Chapter Four

Carys let herself in the front door of the house, making as little noise as possible. She took her boots off and left them on the boot rack, then tried the door to their apartment. It wasn't locked. She entered, closed and locked the door behind her, then froze. Is that Jami crying? She ran up the stairs. "Jami!"

Jami was curled up in bed, under the covers, rocking back and forth and crying softly.

Carys slipped off her jeans and slid under the covers.

"Jami? Love, I'm here."

"I know. I heard you come in. I'm just sad. It's my own way of dealing with this. Hold me for a while."

Carys wrapped her arms around Jami. "It was a wonderful ceremony, Jami. Crystal was wonderful. I didn't know she could sing like that. It was good, but tiring and so draining. I came straight home afterwards." Carys hesitated. "Tam and I walked to the bus stop together."

Jami was starting to relax. She snuggled into Carys. "Good idea. I know you like to be out alone at night, but I worry about you."

"Jami."

"Yes, Car?"

"Tam and I, we were pretty wiped out, emotionally. We were hugging and, something happened. When I was with Tam."

"What? Tell me! Is Tam okay?"

"We were both so upset. We hugged each other."

"Of course. So?"

"Somehow, accidentally, we kissed, just for a second. It just happened. I didn't intend to. We were both shocked. I'm sorry." Carys cringed inside, waiting for Jami's reaction.

"Tam is a very sweet person. What's wrong with kissing her?"

"Jami! You're my partner. Tam isn't! Aren't you upset?"

"Was it romantic? Did kissing Tam feel like kissing me?"

"No! Kissing you is like being in Oak Park on the Fourth of July, while they set off the city fireworks!"

"Hmm..." Jami leaned over and gave Carys a quick kiss. "Did it feel like that?"

"Well, yes, kind of."

"Okay. So it was an intimate gesture between two good friends." Jami nodded and smiled.

"Jami! You're my lover, my partner. I just kissed someone else. Isn't that some kind of betrayal? Isn't it wrong?"

"Why'd you tell me?"

"I'm not going to keep secrets from you!"

"Exactly. If you hadn't told me, then I'd be upset. And if I didn't like and trust Tam, then I'd be upset." She gave Carys another quick kiss. "I'm not only your lover and partner. I'm your friend, too."

"Okay, I think I see what you're saying."

Jami cocked her head and looked at Carys. "How would you react if someone other than you kissed me?"

"If anyone touches you I'll pound them to a bloody pulp!"

"What if it was Tam? The way I just kissed you?"

"Uh..."

"So Tam isn't just anyone?"

"I guess not." Carys paused, then continued, "Jami, what does this mean?"

"It means that Tam isn't just anyone. We've slept with Tam, remember?" Jami giggled. "I was in the middle. It was very comfy."

"Well, yes, but that was an accident."

"Kissing her was an accident, too?"

"Yes, and no. We didn't trip and fall against each other. I was just as much doing it as she was."

"You were comfortable being with Tam and it just happened."

"Yes."

"Okay, like when we all fell asleep watching the video, then spent the rest of the night together, just sleeping? That just happened?"

"We all had our clothes on."

"Would you be that comfortable with just anyone? Clothes or not?"

"You were in the middle, Jami."

"I was so warm." She snuggled into Carys.

"Jami! This doesn't bother you at all?"

"No. I love you. I like Tam. You're both snuggly. What's the problem?"

"Well, I guess there isn't one." Carys was silent a few moments, then asked, "Have you ever thought about kissing Tam?"

"Not until now. Did you think about it before it happened?"

"No."

"Exactly. Do you have Tam's number in your cell?"

"Sure, everyone in the group."

"Would you call her please?"

"Why?"

"Because don't you think she probably is upset and worried right now? That is not good."

"Well, no. Okay." Carys leaned off the edge of the bed and snagged her jeans, fumbled around and found her cell. Made the call.

"Hello, Tam? It's Carys."

"Hi, Carys, are you home?" said Tam.

"Yes. Uh, Jami asked me to call you."

Jami spoke into the cell. "Hi, Tam!"

Carys put the cell to her ear, then spoke into it, "Yes, I told her. It doesn't seem to be bothering her."

"I see," said Tam.

"Punch up the volume," asked Jami.

Carys did so.

"Hello, Tam, this is Jami."

"Uh, hi, Jami."

"It's okay, Tam."

"It was an accident, Jami. I'm sorry."

"Not a problem. Can you come over again soon?"

"Okay, if you really want to see me again."

"Absolutely! My parents are away for most of the break, and we sure aren't going to spend much time with Carys's parents over the holidays. So we have lots of free time coming up. Come over as soon as you can, please? We can talk, eat, watch a video, snuggle, fall asleep together, whatever."

"Jami."

"What?"

"I'm confused."

"We've already established that. You and Carys clearly have one thing in common. You are both confused by me."

"Okay, Jami. Are you still there, Carys?"

"I am, and I'm really tired after today, so I'm going to say good-night. We can all talk more tomorrow."

"Good-night Carys, Jami."

"Bye!" yelled Jami, just before Carys hung up.

"See, I'm shiny with it."

Carys looked closely at Jami. "Just what exactly are you shiny with?"

"With promoting Tam to kissing cousin status, or whatever. I like Tam. We have a lot in common. Think about it. Tam is trans and I am intersex. We're both on some level male-bodied people living as women. Kinda, sorta."

"True."

"Okay? No more upset? Want to tumble into our special private universe for a while and watch the fireworks before we go to sleep?"

"I love you, Jami."

"Shhh. No more words."

* * *

Jami sat on the window seat, looking out the window.

"Are you going to go down and let Tam in, Jami?" said Carys from the desk computer.

"Yes indeedydoody."

"And what exactly are we going to do when she gets here?"

"Talk about what happened Sunday, and stuff."

Carys sighed. "I guess we have to do this."

"How can we be together, in the support group, or wherever, until we talk about this?"

"Right," agreed Carys. "I just don't know what to say."

Jami glanced back out the window. "There's Tam!" She hopped down off the window seat and skated across the floor in her socks, then thumped down the stairs.

Carys closed out what she was working on, stood up and pushed the chair into the desk, then walked to the stairs. Why am I so calm about this? I kissed Tam Sunday night, and my partner has just run down the stairs, eager to let her in. Is this the way relationships are supposed to work?

Tam came up the stairs, with Jami right behind her.

Tam stopped at the top of the stairs."Hi, Carys."

"Hi, Tam."

Jami scooted around Tam, to be next to Carys. "Toss your coat on the railing, Tam," said Jami. Tam did so. "Come on, let's go talk." Jami grabbed Tam's hand and Carys's hand and pulled them toward the bedroom.

In the bedroom, Jami let go of their hands and hopped on the bed, sitting cross-legged near the pillows. She patted the spaces to either side and in front of her. "Come on guys, talk time."

Carys and Tam climbed on the bed, also sitting cross-legged, facing one another. Jami reached out to take their hands again. "The symmetry of the triangle is profound. There is no other plane shape in which every vertex shares a side with every other vertex. It's such perfect symmetry."

"Tiger, tiger, burning bright; in the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye; could frame thy fearful symmetry?" recited Tam.

"What?" said Carys.

"The Tiger. William Blake. British Romantic poet." said Tam.

"I remember now," said Carys. "You have to pronounce symmetry to rhyme with eye. You were saying, Jami?"

"Something about triangles, but let's cut to the chase." Jami looked at Carys, then at Tam. With no expression on her face, and a soft voice, she asked, "Why did you two kiss each other Sunday night? Did you like it? What does this mean for the three of us?"

Tam blushed, but continued to look at Jami.

"Jami," said Carys, "I didn't think this was going to be an inquisition."

"It isn't. I just need to know."

"Well, I already told you. We just kind of happened to kiss. We were emotional after the meeting. We hugged. It turned into a kiss. I think I was so shocked to realize I was kissing Tam rather than you, that I honestly don't remember what it felt like. Maybe that's what happened. If you'd been with me, Jami, I would have been hugging you for comfort, and we would have kissed."

Tam nodded, swallowed. "I was really surprised. It was my first kiss, actually. It's not like most people are eager to even hug a tranny, you know. I mean really hug, and not push you away as soon as possible. Honestly, it was such a shock that I can't say whether I liked it."

Jami smiled. "Carys is the first person I ever kissed, for similar reasons. I like it a lot."

"I don't know what to say now," said Tam.

Carys cleared her throat and said, "Jami and I want to stay friends with you, Tam. We both like you, a lot."

"But something has changed. I don't see how we could ever again be as easy and comfortable with each other as we were the night we fell asleep here watching a video." Tam sighed. "It's bad enough that what I did changed my relationship with you two. I couldn't live with myself if I did something to hurt your relationship with each other." She looked down at her hands.

"Tam, you're not crying?" said Jami.

Tam sniffled without looking up.

Jami exchanged a worried glance with Carys, then took Tam's hands in hers. "Look at me, Tam."

Tam looked up.

"You are crying." Jami used a corner of a bed sheet to blot Tam's tears. Then she leaned forward quickly and kissed Tam's nose. "There's nothing to cry about."

"Are you sure?" said Tam.

"Positive," said Jami, "All we have to do is be honest and keep talking with each other. It works for me and Carys; it can work for the three of us while we become comfortable being together again."

"You sure this isn't the first step on a slippery slope?" said Tam.

"Slippery slope to what? Are you feeling like taking off your clothes and having an orgy?"

"Gods, no!" said Tam. "I can't imagine doing that with anyone. It'll be years before I'm comfortable even thinking about having sex, if ever."

Jami and Carys nodded.

"All right," said Jami, "now that we have the easy stuff out of the way, let's discuss how I can look less like a poster child for the conservative agenda, and what we're going to do about poor Lovelorn the Clown."

Jami scooted for the edge of the bed. "I need to pee. Can you bring Tam up to speed on those topics, please, Car?"

"Appearances to the contrary not withstanding, Jami wears the pants around here," smiled Carys. She quickly filled Tam in on Jami's feelings about her appearance, and on their previous discussions about what to with the Lovelorn act without Jami in the role of pretty assistant."

Finished in the bathroom, Jami hopped back up on the bed. "Any ideas, Tam?"

"I'd give anything to be as pretty as you are, Jami, but I think I understand what's bugging you."

"Would you really, truly want to look as normal as I do, Tam? And I mean on the surface, 'cause you know I'm a total freak if you spread me out on an operating table."

"Jami!" gulped Tam.

Carys reached out and took one of Tam's hands. "Just imagine what it was like for me a year ago when Jami and I began having conversations like this."

Tam took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right, Jami. I have chosen to not try to be overtly femme. Part of it is my personality; I'm a bookworm and a scholar. Some of it is hoping that people will see me as female without my hitting them over the head with my presentation.

"No small part of it is shame, because I know a lot of people believe I'm trying to trick them. And of course there's the fear. The more thoroughly people feel they've been tricked, the more violent their reaction will be when they find out what they consider to be the truth." Tam looked down at her lap.

"Do you envy me because I can point to a physical, medical reason for being the way I am, and all you can say is that you don't feel right about your body?"

"No," Tam shook her head, "I refuse to be sucked into that way of thinking. I don't just feel that I'm female. I know I am. I've always known that. I'm just as much of a freak as you are, maybe more so, because I've deliberately chosen to modify my body."

Jami was breathing quickly, staring intently at Tam. She began slowly and silently clapping her hands together. Concerned, Tam looked at Carys, who just shrugged her shoulders.

"Are you unhappy with being a pretty girl, Jami?"

"I guess that's what I'm trying to figure out. Do you think I'm attractive, Tam?"

Oh, shit; how do I answer that? Just be honest, I guess. "Yes, Jami. I can't imagine you not being attractive. It's who you are that makes you attractive, not what you look like in the mirror."

Jami frowned at Carys. "Have you been feeding her lines?"

Carys laughed. "The truth will out."

"The truth will out. You're brilliant, Carys."

"Tam's the brilliant one, I'm just a clown accountant. What do you mean?"

"Yes! Professor Tam's Traveling Philosophy Show, with sidekick Lovelorn the Clown Accountant and their pet cat Hermaphroditos. (That's me.) I like it. It solves all our problems in one swell foop."

"Do you have any idea what she's talking about?" said Tam to Carys.

"No, but she'll explain once she settles down."

Jami pawed the bedspread with her fists. "Nya! That's Japanese for meow."

"I actually know that," said Tam.

"Okay, this is still bouncing around in my head, but... The esteemed Professor Tam—you can use a stage name, but it should probably be androgynous, too—expounds on the simplicity of sex and gender, while the fabulous Clown Accountant a/k/a Lovelorn the Clown, makes a mess of adding up all the supposed facts.

"My purpose is to be cute and help with the magic tricks, which Carys will devise once we figure this out a bit more, and of course you'll be using me as an offhand example that two plus two sometimes equals three, or five."

"How does this solve your image problem?"

"I'll go with the cat motif, but I'll stay pretty and playful, and let the truth out me. I guess, like Carys, I need to do something, and not simply exist."

"Now, we need to figure out how to spend a lot more time together, the three of us."

* * *

Tam stayed rather late. By the time she left, they were all feeling almost as much at ease with one another as they had the day before.

Jami stretched and yawned. "I'm going to crawl into bed and read for a while. Are you going to be long, Carys?"

"Nope. I'm just going to look up the rest of the Tiger poem, then join you. I'm going to read, too."

The poem was easy to find on the 'net, The verse following the one Tam had quoted was: "In what distant deeps or skies; burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire?"

Hmm, thought Carys. Dare seize the fire? Is that appropriate or what?"