Session Extra.1: Adoration
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When I first saw the VD— when I first experienced what it could do— it was like a dream come true. The idea of becoming someone else had always been a fantasy of mine, and one that I thought would never happen. But as I stood in my sister’s body and saw her in mine, I realized just how… tangible such a fantasy was. 

I was struggling with my own identity. I was scared of the looming monster that is puberty. My male peers were excited about it. Growing taller, stronger, hairier, and harder, but the thought disgusted me on a deep level. I did not want my body to transform against my will and, the more I thought about it, the more I realized what I actually wanted. That I did not want puberty to forge me into a man. I wanted it to transform me into a woman.

It took all my courage to express this desire to Maxxie, to tell her that I was transgender, and the very next day, she lent me her body. When I looked down, I saw the body of a girl. When I spoke, I heard a feminine voice escape my lips. The feeling of the hair billowing down to my shoulders, the way my body’s weight shifted as I walked. It was… everything I had hoped for.

Two days later, I attended school as Maxxie’s gorgeous and timid friend, Shiaka Kurokawa. While the experience of being a high schooler intimidated me, being in her skin, being seen as her by hundreds of people, and people acting like there was nothing wrong— It shattered all doubts about who I wanted to be.

For as much comfort as their bodies brought me, I knew they were merely reprieves from being myself. If I wanted to look like them, sound like them, and feel like them, I would need to change my body. I came out to Mom and Dad on Thanksgiving, and two weeks later, I was on puberty blockers. I wanted to be on something more… transformative, but I was only 10, and there was a limit to what could be done until I got older. 

In the meantime, the five of us— Maxxie, myself, Jad, Zoe, and Shiaka— made regular use of the VD for some time, often spending days as one another. Sometimes it was as part of an ‘experiment,’ but most of the time we just swapped because Maxxie thought it would be fun, and I don’t think any of us would disagree. It was a magical little secret of ours… but it did not stay that way for very long.

On December 20, 2014, during the Flare family Christmas party, Maxxie introduced the VD to everyone in our extended friend and family group. Mom, Dad, and Babs. Jad Novus’s mother, Caroline Steticks. Zoe Xing’s mother, Natasha Xing. Shiaka Kurokawa’s big sister Haruki, along with her parents, Paz and Daisuke. Seconds after introducing the VD, Maxxie swapped all thirteen of us around and… to say that things were awkward, exhilarating, and confusing during that party would be an understatement. But it was, somehow, less crazy than what happened on New Year’s…

Some were reluctant to use the VD, such as Caroline, Natasha, Paz and Daisuke. While Babs, Mom, Dad, and Haruki were all eager to embrace the act of being someone else. But in the end, we all wound up using it quite a bit. To the point where I think that everybody… except for me… wound up in everyone else’s body at least once. Probably twice.

It was a… strange experience that brought all of us closer. While Jad, Maxxie, Zoe, and Shiaka were all impeccably close friends, their parents were not much more than acquaintances. But once they started getting a taste for the VD, that changed. They even started their own biweekly ‘adult swap club.’ 

Personally, I was immensely grateful to these women as they lent me their bodies. Thanks to them, I was able to see what it was like to be an adult, to be a woman, and live a day in their life. It wasn’t always what I expected, and I was introduced to the aches of being a 52-year-old woman about four decades too soon, but I still cherished the time I was allowed to spend in their bodies. There was always a slight disappointment when I had to return to myself. But I would always walk away from this experience with a slightly better idea of the type of woman I wanted to be once I grew up.

…If my phrasing there wasn’t enough of an indicator, I never once swapped with a man as, well, my original body was masculine enough. I knew I didn’t want to spend any portion of my life living as a man and… I was not the only one. 

Ever since November, I had a suspicion that Jad was transgender. The way they looked at themself when in a female body compared to a male one. The fact they got facial electrolysis at age 17. The way they reacted to anything involving nudity or sex. And the expression I got whenever I tried explaining the sense of euphoria I felt when in a biologically female body. I held off on broaching this issue for a few months, but, thankfully, she came to terms with herself sooner than later. In late January, she came out to us as Jade. She chose to continue presenting as male for the time being, while HRT did its magic, but we all were beyond thrilled for her. …Even if it made it harder to arrange body swaps, since there were two people who only wanted to be girls.

For as much as we partook in body swapping, we always kept our swaps short. Most only lasted a few hours, some a full day, maybe a week at most. Yet that all changed once summer began. On June 1, 2015, Jade, Caroline, Maxxie, Babs, Zoe, Shiaka, and myself gathered around for what was supposed to be the start of a month-long body swap.

This was something proposed by Zoe and Shiaka, who were fascinated in the more scientific angle of body swapping. How swapping with another person changed one’s sense of self, their perception of the world, and how they interacted with others. Most of it went over my head, but I was curious as to what it would feel like to be in another body for a prolonged period of time.

Once we reviewed the guidelines set out by Zoe and Shiaka, Jade pulled the VD from her bag, ready to use it for the first time in a week. She used the enigmatic violet device to register herself and her mother, but as she pressed the ‘Go!’ button, the VD emitted a loud beeping sound. We did not even know it had a speaker.

We gathered around the device in Jade’s hands, and on its graphing-calculator-like screen, it did not display the names of Jade and Caroline. Instead, it read ‘VDVerse Error.’ Seconds later, we were blinded by an ultraviolet light that gave us the same weightless feeling of the VD. When we opened our eyes a second later, we found ourselves in different bodies.

I was in the body of my sister, Maxxie. 

Maxxie was in the body of our caregiver, Babs.

Babs was in my body.

Jade switched with her mother, Caroline.

Caroline swapped with Jade.

Zoe found himself in Shiaka’s body.

While Shiaka looked down to see the body of Zoe.

After figuring out who was who, we looked down at the VD itself, and saw that its monochrome LCD screen was blank. The buttons no longer did anything and after prying open its case— something we never dared to do— we discovered that the device’s interior was… hollow. Whatever was within this device vanished, and not a single wire or circuit board remained.

In other words… We were stuck like this. Our body swapping remote was broken, and we had no means of contacting its creator, Verde. The package she had delivered to Jade had no address, and the CD-ROM she included with it had mysteriously rotted away.

Through a mere ‘error’ our body swapping journey came to a close. 

After three days with no solution, we chose to accept that there was no way back to our original bodies. We stopped clinging to our old names, our old lives, and picked up our new lives where their original owner left them, while taking things in a different direction.

Things were dissonant at first. But as time went on, as we explained the situation to those in our circle of trust, we began forging a new normal. And now, with the end of summer looming over the horizon, we finally had a firm understanding of who we now were.

Who Is Who?

Jade is Lynne
Caroline is Jad
Zoe is Shiaka
Shiaka is Zoe
Maxxie is Barbara
Babs is Tyler
Terra is Maxine

Saturday, August 15, 2015 – 13:03

The summer sun hung high in the sky, shimmering across the backyard pool of the Flare household. It was a simple concrete hole in the ground, with a conveniently placed awning, containing lounge chairs, and a barbecue. From there, the yard expanded into a vast lawn, perfect for play or sport, while dense walls of trees and shrubbery surrounded all sides, granting its residence both of shade and privacy.

It was, in many ways, fitting for a family as wealthy as the Flare household, though its owners would be the first to comment on how seldom they took advantage of it. Except for days like today, when the skies were clear, the wind was brisk, and humidity was relatively low considering the time of year.

As the poolside clock passed 13:00, a woman left the three-story home attached to this yard, opening the door with her rear as she carried out two large plates. One full of meat, the other with veggies and breads. She whistled to herself as she made way to the table by the barbecue, placing them down before smirking at the grill before her, her dark eyes shimmering with determination.

Her name was Barbara Pequot. A 34-year-old Hispanic woman with tanned, her charcoal hair nestled up into a ponytail, dressed in a black bikini, white flip-flops on her feet, and an unbuttoned white cover-up on her frame. Slightly overweight at 68 kilograms, but it went into the ‘right places,’ filling out her swimsuit nicely, even if it was slightly tighter than she felt it should have been.

As Barbara started up the grill and threw some chicken kabob on it, she paused as she heard a familiar nervous pitter patter coming from behind. 

Turning her head, she saw Maxine, her eyes on the ground and a nervous smile on her dark freckled face. Her dark wavy hair flowed down her brown shoulders and the straps of her violet swimsuit. It was technically a one piece, but with an exposed back, straps that latched around her curvy hips, and just as many that went up her B-cup breasts before reaching around her back. She looked like a homely girl forced to ‘strut her stuff’ and while there was a faint glimmer of excitement on her face, it was snuffed out by worry.

Maxine: “G-Gosh, are you sure this swimsuit is really appropriate?”

Barbara: “Girl, that’s not even a bikini. There’s nothing wrong with it. Hell, you could swim in the nude for all we care. It’s not like we haven’t seen everything that body has to offer.”

Maxine: “B-Barbara, that was a lifetime ago, and… I am much more reserved than the perverted girl I once was.”

Barbara: “Oh, so you’re admitting you were a pervert? You know, that has nothing to do with the comment I made. I was just talking about our swap days, but it’s nice to see you embracing your true nature, sistah.”

Maxine: “Please don’t tell me it’s going to be one of those days…”

Barbara: “Nah. I’m the grillmaster today. I’ve got better things to do than tease you in the pool. Like not setting the place on fire. Although, if you want some bonding time after everybody leaves, I’d be more than happy to serve the mistress.”

Maxine: “I swear, you’re becoming a bigger and bigger perv every day, Barbara.”

Barbara: “What can I say? I’m making up for lost time. You should too, girl.” 

Maxine: “I’ll… consider it.”

Barbara: “Ah, a political answer. I like it!”

Maxine: “So, where is everybody? I thought we were meeting here at 13:00.”

Barbara: “You know how Lynne is, wanting to make sure she looks good, and when Haruki and Shi-Shi start playing dress up, forget about it. But I know the boys are gonna want to eat before they take a dip, so I’m getting a head start. So jump in, calm them nerves, and get ready to give some wet hugs when they come around.”

Maxine: “What about T-Tyler? I thought he was already out here.”

Barbara: “He’s probably in his room. Just, um, make sure you knock first, like a good big sis.

Maxine groaned as she thought of what Barbara was implying. While they gave each other carte blanche to do whatever with each other’s bodies, there were some things she wasn’t ready to see, and that was one of them. 

Tyler: “No need, ladies, I just had to take care of this and that.”

As the two women heard an early pubescent male voice echo from behind them, they laid their eyes on Tyler Flare. He stood at only 1.45 meters, his frame was rather frail, even for boys his age, with his rib cage plainly visible, and his arms scrawny. His chest was flat, devoid of any fat one could grasp onto, while his dark hair was cut short, recovering from a buzz cut he got in June. He stood with a hand wrapped around his brown chin, as if he was examining the women before him, while his other hand rested on his baggy navy swimming trunks.

Barbara: “You’re 11. What could you be ‘taking care of?’”

Tyler: “What, can’t a guy have his secrets? You know, you never used to be this bossy, Barbara. Perhaps Mommy and Daddy need to have a word with you.”

Barbara: “My apologies, young Master. I don’t know where I developed this insolence.”

Maxine: “You two are having way too much fun with this schtick.”

Tyler: “Trust me, we are going to get old of this gag eventually, let us enjoy it while it lasts, Maxine.”

Barbara: “Yeah, we’re trying to take this joke and throw it in a fucking vat. Nothing wrong with that, is there, Mistress?”

Maxine: “At this point, there’s nothing really ‘wrong’ with anything, because this is just life now.”

Tyler: “Yep, and the sooner you learn to embrace what Verde gave you, the happier you’ll be, so get wet and loosen up them joints, Sis!”

As Tyler said that, he trotted across the pool patio and cannonball’d into the deep end, sinking down before rising to the surface, a refreshed ‘aaah’ escaping his lips.

Tyler: “The water’s great, Maxine! So quit being a stick in the mud and join me!”

Maxine sighed as she saw her brother float through the water, before walking over to join him. She scrunched her body up, as if readying for a cannonball, but as she felt her back straps, she decided to sit down, wet her feet, and then plop her body in.

Tyler: “Weak. C’mon Sis, you’re still a kid, so act like one. Even if you break something, you’ll recover just fine.”

Tyler then grabbed Maxine by the hand and started dragging her into the deep end. As the two frolicked about in the water, Barbara continued to man the grill, finishing up the first round of food and filling up one of her many plates. After she filled up the grill a second time, she heard the wooden gate to the backyard open up, letting out a deliberate clunking noise. Turning her head, her eyes landed on Lynne and Jad.

Lynne’s blue eyes were obscured by the sunglasses on her face as she entered, but she flicked them up onto her forehead as she started walking toward Babs. Her long blonde hair was gathered into a high ponytail that left enough hair to frame her face. Her ordinarily fair skin had darkened a smidgen from the season. While her body was dressed in an open lightweight forest green jacket that revealed a white bikini underneath. She walked forward on her one inch heel sandals, swaying her hips in a faintly exaggerated manner, before reaching Barbara and embracing her in a hug.

Lynne: “Heya, Barb! How are things?”

As they hugged, Barbara sneaked a peek at Lynne’s D-cups, hoping that she wouldn’t notice. Lynne did. But she didn’t care to say anything.

Barbara: “Eh, same old same old. Looking after the kids while trying to arrange like li’l swaray like this.”

Lynne: “Um, a swaray is typically during the evening, not the afternoon… and they tend to be a lot fancier than a BBQ.”

Barbara: “Seriously? There are too many goldarn words for parties that only limit it to evening events, when parties can, and should, happen at every hour of the day.”

Jad: “I’m pretty sure nobody needs to, or should, party at 10 AM.”

Jad joined his mother under the awning as she spoke to Barbara, and winked at her with his saturated green eyes. His curly brown hair was long enough to cover his ears, while his pale skin and frail frame looked both darker and more developed than it was at the start of the summer. He wasted little time tossing aside his blue hoodie, revealing his chest, mostly flat and fairly toned, except for small tufts of tissue resting around his nipples. A remnant from his four months on HRT.

He tightened the drawstrings on his green swim trunks and took off his backpack before turning his attention to the food that Barbara had just taken off the grill.

Jad: “Looking pretty good, Barbara. You mind if I—”

Barbara: “First come first serve. How much do you want?”

Jad: “Um… I just had some fruit for breakfast, so… screw it. I’ll probably end up having kabob, two burgers, and some potatoes. …But just a burger for the moment.”

Lynne: “You sure about that? I know your metabolism is a thing to murk for, but—”

Jad: “Lynne, I’m borderline underweight, and I’m 18. It’s fine.”

Lynne: “Okay, just work off some of the calories in the pool.”

Jad: “Will do!”

As he said that, Jad began preparing himself a burger, throwing on some tomato and onion before taking a bite and walking alongside the pool, where he sat in a chair next to Maxine and Tyler. As he did so, Lynne grabbed a chicken kabob and bit into it. She finished her mouthful, standing next to Maxxie, and let out a sigh.

Barbara: “Boys will be boys?”

Lynne: “More than I’ll ever know. It’s surreal to think about how quickly he changed.”

Barbara: “That’s a good thing though. It’s his life, and the sooner he makes it his own, the better. And while he’s defo not the sort of guy you thought he’d be, you still love him all the same.”

Lynne: “Of course I do. He’s… he’s my son, and with every passing day, I learn to love him a bit more.”

Barbara: “What about you, how are you holding up? I mean, I still have my games and art and stuff. I don’t get as much free time as I used to because of my new responsibilities, but I still feel like I can be… myself. Just in a slightly more mature way.”

Lynne: “For me, it’s… more complicated than that. I guess I’m still coming to terms with myself and who I am now. On one hand, I still love a lot of the things I used to love, but I feel like I should be different. I’m a 35-year-old woman. I don’t feel that old, but I feel like I should be more mature and get started on whatever I want to do with the rest of my life.”

Barbara: “You don’t need to do much though. You’ve got money from your divorce and everything, and even if it is not enough for you to get by, guess who’s going to get a job in a few years. Did he decide on a major anyway?”

Lynne: “Not really. He’s just going for general stuff and hoping to see where his interests lie. I’ve… actually been thinking about taking a class. Continuing my education, learning a skill to get a part-time job or something, just so I feel like I’m… doing more, I suppose. Registration is still open, so in theory, I could get into Oransen Community College.”

Barbara: “Eh, I say wait until the spring semester to try. Get acclimated with things, see what you really want before you make a commitment.”

Lynne: “What about you, do you still have a desire to—”

Barbara: “Lynne-Lynne, I’ve already got a 7-days-a-week job. I’ve got my GED and I’ve got employment for life. I’m good.”

Lynne: “Heh. Yeah, I guess college isn’t really your thing, and with art, you are always learning.”

Barbara: “You say that like you aren’t an artist, when you could always pick up that novel you trunked.”

Lynne: “Oh, I’m not sure if I could continue that. I mean, I’m not in the right headspace anymore and—”

Barbara: “If you want to feel like you’re doing something, just be a novelist or something. I know some guys who can help with digital publishing and shaz. You won’t make much money off of it, I’ll tell you that for free, but if you want to be fulfilled, there ain’t nothing wrong with being a writer. Besides, I see that bulge in your jacket. You were gonna read while at a pool party, ya nerd!”

Lynne: “W-Well, I just brought it as an option, in case I—”

Barbara: “Yeah, yeah, ya classy MILF. We’ve got pool loungers in the shed if you want one. Let the sun shine on you while catching up on your… what are you reading?”

Lynne: “It’s a… crime thriller series I got into. I started reading the first book when Jad and I were flying to Europe earlier this summer and—”

Barbara: “You’re halfway through book number three?”

Lynne: “H-How’d you know?”

Barbara: “You’re not as opaque as you may think you are, Miss Steticks. I know you inside and out.”

As Lynne was being grilled by her friend, she cast her eyes at the grill her friend should’ve been attending.

Lynne: “…You might wanna flip the burgers.”

Barbara: “Ah shit! Hope you guys don’t mind things a li’l crispy.”

With Barbara tending the grill, Lynne walked over to the pool shed to grab a lounger, where she was joined by Maxine.

Maxine: “H-Hi, Lynne. You’re looking lovely as usual.”

Lynne: “Aw, thank you so much. I was worried this would be a bit… risque, but I’ve been working hard for this body, so I may as well reap the benefits. You’re looking mighty cute yourself there, Maxx— Maxine. The color looks great on you, and I can tell you’ve been losing weight.”

Maxine: “W-Well, it’s just been a bit of dieting and not having as much junk food. I… I’ve come to learn that I feel a bit more comfortable with myself when I’m a little thinner.”

Their conversation continued as they pilfered through the shed, grabbing a lounger, some inner tubes, and an armful of pool noodles.

Lynne: “The important thing is that it’s working. So, have you decided what you’re doing in autumn?”

Maxine: “I’m… going to do some independent studying. I think I need a year to get acclimated with myself before going to college.”

Lynne: “Heh. Good for you. Too many people rush into college without figuring out what they really want. You get less scholarships that way, but OCC’s so cheap you don’t really need one.”

Lynne and Maxine’s conversation then brought them to the pool, where they looked over Jad and Tyler, roughhousing in the water.

Maxine: “But, Jad’s planning on going to college and he… is still coming to terms with himself, right?”

Lynne: “Boys can be… a bit simpler sometimes. It’s all down to the brain chemicals and hormones.”

Tyler: “You know we can hear you, Lynne.”

Lynne: “Yeah, I know. I’m just calling it like I see it. Or do you two boys have an objection?”

Jad: “No objection here. A boy’s life is pretty breezy, all things considered.”

Tyler: “Especially an upper-middle-class White boy…

Jad: “You say something, Ty?”

Tyler: “Nothing you don’t already know, J-Styles.”

With her hellos made, Lynne wasted little time plopping her lounger float into the pool, gingerly lowering herself onto the mesh. Her legs and butt dipped into the pool, while her upper body was left relatively dry. She positioned herself near the shallow end, found a cozy spot right in the sunlight, and began reading her novel. Though, before she could get a hundred words in, she heard the wooden gate open.

Zoe Xing casually walked into the yard, dressed in a lightweight black jacket, carrying a cloth bag over his shoulder. Instead of his usual glasses, he wore a pair of sunglasses that blocked off his hazel eyes, yet rested well on his face, adding to his naturally mature look. His dark hair was cut shorter than normal, and while his toned frame looked slightly more doughy and pale than it did at the start of the summer, he still met every criteria for an attractive man. Especially after he unzipped his jacket, exposing both his shaved chest and his choice in swimwear. Rather than going with the usual trunks, he opted for a pair of black swimming briefs that clung to his form, and did not do a great job of obscuring his eight inches. …Assuming that was the point to begin with.

He greeted everyone in the yard with a smile and wave, while holding the gate open for his companion, Shiaka Kurokawa.

Her tan skin had slightly darkened from the summer sun, while her once flowing blonde hair had been cut down to chin-length, with a stylish braid resting in front of her right ear. She was dressed in a sweatshirt and, much like Zoe, wasted little time plucking it over her head, revealing her dark brown two-piece swimsuit. Her breasts, large considering her petite frame, bounced slightly as she took off this garment. However, the truly eye-catching thing about Shiaka’s physique was her torso. 

She was a thin young woman, but along her entire torso there were a multitude of light, almost pinkish, lines. The remnants from physical trauma she was subjected to a decade ago. These scars covered her torso, most in the front, but some stretching to the back, and while they had all healed about as well as one could imagine, it was a sight that would surprise most onlookers. …Just not present company.

Barbara: “About time you showed up. If there’s one person I expected to be punctual here, it’s you, Zoe.”

Zoe: “It was my intention to be early, but somebody just couldn’t decide what to wear.”

Shiaka: “Which is code for, we had to go and buy a new swimsuit for me. I had a swimsuit, but it was a one-piece and it didn’t fit me all too well, if you catch my drift.”

Barbara simply looked at Shiaka’s boobs and snickered.

Barbara: “Well, you have grown a lot over the past three and a half years.”

Shiaka: “Yeah, two cup sizes and four centimeters. What I wouldn’t give for an extra five. That’s all I want.”

Zoe: “I don’t know, I kind of like you being this short, it makes you easier to… carry!”

With a single motion, Zoe grabbed Shiaka by the back and knees, carrying her in his arms.

Zoe: “Oof. Now I’m starting to see why you thought I should work out more.”

Shiaka: “Oh, don’t think you can back off now, Zoe! Carry me, my darling, cast me into the water like the delicate flower that I am.”

Zoe: “Y-Yes, sweetie.”

Zoe began carrying Shiaka forward, from the grill area over to the pool, taking slow and steady steps while Shiaka casually kicked off her slip-on shoes. Once at the pool, Zoe tried to gently lower his carried princess into the water… only for his grip to falter, and for her body to splatter against the water. 

Shiaka rose from the water and gave Zoe a snide look. Zoe prepared himself for a bit of teasing, only for Lynne to look up from her book and at Zoe. Specifically, his swimming wear. More specifically, his dick.

Lynne: “You’re half an hour late and that’s what you went with?”

Zoe: “Eheh. That was… a suggestion by the girlfriend. She wanted something a bit more… complimentary to my figure.”

Lynne: “It sure compliments something.

Zoe: “I beg your pardon?”

Lynne: “It looks nice on you Zoe. Very masculine.”

Shiaka: “I know, right? He’s got a great body. He just needs to embrace it a little bit more.”

Zoe: “I… have my reasons for being a bit… reluctant about various things.”

Jad: “Yeah, but we’re not at a job interview or anything, dude. You’re 18, loosen up and enjoy your youth.”

Barbara: “Jad’s right. Lord knows what I’d give to be screwing around with you all instead of cooking. Speaking of which, second round of food’s ready for whoever’s hungry”

Shiaka: “I just got into the pool…”

Barbara: “That was your call, sistah. Eat up or call dibs.”

Maxine: “C-C’mon, Shiaka. I have some… stuff I want to talk to you about.”

Shiaka: “…I’ll eat something. But just a kabob and some veggies.”

Tyler: “Shiaka, you weigh less than 45 kilos.”

Shiaka: “And I intend to stay that way until my low weight becomes a health hazard.”

From there, all seven gathered under the awning, their bodies dripping wet and their butts planted into the seats surrounding the wooden patio table. A table strewn with burgers, chicken kabobs, potatoes, cucumber salad, and a tray of veggies, nothing too special. Regardless, they wasted little time filling up their plates… or at least the boys did. The girls had more sense and ate more reasonable portions. They still probably grabbed more than they should have, but screw it, this was a pool party after all. 

As they indulged in a characteristically erratic conversation, Maxine and Shiaka were quick to finish their portions, and excused themselves from the table, heading over to the far end of the pool, where they gathered under the shade.

Shiaka: “So, what did you want to talk about?”

Maxine: “Well, it’s just about how you’ve been… adapting to all of this. You seem so… comfortable now. Almost more comfortable than you were before. For Lynne and I, the reason why is pretty obvious, we both wanted something like this. Sorta. But you though… you just sort of ran with it.”

Shiaka: “…At the start of summer, I had these grand ideas for what I would do. Both during the season and during the next four years. I had a plan in my head and, before I could act upon it, everything changed in an instant. I had to reassess my priorities, what I wanted to do with my life and, with it, I began to question who I was. I viewed the world as something powerful, something that I needed to fight against to get what I desired. I slowly amassed what I needed throughout my time at school, but now… I’m not sure if what I thought I wanted was what I really wanted. Now, I don’t have a rigid plan. I still have plan, going to college and getting my credits, but aside from that, I’m… just doing what feels right in the moment, and feeling out who I want to be.”

Maxine: “Before the start of the summer, I always felt like you locked your true self away. You came out of your shell from time to time, and you were brilliant when you did. But now, you’ve cracked your shell away and… you seem a lot happier this way.”

Shiaka: “In some ways, I am. I’ve been having a lot of… fun with the way things are now. Now that I don’t have the same burdens strewn before me. But if I could go back… I would. Will I think the same way come year end? God only knows.”

Maxine: “In some ways, I kind of envy you. You just seem so much more confident now, while I… I’m so timid. I know I shouldn’t be, that I should try to have as much fun with this situation as possible but—”

Shiaka: “Everybody’s situation here is different. Hell, I’d argue that what I’m doing is not necessarily healthy. You just need to find out what makes Maxine happy and do that. Take your time, and remember you’re 18. You still have your whole life ahead of you.”

Maxine: “I know, but I’m not worried about just myself. I’m worried about Barbara. Tyler has his whole life ahead of him and is eager to grow up, but Barbara, she… doesn’t. She aged well, but in 30 years, I don’t know if she’ll be happy with her body and what she did in life. And me, I… I feel like I was thrown into a world I admired from afar and, while it is everything I thought it would be, I was not ready for it. For… all of this being thrust upon me, with no way back.”

Shiaka: “You are worrying about things you can’t control and looking back at what could have been. If you take that road, you will never reach a place of happiness. I have made mistakes, I have regrets, but all I can do is keep going. Onwards, upwards, forwards— whichever direction. So long as I’m not treading old ground.”

While these two indulged in their own private conversation, the five at the table had moved past the cavalier and sporadic phase of the conversation, and settled onto something a touch deeper.

Tyler: “—No joke, I don’t even want to think about starting school on Tuesday.”

Zoe: “Considering you’re almost certainly the smartest kid in your class, I have to ask why.”

Barbara: “Maybe it’s because middle school’s the pits?”

Jad: “Tell me about it. Teenagers are vicious creeps who will harass you for crap you did a whole year ago.”

Lynne: “Middle school can be alright, but most of the time it is ruined by the people attending the school.”

Tyler: “Exactly. If I could just take a test to skip past middle school, I would. And I would probably pass that sucker after… two months of studying, tops. But noooo. I can’t get my GED until I’m 16.”

Zoe: “Do you even have a career in mind?”

Tyler: “Isn’t that what college is for?”

Barbara: “Maybe nowadays… but why don’t you at least try to make some friends with kids your age, maybe get a girlfriend? Because when you hang out with a bunch of kids seven years older than you, you’re obviously going to want to feel like you’re older.”

Tyler: “I don’t want to feel older. I just don’t want to waste my youth in an inefficient education system.”

Lynne: “You sure sound like an 11-year-old right now. Old enough to think that he knows better, and too young to accept the inefficiencies for what they are.”

Tyler: “Sounds like someone gave up.”

Barbara: “hold on to that fire, Tyler. Let it fuel you for years to come and then, maybe, you can change the world with your own two hands!”

Zoe: “If that is the case, he should’ve probably enrolled at a private school. If only for the connections.”

Jad: “Yeah, about that, why did you decide to slum it with the ‘riff-raff’ again?”

Tyler: “Because the private school’s a full hour away.”

Lynne: “Wait, what about… oh, right. You don’t want to go to a Montessori school.”

Tyler: “I’d rather beg to be homeschooled.”

Barbara: “I mean, Ken and Ellie would agree to that pretty quickly, but I’m sure the teacher would have an awful lot of questions.”

Tyler: “They’d agree, but I feel like Mom and Dad have gone through enough these past few months.”

Jad: “I still can’t believe that they ‘wished’ they were part of this.”

Tyler: “Do you remember how long it took them before they got ‘wild’ at the Christmas party?”

Lynne: “But would it help them when they’re working their butts off in Indonesia or the Philippines?”

Barbara: “Definitely. They would be horny as hell, but they would be operating on a whole ‘nother level.”

Zoe: “That… actually reminds me of something I want to talk to Jad about. …In private.”

Jad: “Hm? Oh, sure thing, dude.”

Jad then stuffed the rest of his second burger into his mouth before chewing and walking along with Zoe, where they gathered around the back door. Zoe had a worried look on his face as he glanced down at his frame, inspiring Jad to throw his arm around his shoulder. Though, considering Zoe was 15 centimeters taller than him, it looked like it should have been the other way around.

Jad: “So, what’s got you troubled?”

Zoe: “Lots of things. Things are still awkward around my mother. Shiaka’s acting differently than I expected and I’m… feeling a little lost with everything that’s been going on in our lives. What I wanted to do with my life hasn’t really changed and, strangely, it’s probably gotten easier for me, as I’ve become more… desirable to employers. Despite this, I feel like I am constantly at odds with myself. Even standing here, dressed like this, with my… everything plainly visible. I… I feel like I’m going through an identity crisis, and I’m not sure if I like who I’m becoming.”

Jad: “Zoe, I know that feeling. I’ve… been pushing myself into a role. Trying to become someone different from who I once was. I’m messing around with my comfort zone, trying to become more masculine, and while I like it, I also don’t really know if I’m moving in the right direction. We are still going through some shit. It’s okay if we make mistakes and do things that are embarrassing, as that’s part of life. It’s part of growing up. And we both have a lot of growing up to do before we reach our final form.”

Zoe: “You’re right, everything I know you’re saying is right, but I still… feel like I am doing something wrong constantly. Everything is so different and while Shiaka has been helping me, our relationship has changed so much that I’m starting to question things. I have always known her to be an attractive woman, and myself to be a handsome man, but my attraction was more admiration before and now that she’s let herself be so much more open and outgoing, my feelings toward her have changed. I… While you and your mother were spending two weeks in Europe earlier this summer, her and I, we… We officially became boyfriend and girlfriend again.”

Jad: “To tell you the truth, Zoe, I already assumed that. I mean, your display earlier and the whole princess carry thing— she’s clearly leading this relationship, but the romantic overtones were plain as day.”

Zoe: “I know, but… considering my past with her, I don’t know if I really want this or—”

Jad: “Remember the ‘Barbara’ mantra. If it feels so good, then it can’t be wrong.”

Zoe: “That mantra could be misappropriated so easily.”

Jad: “If it feels so good, and nobody gets hurt, then it can’t be wrong.”

Zoe: “I suppose that’s true. She’s acting like she wants this, but I know that deep down, there has to be a part of her that’s hurting. She tried so hard to get her life in place, and it was all ruined so… abruptly. It—”

Jad: “Zoe, don’t act like this isn’t a seven-way streak. We’re all in this together, we all lost something, and while… While some of us lost more than others, we promised to not hold that against each other. Nobody wanted this. Nobody asked for this. We could worry ourselves for the rest of our days, or we could live. I know you’re… rigid with certain things, you want to do the right thing, and always have, but sometimes, it’s not clear. You… are you hanging out with Shiaka tonight?”

Zoe: “Yes, she is coming over to my house for dinner, and will probably spend the night.”

Jad: “Right, right. How many nights did you spend together during your research phase?”

Zoe: “Over thirty. She even left a change of clothes in my closet.”

Jad: “Just like Maxine and I.

Zoe: “We are half a meter away, I can hear you when you whisper. And… do you still have her clothes in your closet?”

Jad: “Nah. My… feminine phase is over, so I just returned them to her. Besides, she’s not really into sleepovers as much as she used to be.”

Zoe: “Hm, I suppose that adds up… But yes, Shiaka and I will be alone this evening and… I will broach the subject with her. We promised to not keep secrets from each other, but I think she might be putting up a strong front.”

Jad: “She is such a woman.

Zoe: “Heh. I… I guess she is and maybe seeing her turn into that is what I find so… enticing. How it mirrors my own growth.”

Jad: “Oh? Well, if you’re such a manly man, then you’ll have no problem getting her to open up her heart and squash the beef before you… squash… her… God, dude shit is so gross sometimes.”

Zoe: “You’re the one leaning into it so hard. Though… I guess you had a pretty bad role model.”

Jad: “…I somehow haven’t thought about how I would explain this whole thing to Bryce, or how Lynne would handle him now. Hopefully, he remains out of our lives.”

Zoe: “Do you even know where he is?”

Jad: “All I know is that the wire keeps going through every month.”

Zoe: “Oh, so your mother has you, her son, handle the finances?”

Jad: “It’s… to help me learn how to better manage my own money once I start working and living on my own… Well, I’m not sure about that bit, as I really don’t want to leave her alone.”

Zoe: “I feel the same way with my mother, but… don’t make any lifelong commitments, okay?

Jad: “Based on what my mom’s been through, you don’t need to tell me twice.”

Once their conversation reached its end and their spirits were renewed, Jad and Zoe wasted little time before walking back to everyone else on the pool patio. The seven briefly chatted amongst themselves as they digested before, at around 14:30, they returned to the water.

With the afternoon young and a large pool all to themselves, the group began to wrack their brains for ways to busy themselves and make the most of this gorgeous summer day. 

They began casually enough, jumping in and enjoying the water while drifting about and making idle conversation, before Barbara saw the clock nearing 15:00 and pulled herself out of the pool, nearly slipping as she stubbornly refused to use the ladder. Once on the patio, she looked over the pool before her and made a declaration.

Barbara: “Alright freeloaders, I think you’re plenty well digested at this point, so it’s time to start working off some of the fat. Summer might be coming to an end, but that does not mean you can let your summer bodz go to waste. As such, Barbara Ophelia Pequot orders you all to race. Eight laps in total, 200 meters, and whoever wins shall be given the double chocolate muffin in the fridge!”

Lynne: “Doesn’t making the reward a sweet kind of defeat the purpose of doing laps in order to get ‘in shape?’”

Maxine: “I think it makes sense. Whoever wins clearly does not need the fitness. Though, this is kind of a moot point, considering Zoe will probably win”

Zoe: “Well, I do have half a foot on all of you, so—”

Tyler: “Just get into position and throw the toys out the pool.”

Shiaka: “You’re awfully passionate for someone who will probably be dead last.”

Tyler: “What, you think you can out-swim me with those floatation aids?”

Jad: “You’re 11, Ty. She’s 18, and you both have pretty comparable amounts of muscle.”

Tyler: “Oh! Now I’m getting motivated!”

Barbara: “Battle stations, everyone! Let’s just keep it alphabetic from north to south.”

As everybody gathered into position, aligning themselves around makeshift rows, they gripped the wall with their feet and looked forward, ready for Barbara to give the signal.

Barbara: “Three… two— one— go!”

As Barbara cheated her way off the starting line, the other six followed, spreading their arms forward and kicking their legs as the sound of limbs splashing against the water spread throughout the whole backyard. However, none of them swam with the utmost proficiency.

Barbara swam competently, slightly encumbered by her curves, but twisting them in a way that let the water flow across her body. Though, she started to regret her choice in a bikini as she started the third lap, for her breasts were constantly at the cusp of falling out, and her nipples were being chafed by the polyester. At the end of lap four, she verbally declared “fuck it” before untying her top and throwing it onto the patio. Topless and not even trying to hide it, she began swimming forward, distracting Jad as he looked over and saw her exposed breasts beneath the water.

Jad maintained a clean third place from out of the gate. While thin and borderline underweight, he was an average height man who had ample opportunity to practice his swimming techniques earlier in the summer. However, he was never the straightest swimmer and while hazing at the topless woman at his side, he wound up colliding with his mother.

Lynne tumbled underwater as her son collided with her and began coughing up the chlorine-rich water as she emerged to the surface. She had been maintaining herself fairly well, despite not being dressed for lap swimming and having a body that was honed more through stretching than anything else. She made it to the other side of the pool to end her fourth lap, only to realize that her chest was bare, her bra floating 7 meters away. Lynne froze as she saw this, and placed her arms over her breasts, her face reddening as she contemplated what to do. 

That is, until Maxine finished her fourth lap, her one piece securely tied around her frame. 

Lynne: “Hey, um, Maxine, I know this is a race, but could you… get my top, please.”

Maxine’s eyes widened as she realized the situation and immediately shot off the wall of the pool to grab Lynne’s white bikini top, swimming back to her.

Maxine: “H-Here you go. S-Sorry about that.”

Lynne: “Sweetie, it’s nothing you did. I just don’t want to go swimming topless when there’s a… minor present.”

As Lynne tied her top back on, Jad rushed in, completing his sixth lap, stopping to comment on the situation.

Jad: “Well, Barbara clearly doesn’t mind. And… sorry about that Mom. Maybe you shouldn’t have worn that swimsuit.”

Lynne: “Oh, you think so, mister ‘don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine?’”

Lynne then rocketed off to finish the second half of her laps, while Maxine did the same.

Though she was comfortable in her frame, swimming was not one of Maxine’s strengths, and her form was the sloppiest of the bunch. She remained straight as she swam, but her motions were inefficient, resembling what a stroke should look like, without capturing the finer details of the form. This led her to lag behind her companions, but she remained close to the girl on her side.

Shiaka’s problems were an inverse of Maxine’s. She had the technique of a trained athlete and moved her arms and legs with minimal waste, yet she struggled with applying these details to her frame. She moved like a girl who underwent a growth spurt over winter break and was still learning how to deal with her breasts as they fluttered about on her small frame. The swimsuit itself didn’t help either, but at least she doubled-knotted it, in order to prevent any sort of oppai-related incident. 

Despite Shiaka’s struggles, she was still ahead of Tyler. He wasn’t exhausted by the swimming, for his young body was frothing with child energy, but his body was his biggest inhibitor. Try as he might, he could not cover the same distance as others due to his growing frame, and while his technique was generally good, he kept twisting his body about slightly, despite being built like a plank.

By the time Tyler was finishing his sixth lap, Zoe was already on track to win. While his body had grown softer in the past few weeks, his strength, wingspan, and large feet aided him greatly, and allowed him to easily take first place. It had always been one of the sports he impressed the most, and the swim team even tried to recruit him. However, he always pushed them aside, for he did not want to compromise his academics with any extracurriculars. After all, a 4.0 out of 4.0 GPA looks a lot better on an application than being on a varsity sports team. Or at least that’s what his mother thought.

After he claimed the win, Zoe looked out at others, counting off their placement one by one. Zoe, Jad, Barbara, Lynne, Shiaka, Maxine, and lastly, Tyler.

Tyler: “Damn it! Puberty needs to hurry the fuck up and make me like 6 foot 3 or something, because this shortstack crap isn’t working out.”

Barbara: “Shortstack implies that you’re a girl— or at least you have big tits— and you’re under 160 cm. Like Shiaka. She’s a total shortstack.”

As Barbara spoke, she was in the midst of tying her bikini top back on.

Shiaka: “Thanks Barbara, I really want to be reminded of that after coming in fifth.”

Maxine: “W-Well, you came in before me, so that’s something and I’m… ten centimeters taller than you.”

Lynne: “No offense Maxine, but I think that has to do with your technique more than. You should let Barb teach you sometime, while it’s still warm out.”

Barbara: “Hell yeah! Swimming lessons are a kind of education, so that fits in with your M.O.”

Zoe: “So, um, about that muffin.”

Shiaka: “You are not going to have any extra sweets, Xing! Not until you work on your form. Just for asking, give me 12 more laps! Make it 20 in total!”

Zoe: “But… swimming is not the best way for me to get toned, so—”

Shiaka: “We are at a pool, so you shall swim. When you are at the Oransen Community College fitness center, you can lift weights. And you will, because you want to be strong, right? In both mind and body?”

Zoe: “Y-Yes, ma’am!”

Shiaka: “I’m sorry, but would you care to repeat that? I thought you just said ‘ma’am,’ and I don’t see any ma’ams in the vicinity.”

Zoe: “Yes miss, of course, miss. I shall give you 12 more laps.”

Shiaka: “Actually, give me 16! No! 17! A clean 25. You look like you should be able to take it.”

Zoe: “I… Heh. No problem. See ya in 20-something minutes.”

After being ordered by his girlfriend, Zoe boosted off the wall and began his laps, skirting the edge of the pool while everybody else floated about.

Jad: “Damn, Shi-Shi. You’ve got that boy on a leash.”

Shiaka: “I don’t mean to, but he needs someone to push him back to his… former glory. He has gotten soft ever since we made it official, and as his GF, it’s my job to make him better.”

Maxine: “That doesn’t seem like the healthiest foundation for a relationship.”

Shiaka: “It depends on the guy and the girl, and I think we’re a match made in heaven.”

Lynne: “…I’m just going to stay out of this conversation.”

Barbara: “Why? You’re a divorced woman! Either you have the best advice for managing men, or the worst. It’s one of those great binaries.”

Lynne: “My advice is to divorce them once they start hitting you…”

Tyler: “There goes the tragedy lever…”

Barbara: “Yeah, um… who’s up for swimming more laps? I feel kinda bad watching Zoe work himself like a dog while we’re floating on our asses.”

Jad: “Yeah, I’m down for that. But no more racing. I for one enjoyed my lunch and would rather not make a mess in the pool.”

Barbara: “Heh. Thanks for looking out for the housekeeper, J Dilla. So, if everyone’s ready, on your marks, get—”

Tyler: “GO!

As Tyler shouted, he shot himself forward from the wall, swimming about as well as he could, but not moving very fast at all.

The remaining five soon raced after Tyler, and kicked off what would be an afternoon of impromptu water sports. Mock noodle fights, butt fights on body boards, a few jolly old rounds of chicken, but the set piece and final event of the afternoon was the water volleyball tournament.

Four against three. Boys versus girls. Men X women. It… should have been an intense battle of dominance as they spiked the ball beyond the floating net. However, by the time the fighting began, Zoe was exhausted from all of his penalty laps, and Tyler could barely spike to save his hide. 

As the tournament ended with a landslide victory, the kids all chilled in the pool, tiredly floating about, sipping on cool cans of flavored sparkling water, while the women laid on their lounge chairs. Lynne had her sunglasses on her forehead as she read her book, a glass of red wine on the table beside her. While Barbara sat in the shade, a tablet in hand, a big grin on her face, and a vodka soda with lime resting between her thighs.

As Maxine looked to the awning from the pool, she saw that it was 17:30. While there were another two hours of sun, she had enough social literacy to tell that people were winding down, and it was time for everyone to head home and enjoy their Saturday night. She pulled herself up the ladder, her hands and toes pruned from a day of swimming, and walked up to Barbara while squeezing the water out of her hair.

Maxine: “Um, Barbara, don’t you think that it’s about time for us to wrap things up?”

Barbara: “Huh? Oh, sure. I was just waiting for you kids to tucker yourselves out, and… you’re drinking in the pool, so I think it’s that time.”

Maxine: “They’re just carbonated waters. Not beer or anything.”

Barbara: “You know you can legally drink now. They lowered the age to 18 a few years back. Nobody can stop you from hitting up Binny’s, grabbing two cases, and keeping the party going. I sure as saccharin won’t say nothin’. Well, unless your bro-bro gets involved.”

Maxine: “How about… no. We just want to go home, and as the host, isn’t it your duty to call things off?”

Barbara: “Eh… I guess so. Fine, fine. Let me just finish this chapter up.”

Maxine: “Oh, what are you reading?”

Barbara: “An ero comic called Emergence. It’s dark as shit, but surprisingly poignant and beautifully illustrated. I never heard of this ‘Shindol’ person, but they’re the kind of talent you can only find in hentai.”

Maxine: “If there’s anyone who’d know, it’s you, Barbara.”

Barbara: “Oh, you sweet babe swaddled in a cashmere blanket of ignorance. The hentai hole goes deeper than any orifice on any human. Including the intestines. I’m apples deep compared to some of these people.”

Maxine: “…I’m going to start putting things away now.”

Barbara: “Thanks, oatmeal muffin. I’ll be done in just a minute.”

As Barbara took a sip of her drink, Maxine began putting away the noodles, floats, and rideable inflatable shark. Her friends quickly took notice and proceeded to get out of the pool, drying themselves off on the embroidered ‘Flare’ towels. Only once they were halfway done drying themselves did Barbara rise from her chair and shout across the yard.

Barbara: “Alright kids, party’s over. I hate to say it, but this is probably the last Flare pool party of the season. …Well, unless you want to do another for Labor Day or something. As always, great seeing you, hit up the usual showers before you go, come over anytime, yada yada, you know the drill.”

As the declaration was made, the four guests began to clean up what they could, gather their things, hit the showers, and change into the clothes they brought along with their swimwear. Once their bodies were rinsed of chlorine and presentable to all establishments, they said their goodbyes. The girls gave their hugs, the boys too, but in a more ‘macho’ manner, and, with a smile on their faces, Jad, Lynne, Zoe, and Shiaka took their leave. This left Barbara, Maxine, and Tyler alone, and after giving their backyard a final glance over, they made their way into their luxurious home.

While this marked the end of the pool party, the night was young, a new session had begun, and things were about to get at least a little… extra.