Nine Months (Month One)
Kelly is a 36 year-old copywriter working for a top London ad agency, that is until he loses his Job. His wife, Jamie is a struggling actor looking for her big break. They have been trying to get pregnant for years but now, but without the money from Kelly’s job they will have to give up trying.
Jamie, wants them to get away, play at being different people. She orders two body suits, but thanks to their gender-neutral names there’s a mix up. Then an offer comes in from Iceland…
Thanks to Robyn and Chris who gave feedback and support on the earliest drafts.
It felt strange, my hand inside Jamie’s. Hers seemed so much bigger than mine. I marvelled at how realistic the body suits were. There’s no way I’d have been able to detect the difference between my real and the nano-skin.
Our line drew closer to the check-in. I fidgeted with my fringe, cursing again how much extra work the hair extensions caused. Normally, I’d have insisted we got to the airport early. I loved spending time in the waiting areas, kind of hovering between countries and destinations in a surreal ‘other’ world. This time however I wanted to minimise my time in an open public place.
Jamie released my hand but then put her arm around my middle and pulled me close. I wanted to pull away and admonish her but I was too scared to make a scene.
I flexed my shoulders frustrated at the pull of the bra strap. I stopped when I realised a man in the line for Malaga was staring. Jamie kissed me on the side of my head.
“Hey beautiful,” she jested. “Don’t stress so much.”
I was about to say something but we’d reached the front of the line, the airline employee beamed at us. Jamie looked at her smiling, “She’s a bit of a nervous flyer,” Jamie nodded at me.
I gritted my teeth and smiled. Jamie knew I loved to fly but I let her have her fun. There would be payback later I vowed.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you there safe,” the airline employee had a pleasant, melodious Scandinavian accent. I just smiled back hoping this conversation would end soon.
My heart was in my mouth as she scanned our false passports. For a moment she looked from Jamie’s face to mine. Inside my head I was screaming ‘run’ but I held it together. Within a few seconds she handed Jamie both our passports and tickets and we left for the departure lounge.
Jamie patted my arse causing me to jump a little. She whispered in my ear, “Stay calm, we’ve still got passport control to get through.”
I nodded my head, the fear overrode my annoyance at Jamie’s behaviour. I found myself moving closer to her.
When we reached the scanners, I started to panic that the body suits would set them off. Were the nanos made from some sort of metal, or are they plastic? Jamie went first and walked through without setting them off. I relaxed a little. A woman in a brown customs guards uniform motioned for me to come through. I held my breath and began walking.
BEEP, the alarm went off. For a moment I contemplated running again but then I remembered my belt. Sheepishly I took it off and placed it in the items tray. The woman motioned for me to go through again. I had to hold my jeans up. I wished I’d agreed to wear the skinnier pair Jamie suggested that morning.
BEEP, again the alarm went off. My nerves were at stretching point as the guard woman motioned for me to come to her. She made me stand with my arms and legs apart, only the extra padding the body suit provided around my butt and hips kept my trousers up. Then she ran her hand held scanner over my body. There was nothing as she ran it over my legs, then my body and arms. Finally she reached my head and we were looking at each other eye to eye. I could see a mixture of boredom and annoyance in her piggy little eyes.
Her hand held device beeped as it reached, first my left, then my right ear.
“Earrings,” she said, shooting me a look that made me feel seven years old.
“Oh, shit,” I started to take them off, “I am sooooo sorry.”
Of course it was those damned earrings. That morning, Jamie had persuaded me to wear the clip-ons. They had been killing me all the way in the taxi but the fear of being exposed in public had driven them from my mind.
Jamie had a huge shit-eating grin on her/his face as I finally retrieved my flight bag, jacket etc. As I re-fitted my belt Jamie came up behind me and kissed me on the neck making. I felt small against her. Her extra height and our gender-neutral names were the cause of the mix up. The company sent us a male suit for Jamie and a female suit for me. Damn their stupidity. We had already had the passports made up beforehand.
“Hey, come on,” Jamie’s expression was more conciliatory. I saw sympathy in those blue eyes I recognised so well, even if I didn’t recognise the male face they were shining out of.
I couldn’t settle for the whole time we waited. I kept glancing at the Departure board looking for Reykjavik. Eventually Jamie got fed up of my fidgeting and took us to a chain bar. I huffed a little when she bought herself a pint and me a white wine.
“I have to say it’s turning me on,” we sat on two barstools surrounded by harassed looking business people, Jamie leant in and continued to whisper, “knowing that’s you under all that. It really gets me going.”
I sighed; Jamie has always been the experimental type. In retrospect, that’s half the reason we were in this trouble in the first place. She’d wanted us to have a holiday where we pretended to be different people. Given how great the sex could be I agreed.
I was relieved when we finally got to board the plane. The flight attendant smiled at me, as if I was just one of the girls. I noticed the approving look she gave Jamie as she followed behind me.
The aeroplane was mostly empty, it having been an early flight in the middle of the week, so we had space to spread out a little. I was used to travelling on the cheapest airlines with little leg or arm room. It was a luxury I didn’t get much time to appreciate as the quiet only brought back the strangeness of the body I was in and weirdness of my clothes. The strange weight on my chest and the pulling of the bra, the odd way my jeans sat on my enhanced hips.
As the plane took off I felt panic rising, what were we doing? We we’re sure to be caught. I hadn’t been thinking straight, not since this all began.
It did not begin auspiciously, to say the least.
I was a copywriter for one of the big London ad agencies. It paid the bills. At one point, I loved what I did, the ability to be creative and see your work on television. As time went on, I liked it less and less. I was 36 which, in ad years, may as well have been dead. Copywriting is a young person’s game is the way they saw it. You start on adverts for clothes, then they move you to cars and then, as you age, they move you to banks then mobility scooters, chair lifts and pension plans.
Someone has to advertise on Law and Order, I suppose. Either way, I was rapidly becoming more and more miserable. What made it more so was that I had no way out. Jamie was an actress. She would work occasionally, which meant that I needed to do so to pay for our lives. She had her dream and, however remote it seemed, I wouldn’t take that from her. One of us should be able to do it, I thought.
The agency’s office was an open plan. There were no partitions, except for the higher ups and even their offices had glass walls. It was designed to encourage creativity, by making everyone open to everyone else. It worked sometimes, but I found that it mostly exposed me to the prattling on of whomever was sitting near me.
I was sitting at my desk, pondering an advert for mortgages (“And there’s a couple walking along the Costa Del Sol and they see a cottage for sale….”), when Jeremy, my boss, came over. “Up for coffee, Kelly?” he said, with a somber look on his face.
“Sure,” I said, uncertainly. There was a coffee bar in the corner of the office, along with a snooker table and an Xbox. More things to encourage creativity - and keep you in the office.
I started walking towards the bar, when Jeremy said, “Why don’t we go downstairs to the Starbucks?”
I was nervous now. I had worked with Jeremy at a series of agencies over the years. He moved up the ladder to the point where he was now a creative director. I had been as high as senior copywriter which, if I were being honest, was more a function of years of service than any love for my work. I was good at what I did, but I had achieved my level. Jeremy and I would go to lunch every so often but, since they installed the coffee bar, hadn’t left for coffee. That he was asking me to go left me concerned.
We went down to the Starbucks. Jeremy looked around and, once he determined that no one was there, pulled out a sheaf of papers from his pocket. “Logan’s Run mean anything to you, Kelly?”
My jaw dropped. I had been writing a blog entitled “Logan’s Run - The Only Thing You Can’t Have in the Ad World is the Total Pleasure of Your 40th Birthday.” It was my ramblings about the ad world, mostly comments on various campaigns. Lately, as I began to feel the rumblings of the millennials behind me, the blog had, charitably, become angrier.
“I saw the best minds of my generation pushed over the cliff on chair lifts and scooters,” he flipped pages, “angel headed hipsters mocking them on Twitter and Snapchat. Well, Kelly, it’s derivative but a lot better than the shite you’ve been doing lately,” he said, with a laugh. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“Erm, um, erm,” I stammered. “How did you find it?”
He took off his titanium framed glasses and twirled them around. Jeremy was forever chasing the latest trends. He shopped at the sort of clothes shops in Shoreditch and Hoxton that have a logo instead of a name. I’d once heard a rumour that a junior copywriter spotted him in Top Man. He ran his fingers through his hair. “I keep up on the blogs, Kell. It’s part of the job. You might consider it.
“How did you figure it was me?” I said, sloshing my coffee around in the cup and not looking him in the eye.
“Well, there’s not a whole lot of senior copywriters your age, for a start,” he said, with a subtle dig. “Sorry, that was cruel. How long have we known each other, fifteen years? You have a distinctive voice. Also, you made a comment about B&Q , and some millena-twat there caught it.” Millena-twat was our chosen name for the twenty-somethings whose footsteps were rapidly overtaking ours. “He told some higher-up, the brown-nosing little shit, and they called over, nosing about.”
“Does anyone else know?” I asked, dreading yet knowing the answer.
“Just Mark,” he sighed. Mark was Jeremy’s boss, the senior creative director.
“Oh good god,” I moaned. “How screwed am I?”
“Mark likes you, Kelly. This can blow over in a few months’ time but you have to help us.”
“How can I do that?” I could feel the acid building in my stomach. I dreaded what could come next. Public humiliation? Seppuku?
“Take a leave of absence, an unpaid leave of absence. Give us some bollocks about how you’ve decided to follow your muse,” he said, waving his hand in the air. “I know you’ve got a novel in your desk, everyone does. Jamie chewed my ear off about it the last time we had the two of you around. A few months time and it’ll blow over.”
“Um, you said unpaid…” I had savings, but we had plans for those. Plans that didn’t include me getting fired, however it was framed.
“Look, Kelly. We have two choices here. You trust me and resign. Or I’m going to have to fire you. You know how big our billings for the old and feeble are,” he said, with a laugh. “They won’t just die already so we have to cash in. We’ll get through this, but you need to lay low for a while. Even if I fire you, every agency’s going to figure it was you and you’ll be dead in the industry.”
“I get that...shit, Jamie! What the hell do I do about her?”
“Mate,” Jeremy said. “You are fucked. Use those writing skills you have to try and un-fuck yourself as best as possible. But you are fucked. By the way, the blog is quite good. You just have to be careful next time.”
I went upstairs and tendered my resignation. As I left, everyone wished me well but I could see in the twenty-somethings’ faces the idea that they would never be me, that they had it all figured out. Good luck, I thought. Then, any suggestions?
I went home on the Tube, trying to figure out how I would explain this to Jamie. She had always told me how she knew I could write a great novel if only I had time. Maybe, she’d see this as a good thing.
She did not.
“A blog?” She screamed, flailing at my chest with her fists. “You risked our life for a bloody BLOG? Are you really that fucking stupid, Kelly?”
“I, er, uh, erm, I didn’t think anyone would see it,” I mumbled. “There are how many thousands of blogs? What were the odds that anyone would read it?”
“You are an absolute idiot. First, you work in an industry - OF WORDS. OF TRENDS. You’re not a bloody insurance agent. You write - for a living. You wrote a blog - about your industry. Not football or twitching or your love of Corry. Of course, the people - IN YOUR INDUSTRY - would see it.” To be clear, I was not a twitcher and Coronation Street bored me to tears. It was not, however, especially relevant to the discussion we were having and discretion being the better part of valour, I kept my mouth shut. Then she softened, ever so slightly. “You are a good writer, people were going to discover it.” Then she went back to livid. “You are a selfish prick. You couldn’t do what normal people do when they hate their job. You couldn’t go to the pub. You couldn’t keep a journal. You couldn’t come home and talk to YOUR WIFE. No, you had to put it up for the world to see. Well, now as a result of your abject stupidity, our life is on hold.”
“Jeremy said this would blow over in a few months’ time and he should be able to hire me back…and we have enough to live. Anyway, I thought I’d ask Fiona, she might know of...”
I knew immediately that I’d said the wrong thing.
'"Of course," she sneered. "Maybe Fi," and she spat my nickname for Fiona, "can help. Since bloody Uni..." She looked at me with a look of pure anger, pure hatred almost. “Enough to live? We were saving that to pay for the next cycle,” of in vitro fertilization. We had been trying for years to have a child with no success. Jamie really wanted a child and the NHS would only pay for three cycles. I knew that the likelihood of success after three tries was minimal but would have paid any amount and gone through it any number of times to make Jamie happy, to have a child. “IF he gives you your job back, you know how long it will take us to save that again. And I’m 39 years old. Every month I wait is,” and she began to cry. Then she ran into our bedroom and slammed the door.
“Jamie,” I pleaded feebly, through the door, but I was at a loss for words. How do you explain to the woman you loved that you killed her dream for what? To show everyone how clever you could be?
The next few days were hell. We barely spoke, she only to tell me that she was “going out.” I slept on the sofa and we ate no meals together. I tried to sell anything and everything I had that was worth money so that we’d have enough for the next cycle. What I found was that, like my life at the present time, my personal possessions were worthless.
After a week, I came home to find Jamie opening a box, with a big grin on her face. “May I ask what’s making you so happy,” I said uncertainly.
She held what appeared to be an odd looking bodysuit. “Here this is yours,” she said. It reminded me of the dried snake skins I used to find down the beach in summer. The material was so thin it almost wasn’t there.
“What is it?” I said, turning it this way and that.
“It’s a nano suit,” she said, pulling another out of the box. It looked bigger than mine, but to be honest, I wasn’t entirely conversant with how they worked. Like everyone, I had seen them on the news and had watched how the reporters would change into someone else but it always struck me as a silly story. “Basically, the nano-technology fuses into your skin and let’s you be someone else. I figured that so long as we have three months free,” she said, glaring at me, “we could go on holiday, somewhere nobody knows us, and pretend to be someone else.”
“Why do we need to be someone else?” I asked.
“Because,” she said, her expression more sad than angry. “I want to be. The current situation isn’t exactly making me happy.” Then she smiled sweetly and put her arms around me. “Don’t you want me to be happy?”
Her smile made me melt. It always had and, in the past week, I wondered if I’d ever see it again. I would do anything to see that smile, even put on a ridiculous nanosuit. I was going to ask her how much these cost, but held back. I was in no position to question spending, especially if it made her happy. “So, who are we?” I joked. “Am I Olivier Geroud?” I was an Arsenal fan and, while Jamie generally didn’t care, she made an exception for Olivier Geroud.
She laughed, “Not quite. Let’s give them a try.” We put on the suits and I could feel a tingling all over. It felt cool to the touch, like someone had smothered me in shaving gel. I saw my hands and feet suddenly shrink and a weight on my chest. I remember seeing a documentary on BBC 4 that explained how the suits displaced weight and height. Despite having sat through the whole thing, I could not explain a word of it to another person. I’d need Brian Cox to sit down and show it to me again, this time with idiot boards. “What the hell is going on?” I squeaked, my voice having gone up several octaves. I looked over at Jamie and she was suddenly taller and muscular. And male. All that was left of Jamie was her eyes. “Seriously, Jamie, what the hell is going on?”
She began rifling through the box. “Fuck! Fuckity, fuck!” she yelled, although I would’ve sworn she stifled a laugh. She read the manifest intently. “They screwed up the suits. They made yours female and mine male.”
“Well, do something,” I shrieked. I walked over to the mirror. My eyes were mine but I appeared to be approximately 25 years old. And 5’4” and a little less than 9 stone. Oh, and female. Most definitely female. Jamie couldn’t resist a smile. “I suppose this is amusing.”
“Oh, come on, Kelly,” she said. “We’ll get this sorted straight away. Just relax and enjoy it,” she said, putting her now large hands on my shoulders. “You have to admit it’s a little funny,” she said, kissing me on the neck.
I couldn’t hold back a smile. “I don’t have to admit anything,” I said. “Call them and figure this out.” She showed me the manifest. There was no phone number, only e-mail. Of course, I thought, it’s a bloody tech company. Why would they have a phone?
“Can we at least take these damn things off?” I moved my hands over my new skin trying to find a seam.
“Careful,” I saw she was looking where I put my hands, “You’re making me horny.”
I immediately dropped my hands to my sides. I watched as she picked up the instruction leaflet.
“What!” My nerves couldn’t take much more of this.
Jamie read from the leaflet, “The bodysuit takes five days to uncouple from the wearer’s own skin.”
“They really should have made that clear. There needs to be a warning notice on the packs themselves,” she said, surprisingly calmly.
“It can’t take five whole days!” I was pacing backwards and forwards.
“Not just five days,” she continued to read, “Uncoupling can’t start until at least four days after the suit is first put on.”
“Nine days!” I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate, “I can’t wait that long!”
Jamie put her hand on my back and led me to the sofa, “Take long deep breaths honey.”
I sat down next to her, I could feel my body shaking, “Get it of me!”
“Sweetheart, the nanos have attached themselves directly to our skin and nerves. If we tried to take them off now it’d be like pulling our own skin off.”
I shuddered. My vision was blurred by tears.
“We’ll make the best of this,” she said. Her hand squeezing mine. “Haven’t you ever wondered what life was like on the other side of the fence?” I had, although I wouldn’t admit that to her, not now. “Besides, think of how hilarious it could be.” She took out her IPhone and pulled me closer to her.
“Hey! What are you doing?!”
“Sending a selfie to Siggy and Egon. Those guys will flip!”
“Hey, no!” But it was too late, she was already sending the email.
“It’s only Siggy and Egon. I’ll tell them not to share.”
I spent the rest of the day and evening pestering her to check her email. We drank some wine, a lot of wine, and Jamie tried to get me to come to bed. She wanted to try out the new suits. I was tempted, it felt like it had been ages, but the idea terrified me. In the end we compromised on snuggling in our new suits but going no further.
I woke up around 2am that night. We were lying in the spooning position. It felt odd to be the little spoon. I lay there for a while wondering how my life got here?
“Have you checked your emails yet?” I asked for the tenth time that day. We’d been wearing the suits for three days now. Twenty four more hours before we could even begin the process of taking them off. It was stranger than I could explain to go to the bathroom mirror and see a different face. A twenty something woman at that.
It wasn’t all bad. My agreeing to her dress up games seemed to have a positive effect on Jamie. She hadn’t mentioned my job woes since the body suits arrived. Even still I was keen to get back to a male body, even if it was a different suit. The day before I had spied Jamie going through her underwear drawer. While I would have been happy to see some of the items she kept in there again, I wouldn’t have been happy to see them on me.
I ran over. “Did they respond?” I looked at her email and saw nothing with the company’s name, just an email from Egon. “What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal,” she said, enveloping me in a hug. It felt bizarre to have her huge hands wrap around my tiny waist, “is that Egon just offered me a role on a new film, a thriller. They just sacked some actor for being an arsehole and they want me to fill in.” This was the break she had worked for for years. I was so excited that I didn’t notice that she said ‘actor.’ “And look at the pay!” I stared at the screen, it was my pay and then some. We could more than cover the cost of the next cycle and whatever these suits cost.
“How long is filming?” I chirped. Her enthusiasm was infectious.
“Three months,” she said. “Just think, we can go to Iceland. I get my break and you can actually finish your novel. You’ve supported me for years, let me do the same for you. You can spend three months just writing and finally finish your book.” She always knew the right thing to say. “The whole mix up with the suits is turning out to be a god send.”
“Egon saw the picture of us in the body suits. He’s cast the male me. I’m in the main cast and everything!”
“So you are going to be there as a boy?”
“Plenty of actors do it. Have you ever wondered how some airhead catalogue model can suddenly put in an Oscar nominated performance in some low budget indie flick?”
I knew what she was talking about, “But won’t it seem strange two guys hanging out. I’m not trying to be homophobic. I’m just not gay.”
“I know that, silly. You could come as a girl. My wife.” She grinned. I’d seen that grin before. It meant she had considered all the angles and knew I’d have to give her what she wanted eventually.
“But why do I need to be a girl?” I had groaned. “Do I have to stay like this the whole time?”
“We’ll see,” she said, with a smile. “But this is Hollywood, a thriller. They like things normal over there, the prudes.” I couldn’t figure out why this was normal but I was so happy to have Jamie back that I didn’t listen.
In flight, I suddenly felt nauseous and ran to the bathroom and threw up my lunch.
“What’s up,” Jamie said, looking concerned as I returned to my seat, “are you getting a temperature again?”
My health had been up and down since putting the damn suit on.
The flight passed quietly after that. I calmed myself by looking out the window. Like I said before I like to fly. I watched as we passed over Britain. The green fields and dark hills looked like a patchwork quilt, or maybe a watercolour painting seen from above.
Jamie busied herself learning a few words in her Icelandic phrasebook. “Hvernig segir maður ‘whisky’ á íslensku?” she tried out on the flight attendant as she passed. She laughed and leant over to look at Jamie’s phrasebook correcting her on pronunciation. I didn’t like how close she was leaning into Jamie. She must have noticed my look as she pulled back quickly.
“Two whiskies?” she asked us.
“One for me and a gin and tonic for Kelly,” Jamie answered for both of us. Once she had left Jamie turned to me, “Is that OK?”
“Fine,” I say. I didn’t love Jamie’s insistence that she ordered everything for me. On the other hand I was happier not having to communicate with too many people. I turned back to the window. We had passed over Britain and Ireland by then and below was the dark blue of the North Atlantic. The ocean looked calm and deep and seemed to stretch on forever.
The land around Keflavík International Airport looked like the surface of the moon. We caught a glimpse of it as we headed inside. Reykjavik passport control wasn’t half as scary as Heathrow’s. We were waved inside pretty quickly. The temperature was much lower than in London so we added extra layers while we were waiting at luggage retrieval. I pulled on one of the woollen jumpers I had taken from Jamie’s ‘girl’ wardrobe before we left. After that I put on the yellow cagoule I bought from GAP a couple of days ago. Finally I pulled on the woollen hat Jamie bought me the Christmas we spent in Scotland. Jamie smiled and readjusted the hat on my head. I guess it was crooked.
Sigrun, or ‘Siggy’ as we knew her was waiting for us on the other side of the gate. Jamie waved at her friend who took a while to realise it was us. I guess she wasn’t used to seeing us with these faces.
“My god!” Siggy exclaimed, “Is that really you two?” She was laughing, but not in an unfriendly way. Jamie was laughing too; she expanded her arms and embraced the Icelandic girl.
“Hey,” she turned to me, “Welcome to my team!” She tried to greet me by kissing me on each cheek. I pulled back, not used to such a feminine welcome and we ended in a sort of half hug. All three of us laughed a little awkwardly.
My head was swimming and not just because of the situation. We had set off from ours at about half two in the morning in order to catch the six am flight. It felt like I’d been awake for two days and it was still only the morning rush hour in Reykjavik.
Jamie sat in the front passenger seat while I took the back seat. I was glad of the opportunity to stretch my legs and rest my eyes. Siggy chatted excitedly, telling us how well the filming was going.
Her partner Egon was the assistant director and had been in Iceland shooting scenery for a couple of weeks now.
Siggy was clearly happy to be back working in her homeland. She kept turning her head back to me, telling me how much I'd love Reykjavik and how we could go exploring while the 'boys' were filming. I smiled weakly at her. I knew she was trying to use humour to make me feel included but it still smarted.
"I'm thinking of writing a story set in Iceland, set around the banking crash here." I said vaguely.
"Sounds interesting," Siggy replied. To be honest, I was not that sure of the subject myself. But I finally had a chance to write. Normally I had to set my alarm for 5am and get up early to write. With everything that had been happening, work, trying to get pregnant I hadn’t risen early in long time.
The lunar landscape around the airport changed into something more recognisably Earth-like. In fact it looked like it could be Scotland or somewhere. The outskirts of Reykjavik had a slightly American feel, probably a by-product of the city having been a strategic NATO base during the Cold War.
Despite it having been April the houses were dusted by a little snow turning the town into a Christmas card scene.
"We are just coming out of the winter," Siggy explained, "the Icelanders are waking up from hibernation," she added mysteriously.
We pulled into the driveway of a small but pretty house somewhere near the city centre. From the car the house looked very Scandinavian, painted red and made out of wood. It was only when I got out that I could see the house was clad in corrugated iron, not wood. Maybe wood doesn't survive long in this climate, or is it that corrugated iron is cheaper to ship out here?
The inside of the house was warm and inviting. Siggy and Egon had made the space their own with framed drawings and paintings on the yellow walls. I went up to one for a closer look. It was a charcoal drawing of Siggy when she was younger, maybe between eighteen to twenty. I remembered Egon telling me her parents were arty types - I wondered if one of them drew it?
She gave us the tour. I was aware of Jamie asking her lots of questions. Siggy showed us the bathroom, which was small but cute, with a ceramic mosaic of a blue fish on the wall of the bath/shower.
"We have an en-suite in our bedroom so this bathroom is all yours," she smiled. It seemed like a good deal.
"Here's your room," she showed us the spare room. It had a large double bed and a wardrobe but not much more space. We dumped our bags next to the bed.
Siggy told us Egon would be back around four-ish and suggested we all go out for a meal and drinks. We could rest until then. Jamie, I could tell was too excited to sleep but I was completely wacked. I’d been surviving on adrenaline and caffeine since I’d agreed to this. Everything had happened so fast, Jamie getting the offer for a supporting part in Egon's film, finding someone who could get us the false passports. My head was still spinning. I told Jamie she should go out exploring but that I need to sleep.
I don't even remember getting into bed but when I woke up a couple hours later I was under the sheets wearing Jamie's old t-shirt and pyjama bottoms. I noticed the pyjama bottoms were a little too big for me as I headed to the toilet. The house was completely silent. There was none of the background noise you became used to in London.
I tiptoed around being nosey. There were full bookshelves in every room and books filled up all the flat surfaces like window ledges and coffee tables. I picked up a few, most were in German or English with the odd one in a Scandinavian language. It was hard not to like a couple who owned so many books. One book, in German, looked like it was about fertility treatments. I wondered if they were struggling to have a baby like us? Eventually tiredness caught up with me again and I headed back to bed. As my eyelids grew heavy, I wondered what Jamie and Siggy were up to?
"You should wear the dress," Jamie tried to persuade me. She was lying back on the bed watching my indecision. It was funny to see her in such a masculine pose, her legs stretched out. She kept changing her position and fidgeting with her trousers; getting used to having something extra down there was my guess.
"I'm not sure," I said, holding the burgundy A-line dress up against me trying to imagine what wearing it in public would be like. It wasn’t too tight or revealing, I supposed.
"Come on, we agreed to make the most of this. It’ll be good for your writing to experience a few things from a female perspective." Jamie's voice sounded a little annoyed. She had been grouchy since her nap.
"I know, but..." my voice trailed off as I thought about spending time with people who had no idea who I was underneath the suit. Egon and Siggy knew of course, but we were also going to be joined by the director, Angela and her partner Karen who were none the wiser.
"Go on," Jamie had crept up behind me and put her hands on my now tiny waist, "wear it for me." She kissed me on the back of my neck. The nanos in the fake skin transferred the sensations through to my real body.
I gave in and let her dress me. Even after two or three days, I was still not used to women’s clothes. Men’s clothes are, by and large, designed to be forgotten about by the wearer. Women’s clothing on the other hand pull and confine you. Perhaps you get used to it after a while, but I doubted it. Most of all I was doubtful I’d ever get used to the oddness of only seeing flatness down the front of my panties.
I regretted choosing an A-line dress as we walked to the Grillmarkadurinn. The cold air swirled up and around my knickers. The nano-skin offered my hidden privates little extra warmth. Was it possible I could feel the cold even more in the body suit? I knew the nanos conveyed sensation from the fake to my real skin. At least the big coat Siggy had lent me kept my upper body warm and my woolly hat protected my ears.
Angela and Karen were already at the table when we arrived. Angela was tall, blond and very German looking. Next to her Karen looked like a little pixie or elf with her short hair and delicate features. The restaurant was smart and stylish. Apart from the low stone wall that ran along the middle, looking like something from the Viking age, we could be in West London. I doubted we could have afforded it here if the production company wasn't picking up the tab.
Angela, Egon and Jamie were quickly caught up in a discussion about the film. Angela had notes on Jamie's character. At first I was confused when she called her 'James'; it took a moment for me to realise my mistake.
Siggy and Karen brought me into their conversation. Siggy wanted to show us both the bars along Hverfigata. According to her these were the best places to hang out in.
"In the old times Hverfigata was the road the women used to take the laundry down to be washed at one of the hot springs," Karen told us, showing off the local knowledge she had picked up in the last few weeks. Karen's accent was upper-class English. She fidgeted a lot, often touching her face with her hands making it hard to follow what she was saying sometimes.
Angela was the opposite. She was loud, very German and self-assured. Talking to the whole table as waiters served the starters she explained the plot of her movie. Set in the future, it was the tale of an advance party sent to a new planet marked for colonisation. When people start going missing the crew blame the native creatures but eventually it turns out that it is the humans who are the deadliest animals.
Karen, Siggy and I sipped our drinks as the other three talked excitedly about the different aspects of the film. I thought Jamie was overdoing it as she gushed about the 'psychological intensity' of the script. Angela assured 'James' he would meet the writer at the first read through tomorrow.
As we consumed the food and the wine an easy bonhomie descended over the group. My tiredness combined with the excitement of being somewhere new and meeting new people. It left me with a happy fuzzy feeling and looking at Jamie I could see she felt the same.
Conversation turned to the actor Jamie would be replacing. There was a general consensus that he was a total bastard, and from what I could tell had made an arse of himself around the female cast and crew.
"Not something we have to worry about with you my dear," Angela said to Jamie. Jamie looked a little hurt and there was an uneasy laughter around the table. Sensing she had said something wrong Angela added, "Not when you have the lovely Kelly," she gestured at me. I felt myself blush red under the intensity of her gaze.
After food we headed to a bar called the Slippbarinn, which was attached to the Hotel Marina, where Angela and Karen were staying. To me, the bar looked a little like an Ikea showroom, but perhaps I was being prejudiced. Angela showed her largesse by ordering a round of cocktails for us all. I missed the name of what she's ordered but the drink when it arrived was bright blue. It tasted to me like cough syrup mixed with lots of sugar. My head was spinning after only a few sips. Perhaps it was the tiredness.
"Same again?" Jamie asked heading to the bar, leaving before I had time to protest. I just shrugged – she was the one with the read through the next day. I could stay in bed.
I continued chatting with Siggy and Karen about the places we could go and see. Karen seemed excited about a river heated by a volcanic spring you could bathe in. Much better than the Blue Lagoon, which Siggy thought was too touristy.
When Jamie returned I saw she had bought herself a whisky old fashioned. I smiled as I knew she would have brought it as an aid to getting into character. I was always impressed by the way she would completely immerse herself in her roles.
It was a little past 1 am when we decided to call it a night. Late by my body clock, but early doors as far as the Reykjavik natives are concerned. The alcohol kept me warm on the walk home. I was very glad I hadn't let Jamie persuade me to wear heels and stuck to my converse. I still had to take her hand and lean on her a little anyhow.
Alone in our room Jamie pulled me close, "Want to try out our bodies?" she whispered.
I bit my lip; I had been trying to put off this moment. Jamie went to switch of the lamp leaving the room bathed only in light from the full moon. Her hot mouth was pressed against mine. I wanted to protest but my whole body was tingling. What could be the harm? I thought as she pulled the dress over my head. I stood there in my underwear. I crossed my legs nervously as her eyes looked me up and down. My skin looked silver in the moonlight.
She stood there looking at me for a moment. I felt uneasy, was she going to ask me to cover up again? Perhaps she was repulsed by lack of masculinity? I needn't have worried, she gently pushed me on to the bed. I lay there as she slowly undressed. I felt a warmth spreading from down below. It was something I haven't felt before. The nanos sent waves of pleasure to my trapped penis.
Jamie climbed onto the bed, her enhanced arms easily holding her above me. I felt an odd tingle of pleasure at the thought that she would crush me if they gave out. She took her time with the foreplay. She knew a lot more about my new body than I did. When eventually she pushed inside me, it was a revelation. Like something had exploded in my head, but in a good way.
Afterwards we lay there in the half light, Jamie's arm around me. I wondered about the mess it all caused. Had they really gone to the trouble of creating fake sperm? As I listened to Jamie gently snoring I wondered, will she have to buy top up packs?
When I woke next morning Jamie had already left for her read through. She had left behind a little note saying she didn't want to wake me and thanking me for last night. It was funny to see her feminine handwriting after what we had got up to last night.
Heading downstairs Siggy greeted me with a smile, "There’s coffee in the pot." She was wearing a Japanese style silk dressing gown and cradling a cup of strong looking coffee.
"Thanks," I grunted. As I poured my coffee, she watched me closely.
"Sounds like the two of you had fun last night." Her voice was even and calm, not giving anything away. I nearly dropped my coffee.
"Oh, god. Were we that noisy?" I stuttered desperately trying to think of an excuse.
"You English," she laughed gently, "always apologising".
She came close and gave me a little cuddle. "I am glad you have become a full woman now. Think what fun we girls can have!" she squeezed me then left. I am left pondering what being a 'full woman' now means.
"You seem distracted," Siggy brought me back into the room. "Missing James already?"
I guess I was. I noticed she had begun referring to Jamie as James ever since the our second morning in Iceland. We had been in Reykjavik two weeks now and that morning Jamie and the others had headed north to begin filming. I had been feeling low, probably due to being cut off from London and my life. As most of the people I spoke to on a daily basis had been linked to work Jamie was my last link. Plus her good mood, with the preparations for the filming going so well, had helped keep me buoyed up.
It hadn't helping that my boobs had started feeling sore. I wondered if it had anything to do with what Jamie and I got up to the night before? I did remember Jamie grabbing them quite forcefully. While I was still uncomfortable with taking the 'girl role' I had to admit the body suits had done wonders for our sex life. I would definitely miss the release while she was gone.
We were sitting in Kaffitár, a trendy coffee shop in the city centre, making plans. Siggy wanted us to go on a big cycle somewhere in the country. The snow and ice had thawed a little and she was keen to get out into the wild.
I was not too sure; when the four of us went for a ride around the neighbourhood I found myself getting out of breath really quickly. Maybe it was the darkness or the cold air but I often felt out of breath or fatigued. I worried it was the suit affecting my body.
"I'm not sure I want to do anything big," I groaned, "I'm still recovering from all the drinking over the weekend."
The thing about hanging out with actors is it involves a lot of late nights. No wonder I was worn out!
"I'm not going to let you just hang around the house moping after James," Siggy said sternly, although she laughed when I pulled an exaggerated pout.
"How about we drive out to somewhere?" I suggested, preferring the idea of sitting in a heated car to cycling against the elements.
"Maybe we could go to one of the heated swimming pools?" she suggested.
The public swimming baths in Reykjavik are all heated by volcanic springs coming up from under the ground. Architecturally they looked little different to public baths in the UK. There are a few different rituals you needed to adhere to though. While UK swimming pools are usually filled with chlorine in order to stop the spread of verrucas and other nasties, the Icelanders were proud of their water's purity. This meant they expected you to wash vigorously beforehand.
I was still not used to changing in the women's section and found myself doing the dance of the one towel, trying to grasp it close around me as I pulled off my underwear. A couple of young women, maybe students, watched me with a little amusement. Icelanders are less shy. Siggy passed me the green one-piece we bought the first time we came swimming in the city. Jamie and I had a bet on who could complete visiting all the swimming baths in the city first. I was glad to be able to add another notch to my belt.
First we tried the lobster pots. That's the name Jamie gave the series of circular Jacuzzi style baths. These were warmed by the volcanic springs and each one gets hotter until the final one. After that you are supposed to go swim a couple of lengths in the cold water of the main pool.
"It’s great for the skin," Siggy explained as she tries to persuade me into trying them out.
"I do really envy the skin of you Icelandic girls." Did I really say that? I noticed the two girls from the changing rooms, both were displaying plenty of their Icelandic skin. Siggy just smiled as I got in the first lobster pot.
The heat made me flush red. My costume felt too tight and I fiddled with it trying to loosen it. I blushed even harder when I noticed two guys in the next lobster pot watching me. I slunk down so my cleavage was under the water feeling like a member of the Baywatch cast. I saw Siggy was trying to suppress a giggle.
By the time we were out of the lobster pots and standing at one end of the main pool I could almost see steam coming out of my ears. The last Jacuzzi was almost too hot to stand. It was like my whole body was now heated by its own volcano.
I looked down at my reflection in the water, an image I was still not used to. Even my brown eyes, the one part of my face I knew was 'original' looked rounder and larger than I remembered. Somewhere to the left, a young boy jumped into the pool causing ripples to break apart the image of my face. Something lurched inside me and I felt nauseous and lightheaded. Without thinking I moved forward half jumping, half falling into the water.
Water rushed around me spinning and bubbling. I no longer knew which way was up. I saw something coming towards me and then an explosion to the left of me. At first I was frightened we would collide but I soon felt arms around me pulling me towards what I then realised was up. Then there was cold air.
Strong arms pulled me from the water and laid me on the floor. I could see a face, a male face coming towards me. I wanted to tell him something; that I was not really a woman and he shouldn't try to kiss me, but I could not speak. His lips were on mine and suddenly air came rushing into my lungs making them feel like they were going to explode. His head went away for a second but then he was back. I felt his fingers pinching my nose. He breathed into my lungs for the second time.
It was as though there was pure molten lead in my lungs. For a second I was just lying there and then I shot up spewing water everywhere. My mind was coming back to me. I saw a young blond man in front of me, smiling even though I had just thrown up water all over him. Behind him I could see Siggy's face. Her shocked look made me feel worse than all the water.
The blond boy said something in Icelandic to her and then put his arms underneath me. I wanted to say no, that I am fine, but I didn't have the strength to do so. As he lifted me up I struggled a little. Siggy tried to calm me down.
"Don't worry, he is taking you inside."
I wanted to say I didn't need to be carried but my head was spinning. I slipped around a little in his arms. It was then that I realised that I was shivering. All traces of warmth from the lobster pools had gone.
Once inside the blond boy plopped me down on a chair in the changing area. Siggy put a blanket over my shoulders and a young woman came over to me and offered me a hot sweet coffee. She may have said something to me but I didn't take it in. The only voice I heard was Siggy when she asked me if I was OK.
"I, I think so," I said, but didn’t feel sure.
"What happened?" She was kneeling down so her face was level with mine.
"I don't know, I think the heat and the steam were just too much for me."
It seemed plausible. I hated being this feeble.
She used the towel to rub my shoulder a little. I only realised then that I must still be dripping wet,
"It is fine. I think we have all overdone it the last couple of weeks."
Her tone annoyed me a little, like she was speaking to a child. When I looked up into her face I felt reassured by the warmth of her expression.
Siggy turned to the blond boy and said something in their own language. She must have reassured him I was OK because he shrugged and left.
"I know what," again I felt like she is mothering me, "let’s go home and get warmed up, then fish and chips tonight!" She smiled broadly and I nodded ascent.
Did you know fish and chips came to England from Spain through Jewish refugees? It makes sense if you think about it; potatoes came into Europe through Spain, and the Spanish like to put seafood in batter. This is what I have heard, but how true it is I don't know. Either way another interesting fact is that the humble fish and chips is the national dish of Iceland as well as England. They certainly had plenty of fish.
Icelandic Fish and Chips was a restaurant near the sea front. We were led to the table by a young, muscular man who said something in Icelandic to Siggy. She pointed at me and said, "In English please, Kelly’s from London."
I didn't like the way the young man took his time to look me up and down. My guess was that he's a student, although by the look of him he spent more time in the gym than in the library.
He guided us through the busy restaurant. I was wearing the Icelandic wool sweater Jamie bought me which covered me nicely, but I was regretting the skin-tight jeans. Siggy had persuaded me by appealing to my vanity. I regretted them even more when I caught the waiter checking out my arse in the mirror on the wall.
As he pulled out the chairs for us he introduced himself, "I am Arnar, I'll be looking after you this evening."
He took his time pushing the chair in underneath me, his hands brushed against my arms as he finished, "is there anything I can get you to drink?"
"How does white wine sound?" Siggy asked me.
I nodded a yes; she had made me promise to have an early night but I felt I still need something to take the edge off my nerves.
Siggy ordered a starter but I decide not to. Arnar asked if I wanted my main to come at the same time as her starter but I said I am happy to wait. To tell the truth my stomach still felt a little constricted. I hoped the food would help.
The drink flowed a little too quickly. I guess our tolerance was up after a couple of weeks drinking with actors. I was beginning to think we would need to order another bottle. The restaurant was warm and friendly. The customers seemed to be a healthy mix of locals and tourists.
By the time he brought out our main I was feeling pleasantly sloshed. I even laughed a little as he makes a lame half-joke about keeping us ladies waiting. I cut into the cod pleased to see how good it looked. But then something strange happened.
"Are you OK?" Siggy looked concerned, "You've turned green."
"I'm just feeling a little delicate," I paused. "Do you smell rotten fish?" I asked, which causes a couple on the next table to turn around and watch me.
"No, I don't think so," Siggy said. She leant over and started rummaging through my fish with her fork. "It looks fine."
Before I could tell her not to she had caught the attention of Arnar who came over. I muttered something about not making a fuss but she pointed to the fish and said something in Icelandic to him. Arnar looked concerned. I gave him a weak smile knowing I had caused him no end of hassle.
He disappeared eventually coming back five minutes later followed by two men. One wore a suit, the other in a chef's whites. The man in the suit asked if I was OK. I was burning red at being the centre of attention. The chef looked at the fish and proclaimed it as fine. I was half expecting him to kick off but he talked calmly to me.
"Sorry, I've been feeling a poorly all day." I glanced at Siggy, hoping she wouldn't bring up the swimming pool.
"No problem," chef smiled, "I will replace your fish with the vegetarian option. Would that be OK?"
I nodded smiling, happy the fuss was over. I noticed Siggy watching me closely. I felt bad I had given her two scares today.
"How about two more glasses of wine?” the manager asked. “On the house, of course."
"Better make mine a lemonade," I said sheepishly.
Once they had gone I turned back to Siggy, "I don't know what is wrong with me today," I said by way of an apology.
She took a little time to reply, "Don't worry about it," she said, sipping her wine and seemingly thinking things through. "With everything you've been through recently it isn't surprising your system is out of whack," I smiled at the British phrase she must have picked up in London.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I wanted to splash some water on my face. She offered to come with me but I said there was no need and she should enjoy her wine. I was alone so I took a few minutes to look at my face.
The nanos had given it a subtle make-up job. I wasn’t sure if the rosy cheeks were the fault of them, the wine or the hot spring water from earlier. I examined my face in detail. It was hard to accept how delicate it looked. How had they made my nose disappear into the tiny one I was looking at? The high cheekbones were not mine either, although the soft brown eyes were the same pair I had been looking at in a mirror since I was little.
I was mesmerised by my appearance for a while. Only when a middle-aged lady entered the bathroom did I move. I splashed water over my face, feeling better. I watched silently as the nanos, so tiny they were practically invisible, fixed my make-up. Once that was done I tied my hair back into a high ponytail, just as Jamie had shown me and fought a losing battle to get the long fringe out of my eyes.
When I returned to the table I saw that my replacement food had arrived. Siggy had finished hers but seemed happy holding a large glass of white wine. Suddenly I realised just how hungry I was.
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