Soixante-Trois Airlines, part 16

The dark-haired woman took a deep breath to calm her nerves as her friends celebrated around her. The pub was packed, but they’d had an entire section reserved for their own private use- one of the perks of being friends with the manager. She stared over at her lover, who was smiling tiredly- having had a long day at work- and clenched her immaculately manicured hands into fists to stop them from shaking. After three more deep breaths, she rose from her seat, instantly attracting the attention of all of her friends.

“Girls,” the dark-haired woman announced, cringing as she realised that the eyes of everyone in the pub was on her. “There’s something I’ve wanted to say for a long, long time. Something I’ve wanted- no, something I’ve NEEDED to ask.” The dark-haired woman took another deep breath before slowly sinking to one knee in front of her lover, startling not just her, but everyone else at the table.

“Natalie Naomi Briggs,” Zoe whispered as her nerves began to shred. “I adore everything about you. You are funny, you are sexy, you are the woman of my dreams AND the man of my dreams. I want to be with you forever. Will- Veux-tu m'épouser?”

“Oui,” Natalie whispered, her heavily made-up eyes filled with tears and her voice hoarse with emotion. “Oui! Oui! Oui! Oui!” The entire pub cheered as Natalie and Zoe shared a long, loving kiss, before Zoe produced a small, elegant diamond ring from her handbag and slowly slid it onto Natalie’s ring finger.

“…I guess I’ll have to get one for you now, heh,” Natalie laughed, earning a playful giggle from her new fiancée.

“There’s no rush, I know this was a surprise,” Zoe whispered.

“Lucky, then, that I already had one,” Natalie said, causing Zoe to gasp as she withdrew a ring box from her own handbag, before dropping to one knee in front of the French dance teacher. “Zoe Christelle Renou, will YOU marry ME?”

“Yes! Of course!” Zoe squeaked as the entire pub cheered once again. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“This calls for a celebration!” Rachel- the pub’s manager- cheered as she entered the cordoned-off area of the bar with a bottle of champagne and a tray full of glasses. “And this is on the house. Provided Danny and I get an invitation to the wedding, of course!”

“Well, duh!” Natalie laughed, exchanging a hug with Rachel before giggling as her new fiancée- who had never got along with the blonde Englishwoman when they worked together- let out a long sigh before also hugging Rachel.

“It’s a triple celebration now!” Abbey cheered. “Ellen and Amelie becoming the latest fully-fledged Soixante-Trois stewardesses, Jessica becoming the latest pin-up girl, and now Natalie and Zoe!” Everyone laughed and cheered at Abbey’s impromptu toast, though Jessica felt herself start to sink back into her seat at mention of her being a ‘pin-up girl’- not least because of the look of disapproval and envy on the face of the Scottish girl sat opposite her.

Exactly one day before the girls gathered to celebrate, Jessica had been featured in the Sunday magazine of a national newspaper alongside eight other young transgendered men and women. Whilst she’d had fun being photographed for the article, and had made new friends on the day, the fact that Jessica had been chosen to be featured had caused some tension between her and her friends and colleagues- not least with Paige, who had seemingly always been obsessed with fame.

Even though they were taking a break from their relationship, Jessica still cared a great deal about Paige, and every time she saw a look of disapproval in the Scottish girl’s mismatched eyes, it made her heart ache. The first time Jessica had stared into those eyes, she had fallen hopelessly in love with them, and she’d thought that the same had been true for Paige. However, every time they’d spoken in the weeks leading up to their separation, Jessica and Paige seemed to have found a new thing to argue about. Even during the arguments, though, Jessica never stopped loving Paige. She just wished she knew whether the reverse was still true- and whether the rumours about her getting serious with a new guy were false…

“Congratulations!” Paige giggled as she gave a tight hug to the newly-engaged couple, even as her own heart felt like it was about to split.

For several months, she had had an engagement ring of her own in her handbag, ready to give to Jessica when the time was right, but every time Paige encountered the American girl, it felt like they were drifting further and further apart. Paige still loved everything about Jessica- from her quiet giggle to the way she blushed when she was embarrassed to her deep, deep blue eyes… Paige would have given anything to be able to turn back the clock to August 2014, when she and Jessica had first met- or better yet, to May 2016, when Jessica had proposed to Paige on top of the Empire State Building. All of the problems with their relationship had stemmed from Paige’s rejection of Jessica’s proposal- and Paige was determined that she wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Even if Jessica seemed determined to grab the celebrity lifestyle that she’d always claimed she’d hated- and that Paige had always yearned for.

Of course, as Paige learned, life doesn’t always give you second chances- and Jessica was unlikely to propose to her when the two of them were barely on speaking terms…

“So, umm,” Paige said. “Who are you picking for bridesmaids?”

“My sister, obviously, for demoiselle d'honneur,” Zoe giggled. “And probably Krystie, too…”

“…Nat?” Abbey asked, leading to a brief pause in the conversation.

“…Assuming Natalie will HAVE bridesmaids and not a best man,” Ellen mumbled

”Why wouldn’t I?” Natalie asked. “Just because I don’t take oestrogen, it doesn’t make me any less of a woman if I don’t want to be, right?”

“Right!” Abbey said with a confident grin.

“And I WILL wear a beautiful white dress to my wedding,” Natalie said. “I WILL be a bride, and on my wedding night, I WILL-“

“TMI!” Ellen squealed, playfully covering her ears.

“Well SOMEONE just talked herself out of the maid of honour job,” Natalie teased, giggling as her sister stuck her tongue out at her.

“It’ll always be seen as a wedding between a man and a woman, though,” Jessica whispered. “Legally, I mean, because you don’t have your certificate thing.”

“I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me how to live my life,” Natalie shrugged. “Hmm… Wonder if I can persuade Steph Abbott to be one of my bridesmaids?”

“Oh sure, rub all your celebrity connections in our faces!” Paige teased.

“Rub your gender recognition certificate in mine!” Natalie snorted. “And besides, they’re your friends too…”

“Girls,” Rachel said as she returned with another bottle of champagne for the table. “There’ll be time to discuss this all later. Tonight should be for celebrating!”

“Right!” Abbey cheered. “Oh my god, someone should call Anna-Jade to let her know!”

“She’ll probably be out with her sister somewhere,” Natalie said. “I’ll send her a text.”

“She probably won’t want to hear anything about relationships anyway,” Annabelle whispered as she thought about her heartbroken room-mate…

----------

“Say goodnight to Auntie Anna-Jade, Scotty!” Michelle giggled as she took her month-old baby boy up to his bedroom, leaving Anna-Jade alone in the living room with the boy’s father.

“That boy is such a cutie!” Anna-Jade sighed happily.

“He is,” Jonny- Michelle’s fiancé- said with a happy chuckle. “Thanks for coming over, by the way, I know it means a lot to Chell.”

“Sure, it’s my pleasure,” Anna-Jade shrugged. “Not like I’ve got anywhere better to be, anyway…”

“Michelle told me,” Jonny whispered. “I- I’m sorry to hear-“

“It’s fine,” Anna-Jade shrugged. “We’d drifted apart over the last couple of months or so anyway…”

“Still, you were together a while, weren’t you?” Jonny asked, grimacing as tears started to form in the corners of the transgendered girl’s eyes.

“Almost a year and a half,” Anna-Jade sniffed. “Still, gotta move on, not like any of my other boyfriends stuck around long.”

“Because of- because of- umm…” Jonny mumbled.

“Sometimes,” Anna-Jade whispered. “Paul was different, though, he had no problem with the, well, ‘problem’. And sure, it won’t be a problem at all in a few months’ time…” Anna-Jade’s tears dried and she let out a little giggle as Jonny crossed one leg over the other, clearly uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had taken.

“How- how long will it take?” Jonny asked. “To, umm, to recover, I mean…”

“We get three months sick leave,” Anna-Jade said. “Sure, I spoken to some girls though who’ve had it done and they say it isn’t nearly fucking enough…”

“Thanks for waiting until Scotty’s gone to bed before breaking out your usual language!” Michelle teased as she re-entered the living room and snuggled on the sofa next to her fiancé.

“He went down quick tonight,” Anna-Jade mused.

“Think he was knackered from being spoiled by his auntie all day!” Michelle giggled.

“Sure, it was the least I could do,” Anna-Jade shrugged. “Not like I’ll ever have any of my own, heh!”

“Sure, you can always adopt,” Michelle said.

“Need to find myself a man first, though,” Anna-Jade sighed sadly.

“You will get a new guy!” Michelle assured her older sister. “One even taller and even hunkier than Paul!”

“That’ll take some doing,” Anna-Jade giggled. “Paul was a fitness instructor, with the emphasis on ‘FIT’, hehe!”

“Sure, shouldn’t be THAT hard,” Michelle laughed. “Especially if you wait a few months then ‘forget’ to wear underwear one day…” The sisters shared a long chuckle as Jonny sank further into his chair, growing more and more uncomfortable with the topic of the conversation…

----------

“Sorry you got a little bit overlooked tonight,” Paige sighed as Amelie let the two of them into the Frenchwoman’s posh London flat. “It was meant to be your night, after all…”

“I have three older siblings and one younger,” Amelie shrugged. “I am used to being ‘overlooked’. And stop apologising to me! It is uncomfortable having your nose up my asshole.”

“…Whatever,” Paige snorted with mock disrespect, making Amelie giggle.

“Better,” the French teenager laughed as she kicked off her high heeled shoes and relaxed onto her soft leather sofa. “Sit! You have been on your feet as long as I have!”

“I’m gagging for a cup of tea,” Paige explained as she headed through to the kitchen, but not before laughing at Amelie removing her expensive emerald earrings and throwing them carelessly into the massive pile of junk on her coffee table.

When Amelie- and, for that matter, Paige- had moved into the plush flat, it had been spotless, kept in perfect condition by the army of housekeepers Amelie’s father employed to maintain his London properties. Within weeks, Amelie had turned it into a pig sty. Empty take-out containers littered the coffee table, along with magazines and an army of remote controls and video game controllers. Amelie’s vast shoe collection existed as a pile in one corner of the living room, whilst her sofa seemed to double as her laundry basket. Paige didn’t resent Amelie for her messiness- she was, after all, a nineteen year old girl living independently for the first ever time- but every so often, Paige found herself wishing that Amelie would occasionally pick up after herself… Which always made the Scottish girl sad as she remembered the times that Jessica complained that she didn’t pick up after herself.

“How are you, Paige?” Amelie asked softly as the Scottish girl sat down with her drink. “That cannot have been easy for you with Jessica there…”

“I’m fine,” Paige retorted, trying her best to keep her emotions in check. “I just… I’m just a little jealous that she was in that magazine yesterday, that’s all.”

“That isn’t it, though, is it?” Amelie asked, before sighing. “And I thought that you transgendered girls would be LESS complicated than normal girls…”

“…I still miss her,” Paige sighed. “But- but we both still need a little space.”

“’Space’ for you to hook up with another guy?” Amelie asked, sighing as the Scottish girl blushed.

“We’re not ‘hooked up’,” Paige mumbled. “Just, you know, chatting…”

“If you insist,” Amelie shrugged as Paige continued sipping her tea. “It seems obvious to me, though, that Callum isn’t who you REALLY want…”

“Shut up,” Paige mumbled as she picked her phone out of her bag and immersed herself in it by reading the latest text message that Callum had sent her- though with every word she read, she wished that it was Jessica who had sent it…

----------

“Mornin’, honey,” Annabelle said in her soft, Southern voice as Jessica emerged from her bedroom with a towel wrapped around her long blonde hair and her short lilac robe covering her body.

“Good morning, Annabelle,” Jessica said, sitting down in her usual kitchen chair with a heavy sigh.

“Still not sleeping alright?” Annabelle asked her countrywoman, who simply sighed and shook her head.

“Still getting used to being alone in bed,” Jessica sighed.

“You’ll get used to it eventually, honey,” Annabelle sighed. “I know I have…”

“That’s the point,” Jessica sighed, giving her friend’s hand a supportive squeeze. “I don’t WANT to get used to it.”

“Have you talked to Paige, honey?” Annabelle asked. “I mean, REALLY, really talked, since you split up?”

“We need space, I’ve already told you this,” Jessica sighed. “And now she’s hooking up with this Callum guy…”

“I don’t think they’ve actually ‘hooked up’ yet,” Annabelle said. “And it sounds to me like you’ve given her enough space. I hate to see you moping around like this. BOTH of you.”

“What do you suggest?” Jessica asked.

“Tell her how you feel,” Annabelle said with a shrug. “Anna-Jade’s away, I can be somewhere else tonight, invite her round for a real heart-to-heart. You never know, you might not sleep alone tonight!”

“Let’s not get TOO excited,” Jessica laughed, her spirits lifting thanks to her friend. “Though you’re probably right, it HAS been a while…”

“’Probably’ right?” Annabelle asked with a pout that made the other American girl giggle.

“Yes, ‘probably’,” Jessica retorted, sticking her tongue out at the taller girl. “Won’t know if it’s ‘definitely right’ until after I actually talk to Paige. God, don’t know I’m so nervous at the thought of just texting her, inviting her round…”

“Especially when we’ve both done things, said things that made us more nervous,” Annabelle whispered.

“Heh, hell yeah,” Jessica laughed. “How- how is it, you know? The oestrogen? You’re six months, aren’t you?”

“Six months tomorrow,” Annabelle said with a smile. “Doing a LOT better than last time. Think it helps that I actually have SOME family behind me now.”

“Your sister?” Jessica asked, smiling as Annabelle nodded.

“Better than nothing, honey,” Annabelle shrugged, before a wide grin spread across her face. “And how is it for you? You’re almost twenty-five years, aren’t you?”

“Ugh,” Jessica moaned, giggling as she was reminded of her impending birthday. “You know, if you’d asked me when I was twenty what I thought I’d be doing when I was twenty-five…”

“I think everyone in this flat thinks that, honey,” Annabelle said with a grin. “Any idea what you’ll be getting on Friday? For your birthday, I mean?”

“Not really,” Jessica said, before smiling dreamily. “I know what I WANT, though…”

As she dressed for work in a conservative black pencil dress, Jessica felt a renewed sense of optimism about her relationship. She never stopped loving Paige, and probably never would, and if the reverse was even slightly true, then there was always a chance that their relationship could be renewed. Jessica lazily fiddled with the engagement ring she had hidden at the back of her underwear drawer, before taking her phone out of her handbag and composing a new text message.

‘Hey Paige,’ Jessica typed, before pausing. She needed to word the text exactly right- she didn’t want it to seem too formal, or too familiar- regardless of how intimately ‘familiar’ the two women already were with each other. It couldn’t come across as too forceful, or too needy, or too blasé…

“Ugh, fuck’s sake, Jessica,” the American woman spat at herself. “Be yourself. YOU are the woman Paige fell in love with, use your own words…”

‘It sucks that we hardly seem to talk at all anymore,’ Jessica continued. ‘Want to meet up for a drink after my flight? Annabelle’s heading out so will have the whole flat to ourselves. I’m heading Dublin today so shouldn’t be too late back.’ Jessica took a deep breath, before pressing ‘send’, switching her phone to silent and tossing it in her bag, and heading to the nearest tube station.

En route to work, however, Jessica’s heart rate increased when she felt the familiar buzz of her phone vibrating in her bag, and the second she arrived at her locker room, she checked to see if Paige had replied- and she had.

‘Hey Jess,’ the message read. ‘Got no plans tonight so the drink sounds great! See you there.’ Jessica took several breaths as she tried to interpret Paige’s message. Paige didn’t say she missed Jessica, or that she loved her, or even that she was looking forward to the drink- it was almost as though Paige was speaking to Jessica as a friend, rather than a lover- even a former lover…

Jessica shook her head and tried to get over her anxieties as she zipped up her tight blue skirt and slipped her feet into the matching stiletto heels. Paige obviously WAS interested in talking. She DID want to see Jessica. And who knows maybe Paige DID still love her in the same way that Jessica loved her…

“Professionalism, Jessica,” the American girl whispered as she balanced her blue pillbox hat on top of her tightly tied blonde hair and fastened the golden buttons that signified that she would be the leader of the cabin crew during the flight to Dublin, and as such, she needed to set an example for her colleagues- not to mention the several dozen passengers on the plane.

“You ready, girl?” Tanisha asked the American girl as she balanced her own blue hat on top of her jet-black hair.

“You know it, GIRL!” Jessica said with a giggle, before grabbing her Soixante-Trois airlines branded tote bag and leading Tanisha and the other two stewardesses through the concourse of Heathrow Airport to their designated flight. As the group approached the terminal for their flight to Ireland, however, Jessica saw a sight that made her blood run cold.

There, stood in the waiting area, was a tall, handsome, incredibly athletic man with floppy red hair and light freckles… And next to him, with her hand in his, was Paige. She may have been several dozen feet away from Jessica and wearing sunglasses, but the jet-black hair, the pale skin and the slender body undoubtedly belonged to the Scottish girl that Jessica loved so much. The American girl froze to the spot in horror as the tall man leaned in toward Paige and gave her a slow, soft kiss on her lips, before releasing her hand and following the rest of the passengers into the departure lounge. Callum… Jessica thought to herself. Of course you’d be Irish. Of course you’d be on this flight today…

“Come on, Jess,” Tanisha whispered, gently leading Jessica toward the terminal’s employee area. “Don’t let it get to you. We have a job to do.”

“You’re right,” Jessica whispered, though as she got ready to move, her eyes locked with Paige’s through the latter’s sunglasses. What felt like an eternity passed for the two girls as they simply stared at each other, before Paige walked away, her cheeks flushed.

“Let’s go,” Jessica whispered, barely keeping her emotions in check as she led her colleagues toward their plane…

----------

“How about this one?” Anna-Jade asked as she held a slender, strapless red dress against her body.

“It’s cute,” Michelle shrugged. “You sure a strapless dress would, you know, ‘suit’ you, though?”

“Sure, my tits are just as big as yours!” Anna-Jade retorted, making both sisters giggle uncontrollably. “Umm, cover Scotty’s ears, Jonny!”

“Cover your own, too!” Michelle chastised her fiancé, making both herself and her sister giggle uncontrollably yet again. “Sure, you are going to get some attention in that!”

“That IS the plan,” Anna-Jade said as she inspected her reflection more closely. “Spend all day wrapped up in a fu- in a tight uniform, want to get my skin out SOME times…”

“Umm, I’ve seen a photo of you in your uniform,” Michelle laughed. “Trust me, you’ll get enough attention in that as it is!”

“Yeah, but only for another eighteen months,” Anna-Jade sighed. “Then it’s the big three-oh…”

“Sure, that doesn’t seem legal,” Michelle mused. “I mean, if they’re forced to accept- to accept, umm…”

“If they’re forced to accept trannies as their flight crew, you mean?” Anna-Jade asked. “Then they shouldn’t sack people as soon as they turn thirty? That’s just it, there are legal loopholes all over the place, we don’t get ‘sacked’ when we turn thirty, but we’re all on temporary contracts that only become permanent if we get a promotion to supervisor. Company isn’t obliged to renew them no matter what the EU says.”

“Will Brexit affect that?” Jonny asked. “I mean, make it easier or harder for you to keep your job after thirty?”

“It’s a French company so it probably won’t make any difference,” Anna-Jade sighed. “Technically they aren’t even obliged to hire transsexuals, they just couldn’t fire the first transgendered woman they hired after they found out that she was trans without causing a HUGE scandal. So instead, they clamped down on the dress code in the hope of dissuading transgendered women from applying. Made the uniform tighter, more restrictive, less practical…”

“Sexier…” Michelle teased her sister.

“…Do they not know how transvestites work?” Jonny asked, earning a stern stare from his future sister-in-law.

“I prefer ‘transsexual’,” Anna-Jade snorted. “And the answer to your question is an obvious ‘no’. Over 90% of new applications to the company are from transgendered women.”

“Sure, be fair, though,” Michelle said. “You were 100% male when you started work for that company, weren’t you?”

“I certainly didn’t FEEL 100% male,” Anna-Jade retorted. “…But yes, I was- reluctantly- living that way. Six months of it though was enough to know that I never wanted to go back.”

“And three months from now…” Michelle said, making a ‘snipping’ motion with her fingers that made her fiancé wince. “You’ll be a complete woman, the world’s your oyster…”

“I’ll always have ‘transsexual’ hanging over me, though,” Anna-Jade sighed.

“But at least you won’t have anything hanging under you, right?” Jonny asked, earning stern stares from the two women- though both soon broke into a fit of giggles at the tall man’s joke.

“Sure, that should NOT be funny,” Anna-Jade said between giggles. "Cock or no cock, I’ll still be unemployed when I’m thirty… Taking three months off sick to recover from my operation isn’t going to put me in the company’s good books. And finding a job in London that pays as well as Soixante-Trois…”

“…Then why stay in London?” Michelle asked. “Your home’s here in Derry.”

“Oh sure,” Anna-Jade snorted. “Only part of the British Isles that hasn’t legalised gay marriage…”

“You’re not gay, though,” Jonny said.

“And you have a certificate that states that your legal gender is female,” Michelle said. “Stormont can’t ignore THAT. And you were the biggest star of a reality TV show…”

“That six people watched,” Anna-Jade snorted.

“Still though, the camera loves you,” Michelle shrugged. “Remember when you were younger, you used to pretend to be a weatherman?”

“I used to pretend to be a weather GIRL,” Anna-Jade retorted. “I was just good at hiding the ‘girl’ part. And do NOT joke about me now being good at hiding my ‘boy part’.”

“You were on Saturday when we went swimming,” Jonny shrugged, earning an eye roll from the two women.

“The point is,” Michelle said, “the camera loves you. Frankly, you’re wasted on that airline as it is. And with your, well, ‘USP’, any TV station would snap you up as a TV presenter. Umm, pun NOT intended…”

“I guess,” Anna-Jade shrugged. “And I would LOVE that job, but… How am I meant to persuade the whole of Northern Ireland to love me when my own mother despises me?”

“…We can work on her,” Michelle said with a smug grin. “And yes, I said WE. But first, there’s something you need to do.”

“What is that?” Anna-Jade asked.

“Buy that red dress,” Michelle said with a grin, making Anna-Jade giggle excitedly as she held the strapless garment up against her body yet again.

----------

“Your stewardesses for this flight are Tanisha,” Jessica said as her dark-skinned friend bobbed a curtsey for the passengers on the plane. “Joanne and Zara. My name is-“ Jessica paused as her eyes met those of the tall redhead who she’d last seen kissing the woman she loved. Dammit… Jessica thought to herself, before coughing to try to save face at her hesitation. “Take off will be in five minutes, and flight duration will be one hour and twenty minutes. Again, I'd like to thank you for choosing Soixante-Trois airlines, and I hope you all have a comfortable and enjoyable flight to Dublin!” Jessica took a deep breath, before gently lowering herself into one of the staff seats at the back of the plane, ready for take-off.

“You did good,” Tanisha whispered as she sat down in the chair next to Jessica. “I- I saw him too.”

“I knew his name was ‘Callum’,” Jessica sighed. “Figures he’d be Irish, and on this damn flight…”

“I’ll do all the customer serving stuff on the flight, if you’d prefer?” Tanisha offered.

“Thanks, ‘Nish,” Jessica sighed. “But I gotta show my face to passengers, these gold buttons have a LOT of responsibilities.”

“Well if there’s anything I can do, let me know,” Tanisha said softly. “We ‘Tutu Project’ girls have to look out for each other, you know?”

“Hehe,” Jessica giggled as she remembered the night when she, Tanisha and several of their friends had conspired to ‘adjust the attitude’ of the womanising co-pilot who had many of their lives a misery. Jessica’s fond memories soon turned to anxious ones, though, when Jessica remember the sight of Paige in her skin-tight latex catsuit- and whether or not she’d ever worn the catsuit for Callum…

“Showtime,” Tanisha said as the ‘fasten seat belts’ light extinguished and she began preparing the snacks and drinks that the passengers would inevitably demand on their short flight to Ireland. It didn’t take long for the cabin’s call light to illuminate, and Jessica took a deep breath and forced a smile on her face as she pushed her drinks trolley out into the cabin. Jessica’s smile faltered, however, when she saw who had pushed the call light.

“Good morning sir,” Jessica said in a sickeningly sweet voice to the tall, ginger-haired gentleman sat in the plush seat. “How can I help you today?”

“Uh, coffee, please,” Callum replied in a very light Irish accent, causing Jessica to inwardly breathe a sigh of relief- he was at least being polite, and even much politer than most of the passengers Jessica regularly dealt with. “Black, two sugars.”

“Certainly, sir,” Jessica simpered as she placed Callum’s drink on the tray in front of him. “Will there be anything else?”

“Yes, actually,” Callum said, his mood suddenly darkening. “You’re Jessica, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” Jessica said, subtly looking down at the name badge on her lapel.

“Oh, I can see your name badge,” Callum said. “But you’re… JESSICA, aren’t you?” Oh, you bastard, Jessica thought to herself as she felt her heart rate increase.

“Yes sir, my name is Jessica,” the American girl replied, trying desperately to hide the tension inside her.

“That’s a good enough answer to my question,” Callum said. “Even though I already know exactly who you are, and not just because of the Sunday Globe article. So understand this- Paige has moved on. You should too.” CUNT! Jessica thought as she bit her lip.

“I’m sorry sir,” Jessica said in the sweetest voice she could manage, “but I’m not allowed to answer personal questions whilst on duty.”

“Yeah, I get you’re supposed to say that if someone asks if your transgendered,” Callum said. “Frankly, I couldn’t care less what you have underneath your skirt, only where you put it. Paige is a very, very special woman. And she’s also mine. I suggest you accept that.”

“Will there be anything else, sir?” Jessica defiantly asked.

“No, thank you,” Callum said, sitting back in his chair with a look of victory on his face whilst Jessica pulled her trolley back to the kitchen area.

“FUCK!” Jessica yelled once she was sure none of the passengers could hear her.

“Anna-Jade? Is that you?” Tanisha asked with a giggle, before her face fell at the sight of the tearful American girl. “God, Jess…”

“…It’s over,” Jessica whispered, slumping onto one of the seats.

“Don’t say that!” Tanisha urged.

“You didn’t hear what he said,” Jessica moaned.

“What HE said!” Tanisha hissed. “What HE said! Not Paige! Pull yourself together, girl! We’ve got a long way to go until we get to Dublin!”

“…You’re right,” Jessica sniffed, taking a deep breath and straightening her hat and skirt. “I’ve got to remain positive.”

“Atta girl!” Tanisha laughed, before rolling her eyes as the call light illuminated yet again. “Want me to get this?”

“No,” Jessica said, standing up and taking as deep a breath as her laced-in waist would allow. “He won’t be calling me out again now that he’s got his drink. And if he does… Well, what’s he going to do, ask to see my supervisor?”

“Heh,” Tanisha giggled as Jessica pushed her trolley back out into the plane. The American girl inwardly breathed a sigh of relief as she check the passengers and saw that it wasn’t Callum who had summoned her, but a smartly dressed man who appeared to be in his early fifties.

“Good morning sir, how may I be of assistance?” Jessica asked.

“Just a cup of coffee please,” the man politely replied in a thick Dublin accent. “Black, no sugar.”

“Certainly, sir,” Jessica simpered, serving the man his drink. “Will there be anything else, sir?”

“Just one thing,” the man said, making Jessica inwardly cringe. “You- were you in the Sunday Globe? In the magazine, I mean, in the feature about transsexual people?” Jessica opened her mouth to begin the ‘no personal questions’ spiel she’d recited hundreds of times since beginning her employment almost three years earlier, but before she could say a word, a smile spread across her face. It wasn’t a personal question, even if it did confirm her ‘status’, and Jessica had been told by her managers to specifically use the experience to promote the airline, after all…

“Yes, sir, that was me,” Jessica said, giggling as the older man smiled at her.

“Thought so,” the Irishman said with a smug grin. “Hope my air fare didn’t go toward you posing in front of a camera!” Jessica let out another giggle- the tone of the man’s voice clearly indicated that his complaint wasn’t a serious one.

“I was paid by the magazine, sir,” Jessica replied, earning a chuckle of laughter from the man.

“Just checking,” the man replied. “You know, I’ve got a son about your age in Dublin, if you ever get tired of life in London…”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Jessica said with a warm smile. “But I’m not allowed-“

“Not allowed to discuss personal information, blah blah blah,” the Irishman said with a chuckle. “Never mind. Worth a try. Thanks for the coffee!” Jessica smiled as she pulled her trolley back to the plane’s kitchen- the reminder that she was an attractive woman was always welcome, as was the reminder that there were people in the world, like the Irishman and presumably his son too, who saw her and were more interested in the ‘woman’ part of ‘transwoman’ than the ‘trans’ part. And, as the cliché went, there were always more fish in the sea- Jessica, however, was only interested in the one fish she had already landed three years earlier…

----------

“Come on, Jess,” Paige moaned, tapping her feet impatiently as she waited outside the small London flat where she’d lived until three months earlier. She still had a key to the flat, of course, but she didn’t quite feel like it was HER home anymore. As Paige grew more and more bored, she pulled her phone out her bag, planning on whiling away the minutes playing a game. Before she could catch any Pokémon, however, the Scottish girl’s attention was drawn to her text messaging app, and the messages that she had received from the woman she loved, and the man she fancied.

Before she’d begun transitioning, Paige had never entertained the possibility of being in a relationship with a man, and even when she’d been with Jessica before they’d both begun transitioning, she considered the relationship to be a lesbian one. As Paige’s body- and her mind- transformed more and more, though, she found herself craving the attention she saw her friends receive from their male partners. Every time she saw Anna-Jade cuddle up to her (now ex) boyfriend, or Rachel and Danny laugh as they worked together in their bar, Paige felt a twinge of jealousy that she didn’t have a man who treated her the same way. However, Paige would then immediately feel guilty, as while she didn’t have a man who loved her, she had a woman who she knew unconditionally adored her- though as their oestrogen treatments began to take hold, their lovemaking had grown less and less satisfying for the Scottish girl- and Paige couldn’t help but wonder if this was the reason her relationship had ended up the way it had. Every time Paige looked at Callum, she yearned for his body, but every time she looked at Jessica, she yearned for her soul…

“Sorry, sorry,” Jessica panted as she walked up the stairs to where Paige was waiting, her haste causing her to stumble on the stone steps in her high heels.

“Careful!” Paige giggled, instinctively reaching out a hand to steady the American girl.

“One of the passengers on the way back was a bit of a dick,” Jessica sighed. “Had to listen to him rant about Zara on the way home, apparently she didn’t curtsey deep enough for him.”

“A supervisor’s work is never done, eh?” Paige asked, biting her lip at the awkward reminder that Jessica had earned her promotion, whilst Paige hadn’t.

“…Fortunately, it IS done for today,” the American girl chuckled. “You know, you could’ve let yourself in.”

“It… Didn’t feel right, somehow,” Paige mumbled as she sat down in her usual spot on the flat’s sofa, crossing her legs and straightening her shiny black tights.

“You still want to drink some of our wine?” Jessica asked, grimacing at the unintended confrontational tone in her voice. “Umm, if you’d like a glass-“

“Please,” Paige whispered, taking a deep breath to calm her nerves.

“I like those shorts,” Jessica said. “They new?”

“Umm, yeah,” Paige said. “Gift from Amelie.”

“You know, I haven’t been on a flight with her yet?” Jessica asked as she sat down with her own wine.

“Aye, she’s cool,” Paige said. “So, not had the pleasure of bossing around the boss’s daughter yet, then?”

“Well I think it’s because you’ve been on most of her flights, as her mentor,” Jessica mused. “And obviously they won’t let me boss you around…”

“Like you ever could, anyway,” Paige retorted, making both girls giggle.

“I reckon if I wore my tutu project quote-unquote uniform I might stand a chance,” Jessica said, making the Scottish girl giggle.

“You wish,” Paige snorted. “You know, I actually told Amelie about that, went into all the details, she actually demanded a catsuit of her own.”

“Heh,” Jessica laughed. “Probably didn’t have that many friends- you know, peers, growing up, seeing who her father is…”

“She wasn’t really all THAT lonely growing up,” Paige said. “Surprised I’m not getting bollocked for telling Amelie about the details of the project…”

“Make me out to be a nark,” Jessica teased, grimacing at the awkward pause her quip caused.

“I reckon you’ll like her if you get to know her,” Paige mused.

“I- I didn’t invite you around to talk about Amelie,” Jessica sighed, taking a deep breath. “I want to talk about us.”

“…I want that too,” Paige whispered. “We’ve left this too long.” Long enough that you’ve found yourself another guy, Jessica self-pityingly thought to herself.

“…Far too long,” Jessica whispered. “Paige, I-“

“I want to talk first,” Paige said forcefully. “Jess, I- I have something I need to tell you.”

“I know,” Jessica said, her voice darkening.

“You- you do?” Paige asked, her jaw dropping in shock. How could she know about the ring? Paige thought to herself.

“He was on my flight!” Jessica exclaimed. “Actually used the call light to tell me to stay away from you…”

“Wha- Callum!?” Paige asked. “Who- you think this is about Callum?”

“Well you did seem VERY friendly with him this morning!” Jessica retorted, unconsciously letting her voice rise in response to Paige’s.

“We’re on a break!” Paige hissed. “So I’m looking at someone else, it’s been three months, it’s not like I just jumped into bed with the first guy I saw!”

“I haven’t looked at a single other person the last three months!” Jessica yelled.

“You’ve had your nose stuck in a fucking book the last three months!” Paige spat.

“And you’ve had your nose stuck up that rich bitch’s ass!” Jessica screeched.

“Fuck you, Jessica!” Paige yelled, grabbing her handbag and storming out of the flat. The second she’d slammed the door behind her, however, Paige broke down in a flood of tears.

Paige had had such high hopes for the talk with Jessica. She’d wanted to clear the air, get everything off her chest that she’d bottled up for the previous three months, and most importantly, let Jessica know just how much she loved her. And yet, as always seemed to happen when the two got together, it had ended in yet another blazing argument. For Paige, however, the worst part wasn’t the argument, but that she blamed herself for it.

If Paige hadn’t been in such a deep well of self-pity, she might just have suspected that Jessica felt the exact same way she did about the fight…

----------

“Jessica? Honey?” Annabelle asked as she entered the flat, only to find it in total darkness.

“In the kitchen,” Annabelle’s countrywoman moaned. Annabelle entered the kitchen, only to sigh when she saw Jessica slumped over a tub of ice-cream, her face scrubbed clean of make-up and her slender body covered only in a soft light blue dressing gown.

“Oh, honey…” Annabelle sighed, sitting down next to Jessica and giving her shoulder a gentle, awkward squeeze.

“We had another massive fight,” Jessica squeaked as she burst into another flood of tears.

“What- what was it about?” Annabelle whispered.

“I can’t even fucking well remember,” Jessica sobbed. “But every time we get together nowadays, it’s like all we do is fight, and it’s always about the stupidest things! I mean, I love her, but-“

“Did you tell her that, honey?” Annabelle asked.

“…Did I tell her what?” Jessica replied.

“That you love her,” Annabelle said softly. “If I were you, honey, that’d have been the first thing I said to her.”

“I was leading up to it,” Jessica mumbled, swallowing another large spoonful of ice cream. “Why don’t they do cookie dough over here?”

“I think they do, you just have to look for it a bit harder,” Annabelle replied.

“I miss American ice cream,” Jessica moaned. “I miss American cookie dough. Hell, I miss AMERICA.”

“I’ve been there, honey,” Annabelle sighed as she gave Jessica’s shoulder another squeeze. “Just wish I had someone back there who’d be happy to see me…”

“My parents wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to see me,” Jessica sighed. “But they have at least accepted me. As long as I don’t show my face to any of their snooty friends, heh. And you speak to your sister, don’t you?”

“She’s at college in LA, rest of my family’s from Atlanta basking in the glow of their votes for you-know-who,” Annabelle said, making Jessica giggle. “Not really any good options…”

“Unlike me,” Jessica sighed.

“You don’t know how good your options are, honey,” Annabelle whispered. “And I don’t just mean with your family. You have a lot of people here who DO love you, Jessica.”

“…I know,” Jessica moaned. “But- but I need to get away. I need to go home, I’m on leave until the 26th, I’ll go online and get some tickets, clear my head. Good job we don’t fly transatlantic, heh!”

“Heh,” Annabelle chuckled. “It’s not a bad idea, but… Could you at least wait until after your birthday?”

“…You’re not throwing me a surprise party, are you?” Jessica asked cautiously. “Because I HATE surprise parties.”

“Well…” Annabelle said, thinking as quickly as she could, “…It ain’t a surprise now that you know about it, is it, honey?”

“…Fine,” Jessica said, sticking her tongue out at the giggling Annabelle. “I’ll book a flight for the 20th, for Saturday.”

“Returning on the 26th?” Annabelle asked Jessica, who paused before replying.

“We’ll see,” Jessica whispered as she put the nearly-empty tub of ice cream back in the freezer, before heading back to the living room, grabbing her iPad and booking a one-way flight from London to Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Annabelle headed into her bedroom to change out of her commuting attire and grab her own iPad, all the while wondering how the hell she was going to organise a birthday party with just three days’ notice…

----------

“Hey girls,” Natalie said as she, her fiancée and her sister entered the posh London flat where Amelie was sat, trying to console the distraught Paige. “Sorry we’re a bit later than expected, Zoe’s ballerinas were a bit rowdy tonight…”

“They are not ‘rowdy’, they are elegant, graceful young women,” Zoe retorted. “Even the group of eight I told you about. But they are not who is important tonight.”

“…Huh?” Paige asked, lifting her head to look at her three recently-arrived friends. “What- why are you three here…?”

“Why do you think?” Zoe replied with a warm, wide smile.

“We’ve got enough wine, chocolates and chick flicks to last us a month,” Ellen said, dropping a bulging carrier bag in front of Paige, who let out a long sigh and tried to force a smile on her face.

“Thanks, girls,” Paige whispered in a hoarse voice. “But I- I really need, umm…”

“You really need the love and support of all of your friends,” Natalie said softly, sitting down next to Paige and giving the Scottish girl a long hug, which was eagerly reciprocated.

“…Thanks,” Paige sniffled.

“Did you bring the other things that I asked you to bring too?” Amelie asked.

“Packed those first!” Ellen replied in her thick Manchester accent as she pulled several sets of pastel-coloured women’s pyjamas from her carrier bag.

“What… What’s happening?” Paige asked, her dismay making way for confusion.

“What’s happening,” Natalie explained, “is that Amelie told us that one of our very best friends is upset and- I repeat- needs the love and support of all her friends. I’ll be honest, I thought that you’d be sleeping, well, where you’re supposed to sleep tonight.”

“And by that, we DON’T mean with your Irish fella!” Ellen snorted, frowning as Amelie, Natalie and Zoe glared at her. “What? We’re all thinking that, aren’t we?”

“’Thinking’, maybe,” Natalie admonished her sister. “…To be fair, though, Ellen’s not wrong.”

“To be fair, who I sleep with is none of your fucking business,” Paige spat, making her three guests fidget uncomfortably.

“So… Shall we take our pyjama party and go?” Ellen asked.

“…You can stay,” Paige said, giggling as the three women immediately headed into the flat’s spare room, emerging seconds later dressed in their soft, comfortable pyjamas.

“You next,” Natalie order.

“Oh- come on, I’m on a flight tomorrow…” Paige complained.

“All the more reason to get an early night,” Ellen insisted, making Paige giggle before heading into her bedroom, emerging a short while later with a make-up free face and a knee-length t-shirt covering her body.

“Better?” The Scottish girl asked.

“MUCH better,” Ellen giggled, before turning to the flat’s main tenant. “We’re waiting…”

“Umm, Ellen,” Natalie whispered, grimacing at her younger sister’s defiant attitude.

“Do- do you know who I am?” Amelie asked.

“Yep,” Ellen replied, folding her arms across her chest. “Should I care?” Natalie, Paige and even Zoe all winced as Amelie stood up with a look of pure fury on her face, before giggling and heading into her bedroom, coming out a few seconds later in a set of tartan pyjamas and doing a twirl for her friends.

“Very cute!” Natalie giggled. “Gift from Paige?”

“Aye,” Amelie replied, making the whole flat- even the heartbroken Scottish girl- giggle uncontrollably. “It is the official tartan of the Robertsons.”

“Least I could do, really,” Paige chuckled as she and her four friends all squashed onto the flat’s huge sofa. “Amelie’s done so much for me since- since-“

“Enough talk,” Amelie announced. “You know, I have never had a proper sleeping party before…”

“Not even with your sisters?” Ellen asked. “You’ve got one older and one younger, haven’t you?”

“My father was… Not supporting the idea,” Amelie grimaced. “He was certain not to make us ‘normal’ children. The nearest was when my sisters and I slept at my grandfather’s house once.”

“Your grandfather… Henri Masson?” Natalie asked. “Founder of the airline?”

“My father founded the airline,” Amelie clarified. “His father founded Soixante-Trois the, um, the total company. Sorry, I know my English is not perfect…”

“It’s probably better than my French,” Ellen shrugged.

“Your French had to be good enough to pass the entry test, did it not?” Amelie asked, making Ellen grin.

“Briggs girls have always had a knack for languages,” Natalie said smugly. “Sasha- our youngest sister- is studying French at university.”

“Ah, but sisters- you mean, umm, sisters as in…” Amelie said hesitantly.

“As in girls named Natalie, Ellen and Sasha,” Ellen said. “GIRLS. Doesn’t matter what’s on the birth certificate.”

“Yes, but-“ Amelie said, before biting her lip. “You are correct, of course.” Ellen also bit her lip as an awkward silence filled the room.

“…So you don’t want to work for Soixante-Trois for long, then?” Zoe asked Ellen, which earned a playful raspberry from Amelie.

“It is a refreshment to not have a colleague’s nose in my asshole!” Amelie chuckled. “And besides, with three- with three SISTERS, soon the Briggs dynasty will overtake the Masson dynasty! You may even get my father’s executive box at Manchester United…” Amelie grimaced as another, even more awkward silence filled the room. “…Did I say something wrong?”

“The only thing I’d want to do with an executive box THERE,” Ellen spat, “Is take a piss on all the seats!”

“Ellen and I support the GOOD Manchester team,” Natalie explained, gesturing to hers and Ellen’s sky blue pyjamas with a look of smug superiority on her face.

“…Oh,” Amelie grimaced.

“Oh, god,” Ellen moaned. “You- you’re not a- a fan of THEM, are you?”

“…No,” Amelie said, shaking her head much to the other girls’ relief. “My father is a big fan of football, though.”

“And yet he bought an executive box at Old Trafford!” Natalie quipped, making the room giggle. “…Paige? You’ve been kinda quiet, are- well, I know you’re not ‘alright’, but are-“

“Honestly, I am LOVING this,” Paige sighed happily. “You were right, this IS what I need right now.”

“I am glad,” Amelie giggled. “You need a smile on your face. But we should NOT talk about football on a sleeping party!”

“Agreed,” Paige giggled, opening a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine as Ellen sorted through the DVDs she’d brought along. “Besides, everyone knows that Rangers are the best team in the world…”

Paige tried to put her argument with Jessica behind her as she relaxed and enjoyed the impromptu sleepover party, but as hard as she tried, the blonde American girl was always front and centre in her mind. Even when Paige tried to distract herself by thinking of Callum, the American girl always found a way of usurping the Irishman in her thoughts, and by the time Ellen started the second film of the night, Paige found herself almost hyperventilating with stress. The Scottish girl abruptly excused herself to head into the flat’s posh, modern kitchen to get a glass of water, only to be startled when Natalie joined her moments later.

“…Evening,” Natalie said in her thick northern accent.

“Evening,” Paige mumbled. “I- umm, I just-“

“I know,” Natalie whispered. “I- I’m sorry if we kinda forced ourselves on you tonight- so to speak, you know what I mean…”

“It’s okay,” Paige mumbled. “Probably best that I’m not alone, anyway… I mean, I’m not going to do anything stupid, like…”

“Good to hear,” Natalie said. “And for the record… I agree with Ellen when she says that getting with Callum counts as ‘something stupid’.”

“Thanks for your OPINION,” Paige spat.

“Do you still love her?” Natalie asked, making Paige stop in her tracks.

“…I thought I did,” Paige replied. “But-“

“Yes or no,” Natalie insisted.

“Oh- it’s easy for you, miss engagement fucking ring,” Paige spat. “You and Zoe hardly ever fight!”

“Hardly ever fight!?” Natalie snorted. “Oh- let me assure you, Zoe has one HELL of a temper on her! Seriously, some of our fights get nasty. But we always make up with each other. We always sit down and talk to each other, work out our problems and put them behind us. Because we love each other. So let me ask again. Do you still love Jessica?”

“…Yes,” Paige sighed. “But every time, EVERY time we talk we end up fighting it’s like- ugh, I dunno.”

“If I had to guess,” Natalie said, “you have a sort of romantic- for want of a better word- view of your relationship with Jessica. When the two of you met, it was love at first sight, and that’s so, so rare. You think of the two of you as a fairytale. And then reality kinda had other ideas. You and Jessica WILL argue. You WILL fight. Especially as both of you have more pride than sense.”

“She certainly does,” Paige snorted.

“You BOTH do,” Natalie retorted. “You’re both desperate for the other to apologise and take the blame.”

“It IS her fault!” Paige screeched. “…Okay, I’m not entirely blameless…”

“I’m not the one you should be telling,” Natalie said softly.

“I know,” Paige moaned. “But- but how do I do that without flying into a rage at the sight of her face?”

“Fine line between love and hate? I dunno,” Natalie shrugged. “All I know is that everyone thinks that you and Jessica are perfect for each other. And you won’t be anywhere near as happy with Callum as you are- ARE, not WERE- with her.”

“Fine, fine, god!” Paige protested as she finished her glass of water. “Can I PLEASE go now? I need to be up early…”

“Only if you agree to talk to Jessica again,” Natalie said firmly.

“Fine…” Paige sighed. “I’ll text her tomorrow when I get back from Amsterdam. Can I go to bed NOW?”

“Be my guest, Snow White,” Natalie said, laughing at Paige’s scowl as the Scottish girl exchanged huge with the other three women before heading into her bedroom.

With the ‘guest of honour’ gone, the pyjama party soon disbanded, with Amelie heading into her master bedroom, Zoe and Natalie sharing the double bed in the spare bedroom and Ellen curling up under a blanket on the sofa.

Natalie let out a loud yawn as she woke up the following morning, before rolling over only to find herself alone in the unfamiliar bed. The sound of pop music coming from the kitchen brought a smile to the northern girl’s face- Zoe was inevitably already awake and getting ready to teach the toddlers she’d been teaching on Wednesday mornings for the previous year and a half. Natalie quickly got out of bed and wrapped one of Amelie’s spare dressing gowns around her body, before heading through to the kitchen where Zoe was stood with one of her pointed feet stretched high above her head.

“One of these days you’ll have to teach me how to do that,” Natalie said.

“No, I want you to keep ‘working’,” Zoe giggled as she swapped to her other foot.

“Paige already gone?” Natalie asked as she helped herself to a mug of coffee.

“Yes, your sister too,” Zoe replied. “The sofa was empty when I got up.”

“Huh,” Natalie mused. “She’s not on a flight today.”

“Meeting friends for breakfast?” Zoe asked. “Her phone’s not on the table…”

“Ellen doesn’t have any friends,” Natalie snorted, grabbing her phone from the table and dialling her sister’s number. To Natalie’s surprise, however, she immediately began to hear Ellen’s distinctive ringtone coming from another part of the flat. Natalie quickly tracked it down to one of the bedrooms, which she entered… Only to drop her phone in shock as she was greeted by the sight of her sister locked in a passionate embrace with Amelie.

“Aiieee!” Ellen shrieked, covering herself up at the sight of her sister staring at her slack-jawed. “Fuck’s sake, Nat!”

“Natalie!” Amelie gasped at the sudden intrusion into her bedroom. “What are you doing!?”

“What am I doing!?” Natalie retorted incredulously. “What the fuck are you two doing!?”

“Knitting a fucking balaclava,” Ellen spat, “What does it look like we’re doing?”

“But- but you’re- you’re not a lesbian!” Natalie said as Zoe walked up to her and gasped at the sight of the two women in bed.

“For the first twenty years of your life, you were not a woman,” Amelie retorted, deepening Natalie’s frown.

“I. Like. Amelie,” Ellen said defiantly. “So what if she’s a girl? You’re a lesbian, aren’t you?”

“I- I-“ Natalie stammered.

“You’re ‘uncategorisable’,” Ellen said with a snort of laughter. “Well I’VE decided to be uncategorisable as well!” To emphasise her point, Ellen leaned into her new lover and gave her a long, deep kiss on her lips. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we want some privacy!” Natalie slowly closed the bedroom door behind her as she returned to the flat’s living room, before turning to face her fiancée with her mouth still agape.

“…Wow,” the Englishwoman sighed. “Ell- Ellen-“

“A Manchester woman with the surname ‘Briggs’ is found in bed with a French girl who’s related to someone working for Soixante-Trois Airlines,” Zoe said, raising a quizzical eyebrow. “This has certainly never happened before…”

“Oh- whatever,” Natalie snorted. “Ellen and Amelie, though?”

“Once you go French you don’t go back,” Zoe teased her fiancée, before easing her tension with a long kiss on her lips. “I must go to work now. Do NOT walk in on them again! Give them privacy. Go and talk to Jessica, she has a younger sister, maybe she can be some help. I think she’s alone today anyway, probably needs company.”

“Yes, yes,” Natalie sighed as Zoe gave her another kiss and left the flat. Natalie paced the living room for a while, but with the flat now completely empty, she was haunted by every tiny sound she heard, imagining them to be coming from her sister and her new lover…

After just a few minutes, Natalie decided that she’d had enough and got dressed in the same skirt and top she’d worn to the flat the previous day. As she left the flat and headed to the nearest tube station to make her way home, Natalie tried calling Jessica, only for there to be no reply from the American girl. Undeterred from having someone to talk to, Natalie opened up her Facebook app and checked to see who was online. She wasn’t surprised to see that all her friends who she knew to be at work- Zoe included- were showing as ‘offline’, as were Ellen and Amelie, which caused Natalie to bristle. With Anna-Jade also offline, which Natalie assumed was due to her flying home from Ireland, and Jessica also offline for an unknown reason, Natalie was left with only one option.

“This is going to suck,” Natalie groaned under her breath as she started to type her message.

‘Hi Marie,’ Natalie typed to her future sister-in-law. ‘Got a second?’

‘Sure,’ the 28 year old Frenchwoman almost immediately replied. ‘Congratulations by the way. Not that I should congratulate you for marrying my sister!’

‘Lol,’ Natalie replied, outwardly rolling her eyes at Marie’s ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji. ‘Thanks, it’s actually kinda something like this I want to talk to you about?’

‘Sure,’ Marie replied. ‘Though I’ve already agreed to be Zoe’s demoiselle d'honneur! Will you choose one of your sisters for yours?’

‘Probably,’ Natalie typed. ‘Probably Sasha, after today.’

‘Is Sasha the one you don’t work with?’ Marie asked.

‘Yep,’ Natalie replied. ‘She’s 19 and at uni back home, Ellen’s the one I work with. Sadly.’

‘What’s happened?’ Marie typed. ‘Did you fall out? Was it at work? Because I always thought you weren’t put on the same flights.’

‘Wasn’t at work,’ Natalie typed, before taking a deep breath. ‘I walked in on Ellen this morning as she was having sex with Amelie Masson.’ Natalie bit her lip as the notification that Marie was typing a message stayed on the screen for a long time, before letting out a long sigh as the message finally came through.

‘HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!’ Marie’s message read, followed by a string of ‘laughing’ emojis.

‘It’s not funny,’ Natalie feebly retorted.

‘No, it’s hysterical,’ Marie replied with a string of ‘sticking out tongue’ emojis. ‘And with Antoine Masson’s daughter too!’

‘Ellen had never given any hint that she fancied women,’ Natalie typed.

‘Nor had Zoe,’ Marie immediately replied.

‘Okay, touché,’ Natalie typed with a long sigh. ‘I’m just worried about Ellen, that’s all. Big sibling instinct or whatever.’

‘Ellen’s older than Zoe was when she got with you,’ Marie typed. ‘She’s older than Amelie if my memory is correct. She will be fine.’

‘I know that consciously,’ Natalie typed. ‘I just- well, I dunno. Maybe I’m worried Ellen’s only after Amelie’s money, I dunno. You can’t say that was Zoe’s reason for getting with me.’ Natalie felt a sense of smug satisfaction at sending Natalie a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji of her own.

‘I’ll never know Zoe’s reason for getting with you,’ Marie replied with a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji to cancel out Natalie’s. ‘All I know is that I’m glad she did, given how happy you make her.’

‘Aww,’ Natalie typed with a ‘blushing’ emoji. ‘So are you saying I should try to be happy for Ellen?’

‘Always,’ Marie typed with a smiling emoji. ‘That’s what big sisters are for! And look on the bright side- at least Amelie isn’t likely to get Ellen pregnant. THAT is a worry you won’t have!’

‘Oh please,’ Natalie typed, searching through her phone for a ‘rolling eyes’ emoji to send along with her message. ‘We only just got engaged, I’m 24 and Zoe’s 22, we’re not even thinking about thinking about kids yet!’

‘But these things do happen,’ Marie typed. ‘And I think you and Zoe would make wonderful mothers.’

‘Aww, thanks!’ Natalie typed with another ‘blushing’ emoji. ‘Even though I technically wouldn’t be a ‘mother’?’

‘Who cares about technically?’ Marie typed. ‘I’m looking forward to you being my sister-in-law. You’d be more of a mother than you would be a father, that I know.’

‘Thanks,’ Natalie typed.

‘And who knows?’ Marie continued. ‘A few years from now your child might be nephew or niece to one of the richest families in the world.’ Marie’s ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji caused Natalie to roll her eyes yet again as she headed back to her small flat…

----------

“It’s been a while since it’s been me and you on a flight, honey,” Annabelle said as she removed her hat and blazer and began preparing drinks for her passengers.

“Aye,” Paige replied as she unsecured the trolley in the plane’s kitchen. “Think the last time we were on the same flight was- was-“ …Before Jessica and I split up, Paige thought to herself.

“A while ago,” Annabelle said softly. “You- you got any flights for the rest of the week?”

“No,” Paige whispered. “I’ve got leave booked until the 26th. Though, umm, I might put myself down as backup for those days, you know…”

“You don’t fancy going anywhere special?” Annabelle asked. “I speak from experience, America’s nice this time of year, especially the east coast…”

“You know, sometimes I preferred it when you DIDN’T talk to anyone,” Paige snarled, before letting out a sigh. “…Sorry- sorry, Annabelle… Didn’t mean to snap, it’s just- ugh. Everything in my life is just messed up right now, I don’t know WHERE I am…”

“It’s okay, honey,” Annabelle said. “Sometimes I prefer it when I didn’t talk either, hehe! Six months of oestrogen has given me confidence I never knew I had. Though if you’re like this after two years…”

“Oh trust me, the oestrogen is the one thing in my life I’m NOT stressed about,” Paige chuckled. “Though that’s just it, I spend twenty years of life stressing out about who I am, and I finally find out, and now I’m stressing out about who- about what I want-“

“I think you were right the first time, honey,” Annabelle said, making Paige frown.

“…Why the hell is no one thirsty?” Paige grunted as she stared at the kitchen’s call light.

“Have you got Jessica anything for her birthday?” Annabelle asked. “It’s only two days away…”

“Yeah,” Paige replied. “I got her-“ A ring, the Scottish girl thought to herself, causing her to bite her lip in frustration and embarrassment. “Umm, just a few things, you know…”

“I’m throwing a party for her on Friday,” Annabelle said. “You should be there. But NOT with your Irish gentleman!”

“’Gentleman’,” Paige said with a snort of laughter. “I- I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“You might not get another chance to see her,” Annabelle cautioned. “Jessica- Jessica’s going back to America.”

“…When?” Paige asked as she felt her blood begin to chill.

“Day after her birthday,” Annabelle replied. “Just for a visit, to her family, I mean, but she’s said she might stay longer…” Paige bit her lip, before inwardly breathing a sigh of relief as the call light finally illuminated.

“Oh thank god,” Paige muttered under her breath. “Umm, I’ll probably drop in to the party, just to, umm, drop off my gift…”

“Just make sure you’re there, honey,” Annabelle whispered as Paige disappeared into the plane’s cabin.

For the rest of the flights to and from Amsterdam, Annabelle remained silent, both on the topic of Jessica and Paige’s relationship and the topic of the former’s birthday. Whilst Paige appreciated the silence, she still felt tense even after disembarking the plane back in London, knowing that it was little more than 24 hours since her last, disastrous confrontation with Jessica, and it’d be less than 48 hours until her next meeting with the American girl. Paige’s only consolation was that she wouldn’t be at work for the next nine days- though even this wasn’t an entirely positive thing, as Paige realised when it dawned on her that there wouldn’t be any escape or distraction from her thought or anxieties for the subsequent week.

As she opened the front door of her and Amelie’s posh London flat, Paige hoped that she would at least be able to rely on Amelie to distract her from her relationship woes- though as she entered the living room, she was greeted by a sight that hinted that Amelie might have other things on her mind.

“Hi Paige!” Ellen said with a tired, content smile as she rested her head in Amelie’s lap, purring softly as the French girl stroked her long brown hair.

“Hi…” Paige said cautiously. “So this is new, then…”

“I like ‘new’,” Amelie mumbled.

“And northern girls, apparently,” Paige said as memories came flooding back to her of her and Jessica being in the exact same position many times in the past. “How long has this been going on? Do- do your families know about this?”

“Just since last night,” Ellen said. “I’ve only told Nat. Well, she sort-of found out for herself, the nosy cow…”

“We have so much in common,” Amelie sighed happily. “Second youngest of a large family, looked over for our successful older siblings and smarter younger sister, bad relationship with our father…”

“…Fondness for the taste of vaginas,” Ellen said, making her new girlfriend giggle.

“What about your father?” Paige asked, making Amelie groan with frustration.

“Assholes to my father!” Amelie spat. “He doesn’t even know that I’m a lesbian.”

“In fairness, neither did I,” Paige said. “If- if this is, no offence, but if this is a serious thing-“

“I’m pretty serious about it,” Ellen said.

“You are pretty AND serious about it!” Amelie giggled, exchanging a kiss with her new girlfriend. “And yes, I am serious too.”

“…Your father WILL find out about it sooner or later,” Paige cautioned. “At least promise me you won’t do anything stupid, like get together at work or something.”

“What are they going to do, fire me?” Amelie snorted, making Ellen giggle.

“No, but they would fire Ellen,” Paige said in a quiet, sombre voice.

“…He would, too,” Amelie whispered, her mood suddenly falling. “I would believe the asshole would fire her anyway if he knew about us.”

“And believe it nor not, I actually AM enjoying this job,” Ellen sighed.

“Just- just be careful, okay?” Paige advised. “Make sure everyone knows that this is a serious thing, not just some random lustful fling. Make sure they know it’s emotional, not just physical…” Paige’s voice trailed off as she found herself thinking about her own initially lustful fling with Jessica, which had quickly blossomed into a very deep, emotional relationship.

“We will,” Ellen said with an exasperated chuckle. “God, and I thought having ONE big sister was bad…”

“I tell her you said that,” Paige laughed as she headed into her room to get changed.

“If you do text her,” Ellen yelled after the Scottish girl, “can you ask her if she has any hand sanitiser that works on your upper thigh?” Paige laughed and shook her head as she stepped into her room and eased her body out of her smart pencil dress, before Ellen’s mention of text messages reminded her that she hadn’t switched her phone out of aeroplane mode. Almost immediately as she did, Paige smiled as a text message came through to her. Her smile quickly turned into a frown, though, when she saw that the text message was from Callum.

‘Hey babe xx,’ the text message read. ‘On an earlier flight tomorrow so should be back about 11. Look forward to seeing you again xx.’ Paige took a deep breath as she sat down on the edge of her bed and typed her response.

‘Hey, look forward to you too,’ the Scottish girl typed, grimacing at her half-truth. ‘Want to meet at the Costa in the airport? Sorry for texting you late, only just got home.’ Within seconds of sending her message, Paige grimaced as her phone chimed to inform her of another new message.

‘See you there! XX,’ Callum typed, making Paige sigh. She knew exactly what sentence she’d use to begin their ‘date’ the following day…

“…We need to talk,” Paige said to Callum as the pair sat down in the coffee shop with their matching drinks.

“…Ah,” Callum grimaced. “This isn’t one of the good ‘we need to talk’s, umm, talks, is it?” Callum let out a long sigh as Paige sadly shook her head.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I really want,” Paige mumbled. “And I- umm, I’m… It’s- it’s too soon after Jessica. I’m sorry, Callum.”

“I won’t wait,” Callum said bluntly. Way to make THAT decision easier, Paige thought to herself as she tried not to roll her eyes.

“I- I wouldn’t expect you to,” Paige mumbled as she tried contain her anger, and wondered how she could remain so calm talking to Callum when a similar remark from Jessica would’ve caused her to blow her top.

“…Well, I guess that’s that, then,” Callum sighed. “Oh well. Hope everything goes well for you, Paige.”

“You too,” Paige replied, standing up and bidding the Irishman farewell with a kiss on his cheek. Before they parted, though, Callum leaned into the Scottish girl and gave her a long, deep kiss on her lips, which caused Paige’s entire body to tremble with excitement.

“You still sure?” Callum asked, gazing deep into Paige’s mismatched eyes.

“Positive,” Paige whispered, blinking back tears as she turned her back on the young Irishman and putting him out of her life forever…

----------

Jessica shrieked as she opened her eyes and found herself staring into the face of an unexpected and uninvited presence in her bedroom.

“Good morning to you too,” Natalie said with a smirk as Jessica took several deep breaths to calm herself down. “Congrats on having a very convincing girlish scream, by the way.”

“Thanks,” Jessica growled as she rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.

“What a way to greet your former roommate,” Natalie snorted. “And it’s 11am! Get up, for god’s sake!”

“I’m jet-lagged,” Jessica moaned.

“You’ve lived in Europe for nearly three years,” Natalie snorted. “Longer than any other American who’s ever worked for the airline, believe it or not.”

“Interesting,” Jessica groaned.

“In fact, most stewardesses don’t make it to three years with the airline,” Natalie continued. “26 started in February three years ago, and out of that 26, it’s just me, Anna-Jade and two others who are left.”

“Are you trying to bore me back to sleep?” Jessica asked.

“I’m trying to bore you into getting up!” Natalie laughed. “Would pull the covers off but, well, you’ve been on oestrogen for over a year so there’s a chance I could see something I HAVEN’T seen before, hehe!”

“…Fine,” Jessica sighed, covering her chest and getting out of bed as Natalie playfully averted her gaze. After a quick shower, Jessica pulled on a cotton tank top and a loose, pleated skirt, before returning to the kitchen where Natalie was helping herself to a cup of coffee.

“Like the ‘natural’ look,” Natalie remarked, gesturing to Jessica’s make up-free face. “Don’t think I’ve seen you ‘bare’ seen we stopped sleeping together…”

“’Sleeping together’?” Jessica asked.

“In the same bedroom,” Natalie shrugged. “Though I’ve got to admit, that DID sound a lot funnier in my head, especially considering what happened yesterday…”

“What- what happened?” Jessica asked, her panic levels starting to rise. “Did- has- has Paige, you know, slept with, umm, ‘him’?”

“…Funny that THAT’s the first thing you think of,” Natalie said, before letting out a long sigh. “No, no, no. My sister, Ellen Louise Briggs, is having it off with everyone’s favourite billion-euro princess.”

“…Ellen and AMELIE!?” Jessica asked. “Jesus… Are- aren’t they both, you know, biological girls?”

“Yep,” Natalie sighed. “You know Amelie’s attitude toward T-girls, as hard as she’s trying to open her mind, anyway. But Ellen… You- you’ve got a younger sister, right?”

“Yeah, Hayley,” Jessica said. “She’s 17.”

“That’s old enough to have sex, isn’t it? In America, I mean,” Natalie asked.

“Depends on the state,” Jessica sighed. “But in Maryland? Yeah. Thanks for bring up the most uncomfortable topic of all time, Nat.”

“…Even more uncomfortable than your not-actually-a-surprise surprise party?” Natalie asked. “Or what’s happening with you and Paige?”

“So, only 4 out of 26, eh?” Jessica asked as she poured herself her first cup of coffee of the day.

“Most people either get promoted or get sick of the job,” Natalie shrugged. “I’d probably have gone in the next few months if my sister hadn’t started. How many are left from your training group?”

“…Six,” Jessica sighed. “Out of 22. All but me and Paige are still in Paris.”

“Two more than my group,” Natalie mused. “Think I can guess which two an’ all.”

“Shut up,” Jessica grumbled into her coffee.

“Truthfully, though, would you still be working for the airline if it wasn’t for Paige?” Natalie asked.

“I still am, aren’t I?” Jessica asked.

“If you hadn’t been promoted,” Natalie probed further. “You told me when you started that you only wanted to experience life living a) in another country and b) as a woman for a short-term basis, maybe six or nine months. But here you are, almost three years later. Fully transitioning, no less.”

“Is there a point to this chat, or do you just get off on interrogating people?” Jessica asked.

“Mostly the latter,” Natalie conceded. “But you need to make a decision, a REAL decision soon about what’s happening with you and Paige.”

“Yeah, well, seems like she’s already made her decision,” Jessica spat. “She’s moved on, so have I.”

“And yet when I told you about Ellen and Amelie, you panicked that I was talking about Paige and Callum,” Natalie sighed. “Do you- do you still love her, Jessica?”

“Yes!” Jessica snapped, startling her English friend. “Yes, of course I still fucking love her! Happy now?”

“It’s not my happiness I’m most worried about right now,” Natalie mumbled.

“Gah- sorry, Nat,” Jessica sighed. “But you’re kinda poking an open wound, you know? Yes. I still love Paige. Of course I do. I’d give anything to be with her again. Hell, I’d give anything to MARRY her. But that just isn’t going to happen. Not anymore. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m booked on a flight to America on Saturday, and I need to pack.”

“Yeah, ‘cause running away from the problem always works,” Natalie sighed. “You will at least stick around for your party tomorrow, right?”

“Like I have a choice,” Jessica sighed.

“Good,” Natalie said as she finished off her coffee. “Want a hand packing?”

“Only if you promise not to mention Paige OR my party!” Jessica replied, making her friend giggle as the two of them went into Jessica’s bedroom to pack.

The following night, Jessica’s flat was bustling with activity as every member of the close-knit group of stewardesses was gathered, wearing their smartest cocktail dresses, to celebrate the American girl’s 25th birthday. Jessica smirked as she stared around the small living room at her friends having fun, though her smirk began to fall as she spotted her former lover stood in the corner of the room, adjusting her trademark black tights whilst pretending to listen to the conversation taking place around her. Earlier in the evening, Jessica had opened the presents her friends had given her, and whilst they were all thoughtful, she’d loved Paige’s gift- a new designer dress- the most. Not because of what it was, but because it had been Paige who had given it to her.

“This is a great party, honey,” Annabelle said with a giggle, snapping Jessica out of her reverie.

“Umm, yeah!” Jessica replied, forcing a smile on her face. “Kinda glad we didn’t go for a big costume party now. Just the eight of us… This is MUCH better.”

“Though if you HAD wanted the big costume party, you could always have asked Charlotte Hutchinson if you could piggy-back on hers, hehe!” A clearly inebriated Anna-Jade giggled. “Lucky you, sharing a birthday with a celebrity!”

“’Lucky’,” Jessica snorted. Given how stressed she felt about the Paige situation- and with Natalie and Zoe not arriving until later in the evening due to the other birthday party- ‘lucky’ was the last word Jessica would use to describe herself.

“Sure, I understand I missed a LOT while I was away!” Anna-Jade said. “Those two over there… Who’d have fucking predicted THAT?”

“Ellen and Amelie?” Annabelle asked. “I dunno, honey, there WERE signs…”

“Sure, it’s such a romantic story, you know? Two girls starting work for the airline at the same time, their eyes meeting across the training room…” Anna-Jade mused, before a stern stare from Annabelle caused her to stammer to a stop. “Umm… I’m going to get a drink…”

“Don’t mind her, honey,” Annabelle said softly. “I think she’s still getting over Paul…”

“She’s not the only one,” Jessica sighed. “What do you suppose Paige’s deadname was?”

“Oh- honey, I’m sorry…” Annabelle sighed. “I genuinely didn’t know that…”

“It’s okay,” Jessica shrugged, taking a deep breath to try to ease her distress. “I mean, I don’t know yours…”

“It’s Tyler,” Annabelle replied, making Jessica frown in confusion.

“…Seriously?” Jessica asked.

“Seriously, honey,” Annabelle replied.

“Tyler?” Jessica asked. “As in, identical to my surname?”

“Named for the president,” Annabelle said. “My brothers are Lincoln and Harrison, my sister’s name is Monroe. Are- are you any relation to the president? President Tyler, I mean.”

“Not that I know of,” Jessica replied. “My god, that’s a coincidence…”

“It’s a tradition my brothers are planning on continuing,” Annabelle said. “Lincoln’s said that his first child, boy or girl, will be called ‘Reagan’.”

“Republican presidents only, then?” Jessica asked.

“Uh-huh,” Annabelle replied. “I just hope they don’t try naming a child after number forty-five, now that I know what that name means over here…”

“’Orange fart’,” Jessica giggled.

“I’m almost tempted to meet the man,” Annabelle mused. “Just to see his reaction when he tries to grab ME by the pussy…” Annabelle smiled sweetly as Jessica doubled over in a fit of laughter, coughing as a droplet of wine dribbled out of her nose.

“Oh god,” Jessica said, fanning herself with her free hand. “…Thanks.”

“For what, honey?” Annabelle asked with a knowing grin.

“For distracting me from, well, you know…” Jessica sighed.

“You’re welcome, honey,” Annabelle said. “But I can’t distract you forever, sooner or later, you’re going to have to talk to her…”

“This time tomorrow, I’ll be high above the Atlantic on a plane flying home,” Jessica said.

“Better make it ‘sooner’ rather than ‘later’, then,” Annabelle retorted, making Jessica sigh.

“…I need another drink,” Jessica said, heading to the kitchen whilst Annabelle headed toward where Paige was stood.

“Hi honey,” Annabelle said, the determined look on her face making the Scottish girl sigh.

“…I need another drink,” Paige mumbled.

“Excellent idea,” Annabelle said with a smirk as she gently took Paige’s arm and led her toward the kitchen…

----------

“Great party,” Abbey said to Jessica as she poured herself another glass of wine.

“Your 21st last year was better,” Jessica said with a shrug.

“Only because we were all dressed as Playboy Bunnies,” Abbey giggled. “Though if my dress was any shorter, hehe!”

“Heh,” Jessica half-heartedly laughed at the Englishwoman’s joke, before bristling as the door opened to reveal Annabelle with Paige in tow.

“I’ll- I’ll give you some privacy,” Abbey whispered as she and Annabelle left the troubled couple alone in the flat’s small kitchen. An awkward silence filled the room as the two women tried their hardest not to stare at each other.

“Umm…” Jessica mumbled.

“So…” Paige whispered. “So, umm, happy birthday?”

“Thanks,” Jessica whispered as she fiddled with her earrings. “I- I really like the dress you got me.”

“Thanks,” Paige whispered. “I, umm, I got it a while ago, and, umm, yeah…”

“Thanks,” Jessica said. “Look, Paige-“

“Jess-“ The Scottish girl said simultaneously, making both women giggle awkwardly. “You go first.”

“No, you can go first,” Jessica said with a giggle.

“No- oh… Okay,” Paige sighed. “I, umm, I- Annabelle told me you’re going back to America tomorrow, is that correct?”

“Yeah,” Jessica whispered. “Just, you know, just for a holiday…”

“So- so you’ll be coming back to London?” Paige asked, trying to keep her conflicted emotions in check. Her heart wanted more than anything for Jessica to stay, to work things out with her, but her head knew that with Jessica still around, she’d never be able to move on from her- and any attempt at reconciliation would likely just end up in another fight…

“I- probably,” Jessica sighed. “I dunno. I- I just miss America. And… And I need to know if there’s anything in Britain I want to come back to.”

“I- umm,” Paige mumbled. “There’s your job…”

“I can always get another job,” Jessica shrugged. “Airlines are always on the lookout for good cabin crew…”

“Well- I’ll- I’ll miss you, Jessica,” Paige whispered, biting her lip to keep herself from crying.

“I’ll miss you, Paige,” the American girl whispered, standing up to give her former a lover one final hug.

As Jessica held Paige in her arms, the mere scent of the Scottish girl reminded her why she fell in love with her. The Paige she knew, the Paige she loved wasn’t an anger-filled, frivolous firebrand- or at least, she wasn’t JUST that. She was a kind, loving and generous person who was a lot more vulnerable that she liked to let on. She had a wicked sense of humour, a mischievous sense of fun and VERY adventurous in the bedroom. Most importantly, Paige understood better than anyone what it was like to be a transgendered woman in modern society, having walked down the same road as the American girl for the previous three years. Jessica couldn’t possibly have hoped for a better lover… And yet she knew that she couldn’t risk there being any more of the toxic fights that had ended their relationship.

Paige tried valiantly to blink back tears as she wrapped her arms around Jessica’s slender form. The previous day, she’d separated from her boyfriend, but to Paige, this separation was far more emotionally raw. She’d liked Callum… But she LOVED Jessica. She loved the American girl’s laugh, the way her big blue eyes lit up at the prospect of travelling somewhere new, the way she casually flicked her hair out of her face… And the way she had always been on hand to comfort Paige during her transition, even when she was undergoing the same struggles herself. Paige knew that she could search for a million years and not find someone she felt as strong a connection with as she did with Jessica- even if the ‘connection’ included arguments that could peel the paint off the walls. And yes, as much as Paige’s head told her she was better off letting Jessica go and finding someone new, her heart only had room for the American girl inside it.

“I’ll see you when you get back,” Paige whispered as she gently eased away from the hug. “I, um, I should get going, umm, I’m on standby call for tomorrow so probably should get an early night- you never know, you know?”

“Sure,” Jessica whispered, desperately trying not to think about how Paige intended to spend the rest of the night- or rather, who she intended to spend it with, as she was still unaware of Paige’s separation from Callum. “You, umm, you have a, umm ‘good’ night…” Paige bristled at the added inflexion Jessica added to the word ‘good’ but decided to let it slide- for all she knew, this would be the last time she would ever speak to Jessica, and she was determined that the two would not part ways on an argument.

“Sure,” Paige whispered. “Goodbye, Jessica.”

“Goodbye, Paige,” Jessica whispered, watching the black-haired woman leave the kitchen, before breaking down in a flood of tears.

Almost immediately, Annabelle and Abbey were at the stricken American woman’s side, silently comforting her as she cried her eyes out over her lost love.

“Thanks,” Jessica whispered to her friends minutes later, after she’d taken several deep breaths to compose herself. “I’d better- I’d better get back to the party, people might notice I’m gone…”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” Abbey said with a tired chuckle. “EVERYONE’s noticed that you were gone.”

“Heh,” Jessica sighed, allowing herself a light chuckle as Abbey gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“First things first, though,” Abbey said, rummaging around in her tiny handbag and producing a mascara brush. “Seriously.”

“Hehe,” Jessica giggled as she repaired her eye make-up, before taking another deep breath to compose herself.

“Are you sure you’re ready, honey?” Annabelle asked.

“It’s your party, you cry if you want to,” Abbey said softly, making Jessica giggle again.

“No, you can’t have a birthday party without the birthday girl,” Jessica said, taking one final deep breath before exiting the kitchen. Jessica smiled almost the instant she left the kitchen when she saw that while she’d been in there, Natalie and Zoe had arrived, each carrying an elaborately-wrapped gift in their hands.

“Happy birthday!” Natalie said softly as she and Zoe gave Jessica a gentle hug each. “I- I saw Paige leaving, did- did-“

“We talked,” Jessica whispered, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.

“Of course,” Natalie whispered. “Well? Unopened gifts in your hands?” Jessica sighed happily as she tore off the wrapping paper, revealing an expensive-looking pair of earrings and a designer dress from Natalie and Zoe respectively.

“Earrings from Natalie, what a surprise,” Jessica teased, holding the jewellery up to her lobes. “What a surprise!”

“Stick with what you know,” Natalie giggled. “Though I like the ones you’re wearing today!”

“Thanks!” Jessica said, showing off the fancy jewellery. “Treated myself to these a while back.”

“I’m sure,” Natalie laughed as she examined Jessica’s earring more closely. “Anyway, happy birthday! Now where’s the wine?”

“Aren’t you on a flight tomorrow?” Ellen asked her sister, who bristled at the sight of the young woman cuddled up on the sofa next to Amelie.

“No, thank god,” Natalie grimaced. “As wine isn’t going to be strong enough for tonight. Where’s the vodka?”

The assembled young women all laughed and relaxed as the party continued late into the night- though try as she might, Jessica couldn’t take her mind off of the Scottish girl who’d left the party early, and even as she gathered her suitcases to take to the airport the following morning, her only thoughts were on the good times she’d had with Paige in their London flat, and in their old flat in Paris, and in all the other locations where they’d shared their love. As far as Jessica was concerned, though, those days had come to an end, and it was time for her to move on with her life.

“So long, Paige…” Jessica whispered, sniffing back tears as she locked the front door behind her and climbed into the waiting taxi.

----------

Paige groaned as the familiar opening strains of ‘Centerfold’ by the J. Geils Band filled her bedroom, waking her from her slumber.

“Oh god, please be good news,” Paige moaned, before answering the phone. “Hello?”

“Hi Paige,” Alana- Paige’s manager- said, her cheerful voice causing the hungover Scottish girl to wince. “Good news- everyone’s here today, so you won’t be needed after all.”

“Thanks,” Paige said, trying not to moan into the phone.

“Thank you for agreeing to be on standby on your day off!” Alana said with a chuckle. “Especially on a Saturday. Enjoy your day, Paige!”

“Will do,” Paige said, before sighing loudly as Alana ended the call. “Won’t do…” Paige let out a long sigh as she relaxed back down onto her pillow, before letting out a quiet, exasperated scream as a knock came from the flat’s front door. “I swear, Amelie, if this is you ordering shoes off of Amazon again…” Paige grunted in pain as she covered her short nightdress with a soft, grey cotton dressing gown and tried to shake the knots out of her long black hair, before answering the door and finding an unexpected face on the other side.

“Morning!” Natalie said in a cheerful voice that make Paige wince even more. “Seriously? Hungover? You didn’t seem THAT drunk when we passed you on the way out last night…”

“I may have had a few more glasses when I got home,” Paige grunted. “What are you doing here, Natalie? Amelie’s at work today, so’s Ellen…”

“Good,” Natalie said, forcing her way into the flat. “THAT’s a stress I didn’t need today. And besides, it was you I wanted to see, anyway.”

“…Hi,” Paige snorted sarcastically. “Why do you want to see me, exactly?”

“Because a few hours from now, Jessica’s getting on a plane and flying to America,” Natalie said firmly.

“Good for her,” Paige snorted.

“BAD for her!” Natalie insisted. “And bad for you, too!”

“She’s moved on, I’ve moved on,” Paige mumbled.

“But you haven’t, though, have you?” Natalie asked. “If you’ve moved on, where’s that Irish guy you’ve been clinging to?”

“…We broke up,” Paige mumbled.

“And who ended it?” Natalie probed further.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Paige screeched. “What does it fucking matter who ended it?”

“It matters because I don’t want to see two of my very best friends throw away a relationship that brought them more happiness than most people ever get!” Natalie said, the firmness of her voice startling the Scottish girl. “So who ended it?”

“…FINE. I did!” Paige said with an exasperated sigh.

“And why did you end it?” Natalie asked.

“…Because I’m not over Jessica yet,” Paige said, before sniffing as tears began to run down her cheeks. “And I’m still in love with her…”

“Oh god, Paige,” Natalie sighed, sitting next to the distraught Scottish women and giving her a tight hug. “Have- have you told her this?”

“What difference would it make?” Paige sobbed.

“EVERY difference!” Natalie insisted. “The two of you share something, a real bond. You were love at first sight. Both of you! Do you know how rare and wonderful that is?”

“Yeah, well, that was just a fantasy,” Paige sighed.

“It can be a reality again, if you just let it,” Natalie whispered. “And I know for a fact that Jessica loves you just as much as you love her.”

“Then why is she flying to America?” Paige asked.

“Because she thinks you’ve stopped loving her?” Natalie replied. “Because she doesn’t know that you dumped Callum? Because she doesn’t realise the blindingly obvious? Even when she’s subconsciously showing the signs herself?”

“…What ‘signs’?” Paige asked.

“You didn’t notice?” Natalie asked as she rummaged in her handbag for her make-up compact. “Jessica’s earrings, last night?”

“What about them?” Paige asked as she tried to remember the previous night through the haze of her hangover.

“One of them was sapphire, and the other was emerald,” Natalie whispered as she held her mirror up to Paige’s face, where she gasped at her reflection- specifically, the sapphire blue of her left eye and the emerald green of her right.

“She- she really does still love me…” Paige whispered.

“Did you ever really doubt it?” Natalie asked. “Has she ever told you this? Or have you ever told her how much you still love her?”

“No, no I haven’t…” Paige moaned. “Would- would it really have made a difference?”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Natalie said, causing Paige’s arteries to flood with adrenaline. “Plane leaves in just over an hour and a half.”

“Right,” Paige said, taking a deep breath before heading into her room and quickly pulling on a light, short-sleeved bodysuit, a tight grey miniskirt and a pair of her favourite shiny black tights.

“Don’t worry about make-up,” Natalie shouted as Paige pulled on a pair of comfortable flats. “You can do that in the car.”

“Wh-what ‘car’?” Paige retorted.

“Zoe’s car, she’s waiting outside for us,” Natalie replied, making Paige groan and roll her eyes.

“Of course she is,” Paige sighed as she grabbed her make-up bag and her hairbrush, before following Natalie down to where her fiancée was sat in their car.

“You got her to agree to come along, then?” Zoe asked as the Englishwoman and Scotswoman sat down in her car, Natalie in the passenger seat and Paige on the back seat.

“Don’t make it sound like some great conspiracy!” Natalie hissed.

“Well excuse me!” Zoe sighed, shaking her head and tutting loudly.

“See, Paige?” Natalie asked. “Every couple falls out from time to time.”

“Heh,” Paige replied as she brushed her long black hair into its usual style. If only our fights were THIS tame, the Scottish woman thought to herself with a sigh. However, as the car headed west toward the airport, Paige found that she actually missed the arguments she’d had with her American lover- and would happily endure an argument if the alternative was never speaking to Jessica again.

“Tried calling her again, her phone must already be in plane mode,” Natalie sighed. “Typical London traffic…”

“Relax, both of you,” Zoe advised. “We still have plenty of time, and it is still much faster than taking the tube!”

“We need a moped,” Natalie sighed, glancing in the rear-view mirror at the anxious Scottish girl as she carefully applied a light layer of make-up. “Do- do you know what you’re going to say yet? To Jessica, I mean.”

“I’m gonna tell her I love her,” Paige said confidently. “That’s all that matters. Everything else… Well, I’ll play it by ear.”

“Speak from the heart,” Zoe whispered.

“That’s the plan,” Paige said. Because I know that if I spend time thinking about what I’ll say, Paige thought to herself, I’ll just end up getting more and more stressed out…

The car slowly made its way through the rush hour traffic, and by the time the three women arrived at the crowded Heathrow Airport, they were all gripped by anxiety, hoping beyond hope that their friend’s flight hadn’t departed.

“Where’s she flying to?” Natalie asked. “Is she going straight to Baltimore or changing?”

“Umm, I- I dunno,” Paige groaned. “What time’s the flight?”

“1:40,” I think,” Natalie replied.

“Really?” Zoe asked with a groan. “You both work at this airport but you do not know the times of the flights?”

“We don’t do transatlantic flights!” Natalie reminded her fiancée. “We should split up. The only transatlantic flights are going from terminals 2 and 3.”

“Well do two,” Zoe announced.

“I’ll take three,” Paige whispered.

"We'll call you if we see her,” Natalie said. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Paige whispered as she ran through the packed airport, dodging past the surprised passengers- many of whom no doubt recognised her from their frequent flights with her airline. On this day, though, Paige wasn’t a stewardess, she was a woman desperately in love- and desperate not to lose the one person in the world who she loved more than anyone else.

As she made her way through the airport, Paige’s heart rate increased at the sight of every girl she saw with long blonde hair, only for her hopes to be dashed every time the girl turned around and Paige realised that the woman was not her lover.

“This is ridiculous, Paige,” the Scottish girl thought to herself as she scanned the face of everyone around her. “You’re not a character from Love Actually, for god’s sake…” Paige took a deep breath as she approached the end of the queue to enter the terminal, letting it out as a long sigh as she realised that Jessica was nowhere to be seen. The Scottish woman blinked back tears, embarrassed to be getting so emotional in public.

Resigned to the fact that she’d have to wait for Jessica to return from America- if she returned at all- Paige wiped her eyes and took her phone out of her handbag, ready to dial Natalie and Zoe, when suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, Paige caught sight of another blonde-haired woman walking past. Paige tried to convince herself not to get her hopes up, but she gave the woman’s face a closer look… And her heart rate soared.

“Jessica!” Paige yelled, trying to be heard over the roar of the crowd. “Jess! Jessica!” The blonde-haired woman didn’t respond to Paige’s yells, but Paige was certain that it was her. She had intimate knowledge of every square inch of Jessica’s body, and would recognise it anywhere, even if it was covered by a loose summer dress- a dress that Paige knew for a fact Jessica owned.

Undeterred, Paige pursued the blonde-haired woman through the crowd and watched as Jessica handed her boarding pass to the guard… Before remembering that she didn’t have a boarding pass of her own. It was now or never…

“JESSICA!” Paige screeched, startling all the commuters around her but still, somehow, not attracting the attention of the blonde-haired woman. Defeated, Paige slumped against a nearby wall and let tears flow freely from her eyes. As if to torment her further, when she put her phone back in her handbag, her fingers brushed against the small fabric box that contained the ring she was so desperate to give her American lover- the ring she SHOULD have given her exactly one year and one day earlier. Paige let out a sigh as she dropped her phone into her bag and headed back toward the airport’s concourse, when her eyes were drawn to the cabin crew of another airline letting themselves into the employee area of the airport… An area that she, as a flight attendant herself, had access to.

“…No, no,” Paige mumbled, shaking her head. “You’d get in a lot of trouble, you might even get arrested…” Paige bit her lip as she saw the flight attendants disappear behind the ‘employee’ only door- which was now the only way she’d be able to get any access to the woman she loved before she disappeared across the ocean. “Then again, I could always say I want to get something from my locker…” Paige checked around to make sure that no one was watching, before heading over to the staff door and entering her pass code, letting out a short gasp as it dutifully clicked open for her. Taking a deep breath, Paige checked around one more time before disappearing into the staff area, ducking around every corner and making sure the coast was clear as she made her way through the corridors of the airport to the door that she knew led to the waiting area where Jessica would be sat. Paige eventually emerged from the side door unseen, breathing a sigh of relief at having not been caught, but her heart sank when she realised the size of the task still ahead of her.

Heathrow was by some distance the busiest airport in the whole of Europe, and as such, the waiting area was teeming with people, including several dozen blonde-haired women- all of whom Paige had already dismissed earlier, but would have to check once again to make sure that they were not her American lover.

Paige spent several minutes searching through the restaurants and shops of the waiting area, and with each passing minute, Paige grew more and more anxious, knowing that at any minute, the PA system could announce that Jessica’s plane was boarding.

“No,” Paige whispered to herself. “She’s here somewhere. I know she is.” Paige resisted the urge to yell Jessica’s name at the top of her lungs, but every time she looked at the departures board, her panic levels rose further and further. Desperate for a miracle, Paige was about to reach into her handbag for her phone to call Natalie and Zoe for assistance when, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a familiar pattern flutter past- the pattern of the dress Jessica was wearing.

With the woman she loved mere feet away, Paige's knees turned to jelly and she found herself frozen to the spot as all the words she's prepared in her head suddenly vanished. Paige's tongue was so numb she couldn't even form the syllables of Jessica's name, but she knew that if she didn't do or say anything soon, her opportunity would be lost. Taking a deep breath, Paige strode toward the blonde woman and, with a quivering hand, tapped her on the shoulder.

"Hmm?" The woman asked, turning around. "Who- Paige!?" The Scottish girl breathed a sigh of relief as she stared into her lover's deep blue eyes- she HAD got the right person, after all...

"What- what are you doing here?" Jessica asked, removing her earphones as she stared into the Scottish woman's mismatched eyes.

"I-" Paige stammered, her tongue still numb with anxiety.

"...Paige?" Jessica asked.

"I love you, Jessica!" Paige blurted, attracting the attention of the commuters around her. "I. Love. You! And I want to be with you! I don't want us to be apart anymore! I want us to put the last few months behind us and move on, together! I love you, Jessica! I love you!"

"Paige..." Jessica gasped, her heart fluttering at the unreserved declaration of love. "I- I love you too! I always, always have!" Unable to control themselves any longer, Paige and Jessica leaned in toward each other and shared a long, deep kiss as the crowd behind them cheered their approval. Whilst it was far from the first kiss that the two women had shared, to both women, it felt just as special as that first embrace almost three years earlier.

"I- I'm sorry we fought," Paige whispered after the two women's lips separated. "I'm sorry I get so angry so easily, sorry I snap at you-"

"I'm sorry too," Jessica whispered. "I'm sorry I blame you for things that were my fault, sorry I put pressure on you... Neither of us are perfect, heh."

"But we ARE perfect for each other," Paige said. "I realise that now, and I never, never want to let you go, Jessica."

"P-Paige?" Jessica asked.

"There's one thing I'm more sorry about than anything," Paige whispered as she fished around in her handbag, before sinking down onto one knee.

"Oh my god!" Jessica gasped as the crowd- which had been steadily growing- cooed excitedly.

"Jessica Rachael Tyler," Paige said as she held up the engagement ring inside its box. "Will you marry me?"

"Oh my god!" Jessica squeaked. "You need to ask? Yes, yes I will marry you!" The crowd erupted in a loud cheer as Paige slipped the engagement ring onto Jessica's slender finger, before the two women shared another passionate kiss.

"I love you, Jessica," Paige whispered.

"I love you, Paige," the American girl replied, before reaching a hand into her handbag and sinking onto one knee herself. "Paige Campbell Robertson, will you please marry me?"

"Of course," Paige sobbed, tears freely flowing from her eyes as the two women exchanged yet another public kiss, before Jessica slid her ring onto her finger. "Oh my god... This is officially the best day of my life."

"Me too," Jessica whispered as she and her new fiancée walked hand-in-hand away from the excited crowd (and their many smartphones).

"So glad Natalie noticed your earrings last night, heh," Paige laughed, making Jessica frown in confusion.

"My earrings?" The American woman asked.

"Your- your sapphire and emerald earrings?" Paige asked.

"I don't think I own any sapphire or emerald earrings," Jessica replied. "I was wearing my gold hoops last night..."

"...Of course you were," Paige said, letting out a long, hearty laugh as she rested her head on her new fiancée’s shoulder. "Nat... Oh my god, Nat! I should call her, tell her the good news!"

"We-" Jessica said, before pausing. She'd wanted to share a single, tender moment with the Scottish woman before announcing their engagement to the world, but she knew that Paige was right. Besides, Jessica thought to herself, it'll probably already be on YouTube...

"...Definitely!" Jessica giggled, making Paige squeak excitedly, before groaning in frustration. "...Paige?"

"Your flight," the Scottish woman sighed. "You'll miss your-"

"My family can wait another day," Jessica said confidently. "I want to celebrate with my REAL family- my sisters- first!" Paige squeaked excitedly as she led Jessica back to the staff entrance she'd used to sneak into the terminal's waiting area.

"Don't let Alana or anyone see you!" Paige whispered, making Jessica giggle as she felt like a naughty schoolgirl about to sneak out of class.

Ten minutes- and a text message- later, Jessica and Paige grinned as they saw Natalie and Zoe across the main concourse of the airport, whose faces lit up when they saw that the two women were walking hand in hand.

"Yes!" Natalie cheered, rushing over to give tight hugs to both women. "I knew it! I knew you belonged together!"

"I know what you did with the earrings," Paige whispered to Natalie, making the Manchester native giggle and reply with just a knowing wink.

"In the end, it was just three words that needed to be said," Jessica sighed. "'I love you'."

"Though the four words that came afterward kinda sealed the deal," Paige giggled as she and Jessica held up their left hands, causing their friends to gasp in shock.

"Oh dieu!" Zoe squeaked. "Oh dieu oh dieu oh dieu oh dieu! Seriously!?"

"Why wait any longer?" Paige asked, before yelping in surprise as Zoe gave her and Jessica a long, tight hug each- hugs that quickly turned into a group hug that included both couples.

"So," Natalie said, clapping her hands as she led the group back to Zoe's car. "Are you choosing Scotland or America for the wedding?"

"Right now," Jessica said as she gazed into Paige's eyes, "there's only one place I want to be."

Later that night, Jessica and Paige both let out long, satisfied sighs as their naked, sweat-slick bodies cuddled together underneath their bedsheets following a marathon lovemaking session.

"I missed this SO much," Paige sighed as she lazily played with Jessica's soft blonde hair.

"I missed YOU so much," Jessica sighed. "We've got a lot of lost time to make up for..."

"Three months," Paige shrugged. "Reckon we've made up for one month already tonight!"

"Heh," Jessica sighed. "I honestly couldn't believe it when you proposed..."

"I should never have said no in New York," Paige whispered. "Worst mistake of my life. Thank god I got a second chance."

"And what are we going to do with our second chance?" Jessica asked. "I know you don't like it when I think ahead, but we're both going to be in trouble for that video- which is already on, like, a dozen websites- we've got the wedding to plan, we've both got SRS operations to nook, we-"

"Shh," Paige said, silencing her fiancée with a finger on her scarlet lips. "Firstly, I LOVE it when you 'think ahead'. Saves me from having to be the sensible one, hehe! And secondly, isn't it obvious what we do with our second chance?"

"What?" Jessica asked.

"We live happily ever after, Cinderella," Paige whispered, kissing her lover deeply as their hands began to explore each other's bodies one more time...



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