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Chapter Eight

"I'm really sorry," I said softly. Rok didn't look at me; he just continued to stare out the windshield. It was really disturbing; he didn't even blink.

"Of all the times to get recognized, huh?"

"I am a dead man," he finally said. There was no intonation to his voice. It was as if he had flatlined.

"No, you're not," I said. I juggled the bags between my legs. "I mean, those hicks didn't even have camera phones. Even if Leighanne does somehow find out, it's not like there's any proof."

Bri snorted. "Of course she does. I can't lie to her."

"You're not lying to her!"

"If she asks me, 'Brian were you in Victoria's Secret with a woman,' I'm going to end up saying yes."

"Yeah, but you need to look at it this way. We used to shower together. Eight hours ago I was sporting a python in my pants. So really we can't be sure I'm a girl."

Bri slowed as the light turned red. He looked over at me. I was still wearing the sweats, but his gaze went back to my chest.

"Trust me," he said quietly. "You're a girl, Nichole."

We didn't say anything else the entire ride back to his place. He helped me with my bags and I followed him inside.

"Can I take a shower?" I asked. He waved his hand.

"Sure. You've already tainted my life. You might as well shower."

I hugged the pretty pink bags to my chest. "You're the only one I could turn to," I said pathetically. "You're my...you're my best friend."

Bri ran a hand down his face. "Nicky..."

"I'll try to find someplace else tomorrow."

"Nicky, wait."

I didn't wait. I headed to the bathroom and closed the door. For good measure, I locked it.

I stripped down in his bathroom for the second time. I turned on the shower and waited for it to warm up. Somehow my hands found their way to my stomach.

"You've been kicking me," I said. "Do you enjoy kicking so hard I vomit?"

I waited for a response, but none came. I slid my hands to my back and leaned back.

"This is horrible. It's like carrying a whole bunch of kettlebells around my waist," I said. "How can women do this for nine months?"

When no divine spirit answered me, I stepped under the spray.

"Ohhh," I gasped. I bit my lip. The spray was erotic. Totally, absolutely erotic. Every part of my body was sensitive. I stood still for several minutes a whole bunch of warm goodness spreading to ever end.

It was right before I grew pruney that I remembered I probably should use soap. And shampoo. Admittedly, I had a little fun lathering up.

It wasn't every day men got their very own vagina. Or boobs. They were always just 'loaners.'

I waited until the very last second, until the water ran just too cold before stepping out. I toweled off and rooted into my bag.

The clerk had really hooked me up. Yes, I had teased Bri with that stupid skimpy get-up. But for the most part I got normal girly things. Becky things.

My heart panged. I missed Becky. It wasn't fair that she was lounging around at home with two tubs of ice cream while I was stuck hiding out.

Some women have all the luck.

Feeling uber sorry for myself, I ran a comb through my hair, surprised to see how shiny it was when it was actually clean. I grabbed a bra, priding myself on knowing how to clasp and de-clasp a bra with the best of them. I realized that my boobs didn't ache so much with a bra. After getting into a pair of panties, I wiggled a sleeveless little nightie over my head.

Only after sliding on a pair of fuzzy slippers did I unlock and open the door. I took one step and almost tripped over Brian. He was sitting on the floor right outside the bathroom. He looked up at me, his eyes once again widening.

Obviously, I had taken the phrase 'a surprise a minute' to the next level today.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It's Nick. It's Nick. It's Nick. It's Nick. It's Nick.

The words were running through my mind like dominoes, chasing on the heels of each other. Really it was more like itsnickitsnickitsnick.

My mouth had gone dry - yet again - when Nick stepped out of the bathroom, dressed and showered and beautiful. My heart was pounding in my chest and I leaned back against the opposite side of the hallway, my spine perfectly aligned against the wall. My breath came out shaky.

"I'm sorry," we both said at the same time. Nick turned pink and I swallowed the saliva in my mouth. "Why are you sorry?" Nick asked.

"For blaming you," I said. I waved a hand at his body, "I mean, you didn't decide to turn into a girl, it just kind of happened..."

Nick nodded sadly, "Yeah, but you didn't ask me to come running back here to ruin your life with my stupid boobs and va-jay-jay, either..." he pointed out. "Now Leighanne's all pissed at you and..." Nick frowned. "I didn't mean for that to happen."

"Well she's not pissed yet," I said, shrugging. "And maybe she won't find out..." That was a long shot. I was sure that those girls were Facebooking, Blogging and Chirping about the whole ordeal at Victoria's Secret as we spoke. Probably directly to Leighanne herself. I was surprised my cell phone wasn't ringing already.

Nick sighed, "Even if she never hears about it, I shouldn't have been so easy going about being around you in public. I mean, you're married. Being seen with another woman besides Leighanne isn't good for your image... not any more than it would be for me to be seen with someone besides Beckers..."

I sighed back. "C'mon, let's watch a movie or something."

"Yeah? A movie?"

"Sure," I answered, leading the way back towards the living room and kitchen. Nick smiled and followed along. "I'll even pop up some popcorn and stuff..."

"What movie?" Nick asked eagerly, trotting along behind me.

"Your pick," I answered.

"Yes!" Nick scrambled into the living room and I heard the cabinet door open and the shuffling of DVD cases as he looked through the collection we had.

I opened a cupboard door and pulled out the movie theater butter popcorn and shoved it into the microwave and opened the fridge and pulled out two bottles of soda. I grabbed a big plastic bowl from the dish washer and poured the finished popcorn in it before carrying it and the two bottles of pop into the living room.

I groaned the moment my eyes landed on the TV screen. "Are you kidding me?" I asked.

"What? Don't you like this one? It's in your collection."

"I know but... really Nick? Sleepless in Seattle?" He puckered out his lower lip. I sighed, "Okaaay, okay, I said your pick."

He squealed and climbed onto the sofa, tucking his chick legs under his butt and grinning up at me.

"You should put your feet up," I said, "You're gonna get a blood clot with them tucked under you like that."

"But I'm comfy like this," he argued.

"Yeah but the blood gets pooled in your legs and --" I sighed, "Nick, just trust me, okay? Please?" I put a throw pillow up on the coffee table. "There. Put your feet up on that."

He obeyed. I sat down next to him and put the popcorn bowl on the cushion between us and he clicked the play button on the DVD remote. The movie started. I stared at Tom Hanks' forehead and lost myself in thoughts about Leighanne and what I was going to tell her. Nick crunched on popcorn beside me in the dark.

"Oh!" he gasped suddenly.

"What?" I asked, looking over.

"I dunno, the baby's been kicking all day," he muttered. He trailed his fingers across his stomach.

I stared at his stomach. When Leighanne was pregnant, my favorite part had been feeling the baby through her egnormous orb of a stomach. I could remember feeling Baylee's little feet pressing against her, right into my palm. "A sports player, for sure," I'd told her, grinning broadly.

Nick looked sideways at me, "Wanna feel it?" he asked.

I nodded.

He took my hand and guided it across his protruding belly. After a pause, I felt it. Two kicks, right into my palm. "Ohhh," I grinned, "Hello!" I leaned down to look at Nick's stomach, my heart accelerating. "Hello in there. It's meee, Uncle Brian..."

Nick grinned at me.

I looked up at him.

Well, he was really a her, wasn't he?

"This is the single most weirdest thing I've ever done," I whispered.

Nick laughed. "What? Felt the pregnant stomach of your ex-best friend? What's weird about that?" he winked.

I sat up and slowly drew my hand away from his stomach. Nick's eyes stayed focused right on mine. "You're my best friend," I said in a serious tone, "No matter whether you're a man or a woman or a hermaphrodite. .."

"Isn't that a Greek goddess?" he asked.

"That's Aphrodite," I answered, "Hermaphrodite is when you're male and female at the same time."

"Ohhh," Nick nodded, "That's me."

"Okay, well whatever you are --" I said, trying to round back to my original point, "Nick, you'll always be my best friend, okay?"

Nick's eyes were suddenly watery, "Even though I'm intruding on your life and wrecking everything?" he asked.

"No matter what," I answered.

Nick's mouth curled into a smile, tears pouring down his cheeks, and, before I could react, he leaned over and pressed his mouth onto mine.