Out of the Ashes, Part 1 - Friday Evening

I’d been sitting alone in the restaurant for more than half an hour. It was starting to dawn on me that I’d been stood up.

I looked around at the crowded place. It was the Friday before Valentine’s Day and there were many couples enjoying themselves. Seeing them made me feel rather sad and even slightly depressed that Lindy had decided not to make an appearance.

I went over everything that had happened since our last meeting trying to find out why she’d done this to me. I’d been certain that she was the one for me. So much so, I’d even bought a ring. I’d planned on proposing to her that very evening.

My meanderings were interrupted by the arrival at my table of a waiter. He was carrying something.

“Madam, this was delivered for you just now,”

He handed me a small box. It was wrapped in silver paper and tied with a bow.

“Thank you,” I muttered as I took it from him.

My hopes were raised as I undid the bow and peeled back the wrapping paper.

I opened the box to find a dead flower and a piece of paper. My heart sunk to new lows as I read the words that had been written on the piece of paper.

“You’re dumped. Don’t try to contact me, I’ve moved and changed my phone number.”
I recognised the handwriting as Lindy’s.

That explained why she’d been hard to contact all week. I sat there looking at the note wondering why she hadn’t had the nerve to tell me to my face. A tear started to form in my eye.

To save myself from any further embarrassment, I picked up my purse and headed for the door after leaving some cash on the table to cover the small glass of wine that I’d been sipping at for a while.

The cold air hit me hard as I stepped onto the street. Chiswick High St is not the most alluring place at the best of times but on a cold February night it was positively arctic.

There was nothing else to do but to go home. I spotted a Taxi with its ‘For Hire’ sign illuminated so I hailed it, as it wasn’t the sort of night to be standing around waiting for a bus.

“36 Pumping Station Road please,” I said to the driver as I climbed inside.

I sat staring at the dark London streets as we headed the two miles to my home.

I live in that little bit of west London that is sandwiched between the A316 and the River Thames, just to the west of Fullers Brewery. It is nice little backwater yet close to the heart of the city. I’d been living there for a little over a year, since I’d inherited the small terraced house from my Aunt Rose.

Since then I’d redecorated the whole place and even had a new roof put on. It was now my home and I was going to stay put.

I’d finished the work in the autumn and left with nothing else to do, I joined a couple of Internet dating sites. As an eligible bachelor in West London I proved to be very popular. However I didn’t actually date anyone, I guess I was too scared. I came to know Lindy through a colleague who introduced us. We seemed to hit it off in no time at all. I knew virtually from our first meeting that I wanted to marry her. My problem was telling her about Sarah.

Sarah is my other self, my feminine self. I am a Transgendered man. Aunt Rose knew about Sarah and her last words to me were ‘be yourself Sarah and live your life being true to your inner self’.
In the end, I told Lindy when she was at my home just after Christmas. Her reaction surprised me.

“I did wonder if you were gay or something. You have furnished this place in a very feminine way.”

“Don’t you mind?”

“It depends. When can I meet Sarah?”

That had put me on the back foot somewhat. After a bit of quick thinking and I replied,
“Why don’t you go to your place and get us some dinner. Sarah will come over later. If you don’t like
Sarah then all you do is have to tell her to leave.“

Lindy thought for a moment before kissing me.

“Ok. Just don’t take too long making yourself pretty for me!”

She hadn’t told me to leave. In fact I stayed for the next three days. Sarah and Lindy got along fine and everything from then on seemed to be perfect.

Just then the Taxi driver announced,

“Miss, there is something going on right about where you live.”

I looked ahead of us. He was right. I could see at least one Police Car and two Fire Engines. My heart hit a new low as I realised that it was my home that was on fire.

“Stop here driver. I’ll go the rest of the way on foot.”

I paid the driver and got out of the cab. I was furiously trying to remember if I’d left anything on. I’d had all the electrics replaced just a few months before so I could not believe that they were the cause of the fire.

I took a deep breath of cold air and walked towards my now smouldering home.

I hadn’t gone far before a Police Officer stopped me.

“I’m sorry Miss. You can’t go any further.”

“It’s ok officer. That is my house.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. Please stay here. Let me get the Fire Investigation Officer. He wants to talk to you.”
Before I could ask what he meant, he’d left me alone.

He soon returned with an obviously senior fireman and a police inspector.

“Hello. I’m Fire Investigation Office Murray. This is Inspector Bryant from the Met Police,” said the fire officer.

“Hello. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

The policeman got in first.

“According to the neighbours, a Peter Jackson lives here.”

“That’s me,” I replied trying to use my more masculine voice. To back this up, I opened my purse and took out my wallet. I showed them my driver’s license.

“Thank you,” said the policeman as he returned it to me. He hadn’t batted an eyelid at my appearance.

“As you can see, your home has been subject to a fire. We suspect Arson,” said the Fire Officer.

My mouth dropped open.

“What... I don’t understand.”

“There is evidence from the person who raised the alarm that the front door and hall were alight before the rest of the house. My men reported smelling petrol when they entered the building to check for bodies.”

The tears that had been threatening to come since the restaurant now came in a gush. Both men seemed to be uneasy about how to handle what appeared to be a tall slim and quite elegant woman who was in fact a man who was crying in front of them. In the end, the Police Inspector reacted first.

“Miss, if you’d like to come and sit in my car this might be easier to do.”

“Do... do what?” I replied between the tears.

He didn’t say anything but gently took hold of my arm and guided me towards his police car.

They sat me in the back. Both of them also got inside.

“We have to ask you, where were you at a little after 8:00pm this evening?”

“I was in the Athena Restaurant on Chiswick High St,” I sobbed.

“The waiters could verify that I suppose?”

“Yes. I got stood up.”

“Do you own a Mini with a Union Jack painted on the roof?” asked the policeman.

“Lind...”

“Who?”

“Lindy Parker. The person who I was supposed to be having dinner with does.”

“According to the witness, a vehicle like that was seen leaving the vicinity rather rapidly just before the fire was seen.”

“Lindy. She drives like a maniac. She’s Australian.”

I caught sight of myself in the rear view mirror. My makeup was all smudged and I looked like a Panda.

This caused me to cry some more.

“When can I get inside?” I asked.

“I’m sorry Miss, the whole building in pretty well gutted. It might even be unsafe and have to be demolished. My investigation team will survey the property in the morning,” replied the fire officer.

“Whoever set this fire certainly knew what they were doing,” he added.

“Can you supply me with the details of this woman?” asked the Inspector.

I shook my head.

“She dumped me this evening. In her note, she said that she’d moved and changed her phone number so I was not to try to find her.”

“Do you have the note?”

I nodded and reached into my handbag for it.

I handed it to the Inspector. He read it carefully.

“Thank you. I think I should keep this as evidence,” he said as he put it into a plastic evidence bag.

“I most certainly don’t want to see it again,” I replied.

"Do you have her addrss and phone number?"

"Why? She said that she has moved?"

"We have to check every lead in cases like this," said the policeman.

There was a pause for several seconds before the Fire Officer asked,

“Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?”

I’d clean forgotten that it was by now late evening.

“No. I guess I’d better find a hotel. There are a few in Hammersmith.”

“You’ll be lucky to get a room there. The Irish are playing England at Twickenham tomorrow. As usual they’ve come over in their droves,” said the Inspector.

“Do you have a friend you can stay with?”

“No. Well, not anyone who knows about my cross dressing that is.”

“Is there anyone who you can go to?”

I thought for a few seconds.

“Well, there is one person. She lives not that far away and I think she has a spare room.”

Again there was silence.

“I better give her a call then,” I eventually added.

I pulled out my phone and searched through my contacts until I came upon the number. I pressed ‘call’.

After a few rings, it was answered.

“Hello Ingrid, this is Peter from the Office.”

“Yes I know it is late but I’m in a bit of a bind. My house has burnt down and I need somewhere to stay for a few days.”

“No I’m not kidding. Why don’t you speak to the Fire Officer?”

Without waiting for a reply, I handed him the phone.

“Hello? This is Fire Officer Murray. What Mr Jackson has said is perfectly true. It appears that someone deliberately set fire to his home earlier tonight.”

“Yes. If you want to call the station to verify this then please do. I’m based at Hammersmith. We are in the phone book.”

“Thank you.”

He handed the phone back to me. I saw that the call had been disconnected.

“She is going to call my station. They will vouch for me.”

Less than five minutes went by before my phone rang.

I saw that it was Ingrid.

“Hello Ingrid.”

“I can. Thank you so much. I don’t know how I will ever repay you.”

“Yes. What is your address? I know you live somewhere near Ealing Common.”

“Ok got it. 62 Carberry Avenue. I’ll find some way to get there.”

“Yes. See you soon.”

I hung up.

Before I could say anything, the Police Inspector said,

“I’ll get one of my men to take you there provided you promise to come into Hammersmith Police Station in the morning to make a statement?”

“Yes. Thank you Inspector. I will do that. Should I ask for you?”

“No. I’ll be off duty by then. Ask for the duty inspector. I’ll leave your case details with him when I hand over.”

Then he called one of the policemen over.

“Constable, would you take this young lady to 62 Carberry Avenue. If my memory serves me well, it is somewhere near Acton Tube Station.”

“Yes Sir. I know where it is.”

The constable led me to his car and we were soon leaving behind the total disaster that had afflicted my world.

-0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 –

Some twenty minutes later we arrived at Ingrid’s home. She lived in a two bedroom flat in a 1930 house that had been converted into flats a few months before. Ingrid had bought the lease to it and almost everyone in the office had been at her flat warming. That evening was my first date with Lindy so somewhat reluctantly I’d declined the invitation. Thankfully I’d remembered the area where she lived.

“Thank you constable and good night,” I said as I got out of the Police Car.

I waited until he drove off and took the first of several deep breaths before walking up the short path to the door of No 62. I saw the two bell pushes. One was labelled, ‘I Meyer’. I pressed it and stepped back to wait.

I heard Ingrid coming down the stairs. My last chance to back out had gone. There was no way I’d get far running in 4in heels and a tight skirt.

The door opened.

“Hello Pet...”

Her mouth opened wide as she saw me standing there looking like god knows what.

“Hello Ingrid. If this is too much trouble then I’ll go and find a hotel to stay at.”

“Is that really you?”

“Yes. It’s me, Peter.”

We stood there in silence for what seemed an eternity but was probably no more than a few seconds.

“No... Please come in. This is all a bit of a surprise.”

I went in and walked up the stairs and into her home.

I could sense that she was uneasy at my somewhat unconventional appearance. I couldn’t decide what was worse, the fact that I’d come at literally no notice of the fact that I was dressed as a woman.

“I can’t thank you enough for letting me kip down here tonight. As soon as I buy myself some clothes in the morning, I’ll book myself into a hotel until I can get my place sorted out.”

“You don’t have to do that. If I can trust you for one night, a few more won’t matter.”

I gave her a little smile

“If you are sure?”

“Let’s talk about it in the morning. Fancy a nightcap? I expect you can use one? It seems to have been an evening you won’t forget in a hurry.”

“Thanks. Yes it has. One that I do not want to repeat in a hurry.”

We sat down each with a tumbler with at least three fingers worth of scotch inside.
Ingrid looked at me slightly expectantly.

“I was ceremoniously dumped this evening and it appears that my now former girlfriend was behind the arson attack on my home.”

I let out a big sigh.

“I thought things were going so well. She had accepted that I liked to be Sarah whenever possible and... I was going to propose to her tonight. I’d even bought a ring.”

Before I knew it, I’d dug the box out of my handbag and opened it to show Ingrid.

Then I realised what I’d done and became a bit self-conscious.

I hurriedly closed it up and put the ring box away.

“I don’t need to burden you with my troubles.”

Ingrid laughed.
“It is all right. One of my old teachers used to say ‘Ein Problem gemeinsam ist ein Problem, halbiert’. Sorry, I should try to keep speaking English. It means, ‘A problem shared’ and all that.”

“In some circumstances, it might be true but we hardly know each other.”

Ingrid laughed.

“You are about the only single person, male or female from the office who hasn’t tried to get me into bed but don’t be getting any ideas tonight.”

“I won’t, you can be sure of that. I’ll think I’ll steer clear of a relationship for a while. Besides, I’m going to have a lot on my plate with getting my home rebuilt.”

“Is the damage that bad?”

I nodded.

“The Fire Officer said that it might have to be demolished.”

I let out another huge sigh.

“Just when I’d not long finished doing the place up as well. There goes twenty five grand down the drain.”

“Aren’t you insured?”

“I am but... well, you know insurance companies...”

We did and only too well, as we both worked for one.

I finished of my drink and said,

“I’d like to try to get some sleep if that’s ok with you?”

Ingrid downed the remains of hers and stood up.

“It is this way. Please excuse the mess, I wasn’t expecting company tonight.”

“You don’t have to apologise for me especially given how I must look.”

Then I saw the room. Not a thing was out of place. There were a few signs that she’d been in and tidied up but it was perfect. Then I saw a nightdress laid out on the bed.

“I’m sorry that I don’t have an pyjamas. You are welcome to use the nightdress.”

I smiled back.

“Quite appropriate given my current state of dress, I don’t wear pyjamas. This one is not unlike one of mine... Sorry, one I used to have.”

“I’ve put a new toothbrush out for you in the bathroom and there’s plenty of makeup remover on the shelf.”

“Thanks you once again. I really don’t know what I’d have done if...”

“Just try to get some sleep. It might not look so bad in the morning.”

“Thanks. Goodnight.”

Ingrid went into her bedroom. She stopped at the door and turned to me and said,

“Don’t keep apologising for dressing as a woman. In fact, you look pretty good.”

The she disappeared before I could reply and closed the door behind her after which I distinctly heard a click of the lock.

I knew that she was safe from me. I had far too many things on my mind to think about anything serious with her.

0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0

Sleep didn’t come easy that night. I kept playing over what has gone wrong, and more importantly, what I’d done to deserve having my home literally torched like that. I tossed and turned and eventually my rumbling stomach drove me to get up and go in search of something to eat.

I crept out of bed and went into the kitchen. I immediately heard a faint noise coming from the sitting room.

Curiosity got the better of me and I cracked opened the door to the sitting room. The noise was coming from the TV. Ingrid was sitting in the dark watching some late night TV programme.

The door gave a little creak and she nearly jumped out of her skin.

“It’s only me. I whispered. I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t get anything to eat last night.”

As if by design, my stomach gave an agreeing rumble.

“Sorry. I’ll go back to bed.”

“No. Please stay. I couldn’t sleep either. I’ll fix us something to eat.”

Ingrid got up from the sofa and joined me in the kitchen. She was wearing an almost identical nightdress to the one she’d lent me. Even with the shapeless garment covering her body I realised for the first time how beautiful she was. Ingrid was also a good three inches taller than me. She must have been a good 6ft tall. Leggy and blonde to boot, it was no wonder that people had tried and failed to get a relationship going with her.

I found myself smiling.

Ingrid noticed this.

“What are you smiling about?”

I wiped it from my face.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been. But seeing you in that nightdress made me realise how beautiful you are and for the first time in a good number of hours I wasn’t thinking about what happened yesterday. I must apologise for leering at you like that. It is not my normal behaviour.”

Ingrid to my surprise didn’t get annoyed at what I’d said.

“You don’t believe in pulling any punches do you?” she replied as she cut some bread. It was clear that the loaf was homemade.

“Why beat around the bush. You are a beautiful woman.”

“Even in a nightdress and without any makeup on?”

“Even in a nightdress and besides, you hardly wear any, at least to the office.”

“You noticed?”

“I guess so. It is probably due to my feminine side. I like to look at women but not in a sexual way, but to learn how they dress and carry themselves. Take Leonora for instance. Now there is a disaster area on two legs.”

Ingrid laughed so much that she nicked her finger with the knife.

I quickly turned on the tap and grabbed hold of her hand and put it under the water. Once again, I’d reacted without thinking.

I let go of her hand.

“Sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I will leave as soon as possible in the morning.”

Before she could answer, I fled the kitchen and dived into my bed whereupon I burst into tears.
I cried my eyes out. Eventually, I stopped sobbing and realised that Ingrid was sitting on the end of my bed waiting patiently for me to recover.

“Feeling better now?”

I nodded.

“Good. I think you needed to get that out of your system.”

“Are you some kind of shrink?”

She smiled back at me.

“Sort of. I have a PHD in Applied Psychology from Heidelberg.”

I didn’t know what to say. She was certainly a woman of mystery and surprises.

In the end, I said, “I’m sorry for grabbing your hand like that. But the sight of your blood... well, I just knew that I needed to help you stop it bleeding.”

She held up her little finger. There was a small band-aid on it.

“It wasn’t all that bad really but you did the right thing.”

There was a bit of an awkward silence between us.

Eventually Ingrid broke it by saying; “There are some sandwiches in the kitchen if you are still hungry?”

“They would be rather nice. Thanks.”

Two minutes later we were sitting in the lounge eating the sandwiches. Without thinking, I curled up my legs and almost sat on them.

Ingrid laughed, “You know, the more I see you acting naturally, the more I understand about your desire to be a woman.”

“What do you mean?” I replied between bites.

“You are curled up on the sofa in a way that only a woman would be. A man would be sitting with their legs wide apart.”

I felt myself go red in the face.

Ingrid took a deep breath and said,

“Why don’t you live as a woman? Use this event in a positive way?”

When I heard those words, I felt the tears well up in me.

Ingrid saw this.

“I’m sorry. I spoke out of turn. Please forget I ever said it.”

“No. You don’t have to apologise Ingrid. I’ve just too much on my mind to even think about that at the moment.”

She smiled back at me.

Not long afterwards both of us fell asleep where we sat.

[To be continued]



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
194 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 4005 words long.