Life Is Better with a Bump

Like many newlywed grooms, Michael has been adding a few pounds. His added weight has centered in his lower abdomen. Hoping to shame him into watching his weight and joining her yoga class, Jessica asks Michael if he’s pregnant.


Life is Better with a Bump

by Angela Rasch

Chapter One

A glimpse of his profile as he stepped out of our shower moved me to shriek, “Are you pregnant?” The words had shot from my mouth, Tourette’s-like, targeting Michael’s male ego.

The intense shame that straightaway covered my husband’s lovable, sweet face made me regret immediately what I had said.

But . . . I’ve ignored his weight problem much too long.

He used his bath towel to screen my view.

I’m frustrated because he’s not the aggressive animal in bed that I crave, but he’s an attentive lover and a truly wonderful mate. I shouldn’t be so mean to him.
“Maybe you would like to join my yoga class?” I asked helpfully.

His bulky, pink towel quickly molded to his extended belly, adding to my mental image of an imminent visit from a stork. The towel had been a prank, a wedding gift from Michael’s best friend, Josh. It had been monogrammed with a very feminine script “M”, but Michael used it almost exclusively -- marveling at its softness.

Michael snorted playfully. “Jessica . . . there’s no way I’m going to take part in your obsessive pursuit of physical perfection.” He shook his still drenched shoulder-length hair and accidentally caught me in a brief splatter of cold drops.

“You know I’m concerned about my FUPA.” Fatty Upper Pelvic Area is a genetic disorder. Exercise helps, but if I ever want to really solve my problem I’ll have to consider cosmetic surgery. . .a tummy tuck.

“You’re already perfect. Josh was just saying the other day how much you look like Jennifer Lawrence. He’s always telling me about the “Winter’s Bone” he gets thinking about her. Any sane person would love to have your body.”

He loves me just the way I am . . . but I could be just a little thinner, especially around my hips.

Michael’s softly spoken praise revived the spirit of our ongoing debate, but with the touch of kindness that defined him.

I want my husband to take pride in how he presents himself to the world. Michael claims that I spend too much time and money on my appearance. Not that money is a problem. We both have risen to the top of our profession as Ruby on Rails programmers and each have launched sites that have become extremely profitable cash cows. We can pick and choose our projects and work only when it fits easily into our lives. Working out of a bedroom suite on our first floor that we had converted to an office, we were nearly always within touching distance of each other.

I’d never been good with money, but Michael helped me put my financial house in order; and consequently we both have credit scores over 800 even though we’re barely five years out of college.

He turned to emphasize his silhouette and stroked his curved tummy, which pushed out about three inches beyond where it had been on our wedding day. “Maybe I am a little chubby. I’ve noticed that my chest is getting a little 'jiggly'. But . . . other than my shirts and pants being a little tight, I’m quite comfortable with my body.” His apple-shaped face broke into a cherubic grin.

I wish I had his cheekbones! His long hair is naturally curly and makes all my girlfriends jealous, wishing they had it. And those eyes . . . what I could do to those eyes with a little liner and. . ..
“Uhmmmmm!” I moaned involuntarily.

“Is something wrong?” he asked with real concern.

“Not a thing,” I replied quickly. Something had stirred inside me that I hadn’t felt in months. Not since just before our wedding when we had first made love. Sex with Michael was “different”. Nice, but different, in that it was so gentle and loving. I had always preferred men with chiseled bodies who were either just coming from the gym, or who kept their bodies hard, by keeping their bodies “hard” . . . fucking for hours on end.

Like Josh. For a lawyer who spends his day at his desk, Josh is amazingly fit.

Josh had the kind of athletic body anyone with a shred of femininity would crave. His full head of hair was sheared every other day to 1/8th inch. He and Michael had been buddies from the first grade on through college, where they had been roommates. They still spent two to three nights a week hanging out. I often found myself staring hungrily at Josh, which was weird because I loved Michael intensely and would never hurt him.

I had decided about a year before our wedding that I needed to have an “adult” relationship and despite his quirky little body with his small bones, short arms and legs, soft skin, and hips wider than his shoulders, I selected Michael. I had based my decision on those attributes that sounded great on paper, but unfortunately lost steam between the sheets. Once I had made him my choice and mapped out a plan, he was mine before he knew what hit him. Three months into our marriage I was seriously asking myself if I could forego a fulfilling sexual relationship for the rest of my life.

The fat deposit that was growing alarmingly fast in his lower abdomen tested my tolerance. Maybe I can shame him into taking better care of his body? I reached into a drawer on my side of the bathroom sink cabinet and handed him a small package. “That’s a home pregnancy test.”

“Huh?” His face turned the color of Taylor Swift’s lips.

“You’re either pigging out on saturated fats when I’m not around . . . or, you’re pregnant.”

His eyes avoided mine. “I. . .ahhhh. . .. Don’t be ridiculous. You know I stick to the diet we worked out together. I just have a weird metabolism that turns everything I eat into tummy fat.”

Michael is anything but sneaky. I do so need him to want to change . . . to go to the gym with me and burn off that extra ten pounds. “Humor me.” I pointed toward the toilet. “Sit down and pee on that strip.” I commanded him with as much authority as I could muster. My father and mother both died while on vacation in Sri Lanka in 2004, killed by the earthquake / tsunami. They had both been in the military, so I knew how to give an order.

He stared at me, unaccustomed to my stern tone. “Did you say you want me to sit to urinate?”

“Of course ‘sit’. No one takes a pregnancy test standing up.”

In the short time we had been married, Michael had never denied me anything, except the orgasms I hankered. It appeared that despite the insanity of my request he wasn’t about to defy me.

“Okay — I might as well do it right.” He read the instructions carefully, and then peeled off the foil wrapper. “What do the letters ‘EPT’ stand for?”

I shrugged. “I suppose ‘early pregnancy test’.”

He sat and removed the purple cap to expose the tip of the stick. He held the stick by the thumb grip, as suggested in the instructions.

“Make sure to keep that end of the stick pointing upward at all times.”

He nodded.

Michael always listens intently to me. I should cherish him simply for that.

Dutifully he peed on the tip while slowly counting to five. “Five seconds.” He placed the stick on the sink countertop with the window facing up. “Two minutes,” he said and grinned sideways at me. “In two minutes you will have completely made your point. We’ll know I’m not pregnant, which means I’m simply gaining weight and need to work out with you.”

How many other men would allow a woman to make them take a pregnancy test . . . with a smile on his face? I turned his head fully toward mine and gave him a deep, passionate kiss that was tinged by the urges I had felt when considering what shade of eyeliner would look best on him. “I love you,” I sighed truthfully.

He beamed. “If making you happy involves sweat and boring repetitive activity, I’ll do it,” he promised. “I’ll do whatever it takes to please you.”

We kissed again, with purpose. His mouth tasted minty from the toothpaste he’d just used.

He truly is one of the world’s greatest kissers
. “Let’s go back to bed,” I breathed. Our sex is fun, just not all it could be.

“Don’t you want to see the results of the test,” he asked impishly.

“Okay,” I agreed, with a silly smile. “Let’s make sure you aren’t pregnant.”

We laughed and turned together toward the sink where a blue positive signed stared up at us.

“That . . . that . . . that can’t be!” we cried out together.

Chapter Two

I frantically pulled open my drawer and grabbed another box . . . a different brand. “That test strip had to be defective. Here try this one. My girlfriends gave me these strips as a gag at my wedding shower.” We read the instructions together, and I then tore the cover off a strip and gave it to Michael. “Let’s hope the Accutest people make a more ‘accu’rate product,” I joked.

“I can’t,” he declared in frustration, unable to pee.

Standing at his sink, Michael drank two glasses of water, and then we went down to a silent breakfast while we waited. Although we both loved to cook and had picked our home largely because of its spacious kitchen, which allowed us to cook at the same time, all we could muster that morning was toasted English muffins.

Finally he was ready for anther test.

Shortly thereafter the two of us stared at two lines indicating pregnancy.

Michael started to sniffle. “This . . . is . . . crazy.”

“It’s obvious,” I said with some conviction. “Pregnancy tests are meant for women; and when men use them the results are always positive.”

“Positive?” he screeched. “I’m not seeing the positives.”

“You’re NOT pregnant, for gosh sakes. I meant that the test indicates positive . . . when a man takes it.”

“Ohhhhh.” He visibly relaxed.

“People get pregnant when they come in contact with sperm. Humans aren’t asexual. The only way you could get pregnant . . . if you could become pregnant . . . is to have sex with a man.”

“I know,” Michael allowed in a whisper. “I get it.” He had stopped crying, but still seemed troubled.

“The way your belly looks . . . you would be about four months preggers. That would mean you would have had sex right before we got married. I suppose that would be okay.” I giggled, trying to reduce the tension in the room. “We hadn’t taken our vows yet . . . and all.”

“Uh huh.” He seemed removed from our conversation, in deep thought.

“Look,” I suggested. “Let’s use your iPad to check out my theory, to make sure.”

We sat on our bed with Michael’s iPad and Googled “what happens if a male pees on a pregnancy test”.

We both stared at the screen with shock and disbelief.

“It says a positive result might be an indication of testicular cancer,” Michael said unnecessarily, since we both had read the text. “Cancer down there would explain why I’ve had to urinate so often the last few months.”

“It might also be because you drink so much water.” We kept water next to us while we programmed, to avoid dehydration that can happen when you get lost in hours of code.

“And what about all that unexplained stomach flu?” He asked, clearly bewildered. “I’ve never been one to vomit . . . and all of sudden I’ve been feeling queasy -- a lot.”

“I’m pretty sure you just got hit by a bug.”

“Several times?” he asked, turning pale. “I haven’t been sick for about two weeks, but I have been a bit lightheaded and gassy.”

“Read it again.” I pointed at the screen. “It says ‘might’,” I emphasized. “It says the test ‘might’ be an indication. The warnings on reliable internet sites seem to error on the side of caution. You need to have it checked out as soon as possible.”

Michael was already on his iPhone to his personal doctor’s clinic. “I knew something was wrong. I’ve been having stomach cramps. I don’t know exactly what it means, but my chest has been swollen and tingly. Cancer is in my genes.”

I’m sure he’s imagining things. Michael’s family does have a history. His older brother died after a protracted bout with melanoma. I don’t blame him, but Michael’s a bit of a hypochondriac and his reaction is . . . almost predictable.
“Tommy died because he ignored the symptoms and didn’t get proper treatment,” I whispered. “If you have cancer, we’ll get you on the right chemotherapy regimen and you’ll be fine.”

“Sure,” Michael allowed. “Hello,” he said into his phone. His face went scarlet while he described to the person scheduling his visit how he had become concerned about cancer. He arranged to see his doctor in two days. After he got off the phone he turned his attention to me. “Today’s Monday. I can’t see him until Wednesday at 10:00. It’s 8:05. Fifty hours! How in heck can I wait fifty hours to find out if I’m dying?”

“You’re NOT dying!”

His face convulsed. “Tom did. Nobody ever thought my brother would die so young . . . I can guarantee you that. He was a football hero one day; and the next thing you know he was in that horrible coffin looking like wax . . . and dead. It broke my mother’s heart. She was never the same.”

“Oh . . . Sweetie. What can I do or say to help you?” His mother died within a year of his brother’s funeral leaving Michael without any close relatives. I have to do something to take his mind off cancer, or he’ll worry himself into a heart attack! “What if you really are pregnant?”

“I’m not pregnant. I have cancer. Woman who have a positive result to the pregnancy test get a baby. Men who have a positive result -- get their balls cut off . . . if they’re lucky.”

“You . . .don’t . . . have . . . cancer.” I almost shouted.

“Illness often tells us what we are. I’ve been floundering a bit lately wondering what purpose I have in life.” His words came deliberately. “Perhaps I’m one of those people meant to live a very short life?”

He’s so depressed. I’ve known him for years, but I didn’t see his mood swings until after we were married. “Let’s play a game. . ..” How can I divert his attention? “What if you are pregnant?” I asked again. “Is there anything about being pregnant that appeals to you?”

“Babies!” he shot back enthusiastically. “I would cheerfully go through a pregnancy for a baby.”

I have to give him a baby, I silently vowed. “Babies are special,” I agreed. “There’s nothing in the world more precious. Is there anything else about being pregnant that you might like?”

His face became pensive as he permitted several moments to pass before answering. Michael often spent hours in quiet critical thinking. I taught him how to knit so he could do something with his hands while going through his mental gymnastics.

“The way you look when you’re pregnant,” he declared finally. “I like the way a person looks during pregnancy.”

He’s thinking about something other than cancer. Let’s keep this going. “What do you mean specifically?”

“I love how incredibly healthy mom’s look when they’re pregnant . . . that pregnant glow they all get.”

“That’s due to an increase in heart rate,” I agreed. I won’t mention the blotchiness and acne that also can occur. I’ll also gloss over the lower back pain and sore feet. “You already have that glow. Now that you mention it, your skin has been looking radiant lately. Anything else?”

“Maternity clothes,” he said with fervor. “I’m not too crazy about those tight, long t-shirts that some women wear that emphasize their bump. I like the classic maternity dresses that tell people you’re pregnant, but at the same time don’t scream about it. Women who take the time to look fashionable when they’re pregnant are real tasteful.” His voice carried overtones of envy.

Envy? Is he really envious? “You sound like you’ve thought about this.”

He blushed again. “Josh and I were having a beer the other day. There was this pregnant woman in the bar with her husband. She sipped an iced-tea; and he was drinking a brewski. She wore a cobalt-blue, sleeveless dress that looked lovely with her auburn hair. The dress belted below her breasts and above her tummy. You could tell that she was really ‘okay’ with her pregnancy, but not like it defined her as a person. I mean . . . she still was wearing shoes with four-inch heels.”

Lovely? Cobalt? Do men really know that shade? And . . . how is Michael aware of what a four-inch heel looks like, compared to a three-inch or a five-inch heel?
“Maternity dresses do look comfortable.”

“Josh and I agreed — while looking at her — that pregnant women who dress right and take care of themselves are downright sexy. Josh couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.”

“And . . . you’re saying you wouldn’t mind being pregnant, if you could look . . . sexy?” I asked.

“Being sexy and pregnant is a lot, lot better than being filled with cancer.”

“Would you stop, please?” His shoulders are tense. He needs to relax. I’ve . . . got . . . an idea. “Why don’t you take a hot, relaxing bath? Let’s kick back and take the week off.”

“I could use a little down time. I’ve been awfully tired lately.”

“I’ll run you a hot bath. You stay in it until I get back.”

“Get back?”

I smiled. “I have to run to the mall for a few things. It should take me about an hour. I know just what I want and where to get everything.”

I ran a tub filled with warm water; and then he got in.

“What are you adding to my bath,” he asked, gawking at the bottle I was holding.

“It’s bath oil . . . Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium. You’re going to soak for over an hour; and I don’t want your skin getting all leathery.” I poured in a capful.

His nose wrinkled. “But it smells like flowers.”

For the last few months he’s had the nose of a bloodhound. “You needn’t worry . . . the scent wears off quickly. The scent is mainly to make your time in the tub more like trip to a spa.”

He settled back with his head resting on the edge of the tub and smiled up at me. “Don’t be too long,” he said with a pleading smile.

“I’ll be back in a jiffy,” I promised, feeling those now familiar twinges of sexual pleasure as I thought about making ardent love to my feminized husband. “I’m eager to spend the rest of the day with you.”

Chapter Three

It actually took me more like two hours to do all my shopping, but Michael looked content spending the extra time in the tub. Judging by the completely fogged mirror over our sinks he had been adding hot water from time to time.

Before I entered the bathroom I had unpacked my purchases and put everything I bought into drawers and on hangers so as not to overwhelm him. It had taken me three trips from the car to bring in all the bags. On my way to my shopping I had set a goal to keep Michael immersed in female pursuits for at least the next forty-eight hours. If my sexual fantasies became reality we would see about a more permanent change. It’s a good thing I know his size from sewing a shirt and slacks for him. Sewing has always been a hobby for me and he’s been a real sport about it. I also know that his size 7.5 men’s shoes are the equivalent of an 8.5 in a women’s size.

“Let me help you get dry,” I offered.

He eased himself out of the tub. With his stomach muscles totally relaxed his weight problem looked even more pronounced.

I held out a towel in front of me and invited him into my arms where I cuddled him dry. At 5’5” I had worn flats for our wedding so that he would be an inch taller than me. “Do you know what always makes me feel pampered and relaxed?” I asked.

“No idea,” he said, sounding just a little suspicious.

“I like to powder my body so that I’m dry and comfortable after a long bath.”

“What’s going on? First you have me take a scented bath and now you want to cover my body with perfumed powder?”

“Nothing’s ‘going on’. Men use talcum powder all the time. I want you totally relaxed; and I know what works for me.” And . . . I want your already soft skin to be silky smooth and delightfully scented.

“Is the powder perfumy? I enjoyed the bath, but I’m not so sure about smelling so feminine. Josh might stop by after he gets off work this afternoon to watch the ball game with me.”

“Don’t worry,” I answered gently. “Powder has a very light aroma. By the time Josh get’s here we’ll be done with our little game.”

“Game?” Michael cocked an eyebrow.

“You said you’d rather be dressed sexy than have cancer,” I said. “I’m not willing to tempt fate. I’m going to dress you from head-to-toe like a sophisticated pregnant woman and you. . ..”

“No,” he said quietly. “That wouldn’t be right.”

“Oh . . . who cares what the adults say?”

We both laughed. Whenever Michael and I ran up against a problem with our programming that required that we think outside of the box, we would ask each other what a grown-up would do, and then avoided that canned solution.

“I’m not comfortable with doing something so . . . different,” he admitted. “If an idea is so diverse from what most people think, don’t you think it’s probably wrong?”

“You know how I feel about that. Comparing yourself to other people and reducing your worth because your not identical to them is silly. It’s because we are different that we’re so special.”

He smiled. “Is it really important to you to do this?”

I nodded. “You know how I feel about fate and tempting the bad fairies. I’m 98% sure you’re as healthy as I am. Let’s erase my 2% of doubt by allowing our minds to accept a plausible alternative. Just do it for me,” I begged.

“Do you mean you want us to shelve our skepticism so that we can believe that I really am pregnant?” he asked incredulously.

I nodded firmly. “Exactly!”

His forehead wrinkled while he pondered what I had proposed. “I love you,” he avowed. “Where’s that powder?”

“Great,” I squealed. I’ll move quickly so as not to give him a chance to reconsider.

With Michael dried and covered with Opium Satin Body Powder I walked him into our bedroom where I had lingerie set out on the bed for him to wear.

“Pale blue?” he asked.

“Pale blue what?” I responded, ignoring his question.

“Pale blue panties . . . and bra,” he stammered.

“Whose panties are they?” He needs to accept what’s happening.

“Mine?” He asked.

“Whose panties are they?” I asked again. I hate bullying him, but he has to wrap his mind around what we’re doing.

“Mine,” he said, without a hint of a rise at the end of the word.

“Yes, they are yours. Please thank me for getting them for you, and then put them on.”

“Thank you, Jessica. My panties are very pretty.” He slipped them on, which had become a bit more difficult because his penis had stiffened.

“Uhmmm.” I rubbed up against him. “You smell delightful and you’re starting to look like the woman you described . . . the one you and Josh saw in that bar.”

“I have no idea what color panties she was wearing. . .or even if she was wearing panties.”

“Sure you do,” I countered. “Think about her. Close your eyes and imagine you are her. Would you leave the house without panties?”

“Maybe,” he said with a little grin while keeping his eyes closed, “but I wouldn’t do that if I was pregnant.”

Good. He’s starting to get into the spirit of things. I’m glad the part where I have to be so bitchy seems to be over.
“Would your panties match your bra?”

“Of course. And pale blue is a nice . . . sexy color.”

“Let me help you with your bra,” I offered. I hooked it in place and inserted the gel forms I had purchased. “These are B cups. When your milk comes in you will need a bigger bra size. What do you think of this dress?” I dropped it over his head and stood him in front of a mirror.

It was an empire waist maternity dress with a royal blue, floral pattern on white cotton / spandex with a sateen ribbon tied in a bow just above where Michael’s now masked belly protruded. Short sleeved, with a scoop neck, it stopped two inches above his knees.

“It’s prettier than the dress that lady wore. It’s really pretty. . ..”

“Hush.” I put a finger to his lips. “It’s you who’s going to be pretty. The dress just makes you feel beautiful. To see how your dress is supposed to hang, you need to step into your heels.” The shoes I’d selected to go with his dress were beige with solid toes and 3 ½-inch stiletto heels.

He stood gracefully in front of the mirror turning to access all angles.

Even in those heels he is only a bit taller than the average woman. He’s moving nicely. Some people are born to be elegant.

“Oh,” he groaned. “My hairy armpits look gross.”

“Are you willing to shave them? It would help.” I had no idea he would be this co-operative.

“People can’t improve if their only model is themselves. I’m going to be as open-minded as possible during this adventure and work to be as close an approximation of that woman in the bar as possible.”

“That’s the spirit. Let’s slip off your dress and go back into the bathroom. As long as we’re doing your pits we should take care of your arms and legs . . . and what other hair that needs to go. You don’t have that much, but if you shave your legs you can wear stockings.”

“I don’t know.”

For the first time in the last few minutes he appears to be backing down. I hope I don’t have to be so domineering again. “Did that woman in the bar have stockings?”

“I really don’t know.” He folded his arms across his chest and looked resolute about not pushing things too far. “I’m going to be honest with you. What if . . . what if we try some things today that cause me to find out things about myself . . . that might be odd for a lot of other people?”

“What do you mean?” I asked gently.

He ducked his head and concentrated. “Twice on Halloween Mom dressed me as a girl . . . once as Princess Jasmine . . . once as Cinderella. I was ten and then eleven and didn’t want her to make me get a haircut. I think she was trying to shame me.”

Like me ... trying to use his male ego to get him to lose weight.
“Did she make you angry?”

“Oh . . . no. It was partly my idea. And, she took me to ‘trick or treat’ where no one would know me.”

‘Partly his idea’?

“Another time in high school I had to play a girl in a play. As you know I went to an all boy school so that wasn’t all that odd. No one thought much of it. A lot of people told me I was the most convincing actor in our production.”

“Were you embarrassed? Is that why you’re a little reticent today?”

He shook his head. He spoke in a whisper. “No . . . I’m afraid today because I liked being Cinderella and Jasmine. I especially liked being an ordinary girl in the play.”

“There’s nothing about your gender or sexual identity that would cause me to think less of you. I love you as Michael . . . or Michelle.” He looks miserable and scared. The taboo on what I’ve suggested might be more than he can overcome. “Your only real duty in life is to be true to yourself. Don’t you agree?”

“That’s a fairly egocentric philosophy. I have a duty to be true to you . . . that’s equally important.”

“As far as I’m concerned being true to yourself is at the heart of you being true to me. If you’re out of touch with yourself, how can you be connected to me?”

He nodded slowly. “I feel like I’ve been on a long trip my entire life toward self-discovery.”

“We all are. Sweetie, what makes you happy?”

The grandfather clock in our dining room chimed while he thought. “If I have food and the remote control, I’m fairly content,” he joked. “But, if I’m being truly honest I’m happiest when I’m being compassionate.”

“So am I. What I’m asking you to do is show a little compassion to yourself. Allow yourself the space you need to run with this pregnancy thing today. What is it going to hurt anyone?”

“Will you think less of me if I find myself enjoying my feminine side? I’m going to be honest, again. When I was in the bathtub soaking the idea of smelling so nice really appealed to me. And, I like what I’m seeing in the mirror. I like how I look . . . except for my body hair . . . and a few other things.” His hand caressed the maternity dress he was wearing.

“Then make peace with who you are,” I suggested. “Please don’t worry about what I think. I love you unconditionally.” I grinned broadly. “What sort of spouse would I be to love you less now that you’re in a family way?”

He smiled.

I hugged him. “Is there anyone else who really matters in your life?”

“Josh,” he stated a bit too quickly. “Josh matters. He might hate me if I change too much.”

“Isn’t Josh the one who likes to quote Darwin. Doesn’t he say we have to change to survive?”

Michael bit his lip. “That’s right. Josh is always telling me not to give up on anything until I try it.”

“Close your eyes,” I directed lightly. “Put yourself in the place of that woman in the bar. Would she wear a dress like yours without stockings?”

He dutifully closed his eyes and thought. “No. Of course she wouldn’t. I suppose we need to do this right. Let’s do it.”

“Don’t worry; it’s natural. I wax, or shave, at least once a week. It’s what women do.” I helped him out of his dress and pulled him toward the bathroom without resistance. “There’s just a few other things we need to do; and then you’ll be just perfect.”

Chapter Four

Nearly five hours later we were ready again for Michelle to once again put on her dress. Not only had we officially changed her name, but we had also shaved her entire body and plucked her eyebrows in the process. I kept up a steady stream of feminine advice, which Michelle readily absorbed.

Not once did she object, once we started down the path toward our adventure. She seemed as eager as me to lose herself in the moment, and to completely forget about the malignant cancer that might be in her body.

With each step we took I saw things developing in her that I liked . . . loved. Everything I admired about Michael was being enhanced as he shed his masculine façade and replaced it with what truly appeared to be . . . reality.

“I love these rings you bought for me,” she said, “but how did you know the right sizes?” She spread her fingers and displayed her five new rings while she spoke. Her voice had quickly adapted to her appearance, as had her posture and overall demeanor. Everything happened so intuitively it was as if she were predisposed.

“Fingers have a relative size,” I explained. “I knew your ring finger size from buying you a wedding band. I could guess the rest from that.”

“You did a wonderful job. Now explain how you knew what size my ears are.”

We both laughed. I had bought Michelle the prettiest clip-on earrings I could find. I only bought those that appeared to be made for pierced ears. Her sapphire necklace matched the earrings, as did her bracelet.

“Oh, Jess,” she gushed, “I look exactly like the woman in the bar.” She spoke to the gorgeousness she saw in the mirror. “I’m happy with who I am, and pleased to be carrying my baby.” She toyed with a tendril hanging in front of her right ear. I had cut and styled her hair to fit her outfit; and she looked to be the picture of femininity in the mode of Charlize Theron. “I’m not sure I want to backslide, in a few hours, into once again being Michael,” she said with a moan.

She spun in her dress in front of the mirror. “Thank you for doing my make-up, nails, and hair.”

“Your welcome for the tenth time. It’s as much fun for me as it seems to be for you.” In truth the toughest part for me was fighting my need to drag her off to bed. Something about her is making me quake with sexual desire. “If you want, we can continue with this for a few days. I bought you a half-dozen dresses. We can return them if you don’t approve.”

“Oh . . . show me.” Her eyes glistened as her irises expanded with intense interest. “I was born an original,” she said quietly, almost to herself. “I don’t want to die a copy.”

For the next few hours she tried on the dresses, seemingly pleased with each and genuinely enthralled with how cute she looked in them. I quickly made the slight alterations needed for a perfect fit. Each was a classic fashion with a tie strategically located . . . and ample cloth in the right place.

She had added a spritz of perfume, after I explained how to spray it in the air, and then lean into it. “I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I do look attractive.”

I wonder whom she thinks she’s “attractive” to? I find her enthralling and can’t wait to have her in bed, but if we were out on the town it would mainly be men trying to gain her attention. “Let’s have a glass of wine,” I suggested, “and then we need to think about dinner.”

Michelle sliced sharp cheddar cheese and laid out a variety of crackers for a simple snack, while I filled glasses with a full-bodied red that we both enjoyed -- and brought the bottle to a table on our deck.

She had been reluctant to step outside until I reminded her how isolated our backyard was from our neighbors. We both loved to garden, and even though neither of us really had craved our starter mansion we greatly enjoyed the two-acre lot. I loved to change the topography with cubic yards of black dirt, peat moss, and mulch, while Michael was much better at nurturing young plants into full bloom.

“Besides,” I chided, “anyone who spots you will see nothing but a glowing soon-to-be mother.”

“On that note, I’m switching to grape juice. I’m just starting my second trimester and shouldn’t be consuming much alcohol.”

I’ve never known Michael to drink more than one glass of wine at a sitting; and Michelle is no different.

We had just refilled our goblets, mine with wine and hers with juice, when Josh came around the corner of our house. He sauntered with that rolling jock-walk that I loved to watch, but today seeing him caused my heart to stop.

“I thought I heard you back here, Jessica. I’ve been ringing the front doorbell, but no one answered. Since Mikey’s Beatle and your Forester are in the driveway I assumed you were home. Michael and I are supposed to watch the game, which starts in ten minutes.” He turned toward Michelle, who looked mortified.

I can’t find my voice.

Josh took a step toward Michelle. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Josh and your name is . . . Michael???”

“Yes,” Michael answered in her Michelle voice, “it’s me.”

“You look . . . really nice,” Josh said with obvious admiration and just a hint of wonder.

“It all started this morning when I told Michelle that she looked pregnant,” I started to explain.

“Michelle?” Josh asked.

Michelle pointed coyly to herself.

“Ahhhh,” Josh exclaimed. He grinned and that little scar popped up in his left eyebrow. Michael had shot him when they both were ten. . . actually it was an accident involving a BB that ricocheted off a tin car in Josh’s backyard during target practice. That was the last time Michael held a gun of any kind.

“It’s a long story. Can I get you a glass of wine,” Michelle offered, “or maybe you’d like a Fat Tire.” Michael kept Josh’s favorite beer stocked in our refrigerator.

“A cold beer would be good,” Josh said, sagging into the wicker sofa that matched the chair I occupied. After Michelle left Josh turned his gaze from where she had disappeared around the corner and looked toward me. “Wow. This is a lot to process. How long has this been going on . . . this dressing-up thing?”

“It’s a side of her I’ve never seen before,” I stated, “but I kind of think it’s great.”

“She does look really good,” he said while shaking his head and easily sliding into the female pronoun. “She’s perfect at it.”

“Perfect?”

“She’s beautiful and seems to be completely at ease in a dress. . .very natural. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she looks pregnant.”

“And. . ..” Michelle’s voice preceded her through the patio door. She handed an opened beer bottle and a frosted mug to Josh. “What would be wrong with me being pregnant?” she demanded. “I am married, after all.” She sat next to Josh on the sofa with her knees pressed firmly together and her hands folded primly in her lap. “It certainly would be much better than cancer.”

“ ‘Cancer’ . . . why would you say that?” Josh asked.

“I took a test this morning,” Michelle explained. “There’s a chance I have cancer, like Tommy.” Her eyes glistened, and then a tear rolled down her cheek. “If the test is right, I just know I’m going to die.”

Josh opened his arms to her; and she fell to his shoulder sobbing and sharing the story of the pregnancy test. Josh rubbed her back and begged her to think positive thoughts.

They look so natural together like that. . .sweet and right. I’m glad Josh is so understanding. Michael needs that today.

They never did watch their game. The evening was spent with Josh consuming many more bottles of beer -- that Michelle devotedly served to him.

I finished the entire bottle of wine.

She did her best to “buck up” with intermittent tears fueled by grape juice. She enthralled us with the full stories of her two Halloweens and her high school play. She left out any reference to her self-loathing for enjoying it so much. Her grace and femininity grew with every second as she responded to Josh’s male scrutiny.

Strange! It almost feels like Michelle and I are competing. Josh has a hard time taking his eyes off her. I really can’t blame Josh, Michelle’s lips, covered in that poppy red lipstick we selected to complement the bold print of her dress, begged to be kissed.

Josh had totally accepted Michelle’s faux pregnancy as the diversion it was meant to be, which kept Michael from dwelling on what he too easily saw as his pre-ordained demise.

Several times, while the night drifted along, I took her to the bathroom to help her repair her face after crying bouts . . . and to lightly freshen her scent. For the most part, it would have been impossible to know that Michelle was anything but what she appeared to be. To be fair, I had girlfriends who were far more masculine than Michelle.

“Boys are fun,” Michelle said with a giggle during one of our touch-up trips. “Just by moving a certain way, or saying something that strokes his ego, I can get Josh to say and do what I want.”

I laughed. This is so good. She’s forgotten her problems, at least for a moment.

The night went on with Michelle playing her little game of toying with Josh. I almost laughed at how easy it was for her.

Several times during the evening I saw Josh leaning close to Michelle to enjoy her perfume. He seems to find it appealing. I wonder if he likes it as much when I wear it around him?

The bubble bath and powder had left her exposed skins as targets to be stroked and both Josh and I had a hard time keeping our hands off her.

I’m going to have to make Josh’s favorite German chocolate cake for him as a reward for being such a great sport in helping me keep Michael’s mind off his upcoming visit to his doctor. Michael made it for Josh on his last birthday . . . and he loved it.

Josh asked if he could pick us up the next morning to take us for a drive up the coast. “We’ll take in some fresh air and find a restaurant with a ocean view for lunch.”

“Do I dare go . . . in a dress?” Michelle asked. “An ounce of discretion is worth a pound of explaining.”

“If you think I’m going to take you to a restaurant in the nude you’re sorely mistaken,” Josh said with mocked horror.

We all laughed. Michelle’s merry giggle contained the precise levels of joy and appreciation that men can’t hear often enough. Her hands danced prettily in the air, animating her musical and beguiling voice as she spoke of her undisguised joy. Moonlight sparkled off her polished fingertips adding to the magic of a perfect evening under the stairs.

“Does the way I look tonight bother you,” Michelle asked coyly. “Her hand rested lightly on his arm. Her uncertain voice carried terribly high stakes.

Their friendship is at risk.

Josh took her hand in his.

Odd . . . it’s almost like they’re lovers reassuring one another that nothing has changed.

“Michelle,” he said with some unexpected passion, “I’m as proud to be seen with you as I’ve always been. Maybe even more.”

Eventually it was decided that Josh had drained too many beers to drive, so he stayed in our guest room.

After I helped her remove her make-up, I loaned Michelle one of my favorite nighties . . .pink, sleeveless, with lovely lace cotton at the hem, arms, and v-neck.

Her skin does glow.

We kissed; and I ached for more. My sexual itch was over-ridden by the need to help Michelle deal with her immediate fear of cancer.

“Do you mind if we don’t make love tonight?” Michelle asked. “It would seem disrespectful to Josh, with him in the next room.”

Our house is small and he would probably hear us, but I don’t really care.
“Okay, Michelle, but tomorrow night we’re going to screw . . . like rabbits in heat.

Chapter Five

I almost lost it the next evening when Michelle demanded that Josh stay with us another night.

He’s had too much beer to drive . . . again. Maybe we should stuff cotton balls in his ears so Michelle and I can use our bed, as it’s intended.

She stared at me from across our bed as we pulled back the coverlet. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way for the three of us to live together?” Michelle stated, more than asked. “It was so perfect today. Josh and you both love me so much. I don’t know where I would be without you both.”

Several times during the day Josh had been forced to take Michelle into his arms to pacify her terror. Josh had driven us north in his black Range Rover. He hadn’t started his drinking until we got back, but quickly made up for lost time.

He rarely over-indulges on alcohol. Michelle’s worries have clearly gotten to Josh. It’s understandable with Michelle having lost a brother to cancer that she would be scared out of her mind. Instead of being jealous of Josh’s ability to soothe Michelle I need to rise above my petty feelings and be happy he’s here to help.

In the middle of the night I felt her slip silently out of our bed. After a few moments hushed conversation came from the other bedroom, although I couldn’t make out everything that was said. I noticed real anguish in her voice and heard the word “pregnant” a number of times. She alternated between sobbing . . . and giggling at things Josh said.

I shouldn’t have loaned her such a cute nightie. I laughed silently at my joke. I had given Michelle free choice of my nightwear and she had selected a retro, long, peach, jersey nightdress. Although it appeared to be something from the 1930’s, it actually had been recently crafted of soft, stretchy nylon.

Their conversation contained long moments of silence; and I could easily visualize Josh holding Michelle in his arms and stroking her back to appease her. Much of what was said between them was murmuring I couldn’t make out, but at one point she did raise her voice enough for me to hear. “No, Josh. I’ve told you that part of our life is behind us. I’m very happily married.”

Did Josh just ask Michael to party with him and chase girls like they did before we got engaged?

When she came back to bed she snuggled in tight and stayed pressed against me for the rest of the night. I could feel her aroused penis, but respected her request not to make love and didn’t turn toward her, although I longed for her practiced tongue between my legs.

On Wednesday morning we were faced with a decision of how Michelle should dress for her doctor’s appointment. She had come to breakfast beautifully made-up in a pink tie-front shirtdress, with three-inch heeled sandals. The dress was just a little bit longer than a baby-doll and even cuter on her than I’d imagined it would be when I bought it.

“I’m guessing,” I opined, “but I think it would be a lot less confusing for everyone if you wore your Michael clothing to the clinic. We’ll put gel in your hair to make it look boyish.”

“Yesterday no one treated me like anything but what I appear to be,” Michelle asserted, setting her mouth in a comely pout.

“Why would they?” Josh asked, almost rhetorically. “You’re 100% natural -- looking like you do. I don’t want to sound sexist, but some women are really born to be pregnant.

“I’m NOT taking off my heels simply to complete your male chauvinist “barefoot bride” image.” Michelle laughed, but then became earnest. “No one yesterday was going to give me a physical inspection the likes of what I’m going to undergo today; yet I am what I am.”

Josh quickly sided with her.

He did that repeatedly yesterday, acquiescing to her every whim. You’d think a trained litigator like Josh would find something to argue about.

“Life’s a long time,” I stated. “One more morning as Michael isn’t going to kill you. Let’s take things one day at a time.”

Josh then jokingly promised Michelle that he would buy her a box of chocolates and a dozen roses when she no longer had to act like a male.

She took his hand into hers and looked him in the eyes for a moment that would have seemed blissful had they been the married couple in the room. “I’m going to hold you to that promise.”

Josh blushed and glanced guiltily at me out the corner of his eye.

I’m not going to be one of those wives who is jealous of her husband’s male friends, especially when I consider Josh one of my best friends, as well. “She” needs to be “he” in about fifteen hours when we finally get a chance to act like the newlyweds we still are . . . in our bed . . . without a houseguest. The way my body has been craving his for the last two days he’s going to rock my world. I wonder how hard he is under that dress?

When Michael came out of the bedroom something about him seemed perverse. He was wearing male clothing and had gone back to his “normal” voice. Her make-up had been removed, but a diminished number of eyebrows and a hairless body gave overt testimony to what had transpired. His face showed signs of his anxieties having returned.

“If your doctor asks,” I suggested, “you can tell him you’re trying out a metrosexual look.”

Michael nodded. His eyes sought out Josh’s. “I feel like a fraud. I’m Michelle. I don’t ever want to be Michael again.”

“Just get through today,” Josh pleaded. “Stay focused. Once the doctor rules out cancer and tells us those pregnancy tests don’t mean anything, you can take your time to think things through.”

“I know what I want,” Michael said firmly. He glanced at his wristwatch, which now looked awkward on his thin wrist. “We’ve only got a few minutes to get to the clinic.”

Chapter Six

“Would it be okay if my wife and my hus…my friend…come with me to the examination room?” Michael asked.

The receptionist’s took in the three of us, and then she shrugged. “If you would be more comfortable with them at your side, I don’t see any reason the three of you can’t go in together.” She took a look at her screen. “Are you Josh?”

He nodded.

My goodness. She’s overtly flirting with Josh. I bet that happens to him all the time.

She tore her eyes off Josh’s pecs and turned to my husband. “The last time you were in, Michael, which I see was for lab work about four months ago, you listed Josh as your emergency contact.”

“I was in for a blood test,” Michael explained. “We got married in the District of Columbia; and they still require one.”

“Do you want me to replace Josh’s contact phone number with your wife’s?” the receptionist helpfully inquired.

“I . . . ah . . .,” Michael looked nervously from Josh to me.

He’s so worried about his possible illness he can’t answer a simple question. “We’ve got bigger things on our mind today,” I said, trying to cover Michael’s inability to think.

“Of course,” she said. “Doctor Garrett asked that I have the nurse take you to the lab immediately for blood work, so he can run a few test.”

“Yes,” I said, “we read online that a urologist will probably be needed and maybe an ultrasound.”

“Doctor Garrett is qualified to screen for . . . your concerns,” she assured us.

A nurse came from the back of the clinic and led us to their lab where blood was drawn to fill three vials. In just a few minutes we were shown to a small exam room. There was only one chair.

“You should sit, Michael,” I suggested.

“Yes. . .,” Josh agreed, “you need to be ready to spring out of your chair and hug both of us when the doctor gives you the good news.”

Michael grinned nervously. “I would be much more comfortable in a dress.”

While he was completing his sentence the pocket door slid open and Doctor Garrett came in. “You’re the only patient I have who’s ever said anything about wanting us to put you in a hospital gown.” He laughed. “Most people hate those things.”

The doctor put us all at ease with his playful banter. He accepted Josh’s presence in the room without batting an eye. “Drop your pants and underwear, Michael, and then jump up here.” He patted the examination table with his hand.

Underwear! I hope Michelle didn’t decide to wear panties.

Michael pulled down his trousers exposing his standard issue tightie-whities, which he dropped to hang around his ankles.

The doctor then probed Michael’s testicles. “Have you had any tenderness in this area?”

“No . . . nothing like that. The only major change I’ve experienced in the last few months is putting on a little extra weight.”

“I noticed,” the doctor observed. “It’s normal for new husbands to gain a few pounds, but you’ve exceeded the average. Would you mine taking off your shirt?”

Michael removed his shirt and handed it to Josh, who held it gingerly.

The doctor worked with his stethoscope across Michael’s hairless chest and around to his back, having Michael taking several deep breathes.

With all his body hair removed his chest looks like he’s budding.

If the doctor noticed either Michael’s lack of hair or the feminine odor of the powder fresh deodorant Michael had elected to use, he didn’t let on. “It’s more than likely pseudocyesis,” the doctor offered.

“Oh . . . dear!” Michael wailed.

The doctor patted Michael’s hand. “Pseudopregnancy . . . false pregnancy,” he explained.

He then placed his stethoscope against Michael’s abdomen. “Hold on. Just as I thought. Interesting . . . very interesting.”

“I need to step out for a moment,” the doctor said. “Please forgive me. I’ll be back as quickly as possible.”

After the doctor left, Michael became edgy. “That’s not good,” he wailed. “He found cancer and is taking a minute to decide how to break the news to me.”

“Nooooo,” I countered, “don’t jump to any conclusions.” The doctor definitely found something!

Josh helped Michael dress, including pulling up his pants for him and buckling his belt. “He’s just being careful,” Josh stated. “If he had found a lump, he would have said something about doing an ultrasound test to confirm his suspicions.”

The door slid open and Doctor Garrett came in with a woman whose nametag stated OBGYN.

“This is my associate, Doctor Levine,” Doctor Garrett explained. “She’s going to take you down the hall to take a few pictures with her ultrasound equipment to confirm my diagnosis.”

“Ultrasound! I knew it.” Michael looked ready to swoon; and Josh grabbed his arm to support him. “Doctor Garrett,” Michael asked, “how advanced is it? How long do I have to live?”

Doctor Garrett looked puzzled. “People in your condition rarely die. You shouldn’t stress yourself over a little weight gain. You can expect fifteen to twenty-five pounds. . .. Ohhh . . . that’s right . . . you came in for a cancer screening. You can rest easy about that. There are absolutely no symptoms that would indicate cancer.”

“But . . ..” Michael asked, “the pregnancy test came back positive and now you want me to have an ultrasound.”

“Ohhhh. . ..” My hand flew to my mouth. Michael’s. . ..

Doctor Garrett smiled. “During my exam I picked up a strong fetal heartbeat. The ultrasound will simply confirm the baby’s good health. Congratulations! You’re pregnant!”

“I . . . I . . . can’t be.” Michael toppled into Josh for support while squeezing my hand.

“But you are.” Doctor Garrett paged back through Michael’s chart. “I’ve told you in the past, right after you experienced your first menstrual cycle, that your very special body has certain . . . what the uninformed might call “abnormalities”. It appears the stars aligned in such a way as to allow your female organs to present enough for you to become pregnant.”

Menstrual cycle. That explains the bloody tissues in our waste can. I thought he was nicking himself shaving.

“Men don’t have babies,” I said to no one in particular,

Doctor Levine handed me a printout she pulled off her clipboard entitled “Understanding the Gender Continuum”. “Michael has a foot in both the male and female worlds. The how and the why aren’t all that important. The baby inside Michael deserves the best care possible so that in six months he or she can join the world as a strong and healthy infant.”

“What you’re suggesting would be miraculous,” I said.

Doctor Garrett became serous. “I see miracles happen every day. Everything around us is a miracle.” He grinned. “It’s a minor miracle we don’t dissolve when we take a shower.”

Suddenly Michelle brightened. “My baby!” She put both arms around Dr. Garrett’s neck and hugged him. “Wonderful . . . wonderful . . . thank you so much.”

After Dr. Garrett disengaged himself from an ecstatic Michelle, he looked into Josh’s face. “I suppose you’re the father?”

“I am,” Josh said with pride and happiness; and the world around me disappeared into blackness.

Epilogue

I had thought there could be nothing more adorable than Michelle in her maternity clothing, as she floated her way through the last months of her pregnancy, but I had been wrong.

She and little Ava, in their pink, floral, dotted Swiss mother / daughter / American Doll dresses, hosting Ava’s fourth birthday party laid claim to “Cutest Ever”, in the history of all mankind. Especially with Ava rolling on the floor giggling while her new English Setter puppy licked her face.

Ava was what Carl Sandburg had in mind when he said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”

I took a picture and immediately posted it to my Facebook page so that Josh could see it while working at his law firm.

Our household had become one that baffled the census-takers. Josh moved in the same day we found out Michelle was carrying his/our baby.

Through Michelle’s overnight acceptance of her primary gender we found that we had very wonderful and loving friends. The wisest of our friends spoke well of us behind our backs. They told Michelle that change is invigorating and a necessary part of life.

A few diehard religious radicals roundly condemned us for our lifestyle, but without exception none of them should have been throwing rocks.

Dr. Garrett and Doctor Levine worked diligently with their staff and their cooperating hospital to respect our privacy. The more Josh, Michelle, and I learned, the more we understood that while Michelle’s body was one in a million, there were enough others like her so that our doctors knew how to treat her and our child.

Dr. Garrett told us that we could expect things to return to normalcy right after our child went away to college. His humor helped us accept what had happened as Mother Nature demanding her way.

Of course, Michelle dressed appropriately from that day in the clinic forward. Her wardrobe expanded, but never ventured away from dresses into the area of skirts and jeans until long after Ava was born.

Although we both wear a size four we don’t share much because Michelle’s taste tends to be “fashionably flirty” while my things are more “sporty”. Likewise, Michelle soon had her own signature scent. . .Cashmere Mist.

At first, Michelle alternated spending her nights in either my bedroom or Josh’s. Over a period of six weeks I heard through the walls how wonderful a lover Josh was with Michelle and became quite covetous. One thing led to another. It was Michelle who suggested that Josh and I needed to do something about the sexual tension between us. She even bought bridal lingerie for me to wear my first time with Josh.

From that night forward there no longer were designated bedrooms. Although none of us ever wanted all of us in the bed at the same time, we mixed and matched as couples night after night: Michelle and me, Michelle and Josh, and Josh and me. No matter who hooked up, the sex was great and the rest of the time spent in the simply marvelous sharing of the responsibilities of parenthood.

Michelle proved to be an amazingly adaptive sexual partner. It became clear to me that she also had been disappointed with our sexual activities, even though her love for me was solid. Neither of us was ever again were left wanting in the bedroom.

At times when Josh and I were hungrily devouring each other I would flash to a mental image of Michelle in my place. My lips became hers pleasuring Josh. As I traced the curves of his well-developed biceps with my lacquered fingernail I could easily imagine Michelle doing exactly the same thing. While Josh attended to my breasts with his imaginative mouth I wondered if Michelle’s new additions were as sensitive as mine.

Such thoughts became comforting, as well as erotic, because our lives depended on pleasant sexual bonds between the three of us.

I looked down at my rapidly growing belly, while moving down the hall for my amniocentesis. It’s a good thing Michelle enjoyed her maternity dresses enough to keep them.

The End

As this story shows, life is better with a bump. Life is also better with Big Closet. For years now I’ve donated stories to Erin to help support this website. She receives all the proceeds from those stories, whether she sells them through Doppler Press or uses them as an inducement for contributions to Hatbox.

Recently Erin posted “To Alleviate Suffering” in Hatbox. It is the story of a husband and wife who both pursue a medical career. Things become conflicted when she, as hospital administrator, changes the nurses’ dress code, which applies to him. Please consider making a donation to Hatbox -- and reading my latest posting.

Should things be at a point in your life where a contribution to Hatbox is out of the question, send me a PM with your email address and I will forward a copy of the story directly to you.

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