Out of Focus

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Out of Focus

By Poetheather

Starting her Real Life Test over the summer was supposed to be fun and safe, but Kelly didn't feel that was the case. And that was before some Youtube star wannabe hit on her. Now she was having trouble figuring how to deal with all of this.

 
 

Kelly looked nervously across the sand, arms folded across her midsection protectively. She couldn’t believe this was it. She was actually doing this, actually stepping out in front of others for more than a few hours at a time, in front of people who may or may not be supportive. It was unnerving and made her stomach roil. Jeanette snickered at her hesitation and grabbed her arm, dragging her onto the beach. “Come on Kells. Think of it like diving into the deep end.”

With a frown of annoyance, Kelly pointed out, “I don’t like doing that. The cold water is always such a shock.”

Laughing, Jeanette said, “Tough. You didn’t fight me until now so you are stuck with it.”

“Yes I did, you just didn’t listen,” protested Kelly for all the good it would do. She was well aware of the way Jeanette approached things.

“And it has all been for your benefit. Now relax and get out there. This beach is more popular with locals than tourists so you shouldn’t be too overwhelmed. I figured you would do better with the smaller crowds. Now come on, I got the basket.” Jeanette carried the rainbow covered basket filled with lotion, lunch, towels and whatnot. Honestly Kelly wasn’t sure what all was in the basket as she hadn’t been the one to pack it and Jeanette hadn’t really said anything. She had an overwhelming urge to go all Se7en on her but she really didn’t want to make a scene and yelling out, ‘What’s in the basket!’ over and over would do that. Honestly this was tough enough without getting other people involved.

The loose sand was hot as it splashed onto her feet as she walked towards the water behind Jeanette. It felt kind of nice. While she was not normally a hot weather person, it wasn’t bad because she wasn’t wearing all that much at the moment. However, that was also part of her problem. She had wanted to wear the nice one piece she’d bought, as it covered her more, but oh no, Jeanette wouldn’t hear of it. She had apparently purchased a bikini for her without telling her until it was time to head out this morning. Jeanette had stood there, triangles of fabric in hand, and all but forced her into the bikini. Sure it was something she was aware she needed to cope with and get over but it felt like her timetable was yanked out of her hands.

Jeanette set the basket down when she found her ‘spot’ and surveyed the beach around them. She smiled back at Kelly and declared, “Yes, this will do.”

The area wasn’t too crowded and they weren’t pressed close to other people, given that there was at least ten feet between them and the next closest. That was a good thing and did help settle Kelly’s nerves. This might mean less scrutiny. She nodded. “Okay.”

Once things were unpacked from the basket, there was a lightweight sunshade covering part of the blanket they had laid out. Jeanette and she had applied lotion before leaving her aunt’s house so that was one step that didn’t need to be taken. They sat there and sighed, content to hear the waves and feel the breeze. Kelly drank from her water bottle and ignored the pointed looks Jeanette gave her after she removed her own cover-up. Kelly looked at her and asked, “What?”

“Take it off sweetcheeks.” Jeanette’s look made it clear this was non-negotiable.

“Do you have to call me that?” whined Kelly. It wasn’t one of her favorite nicknames, that was for certain. Jeanette on the other hand seemed to like it a lot.

“You’re the one who can’t seem to eat powdered doughnuts without looking like she went to a drug party and snorted all the coke. Now quit stalling. I’m well aware of this trick of yours. So take that off and let the peons melt at the hotness of you.”

With a pout, knowing she wasn’t going to win, Kelly took off her cover-up, threw it at Jeanette, and lay back onto the blanket, trying to enjoy the warmth. Her cheeks burned some as she was worried and embarrassed by wearing so little. She felt naked and on display and it took everything not to cover up. With a huff she asked, “Better?”

Jeanette grinned, content with her victory. “Much.”

Kelly let the waves carry her off, doing her best to ignore the other sounds around them, and after a short while Jeanette stated, “Oh hey, there’s a couple of people I know. I’m gonna say hi. Do you need me to continue protecting you or are you good?”

Kelly flipped her off without opening her eyes and Jeanette walked off laughing. There were times when she could just swat her. She wanted to simply be here and not stand out but Jeanette clearly had other plans. In a way she was surprised Jeanette hadn’t had some sort of beach party set up for when they arrived.

Kelly lay there, eyes closed thinking this was nice. Maybe if I just lay here and relax I can forget what I am wearing. Maybe? She rolled her eyes at herself, well aware of her own expansive history of relaxation failure. She knew she needed to just calm down and enjoy or Jeanette was bound to take drastic action to fix things. That was the last thing she wanted to deal with as it would only end with her tears. Her best friend was fun but nearly a force of nature. She didn’t really know anybody who got in her way and stayed there for any length of time. And it was Jeanette who had suggested she start her Real Life Test with a bang.

For all she had wanted to transition, to truly live as herself, she had been and was still terrified of not passing and getting beaten up or worse. There had been several girls in the support group who had died violently, one of which she had known personally, and that had only increased her fear. It took lots of work from Jeanette to reassure her that the mirror no longer showed a guy and it was unlikely anyone would ever see that. It was still an idea she was having trouble grasping after all this time. While she didn’t think of herself as a guy she kept expecting to see some burly bearded man in the mirror. With a snort she had to concede that even before this had all started she hadn’t been much of a guy, certainly not one gifted with that much facial hair. There had been so many times she had gotten bullied for being a sissy when she was younger that it was ridiculous.

So now here she was, lying on a blanket at a public beach with hair extensions helping mask her shorter hair until it grew out, all tucked tight and waxed and in a fucking bikini. Yes she had dreamed this very thing but being faced with the reality of wearing one in front of the world… that was not a comforting thought. No, when she had confronted Jeanette about her plans to drag her down here and do this, the girl’s response had been, “For fuck’s sake Kells, you pass. You pass. You passed before you started hormones. You passed before you started therapy. You passed even more once you started HRT. No one will see what you think they will because you goddamn pass. Just accept it Kelly, you are an attractive girl who just needs a butt load of self-esteem.”

“But why now?” Kelly had whined. It was not something she was happy with but wasn’t actively trying to change either. Whining felt… less pathetic somehow though she was sure she was being a touch stupid.

“Because starting your Real Life Test while on vacation is a great idea. No one here knows who you are or even cares. You can get an honest appraisal of how you look without the nerves of being in a familiar area where people know you, even if only tangentially.” Jeanette had moved forward and hugged her. “Besides, I think you would look awesome in a bikini.”

“You’re gonna make me do this, aren’t you?” She had sighed in resignation.

“You bet your ass I am sweetcheeks.”

And it was indeed her ass on the line if Jeanette was wrong about her. She lay there and tried to forget how little she had on or how exposed it made her, tried to lose herself to the sound of the ocean. If she didn’t make any sudden movements or draw any undue attention to herself maybe she would vanish into the background and be ignored. That was all she wanted right now, anonymity.

“Hey.”

Kelly blinked. Oh god, what now? Was someone trying to talk to her? Shit, shit, shit… She opened her eyes and eyed the dark haired girl with the rich tan standing there, smirk on her face, and a video camera in her hand. The girl’s eyes were masked by sunglasses which made it more difficult to figure out what she was thinking. Kelly cautiously replied, “Yes?”

“So I was wandering around, filming things and people for the next episode of my online show and then I spotted you. You’re cute and seem interesting so I was just wondering, would you like to help me with this episode and if that goes well, maybe the next one or two as well? It of course depends on how long you will be here.” Her smile was bright despite some of her teeth failing to live up to Hollywood straightness.

Kelly cocked her head. While she did watch some online shows she had to admit she didn’t recognize this girl. It was a bit of an odd request and it seemed like she really wanted her help. Really? With a slight frown she asked, “Uhm… sorry about this but who are you?”

“Heh… sorry about that, I get ahead of myself a lot of the time. My name is Cate Ratel. My YouTube channel is Catz n Ratz. I do all sorts of things, like occasionally interview people, do funny sketches, and other things. You would be perfect for one of my beach sketches.” Kelly had to admit the girl had really nice eyes once she had taken off her sunglasses to look more sincere. They were a light blue she hadn’t really seen before and it made them almost hypnotic. How does a person get eyes that pale blue anyway?

“So Cate, what exactly would I be doing in this episode you’re filming?” Kelly wasn’t sure about this but willing to give it a shot. Cate seemed fairly nice after all and then there was the slight butterfly feeling inside. It was not a feeling she had had in a while and was willing to deal with a lot to keep experiencing it.

“Well, the sketch I had in mind involved you being my girlfriend or some girl I met on the beach or something like that and then some rather humorous comments while defending your honor from some guys. They’re hitting on you, you don’t like it, and I come in and save the day. If you’ll do more than the one video we can say I used the saving you from the guys thing as my pickup and go from there. What do you think? You don’t have a problem with two girls liking each other… do you?”

Kelly bit her bottom lip and thought about this. This was a good bit more exposure than just lying in the sun. She would be on the internet and other people would see her, if Cate’s channel had any sort of traffic. They would see her and see how she looked and see that she wasn’t a… but Cate thought she passed… right? Why else would she be bugging her to be in her show? It wasn’t like she would come and ask her to do this is she didn’t… right? So maybe doing this wouldn’t be a bad thing? “No, I don’t have a problem with that and sure, I guess I’ll do it. I have to wait for my friend Jeanette to come back, since I don’t want to abandon my stuff to the wilds but after that… sure.”

Cate chuckled a little and nodded, “Good call. People are usually pretty decent about that but this is tourist season and there are loads of bad elements around.”

“So have you lived here long?” asked Kelly, trying to find out more about this girl who gave her butterflies.

“Pretty much. I came home after college to help my grandma, since she was both sick and old, and between work and my show I do tend to keep busy. Things can get kind of hectic at times but it’s not a bad life overall,” replied Cate with a smile.

“Oh? What do you do?”

“Since the ad revenue for my channel isn’t that great yet, I work part time for the local cable people. It’s not a bad job all things considered as I at least get to use my degree. The other bonus is that it gets my grandma and me free net and cable. Though if things keep going the way they have been I will be able to work on my channel full time and live the dream.” Cate grinned excitedly, looking off in the distance at her dream reality.

Kelly smiled. It sounded like Cate had a handle on her future, even going so far as to have a plan and everything. She was still unsure of her own but since her life was starting to move in the direction she wanted then maybe not all was lost. It felt like everything in her life had been put on hold and now the film was running again. “Sounds lovely.”

Cate beamed at her. “So, why don’t I get my crew ready and you can wait for your friend to come back. We can meet up over there by that restaurant. I’m sure we will have a table in the back like we always do, so just come find me. Will that work?”

“Sure.” Going into a restaurant didn’t sound too bad, besides it was getting towards noon so a little something to eat wouldn’t be all that bad. Jeanette had probably packed sandwiches or something but eating at a restaurant sounded nice.

Cate waved as she walked towards the parking lot. Once the woman was out of sight, Kelly scrambled for her phone, having to go through several layers of things in the basket to find it. There was no question that she had to find this channel and discover if this was legit or if Cate had been screwing with her. Granted as pickup lines went it was really unique but who knew? This could be a bad thing but she wasn’t exactly sure. She pulled up YouTube and entered the channel name. Sure enough there was one with several different videos posted to it and a good number of subscriptions as well. Kelly was rather surprised that this was real. She had totally expected this to be a clever pickup rather than legit. Nervous, she looked around to see if Cate was anywhere close. Since she was checking up on the girl she really didn’t want to get caught. The coast seemed clear enough so she started one of the beach sketches, as there seemed to be a number of them, turning up the volume so she could hear it clearly. From what it looked and sounded like, there was another girl in a similar situation to the one Cate suggested she participate in. This made her narrow her eyes and look for another sketch video.

The more videos she watched, the more she was convinced this was some sort of stupid pickup scam using the internet to brag about conquests. How could Cate film and uploaded this sort of thing, showing everyone how she had done it for the most part. What the fucking hell? And besides, how could these women do that? Hadn’t they noticed or even suspected? She decided to check one of the other videos on the off chance it might allow her to spare Cate’s life. Otherwise a drowning was sure to occur. Perhaps a pummeling?

The other videos she zipped through seemed to be more along the lines of motivational talks/ twisted idea ramblings and as Cate had mentioned, there were interviews with a number of interesting people from around the area. Not a lot of famous famous people, well maybe internet famous but certainly not contemporary famous, in these videos. By and large these vids were a lot less disturbing. So if this was what Cate did then why did she make these sort of pick up vids? They didn’t really make sense with the other content. It was a touch disturbing, even if some moments were funny.

“You’re moping. Why the hell are you moping? I wasn’t even gone very long and now you’re moping,” demanded Jeanette as she walked up trying to snap her out of her train of thought.

“Oh shut up.” Kelly snapped at Jeanette. “I have an actual issue here.”

Jeanette took a seat next to her, voice dropping to a far more friendly tone. “What?”

“I was laying here minding my own business and this girl came over, chatted me up, and now wants me to be in a short sketch where she supposedly will save my virtue or some such nonsense from a couple of guys. I think it’s a weird pickup scam but I’m not sure,” explained Kelly, still watching her phone as a vid played.

“Wait wait wait… let me get this clear… you got hit on while you were lounging and you think it’s a scam?” Jeanette seemed really confused now. Kelly was amused by the look on her face and she smiled slightly.

“It’s too strange to explain. Look, just watch the damn video. That should make things clearer.” Kelly shoved her phone into Jeanette’s hands, cued up to the first video she had played, the one that had solidified the idea it was some sort of scam.

A short while later, once Jeanette had stopped snickering at what she was watching, she turned to Kelly, eyes bright, smile growing ever wider. “You have got to do this Kells. It looks fun.”

“Are you high?” Kelly had a difficult time believing Jeanette would be okay with this. She was usually the first to grab a pitchfork and charge after this sort of thing. “You can’t be serious.”

“No, I’m Jeanette. Besides, you know my Aunt doesn’t allow that sort of thing in her house. It makes her asthma act up something fierce. No, you must do this. It could very well be awesome.” Jeanette seemed really jazzed about this offer and Kelly had a difficult time figuring out why.

“What the fuck are you on about?”

Jeanette rolled her eyes and leaned in, shoving the phone back into Kelly’s hands. She locked eyes with her, making sure she had her best friend’s full attention, “She clearly thinks you’re a hot girl, which is absolutely the truth BeTeDubs, so you obviously pass, just like I’ve been telling you. This whole thing should be really motivational. That’s why I think you need to go, aware of all this and have some fun with her. It’ll be awesome and boost your ego.”

Kelly froze as what her best friend registered. It had simply never occurred to her. “I… I pass?”

“Duh!” Jeanette patted Kelly’s brown locks a few times like she would a puppy. “You know blonde would sell this better.”

Swatting the hand away she snapped back, “Bitch.”

“Yes, yes… that’s it… give in to your anger, your hate… turn to the bitch side of the force.” Jeanette said with a really pathetic Vader voice.

Kelly lowered her face to her hands, groaning. Jeanette was evil, that’s all there was to it, evil, pure and simple. She was a good person, nice to people so why would this be occurring. Her best friend was evil and the side effects were spilling onto her. There was no other reason she could think of for all of this to be happening. “Look, I just want to know what you think I should do? Should I do this? Really?”

Jeanette’s smile was soft and not pushy, which made Kelly pay more attention to her words. “Yes Kelly, you should do this. Even if it is a scam where this girl is just trying to have a brief guilt free hookup you should do this. It could be fun. And since you know right from the start what her little game is you could make her work a little harder for it, which might be amusing. Regardless of what happens, I’m sure you’ll have a good time.”

Kelly nodded given that did make a sort of sense the way Jeanette presented it. Maybe she should sort of play along? It would certainly be different. “Well then, I guess I’ll go meet her. Wish me luck.”

With a scoff, Jeanette answered, “Luck? Baby, she’s already trying to score. You don’t need luck to bag this one, just a pulse.”

Jeanette was chuckling as Kelly walked away, amused at her own screwed up sense of humor. Kelly shook her head in disbelief that she was still friends with this lunatic. She had been her best friend for years now, even before she’d started transition and had been great support through the last few years of High School and all of college. At this point she honestly had trouble imagining her life without Jeanette in it, though she was sure it would be quieter and filled with fewer bad jokes. As she neared the restaurant Cate had pointed to, she looked about for the girl. When she didn’t spot her, nerves began to perk up, hands starting to sweat and her heart beginning to race. With a sigh, she grumbled to herself, ‘Oh man… I’m making a fool out of myself, aren’t I?’

“Hey! Kelly!” The voice was from behind her, by the entrance to the restaurant a few feet back.

Kelly turned and spotted Cate in the doorway, waving. She had to admit the girl was kind of dorky adorable waving like that, which made her blush a little bit. She groaned, she did not need to think this… Casanova was adorable. That was less than helpful in her whole plan to not fall for her and this pickup scam. But Cate really was adorable.

“Thanks for coming. I figured we could get some lunch before the shoot and then go from there. What do you think?” She had the same grin Kelly had seen earlier and was sure to have a strong effect on all the girls.

Cate had a nice smile and seemed sincere. She clearly had the kinks worked out of this plan. Kelly blushed again. Gah! Did she have to think the word kinks at a time like this? It was not helpful and put images into her head she so didn’t need right now.

Cate escorted her to a back corner table with several others already at it. “Kelly, let me introduce my friends and crew. That’s Jose, Rick, and Alfie.”

The three guys waved and smiled. Alfie looked like he was going to complain about something but thought better of it. They made Kelly a little nervous since they were very male and thus potentially dangerous. She was in public with others so it wasn’t too bad, she hoped.

“And this is Maggie and Lakeisha my two best friends. Maggie handles sound and makeup while Lakeisha is the Director of Photography.” Cate sounded very proud of them.

“Bitch, I just hold the camera or put it on the stand. Don’t make it out like I am John Toll or Janusz Kaminski or something.” Lakeisha grumped. This was obviously a sore point.

Cate snickered and told Kelly, “She went to film school and is still trying to get her foot in the door. I’m abusing her considerable talents while she is here and helping her build her resume.”

“Don’t listen to her Kelly. She isn’t as heartless as she comes across, all business and stuff. There’s a reason we all love her,” Maggie reached over to pat one of Cate’s hands.

“Yeah, the free food on film days,” added Alfie, getting laughs from the others.

Kelly smiled. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as bad as she’d thought. If it were purely a scam would Cate have her friends trying to be friendly with her? Would Cate be so upfront with things and would her friends? It was enough to give her a shadow of a doubt. She certainly wanted to see where this was going to lead.

Lunch was a boisterous affair. Cate’s friends teased each other about all sorts of things, mostly with inside jokes she wasn’t privy to. Kelly also learned that Jose and Alfie were going to be the ones to “hit on her” in the sketch so Cate could come save and the day. Rick took care of additional lighting and occasionally sound so he would be occupied with more technical problems. Maggie was sort of the director for this whole mess in addition to her work on sound however since they all had done this before they knew what to do, well, all except Kelly. She was still at a loss as to what she needed to do. “So I just act uncomfortable while these two hit on me until you show? I don’t say anything?”

Jose chimed in helpfully, “I know it will be difficult to act that way given how awesome we are but Cate needs all the help she can get to sell her part. The more you can do, the better she looks. I’m aware it’s a full time job.”

Cate flipped off Jose and threw in her two cents, “Very funny. Kelly, for all that he’s a jackass he did get that mostly right. If you want to say anything that comes to mind in the heat of the moment, go for it. Do whatever you want to do that makes sense in the scene. If you’re up for another one after this we can do something more complex in a few days. Does that work for you?”

“Sure.” Kelly grew more and more comfortable as time went on, relaxing little by little and opening herself up more. Apparently no one had had clocked her for trans and this did sound like it could be fun. That alone gave her more confidence. Cate wasn’t making any moves on her or anything so maybe her initial impression about this whole thing was wrong. She wasn’t sure and while she hated feeling like that, she would see where this whole thing leads her. At least it would be something different and God knew her life had been in a rut until recently. You could only fret about major life choices for so long before you needed a break. Besides, if this mess ended poorly, Jeanette had an excellent point about the fact they didn’t live there and wouldn’t be haunted by Cate’s presence everywhere she went.

After a couple of hours of setting things up and filming the scene over and over, to ensure it was perfect, they were done. Having Cate sweep in and “save the day” was actually rather funny and adorkably romantic because in a very real way the star of the show was terrible at it. If it hadn’t been for the fact it was all her friends taking part in this, it would never have played out this way, but it was Cate’s show and that’s how it was planned out. The fact that Alfie was the more aggressive of the two in their flirting was a bit of a surprise as she would have expected that from Jose rather than him but that could be part of the humor. Alfie had been more reserved at lunch so this brought out a whole new side to him. The videos she had seen had been somewhat funny and the swooning varied from overacting to somewhat believable. If it hadn’t been for suspicions she might have enjoyed everything more though she was so glad her smartphone got YouTube or she would have gone into this whole thing blind.

Cate walked up with a slight grin on her face while Kelly was removing the extra makeup needed to look good in the video, “So, want to do anything tonight? I want to take you out to dinner as a thank you for all your help today.”

Kelly nodded. This had been fun and like Jeanette said, it would be interesting to see where this went. “Sure. Where do you want to meet?”

“There’s this seafood place with an odd name but the food is fabulous and mostly locals go there. It’s called… well it’s called the Dirty Pier.”

“I can see why some people might have an issue with it.” Kelly replied after a short pause. The name did sound a bit disturbing but if locals liked it then the food was probably decent. And honestly, who would name a restaurant that?

“How about we meet there at eight? I have several hours of editing in front of me before this episode is ready to upload and then we can have a good rest of the evening. Sound good?” asked Cate.

Kelly nodded, “Works for me. I’ll see you then?”

“Absolutely.” Cate’s grin was wide and full of excitement at the proposed date.

Kelly headed back down the beach towards where Jeanette had set up their little island of stuff, mind running over everything that had occurred. Cate was really nice and honestly the only problem with all of this was it could be some sort of scam. She was a bit afraid of that possibility, considering who she was could get exposed to the entire internet, but it felt less likely than before. That potential wasn’t comforting but Cate herself seemed charming and kind of funny. And she was interesting to boot. That she had peaked Kelly’s interest was not much of a surprise since before transition and everything had happened, that was the kind of girl she had gone for. Her tastes hadn’t really changed as she had grown curves but it wasn’t like she had dated since this whole issue had come up. It was far too scary a proposition.

Jeanette looked up and over as she neared, grinning as her eyes traveled over her. “Well, I don’t see any rope marks or bruises, so I’m guessing it went well?”

With a shake of her head and a roll of her eyes, Kelly replied, “Yeah, it was a lot of fun. She asked me out to dinner once it was all said and done.”

Nodding thoughtfully, Jeanette said, “I like that. Good move on her part… to ask you after you both had done something fun and interesting. I certainly appreciate that approach. So you gonna go?”

With a noncommittal shrug, Kelly looked at her questioningly, saying, “I don’t know. Do you think I should?”

Jeanette sighed heavily given what Kelly hadn’t voiced was a familiar issue. “Look you have to get over this whole self-doubt thing you have going on. You were the one who decided you needed to do this to be happy so you need to get a move on and be happy. You’re also really cute and if I swung that way there is no way I would let this YouTube trollop near you but sadly I don’t and you do seem interested in her so please just accept you are a cute young woman and move on. I mean hell, even my Aunt thinks you’re cute. She doesn’t even think I’m cute but you totally get that treatment.”

Kelly couldn’t hold back the scoff, “Well, that’s because you’re a troll.”

With a flick of her wrist, Jeanette sent sand flying towards Kelly. “Hey!”

“What? It’s not water so you’re not going to melt,” pointed out Jeanette helpfully.

“Wench.”

“Love you too. So what are you going to wear?” They were now getting down to important questions.

“Are you really so sure that I’m going?” asked Kelly.

The look sent her way was easily interpreted as an observation on her intelligence, breeding, and several other things. It cast aspersions on her, aspersions Kelly was at a loss to deny. She sighed and muttered, “Right. Why do I even bother?”

“I have to ask that as well. Now let’s go figure out what you’re going to wear for this date of yours. Can’t have you looking like a tramp when you go for your hot date, now can we?” Jeanette beamed, obviously enjoying herself.

“How do you know it’s going to be a ‘hot date’?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she asked that.

Jeanette chuckled and rolled her eyes as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “It’s summer, duh.”

They packed up their things and headed back to her Aunt’s place. Once there, Kelly took a shower, letting her thoughts drift as the water removed the smell of the ocean. Was she ready for this, going out on a date? This was putting herself out there far more than she had expected during this trip. Starting her life as Kelly was one thing but was she ready for dating? Even if it was only a fling for the summer would she able to handle this? That was a lot of additional pressure to put on her when she was already dealing with issues due to her Real Life Test. What was she going to say about herself? What was she going to reveal? Would she even be safe to say those things? Would Cate catch on to her misdirections? She hung her head, heavy from the weight of her thoughts, and let the warm water pour over her, doing her best to let these worries trickle down the drain.

Once out of the bathroom and into the room she was sharing with Jeanette, she found her best friend going through all the clothes she’d brought, holding something out, frowning, and putting it back. Kelly shook her head. She was grateful for the help but there were just so many times Jeanette took their friendship just a little too close to the edge. “Found anything you approve of?”

“Well this skirt is nice but I’m not too sure about your tops. If we were the same size you could borrow one of mine, but as it is you would swim in it and that won’t help you look smoking hot for your date. I guess we’ll just have to make do with what you’ve brought and maybe go shopping later if necessary.”

Kelly furrowed her brows, trying to figure out what Jeanette had just said, “Why would we need to go shopping?”

“You think this girl is going to let this go after one date? For the love of God Kells, how many times do I have to tell you how cute and wonderful you are until it gets through your pea brain? You really are crazy.” Frustration laced Jeanette’s voice as she threw her hands in the air, the tank top that had been in her hands flying behind her.

Kelly blushed. The mere idea that someone would think dating her would be lovely was not something she was accustomed to. She had already come to terms with the fact she had one real friend at the moment and honestly, she was content. It was more than she had expected honestly. She had never had a lot of friends, being more an introvert than anything else but she had been opening up more since transition started and maybe that would mean her circle of friends would expand. However, a romantic connection she had kind of given up on as what were the odds of someone caring about her and her imperfect body? Cate was nice and she did have hope this might turn out well but Kelly was aware the odds were against her.

Getting directions from Jeanette’s Aunt once the great clothing debate had been dealt with, Kelly drove to the restaurant, struggling to stay calm despite it not working well. Jeanette had given her a big thumbs up before she had left and that made her feel better knowing she at least looked good but her nerves were returning the closer she got to the restaurant. Why was she doing this? Was she crazy? She had to be. This was dumb and she should just turn around before she mired herself any more than she already was. It didn’t matter that Cate was nice and interesting as well as attractive. This was a bad idea… wasn’t it? The indecision lasted until she pulled up into the parking lot of the restaurant and stopped the car. This was it.

She took a deep breath and let it out shakily, trying to slow her racing heart. This was heavy and crazy and she needed to calm down before she freaked herself out. The amount of grief Jeanette would give her over that would never end if she chickened out and returned. Of all the things she needed in life, handing more ammunition to her best friend was not even remotely on the list. There was already enough stuff she was teased about.

Someone had tied bells to the door, so it made a pleasant jingle as it opened. She looked around and didn’t spot Cate. Not having a better clue what to do, she glanced at her phone for the time and just waited off to the side. Promptly thereafter, the hostess came up, menus in hand, asking, “Do you need some help Ma’am?”

“Just waiting. Thank you.” Every time someone ma’amed her it made her feel all warm and fuzzy. She could get used to that.

Standing off to the side, both hands holding on to her purse, she was not sure what to do at the moment. It hit her that she was alone for the first time since she had started her Real Life Test at the beginning of this vacation and there was no extra support for her right now. She fidgeted with the strap and tried not to panic. She again took a deep breath and let it out. It was a little less shaky. She and her therapist had talked about this and she just needed to cope. It wasn’t like anyone was going to do something to her in the entrance of a restaurant. The door jingled and she turned her head. Cate walked in and smiled brightly upon seeing her. “Kelly, thanks for showing. The video is uploaded and looks great.”

“Really?” Not knowing much about editing and related stuff she had little idea how long such a process could take. Was this a good time or a bad time?

“Yeah. I think this is one of the better ones I’ve done. The way you played off Jose and Alfie was brilliant and sometimes I had to struggle not to laugh. I, of course, was brilliant, but that’s par for the course.”

Kelly shook her head. Honestly, was Cate actually that full of herself or was this some sort of dorky staying in character joke? She guessed the later. “Well, thank you for inviting me. It smells really good.”

“It is. Their pasta is pretty basic but any of the fish or shellfish dishes are out of this world. I swear this is the best seafood restaurant on the coast. You… uh… don’t have a problem with melted butter do you?”

Kelly looked at her oddly. That seemed rather random. “No… why do you ask?”

“This one girl I took out had severe lactose intolerance and didn’t feel like sharing this important fact before we sat down, trying to tough the meal out for some reason. As things went on and she kept eating more shrimp scampi and crab legs she got more and more… uncomfortable. The… well… let’s just say the night did not end well.” Cate chuckled and shook her head in memory. “So if you have any food allergies or what not, please let me know. The last thing I want is for you to have a bad time because you were trying to ignore your discomfort. Don’t do anything like that on my expense.”

Kelly shook her head, “Nope. I’m not fond of several foods but as for having food actually come after me with a vengeance… not so much.”

“Oh good. That means I can order whatever I want and not fear it’s going to hurt you in some obscure manner.”

Kelly turned back to the menu and struggled to figure out what she wanted. A number of things looked good but she wasn’t sure what to go with. There were too many tasty options. She bit her bottom lip in thought, an affectation she had developed since she started transition. In a way it helped her think despite not making any sense. She looked up and noticed Cate was looking right at her. Her cheeks warmed a little and she asked worriedly, “What?”

“That biting your lip thing, it’s really cute. I like it.”

This made Kelly blush and refocus on her menu, doing what she could to keep her embarrassment from getting out of control. It wasn’t working all that well. “Thanks.”

When the waiter arrived, Cate was confident about her order but Kelly was still scrambling to pick something. Why did it all have to sound so good? She eventually went with crab cake stuffed flounder, as both the waiter and Cate said it was excellent. When in doubt trust the people with experience. “You know, if my food turns out to suck, I’m holding you personally responsible.”

Cate gave another of those grins, all confidence and mischief, “I can live with that.”

“So have you had your channel long?” Kelly took a sip of water.

“Almost a year now. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned so much about filming, editing, and such thanks to it that it’s kind of scary. The fact that people constantly seem to be adding my channel daily is awesome. I blundered into this with my first video with me ranting about how guys pick up women at the beach and now I have a whole procedure with someone running lights, sound and everything. Looking at my first couple of videos is actually a bit scary at this point. I mean, was I really that clueless?” Cate was pretty animated as she spoke.

“Hey, even the best of us can be clueless about all sorts of things. If you haven’t been clueless then you haven’t really done anything interesting,” stated Kelly, quite sure of her answer thanks to how clueless she’d been working her way to the Real Life Test. Some things still got her now and again but she was working to get better.

Cate looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded, “That makes sense. At least I’ve been trying something new. So what were you clueless about? I mean, that sounded like the voice of experience talking.”

It was a harmless question but it threw Kelly. This was something she had really not prepared for, this line of questioning. “Uh… I… you know, a number of things.”

“Like what?” The fact that Cate was sincerely interested made it tricky to avoid.

As Kelly grappled for an answer that didn’t out her, a reprieve came in the form of Caesar salads. She’d never been so happy to see a salad in her life as she was right then. Eating certainly diverted things and Kelly talked about how good the salads were, or more specifically the dressing. Cate smiled, “They have some of the best Caesar salads in town. Part of that is they actually use anchovies. It gives it a salty tang I really love. They also make their own bread and croutons. You made a good choice there.”

The remainder of the meal Kelly managed to navigate the conversation without getting too close to topics she would rather avoid while learning as much as she could about Cate. She also shared a lot about herself but the last thing she wanted was for her secret to come out. Maybe she might tell if things went anywhere but not at the moment. But she loved the conversation, the food was excellent, and Cate really was beautiful. That made it more difficult to focus on not saying anything as she wanted to be open and honest. She was having fun and enjoying herself despite needing to hide.

Soon enough they finished their entrees and were sharing a crème brule for desert. Kelly just had to close her eyes and make happy moans as she ate the rich custard. It was just so delicious, filling her mouth with vanilla-y goodness, and the sugar crust was nice and crispy. Opening her eyes she noticed Cate was staring at her intently, making her blush again. Feeling a vague need to defend herself she said, “What? I like crème brule.”

“Really? You don’t say,” teased Cate, smiling happily at her. “I would never have been able to guess by the moans and look of absolute bliss.”

Kelly, feeling playful, stuck her tongue out and then grinned when Cate did the same thing. This was nice. Their interplay made Kelly feel closer to the other girl and she honestly didn’t want the night to end. She wanted more. “So what do you have planned after this?”

“Well we could go down to the shore for a walk. It’s nice out and with the moon nearly full there’s plenty of light along most sections of the shore. All the other places good for walking are either nature trails or the shopping area by the mall. Basically, the shore really is the best option,” stated Cate with some authority.

“Really now?” Kelly arched one eyebrow in question.

“Well, if you don’t want to take a romantic walk on the beach I do know of a bowling alley or two where we can romantically bowl. I’m not entirely sure how that would work, but it’s always an option. I don’t know if they’re doing their weird black light thing tonight or not but we can do that if you want. I didn’t think you wanted to head off to a club or something as you really don’t seem like a club sort of girl. I thought this way we can actually get to know each other some more.”

Kelly thought about that. Getting to know Cate even more was a good plan and she would have to remember to look up the new video when she got back to the house. She was interested in how she looked in it after all. “Alright, a walk on the beach it is.”

“Great, remind me about romantic bowling because it might be a fun video to make if I can think of how that would work.” Cate beamed at her and tried to steal the last bite of crème brule. Kelly growled a little and cut her off, plucking the ramekin into her hands possessively, eyes narrowing. Cate laughed at and raised her hands in surrender, yielding the dessert. Kelly blissed out over the last spoonful and then set everything down with a sigh of contentment. “That was so good.”

The grin was the cocky one she hadn’t seen since the afternoon, “See I told you this place was nice.”

“I can’t argue with that. The food has been excellent and the décor is nice as well. If it weren’t for the name it would be perfect.”

“Hey now… this place is perfect all on its own. The name is great,” protested Cate, trying to defend her restaurant’s honor.

Kelly rolled her eyes. “You’re serious aren’t you?”

“Well, yes, why wouldn’t I be?”

“Dirty Pier? Really? That name screams good food to you as opposed to sounding like a CDC watch point?” Kelly looked at her a touch incredulously.

It was clear Cate was rather surprised by that description as it took her a moment to respond. “Well, yes.”

Sighing in frustration, Kelly said, “So is this because of your experience with this place or for some other reason that may or may not make any sense?”

Cate stopped and thought for just a moment. It was obvious no one had ever asked her anything along those lines. Kelly was unsure how that could be because the name was so odd. “Uhm… I guess my experience. It had a really good write up in the local paper after it first opened and I thought it might be worth the trip. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and I haven’t been since. And it’s not like it’s a terrible name or anything.”

Kelly conceded that point. There were infinitely worse names she could imagine though nothing came readily to mind. “So, where is this section of beach you want to go walking along?”

“Well, it isn’t all that far from here actually. It’s near some of the hotels, so the beach is usually a lot cleaner and more debris free than other areas, with fewer people on the whole. I guess they’re good for something.”

“Okay, I guess I’ll follow you there.” They walked out together, standing quite close to one another, shoulders occasionally bumping.

The drive wasn’t long and they managed to find parking relatively close to each other. Cate took her hand, making Kelly flush in pleasure, and dragged her over one of the dunes towards the shore. The wave’s roll was soothing and she just stood there, taking that in for a moment. A slight tug on her hand got her to open her eyes and look towards Cate questioningly. The other girl looked excited. “Come on. The view is better up ahead.”

Kelly felt her cheeks warm even more and she smiled back, following along happily. Once they got out from between the buildings the view opened up as did the sound, growing into a rocking roar that filled her ears. The sight of the stars over dark waves made her smile, as some of them stood out even more than she was used to back home. Only the crests of waves shone in the moonlight and it was a lovely sight. She could just stand there and gaze all night without any complaint.

Cate squeezed her hand, regaining her attention after a while. With a smile, she gestured with her head and Kelly nodded in agreement. They walked in silence for a while, enjoying each other’s company, Cate on the ocean side almost as if she were gallantly protecting her from the waves. It was a bit cute and endearing, making Kelly feel safe and protected. That was a new and addicting feeling. Their quiet stretched between them and Kelly relaxed comfortably in it. This was a good idea.

Cate cleared her throat awkwardly before she spoke, her voice soft but strong enough to be heard over the waves. “This is one of my favorite things about living in a beach town, walking along the beach at night. Just… it really is so easy to forget the rest of the nonsense you have to deal with every day when you listen to the ocean never stop, the waves lulling you out of your worries. It’s just… special I guess.”

Kelly turned her head to watch Cate’s profile curiously. The reddish orange light from the hotels played across her cheek as she continued talking. “Thank you for coming to dinner. I know I sort of, well rushed you into the decision this afternoon, but thank you.”

“I had a good time,” admitted Kelly. “You’re fun to talk to when you aren’t being all Miss Catz n Ratz. Honestly, it’s not an overly attractive persona.”

Cate looked down at the sand, seemingly chided. She dug at the damp sand with one foot. “Yeah, I really do get lost in that persona and I’m sorry about that. I mean, it works great for the channel but it’s only vaguely me.”

“Then why do you use it?” Kelly honestly wanted to know. It had been growing in her mind as the real Cate came into focus.

“Well….,” and now it was clear that Cate was embarrassed over what she was going to admit, looking at the sand. “At the time it seemed like a good way to meet girls. So I started the channel to sort of... you know, help me talk to girls I was interested in.”

Kelly felt a surge of pleasure at learning she was right, “I knew it!”

Cate stopped and turned to stare at her somewhat aghast. “You… you knew?”

Kelly rolled her eyes. Was Cate really that clueless? Maybe? She wasn’t sure. “I looked up your channel right after you came by and I saw some of your… videos.”

Cate’s eyes were wide and shocked. Kelly shook her head in amusement. “What? I have the YouTube app on my phone. It wasn’t like I had to really exert much effort.”

With a groan, Cate dropped her face to her hands. Her voice was slightly muffled as she asked, “Then why did you agree to this?”

Kelly blushed and looked down, embarrassed herself by what she had to reveal. “Well, I didn’t want to at first but Jeanette, my best friend, talked me into it. She said I would have fun.”

“Did you?” There was anticipation in her question.

Kelly smiled; this gave her such a sense of satisfaction. “I did. And because of how much fun lunch was and filming I decided to give you this chance tonight.”

“Thanks. You know… sorry about that.” Cate looked a bit sheepish which did not seem like a natural or comfortable look for her.

Kelly snickered. It was nice that Cate had come clean and the air had been cleared between them. “No problem. I’ve enjoyed our evening. This has been a wonderful date.”

The two of them walked on, fingers intertwining, hands gripped a bit tighter than actually necessary. Kelly had to admit she liked this feeling. In a way, this almost felt like she was holding hands for the first time again and it gave her butterflies. As they walked, she snuck a few glances at her date and felt warm and content. This had been a very good idea. She would have to thank Jeanette for making her do this despite protests. After a while Cate spoke again, her voice soft and hopeful, “You know, we could do this again if you want.”

“Walk on the beach?” Kelly knew what was really being asked but wanted to tease Cate a little bit.

“No, well yes, but I meant go on another date. I’m having fun and I would enjoy seeing you again. No cameras. No cheesy lines. Nothing like that. Just you and me spending time together.” Cate faced her, hands dropping free, hope and desire playing across her features.

Kelly felt the knot in her chest loosen. She had to admit it sounded like fun and this had been better and more comfortable than any date she had gone on before. Even the holding hands felt better and that was different. There really was no reason she could think of to say no. “I think that would be lovely.”

Cate grinned and took her hand again.

They turned back, heading towards where their cars were parked and Kelly’s thoughts were a whirl. This was a perfect night and she kind of hoped it ended with something more than a simple goodbye but she also didn’t want to do anything with Cate without at least being up front with her. It didn’t really feel fair to keep that important part of her that hidden if things kept moving the way they seemed to be. Cate had come clean so why not her? And if things fell apart, which was likely, she wouldn’t be too invested in everything, hopefully lessening the pain of rejection. As they drew closer and closer to that spot at the top of the dune, her mind arguing back and forth between her desire for honesty and her fears of an angry date who could lambast her on the internet. The whole issue kept getting turned over and over in her mind, neither side advancing as there were good arguments from both approaches. It turned the pleasant butterflies into uncomfortable churning. Before she could make her mind up, Cate had stopped them, turned, brought her hand up to Kelly’s cheek and stroked it softly before leaning in and kissing her.

First her eyes went wide in surprise but then they closed in enjoyment, as she leaned into the kiss. With a brush across her lips asking to deepen, Kelly obliged, losing herself in the pleasure. Inside, her muddled emotions only grew more mired, as pleasure chimed in, making it clear to all concerned just how lovely this whole situation with a moan braking free from deep inside. After a while, the kiss ended and they both gazed at each other with hooded eyes, lost in each other, breathing a bit faster. “That… that was…”

“Yeah it was,” replied Cate, her voice huskier than before. The sound of it sent new shivers down her spine. “We should do more of that.”

The little whimper of desire that bubbled out of her didn’t help matters. She wanted this but her mind kept telling her she needed to share the truth before it got any further. They closed in again and this time Cate had her arms around Kelly, pulling her against her body. As the second kiss broke, which seemed longer than the first, she wasn’t sure as time didn’t seem to be working right, she came to a decision but right now was probably not the best time for it, was it? She wasn’t sure but she couldn’t quiet the struggle inside keeping her from just letting pleasure take reign. Panting slightly, Kelly said, “Cate, I… I have something to tell you.”

When Cate moved in to kiss her again, Kelly leaned back, “No really.”

Cate stopped and looked at her, head cocked to the side slightly, arms loosening slightly. “What is it? Is there something wrong?”

“Not really no… it’s just that… you know, if we go any farther…” Her voice stumbled and hesitated to go the last little bit.

“I like that plan,” grinned Cate, her eyes rich with desire, leaning back in.

“…that I’m trans.” She fought hard not to flinch back. Part of her half expected to be smacked for this.

Cate froze and leaned back, looking at Kelly in some confusion, eyes searching her face for some sort of answer and unfortunately not finding it there. “You’re trans?”

Kelly bit her bottom lip and nodded slightly, her heart pounding in her chest so fast it was making her sick to her stomach. She grew painfully aware how close they were and why that could be a bad idea if this did not play out well.

Cate blinked a few times, as if she were attempting to process this. Her brows tightened as her gaze intensified, “You’re trans?”

When she heard that a second time, Kelly’s heart fell. No matter how wonderful the night had been or how good the kissing was, this couldn’t be a good sign. She started to pray she could get out of here in one piece, chiding herself for being a fool. “Yes I am.”

Cate’s voice wavered a little as she asked, “I… I don’t suppose you’ve had surgery yet?”

Shaking her head no, Kelly looked down at the sand, not quite able to keep looking at Cate. She pulled away, working herself free of Cate’s arms, and headed towards the cars, chest tight and her eyes prickling with tears. She didn’t look back as she mumbled out, “I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

Making her way quickly to her car, tears fell. While she had done what she could to avoid getting too entangled that hadn’t really helped any there at the end. This thing between them had been fun and she had ruined it. She wiped her eyes clear as she started the car and drove away, glad there was no traffic as she pulled onto the street. Of course this would happen to her, it was entirely her luck that she opens up to someone who was actually interesting and attractive and she has her trans-ness shoved in her face as if it were a disease. She felt sick; her wonderful dinner protesting vehemently and the crying didn’t help. Thankfully, the roads were fairly clear, as tears made the road a bit blurry, but she had to get away from there, away from the beach, away from Cate. Rejected because of an accident of birth, that hurt and she didn’t need more of that pain. It was something she got often enough in everyday life. She wiped her eyes, bringing the streets back into focus again.

Why did she have to tell her? Things were going so well and she actually liked Cate so why the hell had she opened up her goddamned trap and let out her secret? They had only been kissing. Hands hadn’t even started roaming yet so it was unlikely her imperfect body would be discovered. That wasn’t a bad thing or going too far… right? There was no reason to open up and spill her guts because of that… right? Only a fool would be utterly up front upon first meeting a person, because who knows what kind of response that would bring, but this… she had tried to be honest, to do the right thing, and look where it got her. Maybe she was fooling herself with this whole Real Life Test. Maybe she was better off living the lie, living in the pain because at least she knew the score? Honestly, who would love her if they knew the truth? With a sniffle she tried to tamp down those emotions and just focus on getting back to the house. An accident would just be a mistake too far.

When she finally pulled into the driveway, she turned off the car, put her face in her hands, and choked on a sob as her tears broke loose. She had been so stupid and she was now paying the price of trusting too much. Trembling, she just lost herself in disbelief at what she had done. Kelly knew better than to hope someone would actually care for her since she was just some sort of half-finished freak, some Frankenstein monster cobbled together with foreign hormones. The knock at the window made her start in fear. She snapped her head up, eyes wide, and saw Jeanette looking down at her worriedly. Opening the door, Jeanette moved and took Kelly into her arms, rubbing her back softly with one hand. “Hey there, I have you.”

Clutching Jeanette tightly, Kelly tried explaining what had happened but words were lost to sobs, sniffles, stumbling over each other in a traffic jam of sound. Jeanette brushed away a few tears as she said, “It doesn’t matter. Come on inside and we can talk about it later.”

Nestled on the bed in their room, moonlight and light seeping from under the door the only illumination; Kelly just let herself be held by her best friend. Her mind such a tumult she really couldn’t think, crying her only response. When she calmed more, Jeanette asked lightly, “So exactly how did this happen? Was the date that bad?”

Kelly scoffed and sighed, “No… the date was wonderful. Dinner was lovely. Then we went for a walk on the beach and we kissed.”

“And this reduced you to tears?” Jeanette sounded honestly confused. “I mean I’ve had some doozies but still.”

“No, it was her reaction when I told her I was trans.” Her tone was flat, her discomfort evident as she strained to get the words out, as everything just wanted to curl up and shut down for a while.

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh. She stood there like I had smacked her in the face with a fish and then asked if I had had surgery, as if that were the only thing that mattered, some stupid piece of… flesh! I just… I just couldn’t so I left.”

There was some heat in Jeanette’s reply, “Did you answer her? Tell her what a bitch she was being?”

Kelly scoffed at the mere idea, like she would set herself up for that beating. “As if. I apologized for bothering her and left.”

Jeanette narrowed her eyes in thought, “So… instead of really finding out what she was thinking you just assumed her response was purely negative?”

“How could that have been positive?” snapped Kelly. “In what universe could that be positive?”

Lifting her hands in surrender, Jeanette protested, “I’m not saying it was Kells. What if your revelation stunned her? Or what if she was busy trying to process what you had said and you left before she could? I told you that you pass rather well, so maybe explaining your past flipped her boggle toggle because all she could see was the adorable woman in front of her and couldn’t make that equate with what you said?”

Kelly opened her mouth to retort and then closed it. Could that really have been it? Surely not, because if it were true then she had just…. Groaning in irritation, she dropped her face into her hands again. Had she been stupid in another way as well? Had she completely jumped the gun and ruined everything because she was so certain of attack and failure. It was like she couldn’t win. Her scream was muffled by her hands, before she said, “Maybe I should just stay in the house and avoid everyone and everything. That would be safer, right? I wouldn’t fuck up my own life as much, right? I can be the old cat lady hermit.”

“You’re allergic to cats Kelly,” pointed out Jeanette helpfully.

“There are drugs you can take.” Kelly tried to defend her position. She could be an excellent cat lady if she wanted to.

“You don’t even like cats.”

With a huff at her faulty logic being so easily countered, she turned away and said, “I’m gonna take a shower and go to bed.”

Jeanette chuckled and watched her leave, shaking her head.

Kelly’s thoughts and emotions were so rattled she just let herself drift away in order to fall from the world. Right now the last thing she needed was to think about what had happened or what it had meant or what an idiot she had been. It was too much right now. She was wrung out, and while the shower had helped some she was looking forward to falling over. Being unconscious might make the hurt and embarrassment go away. It took a while of tossing and turning but eventually she managed to drift asleep.

The smell of coffee woke her, like it had the day before. The rich scent filled the house and did perk her brain just enough to engage primary systems. Eyes slitted enough to ensure she didn’t trip and fall to her death, Kelly shuffled to the kitchen rubbing the sleep sand and tear residue from her face. The whole time she was fixing her coffee Jeanette snickered at her from somewhere behind. After a couple of sips of the Elixir of Awakening, Kelly sat at the table and looked over at her best friend, huddled over her own mug. She had a smug look on her face; a sort of cat clubbed the canary without getting caught look, something almost Tom and Jerry-esque. It was annoying and grated on her nerves. She didn’t need smug when she was moping, it stole her pathos. “What?”

“Nothing. I’m simply having a lovely morning.” There was that grin, that stupid grin Kelly usually wanted to slap away.

“You never have a good morning. You think mornings were invented to spite people and punish them for their sins,” pointed out Kelly as she tried to be more awake and aware. It wasn’t working.

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Jeanette smiled primly before taking another pull of her coffee. She sighed in exaggerated pleasure. “That’s good.”

Not comforted by this and indeed even a little disturbed by its unnaturalness, Kelly took her coffee and went back to her room. It wasn’t like she was hiding, no; she just needed to be elsewhere. She opened her laptop and waited for it to come out of sleep mode, sipping more, almost feeling the neurons activate. Clicking on Firefox, she glanced at her open tabs and started with her email. Nothing really earth shattering there. It was just her usual collection of fic updates and political emails that tended to fill her inbox. She looked over her tabs trying to decide what to look at next when she registered the open YouTube one. The temptation to close it was really strong but she honestly did want to see the video with herself at the very least. At that point she could just wipe her hands of this mess and hide away from Cate forever.

The main page for the Catz and Ratz channel came up and after refreshing it, she noted there were two new videos uploaded since she had last been on. One she recognized from the preview window as the video they had made yesterday, the one she wanted to see. There was another one, newer, and the preview image was simply Cate’s face with a bit of a frown. It was entitled, ‘I am an idiot’.

Unsure which to click first, she bit her bottom lip and clicked the shorter of the two videos, the newer one. Once it loaded, Cate’s face filled the majority of the screen, as if this had been taken by a laptop. Her voice was a bit sad and plaintive as she started, “I don’t know why I’m doing this, let alone planning on uploading it but I guess it’s only fair given that I’m an idiot of pretty epic proportions. How you might ask could someone as epic as me screw up that badly? Let me tell you. You see, I fucked up last night and it’s only fair that I’m here, sad and in the dark.”

Worrying her bottom lip, Kelly wondered where this was going, desperately hoping it wasn’t a diatribe against her. She really didn’t need that.

“You see, I went out on a date tonight with the lovely girl who was in the earlier video. And we had a great time. I took her to my favorite restaurant. She made fun of its name but that was okay because she had a reasonable reason. We walked on the beach. We held hands. We kissed. And then I was dumb, like super dumb, like dumber than Jose or Alfie play. So there I was, standing there on the sand, mouth open, catching bugs while she left, massively upset with me and you know I couldn’t blame her. I wanted to follow after her and fix it, I really did, but the kicker to this whole thing is that like the idiot that I am, I never got her email or twitter or digits or anything before this all fell apart and without those I can’t apologize to her and let her know how sorry I am.”

Kelly’s mug of coffee was frozen halfway to her mouth. Was Cate really trying to fix things? With a video?

“Since I can’t contact her in any way, the best I can do is post this, me sitting here desperate to fix things because, you know, I like her. Out of all the girls I’ve met and dated thanks to this channel, she really seemed to get me and not just the me I play for the show, but the real me. I even felt like I didn’t need to be the character I play with her because everything was so comfortable. I had a wonderful time with a wonderful woman and I effed it all up, like I do. I wish I could go back to that moment, there on the beach, and smack myself in the back of the head for being that dense. I mean, I’m going to be honest with you all, I like her, a lot and would love to see her again but what are the odds she will give me a chance after upsetting her like I did?”

Setting her mug down, Kelly’s eyes were glued to the screen. God Cate sounded morose and pathetic, exactly how she felt. No wonder Jeanette had been so smug. This video proved everything she had said last night to be true. The bitch.

“Kelly, if you are watching, please give me another chance. I know I don’t deserve it because I was an idiot of epic proportions but I can get better. Really. It’s true. Ask any of my subscribers or friends and they’ll tell you. At least, I hope they do, because knowing them it’s all up in the air. They might just lie to watch me suffer more. Please, please give me another chance.” There was a pause where she held her clasped hands and pathetic looking face up for all the world to see before she continued, “Well, that’s what I got. You all take care and I wish you better luck than mine when it comes to love and Kelly, if you are watching, please email me so I can grovel for forgiveness in person. I have been told I have an excellent grovel.”

The video ended and Kelly felt tears stinging. She glanced down at the comments and saw a lot were actually from Cate’s subscribers, asking her to give their idol another chance. She shook her head in disbelief. Had Cate really done that? Had that video been real? Begged for her forgiveness where the entire internet could see?

Logging into the site, she opened up the about tab on the channel page and saw Cate’s contact email. Was she going to do this, give Cate another chance to possibly hurt her? On the other hand, it could be another chance for them to connect like they had been before both of them had gone stupid and maybe they could move on and things would get better. So many of her experiences prior to transition kept telling her there was no hope of that happening but there was also that voice saying everything had changed and she shouldn’t let past baggage dictate her future. With a nod, she highlighted the address and moved it over to her email.

Once it was in the To box she was unsure what to do, what to say. After a brief tumult of thought, she realized that if Cate were serious about what she’d said in the video, more apologizing would be forthcoming and not a personal attack. Kelly entered her phone number as the only message. If Cate could figure that out then maybe she would be worth it. It wasn’t some ultraobscure code or anything. Her chest was tight as she moved the cursor to send. Cate had been fun to hang out with and she had treated her well until the end, and those kisses, sigh… those kisses. Those alone were almost enough for her to hit the Send button. Getting more of those would totally be worth it if this situation got better. Would she get hurt? She didn’t know but honestly, what in life didn’t hurt?

Kelly pressed send, trying to hide her nervousness in a deep swallow of tepid coffee. Sitting there, staring between the blinking cursor and her phone, she kept refreshing the page, unsure how this would play out. She wanted Cate to call. Did she want that as well? It was too late to change anything now since she had already sent her phone number into the net. She took a chance and all that was left was the fallout. The pain in her bottom lip kept her focused on the here and now as she nervously worked at it with her teeth. Refreshing the page over and over again, just in case Cate had sent an email, her heart raced even faster. Maybe, maybe this would happen? Why hadn’t she called? Emailed? Why??

Kelly’s phone rang.

Disbelief was all she had as it rang, heart lodging in her throat. She looked towards the door, hoping Jeanette was there to tell her what to do but she was alone, alone with the ringing phone. Shaking her head, cursing herself for being an idiot, Kelly picked it up with shaky hands. She could do this. It was just a phone call. There was no guarantee of anything, just a leap into the void. With a swipe of her finger she lifted the phone to her ear, “Hello?”



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