Stray Cats Pt. 03byDreamweaver594©
The Office Party and a trip to Seattle
A Note to the Reader:
This is the third part of a series entitled Stray Cats. If you haven't read the first two episodes you might consider doing so before you venture on from here. It might clear up some confusion that may occur not understanding where and why things happen the way they do. But of course, as always, it's your choice. I hope you enjoy the story.
Sunday arrived quietly with the sun peeking through the trees in the front of Tom Reilly's apartment house. Alex opened his eyes and blinked at the sun rudely streaming through his window. It was waking him much earlier than he wanted. He didn't get in from his night shift at the convenience store until after two in the morning and sunrise at six was rude, no matter how anyone looked at it.
Sunrise was coming earlier and earlier as the world drifted towards summer in Wilmington. It also meant that Alex's spring semester was nearly finished and he was facing another round of finals in a couple of weeks. The thought made him sink lower into his pillow. But today he had no time for studying, he promised to devote it all to Amanda.
Today was the day he was going to Amanda's office party with Rachel. It wasn't that he didn't want to go; he did actually. He just wasn't all that confident about going as April, his female counterpart. He'd only been dressing as April for a couple of days now, and he wasn't at all convinced that others would accept him. Besides that, the possibility that he would embarrass Amanda and Rachel at a big corporate office party was not his idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
Amanda, wearing fluffy pajamas, opened his front door as quietly as she could and slipped inside with a quirky grin. She almost glided across the floor, tiptoeing on bare feet. She slipped under the covers and cuddled up next to Alex.
"Morning, sweetie," she said as she leaned over and kissed his forehead. "You got in way too late last night."
"The night truck was late again and we had to wait until they unloaded to restock the shelves," he groaned.
"Have you decided who's going with me to the party this afternoon?" she asked sweetly.
"I think it has to be Alex," he murmured. "I'm not confident enough to go out as April. Besides, you've already told them about me as Alex so me showing up as April would be totally awkward."
"That's true, but I so wanted to see you in that new dress," she replied with a pout.
Alex pulled her across his chest and wrapped his arms around her tightly.
"I'll wear it next weekend when I take you and Rachel out to dinner," he replied kissing her neck and nibbling at her earlobe.
"It will just be me, babe," said Rachel softly as she turned to close Alex's door. "We have to take Amanda to the airport on Friday, remember?" She walked across the floor in her nightgown and bare feet to join them on his bed.
"Oh crap, I forgot," he muttered. "What time do you need to be there Amanda?"
"By 6:00 in the morning."
"Ugh, too early." Alex rolled off of the couch that served as his bed and sat at his makeshift desk. He jotted down a reminder so he wouldn't forget again.
"I tell you what, I'll take us to breakfast instead, just us girls," he said with a wry grin.
"Where?" Amanda asked, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
"There's this quaint little Parisian restaurant on Elm Street, Madeline's I think it's called. I stopped in there the other day to check it out. Come on, scoot, I need all the time I can get to not look like a gorilla in drag," he said with a broad grin.
"I'll be back up in a flash to help," Amanda offered.
"Me too," Rachel added.
"Okay, hurry, I want to beat the church crowd," he replied.
Both girls scrambled for the door as Alex walked towards his bathroom.
Thirty minutes later they were both back in his room helping him put on the sundress that Amanda bought. Rachel, wearing flats for a change, quickly blow-dried his hair while Amanda, in sandals and capris, finished up his makeup. She pulled a pair of false lashes from her purse and started to apply them.
"These go on quick, look great, and they're easy to remove," she said as she lightly placed the second lash on his eye. "No mascara to scrub off either."
Meanwhile Alex dabbed a small bit of nail glue on a fingernail then he pressed a false nail in place.
Twenty minutes later he stood up and spun around in his three inch heeled sandals.
"How do I look? Passable?" he asked.
"Heavens yes! Let's go before I mess up your makeup devouring you right there on the spot," Rachel replied with a devilish grin.
"I can't believe I have such beautiful sisters!" Amanda exclaimed.
As the three of them walked down the last flight of stairs and into the front foyer, Tom Reilly poked his head out of his apartment.
"Hey Rachel," he asked squinting and looking a bit haggard in the morning light. "You haven't seen Wells have you?" Tom took a moment and glanced again at Alex standing slightly behind Amanda in a pretty sundress.
Alex looked away hoping that Tom wouldn't make any connections to the missing tenant from the third floor.
"No Tom, he got in really early this morning. He's probably still in bed," Rachel replied with as much sincerity as she could muster given the urge to snicker.
"Thanks." Tom ducked back inside his apartment and closed his door. Alex could hear him muttering to himself even with the door closed.
They turned and walked quickly down the back hallway and out the door towards Alex's car. A French bakery was calling their name.
Madeline's was a quaint little French bakery that served Parisian cuisine for breakfast and lunch. It had an old world charm about it that spoke volumes about taking life at a more leisurely pace. It was always overcrowded by ten in the morning, especially on Sundays. Alex and the girls just managed to make it there before the mid-morning rush so they found a little table in a secluded alcove and sat down to enjoy their brunch.
"We have to do this again real soon," murmured Amanda taking the last bite of her quiche.
"As soon as you get back from Seattle," Rachel replied, "and this time it'll be my treat."
"April, I think you're getting better with being April," Amanda said with an impish smile.
"What do you mean?" asked Alex.
"The way you walk. How you sit. Even the way you eat, it's all becoming a lot more feminine."
"It is kind of fun to watch her bloom," added Rachel. "You're a fast learner, babe."
"Thanks, that's high praise coming from you two, you guys are like drill sergeants you know."
"We have plans," Rachel said with a wicked smile and twisting an invisible moustache.
Amanda laughed and playfully swatted Rachel's shoulder.
"How far do you want to go?" she asked. "Would you like to live as a woman full time?"
"I don't think so. Don't misunderstand me, I love moments like this where the three of us can sit here casually and have a conversation, just us girls. These moments are really special to me. But remember that there is still a masculine side to me and that side wants to be here too."
"Are we pushing you too far?" Amanda asked looking a bit worried.
"No, I don't think so because it's all coming from love."
Alex looked up to see Amanda's eyes twinkle and Rachel's smile.
"I just think I need time to find out who I am, that's all. I think I belong somewhere between April and Alex. I'll get there eventually. I could never have done this without your help, you know. You two have been such wonderful sisters to me.
They giggled and all three held hands.
"Hey, what time is it?" Rachel asked.
"Nearly eleven, crap, we have to go, the party starts at one," Amanda replied.
An hour later Alex walked across the hallway and knocked on Rachel's door. He was wearing a nice pair of men's trousers and a light blue dress shirt and tie.
"Can you help me with these?" he asked as Rachel opened her door. He handed her two diamond stud earrings. "I'm still new to this and I can't seem to get them to stay."
"Sure babe, come over to the mirror and watch," she replied taking his hand in hers.
Rachel pushed the earrings in place and fastened the backs to them. Then she looked at him with a smirk and bit her lower lip.
"What?" he asked looking into the mirror a second time. "Oh, yeah, I suppose those should probably go," he added carefully taking the false eyelashes off his eyelids.
Amanda knocked softly and opened Rachel's door. She stepped into the living room as Rachel and Alex emerged from her bathroom.
"What should I do with these?" Alex asked handing the eyelashes to Amanda.
"Keep them, sweetie, they look good on you," she replied. "Oh, and I like the earrings too. Is that a compromise?"
"A little," he replied. "Nobody at your office really knows me there so I suppose if I go as 'me' then they'll see that these earrings are part of 'me'.
"I like that," Amanda replied with a huge grin.
"So do I," Rachel added. "What else is a 'part of you'?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
"That's a secret waiting for you both to find out later when we get home," Alex replied with an impish grin.
The elevator chime announced their arrival at the ninth floor of the Ackerman building. As the doors slid open Alex could see a wall of mahogany paneling lining the vestibule. The words 'Dresher, Cummings, and Sanford -- Investments and Securities' in bold gold letters were mounted in the middle of the wall opposite the elevators. It was part of the richly appointed hallway that led to Amanda's office.
"Wow, nice place!" exclaimed Alex in a low whisper.
"Yeah, don't let it get to you," Amanda replied. "This is how they like to impress or intimidate their clients, it depends on how you look at it. Don't worry, it's all for show."
"Remember babe, they all put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us," Rachel added in a whisper as they walked towards the reception desk.
"I'll keep that in mind," he responded as they walked past the reception desk and into the commons area of the office. In the commons area a large banquet table was centered in the room. It was filled with all sorts of finger food and fancy delights. The table held a sparkling set of coffee urns, several bottles of champagne and wine, and numerous types of imported beers. It all looked rather festive.
There were about twenty people milling about as they entered. Amanda grabbed Alex and Rachel's arm and began to introduce them to everyone as her boyfriend and her sister.
"I didn't know you had a sister, Amanda," said Margaret Cummings, the firm's chief legal counsel and a senior partner. "Hello, I'm glad to meet you," she said to Alex and Rachel.
"Yes," replied Amanda, "she's the best sister in the whole wide world." Amanda gushed and Rachel blushed.
Leaving Margaret and finishing their rounds of greeting most of the people in the room, the three of them walked casually over to the refreshments table. There was quite a spread of canapés and desserts.
"Do you know what all this stuff is?" Alex asked in a whisper to Amanda.
"Not a clue," she replied, "but it looks scrumptious. Let's find out," she added grabbing a plate.
They filled their plates and then found a seat near a window that overlooked a park that hugged a meandering river near the center of downtown.
"Look at that," Rachel said with a chuckle. "You can see Moulin Rouge from here."
"Hmm, yeah," Amanda replied then she turned with a quizzical look on her face. "You don't have to work tonight, do you?"
"Yeah," she replied with a sigh. "I'm on at nine and off at one."
"Me too," Alex added with a frown. "But I'm on at seven. At least I give you a lift home after work if you want, Rachel?"
"That would be lovely," she replied. "Text me when you're on your way."
"No problem," he replied with a smile.
"Well crap, that means I'm alone again tonight. This sucks," Amanda slumped in her seat with a pout.
"Hello Amanda, nice to see you this afternoon," said a tall thin man with beady eyes.
"Hello Mr. Simmons," Amanda replied looking a bit nervous. "This is my boyfriend Alex and my sister Rachel."
"Well so nice to meet you both," Simmons shook their hands without actually looking either of them in the eye. The handshake bothered Alex. It was cold and clammy, like shaking the tail of a dead fish.
Rachel watched Simmons the whole time. He never seemed to take his eyes off of Amanda. And he looked at her as if he was thinking of things to do with her that would be illegal in all fifty states.
"I've seen this slime ball before," she thought trying to remember where she'd seen him. It wasn't on the tip of her tongue but she'd remember soon enough.
"So Amanda," Simmons continued. He pushed his way in to sit between her and Rachel. "I see that Ballenger account has really taken off with your guidance, nice work, kiddo." Simmons patted her knee as he talked to her.
Amanda began to slide further away from Simmons and up against Alex.
"Thanks," Amanda replied. "I was just telling my boyfriend Alex about that account." Amanda placed an extra emphasis on the word boyfriend. Simmons managed to notice the implication. He glanced over at Alex a moment and watched as Alex glanced down at his hand on Amanda's knee. Then Alex stared coldly at Simmons. Simmons removed his hand from her knee with a smirk.
"Well, I'm looking forward to working a lot closer with you on a couple of new accounts that the firm just acquired. They are very important and the boss doesn't want us to screw them up," Simmons said with a leering grin.
"No problem," Amanda replied, "I'll see you bright and early Monday morning."
Simmons nodded then stood up and turned to saunter off towards one of the clients who just emerged from the elevator.
"That guy gives me the creeps," Alex muttered below his breath as he watched Simmons walk away.
Rachel glanced at Alex briefly then noticed Amanda shivering a little.
"Hey sis, want to go to the restroom with me?" Rachel asked gently.
"Yeah, I need to wash my hands," Amanda replied a bit shaky and looking to Rachel and Alex for reassurance.
"Go ahead sweetie, I'll wait right here and watch our stuff," Alex said with a warm smile.
Amanda and Rachel turned and walked towards the restroom as Alex sat back down on the bench and gazed out the window.
"Where's the ladies restroom?" asked Rachel.
"We don't have separate restrooms," Amanda replied as they walked through the restroom door. "It's a new trend I guess. Besides, management likes to keep the costs down and if they only have to create one restroom to accommodate the staff then they can make the place nicer. At least that's what I've been told. It's all stalls anyway so I guess it doesn't really matter."
"I think I saw this on 'Allie McBeal'," said Rachel as she looked around the room.
Amanda walked over to the sinks and started washing her hands while Rachel stepped into one of the stalls.
Outside, Alex sat quietly munching on another cracker while gazing out the window. He turned briefly to set his plate down on the bench when he noticed Simmons skulking towards the restroom area. Alex's brow began to knit; it did that when something in the back of his mind told him that things were out of place.
Amanda stood at the sink counter and pulled several paper towels from the dispenser to dry her hands. Rachel was still in her stall when Simmons walked into the restroom.
"Well, Amanda, fancy meeting you here," he said with a leer. The expression on his face was one of expectation rather than surprise.
"Oh god, is that the best pick up line you've got, Simmons?" Amanda wondered as she turned to confront him. She was shocked to see that he was fast approaching her.
Simmons reached around each side of her and placed his hands on the sink counter, trapping her against it. Then he slowly began to move his lips towards Amanda's face.
"What do you think you're doing Mr. Simmons?" Amanda shouted as she pushed back against him.
"Just getting to know you better," he replied sarcastically. "After all, we are going to be working a lot closer together in the future aren't we?"
"Stop it! Get off me!" Amanda shouted as she struggled to push Simmons off.
A moment later a stall door slammed open and Rachel strode across the restroom floor. She planted one foot on the floor and swung her other foot up to firmly place the point of her shoe directly into Simmons' crotch. As he crumpled to the floor in pain as Alex burst through the restroom door.
Rachel reached down and pulled Simmons around to face her, her fist was cocking back to slam into Simmons' face as Amanda cowered against the sink counter crying.
"Rachel! What's going on?" Alex demanded as he caught her arm before she could slam it down.
"I finally remembered where I saw this pervert," Rachel spat into Simmons' face. "You used to troll 2nd avenue looking for young boys until you nearly got busted for pedophilia, didn't you scum? I suppose campaign contributions got you off the hook. Well not this time! Let go Alex, I'm going to smash his face in!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by it, I was just joking around, okay Amanda?" Simmons squeaked out an apology.
"Rachel, don't," Alex spoke softly as he held her tightly. "He's Amanda's boss. As much as you'd like to punch his face in you can't. She could loose her job. It's not right, it never is."
Then he bent down and put his nose inches from Simmons's face.
"But believe me you little fuck, if you touch her I'll find you and fucking kill you," he whispered vehemently, barely audible but loud enough for Rachel and Amanda to hear.
Simmonds opened his mouth as if to protest then he looked again at Rachel then glanced back at Alex. True terror crept into his eyes as he cowered on the floor under their unwavering stares.
Alex stood up and lifted Rachel off of Simmons then he stepped over him to help Amanda stand up. The tears in her eyes were trailing down her face as she shuddered in Alex's embrace. She struggled desperately to fix her dress. Alex looked down and saw that Simmons must have pulled at Amanda's new dress when he fell because one of the straps had torn off. Her bra was exposed in the front and she was trying frantically to hold her dress up while sobbing at the same time.
"Come on sweetheart, let's get you home," he said softly lifting Amanda away from the counter. He held out an arm as they stepped over Simmons and gathered up Rachel on the way out. He kissed her on the cheek as they walked out the door.
"I'm glad I'm on your side beautiful," he said hugging Rachel again.
He picked up his coat and draped it over Amanda's shoulders as they turned and walked towards the elevators.
"We'll get this fixed next week and it will be as good as new," Rachel said to her as softly as she could. "Or that SOB will pay for a new one," she growled under her breath as they stood near the elevator.
"Rachel, I love you dearly, but that's not how the corporate world works," he said sadly. "No matter how good it would feel to kick his ass right now, in the end she would have to pay for it with her job."
"Not today," announced Margaret boldly as she walked from the reception area with determination. She closed quickly on the three of them standing near the elevator doors. "Amanda, I am so very sorry for what happened in the restroom just now. I promise you that it will never happen again. I was in one of the other stalls and I overheard what happened. Your friends handled everything before I could even open the stall door."
Margaret turned to Alex and shook his hand.
"Thank you young man for keeping your head about you. In the long run it will make what I'm going to do on Monday a whole lot easier."