Even though the moment passed me by...
In a way, Zelda Hilliard and Melissa Hires were twins separated at birth. They looked the same: blonde, tall and beautiful. They thought the same: conservative, religious, and narrow-minded. Even their game was the same: long three-pointers, sudden steals, and the ability to find each other anywhere on the court. And they both had the same calling, a calling they couldn’t resist yet despised to the point of madness.
It was a love built on mixed signals that were clearer than anything else they’d ever known in their sheltered lives. Two of a kind who could do no wrong in the middle of Tennessee, basketball legends for their looks as much as their game. The routine was the same: go to church every Sunday, win big every Monday, ace their tests every Tuesday, light up the society pages every Wednesday, rule the school every Thursday, be seen with the quarterback every Friday, and read all about it every Saturday.
But there was always something more between them, a magnetic attraction of sorts. It was subtle at first but grew more and more profound with every passing day. Similarity gave way to friendship, friendship resulted in sharing a dorm room, rooming together allowed them to become secret lovers, being secret lovers grew to becoming full-fledged partners until anyone with eyes could see that they belonged together for life, and their only unhappiness was inflicted by hate and ignorance.
Outside their dorm room, they were as normal as anyone else they knew. They had boyfriends on the football team. They were leaders of the evangelical club on campus who signed each and every autograph with passages from the Bible, even going so far to sign some of the butcher fans’ items with references to Leviticus, drawing chuckles from those who knew.
For four years it was like this, a study in paradox, two queens of denial inhabiting Ra’s kingdom. The newly formed Christian Conservative Party was more than happy to see such fine Christian women taking up their cause, and they became poster children for the party. Both were being groomed for Congress, rising with Senate candidate Greg Bennett and Presidential candidate Pete Richardson.
In the bedroom it was more of the same, constant denial yet true love shining through in carnal sin.
The game was always simple: dinner, studying, television, and the unspeakable that was screamed every night.
“Praying for your salvation or waiting to feed your salivation?” Melissa would ask as she lowered her jeans to the floor while Zelda kneeled at the side of the bed.
“Both!” Zelda would reply as she got up and crawled across the bed, grabbing Melissa’s cross and pausing dramatically.
“Nope, not vanquished yet, you haven’t transformed into a crazed vampire,” Melissa would say with a kiss. After that, words would be lost, and for a short time, so would their shame, their guilt, and their doubt.
The election came in 2008 and they both were glued to Channel 1 to listen to the victory speech. For their efforts, they’d been offered a place at Bennett’s victory celebration, but playing at Tennessee had given them plenty of opportunities to celebrate wins, and they’d developed their own traditions, just the two of them.
“Okay, show me, show me,” Melissa demanded.
Zelda obliged, brandishing the large diamond ring that rode her finger. “Yeah, he proposed a week ago, was waiting for the right moment. We’re getting married in December.”
“Lucky, lucky woman. I wouldn’t dare say he’s better than Allan, of course, but James is almost as good,” Melissa said with a wink. “I think I’m going to Hollywood first, unless Allan gets up the nerve to ask me. LA said they’re gonna draft me and I decided, I’m gonna play for them next summer. Besides, you know Pete thinks I’d make a fine voice for Channel 1.”
“You’d be perfect, Missy. It would make things worth watching again, because if there is one thing that we don’t do well, it’s TV. I guess it’s because the Lord already has the best stories written. How can we ever hope to top Him?”
“Oh, you’re just sad because those days of girls strutting around in next to nothing will be over. You know, you don’t need TV for that either,” Melissa said coyly.
“Very funny. You know I still love you, but I can’t wait for the wedding- it’s in January, I thought I should tell you before I send out the invitations, since I know you’re going to want to be there. I’ve dreamed of that day all my life. And then, when I turn 25…” Melissa looked at Zelda with her head tilted, and Zelda smiled. “You know they’ve had their eye on me for Congress. It’s time good Christian women helped shape this country, instead of those pro-abortion temptresses.”
“So which one was real?” Melissa finally asked.
“Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination,” Zelda quoted. “But even without that, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. What we had these four years will never completely go away. Maybe that’ll get Allan’s attention- I hear some guys like girls who kiss girls.”
“Nahh, I’m not gay, except for you of course, and that’s only because you make me very happy,” Melissa said with a smile as she curled up in Zelda’s arms.
“Likewise,” Zelda said dreamily, running her hands down and under Melissa’s shirt.
...Dreams you thought you’d never lose.
It was January 2009 in the chapel high on the Hill, and the Christian wedding to end all Christian weddings was set to begin as the soon-to-be-former Zelda Hilliard and football star James Shane prepared to wed in a ceremony that would make even royalty blush. “Time for me to hold something for you,” Walter Ely had said to his favorite wide receiver, and of course Melissa was maid of honor for the blushing bride. Both James and Zelda had invited their former teammates and coaches, all of whom came in their best orange, white, and baby blue. Their standing in the CCP also meant that the party elite would be in attendance, including freshman Senator Bennett. Presiding over the ceremony was none other than Graham Allen the Fourth, spiritual advisor to President Richardson himself, and sure to be named Secretary of State in less than a month’s time.
Indeed the CCP planned for this to become the model wedding for all of its new subjects, the subliminal system working faster and better than anyone could have dreamed of. James Shane was a rising star in the party, a young, charismatic politician with a picture-perfect wife, and Zelda Hilliard- soon to be Zelda Shane- had put in her time for the good of the party and the nation. It was time to use their poster couple as an example of how things should be done.
Blissfully unaware of the political ramifications, Melissa helped Zelda into a white gown that came close to massing as much as she did. “This is the last time I’ll see you like this, isn’t it?” she asked, keeping her voice, light, but Zelda had no response. More seriously, she asked, “So, is it as you planned?”
“Not quite, it feels more like a Congressional rally. But that’s God’s way. Need His word echoed in all the halls next year, and showing even one unbeliever the light is worth every shot I made in four years here. I just hope I can be enough of a supportive and loving wife,” Zelda said, glued to the portable television on the table, the best way she could think of to calm her nerves and have her hold still long enough for everyone to put her makeup on.
“It’ll be a lot more fun after the inauguration. You’ll see me plenty then- I made Channel 1’s casting call! I was supposed to be in training starting Friday, but I wouldn’t miss your wedding for the world, so they gave me two days off. I was up for the starring role, but some girl named Natalie got it. Ugh, and they say blondes are stupid? She’s such an airhead that they have to grab her by the shoulders just to get her to walk in the right direction. She only got it because she came from a liberal state and they want those people to watch. I already KNOW you’re gonna watch,” Melissa said proudly.
“If you’re in it? Of course! I’m so proud of you. Something needs to keep me busy while I’m cooking and cleaning,” Zelda said with a smile.
“Oh, yeah, right, your cooking. You sure you wouldn’t be better served ordering O’Reilly burgers for your husband and sending your cooking to Washington for, I dunno, poisoning Arab leaders for the CIA?” Melissa said with a huge laugh that disguised her surprise at Zelda’s turn towards domesticity, something that had grown stronger while Melissa wasn’t looking in the last few months.
“Very funny, Melissa!” Zelda said, finally turning away from the television that held her gaze from the moment she woke up.
“Even after all these years I’m more fun to stare at,” Melissa said playfully. Zelda frowned, but her expression eased when she saw that the door was closed and locked.
“We aren’t dreamers in college anymore. I’m ready to become a woman, to be married, and to serve the Lord in the way I was built to. That’s why I didn’t even bother to try out, although I had offers. I know where a woman’s place is.”
“Think it of it this way. If a woman’s place is in the home, then wouldn’t it be more fulfilling for my place to be millions of homes?” Melissa said.
“I know you broke up with Allan. Just don’t let Hollywood transform you more than I did. I don’t think I could take it if I knew I was responsible for you ending up some short-haired freak,” Zelda finally said, breaking the coded tension.
“Is that all? Don’t worry about me. I’ll find a good man in Hollywood- plenty of them to go around, and I’ll bet none of them have seen a good girl like me in a long time. Besides, I’m happy to get off that team. Those colored girls were like animals! I mean, as I was packing, I saw them run off like they were on some kind of drug! They had one thing in what little mind they have- seducing some guy into fulfilling their darkest needs. I thought Isabella was a good girl, but she and Candy- and that Leslie! She’s already married and I saw-ugh, what I saw. Trust me, we did NOTHING wrong compared to them. You’re still more than worthy of wearing white,” Melissa said, watching Zelda’s expression soften as her mind eased.
“And I’m sure that’s why a sweet Christian like yourself got the top role,” Zelda said happily.
“Yeah, totally!” Melissa plastered her smile on, not wanting to remind Zelda that she hadn’t gotten the lead role after all, and that she’d even mentioned that earlier.
At the reception Melissa and Zelda were as together as they always were when a car horn honked outside and a black limo longer than even the bride and groom’s pulled up in front of the chapel.
“Always gotta show me up, huh, Missy?” Zelda said, laughing as Melissa headed off to Hollywood. The two would never lay eyes on each other again, but in truth, they would never be apart.
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
“I don’t know what’s wrong with her, sir. I’ve tried everything! She’s not resisting- we’d see that on the monitor- if anything, she’s so eager to learn that she’s bored at sitting around and watching TV all day, subliminals or no subliminals” the technician said to the producer as they watched Melissa; her face was expressionless, but through boredom, not because she was lost in the signal.
“Have you gone through the medical tests?” the producer asked.
“Yep, this isn’t like Izzy who’s pregnant, and it isn’t just a case of bad timing where we just tell her to come back in 10 days. We’ve been at it for a month and while she has all the actress’s instincts and is very charming and loyal, the link just can’t get established. Such newfangled technology, can’t we just get her drunk like the good old days?”
“Don’t count that out, but let me take a look at her. Oh, Melissa, can I talk to you for a second?” he called out, and Melissa entered in her old warm-ups. “How do you like your training so far?”
“Um, it’s kind of boring. When do I finally get to, well, act?” Melissa asked, as frustrated as the producers.
“I know it’s frustrating, but the…”
“Goal of this exercise is to absorb every aspect of the character,” Melissa interrupted, so smoothly the reaction seemed scripted. “I do get that much. I can give you Scarlett O’Hara line by line in the proper accent- by now, I’ve seen that scene so many times I’m surprised I see myself when I look in the mirror.”
“I see, you’re obviously learning, and want to learn. That’s very good. That’ll make you a star as long as you take the next step. It’s not enough to play the role- you have to feel the role. Did you feel any of her motivations while you were watching that film? Her love for Rhett? Her determination to restore her family to the proper way? Anything?”
“Besides bored and hungry, not really. Sorry, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I’m just a simple Christian girl. I’m not meant to think terribly deep about things. Maybe I should just go back to taking deep shots instead,” Melissa finally conceded, but with a Hollywood smile and throbbing emotion in her words.
The producer smiled, recognizing some of the initial signs he’d been looking for. “There, there. I think you will make it. Go eat lunch, and we’ll try something different when you come back. I’m not the kind of man who throws things away easily, not when I know there’s gold there.” Melissa’s smile widened, and she gave him a spontaneous hug. As she walked away, he muttered, “Damn right I’m not giving this up. I’ve invested too much money in her for some idiot to mess it up.” With that, he turned to the control panel, flipped the main lever from “male” to “female”, and slapped the technician upside the head. “She’s GAY, you moron! We got her from the Style! How did you waste two weeks on this without noticing? No wonder she’s been under for two weeks! All the subliminals are working, but she’s got no one to desire! All we need to do is give her a blonde to fantasize about and everything else should fall into place, and we can work from there! Such a nice Christian dyke… let me call the boss, because I’ve got the perfect role for her. I’ll make a mint!”
Melissa returned, still smiling and perky, and the producer was nearly as happy. “I hope you enjoyed your lunch. We’ve changed up the role a little bit, made it a little more approachable for you. If you can feel this role, we’ll head out for filming in an hour.” He settled her in the chair again, then exited the room and signaled to his tech to start the reel. “Start in the middle. She’s confused enough that we can’t start it as lightly as we would otherwise.”
Soon Melissa’s gaze fixed on the screen and her breathing sped up. “So what do you think of this role?” the producer asked her.
“It’s different, but… oh, a good kind… what’s happening? Is this… oh, is this what you meant by feeling your role?” Melissa breathed out, giving in to the new signals quickly as the framework had already been built around her brain.
“She’ll be done by dinnertime! She just ended up being created in reverse, the link followed by the pleasure instead of the pleasure following the link.”
“Don’t have to tell me,” the tech muttered. “Works either way, though, and I don’t see any long-term consequences.”
“Nothing like a crazy mixed-up cute little ex-gay to provide some punchlines to a moral comedy. I have just the idea for her, something that will draw queers back to normalcy, but something that can provide years of fun for the rest of us.”
“Man, look at her chart,” the technician said, his eyes darting from the screens to Melissa’s motionless form. “We changed this up what, ten minutes ago? She looks like she’s been in for three days!”
“Poor conflicted girl, so wanting to be straight but so firmly queer. But we can help her with that. And she can help us. Lemme try something before you let her have at herself.” The producer flipped the switch back to “male”, but Melissa had no reaction. He smiled. “Turn her around, ‘cause if this works you won’t want to miss the show. If not… well, Shawna can always use another crazy girlfriend. Oh, Melissa? All that girl-girl is a perfect warm-up for what you really want. Come on and strip for your man.” Melissa obediently rose and, her face utterly blank, started to slowly take off her jacket and pants.
“Damn! Normally we just let them throw their clothes off in heat, but this is better,” the technician said with a leer.
“It’ll be like this her whole career. How else do you suppose we address the gay problem on Channel 1?” the producer said as Melissa’s bra dropped to the floor. He flipped the switch back and watched as she instantly started to touch herself, moaning loudly enough to be heard through the glass. “Switch back and forth every hour or two until she reacts the same way to the men, then she should be done.”
Did you get to be a star?
“It’s Melissa, crazy Melissa, wears heels with jeans and dresses while she cleans. She cooks sushi and tries to bring home the bacon. Goes to Happy Mondays on Fridays and observes “fish on Tuesdays”, Oh she’s so nuts…she probs goes…to church on a Saturday!” Natalie sang while introducing her mixed-up and ditzy friend on her Channel 1 variety show- poor dear Melissa, who tried to do it all by the book but just got the pages out of order.
“Isn’t that your friend from college?” James asked.
“Melissa? Yeah, I think so. She said she was going to try her hand at Hollywood,seems to be doing very well for herself...” Zelda said vaguely, her voice tailing off as she sits staring at Melissa’s perfectly imperfect form.
“She is so lucky- ah, well, don’t I treat you just as well? And our Congressional campaign is doing so well for a midterm election,” James said, kissing Zelda on the cheek.
“Yeah, Congress, that’s where you break laws, right?” Zelda said seriously, as if she had not noticed her mistake, right alongside Melissa’s malapropisms.
“No, dear, that’s what they used to do. We make laws now.”
“Oh, right,” Zelda said, lighting up a cigarette on cue with the scene in the film.
From that day forward, Zelda never missed an episode of the Quaker Show, the leading program on Channel 1 where Melissa was the goofy neighbor to Natalie, young Tracy and their various husbands aside from the unmarried Melissa.
As the months progressed, nothing could tear Zelda away from the Quaker Show. Be it a campaign stop for her husband, or a late dinner or any appointment, she would find her way to a TV between 8 and 9 every day on Channel 1. It was a strange but yet not unusual side effect.
“Is there a day you don’t see the Quaker Show?” James asked one night.
“We can talk later, honey, but it’s 7:50 and I have to finish up,” Zelda replied sharply, whisking his dinner off the table before he barely got a chance to finish.
“This isn’t Happy Monday’s! You don’t have to fly the food on and off the table,” James finally objected.
“You don’t get that if you go there for lunch, dear!” Zelda said as she scrubbed the pots and pans at high speed and then hitting the dishwasher for the plates and glasses just in time to light up a cigarette before the opening credits.
“Sometimes I wonder if you love that show more than you love me,” James pouted.
“Of course not, but I promised Melissa I’d watch,” Zelda mumbled, staring intently at the screen.
A week later the TV Guide had the warning that would change both their lives forever. “What IS Melissa’s problem?” was all the cover said as gossip raged at water coolers across America.
“Major announcement. Maybe they’ll kill her off,” James said with a belly laugh.
“BITE YOUR TONGUE!” Zelda screamed back.
“I didn’t mean- it’s not like they’d really kill her. She’s better than sitcoms, she should have her own show where she can really be herself, like that talk show with the chef that was on years ago,” James tried to explain.
“I guess that’d be okay- another show, I mean- but she can’t leave the Quaker Show, she just can’t!” Zelda declared.
“You sound more worried about her career than mine. Just what kind of friends were you in college, anyway?” James asked.
“Don’t even go there! Haven’t I shown you enough that I follow the Lord’s way? He’ll bless us with children when the time is right- He knows we’ve been doing our best, and he’ll answer our prayers. We just have to keep letting him know we believe.”
“Oh, I believe,” James said, caressing Zelda’s knee as he leaned in for a deep kiss that barely pulled away Zelda from Melissa on the screen.
“Argh, why can’t you get it right? As hard as you try, you just can’t keep anything straight!” Natalie yelled, throwing up her hands at another of Melissa’s trademark blunders.
“That’s because I haven’t been straight long enough!” Melissa confessed. Stage gasps accompanied the dramatic pronouncement.
“Oh, no, James, it’s true, it’s true!” Zelda cried out, tears welling up in her eyes.
“This explains a lot,” James said. He tried to hug Zelda close, but she turned away, her gaze still fixed on the television.
“You WERE? But you’re not now? I thought once you were g- g-g—”
“Gay? Oh, you can say it. I’m happy now that I’m not gay!” Melissa said cheerfully.
“But how can you just switch like that? Aren’t you engaged? Or are you- stop staring at me!” Natalie said, covering her cleavage with her arms and looking affronted.
“No, you’re too dark for me. If you were Shawna, maybe, but you’re just not my type,” Melissa said, and they lapsed into traditional blonde/brunette bickering.
“HEY! I’m not butch!” Zelda protested. “And no sensible woman likes bald things, so don’t even think about it, James!”
“Um, about you and Melissa in college…” James started, but he trailed off, as Zelda only had ears for Natalie and Melissa’s confrontation on screen.
“There are ways to be cured, but it takes dedication and real belief to do it. Maybe camps would help. We all need to stand together against evil and walk together on God’s path. Let’s call it a ‘hope camp’, because that’s what it means. Natalie, will you help me open them and help other lost souls find our Lord Jesus Christ?”
“Of course I will, Melissa! What are friends for, if not to help each other out?”
“What are friends for?” Zelda whispered. “Oh, James, this is just what I need! I was so bad when I was young and stupid- I led you on, then I let myself be violated and I dragged Melissa down with me, and then I lied in the eyes of the Lord and profaned the sanctity of our marriage- they’ll believe you if you say I couldn’t really marry you and you deserve more than this, you deserve a wife suitable for a Congressman. You don’t need this! You have everything in front of you!” Zelda wailed, her voice rising into a near-hysterical screech.
James took a deep breath, waiting for Zelda to get over her fit, then put an arm around her. “Do you love me now?” he asked when his voice was steady.
“Yes, oh yes! I haven’t even seen Melissa since we were engaged. And I never desired anyone other than you and Melissa. I loved her, if that attraction can be called love, and I love you. I’ve always been faithful to what I thought was love, even with her, until the Lord told us what true love was supposed to be, between a man and a woman, so she gave herself to Allan and I gave myself to you and no other. I still need to purge myself of the lust, but I’d do it, anything for you… for us, for the blessed children you deserve,” Zelda said, sobbing so hard that her words became unclear. James just kept holding her, and when he finally spoke, his voice was full of emotion.
“Marriage is a sacred covenant. I married you for better or worse, in sickness and in health. If you aren’t healthy, it’s my sacred duty to make sure you get well. I don’t need Congress- I don’t want it if it means abandoning you when you need me most. What kind of example would I set? No, if you and Melissa can recognize the sins you committed in your past and work for God’s forgiveness, then I can do no less than help you set your feet back on God’s path. Let me talk to Greg and Graham about finding some way to get my foot in the door for this HOPE program.”
“Really? You would do that? You don’t have to! You have your future in front of you!”
“You are my future- as long as you work just as hard as I will. Together, we’ll do amazing things,” James pronounced.
The next day James went to the CCP and told them the news. They agreed with his idea, especially with the revelation about Zelda- and about Melissa. James was immediately named to head the State of Tennessee’s Health and Human Services department, and his first task was making sure “HOPE on the Hill” was built to Zelda’s exacting specifications. Her main rule: no one’s eyes were ever away from the television, and no one ever missed the Quaker Show.
Letters That You Never Meant to Send…
Two years passed as Zelda settled into her role as mistress of the Hill, spending nine months out of the year working it as a day job and three months on-site 24/7 while James and little Missy went to visit her family in Arkansas. Every ward of hers was disciplined to the maximum allowed by her rules, and the Hill’s success rate allowed other camps to open across the country, but secretly, Zelda’s promise to James was broken: her first and greatest love still came on the television every night at 8:00, with long blonde hair and a ditzy smile. By 7:55, every one of her inmates was locked in so that no one could make her miss her Melissa and the Quaker Show—the only REAL time Zelda was awake and alive.
It didn’t matter if she was watching with James, watching with friends, or watching alone, she was really with nobody but Melissa. The sensations were always a little more profound when she was in her room at the Hill; somehow, it aroused her to imagine hundreds, thousands, millions of people as enthralled by Melissa as she was, even if she knew that her bond was different and unique. It would start slowly and build through the half hour as her mindlessly lit cigarette smoldered between her lips. Melissa’s face, Melissa’s body in those tight jeans and that orange tube top, Melissa’s sweet voice, all relaxed her and brought her back to the dorm room in Tennessee, just a stone’s throw from where she set up camp. Melissa, the one true love of her life- that was all she was, no other name necessary. She hung on every word Melissa said on camera and daydreamed of finding her just off camera, the spaced out expression on her face a perfect match for Melissa’s. Halfway through the show, she could taste Melissa’s warm kiss, see the playfulness in Melissa’s smile, feel Melissa’s hands between her legs. When the show was over, she was left full of aching need, her lust unfulfilled; she longed for someone, anyone, to complete her. If she couldn’t have Melissa, James would do, and if James wasn’t there, she realized that she had no control over her true desire. Each night, the feeling lingered a little longer, a little stronger, until she could resist no more and addressed a letter to Melissa care of the studio—the only proper way to satisfy herself.
It has been so long and I need you so. You’ve been so successful-I only wish I could do as much. The desire never leaves, and neither will my love for you. I believe in your message of HOPE, and you are the example every lesbian should follow. Your vision will guide me forever. Every night I pray that someday we’ll be together again, as we were meant to be.Zelda Shane
The pattern remained the same, Zelda’s harshness during the day instantly melting away when the Quaker Show came on. In a week’s time, she wrote another letter.
I am pure for 23 hours of the day, but for that 24th hour, I am yours. Your beauty, your defiance, your understanding of the Lord and his way- I’m powerless to resist you. You haven’t changed, despite your purification. For that hour I am here for you, to serve you, to pleasure you as you pleasure me from afar. I am your secret lover as I do everything to keep myself pure and holy. I will love you forever for giving me both worlds so gloriously.Zelda Shane
She was Zelda Shane, the woman who invented the methods of inversions used at every HOPE camp. No one knew her secret, but little things were starting to raise suspicion. From time to time, Zelda would do something that was pure Melissa, a jarring break from her usual merciless demeanor, and the later in the day it was, the more likely she was to stare into space and toy with her long blonde hair. And then there was her only unbreakable rule: no one made her late for the Quaker Show, or they would regret it for the rest of their lives.
By the end of the summer session, she broke down, went to the mall, and came back with Melissa’s orange tube top, tight blue jeans, and sparkling high-heeled shoes. She bought it as a sexual treat for her James, the only person that could safely quench this lust inside her, or at least that was what she told herself as she dressed up in her special outfit while James was enraptured by the first half hour of After Dark. Lost in her need, the tight fabric of the tube top and jeans making her feel as if Melissa were on top of her like a second skin, yes back in the old days when Melissa would be on top of her, she wrote another letter and filed it away.
Your body cannot be more perfect- the way you move in those jeans makes me uncontrollable. Your blonde hair sparkles so, you are more beautiful than any other woman on television. Better than Natalie, or Tracy, or Clara.Zelda Shane
She stepped out of the bathroom, feeling giggly and almost trampish, just like Melissa in her endless amorous misadventures. Caitlin had just started the personal section of her workout when Zelda stepped between James and the television and sauntered forward, tripping in the high heels and falling straight into James’s arms and landing in a compromising position. He could not resist her, and their lovemaking was more intense than ever before. Gone was Zelda’s preferred foot play, replaced with role reversal: Melissa’s crazy idea that the woman would be the one on top.
Three weeks later Zelda wrote one more letter.
Your thoughts gave us the most blessed gift of all: another child. I will never forget you, and I will always love you.Zelda Shane
Zelda never thought she sent the letters but never could find where she put them, and with her second child on the way, they were soon forgotten.
Get lost along the way.
At the Worldwide Studios mailroom, eighteen-year-old interns pored through the fan mail, smirking at the love letters sent to various actresses, comparing overdone turns of phrase from the more interesting ones, but otherwise just taking a look at the name and sending off a reply. The letters with the Knoxville postmark started falling under the “more interesting” category as soon as they arrived.
“Man, this is intense! ‘For that hour, I am here for you, to serve you, to pleasure you as you pleasure me from afar?’ Man, someone needs to get laid!” The intern squinted at the scrawled signature. “Looks like the name is Shawn- no, my bad, Shane- still, that means it’s not some queer thinking that Melissa still does that kind of thing. Look at this guy! He’s so loyal to his wife that he thinks he’s being unfaithful if he jerks off the one hour Melissa’s on the air! Isn’t that the POINT of television these days?!”
“Been there, done that. Crank up the computer, love and kisses, send the pictures, and move on,” the older one replied. So the intern printed out the form letter, stamped Melissa’s signature on the bottom, put it in an envelope with four pictures of Melissa, and sent it back to Tennessee.
The package arrived shortly after Zelda came home from the hospital, a pleasant surprise that she opened while James was at work.
You think I’m pretty? I’m so flattered! I try my best, but my house clothes are so hard to move around in and everyone laughs at me when I leave the house. I don’t know why! You shouldn’t covet, but I won’t lie- I just find it so sweet you think I’m sexy! Here are some pictures- I hope you don’t get in trouble for having them! Your support is so awesome- thanks so much!Love and Kisses,Melissa
The four pictures soon followed: the first in Melissa’s standard outfit, the next of her dusting in a micro-mini that flaunted her legs, the third a down-blouse of Melissa blowing a kiss, and the last of Melissa trying to swim in a revealing bikini that could not hold everything in. Zelda moaned, took the whole package into the bathroom, took off her sweatsuit, and spent the next hour with Melissa. Once again, for such a fleeting moment they were together as her hours of watching came back and she could almost see herself in her dormroom with Melissa vigioursly eating her out. Once she had satisfied her needs, she put on her best dress to finish her chores and take care of baby Melanie, that IS how Melissa took care of the house. As soon as she was done, she changed into jeans and an old orange t-shirt to pick up Missy at school—just like Melissa went out every day, and was still wearing that when James came through the front door.
James couldn’t understand at first, but he had no chance to think about it once the TV came on. No chance to notice that Zelda was just that little bit more into the Quaker Show than she had been the night before, even for Zelda’s obsession. And that night before After Hours, she wrote another letter.
You are still more beautiful than anything. My only hope at purity is to be united with you forever. You complete me. When I am like you, I am a better person, more pure, more holy, free of my sinful gay past.Zelda Shane
This time the letter went to Melissa’s producer and he smiled at its content.
“I think we can raise Melissa’s profile now.”
You Grew Up Way Too Fast…and there’s nothing to believe.
Melissa stood on the balance beam, fear plastered on her face. Her writer typed in frantic commands to no avail- she simply stood there, camera-perfect tears rolling down her face, until the producer grabbed her and helped her down into his arms. As soon as her feet were on solid ground, her expression smoothed out and her perfect smile returned.
“How can we do movies with Melissa when she can’t do the simplest stunts?” one of the writers complained. “How the hell did she get this gig, anyway? So disobeident!”
“She’s good! Trust me! But yeah, she does have to jump off something to do this right. You know we’d catch you, right, Melissa? We’d never hurt you, it’s ok, you never have to fear anymore,” her assigned writer said, trying to erase Melissa’s fear, but even hinting at the necessary stunt caused her to start shuddering.
“Face it, she’s petrified of heights. These early actresses, they still have little shards of their past alive and well. Shawna has her lack of hair, Natalie won’t touch a cheeseburger or bacon, Tracy’s married with a kid on the way and she still acts like a virgin child. It’s that crappy old equipment, little bits stay alive. Personally, I’d rather have her afraid of heights than kissing girls back into sin,” the movie writer concluded.
Melissa shrugged and was returned to her dressing room, oblivious to her near nervous breakdown on the balance beam or anything that had transpired.
A week later and Melissa’s producer called the writer into his office.
“You hear about Mick Walters’ girl Jaqui, the 18-year-old who basically produced herself in the computer lab?” he asked them.
“Yeah, she was staring at pictures of her idols and got so hairy-palmed that she fell into the lights by herself, not the way the system is supposed to control, but hey free actress!. All they had to do is give her a character and some rough finishing touches. She’s low-quality teen trash, nothing Worldwide would sign its name to but she’s good enough for Mick Walters’s crappy old machine,” the writer replied.
“We may have our solution to Melissa’s problem with stunts this way. The mailroom’s been getting...interesting letters.”
“How’s that gonna help? She doesn’t need a new husband, and we definitely don’t need some fangirling queer around here!” the writer protested.
“I did a background check. Turns out our Melissa’s got a long and sordid history with Zelda Shane, who runs the HOPE camp in Tennessee. Her husband is loyal to her, but he realizes what she really is and is willing to send her here if it’s the only way to keep her from turning back gay. Of course I told him it is. He’s not convinced, but we can fix that. You remember back in the old days we used to need look-alikes to do the stunts because the stars wouldn’t? This girl is so much like Melissa now that we could put her in a different room and have Melissa in two places at once,” the producer said with a wicked grin.
“It makes sense, but the studio’s gonna need proof this movie’s gonna gross before they put out the money for another actress,” the writer said.
“Everything takes proof and everything takes money. Don’t worry. That’s my job.”
That night at the LA game, Melissa was on celebrity row with several other actresses and their husbands, most of them former athletes, a few even her former teammates and friends yet no one notices anyone, they just sit until the commands are beamed into their empty brains by the writers behind them. Seemingly out of nowhere, Melissa struck up a conversation with Danielle, the femme fatale of action movies; in truth, the conversation was between Melissa’s producer and Danielle’s studio head.
“Hi Danielle, I’m ready now,” Melissa said sheepishly.
“Really? You know what you are. What you were. You know that you’ll need to destroy yourself on film for the good of your country,” Danielle replied, staring at Melissa impassively.
“Yes, I have someone to help me get over my fear, but I need to know you want me in your film before I fly her in.” Melissa said.
“You got a twin back at home or something? Who do you think you are, Natalie?” Danielle joked.
“Call her my hidden toughness,” Melissa said with a coy smile.
“Really? I’ll have to test her out. So how bold are you now?” Danielle said, but before Melissa could answer, she felt a tap on her shoulder. When she turned, she came face to face with Clara, the vamp of After Hours, her oversize breasts barely contained by her black lace bustier.
“Hey, should you and your Eric do a week on my show now that you’re going to be in a movie? Almost everyone in a starring movie role does it,” Clara said with a seductive grin that made Melissa blush and hide her face. “Oh, I forgot you used to be gay. Feel free to stare. It’s not a sin- it’s what I was made for. Even the most pious of women can’t help it.”
“Can I kiss you first to get him warmed up? I do have that reputation, and I think it would reach a very special part of the audience,” Melissa said.
“Well, I give my male guests a little something to remember me by-I guess you shouldn’t be any different. Besides, just ask Shawna- even the slightest attraction is enough for you, isn’t it?” Clara licked her lips invitingly and took out her little black book to schedule Melissa’s interview for the next month, with the publicity photos to be done in the next week, then blew a kiss to Melissa and strolled seductively up towards the luxury boxes. Inside the box of Melissa’s producer he smiles.
“Are you sure this will work? The studio’s putting millions into this, and if we end up with two dumb blondes too scared to jump off a bridge, we’re all fired,” the writer said nervously.
“It’ll work. Trust me. I have faith in Melissa.”
“What is there to have faith in? She can’t think for herself. Wet her pants if she looks down because her control computer is a dinosaur, yeah, but there’s nothing there to put your faith in,” the writer replied.
“You’re right, but those letters were pretty clearly from her previous life’s girlfriend who still loves her. We sent a reply from Melissa, and the response to that made me call the woman’s husband. Her behavior over the past few years tells me that she’s ripe for the taking. The only variable is time. Worse comes to worst, I can get her to fly here and we can finish her off,” the producer said with a smile.
Reruns all become our history
It was June, and Zelda was finally the spitting image of Melissa: her laugh, her smile, her jeans while going out, her cleaning in a dress, her cutesy slips of the tongue. Everyone noticed her obsession had become more than just admiration, but James seemed unconcerned. Her shift at the camp started in a few weeks, and she was excited at the prospect of another successful class.
“Vacation soon, dear,” she said as she dropped Missy off at school and headed home. On the coffee table was a magazine neither of them was ever supposed to admit was in their house. James normally brought it straight to the bedroom and stashed it discreetly under the bed, only using it to burn off excess sexual energy in the morning when Zelda didn’t feel like stretching to Cardio with Caitlin. But this copy was out in the open, wrapped in a bow and next to a bouquet of orange roses, and she was puzzled until she saw the note under the ribbon and the woman on the cover.
“I know you loved her before you knew me. Use this to purge yourself before I get home so I can have you all to myself this week,” the note in James’s handwriting read. Zelda thought that was very good advice and took the magazine into the bathroom. When she was done, she changed into a dress and did her chores, giggling the entire time. She was so out of it that she went to lunch at Happy Monday’s and didn’t even think to pick up Missy at school- after all, Melissa didn’t have kids.
James came home with a smile. He had already had the kids taken to his parents’ for the week, anticipating what he saw when he got home. “Hi, beautiful, how was your day?” he asked.
“Excellent! Like, I even snuck out for lunch at Happy Monday’s! Sit down, James, I made all your favorites. Chocolate cake, then chicken marsala,” Zelda said, her voice starting to even sound like Melissa’s.
“So I guess you liked the magazine?” James asked with a smile.
“Oh, yes. I’m so glad you understand. You’re so wonderful- a gift from God that I just don’t deserve,” Zelda replied, kicking off her shoe and caressing his ankle with her foot.
“Glad to see that part of you hasn’t changed. Even if you even do dessert first like Melissa does,” James said.
“Oh, don’t be silly! I’m Zelda, not Melissa! Who’d want a Hollywood wife? Besides, Melissa never could appreciate a good foot rub,” Zelda said, her eyes losing focus for a moment and betraying how much of the day had been spent in sensual daydreaming with her Melissa.
“After the Quaker Show, dear,” James reminded her.
“Oh, of course. Can’t miss it. Haven’t yet. I promised Missy,” Zelda said absentmindedly.
“It’s ok, dear. I love you so much. I’m just glad that those pictures of Melissa just made you more attracted to me,” James said with a kiss.
“I told you, I’m cured! But that doesn’t mean I can’t say she’s not attractive,” Zelda said teasingly.
“I didn’t say I disagreed with you,” James said.
As the Quaker Show came on, Zelda’s face went blank, her gaze vacant and locked on Melissa, mouthing every one of Melissa’s lines as Zelda had done every day for years as she focused on her true love. James watched her with a tight smile, then bit his lip and went upstairs to attach the special antenna from the studio to the TV set in the bedroom, one he was told would unite Zelda and Melissa forever. When he returned, he saw a familiar sight: Zelda, eyes glazed over, dreamy smile on her face, legs spread as if some lover would climb out from the television and have at her, cigarette burning at the very edge of the ashtray. James took off her sparkling high heels and rubbed her feet gently, which woke her up with a little moan.
“Isn’t it a little early?” Zelda sighed in mock resistance.
“Why do you think I sent the kids to my parents? I know Melissa is your second biggest turn-on, and isn’t it time we were blessed again? We have all night- we have all week,” James said. Zelda was in no position or mood to argue as James massaged her feet and moved up her legs. She lay back on the couch, helpless, and he scooped her up in his arms to carry her upstairs and satisfy her in the sanctity of the marriage bed. When he finished, he went back downstairs to watch the news while Zelda put her clothes back on and waited for After Hours to come on, her hand occasionally drifting between her legs as she waited for Melissa to finally come for her.
Finally the interview came on. Clara was in her skimpiest bra and micromini this particular day as she introduced her guest- Melissa. Most of Clara’s guests did their interviews in nightgowns, but Melissa, true to her character, was in her daytime clothes.
Zelda’s mind melted the moment she laid eyes on Melissa. As Melissa explained her darkest sex secrets, she felt like she was open, exposed, for the whole world to see.
“So you weren’t always following nature’s way when it came to sex,” Clara said. “How different was it when you were…you know?”
“Oh, it was fun! We always started out playfully, telling each other we wouldn’t end up damned even though we already were. We’d even hold each other’s crosses to make sure they wouldn’t vanquish us first,” Melissa said, and Zelda could feel Melissa’s hand on her cross, the skin of Melissa’s fingers brushing right over her heart, as Melissa pulled her closer. Everything else faded away.
“So the old rumor was that women kissing women helps warm up their man. If that’s true, then maybe…” Clara said, trailing off suggestively.
“That sounds silly! But, well, Eric’s just off camera, so maybe we should see if that works on him. Eric? What do you think?” She looked away from Clara, turning just slightly to the side. “Oooh! I think that means yes! Well?”
“Why not?” Clara said, getting up and locking lips with Melissa as Melissa’s hand crept around the outside of Clara’s skirt for emphasis.
Zelda saw this and her mouth watered. Something suddenly changed as Clara sauntered offstage to answer Eric’s moaning pleas. Melissa turned to the camera and smiled.
“Hey, Zelda, Didn’t think I’d kiss a girl and just put out for a man, did you?” she thought she heard Melissa say. Then, if she had felt herself able to move, she would have rubbed her eyes in disbelief, because there was no way that Melissa could be climbing out of the television to lie next to her, to touch her and hold her.
“Melissa? What? Is this real? Oh, I need you so,” Zelda moaned, her jeans dripping with signs of her lust.
“Shhh, my beloved, just watch.” And Melissa stripped herself down to her bra and panties before she could even reach the bed, crawled on top of Zelda, undressed her, and had at her. She moved her head for a moment, and there was Eric on the screen, on top of Melissa, but, no, she knew where Melissa really was, Melissa was on top of her, more real than when James made love to her just hours ago. She breathed in deeply and believed. Yes, it was real, yes, they were reunited. And then the scene changed again as another’s mouth locked with her own and a silky smooth leg slid between hers. Clara, the ultimate temptress who no one could resist. She ran her hand up Clara’s skirt as Clara’s hand stroked her just below her waist.
“I can see why this can be trans…for…ohhhrrr…ming, Melissa,” Clara breathed out as their lips parted. Melissa? Yes, she was Melissa, but Melissa as she had been so many years ago, always the smart one of the pair, more aware of herself than Zelda had ever been. Somewhere, she spread out on the bed and kicked off her jeans.
Somewhere else, she strutted towards Clara, slowly yet steadily stripping off her clothes and purring, “You feel the transformation, right?”
And then in a second she was Zelda with James… no, Zelda with Melissa… no, Melissa with Clara… no, Melissa with Melissa… she didn’t know who she was, where she was, who she was with, and she didn’t care. There was nothing else but the ecstasy that made her come with an earth-shattering scream. And then there was nothing but light, and joy, and a voice whispering in her head...holding her until she was needed, not to move until told ever again, just like all actresses and actors.
“Zelda?” James whispered into her ear. There was no response from the shuddering puddle of human goo in his bed. “Zelda, baby, it’s your James.” He massaged her feet, but there was still no answer. She did not move as he took her hand and slipped the wedding band from her finger, now knowing what happened. She only stirred when he asked, “Melissa? Did you enjoy yourself?”
“Mmm, every second of it,” Melissa replied.
“I’m glad. Your jet’s waiting- time to get back to Hollywood. It’s nice to know you remember your roots.” As she walked towards the door, James took off his wedding band and put it in a drawer with Zelda’s. Once that was done, he dialed the producer to let him know things had gone well, then called another number.
“Bea? Zelda’s… gone to a better place. I’ll need a good woman by my side to support me in my push to break into Congress this term.”
...And I won’t tell no one your name.
In Hollywood the producers cheered as the stunt double came into the Studio. A few hours of mirror mime ensured that Melissa and her stunt double were perfectly synced, but could also be operated separately as necessary.
Atop the Golden Gate Bridge, the figure in tight jeans leaped to her death without hesitation, desperate for the only honorable way out of her sin. The last bastion of perversion outside of the asylum state of New York was conquered as Melissa tumbled towards the icy water.
The writer spluttered in rage. “After all the trouble we went to! How could you do this to—”
“CUT!” the producer interrupted. A bright red parachute bloomed from Melissa’s back to slow her descent into the bay, where a boat with blankets and coffee waited- along with the editors who would splice this footage in with the scene being shot simultaneously across the water for an earlier part of the movie.
That night, Flo sat next to Danielle, Clara, and Melissa. Dale veered over to them for a sideline interview.
“What a pleasant surprise, Melissa! I thought you were signing tonight. Returning to your old ways and your old stomping grounds?” Dale said, the tall figure in the shadows showing her displeasure at what she knew happened.
“Oh, that’s being taken care of. I have a new assistant, and she’s amazing- it’s like I can fit twice as much in now!” And she stuck her tongue out while the writers scratched their heads.
Across the state, Melissa signed autographs at the local mall, fulfilling her obligation to be involved in the community. The line snaked in front of her table, seemingly endless, but her smile never faded. During a short break, she got up from her seat and looked over the railing at the next segment of the line, three floors down at the mall entrance. “All these people? For me? I’m so flattered!” she exclaimed giddily, leaning over to wave at them without a care in the world.