So lost in thought was I over the discovery of yet another butterfly tattoo, that I never heard Susan approaching behind me.
"For crying out loud, Ben! Don't tell me that TV has a 'scratch & sniff' screen!"
"Huh? Oh, Susan. No, of course not!" I answered without turning. "I had to get a closer look to see if ..."
"A closer look? Why don't you just kiss it while you're there? Ben, I'm beginning to think you're some kind of pervert," she snapped.
"Susan, please," I begged. "It's not like that at all. There's something you need to see ..."
She was shaking her head in exasperation, "I'm not a lezzie. Why would I want to look at a closeup of a woman's twat?"
I covered that part of the image with my hand and placed a finger next to it, "Not there. Next to it. In the same place as yours ... Another butterfly!"
She had started to march off in a huff to the bedroom when she heard that last word. She twisted around, her mouth agape, "What?"
At that moment the door to Michelle's room swung open and our host appeared at the thresh hold. "Is everything all right? I thought you two were fighting," she paused when she saw what was frozen on the large screen. "My, you must really like my vagina, Ben. You too, Susan? You even zoomed in for a better look. I don't know if I should be flattered or appalled."
My face was reddening but I replied, "It's your tattoo, your butterfly tattoo."
"Oh, that?" she said. "I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about it. I don't even remembering getting it!"
Susan spoke up, "You too? I don't know how I got mine, or when either."
"Wait a minute. Wait just a minute," I asserted, "How could you not know? I would think that if someone was applying a tattoo in such a ... private place on your body, you'd damn well know it!"
Michelle nodded, "You'd think so wouldn't you, Ben? Not so in my case. It was Michael who brought it to my attention when we first began to use ourselves in our tests." She shrugged her shoulders and added, "I didn't know it was there ... until that moment. I haven't a clue how long it's been there."
"I'm finding that hard to swallow," I said and then not wanting to offend her continued, "I mean, I believe you and all ... But what about the bleeding and sensitivity of the spot? Then there's the healing process with the scabbing."
"I never thought of that, Ben," Susan said. "I never had any soreness or a scab. I would have remembered that. Even if I had been drunk, too drunk to remember getting a tattoo in the first place, I can't see myself not noticing something like that ... And especially down there."
"I can't put a finger on it ..." I stopped mid sentence when I remembered that my hand and finger were still positioned on the TV screen. I felt like an idiot as I pulled my arms away and crossed them over my chest. I cleared my throat and continued, "I don't know why or how, but those damned tattoos must be significant. I mean, what are the chances that I'd come across ... er ... meet three women with the same tattoos, and in the same spot on their bodies?"
"Three women?" Susan queried, her eyes fixed on me. "There's Michelle and me ... who's the third?"
Under my breath I cursed myself. The other woman had nothing to do with our current situation. I didn't need to mention that encounter with the tattoo. It had occurred eight years ago. "That was a long time ago. I'd almost forgotten about her."
Michelle hadn't even reacted to my revelation of another butterfly tattoo. Susan on the other hand, didn't seem to buy my explanation. The ensuing pregnant pause was not comfortable so I quickly decided to change the subject.
"If it turns out to be important or related in anyway, I'll elaborate about her later." I turned to Michelle and said, "Why don't you pick up where you left off ... that night after you and Michael swapped minds? What exactly happened in that bar?"
It was still hard to image that inside the head of that man pacing the floor was not only the mind but the very soul of a woman. She intertwined the fingers of her hands and lowered her head, "I had begrudgingly made up my mind to mingle with a trio of lovely young women seated at a table across from the bar. I tell you, it was unsettling to be "checked out" by them. I had to keep telling myself that they were glancing down at Michael's crotch and not mine."
"I can't even imagine ..." Susan said in a soft whisper.
She nodded at the younger woman, "I was trying to mimic a man's actions, his demeanor, his confidence ... and, pardon the expression, his cock-sureness." She glanced at me for a moment which gave me cause to avert my eyes. "It wasn't like I'd had a chance to practice being a male ... I wasn't even sure how to hold a drink in my, his hand, much less to appear macho in front of those women."
I chose that moment to ask, "And Michael? How was he doing? How was his ... her performance?"
"It was painfully obvious to me that he was finding the challenge a lot easier. He was big time into the charade from the start!" She moved to the sofa and sat down. She crossed the muscular legs and began to rant, "Damn it! I can't even get comfortable when sitting. When I cross my ... these legs, my mind can't handle it." She repositioned her leg until an ankle was resting upon a knee, "Now the body is okay with this, but mind says I can't sit like this!" She clenched her fists and screamed, "It's driving me f**king nuts!"
In an attempt to console her, Susan sat down next to her and patted one of her legs. "I know what you're ... I can only guess what you are going through. I don't think I could do it either."
She in turn patted Susan's hand and managed a weak smile before continuing, "One of the girls noticed that I kept looking over at the bar. She had seen Michael and I come in together. She had determined that we were there to pick up potential partners." She studied our faces to see if we'd fathomed the implications of her words. "She thought we were looking potential partners ... that I was trying to pick up a girl and he was out to pick up a man ... for a foursome!"
"Whoa!" I managed to exclaim and then remained silent.
"The thought of that sickened me. We were only supposed to be there in an attempt to understand how we would react from the perspective of the other sex while in each other's bodies." She paused and seeing that she still had a captive audience went on with her narrative, "That girl pointed over at the bar at Michael ... in my body. She told me that she was putting on quite a show. She said that the pretty girl in the red dress should be a little more modest and not so obvious. I peered through the sea of bodies of the other patrons until I finally saw what the girl was trying to tell me." She shook her head in a show of disgust and stared down at her fingers, still clasped together.
Susan knew where Michelle was going and said, "Let me guess. He was sitting on a bar stool with his ... your legs wide open in that short sexy dress. He knew he was not wearing any underwear, because he refused to put them on back at the lab."
Michelle nodded several times, "Yes. Hey, that was my body and my privates he was exposing to a bunch of horny men. What else were they supposed to think but that they had a hot babe just asking for it?"
"You don't think Michael was planning on ... putting out to them?" Susan asked a visage of both disgust and anger showing on her face.
"I don't think so ... I don't know for sure ... I hope not! All I know was that I was pissed! I left those girls and barreled through all those people standing between us. Some of them spilled their drinks and swore at me, but I didn't care. When I reached Michael I took my hand and forced those knees together and shouted that it was time for us to leave."
I broke my silence, "Those men didn't take kindly to that suggestion, did they?"
"No, they sure didn't. One of them asked who I thought I was, and I answered that I came with her and that she was my girlfriend. Then another one said that was too bad and that I wasn't going to be leaving with her. Then Michael must have realized he'd bitten off more than he could chew and jumped off the stool."
"Didn't he realize what he was doing?" Susan queried and then thought for a moment. "I guess he didn't, did he? He was thinking like a man, like he could handle himself."
Michelle frowned acknowledging Susan's observation, "One of the men grabbed his arm and pulled him back. By that time I was angry enough to swing at him and yelled for him to let her go. Michael let loose with a string of obscenities and the man let go. We then squeezed through the crowd and headed for the door."
"Probably not a minute too soon," I said.
She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, "I'm afraid not, Ben. We didn't know it, but after we left through the door they were following us. Michael and I were too busy arguing to realize they had stepped out into the alley and were approaching us. One of them shoved me up against a dumpster and the other two grabbed Michael, one by the arms and the other by the hair."
She began to pace again and cried out in the body's tenor voice, "I could've saved him! I couldn't make this damned body do what I wanted. I was all but helpless. All the male strength in this body and I couldn't bring it into play." She shook her head, "I tried ... I punched the one who'd shoved me square in the face. It didn't seem to faze him. He then kicked me ... in the groin!"
"Oh no!" Susan gasped.
Tears were forming in the corners of the eyes of the man ... of Michelle as she struggled to relate to us what had happened that night. "Then the son of a bitch kept kicking at me while I was curled up on the ground. One of his kicks smashed me in the side of the head."
Returning to the sofa next to Susan she brushed away the tears that were running down down the cheeks of her alien face. "I was on the ground, unable to move. All I could do was watch. It was horrible. Then in one motion one of them ripped the dress away. It was Michael in it I know, but I was watching my body being touched and pawed and poked! Then ... then they ... took turns."
(To be continued in part 16, Monday, 1/19/09 with Where Is Michael?)