Book Three:

dave_beard.jpg (51349 bytes)

Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part Two: Innocence Sought

Chapter 58

Et Tu Brute?
-or-
Stabbed in the Back Again

Journeys and Transitions

February 8, 1996

Well, here I am in the mid-evening, listening to Bernard Hermann movie scores on the CD, eating pistachio pudding, and considering when I want to go brew a cup of tea.

I've been under a lot of stress at work lately. Part if from the continued re-drafts I am doing on the story theory book which is due on the 15th, and part is because of some business problems between me and my partner in the creation of the theory. As I believe I mentioned, he is away on vacation in Indonesia until next Monday. When he comes back he wants to address the problems he has with our business relationship, and since we have been friends for almost twenty years, I'm not looking forward to it. He started to do that a year ago and I ended up crying for days. Chris felt I wasn't cooperating, and at one point he had the company president pass on the message that under the circumstances, Chris wasn't sure he could work with me ever again.

The problem is, Chris was my closest friend and protector during all my transition years. He was a big brother to me. In fact, he went half way across the country with me to be by my side during surgery. Needless to say, this hurt a lot.

Well, it all blew over in time, but now we need to create a new contract for future projects, and although I don't need the money, I don't want to be cheated either. I want what I see as my fair share. In fact, the current agreement we have on the old project is fine by me. But he wants more, and I am dreading the little talk he is planning about a week after his return.

Nonetheless, I have determined what I want and where I stand, and I will not be emotionally bullied into making unwise decisions. I'd rather have us never work again and not be friends than to feel I was brow-beaten into a deal I really didn't like.

So, I'm all confident now, and will also finish the re-write tomorrow. From here on out, I'll end up being happy because I won't accept any deal that makes me otherwise, and no more workaholic habits!

February 20, 1996

It is Tuesday morning, about 11 AM. Monday was a national holiday (President's Day) so Mary, Keith, and Mindi were home not only for the weekend, but Monday as well.

I need time to be alone, to gather my thoughts, to express myself in my art without distraction. If I don't get that every few days, I go into fits as if I was having a drug withdrawal. When Mary and the Kids go to school, I am the last one in the house in the mornings, and use that time to answer my Email, play the piano, write a poem, whatever. Then, after perhaps only a half an hour of creative/expressive time, I have to get ready for work.

If I miss a morning, like I did Monday when everyone was home, I get all upset. As much as I love them all, even a whole weekend without alone time causes friction. It is like those telepaths on TV who go crazy because they hear everyone else's thoughts and can't find room for their own. I feel everyone else's emotions and can't get my own worked out unless I am alone.

So, today, I am alone. I took today and tomorrow off so that I could go to a World Wide Web and CD ROM convention in Beverly Hills called "Digital Hollywood". Charleton Heston is the Keynote speaker. But, today it is raining (finally!) and though I love the rain, I don't feel like fighting freeway traffic for 45 minutes each way and then struggling to find a parking space in the middle! So, I decided to take my two vacation days at home and get some of that needed alone time.

Today is my birthday, by the way. I'm 43. Another good reason to stay home and take it easy. Also, it is much better than getting that stupid cake at the office where everyone gathers around for a 10 minute break to sing the song and eat the frosting. Funny, but this is the first birthday in a long time when I felt good just to have a normal day and really and truly am not yearning for anything special.

Why am I going on about all these things? Well, as evidenced by my web pages, I try to put my best and most optimistic foot forward. But, even while doing that, I have carried a load of angst inside. These days, I am actually getting over it. For the first time in decades I'm beginning to feel alive again. But, that doesn't come without some fits and starts. A whole adult life that was wound up around the desire to "do something great" can't unwind smoothly after the knot was pulled so tight.

I did some crying this morning. Partly because I'm in PMS at the and partly because I am mad at my plastic surgeon. As I have written, I had my nose and bust done on October 3rd last year. My nose had a slight hook when seen from the side. I wanted that straightened. I loved my nose from the front. I was really proud of it. Well, he made the side view wonderful! But he made the front crooked. Not a lot, mind you, but less pretty than it was. Since I can't see the side view in the mirror and only the front, the result I see is that I went in prettier than I came out. That makes me cry. Of course, it is so minor a thing that no one else notices at all. But I notice every time I look in a mirror. So, I feel I simply traded positions of where the problem was, and ended up having to stare it in the face.

Also, as I have documented, he had me pick out the size I wanted for the boob job by looking at "Playboy Lingerie 1992" and sticking post-it notes on the pages I liked. Well, he gave me what I picked out. The problem is, that's what I think looks good when looking at someone else. On me, they FEEL way too big!!! I ended up a D cup, and started out as an A. Not only did it hurt like hell to go so large from so small, but it ruined my self image as well. I always fancied myself like Diana Rigg in The Avengers, and now I look more like Dolly Parton!!!

So, between those two little problems, I cried every day in October and November, sometimes several times a day. In January, I only cried once a week, and now it is down to once every two weeks or so. But, here it is PMS time, so real problems get exaggerated to unreal size. Hence, today's tears.

February 21, 1996

It's now 7 PM, and I must return to work tomorrow. But, I am not stressed at all. This is because when Chris returned from vacation last week, he had mellowed considerably. By Wednesday, I felt he seemed caught up enough in his three-week backlog of work, so I asked him to lunch. Eventually, we worked out way around to all the issues he had dumped on me before he left: the future of the Life Story development project, our financial arrangements, and my continued employment at Screenplay Systems.

It turned out that we saw pretty much eye to eye on all the key issues. The result being that we will be doing a new project, and I will get close to the percentage I want. I'll also be able to limit the contract to just this one deal (thereby protecting my rights to other uses of the theory). As part of the deal, I will be resigning from my staff position as manager or Research and Development (probably the end of next month) to work at a more leisurely pace as a consultant for hourly compensation (in addition to royalties). This has freed up the rest of my life from the tedium of being forced to be in a certain place at a certain time doing certain things. In short, the future is a lot more secure because it is less certain.

February 25, 1996

I'm extremely energized today, even though I've stayed in my cotton nightgown all day! All the things happening at work have burned my sense of obligation to Chris right out of me. So, although I still like him as a friend, I no longer think of him as the co-owner of Mental Relativity. The theory was clearly half his. But I have done ALL of the theory development since then that has led to Mental Relativity. The other day he flat out told me that he has no interest in that area, so I feel free!!

I had been holding back for so long, not wanting to move ahead without him, waiting for him to finally say it was okay to begin. It was nearly killing me with stress. What if I died or something before I could relate all that we had learned? But now, I can tell anybody I want!

So, today I put up a new section on my web pages. I am advertising a book of my collected essays on Mental Relativity which I have written over the last six years. My little company, Heart Corps, is now going to get my full attention. Chris and Co. can look after the software, as that is in their best interests. I'll get my royalties without having to mind the store. So, I'll go on and open up a whole new area that will lead to the establishment of a new philosophy, a social movement, and ultimately a cultural revolution. All in a day's work! And fun, too!!!

March 22, 1995

I am quite drunk. I just spent the day with Mr. W. Squared, which ended with dinner at a fine Mexican restaurant in Old Towne Pasadena (including two double Margaritas each!) Yes, he was in town. We began with a few hours at my place yesterday when he gave me my first copy of Windows 95 and then took me to dinner at an Indian restaurant. I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night trying (unsuccessfully) to install the new operating system. Finally I gave up, but W. Squared returned today and (with his experience as software mogul and principal shareholder of a major software company) got everything set up and working in short order.

As I mentioned, he is on the verge of transition from male to female, which in and of itself is not all that unique. But that he has a personal fortune of 40 million dollars as well does tend to move him into a rarified club which does not (to my knowledge) contain any other members at all.

So, today I took him out to my beauty supply shop and sampled various shades of make-up on his face until we found and purchased his shade. Then, I directed him to a local wig shop with over 800 wigs on display, where he tied on a variety of tresses until, at last, we found the perfect style in color and shape.

Getting drunk with him over the most extraordinary crab enchiladas was an almost magical experience - one in which we both felt we had been privileged with a view from outside the gamebord of life: to watch the dice roll and see how the pieces are moved.

Through this enlightened moment, I arrived at several decisions on a number of crucial issues that have been plaguing me. Most notable among these: I determined to create a link from my "civilian" web pages to my gender pages. In my non-gender work I have made a name for myself and placed myself in a select club. In my gender work I have joined an elite group. But if both areas of my life become combined, I will surely stand unique.

The link goes up tomorrow.

Over the past three weeks much has changed. I quit Screenplay Systems. We finished our story theory classes at U.C.L.A. I published the first edition of a Mental Relativity book. I have posted the most crucial and central tenets of Mental Relativity on the World Wide Web.

More on that tomorrow, as I cannot walk in a straight line, and find myself thinking and typing in the same motif.

March 25, 1996

Mr. W. Squared is sitting on my porch, crying. I just told him to leave me alone and get out of my life.

Since day one, he has been another emotional vampire in my life. Attracted by the light of my story as related in this diary, he felt (as hundreds of others) that I was speaking just to him. He sought me out, occupied my time, cornered my attention, maneuvered me into contexts in which I did not want to be, and tried to make me feel things that were not my feelings.

This has been a problem for me since the first time I published my work on the internet. Just like a popular television star, so many who connect with my presentation are so moved they want to get closer. They seek me out, bend over backwards to be my friend, and refuse to believe that anyone who moved them so deeply might truly have no interest in them as people at all.

I'm going to go back to my world-wide web pages this very day and start removing all the email links to my address. I am tired of being torn apart by worshipful fans who are not content to accept the gift I have given them in my writings with a simple "thank you" and leave it at that. Read the story in Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles - the one about the shape shifter - to understand.

Still, he sits on my porch, weeping.

He came into town on Thursday, spent the evening basking in my personality. What a distasteful perspective to have to put oneself in: to see oneself as so charismatic that others flock around just to be near. I HATE the celebrity part of mass expression.

Well, he has finally gotten up, returned to his car, and is driving away. Finally....

Friday he had stopped by and helped me install Windows 95 which he had brought as a present. Then, he wanted his present. We went off for me to pick out some makeup for him in his shade. Then we went to pick out a wig. Then he took my back to his hotel room where he modeled his new skirt for me so I could compliment him on his legs. Finally, he took me to the dinner mentioned above in the last entry.

The 23rd, Saturday, was my daughter's 13th birthday party. Mr. Squared had wanted to come to that, but I specifically forbid it. Still, he showed up with a present for Mindi, but left quickly as he had other friends in the car. That evening, several of the girls stayed over for a slumber party. Mary had bailed out and taken a hotel room to avoid having to be around the house with all the kids. So, I basically handled the party and the sleep-over.

Sunday the 24th, the girls had not yet left when I got a call from Mr. Squared asking when he could come over. He showed up just after they left. We talked for a while, and since he was not making any apparent effort to leave, I...

He just came back. He just drove up and came in my house and told me he didn't want me to leave me like this. He didn't want to leave me having hurt me. I told him I was quite content to let him feel the way he was and it was over. He said, "If that's the case, I can accept that." Well, I'm not going to let him get away with feeling good about this when it all came about because of his smothering attitude.

I told him, no way! I said to him that from the very start I had said I didn't want to be physically involved with anyone in transition and yet he has his hands all over me. Yesterday he wanted me to arrange to come see him in Florida. I refused to go by plane (I hate flying) but agreed to take a train. He then determined that he would spend the five days on the train with me. I told him early on that I didn't want to have anything to do with transition and here we were getting makeup, buying him a wig and checking out his legs. Even just before he left, he asked if he could hug me goodbye, and I said I would rather not. He did anyway.

He started to try again to make it right, and I told him the truth: I didn't want this moment to happen. If he insisted on saying even one more thing, he would be doing it to me again. Finally, he left.

Okay, picking up from three paragraphs above. He wasn't acting like he was going to leave so I asked if he wanted to stay for a barbecue I was going to have for my family. He took over. We went shopping and he ordered special, expensive cuts of beef. He picked up the makings for a salad and we returned home. He took over the kitchen. He made a Caesar salad from scratch. Even the croutons from scratch. Then, he stayed late, drinking wine and asking if Mindi would go with me if I "left this house".

Finally, hugging and touching, he left to catch his plane. Half an hour later I get a phone call. He is in his car, travelling down the freeway and he is lost. I give him directions. Half an hour later, I get another phone call. He is at the airport and he missed his plane. "Maybe you find me knocking on your door," he says, "if another flight is not immediate."

An hour later, I'm in bed. A knock comes at the door. Mr. Squared comes in and asks for a pillow. Keith gets upset and begins making rude comments. Mary can't shut him up. Mindi is distraught. I stay in bed.

Mr. Squared paces the room. He paces from room to room. He plays with the light switch, gets hyperactive. Finally he says, "Nevermind," and leaves. We give him directions to a local hotel.

Next morning - today - I'm late for an appointment to get new contact lenses. Everything is going wrong. I get my purse to hunt for my lipstick, and there is W's wallet!!! Didn't I know it would be something like this! He put it in there when we were at the store.

I went to my appointment, then sent some terse Email to him asking how he wanted it returned. Moments later, the phone rings. Guess who. He is in Glendale, hasn't caught the plane yet. He comes over to get his wallet, then apologizes for his behavior the night before. "I just had too much to drink; it wasn't me."

He says, "I shouldn't have come back last night.... I left quite a mess in the kitchen - I'll be happy to help you clean it up."

Well, that broke my limit. I laid it all out for him to see. I reminded him that from the start I had told him that he was not unique in being moved by my work. That I had told him I didn't feel the same about him - it was completely one-sided. I explained how I am a good artist in word and song. When I create something that comes from my heart, it moves people. But that is not an invitation to be their friend. I don't owe anyone anything just because they like my stuff. I said that I was getting nothing but costs from him, and he was eating me alive. I could not take that anymore and wanted him gone.

Still, he tried to work it out, to find some good in it. "No, " said I, "my time with you has cost me much and given me nothing. I don't need your help or your support. I have no needs and no wants. I am concerned now only with my desires. I do not desire you as you desire me."

That's when he asked to hug me, which brings me back in a very round about way to what I have already related above.

Mr. W. Squared has driven off. Based on past experience, I have no idea if I will hear from him every again. But as I sit here alone, penning more material that will attract more like him, I'm sure that even having read these words, they will not be stopped. Maybe not, but they can be turned away.

March 26, 1996

Time to tell you about how I came to leave the company. After Chris and I had our little talk, I began to think about how I came to be in a position where I would no longer be manager of the story software development department. It didn't take long to realize I had been maneuvered into resigning.

Remember back a little over a year ago when Chris demanded half of my software royalties? Well, since that time the emotional atmosphere in which I had to work degraded steadily. It used to be that I would come into Chris' office, sit on the chair by the door, and just spend some time with him to chat or just hang out. This was one of the biggest reasons I stayed at the company.

Over the course of the year, however, Chris became more and more distant to me emotionally. He became less accessible, more demanding, more critical. In short, he began treating me like he does everyone else.

Now, I'm more than willing to admit that my distaste for working within any kind of constraints had to be a large contributing factor to his attitude. But, I must also admit that his attitude made the constraints much more severe. I think the reality of the situation is that Chris and I have been friends for almost twenty years now. Up until two years ago, I had worked at Screenplay as an outside consultant. Then, I refinanced my home, and in order to get the loan I had to go on staff. That was the beginning of the end.

Once I was actually hired, Chris and I became employer and employee - a relationship that simply does not work for us. Still, though the tension built, we were both committed to finishing up the software project and completing what we had started so long ago. Chris' dissatisfaction grew until he felt he needed additional compensation to put up with the costs. That's when he asked me for half of my software royalty. That, of course, made me feel as if I had been betrayed by my most trusted friend and ally ("Et, tu, Brute") and the atmosphere darkened.

Failing to resolve his emotional needs, Chris turned to other things he could control: how much slack he cut me at the office. Well, you know I'm the Golden Goose who came up with the lion's share of the theory, but that doesn't matter to the heart. Business sense or no business sense, treating me poorly was the only way Chris could defray his emotional costs.

So, after a year of this, I was still there. I'm sure he never actually planned to force me out, but I'm just as sure that is what his heart wanted. So, when I continued to hang out and create new products on my own, he couldn't wait any longer. He decided to boot me out as manager.

Now, Chris has never liked to take perceptive action. He prefers to create an atmosphere which favors things resolving the way he wants and then letting nature take its course. And, that's exactly what he did with me. I was placed in a volatile situation in which the only stability I could climb onto was to resign.

So, Chris called me into a meeting he arranged with Steve (the company president) and Otter (Chris' brother and business manager). Chris asked me to tell them what I saw as my future with the company, and I repeated what Chris and I had talked about in terms of my leaving and working freelance for them.

After the meeting, something didn't set quite right with me. Then, I realized I had been set up. Chris hadn't told either of the other two about what he and I had talked about. He left it to me to spill the beans as if the whole thing was my idea. What a plan!!! Brilliant in its inception and stunning in its implementation.

I considered just going along with it, "okay, you win..." but then I thought, "why get taken by one more male bastard who doesn't give a damn about what's best for me?" I get like that once in a while, dontcha know? So, I met with Steve and I met with Otter and I told them both that I was set up, didn't really want to leave, it wasn't my idea, and I wanted to stay.

Now apparently this caused some dissention in the ranks. I went to lunch with Chris again and decided to spell it out for him: I wanted to stay. And he would have none of it. Tears, hurt, acceptance, all on my part while he just sat there committed to this course of action. God, I was mad at him! Doesn't twenty years matter at all? Doesn't all the work and suffering I did for the company matter. Doesn't this sound like the same old story you've seen on TV all your life?

Chris decided not to be involved in negotiations for the new contract on uses of the theory for psychological software products. So, Steve and Otter took turns at me. The problem was, each one gave me different figures, made different arguments, and accepted different deals. No one actually had the authority to speak for the company. And this was because Chris just kept vetoing anything he didn't like, but refused to participate directly.

This three-headed hydra I could handle, but then Steve began to tread on sacred ground. He and I hammered out a rough deal for the new products, but then he tried to sell me on giving up half my software royalties to Chris!!! I told Steve there was no way that was going to happen. I was promised those royalties and that is the only reason I worked so hard on the project for five years. In addition, that was my family's security. If I gave half away, I wouldn't have enough to guarantee the bills. I could lose the house.

Still, he persisted. He said "Chris will deny it, but I think this is the only way the two of you can be friends again and create all these wonderful, new products. And besides, the new product line will make so much more money that you won't even notice this small amount. It's just a gesture of your friendship."

There was a time I offered Chris one of my kidneys, should he ever need it due to an illness he had. That is not my inclination at present. Chris had made me suffer emotionally for a year, forced me out of the company, and tried to take my security. But, hey, what are friends for?

Failing in his effort and still having no specific contract agreement, Steve called me in from a day off to discuss the matter further. We spent two long hours locked in a room, negotiating a new contract, and finally we arrived at one: I gave them everything they wanted. Screenplay wanted to pay only the total amount it was paying for the software (even though the technology had now proven itself and any new products could be based on existing software engines). Chris had issued the edict: "Whatever Melanie gets, I get." So in effect, he would get half of all the future royalties. Financially, here is how it stacked up: for the company the deal is the same as last time - no concessions. Chris gets half of what he didn't have any of before. Melanie gives up half for Chris. And, of course, Chris owns half of the company too. And, of course, Melanie is the primary creator of the theories on which all this is based. One might ask, "What's wrong with this picture?" So, I accepted this deal.

Am I a fool? Well, you know I don't care about the money that much. I just want my security and the knowledge that what I create will help people. Doing this deal allowed me to retain my software royalties and also ensured that a new product line for personal problem solving and interpersonal relationships would be out there in the world doing good. So, I agreed.

And then Steve said, "That's great. I think we have that settled. Now, I still think you should go in to Chris and give him half of your software royalties. I told him to drop the subject, but he kept harping on it for five minutes. I became livid, but held it in check. I couldn't make the insensitive ******* stop! And finally, ever-patient me snapped. pop.

I pounded my fist on the dry marker board, yelled at the top of my lungs, overturned a table spilling coffee, and threw two chairs across the room. I screamed at Steve to shut up, and told him I didn't care a damn about Fucking Christopher! When this has happened to me in the past, at least part of it was for show. This time it just happened.

Finally I calmed down and through clenched teeth I told Steve that we had a deal on the new products if he wanted it, but to never EVER bring up the software royalties to me again.

I went home that night in a rage. Any feelings I ever had for Chris or Steve vanished in the fire. I came to think of them both as enemies concerning whom I must always be on my guard. I was also proud of myself for finally holding my ground against power hungry male predators who rape you while you sleep.

The next morning I went in and handed my resignation to Steve. I told him we could still do the contract, but I no longer wanted to work in this environment. Steve understood, and asked me to go downstairs and meet with Otter about the contract. I did so, relating all that had happened and the terms we had negotiated as well. Of course now, Otter was all sad to see me go. Really? Then why don't you run upstairs and speak to your brother on my behalf?

In any event, we also agreed to terms. Later in the day, Chris came in. I stopped by his office so as not to appear vindictive and told him I felt that the only thing holding us together for the last couple of years was the software project. Now that it was finished, all the tensions of being employer/employee had become unbearable and I needed out. Of course he made no effort to make me change my mind. I considered that all the proof I needed. But if I needed more, I got it when I came in the next day to complete some unfinished business and asked Chris if he wanted me to keep the office while I was doing freelance work for them. He said he thought that was a good idea. Then, to make him feel better, I told him that should he need the office for anything more imperative, I wanted him to know I would understand if he had to take it away. The proof? He then said, "Well, Melanie, at this point, if I needed it, I'd take it."

That's all I needed to know. The next day I went in and moved my things out of the office. I handed in my key and my parking pass, telling Chris I didn't want to have anything I wasn't sure I could keep. I wrapped up my business late that night and drove my car out of the underground lot for the last time.

Since that day, tensions have calmed. Chris and I still had three more story theory classes to teach on Saturdays at U.C.L.A. I've been around the office for a few hours here or there, charging them through my own company, Heart Corps, for my time as a consultant. I have no compunction in working with them on future projects. I have no problem being civil and even laughing it up over interesting situations. But neither Chris nor Steve is a friend of mine, for they clearly will do things that hurt me for their own gain.

I have a code: I will do all I can to help myself without hurting others. I will do all I can to help others without hurting myself. But I will never help myself by hurting others or hurt myself by helping others. Obviously, Chris and Steve do not subscribe to the same code.

By the time this entry is made public, my feelings may have changed. That happens, you know. But for now, I am doing all I can to protect myself from Chris, Steve, Mr. W. Squared, Larry, Fred, and all the men who have found me of value and sought to take it all for themselves.

Now, did I tell you I had a new boyfriend? (How's that for turning on a dime!) His name is Michael. He's a psychologist with a master's degree in theology, going for his doctorate in psych.

I met him through my listings on the Web. He was very understanding when I told him about my past. He still wanted to meet, and we did so after work one day at the company. Then we went off for a small dinner and a lot of chat (mostly on my part, how'd ya guess?)

The next week, he asked me to dinner and a movie. So, we had a bite at Fudrucker's and then took in "Broken Arrow" at the AMC. I enjoyed his company and felt really relaxed with a guy for the first time since Andy. What's it been? Two years? Bleah! I hate the way time runs away like that!

Anyway, the next week, Mike asked me out hiking up at Mount Wilson (the big, flat top mountain that bears all the transmitting towers for Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley). We went down the trail a bit, but Mike has asthma and forgot to take his aerosol spray from the car. The trip back took forever, but we stopped every couple hundred feet and snuggled while he caught his breath.

Oh, what does he look like? Picture Ulysses S. Grant and you've got him. He's 41, and since I just turned 43, that's not a bad match. My mother always lamented the age difference in marrying a man 11 years her junior as a second husband, because "we can't share memories about the same television programs and cultural events."

That was the first time I've gone out with a guy for three dates and not ended up in the sack. What does this mean, she wondered? We've had one more date. Number four. He took me to see the movie, The Birdcage, which I enjoyed thoroughly, though I didn't enjoy seeing a movie about cross dressers with my boyfriend. (Why ever not?)

After the movie, he took me back to his place where he made a spaghetti dinner. Nothing fancy, mind you, but enjoyable just the same. The evening ended with some enjoyable petting. My blouse went by the wayside, as did the bra, but then that's why I wore that particular blouse: so it could be easily disposed of. Surprisingly, he called it quits as it was getting a bit too hot and heavy. I guess it's that Masters Degree in theology.

I haven't seen him since, though we've sent each other a short email note. I don't know if this will advance any further. I'm not likely to fall in love with him, but dating him is fun. I sure wish I had a place of my own where I could invite him for dinner in return. I don't think Mary and the kids would appreciate walking into the living room to find Mike and myself getting it on.

Still, I'm not about to leave this wonderful, loyal (unlike some business associates I know) family, just for the occasional roll in the hay. Someday (when the royalties get big enough) I'll be able to get a place just for romantic meetings. For now, I may have to lose a few relationships because I can't respond in kind. Oh, well. Cost of doing business.

Does that get you up to date? I certainly hope so, 'cause my little fingers are pounded down to nubs, and I have other work to do that actually has some product value associated with it!

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

Oh, one last thing. Whatever happened to Neil? Valentine's day came and went with no flowers from him. I don't want much from a guy, but when Valentine's day falls shortly after you first have sex, I kinda expect flowers.

A few days later, email arrives. It has a few of those little cyber-roses you make like this:

@->->------------------.

The note says, "Sorry I missed Valentines' Day. Here are some cyber roses. They last longer and are a lot cheaper."

Sure are! I wrote back and said, "And they smell as good, too!"

Haven't heard from him since.

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