Soixante-Trois Airlines, part 13

“Now this is showing confidence in your series,” Natalie sighed as she poured out tall glasses of sparkling wine for her seven friends. “Broadcasting the premiere episode at half past ten on a Monday evening.”

“They couldn’t even have put it on last Monday, when it was a bank holiday,” Rachel sighed.

“Let’s- let’s just try to enjoy it, okay?” Anna-Jade asked. “The eight of us are about to become TV stars. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully.” The eight women watched with excitement as the familiar opening bars of 'Learn to Fly' by the Foo Fighters filled the room, and images of Heathrow Airport and Soixante-Trois-branded aeroplanes appeared on the screen, before being replaced by a wide shot of all the stewardesses who work at the London hub.

“Good job you’ve got a big TV,” Natalie snorted. “Doubt I’d have been able to pick myself out on our 40” screen.”

“Shush,” Rachel admonished her brown-haired friend.

“Every day, on average, two hundred thousand people pass through Heathrow Airport on their way to and from destinations all around the world,” the show’s narrator announced.

“Seriously?” Paige sighed. “A regional news anchor? They couldn’t have got David Tennant or someone to do the voiceover?”

“Shush!” Rachel hissed, before blushing as the narration ended and her face appeared on screen.

“It’s a great place to work,” Rachel’s image said with a proud smile. “You meet all kinds of new people, get to travel to loads of different locations…”

“Best job I’ve ever had,” the soft Glaswegian twang of Paige said on-screen, causing the pale-skinned woman’s cheeks to redden with embarrassment.

“Berst jorb I’ve ever hard,” Natalie laughed, making a poor impersonation of Paige’s accent.

“Get to- shut it, you!” Paige snorted, hitting the Mancunian woman with a nearby cushion. The eight women watched with anticipation as more of their friends and colleagues were interviewed, and scenes of the stewardesses in their working environment were shown.

After the second commercial break, the women grew increasingly fatigued from the combination of their late night, a long day at work and, most importantly, the fact that none of them had appeared on-screen in over fifteen minutes. Their excitement levels would suddenly rise, however, when the programme moved onto its next ‘feature’.

“Anna-Jade Houghton has been working for Soixante-Trois Airlines since February 2014,” the narrator announced, making the Irishwoman’s deep blue eyes widen as her friends all cheered. “She was born in Londonderry in 1989, and for the first 25 years of her life, she lived as a man named Anthony.”

“I’ve always been a woman, deep down inside,” Anna-Jade’s image explained on the screen, causing the Irishwoman to cringe and bury her face in her hands. “Northern Ireland isn’t exactly the easiest place in the world to be transgender, or any kind of LGBT.”

“So did you have a hard childhood?” The interviewer asked.

“I wouldn’t say so,” Anna-Jade answered. “The hardest thing was having to hide who I really was from my friends and my family.”

“And your family didn’t approve of who you really were?” The interviewer asked.

“Nope,” Anna-Jade sighed. “They’re all devout Catholics… I mean, I believe in God, of course, but I don’t believe he’d torture people by forcing them to live their lives in ways they shouldn’t.”

“So you’re saying that living as a man would be like torture for you?” The interviewer probed further.

“It was,” Anna-Jade said. “By the end it was like I was going to burst out of my own skin. I started transitioning not long after starting for Soixante-Trois, and after a few weeks on oestrogen I was so relaxed, so happy… I really was a completely new person, a better person.”

“What attracted you to start working for Soixante-Trois?” The interviewer asked. “If you wished to transition, there are any number of jobs you could have had.”

“You’d have thought,” Anna-Jade replied. “But the truth is, people like me still face discrimination everywhere we go. Soixante-Trois is the only company I know that actually assists women with their transition, offers them medical care and access to psychotherapists, even gives three months’ paid sick leave to get and recover from SRS. I’ve always wanted to see the world, meet new people, and I had a knack for learning foreign languages at school. Plus, the uniform’s definitely a perk!” In the flat, Anna-Jade cringed even harder as her on-screen image stood up and did a very professional-looking twirl in her tight blue uniform.

“Is it over yet?” Anna-Jade wailed as her friends all beamed excitedly.

“Nearly,” Rachel replied with a smug grin.

“If there was one thing you could say to your parents,” the interviewer asked, “the people who rejected you, what would that be?”

“That’s a tough one,” Anna-Jade’s image replied. “What I’d say- and this applied to anyone with a transgendered child- is that we don’t need you to judge us, or even try to understand us- we just need you to love us.”

“It’s over,” Rachel said with a sympathetic sigh as Anna-Jade emerged from behind her arms.

“That last thing you said,” Jessica sighed. “Don’t think there’s a single person in our position who wouldn’t agree with you.”

“Even those of us who had it REALLY lucky with our parents,” Paige whispered as the show ended mere minutes later with clips of Anna-Jade and many other women hard at work.

“And that,” Rachel announced as she clicked off the television, “as they say in show business, is a wrap!”

“’Show business’,” Natalie snorted. “At least you got your fucking face on screen…”

“There’ll always be next week,” Rachel reassured her disappointed friend.

“When even fewer people tune in,” Natalie sighed. “Still, at least one of us got her fifteen minutes, eh, Anna-Jade?”

“Already regretting every fucking second of those fifteen minutes,” the red-haired woman sighed as a knock came from the apartment door.

“Two guesses?” Rachel asked Anna-Jade as they opened the apartment door and came face-to-face with their boyfriends.

“Can I have your autograph?” Danny- Rachel’s boyfriend- asked, making the blonde woman sigh. “Oh come on, I’ve got a celebrity girlfriend, that’s something you show off!”

“Your sister’s in a girl band, you daft bastard,” Rachel replied, before sighing and greeting Danny with a kiss. “Come on, give me a lift to your place and I’ll give you that autograph you want. Behave yourself and it might not be the only thing I do with my hands tonight…”

“We should get going too,” Natalie announced as she led Zoe, Abbey and Annabelle out of the flat and into their waiting taxi. “Us ‘common people’…”

“See ya,” Anna-Jade giggled, before turning to her tall, blond boyfriend. “And as for you… Can I get you an autograph? Or perhaps, something else?”

“That sounds great,” Paul- Anna-Jade’s boyfriend- said with a shy smile. “The autograph as well as the, um, other thing…”

“Ah, stop being so coy!” Anna-Jade giggled as she led her boyfriend to her bedroom, where her smart black dress quickly found its way to the floor alongside Paul’s jeans and polo shirt, and their two bodies ended the night locked together in a passionate embrace…

“She could at least have hung a bra on the doorknob,” Jessica laughed as she walked past Anna-Jade’s bedroom, having exchanged her own slinky black dress for a comfortable cotton nightie.

“Would be more appropriate than a sock,” Paige giggled as she fiddled with her phone.

“You expecting a call?” Jessica asked.

“You mean you AREN’T?” Paige retorted, smiling as her phone started to ring. “On cue…”

“I’m going to get into bed,” Jessica said, giving her lover a brief kiss. “Some of us have to work tomorrow…”

“I’ll be there in a bit, babe,” Paige said, before answering her phone. “Hi, mum or dad!”

“Oh, so you’re not too famous that you can still call us ‘mum and dad’?” Paige’s father asked, making the Scottish girl giggle.

“I was on-screen for all of ten seconds,” Paige laughed.

“More than most people get,” Mr. Robertson said. “Didn’t see Jessica on-screen, though.”

“No, um, she’ll probably be next week,” Paige mumbled.

“Paige,” Mr. Robertson sighed. “Please tell me you two aren’t falling out again.”

“We’re not ‘falling out’, we were never ‘falling out’,” Paige sighed. “We just- look, it’s late, okay? Can I just get to bed, please?”

“That’s a tone of voice I‘d hoped ‘Paige’ hadn’t inherited from ‘Paul’,” Mr. Robertson chastised. “You go to bed, Paige. And while you’re there, hopefully you’ll remember exactly what’s most important in your life.”

“I will,” Paige said in a tired, monotone voice. “Bye, dad. My love to mum and the girls.” Paige sighed as she ended the call and entered her bedroom, where Jessica was already asleep in bed. Ever since their return from America three months earlier, their relationship- which used to be the strongest of all their friends- had been strained, and Paige felt that it was all her fault.

Jessica’s proposal had caught Paige completely by surprise. As much as she loved Jessica, and as much as she knew Jessica loved her, Paige had never once harboured thoughts of marriage. At the time of the proposal, Paige was only 21, which in her eyes was far too young to make a commitment like marriage.

And yet, every day since her return from America, Paige found herself regretting her decision to reject Jessica’s proposal. She may have felt that she was too young to make the commitment of marriage, but she also knew, deep down, that she would never love anyone the way she loved the blonde American girl.

When Paige told her parents about the proposal, they were ecstatic, especially her father- neither of Paige’s sisters were married, despite both of them being thirty years old, and the prospect of walking one of his daughters down the aisle made the middle-aged Scottish man very excited. He genuinely didn’t care that the daughter in question used to be his son- all that mattered was that he would be with his child on the happiest day of her life.

When Paige’s parents found out that she had rejected the proposal, however, their excitement quickly turned to disappointment, and in every contact Paige had had with her parents since the rejection, they’d urged her to reconsider the proposal- and even though Paige and Jessica had agreed not to even discuss marriage until a year had passed, the topic was still like an elephant in the room whenever Jessica and Paige spent any time together- even as Paige climbed into bed next to the slumbering Jessica, she could feel the tension between the two of them.

When Paige woke up the following morning, Jessica was already awake and dressed in the smart white blouse and black pencil skirt that she would be wearing to work, the skirt’s tight fit enhancing the developing curves that Jessica had earned after eight months of hormone replacement therapy.

“Mmm,” Paige said with a smile as she watched Jessica apply her favourite red lipstick. “Morning, sexy!”

“Morning,” Jessica said with a scarlet smile. “Sorry if I woke you, but SOME of us have to work today…”

“Don’t wake Anna-Jade whatever you do, she’ll claw your eyes out,” Paige laughed. “Have you heard from your parents about last night?”

“Not yet,” Jessica sighed. “Can’t call them now as it’s 1 in the morning where they are… I’ll give them a call when I get back from Paris. Unless…”

“…Unless?” Paige asked. “Will they let you call America from the work phones in Paris?”

“Doubt it,” Jessica sighed. “Though… Around lunchtime, you could give them a call-“

“Ehh,” Paige grimaced. “Might- maybe it’d be best if the call came from you.”

“They do think of you as part of the family, you know,” Jessica whispered.

“Can- can we have this conversation some other time?” Paige asked, making Jessica sigh sadly.

“Sure,” Jessica mumbled, before leaning in to give the Scottish girl a gentle kiss. “See you later, Paige.”

“See you, Jess,” Paige whispered, paying close attention to the American girl’s hips and backside as she left the bedroom. “See you…”

Even though she took care to be as quiet as possible, the sound of Jessica leaving the flat caused Anna-Jade to stir, though her initial irritation at being woken so early was tempered when she found herself wrapped in the strong arms of her boyfriend- and felt the tingling in her backside that reminded her of the previous night's 'activities'. The flame-haired Irishwoman made a van effort to try to get back to sleep, but her excitement about her brush with fame the previous night- not to mention Paul’s warm breath on her bare shoulder- meant that she was wide awake and eager to start her day less than twenty minutes after she woke up.

“Fucking Jessica,” Anna-Jade whispered, before reaching behind her and gently tapping Paul on the cheek. “Come on, wake up! Got my adoring public to see today…”

“I’M your adoring public,” Paul mumbled as he woke up and tightened his grip on the giggling Anna-Jade.

“Sure, you were my adoring PUBIC last night,” Anna-Jade said, making Paul laugh. “But there’s no way I’m getting back to sleep now. Come on, up and at ‘em!”

“Yes ma’am!” Paul laughed as he watched Anna-Jade wrestle free of his grip and pull on her underwear for the day.

“Come on,” Anna-Jade laughed as she pulled on a plain black bra and thong set. “You can stare harder that that…”

“Trust me, I don’t think ‘harder’ is physically possible right now,” Paul chuckled. “God, you are so gorgeous… It’s just- it’s just inconceivable, you know? That there was a time when you weren’t a sexy woman…”

“High praise indeed, coming from someone who once had a chance with Jamie-Lee Burke!” Anna-Jade chuckled as she pulled on a pair of translucent black tights, followed by a light, knee-length purple sweater dress and shiny leather knee-high boots.

“You’re WAY hotter than she is,” Paul said, encircling Anna-Jade’s waist from behind once she was fully dressed and made up. “Seriously, I mean it.”

“Trust me, I can feel that you mean it!” Anna-Jade giggled. “Just wish it was that easy for everyone else…”

“Your family?” Paul asked, sighing as Anna-Jade nodded. “I suppose in a way it can’t be easy for them, I mean, they only ever knew Anthony, right?”

“Right,” Anna-Jade sighed. “But you yourself said, I don’t fucking well look like an ‘Anthony’ anymore. This isn’t my family using the ‘eyes of the past’, they’re not using their fucking eyes at all.” Paul sighed sadly as he tightened his embrace on his emotional girlfriend.

“My parents like you,” Paul mumbled, making Anna-Jade giggle.

“And I like them,” Anna-Jade laughed. “Now come on, get your pants on, I wanna be taken out for breakfast like a REAL celebrity!”

“Yes ma’am,” Paul laughed. “Though I may need some help getting my pants on…"

"Ah, where would you be without me?" Anna-Jade giggled as she slowly sank to her knees in front of her naked boyfriend...

Paige smiled as she heard the front door of the flat slam, signifying that Anna-Jade and her boyfriend had left, and that more importantly, Paige had the flat all to herself for the first time in a very long while.

After taking a long shower, Paige took her time getting ready for the day, carefully applying a full layer of make-up (even though she had no plans to go out), followed by repainting her fingernails and toenails with the company-mandated blood red nail polish. After brushing out her shoulder-length jet black hair, Paige pulled on a skimpy lace bra and thong set, followed by a pair of her favourite opaque black tights, a very short butt-hugging grey miniskirt and a clingy long-sleeved striped top. Once she’d adjusted her top, Paige admired her figure in the bedroom’s full-length mirror.

Eighteen months of oestrogen tablets had been more than enough to reverse the effects of the previous twenty years of testosterone ‘poisoning’- at a skinny 5’ 6”, ‘Paul’ had never been the world’s most masculine man, but Paige cut a feminine figure any woman would die for. Her waist was narrow (helped by two years of corset training), her porcelain skin was smooth and baby soft, her hips and bottom were shapely and her breasts, while small, were pronounced just enough to catch the attention of any lustful man. Paige, of course, had no intentions of showing her figure to anyone other than her American lover, but with every day that passed, she grew more and more flattered by the attention that was being paid to her- especially by attractive young men.

When she was ‘Paul’, Paige had never considered herself to be ‘gay’. She was as attracted to the women she saw as she was attracted to the idea of becoming like the women, but when she entered into a relationship with another genetically- and more importantly, anatomically- male person, it opened her eyes to a new realm of possibilities… And as Jessica’s sexual capacity diminished due to her own oestrogen treatments, it left Paige feeling frustrated. All of a sudden, the men she’d ignored started to look attractive as potential sexual partners, and as hard as Paige tried to concentrate on her strong emotional bond with Jessica, she couldn’t help but feel that she was missing out in a very significant way.

Paige only had a few minutes alone with her thoughts, however, before she was interrupted by a loud knock from the flat’s front door.

“Ugh, I swear if this is another breakfast pizza…” Paige moaned, but when she opened the door, her eyes went wide at the sight that greeted her.

“Surprise!” The two identical-looking ginger-haired women yelled, instantly putting Paige on the defensive.

“What- what the fuck are you two doing here?” Paige asked.

“Is that any way to greet your sisters after they came hundreds of miles just to see you?” Nina asked.

“And are you really going to keep us out in the cold?” Trisha added, making Paige sigh.

“…Come in,” Paige sighed, ushering her sisters into the flat where they immediately took a seat on the sofa.

“Where’s Jessica?” Nina asked. “Or any of your other flat mates, I thought you lived with three other women?”

“Jessica’s at work, the other two are out with their boyfriends,” Paige explained. “Seriously, why have you come to London?”

“To see our baby sister!” Trisha laughed, pulling the reluctant Paige into the space between herself and her twin.

“Our FAMOUS baby sister!” Nina giggled excitedly. “Best job I’ve ever had…”

“Eight seconds on a reality show no one saw doesn’t make me ‘famous’,” Paige protested.

“We saw it,” Trisha shrugged. “Unless, of course, we’re ‘no one’…”

“…Thanks,” Paige sighed, her sigh growing louder as her sisters squeezed her body between them. “I spoke to mum and dad last night, they didn’t mention that you were coming down- did you stay overnight in London?”

“Got an overnight bus,” Nina explained.

“We actually had this planned for a while,” Trisha giggled. “When we knew your show was bring broadcast yesterday.”

“But what if I’d not been on the show?” Paige asked. “I was barely on there as it is…”

“Lucky then that your sisters were more confident than you are!” Nina giggled.

“Did we catch you on the way out or something?” Trisha asked. “That’s a lot of make-up for just sitting around the house…”

“…I like wearing make-up,” Paige mumbled.

“At least it’s your own make-up and not ours,” Nina laughed. “How much of it did you used to nick when we were kids?”

“None,” Paige retorted. “I never nicked your make-up, honestly. None of your clothes, either, they’d never have fit me growing up…”

“That voice sounds more ‘disappointed’ than ‘innocent’,” Trisha said. “Almost like she wishes she’d been able to go on fancy spa days and for makeovers with her big sisters…”

“Well, duh,” Paige said, making the twins laugh.

“Well given that you’re BOTH already wearing more make-up than a clown,” Nina snorted, “how about a shopping spree instead? Our baby sister can show us where she got that skirt.”

“Or we could just nick HER clothes, seeing as she didn’t so it to us!” Trisha laughed, getting off the sofa and rushing into Paige’s bedroom before the black-haired girl has the chance to protest.

“Oh- get to-“ Paige spat as she followed her sister.

“What’s she got?” Nina asked between uncontrollable giggles. “Anything that’ll fit us?”

“My, my, Paige!” Trisha laughed. “You own a LOT of corsets! No wonder you’re figure’s so great…”

“Ah, I wanna try one!” Nina said, making Paige groan as Trisha wrapped the restrictive garment around Nina’s waist, on top of her dress.

“If you damage that, you’re fucking paying for it,” Paige growled.

“We’re not damaging it!” Trisha retorted. “Hardly seems fair that you get to wear sexy stuff like this when the two of us, who have been women for thirty years, don’t.”

“Nothing’s stopping you,” Paige shrugged, making her sisters exchange a knowing grin.

“Very true,” Nina said, grabbing another corset from Paige’s drawer. “Trisha, arms up!” Trisha laughed as Nina wrapped the corset around her waist and began lacing it shut.

“Be careful with the laces!” Paige urged.

“We told you, we won’t damage it,” Trisha laughed.

“It’s your guts I’m more worried about, but okay,” Paige said, making her sisters laugh again- an action they immediately regretted, thanks to their restrictive garments.

“Fuck me,” Nina groaned as she clutched her aching waist. “Paige, how do you do anything in these things, let alone on a plane?”

“You get used to them,” Paige shrugged. “Antoine Masson cares more about my T&A than the fact that I have an up-to-date first aid certificate. Don’t think he realises that flight attendants do actual work.”

“Well, better you than me,” Trisha laughed as she loosened the laces of Nina’s corset. “Though going by your drawer, you look like you’re keeping your options open. Either that, or you just get off on dressing up as a Playboy Bunny…”

“Which is definitely possible, and understandable!” Nina giggled.

“Oh- that was for a friend’s 21st,” Paige sighed.

“Then why do you have two bunny costumes?” Trisha asked.

“…One of them is Jessica’s,” Paige answered, immediately lowering the tone of the room.

“Aye, I actually remember seeing a photo of that on Facebook, now that I come to think of it,” Nina mumbled.

“Paige…” Trisha sighed as she sat down on Paige’s bed, wincing at the bite of Paige’s corset on her waist. “What ARE you gonna do about your relationship?”

“If I was 22 and someone I adored proposed to me on the top of the Empire State Building-“ Nina mused, before being interrupted by her younger sister.

“No,” Paige said firmly. “We’re not talking about this. I’m too young to bet married.”

“Aye, that sounds convincing,” Trisha snorted.

“Didn’t you say you were taking me- sorry, I was taking you two on a shopping trip?” Paige asked.

“Okay, okay,” Nina sighed, holding her hands up in mock surrender. “Get some shoes on, then we’ll go…”

“Shoes that have AT LEAST a three inch heel!” Trisha ordered her younger sister, who rolled her eyes in mock frustration before pulling on a pair of stilettos and following the twins out of the bedroom. Before she left, though, Paige glanced one last time at her nightstand, which she knew still contained the diamond ring she’d rejected months earlier, and as she did, she winced at the twinge of regret that filled her body.

“Relaxed yet?” Paul asked Anna-Jade as they strolled hand-in-hand through the historic streets of Westminster. “We’ve been on the street for hours, seen thousands of people, not one of them’s recognised you yet…”

“’Cause I’m wearing big sunglasses and I’ve got my fucking hair down, that’s why,” Anna-Jade sighed.

“You sound almost disappointed,” Paul laughed.

“Well- shit,” Anna-Jade sighed. “I guess I kinda am… You don’t put yourself on national TV if you want to hide away in a corner.”

“Well, that’s certainly true,” Paul laughed. “Sometimes wish I’d had my face blurred when they showed me on the Angels… So if you didn’t do the show for the fame, um, why, um, exactly?”

“It- ugh, this’ll sound silly…” Anna-Jade sighed.

“No, go on,” Paul gently urged his girlfriend.

“I… I kinda hoped it’d help me reconnect with my family,” Anna-Jade said. “I know how stupid that must sound…”

“No, not at all,” Paul said. “I know how much they mean to you, how much it hurt when they- well…”

“Yeah,” Anna-Jade whispered. “Thought that if I showed the world, they’d pay attention too… Haven’t even heard from my sister yet, not so much as a text.”

“…Then why don’t you call her?” Paul asked. “You two are on speaking terms, right?”

“Well- I guess…” Anna-Jade muttered. “But what would I say? How would I even start the conversation, ‘hey Michelle, it’s me, your sister who used to be your brother and is now a TV star. In more than one sense of the world.’?”

“Sisters shouldn’t need a reason to call each other, should they?” Paul asked, making Anna-Jade frown.

“Can I least wait until I get home before calling her?” The flame-haired Irishwoman pouted.

“Of course,” Paul said, wrapping a strong arm around Anna-Jade’s slender waist. “And yes, we’ll have lunch first.” Anna-Jade giggled as Paul led her toward a nearby café, though her nerves at talking to her sister prevented her from eating much, and by the time they arrived back at their flat, her hands were literally shaking with nerves.

“It’ll be fine,” Paul whispered as he handed Anna-Jade her phone. “It’s just your sister, I don’t know why you’re this nervous, you’ve called her before, right?”

“It’s not who I’m talking to,” Anna-Jade explained, “It’s what I’m asking her that’s the thing.”

“…You’re going to ask her if your parents watched, right?” Paul asked, sighing as Anna-Jade tearfully nodded.

“I shouldn’t, I know I shouldn’t,” Anna-Jade sobbed. “I should know by now that they’ll never accept me for who I am, but every time something like this happens, I always get this hope, you know? This tiny glimmer of hope deep inside that maybe, just maybe, they’ll finally see the light and accept me as their daughter, just like Jessica’s parents did… Every time, though, that hope just gets snuffed out. It’s not fucking fair! It’s not!”

“You’re right, it’s not,” Paul said, giving Anna-Jade a long, comforting hug. “You’re an amazing, talented, beautiful woman and any family would be lucky to have you as their daughter.”

“Guess I’m the unlucky one then,” Anna-Jade sighed. “To have such shitty, pig-headed parents.”

“You can’t choose your family,” Paul sighed.

“True,” Anna-Jade sighed as she dialled her sister’s number. “But I can choose how I behave toward them. Hi, Michelle!”

“Hi AJ,” Michelle replied. “Not too famous that you can’t talk to us little people, then?”

“Ah, you saw it, then?” Anna-Jade asked.

“You pushed it enough on your Facebook, for Christ’s sake,” Michelle retorted. “Didn’t realise you were going to be the big star of it.”

“Neither did I,” Anna-Jade laughed. “Michelle… Did- did-“

“I know what you’re going to ask,” Michelle sighed. “And to answer your question… I’m 99% sure they didn’t.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Anna-Jade whispered, tears forming in her eyes.

“AJ, you knew it wouldn’t simply be a case of-“ Michelle began.

“Anna-Jade,” Anna-Jade stated firmly. “My name isn’t ‘AJ’, it’s Anna-Jade.”

“Isn’t that what ‘AJ’ stands for?” Michelle asked.

“You tell me, you’re the one using that name,” Anna-Jade retorted. “You tell me whether it stands for ‘Anna-Jade’ or ‘Anthony James’.”

“I- I don’t know,” Michelle sighed.

“I didn’t think so,” Anna-Jade spat.

“AJ- Anna-Jade,” Michelle sighed. “I am trying. Really, I am, but I’ve had 25 years of having it drilled into me that this whole LGBT thing- it’s just wrong.”

“’Drilled in’,” Anna-Jade snorted. “Drilled in no doubt by a bunch of men who, ironically enough, spend their whole lives wearing dresses and ‘drilling’ pre-pubescent boys.”

“You were never sexually abused by any of the priests we had growing up,” Michelle sighed. “You can’t blame the church for-“

“I don’t want to get into this,” Anna-Jade sighed. “You know my stance on the church, I know yours, let’s just leave it at that, okay?”

“That’s probably for the best,” Michelle sighed. “I’m on my lunch break at the moment, got to get back to work. But AJ- Anna-Jade… I meant what I said at Christmas. Anytime you want to come over to visit… You’re always welcome.”

“Thanks,” Anna-Jade sighed. “See you, Michelle.”

“Bye,” Michelle said, before ending the call and leaving her sister blinking tears out of her eyes.

“God, Anna-Jade…” Paul sighed, wrapping his arms around his distraught girlfriend.

“Every time,” Anna-Jade moaned. “Every time I get my fucking hopes up… Now even Michelle feels like she’s slid backwards, the one member of my family I thought I could fucking well talk to…”

“Let’s- let’s just stay in for the rest of the day, okay?” Paul asked. “You put your feet up, I’ll make us some popcorn, we’ll just spend the day on the sofa watching Netflix. How does that sound?”

“It’s not exactly a Spanish beach, but it’ll do,” Anna-Jade sighed.

“You’re the one who insisted on a ‘staycation’,” Paul reminded his girlfriend, who responded by chuckling and hitting him with a cushion.

“Just- just go make popcorn,” Anna-Jade laughed. “And Paul? Thanks for everything you’ve done.”

“You don’t need to thank me,” Paul laughed. “I’m your boyfriend. You’re my woman. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“Are you implying that sitting on my arse and being treated like a princess is what I’m supposed to do?” Anna-Jade asked. “Because I could definitely get behind that!” Anna-Jade laughed at Paul’s coy smile as he headed into the kitchen to prepare their snacks, but inside, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to distract herself from her family worries forever…

Jessica breathed a long sigh of relief as she removed her blue pillbox hat, stepped out of her tight skirt and kicked off her stiletto heels. When she’d first pulled on the uniform, two years earlier, it had been a source of excitement for her, but with every passing day, the uniform had grown more and more irritating- though Jessica couldn’t say for sure that it wasn’t her deteriorating relationship with Paige (who, of course, wore an identical uniform at work) that was the source of her frustration.

“6pm,” Jessica said, looking at her phone. “Lunchtime back home.” Jessica took a deep breath as she dialled the long, international number for her childhood home in America, and grinned widely as the phone was answered after the third ring.

“Hello?” Jessica’s mother asked.

“Hi mom!” Jessica said with a happy grin.

“Jessica!” Mrs. Tyler beamed. “So good to hear from you! And yes, before you ask, we did watch it… I take it they’re saving your story for a future episode?”

“I dunno,” Jessica laughed. “We’re pretty sure there won’t be a second series, so… Maybe, I guess.”

“Still, at least we saw Paige on-screen,” Mrs. Tyler said. “You should’ve heard Hayley when she saw Paige, that girl actually whooped!”

“Heh,” Jessica replied, leading to an awkward silence.

“Jessica…” Mrs. Tyler sighed.

“I- I don’t really want to talk about our relationship, not now,” Jessica sighed. “Whatever happens, happens.”

“Whatever happens is what you make happen,” Mrs. Tyler retorted. “You can’t simply sit back and watch your relationship crumble. You and Paige are meant to be together, you know you are. So what if you get engaged later rather than sooner?”

“So what if I don’t get engaged at all?” Jessica snorted.

“Do NOT talk like that!” Mrs. Tyler ordered, immediately silencing her offspring with a tone of voice the American girl learned to fear when she was younger.

“…Sorry, mom,” Jessica mumbled.

“Jessica…” Mrs. Tyler sighed. “All relationships have their setbacks. God knows your dad and I haven’t always had a smooth ride. The big question is: do you still love Paige?”

“Well- yes, of course,” Jessica replied.

“And does Paige still love you?” Mrs. Tyler asked.

“I- I don’t know,” Jessica sighed. “I think so.”

“You need to find out for sure,” Mrs. Tyler said. “Though deep down, I think you already know. Jessica… Even before we found out about you and Paige’s- well, your ‘status’, we always thought that she was perfect for you. You were always fascinated with Europe growing up, and going out with an Eng- with a Bri- a Scottish girl… You two couldn’t be any more suited.”

“I guess,” Jessica sighed. “I’ve got to go, don’t want a huge bill waiting for me when I get home… Talk soon, mom. My love to dad, Aaron and Hayley.”

“Talk soon, Jessica,” Mrs. Tyler said, before ending the call. Jessica let out a long sigh as she put her phone back in her handbag, before pulling on the blouse, skirt and stilettos she’d worn to the airport. As she strode through the main concourse, however, the smile returned to Jessica’s face when she saw three very familiar figures stood outside the tube station.

“Didn’t I tell you she’d be dressed the most stylish out of all of us?” Nina asked with a smug grin.

“We have to dress stylishly on the way to and from work,” Paige retorted. “You’ve read our employee handbook…”

“Aye,” Trisha giggled. “Doesn’t stop Jessica from being a hundred times sexier than you are, though!”

“Hi Nina, Hi Trisha,” Jessica said, laughing at how tired the twins were already making her feel on top of her long working day.

“Hi Jessica!” Nina and Trisha said simultaneously, barely suppressing their giggles.

“What are you two doing in London?” Jessica asked.

“Good question,” Paige replied, before playfully sticking her tongue out at her sisters, who responded with mock offence.

“Is that anyway to talk to your sisters?” Nina asked. “I oughta complain to your supervisor!”

“The same supervisor whose bed you’re sleeping in tonight?” Paige asked, making her sisters giggle again. “Yeah… ‘Fraid we’ve got some houseguests tonight, Jess.”

“I don’t mind,” Jessica said with a warm grin. “As long as you don’t mind Aaron and Hayley stopping over next summer…”

“I’d mind them less than these two, that’s for sure,” Paige said.

“Shocked and appalled,” Trisha said in an overdramatic voice. “Fortunately, the shopping trip just about compensates for the RIDICULOUS amount of abuse we’ve taken today.”

“Ooh, what’d you get?” Jessica asked, giggling as the three Scottish women opened their shopping bags for Jessica to see.

“And I may have got one or two… ‘Other’ things,” Paige whispered to Jessica, making the American girl giggle even louder as she got on the tube home- though the wise words of her mother rang in her ears all the way home.

After an energetic evening meal and a relaxing night on the sofa, the four women headed to bed. Anna-Jade and Rachel had stayed at their boyfriends’ places for the night so that Nina and Trisha could have their beds, whilst Jessica and Paige climbed into their queen-sized bed and both let out long, tired sighs.

“Your sisters are exhausting,” Jessica said, making the Scottish girl laugh.

“Try growing up with them for 20 years,” Paige snorted. “I pity the poor bastards who marry them, because they will be marrying THEM. You get one, you get the other.”

“Meh, I guess that’s part of the territory with twins,” Jessica mused.

“I used to call them ‘Fred and George’ growing up,” Paige laughed. “Of course, I was always ‘Ginny’, not that I could tell my parents that…”

“You ever wish you had?” Jessica asked. “I mean, you’re always hearing stories about boys who come out to their parents when they’re young and get to live their lives as girls, go to school as girls…”

“Aye, sometimes,” Paige mused. “It’s not all skirts, netball and cheerleading, though. For starters, girls can’t get oestrogen until they’re sixteen, and you remember me telling you about that Laura White girl, who got kidnapped by her dad just before we started for Soixante-Trois?”

“Yeah, that’d probably be my parents’ reaction,” Jessica sighed. “You remember me telling you about so-called ‘conversion therapy’? I think Annabelle was actually forced to go to one of those places once.”

“Jesus…” Paige sighed. “No wonder she’s so quiet all the time.”

“I mean, it’s kinda why I love Europe so much,” Jessica mused. “Don’t get me wrong, I love America, I love the very idea of America, but you can’t call yourself ‘the land of the free’ when you’re also ‘Jesusland’.”

“Enough politics,” Paige said, snapping off her light and silencing her lover with a long, passionate kiss.

Even as their saliva intermingled, though, Jessica couldn’t help but observe that her attempt at a serious conversation with Paige had been derailed once again by sex, and she began to wonder whether or not Paige was right- whether she was too young for marriage, or, indeed, any form of adult relationship…

As she got dressed for work the following morning alongside her Scottish lover, Jessica made no effort to resume the ‘serious’ conversation she’d tried to have with Paige the previous night, knowing that any attempt would be futile- as proved after she pulled on the black pencil dress she planned to wear to work and Paige grabbed her nylon-covered thigh.

“I wish I didn’t have to go back to work today…” Paige moaned. “When I find out who’s off sick, I’ll make them REALLY ill…”

“Which flight are you doing?” Jessica asked as she applied layer after layer of her favourite red lipstick.

“It’s blue route, that’s all I know,” Paige sighed. “Fred and George up yet?”

“Think I heard them leave half an hour ago,” Jessica replied. “They must have an early train or something.”

“Right,” Paige said. “Heh, three months ago I’d actually feel guilty about working on a Wednesday, about not being there for Zoe… Think now she feels like more a part of The Angels than she does, well, the ‘Sky Angels’.”

“She’s enjoying her career, you can’t say fairer than that,” Jessica said, before a wicked grin swept across her face. “And is it really ‘guilt’ you felt, or disappointment at not being able to pull on a pair of pink tights and a leotard?”

“Ah, you know me so well,” Paige giggled, ‘rewarding’ Jessica with a long, soft kiss. “Now come on, don’t want to be late!”

“Yeah,” Jessica laughed, though internally, she wished that, deep down, she knew Paige as well as the Scottish girl was implying.

“Morning,” Paul whispered, waking Anna-Jade with gentle nibbles on her bare, soft neck.

“Stop that,” Anna-Jade giggled. “You’re lucky you’re hot, or I’d break your teeth…”

“Yeah, well you said you wanted to get up early today, remember?” Paul asked, bringing a tired smile to Anna-Jade’s face.

“Ah, yes, yes I did,” the Irishwoman giggled, before padding over to her overnight bag and withdrawing from it a pair of soft pink tights and a stretchy, long-sleeved black leotard.

45 minutes later, with the skin-tight garments stretched over her body and her ginger hair tied into a tight bun, Anna-Jade walked through the front door of the Krystie Fullerton School of Dance hand-in-hand with her boyfriend, and immediately cringed when she was greeted with cheers and applause from the other similarly-clothed young women.

“I’ll leave you to your adoring public,” Paul laughed, giving Anna-Jade a long kiss on the lips. “I know when I’m not welcome.”

“It’s not you, Paul, it’s every MAN!” Krystie- the school’s owner- laughed as she and Zoe walked toward Anna-Jade.

“Ah, so good to see you here again!” Zoe giggled as she greeted her friend and former colleague with a hug. “Even if I did see you on Monday night, and not just at your flat!”

“Ehh… This was a fucking mistake, wasn’t it?” Anna-Jade laughed as the other women gathered around her. “I mean for crying out loud, all of you are ACTUALLY famous…”

“You’ve been on TV most recently,” one of the women retorted with a smug grin.

“Can I have your autograph?” One of the other women asked, making Anna-Jade roll her eyes.

“AFTER we dance,” Zoe ordered, silencing the crowd as she led them into the dance studio. “But it IS good to see you again, Anna-Jade. Thought you’d given up dancing when you stopped coming to lessons last month.”

“Just some awkward shifts,” Anna-Jade shrugged. “That, and… It’s kinda not a priority for me right now. Um, no offence…”

“None taken,” Zoe shrugged. “Just glad you can make it, I was missing having a familiar face here. Now against the barre, miss!”

“Yes ma’am!” Anna-Jade giggled, taking her place at the barre as Krystie and Zoe got the lesson started.

After changing into their form-fitting blue uniforms, Jessica and Paige strode through the small employee area of Heathrow Airport to the Soixante-Trois flight assignment board, where Rachel was waiting with a wide, knowing grin on her face.

“Okay,” Paige sighed. “Where do you want me today?”

“Well, lucky you, you get to fly with me today!” Rachel giggled.

“…I asked ‘where’, not ‘who’,” Paige said, making Rachel playfully roll her eyes at her defiance, before giggling once again.

“Well,” Rachel laughed. “Even luckier for you, you get to go home today!”

“Go home?” Paige asked. “You mean I’m not needed for cover after all- oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no…” Paige bit her lip to keep herself from swearing as Rachel’s evil-sounding laugh grew louder and louder.

Sixty minutes later, Paige winced as the call light illuminated in the rear compartment of the aeroplane. After straightening her hat and her skirt, Paige pushed her drinks trolley out into the narrow aisle, her cheeks flushing a bright red as she approached the two identical ginger-haired women who were waiting for her.

“How can I help you, ma’am?” Paige asked in her sickeningly sweet ‘work voice’.

“You call this service?” Nina snorted with mock offence. “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for my drink?”

“We’re about to die of thirst here!” Trisha chipped in, making Paige bite her tongue to keep herself from retorting.

“I do apologise, ma’am,” Paige said. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“And what’s with the ‘ma’am’s?” Nina asked. “Do we look like old women to you?” Old hags, maybe, Paige thought to herself.

“I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to make personal comments whilst on duty,” Paige replied. “What would you like to drink?”

“Do you have any whiskey?” Trisha asked, earning a stern stare from her twin. “What? The drinks are complementary with these seats.”

“Certainly, MISS,” Paige replied, presenting her sister with her requested drink.

“That was my drink!” Nina protested. “You were meant to give that drink to me!”

“Oh, shut it, you,” Trisha laughed. “We ain’t breaking her. You may go now, girl!”

“Thank you, MA’AM,” Paige giggled, bobbing a quick curtsey before returning to the rear of the plane with her trolley, though she was only able to rest her tired feet for thirty seconds before the call light illuminated again- and when Paige poked her head around the curtain, she was unsurprised to find that the light was coming from the seat immediately next to her previous call.

“This is gonna be a long flight,” Paige muttered to herself as she once again straightened her hat and her skirt and pushed her trolley into the aisle of the plane…

Anna-Jade stretched her tired calf muscles as the dance lesson reached its conclusion, before heading back to the changing room with the other women.

“You know,” Zoe said, “you ARE looking good out there, at the barre… Wouldn’t be surprised if I see pointe shoes in your near future!”

“Sure, my feet take enough punishment from the shoes I have to wear at work,” Anna-Jade snorted as she untied her bun and pulled on a long-sleeved black minidress to cover up her dancewear. “Zoe… How- how did your parents react when they found out that- well, that you and Natalie, a transgendered girl-“

“They were happy for me,” Zoe shrugged. “Maybe it’s because they don’t see Natalie as a real woman because she’s not taking oestrogen, I don’t know. Why, are you thinking about your parents again?”

“Yeah,” Anna-Jade sighed. “Because of the show… Thought they might’ve watched, I know my sister did, but-“ Anna-Jade bit her lip as tears formed in the corners of her eyes, prompting Zoe to lean in and give her distraught friend a long, tight hug.

“Your parents don’t deserve such an amazing daughter like you,” Zoe whispered. “And we- not just me and Natalie, or Jessica and Paige, but all of us- WE’RE your family.”

“You’re more of a family than my so-called ‘real’ family ever were,” Anna-Jade sniffled, before hearing a loud ‘aww’ from the reception area outside the changing room.

“I think that will be the family’s first ‘niece’,” Zoe giggled, leading Anna-Jade back to the reception area where she saw Mary- her friend and fellow Northern Irishwoman- stood holding the hand of her tiny, blonde, dancewear-clad daughter.

“Hi, Kristina-Leigh! And Kristina-Leigh’s mum,” one of the women laughed, earning a stuck-out tongue from the heavily-pregnant Mary.

“Sure, this little one had better be the next Darcey Bussell when she’s older, for all the abuse I’m taking,” Mary laughed.

“Will you settle for ‘the next Krystie Fullerton’?” Krystie herself asked as she took the toddler’s hand and led her into the dance studio.

“I know how many piercings you have,” Mary retorted. “And I would NOT.” The room laughed as Mary followed her daughter into the dance studio, causing Anna-Jade to take a deep breath as she nervously followed her.

“H- hi Mary,” Anna-Jade whispered, barely loud enough for her friend to hear her.

“Who- oh, hi Anna-Jade!” Mary beamed as she saw her countrywoman walking beside her. “Long time no see, seems like ages since you were last at one of these lessons!”

“I could say the same for you, but for obvious reasons!” Anna-Jade giggled, pointing at Mary’s swollen belly.

“Ah, yes!” Mary giggled. “Just three weeks to go…”

“Do- do you know, yet? I mean-“ Anna-Jade stammered.

“Another girl,” Mary said with pride. “Already picked out her name- Natasha Emerald.”

“’Emerald’?” Anna-Jade asked as she and Mary took their seats at the side of the dance studio.

“Sure, my first one’s not even got a trace of an Irish accent,” Mary sighed. “Her dad’s English, her godparents are all English… Her regular babysitter’s Irish but even that isn’t enough.”

“That’s what you get for giving birth in England,” Anna-Jade teased, making Mary roll her eyes.

“Don’t make me laugh, for crying out loud,” Mary sighed. “Natasha’s squeezing my bladder enough as it is… Anyway, why are we talking about my bodily fluids and not the start of your media career?”

“Ugh,” Anna-Jade spat, making Mary try not to laugh again. “Beginning to regret ever agreeing to appear on that fu- on that show.”

“Sure, you never know where it’ll lead,” Mary said. “I mean, I started out as a model, I always wanted to be famous, but I never thought I’d ever get half a million followers on Instagram. And that’s the lowest of all the Angels!”

“Think I’ve got eighty followers on my Instagram,” Anna-Jade mumbled.

“Well, I can do something about that,” Mary said with a smug grin, before taking out her phone and taking a selfie of herself and Anna-Jade. “That’ll get you a few hundred from Norn Iron if nothing else, heh!”

“Yeah,” Anna-Jade laughed. “Not the ones I really want, though…”

“…Your parents?” Mary asked, sensing Anna-Jade’s distress.

“Yeah,” Anna-Jade sighed. “I really should stop getting my hopes up like this…”

“Or your parents could pull their heads out of their backsides and accept and love their daughter,” Mary retorted.

“Yeah, ‘cause that’ll really happen,” Anna-Jade snorted. “You know my family’s Catholic, right?”

“You know mine are too, right?” Mary retorted. “That little treasure dancing there was conceived out of wedlock, and only because our contraception failed. AND I married someone baptised as Church of England- which my daughter was baptised into as well. AND one of my bridesmaids was transgendered, and TWO of her godparents are transgendered. My parents didn’t so much as blink at any of that. Don’t get me wrong, I still love God… I just don’t need some MAN to tell me what to do with my, well, you know.”

“You’re lucky,” Anna-Jade mumbled. “About your parents, I mean.”

“Maybe,” Mary shrugged. “And I don’t know whether my parents accept this or just tolerate it. All I know is that they know that I’m an adult, I’m my own person. They have to let me make my own decisions. Well, they do if they want to keep seeing their grandchildren, anyway!”

“Heh,” Anna-Jade laughed. “That’ll never work with my folks, for obvious reasons…”

“You might not have given them any grandchildren,” Mary said, “but they can’t ignore the fact that they have a daughter, and even though you’re an adult, that doesn’t make you any less their child.”

“Try telling them that,” Anna-Jade snorted.

“It’s not MY place to tell them,” Mary said with a knowing smile, making Anna-Jade sigh and roll her eyes.

“I know, I know,” Anna-Jade moaned. “But I can’t call them, they’d just hang up on me… Ugh. Guess there’s only one way to solve THIS one…”

“I guess there is,” Mary said sympathetically as her attention returned to her dancing daughter.

Ninety minutes later, having changed from her dancewear into a loose, comfortable dress and black tights, Anna-Jade strode into the departure lounge at Gatwick airport with an overnight bag in one hand, and her boyfriend’s large, strong hand in the other.

“Thanks for doing this,” Anna-Jade said. “Sure, people will probably think we’re eloping, sneaking off like this…”

“How many times do I have to say it,” Paul laughed. “You’re my girlfriend. Whatever you need, just ask. Wherever you need it either, for that matter. And you clearly do NEED this.”

“Thank you,” Anna-Jade whispered.

Three hours, one flight, one train ride and one taxi ride later, Anna-Jade found herself shaking with nerves as she stood outside the small, terraced Londonderry house.

“God,” Anna-Jade sighed. “I don’t know if I can do this…”

“You came all this way,” Paul said, tightening his grip on Anna-Jade’s hand. “I’m not going to tell you that you can back out of this, because you know as well as I do that if you don’t do this, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

“But what if they slam the door in my face?” Anna-Jade wailed.

“What if they don’t?” Paul asked, making Anna-Jade sigh yet again.

“You’re right,” the flame-haired Irishwoman sighed, before knocking on the door.

“Just a second,” the young, thickly-accented Irishwoman said from inside the house. “Hang on, I can’t exactly move fast…” Anna-Jade forced her mouth into a wide smile as the door flung open to reveal her younger sister’s shocked face.

“Hi Michelle!” Anna-Jade said nervously. “You did say ‘always welcome’…”

“I’m already regretting that,” Michelle sighed, before smiling and giving her sister a long, tight hug. “…It IS good to see you, AJ.”

“What did we say about using ‘AJ’?” Anna-Jade asked, making Michelle laugh.

“Ahh… Sorry… ANNA-JADE,” Michelle said, making both women giggle excitedly. “And this is…?”

“Ah, yes,” Anna-Jade giggled. “This is Paul, my boyfriend, Paul, this is Michelle, the sister you’ve heard so much about!”

“Nice to meet you,” Michelle said, greeting the shy young man with a handshake. “Jonny’s not home yet, but he will be soon. Come on in!” Anna-Jade and Paul both smiled as they dragged their suitcases into the house, before relaxing into the plush sofa.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Michelle laughed as she gently lowered herself into her armchair. “I’ve invited you into my home, don’t think I’m gonna wait on you hand and foot!”

“You heard the woman, Paul,” Anna-Jade giggled as her boyfriend tiredly stood up. “Kitchen in the back?”

“Yep,” Michelle said with a smug grin, before sighing. “AJ- Anna-Jade… I know why you’ve come. I mean, let’s face it, it’s bloody obvious.”

“I know,” Anna-Jade sighed. “I just- I just figure if I’m here in person, then mum and dad can’t ignore me. Can’t slam the phone down on someone if you’re staring them in the face… Especially if they’ve got family, um, maybe backing them up?”

“Oh, no, no, no,” Michelle sighed. “I’m not fighting your battles for you!”

“I’m not fucking asking you to,” Anna-Jade said. “I just want a bit of back up, that’s all… You were always the favourite growing up, anyway, mum and dad think the sun shines out of your arse…”

“Hardly!” Michelle snorted.

“Oh please,” Anna-Jade laughed. “You’re daddy’s little girl, the one who got all the best princess toys for her birthdays, who had all the fanciest parties, who got chauffeured all over the country to gymnastics competitions…”

“…The one who got pregnant out of wedlock,” Michelle said, letting out a small chuckle as Anna-Jade’s jaw dropped.

“…What?” Anna-Jade asked.

“Due in April,” Michelle said with a smug grin. “Dad was NOT happy when he found out!”

“Michelle…” Anna-Jade whispered, before jumping up and giving her sister a long, tight hug. “Congratulations! This is so cool!”

“Thanks!” Michelle giggled excitedly. “It’s fucking terrifying, though…”

“Can imagine…” Anna-Jade sighed. “You know Mary Carter’s pregnant again, right? Due later this month?”

“Yep, I follow her Facebook,” Michelle laughed. “AND her Instagram… Didn’t take you long to become a Hollywood luvvie, did it?”

“Oh- it was one selfie, that’s all,” Anna-Jade sighed. “Probably won’t help my case with dad, though…”

“And now you know that I won’t, either,” Michelle said, making Anna-Jade sigh loudly.

“Dad didn’t reject you outright for being pregnant though, did he?” Anna-Jade asked.

“Well- no,” Michelle said. “He didn’t seem that upset either that we were using contraceptives…”

“Sounds almost like he’s picking and choosing which parts of his religion to follow,” Anna-Jade mused.

“Sure, who doesn’t?” Michelle asked.

“Very true,” Anna-Jade sighed. “It sucks if that’s the case, though- means he hates me simply for being who I am, can’t blame it on him just being religious…”

“Religion’s never an excuse for bigotry,” Michelle said. “I go to church every Sunday, doesn’t mean I see you as the spawn of the devil.”

“You did when we were growing up,” Anna-Jade said, making Michelle double over in a fit of giggles.

“If I knew then what I know now…” Michelle mused. “…I probably still would. But at least we’d have been able to swap clothes!”

“Heh,” Anna-Jade laughed as Paul returned with three mugs of hot tea. “Bit hard to do that by phone or Facebook, but I’m willing to give it a go if you are… I actually brought that leather skirt you liked, you know, as a gift, but if you’re not going to be able to fit in it for-“

“Many thanks,” Michelle said with a smug grin. “Where are you staying tonight?”

“In a hotel in the town centre,” Paul replied.

“We’re going to- well, you know- tomorrow afternoon,” Anna-Jade mumbled. “Maybe catch mum first before dad gets home from work.”

“I’ll see if I can get the afternoon off work,” Michelle said, making Anna-Jade nearly cry with happiness.

“So- so you will-“ Anna-Jade asked.

“Of course I will,” Michelle said. “And not just for that skirt! Anna-Jade… It’s obvious just from five minutes talking to you and looking at you that ‘Anthony’ is gone and won’t be coming back. You- you’re so at ease, I mean, I was expecting to see my brother in drag, pretending to be a woman, but- but that’s obviously just not the case. If you want to be my sister… Then I want you to be my sister.”

“Thank you so much!” Anna-Jade sobbed, giving her sister another tight hug as the tears flowed freely.

Paige bit her lip to keep herself from grimacing as she changed from her blue uniform back into her slinky pencil dress. The flight back to London from Glasgow had been much quieter- as her sisters had obviously remained in Scotland- but all throughout the flight she’d felt her supervisor’s eyes bore into the back of her skull, as if to say ‘I got you, and there’s nothing you can do about it’.

“Oh, come on,” Rachel pleaded. “If you were in my position, there’s no way you WOULDN’T do that!”

“Your sisters aren’t fu- aren’t evil,” Paige retorted.

“I dunno, they have their moments,” Rachel shrugged. “And you handled it well, very professionally… You know it’s promotion time coming up soon, I know for a fact you’re looking at a supervisor role, you and Jess.”

“…Maybe,” Paige shrugged. “When I started here I didn’t imagine it would become a fully-fledged career.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, you’re really good at your job,” Rachel said. “Good enough that you need the occasional ‘humbling’, heh!”

“I’m quite happy not being humbled,” Paige said, making Rachel giggle again.

“Well, perhaps,” Rachel laughed as she buttoned her smart white blouse and smoothed her tight black pencil skirt.

“Really?” Paige asked as she examined her supervisor’s figure. “You’re leaving your corset on? What happened to ‘freeing the waist’ after a flight?”

“You’re not the only one with promotion aspirations,” Rachel said with a smile as she slipped her feet into her black high heels and strode through the corridors of Heathrow Airport to her manager’s office.

“Hello, Rachel,” Alana- Rachel’s boss- said as the young blonde woman sat down opposite her. “Good day in Scotland?”

“Aye,” Rachel said with a giggle. “Have you had a chance to review my expression of interest yet?”

“I have,” Alana said, before letting out a long sigh. “Rachel… Ordinarily, I’d be on your side here, you’re a great worker, you’re the face of our reality show and all your evidence you’ve submitted points to you being ideal for the manager’s job, but-“

“’But’,” Rachel sighed.

“Rachel…” Alana groaned. “These last twelve months, I don’t know what’s got into you, but- but you’ve turned into a teenager. I told you after the incidents with Monsieur Durand that your odds of promotion weren’t good, I’d have thought that would inspire you to knuckle down and work harder, instead you’ve turned- you’ve all but turned into Zoe Renou.”

“Bit harsh, don’t you think?” Rachel asked. “I don’t pretend to be transgendered to annoy customers, I actually take this job seriously-“

“You violate the dress code virtually every day you go home,” Alana retorted. “Obviously we can’t prove it, but still-“

“Seriously?” Rachel asked. “I’m being denied a promotion because I don’t like wearing a corset to and from work?”

“You agreed to the dress code when you signed your contract of employment,” Alana said. “If you defy that, who knows what else you’ll defy? And besides, the dress code is enforced for a very good reason.”

“That reason being ‘Antoine Masson gets his rocks off watching women try to do work in the most impractical clothing of all time’,” Rachel scoffed, making her manager sit back in her chair with a frown on her face. “Alana- you’ve worn the uniform, you know how difficult it is to do the job in it, it needs reforming, and soon!”

“The T-girls don’t complain about the corsets, or the stilettos,” Alana shrugged.

“Not in public, they don’t,” Rachel argued. “Believe me when I say that none of them habitually wear corsets or stilettos or even stockings and suspenders when they’re at home.”

“Rachel,” Alana sighed. “This isn’t a discussion we can have. The dress code is mandatory. You know why, and you know that it isn’t going to change. So your best bet is to accept it, or start looking for work elsewhere.”

“…Fine,” Rachel said in a dark stoic voice. “See you round, Alana.”

“Don’t do anything we’ll both end up regretting, Rachel,” Alana said as the blonde woman left her office. With a determined stride, Rachel headed straight for the nearest ladies’ toilet, where she took her make-up bag out of her handbag and began methodically stripping her face of every trace of cosmetics, before untying her French braid and letting her long, straight blonde hair fall about her face.

“Gorgeous,” Rachel said with a smug grin before heading to the tube stop that would ferry her to her home.

Hours later, after Rachel and Paige had left the airport, Jessica and Annabelle strode into the cramped locker room and breathed a sigh of relief as they removed their uniforms and pulled their own black pencil dresses back on.

“How long has it been since we were last on the same flight?” Jessica asked her countrywoman.

“I dunno, honey,” Annabelle replied. “Gotta be at least two months.”

“Guess they felt that Lisbon needed two Americans today, heh,” Jessica mused. “And, of course, that their show needed none, not that I’m complaining, heh!”

“You said it,” Annabelle laughed. “I was terrified on Monday...”

“No offence, but you definitely looked it,” Jessica said. “Not as terrified as Paige looked when she saw that she was going to be on a flight with her sisters, heh!”

“Ahh, wish I’d been on THAT flight,” Annabelle giggled. “Paige is so lucky that her family accepts her…”

“Yeah…” Jessica said, grimacing as she remembered Annabelle’s tales of her own rejection by her family.

“She’s also lucky to have you, honey,” Annabelle muttered. “Same goes the other way round.”

“Oh- really?” Jessica asked. “Even YOU are gonna comment on my relationship?”

“Sorry, honey,” Annabelle mumbled. “But since your birthday, the two of you… It breaks my heart watching the two of you.”

“…I know,” Jessica sighed. “Kinda wish the show had made more of a fuss of our relationship now, heh.”

“There’s still five more episodes,” Annabelle said.

“Assuming Anna-Jade doesn’t hog all the screen time,” Jessica said, making Annabelle giggle.

“Like I said, five more episodes,” Annabelle giggled, before leaving Jessica alone in the locker room with her thoughts.

“Yeah, everybody else wants me and Paige to stay together,” Jessica mused as she pulled on her black stilettos and sighed as the shiny black material of the shoes reminded her of her lover’s silky, jet-black hair- hair that would already be asleep in bed when Jessica returned home. “Pity it’s not up to them…”

“Your sister’s awesome,” Paul said to Anna-Jade as they relaxed into the comfortable hotel bed. “So’s her fiancé. I take it we’ll be coming over for the wedding?”

“Ehh…” Anna-Jade sighed. “I mean obviously, yes, I want to, but… Ugh. It all depends on tomorrow, I guess. Get some sleep, babe- we’re gonna need all the energy we can spare…” Paul gave Anna-Jade a tight cuddle as they slowly closed their eyes, but even he found it difficult to sleep as Anna-jade’s body was so tense, and when the two of them got up the following morning, neither of them felt rested or relaxed.

“Ugh,” the Irishwoman spat as her phone’s alarm went off and she swung her smooth, hairless legs out of bed. “Why did we agree to go in the afternoon, again?”

“We can go earlier if you want,” Paul said. “It’s your trip, after all.”

“It’s your holiday too,” Anna-Jade reminded her boyfriend. “You wanted to see where I grew up, I promised to show you around Derry…”

“It’s up to you,” Paul said. “But this is the reason we came out here, and the longer you get to talk to your mum…” Anna-Jade close her eyes and took a deep breath- she instinctively knew that Paul was right.

An hour later, for the second time in as many days, Anna-Jade’s hands trembled as she raised them to knock on the door in front of her. Unlike her sister, with whom Anna-Jade had talked a lot before reconciling, she’d had no contact with her mother since beginning her transition- none beyond the angry slam of a telephone, anyway.

“Just a minute,” a voice called from the inside of the house, a voice that Anna-Jade instantly identified as belonging to her mother. “I swear, if this is for number eighteen again…” Anna-Jade’s mother’s voice stopped, and her jaw dropped with shock as she opened the door to see her child stood on the doorstep.

“H- hi mum,” Anna-Jade said, her knees shaking with terror as her mother slowly studied her body. “I- I’ve come home- I mean, I’ve come to see you…” Anna-Jade beamed her widest, sweetest smile, but it wasn’t enough to keep her mother’s face from screwing up in a look of pure disgust, before slamming the door in the distraught young woman’s face.

“M- mum?” Anna-Jade sobbed, before breaking down in floods of tears. Sensing his girlfriend’s obvious distress, Paul wrapped Anna-Jade in a tight, loving hug and allowed her to cry her eyes into his shoulder, gently rocking her as her throat grew hoarse from her sobs.

“This was such a fucking bad idea,” Anna-Jade moaned a short while later, after the couple had found a café.

“I- I’m sorry,” Paul sighed. “I shouldn’t have pressured you into going there early, we should’ve waited for Michelle.”

“No, I’m the one who knocked on the door,” Anna-Jade sighed. “I should’ve known it’d go badly, sure, dad’s terrible but mum’s just as bad…”

“Transphobic?” Paul asked.

“Trans, homo, you name it, they hate it,” Anna-Jade sighed. “Afraid they’ll fucking ‘catch gay’ or something…”

“Ugh,” Paul spat. “I’ll never understand that sort of attitude. I mean, I consider myself to be 100% straight. Just because my current girlfriend happens to be transgendered, that doesn’t change anything.”

“Thanks for the use of the word ‘current’,” Anna-Jade snorted, making Paul wince. “But I do get what you’re saying. Thing is, though, you never knew ‘Anthony’.”

“Did ‘Anthony’ ever REALLY exist?” Paul asked, making his girlfriend sigh.

“…I guess not, not really,” Anna-Jade said.

“Anna-Jade?” Michelle asked, making her way through the café to the table where the couple were sat. “I heard what happened, I got off work as soon as I could…”

“Thanks,” Anna-Jade mumbled, giving her sister a long, tight hug before turning to her boyfriend. “You let her know, I guess?”

“Sent her a text,” Paul said. “Figured you needed all the support you could get.”

“Serious, hold onto this one,” Michelle advised her sister, making Paul blush. “And not just ‘cause he’s 6’ 1” and got the body of a Greek god!”

“I intend to,” Anna-Jade laughed as she and her sister sat down. “God knows I’m not getting my family back anytime soon…”

“Bollocks you aren’t,” Michelle said. “You wanted me to go and help you then you went without me? Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success to me…”

“I know,” Anna-Jade sighed. “I just- I just didn’t want to wait any longer… Now I’ve only made things worse.”

“It’s not damaged beyond all repair,” Michelle said defiantly. “Drink your coffee and fix your make-up. We’re going back.”

“I- I don’t know-“ Anna-Jade mumbled.

“I want to have a good relationship with my sister,” Michelle said. “Gonna have a hard time doing that if our parents have their heads stuck up their arses. And this time, I’ll be there, and I’ll be 100% on your side. I promise.”

“So will I,” Paul stated. “It’ll be 3 on 1. Your mum will HAVE to back down.”

“Well… Okay,” Anna-Jade sighed, finishing her coffee before heading to the ladies’ toilet with Michelle to fix her damaged eye make-up.

Half an hour later, the trio returned to Anna-Jade’s parents’ house, only this time, Anna-Jade and Paul stood out of sight whilst allowing Michelle to knock on the door.

“I’m coming,” Mrs. Houghton said, with an air of frustration in her voice that made Anna-Jade wince. “This had better not be- oh, hello Michelle! What are you doing here?”

“I got the afternoon off work,” Michelle said with a grin. “Thought I’d drop in to say hi.”

“Well that makes a nice change,” Mrs. Houghton laughed. “Though I guess you can’t exact go down the pub with your friends in your condition! Come on in, I’ll make you a drink.”

“I brought some friends too,” Michelle said defiantly, gesturing to Anna-Jade and Paul to come out of their hiding spot.

“What- why did you bring that THING back here!?” Mrs. Houghton spat, bringing tears back to Anna-Jade’s eyes.

“By ‘that thing’, so you mean my sister and your daughter?” Michelle asked.

“That is no child of mine!” Mrs. Houghton snarled. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, associating with that?”

“This- this was a bad idea,” Anna-Jade mumbled. “We should go…”

“You’re damned right you should go!” Mrs. Houghton snarled. “Go back to your filth, or whatever the hell it is that you do!”

“You mean her professional career as an aviation worker?” Michelle asked. “Because- funny thing- she actually earns more money than me. Or more money than you or dad ever did.”

“Why are you standing up for that?” Mrs. Houghton asked incredulously.

“Because Anna-Jade has never wanted anything other than my love,” Michelle explained. “Sorry- OUR love. And all you’ve done is insult her.”

“Standing there dressed like that is an insult to me!” Mrs. Houghton snarled.

“But it isn’t!” Michelle retorted. “It has nothing to do with you or dad! Anna-Jade has made the rational decision that she is incapable of living life as a man.”

“When I was- when I was, umm, ‘Anthony’,” Anna-Jade said in a shaky voice, “I was miserable all the time. I was obsessed with being a woman, it occupied every single second of my thoughts, and being a man… It made me miserable. So miserable… Sometimes I actually did think about killing myself.” Anna-Jade tried not to smirk as her mother gasped at the revelation- there was a chance that she might ‘win’ after all…

“Then I became Anna-Jade,” the Irishwoman continued. “I’ve been taking hormone replacement tablets for almost two years. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve got friends, a career, a boyfriend I’ve been with for almost a year… All- all I want is for you to be happy for me, and accept me as your daughter.”

“Is that REALLY too much to ask for?” Michelle asked.

“How am I meant to accept you when you’re parading around like THAT?” Mrs. Houghton asked incredulously, causing both Anna-Jade and Michelle to frown.

“Umm, mum, don’t know how to tell you this, but Anna-Jade’s dressed more conservatively than I am,” Michelle snorted, pointing at her own short black skirt and Anna-Jade’s knee-length grey pencil skirt.

“It’s not right,” Mrs. Houghton said, shaking her head. “It just isn’t. And it never will be.”

“Then you have to ask yourself the big question,” Michelle said. “Would you rather have a transgendered child, a child who was so depressed they’re suicidal, or no child at all? Because those are your only three options.” Mrs. Houghton paused as the ultimatum was put to her, and Anna-Jade felt a twinge of hope in her chest as she could see that the middle-aged woman was deep in thought.

“…No child at all,” Mrs. Houghton said in a cold voice, bringing tears back to Anna-Jade’s eyes. “Your supposed ‘sister’ made that decision the second it pulled on a skirt.”

“Then I guess that’s that,” Michelle sighed. “Come on, let’s go.”

“What- wait!” Mrs. Houghton shouted in confusion. “Where d’you think you’re going, Michelle?”

“I’m going with my family,” Michelle said. “You just said you’d rather have no child than one who doesn’t meet up to your standards. That tells me what type of mother you really are. And that’s NOT how I’m going to raise my baby.”

“YOU GET YOUR SORRY ARSE BACK HERE NOW AND APOLOGISE FOR THAT!” Mrs. Houghton screeched, her tone of voice making both sisters wince.

“Would you really rather have had Anthony kill himself than live the way SHE is?” Michelle asked.

“I did not raise you to talk back to me!” Mrs. Houghton snapped.

“No, you apparently raised me to be a bigot,” Michelle countered. “Well I’ve got news for you, mum. It’s not the seventies anymore, it’ 2016. People can legally change their gender if they want. It’s not like Anna-Jade just woke up one day and suddenly pulled on a skirt, you heard her, she’s been tormented by this all her life. She’s seen doctors, psychiatrists, all of them have supported her and recommended that she lives life the only way she knows how. So I’ll ask again. Would you rather have had Anthony kill himself than live the way SHE is?”

“Anthony DID kill himself,” Mrs. Houghton spat, before slamming the door in her children’s faces.

“Don’t ever expect to see your grandchild!” Michelle snarled, before giving her sister a long, tight hug. “And I mean that, Anna-Jade, I really do. Did- did you really mean what you said, about the suicide thing?”

“I did,” Anna-Jade sniffled. “Once or twice, anyway.”

“So… What do we do now?” Paul asked. “Do we wait for your dad, I know you said you have a brother too…”

“Dad will be just the same as mum,” Michelle sighed. “Joe… I dunno. We could try if you want?"

“It’s not like I was ever that close to him,” Anna-Jade sighed. “He’s quite a bit older than me and Chell.”

“Well, it’s up to you,” Michelle shrugged. “He may have watched you on Monday, you never know…”

“You- you know what?” Anna-Jade asked. “I’ve had enough defeats for one day. I’ve had enough defeats for one fucking lifetime. I- I just want to go back to London.”

“Okay,” Michelle whispered. “Well you’re welcome back anytime. In fact, you know what? You’d better be back for the wedding, ‘cause I want my sister to be one of my bridesmaids.”

“You- what?” Anna-Jade gasped. “You’re serious?”

“Damn right I am,” Michelle said with a proud grin. “And don’t worry about getting time off, the wedding won’t be for at least another year.”

“What- after the baby’s born?” Anna-Jade asked.

“You live your life the way you want, I’ll live it the way I want,” Michelle said. “Family stick up for each other. They’re fucking well supposed to, anyway. And I’m glad I’ve got my big sister looking out for me.”

“Always,” Anna-Jade sniffled as she gave Michelle a long, tight hug. “Though make sure you make up with mum as well.”

“Even after all she said?” Michelle asked.

“If I felt that you and her didn’t speak because of me… That’d make me more miserable than anything,” Anna-Jade said.

“…Never mind anyone else, YOU’RE the most Christian person I know,” Michelle sighed, exchanging another long, loving hug with her sister. “You take care, okay? And you, big guy- you take care of my sister or I swear-“

“I will, I promise,” Paul said, before exchanging an awkward hug with Michelle.

“Now go on,” Michelle giggled. “Your adoring public awaits!” Anna-Jade grinned as she and Paul headed toward the railway station that led back to Belfast Airport, though inside, she felt empty. She’d had in her mind the dream of a reconciliation with her parents, a blissful, perfect life in which she could live as their daughter, just as she’s always wanted, but that dream was shattered into a million pieces- and worse yet, she’d dragged her sister down with her.

As she and Paul strode through George Best Airport, though, her resolve strengthened when she saw a group of young women- barely older than eighteen- staring at her and Paul with wide, excited grins.

“Which one, d’you suppose?” Paul asked.

“What d’you mean?” Anna-Jade asked.

“Me for the Angels, or you for the Sky Angels?” Paul asked, making Anna-Jade roll her eyes even as the group approached her.

“Um, excuse me?” One of the young women asked in a strong Northern Irish accent. “Are- were you on that Sky Angels show on Monday?” Anna-Jade beamed a smug grin at her boyfriend before responding to her fans.

“Yep, that’s me!” Anna-Jade giggled.

“Oh my god!” The girl squeaked. “I thought I recognised you from Mary Carter’s post! Can- can we get a selfie with you?”

“Of course!” Anna-Jade said, giggling excitedly as the girls surrounded her for the selfie. “Sure, seems like I was recognised for both the Angels AND the Sky Angels!”

“Looks that way,” Paul laughed, wrapping an arm around Anna-Jade’s slender waist as the group of girls walked away. “Come on, ‘Angel’, before you get pestered for any more selfies!” Anna-Jade grinned as she walked toward the departure lounge- clearly, there were plenty of people in her homeland who loved her for who she was, and who wanted to see her succeed. Anna-Jade resolved that if she had to succeed despite her parents, she would- and when they came crawling back to her, she wouldn’t reject them as viciously as they’d rejected her.

Paige stretched her tired muscles as she returned through the front door of her London flat, before kicking off her stiletto heels, removing her skirt, top and corset and relaxing into the sofa, dressed in just her underwear.

“Comfortable?” Jessica asked from the kitchen doorway, startling the Scottish girl.

“Jeez- how long have you been back there?” Paige asked.

“Got back about an hour ago,” Jessica said. “How was Rome? You didn’t do the whole flight dressed like that, I hope…”

“Give it a few months and Masson will probably make us,” Paige chuckled, before getting up and wrapping her arms around Jessica’s slender waist. “I bet I know someone who wouldn’t mind me walking around everywhere in a bra and a thong…” Paige giggled loudly as she pressed her scarlet lips against Jessica’s, but her mood quickly fell when she didn’t feel the usual level of ‘reciprocation’ from her lover.

“Jess,” Paige whispered. “What- what’s wrong?”

“Paige…” Jessica whispered. “We- we need to talk.”

“No,” Paige gasped, panic levels rising in her body. “No, no, we definitely do NOT need to talk!”

“Paige,” Jessica said. “I- I’m not breaking up with you. Believe me, that’s the last thing I want. But we- you and I- we need to sit down and talk to each other. I want to make my feelings for you clear, I don’t want there to be any secrets between us.”

“I can make my feelings for you VERY clear,” Paige said, reaching underneath the hem of Jessica's short skirt. “Actions speak louder than words.”

“Yes, they do,” Jessica said, removing Paige’s exploring hand. “And yes, every part of me is telling me to take you right here, right now… But I want to know, will we feel the same way five years from now? Or ten?”

“All I know is how I feel now,” Paige said, replacing her hand.

“And that’s what frustrates me,” Jessica sighed. “I love you, Paige, I ADORE you… I’m IN love with you, and that hasn’t changed from the second I met you… But it is LOVE, and not just lust. I- I don’t know that you feel the same way.”

“It is possible to both love someone and lust over them, you know,” Paige said. “I’ve felt both for you for the last two years, and… I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Is that what you wanted to hear, Jess?”

“Is it the truth?” Jessica asked, earning a frown from her lover.

“Do you really need to ask?” Paige retorted, before kissing Jessica deeply, and feeling her body begin to melt as Jessica’s tongue probed deep into her mouth.

Twenty minutes later, the two young women relaxed onto the top of their bed, their soft, glistening bodies pressed tightly against each other. Paige had a wide grin on her face as she closed her eyes and tried to get her breath back, but Jessica was still unsatisfied. Their relationship had started as a purely physical thing, but Jessica wanted so much more- and despite Paige’s words, her actions during their lovemaking had all but proved in Jessica’s eyes that to Paige, their relationship hadn’t evolved to the stage that Jessica had hoped. And as Paige herself had said, actions speak louder than words…

The following day, all the women who had watched the television show at Jessica and Paige’s flat on Monday evening (with the obvious exception of Zoe) strode into Heathrow Airport with cool, inscrutable smiles on their faces, though many of them felt an inner turmoil they struggled to hide. Jessica’s worries about her relationship, Anna-Jade’s worries about her family and Rachel’s worries about her career preyed heavily on the minds throughout their flights to and from their exotic European locations, though all women were perfectly professional in all their dealings with their customers.

Following their return, however, the women’s tiredness was evident in their eyes as they changed back from their uniforms into their smart commuting attire.

“Ugh…” Anna-Jade moaned as Annabelle loosened the laces of her corset. “That feels so much better, honey…”

“You’re welcome, ANNA-JADE,” Annabelle said, grinning at the use of her unintended catchphrase. “How was home?”

“Don’t ask,” Anna-Jade moaned.

“That bad, huh?” Annabelle asked. “Well we’ll always be your family when you need us, honey.”

“Thanks, Annabelle,” Anna-Jade sighed. “You going out tonight?”

“…I was never much of an ‘out’ person to begin with,” Annabelle giggled shyly. “Paul’s playing videogames with the MEN, so that’s a sight and smell I don’t need… fancy a chick flick marathon at your place?”

“Sounds perfect,” Annabelle said with a smile. “Unless you want to spend all evening looking at bridesmaid dresses, of course…”

“Fuck me, news travels fast,” Anna-Jade laughed.

“You told Natalie, Natalie told me. And everyone,” Annabelle laughed. “I think it’s sweet that your sister asked you to be a bridesmaid. Shows how good she really is.”

“Yeah, Michelle’s great,” Anna-Jade sighed as she zipped up her skirt and slipped her feet into her black stilettos. “I’ll see you at your place, okay?”

“Sure, honey,” Annabelle said with a grin, before reaching into her handbag for her phone. After making sure that she was alone, Annabelle took a deep breath and pressed the speed dial button for a number she’d entered into her phone a long time before, but had never worked up the courage to dial. After three rings, the phone was answered, causing Annabelle to barely suppress a gasp.

“Hello?” The voice on the other end- a voice that was almost identical to Annabelle’s own- asked.

“Hi Monroe,” Annabelle said softly.

“Who is this?” Monroe asked, causing Annabelle to take another deep breath.

“…It’s the sibling you used to know as ‘Tyler’,” Annabelle replied. “Annabelle. Annabelle Cope. Nice to make your acquaintance.”

“…Why are you calling?” Monroe asked. “It’s been almost two years… If dad knew you’d called me he’d freak out!”

“I’m calling because I want to have a little sister again,” Annabelle said. “…And I was wondering whether or not you wanted to have a big sister. Are you still at UCLA?”

“Yeah, in my junior year,” Monroe replied. “Are you still in Paris?”

“I moved to London last year,” Annabelle replied. “Monroe… Can I take it from the fact that you haven’t hung up on me yet, that you’d, you know, want to talk to me more?”

“…I did miss you,” Monroe confessed. “Well, I missed Tyler, anyway.”

“Tyler’s gone for good,” Annabelle said firmly. “But you don’t have to miss Annabelle, if you’d like…”

“And you seriously chose the name ‘Annabelle’ for yourself?” Monroe asked, making her sister giggle.

“I’m just a good old-fashioned Southern belle in a big, modern city, honey,” Annabelle said, deliberately exaggerating her natural Atlanta accent. “Had to make that clear somehow.”

“If you insist,” Monroe laughed. “Are you calling on your cell? From London? This can’t be cheap…”

“It’s worth it, though,” Annabelle said with a warm smile.

“Well anyway, I’ll save your money and call you on Skype when you get home, okay?” Monroe asked.

“I’d like that,” Annabelle said. “And Monroe? Thanks for, you know, accepting me.”

“Least I could do for my big sister,” Monroe said, before hanging up the phone and leaving Annabelle with a wide, satisfied smile on her face.

Half an hour after Annabelle left the locker room, Jessica and Rachel coolly strode into the cramped room, both breathing sighs of relief as they removed their red hats and jackets.

“That was a LONG week,” Rachel sighed as she unbuttoned her blouse.

“Made longer by you taking the long route back to the locker room and fishing for autograph hunters,” Jessica said, making her supervisor giggle.

“Hey, you only get fifteen minutes,” Rachel shrugged. “Better make the most of them!” Jessica nodded and smiled at her supervisor, before playfully wolf whistling as Rachel stripped down to her underwear.

“Hot mama!” Jessica teased. “Seriously, I LOVE that bodysuit, where did you get it?”

“From my sexy and, more importantly, devoted boyfriend!” Rachel giggled, playfully fiddling with the thong rear of the lacy red garment. “I can Google the details for you, find a catalogue link when I get home if you’d like.”

“Nah, I’ve actually already got one,” Jessica giggled. “Well, Paige does, anyway.”

“Ah,” Rachel said, the joviality vanishing from her voice. “You know, you two-“

“Please, please just don’t,” Jessica sighed. “I really have had it up to here with people commenting on our relationship, especially people who live with us!”

“Jeez, sorry,” Rachel said, taken back by the American woman’s sudden hostility. “But if it’s such a sensitive subject… Ehh, you know what? Never mind. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and show this bodysuit- and what’s underneath it- to my boyfriend. Don’t wait up, hehe!”

“Rach,” Jessica said, stopping the Englishwoman in her tracks. “I- I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped.”

“You’re stressed out, you lashed out, everyone does from time to time,” Rachel shrugged.

“…Any advice on how to cope with the stress>” Jessica asked with a sigh. “I tried talking to her, but-“

“Action speaks louder than words,” Rachel said. “Particularly the ‘action’ I plan on getting with Danny tonight, and that I recommend you get with Paige. Best stress relief I’ve ever known…”

“But that’s the whole problem,” Jessica sighed. “I want our relationship to be more than just a physical thing, you know?”

“Oh, I get it,” Rachel said. “I’m slowly working on Danny, moulding him into something better than the piece of rough that he currently is… Doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the physical side of it a LOT, though! And if Paige… Meh. She’s your girlfriend. You know her better than I do, you know what your relationship needs too. But take it from me- don’t concentrate on what the relationship needs at the expense of what it already has.”

“’Want what you have’ rather than ‘have what you want’?” Jessica asked.

“That’s one way of putting it,” Rachel shrugged. “Now I really have got to get going. See you tomorrow, Jess!”

“See you, Rach,” Jessica said, waving at the blonde woman as she left and thinking carefully about what she said.

Just as she had done the previous day, Paige stepped through the front door of her flat and stretched her tired muscles, before kicking off her heels and unzipping her clingy pencil dress. When she went to sit down on the sofa, however, she got a surprise.

There, laid out on the sofa wearing nothing but a very skimpy black teddy, an expensive pair of sheer stockings and an excessive amount of make-up, was Jessica- and it was very clear from her facial expression what she had in mind.

"...Jess?" Paige asked. "What are- is that my tedd-" Paige was silenced by her lover suddenly jumping up and forcing her tongue as deep into Paige's mouth as it would go, startling the Scottish girl.

"Enough words," Jessica said, before unclipping Paige's bra and allowing it to fall to the ground.

Half an hour later, the two lovers laid across each other in their bed, their minds and bodies completely drained following their marathon lovemaking session. As Jessica felt the tingles in her body subside, she mused on what Rachel had said earlier- to enjoy her relationship for what it was. If Jessica had to wait for Paige to get to the point that she herself had reached, that was fine- as long as she still had the Scottish girl, that was all that mattered.

Paige, however, couldn't get over how uncharacteristic Jessica's behaviour had been, from wearing her lingerie to silently seducing her. Whilst Paige had obviously enjoyed the lovemaking session, Jessica's behaviour had troubled her- it was almost like the American woman was no longer the woman Paige fell in love with- and she was only beginning to realise just how in love with Jessica she was, and how much of a mistake she'd made in America in May. Paige prayed that it was a mistake that she could correct- though with Jessica acting strangely, she worried that their relationship would be permanently damaged.

The following morning, Natalie's and Zoe's alarms sounded, making both women giggle as they switched them off before rolling over in bed and smiling at each other.

"Vive le weekend," Natalie whispered, making her French lover giggle.

"Le weekend," Zoe giggled. "So good to have you free on a Saturday for once... Just wish I wasn't so worried about all our friends, what with Jessica and Paige, and Anna-Jade and her family..."

"...And whether or not we'll be on the next episode of Sky Angels?" Natalie giggled. "I know, I'm worried too, especially about Jess and Paige. But you know what? I reckon they'll be okay. They truly love each other, and a wise man once said 'all you need is love'."

"Love is all you need," Zoe dreamily sighed. "So where shall we-" Zoe's thought was interrupted by the sound of her phone beeping to alert her of a new text message, followed mere seconds later by Natalie's text message alert beeping.

"It's from Jordan," Natalie said. "That agent guys who's liaising between us and Joshua Benedict's agency. Wants us who aren't at work today at the agency for 1030. Yours?"

"From Krystie, saying the same thing," Zoe said in a hushed tone.

"Ehh," Natalie sighed. "I have a bad feeling about this..."



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