Charlotte, part 23

“Wake up!” I hear a voice shout, startling me out of my slumber.

“Huh?” I ask, blinking my eyes to try to focus them in the glare of the late August sun.

“We’ve still got plenty to do,” My husband says softly, waking me further with a gentle kiss before helping me lift my bikini-clad body off the sun lounger. “You know most 25 year olds DON’T spend their free time dozing off in the garden?”

“Oh- shut up, you,” I moan, before giggling as Stuart wraps a strong arm around my tanned waist and guides me back into the vast mansion where I’ve lived, on and off, for almost six and a half years. Within a few days, though, it will become a permanently ‘off’ living arrangement- and there’s a big part of me that’s struggling to believe it, and a bigger part that’s struggling to accept it. The sight of a grinning two year old boy waiting for me in the mansion’s living room just makes the whole thing even harder to believe- even though he is part of the reason for my departure.

“Attie Jamie!” Keith Junior yells, running toward me for a hug, which I am all too eager to give.

“Hey there, cutie!” I coo, giving the giggling two year old a soft kiss on his forehead.

“He has been restless all day,” Charlotte laughs. “Think he’s finally figured out what’s going on… Kinda struggling to accept it myself, heh.”

“I know the feeling,” I whisper as I hand my godson back to his mother. “Doesn’t feel like six years, you know?”

“And it’s not like we’ll never be coming here again,” Stuart says, linking his fingers with mine. “We’ll be here every Saturday night, for parties…”

“Yeah, but not for breakfast, though,” Charlotte sighs. “Though I guess the table WOULD be a little crowded, hehe!”

“Have- have you- are you-?” I excitedly ask, sighing as Charlotte shakes her head.

“Not yet,” Charlotte whispers. “And not for want of trying, hehe!”

“Well, that IS supposed to be the fun part, hehe!” I giggle, before letting out a sad sigh. “Just kinda wish I’d been born about fifty years later, could maybe have, you know…”

“Trust me, wombs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be,” Stuart says, giving my hand a gentle squeeze.

“I’d still give anything to have been born with one,” I sigh as I stare as my BFF and the toddler in her arms.

“I know,” Stuart whispers. “God knows I wish I’d been born with, well, you know… Still though, doesn’t mean that we can’t be parents. And doesn’t mean that we WON’T be parents.”

“And awesome parents, too!” Charlotte giggles.

“Thanks,” I whisper as I try to wrap my mind around the events of the last few months… And the coming events of the next few days.

Shortly after we married, Stuart and I received a letter stating that we had been approved by an adoption agency, and we would soon be matched with a young child who needed a new family. Both of us were more excited than we have ever been before… And about fifteen minutes later, we were more terrified than we had ever been before.

It quickly dawned on us that as much as we loved children, especially the many godchildren as we had between us, being a full-time parent was going to be a much, much more intimidating prospect. There’d be no handing the child off to someone else when it got too stressful, no shirking any responsibilities. Every tiny thing that happens to the child, or the child does, would be on us. Our lives, our wants, even our careers would be secondary to being parents. And as terrified as that thought made me, it made me feel even worse for the child, as not only would they grow up in the household of unprepared parents, they’d also grow up with the stigma of having openly transgendered parents.

I’ve received enough correspondence from young teenagers (and some kids even younger than that) to know that being transgendered at school, or even related to someone who’s transgendered, is effectively painting a bullseye on yourself. If Stuart and I raised a child, we would be deliberately subjecting them to that kind of abuse on a daily basis. I know that when I was at school, if any child was seen as out of the ordinary in any way, shape or form, they would be bullied mercilessly… Just like I was. Sometimes I wonder whether or not fear of the reprisal I’d get was the reason ‘James’ didn’t realise earlier what ‘he’ truly was, but I put such thoughts out of my head just as quickly as they enter it. I AM Jamie-Lee Milton. MRS Jamie-Lee Milton. I am a wife, a model, a daughter, a niece, a woman… And I’m far happier, far more comfortable being those things than I ever was as a boy.

Every time I imagine adding ‘mother’ to that list, though, I tense up… Until I realise one very important thing. The reason I’m so comfortable and happy as a woman is thanks to my extended family- an extended family who’d do just as much for my child as they would for me and Stuart. They would love the child unconditionally, support the child and treat them like they were a part of their own family, just as I do for Keith junior, for Mary’s daughters, for Stuart’s nephews, for Viks’s daughter, and even for Nikki’s younger sister and Stephanie Abbott’s baby niece, both of whom will be just as much a part of our ‘next generation’ as the offspring of any Angel- and so would any child of mine.

And, as the sound of Stuart’s phone ringing reminds me, we’re not the only prospective parents in our extended family right now…

“Is- is it Mikey?” Charlotte asks.

“Yep,” Stuart whispers, taking a deep, nervous breath before answering the phone. “What’s up, mate?” The entire room pauses as Stuart listens intently to what he’s being told, before letting out a long, tired sigh.

“Well?” I ask my husband.

“No news yet,” Stuart says. “Except that Krystie is now REALLY peeved.”

“Can’t blame her,” Charlotte sighs. “I was only a few days overdue, but it felt like months... And, of course, if she doesn’t give birth by the 1st of September…”

“Her daughter will just have to be school friends with your daughter instead,” I say with a smug grin, making my BFF giggle.

“Assuming I have a girl, of course,” Charlotte laughs. “There’s actually a part of me that wants another boy, just so my ‘daughter’ wouldn’t have to grow up without her cool Auntie Jamie…”

“She would NOT grow up without me!” I laugh. “Any more than our child would grow up without cool Auntie Charlotte.”

“Yeah, but- ugh,” Charlotte sighs, before giving her son another gentle cuddle. “I miss being nineteen, you know?”

“Yeah, I think I do,” I sigh. “Still though, got to grow up some time.”

“Hey,” Keith senior says as he enters the room. “Got the last of your crates downstairs. Only thing that’s left is one of your wardrobes… The, um, the ‘special’ wardrobe. The one with all your, um costumes. I assume that you’re-”

“Oh, we are NEVER getting rid of those,” I giggle, trying to blink back tears. “Charlie, can- can you-“

“Of course,” Charlotte says, handing her son to his father before leading me and Stuart out to the entrance hall, where several boxes and crates are piled up by the front door.

“Thanks for your help today, guys,” I say to Dan, Paul and Jonathan, all of whom have worked up a fine sheen of sweat from shifting the boxes.

“You’re welcome,” Jonathan chuckles. “Thanks for your help shifting these downstairs, Stu.”

“Hey, who knew that being 5’ 7” and small boned would actually come in handy some day?” My husband retorts, making our three friends laugh as they get into Dan’s car and drive away.

“Despite what your body used to be,” Charlotte says with a smug grin, “this part of packing is strictly GIRLS ONLY! So shoo!”

“Yes, ma’am,” Stuart mumbles with a fake pout, before giggling and heading back to the living room.

“You know,” Charlotte muses, “sometimes I kinda feel bad for Stuart? Dismissing him like that for being a boy?”

“Whatever you do, don’t tell him that,” I say, sharing a giggle with my BFF. “And besides, he made his choice.”

“Just like you made yours,” Charlotte says as we open the door of my rapidly-emptying bedroom.

“God,” I sigh, stepping into the room and sitting down on the bed. “Can’t believe this is where it all started.”

“Six years ago,” Charlotte giggles.

“Six years, four months, 28 days,” I say. “Heh, the things I’ve done on this bed in that time!”

“You’ll make, well, plenty of ‘memories’ in your new place,” Charlotte says with a grin as she sits down next to me and gently strokes the thin bedsheets. “Maybe even some as exciting as these!”

“Probably none as scary as that first morning, heh,” I say, making Charlotte sigh sadly.

“I still regret that, you know?” Charlotte says. “Not simply asking you for your help, not having the guts to not need your help in the first place… I mean, I know it all turned out alright in the end-“

“It turned out better than alright,” I say, getting off the bed and heading to one of my many wardrobes. “Though I AM still in my bikini so I AM still kinda cold, heh.”

“Ah, one of the very, very few disadvantages of being a girl, hehe!” Charlotte giggles, before sighing as I open the wardrobe. “God… I remember THAT dress, heh.”

“It’s a pretty special one,” I whisper, taking the strapless black chiffon dress out of the wardrobe and holding it up to my body. “Technically, this is ‘Jamie’s first ever item of clothing, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” Charlotte says with a twinkle in her eye that tells me that she’s thinking exactly the same thing as me. With a giggle, I quickly peel my bikini top off my tanned body, before stepping into the dress and holding my long, sandy blonde hair out of the way so that Charlotte can zip me up.

“Still fits, then?” My BFF teases.

“If anything it fits me better now than when I was nineteen,” I giggle, doing a twirl and laughing at the sensation of the thin skirt swishing around my bare legs. “Still feels just as amazing, too…”

“Really?” Charlotte asks with a raised eyebrow. “Because if memory serves, the first time you wore that dress, you were wearing a pair of VERY expensive silk stockings on your legs…”

“…You actually remember that?” I laugh as I peel off the expensive strapless gown and pull on a loose, long summer dress instead.

“It was kinda hard to forget!” Charlotte giggles. “I half expected to come home to find dad on the warpath with me and you long gone… Instead, you’d done an even better job of being me than I did, hehe!”

“Wouldn’t go THAT far,” I laugh. “Though…”

“…Though?” Charlotte asks.

“Though…” I sigh. “There’s a part of me that’s always going to wonder whether I am just, you know, ‘playing’ at being a woman, whether or not I’m really Jamie-Lee or just ‘James pretending to be Charlotte’…”

“N. O,” Charlotte insists. “Seriously, Jamie. We look alike, but that’s about it. Six years ago, we might have been alike, but we’ve both grown a LOT since then. Jamie-Lee Milton and Charlotte Hartley are completely different people. Heh, ask your husband if you don’t believe me.”

“…Why, exactly?” I ask, frowning in confusion as my BFF’s cheeks suddenly redden.

“Umm…” Charlotte says hesitantly. “A couple of months ago, when you were in Manchester… I may- I may have, umm…”

“Go on…” I say.

“I may…” Charlotte says, “have put on one of your dresses, worn some of your perfume, did my hair and make-up the same way as you…”

“Were- were you- were you trying to seduce my husband!?” I ask, my anger starting to boil over.

“No!” Charlotte pleads. “I swear I wasn’t! I just- I just thought I’d do it, you know, as a practical joke… Stuart didn’t fall for it for a second.”

“…I picked well,” I say, making Charlotte giggle with relief. “And I’m sorry I accused you...”

“Six years ago, you’d probably have had a point,” Charlotte sighs.

“Yeah, but like you said, we’ve both grown a lot since then,” I say softly, before reaching into one of the still-full drawers in my wardrobe and withdrawing an item of clothing that makes the 26 year old woman cringe. “Exhibit A!”

“Oh god,” Charlotte moans as I play with the stretchy fabric of the red catsuit. “I was actually going to wear that on camera, wasn’t I?”

“’Eccentric is the new sexy’, I recall someone saying,” I tease.

“Shut up,” Charlotte mumbles, before giggling uncontrollably. “You know, I actually still have mine, too? Tried it on a few months after I had Keith junior. Still fits perfectly. Somehow.”

“Fits perfectly because you’re a sexy model with superior genetics,” I say, making Charlotte laugh.

“If my genetics are ‘superior’, then what does that make yours, Miss Lookalike?” Charlotte asks, before sighing as I frown. “Oh- god, sorry, Jamie…”

“S’okay,” I shrug. “So my genetics will always be ‘flawed’, big deal.”

“Exactly,” Charlotte says, the smile returning to her face. “And to prove that…” I watch in confusion as Charlotte suddenly strips down to her underwear, before picking my ‘special’ dress off my bed and stepping into it, elegantly zipping it up and smiling as it fits her slender body perfectly.

“Umm, get your own?” I say, making my BFF giggle.

“The point I’m trying to make,” Charlotte says, “is that if my body and my genetics are superior, how much MORE superior must yours be to have the same body as me when you were born, well, you know?”

“It’s…” I grimace as I cup my overly firm breasts. “Not ALL genetic…”

“Who cares?” Charlotte shrugs. “Morons. Bigots. Small-minded people who can’t accept that someone born a boy can be one of the most beautiful women the world has ever known. People… Who simply don’t matter.”

“If you say so,” I shrug. “Doesn’t explain why, in all the lads’ mags, you always get into the top ten of ‘hottest women’ when I barely scrape the top fifty. Then again, I should be grateful to get into them at all.”

“Oh- what did I literally only just say?” Charlotte sighs. “The writers of those lads’ mags DO. NOT. MATTER! You’d have thought that six years on, you’d have got over this…”

“I’m never going to NOT be transgender,” I remind my BFF, who sighs and strips off the dress she’d only just put on.

“I guess,” Charlotte shrugs. “You’re also never going to be not a woman, either. And you sure as hell are never going to be not my sister.” I grin and blink back yet more tears as I wait for Charlotte to pull on the skirt and top she was wearing, before giving her a long, tight hug.

“I don’t think I say this nearly enough,” I sniffle. “But I really do love you, Charlotte.”

“I love you too,” My BFF says with a giggle. “Heh, think your wardrobe has just as many memories as your bed, hehe!”

“God yes,” I laugh, reaching into my wardrobe and withdrawing the elaborate red tango dress I wore on my 21st birthday. “Hard to believe that this was five years ago, heh.”

“Oh, I’m sure I can make your 26th just as special as your 21st!” Charlotte giggles. “Not that it won’t already be special, your first birthday as the yummiest mummy of them all…”

“JOINT yummiest,” I say, making Charlotte giggle. “God knows THAT would’ve been a disaster when I was 21!”

“I wasn’t that much better for me when I was 23,” Charlotte chuckles. “Infinitely better than when I was 19, though…” I bite my lip as I remember that when I ‘filled in’ for Charlotte, she was doing more than just exposing her father’s crime.

“Do- do you ever, you know, regret that?” I whisper.

“…Sometimes,” Charlotte confesses, sniffing back a tear of her own. “A big brother or sister for Keith junior… I would NOT have coped, though.”

“Even with ‘Auntie Jamie’ here to help you?” I ask, making my BFF grin.

“…Maybe I might have coped,” Charlotte shrugs. “What’s important is that I now I do everything I can for the child that I do have. And I mean, I had plenty of fun in my youth. Sometimes wearing a dress like that, hehe!” I giggle as my BFF points at the tango dress that’s still in my hands. “Won’t get to do anything like THAT if you’ve got a baby at home, trust me. I know how you always had this dream of being the first transgendered celebrity on British Strictly…”

“Meh, some sacrifices are worth it,” I say with a grin, before carefully folding the dress and placing it into a suitcase. “And besides, the kid’ll have to start school eventually… Can still get on before I’m thirty, right?”

“Too right!” Charlotte giggles. “And you’ll still be young and gorgeous at thirty… Maybe even young and gorgeous enough to fit that, hehe!” I giggle as I follow Charlotte’s eye line to my wardrobe, before sighing sadly when I see which costume she’s pointing at.

“Ugh, not going to be putting THAT on again in a while…” I sigh, gently stroking the soft, smooth fabric of the corset that made up the bulk of the Moulin Rouge inspired costume I wore to Viks’s birthday nearly three years ago- the week before Christmas, the week when I decided who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

“Aww,” Charlotte sighs. “You know, I actually don’t have one of these, they only made five?” I nod in response, remembering that the reason Charlotte didn’t wear the tight corset was because her waist had been considerably expanded at the time by the baby that resided within her.

“You can borrow mine anytime you want,” I shrug, making Charlotte giggle.

“You really don’t like this costume?” Charlotte asks. “Would’ve thought it’d bring back memories of you and Stuart FINALLY getting back together. And when I say ‘finally’ I mean ‘he will be your final lover, the final man you’ll ever need’.”

“Yeah, well, the last time I wore this costume, I ended up having sex with my FIRST lover,” I sigh, eliciting an exasperated chuckle from Charlotte.

“Ah, Paul Gould,” my BFF laughs. “THAT’s a name I haven’t thought about in a while! God, you two had some ‘adventures’ in this room too, heh!”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” I spit, before sighing. “Okay, maybe that’s not ENTIRELY fair… I mean, we did have some fun, he was cool at first…”

“I would hope so, I DID set the two of you up,” Charlotte says with a chuckle. “And if he hadn’t been so hung up about you coming out publicly, who knows what your life would be like right now?”

“Still engaged to Stuart,” I say confidently, stuffing the costume into the trunk.

“Or Keith?” Charlotte asks making me pause.

“…No,” I mumble, though my BFF immediately sees through my half-lie.

“’No’ as in ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ as in ‘yes’?” Charlotte asks.

“’No’ as in ‘I don’t know’,” I sigh. “And I don’t want to know either. I- I’m happy with Stuart. REALLY happy. He’s sensitive, he’s funny, he’s cute, he’s REALLY good in bed…”

“Lucky you,” Charlotte chuckles. “And lucky me, I guess… We both ended up with our soul mates. Not everyone’s that lucky.”

“Thinking of Hannah?” I ask my BFF. “Splitting from yet ANOTHER guy…”

“She’ll find someone,” Charlotte says with a confident grin. “Even if I have to set her up with every man in London, heh.”

“It’s funny,” I muse. “When I first met her and Viks, I’d never have guessed that out of the two of them, it’d be Hannah who’d struggle to keep a man, heh. Just shows that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.”

“Very true,” Charlotte says, before chuckling as I remove two shiny one-piece costumes from the wardrobe, along with their matching cotton tails and headbands with attached rabbit ears. “Ah, I think the term for THAT is ‘full circle’, hehe!”

“Yep!” I giggle. “Just hammers it home how much things have changed, heh.”

“Yep!” Charlotte sighs happily. “Think Abbey-Gayle was thirteen when you wore the costume in your left hand, heh. The one that’s actually the more modest costume!”

“Now she’s doing more actual ‘Angel work’ than both of us put together,” I muse. “Ever, you know… Ever feel like we’re being replaced? Professionally, I mean?”

“I’d be lying if I said ‘no’,” Charlotte mumbles. “But that’s the nature of fame. I’ve been in the public eye for six years now, you’ve had four years, the rest of the girls three and a half… That’s a bloody good run. I’m not going to begrudge Abbey-Gayle or any of the other girls as much as they can get. Though god knows I wish I had the kind of big sisters she has when I was nineteen…”

“I dunno, I was pretty happy with the big sister I had,” I say, bringing a smile to my ‘sister’s face as I pack the last of my many costumes away.

“A big sister who pissed away all her inheritance and seriously thought about wearing a skin-tight red catsuit on camera,” Charlotte retorts.

“A big sister who’s one of the best mothers I know,” I retort. “And 100% my role model as a woman.”

“…Thanks,” Charlotte whispers, giving me another tight hug before we head back downstairs to where our husbands are waiting.

“All done?” Stuart asks.

“All done,” I whisper as I gently lean in toward the man I love. “After we get back from the press meet tomorrow, we will officially no longer be residents of this house.”

“Well, until then,” Keith senior says with a grin, “you’re still as much a part of this household as we are. So what’s for dinner?” The four of us all laugh as we (along with Keith junior) head toward the kitchen, where we share one last meal as a ‘family’ before heading to bed for an early night- as we all have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.

The first morning that I woke up in what would later become my bedroom, I was gripped by a sense of panic over what was happening, and the same is true this morning, the last morning that I wake up in this room- but for the exact opposite reason. That first morning, I wanted desperately to be anywhere other than here- and today, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Of course, it’s not like my new bedroom won’t be amazing. Stuart was happy to let me take the reins on decorating (even though it did mean I had to give up another bedroom to him as a study/music room/games room), meaning that I’ve been able to fine-tune the room down to the minutest detail. Of course, I’ll be excited to see the ‘finished product’ today for the first time, but there’s a part of me that will always think of this room as ‘my room’… Even more so than the bedroom I had as a child. This will always be the first bedroom the ‘real’ me had.

“Morning, babe,” I whisper as I wake my husband with a soft kiss.

“Mmph, morning,” Stuart sleepily groans. “…Umm, morning, umm, better get dressed, get ready to start loading boxes…”

“Yep,” I say, stretching my tired, nervous body before heading to the en-suite, where I try to shower away my stress at the upcoming day.

Naturally, when I emerge from my bedroom for the final time, my look is perfect- my hair and make-up are immaculate, my slender body is covered in a very expensive striped long-sleeved top, a tight knee-length skirt and a pair of designer heels. Even the opaque black tights I’m wearing are an expensive brand (and as such, much more comfortable than usual). Six years of practice have made it effortless for me to transform myself into a beautiful, glamorous woman- mainly because it isn’t a ‘transformation’ anymore. It’s simply who I am.

“Hubba hubba!” Charlotte giggles as I do a twirl at the bottom of the stairs.

“Right back at you, BFF!” I laugh as I exchange a hug with the 26 year old woman. “Looking HOT today!”

“Thank you!” Charlotte squeaks as she does a twirl of her own to show off her long-sleeved designer minidress. “This is YOUR cue, BOYS!”

“Beautiful,” Stuart and Keith say simultaneously, trying (for the sake of their safety if nothing else) not to giggle as they wrap their arms around our waists- Keith around Charlotte’s and Stuart around mine, obviously- and lead us out to the driveway.

“We’ll see you later, Eilish,” Charlotte shouts to her son’s nanny, who nods in response as the door closes behind us.

“…Still say she should’ve been one of the new Angels,” I mumble. “Her and Nikki.”

“She IS an Angel,” Charlotte retorts. “They both are, just not, you know, ‘officially’.”

“All hail the Order of the Halo,” Stuart laughs, earning a soft whack in the arm from me as we get into Keith’s car.

“…He’s not wrong, though,” I muse. “Our ‘family’ really is growing every day.”

“Including or not including the hundreds of Instagram and Twitter followers you two get each day?” Keith asks.

“Including, obviously,” Charlotte says with a smug grin. “I know, I know, you’re not comfortable raising your son in the public eye.”

“I’m not 100% I’d be that comfortable either, to be honest,” Stuart says, making me sigh- obviously, this is something we’ve talked about before, even though we’ve never been able to come to any kind of agreement about it.

“I look at it this way,” I say. “When I was transitioning, when I was recovering from SRS… I was like I had hundreds of thousands of well-wishers every day, you know? I know you felt the same way when you were recovering from your SRS.”

“…Maybe a bit,” Stuart shrugs. “They’re YOUR fans, not mine.”

“Nah,” I say after a moment’s thought. “We’re a team. A complete package. You can’t like one of us without liking the other. Same goes for the Angels. Hell, the entire extended family, for that matter.”

“Even Steph?” Charlotte asks with a sly grin that makes me sigh.

“Yes, even Steph,” I mumble, recalling the events of almost twelve months ago when a series of events nearly caused our ‘family’ to split apart at the seams- events I unfortunately contributed to with my words and actions. Now, however, the family is stronger than ever. We have plenty of fans both in the UK and, thanks to the Angels being broadcast on Amazon Video, around the world.

The success has even led to copycat groups popping up around the world, too. Some of them are blatant rip-offs, such as Constellation (one of the catalysts for the conflict of twelve months ago), whilst some of them are more ‘official’- and after Keith and Stuart drop us off at the building where we’ll be working today (despite it technically being a Bank Holiday), Charlotte and I both smile as we enter the venue’s plush green room and catch sight of five young women all waiting with nervous smiles on their faces.

“Hey girls!” I squeak excitedly as I exchange hugs with the women, all of whom have the look of a professional model, same as myself and Charlotte.

“Hi!” Helena- the youngest of the girls- says in her distinctive German accent. “God, I was beginning to think that you wouldn’t get here, hehe!”

“No, we are SO not missing today!” Charlotte chuckles. “Is no one else here yet?”

“No, we’ve only been here for a few minutes ourselves,” Helena replies.

“And I thought there were nine of you girls?” Charlotte asks.

“Only five of us speak English,” Helena laughs. “I’m the most skilled so the girls have made me their speaker, heh. Ignore that I’m the youngest!” I giggle as one of the other girls shouts something in German (a language I obviously don’t speak) which makes all five of our new friends almost bend double with laughter.

“…I won’t ask,” Charlotte says, eliciting more giggles from the nineteen year old girl.

“That is… Probably a good idea,” Helena giggles, before introducing the four girls one by one. “But Marie, Emilie, Claudia and Melissa are all here today.”

“Melissa?” I ask, my ears pricking up at the mention of the name and a wide grin spreading across my face as a slender girl with strawberry blonde hair approaches me.

“Jamie?” Melissa asks as we greet each other with air kisses. “It is so good to finally see you, umm, really!”

“You too!” I squeak. “Your English is getting VERY good!”

“Danke,” Melissa says, before blushing. “Umm, thank you, hehe!”

“I’m sure you’ll be fluent before long,” I say. “And of course, your ‘other’ change is… Well, perfect, hehe!”

“Thank you!” Melissa squeaks, doing a quick turn to show off her feminine body. “Four years of, umm, Östrogen! Last, umm, ‘thing’ will be in January… I have nerves, hehe!”

“Trust me, it WILL be worth it!” I assure the obviously nervous young woman.

“Thank you,” Melissa says. “And thank you for all your help. It’s good to thank you by talking, without needing Google!”

“It’s good to talk to you face to face too,” I whisper, before giggling as we exchange another hug. “Excited about becoming a ‘proper’ Angel?”

“Umm, yeah!” Melissa giggles. “But what is best is that I have real friends of girls. They have all helped me so much! I want all girls like us could have friends like us…”

“You can never have too many friends,” I whisper, before grinning as the door to the green room opens and five familiar figures enter. “Speaking of which…”

“Hi everyone!” Viks says with a giggle as she leads Mary and Abbey-Gayle into the room, leading to a round robin of hugs as my old friends get to know my new friends. Hanging out at the back, however, is the one girl I want to speak to the most.

“Melissa,” I say as I drag the German woman toward the brown-haired girl stood in the corner of the room. “I’d like you to meet Nikki Phillips-Thomas. Nikki, this is Melissa Schubert. The three of us… Kinda have something in common.”

“Hello!” Melissa says nervously as she exchanges air kisses with my long-time protégé- who is, thankfully, once again the PA for the Angels.

“Hi!” Nikki replies with a giggle. “Umm… Guten… Morgen?”

“Guten Morgen!” Melissa giggles. “But it is alright, I am happy to talk in English.”

“That’s good, because that’s all the German I know, hehe!” Nikki giggles. “Speaking of which, Natalie and Zoe will be here in a bit if you need interpreters. Is everything okay in the green room?”

“Well, you were in charge of arranging it, so… Yes,” I say with a grin. “Everything’s PERFECT as always. But I really wanted the two of you to meet each other, get to know each other despite the language barrier. I’m sure you’ve sussed that Melissa is going to be the transgendered member of the German version of the Angels that’s launching in a couple of months.”

“Yes,” Nikki laughs. “You are going to inspire SO many girls, just like Jamie inspired me, hehe!”

“Thank you,” Melissa says nervously. “It’s... A bit of scary!”

“It shouldn’t be,” I say confidently. “The first time a girl who’s nervous about coming out sends you a message telling you how much you helped her, it will be worth it, I promise.”

“Umm, okay!” Melissa laughs. “I… I wanted… I just want, sorry… To be a normal girl.”

“You wanted to have been born a girl, you mean?” I ask, smiling sadly as Melissa nods.

“That’s understandable,” Nikki says. “But I’m going to have to correct your English on one thing, I’m afraid- we- the three of us- we ARE normal girls!”

“Girl life forever!” I giggle, exchanging high fives with my two transgendered friends.

“Don’t get why you’ve come to London, rather than the Angels going to Berlin, though,” Nikki muses. “Even though I’m not allowed to leave the country right now…”

“Five of us speak English, two of them speak German,” Melissa explains, making me blush. “And they are first Angels! There will be more as well.”

“They’re looking at launching Angels groups all around the world,” Viks- who had obviously been listening- interjects. “Think Japan is next, then Australia and New Zealand, Eastern Europe, Spain, France, Latin America… Even looking at Russia and India. Maybe even China.”

“I kinda notice one country missing from that list,” Nikki says, making Charlotte laugh and roll her eyes.

“Oh, trust me, they haven’t missed out America,” Viks giggles. “There’s going to be an Angel INVASION over there. They’re looking at separate Angel groups for various states- California first probably, but also New York and New Jersey, Florida, Washington State, the Midwest… Maybe even two Canadian groups too.”

“If you think about it, it’s such a simple format,” I say. “A group of girls who are friends, living a fancy lifestyle… It’s amazing it took as long as it did for similar shows to pop up around the world.”

“But what’s most important,” Viks says with a warm grin, “is that all the groups they’re looking at creating will have transgendered members. They’ve already cast trans girls in Japan and Australia, they’re looking at Polish T-girls to join the Eastern Europe group…”

“I- I’m not sure I like the idea of having T-girls in the group being like a ‘gimmick’,” I muse.

“I wouldn’t be so hasty,” Charlotte interjects. “What we started has spread around the world, and it’s taken transgender acceptance with it. Thanks to you, there are dozens if not hundreds of girls living the life they always wanted, thanks to your example. Hundreds if not thousands of people’s attitudes toward T-girls have been changed for the better. Now that positive influence will spread around the world.”

“…I guess,” I say with a nervous laugh that makes Melissa giggle.

“I KNOW,” Charlotte says. “Now come on, our adoring public awaits!” I smile as Charlotte leads the eleven of us out towards the stage that’s been prepared for us, where we spend the next forty-five minutes answering questions about the upcoming launch of 'Himmlische Schönheiten'. Naturally, there are plenty of questions for Melissa and myself about ‘comparing notes’ regarding our respective transitions, but all of the questions are respectful, none of them are too intrusive- and if anything, we get more questions about whether or not we exchange fashion tips than about anything sensitive!

Eventually, though, the time comes for us to say our farewells to our German counterparts (all of whom have quickly become friends) and head back to our respective homes- or, in my case, head back to what will soon be my former home.

“Ugh, can’t believe I’m actually more nervous about this than I was about that press meet,” I spit as I elegantly slide into Keith’s waiting car.

“Probably because you know you can’t put it off any longer,” Stuart sighs, giving my hand a comforting squeeze. “How’d the press conference go?”

“It went well,” I shrug. “Reckon the German show’ll be a success. Even over here, well, subtitled anyway.”

“And more importantly, we made new friends,” Charlotte says. “Because, as we all know…”

“You can never have too many friends,” the four of us say simultaneously, making me chuckle with embarrassment.

“Yes, yes,” I laugh.

“There are worse catchphrases to have,” Charlotte says with a proud grin. “Though hopefully I won’t have to learn TOO many languages just to talk to them all, hehe!”

“I dunno, I’ve always wanted to visit Japan…” I mused, before frowning as Charlotte turns to face me with a glint in her eyes. “…What?”

“Someone ought to know better than to put idea into my head less than a month before their birthday,” Charlotte teases. “So… What colour do you want your kimono to be?”

“Dibs on samurai armour!” Keith calls out.

“Dibs on ninja!” Stuart shouts, causing both boys to giggle uncontrollably. “Though I’ll pass on the sushi, thanks.”

“Hopefully, so will I!” Charlotte giggles as she pats her perfectly flat belly. “Though for the first time in ages, I’ll actually be able to plan your party WITHOUT you constantly looking over my shoulder!”

“Ah, you loved it really,” I tease my BFF, who suddenly gets a sad, faraway look on her face.

“Yeah,” Charlotte whispers. “Yeah, I did.”

Naturally, the car is quiet for the rest of the ride home, though when we arrive to find a large removals lorry on the driveway and a gang of workmen loading our belongings, it causes Charlotte and I both to both break down in floods of tears.

“Ugh, this is really it,” I sniffle, fanning my tear-streaked face with my hands. “Didn’t think I’d be this emotional…”

“Me too!” Charlotte squeaks, leading to the two of us sharing a tight, emotional hug. “I am going to miss you SO much…”

“Me too!” I squeak, ignoring the giggles of the two boys with us. “Looks like they’ve already got everything on the lorry…”

“We are SO going with you to help you unload,” Charlotte says, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Okay,” I sniffle, before taking a deep, emotional breath. “First, though, I- I want to say goodbye to- to Keith junior first.”

“Okay,” Charlotte sniffs, letting me into the house where I quickly locate the toddler in the living room, playing on the floor whilst his nanny watches on.

“Hey,” I say to the flame-haired Irishwoman, who immediately picks up on my emotional state.

“Hey,” Eilish whispers. “You- you going now, then?”

“Mm-hmm,” I mumble, my bottom lip wavering. “I- I just-“

“Take your time,” Eilish says softly, getting up and leaving the room- though not before exchanging a hug with me first.

“Hey, cutie!” I whisper, sitting down next to the 2 year old boy (and grimacing at the tightness of my skirt).

“Attie Jamie!” Keith junior giggles happily, throwing his arms up for a cuddle that I’m only too happy to give him.

“Ahh…” I sigh happily. “You are growing SO fast! You’re going to be a big, strong boy, aren’t you?” Just like your father… And just UNlike your godmother, I think to myself. Nonetheless, I giggle as the tiny boy nods excitedly.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing you grow up,” I say, desperately trying not to cry for fear of setting the toddler off. “But I’m not going to be around as much as I have been until now. So you’d better be good for your mum and dad, okay?”

“Okay!” Keith junior says with a wide grin, clearly not understanding what I’m telling him.

“And don’t ever forget that I love you,” I whisper. “Me and your Uncle Stuart.” And maybe even your cousin… I think to myself. “I’ll see you soon!” I smile as I release the cuddle and the toddler immediately goes back to playing with his toys.

“All done?” Eilish whispers as she re-enters the room.

“Yeah,” I sigh. “I’ll see you ‘round, Eilish.”

“Too right you will,” the Irishwoman says with a devilish grin. “Someone’s going to have to take care of your little treasure, aren’t they?”

“…We haven’t had our match confirmed yet,” I mumble, which only makes my friend laugh.

“You WILL be,” Eilish says with a warm smile. “Any child would be lucky to have the two of you as parents.”

“Heh, I guess,” I laugh, exchanging another hug with the flame-haired woman before heading out to where my husband and my BFF are waiting for me.

“Ready?” Stuart whispers as he wraps an arm around my waist.

“Ready,” I say, before reaching into my handbag for my keys. With trembling hands, I slowly remove the two front door keys I’ve used over the last six years and hand them to my BFF, who immediately tears up when she sees them.

“N-no,” Charlotte insists, pushing the keys back toward me. “Absolutely not. You are keeping those keys! You come home anytime you want, any hour of the day, this is as much your house as-“

“Take them,” I whisper, tears trickling down my cheeks as I place the keys into Charlotte’s palm. “Got to grow up some time, heh.”

“I don’t see why,” Charlotte sniffs, before letting out a long, exasperated sigh. “Yeah, yeah I can think of a reason. But you ARE welcome in this house any hour of the day. Both of you.”

“Thanks,” Stuart mumbles, trying (and failing) to hide the fact that he’s getting just as emotional as myself and Charlotte. “I am going to miss this place. And the two of you.”

“You know,” Keith says, his own voice filled with emotion, “I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us, and part of us stays behind. There’ll always be a part of you in this house if we ever get TOO lonely.”

“That’s beautiful, man,” Stuart says in a slightly mocking tone. “Babylon 5, right?”

“Meh, still a good quote,” Keith shrugs, causing us all to giggle as we get into his car and follow the removal lorry westward out of the centre of London toward our new home.

As we leave the place where I’ve lived for so long, I of course shed a few more tears, but as the house disappears from view, I find myself getting more and more excited by the prospect of building a new home, building a new life for myself- something that Stuart and I obviously have a lot of experience doing. Eventually, our new house- no, our new home looms into view, and I feel a wide grin spread across my face as we pull onto the modest driveway.

Of course, merely buying a house of our own wasn’t without its hassles. Money wasn’t one of those hassles, as Stuart and I are very well compensated for our work to the extent that we had a budget of almost three quarters of a million pounds. Finding someone to take our money, however, was more difficult.

The first house we looked at was everything we could’ve ever wanted. Four bedrooms, two of which had en-suites, a huge kitchen and even a reasonably sized garden, all within our budget. We went into the meeting with the owners with a sense of great optimism… And left feeling like we were the scum of the Earth.

“We’ve done some background checks of you,” the house’s owner, a very posh-sounding man in his early sixties, said. “And we don’t want your sort moving into our house.” Naturally, neither Stuart nor I were going to take this lying down.

“Our ‘sort’?” I asked, my face contorting with anger.

“Yes, your sort,” the old man said, his tone of voice making it clear that he thought what he was saying was perfectly reasonable.

“So young, married couples with university degrees and steady careers aren’t your ‘sort’?” Stuart asked, clearly as seething with rage as I was.

“Young, ‘married’ couples where the man wears a dress and the woman wears trousers,” the old man spat.

“That’s funny,” I retorted as I smoothed the skirt of my dress. “I could’ve sworn I had paperwork stating that I WASN’T man…”

“I could’ve sworn I had genitals stating that I wasn’t a woman,” Stuart said, smirking as the older man bristled.

“Yes, well, what’s happened to this country the last few years has been a disgrace,” the old man said in a voice usually reserved for explaining very simple concepts to very young children. “If it were up to me, people like you would have some sense knocked into them, rather than actually encouraged to flounce around the way you are.”

“Then why did you even agree to this meeting?” I asked.

“Because clearly no one put you in your place when you were younger,” the old man said, causing me to snap. “Now if you’ll excuse me-“

“In my place!?” I hissed, interrupting and startling the man. “Let me tell you where my place is. Let me tell you who I am and who I’m meant to be. My name is Jamie-Lee Milton. MRS Jamie-Lee Milton. That may not have been my name when I was born, but it’s who I am now. I am as much a citizen of this country as you are. I have as much right to live my life as you do. For the last six years, I have lived my life as a woman, but it doesn’t matter if it’s six years, six months or even six days. It’s MY life, and your opinion doesn’t count for shit!”

“We’re leaving now,” Stuart said, a proud smile on his face following my rant. “Such a shame they repealed the Corn Laws, wasn’t it?"

We both forced smiles on our faces as we left the meeting with our heads held high, as they should be, though the second we were out of sight of the old bastard, both of us- yes, even Stuart- broke into tears. I'd been transitioning for 6 and a half years, Stuart for 11 and a half, and yet no amount of time will ever be enough for some people. It was an unwelcome reminder that there will always be people out there who will oppose us simply for being who we want to be- and that anybody we meet has the potential to be such a person.

Fortunately, the next seller we met was much more compatible with the 21st century than that man was. And the seller after that, and after that… The people who we eventually bought the house from were a married couple in their late fifties who were looking to downsize following their children leaving home. The fact that their youngest child was a 22 year old woman who was obsessed with the Angels certainly helped to seal the deal- well, once I’d handed over a large bag of signed merchandise, anyway! The fact that we were both transgendered was utterly irrelevant to the sellers, which buoyed mine and Stuart's confidence to no end as we realised that being trans is only a stigma if we allow it to be. And we had no intention of allowing that ever again.

“And here we are!” I say, pulling an excited pose as I open the front door and let my husband and my friends into my new home.

“Welcome to casa Milton!” Stuart laughs

“Decorators did a really good job,” Keith muses as he looks around the entrance hall. “Better get unloading the lorry, then- sooner everything’s inside, sooner you two can get settled in!”

“And the sooner we can have a housewarming party!” Charlotte giggles.

“Ugh, if we ever get time!” I say. “I’m back at work on Thursday, Stu’s back on Wednesday, and with Krys due any minute now…”

“Not to mention the fact that we’re waiting on a call from the adoption agency,” Stuart says. “Asking us to meet the matching panel face to face…”

“Thought you’d already been matched?” Keith asks.

“It’s complicated,” Stuart sighs. “REALLY complicated, heh. But you never know, this time next month…”

“I’ll keep everything crossed for you,” Keith says with a warm smile. “For both of you.”

“Thanks,” I whisper, taking a deep breath of the fresh, clean air of my new home. “Hey… Wanna see the nursery? If you think the decorators did a good job down here, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Naturally, Charlotte and Keith both develop wide grins on their faces as they follow us up the stairs, grins that only widen when they step into the transformed bedroom.

“It’s beautiful,” Charlotte whispers, her reaction exactly mirroring mine the first time I set foot in the nursery.

The walls of the room are painted in a pale pastel yellow, apart from the back wall, which is painted with a ‘magical forest mural’ featuring trees, clouds, animals like squirrels and mythical beings like fairies and unicorns. There is a huge toy box in one corner of the room, and a hand-made crib in the other corner. The ceiling of the room is painted with a starscape, which was designed by our friend Jacinta (who is our resident ‘astronomy nerd’) to be as accurate to the real night sky as possible.

“Ah, now I wish I was a toddler again,” Keith laughs as he inspects the furniture.

“We took a lot of inspiration from your kid’s room,” Stuart says. “Of course, we had to go ‘yellow’ as we don’t actually know the gender of the kid we’ll be getting yet.”

“We’re reasonably sure it’ll be a girl,” I explain. “Though that could always change between then and now… Got a load of gender-neutral toys though, just in case.”

“And if ‘mummy’ and me prove anything,” Stuart says with a chuckle, “it’s that even when the child gets home, we can’t be 100% sure what their gender will be.”

“Well any child would be lucky to have you as parents, transgendered or otherwise,” Charlotte says with a grin. “And lucky to have this amazing room, hehe! I never really had a ‘child’s bedroom… Guess that’s what you get for being an only child, heh.”

“Oh- tell me about it,” I sigh. “I never really had toys when I was younger, I was always encouraged to read books, or play outside… One of my earliest memories was helping my grandfather in his garden. Guess that’s why it took me so long… I never really had any ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ games growing up, heh.”

“It was kinda the same for me,” Charlotte muses. “Not with the ‘no masculine or feminine things’, but with the whole ‘growing up fast’… Dad was always encouraging me to try harder with my modelling, with my dancing… And as much as I love her, mum was the same way at times… The second I turned eleven it was like my career just took over my life, and when mum died, it was like I was suddenly a fully-fledged adult…”

“Maybe it’s more a ‘rich family’ thing than an ‘only child’ thing,” Keith muses. “Took years to agree to get dad to buy me a PlayStation.”

“Same here,” Stuart says. “Though there may be other reasons there, heh.”

“Then it’s agreed,” Charlotte says. “We allow our kids to be kids. And we let them decides their own hobbies, rather than being stage moms and dads!”

“Agreed!” I giggle. “Though obviously, if we have girls, we’re signing them up for Krystie’s ballet school the second they’re born.”

“Oh for sure,” Charlotte says. “Our second’s already signed up for her toddler class and she isn’t even conceived yet, hehe!”

“…First thing I’m doing when I get home is calling Joshua and seeing if Acton Rovers can set up a youth academy,” Keith chuckles.

“BOY!” Charlotte and I simultaneously yell, causing each other to giggle uncontrollably.

“I’m going to make us some tea,” Stuart mumbles. “Assuming it’s been unpacked, anyway. Want to come and see the kitchen?”

“Sure!” Charlotte says with a smug grin.

“I’ll see you down there,” Keith says, examining the crib in greater deal as he and I are left alone in the now awkwardly silent nursery.

“…I know what you’re thinking,” I mumble. “That this could’ve been in a room in which we- you and I- raised a child.”

“I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind,” Keith sighs. “Think I’ll always have SOME feelings for you…”

“Other than ‘as a little sister’?” I ask, smirking as Keith squirms.

“You were always a little more than that,” Keith says. “I’ll settle for ‘step-sister-in-law-type-thing’ though.”

“Yeah, so will I,” I sigh. “And I guess I’ll always have feelings for you too… I just know they won’t be as big as Charlotte’s feelings for you.”

“I thought I was being stupid, giving her another chance,” Keith said. “My family all thought I was, too, but she- she’s really behaved herself.”

“Yeah, I remember some people saying the same thing about me,” I mumble as my cheeks start to redden.

“…Yeah,” Keith mumbles. “Though that was different.”

“It wasn’t THAT different,” I sigh. “We were both stupid, Charlotte was stupid…”

“Dunno anyone who hasn’t been stupid at some point in their life,” Keith shrugs. “And Charlotte HAS changed, and not just slightly. I honestly do trust her fully, you know?”

“You’d have to if you’re going to have a baby girl with her,” I say, making Keith chuckle.

“Assuming we have a girl,” Keith says. “Doubt Charlie would forgive me if she has another boy.”

“What do you want?” I ask. “Girl or boy, I mean?”

“I honestly wouldn’t mind,” Keith replies. “But Charlotte wants a girl, which means so do I.”

“Good BOY,” I tease, before giggling as we head down to the kitchen to join our respective spouses.

Keith and Charlotte stick around for another half an hour to help us unpack, before taking their leave- which, naturally, involves yet more tearful hugs. Eventually, though, all our boxes are unloaded, and for the first time ever, Stuart and I are alone in our very own home.

“…We actually did it, then!” I giggle nervously. “Our own home…”

“Yeah,” Stuart laughs, wrapping an arm around my waist and giving me a kiss. Soon, the two of us are both naked, and heading up the stairs to our bed to 'break it in' for the first time...

Forty-five minutes later- after getting dressed again- we’re all but ready to get on with the hard work of unpacking our many belongings when we’re suddenly interrupted by the sound of a knock on our door- and momentarily confused when neither Keith nor Charlotte go to answer the door.

“Shall we hire a butler?” Stuart asks, making me giggle.

“Don’t see why, you’d look cute in a butler’s uniform!” I tease. “And no, that does NOT mean that I’m going to be dressing up as a French Maid!”

“Even though I know you have the uniform in one of those boxes?” Stuart asks, making me roll my eyes.

“’Costume’, not ‘uniform’,” I correct my husband, before opening the door and smiling at the sight of the four people on the other side.

“Hello, Mrs homeowner!” Dad teases, making me giggle as he and mum greet me with hugs and kisses.

“Hey!” I say with an excited giggle.

“Love what you’ve done with the place!” Raymond- Stuart’s father- says as he and his wife let themselves into our house.

“Thanks, dad!” Stuart laughs. “Can I get you guys anything to drink?”

“Cup of tea would be perfect, please,” dad says, before parking himself on our sofa with a tired sigh.

“Been on the golf course all day, then?” I tease, earning eye rolls from both the fathers.

“Nah, course was packed as it’s a bank holiday,” dad sighs. “We’ll probably get down some point during the week.”

“Once the two of them are sure that the two of you are settled in first, of course!” Catherine- Stuart’s mother- says, making the two older men fidget.

“Well, um, of course,” Raymond mumbles.

“And, of course, we’ll be right back to help out when the two of you becomes the three of you,” mum says, making me blush.

“We still haven’t heard anything,” I mumble. “Then again, the adoption agency won’t be open on a bank holiday… It’s Krystie’s turn next, anyway, she’s already overdue.”

“Ah, yes,” Catherine says. “She always struck me as a woman who doesn’t like to be kept waiting!”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Stuart laughs as he returns with a tray filled with mugs of tea.

“You’re the butler then, Stu?” Dad asks, making me bristle. Whilst dad has no problem seeing me as his daughter- despite some initial reservation- it’s always seems like whenever we meet up, he’s happier to see Stuart, like he misses having a son- and he’s clearly unhappy to see ‘his son’ serving drinks, something he no doubt thinks is a woman’s job.

“We’ve already drawn up a housework rota,” I say with a smug grin. “Splitting it straight down the middle, 50/50.”

“50% done by the cleaner and 50% by the maid?” Dad asks, earning a whack on the arm from my mother.

“We’re capable of cleaning our own house,” Stuart says with an air of pride. “Gonna have to be if we get, well, a new ‘housemate’…”

“Ah, of course,” mum says with a proud smile that only a grandmother- or in this case, expectant grandmother- can manage. “Is everything ready on that regard?”

“More than ready,” I say with a proud mother’s grin of my own. “Want to see the nursery?”

“Absolutely!” Mum says with an excited giggle. “Catherine, shall we?”

“Of course!” Stuart’s mother says, rising from the second sofa and following me and my mother up the stairs to the nursery.

“I was only in here a few hours ago,” I say as my mother and mother-in-law sigh happily at the decoration inside the room. “I still get a happy feeling every time I come into this room.”

“That feeling’s called ‘motherhood’,” Catherine says with a grin. “I remember Emma’s first nursery like it was yesterday. Heh, can’t believe she’s going to be thirty next week.”

“Your first room was pretty special too,” mum says, making me blush. "Your father worked on it for weeks, wanted to make it perfect. Of course, as you grew older, the room changed..."

"The room wasn't the only thing that changed," I whisper, causing an awkward silence to fall over the room.

"Well... No," mum mumbles. "I... I still think we didn't do nearly enough for you when you were younger. If we'd only known earlier, then maybe we- I don't know. Your father and I, we- we were never suited to be parents-"

"No," I interrupt. "Don't say that, it-" I pause as I try to find the right words to comfort my mother, but I'm forced to admit that she's right. "...You'll be a wonderful grandmother. You really will."

"Thanks," mum whispers.

"I think you two could use some privacy," Catherine whispers, leaving the room as mum and I sit down on the vast toy box.

"...Mum, I-"

"I'm sorry," mum says, sniffing back a tear. "If we'd done things differently, if we'd paid more attention to you when you were growing up, if we- if we just let you be a child, I- I just wonder what you'd be like now..."

"Whether or not I'd still be called 'James'?" I ask.

"You becoming our daughter is the best thing that could ever have happened to you," mum immediately retorts. "That much is obvious. I- I wish I could've had some time with my daughter while she was growing up."

"I wish that too," I sniff, wiping a stray tear from my eye.

"Don't make the same mistakes we did," mum says firmly. "Be there for your child. Listen to them, prioritise them, and most of all, love them."

"I will, I promise," I whisper.

"You're going to make a wonderful mother," mum says with a proud smile.

"There are a lot of people who'll disagree with that," I sigh. "Simply because of my DNA..."

"Well then I'll defend you from them," mum says. "Just like a mother should for her daughter. AND her grandchild!"

"Thanks," I giggle, exchanging a long, tender hug with my mother that's only interrupted by the nursery door opening.

"Knock knock," dad says softly, letting himself into the room. "Stuart's showing his parents around the ground floor of the house, might take Raymond a while to get upstairs with his knees... Everything okay up here?"

"Everything's fine," I say with a grin. "Come on in, dad- I mean, granddad!"

"I love the room," dad says. "Especially the ceiling... Are- are you, umm, expecting a- a boy, then?"

"All we're 'expecting' is a baby," I reply, grimacing as dad lowers his head.

"Of course," my father mumbles, leading to an awkward silence.

"...I'll go and catch up with Stuart and his family," mum whispers. "I think the two of you need some alone time."

"But-" I protest, but before I can say another word, mum has risen from the toy box seat and exited the room, leaving me alone with my father.

"...So, then," dad mumbles.

"So," I whisper. "...You like the room, then?"

"Oh- oh, definitely," dad chuckles. "Reminds me a bit of your- of, umm, of your room. When you were, umm, a baby..."

"Hence why you asked if we were expecting a boy?" I ask.

"Jamie..." Dad sighs, before sitting down next to me. "I know- I know that all of this success you've had, all this fame and fortune, I- I can't claim credit for any of it."

"We've been through this so many times before," I sigh. "Me and mum have too. Just now, in fact."

"Doesn't make it any less true," dad says. "If I could go back and do everything again-"

"Yeah, well, none of us can do that," I say. "And I was never a perfect- umm, son..."

"But you are a perfect daughter," dad whispers. "I don't think a day goes by when I don't think about the first time I met my daughter... I cringe with shame every time. Every. Single. Time I remember how I reacted." Yeah, my own reaction wasn't too different, I think to myself.

"Like I said, none of us can turn back the clock," I say. "And... And I feel a lot closer to you now, as 'Jamie', then I ever did as 'James'."

"...I feel the same way," dad mumbles. "Though that's probably because you're a, umm, adult, rather than your 'other change'..."

"Maybe," I say, before letting out a long, tired sigh. "Dad... I love you, dad. We've been through enough that I can at least say that."

"...I love you too, Jamie," dad says, before leaning in and giving me a long, tender hug. "I was never any good at the whole 'talking' bit, heh."

"You can't tell," I retort, making my father chuckle quietly. "And for what it's worth, you're going to be an awesome grandfather."

"Assuming the kid doesn't spend all her time with her famous aunts and uncles," dad snorts.

"I'll make sure they don't," I say firmly. "They'll only have two grandpas and two grandmas, and they're going to know and ADORE them."

"Thanks," dad chuckles.

"Also," I say with a mischievous grin, "'her time'? You're sure you're having a granddaughter, then?"

"Positive," dad says with a smile. "I know that you'll raise my granddaughter to be a polite, happy young woman. Even if when you get her, she happens to be a boy."

"...Who knows what the future holds?" I ask, exchanging another hug with dad before heading downstairs to rendezvous with my husband and my in-laws.

Our parents stick around for another hour and a half, helping us unpack and arrange our new home, before departing and leaving me and my husband alone in our house, which is slowly, surely becoming our home.

“Still feels weird,” Stuart mumbles as we sit down on the sofa, his strong arm wrapped around my slender waist. “And if anyone should know ‘weird’…”

“Heh, tell me about it,” I giggle. “Isn’t this how you saw your first day of independent married life, then? I mean, when you were younger?”

“I never really thought about it, to be honest,” Stuart sighs. “I never really thought I’d ever find, let alone marry the girl of my dreams. Never thought I’d be a prospective parent either. And…”

“…And?” I ask, before shaking my head. “Never mind, I know what you’re going to say. And yes, it’s the same for me too. However many surgeries I’ve had… This feels a lot more like MY body than ‘James’s ever did, you know? I feel- I just feel like, you know, myself.”

“I know what you mean,” Stuart says with a devilish grin. “I like feeling yourself too.”

“Yeah, I like feeling you too,” I giggle, cuddling my husband’s body closer to mine as we spend the rest of the evening on the sofa, watching TV and updating our social media pages.

Even though neither of us have work tomorrow, we opt for an early night, and as we prepare to head into our bedroom for our first night, I let out a shriek when Stuart scoops me into his arms and carries me over the threshold, both of us giggling every step of the way. No words are exchanged as we relieve each other of our clothes, before taking each other in the most intimate way possible...

When I wake up the following morning, the first thing I’m aware of is the smell, almost like a mixture of fine perfume and fresh paint. As my eyes flutter open, I momentarily panic as I find myself in an unfamiliar room, before breathing a sigh of relief and smiling when I roll over to see my husband in bed next to me, gently snoring away.

“Hey, sexy!” I whisper, waking my husband up with a gentle kiss on his lips.

“Hey,” Stuart says with a smile, before frowning at the sight of the unfamiliar room- an action that makes me giggle. “…New home, right?”

“Riiiiight,” I tease, giggling even harder as my husband rolls his eyes. “Want to, you know, try out the new shower?”

“Umm, sure,” Stuart says. “You want to go first or shall I?”

“I’m thinking we try it out together,” I say with a sly grin, grabbing Stuart’s hand and leading him toward our plush en-suite, where we exchange one passionate kiss after the other as the hot water cascades over our bodies...

After we’re both ‘clean’, we get dressed for the day. Stuart opts for a comfortable-looking pair of jeans and a t-shirt with the logo of his favourite band, whilst I, after putting on a light layer of make-up and a comfortable bra and thong, throw open my new wardrobe… And spend five minutes simply staring wistfully at the clothes within.

“Oh, god,” Stuart moans. “And we haven’t even finished unpacking it all yet…”

“Hush, you,” I admonish my husband. “Picking the right outfit is important. It’s ALWAYS important.”

“We’re not going anywhere today,” Stuart protests. “Literally spending every waking second today indoors. Does your outfit matter THAT much?”

“BOY,” I retort. Though in fairness, I HAVE been there, I think to myself.

‘James’ would dress even more slobbily than Stuart most days, Most days ‘he’ wouldn’t even pull on proper clothes if ‘he’ wasn’t leaving the house. But as ‘Jamie-Lee’, I take pride in every tiny part of my appearance, and I take delight in every little sensation provided by my fashionable, feminine clothing. From the feeling of the delicate lace of my bras caressing my breasts, to a soft pair of tights hugging my legs, to a tight skirt clinging to my backside, every little feeling sends tingles of excitement through my body. The first time I found myself in these clothes, I was horrified. Now I can’t fathom why anyone would ever give this up.

“How about…” I say, reaching into one of my still-packed boxes. “This, and these?”

“…Hilarious,” Stuart says, making me giggle as he stares wide-eyes at the latex leotard and ballet boots I’m holding in my hands. “Why do you even own them, anyway?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” I shrug, before grinning devilishly as I stretch the leotard over my body before lacing up the thigh-high boots.

“That looks like the least comfortable thing EVER,” Stuart says in a flat voice. “If you try to walk downstairs in those heels you’ll end up killing yourself. If you try to walk at all in them you’ll probably break something!”

“Shows what you know,” I retort as I slowly parade around the room in the ultra-high heels, before striking a pose that makes Stuart giggle and sigh at the same time. “Admit it- you are turned on, right?”

“…Yes, obviously,” Stuart chuckles. “I’m also really concerned for your damn health, though. And irritated that you’re now, like, six inches taller than me…”

“Okay, the boots come off,” I say, sitting down on the bed and sighing happily as I ease my feet out of the torturous footwear. “And the leotard too… Biggest pain of clothes like this is more cleaning it than wearing it, hehe!”

“Yeah, doesn’t exactly look machine-washable,” Stuart chuckles, before smiling as I pull on a tight black miniskirt, a clingy grey top and a pair of warm black tights. “Better?”

“Much better,” I say with a grin, before tying my hair into a ponytail, giving my husband a long kiss and heading downstairs to finishing unpacking our many boxes of belongings.

It isn’t long, though, before our unpacking is interrupted by a knock on the door, which we open to be greeted by the smiling faces of Stuart’s older sister and her two infant children.

“Hey, you two!” Emma says, exchanging air kisses with both of us before letting herself in. “Settling in well?”

“Umm, yeah,” I say with a grin.

“Bex and Riley will be here in a bit, they’re just parking the car,” Emma continues. “Didn’t come yesterday as we figured you’d need time to unpack- though I see you’re nowhere near done yet!”

“Most of it’s Jamie’s clothes,” Stuart says, laughing as both myself and my sister punish him with gentle punches in his arms.

“That’s because Jamie’s a fashionable, beautiful young woman,” Emma retorts. “And you’re a slobbish BOY!”

“And proud, right, Ray?” Stuart asks, giggling as his- sorry, our nephew giggles and nods.

“I do love this place, though,” Emma says. “Me and Lee have been looking at expanding into somewhere bigger…”

“Are- are you seriously pregnant AGAIN?” Stuart asks, earning an eye roll from myself and the 29 year old woman.

“NO,” Emma says. “Just want somewhere bigger, we’ve got three bedrooms at the moment, kinda want a study for Lee so he can work from home more, spend more time with the kids…”

“He at work at the moment?” Stuart asks, sighing as Emma nods.

“We’ll drop round later in the week, all of us as a family,” Emma says. “Of course, it won’t be long before the two- sorry, the THREE of you could do the same…”

“God, make me nervous, why don’t you?” I giggle.

“Trust me, you will be GREAT parents,” Emma says, her gentle smile easing my tension. “Especially as you’ll both be able to work from home a lot of the time as well.”

“Like he needs an excuse,” Becca snorts as she and her fiancé enter the living room and greet us all with hugs and air kisses (or in Riley and Stuart’s case, a handshake).

“Hi Stuart, Jamie,” Riley says as he and Becca sit down on our seconds sofa. “Umm, love your house!”

“Thanks,” I say with a proud smile.

“We’ve been looking for somewhere similar for ourselves,” Becca says with a smug grin of her own. “Got to spend all this album money somehow!”

“I’ll be sure to tell dad you said that,” Emma says, making me and Stuart giggle at the teasing between the sisters.

“Shut up,” Becca mumbles, before giggling as her older nephew comes over for a hug.

“We got you a housewarming gift,” Riley says, handing over a small plastic bag that Stuart and I open to find a small decorative mug tree.

“It’s lovely, thanks,” I say, exchanging a quick hug with the tall young man as his fiancée (and my sister-in-law) looks on disapprovingly. Becca and I have never got along well- and whilst it’s mostly my fault, I can’t help but feel bad for Stuart, who’s always been close to his little sister. “Umm… Anyone want anything to drink?”

“Just tea, please,” Emma says. “Got to watch my caffeine intake with the, well, you know…”

“She means breastfeeding,” Becca says to her fiancé, causing the young man to blush as the rest of us all giggle. “Coffee, please.”

“Same,” Riley mumbles.

“I’ve brought drinks for the kids, so that’s okay,” Emma says as I stand up and head to the kitchen.

“Yep, we’ve already established that,” Stuart says, laughing as Emma gives him a firm-sounding punch in his arm. “Need a hand in the kitchen?”

“Should be fine, thanks,” I say, before pausing. “Actually… Becca, could you give me a hand?”

“…Me?” Becca asks.

“Good luck,” Riley quips, laughing as the 22 year old woman gives him a shove.

“Umm, okay,” Becca shrugs, before following me through to the kitchen. “I’m not exactly a ‘domestic goddess’…”

“Yeah,” I grimace, “I- I kinda wanted to speak to you in private… I know that we- me and you, we’ve- we’ve never really seen eye to eye.”

“Oh, we have in the past,” Becca retorts. “Just not recently. And you know why.”

“Yeah,” I whisper. “But ever since then…”

“Oh, you’ve behaved since then,” Becca says. “But I’m gonna have a hard time forgetting how much you hurt my brother in the past.”

“For what it’s worth… So am I,” I sigh. “I had a hard time forgiving myself too, but I eventually did… But only because Stuart did.”

“If you’re looking for forgiveness from me,” Becca says, before letting out a long sigh. “…Life’s too short.” I smile and blink back tears as the younger woman gives me a tight hug.

“Thanks,” I whisper.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be a superstar now if my brother wasn’t going out with an Angel, hehe!” Becca giggles. “Even if he was going out with Krystie at the time.”

“Yeah, but I set him up with her,” I retort, making Becca grin again.

“Yeah, but I’m engaged to her brother,” Becca retorts with a playful smug grin. “And about to become the cool aunt to her child!”

“Not just her child, either!” I say, making Becca’s eyes briefly go wide before she lets out an excited giggle.

“Ah, of course!” the brown-haired girl giggles. “Any news on that yet?”

“No, but we’re hoping we’ll get a call this week some time,” I say. “Who knows, maybe we’ll have two celebrations this week?”

“I hope so,” Becca says. “I mean, Mary’s daughter, Jon & Viks’s daughter, Steph’s niece and little Lee out there will all be in the same year at school, it’ll be SO cool if Krys’s daughter can be as well, and if you and Stu get a kid in the same year, it’d just be perfect. Like a proper, ready-made Angel group from the first second they were born, you know?”

“Even though your nephew is, well, your nephew?” I ask.

“Didn’t stop you, did it?” Becca asks, and the grin on her face tells me that she very much means that as a compliment. “Didn’t stop Steph either, or Nikki…”

“…I wouldn’t be so quick wishing THAT on your nephew,” I sigh. “Even I don’t have it easy all the time. I could tell you a few horror stories about looking for this place, heh.”

“Yeah, Stu already has,” Becca sighs, smiling sympathetically. “Okay, maybe not, then. Little Lee will just have to be best friends of five amazing girls without being one himself, hehe! Though if he DOES decide to transition, and anyone gives him a hard time, his cool Auntie Becca will make sure that THEY never hear the end of it!”

“As will cool Auntie Jamie, hehe!” I say, making the brown-haired girl giggle.

“Let’s be honest, though,” Becca says. “Little Lee’s never going to be unpopular, not with you and me as his aunts. Same goes for yours and Stu’s kid.”

“Thanks to his or her ‘cool Auntie Becca’?” I ask.

“Thanks to his or her cool mum and dad,” Becca says with a grin. “Now come on, mum-to-be-with-probably-the-best-figure-in-the-UK, hehe!”

“You got it, auntie to be!” I reply, sharing a giggle with Becca that brings a very happy smile to my husband’s lips when we return to the living room and he sees the two of us giggling like old friends. There’s still a long way to go with Becca- but I feel like a definite first step has been taken today.

Stuart’s sisters (and their respective families) stick around for another half an hour before leaving us to continue with the task of unpacking. We only get another ten minutes of work done, however, before we’re interrupted by another knock on the door- and the loud, powerful nature of the knock instantly gives away who’s on the other side of the door.

“Jamie!” Joshua booms with a happy laugh, almost deafening me as I open the door. “I love your new home!”

“Thanks,” I say with a nervous giggle. “Please, come on in!”

“Thank you!” Joshua chuckles as he enters the house, followed by his wife, then Viks & her daughter, and finally Adeola and her boyfriend Marco.

“Jon sends his apologies, he’s stuck at work,” Viks says as she exchanges air kisses with myself and Stuart. “Though I reckon the REAL reason is that he’s waiting for the games room to be finished…”

“Now THAT is low priority, hehe!” I say, giggling even louder as my husband rolls his eyes.

“Did we just miss Bex?” Adeola- Becca’s BFF- asks. “She said she’d be round this morning…”

“Yeah, surprised the two of you didn’t come together, actually,” Stuart replies.

“Today is a day to celebrate family!” Joshua chuckles as he slowly lowers himself onto our sofa. “Ours AND yours!”

“Ours so far, anyway!” I say, eliciting another booming laugh from Joshua- which, much to my surprise, causes Viks’s tiny daughter to giggle too!

“Ah, you like your granddad’s laugh, don’t you, Destiny?” Viks coos at the baby girl, who just giggles even more.

“She is a little treasure,” Joshua says with a proud grin. “And yet her mother and father refuse to let me put her in front of a camera!”

“When she’s not even six months old?” Viks protests.

“Six month old babies still need to wear clothes!” Joshua retorts. “Their mothers and fathers need to know how those clothes look when on a baby!”

“She’s not going in front of the camera until she knows what’s happening, we’ve discussed this,” Judith- Joshua’s wife- says, silencing the tall dark-skinned gentleman. “Stop trying to turn our whole family into the British version of the Kardashians!”

“They are set for life, are they not?” Joshua protests.

“You just bought a football club,” Adeola reminds her uncle. “You’re not exactly on the breadline!”

“Touché,” Joshua concedes with a laugh. “Though I never heard you complaining when you modelled for that catalogue when you were five! If anything, we had to talk you OUT of work!”

“We- we can, you know, give you some privacy if you want…” Stuart teases, earning chuckles from the entire Benedict family.

“My apologies!” Joshua laughs.

“You were talking about your adoption process, weren’t you?” Judith asks.

“Yep!” I say with a nervous giggle. “Just waiting on a phone call now…”

“Same as Krystie!” Viks laughs. “I really, really hope that she gives birth soon so that her daughter and Destiny can go to school together… Same goes for your kid, too!”

“Thanks,” I laugh. “Though of course, we don’t WHAT we’ll be getting…”

“Trust me, I know a thing or two about the whole adoption process,” Judith says, making Adeola frown.

“Your adopted daughter IS in the room, you know?” The dark-skinned girl protests.

“…I tend to concentrate more on the ‘daughter’ part than the ‘adopted’ part,” Judith says, addressing both myself and Adeola.

“There is no greater act of trust, than to ask someone else to raise your child for them,” Joshua says in a rare soft voice.

“Not sure there are many in the UK who’d trust people like me and Jamie, though,” Stuart says with a sad sigh.

“You can stop feeling sorry for yourself right now!” Judith says, catching both myself and Stuart by surprise. “You think we don’t know a thing or two about discrimination?”

“We adopted Jonathan in 1993,” Joshua explains. “Even as recently as then, a black man and a white woman with a toddler were not welcome in some parts of the world.”

“Even as recently as 2017,” Viks says in a dark voice. “You two have one advantage, and that’s that you look male and female. There’s no disguising skin colour as easily.”

“You shouldn’t have to disguise skin colour,” I say incredulously.

“And you should not have to hide who you are, either of you!” Joshua booms. “Anyone who has a problem with a black man marrying a white woman can take their prejudice and go back to the 18th century, where they belong! And anyone who has a problem with two transgendered people marrying and starting a family can go back to the 1940s, where they belong! This is 2017, and this is a country of freedom. There is no room for dinosaurs!”

“Hear hear!” Viks cheers as everyone in the room quietly applauds Joshua’s speech.

The Benedict family sticks around for another twenty-five minutes, discussing topics such as adoption and babies (and cooing over our nursery), before departing and leaving me and Stuart by ourselves. However, rather than continue unpacking, the two of us decide to wait to see if we get any further visitors- and sure enough, less than ten minutes after Joshua and his family leave, we hear a knock on our door. When I open the door, however, I’m greeted by a face I haven’t seen in a long time- a face that brings a wide grin to my lips.

“We have got the right house, then!” Says the refined voice of Ellen Heywood, my former ballet instructor and, more importantly, the first confidante I ever had- before I’d even met Charlotte.

“Welcome to casa Milton!” I say, giving the middle-aged woman a hug before smiling warmly at the nervous-looking young woman standing behind her.

“Ah,” Ellen giggles as she all but drags the girl toward the front door. “Jamie-Lee Milton, I’d like you to meet my daughter Georgina. Georgina, meet Jamie.”

“Oh my god it is SO good to meet you!” Georgina instantly babbles as she gives me a loose, feminine handshake. “I have been SUCH a huge fan of yours for YEARS, I’ve seen every episode of the Angels on ITV2 and Amazon-“

“Breathe, for god’s sake!” Ellen says, laughing at the young woman, whose cheeks instantly flush with embarrassment. “Georgina’s been a fan for ages and when I said I was coming to visit, she instantly offered to drive me, heh.”

“It’s fine,” I shrug. “Hardly the first overenthusiastic fan I’ve had!”

“It says something about the power of your brand that when she was fourteen, she actually asked me to try to get her into Krystie’s school!” Ellen giggles as her daughter goes even redder.

“Ooh, are you a dancer too, Georgina?” I ask.

“Only as a hobby,” Georgina mumbles.

“Georgina’s actually going to university next month,” Ellen says with a proud grin. “Studying business administration.”

“Ah,” I say. “Got a little bit of experience there myself, hehe!”

“I’m sure the two of you could talk for hours!” Ellen giggles. “But that’s not why we’re here, we’re here to admire your new home!”

“Thanks,” I say with a giggle as Ellen and her daughter sit down on our sofa. “God, how long has it been?”

“At least a year,” Ellen sighs. “Bit of a change from when we first met, eh?”

“Just a bit,” I say with a snort of laughter. “It was like I was calling you or messaging you every day…”

“I didn’t mind,” Ellen shrugged. “When you’ve taught as long as I have, you kinda get used to offering advice.”

“Advice about piques and arabesques, maybe,” I say, making Ellen giggle.

“Really, I didn’t mind at all,” Ellen says. “It was kinda like I had two new daughters, what with you AND Charlotte…”

“In my case, ‘new’ had more than one meaning, heh,” I say with a grimace.

“Six years ago, right at the start, maybe,” Ellen says- she of course being the only person other than myself and Charlotte to know the full truth surrounding the start of my transition. “But now? You’re hardly a ‘new’ girl, you are- well, just a girl. Well, not ‘just’ a girl, but-“

“I know what you mean,” I say with a grin. “And thanks.”

“One thing’s for certain, no boy could have danced as well as you did on your birthday a few years ago!” Ellen giggles.

“I dunno,” I say. “With the right teacher, they might…” I suppress a giggle as I turn to face my husband, who simply rolls his eyes.

“NO,” Stuart says firmly. “Spent enough of my childhood trying to get OUT of dance lessons…”

“Even though I know for a fact that there’s a very sexy short-sleeved white leotard in one of the boxes upstairs?” I ask my blushing husband.

“And what were you wearing a few hours ago?” Stuart whispers to me out of earshot of our guests. This time, it’s my cheeks that turn red.

“Subject dropped,” I say, making Ellen and her daughter giggle at my embarrassment. “Though I still say if anyone could teach even the clumsiest oaf some beauty and grace, it’s you, Ellen. You certainly helped me in ways I just can’t count.”

“Thanks,” the former prima ballerina says with a playful bow. “Though if what I hear is true, you yourself have got the whole ‘teacher’ thing down to a fine art?”

“I… I’m not a teacher,” I say.

“To Nikki, you are,” Stuart reminds me. “And you’ve helped so many other T-girls.”

“What, by being on TV and answering the occasional email?” I retort.

“Never underestimate the power of a role model,” Ellen says.

“And not just to transgendered girls either,” Georgina says with a nervous grin. “And I don’t mean, you know, fashion… I love- I love your saying, ‘you can never have too many friends’. So do a lot of my- my friends, heh.”

“…Thanks,” I say, blinking back a tear. “I’m definitely going to have to get you into one of Krystie and Zoe’s lessons, hehe!”

“Even though this one hasn’t as much as looked at her pointe shoes in four months,” Ellen teases her blushing daughter.

“I know where they are,” Georgina mumbles. “And thanks.”

“Any time,” I say with a grin. “I’ll add you on Facebook, work things out from there. Though Krystie herself might be a little busy the next few weeks…”

“And if rumours are true, so will the two of you!” Ellen says.

“Ah…” Stuart sighs happily. “…Yep. Hopefully. Expecting a call any day now…”

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed for both of you,” Ellen says with a grin. “I would give you one of my new cards, but knowing Krystie, I’m guessing she’s already signed your kid up to her class?”

“Of course,” I say with a grin. “But thanks anyway. I’ll make sure she- or he- knows her great-aunt Ellen!”

“’Great-aunt’,” Ellen sighs as her daughter giggles. “And you can shut up!”

“Face it, you’re getting old, mum,” Georgina teases. “You’ve got two adult daughters now… Maybe we’ll be calling you ‘grandma’ soon?”

“Enough,” Ellen sighs, before standing up. “We should get going, I’m actually on my way to a pointe shoe fitting for one of my students, just wanted to drop in and say hi.”

“Well you’re welcome any time, both of you are,” I say, seeing the two women off with a hug each. “Just don’t leave it so long next time!”

“I’ll do my best,” Ellen says with a smile. “And I can guarantee Georgina won’t shut up about this for weeks!”

“I should hope not,” I say, winking at the 18 year old girl. “See you both soon.”

“Bye!” Ellen says, waving as she and her daughter get into their car and drive away.

“Right, who’s next?” Stuart asks as he waves Ellen and Georgina away.

“Don’t tempt fate,” I chide my husband, before sighing as I see a very familiar tall, skinny man walk up to the garden gate. “Ugh, REALLY don’t…”

“What’s HE doing here?” Stuart asks, his body instantly tensing up.

“Just- just calm down,” I whisper. “Go back inside. I’ll get rid of him.”

“But-“ Stuart protests.

“He’s probably just here to say hi, same as everyone else,” I whisper. “Go on.”

“…Fine,” Stuart growls, shooting a VERY dark look at our newest guest before re-entering the house. I take a deep breath, before intercepting our guest before he can enter our front garden.

“Hello, Paul,” I say with a stern expression on my face that makes the dark-haired man wither. “Long time no see.”

“I’m guessing by the expression on your husband’s face that he’d have preferred it to be longer,” my ex-boyfriend- and my first ever serious boyfriend- mumbles.

“I’ll be honest, so would I,” I say stoically.

“I’m- I’m just here to say hi,” Paul sighs.

“Hi,” I say, making the dark-haired man frown. “Does your girlfriend know you’re here?”

“Who, Dannii?” Paul asks. “Nah, we- we split up a few months ago, after all the, um, shenanigans at Nikki’s wedding… Felt she was well out of order for that, she went off on one because I wouldn’t unconditionally support her… Yeah. Plenty of other fish in the sea.”

“Well I-“ I say, before my ex interrupts me.

“Yes, I know, you’re not one of them,” Paul says. “And that’s okay, it’s my fault we’re not together anymore.”

“Meh,” I shrug. “If you hadn’t been more concerned with your reputation than with keeping your girlfriend happy, then we might be setting up house together now. Thank god THAT’s not happening.”

“Hardly unfair,” Paul sighs. “I- I just wanted to drop by to say hi.”

“You’ve said that already,” I say. “Both ‘hi’ and that you were here to say, well, yeah…”

“Yeah,” Paul says, before letting out a long sigh. “I- I’m just going to piss off now.”

“Probably for the best,” I say, before smiling tiredly. “For what it’s worth, you WERE cool. But that was a long time ago, and we’ve both moved on. Probably best we do that again.”

“Fair enough,” Paul sighs. “See you round, maybe.”

“Maybe,” I shrug, before letting out a long, frustrated sigh as I return to my house. At one point, I genuinely thought I loved Paul- he was creative, funny, EXTREMELY good in bed… But nobody’s perfect. Well, apart from the handsome young man waiting for me when I return to my home, anyway.

“He gone?” Stuart asks as he starts stacking shelves with carefully-ordered DVDs.

“Yep,” I say, before groaning loudly as a knock comes from our front door. “It’s okay, I’ll get rid of him.”

“Happy to do it for you if you want,” Stuart says, making me giggle.

“No, I prefer you to NOT be facing criminal charges,” I laugh as I open the front door. “If he’s got us a gift though, I’ll happily let you shove it up his ar- Aunt Sally! Hi!”

“Hello, Jamie!” The middle-aged woman says as she greets me with a hug, obviously surprised by my cut-off sentence. “Can we come in?”

“Of course!” I say with a nervous giggle. “Hi Nina! Hi Annalise!”

“Hey Jamie!” My cousins squeak excitedly as they greet me with gentle, girly hugs.

“Oh, hi Sally, girls!” Stuart says, breathing an obvious sigh of relief as we enter our living room. “Something to drink?”

“Coffee, please,” Aunt Sally says, her daughters nodding in agreement as they sit down on our sofa. “…I love your house, Jamie. Still unpacking?”

“Yep, taking ages, hehe!” I giggle. “My fault really, for owning so much stuff…”

“Your stuff is REALLY cool, though!” Annalise- the younger of my cousins- says with a giggle.

“Thanks,” I say with a coy smile. “So, um, Nina, you still at Oxford?”

“Yep!” Nina says. “Averaged a 2:1 last year, going to be REALLY tough this year, though…”

“Nothing you can’t handle,” Aunt Sally reminds her 19 year old daughter. “Though if you ARE insisting on going on University Challenge as well…”

“Ooh, very fancy!” I tease the blushing teenager.

“Whole family full of TV stars, then,” Stuart teases, making me roll my eyes.

“Big difference between The Angels’ show and University Challenge,” I snort.

“I don’t know,” Sally says, momentarily confusing me. “I mean, you DO put a lot of hard work and effort into your show, don’t you? And your mothers tell me that you work behind the scenes at the agency as well. Seems like you’ve earned all your success.”

“Especially considering, well, ‘everything else’ as well…” Nina mumbles, and it’s not hard to guess what she means by ‘everything else’.

“You’ve inspired a lot of people,” Sally says. “You should be proud. Both of you.”

“Thanks,” Stuart says with a grin.

“And yes, you WILL make great parents,” Sally says with a grin. “Even if it will make me a ‘great-aunt’…”

“I dunno, you’re already a pretty great aunt,” I say, making the middle-aged woman smile sadly as she sips her coffee. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been so quick to praise my aunt- threatening someone with arrest for sending a Facebook message is the sort of thing you don’t forget quickly, especially when the threat was entirely motivated by bigotry and prejudice. To her credit, though, Aunt Sally has changed a lot, and opened her mind to the possibility that she might be wrong- and as it turns out, her mind is a lot more open than I suspected.

“Will you be coming to Annalise’s sixteenth next month?” Sally asks, causing her younger daughter to immediately perk up.

“…We definitely want to,” I say. “It all depends on whether or not we’ll be busy with a kid of our own, heh.”

“We do have a sort-of ‘shared childminder’, the Angels,” Stuart explains. “Worst comes to worst, I can stay and look after the kid for a night.”

“It’ll be SO cool to have you there,” Annalise sighs happily. “First two weeks I was going out with her, my girlfriend just REFUSED to believe I was the cousin of a celebrity, hehe!”

“Oh, you- you have a girlfriend?” I ask, trying not to sound surprised despite the look of pride on Annalise’s mother’s face.

“Yeah,” Annalise giggles. “Been going out since May, hehe!”

“And they make a REALLY cute couple,” Nina teases, making her younger sister roll her eyes.

“Oh- shut up,” Annalise snorts as her sister and her mother continue to giggle at her expense.

“Well I’ll be sure to get you both a selfie at the party,” I say with a warm smile as the three women relax back into the sofa, and I relax back into my chair, happy that my ‘real’ family is just as supportive as my non-blood friends. After all, you can never have too much family…

Sally and her daughters stick around for another 45 minutes before departing with promises to visit each other much more frequently than we have been up to now- a promise I fully intend to keep, and not just so that my child- whenever they arrive- will get to know their two amazing and intelligent second cousins.

“DON’T say it,” I caution my husband as we wave the three women away.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Stuart protests, before frowning as his phone beeps to inform him of a new text message. “When are we getting the landline plugged in again?”

“Tomorrow, I think,” I say, before sighing as my own phone starts to ring. “No rest for the wicked…” Stuart smirks sympathetically as I answer my phone. “Hello?”

“Hello, is that Mrs Jamie-Lee Milton?” The voice asks, making me smile at the use of my married name.

“Speaking,” I say.

“This is Carolyn from the Central London adoption agency,” the voice says. “We’re calling to let you know that we have found a potential match for you.”

“Oh- oh my god,” I gasp. “R-really? When can- when can we-“

“We’d like you to come for a final meeting with the matching panel this week,” Carolyn says. “Both you and your husband. Will Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock be convenient?”

“Yes, yes of course, we’ll make the time,” I say, hurriedly finding a pen to write down the appointment time and date. “I’ll let my husband know, thank you, thank you so much!”

“Well see you on Thursday,” Carolyn says. “Just bring along your paperwork we sent you and, if everything goes well, the baby seat for your car as well!”

“Of course,” I say, hanging up the phone and taking a deep breath to calm myself down. “Stu! Stu, get down here!”

“What is it?” My husband asks as he hastily composes a text message on his phone.

“That was the adoption agency,” I say. “They’ve found a match! They want us to come in on Thursday afternoon!”

“Oh- really?” Stuart asks, a wide grin spreading over his face. “That’s amazing!”

“I know!” I squeak in a barely coherent voice as I share a tight hug with my husband. “Who was the text from?”

“It- ah,” Stuart says with a grimace. “It- it was from Mikey. Turns out we’re not the only ones who are going to become parents in the next couple of days…”

TO BE CONCLUDED



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