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Flambé Figures out a Breast Plan; Nick Gets a Crush

If you Google “sex reassignment surgery” you’ll find nearly three million results, each with links within links. Flambé must have gone through them all; or so it seemed to her. Even after—especially after—Esther’s tutelage, Flambé’s brain was filled with questions. Supposing she could come up with the money (a huge supposition, but a necessary one; everything depended on that), where should she go for the surgery? Which doctor? Would she be alone? What if there were complications? She’d never been particularly good at handling pain. With all this talk of opioid abuse, it was possible she’d return from the operation with a neo-vagina and a drug addiction.

Well, in the meanwhile, there were things Flambé could do without the surgery: breast augmentation was something she’d thought of for years. So was voice feminization. She’d long mastered registering her speaking voice a bit higher than her normal baritone, and she often accompanied this with a breathiness she’d learned from old Marilyn Monroe films. When Flambé had been Franklin, she considered herself lucky to have a naturally slim waist, broad shoulders and a tight, hard butt, physical attributes inherited no doubt from her father, whom her mother, JoAnne, had said was an athlete. But when Franklin eased into Flambé, those masculine features—once so attractive—no longer were plusses. Flambé didn’t want to be the type of woman often described as Rubensesque. But she did want curves!

Somehow, the relationship with Devon was giving her more courage and ambition than she’d ever had. He, himself, was so assured, so adroit in seizing opportunities and moving forward to achieve them. She watched him, at a distance, adroitly handle people: like a violinist playing a rare Stradivarius, she thought at one point, or, at another, like a gambler playing his cards with utmost skill, reading every weakness in his opponents and turning it to his advantage. When two people are close (and Flambé and Devon at that point were very close), each borrows usable, admirable traits from the other. Flambé borrowed Devon’s vaunting fearlessness. What Devon obtained from her (besides her body and her love), she wasn’t sure. If she had asked him what he got from her, he would have replied, “Your devotion,” because there was nothing Devon was devoted to, except himself and the ideal of political power. But she didn’t ask him, and so did not know.

So she plowed ahead with her research. But always the same hindrance hung over her: the lack of money. Even a double breast enhancement was expensive: at least $4,000 per breast, and likely more than that, when all the long-term costs were factored in. Call it ten grand, Flambé thought—not an impossible amount, all things considered. But where could she get it? Not from JoAnne, who’d been broke all her life and probably (unless she’d won the lottery) still was. From her friends? Nick did all right at Pandora; Danny was making money at Creava. Flambé didn’t like the thought of borrowing money from them, but at the very least it was an option not to be despised. And then there was Devon. A City Councilmember’s yearly salary, she learned online, was $76,000. It was more than Flambé ever had made in her life, but it was, she knew, a paltry amount. Devon was forever scrambling to pay his bills (she’d watch him sometimes at night, groaning over them), and he was constantly complaining that he had to pick up so many of his political expenses on his own dime: taking a constituent to lunch, hiring an Uber to get to a meeting, or his clothing—why, did Flambé have any idea how much a damn tie cost?

Still, she reasoned, ten thousand bucks was not impossible if she could raise it in increments spread among the base of her friends. So she developed this plan:

$2,500 from Danny

$2,500 from Nick

$1,500 from Devon

And then there was Esther. Hadn’t she mentioned something about the East Bay Transgender Alliance having a charity fund that could help pre-ops with expenses? Yes, she had; Flambé remembered it quite well. In fact, Esther had told her she—Esther—had been given a $2,500 grant for her own procedures; the Alliance benefitted from contributions from liberal-minded corporations. Flambé went to their website, clicked on the link called “Our Benefactors” and found, along with Apple Computer and Wells Fargo, “Creava Software Inc.,” of Oakland: Danny’s employer. Flambé smiled: funny how it happens that, when something seems impossible, once you really start looking into it, a way opens up.

* * *

And what of Nick? So far in this narrative he’s been a relatively minor character. Things had long since cooled between him and Flambé, a development both were comfortable with. Flambé continued, on a formal basis, to be Nick’s tenant on Perkins, but she was staying more and more at Devon’s place, and had actually moved much of her clothing and other personal possessions there.

Nick was still smarting over the breakup with Angel. He was in no rush to find another boyfriend, that was for sure. Devon, now City Councilmember Camber, grew increasingly impressed with the young man’s intelligence and personal skills, and had elevated him from website development and social media to a more active role, involving scheduling and issues research. Nick thrived on it. Many days, he would leave work at Pandora and walk the six blocks to City Hall, to put in another two or three hours of work.

He and Camber grew close. There were times, after darkness fell and only the two of them were in the office, that Nick became intensely aware of Devon’s presence: this comely, handsome Black man, with his air of mystery. Nick could hear him breathe; sometimes, he would glance up from his paperwork or computer screen and secretly watch Devon, just feet away at his desk, head inclined in thought, working out the phrasing of a speech. Such a noble head, Nick thought: the sharp line of the jaw, the integrity of the brow, authority and an almost regal aura surrounding his body, the long legs stretched out, the way his pants fit so deftly around his muscled quads.

Whenever this happened, Nick had to force himself to look away. It was dangerous. His friend, Flambé, was involved with this man. Besides, Devon was Nick’s boss, and a public figure. There were a million reasons not to go too far down that path, Nick realized. And yet, he did. He couldn’t help himself. Devon had the same pull on Nick as he’d had on Flambé, on almost everyone he’d ever met. Nick, who’d been without sex (aside from beating off) for weeks, had to admit the obvious: he was hot for Devon Camber.

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