The House of Fabulousbythrillerauthor©
Effective January 1, 2004, Assembly Bill 196 amended California's Fair Employment and Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on a person's perceived identity, appearance or behavior, even if they are different from a person's sex at birth. AB 196 is primarily intended to prohibit discrimination against employees who choose to dress like the opposite sex and or portray the stereotypical characteristics of the opposite sex. Businesses cannot refuse to hire based on cross dressing, neither can they fire, lay off or refuse to give merit raises based on an employee's real or perceived gender.
Charles Bigelow threw the article down on his immaculate mahogany desk and snorted. "What a load of crap," he said as he reached for the phone. "Get whoever's in charge of the legal department these days, and Wallace in Human Resources. And see if you can find a conference room that's available for a meeting in fifteen minutes."
Bigelow's executive assistant knew when the old man was in a bad mood, and today was one of those days. As she flipped through her directory, she wondered what had set him off this time. Another round of disappointing earnings reports? The company's financial problems were no secret, and it was rumored that heads were going to roll in the executive suite if the ship of state didn't turn around soon.
The company's general counsel had quit after a blowup with Bigelow over records destruction, and two of his assistants had already tendered their resignations in the aftermath. She ran her finger down over the scratched out names until she came to Terrence Poindexter, with the words "acting general counsel" penciled in next to his name. Better call him fast before he joined the exodus.
* * *
Bigelow and Helen Wallace were waiting in the conference room when Terrence Poindexter arrived, a few minutes late, carrying a yellow legal pad and a handful of pencils. A back room boy all the way, he was much more comfortable surrounded by a pile of law books than by a room full of corporate executives, and he fidgeted nervously with one of his pencils as he waited for Charles Bigelow to start the meeting. It didn't help that Bigelow seemed to be staring right through him, dissecting him from his pony tail and bow tie to his khakis and Birkenstocks. When Bigelow finally cleared his throat to speak, Terrence almost jumped out of his skin.
"I just learned about the latest insanity from Sacramento," he said, pushing copies of the article across the table. "Does this mean what I think it means?"
Helen skimmed the article while Terrence seemed to be studying it word for word. Please God, let him speak first, she said to herself, knowing Bigelow's penchant for shooting messengers on sight. Her prayer was answered when Terrence put down the article and tried to answer the question. "I don't know what you think it means," he began in his soft lisping voice, "but I can tell you what the legislature intended. Basically, if an employee should decide one day to show up dressed as a member of the opposite sex, the company cannot discriminate against him, or her, as the case may be. The same holds true for job applicants."
"Let me see if I have this straight," Bigelow retorted. "If a three hundred pound man shows up for a job interview in a dress and high heels, are you telling me we have to hire him?"
"No, but you can't base your decision on his appearance."
"As a practical matter," Helen cut in, "we can base our hiring decisions on other criteria, so I think we can work our way around that."
"As long as the paperwork backs us up, you're right," Terrence said. "The bigger problem is with current employees."
"What do you mean?" Bigelow challenged him.
"Well, suppose one day one of our male employees decides to show up in a dress. Under the new law, we can't fire him, and we may even have to make some reasonable accommodations, such as restrooms...."
Bigelow erupted. "Are you telling me that I have to turn our business into a drag show?"
"Well, no sir," Terrence stammered. "For one thing, this may never come up...."
"Are you kidding? We're in San Francisco, for Christ sake. It's only a matter of time before one of those ballerinas in the marketing department decides to come dancing out of the closet!"
"Well, in that case, the law is clear," Terrence said. "We have to accept them and learn to deal with it."
Helen closed her eyes. She couldn't bear to watch. "If I started to run our business based on legal advice like that, we'd go straight down the tubes!" he shouted.
"Based on our latest earnings reports, I'd say we're headed there already," Terrence said, surprising himself as he said it. Helen sat and stared at him with an open mouth.
Bigelow would have loved to fire Terrence on the spot, but lawyers were tricky. The last thing he needed was to be slapped with another wrongful termination suit. His face was beet red when he got out of his chair. "Helen, I'd like to meet with you in my office. Alone."
* * *
Terrence was still shaking when he returned to his small, cluttered office in the bowels of the legal department. He had declined offers to move into the larger offices of his departed colleagues, not wanting the pressure that would come with them, and knowing that such a move would only have been temporary.
It was all academic now, of course. He was toast. Charles Bigelow was probably reviewing his personnel file with Helen right now, scheming to find a bullet-proof way to terminate him. He looked at the article which he'd brought with him from the conference room, and he was about to file it away when the idea entered his mind.
At first, he dismissed it as absurd. What he really needed was enough breathing room to hang onto his job until a new general counsel could come on board, evaluate his qualifications, and protect him from the wrath of Charles Bigelow. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that his career had been hopelessly damaged. What new executive would want to expend valuable political capital defending an employee against his own CEO? No, he had to face reality. His career at Tyrex Industries was finished, and under the severance guidelines which he himself had drawn up for Helen Wallace, he would be entitled to a lousy three months' salary on his way out. That wouldn't keep the wolf from the door very long in a city like San Francisco.
Terrence began to think like a lawyer. If there was no hope of hanging onto his job, the best he could shoot for was some grounds for making his termination a wrongful one. If he could put the company on the defensive by trumping up grounds for a discrimination action, for example, he'd be off to the races. As a white male from an Ivy league law school, Terrence Poindexter wasn't your average plaintiff in a civil rights case. He looked at the article again and smiled to himself when he found the passage he was looking for: "AB 196 is primarily intended to prohibit discrimination against employees who choose to dress like the opposite sex." The plan of action was simplicity itself. But would he have the balls to pull it off?
* * *
After telling Human Resources that he was going home sick, Terrence left the office as quickly as possible. The key to his strategy was to strike first, by putting himself in the position to claim discrimination when his termination notice was received. Knowing Charles Bigelow, he reckoned he had very little time.
Terrence had seen the advertisements many times on his way to and from work on the Muni, and sure enough, he found one of the ubiquitous placards on the back of a park bench. In the past, he had ignored them, but today he took out his cell phone and punched in the number below the pitch: "The House of Fabulous for boys who should have been girls. No assignment too challenging. Complete confidentiality guaranteed. Call today for your own personal makeover." The text was accompanied by a picture of a beautiful girl, evidently a guy, which some vandal had defaced with a mustache and goatee. Terrence went straight to the point when a woman answered the phone.
"I need a personal makeover. Today."
"Oh dear, I'm afraid that won't be possible. We're booked up through the end of the week."
"What do you charge for a makeover?"
"Well, it depends on what you want. We have a menu of services. For an initial transformation, for example, we charge $500. We also offer wardrobe consultation and a complementary shopping service, as well as a host of other options."
"I'll double it."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I need a complete makeover, today. Time is of the essence. I'll pay double your standard fee, and pay a percentage on the wardrobe. Please, you've got to help me. I'm desperate."
"If it were just the money, I would have to say no to you. But you do sound desperate, and we are in business to help our customers. If you can stop by at four o'clock, I'll see what we can do. What is your name?"
"Terrence. The stores are open till nine. Will that give us enough time?"
"Goodness. I suppose that depends on what we have to work with."
* * *
Terrence went home to his apartment and tried to think of what he might do to expedite his transformation. He pulled his hair out of its ponytail, and watched with approval as it fell almost to his shoulders. When he took off his clothes, he realized immediately that the first thing he had to do was remove his body hair. All of it.
It took him almost two hours, wearing out razor after razor as he tediously worked his way over his chest, back, legs and arms. There were more than a few cuts, and some places that he just couldn't reach, but by the time he finally rinsed himself off in the shower, the parts that would show were smooth and hairless. He shampooed and conditioned his hair, taking a lot more time than usual drying and brushing it out, before he put on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and made sure his wallet was stuffed with cash.
Terrence decided to skip lunch, and he planned to skip dinner as well, even though his stomach was growling. At 5' 9" tall and 150 pounds, he was slim for a guy, but big for a woman. He began to believe that if the House of Fabulous was as good as their advertisements, he actually had a shot at being presentable. As soon as he walked into Tyrex Industries, he would be an object of scorn, but that didn't mean he had to subject himself to ridicule when he was out on the street.
Before leaving his apartment, Terrence placed a call to Gail Chestnut, who was acting as his executive assistant pending the appointment of a new general counsel. Gail was a knockout, but most of the guys in the office had written her off as a lipstick lesbian after she turned down their advances. Terrence thought she was incredibly hot, but as a company lawyer, he knew better than to mix sex with the workplace, so he hadn't even tried. "Gail, I need to ask you a favor," he said when he got her on the phone.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Poindexter? I hope you don't have the flu."
"I'm feeling much better, thank you. I'll be in tomorrow for sure. Gail, remember how the office manager suggested that I move into the big office until we get a new general counsel?"
"Well, I've changed my mind. I wonder if you could arrange for my stuff be moved in tonight. Not all my files, just my laptop computer, diary, and personal things. "
"I'll get right on it. Mr. Poindexter, have you checked your voice mails?"
"No, I haven't."
"Mr. Bigelow wants to meet with you in his office at nine o'clock tomorrow morning."
"Please go ahead and confirm it. I'll see you first thing tomorrow."
"What made you change your mind about the office?"
"Let's just say I've decided to go out with a bang."
He caught a taxi to the House of Fabulous, which occupied a gingerbread Victorian townhouse off Castro Street, and presented himself at the lavender door a few minutes before four o'clock. After looking around nervously to see if anyone was watching him, he pressed the buzzer, and an attractive woman opened the door almost immediately. Appearing to be in her late forties, she was conservatively dressed, wearing a knee-length black dress accentuated by a single strand of pearls. Her hair was swept back in an elaborate coif, her makeup was immaculate, and the nails on the hand she extended to Terrence were beautifully manicured.
She showed him into a small foyer which was overwhelmingly feminine in décor. Everything seemed to be done in shades of lavender, from the chintz loveseat to the frilly lace curtains adorned with festoons and jabots. "Are you the person I spoke with on the phone?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yes, I am Madam Fabulous," she replied in a pleasant voice. "You must be Terrence." She sat down on the loveseat and patted the cushion beside her. "Sit down next to me. What brings you to the House of Fabulous?"
Terrence weighed his words carefully. After all, Madam Fabulous might wind up as a witness if the company mounted an aggressive defense. "I am a lawyer for a large corporation. Recently the California legislature enacted a law protecting cross dressing in the workplace. I have always dreamed about being a girl, and now I can do it without losing my job." She nodded sympathetically as he pulled a piece of paper out of the pocket of his shirt. "I'll have to be careful to comply with the company dress code, so as not to give them grounds to retaliate against me. Here it is."
Terrence knew the Tyrex dress code for female employees by heart, having drafted it with Helen Wallace the year before, and he watched while Madam Fabulous scanned it. "'Skirts or dresses are required except on casual Fridays. Hosiery is mandatory,'" she read out loud. "Sounds like a party, Terrence. Are you sure they're going to be happy with the new you?"
"I'm sure they won't be. That's why I need your help in making myself over."
"Very well. Repeat after me: 'I dedicate myself to the discovery of my inner woman, and I pledge my allegiance to Madam Fabulous and her Mistresses in my quest to become a Fabulous Girl'". After Terrence repeated the pledge, she stood up abruptly and ordered him to take off all of his clothing. Her voice had a new edge to it.
"Right here?" he asked, startled by her sudden change in demeanor.
"Rule number one: do not question Madam Fabulous's instructions, at any time. Would you rather take off your pants out on Castro Street?" Without further protest, he stripped down to his briefs, and when she glowered at him, he removed them also. Terrence stood, naked and exposed, as she circled around him. "Good girl, you took care of your body hair. All right, let's get started." She handed him an evil looking garment that looked like an elaborate G-string. "Stuff your family jewels up into your abdomen, tuck yourself between your legs, and put this on. At once!" she shouted when he took too long to get started.
When his package was tucked away, she nodded her approval. "Good girl," she said once again, unnerving him with the words. "That contraption is called a gaff. You are only to remove it when absolutely necessary. Now that we have that taken care of, we can give you a name. Have you any preference, or shall I assign one to you?"
His mind went blank. "How about Terry?" he asked at length.
"A lovely name. Terry it shall be." One of Madam Fabulous's assistants, a pretty girl dressed in a French maid's costume, materialized. "This is Sissy, my Mistress of Fashion," Madam Fabulous said. "Sissy, meet Terry." Sissy gave Terry a shy smile, and it occurred to him that she was almost as embarrassed as he was. Then it dawned on him. Sissy was really a guy. Although she was very pretty, her square chin and large hands were dead giveaways.
Sissy handed Terry a pair of pink lace panties and instructed him to put them on. When he did, Terry felt an uncomfortable pressure against his gaff as he began to experience a strange arousal. Sissy didn't seem to notice as she handed him a new package of pantyhose. "Have you ever worn stockings?" she asked in a husky voice.
"There's nothing to it. Here, let me show you." She led Terry back to the loveseat and sat down beside him, coaching him on how to put them on without tearing the flimsy fabric. The sensation of sheer nylon against his smooth skin was unlike anything Terry had ever experienced, and his trapped manhood continued to struggle against its unfamiliar restraints.
Sissy produced several shoe boxes, but Madam Fabulous sent her away to look for more conservative styles. "Unlike most of our clients, Terry will be dressing for the business world," Madam Fabulous explained to Sissy. The Mistress of Fashion returned a few minutes later with several pairs of black pumps. The first pair was too tight, but the second fit Terry perfectly. "Stand up and try to walk in them," Madam Fabulous said.
Terry took a few wobbly steps under Madam Fabulous's watchful gaze. The three inch heels hurt his feet. "Keep your head up and your back straight!" Madam Fabulous commanded as he minced around the foyer. "All right, that's enough for now. We'll take care of deportment after she gets dressed. Let's get her into makeup next."
Madam Fabulous led Terry into an adjoining room, where the Mistress of Style was waiting for him. As she beckoned him to sit down in her chair, Terry scrutinized her, trying to discern whether she was another man. As if reading Terry's mind, she said "We are all girls here, my dear. You have such beautiful hair. I don't think we'll need to bother with a wig. Oh good, your fingernails are long enough to file and polish. This is going to be a cinch."
Madam Fabulous left them, and for the next hour, Terry surrendered to the ministrations of the Mistress of Style. His stubble was shaved, his eyebrows were plucked, his fingernails were manicured, his hair was trimmed and set, and his face was set upon by an assortment of sponges, pads and brushes. He closed his eyes as the sweet smelling cosmetics were applied to his lips, cheeks, and eyelids, trying to imagine what he was going to look like when she was finished with him. He caught himself sliding his legs together, reveling in the sensation of nylon against nylon, the stirring in his panties becoming a steady ache.
"All right, let's get a look at you," the Mistress of Style finally said. She produced a mirror, and Terry was amazed at what he saw. The girl looking back at him was beautiful. More than that, she was undeniably feminine. Whereas Sissy's manly features had given her away, there was nothing in Terry's appearance that would suggest that he was really a guy.
"Oh my," Madam Fabulous said when she walked into the room. "She won't even need a pair of boobs to pass."
"I can't take all the credit," the Mistress of Style replied. "She's a natural."
Madam Fabulous led Terry into another room, one filled with racks of clothing and boxes of foundation garments. "The Mistress of Fashion is helping another Fabulous Girl with a wardrobe crisis, so you're getting my personal attention," Madam Fabulous explained as she used a tape to measure Terry's vital statistics. He watched as she selected a pair of realistic-looking fake breasts and stuffed them into a lacy white bra. Terry stood self-consciously as she fastened it behind him.
Madam Fabulous stepped back to admire her handiwork. "Perfect," she said. "Now, we have a decision to make. Ordinarily, I fit our Fabulous Girls with padded butts and corsets, but you are not our everyday client. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you'll be wearing conservatively cut suits and dresses, and you'll need to be reasonably comfortable in your clothes for at least eight hours day, with an occasional trip to the rest room. Am I right?"