either!"

Brittany looked at her with an even gaze. For a long time, neither girl said anything. Vicky finally broke the silence. "You think I'm crazy, don't you?"

Brittany shook her head, a curious smile on her face. "No, I don't. You see," her eyes twinkled, "I _know_ magic exists. My grandmother practiced the Art." She shrugged. "Just my luck not to inherit any of her sensitivity, though."

Vicky started bawling, and Brittany hugged her tightly again. "I thought I was going crazy," Vicky said through her tears. "Everyone thinks I've always been Vicky. And I couldn't tell anyone!" Then she leaned back, looking at Brittany with hope in her eyes. "If your grandmother ...."

Brittany turned away sharply. "No," she said, and Vicky heard pain in her voice. "She's ...." She couldn't finish the single word.

Vicky lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said quickly.

Brittany wiped away a tiny tear. "You didn't know," she said quickly. Then she turned back to Vicky. "So now I guess the question is what are you going to do?"

Vicky frowned. "I don't get it."

"Do you want me to leave so you can take the pills, or do you want to start putting your life back together?"

Vicky lowered her gaze again. "But it's not my life," she protested.

Brittany took Vicky's face between her hands and looked into her eyes. "It's the only life you've got," she scolded. "You can either ruin it, or learn to live with it. Now, what'll it be?"

Vicky tore her head free and turned, staring at the sleeping pills strewn about the desk. She looked back at Brittany. Then she closed her eyes heavily and gave a single nod. "I don't want to mess up any more."

Brittany smiled. "That's the spirit." She stood up and pulled Vicky to her feet. "Get your purse."

"Where are we going?" Vicky asked, confused.

Brittany smiled. "Shopping, of course." She watched Vicky's mouth drop in shock. "Look, if you want to put your life back together, then the first thing we do is redo your image. Something a little less ... wild."

Vicky nodded slowly, understanding what Brittany meant. To reclaim her life, Vicky was going to have to rebuild herself and the image and reputation she had. Starting with a new wardrobe. She knew the wardrobe was going to be the easiest part.

Brittany smiled. "Now get your purse." As soon as Vicky stepped away from the desk, Brittany picked up the wastebasket and swept the pills from the desktop. "And promise me something."

Vicky picked up her purse and turned her head to her friend. "What?"

"Promise me you'll talk to me before you do anything stupid."

Vicky saw the insistent look on Brittany's face. She nodded slowly. "Okay, I promise." Brittany's face lightened and she led the two out of the dorm room. As they walked down the hall, Vicky felt a sudden curiosity. "Why?" she asked simply. "Why, after all this time, did you come tonight?"

Brittany shrugged, her face clouding. "I don't know," she answered. "I just had a strange feeling that I had to." Her face showed that she was as confused about the coincidence as Vicky.

**********

Vicky glanced one last time in the mirror. "Are you sure about this?" she nervously asked Brittany.

Brittany smiled and clasped Vicky's hand. "Yes," she said confidently, "I'm sure. This isn't a formal party. It's just a casual get-together. And you know the Sigmas; they aren't into formal events. Trust me. It looks fine." Brittany wore a casual blue dress, something light and airy and at the same time conservative. While autumn was rapidly approaching, it was still warm and the days were still long. That made it harder for the girls to pick out something both comfortable and conservative.

Vicky felt awkward, uneasy. Her attire was a teal polo shirt and and modest blue shorts. And she was worried that it was a little too casual. Even as casual as it was, the outfit was still a major change from what she wore a few months ago; Brittany had helped her on the long road back to sanity. The old trashy outfits were long gone. Most of her outfits looked more like country-club attire than something worn by a teen-age girl. Or a tramp.

"I'm still nervous," Vicky said uneasily. "What if one of them ...?"

She didn't have to finish. The change in Vicky had been radical, and not everyone believed it. Occasionally, some boorish guy still made a rude or crude comment to her that made her cry or blush or run away in shame. The girls were very catty at first. Crystal and the other tramps had mocked her mercilessly. The sorority girls also mocked her as a tramp and whore, saying that she'd never fit in with real ladies. Brittany had been an invaluable friend, letting Vicky cry on her shoulder time after time when the humiliation became too much for Vicky to bear. But slowly, the mocking and ridicule ceased. Some of Brittany's circle of friends warily accepted her, and as they saw that Vicky's transformation was genuine, their walls came down.

The summer break had helped a lot, too. Vicky had used the time in hard work to try to bring her grades back up. She'd also decided on a major - actually, two of them. Vic had wanted to study electrical engineering. Vicky decided she could study it just as well, since it still interested her. And she'd taken an interest in pre-law. Everything she'd taken her first year were general studies classes that only counted toward her humanities electives. She essentially had to start over with freshman-level math and science courses.

Given the significant change in her appearance and attitude, the guys had slowly decided that Vicky's day as a 'good-time girl' were over, and their interest waned. Still, she worried that someone, sometime, would be an ass and bring up her earlier life. She lived in fear that she'd be called a tramp or worse in a formal or public setting.

"They know better than that," Brittany answered crisply. "So quit worrying."

Outside, a horn honked. Vicky glanced at Brittany, anxiety written on her face. Brittany smiled, and then she nodded. "They're here. Let's go."

This was another of Sigma Sigmas parties. Unlike the jocks and party animals of the other fraternities, the Sigma Sigma guys were friendly, mostly humble, and very respectful of their dates. Nice girls liked to attend the Sigma Sigma functions; they felt safe and protected. Brittany had gone to the spring formal. Vicky, too, had been asked, but she declined - politely, she hoped. She just felt too uncomfortable. But this - this was an ordinary party. No dates, just an open party. Vicky could do this.

In fact, much to Brittany's pleasure and Vicky's dismay, Vicky had been asked out several times since the fall semester started, and always by guys Brittany knew to be nice and decent. She'd even gone out with one of the Sigmas a few times, a nice guy named Hank.

The party was a typical Sigma Sigma function. On one end of the massive main hall, a number of students were dancing on the well-lit dance floor. The other end of the hall had chairs, tables, couches, and other sitting areas, with a long table well stocked with hors d'ouvres and a huge punch bowl. Everyone knew that the Sigma Sigma punch was safe to drink, unlike the liquid refreshment served by some of the other fraternities. Vicky was feeling rather relaxed, for a change. She'd declined a few dances, and now she sat just chatting.

Vicky's ears caught something, and her head snapped around. Four of the Sigmas were standing behind the sofa talking in low tones. They were clearly up to something, and Vicky decided she was going to find out what. She turned so she wasn't so obvious, then she concentrated on the guys.

"... sneak in and go for a swim." The speaker Vicky recognized as Norm, one of the Sigmas.

"But what if we get caught?" Bill? Vicky wasn't sure. It was either him or Norm. She didn't know all the guys.

"Look, it's just a little swim in their pond. You guys in?"

Vicky turned her head a trifle more to hear better.

"What about you, Vicky?" Vicky started, spinning to the conversation. "You want to go for a swim, too?" It was Hank, who, based on his attitude, was very interested in dating Vicky.

"What?" Vicky pretended not to know what they were talking about.

Hank and Bill laughed. "Yeah, right. I saw you practically breaking your neck to listen in."

Vicky climbed out of her seat and circled to the guys. "So I was listening to your little plot. So?"

"Well, you want to go with us?" Hank persisted.

"I don't know," Vicky said uneasily. She was full of doubts, especially after some of her earlier misadventures.

"Okay," Hank said. No pressure, no guilt. He turned to the other guys. "Let's go. I'll drive."

Vicky felt torn. On the one hand, the party was safe. Safe, and for her, the model of her new femininity! On the other hand, the guys had asked her to join their little fun. She thought briefly about the old days, about Vic and the fun she had. "I'm in," she answered quickly. At least she might be able to recapture one fleeting moment of doing things with the guys.

**********

The office - at least the outer office - was sparsely furnished, and it seemed unnaturally bright compared to the night sky just outside. Vicky sat in a chair waiting, her wet swimsuit dripping into the towel the old woman had given her. She felt a shiver, and it wasn't from cold. She wondered what was going to happen to her.

She glanced around her. Three others were sitting in chairs like herself, and with a sickening certainty, she knew that they were Bill, Norm, and Mark. Only, they weren't Bill and Norm and Mark. They were ... changed. Bill was holding an ice pack against his head. Her head, Vicky corrected herself. It wasn't Bill any more - it was the girl he'd have been born as. His hair, long straight wet brunette locks, spilled off his soft feminine shoulders, splitting between the front and back. It partially covered the full breasts on Bill's chest. Below them, Bill's waist was narrowed, smooth and flat, like any well-shaped girl. And even his swimsuit had changed from a bland pair of man's trunks into a bikini bottom, riding high on rounded hips. Smooth curvy legs, softer facial features, Bill was female. Even without knowing what was - or more properly, what was no longer - between his legs, Vicky knew.

Vicky's gaze moved. Next to Bill, Norm sat quietly, sobbing into his hands. His short dark hair, cut in a pageboy, framed his soft round face. With features as delicate as Norm's had been harsh, he was an attractive young lady. Behind his arms, the curve of breasts was unmistakable; his slender arms concealed the size of the new chest features. Norm was a bit chubby; not fat by any means, but pleasingly full-bodied - the kind of body referred to as a renaissance figure. Vicky couldn't see from how Norm sat, but his waist was clearly wider than Bill's, and his hips and ass definitely so. His curvy legs displayed a little more bulk than the others, but not flabby; just muscular. Norm was attractive in a girl-next-door way. His face was buried in his hands out of shame of what he'd been turned into.

Across from Bill, Mark stared at the floor, slouched in the chair, with his arms crossed over his waist. Mark's legs splayed open in a very unfeminine way, displaying the pink string bikini which lay flat in his crotch - just like the rest of the guys who were now girls. Mark had big soft breasts capped by large brown nipples resting on his crossed arms. His hands, soft and delicate, were turned in an attempt to conceal his now-long fingernails. A thick wavy mane of auburn hair hung around his face; short wavy bangs concealed his forehead. What could be seen of his face was as feminine as the others; no trace of whiskers remained, and the features were much finer, the skin softer.

"Magic," Vicky muttered to herself. "Just like me ..." She was almost in awe; it was incredible to see the change in the others, the same as she'd been changed. And at the same time, that power struck terror into her heart. As far as she could tell, she was the only one unchanged.

A lithe brunette led another girl into the office building. Vicky knew the brunette went by the name Anya; she'd politely introduced herself to Vicky as they walked back to the office after Vicky had been caught. It was strange; Anya was a lot nicer than Vicky had expected. If it weren't for the circumstances, it would have been a very pleasant encounter.

And the other one? Vicky knew it was Hank. She stared at him. The last one caught. Hank was gone, replaced by the lovely young lady now sitting dejectedly in the office chair. His sandy-blonde hair was still there, only longer and finer, hanging down past his shoulders, straight but for a few waves at the end. The locks parted near the middle of his head and swung back behind his ears. Hank's eyes had been slightly green; now, they were definitely green, softer, and they seemed larger on his smaller face. Like the others, his skin seemed softer, perhaps because it was devoid of a five-o'clock shadow. His nose was smaller, more dainty, and slightly upturned. Cute. Lips a bit fuller, but not absurdly so. Delicate neck, lacking the male Adam's apple. Vicky's gaze dropped. Nice breasts hung on Hank's chest; not too big, but almost perfect in shape. Perky. Moderate waist and wider, rounder hips. Long slender legs. And like the others, an empty crotch. No, Vicky corrected herself, not empty but now female. For the briefest of moments, Vicky actually felt jealous of Hank's body.

She glanced around again. All these guys had somehow been turned into girls. Somehow. What had done it? What was the magic that made four guys into girls? Was it like the force that had transformed her, almost destroying her life?

The door to the inner office opened loudly, and an older woman poked her head into the room. "Come in," she ordered.

Their heads hung in shame, the five rose and walked self-consciously after the older woman into the inner office. As the old woman eased her wide torso down into her chair, the five sat down silently, facing across the desk at her. For an agonizingly long few seconds, she stared at them, her features clouded with anger as she drummed her fingers on the desk. Finally she spoke. "What am I going to do with the five of you?" she asked bluntly.

Vicky glanced up. "We didn't mean any harm," she said contritely.

The woman glared at her, causing Vicky to glance back down. "First of all, you need to learn some better manners. How should you address your elders?"

Vicky glanced up again. "I'm sorry, ma'am."

The woman nodded slightly. "Better. Second, you broke into my park. That's trespassing. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, you turned on my equipment. That makes it criminal trespass."

Vicky started to tremble. With her past ...

The old woman continued. "For a first offense, criminal trespass in this state would usually get you probation and a hefty fine." She let that sink in for a moment, then continued. "And then there's the civil liability for what you've done to my park."

As if on cue, Anya came back in with another girl. The other girl's shirt and denim shorts were stained with grease. The girl had a disgusted look on her face.

"Well, Jenny?" the old woman asked. "How bad is it?"

The young girl shook her head. "Pele's Race is okay. So is Lava Run."

"But ..." The old woman sensed hesitation in Jenny's voice.

Jenny frowned, her eyes narrow to slits, a fire burning behind them. She clenched her jaw tightly for a second. "Poly Plunge has some problems. The output flow is way low."

The old woman's expression hardened. "Remember, I hired you because I don't know anything about those contraptions. In plain English, please."

Jenny glanced with malice at the girls seated around the desk. "The way the motor was started, it would have caused a pressure surge through the system. And on Poly, there's a lot of bends in the pipe. Somewhere, probably - and I say probably until I can tear the pump down and inspect it - it got a pressure pulse back through the pipe. Probably damaged the impeller. Maybe the motor, too."

The old woman frowned. "Not good. How long will it be out?"

Jenny closed her eyes for a moment, her lips moving as she mentally figured out what it would take to fix. "A day or two. If. If the motor isn't damaged, and if I can find an impeller anywhere in town." She shook her head. "But that's not the worst of it."

The old woman sighed. "Go on."

Jenny glared at the young ladies again. "Tell me, which one of you little bitches decided to start my pumps?" She felt Anya's arm rest on hers to calm her. Jenny's jaw muscles were visibly tense as she turned back to the old woman. "Outrigger is out of action. For quite a while." She glared at the girls again. "I can't be sure, but I think a pipe split." Jenny shook her head. "The pump seems to be okay, though."

The old woman frowned. "Bad?"

Jenny's angry look left the girls cowering in their chairs. "We got lucky with Poly Plunge. The pipes seem to be okay. But Outrigger?" She shook her head. "Flow through the pump is good. But the water isn't getting to the top of the ride." She watched as the old woman grasped the enormity of the situation. "Yup. We're going to have to dig up the pipe and check it. All of it."

The old woman closed her eyes. The seconds ticked by with painful slowness as she sat rigidly in her chair. Finally, she opened her eyes. "Okay, Jenny. Get me a cost estimate." She watched as Jenny glared once again at the girls, then stormed out of the office.

The old woman turned her attention to the five seated miscreants. "I've half a mind to turn you over to the police." Fire burned within her eyes, an unbelievably angry glare. "But I won't." She sat back in her chair, her fingers steepled once again. Her index fingers rested on her nose, her hands blocked her mouth. She stared long and hard at the girls. "Do you have anything to say for yourselves?"

Norm looked up slowly. "You changed us into girls!" he whined. "All because we had a little fun?"

The old woman's face lightened, as if she'd just realized what to do. "No, dear. My park changed you into girls." She watched their expressions. "This park was designed for girls. Anyone who uses it gets changed by the magic into a girl while she's here. That way, all my girls can have some privacy." She looked over the new girls. "When you entered the water, the changes started." She got a twinkle in her eye. "Maybe I should just let the four of you go. What do you think about that?"

Norm glanced at his three formerly male friends. "But we're girls!" he wailed. The others echoed his sentiments.

The old woman nodded. "Exactly. That seems to me to be a fitting punishment - leaving you girls for the rest of your lives."

"Please, no!" Bill protested in a wail.

The old woman looked thoughtful for a moment. "You're right. That wouldn't be fair to Vicky, would it." Vicky caught the implications of her tone, and her hands started to shake visibly. The old woman glanced at them, but chose to ignore her — for the moment. "Hmmmm. What can we do?" She glanced at Anya. "I guess I could call the police. You'd probably get probation and a fine."

"And you'd change us back?" Hank asked hopefully.

The old woman shook her head. "But why? I wouldn't want to do that until after your probation was up." She smiled slyly. "I understand that probation for criminal trespass - the kind of charge I'd press - can be five to ten years. Especially since I'm a respected businesswoman and you're just a bunch of college hoodlums." She glanced at Vicky, who was white with fear.

Bill's eyes widened in shock. In that, he wasn't alone. "Five ... years? We'd be stuck like this for five years?" His soft alto voice threatened to crack under the stress.

Anya sensed where her grandmother was going. "Maybe we can come up with something a little more suitable for all of them, Grandmother." The group's eyes turned hopefully to the younger woman. "Maybe they could work here until they've paid off their debt."

The old woman raised her eyebrows. "Hmm. That might work."

"And you'd change us back?" Mark said, hoping for some mercy.

The old woman looked at the girls, then shook her head. "Not until you're done paying me back." She leaned forward, her arms resting on the desk. She let her eyes wander for a few moments, giving the appearance that she was lost in thought. "Okay, here's the deal I'm willing to offer you. The criminal trespass charge would probably net you each about a five thousand dollar fine. And there's the damage to the pumps, plus lost revenue while those rides are out of commission. I'll know more when Jenny gets me the figures, but I'm guessing it'll be about sixteen or seventeen thousand. Each. You'll work for me until it's all paid back."

The girls glanced among themselves, awed that they might be given a merciful sentence.

The old woman continued. "I've got some openings in the gift shop and on the janitorial staff. They pay two dollars over minimum wage. I'll keep two dollars for each hour as payment toward your debt." She smiled. "After all, you're all in college, and need some money for books and tuition." She leaned back. "You can work part time until the semester is over, then full time during the summer."

Mark did some quick calculations. "Sixteen thousand - that'll take years to pay back!" he finally wailed.

The old woman shrugged. "You can always pay me more from your salaries." She sat back again. "Your choice. Take it or leave it." Her face went blank, stony and cold in appearance. "But if you decline my generous offer, I may never be inclined to change you back."

Norm's mouth flapped open a couple of times. "That's blackmail," he finally muttered.

The old woman smiled. "Yes, it is, isn't it. Well?"

The girls glanced among themselves, then nodded. "I guess we'll take it," they answered glumly. For the boys, the worst part was that they'd be stuck as girls for quite some time.

The old woman smiled. "I thought you would. Okay, here's the way the magic works. Everyone will always think you've always been girls. You," she pointed at Bill, "are named Belinda." She went down the row. "Norma. Marta. Holly. That's what the world thinks. Everyone knows you by those names. No one, not even your parents, remember you as boys. So it's no use trying to convince someone otherwise." She let the totality of their change sink in. "I'll see you for new employees' orientation tomorrow at four." She stood, inviting them to rise as well.

As they started to turn, the old woman thought of something. "Uh, girls," she called. The former boys turned. The old woman pulled some bits of cloth from seemingly nowhere, then extended them toward the girls. "Put these on, please. Modesty, you know." The boys took the bikini tops reluctantly, forcing themselves to thank her. With help from Vicky, they were soon dressed. Again, the girls turned.

"Oh, yes. One more thing." The girls turned again. "You are real girls now," the old woman said, sounding a word of caution.

Norma's eyes narrowed. "Which means what?" she asked.

Vicky's eyes widened as she understood. She leaned closer to Norma. "Which means I'm going to have to teach you a thing or two about the female reproductive system." As the girls' mouths dropped open in shock, Vicky herded them from the old woman's office.

The old woman glanced up from her desk. "Vicky? You stay here for a moment."

Vicky started to tremble again. There was something almost sinister about the old woman, something that made her fearful. She jumped when the door thumped shut.

"Sit down," the old woman commanded. Vicky complied immediately. "You probably think you got off easy, don't you?" Vicky nodded. The old woman gazed impassively at her. "I know about your probation. If I turned you in, you'd be in prison for two to three years." She watched as Vicky's trembling confirmed her guess. "In a way, you did get off easy. I'm not going to turn you in." Vicky felt like she was going to collapse from relief. "But in another sense," the old woman continued, causing Vicky to tense up again, "you're not getting off as easily. You see, unlike your friends, you don't get to change back."

Vicky felt like crying or screaming or something. The old woman was confirming what Vicky had always dreaded hearing — that her change was permanent. Even with the passage of time and the friendship of Brittany, she was still, in the deepest corner of her heart, holding out for a miracle, some way to change back, a means to regain her old life.

The old woman watched Vicky carefully. "Yes, dear, I know all about your change. And I fear that the magic of my park has made it all but impossible for you to ever change back." She watched the anguish in Vicky's eyes. "The reason I'm not going to turn you in is that you were an innocent caught in the change on the night of the pageant. You weren't supposed to be changed; Jim was the intended target."

"But how ...?" Vicky was confused. Did the old woman know what had happened? "Why?"

The old woman smiled sadly. "Jim was destined for a very bad fate. One of his pranks was going to get out of hand, and people were going to be hurt and even killed." She shook her head. "Jim was already working on a pyrotechnics stunt for your graduation exercise. He hadn't told you about it, but he would have convinced you to go along with it - the way he always did." The old woman looked to be wearing a mask of thousands of years of tragedy and sorrow. "If Jim hadn't been stopped, your mother would have been injured — among lots of others." She watched Vicky grasp the facts. "And your little sister ..."

Vicky knew without hearing it. "Angela ... would have been killed?" The pain of what might have been was suffocating; she fought the whirling torrents in her own mind.

The old woman nodded mutely. She waited for Vicky to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation. "What's more, you and Jim would have been convicted and imprisoned on federal firearms and explosives charges."

Vicky struggled to make sense of what the old woman was telling her. "But ... the costumes. Why?"

"The old man that runs the store is an old friend of mine. I know what he did and why." She shook her head sadly. "I can't really say any more, because it involves things yet to come. But he had his reasons to get Jim."

Vicky nodded slowly. "And by getting me to rent a costume, he baited Jim into getting one as well."

The old woman nodded. "Jim ceased to exist at midnight. Even in his mind, he's always been Tanya."

"But I remember ..."

The old woman sighed. "Whatever you had on at midnight took effect. But you chose not to wear the wig."

Vicky's mouth dropped open with the horror of it. "If I had, I'd have been an airheaded bimbo like Tanya?"

The old woman nodded. "And you'd have never known any different, and you'd have been happy. But because you didn't wear the wig, your mind was unaffected. You remember."

"But," Vicky protested angrily, "he'd have sacrificed me!"

The old woman nodded. "If you only knew, you'd understand that he thought it would have been a pitifully small price." She shook her head. "But no, you weren't supposed to be sacrificed. Do you remember being obsessed with the clock?" Vicky thought, then she slowly nodded. "You were given an out, an impulse to get your outfit off. Only ..."

"The damned clock was off," Vicky spat angrily. "But ... I kept seeing ..." She trembled inside at the memories of that damned little storefront, seeming to appear every time she went to the mall, and every time, it seemed to beckon to her.

The old woman shook her head sadly. "The old wizard tried to tell you, you know. That's why you kept seeing the store."

"But I never ..." Vicky realized that by avoiding the store, she might have run away from the old wizard fixing his mistake. She might have missed her chance ....

"No," the old woman said quickly. "I know that old goat, and I really don't think he'd have turned you back." She seemed to visibly flinch. "His tastes run more to the ... bigger and blonder look."

Vicky sat for second before she realized what the old woman was telling her. Bigger ... as in bigger boobs? And blonder? Like in blonde bimbo? Was that what the old man would have done to her? She tried — and failed — to suppress a shudder of fear.

"Vicky, right now, you have a very important task ahead of you." Vicky looked at the old woman, surprised by the sudden sincerity. "Your friends remember as well. And they're going to need all of your help to get through the next year or two to get through what you've already gone through." She looked deeply into Vicky's eyes, almost into her very soul. "Can you do that for them? Can you help them?"

Vicky stared at the old woman for a few seconds. It seemed impossible, what she was being asked to do. For her, the year had been a living hell, almost taking her down a number of dead-end paths. She understood what the guys faced. "I'll try," she said weakly, wondering if she could possibly be up to the task.

**********

The two guys were leering at the girls going through the gate as they waited in line. Vicky watched them; they were in for the surprise of their lives in a few moments. Soon, it was their turn at the window. Vicky smiled pleasantly as they ordered their passes. Anya had explained that the magic sort of 'read' the minds of the men that came to Bikini Beach, and gave them the types of bodies they were thinking of. By default, the guys would end up looking like their own twin sisters. But if a man had particularly lecherous thoughts, or a fixation for large breasts, the magic would turn his own lustful desires on him, making him precisely what he'd craved. Of course, Anya and her grandmother could 'assist' the magical transformation — when the customer really deserved the extra help!

As she watched the pair walk toward the gate, Vicky paused to ponder what they would be. They'd gotten weekend passes, and from the leering and snide comments she'd overheard, Vicky guessed that the guys would be large-chested blonde bimbos when they emerged from the showers.

It rattled her when they emerged, looking almost exactly like she'd predicted. For a brief moment, the two were panic-stricken. Then the mental adjustments finished, and the two strolled off like the airheads they'd become.

Vicky forced her attention back to the window. Fortunately, most of the park patrons had passes and didn't need to purchase them. Soon, another group appeared. It was a family, a father and his wife, their son, and their daughter. They purchased passes, and when he caught Vicky's eye, the man blushed. Vicky understood; the man knew about the magic, and was coming to the park nonetheless! It didn't make any sense!

It was half an hour later that three guys approached the ticket booth. They glanced at Vicky, then they huddled to talk among themselves. Vicky saw them going through the 'rock, paper, scissors' routine. Then one of them grinned and shouted like he'd won a lottery. The other two guys gave him some money, and the 'winner' approached the ticket booth sporting a broad grin. Vicky watched; did they only have enough money for one pass? But when he purchased his weekend pass, the guy blushed crimson. He knew. And still, he went through the gate.

Minutes later, wearing a pair of cutoff shorts and halter top, sporting an enormous pair of breasts atop a stripper body, capped by wavy blonde hair, a girl bounced happily to the two guys still standing in the parking lot. She seemed positively giddy as the guys began to pinch her butt and fondle her breasts as they walked back toward their car.

Vicky couldn't take any more. She'd seen these customers get changed, each for his own reason, each into a different type of woman. Just like she'd changed. But there was a big difference. Some of them were changing ... on purpose! And they were going to change back. She wasn't. Suddenly, the entire park didn't seem fair to her. She fought the tears blinding her eyes, fought the impulse to scream.

When the door opened and her relief arrived for Vicky's lunch break, she fled the booth as quickly as she could. Suddenly, she hated the deal she'd struck with Anya and the old woman. It mocked her every day, reminding her that she was different, odd, unchangable, permanently fixed in this body which held her prisoner. Deep into the park she ran, barely avoiding the customers, blindly stumbling along the paths.

**********

Anya sensed a problem even before she was called. It only took a few moments, and she found Vicky huddled under a tree, well off the paths and against the false rock of the volcano. Tears stained her cheeks; her eyes were red and puffy, showing just how much she'd been crying.

"I heard something was bothering you," she said softly as she eased herself down on the grass beside Vicky.

Vicky wiped her cheek. "It's not fair," she wailed. "I never wanted this." She sniffled, fighting a losing battle against the tears. "Every time a customer comes in, a man, I mean, it reminds me that I can't ever change back." She wiped at the tears once more, and even as she dabbed some, more flowed from her eyes. "And some of them even _want_ to change! It's not fair!"

Anya nodded sympathetically. "No," she agreed, much to Vicky's surprise, "it isn't fair."

Vicky turned to Anya. "I want my life back," she begged. "Please! Please let me have my life back!"

Anya shook her head sadly. "I wish I could," she apologized softly. "But I can't."

"Can you talk your grandmother into ...?"

"No," Anya said firmly. She watched Vicky's face, and quickly continued. "It's not that she wouldn't. It's that she can't." She read Vicky's shocked expression. "Even as powerful as she is, she can't undo the magic that changed you."

Vicky wailed anew. "I don't want to be a girl," she bawled.

Anya clasped her arm around Vicky's shoulder. "I know," she said. "Would it surprise you to know that I've been trying to figure out your spell?" She shook her head sadly. "It's very complicated, and the original spell is incomplete. But the worst part is, when you went into the water, it mixed up some parts of our transformation spell with it. It's very messy."

"But could you try ...?"

Anya's eyes reflected her grief. "I've been trying," she said softly. "I've been trying." She shook her head. "Normally, when someone gets stuck, we can alter their mind a little, to take away the grief and sense of loss." She shook her head again. "But with your spell, that won't work."

"But you didn't change ... Norma ... and Belinda and Holly and Marta. They're ... getting used to it. Not like me!"

Anya nodded slowly. "Grandmother and I noticed how much trouble they were having ... at first. We gave them a little ... help." She lowered her eyes. "I know it isn't fair, and I know it hurts to find out, but you deserve to know. I just wish there was more I could do for you." The two girls sat silently for a couple of minutes.

Vicky clutched her knees to her chest, sobbing. "I don't want to be a girl any more!"

Anya gently pulled her head to her shoulder, allowing Vicky's tears to fall on her shoulder. "I know," she cooed soothingly. "I know. And I'm trying."

"I'm scared, Anya," Vicky cried. "I'm not sure I remember how to be a guy. I've been catching myself thinking of myself ... as a girl!" She clamped her eyes shut as the tears threatened to flow again. "I'm afraid! I'm afraid if I don't get back soon, I'll forget how to be Vic!"

She let Vicky rest and cry until there weren't any more tears. Anya spoke softly. "You have a lot of friends who are trying to help you. Friends who you can rely on and talk to."

Vicky wiped her cheek. "I know."

Anya sat next to Vicky for a long time. "You know," she finally said, breaking the silence, "you're going through a normal grief process."

Vicky's eyes narrowed as she snapped her gaze to Anya. "What do you mean?"

Anya nodded slowly. "It's common to go through various stages of grief. Denial, anger, pleading, depression..."

Vicky's eyes softened and she dropped her gaze. "Are you saying I'm ... grieving ... over losing my manhood?"

Anya nodded. "Yup."

Vicky's thought for a moment. "So that's why I was so withdrawn, and then rebellious, and then I almost ..." She couldn't make the words of her attempted suicide come out.

Anya knew, though. She read Vicky's thoughts. "Yes." She put her arm around Vicky. "I know. I've been there." She saw Vicky's puzzled look even as she read the confused thoughts. "No," Anya laughed. "Not like that." Her expression saddened visibly. "But I did lose someone very dear to me. My mother ..." Her voice cracked and she fought the tears as she remembered.

Vicky gazed at Anya for several seconds. "So it's always going to hurt?" she asked hesitantly.

Anya wiped away the tears and forced a smile. "No," she lied, trying to sound reassuring. "It quits hurting. After a while." She felt a shudder; the one thing she knew that Vicky wasn't ready for was knowledge of the final stage of grief. Acceptance.

**********

Vicky sat in the office, sipping sodas with Anya. She stretched out in the chair, enjoying a few moments' peace and quiet of the office. Vicky was puzzling over her roommate, a girl named Melanie. The odd thing was, Melanie Keilani Lewis used to be Paul Lewis, a nerd and member of the Nu Rho Delta fraternity. The NRDs were all nerds, and strangely, they also were quite familiar with the magic of Bikini Beach. Which is how Paul became Melanie. When the NRDs needed to sponsor a girl in the annual Holiday Queen pageant, they ended up changing one of their members into a girl to be their entrant. Paul had drawn the short straw, so to speak, and he became Melanie. Because of the complicated magic involved, Anya hadn't been able to give him any of the normal female memories and higher-order skills. They'd arranged for Melanie to be Vicky's roommate; Vicky would teach Melanie to be a girl, while Melanie would help Vicky with her electrical engineering classes.

To the surprise of Vicky, Anya, and the NRDs, things didn't go quite as planned. Melanie started to act ... stuck up. She started enjoying being popular and attractive. She began to shun the very fraternity she'd been a member of.

And then, to Melanie's delight and the shock of the NRDs, Melanie won the pageant. Further complicating things was the discovery that the administration had changed the post-pageant appearance schedule for the winner, and now Melanie was going to have to stay as Melanie much longer than they'd originally planned.

The surprise to the guys - and Vicky - came when Melanie revealed that she _wanted_ to stay a girl. She'd grown up with strong disapproval from her father, who wanted a manly sport-loving son. Unfortunately, Paul was small, slight, and not in the least interested in athletic pursuits. It was easier for Paul to stay as Melanie. Vicky was confused by the entire situation.

"I just don't understand," Vicky said softly to Anya as the NRDs and Melanie left the office after her final — permanent - change. "She _wanted_ to stay a girl." She shook her head in disbelief. "And she changed so much. What happened, Anya?" Vicky asked quietly.

Anya shook her head. "Melanie was seduced by being popular. She forgot her values."

"But she _wanted_ to stay!"

Anya laughed. "You know, some people actually find being a woman is an advantage! With his parents, it was easier for Paul to stay as Melanie than to go back."

Vicky took a sip. "You knew this was going to happen, didn't you?"

Anya smiled and laughed. "There are some advantages to this job. Sometimes." She shook her head. "Kind of ironic, isn't it?"

"What?" Vicky's brow wrinkled in confusion.

"Paul didn't really want to change, but ended up wanting to stay. It just goes to show that you never know how things can turn out." She glanced at her watch. "Aren't you supposed to be working the gift shop?" she asked, snapping the focus back to business.

Vicky started, leaping to her feet and nearly spilling her soda. "Oh, damn! I wasn't watching the time."

Anya grinned. "No harm done. It's pretty slow right now, but we're about to get a busload of visitors. Better get over there. It could get real interesting."

Vicky smiled, then strode lightly toward the door, toward her responsibilities. As the door was closing, Anya spoke again. "Oh, Vicky?" Vicky stopped, poking her head back into the office. "I haven't been able to make any progress on that spell."

Vicky cocked her head for a second, then she understood Anya's meaning. A smile crept over her features. "No hurry." Her smile broadened as she saw Anya's jaw drop. "I think I learned a little something from Melanie, too. Maybe I need to quit being so angry, and just accept what I can't change." She turned, and whistling to herself, strode out of the office.

As the door closed, Anya sat for a moment, looking totally surprised. Then, as she turned her attention back to the computer, a wry grin crept across her face.

**********

"Mom?" Vicky's head poked through the kitchen door, scanning the room. "Mom? Are you home?" She stepped hesitantly into the room, shutting the door gently behind herself.

"Vicky?" Her mom's voice called out from another room.

"Yeah, it's me," Vicky yelled back in answer. She followed the voice, through the living room and into the den. There she found her mother sitting at the desk working on bills.

"Hi, dear," her mother said warmly. "How's school?"

"It's okay," Vicky answered. "A couple of the classes are kind of tough, but Melanie is helping a lot. I'm glad I've got her as a roommate." She shrugged. "But she's pledged to the Gammas, so she'll be moving out next semester." Vicky stepped boldly behind her mother and reached around the older woman's neck, embracing her warmly from behind.

"What's that for?" her mom asked, confused by the sudden warmth. She turned, and was stunned by the expression on Vicky's face. "Are you okay?" she asked.

Vicky smiled. "Yeah, I think so." Vicky leaned back against the back of the sofa. "For the first time in a long time, I think so."

Vicky's mom spun her chair around. "You look good," she said, pleased. It was true - Vicky seemed to have a contented glow about her. "No, really! I can't remember how long it's been since you looked angry or sad all the time." she insisted when Vicky seemed to discount her words. "So what brings you by?"

Vicky looked down at the carpet. "I figured it was time that I apologized to you and daddy for the way I was acting a few months ago." Her tone had shifted instantly to one of contrition. "I probably wasn't very nice to live with, and I know I caused you a lot of trouble."

Mom lifted Vicky's chin and stared into her eyes. "No, you weren't very pleasant to have around sometimes," she said firmly but lovingly. "And you did cause us a lot of grief." Her face eased into a warm smile. "But you're our daughter, and we love you."

"Thanks," Vicky said softly. "For caring."

Her mother gave her a big warm hug. Then she sat back into her chair. "So, are you dating yet?"

"Mother!" Vicky cried in exasperation. "Would you stop trying to run my social life, please?"

Vicky's mom shrugged. "Well, you can't blame a mother for trying. Besides, that Rob seems like a nice young man."

"Mother!"

**********

Vicky was still gazing downward. "So now you know. Until three years ago, I chased skirts, played football, and did all the other 'guy' things." She glanced up, and saw her words sink in, saw the dawn of truth striking Rob.

"And?"

"And?" Vicky's mouth dropped open. "And I'm not the sweet innocent girl you seem to want me to be. I've been a ... slut, a drunk, an angry bitch. I'm not even a real girl."

Rob reached across the table and took her hands in his. "You're talking to a guy, who not a week ago was a knockout broad acting like a whore to do a sting operation on a date rape drug ring, and you expect me to say something else?"

Vicky laughed, and then a tear started, and then the laugh came again. She was an emotional wreck, and it showed. "No, I guess not," she finally muttered.

Rob waited until she looked at him again. "I've been changed, raped, assaulted, laid, and all kinds of other things. I know how confusing it is. And I know that, to me, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you're a very special girl."

Vicky started crying again. "But ..." She couldn't continue, and she stared back to her lap. "But I don't want ... I don't know what I want!" The tears resumed. Rob sat, silent and patiently waiting. He knew how vulnerable she must feel. Finally, she wiped her tears and looked up at him. "You frighten me," she mumbled.

Rob flinched. "I don't understand."

Vicky tried to laugh, but it sounded hollow and meaningless. "No, I don't suppose you would. You frighten me, because when I'm with you, I'm starting to hope that Anya ... that she never figures out a cure." Her last words were lost in her sobbing. "You're so kind, and gentle, and caring. I feel safe being around you, like you would always protect me. I feel comfortable with you. Not on guard or defensive or watching out. I feel like myself. I'm afraid that I'm getting too comfortable, that I'm starting to like you too much." She looked up, tears welling from the corners of her eyes. "What happens if I fall in love with you, and then Anya finds a cure? What do I do then? What happens to you? To us?"

Rob looked down, his heart feeling leaden once more. "I don't know," he answered glumly.

"You're so special. I don't want to hurt you." Even as she spoke the words, Vicky knew that she was hurting him terribly, that she was dashing his heart against the shoals of lost love. She felt suddenly trapped, hemmed in against her will. If she gave in to her growing feelings for Rob, she would deny herself a return to masculinity. But if she pushed him aside here and now, she knew that she'd never forgive herself, especially if Anya was unable to find a cure, to change her back to manhood. She could no longer deny that her feelings for Rob had grown, and were now feelings of more than friendship. Much more. And she — she wasn't Vic any more. She couldn't deny that cold truth staring her in the face. She'd grown, changed, in so many ways, that she didn't even recognize Vic inside her anymore.

Vicky looked up, seeing the anguish on Rob's face. She knew that her words had been cruel to him; it was obvious that it had taken all his courage to tell her that he was falling in love

"Remember that Rob risked everything for you." Somehow, Vicky heard Anya's voice whispering in her ear. She looked up sharply, startled, but Anya was nowhere to be seen. Vicky knew Anya was watching and listening — and now speaking — through her magic. "He's not asking you to marry him. Just to date. And when I find the cure, well, then you can decide what to do. In the meantime, you've got a wonderful friend." Anya’s voice faded.

Vicky felt Anya's presence fade, and she turned back to Rob. "Can we go, you know, kind of slow?" She wiped a stray tear. "I'm kind of new to this dating thing."

Rob's eyes widened, then a smile brightened his face. "Yeah, so am I."

FIN



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