“I don’t think I’ll bother going after all.” Dennis said to his sister Rosalind, usually known as Ros.
“You can’t let them down now; besides you know Raphi’s parties are always brilliant and you could do with getting out more often.”
He knew she was right, she always was but since Cindy had left his whole universe had collapsed in on itself and he was depressed, neglected and dishevelled. Ros had hardly been able to recognise her brother these past few weeks. He’d lost weight and looked generally unkempt and she was worried that he was going to do himself some harm.
Thankfully, he wasn’t short of money having sold out his share in a bustling shop to his partner but Cindy running off with his best friend George, had devastated him and he appeared to have lost the will to live.
“Den, you can’t go on like this, moping about in the dark,” she said as she drew his sitting room curtains, then saw the mess the room was in and almost wished she hadn’t bothered. However, knowing how her brother was normally fastidious about his person and his home–a two bedroom flat–she set to to help clean both him and his home before she went back to her own.
“C’mon go and shower and shave while I tidy up in here.”
“Oh just leave it, what’s the point anyway? It just gets messy again.”
“Aaargh,” she exclaimed, “Just do as I tell you–now, shower and shave, oh and where do you keep your bin bags?”
Half an hour later she’d collected up the empty take away cartons and empty beer bottles and run the vacuum over the sitting room making it appear more like its usual harmonious state. She heard Dennis using his shaver and while he was in the bathroom collected up his dirty clothes and dumped them in the automatic which she set on wash.
Finally as she waited for him to emerge, she filled the kettle and switched it on. As she made the tea she pondered on her brother, her twin brother. Obviously not identical or homozygous siblings, but in looks very close to it and when they were young they would frequently trick people into thinking they were the other. But that was a long time ago, in what had seemed to be another world not this one full of doom and gloom and despair.
“Here,” Ros handed her twin a cup of the steaming tea and he nodded his thanks. “Right, you’re coming back to my place for lunch.”
“Why? I’ve got food here.”
“I’ve got a casserole in the slow cooker, there’s enough for two.”
“What’s Andy going to eat?”
“Andy’s away in Scotland, their system broke down again, he was spitting feathers when he left this morning. He’ll be there for at least a couple of days.” So that decided it, Dennis gave into his sister’s demand and a little later got into her car and they drove off to her home five miles away.
When they got there, and unloaded the shopping she had in the car, he followed her through to the sitting room which he remembered so well from his childhood, as this was his parent’s old house which he agreed she could have, his parents staking him for his first business which he subsequently sold for a handsome profit, put some into the latest business and sold that for another profit. The assets he owned made Dennis a wealthy man, and although an astute businessman, he wasn’t that interested in money.
He sat looking at a magazine she’d left on the coffee table, but his mind wasn’t on the words or pictures printed on the page, it was on his memories of how things used to be in this house when they were kids, some twenty or more years ago.
“Denny,” called Ros from somewhere upstairs, “can you come up here a minute.”
As always he grumbled but rose from the comfortable chair and trudged up the stairs. “In here,” she called and he followed her voice into what used to be their parent’s bedroom, a large room on the second floor with an access to the attic.
He puffed as he entered the room having climbed twenty four stairs from the ground floor. “What’re you doing up here?”
“Come here,” she picked a tape measure and pulled it round his chest and then waist.
“What’re you doing?”
“Wait and see.”
“I thought we were going to have lunch.”
“In a minute.”
“Take off your trousers.”
“Just do it.”
He sat on the bed and removed his trousers after taking off his shoes.
“Now your shirt.”
“What are you up to?”
He pulled off his polo shirt over his head, flattening his hair back down with his hands.
Standing there in his underpants and socks he didn’t really feel in any position to protest to his bossy sister. The next moment he felt something cold being wrapped round his waist and lower chest and horrified to see it was a corset.
“What are you doing?”
“Keep still and breathe in.” She wrapped it round him and began to tighten the laces, she was right she thought as she re-measured his waist. It might just work. Next she slipped a bra over his arms and by now he was so curious as to what she was doing he held his tongue. She stuffed the cups with some socks. Then came long petticoats, and finally from a plastic dress bag came what looked like a genuine Victorian or Edwardian dress.
He stepped into it at her bidding and she buttoned up the back, she was right it did fit. He was stunned, looking back at him from the full length mirror on the dressing table was a woman in a long dress with his head on the top.
“What is all this about?” he asked but she was bidding him sit on the bed while she crammed his feet into genuine button up boots.
“Just be thankful Great Gran had big feet,” she puffed as she finished doing up the buttons. She made him stand and walk about the room. The heels weren’t that high though he wouldn’t like to walk any distance in them because they pinched his toes.
“There, with a bit of makeup and a wig, plus few bits of jewellery you’ll look fine.”
“Ros, what are you talking about?”
“Raphi’s party, this is your costume.”
“I told you, I don’t want to go to any parties.”
“Too bad, I’m wearing the other dress Great Gran left, so we’re going as a pair of Victorian ladies.”
“Are you mad?”
“No I’m Ros and you’re my twin sister Denise, just like the old days.”
“No, Ros, I’m Dennis your brother–remember–I outgrew this dressing up stuff twenty years ago.”
She ignored him and went to the cupboard returning with a large box from which she extracted a wig. She made him sit on the chair in front of the dressing table and despite his protests pulled a net over his blond hair and rammed the wig on tightly, which she then pinned through to the net. In moments he watched as she transformed what had started off looking like an electrocuted sheepdog into some semblance of an old fashioned hairstyle, plaiting the long tresses and then pinning them up behind his head in a bun.
“Da-da,” she said stepping aside, “would modom care to dance?”
“Don’t be stupid, I can’t go anywhere looking like this.”
“I thought we’d discussed that–I’m a man, remember?”
“Not from where I’m standing, besides you’ll have to walk home like that unless you catch the bus of course, because I’m not undoing the buttons until you promise to come to the party.”
He stood up and waved his hands about calling her names and telling her what he thought of the party and her stupid idea. She simply stood there laughing. “What’s so funny?”
“That hissy fit was just so girly.”
“Denise, look at yourself,” he turned to view himself in the mirror and realised he’d unconsciously adopted a female stance.
“I can’t do this,” he sighed.
“Yes you can.”
“But everyone will know in a few moments.”
“No they won’t–well except Raphael and he won’t tell anyone.”
Ros made him sit and she applied makeup to his face which softened his features and made him look even more female. Then she disappeared and returned with an armful of clothing and a pair of boots. Despite his protests she got him to remove the Victorian clothing and redress in some of her stuff, finally zipping up the two inch knee high boots. He stood in front of the mirror and did look uncannily like her–but then they were twins.
The next moment she shoved his wallet in a handbag pushed a coat into his arms and dragged him off to the supermarket a quarter of a mile away. He stopped protesting when a couple of young women walked past pushing prams, they took no notice of him and Ros told him to relax.
“What about lunch–your casserole?”
“We’ll have it for dinner, c’mon, let’s grab a coffee and snack here,” and with that she shepherded him into the cafeteria and left him to sit at the table while she went off to order their food and drink. While she was there a coach load of old ladies entered the place and after clogging up the toilets they clogged up the cafeteria, eventually one of them approached Denny.
“Are these seats taken, young lady?”
“No,” he whispered back.
“You’ll have to speak up, young woman, I’m a bit hard of hearing.”
Denny was now convinced that this sadistic old bird was trying to humiliate him in front of the now fully occupied restaurant.
“No, they’re not,” he said more loudly hoping no one would notice his male voice.
“Thank you,” she said and slipped into the inner seat opposite him. The last thing he needed was to be engaged in conversation with her but that was what she did. “Are you waiting for your husband?”
“No,” blushed Denny, “my sister.”
“Oh,” she acknowledged, “the food here is supposed to be quite good, d’you agree?”
“Yes,” nodded Denny trying to avoid eye contact.
“I like your hair, does it take you long to do?”
It was only because Ros came to the rescue that Denny didn’t get up and walk out such were his stress levels. She sat on the outside of the chairs and he’d have to ask her to move to get up.
“Goodness, don’t you two look alike?” said the old biddy.
“We’re sisters,” offered Ros, “twin sisters.”
“I can see that.”
A little later the second old lady sat opposite Ros and over their meals–the twins had a ham salad–they talked, Denny feeling a little more relaxed and confident as he realised his voice wasn’t giving him away, although he did try to soften it a little.
He nearly died when he realised he needed a pee and he followed Ros into the ladies. She thought it was great fun, but then she always did when she got him to wear her clothes when they were kids.
When she said she needed one or two things and proceeded to start shopping Den nearly threw a wobbly but she told him to stay calm and they’d soon be home. It was while they were standing at the cheese counter when Den looked around and noticed some woman steaming at him at a rate of knots.
“Ros, how good to see you again,” said the thirty something.
“I’m not Ros,” said Den.
“Of course you are,” insisted the woman.
“I’m not, she is,” Den pointed to his twin who was engrossed with telling the assistant how much of a particular cheese she wanted.
“You’re her sister?” said the woman and laughed, “Well, I never,” she said loudly enough for Ros to realise Den’s plight. Snatching up her cheese and dropping it in her basket she walked quickly over to the two conversing ‘women’.
“Hello, Margaret, I see you’ve met my twin sister, Denise.”
“Yes. It threw me for a moment.”
“We are very alike,” Ros said and Den nodded wishing he’d stayed in bed that day.
“But I thought you had a brother?” Margaret challenged and Ros leant over and whispered something in her ear. She looked at Den again and said, “I think you’re a very brave girl, and I think you made the right choice. I’d best be off, I wish you all the best on your journey. Bye, Ros, bye, Denise.”
As they walked back to the house, Denis paused and said, “What did you say to that Margaret woman that caused her to wish me luck?”
Ros burst out laughing, “Oh nothing much, I told her you used to be my brother but had changed over and you were going for surgery next week.”
“Yes, you know, a sex change.”
“Keep your hair on, she’ll never see you again and I did prove my point, if you can fool all those people in Morrison’s, you’ll be fine for the party.”
“When is it?”
“Next week–and no excuses, Denise or all the photos I took of you on this,” she waved her iPhone, “go on face book.”
“But that’s blackmail,” Den exclaimed.
“Yep, so you’d better get some practice walking in heels, little sister.”
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