Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. None of the characters, places, or anything else is meant to be represented by anything in reality. Duh! Fiction, get it? I the author reserve the rights, so please don't go posting this anyplace else without my permission. A very special thanks goes out to Cathy and all the others out there in BCTS land who have encouraged and inspired me to write and keep writing.
I hugged my worn jacket to me trying to fight off the blades of ice thrown with deadly accuracy by the frigid wind. The freezing air seemed to find every unprotected nook and cranny. At least the freezing rain had stopped before I'd finally decided I couldn't stand anymore and walked out of my family's Christmas celebration. However that still left the sleet and slushy snow falling from the heavy gray winter sky.
Every year was same and I never seemed to learned it wouldn't get better. Dearly wanting acceptance and love so much, but never finding any at all. Like always, my brother John, talked me into making the trip with him. He was one of the few I shared blood with that sorta kinda understood me and would usually give me the time of day. On the other hand I had to wonder if it was deliberate since everyone knew I enjoyed these occasions as much as I did visits to the dentist and other unpleasant experiences. However it meant I had no means of leaving on my own. A big disadvantage of growing up not only rural but very rural.
Ha, that was what they thought!
This year rather then put up with all the snide comments and humiliation, I had a secret. You see this past year had pushed me past all rational thought. I'd finally accepted who I was, but that came with the stark truth of just how much I'd screwed up my life. Now, middle aged with career prospects of between absolute zero, nil, and nonexistent, I just really didn't give a damn about much of anything.
So this year when the nasty whispers and snickers began about me being a failure, headcase and gay to boot, I simply picked up my jacket and walked out.
Sure it was nasty as hell outside, but it was still kinder than the people who called themselves my relatives. I suppose I'd bought some of it on me this year with my androgynous attire, but truthfully those bits of femininity were required for my sanity. They were important touchstones for my true self that let me function at all these days.
I'd wondered a time or two if I was some variety of intersexed since my general body-shape tended to be more like a dumpy overweight woman than an obese man regardless of what I had between my legs. It really didn't matter because I'd no medical insurance nor means of affording the tests it would take to say one way or the other.
In short, my life was in a hell of a mess and I didn't give a shit what anyone thought.
Which was why I was walking down the highway on Christmas Eve. It was only the afternoon but with the sky dark from the sleet and snow you would never know. The wintery assault caused me to even consider going back, but since no one appeared to notice I was gone, good riddance to them one and all!
Perhaps it was stupid, but it'd been that kind of year.
An eighteen wheeler thundered by drowning me in dirty freezing slush. I couldn't help, but look up at the gray overcast heavens wondering what was going to happen next. You would think with my life and luck I would know better.
Now I was wet as well as cold. It was seeping into everywhere that had up to now stayed more or less dry. What I wore wasn't designed for this kind of weather. I wasn't a fool. These were killing conditions. I was already thoroughly chilled and only a step or two away from hypothermia and serious trouble.
The problem was I didn't care. To have constant not-pain and endless discomfort finally end would a blessing. On the other hand I truly didn't want to die either. There were too much pain already in the world already to create more and as much as my family truly misunderstood me they would be hurt.
That's not even counting how much pain it might cause me.
An icy track crawled down my cheek. Even my tears were freezing along with my heart and soul.
Another truck blew by throwing up another blizzard of ice and snow behind it. All I could do was bow my head even lower to try and shield myself. The difference was the flash of red lights as it braked. Then a pair of white lights shined as it backed up.
A spark of hope glowed. Perhaps I wasn't going to die after all.
The red crew cab wasn't just big, it was huge. The thing had big knobby snow tires as well as having chrome and gold trimming on every surface. Though the fog of the twin tail pipes I read on the tailgate the gold cursive, 'Santa's Sleigh.' Even the Alaska license plate read, N. Pole. My wasn't he a long ways from home down here in the lower 48.
Who was this guy? Shivering, I shuffled as fast as I could to the open window. Beggars could not only not be choosers, but could freeze to death too.
Reaching the window, I had to climb up on the running board just to see inside. The moment I did, second thoughts came racing. Yeah, sure he was Santa. That's if the Jolly Old Fat Man had been a biker or perhaps a trucker from hell. Okay, he was dressed in the red Santa suit which always seemed kind of creepy to me. Maybe it was because of too many childhood visits to mall Santa's who were of dubious character.
Well, he did have the long white beard and hair too. Hell, he had the stocky build as well. What did not fit was the cigar wedged in one side of his mouth nor the tats on his knuckles. Even if they read NICE and I think before he ran out of fingers on the other because it said NAUG.
Did I mention 'Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer' was baring from the truck's speakers?
Alright, I've found the redneck Santa, oh joy.
“Kind of a chilly night to out walking isn't it?” He asked understating things a few thousand percent. “Need a ride?”
“Yeah,” I managed to say with my teeth nearly chattering.
The lock on the passenger door popped open.
Stumbling, over the icy ruts I got to the other side.
Using a part of my sleeve to protect my numb fingers, I got the door open and slid inside the toasty cab.
I will say this. Biker Santa or not, the inside of his truck was spotless except for the smell of the tobacco smoke. Excuse me, but I still had a sense of smell. On the other hand the heat blasting out of the vents was a godsend.
“There's a business area just up the road with a hotel and a restaurant although I don't know if it is still open this being Christmas Eve.” He said. “Oh by the way you can just call me Chris.”
“I'm Jess.” I said resisting the urge to make a Kris Kringle joke. “That will work.”
Hey, I had some cash, but this would probably wipe me out. However, to get away from that poisonous family gathering, I'd been ready to gnaw off a leg like a wolf caught in a trap.
Porky Pig singing I'll have a 'Blue Christmas Without You” came up next. Oh God shoot me now!
“Miss excuse me for say so, but I can see you're not in a good way.” He said sliding that damn cigar around in his mouth. “You see I'm on my way to a Christmas party, but my date stood me up. I was wondering if you would be willing to take her place. I swear there will be plenty of good food and drink, but while we might get a little rowdy, everyone will behave themselves. Believe me when I say we all know that no, means no.
Miss, me? My brain kinda froze even if the rest of me was thawing out in front of the truck's heater.
“Your clothes are soaked and I can see you shivering. If you don't catch a cold it won't be because of lack of trying. I even have a Mrs. Claus costume that goes with mine that a good friend got for me. It might not be that warm, but it will be dry. If you like, I think we can find a place where you won't be bothered if you want to sleep when it's over. So what do you say?
Okay I knew my body had a weird shape, and I even had breasts of a sort even if they were only a man's fat boobs. I'd also taken to wearing my hair long as another of my feminine touchstones, and my stocking cap probably covered my ever growing baldness, so I guess it was remotely possible I could mistaken as a woman.
In bad light, in the middle of blizzard, while dressed in soaking wet bulky clothes, check.
However, I didn't know who Chris really was nor any of the people at this party or if there really was a party. No one knew where I was, and if he meant me harm that would be bad.
“I'm not really a party kind of person,” I tried to bail out gracefully. “Besides I'm not an easy person to fit.” Making gestures with my hands I indicated my embarrassing under-tallness.
“That's alright,” He said jovially. “It's one size fits all. After all mine fit fine and I have a few pounds on you. Come on, it's Christmas Eve. This is one night that no one should be alone, Jess.”
Although my reasoning was sound for turning down Biker Santa's offer, I found myself nodding yes. Over the course of my life I'd made so many mistakes, my instincts weren't the most reliable decision making tool in the box.
“Good!” Chris grinned. “If you want you can crawl into the back and change now.”
He pointed out a privacy curtain that could separate the front from the back. “It won't be the first time someone has changed back there, nor slept back there either. The joys of spending so much time on the road.”
Now that I was no longer completely numb I was really feeling my wet clothes. Honestly I was a little concerned about making a mess too. It was a nice truck after all.
“Hmmm... I'm sorry about getting your seats all wet.” I apologized looking for the best way into the back.
“Think nothing of it.” He replied, patting the seat. “I practically live in my baby sometimes. I'll have the boys wipe down and detail her real good after the holidays. Giv'em an excuse to put more hours on the clock.”
Okay, redneck or biker Santa or not he had resources to take care of whatever mess I'd made. More than a little awkward, I half-fell/slipped into the back. Sitting up, I drew that curtain.
Then came the moment of truth. Was I really going to change clothes in the back of this guy's truck?
Away from the direct blast of the heater vents, I felt just how damn wet and cold my clothes were. I really didn't have a choice. Besides it was a Mrs. Claus costume. It probably had a long red skirt or dress with plenty of white trim. Heck, it probably had a granny's wig with it. The one size fit all thing kinda worried me, because that usually that meant any size but mine.
Taking off my dripping wet jacket I found I was warmer without it. Glancing at that curtain, as far as I could tell, I indeed had privacy from the front and the tinted windows were high and dark enough no one could easily see in.
Having a thought, I took the plastic clothing bag off Chris's costume and put my wet stuff on it on the floorboard.
“There's a towel in the pocket on the back of the passenger's seat.” He called out to me.
Sighing, I replied, “Thanks.” There was nothing left for me but to get this over with. It wasn't as if I had an aversion to women's things. Pretty things were about as addictive to me as living and breathing.
Stripping off the rest of my clothes I discovered to my relief I wouldn't have to go commando. My feminine panties were only a bit damp. Sniffing at that towel, it smelled mostly clean. Drying off, I investigated that costume.
I'd taken off the outer bag, but there was another protective wrapping about it too. The label read 'Mrs. Clause exclusively for SRU by Miss Chiff Studios.'
Never heard of them, but the rich velvet material looked positively sinful. I carefully made sure my hands were dry before touching it, Oooh!
Even as I marveled at the material, I was laughing silently at the misspelled label. Whatever or whoever SRU was if that hadn't been misspelled too obviously did their stocking from overseas. Of course I was guessing the misspelling was because of the English as a second language deal. On the other hand, with schools nowadays it might've been made right here in the states.
Wasn't the dress a little short, I wondered as I pulled out the set of fishnet stockings.
By the time I got the bag unpacked , I knew my vision of a kindly Grandma like Mrs. Claus costume wasn't in the cards. Okay, it wasn't stripper Mrs. C either, but it sure as shooting was sexy.
Looking down at my obese strange body, I wondered just how the hell, anyone could expect me to pull this off.
However, looking down at my ruined clothes, I couldn't see that I had a choice, so reluctantly I got dressed. There was even this really lacy red pushup bra, that given the plunging neckline I almost had to wear. I was surprised that it pushed up my man-boobs so effectively, but I was also pleased.
It might only be an illusion, but I had cleavage! It was a good thing I was so careful about defoliating all of my unwanted body hair.
That nice feeling was spoiled by my next discovery. Those fishnets wasn't hose, they were stockings complete with garters and belt, eek! Sure I loved the girly stuff, but this was a bit out of my comfort zone. Wear this revealing sexy stuff in public? Double eek!
However, having anything on my legs with the cold was a good thing. So with a combination of embarrassing self-consciousness and feeling deliciously naughty, I struggled with making sure I avoided runs, hooking up garters and getting those damn lines straight.
On the seat was a long shoe box with a pair of black ankle boots with silver buckles, fuzzy white cuffs and topped with a red Christmas bow. It was love at first sight. I'll admit to having a thing for risque shoes and boots. These with their three inch heels and half-inch platforms were just perfect except for one problem, my big feet. My man's size tens translated into a woman's twelve. However try as I might I couldn't find the size of these things on the box or on the boots.
Prepared to be disappointed I slipped one on was surprised when they fitted like that proverbial glove. Happily I put the other on smiling as I arched my feet. No doubt they would be uncomfortable as all get out in no time at all, but oh my did they look good.
Very satisfied, I found another separate, small bag with a Santa hat with shoulder length red hair attached. Surprising, me again was the quality of this since it wasn't cheap costume poorly dyed fibers but actually looked like real red hair. Taking it out of the bag and inner net, I was able to put my own thinning, but longish hair up under the cap. Heck, it wasn't even too uncomfortable, and I must admit I did like the color. To look good I was more than willing to put with a good bit more than that. Just look at women's high heels to see the lengths we will go to for fashion.
Pulling on the red gloves,“I'm finished,” I announced to give him some warning before pulling that curtain back. As a recent pedestrian the last thing I wanted to do was startle the driver while on roads this treacherous.
“Come on back up.” He urged me. “We're almost there.”
Really conscious of flashing him in this short shirt, I carefully maneuvered myself over the seats, breathing out in relief as I fasten the seat-belt.
“Just where is this place? I grew up around here, but I don't recognize any of this.” I explained.
“It's in a warehouse district north of town.” Chris replied, chewing on his cigar. “The company has a huge bash every year for all their employees and families. It's about the only place big enough for everyone.”
Looking out the window trying to get the lay of the land, I was shocked. Where I'd been the wintery stuff had really just stared sticking good. That was where all that slush on the roads had come from which had soaked me. Here, everything was completely covered in white stuff and a lot of it. He couldn't have driven very far, but I couldn't ignore the proof of my eyes. This looked like a hell of a lot more than the several inches of snow the forecast called for!
“Wow.” I said. “It must really have snowed hard here. This is a lot more than the Weather Service said.”
“You always have to take what the talking heads say with a lot of salt.” Chris smiled around his stogie.
Not that I would've been walking very far in this outfit, but with weather like this I was going nowhere. Like it or not I was dependent on Chris's hospitality.
It was snowing hard enough that I was still lost, and I never even saw us passing though any gates. What am I talking about? I couldn't even see the road, but Chris kept us on course. There was no question we were at the right place.
With my employment challenged condition, I'd worked at plenty of warehouses. This one were the usual huge building with rolls of loading docks with trailers backed snugly against them.
What surprised me was this one was really big. I couldn't even count all the docks because they were lost from sight in the falling snow. Of course the reason this had to be right place was because of the Christmas lights. The whole place was lit up! Even the open bays were lined in lights with Christmas wreaths on the roll-up doors.
Why haven't I ever heard about this place? It must take a not so small fortune to light a place of this size up like this!
My questions were forestalled by Chris's opening the truck door for me like a true gentlemen. No one had never ever done that for me before. To be treated as a lady after the harassment from my so-called loved ones, had me nearly in tears.
Chris had discarded his cigar and had on his Santa jacket and hat. He never gave a sign he saw my eyes shining from the near tears. He simply held out his arm to help me out. Once he had my arm, he escorted me to the door guiding me across the snow and ice although most of the sidewalk had been cleared. I'd practiced wearing heels before, but never in public nor in the ice and snow.
My Gawd! It was cold. Sure I was in a little short nothing of a dress, but it felt even colder then when I was soaked though with icy slush. By the time we made it to the door I was wondering if I was going to have worry about hypothermia again. Not a single one of all the warehouses where I'd worked had ever been remotely climate controlled. Burning hot in the summers, and freezing cold in the winter were the sum of my experiences.
As Chris opened the door, the warm inviting air made me hurry inside. My eyes closed on their own as my shivering melted away.
Shutting the door behind him, he grinned. “You look really good Jess.”
I did not believe him. Old fat guy in a dress no matter how weirdly my body distributed the lard was still … well you know.
“You don't believe me?” Chris asked with his hands on his hips. “See for yourself.” He pointed at a mirror by the door that had a sign reminding the drivers to check their appearance since they were the only representatives their customers saw regularly.
Okay there was Chris really looking like Santa with his long white hair and beard. Whoever his friend was, this SRU person, they really got him one cool looking costume. What threw me as the woman standing next to him.
Like the Jolly, Old, Elf, Wanna-be, she had on a Santa suit, but one with a sexy above the knee red velvet skirt edged in fluffy white fur. The red fishnet stockings and the black ankle boots with their own white furry accents really set off her legs.
Afraid of what I would see, I looked further up.
The top of the dress's was also edged in fuzzy white that acted to tease of the cleavage promised by the plunging neckline. The long full sleeves and the red gloves with their own white accents made her arms and hand appear elegant. However the biggest shock was her face. The Santa hat with its white pom-pom was a jaunty angle atop the gorgeous red hair that famed her face.
I knew this had to be me, but the hair and cap hid my still bushy eyebrows no matter how much I plucked them. Even the obese roundness of my face was shaped by the fall of auburn in a more delicate heart shape. Even my nonexistent waist had gained the illusion of necking in by the fullness of the top and its fur, and the hem and its own white accents.
This was impossible!
But, there it was, or rather I should say there I was.
It was magic, ordinary magic which was nothing more than illusions. I'd given up on the magic from myths and fairy tales a long time ago. Too many nights wasted praying; too many Christmas's spent begging make believe characters; too many dreams stomped flat by an uncaring world.
The irony of having one of my oldest and dearest Christmas wishes come true in this roundabout and unexpected way bought me back to reality. Every Christmas I'd silently begged Santa to change me into a girl, because I didn't dare write it down. So here we are years later, far after I've given up believing in such things, and here I am a pretty girl or at least an illusion of one.
Okay, in my heart I've always been a girl, a woman, and even in my dreams a lady, but pretty? Sadly no.
Time for a reality check. I was warm in dry clothes. Chris had lived up to his word and we were at a Christmas party that had kids attending since I could hear high pitched laughter. That meant things wouldn't get too crazy and I had a reasonable amount of safety. Far better than freezing to death by the side of the road.
Chris was bouncing on his heels self-satisfied at the shock I had looking in the mirror.
“Hey Chris. Thought you told me Carol stood you up?” A woman dressed all in white with a crystal circlet about her head asked.
“She did Jadis.” He answered. “Let me introduce Jess.”
“Hello,” The woman in white smiled. “I'm the force of nature that keeps this old coot and enterprise going.”
“Hi, I'm Jess.” I asked. “Administration?”
“You got it in one.” She said still smiling at me, but then frowned. “What did you do Chris?” Jadis questioned him sharply. “Shanghai her off the street?”
Wilting under her icy glare, Chris mumbled, “It wasn't exactly like that.”
“I was walking along the highway and freezing when Chris picked me up.” My face turned a little red defending him.
“What she said!” Trucker Santa replied grateful for the reprieve.
“You made her change in the back of that truck of yours?” Jadis asked in shocked disbelief.
“She was soaked to the skin.” Chris said holding up his hands as a shield.
“Really” I spoke up. “I know this doesn't cover very much, but it is dry.”
It was becoming clear how a woman rode herd on a character like Chris. Jadis with her aristocratic looks and manner was extremely formidable.
“You poor dear!” She took my arm. “Don't worry, we'll take care of you.”
Chris shrugged helplessly as she lead me away.
“You don't have any makeup with you?” Jadis asked as her eyes searched me for a purse.
The safest answer seemed just to nod. Of course I didn't have a purse and this outfit didn't have room to hide a damn thing.
“Chris,” Jadis called back to him. “Pull out one of those makeup gift sets from stock and mark it as damaged on the inventory.”
Before I knew it I was in one of the offices and surrounded by ladies intent on making me welcome. So many were introduced to me, I was in people overload. I lost track of who was who after about the tenth person or so.
“This is Wendy.” A redheaded woman was introduced to me. She had all the signs of being a natural redhead like me or perhaps I should say like I was before age and baldness set in. She was also dressed in a rather elaborate old fashioned nightgown that I guessed was a costume.
“Can you help her?” Jadis asked the other woman. “This is Jess. Chris just about kidnapped her off the street. You both being redheads, I thought of you. I have him fetching a makeup set from our damaged merchandise. She added making ditto marks with her fingers.”
I was about to protest again that it wasn't like that when Wendy's name and costume suddenly gelled in my mind.
“Of course I can. That Chris!” She rolled her eyes smiling at me. “You're a classic autumn and your hazel eyes are just like mine. That set should have everything we need.”
“You're supposed to be Wendy, like out of Peter Pan?” I asked.
“Can you think of a better person to be with all of these Lost Boys working around here?” Her smile turned into a grin. “I don't think any of them have ever really grown up!”
“So this is some kind of Christmas Costume Party?” I asked hesitantly trying not to make myself look like a fool. The idea seemed kinda strange to me even though dressing up this time of year wasn't uncommon. However, being honest, I wasn't the most social person in the world. Too many bumps, scrapes and close calls had made me reluctant to trust easily many groups where all too often I felt out of place.
“Oh, Chris didn't tell you anything did he!” Wendy laughed as she was handed one of those facial cleaner wipes.
“Just that he was on the way to a Christmas party and that he'd been stood up.” I replied. “I really didn't think much about him being in costume or his having a Mrs. Claus outfit to match his. My own clothes were so soaked, so I was simply happy to get into anything dry!”
Dean Martin's version of 'It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas' started playing from the speakers.
“Chris doesn't have a choice but to put on the Santa suit this time of year.” She giggled. “He declared that if he had to dress up then so did everyone else.”
In the background, I heard Chris announce he'd returned, but the girls stopped him at the door. Wendy had cleaned my face and in no time at all was busy applying the creams and colors. All about us there was laughter and good cheer as the ladies chatted and gossiped.
There were also a lot of kids about too dressed as elves. There was something about them that just didn't seem right, but I really didn't get to look too close at them with Wendy working on my face. Besides, it was so nice to be warm and immersed in the friendly gaggle of feminine companionship I really wasn't paying that much attention.
“There Dear.” Wendy stepped back looking at her work and handing me a mirror.
I had few illusions about my femininity. Sure I had a hybrid body-shape, and I had to grudgingly admit this costume must have been designed by a genius to give me of all people a pleasing silhouette. However, my face? No matter how that Santa hat and hair softened my mug's appearance there was only so much mere mortals could do. Let's say I was prepared for the worst.
'You silly Witch!' I berated myself silently. 'Don't you dare cry and ruin Wendy's miracle!'
The redhead in the mirror just couldn't be me. She was at least ten years younger and had no signs of testosterone poisoning. Her red lips and golden eye makeup subtly complimented the costume and made the gold flecks in my hazel eyes really glitter.
“I thinks she likes it!” Jadis and Wendy grinned.
In answer all I could do was hug them while fighting the tears.
However just to prove that any sensitive emotional moment could be ruin by your usual bodily functions, my stomach rumbled enough to be heard over the Micheal Jackson and the Jackson Five's version of “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” that had just began playing.
Amid giggles and friendly laughs, I was led to the buffet table.
Once more I had an eye opening moment. Chris or whoever ran this joint really knew how to set a table. Forget those little things on toothpicks. There were full hams and turkeys as well as just about any side you could think of, a real Christmas Feast. Never had I seen anything like this at any of the places I'd ever worked. At most, a potluck party with the boss picking up the cost for the ham was my experience. Remembering, I'd done without dinner and now it was suppertime, plus I'd been out in the freezing cold for hours, I was very hungry.
Apparently my hitting the buffet was a good excuse that it was time for the other ladies too. Before long there was a merry line of us picking and choosing the choicest bits. It was something totally new to me. When guys hit a buffet its like a pack of ravenous wolves going for the throat of the bloodiest piece of flesh and woe to the fool who contests the Alpha male rights.
The Ladies were much more social offering suggestions of what to try as well as chatting merrily the whole time. There was none of that silence while loading your plate as if wary of frightening the food away. Frankly, I found the entire experience very relaxing.
Sitting down and eating those first bites proved the food tasted as good as it looked. Of course there was always the thing that being hungry makes anything and everything tastes better. Just as good was the small talk with Jadis, Wendy and the others. Never once did I feel like the outsider. That cozy feeling was as nice as the wonderfully warm room.
Having a chance to look around as I ate, it was really something else. Garlands, Christmas lights and other decorations hung from trusses high above with a huge Christmas tree as the center piece. Mounds of gifts surrounded the lavishly adorned tree. Besides trees meant for public displays like the one in front of the State House or the one I'd seen on TV at the Rockefeller Center in NYC, I'd never seen anything like it. Yes, it was that big! It was a good thing warehouses tended to have extremely high ceilings. Otherwise they would've had to cut a hole in the roof to make room for that searchlight they were using for a star on top. Okay, an exaggeration, but only a little. I did have to shade my eyes because the star was so bright.
Looking away from that over enthusiastic tree topper, I saw Chris. He was holding court within a circle of guys. Strangely enough there a few of those kids dressed as elves too. Usually the kids hang near the moms and the ladies. I started to wonder just where all of these rug rats came from when Chris caught me looking at him.
His grin as he excused himself from his court and swaggered over could've been annoying, but instead I had to lock down the giggles. It was so much an intentional exaggeration he was clearly making fun of himself.
Jadis rolled her eyes as Wendy giggled when they saw him hamming it up.
“Here comes your date.” The Winter Queen remarked dryly.
“Like I said,” Wendy smiled. “Lost boys, He's never going to grow up! Although he's certainly making a good effort at growing out!” She giggled again referring to his Santa belly.
“And I thought you were referring to his ego.” Jadis took a sip of her wine.
At my wondering glance, she relented. “Alright, I guess he's not that bad. Perhaps it's that Lost Boy thing of Wendy's that brothers me. You have to excuse me girls. I like real men.” She said with one arched eyebrow which had all of us laughing.
“Am I interrupting anything ladies?” Chris asked totally clueless.
That set us all off again. I managed not to embarrass myself by spitting up food or snorting drink up my nose, but it was a near thing. I'd been finished anyways letting the ladies about me chatter away while I ate. The only concession was I at least tried to be dainty about it, but hunger has an urgency all of its own.
I'd stuck with soda pop and avoided the both the wine and the bubbly most of the other ladies had gone for. With all of my issues I could see myself falling into serious trouble with alcohol. Too many of those I'd contact though the internet had tried self-medication with that as well as other more destructive substances. I had enough problems as it was without adding more so when I drank at all it was with great caution. If there was any benefit at all to be down at the bottom, it was the first hand experience of seeing just how many ways and how badly people could mess up their lives. I took what comfort I could in at least it was my gender thing that had dragged me down instead of just plain old fashioned stupidity.
Perhaps I hadn't handled that very well either, but not many do. Still it was my life and my responsibility despite any additional challenges. I was reasonably healthy and was mostly physically functional. It was the mental stuff that gave me fits. With my gender problems and the accompanying depression, trying to overcome it was a lot like trying to lift yourself into the air.
The problem was it was all in my head and invisible to the world at large. Seeking help was socially discouraged as well as expensive. For too many of those in the same boat as me, it was suffer until you were ready to end it all before looking for some way of making the discomfort that had turned to hurt long ago, end. If they were lucky it was help, but for others it was the final solution.
So in short, no booze for me!
It was fated as I got up to join him that the first thing Chris asked, “Can I get you a drink?”
I was about to fib a bit and say I didn't drink at all when he added, “How about one of those fruity things you girls like so much?”
Honestly it was his referring to me as a girl that made me weaken rather than his boyish and charming desire to please me. This last hour or so of acceptance by those I'd always felt were my true peers were priceless. For such a gift, I was willing spread a bit of good feelings about.
“Okay, but a virgin daiquiri, mind you!” I relented still trying to avoid the liquor. Heck, I was still adapting to just how big a thing this was, the huge buffet and a wet bar?
He raised his eyebrows like a high schooler thinking naughty thoughts at the word 'virgin.'
“Oh you!” I gave him a push. “Go get my drink!”
The way he hurried away, I could easily see him as a young kid walking atop a fence or doing some other stupid thing trying to impress a girl.
Jadis mouthed, “I told you so.” Then she, Wendy and the rest of the ladies just laughed like crazy.
By the time he returned, I was wondering if I'd fallen though Alice's looking glass. I'd gone from being harassed by my so-called loved ones this morning to not only dressed, but treated as an attractive woman. It wouldn't surprise me if I was really back by the side of the road passed out from the cold. Certainly this seemed all too much like a dream, but pinching my arm said differently.
So like the little girl that'd hidden within my heart for so very long she whispered in disbelief, “This can't be real,” but it was.
Taking my drink from him, I ruefully thought that I knew how Cinderella felt at the ball. End of the party or when the clock strikes midnight, bye bye, sweet prince and hello the harsh reality of a fat old man who farts too much.
At my rope's end before the aforesaid gaseous man had probably saved my life by stopping for a stranger on a snowy country road, I decided to make the most of this night. Who knows. It was Christmas Eve and magical things were said to be possible. If nothing else I would have the memories of this night to comfort me in the no doubt lonely ones yet to come.
“Thanks Chris.” I said, trying to be graceful.
“My Pleasure, Jess.” He returned my smile. “Please free to indulge in our bar if you like. I guarantee that you're safe here. If anyone tried anything ...”
“Jadis would have parts of their anatomy for garters?” I finished for him.
“And that would be only the beginning!” Laughing, he agreed offering me his arm.
Taking it, I let him led us back to his circle of admirers where once again I ended up in name overload again as he introduced everyone. I simply smiled doing my best to enjoy the attention and act lady like. Since apparently through an act of God I was physically passing as a natural woman tonight, I was more concerned that my actions would give me away. Not that a part of me was still kinda freaking out about of that part but because I'd decided, like I said before, to make the best of this while it lasted.
Despite that I was surprised when I actually began enjoying this. Saying I was going to make the best of things and doing it were two different things. However, just hanging out and most of all being treated as I'd always seen myself, stomped all over the barriers I'd had up for so long to isolate and so protect myself.
Some of it was the outrageous things Chris bragged about. Okay, I could buy this company helping out during disasters even those overseas. From the size of this warehouse this company almost had to be multinational. It was a given that it would be good press and perhaps all a tax write-off for them to do the charitable thing during emergencies and other catastrophes.
However, I might be an American infamous for our lack of knowledge of the rest of the world, but even I knew you couldn't drive a truck to Japan much less to Haiti. On the other hand some of the things he mentioned about delivering supplies to places like Afghanistan and others that not so nice things were common place. While he told the funny things it was more the things he didn't say that told the real story.
My military time had been long ago and during the Reagan years. Turbulent as those times might've been it'd also been mostly peaceful from a soldier’s point of view. The only outright military action had been Grenada Island, and I'd gotten out before Panama. It had brought me into contact with those who had seen the 'Elephant' to use the old style term and they'd been just like Chris. While they might've talked about some of their experiences there was much more that stayed unsaid.
I decided that he was just what he seemed. One of those real 'characters' you meet sometimes that could tell real tall tales that had a kernel of truth, but had a healthy helping of playful exaggeration.
Breaking in I asked, just what this company was and I'd gotten a roundabout answer.
“The Company got its start back in the old country with holiday gifts. In those days we did the manufacture as well as the shipping and delivery. As times changed we specialized in what we do best, the shipping and delivery. With holiday demands so high it was simply easier and made more sense to let others handle the fabrication end.”
I never did learn the name of this place that night, but admittedly I found myself going even further and relaxing enough so I accepted some wine. I did become momentarily suspicious when I saw Chris wasn't imbibing, but he gave a reasonable explanation.
“I'm leaving out with a load tonight so no drinking for me.” He grinned, “I've already cleared it with Jadis so her or one of the other ladies up front will have a warm place for you to sleep.”
Then more gently, just for my ears he continued. “Have no fear, Jess. I made a promise and I'm a man of my word.”
Not able to help myself I gave the big lug a hug. The girl in me demanded it. Having any person much less a man willing to do that 'you're a woman to be protected' thing made me gushy as a teenager.
As the late afternoon turned into evening, I admit I might've indulge a little too much wine and that fruity stuff as Chris called it. By that time you might think that the party would be winding down as everyone departed for to make their own Christmas Eve preparations, especially with all the kids about. I fondly remember catching my own parents in the middle of gift assembly one long Christmas, and I couldn't imagine things had changed that much even with all the electronic do-dads.
Instead things seemed to build, the excitement reaching levels like I'd never seen before outside of the odd rock concerts I'd been too until one of the kids came up to Chris.
Maybe it was just my being so tipsy, but I really looked at the person in the elf costume carrying a clipboard. It was as if when I was expecting to see a child that was what I saw. Now that I simply looking I saw something or maybe that should be someone else.
They were still dressed as an elf, but most certainly wasn't a child. This was a small adult with most realistic elf makeup I'd ever seen. The thought that it could just possibly not be special effects almost reached me from my hind brain when another distraction occurred. Hey, I was tipsy, remember!
Chris with great drama put on his Santa hat slinging the pom-pom end over his shoulder.
The cheers rattled even that huge building.
Rolling his eyes the, err, person with the clip board with tremendous aplomb led the way to the only dock with an open loading bay door. I kinda got dragged along as my brains were trying to process all of this.
Startled I needed Chris's help to steady me as we suddenly stopped. I was looking around trying to see what was going on, as our small guide pointed up. Both Chris and I gave each other this well, look, as we saw the mistletoe.
The crowd were all staring at us expectantly. I caught Jadis's eye from the gathering. Somehow I got the feeling she was telling me to be careful. Turning, I found Chris staring right back at me.
“Did you read the label?” He asked, his voice somehow carrying to only my ears.
Remembering the clothing tag about that SRU and Miss Chievious thing I nodded, “Yes.”
“Are you certain this is what you want?” His arms wrapped around my waist.
For some reason the song, 'I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' began singing in my head as I parted my lips for a kiss.
Okay maybe I was drunk, and my experience with kissing was damn limited, but if my toes didn't curl up I couldn't tell you why.
I think the howls and cheers were what made us break for air. Our on lookers were loud!
Like a captain preparing to board his vessel for an epic voyage, Chris stepped forward to inspect his load with the, err, elf at his side.
My eyes boggled as I realized the inside of the trailer just went on and on like that picture from Raiders of the Lost Ark's warehouse. Blinking, I knew my eyes had to be fooling me. No trailer was that big!
It was only then that I noticed it was Jadis, Chris had handed me off to. If not for her I think I would've fallen face first right there.
Apparently satisfied, Chris took the clipboard and with a great flourished signed it. The truck pulled forward as Chris, surprisingly agile, slung himself out the cargo bay to the snowy ground.
Closing the trailer's doors, he waved as he marched to the cab of the truck outfitted much like the pickup truck he'd picked me up in. Red and gold, covered in Christmas lights, sparks flew from its exhaust stacks as it slowly left the dock which caused the crowd to cheer yet again.
Then I watched the brightly lit trailer climb high into the Christmas night sky its red tail lights lost among the stars.
“Oh no.” Jadis remarked as I fainted.
Waking up can always be problematic for me. Since I was a tiny kid, I'd very vivid dreams that were hard to separate from reality at times. I had a terrible time as a bed-wetter because I used to dream I'd actually gotten up and was in the bathroom. It was the alarming warm wetness that alerted me I'd made a mistake.
This morning it was the opposite.
The bed I was in was toasty warm and sinfully soft. That was totally different from my bargain store mattress and hole in the wall apartment that I kept barely warm enough to be livable because I couldn't afford a high utility bill.
I felt thick long hair pulling slightly as I laid on it as well as the silky feel of sensual nightwear. All of me felt so very right, that this just had to be a dream. On the other hand, my mouth definitely tasted as if I really had over indulged and my bladder was informing that unless I wanted to repeat my terribly embarrassing childhood 'accidents' I needed to get up right now.
The sense this was too good to be true continued as I climbed out of bed. My flabby man-boobs actually had some bounce as well as the crowning touches looking like well, real nipples and not a guy's pale blots. Pushing myself up, I even had a nice waist and not a belly hiding my feet from me.
No, no, no this was a dream even if it was so very nice. Something was going to wake me up and this would all disappear leaving only bitter disappointment.
My unwanted visitor who'd stayed way too long, Mr Winky, was gone leaving the 'front room' as uncluttered as it was supposed to be. Okay, most definitely a dream. Releasing and letting go was a little disturbing, because I didn't feel the spreading warmth of an accident. That was still alright.
Maybe instead of dreaming I got up to used the facilities, I was only dreaming about having to use to the water closet.
Then Chris walked in.
He was still dressed in the pants of his Santa suit and some kind of undershirt. His tiredness was plain and so was his surprise at seeing me here.
I'm not sure what happen first next. My screaming or his hurried retreat shutting the door behind him. The following shouting and yelling made little sense and I think it was mostly me freaking way, way out that although I'd gotten my life long wish, the very fact I'd received my fondest desire had me in hysterics. All part of that wanting is one thing, but receiving is another.
If I had to be entirely truthful most of the rants was from me. Chris's bellowing in a useless attempt to calm me only fueled the fire so to speak.
It wasn't until the elf, err person, who'd done that whole clipboard warehouse manager thing stepped that I, ah, we, were able to calm ourselves.
“My Lady, I'm Bernard.” He introduced himself. “In order to preserve what little peace we have on Christmas Day I'm here to mediate this misunderstanding. However, first I need to ask you to please come out of the bathroom. Here is a robe.
From the other side of the bathroom door, I squeaked, reaching for it. “Okay.”
Wrapping the thick soft red robe about me, I cautiously opened the door. Right at this moment the fact I was really truly a woman and they were guys was uppermost on my thoughts.
Bernard was still in his elf suit and Chris was still about half undressed. Now that I was truly awake and not thinking I was dreaming, I could see this was a very nice if a rather male bedroom. It lacked any cozy feminine touches although it was quite clean and well kept.
A window looking out onto the winter decorated land. Long icicles like out of some TV Christmas special edged the top, but was far out of the normal for the part of the South where I grew up.
“Very good,” He replied. “First did you of your own free will put on the Mrs. Santa costume?”
“Yes.” I answered not sure where this was going, but still distracted by the Winter Wonderland outside. Something just wasn't right about all this above and beyond finding myself magically transformed into a woman.
“Next, did you or did you not kiss Santa, hmmm, Kris under the mistletoe on Christmas Eve?”Bernard inquired.
“I was little tipsy, but yes.” Grudgingly I admitted to the deed, trying to judge just how much snow had come down last night.
“Congratulations!” He forcefully declared. “By donning the costume and sealing the contract with a kiss under the mistletoe constitutes acceptance of all of the conditions. May the two of you be very happy. Now, I'm going back to bed!”
“Congratulations?” I asked confused. “What is he talking about?”
“I thought you said you read the clothing label?” Chris sounded really put out.
Miffed, I replied, “I did. It said it came from some SRU place.”
“Not that label. This one.” Chris handed me the Christmas costume I'd put on the day before.
The label he had revealed was the manufacturer’s information and clothing care tag that like most woman's clothing was on the seam rather than like a man's on the collar. However this one had some additions to the washing instructions.
I the wearer acknowledge that by putting on this Mrs. Claus costume constitutes full awareness of acceptance of the position of which this clothing is the symbol. By knowingly performing an act of intimacy under the specific conditions of under the mistletoe on the day most associated with that of the Principle Party, Christmas Eve, the wearer hereby accepts the position as indicated by the garment.
Did I say it was in itsy bitsy type?
The world kind spun around me. Chris looking so much like Santa Claus. The huge warehouse I'd never heard of before. The very unfamiliar and snowy environment instead of the one I'd been expecting. The lights on Chris's truck as it climbed into the Christmas sky.
And lastly my turning into a woman because of wearing a Mrs. Claus costume.
As if from a long way away I heard myself ask, “Chris where are we?”
“The North Pole.” He mumbled.
“You don't just look like Santa do you?” I continued trying not to pass out again.
“No.” He said, softly
Without a word I walked out. If there were roads and trucks there was a way back to civilization.
An half hour later, I found myself just where I'd begun. No matter what doors I tried, I always ended up stepping back into Chris's bedroom as if I was trapped in some kind of gayly decorated tesseract.
Frustrated, I sat down beside Chris.
“I can't leave can I?” My frown said it all.
“It's the magic.” He explained. “As far as it's concerned we're Mr. and Mrs. Claus. However, I can assure you I will not and never will presume anything that's not what you clearly and plainly want. I thought you understood what you were letting yourself in for.”
I just sat there. Part of me felt like I'd been tricked into this while another could see where the misunderstanding had taken place. On one hand, he had rescued me from freezing by the side of the road, but he'd also not told me about the consequences of accepting his offer of dry clothes. That was besides transporting me all the way to the North Pole when he'd told me we were only going to the edge of town.
Sighing, I wouldn't have believed him even if he had although if he'd let on about being magically transformed into a healthy attractive woman there was a good chance I would've gone for it anyways. Yes, I was that desperate.
Thinking about a movie that was a lot like my current situation, I asked, “I take it that you weren't always like this?”
“No, it's more a job position than a specific person.” He chuckle a little sadly. “I got roped into this entirely unwanted, but I've always been big on helping others. Putting on the red suit lets me do that. The problem is part of this suit's clause requires me to find a Mrs. Claus. I went to a friend who is a real wizard to help me find someone who really truly wanted the position and he gave me your costume.
“The first person it lead me to, changed their minds at the last instant, and then I found you needing help. I should've remembered that it can be tricky dealing with magic and the fact my friend, the wizard, has a very strange sense of humor.” He sighed.
“So where do we go from here?” I couldn't help but to sigh too.
“Well,” He began, “You seem to like me and I like you. Why don't we start there?”
“You mean the whole dating and getting to know each other thing?” I asked wondering at just how much this magic was going to push matters.
“Why not?” He answered. “If it doesn't work out between us then we can find someone else who really wants this and give them the costume next year. It's not as if the magic isn't going to force us to stay close anyways. Better to make the best of things.”
I thought about a moment. “Alright, you have a deal. So what are we going to do about sleeping arrangements?”
“Is it safe to go back in?” Chris asked.
“Not till she's run out of things to throw.” Bernard answered, ducking as a bottle bounced off the door frame.
Together, we sat on the beach.
“It's beautiful Chris.” I held his hand as we watched the sunset together even if I had to shield my eyes from his way too loud Hawaiian shirt instead of the sun.
Sighing, I leaned against him enjoying his solidity as day turned into night, for all his faults just sometimes he did get it right.
“Where is he?” I demanded
“Running for the backdoor if he has any sense.” Jadis answered taking measure of my temper. “Just what has he done now?”
“You don't want to know!” I stormed out with blood in my eye.
“You go girl!” Wendy giggled encouragement.
“Oh Chris!” I stared down at the big bearded man down on one knee and the ring he held out for me.
Everything glowed though the happy tears stinging my eyes.
For my answer to his question I held out my hand.
The whole party broke into cheers as we stopped under the mistletoe.
I didn't give him the chance to ruin the moment causing more cheers and a good deal of laughter as I kissed him.
Out of sight of the kissing couple an unlikely pair of wallflowers lounged on the edge of the festivities.
“She'll never give him a moment of peace!” The slim woman chortled pleased with herself.
“And he'll love every second of it.” The old man in the bathrobe grinned.
Discretely they slapped each other a high five.
Both of them laughed as Jess climbed into Santa's rig much to his dismay. It was clear this Mrs. Claus was not the stay at home type.
“So which holiday do you propose we play match maker for next?” The Wizard asked taking a drink of his punch.
“I have some thoughts,” The clothing designer smile mysteriously. “But I'm more interested in hearing your ideas.”
“Are you really?” The old man raised an eyebrow.
His reply was lost in the air horn blasts as Santa leaned out of his big rig.
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