Chapter Three of Masking
Tammy returned to her room. The ambient rain player had stopped, and there was a note on her desk.
"Thank you, Tammy. I don't know exactly what you did with me, but I know I wanted to forget something and you helped me do it. I feel bad for sorta kicking you out of your room. Here's some cash for your trouble."
Next to the note was a trio of ten dollar bills, crisp and laid flat. Tammy considered turning them down for a moment. She could get a big ice cream cake for less than that from the cafeteria, though, and her birthday was approaching. It would do. She took them and stuffed them haphazardly into her wallet before tossing it onto the desk. She flopped into her bed and stared at the ceiling. She had schoolwork which needed doing, but...did she have the energy for that task?
No. She wound up procrastinating until midnight and going to bed defeated. She woke up at five o clock...and continued to get nothing done. Each time she sat down for an assignment, it was like grease had saturated her brain and made gripping anything within it near impossible. For the full three hours between five and eight am, she accomplished absolutely nothing. Eventually she gave up on that morning and went to her dresser, where she retrieved fresh clothes and her ADHD medicine. One pill went down the hatch, then she returned the bottle to its hiding place in the top drawer. She changed clothes slowly and awkwardly, taking care not to let the fabric touch her chin. No bra today, she decided as she looked down, didn't have the energy for that.
Then she noticed on the way out that her nipples were showing through her shirt. Right. Damn it.
Tammy took off the plain red shirt and threw on a simple purple bra one of her friends had given her. Now that she had tits-
She had tits!
Tammy ran a few feet over and retrieved two bottles from a drawer in the leg of her work desk, which was against the wall with the window. She threw one down easily, then took two pills from the other and put them under her tongue to dissolve. She chastised herself in her head as she put the bottles back where she kept them. Couldn't keep forgetting like that or her boobs would stop growing. Couldn't have that. It was banned. Illegal!
Her bra fell off and she realized she hadn't actually hooked it in. A laugh threatened to burst out of Tammy before she could figure out what was funny, but with great self control she kept her mouth clamped shut. The feeling of the medicine dissolving bugged her enough that she wound up digging them out with her tongue and swallowing them early. It was a bad habit, but she had worse.
Right, the bra! She picked it up off the floor and slipped it back on, but this time she remembered to actually finish the job. With some doing she got two of its three rows of hooks in place and...that was good enough. She giggled as she put her shirt back on, realizing what had gotten a laugh from her earlier: the idea that, somehow, she'd bent over, retrieved two bottles (with childproof caps!) twisted both open, taken them both, done it all with a bra hanging off her arms, THEN realized she hadn't actually put it on solely because it fell to the floor.
Tammy finished changing. Socks, panties, shorts. She loved the feeling of soft panties holding her hips and her member was far less ugly as a cute little bulge under cute girly underwear than...the upsetting spear of turgid meat that it was. For a moment she considered, as she had a few times before, learning how to tuck. Then she recalled that the potential threat of being recognized as potentially trans (or "clocked," as many of her friends would say) bothered her less than the idea of duct taping her dick to her ass, no matter how dangerous it could potentially be. Besides, if she tried to use a restroom it would require her to do the whole thing again (and she didn't have one to herself, there were two fairly large ones for her entire floor so this applied EVERYWHERE as long as she was at school), and that just sounded horrific. She put on a comfy pair of shorts, trying to fight the irritation that swiped at her each time she remembered that particular flaw of her current arrangements. Next task: breakfast.
Tammy arrived in the university's cafeteria at nine twelve AM. She was kind of late, breakfast ended at ten, but that was fine. She walked through the room with all the food counters and ignored the salad bar on her way to the grill, which was the only place she ever went for breakfast. The line was short, but long enough that she had time for her phone, so she pulled it out for the first time that day. Three new messages. One was from her sister. Nope. She marked that one as read without paying it any mind. Two from Fara.
"Hey," read the first, "I passed you on the way out of the cafeteria earlier. Sorry I didn't say hi, I was really worked up. I love you." Awww. Tammy smiled and felt her heart skip a beat. Wait, earlier? As in...ah, shit. Was it from yesterday? She checked the timestamp. "Sent, yesterday at 9:07 PM." Damnit, she hadn't checked her phone last night. What did the new one say?
"Good night." That one's timestamp placed it at
Shit. Had Tammy hurt her feelings? Guilt crept back into her. Had she even gone along with Emily's harebrained scheme to help out or did she want to pretend the awful thing she'd done had never happened? She bit her lip as a whirlwind of bad feelings whipped about the inside of her head.
"Next. NEXT!" Shouted the lunch lady. An uncomfortable Tammy stuffed her phone back in her bag and ran up to the counter.
"So-so, uh, sorry ma'am!" She stammered out. "Two eggs three sausage, please. Thank you!"
The lunch lady rolled her eyes and gestured for the boy behind her. Tammy moved away and patiently waited a minute for a small plastic plate to be put on the waiting spot with her food on it. One more gratuitous thank you later she was carrying it through the line, patting her leg to make sure she had her wallet (she did). She swiped her card and exchanged pleasantries with the cashier as she always did, then walked out into the dining area in search of a seat to take. She found an empty booth before long and sat, her mind already drifting back to...god.
Tammy buried her face in her hands and groaned with annoyance. She forgot to grab plasticware. Was that the word? She got up and walked back across the large room, glad it wasn't too crowded. One fork, one knife. She grabbed them and made her way back to her food. Her body heaved back into its spot and she exhaled heavily. Her brain wanted to go back to stressing out over Fara but she had work to do. And by "work," she meant "eating."
Tammy dug into the three sausage links and moderate pile of scrambled egg that was her breakfast each day. The sausage was delicious and satisfying as always, and she shoveled a few fork stabbings' worth of egg into her mouth with no problem. Yet, despite this delicious distraction, her brain was unable to stick. Had she hurt Fara's feelings? Was Fara okay? They lived in different dorms so she couldn't easily check up on Fara physically...and she didn't know Fara's room number. Nervously, and with great unease, she retrieved her phone with her left hand and tapped in her eighteen-character password.
"Hi," she typed, waited a second, and deleted. She put down a small mouthful of egg without taking her eyes off her phone. She didn't want to brush it off, if she had hurt Fara's feelings. "Sorry I didn't respond earlier. Phone was on silent last night, I forgot." Was that okay? She ate another clump of egg. It was the last. "I love you, sweetie." Pause. Was that enough?
A voice caught her off guard. Her entire body jolted and she lost her grip on the phone. It hopped through the air as her hands clumsily lashed all about to take it, failing utterly and only knocking it about between them. It made a loud noise as it bonked the table, flipped through the air, and clattered to the floor.
She turned awkwardly to the speaker, face devoid of color. She was pretty sure she'd heard the "message sent!" noise while she was grabbing at her phone.
"Hi!" She said with a fake smile. She had no idea who this guy was. He talked to her about some kind of club, she thought? But she wasn't really there. Her brain was firing on all cylinders and none of them could be directed this way if she wanted them to. They talked for an uncomfortably long time, and she absorbed none of it. After what felt like an hour the guy left. He seemed satisfied, which made Tammy feel a bit better. But...she lowered herself parallel to the table and shoved her arm down and out. It took some groping at the filthy floor but after a second she picked her phone up and dusted it off. No response yet, but no cracks either. And yes, she'd hit send. Well, that was that for now. She had work to do.
Tammy sighed. How was she supposed to do this!? The instructions on her assignment were so...vague. It was two PM, and she'd been staring at a white screen for forty minutes. Intermittently, between bothersome waves of procrastination, but that still counted! She gripped at her face. How was she supposed to summarize a two page text and make it last two hundred fifty words!? That was outrageous! Her phone beeped. It was a notification.
"Hey!" From Fara. That was good. "I'm okay! Just curious if you were available at all this weekend?" Against her better judgment, Tammy tapped in her phone's password and answered.
"Yeah, sure! Does six PM in my room work?"
She turned to her laptop, but before she could get going her phone lit up and spat out another notification beep.
Tammy looked idly. It was a yes. Cool. She had four hours.
It was Sunday. She had not written a single word.
The previous night she'd spent three hours huddled up to Fara. They hadn't been very eager to talk about their relationship with Emily and she'd respected it. The air between the two of them was light, though; gentle, lilting, as it always was. Just how she liked it.
Tammy repeated the ritual from the morning of the previous day, minus stressing over Fara (well, mostly minus that). She got slightly more scrambled eggs put on her plate this time, remembered to get utensils, grabbed a pepper shaker, it was going great.
Then she sat down and realized she'd grabbed a knife and a spoon. No matter. She got back up and fetched herself a fork, determined not to let this put her down. She went to town on her food and totally obliterated it. It only took her a few minutes to destroy everything on her plate and then return it to the conveyor belt where it went afterwards.
"I just don't get it!"
Chris stared awkwardly at Emily, still unclear what she was doing in his dorm on a sunday. Didn't she have church-
"I just, look Emm, it sounds like you have a crush."
"No! That can't be it! I'm STRAIGHT!"
"So is spaghetti-"
"Can it Walter!" Chris shouted behind him at Walter, his gay roommate. "Sorry, that's-"
"Walter. Your gay roommate. I know." Emily rolled her eyes and sat on Chris' bed with crossed arms and pursed lips. "It can't be a crush. That's absurd."
"Well, it fuckin sounds like one." Chris finished buttoning his shirt. "Hey, Walter! You gotta stop forgetting the doors in this building don't lock on their own! What if this broad walked in while I was changing?
"Fine, whatever!" Yelled Walter as he finished straightening a tie.
Emily blinked. It took a moment to process that.
"Hey, fuck off! I'm your FRIEND." She batted her eyes playfully. Chris just rolled his.
"We really aren't close enough for you to just barge in like that."
"S-sorry." Emily cast her eyes away and her spine slackened a little. "I knocked."
"That you did." Grunted Chris as he checked his reflection. "What time is it?"
"Eleven fifty." Emily and Walter answered in unison. Chris laughed.
"Got church in ten minutes. You can come along or stay, I guess, but don't-"
"We have a CHURCH here!?"
Walter and Chris froze in place and locked eyes. They bit their lips, struggling not to laugh, and inevitably failed.
"How do you NOT KNOW!?" Walter doubled over. "Isn't your uncle a fucking priest?"
"H-hey! Leave me alone, I've been busy!" Emily blushed a bit. Come to think of it, she'd never gone to service on campus. Probably wasn't a bad idea. Might help clear her head. "A-actually, don't leave me alone. I'll come with you, if that's alright."
The rest of the day had gone uneventfully. Emily half-listened to church a pew away from Chris and Walter, returned to her dorm for homework, got lunch, put clothes in the wash, watched tv while it went, flipped her clothes into a drier, called her mom, talked about school, hung up, retrieved her laundry, folded it, and put it away. She had just enough time to eat a few granola bars, and it was off of cheer practice.
Emily arrived at her university's impressive multi-facility gym and as soon as she set foot inside it struck her like a thunderbolt: she didn't have practice. Auditions were two days ago. She slapped her face and grumbled with irritation.she was already there, though, and she'd finished all her homework, so she decided to stroll through and see if she bumped into anyone.
The sliding glass doors parted, welcoming her into a hallway with an extremely high ceiling. There was a thin stretch going in a right angle to the left. Past that, the entire wall on the left for the rest of the hall was a window into a basketball court. She made her way down the detour, and quickly came to steel steps leading down. She took them, appreciating the quiet. When she reached the bottom, she came to a hall with one of those weird floors, particular to gymnasiums, which was a sort of hard rubber. She didn't like how it felt under her feet. She never had.
She walked up to one of the exercise rooms, and noticed Tammy inside.
Tammy grunted and bounced on her toes. Her right arm lashed forward at a punching bag. It was housed inside a foam sparring glove (which was almost more of a mitt, since it had a single large mass for her four fingers which curled over her knuckles and a more conventionally fitting one for her thumb) that was a bit too small for her. Her fist connected, shot back, jabbed again, pulled back. She twisted her torso to land a slightly meatier strike with her other arm. The punching bag didn't dance about or make the satisfying rattling noise of the lighter ones she was used to. She exhaled, annoyed, through her teeth.
A door creaked open behind her and she lazily turned an eye towards it.
God...damn it. What was she doing here?
"H...hey." Emily murmured, letting the door close behind her. Tammy grimaced and undid a velcro strap around her left arm, letting her pull her hand out of the glove.
"What brings you here?" Tammy asked back as she took the other off. Emily scratched the back of her head.
"I...forgot we didn't have practice today. You?"
Tammy averted her eyes with annoyance.
"Working out frustration. Couldn't get anything done today."
"I see." There was a long, awkward silence.
"You never did explain what-ah," Emily started in spite of herself. She realized this was probably a mistake, but she was already knee-deep in Awkward. "What, you meant, by….subs." Tammy's eyes narrowed with a look of utter impatience. Emily wasn't sure what she was thinking.
"Ugh, fine." She tossed the two gloves to the floor, where they landed next to a bag. "I do kink stuff with my...well, I call it gay mind magic, but-" Emily snorted a restrained laugh. Tammy glowered until Emily's face regained a sense of forced normality. "My hypnosis skills. The people I do it with, I…" a pause. "Okay, so, in BDSM-"
"I don't know what that is."
"Goddamnit." Tammy squeezed the bridge of her nose between two fingers. "Of course you don't. You know what a dominatrix is, right?"
"The, uh, whip perverts. With the latex."
"Please never use that combination of words again."
"Okay, fine. But yes."
"Okay," started Tammy as she began to pace and stare at the floor in front of her. "BDSM is...that. Or rather, includes it. Tying people up, exploring power dynamics in a relationship for kicks, that stuff. A sub, short for submissive, is what you call someone who likes being on the receiving end of that."
"Why would anyone-"
Tammy froze in place and glared.
"Are you going to let me finish? Because if I wanted to be interrogated about my sex life for an hour I'd call my sister."
Oh. Um. That was really...personal.
"Sorry. I'll shut up."
"Thank you." Tammy started pacing again. "Anyway, what I do has...a lot of overlap with it. When I use the term it's short for 'subject,' but really it's basically the same thing. Someone I do hypnosis stuff with. Usually sexual, not always. There." She stopped. "Does that answer your question?"
Emily nodded. Then something hit her.
"Wait, how do you use that for s-"
"Oh, you sweet summer child." Fuck. There was that voice again. The hair on Emily's neck stood on end and her face flushed. Tammy crossed the space between the two of them in moments and dramatically planted a palm on the wall behind her. They were...so close…
"Well, right now you seem pretty aroused, cutie." Fuck. How was she doing that!?
"H-how are you doing that!?" Emily squeaked out in a panic.
To her shock, Tammy immediately backed away. She put her hands up and gave plenty of space.
"Doing what?" She asked, her voice genuinely curious. There was worry in her tone.
"M-making me...do that…'' Emily's breath started slowing down. Wait, that meant it had sped up!
"I'm...not making you do anything." Tammy answered. Then she winced. "God I fucking hate that phrase-what I mean is, I'm not doing anything special. You just think my 'tist voice is hot."
"N-no I don't!" Emily sputtered. Tammy laughed.
"Oh? That's why every time I do it you get all flustered and overwhelmed?"
"Th-that's different!" Emily did that thing some girls do when flustered, where they press their arms in against their sides. "I...don't...okay, maybe I do." There was a pause. "How...how can I be sure you didn't make me be...into that?" Tammy shrugged.
"You...can't, I guess. Hypnosis is never permanent but-wait, actually, you totally can!" A knowing, teasing grin. "Remember at the start of our second session when you said I was doing it wrong, but then as soon as I did the voice you folded like a house of cards?"
Oh, fuck that was right wasn't it.
"Oh…" Emily felt betrayed by her own body. That was…hard to argue with. "Wait! Does that mean you've fucked Fara?"
Tammy's face darkened. "Frankly, that's none of your damn business."
"W-well, sorry, I just-"
"Whatever." Tammy spat and walked to her bag. She fell to her knees and stuffed her gloves into it. "I have work to not do." She got up, bag closed, and sighed.
"W-wait!" Tammy brushed past Emily and pulled the door open but Emily rushed past to block her. "You said you couldn't do anything today. I-I want to help!" Tammy glared at her.
"I-I don't know. I just-I wanna help you!"
Tammy frowned, then sighed.
"Fine, whatever. But if you use my bed again I'm charging double."