August 28, 2002
"Gregg! Hey Gregg!" Lucy Plath saw him standing against the construction fence, watching the builders work on the campus’s new library. His fingers hooked through chain link fence, he watched with brows furrowed as the ironworkers welded another beam to the frame on the topmost floor. He had a scruffy beard that looked like he hadn’t shaved in a week, and had apparently lost weight since Lucy last saw him. He looked more slender, arms stretched upwards. "Gregg! Hey!" Lucy repeated.
"Oh, hey Lucy," he said. The nineteen year old college student regarded his classmate dreamily. "It’s been a while. How was your summer?"
"Did you even get my last email? I told you all about it," she asked. There was something off about him. Gregg had never been high as far as she knew, but now he seemed spaced out. She put her hand on his shoulder. "What’s wrong?"
"Ever," he started, then he paused for about ten seconds. "Ever… ever have an experience that makes you question the very nature of reality itself? You think you’re dreaming, and you awaken one morning, changed beyond all recognition? But nobody else can see it but you?"
"Are you taking Dr. Rickman’s bullshit philosophy class this semester or something?" Lucy asked facetiously. She felt something brushing against her arm, so rubbed it to shoo it away. "Really, are you high?"
"I'm high on something, but it ain't drugs. I'm high on the universe," he said. This kind of speech wasn't like him. Gregg Baudoin was one of the most grounded people she knew. Seeing him like this was very unsettling, and the way he looked at her was even worse. "And I feel a...a oneness with the fairer sex that possibly no man has ever truly felt."
"Getting in touch with your feminine side, then?"
"Yes. My God, yes."
"You're high as a kite, Gregg." Lucy was worried now. "I'm going to call your parents."
"Why don't you ever go by your first name?" he asked. "'Promyse' is a very pretty name.
Promyse Lucille Plath was her full name. Even her own mother regretted naming her that, but Lucy hadn't settled on changing it yet. Lucy suited her just fine as the alternative. Something brushed against her hip on the side away from him. She reflexively turned to see who was there. Nobody was. "What the..?"
"I'm going to The Dome for lunch," he announced. "I feel like some fish sticks. How about you?"
"But you don't eat meat," Lucy stammered, completely off balance.
I told you, Lucy, I'm changed in ways you cannot fully perceive, though you've felt a few hints. One of these is a little change in my diet. I'm a reborn carnivore." He let go of the fence and walked towards the student dining hall with a marked sway to his hips. Only then did she notice that he'd probably bought his shirt from the women's section at Target. It was unisex enough to pass at first glance but it fit oddly around his torso. He looked back over his shoulder. "You coming or what, girlfriend?"
What... The... Fuck...? she thought. He even walked like a girl--or at least a man who thought he did. As he sauntered away Lucy noticed a familiar outline on his shoulders and back under his shirt. Is he wearing a bra? He's wearing a bra! That's it, I'm calling someone. But after lunch.
In addition to fish sticks he got a hamburger patty without the bun and a slice of the sub-par pepperoni pizza. Considering he was raised in a Vegan household his choice of food was almost more shocking than his choice of underclothes. Lucy herself chose the mediocre teriyaki chicken and half-baked churros. Unfortunately the food started out mediocre and only got worse as the semester went by. There were rumors of a Subway opening up somewhere on campus, but they were only that. Lucy followed her classmate as he flounced around the tables quite gracefully.
How long before he's wearing dresses and asks to borrow my shirts? Lucy wondered. Even if he did start crossdressing more openly it would hardly be shocking on this campus. One of the very first things she remembered seeing on her tour in Junior year was a guy wearing one rollerblade, the left side of his head shaved bald, the other grown long and draped over his eyes and colored blue as if he was a character from an anime. Corona College had a reputation of an odd student body in this town. It was somewhere between Reed College and UC Berkeley in terms of eccentricity.
Maybe I should support this little experiment of his, Lucy thought. She was rather open-minded on these things, or liked to think she was. Now she could put that ideal to the test. If Gregg wanted to start jumping gender barriers, than more power to him. There was no better place to do that than Corona. She watched as he maneuvered himself into a plastic chair in a rather odd motion. The chairs had large square holes in back. He moved one far back from the table, stood about three feet in front of it, then moved back before seating himself and moving it forward against the table. Odd little ritual, Lucy thought, taking the seat opposite him.
"I know how weird this sounds coming from me, of all people," he said after a few bites of naked burger. "And this patty tastes like rubber. Pleh!" he waved the thin burger in front of her. The bite marks looked more like some animal had gnawed on it.
"What do you expect from The Dome?" Lucy said. She could see the bra under his shirt. It wasn't quite so obvious from the front for some reason and didn't seem to be empty, as if he wore falsies. The twenty year old young woman gave her classmate a hard look. "What is this really about, Gregg? Is this some kind of spiritual awakening? Some kind of attempt to understand women by imitating us? I can see your bra. Never pegged you as a transvestite."
Gregg stabbed some chicken slices with a fork, then chewed while pondering how to answer. "This wasn't by choice, Lucy. Happened eleven days ago. I had the worst stomach flu ever. Then one day I woke up and... well... nobody can see it but me. I'm changed. Transformed in mind and body. But I'm not high on anything but these weird hormones. I hope it's not PMS because I can't deal with that yet."
"Uh, heh heh," Lucy laughed, smiling uncomfortably. It was just getting weirder by the second. Aside from the bra there was really nothing to suggest anything feminine about him. "So, what you're saying... you're actually, physically a woman now, and I just can't see it?"
He looked up at the ceiling and pondered what to say next. "Well, maybe I'm just delusional after all, but yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. Why else would I be wearing a bra?"
Open-minded and supportive, Lucy thought. Open-minded and supportive. But she still had limits. "Maybe we should just focus on the spiritual angle and never mention that again."
"If it makes you feel any better, I'm going to see a counselor about this. So fine, let's focus on the spiritual."
"That does make me feel better, Gregg. Much better," Lucy said, sighing with relief. "That much I'm willing to help out with. Busting gender barriers and all that. I mean, we live in a society where it's okay for women to act masculine, but not the other way around."
"Uh huh," he agreed. "Well, regardless of what either of us perceives as reality, I'm a hungry carnivore. Meow. Or should that be a roar? Well, I'm no lioness." The younger man shrugged and focused on eating.
Lucy let the silence turn into a tacit end to that conversation. In the back of her mind she hoped he was just high and everything would be back to normal tomorrow.
September 30, 2002
The drug store near campus gave priority to college students needing jobs, so Lucy managed to get a part time position as cashier. It was only ten hours per week minimum wage, but even that was enough supplemental income to pay for gas and car insurance. Her parents had insisted on it. It wasn't one of the much more lucrative campus jobs. She had a friend at the Library keeping a close eye to see if anyone there quit.
Working in a drug store meant handling purchases for items that made customers uncomfortable; hemorrhoidal cream, condoms, and the like. The husbands and boyfriends buying feminine hygiene products for their significant others were very amusing. Most of the staff were female and they often shared amused smirks. It was always a good show.
Her third week on the job Gregg entered the drug store in half a panic. The past few days he had been flustered and irritable, complaining of cramps and sore breasts. Lucy put up with it. If he wanted to play-act PMS symptoms in order to understand, it was up to him. During that time he'd progressed from women's tee shirts to outfits with ruffles. But this was the first time she'd seen him in a dress. It wasn't anything fancy. A purple number with a low neckline and ruffled sleeves.
Out of the corner of her eye he actually appeared to fill it out quite naturally. If not for the beard with a little makeup he might have passed. He noticed her and rushed up, walking rather stiffly. "Lucy! Lucy. Thank God. I need some advice."
"I think you overstuffed your bra," Lucy said. She couldn't actually see any falsies, but assumed they were there. They jiggled disturbingly realistically.
"That's not it. I...I need some advice on something gross."
The timing was suspect. Lucy groaned. "Don't tell me you're faking a period, Gregg. I'm willing to help you out with the other stuff, but this is taking this experiment too far."
"Look, just tell me what brand of tampons you use and I'll be on my way. I'm not in the mood for this," he snarled.
The look in his eyes was so deadly serious, so sincere, it made Lucy rethink. She looked at her coworker at the next cash register who was doing her level best not to break out laughing. "Excuse me, I'm going to help my 'girlfriend' here for a bit. Can you watch the front?"
"Sure thing, Lucy. Sure thing." When Erica smiled she had a dimple. The dimple was practically a black hole.
The entire time she was with Gregg in the feminine hygiene aisle Lucy flushed red all the way down to her shoulders. She went through both tampons and panty liners. Gregg gave every sign of listening quite seriously, still walking stiffly. The sight brought every staff member out to watch and even customers. The questions Gregg asked made the situation even more surreal. They reminded her of what she asked her mother the first trip to the drug store to buy the same things after her first period at age thirteen. How does he know?
Eventually they were back at the cash register with a half dozen boxes of Tampax. "I, uh, don't want to have do this again for a long time," Gregg muttered.
"You are taking this way too far. Do you have any idea what you've put me through?" Lucy said, teeth clenched. She wanted to punch him in the mouth. "Please tell me you're getting help--psychological help."
The young transvestite broke into anguished sobs. "I'm sorry I put you on the spot like this! I'll never come in here again!" He fled the store.
Now that he was gone everyone in the store except for Lucy laughed for a full minute with hardly a pause for breath. Lucy was anything but amused. She took off her apron and headed for the manager's office. I can't keep working here. Just... after that, no way.
October 22, 2002
Lucy saw very little of Gregg over the next few weeks, but the campus rumor mill about him was quite active. After the drug store incident he sharply toned down how feminine he dressed, the only visible sign really being the falsies-and-bra he wore, and around Corona something that low key was barely worth a mention. She avoided him, and he always left class before she did, taking the desk nearest the door.
Over a working lunch with a couple of friends, their binders and textbooks opened with food spaced wherever they could put it, Gregg marched out of The Dome's meal line and headed outside. He sure walks like a girl, Lucy reflected. Quite naturally now, too.
"That guy is so weird," Tina said, watching him as well. "He moves like a cat."
"A cat?" the third member of their study group said. Cindy shuddered, blond curls shaking. "That wannabe dyke? He's so creepy! Was he always like that, Lucy?"
"No. Last year he was just a regular guy I met in English 100." Lucy combed back her unruly brunette hair with her fingernails, then removed her glasses to pinch the bridge of her nose in frustration. "Can we just focus on Chaucer? I don't want to talk about him."
"You helped him buy tampons?" Erica said, arms folded.
"Let's just move on, okay?" Lucy said. "Chaucer. 'The Miller's Tale'." Lucy began reading.
"The Words between the Host and the Miller." "Now when the knight had thus his story told--"
Her friends were looking at her, smirking. "Okay, you two, what now? Is he looking at me?"
"No, but there's a commotion outside. I think it's him," Tina said. "Sounds like a fight!"
The crowd inside the dining area was already surging outside to watch. Lucy grabbed her purse and followed her classmates, pushing her way through to see what was going on. The outdoor area next to The Dome was a fragrant pine forest with picnic benches, a popular place to eat in good weather. When Lucy finally saw what was happening she made a worried sound.
Gregg had had something goopy dumped on his blue blouse, probably chocolate pudding. He had a rather fearsome snarl on his face, holding his hands out in front of him with fingers splayed. For some reason he'd also kicked off his sandals.
"I'm going to tear those fake tits off of you, freak!" his assailant shouted. It wasn't anyone Lucy knew, even by reputation. The man wasn't anything special. From most angles Gregg could easily be mistaken for female, especially since he was letting his hair grow long. "I'll teach you to fuck with people! Take 'em off!"
"You're paying for a new blouse, fucker," Gregg replied. He patted the falsies on his chest then lifted them up, squeezing lightly. "You really want a pair of these, do you? Well, maybe what happened to me will happen to you. Boobies of your very own to play with, Winchester. A vag, too. Kiss kiss."
Furious Winchester threw a couple punches, which Gregg easily dodged with amazing agility. He jumped backwards a truly astounding distance, then hissed like an angry cat very convincingly. "Come and get me if you can, motherfucker!"
The transvestite climbed the tree as if he had claws, easily gripping the trunk with both hands and toes. The crowd just watched in dumbfounded amazement as he stopped at a thick branch about thirty feet up and proceeded to hang upside down by the knees. The falsies he was presumably wearing did not fall out of his bra but moved as natural breasts would. He extended his arms and gave him both middle fingers. "Gravity is fun! You know you want these tits, Winchester. I'm right here!"
All the commotion brought the Campus Police. The crowd started thinning out. One officer went for Winchester and the other put her hands on her hips and looked up at Gregg. "Get down from there right now!"
Gregg came down almost as easily as he'd gone up, gripping the trunk without slipping, even his feet. "I didn't want to fight, officer. So I did the next best thing."
"Climbing these trees is a fifty dollar fine," the woman said. She examined the trunk. "Let me see your hands and give me your student ID card. The bark's damaged."
It took half an hour for the police to get everybody's information and take statements. Aside from the fine Gregg didn't have anything to worry about, since several witnesses corroborated his story, and they might even waive that in the circumstances. Lucy waited with her friends for the police to do their thing and leave. The acrobatics she'd seen Gregg accomplish were unreal and she had to ask him how he did it with those things on his chest.
The transvestite approached them, then pointed at Lucy. "I'm willing to talk to you about this." He gestured at Tina and Cindy. The girls were looking at his chest, squinting as if they were one of those Magic Eye puzzles, not quite believing. "But not you two. Shoo."
The two other girls left reluctantly. Gregg gestured for Lucy to follow him on the path that led deeper into the wooded park, away from the buildings. He had not put his shoes back on yet, carrying them with one hand with his socks stuffed in one shorts pocket. He lifted his backpack up on one shoulder. "I'm sorry about what happened a few weeks ago," he said. "I've been..." he clenched his teeth. "This is really hard to deal with when the only person who can see what you really are is the one in the mirror."
"What are you, then?" Lucy asked. She'd examined the trunk he'd climbed up and found deep claw marks. Then there was the hissing and snarling. "Don't tell me you're a catgirl, or some kind of otherkin, because that would be just the utter limit!"
Gregg looked around. It had rained recently and there were still a few mud puddles under the trees. "Ah! There. Lucy, let me show you something I think will convince you. Here we go." He stepped off the concrete walkway and stomped a few times in one of the puddles. "Watch." He stepped back on the sidewalk.
Lucy's eyes watered every time he took a step. For a brief moment it was just another bare-footed human footprint. In reality what he left behind were obvious feline pawprints. One large center pad, four smaller ones, even little ticks where each retracted claw would be. She knelt down on the ground and stared at them really close. "This, this is--" she said breathlessly. Something heavy and soft brushed against her nose, making her sneeze. Reflexively she reached up to grab it, and held on something soft, round, warm, wiggling and quite invisible.
"Welcome to Wonderland, Alice. I'll be your Mad Hatter for today. Now let go of my tail."
Sophomores at Corona had their own dorm rooms. They were hardly big enough to have a closet, a desk, and a bed. But at least they were private spaces where you didn't have to worry about changing clothes in front of some stranger from Poughkeepsie. Gregg threw his backpack across his bed then hopped on, grabbing a towel to wipe down his muddy feet. He spent several minutes until it was clean enough to pass muster. "Sorry about that. Clean paws are happy paws."
"Paws," Lucy repeated, looking around the tiny room. Evidence of a very confused person abounded, as did a lot of shed gold and black cat hair. A few bras hung from hooks over the closet door. She stared at them, trying to figure out if what she'd seen was actually real. "This doesn't make any sense, Gregg. None. I can understand trying to make a statement about gender roles, but I just can't wrap my brain around this catgirl thing."
"You're telling me, and I'm the one experiencing it," he replied. "Look, I'd like to do a little experimenting and see how far this old-me image hiding my real body goes. Are you up for it? After the other day I'll understand if you're not."
Her curiosity was piqued if nothing else. "What do you have in mind, Gregg?"
The transvestite pointed at his chest. "First, these Schrodinger's Boobs of mine. I know you can see them. Everybody can, they just dismiss them as falsies. I'm going to take off my shirt, then take off my bra, then you can tell me what you see. Is that okay?"
Lucy nodded slowly and sat down in the cheap office chair next to Gregg's computer. He pulled his blouse over his head.
It was a plain white bra like she'd often purchased from Target. Nothing special, nothing sexy, just plain utility. An article of clothing meant to provide support and nothing more. But what it held seemed to slide past her vision when she tried looking directly. The cups were obviously full, but her mind simply didn't want to acknowledge what with. "This is... ow. If I look too close I think I'll get a migraine," Lucy said, leaning closer, squinting at the maybe-cleavage.
"Now for the coup de grace," Gregg announced. With a practice hand he unhooked the bra from behind and slipped it off. The uncertainty completely vanished and so did the feeling like there was something right in her peripheral vision, leaving only a rather hairless male chest. Gregg cleared his throat. "Well?"
"You're just you. What bullshit," Lucy said sourly. She realized just how incongruous that statement was in light of what had just happened. She reached out and felt his chest. It was just a man's pecs. "Wait. I don't get this."
He put just a clean shirt on. There was no sign of breasts now. Just the somewhat girly cut of the fabric. "I bet you felt nothing but a flat guy's chest," he said. "'What I see, and feel, is a top stretched tightly around these D-cups of mine. Let me take it off again." He did so and handed it to her. "What's the size?"
She read what was on the tag then held it up in front of her, judging by her eyes alone. "Size four petite? That's way too small for you! I know this company. They always run small."
"Oh, I know. Finding clothes that fit is a bitch, isn't it? But you saw it fit me perfectly, didn't you?" he said conversationally. "Now, watch again." He put the bra back on, and that feeling like something was tugging on the peripheral vision returned. Once the shirt went on over that, the "false" breasts were back, making his whole torso look quite feminine. "See? Schrodinger's Boobs. You never saw me put any falsies on, did you? Because there aren't any. And you'll really have to take my word on this one. I have ladyparts. I pee sitting down. I'll be on the rag in a few days."
"Mu...mu...maybe you got implants?" Lucy stuttered lamely.
Gregg rolled his eyes. "Come on, Lucy! I know you can see this! It's all over your face!"
Lucy choked, her heart in her throat. She moved towards the door incrementally. "This does... doesn't--exp-p-p-lain--the cat bits."
"Why don't I let you get used to the idea of me being a secret woman first?" Gregg said carefully. "I think I can prove it definitively in a few days, if you get my meaning."
She stood up, feeling sick to her stomach. "I ha-ha-have to g-g-go. Bye."
It was her turn to flee.
October 27, 2002
Lucy didn't attend class for a couple days. She barely left her dorm room except to eat and shower. Gregg lived in the next residence hall over, so there was little chance she'd--he'd come find her to continue their talk. Cindy and Erica shared their class notes from Middle English Literature and two others they had together. Lucy wouldn't tell them anything about her talk with Gregg. This only made them even more curious and vulnerable to rumors they wouldn't tell her about.
"Lucy, whatever he told you screwed you up so badly you can't leave your room," Erica said, concerned. "Did he threaten to hurt you? What happened? If you don't spill I'm going to call the Campus Police and get him arrested."
"It-it," Lucy swallowed. She hadn't stuttered like this since age eleven. The young woman took deep breaths and got control of her vocal cords. "No. The only danger I'm in is existential, girls. It's like I've seen a--a glitch in the Matrix. Not déjà vu, just... I can't explain it. Schrodinger's Boobs..."
"What now?" Cindy said. "Breasts that are only present--or not--if observed? Where did you come up with that bullshit?"
"You have great breasts," Erica reassured. "It's about the falsies on that wannabe dyke, isn't it?"
"It's not about my breasts," Lucy said. "It's about... er... just listen to this. Here's what I saw." The duo listened raptly to the tale as she stuttered her way through. She skipped over the catgirl claim completely, though. "Look, I swear I saw breasts. I swear! They weren't falsies. They weren't implants. But when he took off his bra, whoosh! Gone. He also claimed--"
"He has the red menace? We've heard all about what happened in the drug store, Lucy," Erica said, exasperated. "He's just screwing with you. He's screwing with everyone. Don't let him get to you, girl."
Lucy's lips quivered. There was maybe one way of proving this beyond a doubt. Maybe, but it involved asking her mother for some help. Her mother the nurse, the same woman who had named her Promyse Lucille Plath nineteen years ago. "Thanks for visiting. I think I've got my head screwed on tight now."
Erica gave her an affectionate hug. She was just that type of girl. "Good! Don't let him get to you. Crazy wannabe dyke."
"See you later? I'm going to get cleaned up."
"If you're not with us in the Library in one hour we're going to drag you out of here kicking and screaming if we have to," Cindy said firmly.
While in the shower Lucy finally decided on her next step. As she dried herself off back in her room, towel-turban around her hair, she took a deep breath and phoned Gregg on her cell phone. It rang and rang, not going to voicemail. She was about to give up when he finally answered. "Uh, hello Gregg."
"I'm surprised you even called me," he replied in a flat, emotionless, and oddly androgynous voice. "I'm shocked you didn't send the men in white coats after me after what I've done to you. I almost checked into the psych ward myself. Are you okay? I've...I've heard things."
"You said you had a surefire way of convincing me that you really are a girl now," Lucy said carefully.
"Well, you'll probably hang up on me when I tell you, but here goes." He told her. "It's gross but it'll prove my point."
Sheer force of will kept her from throwing up what little food she'd eaten in two days. "That... that would do it, Gregg. Yes. In fact, I think that might work for the best. See, I have a suggestion. Meet me at my car in half an hour."
Gregg lay prone on the examination table in the doctor's office, torso propped up by his elbows. Over him Lucy's mother appeared to be doing mime. The nurse grasped something invisible in her hands over the young man's open hospital gown. Her eyes where shut. "Yes, that feels like a kitty tail. Are you a tiger?" she said credulously.
"Ocelot," Gregg said, looking very uncomfortable. "I'm getting kind of sore here, Mrs. Plath. I hate my breasts sometimes."
"A healthy young woman like you, Miss Baudion, needs proper support," Sophia Plath said.
"Mom?" Lucy said, looking up from her National Geographic. "You actually called him a 'young woman'?"
"I know what my eyes see," the middle-aged woman said. "But I trust my hands more, Lucy. I can feel her tail. I saw that trick with the bra and felt what's really there. It's not such a huge leap that Gregg spontaneously changed sides in the gender wars." The nurse gave her daughter a grave look. "Lucy, I'm glad you brought her here. And Gregg, young lady, I'd like to do a full physical exam."
"Fine by me," Gregg said with a smile. "Let's see how far my ghost goes. I'd like to start with something Lucy should leave the room for. It's time I changed my tampon."
Lucy stood up fast. "I'm going! I'm going!"
Home was only a two hour drive from Corona. She had made the drive almost every weekend her first semester to do laundry and chase away the homesickness. Her mother was a Nurse Practitioner and could do most of the things a doctor could. Lucy waited, sitting on an old comfortable leather couch in the Waiting Room after hours. Mom believes Gregg, she thought. "She's not into that homeopathic BS she was when I was born."
An hour after being sent out, her mother and a fully clothed-and-bra'd Gregg came out. Sophia sat down next to her daughter while Gregg took an easy chair. The mood was especially somber. "Okay, what happened?" asked Lucy.
"It was, unquestionably, late cycle menstrual discharge," her mother said. "I kept the sample for genetic testing. Not only does she have--what did you call them?"
"Schrodinger's Boobs," Gregg added, giving them a squeeze. "God knows they're real to me. If I don't wear a bra I feel all droopy and wobbly."
"Yes. Those. She has Schrodinger's vagina, womb, ovaries, and everything else female. I just had to ignore my eyes and trust my hands. As for the furry parts, I want to call in a veterinarian friend of mine. We need to see how strong this ghost effect of yours is."
"I want to know why it even exists in the first place," Gregg said miserably.
Lucy knew how to answer that one. "Gregg, how do you think people would react? Come on. I freaked out. Someone else would grab a gun. At least this way you can continue living normally."
"Normally?" Gregg said, sotto voce. "Normally?" more loudly. His anger grew with every repetition. "Normally, you say! You don't even know what the hell you're talking about, Lucy! If it was just being a Schrodinger's Girl...if it was just that, maybe I could cope. I only have every other woman in the world to serve as a model. But fuck all that! Guess what I've got that they don't?"
He raked his fingertips across the old couch. The ancient, well-worn leather gained massive slashes--eight of them--that crossed in the middle. Not finished he picked up one of the National Geographic magazines and bit down hard, then tossed it on the damaged couch. The toothmarks were anything but human, and the book was pierced in four places where feline fangs would be. He then folded his arms and glared at both Plaths. "How can I make either of you understand?"
"Okay, Miss Kitty. You've made your point," Nurse Plath said. "How am I going to explain that to my colleagues? I know Lucy can be dense sometimes, but you could've used something else for your example. This is a very popular couch. It's older than Lucy."
"Mooom!" Lucy exclaimed, one eye on Gregg's deceptive hands.
"I'm sorry. I'm just little peeved at this whole thing," Gregg said, looking at his hands, or possibly handpaws. He--she shuddered, then sobbed a little. "I just don't know what to do."
"Well, I'm convinced it's real," Sophia said. "Ghost aside, you're the healthiest young woman I've ever given a physical to. But I don't think it's a good idea to let this go beyond us or that vet friend I want to call in."
Gregg growled in frustration. "I want to break this ghost of mine."
"For the time being we have no idea how to accomplish that," Sophia said. "I was only able to do so by touch and heavy concentration. I examined your furry pelt, your muzzle, paws, breasts, and labia. It's all there. All we can definitively say at this point is that there's some force keeping everyone from perceiving you as you really are now. And to a degree my daughter is right. This 'ghost' of yours will allow you to lead as normal a life as possible, so right now it's actually desirable."
Lucy felt he had to say something to make up for all the stupid things she'd said. She hoped what came into her mind was the right thing. "Maybe you're not the only one? If we find others, m-m-m-aybe..." she trailed off with the stutter and couldn't spit out another word. Damn it!
"You think I haven't looked?" Gregg growled, then saw just how distraught Lucy really was. The ocelot-girl's ghost softened. "I'm... I'm sorry, Lucy. I'm being way too hard on you. I don't mind being what I am. I really don't. I'm in the best shape I've ever been--remember how fast I climbed up that tree? Never could've done that before!
"It feels marvelous. I love being a woman, I love being an ocelot. You'll just have to take my word on that, though. But you know all that mystical bullshit I spouted when we first met at the fence?"
"Vanished when I got that first goddamn cramp."
December 15, 2002
The Margaret Duvall Library was over sixty years old and showed its age. The shelves had long since become crammed with so many books it was impossible for Lucy to find room for new materials. The poor lighting made for a maze of shadows and dark corners where students could sometimes do questionable things like eat a burger in the middle of the stacks. The smell of mildew and old, unused books filled those corners. Thew new building was three times the present one's size and the librarians were salivating for its completion, which wouldn't be for another two years.
Just in time for me to graduate, Lucy grumbled. She was far back in the D-section on the second floor, general History, and thought she heard a snore. As she got closer she realized it wasn't. It was a very loud purring. Gregg, geez. You need to watch it. Lucy found "him" sleeping against the wall in what for a normal person would be an uncomfortable position. "His" torso was half-twisted, arms curled up around "his" head like a housecat using its paws as a pillow. A couple empty packages of beef jerky laid against "his" hips. "He" wore just a tee shirt and jeans, no bra this time. But the loose, boneless way "he" dozed would give anyone pause.
Lucy nudged "him" with her shoe. "Hey, Miss Kitty, get up! I know we're crowded but you can't just snooze anywhere."
"He" opened one eye, then yawned exactly like one of Lucy's own cats, tongue curling. Times like these Lucy swore she could almost see the muzzle she knew "he" had. "Okay, okay. Geez. I was just studying up on Charlemagne and decided on a little nap."
Gregg stood up in a single liquid movement that would make any gymnast instantly jealous. The two of them saw each other rarely since the checkup and subsequent visit with Lucy's mother's veterinarian friend. There was something else going on, too. Something Lucy wasn't sure involved Gregg's own family, or perhaps another group. Suddenly "he" became far more secretive, rarely wearing female clothing, even going without the bra she'd insisted she needed so much. "I'm off the clock in about twenty minutes," Lucy said. "We haven't had time to chat lately."
"I've caused you enough trouble, so I didn't want to keep things stirred up between us," Gregg said. "Thanks again for taking me to your mom, though. Really, I can't thank you enough!"
Finals were over in less than a week. "Have you decided if you're telling your parents?"
"No, I'm not saying a word. If they find my tampons I'll just...think of something. I was told to keep everything as normal as possible."
If Lucy had had ears like Gregg did under his ghost they would have perked up. "Told by who, Gregg?"
Gregg scratched the back of "his" neck uncomfortably. "Well, all I can really say is that I'm not the only hidden furry in the world. I'm not the only one changed into a girl, too. This Lundh guy said I wasn't to tell anyone, and I suppose he has a point, but... I dunno. Outsiders are going to figure it out eventually. I will say that us changed don't know what the fuck is going on either. That's all I can say, so don't push me, okay?"
Lucy nodded slowly. "Okay, Gregg. I get it. I won't pry. You seem to be doing well for yourself lately anyway. Good luck with your parents if you decide to spill the beans, though."
"Not much chance of that. But you're another matter. I'm glad you found me because there's something I want to show you." Gregg reached into "his" backpack and handed her a letter-sized Priority Mail envelope. "Had this done at that furry convention I went to in November. It's what I really look like under this ghost. Tell me what you think."
The older girl slid it out of the envelope and tried to see it in the poor light. "Wow! This artist is amazing!"
"Well, he drew from life, as it were. I love that outfit. I haven't worn it since I got an earful from Lundh."
The difference between the two could not be more stark. The ocelot-girl in the drawing had long black hair to go with her blotchy black-gold coat, her ears sticking out. She wore a snug sleeveless top and a black short skirt that flattered her stunning figure. "This...this is you? For real?"
"It's me. I've accepted it. Lord knows why, but I'm a feline goddess. Rowr. And that's a print you can keep."
"Thanks!" Lucy said, not really knowing how to feel about it. Now that she had a mental image to go with what Gregg claimed was "his" real self now, that changed things. Just how would take a while yet to resolve. Probably longer than they had together. In just a few days everyone would go home for Winter Break.
Gregg's purr started up again. "Have a good Christmas and see you next year, Lucy."
"He" gave Lucy a rather feminine farewell hug. Lucy could feel "his" breasts press against her own. There were times she could almost forget how strange reality had become, but all it took was a little interaction with Gregg to remind her.
August 16, 2003
Water, chicken broth, and sometimes saltines, everything else would make Lucy's stomach rebel with a vengeance. After four days she felt like the flu was finally starting to let up a little. Her stomach was not quite so fragile nor complained loudly when she tried some dry wheat toast. Her mother seemed especially concerned, but wouldn't say why. "I don't want to worry you overmuch," Sophia Plath said. "It's probably nothing much."
"'Nothing much'? When have I ever been this sick before, Mom?" Lucy complained.
"Well, what about that New Year's Eve sleepover with your friends where you had the flu, rode your scooter to school in the cold, relapsed, got laryngitis for over a week..." Sophia recounted.
Lucy groaned. "Okay, Ma. Okay. I get it. Lay off."
The problem was that her mother really did look worried. She'd kept track of her sick daughter's symptoms, taking frequent blood pressure and even a blood sample. "What do you think's going to happen, Mom? I'm...I'm not sick with something worse, am I?"
"No. Just taking precautions," the nurse said cryptically. "Hold tight until tomorrow. Let me know the instant you start feeling better, okay? And I do mean that."
The sick college girl sank back into bed. She hadn't changed her bedroom since age seventeen. Posters for N'Synch and the Backstreet Boys covered one wall, movie posters (David Bowie from Labyrinth in particular) another. The objects of her unrealistic adolescent crushes, she resisted taking them down out of nostalgia and the fact they didn't embarrass her in the least. They felt more like rites of passage than anything else. She still had a soft spot for Justin Timberlake in particular.
She slept for eighteen hours straight, awakening with a predawn burst of energy that practically catapulted her out of bed. I'm absolutely starving! Do we have any waffles? Waffles were her normal post-illness food. Easy on the stomach and the sweet syrup danced delightfully on the tongue. She flung off her chemise and replaced it with a camisole and boy-shorts panties before exiting her bedroom.
Surprisingly enough her mother awaited her in the kitchen. She actually seemed a little nervous. "Were you going to tell me you felt better, Lucy?"
Her daughter smiled, her lips felt oddly thick as she threw four waffles into the toaster. "Well, I wanted some food first, but yes."
"Well, let me know if you feel strange in any way. I'll just sit here and drink my tea."
There was something happening to her, as if her flesh was taking its marching orders from something else. Lucy's teeth felt larger, and the thick feeling surrounding her nose and lips grew until she could actually see much more nose. Her vision split in two as the toaster popped up her meal, her nostrils flaring widely at the tantalizing odor. It took a slow, deliberate pour to ensure the syrup hit the waffles on the plate. What the fuck is happening to me? What the fuck?
Suddenly it was no longer just a nose, but a full-on muzzle. Her breasts strained at her camisole. Her neck stretched even as the base of her spine pushed away her panties, thick black hair spilling over into her vision. A confused sensation from her feet, then a slippery clop on the linoleum tripped her up to fall flat on her face.
Her mother was right there next to her. "Lucy! Lucy! Stay with me, Lucy!"
"I'm right he-e-e-eere!" she replied. It was part stutter, part something else. Something very, very else. Lucy regarded her mother with one eye as the other took in the rest of the kitchen with ease. "Mo-mom? What happened?"
"I can't see it," Sophia said, almost in tears. "I can't. You're still a Lucy? You're not..."
"I'm still a woman, Mom. I can tell," she replied nervously, ears flicking. Lucy sat up on the floor with her legs underneath. A chestnut hide covered her arms, wiry, and not at all soft like a cat's would be, turning white about halfway down her forearms. Her fingertips had gained thick, black nails. Her feet were now a single hoof each. "I just don't know what else I am now. Wait..."
Sophia Plath embraced her daughter. "My Promyse, my Promyse!"
Lucy nickered. "Come on, Mom, please!" She froze. "Did I just...?"
"Remember the horse we had when you were younger? You sounded just like that," Sophia said. "Why don't I help you up so you can get a look at yourself?"
The newly-Changed felt her stomach ball up into an anxious knot. She stared down her broad, decidedly non-feline muzzle and allowed her mother to lead her into the downstairs bathroom. There, she finally got a good look at herself, then whinnied in shock and amazement at her new reflection. "Mooom..."
Her mother hugged her supportively from behind. "I'm right here, honey. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. My, you're a big girl now. Taller."
That explained why her clothes didn't fit right. Lucy stepped on the bathroom scale and found she'd actually gained weight and about six inches in height, but if anything her body proportions had improved. Horses were big and strong. Gotta be all muscle, Lucy thought, not sure how to feel about the idea of being an Amazon mare. She glared at her mother. "How much do you know about all this, Mom?"
"I'll tell you all about it when we get to the office, honey. Now I need to give Jana Delaney a call and we can give you a once-over. I'm certain you're healthy as a horse, but we need baseline data for everyone who's changing."
Lucy face...muzzled. So much nose. "Bad pun, Ma. Really bad. I'm not going anywhere until I've had breakfast. I might be 'healthy as' but I'm also 'hungry as'."
Sophia backed off and sat down at the dinging room table. She seemed at the same time relieved and sad. "Don't eat too much, now. But if you don't mind I'm going be making some observations on newly-changed."
The new mare spent the next few hours riding a high she could not explain. Preening and posing, testing newfound strength and speed, as if she'd just had a superhero origin. If this was what being a "glitch in the Matrix" was about, there seemed to be few downsides. "Can you get in touch with Gregg? I'd like her to know about this."
The ocelot hadn't returned to school for Spring Semester, though she had kept in contact with Lucy's mother for some reason. All Sophia would explain was they were experimenting with how to beat back the "Veil" as she'd begun calling it. If all went well the ocelot girl would return to Corona. Lucy's own return was only a few days away.
August 29, 2003
The catgirl at the construction fence watched as the exterior work continued apace. After a full year the building was well over two thirds completed. Lucy approached her nervously, unsure if it was her equine instincts of meeting a very large cat or just everyday anxiety. She had dressed in the outfit from December's drawing, and looked quite comfortable in it. Other students passing by her were more looking in admiration or attraction than distaste at an obvious crossdresser. Whatever she'd done over the past eight months had some effect on her ghost, but now that Lucy had Changed herself, it wasn't visible.
Lucy herself just wore shorts and a camisole top. Her problem was that after gaining about six inches people would be talking to her breasts and she could hardly go "eyes up here, bub" to anyone. The mare approached the ocelot, smiling. "So how do furs greet each other, anyway?"
"Horsey!" the ocelot said, grinning like a literal as well as the proverbial cat. Her voice as marvelously feminine. It was hard to even think of the ghost as the same person as this.
"Kitty!" Lucy whinnied in return. The two shared a laugh, Lucy's sounding more horse-like. "So, Mom said you've changed your name?"
The ocelot nodded. "That took a while to decide, but it's Gloria now. Lundh insisted I stay with a G-name." She wrinkled her nose distastefully. "I really don't like him. You'll get to know him soon enough, Lucy. He's got some very firm ideas on how we should handle ourselves. So, I've decided to take a page out of your playbook. Use my middle name. Gloria Faye Baudoin."
"I think 'Faye' works for you. Like Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop. You've practically got her figure anyway." Lucy said. No wonder she hated going without a bra. "So, what's this plan of yours to do an end run around the Veil?"
"I've been going through the motions, getting the same type of therapy and supervision transsexuals do. So far it's worked quite well. Though I obviously don't need the surgery." She sighed. "Unfortunately I'm about the only one doing it this way. Most furs like me already have lives or families who aren't as accepting as mine. They're just sticking with their ghosts." The ocelot reached into her purse and produced another drawing, this time of a human who couldn't be anything but female. "This is my ghost now."
Lucy considered this. It seemed as good idea as any in the circumstances. "Well Faye, you are joining the rest of us girls for lunch in the Dome. "I don't think they'll connect this girl with Gregg, if that's how you want to do it. Clean slate?"
"Works for me, Lucy. Thanks." The ocelot purred her approval.
The duo walked on the grass to avoid Lucy's hooves making too much unexplainable noise. The footprints they left behind were telling, but few ever looked at their feet. There was just so much to discuss, plans to make. Next year's Change would be upon them before they knew it. With any luck they would add a third.