St. Evies―An Engagement
Pedro de la Garza had a problem.
He was a young man, posing as a girl, which could not last forever. Every day brought new challenges and some had almost tripped him. He was also living on charity, which offended his sense of dignity. Even if he could, Pedro did not want to continue posing. Now that he had a steady job, with improving prospects, it was not necessary. Other living arrangements could be found. If it were not for Angela, Pedro would have thanked all the girls and left.
Angela was the problem. Pedro wanted to stay near her, which meant continuing the masquerade. For better or worse, Angela had given Pedro her attention and he had offered her his heart. She seemed inclined to accept, but things are rarely that simple. Since they both knew the charade for what it was, Pedro could not court Angela as Patricia. It was complicated, though not urgent. Not yet.
The issue was always in his thoughts.
Chapter 1: Of Ice Cream and Windy Days
Thinking constantly about Angela did not mean nothing else mattered. While his education was lacking, there was nothing wrong with Pedro's mind. An education can be mended. The bank had a chronic need for bilingual clerks at all levels. In the space of weeks, Patricia was promoted three times. With the promotions came responsibility for higher level accounts―and more material to study. In this, Deirdre was a huge help, but Finance was not in her area of interest. Soon she was out of her depth. As most of the girls would, she turned to Edith Dryden.
By this time, Pedro had regular contact with all the girls on the fifth floor, save Edith. They met the first night, but rarely since. Patricia quickly moved into the elite cliques, while Edith remained among the outsiders. Each knew the other was around, but their paths rarely crossed. Neither had cause to seek the other out, until Pedro's job provided a reason.
In many ways, Edith was the anti-type of Gretchen, who had tired of the novelty of a man on the floor almost before the first night was over. Edith let her gaze linger and took in details. Gretchen was a passable student, when prodded. Edith was Dean's list at Columbia. Gretchen was impulsive, flamboyant, and irrepressible. Edith was quiet, methodical and precise. Gretchen made occasional sexual use of Pedro. Edith had had no plans to add Pedro to her short list of lovers. They had one thing in common. To them, Patricia did not exist; they saw only a man in women's clothing.
For his part, Pedro noticed the quiet girl in the back of the room. Her penchant for observation over participation intrigued him, but was a passive thing. As his following grew, Pedro neither dismissed her nor gave her much thought. When he considered Edith at all, it was usually to wonder why she behaved as she did. In passing, Pedro noticed something no one else in the Hotel had ever seen―Edith could be a major beauty.
It was not obvious. Pedro was slow to piece things together, but no one else saw it at all. It came to him as he practiced theory of makeup. He would select a girl and mentally critique her presentation. Edith received the only failing grade. The more he considered how she presented herself, the more confused he became.
Edith had near waist length hair, which she pinned tightly and covered it with an oversized hat. Her eyes hid behind horn rimmed glasses, which also concealed her cheekbones and often slid down her nose. Her clothes were seldom stylish and usually miss-mated. Her only makeup, when she remembered, was lipstick in an outdated shade that clashed with her eyes and skin tone. It was as if Edith's goal was to be unattractive. If so, she succeeded.
It took effort, because the raw materials were outstanding. Pedro, as his eye for makeup and presentation improved, could not help but notice her high cheekbones, hazel eyes and rich auburn hair. Few others saw the hair at all. Pedro had seen it on the rare occasions she had it down for brushing. Edith's eyes were always on view, but the heavy glasses were distracting. Her thin figure was disguised or hidden, never accentuated. She had a barely noticeable chin dimple, which added interest to a highly symmetrical face. Edith hated it.
In short, Edith considered herself too tall, much too thin, with mousy hair and an embarrassing dimple. If she were forced to pick a good point, it would have been her teeth. The reasons for Edith's odd belief were complex. It is sufficient to say, she thought herself plain and no one ever corrected the misimpression.
Since she did not think of herself as one of the good looking girls in the hotel, Edith's chosen niche was as one of the house brains. Another generation would call her a nerd. She was the house authority on several subjects, not even including her English Literature major. Everyone knew her as someone to go to with a homework problem or to prepare for a test. It was this line which eventually brought Edith and Pedro together.
Pedro was studying a book the bank had provided. He was doing well with basic English terms, but banking has a technical language of its own. When the terms became more than Deirdre could handle, she suggested a call on Edith. They met. Half an hour later they went their ways, but Pedro's interest was piqued.
Sensing that this was not safe ground, Pedro sought Edith while Deirdre was out clubbing. Edith was shocked. Though she did not consider Pedro to be one of the girls, his status in the hotel was undeniable. Edith never received much attention, especially not from the most popular boy she knew. It jarred her to realize Pedro sought her for her own sake.
It was awkward. Pedro did not want to offend Edith by asking bluntly why she made herself so unattractive. She was at a loss for conversation topics, since there was nothing to study. Pedro resolved the tension by offering a go out for some ice cream. At St. Evies, this was a common excursion, since the parlor was on the same block. Girls often went there to meet dates, especially those they did not want exposed to Miss Walker.
Soon they sat licking almond fudge double dip cones. Edith asked about Pedro's job. Pedro painstakingly told her. With ease born of hundreds of hours tutoring, Edith drew out a fairly complete picture. Pedro positively glowed at conveying so complex a topic, in English. Her professional pride sated, Edith found herself relaxing and enjoying the occasion. Both would remember the night as a landmark.
The first night out established a precedent, which quickly evolved into a pattern. Whenever Patricia was not invited out, or when Pedro was not coming as himself to pick up Deirdre, they would walk and talk. These conversations helped Pedro's language skills as much as time in at the library would have. This was important, since the library was Patricia's usual excuse to check out of the hotel.
On one of the walks, the wind blew off Edith's hat and several of her hairpins. She was flustered and fussing when Pedro caught her hands, "No. Is good. Everybody will see your pella linda, your pretty hair." It was the first occasion in years that anyone had called any part of Edith pretty. She turned red. Pedro would have none of it. "Tu eres muy bonita." (You are very pretty). If Edith had been surprised and embarrassed before, this shocked her speechless. Seeing her clear disbelief, Pedro tsked, "Come. I show."
He pulled her into a shop entrance. A nearby streetlight gave a good reflection. Pulling out his makeup kit and a comb, Pedro unpinned Edith's hair and combed it out. He lined her eyelashes, blushed her cheeks, glossed her lips. He could do nothing with the clothes, but he bunched the excess in the back, to show her figure. When he was satisfied, Pedro stood her up straight and turned her to see the reflection in the window.
In some ways it was deja vu. As Pedro had once seen his feminine side in a full length mirror, so Edith saw a new person in store window reflection. She did not recognize the woman in her own clothes. The skinny, mousy haired girl was revealed as a long legged, auburn haired beauty. Edith flung her arms around Pedro and kissed him. After a moment, he kissed her back. The moment lingered.
"Golly." Edith was not given to strong language, but the intent was there. After a moment, she went on, "If we're going to do this, you should change."
Pedro was taken aback. Since most of the girls thought of him as female, much of his lovemaking had a lesbian flavor. What had just happened was unmistakably heterosexual. Still, Pedro was prepared. His outings with Deirdre taught him to stash changes of clothing. He lost a change, from time to time, but not often. Most of those that found his stash decided the clothes were too small to bother. In less than ten minutes Patricia was gone. Pedro took Edith's arm and led her on a stroll.
It was a perfect night for such things. It was warm, but breezy enough to want an arm around the waist. The moon was full and there was nothing to distract them. It was with shock when Edith finally realized they were out after curfew.
They rushed back to the hotel. As they approached the entrance, Edith realized another problem―Pedro could not go in and Patricia was still out. Rushing up to Miss Walker's desk, Edith improvised. "Miss Walker. Look who I just met. I mean we had met, but I never really had the chance to get to know him. Anyway, he came by to see Patricia and we got to talking. Patty's holding our chair at the parlor, so I could check in. Isn't he something?"
.... There is more of this story ...