Carl hadn't done anything at all that morning. He sat at the kitchen table, head in hands, finally glancing out the French doors. There was a layer of dirty snow left over from a white Christmas on the patio flagstones, where two Juncos futilely hopped around looking for morsels. But, Christmas had not been white, or merry for Carl. Carla died three days before that. The funeral came and went and after a week no-one came by, no-one called, no-one sent any more condolences.
Carl was missing work a day or two a week. Today was one of those days. He couldn't pull himself together. He got up from his breakfast of coffee and cold cereal, called in sick and went back to bed.
“I'd give years off my life to have her back.” he bargained. “Right now! I want her back. Thirty three is too young to die of cancer. I'll make a deal.” Carl reached over and straightened out Carla's rumpled out mohair sweater and ran his fingers over it. He wished he could fall asleep, a permanent sleep, but he couldn't.
Carl worked on aeronautical guidance systems at a large engineering firm at the edge of the city. Carla had worked at a nonprofit in an exurb. Their life had been happy and comfortable, except that Carl worked 60 hours or more a week. He only got paid for 40 but everyone was expected to work the extra hours, or else.
Carl made it in to work Friday, but Saturday he hadn't turned the heat on again and was back in bed. He reached over and ran his fingers through Carla's sweater again and shivered a little.
“Put it on,” Carla's voice seemed to speak in his head. “Put it on. It's too cold.”
Carl sat up, startled, then sank back down into the bed in a reverie. The voice spoke in his head again. This time Carl put it on. He lay in bed stroking the sweater. It seemed to help.
As the new week unfolded Carl added other Carla items to his attire. The more he put on, the less the pain, sorrow and angst he felt. By the following weekend he was kicking around the house in one of Carla's tops and slacks and wore one of her wigs. He played Carla's tango and flamenco CD's. He remembered to turn the heat on too.
In the afternoon he realized he had been sitting in front of the computer for an hour and a half and couldn't remember what he was doing all that time. It dawned on him when he received the package several days later; six bottles of female hormones. How on earth had he ordered that? He put the pills in the pill drawer, but then the following week he noticed one of the bottles open on the counter. The pills in it were mostly gone.
That same week Carl's boss called him into his office.
“Carl you've been taking lots of time off from work, leaving at five and not pitching in on Saturdays. We are a team here, and we all work together. I'm very sorry about your wife, but it's been almost two months. It's time to get over it and move forward. There is a new prototype for a non-jammable drone guidance reset component we need to test and calibrate with the programmers. We just received it. I'm putting you and Darryl on it. So I can count on you to get back to schedule?”
Carl nodded vacantly.
A month later Carl got a call from personnel. As he sat in the personnel office time slowed down. The lady in front of him mouthed lots of words but the only ones he heard were: “ . . .terminate your employment, . . . final paycheck . . . and remove all your personal items in the next hour.”
Carl drove home and dropped the box of belongings in the corner. After taking a bath he put on a pair of lavender panties with white lace trim and a bra to match. He was starting to develop breasts, but he had to put some silicone pads in to fill it out. Next he put on some tight jeans and a black velvet top with a square cut bodice. He hadn't cut his hair in three months so it almost looked OK for a woman. Finally he put on some lipstick. Now he was safe from the pain and depression.
Carl quickly went through the box from work, diligently sorting and filing and discarding. He put on a tango CD and tried to move to it. “Don't try, let me lead you,” a familiar voice drifted in. The second time he played the music whatever he was doing actually looked like a tango.
A little later he went out to the mailbox and found another package of hormones had arrived. Again he didn't recall ordering them. “Am I losing my mind? There's still two bottles from the last batch in the drawer and I never ordered these.”
“Yes you did, you really want to do this you know . . . for me.” unmistakably Carla's voice coming from, somewhere else? Or, from deep inside him?
Two weeks later Carl received a private note on Messenger, “ Dear Carl, Jana and I are wondering how you are doing. We were reminded of your loss when we came across a drawerful of Carla's belongings. Would you want to come by and get them? Your friend Louise at New Solutions Collective”
“Hi Carl.” Jana looked up from her desk. “We put Carla's things in a box. Are you getting along any better yet?”
“It's almost lunch time. Louise and I like to go to a little place around the corner. Come with us. It will be good for you.”
Realizing he had a lot of time on his hands lately, he agreed.
After telling Carl how much she missed Carla, and how much she wanted him to be able to become happy again, Louise reminisced, “You two were quite the couple, so well suited for each other. You even looked similar. Actually you look more like her than ever before.”
“Disclosure is the nourishment of the soul.” Carla's voice resonated within Carl.
“What was that?” Louise looked startled.
“How could she have heard that?” Carl thought. “What did I say?”
“Yes. Is there something you want to disclose? Does it relate to what I just said?”
Carl now knew what a trapped animal feels like.
“Looking like each other, somethings different, or should I say a bit too much alike.”
Now both women were staring at him.
“Is there something you would like to tell us.”
“Uh no, . . .but I will, I uh . . . A bit after she died it helped the pain if I touched her things. It was as if she was closer again. . . and then I put a few of them on. It helped more. It was as if she was touching and speaking to me. Then the hormones came in the mail. I don't remember or ever imagined that I would ever get them, but I guess I did . . . and . . . and . . . the same for taking them. So I guess I've gotten more like her.”
“Wow, you have.” said Jana. “How do you feel about it? Do you want to be her?”
“It makes me feel closer, not so sad. I want her to be back, in any way.”
“Your body must be changing. Your face is softer, more like hers and your hair is thicker. What about the rest of you? Your body shape could be, probably is changing. Do you have breasts now? It actually looks as if you do.”
“He doesn't have to answer that!” Louise said. “It's scary enough to tell us what he just told us.”
“It's OK. Yes, I have breasts now and I wear loose t-shirts so people won't notice. I was recently fired for spending too much time away from work, so no one there knows.”
“I think it's sweet. If you keep doing it, it could be like having Carla back again.”
“Ooh, that could be fun.” chimed in Jana. “So what's next? Are you going to continue taking the hormones? You could go to Thailand and do a sex change.”
“Don't pressure him Jana.” Louise looked thoughtful, and turned to Carl. “When Carla died we replaced her with another lady. She will be moving away in about two months and the position will be open. It doesn't pay much, but with your engineering and electronics background you could really make our displays much better so we could hire you and pay you a little more. What do you think?”
“Actually I rather like it. I was being worked to death at the other place, so maybe they did me a favor by firing me.”
“So if you keep taking the hormones we could call you Carla. No, that's not right. Carlita.”
Ten days later Carl flew to Thailand. His house was for sale. A month after that Carlita flew back. Her house had a buyer.
Louise and Jana were true to their word and soon Carlita was working at New Solutions Collective. Quickly the three were as close as in the days of Carla. The house sold and Carlita bought a house one-third it's size a short drive from work.
One day Jana brought in the entertainment section of the newspaper. “Carlita, you might like this,” she burbled. “Saturday there's tango dancing at El Tropical. It's twenty miles in toward the city. Interested?”
“Sure, and I know where it is. Louise, would you want to join us?”
Saturday evening came quickly and Carlita picked the others up.
The three entered El Tropical at eight. It was decorated in southern Mexican style with a mural on the wall and carved, painted chairs with birds or flowers or fish on them. There was a back room where the dining tables were replaced by small round cocktail tables with two or three seats around each. The girls decided to get something to eat first and sat at the regular table closest to the back room. By mid meal the music and dancing had started.
“Oh, good band, er I mean trio.”
“They don't waste anytime getting started, and don't you think they have an attitude?”
“Attitudes a part of it.” mentioned Carlita. “But, I guess if you do it long enough the attitude becomes real.”
“Like a husband who gradually doesn't help around the kitchen. Eventually he can't.”
“No, and he's drinking too much beer.”
“Ooh look at that woman. What a sexy dress.”
“The one in the blue and black dress? I think it looks slutty.”
Carlita looked as if she wanted to speak.
“I know, Carlita; they are supposed to be that way. They swagger and strut and all of them give themselves Spanish names, for the evening”
Pretty quickly they finished eating and got margaritas. They wanted to go into the other room, but by now there was no-where to sit. Finally Carlita got up with the remainder of the margarita in her hand and crossed over to just inside the room. No-one seemed to notice her until finally she got a dance. After a second dance she rejoined her friends.
The three left soon after and Carlita practiced her tango at home. By now the Carla part of her had the Carl part well trained, and her dancing flowed as it used to.
Two weeks later the tango club met at The Last Call bar and dance hall. Jana drove and Carlita wore her red tango dress with the black lace and red suede tango shoes. All her shoes were new because now she had bigger feet.
Three different men danced with Carlita and Carlita managed to push Louise out twice to dance. But, none of the men inspired Carlita much.
Two weeks later the tango club was back at El Tropical. It was Argentine Tango night, but the usual band wasn't playing. Carlita was in a quandary. She only had one tango dress and she wore it last time. She dug around and found her flamenco dress, white with blue polka dots. Carlita tried it on, modeled it and decided to dance and sing to her favorite flamenco tape for fun.
Only Louise wanted to come this time. Jana and Art had something else planned. This time the two girls sat at a cocktail table close to the action. As their margaritas and desserts arrived the music started.
After the second song Luis, the guitarist and accordionist announced, “Years ago my uncle taught me the guitar. He was very skilled and very kind. Whenever we play a gig we always play one flamenco number in his honor. This is for my uncle.”
The band started to play. No-one got up to dance; that is no-one except Carlita. She knew this song as well as any. It was her favorite. Her feet started out in a slow rythem: tap thunk thunk thunk, tap thunk thunk thunk. Slowly she increased her speed and intensity to the syncopated rythem, finally rising to a machine-gun crescendo. Her footwork was slow and focused again, then as a coyote is compelled to howl at the moon, Carlita moved toward the mike. Her lower lip trembled and she could no longer contain herself. She let out a wail, the start of the canción, and sung of love and death and manipulation of lovers. It was a total improvisation.
Louise and Carlita were getting attention now, but no-one interested Carlita. Then a large man looked her way. He looked like a bull from the pampas. He caught her eye and she his. He made a slight gesture and Carlita got up and walked towards him as if in a trance. He introduced himself as Raul.
Raul and Carlita started to dance. Raul moved with a certain disdain, that of a Buenos Aires gangster. Argentina danced with Andalusia. Carlita lightly crossed back and forth in front of him, egging him on. As they continued to dance Carlita would slide her foot up and down Raul's calf. This continued for three more dances, becoming more and more suggestive as the dancing continued. Both would stare into each others eyes as if making wordless dares.
Midway through the second set Carlita asked Louise if she would mind if Raul drove her home. Louise said she was good with that and soon after the two left.
At the house Carlita made them each a drink and they danced to her favorite tango followed by the bedroom.
Carla was down to matching polka dot panties and bra and Raul had little on himself. That dissapeared when Carla brushed her hand a few times across his member.
Raul did not disappoint in the nude, as his cock grew to nine inches. “Get ready darling, this will be a new experience for you.” Carla telepathed to what was left of Carl's psyche. Carlita put her pouty lips on the head, then ran her tongue around the helmet. Next she ran her tongue up and down the bottom of the shaft and sucked the balls a little before taking as much of it as she could into her mouth as Raul emitted loud moans of pleasure.
Soon Raul mounted her thrusting deep in her pussy, as Carlita nibbled his nipples. “This is even better.” Carla telegraphed. Raul thrusted deep strong animal thrusts and as he started breathing heavily Carlita slipped out just in time to score a mouthful of cum. “Swallow sweety. Isn't that yummy.”
They rested a bit, then Raul told Carlita to get on her knees on the bed. She dutifully stuck her ass high in the air. Raul poured a little oil in her ass and probed with two fingers. “Here it comes,” telepathed Carla. “Now you will be fully a woman.”
Raul slipped in the head and waited a little, savoring the feeling and anticipation, then he rammed it home. Carlita let out a squeal. Soon she was breathing heavily and letting out wordless sounds. Finally she became coherent, “Oh, so big . . .oh deep inside . . . go deeper, go deeper . . . oh fuck, I'm cumming . . . cum in me, cum in me!” And he did.
Carlita slipped into the bathroom, hand under her ass to catch any leaking cum. After returning to bed she soon fell asleep. She awoke at 4:30 in the morning. Raul was gone.
“Thank you for resurrecting me in this body, mi amor.” The part of Carlita that was Carla professed to Carl, “You were so good, and I love you. But you notice that you have these lapses now and they are becoming more prevalent. That is because I have a stronger spirit than you and more confident with my femininity. As time goes on I will become stronger and stronger and you will gradually fade into the great beyond. I will become fully Carlita because I must, and when life is over I will join you, if there is a place to join you. Don't fight it. Go in love, mi amor, and thank you for giving me another life.”
Epilogue – Three Years Later
It was an idyllic Sunday afternoon. Behind the small house a few dark blue swallowtail butterflies flitted among the penstamon, bee balm and torch lillys. Carlita lounged on the small patio nearby. She just finished a display project Saturday for the Collective and it was definitely kickback day.
Carlita thought about old history. “Carla and Carl were really like my parents. What a disaster! Carla was a real bitch, manipulative, greedy. She almost managed to suck the life out of poor dad, he really loved her, and she almost succeeded . . . but he fought back at the last moment. I guess I wouldn't be me if he hadn't; there would just be Carla posing as Carlita. Now they are just spirits gone away to wherever spirits go.” She looked up, “Thanks dad.”