What a Charming Dress

As I left the shop, Scarlet murmured ‘goodbye’ or maybe it was ‘good buy’. As I walked away I thought ‘what a wonderful, almost magical afternoon.’ I thought about what she had said and promised that I would make some changes in my life.

I wasn’t going to be a downtrodden, feeble excuse for a man any longer. That was for sure.

~o~O~o~

It had been a dreadful morning. It had been an awful weekend. My job was dull. My workmates were uninteresting. I had no interest in any leisure activity. I was a dull, static, armchair-blob. Bereft of any redeeming features. Bored and Boring. I found nothing of interest or import on the telly; nothing worthwhile on the internet. I didn’t do drugs or alcohol or cigarettes or porn or shoplifting. I did nothing weird. I did nothing ordinary. I did nothing.

I didn’t even find myself interesting or worthwhile to spend time with.

Andy yet some tiny nearly-dormant flicker insisted that there was a life out there in the real world. That I could and should be worthwhile and valuable. That other people could, given some incentive, find me loveable. That even I, given another incentive, could find myself and other people attractive and loveable.

I remember thinking - I want to love something, anything, somebody, anybody, everybody. Instead I felt care less.

Perhaps I can summon up the will and energy to hate instead of loving. What do I hate. Er, um, er, blankness (that is nothing comes to mind rather than I hate a vacuum). [And rather obviously, I can almost always entertain myself a little with wordplay].

Okay, let’s keep it simple, what do I hate right now, right here. Perhaps that’ll be easier.

Okay. Take a deep breath, pretend to come to a decision. ……. I hate my clothes. I hate my shoes. I hate my body, my face, my hair, my ….. – NO, that’s too strong. There is nothing about me or what I do that excites me, interests me or gives me any satisfaction. I can’t even hate myself.

I’m bored with everything I do, everywhere I’ve been, everyone I’ve met – and I see little likelihood that it’s going to improve.

My life is DULL and BORING. I mean, let’s just start once more with my clothes. I’d like to be brave and bold enough to wear, to even think of wearing, something bright and colourful and rich and exciting.

What do I have instead. Gray and Khaki and Tan and Beige and Brown and Black and BORING. To pick another letter from the alphabet, everything I have is drab and dull, dingy, dreary, dowdy and dismal. Oh, give me a thesaurus or any other of those dinosaurs. Lackluster and ever onwards and downwards.

I’ve seen people on holiday. They manage some colour. Some manage eye-shattering combinations that would frighten the horses. Not for me.

I’ve seen people out for the evening. Wearing bright, flamboyant, interesting clothes. Not me.

I saw the girls at school, arriving at the school dance. Bright butterflies, flittering, fluttering and flirting. Not me.

I was bored and probably boring at school. Middle of the road and dull. Never brave enough to bounce off the kerb, never bad enough to fall in the gutter. Watch out for the cat’s eyes, maybe, as catty remarks sear my soul even though, allegedly, ‘words will never hurt me’. Hah.

But I got through school. The failure to make friends at least meant that I spent a lot of time studying. Books became a sort of friend. Certainly, the amount of fiction I read encouraged a sort of escapism. =it was only years later that I noticed how many of my heroes were in fact heroines. Even if the authors were male. Robert Heinlein; Robin McKinley; David Weber’s Honor Harrington; Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion & Vatta and so on.

I’m bored and probably equally boring at work. A mid-level gopher. When the boss says ‘file’, verily I fileth; when he or she says ‘do’, yay verily I do. I goeth and I cometh and I take home a paltry but nearly satisfactory mite to feed the landlord.

Spring was in the air. The weather had improved. The feeling of riot and difference had broken through the clouds.

Perhaps that was why I had partaken of a tincture or three. I wasn’t drunk. But I was differently undisturbed than usual. I realized that I was in a part of town I had rarely visited. A sprawl of small shops was passing by in a very casual manner.

The shopkeepers were equally calm. Those with customers were being careful yet encouraging. Those without were without on their doorsteps passing banter to and fro between themselves as well as with potential customers, those who had little likelihood of being customers, those who were uninterested or even uninteresting, and even me.

“You need to sit and stop awhile, young NoBody. Yes, you. You may feel like a nobody, you may even BE a nobody, but nobody is nobody to me. Everybody is a Somebody, and it’s wrong for Anybody to be a Nobody. So stop awhile and have some tea.”

I looked at the shop-keeper. She was tiny, smaller than tiny, she was micro-petite. Blonde hair to her shoulders, bare skin and a tiny blue outfit with sparkles. It covered nearly 40% of her – bare legs, bare arms, bare shoulders. And in her hair a large scarlet bow.

“The name’s Scarlet, in case you hadn’t guessed. Well, today it’s Scarlet.”

What did this weird girl mean. ‘Today it’s Scarlet’? What was she on other days? Purple, Green-Spots, Blue Alice-band, Bent Hairpin, Paisley Headscarf. Oh, and Sparkly Butterfly-clip. My mind began to spin.

“Like I said. You need to sit down. I’ll get you some tea. You need to build your strength up so that you’ve got at least enough energy to make a decision. You didn’t have enough lunch and you’re run down horribly. Even maybe horribly run-down and about to be horribly run-over. Yuk. I’m going to have to do something. I’ll get you some peppermint tea.”

Ack, no. Not peppermint!”

“Ooh, goody, a reaction. A genuine reaction. You’re not actually dead, yet.”

I managed a small smile. “No, not yet.”

While Scarlet fetched the tea, I found that I was watching the girls as they went past. I’d never spent much time watching people. I usually got lost in some petty but adequate chain of thought. I found that I was looking at their hair mostly. Fortunately, the girls came by in ones and twos and threes; so there was time to look at each one.

Long hair, short, pert, kicky bobs. Blonde, brunette, glossy black, titian – and all the obviously dyed versions. Blue and green and so on. So many choices. So many opportunities. I felt more interested than I had for days. Long, short, straight, wavy. curly, bubbly, frizzy. The long flowing style; the bouncy pony-tail; the elegant braid; the ultra-expensive hairdo. For the first time that I could remember – I looked and actually saw and considered what I was seeing.

Scarlet came back with the tea tray, cups, teapot and all and sat with me.

Suddenly I burst out, “that girl’s got beautiful hair, so pretty, so just right for her.”

A little later, I erupted again. “That outfit is so pretty for that girl, so right.” Even though I’d never consciously looked at girl’s clothes before, let alone commented on them – it felt right to notice and to speak.

“Yet more proof that you’re not dead. Hooray. Here’s your tea, as you like it, weak Earl Grey without milk, yes,”

When had I told Scarlet how I liked my tea. Weird.

She sat with me, in silence for a while. “You’re not in a good state. You don’t need to say anything. I scare myself with what I can detect from people’s body language. And your body, Mr NoBody, is saying ‘I don’t like me, I don’t care about me, and why should I care about anybody or anybody care about me’!!”

Pause

“Mmmmmmmm?”

Pause

“I need some sort of comment from you. Have you thought about your fondest wish or any of your deep secrets? Can you speak about them or let them out into the light in any way?”

A longer pause

Did I have a deepest desire, a fondest wish? What secret had I hidden from myself. I kept watching the girls while Scarlet sipped her tea. It wasn’t ordinary tea. It smelt weird – but then she wasn’t ordinary in any way so why should she drink ordinary tea.

“I’ve been watching the girls. I kinda like the hair on that girl over there.”

“Tell me more – “

“You’ve probably never met anyone as dull and uninteresting as me. I jotted this little poem down a few days ago. See what you can find in the wreckage. ‘I wonder, I sit, I read, I wander, I shit, I feed.’ Six actions to summarise my life. The poetry and rhyme are about as pathetic as anything I’ve done in my life. Shall I even bother to get depressed? “

“But there’s more, ‘I drink, I think, I sleep, I peep, I work, I shirk.’ Oooh, two whole sets of self-abusive description.”

“And how about ‘I eat, I bleat; I sigh, I cry; I wait, I die.’ Wow, an ultra-clever self-nasty. I smirk at my ability to sneer at my uselessness. “

“You can do better than that. If you’re bright enough to know you're being self-abusive then you’re bright enough to stop and look for a better alternative.”

Again, the murmur from my temporary companion seemed almost psychic.

I don’t know who or what circumstances have so thoroughly ground you down and spat you out – but clearly I know more than you of the world and its nastiness – and no one except yourself is saying anything as ugly and vile as what you try to say about yourself.”

“You say you have no friends – how hard have you tried to be friendly and expected no return? How hard have you listened to others asking blindly for help and kindness. Try it a few times, you’ll be amazed.”

“Unghhh.”

I wasn’t going to admit to anything – I knew how less than adequate I was – but to actually admit to anything being my fault - unngh.

“It’s only some of the things in your life that are because you decided to make it happen that way. Some things are nature, some are nurture, some are family, some are circumstances, and yes, some are you.” Was this girl psychic – or a witch?

“I know your name, Mr N. Body – but how do you think of yourself. Who do you want to be?

“The name fits the personality. The N stands for Norman or ‘No’. So No Body is how everyone thinks of me.”

“Wrong. That’s how YOU think of yourself and there’s too few able to break through your shell and show you the value of the person hidden inside.”

‘Huh, so the yolk is all about me, hah. My mind, what I could be bothered with, blundered on, punnily. Mister N Bodie; Missed a Body; Mister Nobody; Miss Turna Baddie; Missed a Turn, Buddy; Miss Turn No Body. Punny how things turn out.

Time passed. I don’t recollect what we talked about – but I know she spoke a lot of truths about me and about how I could, should and might change. At least, her words sounded valid and valuable. I know I gained courage and confidence and self-worth at many of the things she said.

We had long finished our tea when she said ‘You’ve got to change a lot of things about yourself to find the pearls that you’ve been losing in the dirt. You’re not dirty, you’re no longer in the dirt. I know. I KNOW that you’re ready to move onwards. I can tell you that there are pearls to be found in your life. I might even be able to help you find some of them. I have confidence in you. I believe you are kind, decent, loveable and that you can spread these virtues around everyone around you. You should no longer be the ‘No’ Body you have labelled yourself. You can be Somebody, Anybody if you want to be. I want this to happen. Don’t you wish for something big to happen to you. I’m not a real follower of the Bible but I seem to remember there’s two slightly contradictory suggestions on the lines of ‘God sees that everyone has worth’ and the other is ‘in the eyes of god all are as nothing’ – personally I prefer to believe that everyone has worth. So, I’m telling you that whatever you say or think about yourself – you do actually have worth and value. Go forward with that thought – onward and upward.”

“Yeah. No, ‘yeah’ is too bland, too minimal. YES – I do want to get out of this hole, this rut. I want to be a Somebody. So long Mister Nobody. Hello Mister Somebody. Yes – I wish for something big to happen.”

Scarlet giggled, “I’ll have to see what I can do about that.”

A little later she turned to me and said, “You’ve spent a good hour with me – and perhaps it’s amazing that there have been no other customers. I want you to buy something, anything, from my shop. It can be as small as you like. I’ve got some charming little knickknacks.”

I followed Scarlet into her shop. It was tiny and quite dark. The light, despite there not being much of it, seemed to catch various items, they seemed to glisten and sparkle. I wandered around, not looking for anything in particular. I found myself by a small jewellery stand – looking at necklaces and bangles. One small bracelet caught my attention. It wasn’t quite bare as it had three or four dangles on it. A Cat, a Dice, an Owl and a small Crown. After looking around for a while, it remained the thing I came back to. I bought it.

As I left and walked into the sunshine, Scarlet sauntered to the back of the shop. I heard a murmured ‘Goodbye’ or perhaps it was ‘Good Buy’.

-----------------------

It was hard to remember what she said but the feeling of confidence stayed with me. And in the next weeks, my life changed in so many ways.

Looking back, I think that each of those charms was a sort of signal that things were going to happen.

It was only that afternoon when I met a group of people in the park. They were talking about various projects. I didn’t mean to listen but they were excited and talking loudly. They worked for Cat Enterprises and somehow the skills I had were exactly what they needed for a small part of one of the projects. I have no idea what gave me the courage to open my mouth.

“I couldn’t help overhearing. But I do happen to know someone who has some of the skills you seem to be needing.”

One of the girls came over. “Even though my first reaction is to be cross that you were listening, I’m intrigued and actually pleased that you had the courage to speak up. Who is this potentially useful stranger? How can we get in touch with her?”

I raised my hand and, very slowly, very carefully, arranged my fingers and pointed ….. then twisted my hand to point back at myself.

“You! That’s kinda sneaky. Are you for real? Can you really deliver what we need.”

“Um, Er. ….. Actually Yes. I can. I would like to. Can I please?”

“This has to be the weirdest job interview I have ever been involved in.”

Within a few days, I had negotiated with my old employers and moved across to an office at Cat Enterprises. I didn’t have a smart office but I was recognised as having valuable skills. Even more pleasing, when I made a comment, people listened rather than ignoring what I said. Gradually, I learnt how to contribute to my new work.

There was a problem with Nola – the girl who had first spoken to me. She kept on going on about how she had expected a girl for the job I was doing. It became a bit of a joke between us – but sometimes there seemed to be an edge to what she said and how she said it. ‘That’s a good piece of work, for a girl’ and so on.

She commented on my clothes and encouraged me to be bolder. I bought shirts in brighter colours and actually threw out a fair amount of the grey and brown and drab wardrobe that I had got used to. Nola was a fan of second-hand shops and once in a while insisted that I went with her.

Ulterior motive?– no, of course not. Something unknown and nearly magical? – maybe. Did I have a clue what was going on? – of course not.

She ‘found’ a couple of shirts that she said would suit me – well, they did, but, durrr, the buttons were on the wrong side. I happened to notice and said, ‘this is a girl’s shirt!’.

“And so…….. Does it fit you or not?”

“Well, ……. longer pause …..it seems to but isn’t it wrong for me to wear this?”

“Don’t be silly. Girls can wear absolutely anything that a bloke wears; it would be a bit off if a chap couldn’t wear something that looks good on him merely because it’s ‘officially’ for a girl. Get off your high horse and look at real life. Does that shirt look good on you – yes – does it fit you – yes – should you buy it – yes – get on with it.”

So I spent all of £3 on the shirt / blouse.

And then there was the next time ….. and the next time. Somehow, Nola kept finding new clothes for me and almost all of them were for a girl.

We sat and talked over a coffee at the shopping mall. “What’s going on, Nola. Why the constant encouragement to femme-up my wardrobe. It’s a bit strange.”

“It’s hard to say, but when I first saw you, the first word that came to mind was ‘pretty’. And whenever I look at you, I don’t see a boy – or rather a young man - I see a girl. If you can tell me what’s going on then I’d be delighted to listen. I don’t feel like I’m trying to turn you into a girl – not that at all ….. more that I’m trying to make your outside match up to the inside that I feel is in there.”

“You can take it from me, that I have never dressed up until you encouraged me. I have never thought about being a girl – but then I’ve never spent much of my time thinking what shall I do to emphasise that I’m a boy or a young man or male or macho. I don’t really get sports of any sort, I’m not strong or fast or ball-wise. But I don’t get girls or cars or pubs or most of the things that men spend their time talking about. I’m a bit of a non-bloke from some points of view. BUT, Nola, that’s not the same as being girly or feminine – and you should know that.”

“I do, I do. But then what characteristics do you think ARE girly and feminine? Give us some examples, eh.”

“Listening, caring, sometimes being bitchy, more eye-contact. Then there is the whole clothes thing. For most blokes, clothes don’t matter. There are those who do care – but mostly because they have the money. But there’s not many boys for whom it matters what shade their shirt is or if they wore one like it last week or if their friend has something similar. For girls, it’s just, like, so important.”

“I’m glad you been doing something and actually thinking while you’ve been watching us. You have been sooo obvious and yet none of us could work out why and exactly what you were staring at us for. None of us got the rampant male immediate sex vibe from you – and you didn’t register even on Natalie’s gaydar.”

“What, Natalie …. Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“Yes, Natalie’s gay – so what. But like I say, you didn’t register for her and that got us all puzzled. But this willingness to follow my suggestions didn’t fit either. It’s a bit of a conundrum, a dilemma even. Are you a boy or a girl, a boy-girl or a girl-boy or something more complicated and much more interesting?”

“Can I say I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about?”

“Course you can, darling. I think you’re in the ‘uncertain’ box. You won’t believe it but Facebook made a list of about 40 or 50 different labels for those who couldn’t identify their gender and sexuality as either Male / Female; Heterosexual, Homosexual, Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual. To you and me that covers the whole MF and LGB categories. Like I say, there’s these extra boxes for the T and the Q and the ? categories. Considering they can be barely 3 or 4% of the total they get a lot of extra boxes. It’s all a bit over-the-top and exaggerated for me – but if these self-identifying misfits don’t fit – then they probably do need a box or a label to be comfortable. Except I bet there are lots of people who want yet more boxes and categories. I mean, look at Janine, she’s very happy being completely uninterested in sex – she’s found a box for herself called ‘asexual’ - and that’s an extra. Or that Jack Morris on the basketball team – he’ll screw anything that moves and several things that don’t – what’s his box?”

We giggled at each other. Suddenly, I noticed and stopped. Was I a giggler? Wasn’t it only girls that giggled? But it felt right! What was going on?

Nola noticed and commented. “Yes, honeypie, you do giggle these days. And if it’s the real you doing it – then that’s a pretty big indicator that there’s a girl inside you some of the time. Exactly how much of the time, I don’t know. But 100% macho – that you are not. Welcome to being at least a part-time girl.”

My eyes must have been wide open with amazement. Because a few moments later, Nola had grabbed her handbag and was painting my eyes with this and that and that and this – it felt really weird – but kind of nice too.

“Wow, that’s remarkable. I’ve done almost nothing to you but those eyes, they’re beautiful.” And she clicked her phone and showed me the result.

There was no way that those eyes belonged to a typical male. What was happening. I had never felt this way before.

Nola took my hand and dragged me into a series of shops. By the end of it I wasn’t a boy anymore. Well, not to the casual glance – and actually not even if anyone took a good look at me.

I was wearing girl’s clothes from the skin out. Panties – yep – I was somehow persuaded to drop my kecks in the changing boudoir of a ladies dress department – and put on a pair of pale yellow, lace-edged panties with a pretty white bow. Somehow – how was this happening, I was wearing a matching bra with some very strange feeling blubbery inserts ‘to give me a proper shape’. I was wearing a satin-lined summer-dress with a bright floral pattern, a thin belt to accentuate my waist. I had a necklace, bracelets and had been drifted with perfume. Finally, Nola had added lipstick and a dash of facepaint. I had knee-high pop-socks under my dress which felt really different. They felt different on my legs and they felt even more different when the hem – my hem – on my dress – brushed against them. And I had on ballet-type shoes with a half-inch heel. And even that made me tilt forward strangely. It was all strange. And I think I thought it was wrong too.

She had taken more pictures. Not during the process of dressing – so as not to embarrass me – but at the end so she could prove to me that I was a girl – at least to look at.

“I wouldn’t have believed it.” She gasped. “I was only doing this as a little experiment – but you ….. you really are a girl.”

“No. No, I’m not. I’m a boy, a man. Alright, I’m a young man. But I’m certainly not a girl.”

“Sweetie, close your eyes for a moment. ……. Now, open them. Who is the person you are looking at.”

“Well, it’s sort of me – but it’s not. It’s a girl, a young girl. And she’s rather pretty. Are you truly saying that you think I’m actually a girl – and not a boy?”

“I wouldn’t go that far – but isn’t this exciting. It means that if you want to look like a boy – then you can – and if you want to look like a girl and do girl things – then it’s very easy for you to do that too. It’s going to be such a wow!”

“A ‘wow’ exclamation-mark-question-mark” I said. “I’m a person not a ‘wow’.”

“Yes, but you’re my friend and this is an opportunity for you to be or even become someone new and wonderful.”

“What if I don’t want to play this game with you?”

“Darling, this ‘game’ is exactly what you want it to be. I have no right to make you do anything you don’t want to. I really should do nothing to you unless you want me to. I’ve interfered quite already in showing you what an opportunity you have. I’m not going to lie to you and pretend that you are ‘absolutely beautiful’ or ‘more of a woman than the rest of our friends’ – that wouldn’t be true. What I can say and do say is that you could walk down any street or any shopping mall in town and everybody would say ‘there’s a nice looking lady.”

“Are you being straight with me – you’re not turning me into a joke for some twisted reason?”

“Oh, come on, dearie. Have I ever done anything nasty to anyone you know – do I do ‘twisted reasons’? No, dearie, I saw that there was a big feminine chunk inside you and I wanted to see how easily it could be released ……. and here we are. Me and my new friend Anne. You are no longer ‘Norman’ and definitely not a ‘No’ – how cruel can people have been to give you that label. How cruel have you been to yourself to let it happen. Yuck. No more. I’m not sure I like ‘Norm’ either because I don’t want you to be a ‘norm’ or anything ‘normal’. You are a special. Unique. And today and whenever you want to be – you’re a girl.”

I smiled. It was difficult not to be excited by Nola’s energy.

She smiled back and patted my hand – which to my amazement suddenly had dark plum-coloured nail varnish. “Just relax, Anne dear. This is not going to be nearly as hard as you think it might be. You’re a very regular looking girl. You don’t realize, but you scrub up excellently, you have a lot of girlish gestures – now that I know to look for them. You’re not ‘look at me I’m a boy in a dress’. But fortunately, you’re not ‘hey boys look at me’ either. Don’t shudder like that. Boys look at girls – and for now, you’re a girl.”

“But it’s not right” I whine-wailed.

“So. I think you look just fine. I want to be out with my friend Anne. And I want to show you how the world looks different and actually better when you’re all dressed up and having a good time.”

“I don’t know if I can relax. It feels so odd.”

“This calls for emergency measures!” She popped into the pub just beside us and came out with a glass. I thought it was wine and slugged it back.

Nola giggled as I gasped for air. “Well, that wasn’t at all ladylike. You don’t drink sherry like that. But if we sit for a few minutes, you’ll gradually get more and more relaxed.”

“You mean drunk”. I replied.

“Only enough for you to relax just a bit more. Drunk would be wrong and unhelpful – and actually unkind. Just ‘relaxed’ will do fine.

And so it came to pass – verily I was relaxed. Reeally rully relxed. And I began to enjoy myself. There I was – wandering around town dressed as a girl, doing girly things, with another girl – and it was FUN.

We strolled and sauntered around the town, window-shopping, trying on all sorts of clothes. And I realised I was having a wonderful time.

I tried on another dress, Nola tried on some blouses and skirts. We tried on bras. We giggled as I had to juggle my fake jigglers into their pretty little hammocks. And, to repeat, I was having FUN. I was having more fun than any day I could remember.

Gradually we tired – and the afternoon sped onwards to teatime and early evening. We stopped for coffee and a shared cake at Antoine’s – the best local café. And suddenly we were surrounded by our friends.

They were delighted and amazed and mostly pleased that I was there in my new persona as Anne. I detected no indignation, no distress, no resentment, no upset that I was cross-dressing. Several of the girls congratulated me on looking so nice and being so relaxed about it. They were amazed when I contributed that this was the first time I had ever been out in public fully dressed. They had noticed some of the clothes I had worn at work – but had been nice enough to avoid commenting. Well, of course, they had talked about it amongst themselves – they were girls weren’t they – and that means they talk about everything and everybody. Who has done what; who is doing what; who might have, could have , should have, can’t have done …….. and, on occasions, what a pretty blouse Nola had persuaded Norman to wear.

The strongest comment was from Judy who merely said, “I’m startled at how simply you carry yourself successfully as a girl. You’re not ‘draggy’ in any way, you’re not over-the-top at all. You’re just another one of the girls. I like it. I’m glad you’re trying to widen your horizons.”

I put on my most exaggerated accent, “Vell, darlin, it’s chust that I want to keep abreast of the new fashions,” and I gave my temporary frontage a big fluff with my hands as I said so.

The girls hooted with laughter and gave me a multiple hug. If you’ve never been hugged by five girls at once – it’s wonderful. I could smell their perfumes. I could feel their hair. I could feel many breasts squashing up to me. It was wonderful. The memory lingers.

To my surprise, it was Judy who took me home. Nola lived some distance in the other direction and Judy lived only a few hundred yards from me.

Judy came in with me and looked around my flat. Sad to say, it was as bland and ordinary and ‘normal’ as my male-self. And already it felt a bit skew being there in my pretty new frock and finery.

I saw Judy look at the surroundings and then at me – and she gave a sort of twitch. “I don’t know what to say, Annie (they’d all decided this was a good name for me) but this feels wrong, somehow.”

I looked at her, then I looked around at my home – and it wasn’t right at all. It was drab and dull. And I didn’t want to be drab and dull any longer.

Judy suddenly grinned and said, “It’s not good enough – this place. You need something better, nicer, more suitable. But… “she made a cunning stealthy face “in the meantime, for tonight at least, you can come and stay at my place. We can have a bit more girly time.” And she took my hand, swirled me into a squeezy hug and dragged me back out of the door to her car. Somehow, the bags of shopping stayed with me.

Her flat was nice. No, not ‘the nicest flat I’ve ever been in’. No –‘not the girliest, pinkest, frilliest flat I’ve ever been in ….. just ‘nice’. I said so and she squeezed me again. I was really enjoying this new tactile and touching life that I was experiencing.

She scampered – it was the only word for it – into her bedroom and came back with what I learnt was a negligee. It was pretty negligible. And she helped me undress to my undies and put it on – it was so slinky and yet soft and warm. I loved it. We sat on the sofa – she was a fraction taller than me, so somehow, my head fell against her shoulder rather than the other way round.

I felt my head on something soft – and a few seconds later realized what I was doing. I was using her breast as a pillow. It felt soft and gentle and enveloping. I smiled.

She leant over me and her long hair drifted across my face like a gorgeous curtain. It smelt different and I realized that even her hair smelt pretty. I smiled some more.

To my amazement, delight and pleasure, I spent the night at Judy’s flat. She continued to treat me as a girl …… and, yes, that meant she showed me how to remove my makeup, gave me a choice of nightwear and then we spooned together in her double bed. She did insist that I wore a clean pair of tight lycra stretch panties – but then at Lola’s suggestion I had been wearing a similar pair all day. And lo and behold there were several spare pairs in one of the bags of shopping.

In the morning, it being Saturday, we took our time about getting up. Judy let me have the first shower and then helped me choose a new outfit – this time a blouse and skirt. Then, of course, she had to show me how to do simple daytime makeup. I really enjoyed myself – and more than once I wondered what it would be like to do this every day. On one occasion, the phrase, ‘like other girls’ drifted into my brain.

By now, I had been at my new job for about a month. I was spending a great deal of my time as Anne – and it felt nice. I won’t say it felt ‘right’ but I certainly did enjoy my time with Lola – and with Judy – and with Anita – and with Kate – and with … well there were quite a lot of girls in the extended social group and I enjoyed being with them and they had no problems with me being Anne. Actually not all of them knew about Anne.

I had spent some significant money buying bras with proper fitted inserts so that I wasn’t either wriggling them around or fishing down the front of my dress for a wandering boob. I wore the equivalent of a 36 B-C depending on the manufacturer.

If there was one thing I hated about my new clothes it was this tedious and exhausting business of every manufacturer, style and range being a different fit for every size combination. 12 never meant 12 – except when you have pre-calculated and selected a 10 or a 14 – then you needed a 12. Hah.

But I was dizzy with the new pleasures of soft and silky and simmering and shiny and slick and slidy and satisfying ….. it was all just so very very nice. I loved being able to wear dresses in every colour of the rainbow – and some extra colours too. I loved the feel of the multiple layers of cloth as they slid one against the other. And, I think, I loved the feel of my breasts enfolded in their lace boudoirs.

Qqqq

Over the next few days and weeks, I had so many new experiences. And gradually, I found that I was doing more and more things with a feminine style. I was behaving, walking, standing, talking with a feminine style. I was dressing in a more and more feminine way. And I was behaving differently with my new friends. And I was doing things differently at work too.

It would be impossible to list all the new experiences. There were so many. It wasn’t just the wearing of the first bra, panties, dress, skirt, miniskirt, blouse, necklace, stockings, high-heels, lipstick, makeup, wig, …… there was then the first time I wore any or all of these outdoors – beyond the comfort zone of my flat or with just Nola or Judy.

I could go on about each of these steps – how they made me feel. How they made me feel different. How some of them were hard, how some of them were ‘just another simple step’. How some of them actually made me hard – reminding me of my official gender.

But gradually I got used to wearing pretty clothes. Got used to the much more complicated selection of colour, material and style. Then the complexity of adding accessories from a very limited selection to the chosen outfit. Oh, and don’t mention shoes.

Oh, alright, SHOES – so many different shoes to wear. And then having to learn to cope with heels. Actually, almost as bad was learning to do the tiny, teeny buckles and straps far away at the end of my legs. So dainty. I was a boy – I had never done ‘dainty’ or ‘delicate’ or pretty’ or any of the other femme words I was having to adopt.

There was the immense and smelly and lengthy process of my first visit to a salon. Manicure, Pedicure, Nails, Eyebrows, Waxing, Oiling, Washing, Trimming, Shaping, Colouring …. It felt like hours and hours – and it was. And I left there feeling and looking oh so different than ever in my life.

I looked into the mirror as Anita took a photograph of my expression – and there was a girl looking back at me. No fakery, no pretending, real as could be – and yet it was me. I wasn’t beautiful, I wasn’t gorgeous, I wasn’t ‘the prettiest girl I’d ever seen’ – but I was real.

And to my surprise and excitement, I noticed that I was getting closer every day to wanting my breasts to be real. I loved the feel of them in my bra. I loved the feel of the bra across my back, over my shoulders, supportive and enhancing. Wonderful. And I wanted my breasts to be real. I loved Judy’s breasts but I was jealous.

Judy and I weren’t sharing a bed like we used to. We had moved on from that. We had become lovers. She had started it one morning by noticing that I had a stiffy – and she had deliberately stroked me and excited me until my panties were blasted with a load of sperm. She had giggled as she helped wash me down in the big shower.

And …. Well …. One thing led to another – and we found that we fitted together very well. We liked many of the same things, and she especially loved the new me with the sensitive nipples and the tiny squeals of excitement as she licked, nuzzled and nibbled until at least she pressed her real breasts against my nubby nips and I would explode into her.

I hadn’t begun to take any pills or potions but there was no denying that my body was developing the tiniest of baby buds. Judy had noticed first and purred her pleasure at my ‘blossoms.’ We didn’t understand it – but we both loved both the fact and their slow but steady enrichment.

After a month or more, Judy and I noticed that our feelings for each other were changing. She said it first. “Annie, I love you …..but. And I don’t know exactly what I mean. I love being with you. I love making love with you. I love you – but somehow it’s not enough. I think, and I want desperately to know that it’s the same for you – I want to be your friend, maybe even one of your best friends – but I read somewhere that if the one you love isn’t actually more important to you and her needs aren’t more important than your own – then you need to look clearly and closely at your relationship. And, what we have has changed – I don’t know why and I don’t know when – but while I love you lots – I’m not ‘in love’ with you as I thought I was.” And of course she burst into tears.

I rushed over and cuddled her. “Oh, Jude darling. I don’t want to agree that I’m not in love with you – but I too have felt that there’s been a change recently. As if one stage of our lives has begun to pass. I do love you. You will always be a best friend – but, no, even if we make love now and again, we’re not, either of us, in love like we were. I could dry if I was a girl like you – but my boy emotions seem to be in control.”

“Now that’s just silly, Annie. Stop pretending to be what you’re not or what you aren’t any more. I’ve lived with you more closely in the last two months than with anyone in my life. You are a girl – top to bottom, through and through. You may have the added extra of a real-live dildo instead of a horrid plastic one – but you think like a girl, you look like a girl and, dammit, you’re my friend and I know you’re a girl.”

This time, we both burst into tears for some minutes.

Like any self-respecting young adult, we then drank a whole bottle of wine, with nibbles and snacks to minimise the effect, and felt much better. We talked about how we would move on. Judy wanted me to stay with her for a while until we had got used to our new relationship – but I felt it was getting to be time to move on.

It was another few days later when the Dice charm got involved. I needed change for the car-park and didn’t want any sweets or whatever – so bought a lottery ticket. Even though I knew the odds were enormously against me – but it was only a pound. And I won £10,000. Two amazing changes in my life and circumstances. And it seemed like pure luck.

The Owl was next, I think. With my winnings, I looked around for new lodgings and found a delightful little flat in Athena Apartments. There were six flats – two small and four large and they were mostly filled with nurses from the local hospital and trainee chefs at the local college. All but one of the 9 were girls. I had the second of the one-bedroom downstairs flats.

I moved into the flats as Anne. I left almost all my Norm clothes behind. I didn’t really have very much else that mattered any more. My computer, of course. All my credit cards had always been initials only so – N A Bodie could have been Anybody – and now was. Not everybody called me Anne – more and more people called me ‘Annie’ and after a while it seemed somehow better.

So, looking back, I could have begun to believe that there was something special about the Cat, the Dice and the Owl. But I never really thought about it. Even when one of the girls had pointed out who I worked for or when more than a few congratulated me on my lottery win, not even when two of the girls at the block had asked if my Owl had anything to do with Athena.

Eventually my view of the world finally began to change when two more things ‘charming’ happened. First of all, I found a pair of charms in the street. A miniature Eiffel Tower and a damaged Boy-and-Girl. I couldn’t work out what had happened but it was as if they had been partially melted together.

Not many minutes later, as I went into a shop, a man called out ‘Miss’. I took no notice until he ran after me and tapped me on the arm. “Miss, you dropped this.”

‘Miss’ – not me, guv. “Er, I’m sorry, what did you say.”

“You dropped this piece of paper. I saw it fall. It’s got to be yours.” He held it up.

He smiled, “I don’t know why you need to go on a Learn to be Beautiful’ course. You look lovely to me.”

Er. Help, I’ve got a loony to deal with. But I suppose that I should have remembered that I was wearing a lovely little red and pink skirt with just a little side-split …. and black stockings … and a cheesecloth blouse through which any attentive person would have been able to see my bra. I wasn’t really dressed as befits my official gender – but that had stopped some time ago.

“No, don’t be silly, I know I’m not beautiful – I’ve got friends who are beautiful. Me – I’m happy with how I look. I’ll let you call me, erm’”

He interrupted “You’ll let me call you. That’s the best offer I’ve had for ages. I’ll call you as soon as you give me your number. But what do I call you – especially if I can’t call you either beautiful or just beautiful or even beautiful to me?”

I giggled. I couldn’t help it. He made me smile.

“Oh, and when you smile you go from attractive to beautiful or even gorgeous. I know this sounds like a dreadful pick up line – and if there’s one thing you don’t deserve it’s dreadful pick up lines – please can I call you – and please tell me what to call you.”

“The name’s Annie – Annie Bodie. And, since you’re the only person who has ever said that I’m beautiful – you can call me ‘Beautiful’ of you really want to. But, NOT that this is an invitation or a promise – you should see me without my makeup and in casual clothes – then, then I do not look so good.”

“I’ll try to promise to not think about you first thing in the morning or late at night when you’re ………. No, I said I’d promise not to think about you …. All pink and nnnnn ….. no, I shan’t – well, not until you tell me I can think about you like that.” He smirked – but not in an ugly way.

I couldn’t help smiling. This young man was making all my nerves tingle. I knew I was blushing – from the top of my head to between my legs. I could feel a hot flush between my legs – that was nothing to do with wearing tight panties.

And my nipples had gone instantly stiff – I could feel them pressing against my bra. I didn’t care if this was Love, Lust or simple Lechery – they felt excited and exciting. My inner-girl was blissing. And like it or not, my inner boy was stiff too.

He took my hand and , obviously unwillingly, I followed him to the coffee-shop. We chatted, we talked, we conversed, we got to know each other. His name was Edward, Edward Allenby. His friends mostly called him Ed or Eddie. He was an inch or so taller than me – in my two-inch heels – so about 5 foot 10. He was a sportsman so quite fit with a good percentage of muscle. I learnt that he played rugby, tennis, almost any sport if required, but he couldn’t manage hockey. “It’s bad enough letting opponents hit you with sticks but you have to keep your stick the right way round – and even worse they let girls play – I mean – girls with weapons – it’s awful.” And we grinned at each other.

I began to say, “I’ve played some hockey, it’s not so bad. It’s all in the wrist action.” Then I gasped at the awful thing I might have meant. I flapped my hands to fan my face and pretend that I was cooling down my red-rose face.

That smirky smile again “I don’t know what you could possibly mean,” he chuckled at me.

“Phew, well, that’s alright. Anyway, I don’t do much sport. I’ve been wondering about archery because a friend of mine does it.”

“Yeah, that’s fun in nice weather. I’ve got friends who belong to a local club. They told me last year, there’s a beginners’ course which lasts about 8 weeks and they lend you the basic equipment and then if you want to keep going, a basic set is in the region of £200. You can be silly and spend more but what’s the point until you know what you’re doing properly.”

“That’s interesting. I might put a bit more effort into seeing what’s what then.”

Suddenly, after nearly an hour, we both realized that we weren’t doing what we had planned for the day. Edward burst out with ‘I’m supposed to be meeting my brother for a drink. I’ll have to tell him I met this gorgeous young lady and we spent over an hour chatting. He won’t believe me – but that’s brothers for you. If you promise to meet me tomorrow at the Market Square fountain – then I can bring him and he can see why I was late! Will you do that for me?”

I smiled at the plea I heard in his voice – he wanted to meet me again. I didn’t care why or when or where – he wanted to meet me again – that was enough.

“And, I…. I’ve got to be meeting friends too. They won’t believe I’ve spent an hour chatting with a nice young man that I’ve only just met. I might bring one of them with me tomorrow – to keep things equal, that is.”

“12 o’clock, yes.”

“Oh, yes please.” Perhaps it was wrong to be so eager – but he was so nice.

I met the girls a few minutes later. They could see that something had happened to me. Judy asked what was making me glow like a lightbulb, then she giggled and said to the others, “Annie’s met a boy – it’s so obvious. She’s going to need our help.” And the afternoon passed in a whirlwind of chatter and trying on all sorts of clothes.

As the girls left, Judy took me to one side. “Annie, darling, you must be careful and sensible. You’re obviously feeling extremely girly at the moment – but, hateful though it is, I have to remind you that you’re not as 100% girl as you want to be. Keep your mind straight, not much drinking, obey all the No-No rules and keep your pants on. Remember this is a first date and the rules apply – only above the waist, only outside the clothes, no tongue, just a simple peck on the cheek – anything more and you might be labelling yourself as ‘quick-and-easy’, ‘a bit too easy’, ‘bit of a goer’ – and that is a reputation that is hard to correct. Not every boy has a dirty mind only focussed on the inside of your knockers – but there’s enough that do. And some of the ones who never get that far –they tell lies about their degree of success.”

Suddenly, I was almost sober. And feeling much more cautious than a few seconds before.

I rehearsed my Eliza Dolittle lines from Pygmalion, “Ere, get off, I’m a good girl I am.”

Over the next few hours, I calmed myself down a lot. I managed to rearrange myself, my dress and my lust-driven brain so that I was back to concentrating on being a good girl.

I was in a fever all night. What should I wear? What was his brother going to be like? Would he approve? Would Judy be happy that I was flirting so eagerly with a young man?

Time sped onwards. It was D-Day. It was H-Hour. It was now.

And now – it was as if the evening had vanished – I was feeling wonderful. I had felt like a girl all evening. Everyone had behaved as if I was a girl. The boys certainly had. And the girls had been friendly and snarky and, for all I could tell, absolutely typical.

The music was still dancing in my head – a couple of songs especially. The words seemed to adapt without any effort. ‘I don’t like Pastel’ (to the tune of ‘I don’t like Mondays’) ‘It’s a kinda Magic’ by Queen which segued into ‘I want to break free’ with Roger Taylor as the ‘sweet young thing’. And the third song was something I couldn’t remember the name of by the Mavericks, maybe Dance the Night Away – now I concentrated on the half-heard music.

And that little voice was going on and on and on and on …………. “You’ve got to make that final step – you can’t hold it back much longer. Are you a girl? Are you a boy who likes to dress up? Do you want breasts of your own? Would you be happy wearing a bra full of silicon and latex? Do you want to feel a man’s lips on yours, treating you like a woman? Do you want to kiss a girl and feel her hands stroking your satin-wrapped maleness? Boy? Girl? Pants or Panties?

I fell asleep …. and I dreamt. I had flashes of nightmare as well as wondrous visions of a gorgeous frilly future. In the morning, after showering and shaving as usual, I put on my makeup, did my hair, put on my panties and a bra, skirt, blouse – and set off to work. I had made my decision.

But would my best hopes come true? Would the girls at work let me be the real me? What wonders would my nearly magic charms do in the future?



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