By Audrey Cooper
This work remains the copyright of the author, regardless of media. Permission is granted for it to be read and copied by inidividuals. No other distribution is allowed without the express consent of the author.
Chapter 1. Introductions.
This is the story of a person who is very special to me. First, I should introduce myself and tell you about my family.
We come from a small rural town in Gloucestershire, England. My name is Elizabeth Bunden. I am 22 years old. I have brown wavy hair and I am five feet six high with what I think is a nice figure. I took a vocational course in media studies at the local college of further education and I'm now working as an assistant, well tea girl, for a producer on a local radio station.
My mother abandoned us when I was 12, running away from home with a travelling vacuum cleaner salesman. She has never tried to contact any of us once since then.
My father was a great man. He was 6 feet and 4 inches, a giant in height and weight. When I was growing up, I loved to nestle in his lap smelling the unique smell of his after-shave mixed with his flake tobacco. When mum left he looked after us, brought us up as honest open people. He was always there for us and I could talk to him, and he would listen, about anything. I was devastated when he died from a sudden heart attack 7 years ago. His passing left a big gap in my life.
The next man in my life is Jeremy Macintosh or Jez as everyone calls him. Jez is a real hunk, six feet two inches, wide shoulders and a six-pack stomach. We met in college two years ago, fell madly and desperately in love and are due to be married in a few of weeks. Jez studied sports psychology, but unable to find a job in that role is currently a PE teacher in the comprehensive school in a near by town.
Finally, there's my big brother, Paul. Three years my senior, he is only an inch taller than I am. His sandy coloured hair is usually long, lank and unkempt. His physique owes nothing to regular visits to the gym, but more to spending hours in front of a computer screen and forgetting to eat. In his large framed glasses, he looks every bit the professional computer nerd that, in reality, he is.
I am closer to Paul than probably anyone else I know and I owe him so much. As a toddler, Paul could only say "Lizzybet", and so christened me with a name that has stuck to this day. Because he was 18 when our father died, he was able to become my legal guardian, therefore saved me from the misery of foster, and care homes. Whilst studying at college, Paul still found time to look after me, coped with my teenaged tantrums and sorted me out when boyfriends split up with me. Paul stepped into my fathers shoes without missing a step and has never complained about the responsibility thrust upon him.
Paul has inherited our father's ability to listen and we talk often and at great length. We have never had secrets, or so I thought.
Chapter 2 - The invitation
One night we were in the lounge relaxing. Paul had opened his mail and was looking at an elegant invitation card. "What have you got there, brother?"
"Jez has sent me an invitation to his stag night. It's on the same night as your girls do."
"I know. We arranged that so no one would be lonely at home!" I smiled at Paul.
"Yes, I suppose that makes sense". Paul did not seem very enthusiastic.
"Hey, you'll have a great time. You know most of the guys who will be there and Jez and you always get on well together."
"You're right, it is just that I will miss being with you on your last big night out as a single girl."
"I'll miss you as well brother and I wish you could come. However, it is not up to me. The other girls have organised my night and there is no way that any of them would let a man come. They said, "A hen night is for hens and a stag night is for stags."
I thought that was the end of the discussion. Over the next few days, Paul became quiet, almost morose until the subject of my hen night came up again. I was trying on a new dress (a little classic black number).
"Paul, what do you think of this dress?"
"Uh? Oh. It's very revealing... Is that for your hen night?"
"Yes. Do you like it?"
"Lizzybet, about your hen party, are you sure there isn't any way I could come?"
I gave Paul a big hug. "Dearest brother. If I could wave a magic wand and make you into a girl for the night, so that you could join me, I would do it in an instant. But magic doesn't happen, you're still a boy and the invitation is not open to you"
Paul pushed his fists up under his jumper to look like breasts and in a comic attempt at a high voice said, "I can be one of the girls." We both fell about laughing but then simultaneously we stopped and looked at each other.
"No. I couldn't ask you to do that." I said.
"But it's a great idea, if I can get away with it".
"If you tried and anyone found out, the rednecks in this town would make you a laughing stock, and can you imagine what the topic of conversation would be at the wedding reception?"
"I'd better make sure I don't get found out then."
"Paul! I can't let you do it."
"I'll tell you what Lizzybet, Let's have a trial run and if you think I can do it, then I'll come. If you think I can't then I'll join Jez."
"Thank goodness that's sorted out", I thought to myself, assuming that he would never be able to look like a convincing woman. "OK. You're on. Let's see what clothes we can find. My stuff is probably a bit too small, but there's still a case of Mum's clothes that Dad was never able to throw out."
We went to the box room and after finding all sorts of "lost" treasures, eventually unearthed the case. The contents of the case may have been old, but the fashion industry had gone around one or maybe more of its cycles and now the clothes weren't too out of step with the current vogue. It seems that mum must have been bigger than I am because the things were about the right size for Paul.
"OK Paul, into the bathroom for a shower and use some of my conditioner from the basket."
As I sorted through the clothes looking to put together a matching outfit, I felt far from comfortable with what I was doing. I loved my brother and I didn't want to expose him to the sort of ridicule that might happen if what he was considering went wrong.
A while later, I returned to the bathroom door and shouted. "Paul, you're taking a long time for that shower."
"Nearly finished, I wanted to do this properly."
Paul emerged from the bathroom with a small towel rapped around him. "Paul! What have you done to your legs?" Several cuts were seeping blood where he had shaved them.
"I guess I'm more used to working on my chin than legs," he said with a wry grin.
"But Paul, you didn't have to do that."
"Hey, sister a deal is a deal, and I mean to get to that party of yours whatever it takes."
I slowly sat down on the bed. "When you say, 'what ever it takes', you really mean it, don't you? You're that determined to get there." I said slowly.
Paul sat next to me and took my hands. "Lizzybet, I can tell that you're not happy with this approach, but it seems that it's the only option open to me. I really want to share your hen night with you.
"I do understand your concern, but I'm your brother and I intend to stay your brother. This is only for the one evening; I'm not going to make a habit of it." Paul looked at me and gave me one of his confidence boosting smiles and then a big hug.
I relaxed somewhat and looked at the pile of clothes I had selected. "Well, I said I would help. Here put these on." I passed Paul a bra and a pair of panties. He stepped into the panties and pulled them up under the towel. He then did something to remove the unladylike bulge. Next, he put on the bra, which I fastened for him and filled with several pairs of old tights. I helped him put on pair of tights and finally the blouse and skirt I had found went on.
"The one thing we have to work with is your long hair. It's a good thing your too lazy to get it cut! Have you thought what sort of hair do you'd like, Paul?" I indicated he should sit at my dressing table, facing the mirror. I combed out his hair, thinking that it could do with more conditioner after its life long maltreatment.
Paul looked confused and lost. "Uh, I have no idea. Something, err, female?"
I playfully hit him with the hairbrush. "I need a bit more than that. Let's try a few things."
"First there's a ponytail." I brushed his hair back, away from his face, gathered it at the back and put a band around it creating a high ponytail. "I can shorten some of your hair at the front to give you a fringe. Then I can make it a little more elegant." I teased some strands of hair out of the tail from the temples. "I can the curl these to frame your face. I can also make it into an 'up do' like this. "I twisted the ponytail round until it became a bun. Then I removed the band and brushed Paul's hair out again.
As I tried each style, Paul was looking critically in the mirror. "Those styles are OK, but since I tie my hair back to keep it out of the way, I might get recognised too easily."
I looked again. "You've got a point there. Lets try something else, there are lots of styles based a parting." I used a comb to give Paul a centre parting. It was better but still looked too much like Paul.
"The last simple thing I can try is a side parting." Again, I used the comb to change his hairstyle. We looked in the mirror. "That’s looking better, but hang-on, let me try something." I squirted some mousse into my hand and worked it into the roots of his hair at the front, giving it more volume and allowing it to go straight up before sweeping over to the left. "Now that look suits you and it reminds me less of my Paul than the other styles."
I stood back and looked at him. "The glasses will have to go. Convince me that you can get away with this and I'll make an appointment for you with the opticians, so you can get some with a more feminine style."
"Now, I'm going to put some makeup on your face." I started to work some foundation into his chin. "This covers the imperfections and that last bit of stubble that ducks under your razor." As I worked, I realised that in spite of his irregular fast food diet, Paul's skin was actually in good condition, without any spots or acne scars. I carried on working. First on his eyes, with eye shadow, liner and mascara. Next, I gave some definition to his cheeks using blusher and finally I painted his lips with a soft pink lipstick.
I had been working close up to Paul's face, and although I had been looking at what I was doing, I had been too engrossed in each particular area to notice the overall effect that the make up was having. However, as I put down the bottle of lip-gloss I stood back and for the first time saw Paul in his feminine guise.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing, my geeky brother had gone and been replaced by a good-looking lady, with I have to admit a certain style. I immediately panicked and made to wipe the make up off.
"It, it doesn't work at all Paul. Sorry, but I'm afraid you can't come to the party" I said in a hurry, grabbing a tissue to start removing the make-up. Paul grasped my hand.
"May I see before you undo everything?" I hesitated and then turned his chair to face the mirror. He went very quiet as he peered at the mirror.
"I can't really see very well." He reached for his glasses and as he put them on, the spell was broken and Paul was back. "Hmm, I see what you mean" I sighed with relief, but too early as he continued "I can't tell what I look like with without my glasses on, but with them on, I can't tell what I look like without them" I had to think about the twisted logic of this, typically Paul, statement!
"Sis, can you take some pictures of me with the digital camera? Then I can look at those with my glasses on."
I realised then that I had lost this contest and could not keep Paul away from the party. Then, I hadn't really lost had I? On that special day, Paul would be with me.
I collected the camera from Paul's den and after he had removed his glasses, started snapping away. I stopped when the memory was full and we went to the computer to upload the images.
Paul opened the photo tool and looked at the first picture. He immediately opened up explorer and started hunting around the system. "What's happened? We've got someone else's pictures"
I looked at the screen; the picture was the first I had taken. "Paul, they are the right pictures. That is you."
Paul's jaw dropped to keyboard. "But, but, but she's beautiful! That isn't really me, is it? But you said that that I didn't make the grade"
Blinking a tear away, I made my admission. "Paul, I lied to you. I'm sorry. I didn't want you to risk being found out, but looking at these images, it won't be your looks that give you away, in fact I think one or two of the girls maybe jealous of you."
"I can come! I can come! I can come!" Paul danced around my bedroom, the smile on his face driving away some of my sadness and concern. Paul sat down again, smiling still. "Lizzybet, I know this is only the first test. If I'm going to pull this off, I'll need to get EVERYTHING right." I nodded and started to think of all the big and little things that could go wrong and plan for them.
Looking into Paul's eyes I slowly said, "I think that you should live as a woman until the party, so you can be used to everything. You need a name, I can't call you Paul when you're dressed like that and you need a background. I could call you Paula?"
Paul frowned and shook his head. I thought that he was going to back out and my hopes got up. "Paula is too close to my own name, it might make people think of me and give them an insight to my real identity. How about," He paused, looking at the ceiling, trying to drag a name from the air. "Does Francine sound alright? Fran for short"
Chapter 3 - Getting to know you, getting to know all about you
We spent the next day doing preparation, working on Paul's, no, Fran's walk. Learning how to sit and stand and practicing speaking. Later we were sitting in his, err, her bedroom. I was painting her nails and we were both throwing in ideas for Fran's life history.
"I could be our cousin from Swindon." Fran suggested
"No, Sue from the Swindon branch of the family will be at the party. She also knows all the other relies." I rejoined.
"Not family then." I shook my head in reply.
"I could be a colleague?"
"No my boss, Margaret, will be there to tell the lie of that story. Same with school friends"
Fran burst out laughing. "I could be Paul's twin sister, secretly given up for adoption at birth, 'cause Mum and Dad couldn't afford to feed both of us"
I nearly exploded. "Dad would never have done something like that." I shouted at him. I paused and then calming myself, continued slowly. "But Mum would. Yes! Spawn of the milkman, delivered in secret and disposed of swiftly."
Once we had a starting point, we had great fun inventing a life history for Fran. We dreamt up spells in orphanages, young boy friends, and foster parents, holiday disasters, all things that Fran could chat about in party conversations.
Several times during the day, I caught Fran squinting at herself in the mirror, trying to see herself with out the coke bottle lenses of her oh so male spectacles. "Come on dear. It’s time for us to take a trip to the opticians to buy some girly glasses." I could see in her expression mixed feelings, some anticipation, and a lot of fear. "What is it Fran?"
"Well, it’ll be nice to have some glasses to match my new looks, but it means going outside and meeting people…like this."
"First night nerves?" I said. She nodded. "The best way to get over that is to just do it! I’ll make the appointment before I leave to see Jez this evening."
I’d made the appointment for the following day with an optician in another town. As we got into the car, I noticed with pride that Fran remembered the lessons on how to sit, sort her skirt then swing her legs in rather than jumping in feet first as he used to. She was nearly silent for the 30-minute drive, only responding to direct questions with grunts. Fortunately, I was able to park at the curb directly outside the shop. Fran elegantly stepped from the car, waited for me to take her hand and guide her across the pavement and into the shop.
I spoke to the blonde assistant. "Hello, I made an appointment for my sister. She managed to break her glasses and needs a new pair."
"Oh dear I’m sorry to hear that. Mr Parsons is just finishing with another customer. He will be able to help you presently. Would you like to take a seat?"
We accepted the offer of chairs and started to look at the numerous pamphlets lying on the low table. Soon the short balding optician handed his patient over to the assistant and beckoned us over. Fran felt her way past the furniture to his examining room. It being small, I waited outside.
A long while later Fran emerged and walked gracefully across the room. I looked up in surprise.
"Contact lenses" She smiled at me. "I’m just trying them out. I’m going to choose some frames as well and that will be easier if I can see myself."
It took ages, partly because of the number of frames she tried, but mostly because she kept looking at herself and preening in the mirror.
We left the shop a couple of hundred pounds lighter, but with six months supply of contact lenses and a pair of frameless framed glasses.
"That wasn’t too bad, was it Fran?" I said, surprising myself how quickly I was accepting Paul’s new name.
"Um. Tell me Lizzybet, Do you have much trouble with men? That optician was a real creep!"
"Oh, Paul! I’m so sorry. What did he do?" I looked at my brother and noticed he was smiling.
"We came to an understanding. When I lifted his hand off my knee I gripped it rather hard, I think he may struggle to write clearly the rest of the day!"
"Paul... Fran, I thought you were nervous!"
"Once I realised he accepted me for what I appeared to be and tried his nasty little routine, I relaxed and started to enjoy the attention.
"Would you like a coffee? There’s a café just down here."
I followed my sibling, noticing how she was more confident than Paul had ever been in public.
"Table for two." she called to the waitress as we entered the café. "That table in the window please."
Before, if I had managed to get Paul into a restaurant, he would have chosen one of the darkest booths at the back or meekly followed the waitress to whatever crummy table she directed him to. Now we were sitting facing the street watching as the residents of the busy little town walked past looking at the two young ladies enjoying their cappuccinos.
We chatted about what would need to do before the party. I suggested she move into the spare room for the duration, just in case there were any questions. That was Dad’s old room by the front door of our bungalow. He had always maintained that he was on guard duty whilst we slept, but the loud snoring from his room gave lie to that. We were going to cover Paul’s absence with a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to an IT conference in the United States. All we had to decide then was how to spend the rest of the day. "Clothes shopping" was Fran’s first suggestion, quickly followed by "and shoes as well." This was another departure from Paul’s character, who would buy clothes when his current ones were only fit for floor cloths. We looked in the posh haberdashery shop and decided that the nearby out off town shopping centre would be a better bet.
Hitting the shopping centre’s branch of British Home Stores, Fran wanted to buy enough clothes to last the week until the party.
"I’m really up for this shopping, but I don’t know what to buy." She whispered to me as we went in.
"Ah. I’ve never had to buy a whole wardrobe in one go either. I guess we should work from the inside out. Underwear first, hose, some tops or blouses and skirts. We can go to a proper shoe shop later."
As we wandered around the displays, Fran was looking at everything, feeling the fabrics, holding the different colours up to the light and smiling.
Smiling in a way I had never seen Paul smile before. It was almost as if dressing as Fran had released something inside her and she was free to enjoy herself. I knew Paul had sacrificed a lot to become father to me after Dad died and I always feel guilty about opportunities he had missed so he could be there for me, so it was really special for me to see her so happy.
We went to the shoe shop on the same floor and like at BHS, Fran looked at the displays, picking up the shoe after shoe and admiring them from all angles. I became aware that she was getting strange looks from one of the assistants.
"Fran, go steady, she thinks you have some sort of shoe fetish!" Fran looked up guiltily at the assistant, then turned on her smile and waved her over to us.
"Can I try these on in a size 8, please" The assistant who had been watching us with intrigue resumed her normal bored expression and clomped off to the stock room, leaving us both giggling like school girls.
The assistant returned. "Ain’t got that in an 8. We’ve got a 5. Is that any good?"
"Not really, you see my feet are a size eight and that would be 3 sizes too small for me" Fran retorted, then turned on her heel and left the shop. All I could do was look at the dumb expression on the shop assistants face.
By the time I got my wits back together and left the shop, I couldn’t see Fran in the crowd of shoppers. Eventually, I caught up with her in another shoe shop where she was trying on some boots and judging by the different boxes stacked around, had already chosen three or four pairs of shoes. She beamed at me as she saw me. "Do you like these?"
Much later, we got home. I started to help Fran unpack her new things, stowing them in the draws that had been empty since we’d cleared Dad’s stuff out. I started to count what she had bought.
"Fran, why did you buy all of this stuff? You must have nearly enough for a month without ever needing to wash any thing."
"Oh. I did get a little carried away didn’t I?" Again that knock ‘em dead smile.
I sat down on the bed. "Fran, Paul. I’m worried about you, dear brother. I think this party business is taking you over. First, you come up with the mad idea, and then when I wanted to do a simple hair and make up test you go all out and remove most of your body hair with a razor. Now you’ve bought up half of the stock of a department store."
Paul sat down beside me. "I promise you Lizzybet, It’s just me. I can’t help being meticulous, I can’t help it. I’m planning my itinerary for my trip to the States this evening"
"It’s more than that Paul. I see how you’ve changed. You’re more relaxed, more confident or self assured. Moreover, all the time we were out, you had a great big smile, I’ve never seen you use before now."
"I’m just happy to have the opportunity to share your party, to do things together that we’ve never done before."
Chapter 4 Saved by the Bell
The doorbell rang and Paul shot out of the room as if wanting to escape from further questions. I could hear him answer the door and then realised she was still dressed as Fran. As I rushed along the hall to rescue him, I heard the conversation
"Hello Jez." Long pause. "Oh. I’m Fran, ah, Paul and Elizabeth’s half sister."
"Hello Lover." I approached the door and gave my fiancé a big hug, burying my face is his chest, as I liked to do. I realised that Jez was staring at Fran.
"I’m pleased to meet you Fran. I didn’t know that you had any other sisters Lizzybet."
"Neither did we until a couple of days ago. It seems my scumbag mother used to sleep around without Dad knowing. Fran was an accident or an inconvenience. Mother didn’t even have the grace to tell Dad; just put her up for adoption straight after the birth." I realised that even though this was all a story, my hatred for my mother abandoning us came bubbling out in tears. Jez clasped me tight; resting his chin on my head, he made comforting noises. I glanced at Paul and saw how he was desperate to do the same, but realised that it wasn’t part of his assumed persona’s role.
After releasing Jez, I lead the others into the living room.
"Tell me Fran. How did you contact Lizzybet?" Jez’s question sounded like an inquisition.
"Well, I had spent most of my life in various homes and foster parents…" Fran recited the spiel we had prepared before hand. That she had found us via a genealogy website that Paul had entered our family tree on and then she contacted us.
"Jez. We have spent most of the day together and we’ve found we get on really well. She is going to stay with me until after the Hen and Stag parties."
Jez looked at Fran and smiled. "Well I can certainly see the resemblance between you and Paul, except you are very much more beautiful than he is." We all laughed.
"By the way, where is Paul this evening?"
I explained about the conference and that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"I don’t believe it! He’s not really going to miss the parties is he? I expected him to make a big effort to force you to let him go to your hen night. I know you two are inseparable."
"I sort of forced him to go, Jez. The thought of him moping around because he couldn’t come to my party was too much. He’ll be happy talking about geeks to other computers, I mean talking about computers to other geeks. No maybe I was right the first time. He did apologise for not coming to your stag night though, Jez."
Fran went to her room to ‘unpack her suitcase’ and I settled down to an evening snuggling up to Jez.
"You’re sister is stunning, Lizzybet. If I wasn’t already spoken for I could be quite smitten with her."
I felt very uncomfortable lying to Jez, but although I trusted him and I knew he liked Paul greatly, I decided it was safer if he didn’t know Fran’s identity. I hoped that if the truth ever came out, Jez would forgive my lies.
A little later Fran came down wearing a different outfit.
"I found this note from Paul on the landing. Its got his flight details on it and a request to pick him up from Heathrow on the day before your wedding Elizabeth" I was confused by Fran referring to me as Elizabeth, but realised that Paul had worked out that Fran wouldn’t have known me as Lizzybet.
"Stick it on the fridge with one of the magnets please. Hang-on though, the day before my wedding is a week later than he said!" I glared at Fran behind Jez’s back. She shrugged her shoulders then stuck her tongue out. "Well, he had better not miss his flight!" She beamed a smile at me and danced into the kitchen. I stared after her. Despite Paul’s promises about it just being for the party, he had now extended Fran’s visit by a week. What was going on?
I would ask that question after Jez had left. For now I just concentrated on snuggling a little closer to one of the men in my life while he watched the football.
Chapter 5. You did what?
At the end of the evening, Jez and I took the usual 15 minute to say good-bye. As I closed the door, I heard my brother in the kitchen and I remembered that we needed to have some frank words.
He came into the lounge carrying cups of coffee. I decided that I would use the approach that had never failed when I was 15. As he put the coffee cups safely on the table, I launched myself at him, knocking him to the floor. I was able to sit on his (now padded) chest.
"Right brother, you know the routine, talk or my fingers will start tickling. What’s with the extra week in the States?"
"Nothing…I just made a mistake with the booking!"
"THERE IS NO BOOKING! The trip to the States is an invention to explain your absence." I started to dig his ribs with my fingers. He clamed up. So I advanced on his armpits. Still no joy, but he was going a very interesting red colour. "Last chance buster or I go for your feet. What is going on with you and Fran?"
"Ummmmmmmm" He muttered through clenched teeth.
I swivelled around and grabbed one of his flailing feet. I gently ran my index finger nail from big toe to heel. Success!"
"Ahhhhrgh! Pleeeease stop! I’ll tell you." He finally submitted. I swung back to face him.
"OK brother talk and talk fast else de tootsies get more of de same"
"Can I get up please Lizzybet? You’re a bit heavier than when you were 15 and you’re squeezing my breasts something horrible. I promise I’ll tell you everything."
I looked at my brother, makeup smeared and his eyes told me that he would tell me all that was going on. I rolled off him and went to sit at the dining room table. He came and sat in the chair opposite me.
"How long have you known Francine?" He started.
"It’s about a day and a bit now."
"I first met her 10 years ago." He paused. "It was when Mum ran off. I knew you missed her terribly. I just thought if I could become her, you would be happy and everything would get back to normal. I found that case of clothes and dressed in them. Looking in the mirror at myself, something changed and I knew that Francine was inside me somewhere. Dad caught me before I could complete my plan and we had a very long talk. I explained my feelings about the girl inside. He was very cool about it all, even chose Francine as my femme name. He didn’t mind me dressing up, but made me promise never to let you or anyone else see me dressed.
"When Dad died, I thought that if I were ever caught dressed, Social Services would take you away. So Fran went back into the suitcase and got hidden in the box room.
"This last day has been such a relief to let Fran out, to introduce her to you, do things like shopping that she had never been able to do when I was younger and only able to dress when the house was empty and I had to stay within its four walls."
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I knew it must be true. So many things fitted into place. A period after Mum had left when Dad and Paul started taking long walks but wouldn’t let me join them. Day trips out with Dad, when Paul preferred to stay at home. That Paul was as relaxed and natural when he was dressed as Francine. How Paul’s character had changed after Dad died. He hadn’t just been grieving for the loss of a parent, but at the same time, grieving that a close friend had had to leave and he could share that grief with no one.
"Once you passed 18, I was tempted to start dressing again, but I knew you were still very emotional about loosing our parents and I didn’t have the nerve to tell you about Francine in case you felt you had lost your brother as well and so I just kept her bottled up." His tale told, he just slumped down onto the table, shoulders shaking as the years of pent up emotions spilled out of his eyes.
I was stunned by the waves of emotions that passed through me. That Paul had kept secrets from me. That he had sacrificed so much of his happiness to keep me on the straight and narrow. That my brother was and had been for a long time a cross dresser or maybe even transsexual. That I had enjoyed Fran’s company so much and wanted to know her more. That parts of my life were getting too complicated. I was tempted to run up to my room and slam the door on Paul’s revelations, but our relationship was much stronger than most siblings’ were and I owed Paul too much. I was going to have to make room in my life for a sister as well as my brother and husband. I moved around the table, sat next to my brother, and put my arm across his shoulder.
"Don’t worry brother. I’m here for you. I think you have always made the right decisions for me. If you had told me about the other you at any other time or in any other way, I couldn’t have coped. Finally, I need to tell you that it’s going to be great having a sister to share girly things with."
I sat there for a very long time, hugging Paul and making comforting noises. At some time I realised he had gone to sleep still crying gently. I left him there and crept up to my own room where I did some weeping for myself.
Next morning I awoke to the smell of frying bacon. That smell is the fastest way of getting me out of bed and into the kitchen.
Chapter 6. Routine, What Routine?
"Morning sleepy!" I hate it when he is so cheerful in the morning. I looked at him through bleary eyes and realised it was Fran wearing an apron and wielding frying pan and spatula. As my eyes cleared of sleep, I realised that not only was she dressed, but also she had done her hair and make up immaculately.
Fran laughed. "Are you surprised that I can do this myself after only a day? You forget I’ve had a few years of practise. What are you doing today?" She asked, while sliding a plate loaded with a thick bacon sandwich across the table to me.
"I’m going into work. It will be another exciting day in Media Relations! Or ‘Would you like one sugar or two in your coffee?’" I had thought working in the media business would be exciting and glamorous when I signed up for the Media Studies course after school. I was really pleased when I got the job of assistant producer in a local radio station straight after the course finished. I didn’t realise a typo meant the job description should have been ‘assistant to the producer’. I was only putting up with the position as there were promises of better things, though I had yet to see any evidence of it. "Are you going shopping again?"
"Well I have to look after Paul’s business while he is away." She grinned at me and I knew she would be working from the converted dining room, running the small internet design and hosting business that Paul had put together whilst he was still in college.
My normal day started with an enjoyable drive through the undulating Gloucestershire countryside passing woods and patchwork fields with their crops or livestock. This would be followed by 8 hours of total boredom, getting coffee, working the telephone and looking after local radio guests who thought their upcoming broadcast made them really important, not being aware that anyone and his dog can get on to local radio, the dogs especially.
I had to admit today I didn’t have a work related thought all day. I spent the time thinking about Paul and Fran, about Jez and myself. I wondered about how to tell Jez the truth about Fran, worried about his reaction and what he might do. I wondered if Paul and Fran were comfortable with each other or if there would be some sort of internal battle to see who came out on top. I wondered if Fran would come to stay permanently and if she did how I would react to loosing Paul.
The day finished and I drove home on autopilot.
I arrived home and Paul called from the kitchen "We’re in here!" Did he say we? I followed the sound of his voice and found Jez leaning against one of the units, still wearing the inevitable track suit that was the uniform of a PE teacher, holding a mug of coffee.
"Oh hello lover" I gave him a hug, but rather that relaxing to my grip a usual, he tensed up a little bit. "What’s wrong?" I asked while nuzzling into his chest with my nose.
"N, Nothing" He replied.
I stepped back and looked him in the face properly for the first time this evening. "Jez, why have you got lipstick on your cheek?" I looked across at my new sister. "It’s in Fran’s shade. What have you two been doing?"
"Elizabeth, don’t get all frumpy. I just gave him a little peck on the cheek when he came in." Fran admonished me.
I looked again at Jez and watched him blush. I couldn’t believe it. I’m getting suspicious that my brother and fiancé were up to something. I need more sleep!
"Sorry Jez. Let me make it up to you." I planted a big smacker on the opposite cheek. "Now you’re all balanced"
Jez gave a half smile and then turned his back on me, concentrating on making a pot of tea.
I shrugged and headed to the freezer for some ready meals for dinner. I assumed it had been another bad day shouting at the 14 year olds he was supposed to educate. "You want to talk about your day Jez?"
"Not really. It was just another day at the meat factory." The good thing about Jez teaching PE was that lesson preparation was minimal; I mean, how long does it take to think of new cruel and unusual punishments for the games field? This leaves plenty of time for cuddling on the sofa in the evenings and after Fran went upstairs to give us some privacy that’s what we did. "I love you, you hunk" I murmured to his chest.
"I love you too, Lizzybet." He replied not taking his eyes from the tennis on the television. "And I like your sister as well. She’s cool"
"She is isn’t she?" I happily reflected how Fran was cool and Paul was geeky, still wondering whom I preferred. Several hours later, Jez took his leave, returning to his house that would soon become our shared home.
It was the normal routine the following day. Drive through beautiful Cotswold countryside. Spend 8 hours keeping people happy. Drive back through beautiful countryside
Once again, Fran welcomed me with a call this time from the lounge. I went in and found Fran and Jez sitting side by side on the sofa, each with a mug in hand. As Jez’s blush subsided, I noticed lipstick on his cheek again. "Getting friendly with my man again were you Fran?" I sat on the other side of Jez and planted a big kiss on his other cheek. "No after school torture sessions for the kids?"
Paul sniggered. "No. We have to leave something for the parents to do. They get upset if we have all the fun."
That night I had trouble sleeping, and eventually gave up and left for the office early. The lifting mist over the fields looked eerie and fitted in with my over tired mood. Work was much the same as usual, although I was somewhat more productive in the morning until everyone else arrived wanting mothering. At three o’clock, I had had enough and with my managers blessing headed off home. Inspiration hit me on route. We could go shopping for a party dress for Fran. I was quite excited when I rushed through the front door, planning the different shops we could try.
No cheery hello from Fran this afternoon, just two voices from Fran’s room saying ‘Oh Fuck!’ in unison. I pushed through the bedroom door to see the two of them scrambling to get off the bed. Whilst they were both still dressed, it was clear from their guilty looks, Fran’s smeared lipstick and the rumpled bed clothes that, at the least, there had been some heavy petting going on.
My mouth opened, stifling the cheery greeting I had been about to give, changing it into a long wordless scream. I couldn’t believe that I had caught my brother and my fiancé in the same bed! I couldn’t cope. The two people I loved had both betrayed me. I dropped my bag, turned and ran out of the house. I didn’t know where I was going, but just ran and ran, crying as I went.
Chapter 7. Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone
Eventually I stopped and found myself standing under a solitary tree on the edge on an escarpment that has views overlooking our town and the surrounding countryside. I had been here many times with Dad and I must have subconsciously sought it out as a place of comfort and safety. I sat down with my back to the tree, hugging my knees and oblivious to the view that lay before me. I must have been there a long time. Darkness came and I stayed, becoming chilled as the sun went down. I tried to think, tried to grasp the massive change that had just occurred to my previously neatly planned life. What had happened to the relationship with Jez? I had wanted to spend the rest of my life, in intimate contact with him and now where were we going? What had happened to my relationship with Paul? How could the person who had cared so much for me in my formative years have done that? I really wanted to think these things through, but whichever way I tried to direct my thoughts I just hit a dead-end. A psychological No Entry sign fixed to a brick wall.
"Lizzybet?" The plaintive call broke through to my consciousness. I looked up and saw a torch coming from down below. Eventually I made out Paul, dressed in his own clothes, but with the remnants of tear streaked mascara still on his face.
I gave a loud sniff. "Here!" I called back, getting to my feet. He approached and tried to give me a hug. Reason snapped and I lashed out at him, hitting him repeatedly on the chest with my fists. He just stood there absorbing blow after blow, until I gave out and collapsed onto his shoulder, still shivering with anger. He gently lowered me back to the ground and sat himself beside me.
"Lizzybet, I’m so very sorry, I have been so cruel and unfaithful to you. I don’t think any apology I could say would make right the wrong I have done to you, but please can I try to explain what happened?"
I sniffed and nodded.
"These last few days I have been, I don’t know, riding a wave of pleasure and excitement. Its like 7 years of pent up emotion has rushed to the fore, I’m learning so much about myself, who I really am. You always laughed at my attempts to chat up girls and you were probably right, I was hopeless at it. However, I have discovered that I’m very good at flirting with boys and I like the idea of getting close to them and your Jez just happened to be there and it was like loosing control. It was so wrong of me."
I tried to take in what my traitorous brother was saying, but only really picked up bits and pieces. Somewhere in the babble of Paul speak I picked out a couple of key phrases and the years of conditioning to look after each other kicked in, overpowering the emotional hurt that had been tearing at me.
"Paul, are you saying that as well as being a transvestite you’re also homosexual?" I intentionally put the question directly, emphasising the use of the correct terms for what I believed were his afflictions.
"I really don’t know sis." I think he was relieved to discuss his problems rather than the issues that had caused me to explode earlier. "As Paul, I’m not too interested in girls but neither am I interested in blokes. As Fran, I’m not interested in girls either, but I am turned on by men….especially good looking men" He gave a tired smile. "When I used to dress before Dad died, I think I was too young, too introverted to have an interest in either boys or girls. Now I’m more mature, my first outing as Fran, I discovered that I have the normal desires of a woman. It completely caught me out. That is what lead me astray with your future husband" He said, returning me to my misery that needed to be sorted out.
"The bastard!" I spat. "Both of you are! Is he still at home?"
"Lizzybet, we both really regret what has taken place. When you ran off, he was about to chase after you, but I asked him to wait. I thought you would need some time. Jez is looking for you in the town. I didn’t expect you to run all the way up here." He chuckled. "This was one of Dad’s favourite places. He brought me up here when he wanted to talk about Fran and I. We did some talking, but mostly we just sat silently taking in the view. He said it was a settling place where he couldn’t stay angry."
I nodded, remembering the last time I had been here. About a year before Dad died, he had brought me here to give the talk that mum should have given. We had sat in this exact spot, Dad where Paul now sat, watching the rainfall on distant hills. Father was calm, but giving off the vibes that something was brewing up inside him looking for the best way to come out. I had assumed that I was in trouble but the majesty of the view and the sound of the wind blowing through the wheat field behind me relaxed me. When Dad eventually spoke, it was with sensitivity, explaining everything (most of which I already knew from school) but putting it over in a way that made me realise what a beautiful gift love between a couple could be. Amazing when I considered how Mum had slighted him.
On this clear dark night, looking down on the quiet sodium lit streets below us and further away, the orange glow in several places that indicated villages and hamlets, this place was beginning to have its magical calming effect. I looked my brother in the eye and as I saw guilt and sadness reflected back at me the seeds of forgiveness began to bloom in my heart. My anger dissipated and I now started to shiver, but this time because I had just noticed how cold it was. Paul wrapped his jacket around me, helped me up and lighting the way with his torch, guided me back down the hill.
As we left the top, Paul’s phone rang. "Hello? Yes, I’ve got her, we’re heading back now." He looked at me. "It’s Jez. He wants to meet up. Is that OK?" Reluctantly I nodded. "Yes Jez. Back at the house, it’ll take us about 20 minutes to get there. See ya." Turning to me, he continued. "We’d better get this over with."
A thought occurred to me. "Paul, you got changed before you came after me. Why?"
"A stupid reason really. I thought you were mad at Fran and if I turned up as her, you would run off again. Also, it’s much easier climbing up here wearing Timberland boots rather than stilettos!"
That led to another thought. "Paul, does Jez know about your relationship with Fran?"
"No. I changed after he went looking for you."
"Alright. For now do me a favour and don’t let him see Paul. Explaining how you suddenly arrived back from the States at my time of crisis would be too difficult tonight."
As we approached the end of our cul-de-sac we separated, Paul heading to the rear access road to get into the house unseen while I walked along the road at the front, going at the speed of a schoolboy on his way to the head's office.
I saw Jez first. He was sitting on the curb with his feet in the gutter, elbows on knees with his hands clasped behind his bowed head.
At the sound of my footfalls, he looked up, misery in his red-rimed eyes. He got to his feet slowly, dropping his large hands awkwardly to his sides. We stared at each other warily like two western gunslingers each waiting for the other to start before reacting.
"Well?" I eventually demanded.
"I don't know what came over me these last couple of days, Lizzybet. Since we met, I have never had eyes for any other than you. When Fran arrived, she fascinated me. There is something, something very different about her. I became infatuated with her. I blame myself for not being strong enough to resist her flirting and I'm so glad you caught us this afternoon before we did, I was going to say 'before I did any thing that I regretted' but I already regret that it went as far as it did." At that, I smiled inwardly, imagining his surprise if he had gone any further, but the humour of it didn’t sustain me.
He put a hand out towards me, but I stepped away. "I’m not saying anything to you about this until I have slept on it. If I want to see you again, I’ll contact you. Don’t bother trying to phone me and don’t do anything that will make cancelling the wedding more expensive."
I heard Fran come up behind me. She must have slipped back the way she went into the house. "I’ll just get my case. I think I had better stay in a hotel tonight."
"No!" I hadn’t intended to shout. The thought of being in the bungalow on my own was worse than having the cause of my troubles staying there. I tried to recover. "I still haven’t finished with you yet. Go inside I will be in to continue in a minute." I turned to Jez. "Goodbye Jeremy Macintosh. I’m going to try very hard, but I can’t make any promises." I went into the house, turning to see him walking up the road, head down, seeming to drag each foot forward in turn, before I shut the door on his back.
I walked slowly along the hall, turning into the bathroom. I stepped into the shower and let the hot water cascade over my body, washing the chill from my bones and the tension from my shoulders.
As the stress left me, my brain started functioning again, rationalising those questions that I couldn’t answer on the hill. After the event, they were both very repentant for what had happened, but it HAD happened. I thought about Paul’s sexual revelations, that boy is going to need help. I also realised that I had partly played Pandora, letting Fran out of Paul’s box and needed to take some responsibility for that. What about Jez? True we hadn’t yet exchanged wedding vows and so technically, he hadn’t been unfaithful. However, the gift of a ring implies a commitment. I just had to know if I could trust him in the future.
Chapter 8. The Morning After The Night Before
I went to bed after my shower, ignoring the warm drink Paul or Fran had made. I slept, the lack of sleep the previous night ensured that, but it was not restful and I awoke with the feeling that I had had bad dreams whose content I couldn’t remember.
I lay in bed trying to get my brain in gear, I could phone in sick and lie here all day, but then Paul would probably be in and out, wanting to know if I was okay and I didn’t need that. I had just decided to heave my self out of bed, when there was a knock on my bedroom door.
"Lizzybet, it’s me Paul." Derr, who else would it be? Oh yes, it could have been Fran. "Can I come in?"
It was definitely Paul who came in, wearing the old boxers and tee shirt he slept in. He sat on the end of my bed and looked at me.
"Lizzybet. I made a decision last night. I am ashamed about what Fran, what I did yesterday. I have decided to put Fran out of my life forever. She is too much trouble.
"I‘ve packed up all her stuff along with the old case of Mum’s and I’m going to take it to the rubbish tip later on"
I looked at my brother and saw sadness in his eyes. "Paul, is that really what you want?"
"What I really want is for the last couple of days to have never happened.
"I like being Fran, but I’m frightened by her, she is so different from me, I don’t feel I can control her."
I nodded. "I’ve had the last 8, maybe 10 years to learn what you have thrust upon yourself in a day." I chewed my lip thinking of a simile. "When I learnt to drive you brought me my mini rather than let me drive Dad’s old Rover. It was something I could handle. Control can only come with experience. You may have years of experience playing with clothes and make-up, but you never got to be Fran in the presence of others, not even Dad? You never had, maybe never even wanted, to experience the emotional side of being a girl" He shook his head. "Fran is like a butterfly, coming out of Paul’s chrysalis. She has to learn to stretch her wings before she can fly but they are most beautiful wings.
"Think of it this way Paul, I think I can forgive you for what you did. I believe I can forgive Fran although, at the moment, I think she’s a bitch. However, I’m not sure I could forgive myself for making you live without her again."
"I’ll give it some thought, sis. Have you considered what to do about Jez?"
I frowned. "You have the excuse of the emotional roller coaster of becoming Fran, extenuating circumstances. What excuse can he possibly offer? Will he jump into bed with every good-looking woman he meets?"
"Do you still love him?"
I put a finger to my eye to wipe away the tear that was forming and then nodded.
"Good. Hold that thought sis. When you ran out of the bedroom yesterday, he was beside himself, angry with me, angry with himself. He knows he was wrong and like me I think he will have learnt his lesson."
"Maybe you’re right. I’m still thinking on it though Paul" With that I got up and hustled Paul out of my room so I could dress in private.
I’m sure the countryside tried to look beautiful as I drove past it, but frankly, I wasn’t aware of it today. In the office, I got my head down to work, avoided biting the heads of too many of the girls when they asked about the party on Saturday. I was retuning from getting coffee for a man who made whirly-gigs for a living when my phone rang.
"Hello Condor Radio, Elizabeth speaking. How may I help you?" That’s what the phone procedure said I should say, rather than what I wanted to.
"Lizzybet? It’s Fran." I raised my eyebrows. "I had a call from Jez’s head. He didn’t go into school this morning. They were wondering if you knew where he might be"
"Oh Fran, you don’t think.." I paused, thinking that Jez might have done something really stupid. "I’ll meet you at Jez’s house, well start there."
I threw the receiver at the phone’s base unit, grabbed my bag and ran for the door, leaving inquiring faces in my wake. Jumping into my car, I drove like never before, urging the little mini up the hills, foot flat on the floor all the way. My guardian angel must have been on overtime or having kittens as I eventually pulled up at the end of two long black skid marks outside the semi-detached house where Jez lived. Fran’s car was already there and I saw Fran on her knees looking through the letter box of the front door.
"There’s no sign of him but no smell of gas." Fran said as I ran up. I opened the door with my key and we ran in. Fran made for the stairs while I started searching the ground floor. On the dining room table propped against a vase of dead flowers was an envelope addressed to me. I sat in the chair in front of it; put my hands flat on the table and stared at the envelope. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it, fearing what message it might contain.
Fran came into the room. "There’s no sign of him upstairs." She must have seen what I was looking at as she paused, then said. "Lizzybet, would you like me to open that and read it?"
I sniffed then nodded at her. She took the envelope and as she slit the top open something shiny fell to the floor. I recognised it as the diamond tie clip that I had given him to celebrate our engagement. I gave a big sob and everything went dizzy.
I was being roughly manhandled and then I felt the shock of cold water in my face. "Lizzybet! Wakeup! Wakeup!"
I looked at Fran from the floor. My bottom felt bruised, I must have fallen off the chair. My blouse was wet through and I looked up at Fran and saw the vase from the table decoration in her hand.
"It’s alright Lizzybet. It isn’t that sort of note, but it is a, a Dear Jane letter. You had better read it Sis."
I have let you down so badly I will never forgive myself. I have been unfaithful to you and to make it worse it was with your sister too. The trouble is not that I don’t love you, I do, very much. But I have also fallen equally in love with your sister. I now find myself in a situation that what ever decision I make, I will leave somebody upset. But I have made a decision and its to stop seeing both of you.
So it is with great regret that I cancel our engagement.
I am going away for a time to sort myself out. I will probably move away so you won’t have to avoid me.
With my tainted love
"Noooooooooo!" At that point I knew the meaning of Love. His sin was forgiven in my heart and I WANTED him back.
"I guess you don’t want to loose him Sis. Do you know where he might go?"
Through the choking sobs I gasped "To, his, mother’s. She, lives in Shropshire, ah, Market Drayton."
"Come on. We’ll take my car; it’ll be more comfortable than your mini."
Fran went out to start the classic Rover P6 that had now been owned by 3 generations of Bundens. Following the road that skirted the South of the Cotswolds we joined the M5 to head north. The old luxury car had been built at a time when global warming would have been considered a good thing, (if anyone had heard the phrase.) so we needed to stop frequently for fuel.
I was sullen, wondering if Jez would be there. I didn’t really want to talk, but it helped pass the time. Initially, as if by agreement, we talked about anything other than the situation with Jez. But as we got further north, I asked the question I had been suppressing since we left. "What will we do if he is there?"
"I’m going to tell him the truth about me. That should cool his ardour and help him make the right decision." Fran said, biting her lip.
Leaving the motorway, I directed Fran along the route I had last travelled with Jez in happier times when we visited his mother to announce the news of our engagement. We eventually passed through the old town with its half timbered buildings and on to Little Drayton where Jez’s mum lived.
As we turned into her road my heart leapt as I saw Jez’s unloved Golf parked at the curb. I had my door open before Fran had pulled to a halt and ran to the front door, where I pushed the bell with one hand whilst hammering on it with the other.
Jez’s mother eventually came to the door and opened it with the security chain on, preventing my attempt to push in and get to my lover.
"Elizabeth. Elizabeth! Calm down girl. Look, Jeremy has told me what has been going on and I don’t want any trouble.
"You can come in if you promise there will be no violence, not that I would blame you!"
"I just want him back Mrs. Macintosh. There will be no trouble, honestly."
She pushed the door closed, removed the chain, then opened it once more and showed me through to her conservatory.
There, stepping from one foot to the other was a very nervous Jez. I couldn’t do anything but rush over to him and grip him in the strongest bear hug, pushing my face into his chest and crying out; "Jez. Jez, why did you run away? I forgive you. I was so worried when Fran told me you hadn’t gone into school. I thought you had done something really stupid. I’ll take you back at any time. Just say you’ll be mine once more."
I felt his comforting hug, but realized it didn’t have the confident grip I was expecting. Retaining my grip on him, I leaned back and looked into his face. He wouldn’t meet my eye and a second later he looked away as the door bell rang.
I heard a conversation in the hall. "Hello Mrs. Macintosh. I’m Elizabeth’s sister Francine. I’m very pleased to meet you."
Fran came through to join us in the conservatory, sliding the French window closed behind her.
Jez looked from one of us to the other. "Lizzybet. Did you find my letter? I thought I explained that I can’t take either of you. If I married you Lizzybet, I would really struggle to say the vows, let alone keep them, when I know that your sister is as beautiful as you."
"Jez," Fran spoke up. "There is something you need to know about me. I wouldn’t tell you this, but I have driven a knife between Lizzybet and myself and this is the only way I can remove it." She paused, looking for a way into her admission.
"If Paul were Dr Jekyll, then I would be Mr Hyde." We both looked at Jez, but there was no look of understanding on his face. "Jez, I am Paul! I’m a transvestite"
Jez backed away from Fran, tripped and ended up sitting in one of the garden chairs that furnished the conservatory.
"Paul? What does Paul have to do with this? He is in America. Paul is a bloke…. Like me! You’re not a bloke, you’re, you’re Lizzybet’s sister!" seemingly random statements were coming from Jez. "Blokes don’t look like you!"
"Jez, Fran is my sister and my brother. I love both of them." I was still looking at Jez and saw a range of emotions cross his face, starting with understanding, then confusion and finally anger. That look remained. He got to his feet and started shouting.
"What were you thinking when you were kissing me? ‘Let’s have a gay old time with Jez. He won’t mind, he’d love to stick his cock up my arse’. Well I’m not that way inclined and if you weren’t Lizzybet’s brother I would beat you to a pulp!
"God knows what made you come out of the closet now, just before your sister’s wedding, you pervert!"
Fran stepped behind me and I could here her sobs. "Jez stop it. That is enough! There are things you don’t understand, that you need to know and I will try and explain them as best I can, because I’m not sure I understand them myself.
"I don’t think Paul is gay. I think he is transsexual. That means that even though he is biologically male, he has all the feelings and emotions of a woman. It is what he is; he has no choice in these feelings, although he has managed to repress them for many years, for my benefit." I turned to look at Fran. "For which I will be eternally grateful.
"When he became Fran, it was like a safety valve blowing. All the pent up sexual emotion came out in one go, and you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"As to the timing, that is our fault. Paul so much wanted to join me at my hen night that he volunteered to dress as a woman, and I, not understanding his nature, jokingly set him a target at which I would let him join. When Paul became Fran, he passed that target with flying colours and I couldn’t back down on my promise.
"We should have told you what was going on, but I was worried about you reaction. I should have trusted you, but I suppose I was a little in shock. I’m very sorry that we deceived you.
"Now Paul understands better Fran’s emotional side she will have control of her emotions and the flirting with you, I’m sure will stop."
It was the longest speech I had made in a long time and thought I was spoken out, but as I turned to Fran to comforted her I realised that there was something else I needed to say.
"Jez. I love you very much and I welcome you back with open arms, but please don’t ask me to turn my back on Paul or Fran. I don’t think I am strong enough to make a choice like that."
Jez, standing with clenched fists at his side, looked at us then strode past, into the house, a few seconds later we heard the door slam as he closed it with unnecessary force. Fran and I looked at each other, before Fran started rummaging in her bag for a tissue to clean up.
Jez’s mother poked her head nervously through the door. "Erm. I think he will be gone for some time. I was going to put the kettle on, would you like some tea?" Hardly an original ice breaker, but most welcome. We went through to the kitchen and sat around the table.
"When Jeremy is wound up about something he goes for a walk, usually ending up on Salisbury Hill looking over the valley. What’s so funny?"
"We have a similar place at home." I explained about Coombe Hill on the Cotswold escarpment and its solitary tree and views over our town. "Things always seem better when your there."
Mrs Macintosh cleared her throat. "Girls, this is embarrassing, but with the raised voices, it was a bit difficult not to hear what was being said in the conservatory.
"My Jeremy has been very silly. Elizabeth, I so hope he’ll give you the chance to take him back." She turned to look at Fran. "And I gather you were the cause of this upset?" Fran studied the bottom of her tea cup. "Well I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done!"
Fran screwed her face up and I guessed she was trying to hold back the tears.
"Mrs Macintosh, believe me I wish I hadn’t behaved the way I did. I’m trying to make it up to both Lizzybet and Jez." Mrs Macintosh pulled a face at the shortened name. "You know Francine; I only met your brother once, when he helped Jeremy move into his house, I thought he was a lovely boy. I think you are an admirable counterpart" Her smile showed respect, but also just how much she had overheard.
The teapot went round the table, got refilled and had gone around a second time before we heard a key in the lock and the door opened much more quietly than it had been closed. Jez, windblown and wet, put his head around the kitchen door, looked at all of us before letting his eyes rest on the teapot.
"Is there any more tea in that pot?"
"I make a fresh pot Jeremy. You go and have a shower and change into some clean clothes, I think there are some in your old room."
The kettle boiled, the tea brewed and Jeremy came back to the kitchen. I giggled. "You’ve grown a bit since you last wore those." He looked down at the training bottoms that finished 2 inches higher than they should and at the sleeves of the rugby top that were similarly too short.
"This stuff is from when I was in the 6th form. It’s all that was left since I moved out." He came and sat at the table, grasping the mug his mother left for him. "Mum, can the three of us talk in private please?"
"Oops. Excuse me. I’ll be in the lounge if you want me."
When we were alone and the door shut, Jez turned to me.
"Lizzybet, this is so complicated, I hope I’m going to do the right thing. I feel honoured that you would take me back after what I had done to you. I accept your offer and I promise that I will try my hardest to do what is right for us bo…." The rest of his sentence was stifled as I threw myself at him and kissed him fully on the lips. After about a week, he prised me off and put me back in my chair.
He chuckled until he turned to Fran. "Paul, Fran, whatever. I’m sorry for some of the things that I said. I was angry, still am angry about what you did. I had real feelings for you and if I’m honest probably still do. When you told me who or what you were, I thought that maybe I was a bit homosexual. That really frightened me. I like Paul; if you give me a second chance I hope I get to like you in a platonic way this time." Fran went to him to give him a hug, but he held her at arms length. "Please give me time to adjust?"
I migrated back to Jez’s knee despite the creaks from the chair and snuggled for all I was worth.
Chapter 9. Take Me Home Country Road.
We stayed the night with Jez’s mum and early the following day set off back to the West Country. This time I rode with Jez, and Fran followed. I collected my car from Jez’s house and headed to the radio station where I spent an hour explaining why I had run out the previous day. My explanation and apology were excepted so long as I took the time as annual leave. Generous to a fault!
That evening we had to phone all the guys who were due to go to Jez’s stag party to tell them it was delayed by 24 hours.
Fran and I finally got to the shops to buy her a dress; she eventually chose a cocktail dress in petrol blue. I was a little concerned that she outshone me in it, but everyone said I was the girl at my party.
Oh my hen night was one to remember. All my girlfriends and female relatives were there. Fran’s introduction went very well. My relatives from Swindon, who had known mother better than I, said they weren’t surprised by the revelation and spent the evening welcoming her to the clan. Having Fran with me that night was very special, and I have to say that given the choice of repeating the previous week and having Fran with me or a straight forward week and no Fran, I would have gone through it all again.
Paul ‘returned’ from America the next day and was able to attend Jez’s Stag night (He was under orders to ensure Jez kept his clothes on and didn’t get handcuffed to an immovable object). Jez and Paul were the best of friends that night. When he had taken Jez home, Paul came into my room to talk.
"Lizzybet, I don’t think this will be unexpected news, but I have decided to become Fran full time. Jez and spoke to me before the party and said that he would accept me as either brother or sister in law."
I was pleased for him. Watching him in his old clothes again for just one afternoon, I could see he was shy and nervous and didn’t look comfortable.
"I decided it would be best if Paul emigrated to America and let Fran take over the business. I don’t want any scandal or unpleasantness if I can help it." And that was the story we told people.
A week later it was my big day. All I can say is that everything went smoothly. Jez’s mum helped me to get into my white wedding dress. The old church was beautifully decked out with flowers. My hero Paul took me to the altar and handed me over to Jez who lifted the veil away from my face.
The reception speeches were great. Paul made a speech saying how Dad would have been proud to see his daughter in her beautiful wedding dress and would have agreed that my choice of husband was pretty good. Jez’s best man, an old school friend made a hilarious speech about what Jez was like as a child; I won’t go into details, but suffice to say I learned a few things about Jez I hadn’t previously known and Jez’s ears were bright red for most of the speech. The best thing about the speeches is that no mention was made of the goings on two weeks previously.
When we returned from honey moon, I found that Paul had left and Fran had moved in permanently. She had also done a lot more shopping!
I was looking through some candid photos a friend had taken of people watching us leave the church. In a couple of them I saw a sad middle-aged lady who looked familiar. Jez didn’t recognise her so I showed them to Fran. She got a sad serious look on her face.
"Yes I know who it is. Its mother, I saw her at the wedding, but I found I couldn’t talk to her and I suspect she may not have spoken to me. I didn’t point her out to you as I didn’t want to spoil your day."
I reflected on this over the coming days and couldn’t decide whether it was good or bad. She had discovered that I was getting married and made an effort to come and see her little girl. That was good. She hadn’t made contact with us on that day, also good; I think. But if she knew what was going on, why didn’t she contact us before, or since?
So now I’m married and Dad was right, it was worth waiting until we were married before we made love. I think Jez agrees as he will even stop watching sport if I blow in his ear!
Fran is doing well. After working with an expert she has decided that she will get the necessary surgery. I owe it to her to be there for her when she does. It’s the least I can do for her.
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