Crystal's StorySite



by Abby Rhodes


Well, it started out simply enough. I was on a trip from Denver to San Diego and points in between, to gee up my sales teams spread all the way along the route. I like to drive because I have a lot of teams in many different places and the only way I can see them all is by driving. A long trip, but well worth it.

I stopped over to visit the team in Barstow (a cute little redhead called Kathy was the entire team) and, as I usually did after hours, I was indulging myself in a tasty little black linen skirt and a red silk blouse, some black stockings and high heels. A lot of make-up went into the mix along with a blonde wig I paid a fortune for. I don't have to mention that there was some scrumptious lingerie under all of that. If all that froth was converted to milk it would have made a lot of babies very happy. Since I was going to be away from home for a little while I'd shaved my legs on the first night, something I didn't do as often as I wanted to.

I looked myself over in the big wardrobe mirror. Damn, I was gorgeous, and that was part of my trouble. I was so gorgeous I wanted to share myself with the world. So far I hadn't even made it out the door, gorgeous or not, because I was shy and I was troubled.

I can explain the shy. That was actually the fear of being found out, read, discovered, revealed to the world as a guy and therefore some kind of pervert, and that would affect the troubles I was having.

You see, I was engaged to a humdinger of a girl, a babe no less, who I adored but who didn't know about my proclivities. I wasn't at all sure she would understand but I was quite sure her parents wouldn't. Her father was a judge and her mother was a snob. There, I've said it. A snob. I've wanted to call her that for a while now, preferably to her face. She checked out everyone and everything and if they didn't stand up to her scrutiny, well, too bad. I only qualified because Nicole loved me as much as I loved her and told her mother to back off. Not only a babe but a stand-up one. She gets called Nic for short, but not by her parents, to whom she is only ever Nicole. My name, for the record, is Felix Aaronson.

I know for a fact that her mother had tried to put her off dating me. She

thought that sales was the white collar equivalent of street-cleaning but once I explained I had control of the entire West Coast and had two hundred and seventy-five people working under me, she started to unbend. Slightly. Nic's father was better value. Old Roger was straight as an arrow and as wise as judges need to be, but he was still strictly conservative.

I had a theory that Nic would probably not be totally opposed to the idea and,

let's face it, I wasn't going to suggest I live my life as Angie. Oh - that's my name when I'm dressed up and gorgeous. Angie the closet cross-dresser. I only wanted to go out once in a while as Angie and I really wanted to go out with Nic.

So my trouble was – what, if anything, would I say to her? What would she say? What if she said, 'Go away', or worse. I didn't want to lose her but we've all read those stories about great girls not wanting to be involved or even being prepared to acknowledge your existence when the crunch arrived, steaming down the road and knocking in the front wall of the house. Like every other cross-dresser in the entire universe, I needed to be a girl some of the time.

I worried. A lot.

So tonight I admired myself for a while longer and sat down to watch television. A reality/survivor show about people dropped into quicksand and the last person with their head above the quicksand got a free burial. Something like that. The program wasn't riveting enough to distract me from my thoughts. It grated that I was so lacking in confidence. I could sell anything to anyone and I was something of a legend in the small-goods world, but go outside as Angie? Nah. Forget it.

A couple of beers smoothed me out a little. I watched Terminator Two for the two thousandth time and enjoyed it again. The hotel didn't have Turner Classic Movies on the list, which was a bummer. I like those musicals and dramas where al the women wear big skirts and petticoats.

I finally fell asleep as the credits for T2 rolled and I woke up half hour later knowing it was time to hit the sack. For ages I've been in the habit of being a girl from the moment I got to my hotel room until I absolutely had to change to go and eat breakfast. Tonight was no exception. I just took off my day clothes and slipped on the nightgown and negligee set I'd bought on eBay a few months ago. I just loved the set, white nylon chiffon trimmed with rows and rows of fine lace that was just as gorgeous as me. It had to be intended for a wedding-night. It was too damn beautiful not to be.

You need to know that I checked, double- and triple-checked that I was totally locked in and the chains and security devices were all in place. It was essential that no-one could sneak in during the night and tear off the bedclothes and shout to the other fifty people they brought with them, 'Look! A penis! This woman isn't a woman at all!!'

I had a copy of War and Peace for bedtime reading. I knew I should have read it when I was younger because it's a classic. I feel guilty sometimes because I prefer books that are lightweight and preferably funny, while Nicole is a literature major and has read the lot. She started a reading program for me I've been trying to follow, but I can't see myself lasting that particular course.

I suppose I have War and Peace to thank for still being alive. Instead of

turning off the light and going to sleep dreaming of silky things, I fell asleep sitting up with the bedside light on. Normally, the last thing I do before bye-byes is take off my make-up like a good girl and put my wig aside. I think that if I'd done that and slipped into my usual deep sleep I might have failed to notice that the hotel was on fire.

I was on the third floor. The alarms went off and because one was right outside my door it got me immediately. I woke up and all I could see was fire on the other side of the room and it was hot. Very hot.

I jumped out of bed and raced for the door. The fire was growing as I watched and I knew I had to get out or die. Praying that I wasn't going to be trapped by flames on the stairs I tore the door open, fumbling with the chains and locks I'd so carefully arranged for my protection, and raced down the corridor wearing, uh-oh, a white nylon nightgown and negligee. I did a u-turn and headed back to my room but flames were now coming out the door. I said 'fuck' many times that night but never as bitterly as right then. I had no choice. I made it back to the stairwell and it was full of people but it was cool and well-lit and I emerged onto the street outside the front entrance to the hotel. Sirens were getting louder and flashing red lights were starting to reflect on the walls. Someone ordered us to get across the street and we could see when we looked back across the road that this hotel was doomed. The fire had taken over two thirds of it and it was spreading fast.

I suppose the good news was that nearly everyone else looked disheveled. It was eleven thirty, so most were wearing some kind of nightwear and a couple of people seemed to be clutching towels to hide themselves. Some were seriously covered in soot and ashes.

No-one else seemed to be wearing a vintage white nylon negligee and nightgown. I wasn't disheveled, I was immaculate, and that saved me from the drama of being a guy caught in the street in girls clothing. As I said, I'd gone to bed in my wig and full make-up and it seemed that no-one noticed I was a guy.

But boy did they notice what I was wearing. My fellow evacuees looked me over either surreptitiously or directly. One of the guys actually winked at me. At a time like that!

As the excitement across the street heated up (pardon the expression) we were pushed further along the street for our own safety. Finally we were half a block away and well out of danger. The hotel was on its last gasp, when, through the noise and smoke, a distraught manager approached us.

I'd met him quite a few times when I was disguised as a male. Jayson was a nice guy, helpful and friendly, never condescending or aloof. He had tears in his eyes and he apologized profusely for the fire. He asked us to wait while he arranged alternative accommodation. There was another hotel in the chain about three miles away and I assumed they'd try for that one. There were about sixty people huddled in the group and I wondered if there would be space for that many people. But Jayson had a job to do and he took down our names. The register had been in electronic form and while he could certainly get the guest's names off the computer from any other hotel, he had no idea who was there and who wasn't. That is, he had no idea if anyone was missing, presumed consumed in the fire.

This is where it started to get weird. When he got to me I told him my name was Angie Bower. I nearly said Bowie but I knew that giving the name of a real person was risky.

Several guys moved in closer to me as I spoke and looked me over even more closely, and so did a few women. I was nervous, as you can imagine. I had bare feet but I was well covered up by the sheer volume of the vintage nightwear I had on. Everything was in double layers. It wasn't a cold night but it wasn't hot either. One of the guys in just a towel was shaking a bit with cold or reaction or both.

Ten minutes later Jayson returned to say he had accommodation for ten double rooms and a single at the sister hotel and Jayson's team were trying other hotels. He called out names, taking the couples first and he gave me the extra space after twelve couples had been announced. I declined the offer because there was one other lady by herself who was quite upset and I suggested to Jayson that she go instead. Jayson did as I suggested and the lady looked at me gratefully and thanked me for the consideration. Taxis started arriving and the crowd thinned out a little.

It took another thirty minutes before they found places for us all and they noted who went where on the list. While we were waiting a good-looking guy with

a sooty face came over to talk to me. Shortly afterward I had a gallery of about four guys asking how I was and where I came from, and, inevitably, was I married. I just said yes. It was easier. I didn't want to get into long explanations. I was already worried that my voice might sound strange. I tried to pitch it a little higher than usual and I coughed a lot, claiming smoke problems and therefore a husky voice. Nobody seemed to care about my voice but the guys were solicitous about me in a general sense..

Rumors started to circulate that one or two people didn't make it out when the fire started. Someone said the fire started in the kitchen, someone else said they'd heard it started in the laundry. They were almost right about the kitchen. Eventually it came out that it was started by a careless cigarette butt one of the assistant chefs dropped in a basket full of waste and mainly greasy paper. To his credit, he raised the alarm immediately he found the fire was out of control and his quick thinking saved our lives.

You can see my predicament here. A guy in a nightgown and negligee surrounded by strangers and starting to realize the position he was in. No money, no other clothes and no ID for either Angie or my real self. How the hell was this going to work out?

They sent me to the Plaza, just a few hundred yards from the pile of burning lumber we'd been staying at. I was paired up with a girl called Judy in a double room. A taxi made the short trip and we staggered up to reception and got keys for 404.

Judy looked like she was around thirty. Her face was streaked with soot and she'd been crying. As far as I could tell she was blonde and quite pretty, but I'd

gone past shy and nervous and moved on to dead tired, so I didn't at her look too closely. She had a pair of satin pajamas on and that was all she seemed to have. No bag, no purse. Just like me. She collapsed on the bed nearest the door as soon as we got in the room and started snoring within minutes. I climbed into the bed closest to the window and did the same. It was close to one o'clock and we'd had a big night.


We came to at about the same time the next morning, just after nine. It was Wednesday and I had an appointment at ten with Kathy and a contractor downtown. I knew I wasn't going to be keeping the appointment. Not in a negligee.

"Hi there. How are you feeling? Angie? Is that what you said your name was?" Judy was sitting up in bed looking at me. I immediately put my hand to my wig

and found it straight and firmly planted. Judy climbed out of bed and opened the drapes to reveal a bright, sunny day.

"Yes, Angie, and I'm fine. And you're Judy, right? Are you okay?"

"I think so. I didn't sleep well because I kept having nightmares about fires and being burned. That's Judy Brightman by the way. I feel exhausted but I'm basically all right. I also feel dirty and I'm going to shower and get this grime and dirt off. Do you mind if I have first shower?"

"Not at all, Judy. Go for it." Looking at her in a better light I could see she was very attractive despite the dirt, which was liberally applied to all the skin I could see and had changed the color of her pajamas to a sort of gray. She went off to the bathroom and I got out of bed to look at myself in the mirror-fronted wardrobe. I got a fright. I thought I had come through the evening quite clean but soot and ash had got to me as well. There were smudges all over my face and my adorable nylon confection seemed to have taken some hits. Not just dirt but there were a couple of tears in a sleeve and the hem of the negligee had been ripped. I didn't remember where the damage was done, but running downstairs in a panic was probably where it happened. I spotted a few small marks that looked like a hot particle had melted through the nylon. Hot ashes flying through the air, I guessed. But what if they'd set the nylon and me alight? I felt a cold shiver go through me.

There were two toweling bathrobes in the wardrobe and I hurriedly stripped off my nightclothes and put one on over my panties and bra. I put the other robe on Judy's bed for her. I was starting to itch from dirt and needed to shower.

That's when the bathroom door opened and this vision appeared naked in front of me.

The naked Judy was a sight to be treasured. The best word to describe her body would be lithe. She was beautifully proportioned and mostly looked like a model from those men's magazines that feature nice bodies and long legs. There

was no fat on her and I immediately assumed she worked out occasionally. Her breasts were just beautiful. Full but wonderfully in proportion to the rest of her. They announced themselves proudly to the world, 'we're here'. A small blonde brazilian proved that her blonde hair, now damp and hanging to her shoulders, was her natural color. Or she'd had them matched.

"Do you want to clean up, Angie? I feel 100% better and I can dry my hair when you've finished. Is there another robe?"

I pointed to the other robe and croaked, "I left it on your bed for you." I could

feel myself blushing and I headed into the bathroom.

I took off the robe to reveal the rest of my entire wardrobe, a black stretch satin bra and panties I'd picked up during my last trip here. A nice pair of breast forms filled out the cups and I really had quite a passable figure. I took everything else off and removed my wig. To my horror there was a scorch mark on the crown and I wasn't sure how I was going to fix that.

I checked out the toiletries and almost shouted with relief to find a disposable razor there. My natural color is blonde but you can still see stubble after a day. It was a thought that had crossed my mind while I was waiting for Judy to finish showering. One of two thoughts actually. What am I going to shave with? How long will I have to live life playing it by ear as I went? Oh, and a third question. What's going to happen now, this morning?

I shaved and climbed into the shower. I think it was the best shower I ever had. It was an enormous relief to be clean and I was amazed at how dirty the water running down the outlet was. I finished and got out of the shower. I checked the mirror again and I thought the person looking back at me seemed to be a little more mature today.

I found out later that major events can do that. They can move you along in ways you hadn't thought about. Survival of an ominous threat to personal safety seems to focus you on real life, giving you a new perspective on everything. My dreams had been like Judy's. Fire and more fire, visions of running down the hotel corridor with my nightgown and negligee on fire and the nylon melting into my body and my skin charring as I ran to the locked fire door at the end of the corridor.

A knock on the door brought me back. Judy said through the door, "They're sending up breakfast. Five minutes."

Whatever body I had was going to have to do. I gave my hair a quick going-over with the hairdryer, put on the bra and panties and reattached my wig. I looked pretty much like a girl even without make-up. It was the wig that made the difference.

I re-entered the room. "Wow, that feels good," I said. "Nothing like a shower to make you feel better."

"I'll just dry my hair," said Judy. "Give me a call when the food gets here. I'm

ready to eat an entire animal." The bathroom door closed and I went back to the wardrobe mirror again. I was starting to fret about my appearance but I still felt I looked more girl than boy. My experience the night before had gone a long way to reassuring me I wouldn't be read easily, but deep-down there was still that shyness and a bunch of middle class inhibitions seething away.

There was a knock at the door. I let in two room service people with a trolley covered with dishes and covered platters. A smell of bacon wafted past my nose and suddenly I was ravenously hungry. I knocked on the bathroom door and called, "Food."

Room service transferred plates and cutlery to the table over by the window and parked the food trolley next to it.

"Please let us know if you need anything else, Miss", said one of the food people. "We have instructions to provide whatever you need. Your experience last night must have been quite dreadful and we want you to take advantage of whatever we have to offer."

Miss? I loved these people.

"Thank you," I said as I sat down and started lifting lids. "For now, breakfast is what we need." The bathroom door opened and Judy almost ran to the table.

"I smell bacon, eggs, sausage, toast," she said as she sat and started to unload provisions onto her plate.

We ate in silence for a while. A lot of food was consumed in quite a short time. Finally we had enough and Judy poured coffee.

"I needed that," she said. "I've never been so hungry in my entire life.

Judy was more than pretty, she was actually adorable. I couldn't remember ever being that close to someone so attractive. Even without any paint on she looked gorgeous. Don't get me wrong. Nicole is just as gorgeous but she wasn't sitting a few feet away from me right then and I suspected that in a bare-faced one-on-one, Judy would come out on top.

I knew what would happen next so I made a pre-emptive strike. "What do you do, Judy?" I asked. I'd suddenly realised that life histories would be the next and inevitable topic and I needed to think what I was going to say, so letting Judy go first would give me a little more time to think.

"Right now, nothing. I work in fashion design but I have nothing lined up. I'm between engagements, as they say. Yesterday I was on my way to Las Vegas to

check out a job a friend told me about. The day before that my boyfriend told me he'd found a new girlfriend so I decided getting out of the city for a while, or possibly forever, was a good idea. I've been with that prick for six years, supported him through college and got him a brilliant job through my connections and he threw me over for a cocktail waitress. Fuck him.

"The interesting thing is that today I feel different. Somehow the despicable, waitress-fucking Curt doesn't seem so quite so important any more. Today it feels like I should just move on and the hell with him, forget him and just hope he gets a disease from his new friend that makes his dick drop off. I'm twenty-seven tomorrow. I think I'll just concentrate on me for a while."

Judy smiled. I knew just what she meant – about moving on, that is. Clearly the fire had affected her the same way it affected me.

"I know what you mean," I said. "The fire and my escape from it, my survival, sort of crystallized my thoughts. All I could think of while I was running down the corridor was what I would miss if I died. What hadn't I done that I wanted to. What would I have achieved in my life so far?"

"And what had you achieved in life so far?" Judy asked.

"Nothing. Nothing truly significant, that is. I have a job that I'm good at and I'm proud of that and I have a fiancée I'm I love with …"


"Nicole." Shit.

"Isn't that a girl's name?"

In the time-honored tradition of good stories there was a knock at the door. I leaped up and opened it and found Jayson standing there.

"Good morning, ladies. I hope you are both well. May I come in and talk to you about some things?"

"Yes, please come in, Jayson," I said. Anything to change the subject.

"Are you both okay? It was a terrible night last night. So far we have only one person unaccounted for and that's a blessing, considering the speed and destructive nature of the fire. May I have some of your coffee? I haven't quite got to bed from yesterday yet and I'm afraid I'm starting to feel the effects."

"Let me order a fresh pot, Jayson," I said. I picked up the telephone and rang room service and asked for a fresh pot, an extra cup and another chair.

"On the way," I said.

"Who's missing," asked Judy.

Jayson looked distraught. "One of our regular guests, a gentleman from Denver. His name is Felix Aaronson. Do you remember coming across him last night? He is about twenty-eight or thirty I think, blonde hair and about five foot nine."

I felt myself turn pale but I said nothing. Judy said, "I don't remember anyone who looked like that but it was dark and confused."

Jayson continued. "Also, Miss Bower, your name doesn't appear on the guest list. I need to know if you were booked in under another name, or if you were

visiting another guest."

"Oh. I suppose I should confess that I was with Mr Aaronson. We ran out together and I didn't see him after that but I assumed he made it away safely."

"He just left you and disappeared? That's astounding that he would do something like that. I wonder what he was thinking of. Could he have been suffering from shock do you think?"

"He was most definitely disturbed, as we all were. I assumed he headed off to try and find his car."

"Which would have been in the basement. Oh dear. The basement was almost the last place the fire spread to but it's just a pile of debris now after the rest of the building collapsed into it. Do you know who his next of kin is? I presume you were sleeping over, and I have no interest in Mr Aaronson's sex life, but I seem to remember on one of his earlier trips he spoke of a fiancée, whose name I can't remember."

Judy finally spoke. "Nicole?"

"I think you're right, Miss Brightman. That definitely rings a bell. Is there anything else you can remember, Miss Bower?"

I'd gone from pale to bright red and I didn't dare look at Judy. "I'm sorry," I said. "We weren't that close. We only recently met and I didn't discuss whether he had any other girls. I'm sure he made it out though, so I'd assume he's missing, not dead in the fire."

"Nevertheless, I must advise the Denver police that he is missing. I have a packet of vouchers and some cash for you both. I also offer my apologies once more for the terrible events of last night. The cash is to get you through the next few days and help you replace the things you need for everyday use, like toothpaste and hair things, and the vouchers are to enable you to get

some fresh clothes. We have a taxi service available to take all the people affected to the local mall and you may charge up anything you like by way of day-to-day stuff. Just call the front desk and they'll set it up for you. Can you just sign a receipt for me please? There is two thousand dollars each and another thousand dollars in vouchers. My employers are well aware of their responsibilities in matters such as this."

Jayson gave me an envelope and a receipt which I signed and passed back. I tried to get a glimpse of Judy out of the corner of my eye. She looked normal. How long would that last?

"Thank you, ladies. This card has my mobile telephone number on it. Please call me if I can do anything at all. Oh, by the way, the mall is expecting people to arrive in bathrobes. Okay? Thank you very much. Miss Bower, there may be a need to talk to you about Mr Aaronson later. As I said, I must notify the police in his home town so they can trace his family. It would be reasonable to think you might get a visit from them. I'll wish you both good-day. Please don't hesitate to call me."

Jayson got up and left. I could feel Judy looking at me and I felt myself turn even redder.

"Want to tell me about it?" was all she said.

"Not really," I replied, "but I suppose I have to." I looked her in the eye for the first time and she was grinning at me.

"Hey, it's not such a big deal, Angie. It is Felix though, isn't it?"

"I'm afraid so, Judy. God, I wish this hadn't happened. It's something like a worst nightmare for me but I'm starting to realize there's also a part of me that's thoroughly enjoying it. Yesterday I could never have carried this off and in fact I was afraid to step out the door while I was dressed up."

"If it's any comfort, Angie, I had no idea you were male until the Nicole thing, and even then I probably wouldn't have made a connection if it wasn't for the hotel guy. Justin?"

"Jayson, with a 'y'."

"I've just remembered I was naked standing in front of you not that long ago. Do I look good?"

I blushed again. "Absolutely brilliant," I said. "If I looked as good as you I'd be applying for jobs in Las Vegas too. As a dancer, not as a fashion designer."

"Thanks for the compliment. How long have you been doing this, Angie?"

"About twenty years. I'm actually twenty-eight and I can remember dressing up in my sister's clothes when I was quite small. I can even remember the speeches, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. I might have been even younger than eight. In any case, I learned to keep it quiet after the first time I got found dancing in the hallway in a pair of panties and a camisole belonging to my oldest sister. I hid things away and only broke out if the house was empty. With three sisters it didn't happen all that often. Once I left home it was easier but I'd still never been out until last night."

"And Nicole? What does she think?"

"She doesn't know and I haven't been able to bring myself to discuss it with her."

"So you're going to give up a twenty-year plus habit because of a girl?"

"Not just any girl. Nicole. She's just about as pretty as you and I love her."

"That's really nice, Angie. You seem to be a sensitive girl and I think that's great. You may be surprised that I'm not put out that you're actually a guy and that's because I know a few cross-dressers already. In the fashion industry there are lots of them and mostly they're kind and sensitive. Tell me what you really do for a living, Angie. I'm interested." I gave her a two hundred word synopsis of my life.

"What are you going to do now, Ange? Do you mind if I call you Ange? I always liked the diminutive form of Angie."

I shook my head. "Ange is fine."

"Do you realize what kind of opportunity you have here, Ange? Think about it. Felix has been declared missing. You could walk out of this room right now, go to the mall and get decked out as a girl, and just keep walking, strutting on your high heels into the future. You can say to yourself, 'Call me Angie, I'm a girl and a living doll. I can take on the world, I can show real girls how to be real girls. I'm smoking.'

My eyes were wide open by then. My mouth probably was as well. Bring Angie to life? It was worth thinking about.

"Here's a scenario," Ange. "Go to your office tomorrow, tell them you've been sent by Head Office to replace Felix, who's missing in the Great Barstow Fire. Do exactly what you were going to do before, but do it in a grey pinstriped skirt suit. High heeled pumps, black stockings, red satin and lace lingerie. What a blast! Could you do that?"

"Not tomorrow," I answered. "I just don't have the practice at being female in front of other people. I'd need to have a few dry runs. What happens when the people at the office mention that a woman came by and did the sales thing? Won't it get back home quickly? Like in four minutes? Won't Head Office start an inquiry?"

"Yeah they will, Ange. They'll be asking who the hot girl was who seemed to have a grip on the business. They'll want to know what you said and what you did and they'll be completely bamboozled. They'll probably want to track you down and hire you to replace Felix. Doesn't that sound like fun? You'd be forced to stay as Angie forever. Does that sound like a punishment?"

My head was starting to spin, and my brain had gone into overdrive.

"I almost wish you hadn't said anything, Judy. All of a sudden there are possibilities I would never have thought about. I have one huge reservation, the same reservation I had before. Nicole. I don't think I can just walk away from her. It wouldn't be fair on her. Same with my parents. It would cause a lot of grief and my conscience wouldn't allow it. What about Jayson? What if he tells all those people I was with a strange woman, a gorgeous woman. All hell will break loose I've half a mind to stop it right now, call Jayson and tell him the truth so he can tell everybody I'm okay."

"I can understand that, Ange. Now tell me this and be completely honest. What will you do when you tell Nicole you want to dress up as a girl and she says you're a pervert and a weirdo and tells you she won't put up with it? In fact, she might tell you to just fuck off out of her life right there and then and immediately advise your family and friends and your employers. Scary thought?"

I felt myself go pale. Judy looked sympathetic.

I hadn't thought of that. I'd always thought Nicole might say it was okay, but I needed to think about it, think past a refusal. Tell my parents, my family, my employers? Shit! It could happen. My father was a town councilor and so was Nicole's. My Mom was the leading light in the any number of worthy causes.

"How important to you is wearing girl's clothes, Angie?"

Again I was stumped. Too many huge questions and so few intelligent answers in such a short time. Take it slow, Angie.

Judy was looking at me, calmly waiting for a response.

I stared back, my mind trying to come up with the answer and failing miserably, and I realized that was the answer. Miserable. That's how I'd be if I could never dress up as Angie again. I'd be downright, utterly basement-level, stinking, rotten miserable. It hit me like one of those truths that are supposed to hit you like a bolt from the blue and have a life-changing effect.

"Very important," I finally admitted. I remembered how the room service guy calling me 'Miss' had made me feel so good.

"Let's work with that, Ange. Let's go and get some gear and think some more. Call up reception and order a cab while I use the bathroom."

I made the arrangements and when Judy was finished we headed for the front door where a white limo was just pulling up. I wondered who the important guests were until the doorman held the door open and waved us in. He called us 'ladies'.

The mall wasn't all that far but we rode in silence while I gave some more thought to Judy's subversive suggestions. She was right about my choices when it came to telling Nicole I was sometimes Angie. It could go horribly wrong and I'd be worse off than I was now. I could be a pariah and an unemployed pariah at that. Would she tell my folks? I had a disturbing feeling she might if she was opposed to the Angie scenario. This was agonizing.

We arrived at the mall and the driver told us he'd wait while we shopped. We wandered in and were stared at by the few people we met. It was still early, not far past opening time, and too early for most mall shoppers. We passed some other folks in toweling robes and said 'hi'. One of the guys I'd been talking to on the pavement the night before saw us and came over to talk.

"Hey, girls. Have you heard? They're just starting to clear the rubble and crap out of the hotel basement because that guy from Colorado is still missing. They think he tried to get his car out of there and got caught. If he was, he's going to be unidentifiable because the debris and the fire would reduce him to tiny pieces of charcoal. I doubt they could even get DNA."

My thoughts whirled again, even as I felt slightly sick. Charcoal? I was going to have to make a call on my plans very, very soon.

Judy asked, "Have they called his next of kin yet?"

"Don't know, but I suppose they must have. I know they were calling the Denver police a little while ago."

We moved away and went into the mall's anchor department store.

"Why don't we work our way from the skin out?" asked Judy. "Lingerie, hosiery, tops, bottoms, jeans, shirts, shoes, make-up."

"Excellent plan," I said.

I would have liked the word Secret to be part of the name of one of the shops in the mall, but we weren't quite that lucky. The department store was quite good though. They had an excellent supply of major brands and they had enough lace-trimmed confections to satisfy a frills-focused cross-dresser, so I picked out a selection of bras and panties. I was carrying them towards the changing rooms when Judy asked if I needed a hand. I said no, but Judy came right into the cubicle with me. They weren't big cubicles and she took up a lot of space.

"I just want to help, Ange. I'm also fascinated by how you make yourself look like a girl. Don't be shy, honey, I've seen these things before, you know. Here let me help you get that robe off. There you are. Oh, those panties and bra are quite ash-covered aren't they? Here, let me help you."

There was an expert helping me and I was naked in a flash. Judy moved as far back as she could in the confined space and looked me over.

"Wow, what a narrow waist for a guy, and what legs! They're fabulous! And what's that piece of excitement there? Oh my god, it's a cock.'" Her witticisms got too much for her and she burst out laughing, as a voice outside the cubicle said, "Do you need any help, girls?"

"Not right now," Called Judy. "Give us five minutes."

"Just shout, girls," said the departing voice.

Stifling more giggles, Judy looked me over some more. "I don't know where you got that waist from. I can't remember seeing such a narrow waist on a guy before. Well, except for a few guys who took drugs. It makes your hips look wider too. I see that you could do with a little assistance to get your erection under control, Ange. Here, try on the black panties with all the lace. Mmm. Yes, very nice. Now the matching bra. Let me help out if - you'll just turn around, Madame, I'll fasten the back. There you are, and we slip these in." She slid my breast forms into the cups and my shape in the mirror said the panties and bra were right for me. In fact they were scrumptious little pieces of satin and lace.

"I've seen enough, Ange. Try on the rest of this heap while I get my own panties sorted out."

She gave my bulge a little pat and left me alone. I was a little taken aback by

Judy's no nonsense approach to intimacy in the context of changing rooms but there was more than just an inspection going on here. I had no doubt whatsoever that Judy had something in mind that probably had to do with sex. I breathed out

and tried on the other lingerie. I know what suits me and what helps a cross-dresser to hide and perhaps flatten a bulge. I'd tried a gaff in the past but it was too uncomfortable for me. I used panties that were mainly stretch satin to keep me smooth, but then again I wasn't going out while I was dressed, so it wasn't much of an issue. It was something I would have to watch.

Have to watch? It surprised me that I was thinking about staying as Angie because as far as I knew I hadn't made a decision. It could be my mind had made itself up. It was getting ready to go out and have fun without having to worry about CB.

I decided that everything I had in the cubicle would be okay. I took it over to the counter and told the lady that I would be wearing the bra and panties home. I picked them out of the heap and she scanned the bar codes and cut the plastic loops and cardboard swing-tags off. I went back to the changing room and put them on. Talk about sexy!

The toweling robe went back on and I moved to the rack of chemises and camisoles. I picked out a couple of each and found a match for the set I was already wearing. I did a quick try-on and went on to the hosiery section. As I passed the changing room again I heard a 'Pssst' and there was Judy waving me into a cubicle.

"I need an honest opinion, Angie. How does this look?"

'This' was a teddy that quite frankly was more of a sex aid than an item of clothing. It was black silk, the legs were cut up to there and it seemed to me that she was exposed while still decent, or maybe decent but exposed, if you know what I mean. I felt a stirring.

"Can I be honest, Judy?" I asked. "If you want my unabridged opinion, that teddy would attract men like moths to a flame or gourmands to a barbeque. It's fabulous and you should buy it." I moved off before I could be stirred any further.

I bought stockings and pantyhose then moved on to tops, where I bought four, and to skirts where I tried on ten and bought three. I've never liked trousers all that much so I didn't go there, but I did buy a nice coat.

And then I saw the suit, hanging quietly on a rack and staring at me, calling to

me. It was a pin-striped skirt suit and when I checked the label it was my size. Surely this was fate! I grabbed it and went to try it on. When I checked myself in the mirror I knew that there was something in the air right then, something to do with destiny and the mingling of cosmic forces. The slim skirt came to just above my knee and the single-button jacket fitted like a glove.

I stepped out of the cubicle and went to find Judy, who was still lurking in the lingerie section. She turned around when I tapped her on the shoulder, and said, "I can't think of a single reason why you think you have to be a guy, Ange. Look at you! You were made for a suit and when you wear a suit, especially that

suit you're set to take on the world. Holy shit, girl. You must buy it. Get on over and tell the lady you're taking it, get some stockings on, and get on over to the shoe department. And don't forget we passed a shoe shop near the mall entrance as well."

I tore open a packet and pulled on the lace-top stockings and felt the tops grip my thighs gently but firmly. I was ready for shoes.

Shoes are my favorite girly things. I have a selection I've bought on the net and I cope with three inch heels well. Four inch heels give me a little trouble, mainly with standing or walking, but I've been getting better. Mostly I stay with three inches.

The selection in the store was okay and I tried on a dozen pairs, looking specifically for a match to the suit. Power heels! I finally got it just right. Three inches, black patent leather pumps. I picked up another pair with a slightly lower heel and some evening sandals made from thin straps of leather. I even got a pair of black flats, almost like ballet slippers, but a little more substantial.

Make-up!! I felt my chin and there wasn't any stubble there. I sat down on a stool at the Clinique counter (my favorite make-up) and asked the girl to go for it. As Heather worked we chatted and when she found out I'd survived the fire she hugged me and chatted some more. They were still talking about the missing guy called Felix.

I think Heather was bored because she did me over twice and finally announced on the third try that she was satisfied. So was I. I looked gorgeous. I was made up, but not obviously, made up and the final effect was awesome. My face was as smooth as silk, my lashes never looked better, and the lipstick and eye shadow were perfect for me. I gathered up a large bag of products and gave her a hug. I'd got freebies of brushes and skin cleanser and I bought a good compact with a big mirror.

I was nearly through shopping. I went to see the sales lady and got her to tally up my purchases. I was only two-thirds of my way through the vouchers. That was great because the next stop was the Wig Shoppe I'd seen on the way in. I saw Judy comparing skirts on a rack and told her where I'd be. She claimed the make-over made me look dangerous. I loved this girl!

I intended to get two good-quality wigs. The one I was wearing was a dirty blonde with a few highlights. It was just on chin-length but I wanted something shoulder length, and another slightly longer than that, and that would be enough.

I felt so cool in the suit and heels and an A-grade make-over that nothing could have fazed me right then. I told the lady what I wanted and she went out the back to find them. When she returned I sat in front of the mirror and she took off my old wig.

"What the hell happened to this, darling? Were you smoking and using the top of your head as an ashtray?"

"No, I was in the hotel that burned down last night. Stray ashes hit me and my clothes and the wig."

"Oh my God. Are you okay?"

"Yes I am, thank you. A few scorches but I'm alive."

"Oh that must have been terrifying but only that guy from Colorado seems to be missing. It could have been much worse."

"Is that wig recoverable or is it too badly damaged?"

"Hard to say, dear. Can you leave it here for the day? I'll have a look and a bit of a clip and try and fix it. No promises though."

"Fair enough. I'm Angie by the way."

"Mel. Short for Melinda. I see your hair is growing out well. Some sort of treatment?"

"Yes, some sort."

"Okay, Angie, let's try these two." She tried the two wigs on me and decided the longer of the two wasn't quite right. She went out the back again and came back with another model that looked great. She flicked a comb over it and I pronounced myself satisfied, telling her to leave the shoulder-length wig on. I bought a couple of brushes and combs and left Mel staring at my old wig, waving a small pair of clippers as she tried to work out where to start.

I had forgotten one necessity and I went back into the department store to fix it. I didn't have anything to wear to bed if my vintage set wasn't clean. It was easier to get a back-up and I found a really pretty black satin nightgown and robe with a wide lace trim. It was long and sexy but not too fussy. I thought I'd finished

my shopping, but there was this short baby-doll set on a shop mannequin. It was pale blue and trimmed with a pale beige lace. I had plenty of funds left so I got that too.


Shopping is exhausting and I found Judy had had enough as well. She had ten bags of stuff and was wearing jeans with a blue silk top and a pair of neat cowboy boots. She'd been made over too and looked smart from top to toe. We adjourned to a café for coffee and sweet pastries and we continued our earlier discussion.

"Made a decision, Ange?" Judy looked real cute when she had a quizzical look on her. Her eyes opened a bit wider and her nose seemed to turn up some more.

I sighed. "I think I have. I've just bought a heap of clothes and not one item was for the late Felix Aaronson."

"The late Felix Aaronson?"

"I think he might have died in the fire. Look Judy, this isn't easy. Or maybe it's too easy. I'm going to be Angie full time for a while. If I don't like it or it turns out to be shit I can be found wandering naked in the forest in a month's time, confused and suffering from a serious bout of amnesia resulting from stress that will almost certainly be cured within a week. I still feel guilty as hell about Nicole but this is my one chance to see if I can make it."

Judy leaned over and kissed me on the mouth.

"You're a brave girl, Felix Aaronson, and that's the last time I'll ever use that name. The fire was a tragedy and I feel guilty for suggesting you had more than one choice this morning. I have a suggestion. Come with me to Las Vegas. Let me make it up to you by helping you out, helping you find yourself. Let's see what we can get out of Jayson with a 'y' and hit the road. You interested?"

"What can I say?" I asked her. "I have no money unless Jayson comes through, I have no clothes even vaguely resembling a guy's and no real identity to fall back on. For better or for worse I'm Angie Bower. No, I'm Angela Victoria Madeleine Bower-Trump. So there. A girl is born fully named. Let's go back to the hotel. I can feel some plans coming on."

We'd forgotten the limo was still parked outside. The guy helped load the packages and us into the car and I could see him checking us out. Why not? We were two hot chicks and deserved to be inspected.

Ten minutes later we pulled up outside the hotel and a flunky came running to

help with the bags. I was ready for a nap, but it would be a little while before I could close my eyes. As we got out of the elevator and turned left we saw that a group of people were standing outside 404. One of them, who just had to be a policeman was knocking on the door. Jayson was among the group. He turned and saw us and tapped the cop on the shoulder.

"Miss Brightman, Miss Bower. These gentlemen would like to talk you about Mr Aaronson." Jayson looked flustered and even more tired than he had that morning. There was no way out of this. Judy opened the door and invited everyone in. Along with Jayson was the hotel manager, whose name I never caught, two detectives from Barstow and one from Denver, who had the unlikely name of Steven Stevens.

Jayson made the introductions and everyone inspected Judy and me closely. This had to be about the missing guy from Denver. Jayson looked at me more carefully than anyone. I looked radically different from the Angie Bower he'd seen earlier and it seemed to be confusing him.

Stevens cleared his throat. "Miss Bower, I've been asked to follow up on the disappearance of Mr Felix Aaronson. I understand from Jayson that you were with him when the fire broke out?"

This should be exciting.

"Yes, I was. We went out together and the last I saw of him he went around the side of the hotel towards the car-park."

"Can you tell me how he was dressed?"

White nylon nightgown and negligee, full length, lace, painted toenails.

"Ah, I think, yes, he was wearing pajama bottoms. Nothing else. We never got

a chance to grab anything other than what we were wearing because the fire was getting hotter all the time."

"And the color of the pajama bottoms?"

"Navy blue with a white cord."

This was all being written down by Stevens and the local cops. I was uneasy but also confident I wasn't going to get recognized, not even by Nicole.

"May I ask what the nature of your relationship with Mr Aaronson was?"

"We were very close."

"How close, Miss Bower?"

"Close enough for us to share a bed. We'd been talking about a permanent relationship."

"Were you aware that back in Denver Mr Aaronson was engaged to be married?"

Here it was. The Test.

"Oh my God! You're joking. Engaged? Oh, this is terrible. Are you sure? I don't believe it."

I covered my face with my hands and tried to burst into tears. I managed to screw up my face but tears seemed to be in short supply. Nevertheless, I managed to influence Stevens towards a little sympathy.

"I'm sorry to be the bearer of this news, Miss Bower. I see you were unaware of Mr Aaronson's fiancée and I appreciate how difficult that might be. Miss Shatlock will be here shortly to see if she can help in the search for Mr Aaronson and I must say I can't see any value in a confrontation between the two of you."

"Mr Stevens," I said, "I'm already distraught because Felix is missing, probably crushed to death in the hotel ruins. It's bad enough fearing he may be dead without the stress of a fiancée. I'm not sure what to do now. I agree with you that there seems little point in facing up to this woman. I imagine she loved him as much as I did. I want to scream and cry and claw her eyes out, but you're right. Promise me that you'll keep me informed. Promise me that any news will come to me as fast as it does to this other woman."

"Very well, Miss Bower. Tell me, do you have any ID?"

"I came out of the fire with nothing but my nightgown, Mr Stevens. Even that has been burned through with hot ashes and there's no doubt I wasn't far from dying in there. I wish to God I'd managed to grab my purse, but it was actually on fire when I finally saw where I'd left it on the table in my room. I've lost everything, and that seems to include my lover. Give me a break."

I was starting to shake, mainly with the stress of making everything up as I went along, and I'm sure that helped convince Stevens. I gave Jayson a sideways glance and I'm sure I saw tears in his eyes. Judy was looking like she was suppressing a grin.

Jayson finally spoke again.

"I think Miss Bower has had enough questions for now, Officer. She is clearly distressed. Can we leave her in peace for a while? I'm sure Miss Brightman will help comfort her. Miss Bower, you have my promise that if there is any news you will hear it immediately. Can we go, gentlemen?"


The crowd left the room and Judy said, "That went well, all things considered." There was a knock on the door and Judy stalked over to it and flung it open, ready to give whoever it was both barrels.

It was Jayson, visibly upset.

"Ladies, I apologise. These people have no finer feelings and I find myself wanting to shout at them. I suppose that wouldn't be fair because they are only doing their jobs.

"There is lunch being served in the dining room or through room service and you should help yourselves to whatever food and drink you want. There will be no charge for anything. Pick out a nice wine or something stronger."

"Thank you, Jayson," I said. "I think we might do that."

Jayson left us alone.

"What do you think, Ange? Get out of town before sunset?"

"Can we just hold on for a day while we see where the hotel stands on this? I can smell the faint odor of money wafting up from the management. If this adventure goes into overtime there could be some serious dollars to be made, possibly by me and Felix."

"Sure we can. I have to be in Vegas in two days time so if you haven't made a call by then I might have to go on ahead."

Okay, Judy. Let's go eat."


We wandered down to the dining room. There were a few people I recognized from the previous night. (Was it only last night?) They looked different from the rest of the patrons somehow. We sat and were immediately joined by two of the guys I'd spoken to in the street while we waited to see where we would be staying.

"Do you mind if we join you, girls? I don't think we exchanged names last night. I'm Rob and this is Jeff. We were just talking about how lucky we were to get out."

"I'm Judy and this is Angie," said Judy. "We've had the same conversation. When you think about how often you get sent on to the street on a false alarm and how its easy to get cynical about it, it would have been easy just to pretend there was nothing happening and go back to sleep."

"Agreed," said Jeff. "In this case it was the noises that alerted me to

something serious. False alarms usually just involve an alarm but there were bangs and shouts and people running."

"I woke up to the alarm and my room was already on fire," I put in.

"Same here," said Judy. "Someone banged on my door and that moved me along."

"I don't think I'll ever sleep naked again," said Rob. "I just had the towel. It's lucky it wasn't a cold night."

"Any word on the missing guy?" asked Jeff. "It doesn't look very promising. I hear his girlfriend is coming in from Denver in an hour or so. It's not going to be good for her. I also hear that the fire started in the kitchen and was the result of a negligent act on the part of a hotel employee with a lighted butt he threw away."

This conversation made me unhappy, as did a whole lot of conversations later on, and for two reasons. One was Nicole and the other was the genuine concern for Felix's welfare. I hadn't planned on that. I was fully aware that it would affect Nicole but the interest and caring of total strangers really moved me.

Judy didn't say anything. A girl came to take orders and after we decided what to eat and ordered drinks we discussed the fire some more.

"By the way, Angie, your nightwear has been discussed all over the place today. Even the reporter for the local paper is going to write something about glamour under adversity." said Rob.

I blushed. "Yes, I noticed that I was overdressed compared to everyone else. It's hard to make a plan for what to wear in an emergency. Perhaps Harpers could do a piece called 'Fashion for Fires – Don't Get Caught in Your Old Pajamas'."

They laughed. It was good to talk to these guys who had a huge thing in common with us. We relayed stories we'd heard about naked guys and firemen distracted by a girl wearing only a miniscule thong, but always hanging over the conversation was the missing Felix.

We finished lunch and Judy and I headed back to the lobby, intending to go back to our room to freshen up and plan our next move. It was incredibly bad timing, because there was Nicole coming through the front door with her parents, her two brothers and my parents and two of my sisters. This was something I'd hoped to avoid. Having decided to remain Angie for a little while at least, I had intended to avoid any contact. As it was, they headed past me to the front desk

and although several of the party looked at me there were no signs of recognition. I scurried toward the elevators.

"Was that Nicole?" asked Judy.

I told her who made up the group. I was shaking and was about to tear my clothes off and run downstairs. Judy saw me starting to cry and put her arms around me, gave me a hug and held me tight.

"It's okay to change your mind, Ange. You can go and tell them you've recovered your memory and carry on with the life you're used to. If you still want to come to Vegas with me, why don't I get a rental and we can leave right now and get way from all this? We can leave a message for Jayson with a 'y' and just hightail it out of here and call back later and tell them where we are. Don't forget we're stressed and vulnerable. They won't be disturbed by a little impulsive behavior. But hear what I say, Ange. If you want to go see your folks and your fiancée, I'm never going to criticize you for it."

I looked in her eyes and her compassion was genuine, to the point that her eyes were moist.

"I think that's a good idea, Judy. Let's get the hell out of here," I said.


Having made the decision I acted straight away. I hadn't got as far as taking stuff out of the shopping bags yet.

"Ah, Ange?" I heard Judy sounding hesitant for the first time. "Ah, I haven't got any credit cards. I'm sorry, I just forgot. What say I get a limo down to the bank and sort that out. There's branches of the two banks I have card accounts with right in town and I should be able to get replacement cards straight away. It might take a couple of hours. Is that okay? I'm so sorry, honey. We might just have to wait a tiny bit longer."

What could I say? "Go ahead, Jude. I should have realised that was how it is. I'll just hang out until you get back."

"Why don't you come too, Angie? I don't want you here alone and fretting."

"Not a bad idea. I'll call up reception." I picked up the phone and asked for a cab again and was told a limo would be there by the time we got downstairs. That was great. I sidled through the lobby with my head swiveling every which way so I could avoid my family or Nicole's. Shortly afterwards we on our way downtown to the banks.

It didn't take as long as we thought it might. Judy arranged for replacement cards to be sent on to the Las Vegas branches of both banks for collection in two days time. Right now they gave her the cash advances she asked for but only after they called Jayson to confirm that Judy was a fire victim. If they hadn't accepted the hotel's word there would have been delays while ID was confirmed.

We had the limo driver take us to a Hertz car rental agency and in twenty minutes we were driving back to the hotel in a new Ford convertible. Judy parked outside and we went back upstairs one last time. I had Jayson paged and asked him to come up and see us.

It was a tired Jayson who arrived soon after that. He had dark circled under his eyes and looked very stressed.

"Ladies? Is there something I can do?"

"Yes, Jayson, we're leaving. We're going to Las Vegas and we will get in touch with you once we know where we're staying. We hear that the fire was started by an employee in the kitchen. Is that true?"

"We aren't quite sure yet, Miss Brightman. "I have heard the same rumor and I don't know if it's true or not. The fire department was still making inquiries last I heard."

"How are Mr Aaronson's party taking the news?" asked Judy. I couldn't have brought myself to ask.

"Not well, Miss Brightman. I haven't mentioned Miss Bower at all and I see no reason to, but the detectives may reveal the facts and if there is an inquest it will certainly become public knowledge. Your decision to leave will help me and the hotel. The mission to clear the basement of the hotel is well under way but there is so much rubble and still some fire hot-spots so I don't think Mr Aaronson will be found. I'm sorry, Miss Bower, but there it is."

I couldn't help myself, I burst into tears.

"I have a discretionary authority to pass on cash to help victims of this tragedy," said Jayson. "Let me get you some more cash to help you out. I confess that I am now so tired I can't think straight, but it seems the hotel may be held responsible. I say may be held responsible. Anyway, I don't see why you should suffer for the stupidity of one employee. Sorry, there may have been an employee who was careless. I need to shut up now, ladies. Please wait while I get a cash advance for you."

Ten minutes later he was back with two envelopes stuffed with notes.

"I wish you well, ladies. Please sign this receipt for our records and please let me know where you end up staying. The police and fire departments will want to talk to you again."

I signed the receipt and found out I had another three thousand dollars. Holy shit, a gold mine! Judy got the same of course, and ten minutes later we were headed north with the top up and the rain pouring down. Well not quite. We stopped off on the way so I check up on my old wig. Heather said that it was beyond help and she'd had it put to sleep.




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