Rod was out of his element, he knew, as he sat with his leg crossed over his knee in his business-style suit. He glanced around quickly, as discreetly as he could from the front row, and realized he was overdressed. He had wanted to wear something "nice" but it was a good thing Tami dissuaded him from wearing a tuxedo. That would have been WAY out of place in the midst of this loose-limbed, flamboyantly dressed crowd.
Must be mostly gay, he told himself. He wondered if he was capitulating to stereotypes until he remembered Tami telling him that, yes, almost all the male fashion majors were gay, and actually most of the female ones too. Even in the dark of the Little Theatre one could make out the bright colors of the blouses and shirts and dresses. The focus of the show was the show, of course, the designs that the fashion students had been working on all year. But most of the students were fashion plates themselves. Even including Professors Girardo and Wanamaker, sitting to one side in their ascots, making notes, in preparation for grading. And Professor Ellen Winckel standing on the edge of the stage, announcing each design and reading from her cards, tall and skinny and fiftyish, in her sparkly green A-frame dress.
And including Tami, in her way. Yes, it was still plum colored hair on her head and down below. But the earrings were unusual, half-coral, half-silver, and her fingernails and toenails were striped in the same colors. He had watched her do them, at least the toenails, her feet splayed wide on the kitchen table, as he went here and there getting his tie and his shoes and his shirt.
On stage, it was not as bad a freak show as he had feared. No outlandish designs that looked like alien outfits from a Star Wars universe. Once again he found himself giving these fashion students some respect. Creativity was important but practicality was the key. These clothes were designed to be worn -- more exactly, designed to be sold, to ordinary people who intended to wear them, if not every day, at least often. No dresses made out of balloons or paper clips. No shoes shaped like geese.
Unfortunately the models, few of which were fashion students themselves, more or less fit the runway stereotype -- thin, curveless, walking down that runway with one foot crossing in front of the other. Weird. As an outsider Rod thought this over and over again: weird.
He inhaled sharply and felt his dick stiffen as supple toes wrapped around his sock-covered calf and inched up a bit like five little inchworms. He discreetly but playfully brushed Tami's bare foot away.
Now their attention fastened on the next entry, hers. Gretchen, battling her shyness, strode onstage in a tan-colored dress, tall and blond, chunky, with real curves, looking positively huge after the succession of skinny waifs.
"This is Gretchen Spaulding, modeling for Tami Smithers," Professor Winckel announced. "In this instance the model is a co-creator of the dress. This V-neck midline is made of a fabric designed by Ms. Smithers and by Ms. Spaulding, a new polymer which has been submitted to the Department of Defense for approval. The name they have tentatively picked for this fabric is 'Cherish'. It is designed to afford warmth and alternately ventilation depending on conditions. I note that both Ms. Smithers and Ms. Spaulding have family members serving in Iraq."
The audience had been instructed at the beginning not to applaud until the show was over, but as one might expect, even though no others in the room had family in the military, there was respectful and quite vigorous clapping.
As Rod clapped he thought of his National Guard unit, the architects and engineers who had been marched around like infantry. Then his thoughts went to the dress Gretchen was wearing. The first item designed with Cherish -- the name Tami had given to the horse that had saved her life in the Texas scrubland, whose color was much like the unbleached color of this new fabric. What a story -- like so many others she had to tell concerning her cross-country trek, traveling on her wits, without clothes or food or money.
Truth be told, the fabric didn't seem to him to be quite clothing-ready yet. It seemed a bit too stiff and rubbery, like Gretchen was wearing a big white fried egg. Then he saw that her breast was about to fall out! With unexpected aplomb Gretchen shifted her hips just so, causing the V-neck to right itself. He heard Tami gasp and bring her hand up to her mouth with concern.
But all was OK. Gretchen smiled at the audience, a shy girl overcoming her shyness, and her body issues. The swing of her hips and her breasts as she turned to leave the stage was a nice touch. Flaunting her curves as if to emphasize that the other models didn't have any. He had to chuckle. He felt Tami's head lean against him and he put his arm around her bare shoulder.
Did she get an "A"?
He felt sure of it, as he put it to Tami and Gretchen in their kitchen, having a coffee before heading out to the party at the county airport. There was a two-hour gap between the end of the show and the beginning of the reception. This seemed odd to Rod and Gretchen until Tami explained that the Spring Zing reception was traditionally the time when fashion majors would romp around in their craziest creations, which they needed time to do up.
"I'm not so sure myself, maybe a 'B' this time," Tami said, sitting cross-legged up on the table as usual, then straightening her legs and stretching her toes out past the table edge, taking another sip. "You did a good job hiding it, Gretch, but your boob almost slipped out."
Gretchen playfully hid her face in her hands. "Lord, that was a close call... For once I was proud to have hips and a big bust. Which reminds me, I hope the food there is good. I'm getting hungry. Oops, sorry."
"No that's OK," Tami said. Gretchen couldn't be blamed for being sensitive. With Tami meaning to "wear" her tail to the party, the naked young woman could not eat or have anything in her intestines.
"It's a really good restaurant, from what I hear," Rod said.
"Strange place for a fine restaurant," Gretchen said. "In a small airport."
"It's a pricey place to fly from," Rod said. "I suppose with such an upscale clientele, they wouldn't want just a burger stand."
"Well time to get into my Spring Zing costume," Tami said, hopping off the table, soft footfalls on the floor, then off to the bathroom to use the big enema bag.
"It's OK, you don't have to say sorry," Rod said after his wife left. "I still feel funny about it, but you know Tami, she's so strong-willed. It's her decision to wear that thing; no one's forcing her to wear it. Not like at that pony farm. It always amazes me how Tami can put that horrible experience behind her."
They both snorted at this unintended pun.
They talked for a while about Roger, Gretchen's fiancÚ, flying missions in northern Iraq.
"I... am... ready!" Tami said, sauntering into the kitchen as if she were padding onto the red carpet at the Oscars, a little black purse clasped in her hand. She swiveled and planted the other hand on her outthrust hip, showing off the long, plum-colored hair flowing from between her butt cheeks almost down to her bare heels.
Gretchen had been told about the tail but had never seen it. "Wow..." Tami allowed her a few seconds to take it in. The color of the tail matched Tami's pubic hair exactly, as well as the hair on her head. Tami wiggled her hips and the long delicate filaments swished back and forth like a thin jungle waterfall.
"It's beautiful," Gretchen concluded. "Strange but beautiful."
Rod leaned forward to kiss Tami. "Just like the rest of you." Then he stood back, hands in his jacket pockets, as if to appraise the sight from afar.
Gretchen had already changed from her Cherish dress into her most formal dress, long, black, spaghetti straps. She looked down at her black pumps, and pictured how she might look in a costume like Tami's, all naked, her brownish pubic hair maybe bleached blonde like her natural head hair, black polish on the toenails of her bare feet. Maybe all the women at Campbell-Frank College had fleeting fantasies of being naked like Tami. Of course, actually being naked in front of people, well she would just die of shame! A stage through which Tami herself had passed a long time ago.
"I'd better freshen up," Gretchen said, and excused herself to go to the bathroom. By this she meant she had to pee, and brush her teeth again after having that coffee.
In the kitchen, Rod continued to stand back, hands in his pockets, looking at Tami flaunt her new accessory. The only clothes she could wear. They engaged in idle chit-chat. Then --
"Ohh -- " A flash of recognition in Tami's amazed eyes, then an accusing look at Rod. "You absolute prick!!" It was the expansion of the tail inside. Then --
"EEEEE!" Tami's eyes burst open and she jumped three feet into the air, legs splayed out, tail leaping up behind her, then she bent forward as she came down, hands hitting the floor, her crooked, trembling legs stretched out almost into a split, her crotch a mere foot from the floor.
Gretchen came back and stood open-mouthed in concern.
Tami looked up at Rod, hair scattered, and in a husky voice said, "Rod, you are Evil -- "
Actually it was more like "EEEEVV -- owww!" She never got the whole word out. Again she leapt into the air, doing a half-turn, this time landing with her back against the counter, her legs spread and her crotch widely displayed almost in Gretchen's face. Gretchen saw the impish smile on Rod as he pulled the remote control out of his pocket.
For the first time Rod noticed that Gretchen had come back. "Sorry Gretchen." He seemed to have second thoughts to Tami too. "Sorry Babe," he said, turning the remote off. "I couldn't resist."
Tami's concave tummy heaved in and out as she caught her breath, or tried to.
"I suppose you have to do your hair up again," Rod said. He seemed more contrite. "Sorry again."
Tami looked down, breathing heavily, her toes spreading and grasping the floor.
In spite of being disturbingly fascinated, Gretchen felt compelled to say, "Maybe I should stay in the living room -- "
But she didn't leave, wanting to stay. She couldn't help but see Tami's widely-spread pussy lips, the hard pink nub of her clitoris, palpating tensely.
"N - no, it's OK," Tami said. Campbell-Frank's only naked student looked up at Rod. "D - don't leave me like this..."
Rod said, "OK, Babe." As Gretchen watched intently he started working the remote again.
"OHHH!" Tami leapt and spun around again. "OHHH!"
Gretchen watched as Tami danced around. It was amazing how high she would leap with every stroke of Rod's finger on the little touch pad. Gretchen felt odd watching this spectacle, but then she told herself, 'This is what Tami does. Be naked and have orgasms in front of people. It's been a part of her life for so long she's become used to it. In fact it's been odd that I'm one of her best friends and yet I've been one of the few people on campus not to watch a Tami Smithers orgasm.'
With Rod's increasing finger pace Tami quickly crested. To Gretchen's shock she lurched forward and held Gretchen's hand to anchor her as her body spasmed, her feet slapping on the floor with each jolt.
Gretchen was amazed to see the tail wag back and forth with each contraction, like a dog's tail, or a horse's, or a cow's swatting flies... back and forth, back and forth, swishing with each spasm of Tami's internal muscles.
For a moment Tami looked up at Gretchen with eyes that seemed to be pleading, or maybe in pain, or maybe as if trying to say something but not being able to... It was the strangest expression Gretchen had ever seen.
When it was over Tami dropped to the floor, on all fours, sweating, catching her breath.
"Oh God..." she said between gasps. Then she lay down on the floor, the tail sticking up, still jerking now and then. Gretchen and Rod watched silently.
Finally Tami struggled to her feet and said, "I suppose we'll be fashionably late. I gotta shower again."
She should have known that Tami could not sit down with her new accessory inserted. Gretchen smiled as she looked back at her naked friend, who had her knees on the rear seat, looking out the rear window. The things we women do for fashion. Uncomfortable shoes, tight bras, stifling nylons... not that any of these were familiar to Tami, except maybe as vague memories.
It was about five miles to the airport. Rod struggled with the gear shift of the ancient Beetle. There was a whirring sound and then the car shuddered whenever he changed gears. "Sounds like it needs a new clutch, Babe."
"Actually it sounds like the pressure plate's warped," Tami said, looking idly at the road escaping behind them, elbows on the top of the rear seat. With both hands she re-twisted a little braid that had fallen onto her forehead. In the near-darkness of the little car Gretchen looked down at Tami's bare feet, sticking out between the front seats, caressed by the ends of the long filaments of tail, almost touching the gear shift. "That's a big project though. Remember, fourth gear is 28."
"I know, but I just don't have your touch."
"What?" Gretchen said.
"At the right speed you can change gears without a clutch," Tami said. "Fourth gear is about 28 miles per hour on this car."
"Oh." Gretchen had driven farm equipment on her family's dairy but she never knew that.
She looked forward again, at the next curve in the road, and considered how they must look. Here I am in my formal dress, Rod next to me in his suit, and a naked girl in the back seat with a weird "tail" stuck into her rectum. It looks like Rod and I are a kinky couple and Tami is our sex slave.
She looked down at Tami's feet again, the spread toes. How human feet naturally look, she supposed, without being crimped by shoes. Prehistoric feet. And the hard soles that have walked on all kinds of surfaces, hot and cold, rough and smooth, for over three years. Tough yet sensitive. Last year, at a party in Rod and Tami's back yard, Tami's old friends Marisol and Desmond had come up. Desmond was blind and had little Braille blocks. Tami got up on a table, in the same position as she was now, as he pressed them against her soles. Tami got almost every letter right. Even after three beers.
What a super woman Tami was. Men stripped her and made it impossible for her to wear clothes ever again. Yet she turned nudity into an advantage, exploiting the unused abilities of skin, the same way a blind person like Desmond was able to use his hearing so well. Desmond could hear things nobody else could. He was the first to hear the distant thunder that day, five minutes before anyone else. Then the sudden thunderclap which everyone heard, and the instant downpour. They all hurried into the house except Tami. They watched as she scurried around covering up the grill and the food, her body sleek and wet, rain dripping from her chin and spinning off her nipples.
Now Gretchen's gaze traveled up the long, beautiful tail to where the plug nestled in Tami's widely-spread anus. She knew there was a bulb inside here, to keep the tail from being ejected, but even the plug part looked huge. Maybe an inch across. And Tami's anal ring holding it like a -- like what? It was stretched out so there were no wrinkles. The only analogy Gretchen could think of had to do with sex. Like the mouth of a woman who is trying to suck a penis that is too large for her mouth.
Not that Tami would be eating tonight. Yet another sacrifice made for fashion. Preparing for an evening with the tail inside her, Tami had stayed off solid food today, drinking nothing but juice and smoothies, then done her enema thing a while ago in the bathroom. Gretchen detected a slight whiff of strawberry. She knew that a few of the TL's liked licking Tami up there and would bring flavored enemas that they asked Tami to take while they stood around and watched. Yuck. Even with all attention paid to cleanliness, licking an anus was a disgusting thought to Gretchen. Yet she had accepted that others could be turned on to it. Yet another surprise, part of being Tami's friend.
"How you feeling, Babe?" Rod asked as he negotiated another turn.
"Sehr gut," Tami said, using one of her German phrases. "So long as you don't try anything again."
"No, I took the batteries out," Rod said. He fished them out of his pocket as Tami turned to look. "And look." The remote control came out of the other pocket, battery door swinging open and empty. "Of course," he said in a low voice, "AFTER the party, they might find their way in again."
Tami giggled. Of course that would happen after they dropped Gretchen off. It was a little embarrassing for all of them when she walked into the kitchen as Tami spasmed. Gretchen couldn't get the image out of her mind -- of Tami's pulsating pussy lips, pushed out from the bulky thing behind them, moist and wide open between her widely spread legs as she leaned back against the counter under the hidden assault of the moving bump massaging her internal centers of pleasure. And then to look into Tami's eyes! Gretchen could only stand it for a second before averting her gaze. It was too intense, like looking up at the sun.
Gretchen contemplated the tail filaments next to her, right over Tami's heel. Except for their plum color they looked like hairs from a violin bow. She couldn't resist giving one a little touch. To her surprise Tami grunted and her toes curled. "That's got to be you, Gretchen."
Gretchen blushed at being found out. "Wow -- you could feel that?"
"The vibrations go all the way inside. My gut is very sensitive."
Gretchen looked up at her naked friend's firm, tan butt cheeks in amazement. Somewhere deep inside there, Tami felt what I just did. I've touched her way deep inside. Tami repositioned one of her knees and a few filaments slid across Gretchen's wrist. She had to admit it was a thrill.
"This is very beautiful," Gretchen said, stroking the filaments.
"It was a bitch to get it all the same color," Tami said. "It's not real hair, so regular dye didn't work. Thanks though."
"Can you wag it back and forth now?"
"No, only when I'm coming. Here. Let me try again." Without appearing to move, Tami grunted, then looked back. Her anal ring wiggled a bit. "No, only during, um, orgasmic contractions." The hesitation in her voice -- perhaps a slight, vestigial feeling of shame?
Gretchen felt brave and asked something that had been on her mind. "Tam -- I've heard that you sometimes -- have an orgasm -- while talking to people -- "
"Never right in public," Tami stressed. "Never when there's professors or administration people around. But when no one's around, sometimes my friends like to lick me."
Rod snorted. "Sometimes! More like ten hours a day! Those girls are inexhaustible!"
Returning to her question, Gretchen said, "Well how can you -- talk -- while..."
Sparing her shy friend the task of completing the question, Tami broke in to answer it. An answer that was well-considered and based on years of experience and thousands of episodes. "There's only three things I can't control when I come. One is the anal contractions. The other is, my pupils dilate. And the third is my mind goes all fizzy for a few seconds. But when that's over I can replay in my mind what the person just said and stay in the conversation. So it's no problem."
For a few moments the three were silent, Rod watching the dark, winding road, Gretchen looking ahead and then glancing at Tami's feet, and Tami watching the road going away behind.
"How many people at this thing, Babe?" Rod said.
"Maybe 50, vielleicht. Professors and students, mostly. Some staff. At least that's what they say. I'll try to catch Professor Girardo and see how I did at the Zing."
It was unusual for Tami to talk so much about herself. But then again, this was her night. "I'm getting inspired for that International scholarship."
Rod shook his head good-naturedly. "They keep telling you the odds are a thousand to one."
"Well at least get picked as a finalist. That means I go to the finalist fashion show in Montreal next month. I want to make my parents proud."
"I know," Gretchen said. On that ride back from Providence she had seen Tami cry, unexpectedly. "I have such good parents," Tami had kept saying, before drying her tears finally as they approached the Campbell-Frank exit.
"When will they tell you if you made it?" Rod said.
"Soon, according to Professor Girardo. I have to go through an interview with this Dr. Lambert -- I mean Lam-BARE," Tami said. "He's French. And pompous and a real tough guy to make a good impression on. The Prof wants to prepare me right beforehand, whenever that is. I get the feeling he's nervous about it, that he wants me to at least make the finals for the good of the school's reputation."
"Whether you make it or not, I'm sure you'll do fine Babe," Rod said. He fondled Tami's foot as if he was holding her hand. To Gretchen's surprise Tami's flexible toes grabbed up and enclosed Rod's fingers.
Another turn in the road and the trees cleared away into flat land and now, Campbell County Airport under the full moon. Rows of blue lights crossing the little plain, converging on the FAA tower and next to it, the little terminal, brightly lit, a newish three-story structure with a glass enclosure on the top floor. Small planes were parked in a line to one side. At first it looked deserted. But then blinking lights approached from the side, from over the trees, past the revolving red radar stand, a little ten-seat jet coming in for a landing. Another little airplane was taxiing its way around a far bend. A fuel truck passed behind the terminal. A guy in an orange suit walked across, disappearing behind the terminal.
They came to the sign that said, "Welcome to Campbell County Airport and the Skyview Restaurant". Rod turned into the parking lot. At the terminal entrance there were a few professor-looking types standing around, and a couple of students, gaudily dressed, passed through. One looked dressed as a dance hall dancer, the other in a Mae West outfit complete with long cigarette holder, though of course without a cigarette in it.
"Time for your grand entrance," Gretchen said cheerfully as she helped Tami out of the backseat. She looked down at the bare feet and coral-and-silver toenails pressing onto the asphalt, then up to the lower hair ruffled by the chill evening breeze, the concave tummy, the stiff nipples, then the braided hair framing the tanned face and luminous green eyes that caught the rays of the streetlight above.
"Thanks," Tami said. Then they followed her as she strode in front of them to the entrance, proudly and upright, the long flowing tail waving gently and sensuously with the swing of her hips, sweeping across her lithe but muscular calves.
It was a measure of Campbell-Frank's influence in this county that their naked student could stride proudly and effortlessly into the terminal. The security officers, having been warned, watched tolerantly and in bemusement as Tami and Rod and Gretchen politely nodded to them and crossed the simple little lobby and passed the information desk. Of course the sight of a beautiful naked young woman was not unpleasant. That her companions were fully and formally dressed made her nakedness even more striking. And seeing that tail swish behind her as she sashayed by, her little black purse in one hand, and placed her bare feet on the escalator, well, that was something they'd never forget!
The terminal had three floors, the first of which had the waiting area, the baggage claim, a newspaper stand, and overhead screens showing arrival and departures to cities like Boston, Cincinnati, Toronto, and St. John. As the three young people got to the second floor they saw the airport administration office and offices rented out to various businesses, the Campbell County Development Authority, and a flight school. The few people they passed glanced at Tami as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing, but then again, there were enough outlandishly dressed fashion majors going up with them that they provided her a kind of cover. Most assumed the tail was just somehow glued on to her outside. They could not have imagined that it was of a piece with a thick, 12-inch dildo that went up into her colon.
Another escalator up to the third floor, the Skyview Restaurant, and now one was in a different world. A world of elegance, with the muted lighting, the circular bar with two bartenders in tuxedos, the big cocktail area with the little high tables to stand around, the soft classical music in the background, the waitresses in their ruffled white shirts and long black pants. Around them, the blackness of night and the glass walls. The lights of the runways and the airplanes were like constellations.
And the hubbub of conversation, the place just beginning to fill up, with brightly colored and outrageous costumes of the students contrasting with the more muted tones of the professors and other "grown-ups".
It was now that Tami made her entrance. Not being a natural show-off, but realizing she would unavoidably be the center of attention, she strode in front of Rod and Gretchen. Conversation died down and she placed her hands on her bare hips, then turned slightly and shook her tail by shaking her butt. Maybe it would have been a shocking sight otherwise, but everyone had been told. Polite clapping and a few whistles as Tami turned and then, looking down at the carpet for a moment, did a graceful cartwheel, trained gymnast that she was, the purse still in her hand. The long strands of tail whirled behind her, a long spiral caressing her heels and her bare butt and finally wrapping around her hips as she came back up standing. Rod's mouth went dry and he felt himself getting hard. He shifted his leg a bit and was reassured that no bulge would show through his pants and jacket. His outfit was black and it was too dark to see in this place anyway.
They went to the bar and showed their I.D.'s and got their drinks. Tami got her usual, a martini. Rod was a beer guy but tried to be cultured and got a glass of red wine. Gretchen, after some indecision, decided on a rum and coke.
"Hi Tam," Trent said, hugging her. "Woo!" That was Tami, looking down at his costume for the first time as they separated. Trent was in a body stocking with a fig leaf design sewn over his crotch. On his feet were red high-top sneakers. His blond hair was set up in braids. Then she looked at his companion, Cyrus, even taller and thinner than Trent, a handsome young black man with a goatee. Cyrus was similarly dressed.
"We're Adam and Steve," Cyrus said. Which got a good laugh, even from Gretchen, who was trying not to look at the fig leaf designs, both of which seemed to be hiding large bulges. What was in there? Socks?
Now a couple of girls from Tami's fashion design class, Claire and Joany. Claire was a very thin Asian girl who tonight was done up in a geisha outfit.
"Socks with sandals? Isn't that a fashion crime?" Tami kidded her.
Claire said, "Just for once I'm traditional -- whoa!" Her flat wooden flip-flops were about four inches high and she tipped over onto Tami, causing a little of Tami's martini to spill onto a nipple. Tami flicked it off, causing her breast to jiggle.
"Sorry, let me get you a napkin," Claire said, lurching over to the bar.
"No, that's OK. I'll get Rod to lick it off."
Rod felt his face getting hot. He would always be an outsider to this crowd. He sipped his wine. Yuck. It tasted sour to him but he tried not to make a face.
Now Professor Ling, the faculty supervisor for Tami's and Gretchen's polymer project. It was surprising to see him here. But as Rod looked around he saw some other professors he remembered from his math and science classes. It wasn't just the fashion crowd.
Dr. Ling said hi, his eyes fastened strictly on Tami's face. Then he got into a conversation with Gretchen and the two drifted off. Tami finished her martini and ordered another. Rod tried like hell to enjoy the wine.
Now, Roberto, the Student Government president, and his girlfriend Maria. Tami and he chatted a bit about the upcoming Activities Night. He said hi to Rod and made some small talk while Maria complimented Tami on her tail. "This is quite an event," Rod said. "Some wild outfits." They looked at a male fashion major across the room who was dressed like Barney the Dinosaur, only wearing a lacy white bra.
"Yes," Roberto said. "Quite a juxtaposition." His favorite word.
Professor Congi and Mrs. George. As usual they gushed. "Beautiful tail, Tami," Ms. Congi said. Rod watched as Mrs. George bent down to touch a strand and Tami jumped. The tiniest vibration thrilled Tami's gut. On a scale like that, bumps protruding from the dildo inside would be like an explosion. No wonder they made her jump halfway to the ceiling. He felt around in his jacket pockets, the empty remote control in one and the batteries in the other.
Now two of the Tami Lickers, Barbara and Melissa. Both were dressed pretty much the way they always did. Barbara was in a granny dress with boots. Melissa, tall and blonde and model-like, wore a black riding outfit, complete with cap. They tried to engage in small talk but were clearly preoccupied with their lust, a lust that found expression when Barbara said, "I can't believe how lovely your lower hair is, in that color."
"Thanks," Tami said, placing her martini on the bar, looking down, opening her legs for their benefit, spreading her lower lips for the small circle of friends. Her toes spread on the carpet to anchor her. Through her spread legs one could see the softly swaying tail filaments falling like a soft summer rain.
"If only -- " Barbara said.
"NO," Tami said, sternly and playfully at the same time, closing her legs, the toes of one foot wrapping over the other.
The friends went to nibble on the little snacks on the bar. Rod felt his stomach growl but resolved that, if Tami couldn't eat because of her tail, he wasn't going to eat either. As usual Tami's nipples picked up his thoughts. "Go ahead, my hungry man."
Tami took another sip. She was about halfway through her second martini and, being Tami, none the worse for wear. "I have to pee. Hold this, OK?"
He watched as she cantered gracefully away, her tail swishing behind her, looking into her little purse probably for her lipstick. Those pony tails that white girls like to wear that go down their back; he would never look at one the same way again. He could probably count every vertebra, from her neck down to the crack in her butt. Having the tail in her made her stand and walk a little differently. She had to arch her back a bit, a little like bikini models do when they're trying to look "hot". Once again he counted his blessings. So many guys, and a lot of women too, lusted after her. But she was his.
After she was gone Rod tried another sip of the wine. Bleacchh. Then despite knowing better he tried a sip of Tami's martini and almost choked. Martinis were her favorite bar drink but he didn't know how she managed it. They were like pure alcohol.
Tami's tastes, he noted, tended to be extreme. She liked the shower water scalding hot, so hot he could never get in with her. Well, maybe that was understandable, maybe she was hoarding heat for when she had to go naked in the snow. But her coffee was the strongest he'd ever tried to taste. She liked spicy food -- at the campus snack bar she used to order her burritos "suicidal", whereas he could manage only up to "medium hot". When she put on her iPod headphones while studying, the music was so loud he could hear it from the next room.
He loved Tami more than he had ever loved anyone, they were a team, they shared a life and knew many things about each other that no one else knew. He had seen her in all kinds of moods, in good situations and bad. Yet somehow he felt like he didn't know her. There was something about her that was as inscrutable as a sphinx.
Why was that?
It must be because her experiences were so different than anyone else's. That awful freshman year, in particular. Bad things happen to people, of course. What happened to Trent, for example -- he thought this as he saw "Adam", across the room, holding hands with "Steve" -- loosing your lover on 9/11. A horrible tragedy. Yet people lose loved ones, albeit not so dramatically. It was part of life. He thought of losing his own father two years ago, now his lonely mother had to sell that old house that was too big for her to take care of, and move in with his aunt.
But Tami -- the terrified freshman forced to go naked all year, terrified to show the slightest sign of modesty. Strapped to that dildo machine at Chalfont, hundreds of unwanted orgasms, often while having to look at creepy people like McMasters and Henry Ross right in the eye. Having to go across the country naked, then captured on that pony farm. Nobody could imagine what all that must be like. You couldn't say all that was just "part of life". But looking in her eyes you knew all that hurt and pain was in there somewhere, a hurt unlike anyone else's.
And now she seemed OK. In fact, with this tail, like the one that was stuck in her at that pony farm, she seemed to treat the past like a little bit of a joke. How can she do that? Did her psyche have some superhuman ability to survive?
Maybe she was in denial. Maybe all those horrible feelings, all those memories, were being repressed, just so she could get through life. He could almost sympathize with Dr. Abu Jamal and Dr. Kantor over at Chalfont. It had been two and a half years and they hadn't been able to cure her allergy to clothes. Apparently the "treatment" had all been external, testing her skin responses. Maybe the real problem was in her mind and they were afraid to go there, fearing the can of worms they might open up.
For now he just had to hope for the best. Presumably she could continue the naked life after graduation by staying on at the college as a graduate assistant. As a certain valedictorian she would have no trouble finding such a job. But how long could that go on? He chuckled, thinking of her newfound determination to get into the finals of that International Fashion thing. What if she actually got that fellowship? Going back to Providence -- naked!
Well maybe he shouldn't chuckle. That her parents were supportive had apparently been a surprise to her. Once again, she wanted to make them proud.
And what about these dreams he'd been having?
Tami came back and got her martini and then who wheeled up to them but Homer Winant, working his wheelchair manually as always, in a business suit with his "Grafton Transmissions" cap.
"Hi Homer," Tami said.
"Hi," Rod said, still not being able to fully trust this guy.
"Hello friends," Homer said. "Congrats on having the best costume in this freak show." What might have been an insult came out as a compliment, the way Homer said it.
"Thanks," Tami said, turning to show her tail, making a leg, one bare foot up on its toes.
They stood around for a moment as Homer ordered a beer. Then he said, "Got something for you." He brought a bag out from under his chair and gave it to Tami.
"Wow," Tami said, opening it up. Wooden platforms with metal runners underneath. "A new pair of skates."
Specially designed by Homer so that Tami could skate at the little rink outside the gym building, which during warm weather served as an outdoor basketball court. They were just hard soles, without tops, molded to the contours of Tami's feet, with ridges between the toes so that she could grip them without relying on any strap which would trigger an allergic reaction. "The old ones broke," she said to Rod.
"Yes I remember," he said. That was about a month ago.
"These shouldn't break," Homer said. "The old ones were wood, these are fiberglass. Go ahead, try 'em."
Tami dropped them to the floor and set them under her feet, balancing on the runners. Of course she could not jump in them but it was possible to grip them, with her well-developed foot muscles, so as to skate pretty fast. Others came around and looked down. She even managed to lift one and then the other, by squeezing her toes together. "Thanks Homer. You're a genius." Which of course everyone knew. She put them back in the bag. "It's a little late for this year though."
"Nonsense. We always have an April blizzard, and a cold snap. You know that better than anyone."
"We didn't have one last year," Tami observed.
"Then we're due," Homer said.
Tami sipped her martini and then said, "Rod, I'd better chat with Ling and Gretchen." And she left Rod at the bar with Homer.
Rod watched her go. As she chatted with the Professor, Mrs. George joined them, and then some guy from the local Chamber of Commerce. Tami knew how to comport herself on occasions like this. He thought of her adjusting valves the other morning, smeared with grease. And now here she was, as graceful and polished as a princess. He thought of the last time they had been at an elegant affair, last fall at that faculty - administration cocktail party they'd been invited to, that black tie affair. Tami gracefully made the rounds, saying exactly the right thing... totally naked, yet elegant in her braided hair and perfectly done fingernails and toenails, the carefully tended pubic hair. Acting like she clearly had the most beautiful and luxurious gown, yet was too modest to seem to be aware of it.
It was her hair, upper and lower. She considered her hair to be her "clothes". So she didn't really feel naked. Or at least that's what she said.
"How's the engineering life?" Homer said, waking Rod from his reverie.
"Oh, OK." He forced himself to take another sip of that wine, then looked out at the blackness through the glass walls, the lights of the runway, lights of a little plane coming in for a landing. A thought hit him and he got concerned. "Can't everyone out there see in here? Seeing Tami might distract them. Could be dangerous." It sounded like a joke but he was serious.
"Oh I don't know," Homer said, looking out. "Sure is pretty with that full moon. Everyone's too far away to see anything."
Rod looked up at the FAA control tower looming over them. "What about that tower? It looks like tinted glass. They could be up there with telescopes."
Homer laughed. "You're getting paranoid. That tower's got to be a hundred feet away or more."
"Well..." Rod looked up at the tower, then down at one of those guys on the runway in the orange vests, hoping the guy wouldn't look up at them.
To his relief Homer wheeled away to chat with Ms. Congi. Then Tami came back. A waitress passed by with snacks.
"I keep telling you, EAT," Tami said.
"No... Babe, were you ever in band in high school? Were you ever a drum majorette?"
A sip from her martini. "No."
"Do you have an uncle who's a cop?"
"I have THREE uncles who are cops," Tami said, pulling back a wayward strand of hair from her face and then scratching a nipple. "I thought you knew that."
Oh, right. He met them at a family gathering last year.
"These are weird questions. What's bothering you Baby?"
"Well... lately I've been having these strange dreams about --"
It was Terry, Tami's old roommate from Pilgrim Hall! Dressed up in a killer outfit, white sleeveless blouse with a plunge neckline, a black miniskirt, fishnet stockings and spike heels. Leading by the hand a dark-skinned, Indian-looking guy in an open collar and brown jacket and dockers.
Rod got his share of hugs from Terry, and shook hands with the guy, who seemed about 40. In the rapid female exchange that followed he gathered that he was a publishing company executive, had a name that sounded like Karu, and they had been living together in Boston for the past two years. Terry hadn't changed. Always full of energy, admiring Tami's tail, catching up on the doings of Jen, Mayree, Dawn, the old gang. Rod thought of the great unspoken sadness, the third roommate in that room, Mandy, gone forever.
And now, Professors Girardo and Wanamaker, with something to say. They both seemed a little nervous. Did they already have a grade for Tami's entry in the Spring Zing? It seemed too early for that. What with the reunion of old friends, they knew they had come in at a bad time but whatever they had to say somehow couldn't wait.
Terry and Karu ordered drinks and it was as they were sipping them that Professor Girardo spoke.
"Tami, we were impressed with your entry in the Spring Zing," he said. "I, uh, want to prepare you for something. I apologize but it was out of my control. Dr. Lambert is here." Pronounced, of course, Lam-BARE.
Behind him loomed a very tall man with a distinguished-looking beard, a high forehead, and a three-piece suit that looked like it was from 1920 or so. Complete with watch chain going into the vest pocket.
His presence was such that conversation around them ceased.
"Tami Smithers, meet Doctor Francoise Lambert," Girardo said. "Dr. Lambert, Tami's husband, Rod -- uh -- "
"Sykes," Rod said, shaking his hand.
The Doctor looked down at everyone like a king surveying his court. His words were pure noblesse oblige. "Sorry for this interruption, and sorry for doing this to you, Ms. Smithers, but I am a very busy man and unfortunately I am being called away to Tokyo tomorrow on business. I will have to conduct your International interview now."
"Oh -- well -- " Tami turned and pushed her tail back, embarrassed by it. "I can -- just give me a moment -- "
Dr. Lambert laughed gently. "That's perfectly all right dear. You might not believe me but I have seen stranger, shall we say, 'costumes'." He looked up into the middle distance. "Personally I find myself more disturbed by the purple dinosaur with the brassiere."
There was polite laughter, sycophantic, but actually it was kind of funny.
He looked at Tami's martini. "I must say, I will give you a pass if you have had a few drinks. I want to be sure you answer the questions with a clear head."
Tami replied without hesitation. "No, I'm OK." She put her martini on the bar, took a deep breath, and stood up straighter; her nipples sticking out and up at Dr. Lambert as if saluting.
Girardo's and Wanamaker's faces he saw that the fault was not theirs. And he could tell that they were hoping like hell that Tami would do well at this interview. Having one of their students make it to the finals in Montreal was important for the school. And, of course, important to Tami's parents and therefore to Tami. At the very least, even if she didn't get in, the way she conducted herself and how she answered the questions would be buzzed about around campus, and around the International design community, to her credit no doubt. He didn't know anything about fashion design but he was sure Tami would make everyone proud.
Dr. Lambert retreated and asked Tami to join him. He sat down at a table behind the bar where he had some papers out and a checklist of some kind. He asked Tami to sit across from him but she motioned that it was impossible with her tail. So she stood obediently, feet slightly apart, tail flowing down past her calves, waiting. At her request Rod stood by. Behind them, Girardo and Wanamaker sat at the bar, on tenterhooks, nervously sipping their wine. Gretchen was close by also.
It was like Tami was a finalist in a spelling bee. Rod watched as Dr. Lambert began with some kind words.
"Let me say I was quite impressed with your efforts at the polymer you and Ms. Spaulding are developing." He looked at Gretchen, who was now joined by Professor Ling and Mrs. George. "You are working on the 3,2,5 ester, from what I understand."
"Y - yes," Tami said, evidently surprised that this man had such technical knowledge.
"I have here a series of fifty questions," he said with some weariness, as if the long checklist was not his idea but he was resigned to it. "I'd like you to answer them carefully." He looked up at her. "Of course for any fellowship given by the International, your composure during this interview is important and it will factor into your score. I apologize for the beauty contest aspect of this, but that it just how things are, if you want to represent the International and become a success in this business."
Tami cleared her throat and nodded. This was a heavier deal than expected. It was like she was being tested for worthiness to enter the outside world of adults.
He launched into the first question.
"What do you see is the purpose of fashion design?"
Tami must have expected this one. "To make -- uh --"
Her eyes opened wide in surprise as the Doctor looked down at his papers, then she regained her composure as he looked up again. "To make clothing that is useful, satisfies the wearer, and makes that person a -- visual asset."
The Doctor wrote the answer down, as Tami looked at Rod with daggers in her eyes.
Rod knew exactly what had happened. Inside Tami, the tail had expanded into a three-inch bulb. As if he had pressed the white button on the remote.
He fished out the remote as quickly yet unobtrusively as possible, and showed it to Tami, the little door swinging from the empty battery compartment. He shook his head helplessly.
Then her body jerked and she gasped, a tiny gasp, and straightened up as the second question was asked.
"What is the secret to a good line? You can give different answers for men and women if you like."
"Well, it's the same for both." Just a tiny quiver of the tail filaments betrayed what must have been happening.
Rod went into a silent panic, as Tami, suppressing an increasingly intense series of quivers, answered the second question in as even a voice as she could. Behind her, Gretchen and Girardo and Wanamaker watched intently, rooting her on. So much depended on this...