Ghost Town

Ghost Town
I had small hope this year of achieving my New Year’s Resolution. Recognising that it was likely to fare no better than its predecessor of the year before, I’d varied it this time, but I had little faith. My basic need was centred on overcoming the temptation which surrounded me and which in the past I had proved too weak to conquer. The circumstance from which that delicious torment arose was that I was at home, alone, for long hours each day while Carole, my wife, was working. There was no escaping it.

Since the time that the company plant had closed down, I’d only been able to find occasional paid employment and as a result we were completely dependent upon my wife’s earning ability. My career being in graphic design, I had been an artist rather than an artisan, so my slight build and delicate physique had not been an issue back then. Now, however, it meant that the range of suitable jobs for me in our locality was severely limited.

Carole was reluctant for me to adopt the obvious alternative, working away from home. “I am absolutely sure that separations like that spell the doom of too many marriages these days” she declared. “There’s no way I am letting you do that.”

She and her sister shared the care for her mother between them, so we were tied to living in this dying town. The inevitable consequence was that my career was in freefall. I was caught in a trap from which there seemed to be no escape. Her mom had been a grand old lady and required that her daughters sacrifice each evening in turn to spend time with her. That was the minimum demanded. My wife’s job as an assistant at the pharmacy counter of a busy drugstore entailed long hours at work. In consequence, there was no alternative for me but to take on the role of house husband, freeing up her time. It made financial sense. Money was tight but we got by.

As soon as my wife’s car left the driveway each morning my household duties would begin. I was a pretty fair cook and under my wife’s critical scrutiny I’d learned to keep the place in good shape. I can testify that meeting the exacting standards she’d laid down wasn’t easy. The reward of a kiss and a word of approval was by no means certain when she eventually made it home in the evening. When received, such accolades were well worth the trouble taken. To hear “It’s so nice to come in and find everything just so.” or “Mmm! Supper smells good. I’m starving!” became the pinnacle of my ambition!

Some folks would have called this arrangement one-sided, but I reckoned that we made a good team. Back in the late sixties, chores such as food preparation, cleaning and laundry were still widely regarded as women’s work and humiliating to the ego of most males. Though not really a ‘new man’, I didn’t altogether go along with this view and recognised the need for me to play my part in our unusual ménage.

Admittedly my role wasn’t something I would have made mention of to any of my buddies, if I’d had any to speak of, that is. Half the population had moved away when the plant had closed, and in reality, none of my friends had remained local to the area. The distance meant that we met up infrequently. I had to bear the frustrating nature of my lifestyle alone.

However, like Austen’s Mr Bennet, I found that where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher can derive benefit from such as are given. For myself, I found solace in something insidious which became a form of temptation that got harder and harder to resist. Though I knew that surrendering to it was demeaning, doing so made my menial routine more bearable.

My secret life began one morning when I was engaged in a chore I particularly disliked, picking up. Carole changed her underwear every day, which meant that some item or other of hers would need to be washed, ironed and folded neatly in her drawer, no matter whether there was any other laundry to be done. Each morning. therefore, I had to retrieve those intimate garments from wherever she’d discarded them when she had disrobed either the night before or during her hasty departure that morning. It made no difference how much I complained about her untidiness. Some intimately feminine article would be draped across a chair or lying on the rug. I sometimes wondered if a tantalising game of hide and seek were being played. My attention was certainly fixed on these flimsy things every morning.

Once my first task of find any items was completed, they would be soaked, washed, dried, aired, ironed and put away that day. This particular morning in July was very warm and I began on my duties wearing the absolute minimum. I donned a pair of shorts and bundled together my discarded PJs with all the other laundry items. As I sorted this collection into its respective piles, I was distracted by the sensation of slippery satin brushing against my hands and arms. I glanced down to see that a lacy nightgown of Carole’s was the culprit. I held it up and was entranced by its delicate beauty.

The slip still bore traces of her fragrance. Merely to hold it against me was a sensual experience. To indulge myself further I let the slippery material slide down my bare torso. A thrill of excitement coursed right through me as I did so.

However, time was passing, and my chores awaited me. I bent to pick up the first pile of laundry but then I hesitated. What put the idea in my head I can’t say but I knew I just had to experience how it would feel to wear that exotic piece of lingerie, if only for a moment. I was well aware that if I were to try the nightie on it would be regarded as a pervy thing to do. Furthermore Carole herself would have detested even the thought of my wearing any of her clothing... if she got to hear of it! But how could she? What could be the harm? The whole bundle was about to go in the laundry anyway so she could never guess. In the end curiosity prevailed.

I checked to make sure the station wagon was no longer outside. “All clear!” I murmured to myself guiltily, but something made me hesitate. Wearing the nightdress on its own would be an incomplete experience. All I could become was a man in a dress. No satisfaction there. I was about to give up on the whole idea when, tantalisingly, the contents of Carole’s dresser came to mind. Of course, I was familiar with every item. In the top drawer lay another piece of lingerie from the same set, a pair of full-cut panties. Wearing both would be a whole new departure!

Hesitatingly I took the panties out and almost reverently lay them on the bed. I paused. To put on something from Carole’s drawer was definitely a step into the unknown. What if she got to know somehow? A little voice in my head whispered that it would be easy enough to include anything I ‘borrowed’ in the day’s wash. Clean, pressed and neatly folded, it would be restored to its former pristine condition, and I could put it back unblemished long before my wife’s return. I resisted no longer. I stepped into the panties and slid them up my legs. After a few adjustments, the mirror revealed that I had a completely flat front down there, owing to the shaping of the panties and the stretch of their material.

Though I couldn’t understand why this should now be so important to me, my image had taken on a satisfyingly female appearance. This resulted in part from the comparative hairlessness of my body. I had nothing on my chest and the light fuzz I sported on my legs and arms was practically invisible. Another contributory factor was my shape. My hips, of course, were not curvy enough, but my chest was narrow for a man and the unwelcome beginnings of man boobs served to reinforce the illusion that a female was standing before the mirror.

Once I had stared at my reflection long enough, I turned my attention to the crowning glory, the nightdress. Without further delay I slipped it over my head and eased my arms through the straps. As the nightie slithered down my body, the feel of its encompassing folds against my skin was entrancing. Despite the warmth of the day, I couldn’t help but shiver. One thing was lacking. My feet were bare, so I borrowed a pair of Carole’s flip-flops. Now my goal was attained! I turned back to the mirror and posed and twirled to my heart’s content. Perfect! So attired, I happily floated about the house for the rest of the morning tackling my menial tasks with a new zest.

My chores were completed in record time that day and it was with great reluctance that I changed back into my male clothes. I waited until I felt I could delay the moment no longer. The step I had taken was to prove momentous. It had unleashed a monster which was to provide me with so much pleasure but inevitably brought trouble in its track.

Thereafter, dressing in whatever nightwear Carole had discarded became my regular practice. I’d discovered that adopting a femme persona actually made performing my mundane tasks enjoyable. Now I really looked forward to my work! Though the danger of discovery was ever-present, that only served to add a sort of spice to those early times. Later, when the intoxicating first flurry of excitement had subsided and in deference to the risk I was running, I was wise enough to set some limits. I restricted myself to one morning a week for these feminine excursions.

As my obsession took hold, it began to impact more of my life. On the evening before one of those intended days, I would sometimes lay out one of my wife’s prettiest nightgowns for her to sleep in. She seldom objected to my choice, perhaps because of the intimacy it promised. There was additional ulterior motivation, of course. I would be provided with something which would be a delight to borrow the following morning. It’s true to say that I felt a degree of shame over the exercise of such low cunning. I disliked the continual deception I was practising but that didn’t make me stop. It had become an inseparable part of me.

There were occasions when I was nearly found out. The fourth or fifth time I dressed was a near run thing. I had been engaged in taking out the trash to the back yard so hadn’t noticed the ringing of our doorbell. Receiving no answer, the caller, a neighbour from across the street, was persistent in her attempt to get a reply. Just as I was about to enter our front room, a shadow cast across the floor stopped me in my tracks. Someone must be peering through the window. It was fortunate for me that the day was sunny. I was able to run upstairs and hide.

Although this neighbour, Paula Collins by name, was some years older than us, she and my wife were thick as thieves, so I knew that I would need to have an explanation ready the next time I saw her. Our paths crossed when I was out shopping for food and sure enough, she made mention of her fruitless visit.

“Oh, I can’t hear the bell if I’m out back. So sorry! Another time, you will be much better to check that Carole’s home. If you don’t see her car, she won’t be there.”

She gave me the oddest look, though up to that point I had been pretty sure she hadn’t seen anything.
It was after Thanksgiving that year that I had my narrowest escape. I was busily engaged in vacuuming upstairs one winter morning. I had almost done when I heard the front door slam. Oh no! Carole must be home!

Performing my lightning change back took seconds and I was able to hide all evidence in time. Apparently, she had forgotten to take her sandwich box that morning and had come home unannounced. My heart was fluttering all through lunch as we ate together. Thereafter I chose only those days when she had planned to spend the evening with her mother. They provided the safest opportunities for me to dress, because she would work right through so that she might finish early. Thus there was the smallest likelihood of my being interrupted on such occasions.

Of course, I felt guilty. The deception I was practising just wasn’t right. When the Yuletide break came around, I made the first of my resolutions. I would quit. Sadly, only a fortnight passed before it was broken. The night before, Carole had chosen to wear a lingerie set that I had given her as a Christmas gift. It had proved to be a great success, but sadly its availability next morning spelled the untimely downfall of my resolve. I just had to know what it felt like on!

Following this early lapse, I continued to dress throughout that year. To ease my conscience, instead of wearing my wife’s lingerie I began to wear my own. I created a hiding place where I could keep a limited number of things and started to collect a wardrobe of feminine clothing. In the holiday sales, I bought pantyhose and a pretty set of bra and panties.

Initially I wasn’t happy with my shape, but then at the hardware store one day I came across a sheet of soft foam material. It was flesh coloured and about an inch in thickness. Here was inspiration! After an hour or so carefully trimming pieces of this stuff I had fashioned contoured pads which served to widen my hips and fill my bra. When they were in place, my lingerie clad reflection gave me complete satisfaction.

After this success, I broadened my horizon. I found a couple of day-dresses in the Goodwill store, in my dress size. Yes, I now knew what that was! A second visit yielded a nice pair of heels and also some flat shoes, more practical for housework. I saw a little ladies watch at the same time and bought it together with a little costume jewellery. I was mindful that money was scarce, but these purchases cost me next to nothing. All that I lacked now was an identity for the femme version of me which had sprung to life. No problem. Adrian was easily transmuted into Adrienne. I liked the sound of the name. It had French overtones!

So it was that for the remainder of the year I happily embraced my formerly irksome role of housekeeper. The risk of discovery had receded. Many of our neighbours had moved away and Paula had gone to stay with her daughter. The latter was recovering from a difficult pregnancy and childbirth and would need her mother’s care for many months. I was shocked to discover that for the duration of that time Carole had volunteered me for the role of house-sitter. Can you imagine? In addition to keeping our own home spotless I was now committed to several hours each week freshening up and dusting that of her friend.

As can be imagined, I was not best pleased with this development, until I saw the opportunities my new responsibility would provide. Here was an ideal venue for Adrienne’s life to develop, and how it did! The next stage was triggered by something my wife brought home from her workplace.

As a treat, Carole had begun taking me home a milkshake each day. “Here is a special reward for my favourite homemaker,” she would announce, as if it weren’t an everyday occurrence. The joke never became hackneyed, somehow. It was gratifying to be appreciated for my endeavours and one in particular of the flavours created at the store soon became my favourite drink.

Just after Labor Day, Carole brought home something else which I was to find much more rewarding, a box containing cosmetics. This was an unusual event because she hardly ever wore make-up, but the contents of this carton were items which had been discarded by the store after their annual inventory check. That evening she sorted through them and selected five or six worth her keeping. The remainder she put back in the box. Finally, she handed it to me with the request “Would you mind putting those in the trash tomorrow, darling? I could never wear anything so obvious as any of those.”

“You don’t need make-up, darling. You can’t improve on perfection!” was my smooth rejoinder. I meant it too. Carole really didn’t require any help to make her look good. Adrienne, on the other hand, definitely did! It is easy guess the fate of those cosmetics. Over the next weeks all my free time was devoted to experimenting with them. My art background no doubt helped me to gain dexterity and by Thanksgiving I was satisfied with the degree of proficiency I’d attained.

To get fully made up would have been unthinkably risky at home but once I’d begun, I felt undressed without it. Whenever I was in Paula’s home, I felt confident that she was the only person who could gain access beside myself, and she was halfway across the country. That knowledge was liberating. It is fair to say that the hours I spent across at her house became the highlight of my existence.

Once I had feminised one area of my body, another seemed to be crying out for attention. The next to be addressed was my hair. Though not yet universally accepted, the fashion for men which prevailed just then was to wear it longer. I followed that trend. Carole seemed to approve, which removed any obstacle as far as I was concerned. I also had an ulterior design, of course, and that was to have sufficient growth to enable me to create a more feminine style.

Adrienne’s persona was now fully established. What next? Well naturally once I had progressed this far, I wanted to stretch my wings. One day I took a walk to the nearest store. I’d borrowed a coat and purse and a pair of sunglasses. When so well wrapped up I was pretty sure that Adrian could not be recognised. The store was one we didn’t frequent very often, and I felt confident I would remain incognito. My route took me past many shuttered and boarded-up houses. The sight was a dismal one but increased my feelings of security. The success of this little outing prompted others of a similar nature. Sadly, borrowing the coat led to another temptation.

Trying any of my petite little wife’s dresses had never been possible. I was only too well aware that she was at least a size smaller than me. Her friend, however, was more robustly built. The closet where I’d found the coat contained other clothes she had left in the house. They all would probably have fitted me very well. However, though I now had a wider choice of clothing at my disposal, I forbore to wear them out of respect for their owner. It just didn’t feel right.

That state of affairs prevailed until one day I came across some eveningwear in the same closet that I must have overlooked before. Here was redoubled temptation which preyed on my mind. Eventually I gave in. What could be the harm? After all, those dresses would probably benefit from an airing, instead of getting moth-eaten and gathering dust.

So it was that I treated myself to a little fashion show. I selected one of Paula’s evening outfits and dressed as if for a cocktail party. I pretended to be the hostess of some imaginary high society gathering. I could flatter myself that when fully glammed up I was as chic as any of Paula’s friends. It was all a dream, but an enchanting one.

Of course, this clandestine existence couldn’t last. I had a premonition that it was bound to end in trouble, and it did. Becoming my alter ego had gained too firm a hold had on me, and though I was conscious of it, how could I possibly stop? After several fruitless attempts, by the end of the year it was clear that some drastic action was called for. The failure of my resolve last year told me that I would have to try a different tack. Instead of attempting to quit, I would decide on some positive step. Furthermore, I would set a time limit for completion of it. By midsummer. That deadline ought to galvanise me into action.
Alas six months was probably too generous a goal. Six whole months? That sounded like plenty of time. Meanwhile I was overtaken by events. I learned that Paula was planning to return by the end of February. The awareness that Adrienne’s days of freedom were numbered dominated my waking thoughts. How could I get by if she were to exist no more? In desperation, I increased the frequency of my sessions at Paula’s to two or three times each week. At the same time I took pains to ensure that my standards at home didn’t drop, anxious to avoid any noticeable change. My existence became a frenzy of activity. Something had to give!
Finally, the inevitable happened. In the forbidden closet I discovered a little black polka dot sheath dress one day. I’d apparently missed it when I’d looked before. I was unable to resist its charms. Getting myself ready for an imaginary party was completely delicious. Soon I was primping and posing in front of the mirror, delighted with this latest image. There was no escaping it. The woman looking back at me was an eyeful!
I noticed that the eye-catching female curves which little dress highlighted had become more pronounced recently. That gave me food for thought.

I was engaged in pondering the possible cause when a voice broke in on my reverie. “My, my! Aren’t you just somethin’ else?!”
I was not alone!
In shock, I turned my head to see Carole standing in the doorway.

The expression on her face bore testimony to a turbulent combination of emotions. I would have guessed it registered surprise, horror, disapproval, reproof and, perhaps, just a tinge of admiration had I had the leisure to do so, but my mind was otherwise engaged. My mouth opened and closed but no sound emerged as I strove to find something useful to say. I needn’t have bothered. My wife was voluble enough for both of us!
“What in the world do you think you are playing at?” was her opening salvo. She didn’t pause for reply.

After ten minutes of being harangued, which I’d rather forget, I was led sheepishly back to our own house, where I was dismissed with “How could you treat Paula with such little respect? I can’t bear to look at you. Get all that off!”

All traces of Adrienne having been removed, I showered and changed then I made my way downstairs to learn my fate. With a frosty look Carole informed me that I would be sleeping in the spare room from then on. She stormed off to return to work, slamming the door behind her. I sat listlessly for the rest of the afternoon, too stunned to do anything. Random thoughts fleeted through my head. I’d known I had this coming. She must have had a second key to Paula’s house. The prospect of the evening which was looming before me filled me with foreboding.

That night I turned in early. Carole had still looked mad whenever I caught her eye, but she had relented so far to bring home my customary milk shake. That was handed me with a frown and a “You really don’t deserve this” but I was hopeful it augured better things were ahead of us.
I’d made up the spare bed and was about to retire when I heard the murmur of a voice below. Carole was on the phone, no doubt regaling someone with a blow-by-blow account of the day.

I couldn’t overhear what was said but surprisingly her manner seemed to contain a note of glee. Yes, definitely… she giggled. What! Filled with curiosity, I picked up the extension, placed a handkerchief over the mouthpiece and listened.

“…well of course, Sis, it was the ideal opportunity to confront him. I’ve been waiting for the chance ever since I saw him in my nightdress that time. You can bet I really laid into the poor sap. He doesn’t know what hit him. From now on he’ll bend over backwards to do exactly as I say.”

“Ha ha! That’s amazing. Well done, you!”

“Yes. It’s going just as we planned. I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist that little dress of yours. He thinks it’s one of Paula’s so he’s really in the wrong for trying on ‘her’ stuff. That would be unforgivable of course!”

“Of course!”

“What I can’t get over is how good he looked in that outfit. He was so hot that I was quite turned on, I can tell you! Hee hee!”

“That’s a laugh! Well, I’ve got to go. Mother’s calling me.”

“Remember, not a word of this to her. She’d be bound to spill the beans to Mrs Devereux next time she visits, and that would ruin everything.”

To say I was stunned was an understatement. Evidently my wife had known what had been going on, and for some time apparently. How devious of her not to let on and then use my guilty behaviour against me. Typical! However, I couldn’t see how this discovery could be turned to my advantage. I was still in the wrong. Sorrowfully I went to bed.

Some evenings later, Carole sat me down in the kitchen with an ominous “We need to talk.”

I waited in trepidation.

“Now Adrian, your behaviour is quite inexcusable. Don’t interrupt! I can tell this has been going on for some time. How else could you be so practised with make-up and be able to walk in those heels? You have been using Paula’s place as a changing room and that has got to stop. If she were to find out I’d be mortified. You know she gets back next week.”

She paused to let her words sink in.

“Here’s what I’m prepared to do. You clearly like dressing as a woman and I don’t want to change you, if that’s the way you are. Since you like it so much and you are good at housework, how about taking a woman’s job? That friend of Mother’s, Mrs Devereaux, needs a housemaid. She’s filthy rich and has been trying to find one for ages but without any luck. Though she wouldn’t accept having a man about the house, from what I’ve seen, you could easily pass as a woman. We could sure use the extra money!”

Once again, I was dumbfounded. This was unbelievable!

Meanwhile Carole was in full flow. “Now you might need to work on your voice. That would be the only thing that would give you away. There again, the old lady is practically deaf so it may not be a problem. I was thinking you might need a wig but the way you do your hair is fine. Adrienne!”

She mused a little more. “Your figure is coming on nicely. Keep drinking those milk shakes I mix for you and, in a month or two, you will be able to get rid of that padding you use. What do you say?”

What could I say? In the position I was in, I had to agree. It was totally demeaning, of course, but with the proviso that no-one was to know, I accepted her proposal. Carole went shopping and found a smart black dress with a white collar. She bought two in my size, and some little white aprons. I was all set!

Inevitably I found picking up and cleaning in someone else’s house less palatable than in our own, but the cash I was bringing home made all the difference. Carole still seemed to like my body despite its unusually feminine shape, or was it because of it? Anyway, everything turned out for the best in the end. Oh, and my New Year’s Resolution, for Adrienne to gain acceptance, and before the end of June… well, it had been achieved!

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