© 2003 by Thrillerauthor
It will be billed as "Fear Factor" meets "The Bachelor". Out of twenty-four contestants vying for the right to marry Mr. Right, one will secretly be a guy. If "she" survives the elimination rounds and makes it into the finals, when intimacy is to be expected prior to the climactic episode, all bets are off.
Andrea Messenger tossed the pitch sheet onto the tablecloth and poured skim milk into her muesli. Where did Hap come up with these ideas?
Hap Arnhold joined her at her banquette at the Polo Lounge a few minutes later, wearing the uniform of a Hollywood agent: black mock turtleneck, black slacks, black Armani jacket. Andrea's subdued dress made her feel like a peacock by comparison. A bad analogy, she thought to herself as Hap ordered his customary bagel and coffee. Weren't the females the drab sex in the bird world?
As if reading her mind, Hap started in. "Sex roles have been upside down in this town since 'Some Like it Hot', he said between mouthfuls of bagel, "and that documentary that A&E put on about guys and girls swapping places blew your network out of the water. Your ratings for the last 'Bachelor' were way down. This is the perfect way to add a little spice to a tired format."
"Come on, Hap, nobody would believe it. In the first place, there's no way a guy could last five minutes in that circus without being outed by one of the other girls. They'll all be out for blood."
"So, even if that happens, you'll have pumped your numbers for the first episode, which is crucial, I don't have to tell you. But think about it, Andrea: if these girls all want to win, won't it be in each of their interest to keep the fake girl in the competition as long as possible? There's no way she's going to win it, but each girl she knocks out in the early rounds improves the rest of their chances."
Andrea reflected on this as Hap took a call on his cell phone. "Hi, I'm in the lounge, sitting with a pretty woman in a blue dress," he said as he winked at Andrea. "Come join us." Tall and gangly, with dark curly hair and designer glasses, Andrea was hardly pretty, but she was used to agents kissing her ass.
Hap put his cell phone away and said apologetically, "Sorry, that was my assistant. Some papers I need to sign. Won't take a minute." Andrea looked up as a stunning blonde entered the restaurant and approached them hesitantly. She was tall and athletic looking, with terrific legs beneath her short pleated skirt, and she juggled her purse and briefcase as she waited for Hap to introduce her to Andrea.
"Andrea, meet Jan Peterson. Sit down, Jan, and join us." Jan slid onto the banquette next to Hap, a shy smile on her beautiful face.
The girl pulled a contract from her briefcase and handed it to Hap. Andrea looked at Hap in surprise as he slid it across the table to her. "Sign here, Andrea, and welcome your mystery contestant to 'The Bachelor'.
Andrea's jaw dropped as she stared at Jan, who blinked back at her nervously. "You mean, she's really...a guy?"
Jan blushed a bright crimson and started to get up from the table. Hap held his arm and told him to sit still as Andrea stared at him. If she hadn't been told, there was no way she would have guessed. "How long have you been dressing up like this?" she finally asked.
"I just started this year." His voice was soft and sweet, without a trace of masculinity, and Andrea noticed that his gestures and body language were totally feminine.
Andrea glanced down at the contract. "Your real name is Jan?"
"Are you gay?" Andrea asked.
"Really, Andrea, I'm surprised at you," Hap broke in. "I haven't heard that question in this town in years." Short and slender, with a shaved head and trim mustache, Hap was gay himself.
"Get real, Hap. I've got a mainstream audience. If we gay it up, you can write off the red states, and my sponsors would never go for it."
"I'm not gay," Jan answered before Hap could intervene again. "I'm a normal guy, and I like girls."
"Then why are you doing this?"
"How else am I going to break into this business? Here," he said, reaching into his briefcase and pulling out a photo spread of a young man with a slight build and nondescript features. Andrea studied them and looked back at Jan. The resemblance was unmistakable, but Andrea had to admit to herself that Jan was infinitely more attractive as a woman. It was impossible to tell whether her wispy blonde hair was real or an expensive wig, her blue eyes sparkled, and her makeup was flawless. Andrea realized that she was already thinking of Jan as a she.
"Hap, I'm gonna have to run this by Mr. Goodkin, but I think he might just go for it. Jan, I want you to meet me in my office this afternoon at four o'clock. Here's my card." She folded up the contract and put it into her briefcase. "And wear something casual. If we're going to pull this off, you'll have to live in the Girls' House for at least two weeks, and that means yakking it up in jeans and a tee shirt till all hours of the night with a school of piranha. Do you think you're ready for that?"
"Bring it on," Jan smiled sweetly. "They'll never know what hit them."
* * *
"This is Sam Ruben with the Hollywood Report. As all of America knows by now, tonight's opening episode of 'The Bachelor' has an amazing twist: one of the would-be brides is not what she seems. But which of the 24 lovely ladies is really a man? That's the question that everybody is talking about. ABC is expecting a record audience tonight as America tunes in to the ultimate gender-bender. Will the other girls give her away, or will they help cover for her to better their own odds? And can Jason, last year's runner-up in 'The Bachelorette', figure her out in time?"
Jan switched off the television in his bedroom at the Girls' House and stretched. Dressed in a yellow nightshirt that came to mid-thigh, he surveyed himself in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. His blonde hair had grown long enough over the past several months to be styled into a shag, which he absent-mindedly fluffed as he turned sideways to inspect his figure. Jan had reluctantly initiated a minimal regimen of female hormones, prescribed by a disreputable Dr. Feelgood, after the network signed his contract. Hap Arnhold had convinced him that the temporary side effects would be well worth it if they prolonged his exposure on national television. As he raised his nightshirt and appraised his softer skin and emerging curves, Jan admitted to himself that the tradeoff had been necessary. Although his budding breasts were barely an A-cup, in a Wonder bra he had a hint of cleavage, almost as much as some of the other girls.
And his long, slim legs were the best in the competition, an edge which Jan exploited with his carefully chosen wardrobe of short outfits. At the taping of the first episode, when the girls promenaded in cocktail attire, Jan had stolen the show in a little black dress. It would be fun to watch himself wearing it on television tonight, especially since he already knew the outcome: Jan was among the twelve girls who had received a rose, the ticket to the next round of eliminations.
Today's taping of the next episode was going to take place at Dodger stadium, where the girls would be expected to cavort with ballplayers on the sidelines before taking their seats with Jason in a plush skybox. So far, Jan had managed to get by with only a few shy words to Jason, and he hoped that the hubbub of the ballgame would provide enough of a distraction for him to pass for another round.
Jan peeled off his nightshirt and took a long, hot shower, shaving his legs as he did so. One of the stipulations which the network had agreed to when they let Jan into the competition was to give each contestant a private bedroom and shower. The Girls' House was, in fact, a compound consisting of twelve two-bedroom townhouses clustered around a clubhouse with a dining and recreation area, where the girls hung out and mugged for the television cameras. The girl who occupied the other bedroom in Jan's townhouse had been eliminated in the first round, a huge break which meant that he now he had the entire unit to himself.
Jan's contract specified that his income would increase significantly the longer he stayed in the competition, and he was determined to make it into the quarterfinals. Once the field was narrowed to half-a-dozen girls, he had no illusions about his ability to survive the mounting scrutiny from the television audience, the media, and the other girls, not to mention poor Jason. Up to now, this had all been a bit of a lark for him, but there was no way Jason was going to become a laughingstock on national television by allowing a guy to become his dream girl.
With these heavy thoughts, Jan selected his outfit for the day. The other girls would be wearing shorts and Dodgers tee shirts, Jan figured, but he needed to look ultra-feminine. It was going to be a warm afternoon, with Santa Ana winds, and Jan had just the thing for it: a pink and white sundress that would barely cover his ass. That, a pair of panties to match his obligatory Wonder bra, and some strappy sandals would knock them dead.
Jan blow-dried his hair and ran a polished nail over his face. Although the hormones had reduced his beard to next-to-nothing, he gave himself a close shave before putting on his makeup. Glancing at the clock on the bathroom vanity, he hurried back into the bedroom and quickly got dressed. As an afterthought, he rummaged through his dresser for an old Dodger sun visor, which he perched on top of his blonde head. Surveying himself once again in the full-length mirror, he smiled in approval. Jan Peterson was as cute as a bug.
* * *
Gloria Alvarez looked up from her bowl of cereal as Jan bounced into the dining room. "Well, if it isn't Miss Sunshine! Look at you, girly girl. At least we know one of us isn't a guy."
Jan stuck out his tongue as he pulled out the chair next to Gloria's and sat down, nonchalantly tucking his short dress under himself as he did so. "Don't worry, Gloria, your secret's safe with me," Jan said cheerily. A waiter materialized and took Jan's usual order: half a grapefruit, English muffin, and black coffee.
Gloria leaned forward and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, "Really, Jan, I think I've got this figured out. Becca is the guy. Look at her," she said, motioning with her head towards Rebecca Forte, a stunning brunette who was sitting by herself reading the Los Angeles Times sports pages. "Becca's been talking about going to this stupid game non-stop all morning, finally drove the other girls off. She's got to be the guy."
Jan smiled to himself as he spooned a wedge of grapefruit into his mouth. "Maybe. But look at you, Gloria. Jeans and a sweatshirt. Are you afraid of showing us your muscles?" In fact, Gloria was quite petite, with flashing eyes and a constant smile.
Gloria laughed and said, "I'll tell you one thing, at least I throw like a girl. Rumor has it that we're all going to play catch with some of the Dodgers, and I'll betcha the guy gives himself away right there."
Jan laughed as he nibbled on his muffin. That would be tricky, all right. Jan had played second base on his high school varsity in Omaha, and he would have to fem it up when they got to the ballpark. After all he had been through to get this far, he wasn't about to blow it all by catching a fly ball.
"What makes you think our mystery man is still in the competition?" Becca chimed in from across the room. "We all know it was Charlene."
Charlene Boyd, a spectacular black woman, had fallen by the wayside in the first episode, and most of the girls now assumed that she was a guy in vogue mode. The hastily drawn-up rules for 'The Bachelor' after Jan was added to the competition provided that the identity of the lone male would not be revealed until the final episode, in order to prolong viewer interest, on the assumption that the imposter would be eliminated in the early rounds. It was a decision that was to prove catastrophic for the network.
"Okay, girls, time to get in the limos," Andrea Messenger called out from the lobby. The girls gathered up their purses and trooped out the front door to a fleet of waiting stretch limousines. Jan, Gloria and Becca stepped into the first one, and they were off to the stadium for the pre-game taping. Jan looked out the window as Gloria and Becca prattled on about Jason, the show, and the other girls.
"What's eating you, Missy?" Becca finally asked him.
Jan let out a deep sigh before he answered, giving himself time to invent yet another fantasy from his imagined girlhood. "I hate baseball," he finally said. "When I was little, my dad forced me to try out for tee-ball, and I was so bad! I tried to quit, but he wouldn't let me. So I had to play.
"The final game of the season," Jan went on, "it was like for the league championship, and I came up in the last inning with the bases loaded. And I struck out. This was tee-ball, remember, and I couldn't hit the stupid ball off the tee. I cried all the way home."
"Poor baby," Gloria said. Jan looked over at Becca, who was staring at him with a strange look on her face. Had he overplayed it?
Becca, dressed in cutoff shorts and a belly shirt, was the sexiest girl in the competition, and an early favorite to go all the way to the finals. The other girls regarded her with a mixture of awe and envy, and Jan found her incredibly attractive. Were it not for the gaffe which tucked his penis safely between his legs, he might well have given himself away just looking at her, despite the cooling effects of the hormones.
"Jan, Jan, Jan," she finally said. "You're a big girl now. Watching some hunks on steroids run around and grab their balls is a lot different from your tee-ball memories." The three girls were still laughing when their limousine pulled into Chavez Ravine and deposited them at the VIP entrance.
They fought their way past a throng of paparazzi and entered the beautiful stadium, with its palm trees behind the outfield fence and the glorious banners saluting past heroes from Brooklyn and Los Angeles. A knot of cameramen was waiting for them as they walked across the lush grass towards a group of Dodgers playing catch beside third base.
Each of the girls was issued an oversized baseball glove and a Dodger hat, except Jan, whose team visor drew several admiring comments. They playfully squeezed the ballplayers' biceps and took turns catching soft tosses from some of the players. Jan dropped everything thrown in his direction, and his short sundress flipped up in back when he tried to throw like a girl.
The cameramen finished the shoot, and the girls were being herded towards the skybox when Jan heard Becca's voice behind him calling "Heads up!" He turned around just in time to see a baseball headed straight for his face. Instinctively, he reached up and caught it with his bare hand, realizing as he did so that he had just been exposed. He dropped the ball on the grass and looked around to see if anyone else had observed him, but the other girls all seemed preoccupied.
Becca sidled up next to him and said, "Nice catch."
"How did you know?" Jan whispered.
"Your little story about tee-ball. They don't have championships for kids that age. Everybody swings till they get a hit and the games usually end in a tie. At least that's how it was when I was a little girl."
Jan hung his head in despair. "I guess this is the end of the game for me."
Becca stopped and looked into his eyes. "Are you kidding? No way I'm telling anybody about this. I hope we both make it into the finals. Besides, I think you're kind of cute."
Speechless, Jan fell in behind her as they made their way to the skybox. The rest of the afternoon was a blur as the players took the field and the girls took turns sitting next to Jason and trying to impress him. Jan kept to himself, finally slipping outside the skybox to get some fresh air during the seventh inning stretch.
He was surprised when The Bachelor came looking for him a few minutes later. "We haven't really gotten to know one another," Jason said with a smile. He put his arm around Jan's shoulder, and found him to be shivering. "What's wrong?" he asked gently.
Jan snapped back to reality. "I'm cold," he managed to say, and indeed the winds had shifted during the game, dropping the temperature a good twenty degrees as they brought the Pacific fog onshore.
Jason removed his leather jacket and carefully draped it over Jan's shoulders. At six foot two, the ruggedly handsome man towered over Jan. "Is that better?"
Jan snuggled up to him and looked gratefully into his eyes. "Thanks."
"You're awfully shy. Are you always this way?"
"Only when I'm dating a guy along with eleven other girls on national television," Jan said with a smile, ignoring the scowls from Andrea Messenger, who was catching every word from behind the camera.
Jason threw back his head and laughed. "Finally, a girl who'll speak her mind! Tell me, Miss Honesty, what do you think of me?"
Jan didn't hesitate. "I think you're the best-looking guy I've ever seen, and it broke my heart when that bimbo didn't pick you on 'The Bachelorette.'" More scowls from Andrea, and another belly laugh from Jason.
One of the other girls came outside looking for them. "Hey, break it up, you two," she said. "No fair keeping Jason all to yourself out here."
Jason took Jan's hand and squeezed it. "Keep the jacket. It looks good on you. Anything would," he added lamely as he went back inside. Jan followed them back inside, and spent the rest of the game cheering a late Dodger rally along with the other girls, exchanging occasional glances with Jason.
After the game, the girls were whisked back to the Girls' House to watch the telecast of the first episode. The taping of the next rose ceremony was scheduled for the following morning, and all of the girls seemed preoccupied with their chances as they watched themselves preen and prance on television. When Charlene Boyd missed the cut, several were heard to call out, "Sorry Charlie!" and "Bye Guy!" Jan glanced over at Becca, who smiled back at him and said nothing.
After the show was over, the girls returned to their rooms, and Jan had just finished removing his makeup when he heard a tap on the door. Probably one of the network gophers with instructions about tomorrow's shoot. He pulled a robe over his nightshirt and opened the door. Becca slipped inside and pushed the door shut behind her.
"Shhh!" she whispered before Jan could say anything. "We'll both get kicked off the show if they find out I'm in here." She found the light switch and turned off the lights.
"Are you crazy?" Jan said in his normal voice.
"You have some serious explaining to do, Mister," she said, leading him over to the sofa. "Tell me everything! How did they get you to pretend you were a girl? And how did you get so damn good at it?"
Jan sat down next to her and let out a deep sigh. She had him totally over a barrel, and he knew it. "Nobody put me up to it, except maybe my agent. He saw me act in a stage production of 'Sugar' and came up with the idea. When he pitched the idea to the network, I never believed they'd go for putting a guy in drag on the show."
"You're an actor?"
"When I can get gigs. Most of the time, I work as a waiter and a model to make ends meet."
"Are you gay?"
"No!" he shouted.
"Shhhh! Sorry, but I had to know."
Becca reached under his nightshirt and started exploring. "Because I'm incredibly horny. And you're so hot as a girl. I wonder what you're like as a guy?"
Jan felt himself stirring, in spite of the female hormones in his system. His penis strained against his panties as she probed under his nightshirt, and when she released it from captivity, it sprang to attention. "Wow, wait till Jason discovers this," she giggled.