House Sitting Pretty

House Sitting Pretty
by Ellie Dauber © 2003

Looking back, I guess it was all my fault.

My name, by the way is -- was -- Dan Hendrix. I worked as a salesman for Paxton Realty. In fact, I still do. We specialize in commercial real estate: office buildings, malls, warehouses, that sort of thing, and we do sales, rental, and maintenance. I've worked there since before Mary and I got out of community college about twelve years ago. Mary and I got married the week we graduated. She's a paralegal -- the senior paralegal, in fact -- at Baumgarten and Whyte, one of the biggest firms in the city.

Anyway, about a month ago, Mary went out of town for a few days with her boss, Katherine Whyte. Ms. Whyte was handling some big case up in Boston, and she needed a lot of help. She even took her daughter, Sue, along to act as her secretary. Sue's only 15 or so, but she's smart as a whip -- pretty, too -- and her mother swears that Sue will be a lawyer when she grows up. She's certainly got the right name for it.

Their trip took a lot longer than they expected, though. Mary had been gone for... six days, I think it was. I was tired of going home to an empty house and eating bad take-out. When Mick Tatum, one of the other salesmen, suggested stopping off at the Fox and Hounds for burgers and brew, I was more than happy to go along.

We were following the waitress to our table -- not too closely, she had an ass that was worth watching, especially in that short skirt she was wearing -- when we heard a female voice. “Nick... Dan, it that you?” We both turned. It was Beth Lindley. Beth's a perky little redhead with big green eyes and a lush figure. She's also one of the loan officers at Laurel Valley Bank, the bank our firm usually deals with. She flashed a 1000 watt smile -- aimed mainly at Nick -- and said, “Why don't you two join us?”

Nick looked at me. It was common knowledge that they were dating seriously, but he had offered me a “stag” evening. “Why not,” I said with a shrug. Who was I to spoil his love life?

Another woman was sitting in the booth that Beth led us to, a slender brunette. Beth did the introductions. “Cindy, this is Nick Tatum, the guy I was telling you about, and this other hunk is Dan Hendrix. Dan works with Nick. Guys, this is Cindy Blume. She's an old friend of mine from college, in town for some sort of conference.”

“Hi, Nick... Dan.” She flashed a big smile at us. I sat down next to her in the booth, as Nick sat down next to Beth.

To make a long story short, Nick and Beth went home together, and I went back to Cindy's hotel room. There was no lying about it; I never took off my wedding ring or anything like that. Cindy had just broken up with a long-time boy friend after a major fight. She hadn't had sex in a couple months, and she missed it. It hadn't been near that long for me, but I missed it, too.

Besides, when an attractive woman puts her hand on your thigh, squeezes, and whispers in your ear, “I could really use a man tonight.” Well, I was married, but I wasn't dead.

* * * * *

Two days later, I was dead.

Mary had gotten back in the middle of the afternoon. When she called from the airport, we arranged for me to pick up a pizza for supper. I picked up some wine, too. I figured a little pizza, a little “vino”, and on to the bedroom to welcome her home in our favorite way.

I was humming some hokey old Italian tune, as I let myself into our apartment. “Mary, I'm --”

“I know what you are.” Mary was standing a few feet away from the door. She was glaring at me and talking in a voice that could cut glass. “I knew it as soon as I found this.” She held out her hand to show me something.

Shit! I recognized the earring as soon as I saw it. It was one of Cindy's. I tried for a fake. “Nice earring,” I said hesitantly. “Get it up in Boston?”

“I didn't get it anyplace, you son of a bitch. I found it, found it by the bed, while I was unpacking.”

“I don't --”

“The hell you don't. Who was she this time, Dan?”

She had me dead to rights. The only way that earring could have gotten to our bed was on a woman's ear. “She's... I went out for dinner and drinks with Nick Tatum. She was a friend of Beth's from out of town.” Mary knew about Nick and Beth; like I said, it was no big secret.

“And just how long have you and Nick been double dating?”

“Mary, it was just that one time; I swear. You'd been out of town for almost a week, and I was... lonely.” Okay, it was a dumb answer. I knew it was dumb as soon as I said it.

“You mean you were horny. Come on, Dan, I was only gone a few days.”

“Yeah, but you were gone.”

“Are you saying that I should stay home, that I shouldn't work?”

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! This was not an argument that I could possibly win. Besides, I didn't really mind that she worked. “No, no. I'm... I'm not saying that. To tell the truth, I'm proud of how well you're doing with your job.” And that was the truth.

“You just think that I shouldn't travel; that I have to stay here in town, so I can be ready any time you get... 'lonely'.”

I was desperate, and desperate men say really stupid things. “Well, it's your own fault.”

“My fault? How the hell is it my fault?”

Open mouth and insert both feet. Up to the knees. “You... you're just so good in bed that it's... it's addictive. Yeah, addictive. When you go away for any length of time, I go crazy -- like a druggie without his fix.”

She put her hands on her hips, a bemused expression on her face. “That is the biggest load I ever heard. You've been unfaithful to me all those times because I'm so good in bed.”

“I guess it is a pretty lame excuse.” It was. When you're unarmed and surrounded, surrender can be a viable option, just not unconditional surrender. “I... I was just afraid of losing you. I know that I've hurt you, Mary. I'm sorry, really I am. Please, please forgive me.”

Sure I was “whipped”, but -- dammit -- I did love her. I just wasn't very good at being faithful to her.

“Do you promise that this... Cindy will be the last time?”

“I do, Mary, I swear that I do. Cindy was a... a horrible mistake. You're the woman I love.”

Remember that scene in the first Blues Brothers movie where Carrie Fisher has John Belushi trapped in a tunnel? She wants to kill him for leaving her at the altar, and she's got an Uzi to make sure that she does it right. Belushi falls to his knees and yells out a long string of stupid excuses. Then he smiles and wiggles his eyebrow a few times.

And Carrie forgives him.

That's what I was trying for. I did love Mary -- always have, always will -- just not very well, I guess, or I wouldn't keep hurting her that way. Besides, I wasn't lying about how good she was in bed, exaggerating just a bit maybe, but not lying.

You see, Cindy wasn't my first... fling, not by a long shot, and I was asking a lot for Mary to believe me when I said that she'd be my last.

Mary gave me a funny look, as if she were trying to decide something very important. I guess, come to think of it, she was. After a minute or so, she smiled, a big, toothy smile, and said, “All right, I guess I'll keep you.”

It was a funny way of putting it, but I didn't care. I ran over and picked her up in a big bear hug.

“Dan! Put me down. I said I'd keep you, but I'm still angry with you -- and more than a little hurt.” I gently lowered her to the ground and tried to kiss her. On the forehead, honest.

She stepped back out of my arms before I could touch her. “We'll have supper now. I see you brought the pizza. Hmm, wine, too, I see.” She put the bottle on a counter. “I don't think either of us have anything to celebrate tonight. We'll just eat while I decide where you're going to be sleeping.”

She decided, and it wasn't our bedroom. There's a smaller room just across the hall from the bedroom. It was going to be a child's -- our child's -- room when we got the apartment, but with work and, to be frank, my fooling around, we just never managed to have a kid. Even though we really both did want one.

Now we just called it the “projects” room, since we both used it for work or hobby-related stuff. Our PC is set up in there on a desk by the window. There's also a fair-sized worktable and a couple of cabinets full of tools and odds and ends.

And a couch that opened up into a bed.

* * * * *

I spent three nights on that couch. I was back in our own bed the fourth night, but Mary acted like there was a barbed wire fence between us. It took a couple nights for that wire to go away, but still all Mary would do was snuggle a little. “Cold turkey,” she called it referring to that stupid excuse I'd given.

Snuggling wasn't enough, not by half. I missed her, dammit. I hate it when she's mad at me. She still was -- she had every right to be -- but that wasn't helping me any.

I decided to go all out. It was Friday. I'd take her away for a surprise weekend, like I'd done when we were first married. Mary really liked it up in the mountains near Tammament State Park. We'd drive up, find a nice little motel, and spend the weekend just goofing around. We could picnic in the park, explore some the villages nearby, maybe do some antiquing, another of Mary's hobbies. And, at night, we'd... make up.

I called her mid-morning. I was hoping that she wasn't so mad that she'd veto the whole idea. “Hi, Mary. I was... ah... wondering... about the weekend...”

“Dan, you must be psychic. I was just about to call you.” She actually sounded happy to see me. Maybe this wouldn't be so hard after all. “Could you... umm... come by the office here around noon?”

I quickly checked my appointment book. I had nothing scheduled for the rest of the day. “Yeah... yeah, sure. Noon is great.” It was. Maybe we could both take the afternoon off and get an early start.

“Fine, then,” she said. “I'll see you at noon.”

'Mary, I--” I heard the phone click, followed a second later by the dial tone. “She must've been called to a meeting or something,' I thought.

Roy Koehler is my boss, a straight up guy, about 50 with a solid handshake and a “trust me” grin, the perfect salesman. He was also a friend, and he knew what was going on with Mary and me. I walked into his office explained why I wanted the afternoon off.

“Yeah,” he said, “take the rest of the day; it's fairly quiet in here. Good luck with Mary, too. She deserves a lot better than the way you've been treating her.”

“I know. It's just that --”

“Dan, you say that you love her, right?”

“I do. I may not show it very well sometimes, but I do.”

“I know you do, and she loves you, Heaven knows why. Go... make up with her. Promise that you'll behave, and, this time, mean it.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Okay, okay, I've said my piece, and I do I wish you luck. When you're not letting your 'Johnson' think for you, you and Mary are a great couple. I just hope that you're smart enough to realize that.”

“I do; thanks. I'll see you on Monday.”

“With good news, I hope.”

“So do I.”

* * * * *

Mary's office was across town from mine. I was almost late thanks to Friday noon traffic. I made it, though. I found a spot in the garage under her building right by the elevators, and I was stepping off them at her floor -- her office rents the whole floor -- just as the big clock in the Spencer Building chimed noon.

She was waiting for me. “Hi, Love,” I said, bending over to kiss her cheek.

She stiffened a little and stepped away. “Come with me,” she said, offering her hand. “We have some things to... umm, talk about.”

“Okay.” I took her hand -- it was a start, after all -- and let her lead me out of the reception area and into a maze of cubicles. “About the weekend. I thought we could... maybe drive up to Tammament. I even got Ray to give me the afternoon off. If you can get away, we can make an early start of it.”

“I know; Ray called me. He said how much you'd been moping around the office, and he hoped that I'd give you another chance.”

“You didn't mind, did you? You know how he likes to 'mother hen' everybody.”

“I didn't mind. He's a good man and a good friend. The thing is... well, I have to be away again. I've already been to the house and packed.”

“More travel for work? So soon?” I caught myself, not wanting to screw things up. “I'm... no, I'm not mad. I'm... I'm disappointed. I wanted to be with you this weekend.”

“I don't think that would be possible.”

“Where are you going? Maybe I could --”

“You can't. It's... it's complicated.”

“Maybe next weekend, then -- if they can spare you.” Damn, sarcasm wasn't going to win me any points. “I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean that.” I had to try and salvage something. “And this time, I promise that I'll behave. No fooling around, you can trust me.”

Mary's eyes narrowed. “No, Dan, I can't trust you, not any more. That's why I've made some other arrangements.”

“Arrangements?” I stopped walking and looked around. We weren't anywhere near her cubical. We were walking down a hallway with real doors, the offices of some the lawyers she worked for, I guessed. “What's going on? Where are we headed?”

“You'll see.” She smiled and pulled at my hand. She seemed almost playful. For a moment, I thought that she might be taking me to an empty office for a “nooner.” I felt a stiffening in my slacks, as I started after her again.

“Here we are,” she said. We were almost at the end of the hall now, near two very formidable looking doors. She stopped in front of the one on the right. A small bronze plaque on the door read, “Katherine Whyte, Managing Partner.”

“I pointed at the sign. “She's your boss, isn't she? Why do I have to see her?” I took a breath. No “nooner”, that was for sure. “This doesn't have anything to do with your going away today, does it?”

“It does, but not in the way you think.” She knocked on the door, then opened it a crack. “Ms. Whyte, it's me, Mary.”

“Come in, Mary,” came a feminine voice from inside. “Is your husband with you?”

“He is.” She opened the door wide, and we walked in. “Ms. Whyte, this, of course, is my husband, Dan Hendrix. Dan, I'm sure that you remember my boss, Katherine Whyte.”

Ms. Whyte rose from behind her desk, walking around, her arm extended to shake my hand. She was an attractive woman; in her forties, I'd guess. She was wearing a dark blue suit that hinted at a still trim figure. Her hair was blonde, going to gray, and done up in some sort of a braid. “Hello, Dan. May I call you Dan?” Her handshake was firm and deliberate.

I was outclassed, and I knew it. “Dan... uh, Dan's fine, Ms. Whyte.”

“Please, please call me Katherine, Dan. You, too, Mary. I don't know why you've gone so formal on me.” She flashed a friendly “trust me” sort of smile. “Mary's been telling me a great deal about you, Dan.”

“Not all of it bad, I hope.”

“Not all, but enough.” She frowned. “I understand that you don't approve of all the travelling she's been doing for the firm.”

“I-I don't, not really. I understand that it's a part of her job and all, but I miss her. I love her.”

“So you say. You love her so much that you sleep with other woman to make up for her not being around.”

She had me. “Very good, umm, Katherine. Mary always said that you were a first rate lawyer. Now I see why.”

“Thank you, Dan, but you haven't answered my question.”

“I don't have an answer, not a good one. I-I'm a man, I guess, and sometimes... sometimes I do stupid things.”

“You're right, that wasn't a good answer, but it was an honest one.” She looked at Mary who was now sitting next to a small conference table a few feet from the desk. “And, if Mary still wishes it, we can do something to correct the problem.”

“I... I do,” Mary stammered. “I... oh, just go ahead and do it.” There was a sadness to her voice.

“Very well,” Ms. Whyte said looking towards the back of the room behind me. “Delphine, if you would please.”

I looked around. A tall, very attractive brunette was sitting on a couch against the wall. She stood in one fluid motion and walked towards me, her hips swaying. She wore a long, pale blue dress that showed off her figure without being suggestive or vulgar. It didn't need to. Between her lush figure and the feline grace that she walked with, she'd have given the Pope a hard-on.

“Dan,” I heard Ms. Whyte say, “this is Delphine, a friend of mine. Delphine, this is Dan.” She paused a beat. “Delphine has something to give you, Dan.”

Delphine stood very close to me. She was tall, almost my six foot one height. I could smell her odd, flowery perfume. She smiled and reached hands up over my head. I felt her breasts push against me, as she leaned forward and put something around my neck. Then she mumbled something softly in a language that I didn't recognize and stepped back away from me.

A weird sort of tingling, sort of like a low voltage electric shock ran through my body. I reached up with my right hand to see just what it was that she'd stuck around my neck.

My hand froze halfway to my neck. I couldn't move. “What the hell?” At least I could still talk.

I was still tingling. The room began to move, to get bigger. No, I was shrinking, even if I didn't realize it at the time. I did realize that my scalp itched. I felt my hair get longer, felt it slide down over my ears, growing until it was tickling the back of my neck.

My clothes got very loose. My shirt sleeves moved down past my wrist to cover most of my hand. My slacks slipped down to my hips, and those were growing because now the slacks got tight against my hips and butt. My shirt collar hung a lot looser around my throat, too.

The tingling got worse at my crotch. A hard-on started; then it kind of went numb, like there was nothing there. All I could feel was something... moving. Yeah, that's the only word for it, moving around inside of me down there.

My chest was suddenly tingling like crazy. It was like something was growing on it, pulling it outward. Whatever it was, it was pushing against my t-shirt, and the fabric of the shirt felt rougher than it had before.

Something was pushing against my face, too. It was like the flesh was clay, and a sculptor was moving my nose around and pushing against my cheekbones. That only lasted for a minute or so. Then it felt like something oily was smearing across my lips, on my cheeks, even on my eyelids.

The changes, whatever they were, kept coming. I couldn't feel my shirt collar any more, just the cord that Delphine had put around my neck. I didn't feel the weight of my jacket on my arms, either. I did feel my shirt sleeves moving up my arms. Some sort of mesh was moving up my legs, too. It reached all the way up to my hips, where the mesh from my two legs merged together into a single, tight garment. I felt a draft on my legs, all of a sudden, as if I wasn't wearing my pants anymore.

I seemed to rise a couple inches as there was a “push” on the backs of my feet. I was off-balanced and stumbled forward a step. Hey! I could move again.

“What... what just happened to me?” My head was spinning, and my voice didn't sound right.

“It is all right, Diane,” Delphine said. “Do not be afraid. The dizziness will pass in a moment.”

Now I was really confused. “Diane? Who's Diane?”

“You are,” Mary said. “For the time being, you're my husband's younger cousin, Diane, and you'll be watching our house for a while.”

“That's crazy,” I said. “I'm your cou... your cou... sin; I'm Di... Diane.” I stopped trying and just glared at her.

Mary smiled wryly. “Don't look at me. Take a look at yourself.”

I looked down. My jacket and tie were gone. My white cotton shirt was now a silky yellow blouse with a scoop neckline, a neckline that showed the tops of two very impressive breasts. Now I could see what Delphine had put on me, a white locket that hung well down into my new cleavage. I looked past that and on down to a narrow waist and full, rounded hips. The yellow blouse was actually the top of a dress that went halfway down to my knees. Below it, I saw stockings -- no, pantyhose, I remembered -- and a pair of matching high heels.

My arms -- my bare arms, since the sleeves of my... dress stopped just above my elbows -- were slender and hairless. My hands were smaller with long, slim fingers that ended in manicured, pink-painted nails. “I... I'm a girl.”

“Without a doubt,” Katherine said. “Would you like to see your new face?” I nodded, and she handed me a small mirror set in a black frame.

I was too stunned to talk. I took the mirror and held it up. I still looked like me -- or a close relative anyway. I had the same brown eyes, but now there was green shading on the eyelids and mascara on the lashes. My shaggy eyebrows had shrunk down to a pencil-thin line. My jaw was wider and my cheekbones higher, which gave a much softer look to my face. I could see blusher on my cheeks. My lips were fuller, too, and they... they had lipstick on them. I instinctively ran my tongue over them. It tasted oily and a little sweet.

It was not a face that could ever be taken for male, especially now that my curly brown hair had grown into a mass of auburn ringlets that framed it. Besides everything else, I looked younger, maybe in my mid-20s.

The worst part of it was that the face, my face, was smiling. A part of me liked the way I looked.

Mary stood up and walked over. I'd been a good six inches taller than her; now we were about the same height. “You're lovely, Diane. I don't think I'll have to worry about you sleeping with any other women while I'm away.”

“Is that what this is about?” I asked. “Don't you think changing me like this is a little drastic?”

“Perhaps,” Ms Whyte said, “but she has given you a good many chances to reform, chances you've missed I might add.”

“So this is your idea, then.” I turned and glared at Ms. Whyte. “You did this to me.”

“It is far less than you have done to your wife,” Delphine said. Her voice was high and musical with an accent that I couldn't recognize. “It had been done, and there can be no turning back.”

“Swell,” I said. “And I suppose that I'll be this way until you come back from wherever the hell you're going. What about my job, my life, in the meantime?”

“Taken care of,” Ms. Whyte said. “As far as anyone is concerned, Mike Hendrix went away with his wife.”

“What!” She couldn't be serious.

“That's what I told Ray when he called,” Mary said. “He said to tell you that he didn't mind. You had more than enough earned vacation time, and he wanted us to get back together.” She paused. “He's a very sweet man.”

“I'm stuck like this, then, until you get back.”

“Oh, don't worry, Diane,” Mary said wryly. “You'll be seeing me again before you know it.”

“And in the meantime...” I let the words hang in the air.

“In the meantime, you're Diane,” Mary said, looking very serious. “You can just think of it -- I don't know -- think of it as your ultimate punishment for all those women you slept with. You don't have to like it, Diane, but you should accept it.”

“And if I do?” Like I had a choice. This wasn't some $10 parking ticket to pay and forget about. This was magic.

Delphine answered. “If you do, if you accept this magic, then, in the end, the bond between the two of you will be restored, and the love that you share will be stronger than ever.”

I shrugged, feeling an odd jiggle in my... my breasts. “Sounds crazy, but if it will put things back the way they were between Mary and me, then I'll go along. That's all I really want.”

They will not be as before,” Delphine said. “They will be different, but they will be better.”

I looked at Mary. “Better? That would be worth even... this.” I swept my arm down in front of me. “Okay, I'll be a good, umm, girl, and cooperate.”

“Thank you, Diane.” Mary smiled one of her patented 1000-watt smiles. I'd seen too few of them lately, and I wanted to see more. “And you won't have to worry about clothes, you know. You and I are the same size now.”

“Goody.” As if I was going to wear any of her stuff. I was on vacation, and I'd spend the time in sweats or whatever I could find that wasn't feminine. I looked down at my clothes. “I guess a little change now and then can be good for a marriage.”

“Perhaps not at the present, but in the fullness of time, change is inevitable.”

Who was this Delphine? Yoda's kid sister?

Ms. Whyte looked at her watch. “Change isn't the only that that's inevitable. We have a lot of work to do before our 3 o'clock flight, Mary. Why don't you see Diane to the elevator?”

“Sure, Katherine.” Mary pulled at my arm and led me from the office.

I'd agreed to cooperate, so I didn't argue. Besides, I did want to talk to Mary once we were back in the hall. “Do you really think this is necessary?”

“I do, Diane.”

“We're alone now, Mary. You can call me Di -- oh, hell, I still can't say my real name.”

“Right now, Diane is your real name.” She paused to collect her thoughts “I love you, too. That's why I stayed with you for so long. But I couldn't take the hurt any more. It was this or divorce.”

“Divorce? No, Mary, please. I-I love you.”

“Maybe so, but you have a rotten way of showing it. Katherine and Delphine say that will solve the problem, and I have faith in them.” She sighed. “So, if you do love me, do me a favor and go along with it. Okay?”

Like I had a choice. Still, maybe it would work. “Okay, I'll... I'll do it.”

She smiled and kissed me on the cheek, a sisterly sort of smile. “Thank you, Diane. By the way, you left this in Katherine's office.” We were almost to the elevator now. She handed me a butterscotch-colored purse with a long shoulder strap.

I took the thing and put the strap over my left shoulder, as I'd seen her do so many times. “Look inside,” she whispered.

I did. I saw tissues, a couple of lipsticks, and a small makeup case. My keys, which had been in my pants pocket, were in there, too. So was a matching woman's wallet. I took out the wallet and looked inside. The driver's license had a picture of how I looked now and the name on it was “Diane Hendrix.” My age was listed as 25 -- why was I 10 years younger? -- and my sex was listed as “F”. The same name was now on my MasterCard and AmEx credit cards, not to mention a couple of department store cards I'd never seen before.

I got everything back into the purse just as we got to the elevators. “Here we are,” Mary said. “Thanks for being such a dear, Diane, and watching the house for us.” Was she trying to rub it in?

The elevator door opened. I decided to throw Mary a curve she wasn't expecting. “My pleasure, Mary. You and Cousin Dan just have a good time.” Gotcha! I kissed her on the cheek and stepped into the elevator. I spent most of the trip down thinking of the surprised look on her face and trying not to giggle.

* * * * *

My car was right where I'd left it, and, at least, it hadn't changed. I guessed that “Diane” was borrowing it while Dan and Mary were away. She-I must have been; the seat and the mirror were adjusted for my new height.

All I could think of as I drove off was getting home and changing out of this dress. I changed my mind as I got off the highway at my exit. It was after 1:30, and I was hungry. I decided to stop at the Wendy's up ahead and grab a burger for lunch.

That plan lasted until I got into the drive-through line and rolled down my window. Thanks to that damned spell, the aroma of grilled beef was now the smell of hot grease, and it hit me like a lead pipe. Instead of the double burger and fries I'd been planning on, I ordered, “a Mandarin Chicken salad and a diet coke.”

When I got to the pick-up window, I fumbled with my purse looking for the wallet. “It's okay,” the kid at the window said. “Take your time; take your time.” I thought he was being polite until I handed him the $10, I'd fished out. He didn't seem to notice it, and he had an odd look on his face.

The little bastard was staring at my lap! I hadn't paid any attention to my dress, when I got in the car. It had ridden up so high that it was showing my legs all the way up. My legs, hell, that kid could practically see my crotch.

My face felt hot -- blushing, I guess. I wanted to punch out his smirking face. Instead, I shoved the money in his face. When he turned away to make change, I quickly lifted my butt and pulled my dress as far down as I could.

He knew he was caught when he handed my change. He took a breath and waited for me to start yelling. “Just give my food,” I hissed. He did, and I peeled out of there as fast as I could.

I waited to get home to eat. Hungry as I was, though, I barely managed to finish half the salad and drank only about a third of the diet coke. I stuck the leftovers in the fridge for later and tossed the trash.

Time to change out of these clothes. I headed straight for my bedroom.

I surprised myself when I reached behind my back and unbuttoned my dress without a thought. I stepped out of it and tossed it into the laundry basket Mary keeps for dirty clothes. I liked the shirt I'd been wearing, and I hoped that the dress would change back to it, when I turned back into Dan.

The bedroom closet was behind a set of folding doors, each with a mirror. Now I could really see my new body for the first time. I looked pretty good -- hot even -- standing there in a gold colored bra and panty set. If Mary hadn't lied about my being her size, I had a 36-C rack.

I posed, taking the classic female stance, one hand on hip, the other at her side, one leg straight, the other with the knee bent. I grinned, a big, hungry grin, and my reflection smiled back, looking just as ready.

I-she raised her arm and slid her hand slowly across the tops of her-my tits. One finger moved down under the fabric of my bra and touched the nipple. A jolt of sexual energy ran through me. I shivered and heard myself moan.

I started teasing the nipple with the tip of my finger. It stiffened as I played with it. I was getting hornier by the minute, but I didn't feel the erection I was used to. Instead, I felt the hardness of my nipples and a dampness down in my...

“What the hell am I doing?” I yelled. I'd gotten so caught up in what I was feeling that I forgot who I really was. I was alone in my bedroom with a horny little slut, but she wasn't there for me to fuck. She was me.

But I didn't want to be her.

I didn't want to be a woman, and I sure didn't want to be doing anything to make me enjoy being one. I pulled my hand away and ran for the bathroom. I ran the water in the sink until it was ice cold, then I kept splashing it in my face.

It worked... eventually. I dried my face and hands with a towel. I'd gotten more than my face wet, but I sure as hell didn't want to be rubbing a towel anywhere near my tits.

I hung up the towel and walked back into the bedroom. Since I didn't have to go anywhere, I decided to indulge in an afternoon nap. I took off my panty hose and climbed into bed. The sheets felt cool against my skin. I pulled a cover over me and soon fell asleep.

* * * * *

I awoke to the feeling of my hand touching something, a woman's breast. Mary? No, I could feel myself being touched; it was my breast. “What!” I sat up, my heart racing, my eyes opened wide. Then I remembered what had happened. Talk about your rude awakenings.

I climbed out of bed and walked over to my dresser. Okay, I had tits, so I'd have to wear a bra, but that didn't mean that I had to wear anything else that was “girly.”

Wrong! I was Mary's size now. That meant that I was about six inches shorter and about sixty pounds lighter than before.

The boxer shorts I put on seemed to hang down to my knees, and they were so loose, that they almost slid off when I tried to walk. I cursed at them a couple of times, and switched back into those gold panties.

I had to roll up the sleeves of my sweatshirt four times before they were short enough so I could see my hands. The thing hung on my like a tent, and it was long enough that I could put a belt around it and wear it for a dress.

I had a worse problem with my sweatpants than with the boxers. They were down around my knees from the weight of the material as soon as I took a step. That was just as well; I could hardly walk with a good six inches of leg pooled at each ankle. “Round to the ladies,” I said as I put the pants back in my drawer. “Okay, let's see what Mary has that I can wear.”

The first outfit I found was from her aerobics class, skintight yellow and purple spandex, with a bright red panty. “No way,” I said, as I put it back. Then I got lucky. Mary had an old pair of sweats in the back of the drawer. They were pink, but what can you do? I put them on and checked myself in the mirror. They were tight enough to hint at a good figure underneath, but that was all.

There wasn't much in the way of food in the fridge. “Maybe I'm supposed to go shopping,” I guessed, not liking the prospect. I found part of a leftover chicken breast. That plus what was left of the salad and coke from lunch were my dinner. I put it all, along with a banana for desert, on a tray and went in to watch TV while I ate.

On ESPN, a couple of guys were talking baseball. It looked like the usual suspects in the National League division races. I've been a rabid Phillies fan all my life, but tonight it was about as exciting as watching paint dry.

I channel surfed till I found an old movie, some dizzy comedy from the 30s. The plot wasn't bad, but I caught myself noticing the costumes and hairdos of the actresses, especially the leading lady. “How could she let them dress her in something like... aww, hell.” Now I was beginning to think like a woman. I switched back to ESPN just in time for the start of a basketball game. Okay, it was women's basketball, but it was basketball, and I enjoyed the game anyway.

The game ended around ten. I normally stay up later than that, especially on the weekends, but, tonight, I was tired. “Getting changed into a woman sure takes a lot out of a guy,” I said with a laugh and headed off to bed.

I took off the sweats and tossed them on a chair. I was going to wear them in the morning. I was about to get a pair of pajamas out of my dresser, but “I probably won't have any better luck with my pajamas than I did with my other clothes,” I said in disgust, as I turned and opened a drawer in Mary's dresser.

Mary doesn't like to wear pajamas. It was too hot for any of her long flannel nightgowns. Mary must've taken a bunch of her nightwear with her on her trip. I had my choices of a couple of teddies, a pale green baby doll nightie I'd bought her as a gag anniversary gift -- hey, she bought me a pair of white silk boxers with little red hearts all over them -- and a short blue nightie that was almost as bad as the baby doll. They were all much too feminine for me.

Nudity was out. It was much too erotic to even think about sleeping in the nude. I sighed and went to bed in the panties I was wearing and one of Dan's... one of my t-shirts.

* * * * *

I woke up smiling after a good night's sleep. “Damn, that was a crazy dream,” I said scratching my head. My hair felt a lot thicker than it had before, and my voice... I threw back the blanket and looked down at my body. “It... it wasn't a dream.” I was a girl, and I was going to be one until Mary got home.

I sighed and got out of bed. Boy or girl, whatever I was, I was hungry. I grabbed a robe -- yes, Mary's robe -- and put it on before I padded out to the kitchen.

We were almost out of coffee. We were out of milk. Amaretto CoffeeMate tastes terrible on corn flakes. Mary kept one of those grocery pads on the fridge door. Besides coffee and milk, a bunch of other things were marked. “I guess I am going grocery shopping,” I said.

I went back into the bedroom to change.

I stuck the robe back over the chair where it had been.

I tossed my underwear from yesterday into the laundry basket. It was the first time that I'd seen myself naked as a woman, and I had to admit that I was pretty hot stuff, just the sort of girl that my old self would have made a play for. That thought stopped me. I looked like this because of what I'd done with other women and how it had hurt Mary.

I quit leering at myself and went into the bathroom. I washed my face and brushed my teeth same as always -- even used my old toothbrush. Instead of the Right Guard I... Dan used, I used Mary's Secret. I could have done more, maybe even played with myself a little before I got dressed, but somehow just then, I didn't feel like doing anything remotely sexual.

I pulled out a plain white pair of panties from Mary's dresser -- I didn't want to wear anything fancier -- okay, anything more “girly” than I had to. When I stepped into them, they fit fine, just the way she said that they would, but they sure felt funny. Even simple cotton panties were a lot softer and smoother than any boxers I'd ever worn.

I'd watched more than my share of women putting on and taking off bras, though I always thought that a woman taking off a bra was a lot more interesting to watch. I found a match to the panties and put my arms through the straps. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to reach behind and fasten the hooks, but I surprised myself and got them on the first try.

Now I had a new problem.

My first thought was to put on the sweats I'd worn the day before. Sweats were fine around the house or for a walk in the park, but it always seemed to me that people who wore them for shopping or even just walking around in a mall were some kind of slobs, lazy, dirty, I don't know what, but that was how I felt.

And this wasn't part of the spell, either. Dan... I... the male me wouldn't have gone shopping in sweats, either.

So my problem was, was I going to be a slob and dress in what was basically a genderless sweatsuit, or was I going to put on women's clothes? “I've already got on a panty and bra,” I said with a sigh, “and Mary does own a few pair of nice slacks. What the hell...”

I found a pair of jeans and a t-shirt in Mary's dresser, and she had sandals with no real heel in the closet. That didn't seem too bad.

Yeah, right. It took me five minutes to get those jeans past my hips, and I had to take a breath to close them at my waist. They weren't painted on, but they showed off every damned curve. The lace trim on the pockets and down at the bottoms didn't help any either.

The t-shirt was a “Morning Edition” shirt that Mary had gotten for renewing her membership to public radio. It wasn't tight, but it wasn't exactly very loose, either. It showed off my new figure, unfortunately, and it sure as hell got pushed out by my new boobs... excuse me, my new breasts.

I was ready to go, when I got a look at myself in the hall mirror. Something was missing. Hell, makeup, I wasn't wearing any. I thought about going without, but back came that “lazy slob” image nagging at me. There was some lipstick in my purse, and, don't ask me how, but I knew how to use it. I did my lips, pursing them just right, then blotting with a tissue. A little blusher on my cheeks, and I was ready to go.

* * * * *

The ShopRight was a five-minute drive from the apartment. Does everybody in town go food shopping on Saturday morning? It took forever to find a parking spot that wasn't a hike from the store. I found a cart that didn't wobble too much, and started looking for the things on the list Mary had left.

I found most of it without any trouble. It was a little -- no, actually it was very -- creepy going into the “feminine hygiene products aisle after the tampons, and I hoped I got the kind Mary wanted. I hoped even more that she'd be back before I needed them.

One of the last things on the list was cereal. I was going to get more corn flakes, then, up on the top shelf, I saw Blueberry Nuggets. I'd had some of this a while back, when I spent a weekend with a couple of my friends, helping one of them move into his new house. It was pretty good; a bran flake cluster with dried blueberries. I decided to get that instead.

Like I said, though, it was on the top shelf. I couldn't reach that high in my new body. I tried jumping up, but that didn't work. Besides, I didn't like the way certain parts of me jiggled when I jumped.

I was all set to give up and settle for corn flakes, when I heard a voice behind me. “Can I help you with that, Miss?”

I turned around. It was a guy I didn't know. He was tall, about my old height and in his late 20s, I guessed. He had curly, sandy brown hair and a cute... stop it, Diane. Anyway, he was smiling at me. “I-I guess s-so,” I answered. “I was trying to get --”

“The Blueberry Nuggets, yes, I saw.” He reached up easily and handed a box down to me. “Is one box enough or do you want more?” He smiled and looked down, taking in my appearance from head to toe.

I put the box in my cart. “One’s fine, thanks.” I felt nervous, and I was suddenly very aware of what I had been turned into.

“I'm Jeff... Jeff Thomas.”

“Diane Hendrix,” I said, not sure why I was telling him.

“Nice to meet you, Diane. Would you care to join me for some coffee after we're finished here?”

He had a sweet sort of eager smile that I just... that I didn't want to think about. And why was my body tingling that that? “No... I, uhh... I have errands to do.” Dammit, a tiny part of me wanted to go with him -- maybe a not so tiny part. Now I was scared. I looked down at my list. Crackers, they were next. I looked around; crackers, where the hell did they keep the crackers? Oh, there they were.

“Another time maybe,” he called after me as I pushed the cart past him and hurried down the aisle. As I turned the corner at the end of the aisle, I thought I heard him chuckle. Was I that funny?

I paid for the food and got out of there as fast as I could. I drove straight home, but before I put the food away, I splashed some cold water in my face, sat down, and tried to get my nerves under control.

* * * * *

By the time I'd made my lunch, I was calm again. I was; really I was. I barely jumped when the phone rang, and I didn't drop my sandwich or anything.

“H-Hello,” I said.

“Is this the Hendrix residence?” a man's voice asked. “Am I speaking to Ms. Mary Hendrix?”

“I'm afraid that she's not here right now. Can I help you with something?”

“This is The Gatherum Book Store. The book Ms. Hendrix ordered has just come in. She asked us to call when it did.”

I remembered the book, the account of somebody's trip through the south of France. Mary loved reading that sort of thing. I checked the desk Mary used for her kitchen “office.” Sure enough, there was the receipt from the bookstore. I thought I'd earn a few brownie points. “I have the receipt. Can I come in and pick it up for her?”

“I suppose so. Do you know where we're located?” Silly question, it was printed on the receipt.

“Yes, I've been in your place a few times. I'll be over some time this afternoon, okay?”

“That will be fine. We're opened till 9.” The store was in the Braddock Run Mall about a half-hour away. “Have a good day.” The line was dead before I could answer.

* * * * *

It was a nice enough day, so I decided to drive over for the book after I finished lunch. “Maybe I'll walk around the mall a little, too.” It sounded a little weird when I said it. I've never been one for shopping, at least not when I was... was a man. Of course, there was a great sporting goods store over in that mall, a pretty good electronics store, too, now that I thought of it. Sure... that was it.

So why did I keep thinking about the dress shops?

Anyway, I went. The bookstore was on the second floor. “Hi,” I said, handing the clerk Mary's receipt for the book. “I came to pick this up for my cousin, Mary Hendrix.”

The clerk looked at the receipt. “Oh, sure. It's in the back.” He turned and walked behind a curtain.

“Well, hello, again, Diane.”

I'd been looking at a couple of the magazines racked up for sale at the counter. I turned at the sound of the voice. It was the cute -- scratch that -- it was the guy from the grocery store. “Oh, hello, umm...”

He grinned. “Jeff... Jeff Thomas.”

“Hello, Jeff,” I said with a smile that I hoped wasn't too big. “What brings you here?”

“Gee,” he said wryly, looking around the store. “Books, I guess. I was picking up something in the mystery section.” He held up a couple of paperbacks. “Then I saw something that I'd rather pick up.” He smiled and looked right at me.

Now I had to smile. “You do realize just how corny that line was, don't you?” Oh, man, now I was flirting with the guy.

“Hey, I figured it was worth a shot.” He shrugged. “Now, about that cup of coffee, I mentioned before...” He let the invitation just sort of dangle there.

“I... umm...” Damn, my body was really tingling. This... Jeff was actually starting to turn me on. I was a guy, for gosh sakes. I couldn't be feeling “that way” about another guy, but, as I looked at him, I felt my resolve melt.

“Here's the book.” Saved by the clerk! “Would you like to take a look at it?”

“No... no.” I looked at Jeff and shook my head just a little. “I... I've got to get going. Do I owe anything?”

“No,” he said, putting the book in a plastic bag. “I'll just put your receipt in here with the book.” She did just that and handed me the bag.

“Th-thanks,” I said. I grabbed the bag and started towards the doorway back into the mall. “I really do have to go.” I didn't want to give Jeff a chance to say anything that might make me change my mind.

“Later then,” he called after me.

“When pigs fly,” I whispered more to myself than to him. There were restrooms only a few doors down. When I ran through the doors and into the ladies room, I felt like Quasimodo, the hunchback, yelling “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” as he carried the gypsy girl into Notre Dame cathedral.

I hurried to a stall and sat down inside to catch my breath.

I sat there for a long time trying to figure out what the hell was the matter with me. Okay, I looked like a girl. It was weird, but I was almost getting used to it. What I couldn't get used to, what I didn't even want to think about getting used to, was acting like a girl.

Finally, it hit me. “The spell!” I almost shouted it, but there didn't seem to be anybody else in the bathroom to hear me. Then I whispered it softly to myself. “The spell!” Now there was a big surprise, but think about it for a minute. The whole idea was for me to stay away from women. The fact that I was a woman didn't automatically stop me. I was young and pretty, and there were plenty of women who liked other woman who looked like that.

If I still thought like a man, I might be willing to try a little girl-girl action. It might be a lot of fun. But if I... if part of my mind thought like a woman, a heterosexual woman, I wouldn't want to go in for anything like that. Since part of my mind was still male -- pray to the Lord that part of me still was male -- I wouldn't be up for any male-female... fun, either.

It was brilliant. “Damn, that Katherine Whyte is a sneaky, little bitch.”

* * * * *

I looked at my wristwatch, now a small woman's watch. I'd been in the stall for over a half an hour. “Good thing there wasn't much traffic in here.” I opened the bathroom door and looked carefully out into the mall. There was no sign of Jeff. Part of me was disappointed, but the rest was relieved. I left the bathroom and headed out into the mall and on my way back to the car.

I almost made it, too.

Ettinger's stopped me.

Ettinger's, in case you don't know, is an upscale women's wear chain. They had a store about half way between The Gatherum and the mall exit where I'd parked. At the pace I was walking, I almost got past it. Then I saw that dress in the window. It was the classic “little black dress”, a slinky, sleeveless number with a low-cut, sequined bodice. I took one look and stopped dead in my tracks. It was absolutely beautiful, and I couldn't help wonder how I would look in it.

“You'd look wonderful in that, Diane.” It was Jeff again, talking as if he'd been reading my mind. I must have seemed angry or something after he said it because he put his hands up in front of himself, palms out, and took a step back. “I'm not stalking you or anything. I just happened to be walking this way, too.” He grinned and added, “but you would look great in that dress.”

I smiled back. “Thanks, but I don't think I could afford it.”

“Does milady accept bribes?”

“What do you mean, sir?” This was fun, the flirting back and forth, I mean. I felt a warm, tingly feeling spreading through my body.

“I'll buy that dress for you, if you'll agree to wear it when we go out to dinner tonight.”

“Are we going out to dinner tonight?” Damn, part of me actually liked the idea. I remembered my theory. I figured it was safe to give in to some of my “girly” feelings because I was still enough of a man inside my head to keep those same feelings from getting out of hand.

“We are if you'll let me buy you that dress.” He grinned again. It was a smile that made me feel safe and warm somehow, protected, I guess. Whatever it was, I liked it.

“I... I'm really not that kind of girl.” Boy, was that an understatement.

Jeff shook his head. “You're not the kind of girl who wears a pretty dress? Hey, all that you'll be obligated to is dinner and maybe... I don't know; do you like jazz?”

“Yeah, I-I guess so.” As a matter of fact, I did.

“Okay, then. We'll have dinner and go to a club I know to listen to some jazz; that's all, I promise.” He raised his right hand as if to take an oath. Then he winked.

I stifled a giggle. “It had better be all.” I didn't know this man from Adam, but there was something that made me trust him. “If you're willing to spend all that money on me, who am I to say no?”

“Great,” he said. “Shall we go see about that dress then?” He took my arm and led me into the store.

A salesclerk walked over to us. “We'd like to see that black dress in the window,” Jeff said.

“Certainly, sir, and what is your wife's size?”

“I'm not --” I said quickly.

“Size 8,” Jeff said with no hesitation. How the hell did he know? I didn't even know.

The clerk hurried off to get a version of the dress in my size. “Why didn't you say that I'm not your wife?” I said, feeling a little angry. “And what makes you think I'm a size 8?”

“It, umm, saved time not to correct her about us,” he said, “and I, umm, used to, umm, know a woman about your size, and she was a 8.” It sounded funny when he said it, but I let it pass.

The clerk came back with the dress on a padded hanger. “Our dressing rooms are right over there.” She pointed to an opened doorway nearby.

“Thanks.” I took the dress and started over to it. “I'll be back in a minute.”

“Would you like me to come along and help,” Jeff said, lifting an eyebrow and doing a more than passable Groucho Marx impression.

“No!” I said. His face assumed such a comic, totally unhappy look that I had to smile.

The doorway opened to a short hall with four curtained rooms on each side. I found an empty one and hung the dress on a rod that ran the length of the back wall. Before I started to change, I got curious and looked at the dress's price tag. It was on sale, marked down 20 percent to only $160. Only $160! I felt my face flush. Either Jeff was a fairly wealthy man, or he was expecting a lot more than an evening's company in return for the dress. Or both.

The moment of truth was here -- one of them anyway. What did it say about me if I accepted the dress? If he did expect more, was I willing to give it? Hell, no! It didn't matter what I looked like; I was a man. Okay, I liked him, and the dress was darling, but I was a man, damn it. I didn't want to have sex with Jeff or any other man.

Still, it was a beautiful dress, and hadn't Jeff been a perfect gentleman up to now? Sure he had. Besides, I was still a guy deep down. I knew how guys thought and what sort of moves a guy would make on a... a woman like me. I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to. I could stop him before things went too far.

If he did have ulterior motives for buying me this dress, if he did plan to get me in bed with him -- too bad. He'd just have to settle for what I was willing to give him in return, company for dinner and an evening at some jazz spot. And it would serve him right if he had tried to trick me into bed.

Now that I was sure of myself, I quickly got out of my jeans and shirt and into the dress. It fit perfectly, hugging every curve. There was a built-in bra, so I wouldn't have to wear one with it. I turned this way and that, admiring myself in the dressing room mirror.

I looked incredible, and I loved the warm feelings that the dress inspired in me. My hands fluttered along the curves of my hips and up to my breasts. I posed, hand on one hip, the other raised. I leaned forward, raised a hand to just below my mouth and blew myself a kiss. It was a lot of fun.

“How you doing in there?” It was Jeff. I straightened up, startled to hear his voice and a little afraid of getting caught posing like that.

I stepped through the curtain. “What do you think?” I stood there, my hands behind me, so he could see for himself.

“I think that you look absolutely wonderful,” he said, a big grin on his face. “I guess this means that you'll be joining me for dinner.”

I smiled back at him, feeling suddenly shy, but happy, very happy, at his reaction. “I guess you're right.” I walked over and, on an impulse, kissed him lightly on the cheek. Okay, it was a really feminine gesture, I admit it, but he did deserve a something for being so sweet. A little kiss like that didn't mean anything.

Did it?

I went back into the dressing room and took off the dress. I handed it out, so Jeff could pay for it while I finished changing.

“The dress comes with this matching purse,” the clerk said, when I came out, dressed again in jeans and a shirt. She held up a small black purse on a black leather strap. The top of the purse had the same sort of sequins as the dress had on the bodice. “It is only $40 more.”

“We'll take it,” Jeff said before I could answer. He was really trying to impress me... or he was really going to be expecting a payback. “I think that's it, though.” The clerk nodded and put the purse in a large box that already held the dress. Jeff handed her a credit card. She ran it through a scanner and handed him something to sign. He did, and we left the store.

“Now shall we have that coffee?” he asked.

“That depends,” I said. “What time are you going to pick me up?” I wasn't sure why I asked the question, but it seemed important.

“I thought about 6 o'clock... if that's okay with you.”

I looked at my watch. It was after 3. “Six is fine, but I'll need some time to get home and get ready for tonight.” I smiled. “I'll take a rain check on that coffee, okay?” Was it really going to take me that long to get ready? Then again, I never dressed for a date with a guy. It just might.

He looked disappointed. “Rain check given. Now, where do you want to meet?”

I could have taken the out and met him at the restaurant, so he wouldn't know my address. I could have, but I wanted to be pampered a little. “Why don't you pick me up at my place, Lakewood Apartments. Do you know where it's at?”

“Over on Haddonfield Road, isn't it?”

“Yes, I live in Building G, apartment 3L.”

“Okay, I'll meet you there at 6. Now, do you have any other errands to do, or can I walk you out to your car?”

* * * * *

I got back to the apartment just before 4. The first order of business was a shower... no, just then I felt like a bath. I turned on the water and poured in some of the crystals Mary used. Then I went to take off my clothes. Shirt, jeans, and undies all went into the dirty laundry basket. From here on out, after tonight, of course, I was going to stay in the house and live in sweats until Mary got home.

“What the...” I had thought that what had I dumped in was just something to scent to water, soften the skin, that sort of thing. There was a scent. There was also a tub full of bubbles waiting for me. “Oh, what the hell,” I said. I turned off the water and lowered myself into the water.

Ooooh, Lord, it felt good, so nice and warm. I leaned back to just let the tension soak out of me.

After a while, I raised my head and looked down at my body, or tried to. I couldn't see much of it because of the bubbles, but I could see my ti... my breasts sort of half-floating in the water. I -- okay, I got curious -- I wondered what it would be like to actually touch them.

I reached down and cupped them in my hands. Oooh, that felt good, too. Without thinking, I began to caress them. My left hand reached up towards my breast, and my thumb touched -- played with -- my nipple. It was erect and stiff as the penis I used to have.

My right hand slid into the water, heading slowly down towards my stomach. A finger circled around my navel. It all felt so soft, so... so feminine. My hand moved further down to my groin. I ran a nail along the edges of my new vagina and shivered at the sensations.

I could feel the connection between breast and groin as pulses of gentle, warm, sexual pleasure ran between the two. I was squeezing my breast now, kneading it like dough.

“This is crazy,” I said to myself and pulled my hands away from my body. By way of distraction, I took a washcloth from a towel ring near the tub and lathered it up with soap. That done; I started scrubbing my arm.

Unfortunately, after I had done my arms, my breasts were the next thing to wash. I gently moved the washcloth across them. They were soft and wet and slippery. And sensitive, they were v-very sensitive, especially around the nipple.

I moaned and closed my eyes and imagined that Mary was in the tub with me, that those were her breasts I was washing.

There really isn't room for two in our bathtub, but a few years ago, I took Mary to a little inn -- up near Tammament, no less -- a place with one of those old style tubs that you could easily get three or four people into with no problem.

A cold front or something blew in Saturday morning, and it poured. We had planned to go on a picnic, but there was no chance of that. While I looked in the paper for something else we could do, Mary decided to take a bath. Listening to her humming in the tub, I thought of something very nice we could do. I stripped down and climbed into that tub with her.

Now, in my mind' eye, I could see us in that old porcelain tub, making love in the warm, rose-scented water. I could almost feel her body in the tub with me. I was... she was stroking my penis... my breasts, playing with the nipples. She... I panted a little as little jolts of pleasure ran down from them to my groin. I felt myself stiffen... felt empty.

Legs -- hers or mine? -- spread... spread apart. Some... something -- a penis, my penis? -- slide inside a grasping warmth and began to move in and out, in and out. My hips were jerking to the motion. I heard a voice, a woman's voice, from far away. “Yes, oh, yes! Fuck me! Fuck me, Jeff, fuck me!” Jeff? Why was Mary -- was it Mary? -- calling him? I was too far gone to care. I-I exploded in pleasure, feeling like nothing I had ever felt before as every cell of my body relived that day in the past when Jeff...

What the hell was I thinking? What had just happened?

I sat up in the tub, trembling, my eyes wide as pie plates. I had been back at that inn with Mary. Only I was Mary, or was I? It had been me, the male me, Dan, there in the tub with Mary when it had happened for real. This time out, I was -- shit! -- I was Diane, and it was Jeff, not Mary in that tub with me. I remembered screaming his name, clawing at his back as he... hell, I didn't even want to think about it.

And why did I still feel so good? I looked down at myself. This was getting unreal. My left hand was on my breast, caressing it as one finger played with the nipple. My right hand -- oh, Lord! -- my right hand was down there, two fingers actually inside my... inside me.

“Stop it!” I screamed and stood up as quickly -- and safely -- as I could. I bent down and flipped the handle to open the drain. My body was still tingling, though -- such a pleasing tingle -- and my body was covered with bubbles. I turned on the water, the cold water, and let it wash the bubbles -- and the tingles -- away.

Stepping out of the tub, I grabbed a towel from another ring and began to rub my left arm dry. Mistake! I'd never realized how much more tender a woman's skin is. I carefully patted myself dry. “Just as well,” I said aloud. “There're places on me that I'd just as soon not be rubbing just now.”

My hair was damp. I hadn't washed it or anything. It had just gotten some water on it during my... activities. I decided to let it air dry while I took care of other stuff.

I used a deodorant, Mary's Ice Blue Secret, of course. Mary used powder, too, so I decided to try some. I dusted myself with a rose-scented talc that went well with the lingering scent from the bath. Believe me, though, I was very, very careful rubbing it on myself.

I checked myself in the mirror, as I brushed my teeth. By now my hair was drying into a mass of curls. My hair did that when I had been Dan, too. It bothered me a little, even though Mary said it looked cute. Yeah, like a guy wants to look cute. Now, I kind of liked it. What did they call it, the “bedroom” look? I half closed my eyes and pouted. “Hello, lover,” I said in a low, breathy voice. Funny? Yeah, I thought so too, till I heard myself giggle and realized what I was doing.

I sighed. “Bad enough the spell makes me look like a girl. Now, I'm feeling like one, especially after what I did in the tub. What's next?”

I knew the answer. “Dressing like a girl. I let Jeff talk me into going out with him, even let him buy me that damned dress. I guess I've got to go and get presentable in it.”

“But that's it,” I said stubbornly, as I walked back into the bathroom. “There'll be no... nothing tonight -- sorry, Jeff. And starting tomorrow, well, I've got food now. The house has cable. I'm locking myself in. It's nothing but sweat suits and ESPN, till they get back from wherever they went, and that... Delphine turns be back into my real self.”

As an afterthought, I added. “And there'll be no next time. Their little plan worked. Anytime I get the hots for any woman besides Mary, I'll just remember this weekend, and that will be the end of it.”

But there was still tonight. I was going out with Jeff, and I had to get dressed. I searched through Mary's underwear drawer, but nothing seemed right. Nothing, that is, till I found a dark blue satin bra with embroidered lace on the cups. It was like I could hear it saying, “Wear me.”

I found a matching, high cut panty in another part of the drawer. There was a matching garter belt with it. I hadn't planned on a garter belt -- too damned sexy -- but, well, it was part of the set. If I was going to spend the evening looking like a beautiful woman, I decided then and there, that I was going to look like one from the skin out. And who'd know besides me, anyway? Jeff certainly wasn't going to get a chance to see my undies, no matter how delicious I looked in them.

I put the bra on like I'd been wearing one all my life instead of just over a day. I was going to put the panties on, when I remembered something Mary told me once. “I wear the garter belt under my panties,” she said, “so I can get out of the panties easier in the ladies room.” Then she’d added, “or any other place I want to get out of my panties in a hurry.”

When I'd asked, I'd been watching her strip down after a party, so we could make love. I remember that she walked over to me just after that, wearing only the garter belt and those long, black stockings of hers. I said that the garter belt and stockings were like a gilt frame around a beautiful painting.

We didn't talk much after that for a while.

It was nice -- romantic -- that I remembered what we did that evening, but it was strange that I had remembered her explanation about the garter belt, too.

I wrapped the garter belt around my hips and closed the hooks. I still had to slide it along my tummy a little to get it even. I stepped into the panties and pulled them up, making sure that the garter straps hung down below them.

I sat on the bed and picked up one of the sheer black stockings that I'd brought over with me from the dresser. I scrunched it up and slipped it onto my toes. Very carefully, I slid it up my leg; it was much too pretty to get it snagged. The stocking felt like a little electric tickle against my leg, odd but very pleasant. I hooked the top to the front garter, and then shifted so I could hook the back one as well. As I shifted legs to put the other stocking on, I felt the tug of the garters drawing the stocking tight.

I stood up and walked over to where I'd hung the dress. As I walked, I felt the stockings rub against one another. I stopped for a moment to pose in the mirror; not bad, not bad at all.

I took the dress out of the plastic bag and off the hanger. I unbuttoned it and held it so I could step in. As I was wriggling to get it past my hips, I remembered that it had a built-in bra. I should have remembers; I mean, it was the prettiest... the only dress I'd ever worn.

The dress was mostly past my hips, so I just let it go. It stayed in place as I reached behind and unhooked the bra. I tossed it into the bed and finished getting into the dress.

I had to adjust my breasts a little, but that built-in bra did wonders. The dress was cut low, and that bra lifted them up and made them look almost a cup size fuller. “Mmm, I look hot. I can't wait till Jeff sees me again.” Now why did I say that?

My ears weren't pierced -- darn it -- but Mary had some lovely silver clip-on earrings that worked perfectly with the dress. They were an anniversary gift from me a couple of years ago and came with a matching bracelet that I also slipped on. And I traded the gold wristwatch that I'd been wearing all day for a silver one of hers.

“If I know how to dress as I woman,” I said, “I'll bet I know how to do make-up, too.” I was right. I sat down at Mary's make-up table and switched the light to “Nightime.” Lipstick, shadow, mascara, I knew all of it. I knew perfume, too. I picked up a small bottle labeled “Summer Roses” and used the applicator to dab a little behind each ear. Then I sort of leered at myself in the mirror and ran that applicator down between my breasts. I shivered quickly from the feeling of the cool liquid against my skin. “Mmm, maybe there'll be something later to warm me up.”

This was getting... shoes! I hurried to the closet. Mary had a dozen pair or more in a rack on the inside of the door. I always thought she had too many, but not tonight. I quickly found what I was looking for, a pair of black pumps. I braced myself against the door and put on one, then the other.

I stood there looking down at them. They matched the dress perfectly, but they had to have at least a three-inch heel. How could I possibly walk in them?

The doorbell! I was about to find out. I took a cautious step, my arms out to catch myself when I fell. Only, I didn't fall. I walked perfectly. For all the trouble I had, they might as well have been a pair of flats.

“Coming,” I yelled as I hurried to the door.

My walk had changed, though. I took smaller steps, and I noticed a feminine swaying of my hips. It felt natural, so I didn't worry. After all, a guy... a girl can't help walking differently in high heels.

I checked through the peephole -- a girl can't be too careful, after all. It was Jeff, smiling and holding some flowers up to the peephole. I unlocked the door and let him in.

He was wearing a dark gray suit and emerald green tie. The suit looked very expensive. It was tailored to emphasize his broad shoulders and chest and his narrow waist. The tie brought out the green of his eyes. He stood just inside the doorway and looked me up and down. “It's a miracle.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I was five minutes early, and you're still ready to go.” He handed me the flowers. “These are for you.”

I took them and walked into the kitchen. “I'm not quite ready,” I called back to him. “I didn't get a chance to put my keys and such into that lovely new purse you bought me.” I took a glass vase out of a cupboard, put some water in, and added the flowers, pink roses.

“I can do it for you while you're in there, if you'd like.”

“Another miracle,” I said.

“Now I get to ask,” he said. “What do you mean?”

“A man who's willing to go into a woman's purse, that's got to be as amazing as a woman who's ready for a date on time.”

“I guess we were made for each other.”

“I guess so,” I said as I brought the flowers in from the kitchen. “Thank you for the roses. They're my favorite.” They were; they were even Dan's favorite. Mary knew they were; that's why so many of her soaps and perfumes were rose scented. My grandmother had bred several types of prize-winning roses, and the flower always reminded me of her and the summers I spent as a kid at her and grandpa's house.

“I know,” Jeff said. “I mean, umm, don't all women love roses.”

“Well, this one does.” I put the vase down on a table.

“Here's your purse.” He handed it to me. It was still opened, and I could see my wallet, keys, make-up, and some other odds and ends all arranged inside.

“Thank you, kind sir,” I said. Then I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

He seemed a little flustered. “You're, umm, ah, very welcome. Shall we go?”

* * * * *

It was a warm evening, and I didn't need a wrap. Jeff's car was in a parking space near the door. It was a late model green Corsica. I'd driven one like it myself, only in gray, a couple of years ago.

Jeff took my arm as soon as we were outside and led me around to the passenger door. He held it open while I got in, checking to make sure my feet were inside before he closed it. He also took the chance to get a look at my legs as I got in and made myself comfortable. Then he walked around and got in. “Next stop, Emilio's,” he said as he started the car. He pulled out of his parking space, and we were off into the night.

* * * * *

I knew Emilio's fairly well. It's an upscale restaurant that was built as part of the center city mall complex. My company has the maintenance contract on that building, and the company throws its annual employee dinner there. Mary likes the place, too, so we've gone there for her birthday and our anniversary the last few years.

Tonight was different, though. I wasn't taking Mary; Jeff was taking me. We walked in arm in arm. “Good evening, William,” he said to the maitre d'. “I'm Jeff Thomas. I have a 6:30 reservation for two.”

William looked at the list on a small table in front of him. “Ah, yes, Mr. Thomas.” He scratched the name out with a pen and took two menus from a rack next to the table. “Follow me, please.” He led us to a corner table, pulling out a chair once we'd gotten to the table.

I stared at the chair for a moment. Oh, I realized, he'd pulled it out for me. I sat down and moved with the chair as he pushed it in. Jeff sat down opposite me. William handed us the menus. “Your waiter will be here in a moment to take your drink orders.” He bowed his head slightly. “Enjoy your meal and have a very pleasant evening.”

“Thanks, William,” Jeff said. “With company like Diane here, I certainly will.”

William nodded as if in agreement, then he turned and walked back to his post to greet the next customers. The waiter, a slender young man with a sandy brown mustache, came by almost at once. Jeff ordered, “A carafe of the house red.” The waiter came back almost at once with the wine. Jeff sniffed the cork and pretended to be impressed. It was excellent, and we sipped it as we looked at our menus.

After maybe ten minutes, the waiter came back to take our orders. Before I could say anything, Jeff spoke, “We'll start out with the spinach salad, blue cheese dressing for me and the raspberry vinaigrette for the lady, both on the side, then the ginger-lime flank steak for two -- medium -- with the pasta primavera and green beans almondine. That all right with you?” He looked at me. I just nodded in surprise. He took the menu gently from my hands and handed it, along with his own to the waiter.

I was stunned. The order sounded good; I'd have probably ordered something like it myself. What surprised me was the way he just... just jumped in and ordered for me. No, on second thought, what surprised me was that I had let him, that I had enjoyed letting him do it. It felt good being... pampered like that; at least, a part of me thought it did.

I needed to think about what was going on.

“So tell me about yourself, Diane,” he asked, breaking my train of thought. He leaned forwards, towards me, to show that he was interested.

What could I tell him? Not the truth, certainly. Sure, Jeff, I'm really a man; my wife's boss had me turned into a girl because I slept with other women while my wife was away on business. Yeah, like he'd believe that. Besides, when I thought about it, the story seemed kind of, well, sleazy.

“There's not much,” I said after a moment's hesitation. “I'm a salesman... a salesperson for a real estate firm. You know where I live and that I like to read. That's about it.”

“Go ahead, reveal nothing,” he said with a chuckle. “I just love mysterious women.” He paused, looking as if trying to remember something. “I guess it's my turn. I'm twenty-seven, and I've lived around here my whole life. I work, umm, I guess you could call it tech support, for a large firm downtown. I like good food and good jazz, especially cabaret-style jazz like we'll be hearing later. Oh, and one more thing...”

“What's that?” Okay, I suspected he was leading me on, but I was curious.

“I'm spending the evening with the most beautiful woman I ever saw, and I hope that this is just the start of a long, loving relationship with her.” He reached over and took my hand in his.

What can you say after something like that? This guy was good. I felt my face redden. I felt something else, too, the sense of being cared for, protected. It felt very nice, kind of warm all over. 'Damn,' I thought. 'A person could get used to something like this real easy.'

After that, we made mostly small talk.

It turned out that Jeff and Dan... I were born in different parts of town and gone to different schools. Since I was a few years younger than him now, there just wasn't much chance of common friends to talk about.

By luck, Jeff happened to mention the Knights, the local triple-A baseball team. I think I surprised him by being a fan. I don't know why. Girls do like baseball; Mary loved the game. Anyway, we talked about the Knights' prospects for the rest of the season. “Want to go to a game sometime?” Jeff asked.

It sounded like fun, but who knew how long I was going to be Diane. Maybe long enough, though. I smiled at the idea, but... “Let's see how tonight goes, first,” I told him.

“Great.” Jeff took a sip of wine, emptying his glass. “I'll look forwards to it.” He refilled his glass, then he topped off mine, too. I was drinking slowly. I didn't know how much alcohol my new body could handle. Still, I didn't stop him. “To the Knights,” he said, raising his glass. “And to a winning season.”

I raised my own glass just as he added, “And to Diane, who'll be the prettiest girl at the game.” He winked and touched his glass to mine.

I reddened and clinked glasses with him. “To the Knights.”

I was getting, well, flustered by this steady stream of compliments. I didn't know how to react to what he was saying, but I liked -- a part of me definitely liked -- hearing him say it.

While I was trying to decide what to do, the waiter brought our salads. The carafe was almost empty, so Jeff asked for another; those things only held about four glasses worth.

Those salads looked good. I just poured the dressing over mine. Jeff speared some veggies on his fork and dipped them in his dressing. “Tastes just as good,” he said, when he saw me looking at him, “but there's a lot less calories this way.”

I'd heard about doing it that way someplace; Mary had shown me an article about it in one of her attempts to get me to lose some weight. “It looks kind of silly,” I said.

Jeff speared more veggies and did the dipping thing again. Then he brought the fork over near me. “Here try it.” I leaned forward and “chomped.” He almost jerked his hand back. “Hey, leave the fork.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “Could I try it again?”

He brought another fork load to me. This time I moved forward slowly. All of a sudden he lifted the fork and got some on my nose. “Hey,” I said.

He grinned. “I'm sorry. Would you like me to lick it off?”

I must have felt the wine just a little because I giggled at the suggestion. “No, I've got it,” I said as I wiped off the dressing with my napkin.

Just then, the waiter came by with our dinners. He also had the new carafe of wine. We let him take what was left of out salads -- not much -- and put the plates in front of us. Oh, that steak smelled good. While we were starting, he topped off our wineglasses.

We didn't talk much for a while. That steak was scrumptious. I wish I could have eaten more of it, but I guess my stomach got smaller when I changed. I could barely eat half of the baked potato. Jeff was so sweet; he had them put the rest of the steak in a “doggie bag.”

“I suppose you don't want any desert,” Jeff asked as the waiter was clearing the table. “Or do you?”

I shook my head. “No, please, I'm stuffed.”

The waiter came back the “doggie bag.” Jeff said that we weren't having desert. “Just the check, please.” The waiter brought it. Jeff looked it over and handed him a credit card. We were out the door in less than five minutes.

“Where to now?” I asked.

“First stop is my car -- unless you want to carry that food around the rest of the evening.”

I didn't. We walked back to our parking spot in the underground garage below the mall and ditched the doggy bag. Actually, it turned out to be a good idea. The garage ran the length of the mall, so it was a shortcut to “The Blue Note.”

The “Note” was a jazz club, a pretty good one, too. “Big Joe” Briggs was the star of the place whenever he and his group were in town. Tonight, they were on the road somewhere. “Big Joe” was probably the best horn man in town, but whoever was playing that night ran a close second.

We managed to get a table near the front and just sat there feeling the energy. After a while, one of the waitresses came over. The waitresses at the “Note” are a show in themselves. They dress in these -- what-ya-call-em -- teddies that look like skin under the blue house lights. It's like being waited on by one of those nude impettes from Playboy Magazine, only life-size.

“Hi, welcome to 'The Blue Note.' I'm Allie, your waitress.' She was a short, busty brunette with a killer smile. “Is this your first time here?”

“No,” Jeff said. “I've been here before. It's just been a while, and I guess you don't recognize me.”

“I guess not,” she said. “How about you, hon?”

How to answer? “The same, I think.”

“Well, in case you don't remember, there's a two drink minimum.” She handed us each a small menu with an impressive list of beers and wines. “We've got a kitchen, too, nothing fancy -- there's a list of what they can make on the back of the beer list -- oh, and it closes at ten.”

“We ate already,” Jeff said. “Will a pitcher of Sam Adams do for the minimum?” He'd ordered again without asking, but I didn't really care anymore. Besides, I like Sam Adams beer.

“It'll do fine. I'll be right back with it. How about some peanuts for the table, too? Just in case you want to nibble.”

“Sounds like a plan to me.” She turned and headed towards the bar. I noticed Jeff watching her ass sway as she walked. I couldn't really blame him. Normally, I'd have been watching, too. It was a great ass. Tonight I felt, well, jealous. I had a pretty good ass, myself.

And the way Jeff was watching didn't help any. “Hey, remember me, the girl you came with.” I slugged him in the arm.

He flinched nicely. “Okay, I'm sorry; I'm sorry.” He took my hand. “I'd much rather look at your... in your eyes.”

“Mmm, nice save.” I smiled and squeezed his hand.

We settled back and listened. The man with the horn turned out to be “Big Joe's” cousin, Jamal. He'd been playing with “Big Joe” for a couple of years, and they'd both decided that it was time he was out on his own. He was good, and so were the guys backing him.

Allie brought the pitcher, a big dish of honey-roasted peanuts, and a couple of glasses. Jeff paid her and poured. Hot jazz and cold beer is a really great combination. We sat back and let the music flow over us. I know that I nursed my beers, but the pitcher emptied somehow, and Jeff ordered another one. “Here, you go,” he said as he refilled my glass. “Can't fly on one wing, they say.”

“That is so corny,” I said. I giggled -- giggled? -- and slapped his arm playfully. I leaned back in my chair and pushed the glass away. “I think I've had enough for now.”

I thought I was done drinking, but, after a bit, the beer in my glass seemed to have evaporated. I looked at my watch. “Damn, it's almost 2 o'clock.”

“You have to be some place?” Jeff asked.

“No, I just... it's been a while since I was out this late.”

“Then, let's get you home.” He started to stand.

“But the band...” The music was still going strong, and I wanted to stay and listen to more of it.

“We'll be here again, I'm sure.” He took my hand and pulled me gently to my feet. “Besides, this way, we beat the last of the traffic out of the garage.”

It was a man's argument, and I was still enough of a man to go along with it, but as I started for the door, “Oops!” I stumbled and grabbed for his arm.

“You okay?” He steadied me and put his arm around my waist, pulling me in closer to him.

“Maybe I had one beer too many,” I said. It felt nice having his arm around my waist. I put my arm around him and let him guide me back to the car. He'd bought a CD of Jamal's music during a break, and we listened to that all the way back to my place.

When he pulled into a parking spot near my building, he popped the CD out of the player and handed it to me in its case. “What?” I asked. “You bought that for yourself, didn't you?”

“I guess I'll have to come over here and visit you to hear it.” He got out of the car and came around to open the door for me. I was a little unsteady on my feet, and he had to help me up the stairs to my apartment.

I unlocked the door, but didn't open it. When I turned around to say goodnight, Jeff was standing close, very close. He had me trapped between him and the apartment door.

“I... uhh.” It was suddenly very warm in that hallway. I looked up into Jeff's eyes. My body was all tingly, sort of like the way it had felt back in the bubble bath.

Jeff ran a finger along my cheek. He took my chin in his hand and lifted it, tilting my head back. I gasped or something. Then I felt his lips on mine. My arm went up around his neck, pulling his head in even closer.

We just stood like that, lips touching, feeling the warmth of each other's bodies, for I'm not sure how long. A part of me was screaming in my ear to stop. “You're a man, dammit!” it kept saying.

“But another voice was saying, “Not right now you're not. You'll be a man again, but wouldn't it be a shame to experience a little of the other side, while you've got the chance. It might even give you some insights into how Mary feels and thinks about things.” It seemed to make sense. Doing this, acting like a woman, would make me a better husband for Mary when I changed back.

The loudest voice of all was saying, “Get him in that apartment and kiss him, girl, kiss him for all you're worth.”

The voice saying “Stop” was outvoted. I opened the door; then I took his hand and led him slowly into the apartment.

* * * * *

Sunday morning.

I always loved Sunday mornings. That's the day when you can wake up slowly. That's because, just as your brain gets to the point where it can actually think, it realizes that it doesn't have to. You can snuggle back under the covers because you don't have to be anywhere anytime soon.

I woke up thinking that I smelled coffee. I stretched and decided to open my eyes; maybe even get out of bed and get a cup.

“Gaah!” There was somebody -- a man I didn't recognize -- in bed with me.

Wait a minute; it was Jeff. “Good morning, Pooh Bear,” he said with a big grin on his face. “I was wondering when you'd wake up.”

Pooh Bear? That was a pet name Mary had stuck me with a few days after we were married. We were in bed in that B&B down on the Outer Banks, and I said that she tasted sweeter than honey, and that I wanted to taste as much of her as I could as often as I could.

You don't talk about honey like that to somebody who was raised on A.A. Milne. I've had it as a “bedroom name” ever since. Thank Heavens, the only one who knew it was...

“Mary?” I looked at Jeff as if for the first time. Yes, now I could see the resemblance. Mary looked like her mother. Jeff looked like... Mary's father.

“Surprise,” Jeff... Mary... Jeff said, his grin getting even bigger. “I said that you'd be seeing me before you knew it.”

“But how? Why?”

“The how is easy; Delphine's spell was on the both of us. You just changed before I did. The whole thing takes a while. In fact, the spell wasn't complete until last night.

Last night!

A flood of memories streamed into my mind. I'd invited Jeff in -- hell, I just about kidnapped him. We kissed for a while, our hands eagerly groping each other's bodies through our clothes. Then we wanted to see those bodies without our clothes.

I'd practically torn his shirt off, and my new dress wasn't on much better shape. We got down to our underwear pretty quickly. My hand was tickling that lovely, big bulge in his shorts, while his mouth was doing all sorts of wonderful things to my nipples.

“Enough,” he suddenly yelled. He picked me up in his arms as if I were a small child. I giggled and my arms went around his neck. I was taking little nips at his neck, while he was all but sprinting for the bedroom. The next thing I knew I was on my -- our? -- bed, my legs wide apart, and my panties -- oh, who cared where they were. Jeff was above me. I felt something deliciously big and warm moving around my groin. My flesh parted in a way I'd never dreamed possible, and he was inside me.

I felt him moving, in and out of me. It was incredible. The sexual energy leapt between us and flowed out to every part of my body. My legs wrapped around his waist, pulling him closer. My hips rose and...

I moaned. Reliving the experience was arousing me again.

“Having fun?” Jeff's grin had turned into a leer. “If you'd like, we could...” His voice trailed off, as he ran his finger along my neck.

I shivered. Part of me liked the notion, but part of me was getting a little paranoid. I remembered what he'd said. “What do you mean the spell was only completed last night?”

“The last step in the spell was that we make love, which we did. That was the fixer that sealed the spell. That's why you were so... interested in the idea. “

“What do you mean, 'sealed'?” That couldn't be good. I needed that coffee now.

I threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. I was wearing a nightie I'd never seen before, a short, lavender one that hung kind of loosely about me. I didn't bother to wonder where it came from. I just headed for the kitchen.

I've got one of those programmable coffee makers that you can set the night before. I'd done that -- set it before I changed after shopping, actually. It was slow perking away happily. I poured a cup. Then, just to be gracious, I poured Jeff a cup, too. “Look around,” he said, taking a sip.

I looked. The nice, homey, New England style kitchen that Mary used was gone, replaced by something that looked more, I don't know, engineered. There was a new rack of cookbooks above the small “kitchen office” desk in one corner. An array of glassware, a bunch of kitchen gadgets, big spoons, pots, and what have you hung on black steel hooks above one of the wood block “islands” in the center of the room. The kitchen table was moved next to the back window.

“What happened?” I asked. “Where did all this stuff come from?”

“You bought it, Pooh Bear. When we... when Dan and Mary moved in, you told me I could fix up the kitchen however I wanted, since I was the one who was going to use it the most. Well, now it's your kitchen, and this is how you fixed it up.”

I still didn't understand. Jeff tried to take my hand, but I pulled it back. “Come in the living room,” he said, “and I'll explain.”

I nodded and followed him. The living room was pretty much the way it had been, but then we'd picked out the furnishings for it together. The chairs and sofa faced in a different direction, though, and they were a deeper shade of brown.

I sat on the sofa. Jeff tried to sit down next to me, and I shifted to one of the chairs. “Don't trust me, eh.” He shrugged. “I suppose that's fair. This whole happened because I couldn't trust you anymore.”

“Is this about what happened with Cindy while you were --”

“Yes, and about all those other times that it happened. I loved Dan, but I... I couldn't be married to him anymore.” Jeff stood up and walked over to a corner table where we kept some framed photographs. “I asked Katherine for some advice, and she introduced me to Delphine. The three of us worked this out between us.” He came back carrying a picture.

“I wasn't going to do it. I believed you when you said that you'd changed. Then, you went had had that last fling.” He took a breath. “And you had the nerve to use that stupid excuse about being addicted to me. That's... that's when I knew that I had to do it.”

“Do it? Do what?” Nothing was any clearer.

“Do this.” He handed me what I recognized as our “official” wedding photograph. He handed it to me face down.

I took the picture and turned it over. There we were, right after the ceremony, me, in that lovely white gown that was still in its box in a storage trunk in the basement of our building, holding hands with my new husband, Jeff, who looked so uncomfortable in that rented tux.

What the hell!

There was a card taped to the back of the frame with all the particulars of the wedding. I read it now. “Wedding of Jeffery Thomas Ross and Diane Lee Hendrix, April 5, 1997.” It was the date of our wedding -- Mary's and mine, but six years later. Maybe I should tell you that Ross is... was Mary's maiden name.

I felt shaky and fell back into the chair. “It can't be. It isn't real.”

Jeff shook his head. “It is very real. The spell changed reality. We still have the same jobs, same schooling, same friends -- pretty much, but we were born five years later. I was born a man; Jeffery and Thomas are the names of my grandfathers. You were born a woman.”

“I-I don't believe it.” I tried to stand. “We've got to go to them, get them to change us back.”

“I don't want to be changed back. I can't trust you as a man. We'd... we'd probably wind up getting a... a divorce. This way, we're together. Doesn't that count for something?”

“But a woman?”

“What's wrong with women? You were always fond of them, a little too fond, in fact.” He took my hand. “Why don't you go lie down? I'll fix some breakfast and bring in the paper. You can think about things, and we can talk.” He looked at me closely. “There's a lot we have to talk about.”

Somehow, I felt reassured, and damned if I knew why. “Okay. Breakfast sounds good. This has been an awfully big shock.”

He held on to my hand and put his other arm around my waist. I leaned my head on his shoulder as we walked silently back to the bedroom.

The door to the “projects room” was opened. As we got to it, I wondered what had changed in there. When I looked in, I saw that most of the furniture was gone, replaced by a bunch of large boxes. Ladders and a drop cloth were piled next to what looked like rolls of wallpaper.

“What's going on in there?” I asked. “It looks like you've got some kind of rush redecorating project.”

“I do... we do,” Jeff said, kissing me gently on the cheek. “But it's not that much of a rush.” His arm came around and he carefully put his hand on my tummy. “The baby's not due for another seven months.”

The Beginning



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