Carmel-by-the-Sea, California 1986
I cant believe I let you talk me into this.
Pam Howard planted her feet firmly on the floor as Maisie continued
stuffing the belly of her costume with more padding.
It was bad enough she was being forced to dress as a man, but
the costume came complete with funny pants, stockings and garters,
a hideous powdered wig, and a hat with so many feathers she
felt like the ostrich they came from.
Dont be such a stick in the mud, said Maisie,
tugging at the waistcoat to fasten the button. Stand up
straight and lets get this garrick coat on you.
Pam suppressed a groan as she allowed Maisie to help her on
with the huge overcoat that more resembled a fur blanket than
a regal garment.
Really, Maisie. Why cant I dress as Marie Antoinette?
I would rather have been dressed as her poodle than Louis XVI.
Pam continued grousing fell on deaf ears. Tell me again
why you and Jake didnt sign up for this. Why me?
A moment later, when Maisie finished tucking, fluffing and
draping, she finally looked up. I seriously doubt Louis
ever carried a child other than in his arms. Maisie stepped
back and waved both hands in the direction of her enormous belly.
Beside, Jake doesnt have the legs for it.
You could have at least introduced me to Marie Antoinette.
Even the real Louis got to meet his bride before the wedding.
We would have, but Hank didnt arrive until late
last night and there wasnt time this morning.
No excuse. Youve known about this competition for
It didnt slip Pams notice how Maisie wouldnt
look her in the eye and she wondered what her friend was up
When we signed up for the competition, I had no idea
it would come so close to my due date, Maisie explained.
If Pam were anyone else, that excuse would have made sense.
Youre not a very good liar. Being pregnant is perfect
for this costume. She patted her padded belly to prove
her point but Maisie didnt reply. Maisie.
Pam couldnt help the rise in her voice.
Maisie looked up then. Youre almost ready, hon.
When you are, well find Hank and Ill introduce him
But, Maisie . . .
Youll like him. Hes a real sweetheart.
Pam wasnt convinced this would work.
The competition itself was simple. The event was being staged
in the gardens of La Playa Hotel and each contestant had been
given a suite in which to get ready, which was where Pam and
Maisie were now. Each couple dressed as a famous romantic couple
in history. The twist was that each couple had to wear the others
costume. Each couple would parade up and down a runway and play
up to their chosen characters. The audience would vote by donation
for their favorite couple. The couple with the highest donations
would win the competition and receive a token prize. All donations
were going to each couples chosen charity.
Win-win for everyone.
But Pam couldnt remember ever being so nervous. Normally
she enjoyed crazy stunts like this. She could be a bit of a
clown at times, and the competition was for charity. So why
did she feel she was the only one not winning here?
The thing bothering her, though she couldnt say why,
was she had never heard about Hank Delacriox until a few days
ago. She and Maisie were close friends, which meant Jake was
her friend now too. Shed met a lot of their friends, so
why hadnt she ever met this Hank before? Or heard of him,
for that matter.
The last time shed heard the name Hank was five years
ago when shed kicked Hank Higgins sorry butt out
of her apartment. Shed left San Francisco soon after that
and never heard from him again. She knew nothing about this
new Hank, but she was certain there was more than one man with
that name in the world.
So why didnt this feel right?
And that there hadnt been enough time to meet this Hank
and build some kind of rapport she could play off while they
were on the runway also bothered her.
What if he didnt appreciate her clowning around?
What if he was too serious?
Dont look so glum. Maisies voice cut
through the fog in Pams mind. Itll be over
in a couple hours.
Maisie just laughed again, handing her the walking stick. Yes,
says me. Now, turn around and look in the mirror.
Pam did as she was told. She thought her heart stopped beating.
Her breath stuck in her throat. The image staring back at her
was eerily maleeerily overstuffed, frou-froued, and pompously
male. Shed always thought her features were feminine,
but now she wasnt so sure. She couldnt remember
the last time she wore so much satin and lace.