Soixante-Trois Airlines, part 18

Sophie tried to smile as she took her seat in the vast, modern Wembley Stadium. It wasn’t the first time that she’d been to Wembley to see a game- from a certain perspective, anyway. From a different perspective, it was undoubtedly the first time that ‘Sophie Connelly’ had ever set foot in the legendary stadium, something that the English girl found impossible to forget as she sat down and felt her tights begin to sag while her thong rode even higher between her buttocks.

The last time Sophie had visited Wembley, ‘she’ had worn a pair of jeans and an England football shirt. Today, however, she was wearing a knee-length black denim skirt and a smart black long-sleeved top. The last time she’d visited Wembley, ‘she’ went with ‘her’ father. Sophie knew that if the old man could see her now, he’d be in for one hell of a shock- and that was before he saw the people accompanying her.

“These are awesome seats!” Amy giggled as she sat down next to Sophie and straightened her short pleated skirt.

“They’re not bad,” Sophie replied. And they weren’t- just a few seats to the side of the halfway line and fewer than ten rows back made them some the best seats available, something Sophie tried to remind herself as she sat back and tried to relax.

“Careful of your posture,” Abbey teased as she sat down on the other side of Sophie. “Don’t want Alana seeing and insisting that your corset is tied extra-tight tomorrow, do you?”

“Trust me,” Sophie chuckled, taking a deep breath and savouring the feeling of her uncompressed lungs filling with air. “That’s the LAST thing I want!”

As her friends took their seats, Sophie mused on the previous month of her life, and the unusual shape it had taken- in more ways than one.

In the six weeks since she’d started work for Soixante-Trois Airlines, Sophie had had the chance to wear male clothing on precisely two occasions- both of which were when she went to visit her parents at home, who were naturally full of questions about ‘James’s new job. Sophie tried her best to bluff her way through any questions her parents had, which was made easier by the fact that the previous six week she’d spent living as ‘Sophie’ had given her ample opportunity to practise the art of deception.

As far as her flat mates and her colleagues were concerned, Sophie was what she said she was- a transgendered woman who had yet to be prescribed hormone replacement therapy but who was living and working full-time as a woman. Questions about Sophie’s early experiences of femininity, her early ‘experiments’ with crossdressing and her favourite aspects of her new life came thick and fast, and Sophie tried her hardest to answer them positively, explaining how she’d always fantasised about being a girl when she was younger, how she always envied the girls at school in their short skirts, when in fact she’d had no such fantasies… And every day she got up and opened her very feminine underwear drawer, she cringed.

Sophie had tried to convince herself that she was just doing a job, that clothes were clothes, and what she’d be wearing would just be the same bits of fabric she wore normally, just cut into slightly different shapes. The reality, however, was very different. The sensations provided by the different garments, from the soft lace of the underwear caressing her skin, to the corset encircling her waist, to the nylon fabric of her stockings hugging her legs served to remind Sophie with every step she took that her life was now very, very different from what it was. The make-up she wore on her face, and the care she had to take with her hair reminded her that the image she projected now mattered infinitely more than it had before, which led to the final, and most uncomfortable aspect of her transformation- the way she was treated by others.

Every day that Sophie walked through the concourse of Heathrow Airport in her tight skirt, translucent hosiery and high heels, she felt the stares of every man in the building burning into her. She knew exactly what they were thinking, as they were thoughts that she herself had been guilty of in the past- but thoughts that she didn’t dare think anymore. She’d imagined that she’d be a professional woman in her role as a flight attendant, but she quickly realised that the phrase ‘trolley dolly’ was far more appropriate- especially the ‘dolly’ part, every time Sophie took her place in the pre-flight safety briefing and performed the demonstrations with a fake smile on her painted face and a blank stare in her heavily made-up eyes.

The one consolation to Sophie was that material for her expose was coming thick and fast. From anecdotes gathered from unknowing colleagues to first-hand experience of both customers and management, her files were filling up fast, and both Rachel and Amelie- the only two to know about Sophie’s ‘true identity’- were ecstatic about the progress she was making. What Sophie soon discovered, though, was she could easily write ten times more about an ‘outsider’s perspective’ of life as a woman than she could about life as a stewardess.

“…Still say you should’ve worn the costume,” a familiar Scottish voice said as she took her seat in front of Sophie, snapping the English girl out of her ‘trance’.

“I’d have looked silly!” Jessica giggled in response.

“You’d have looked sexy,” Paige retorted.

“Well- yes, yes I would,” Jessica said with a smug grin as she linked her fingers with her fiancée’s. “But, you know? They might have mistaken me for an ACTUAL cheerleader, hehe!”

“And I’d have needed therapy for the rest of my life,” a young man with an American accent, who Sophie recognised as Jessica’s brother Aaron, said. “Still, if it’d help the Ravens win…”

“The Ravens weren’t originally from Baltimore, were they?” Paige asked.

“Nope,” Aaron replied. “They used to be the Cleveland Browns, but their owner packed up and moved to Baltimore in '96, and a different 'Cleveland Browns' team took their place a few years later."

"So... Baltimore just bought a pre-made team?" Amy asked, leaning forward to inject herself into the conversation.

"Basically, yeah," Aaron shrugged.

“The team they’re playing,” Jessica’s sister Hayley said, “the Jaguars, are always being linked with a move to London, actually.”

“Hardly seems fair to people living in Jacksonville,” Paige mused.

“It’s not like it is over here with local teams,” Jessica said. “Most teams in the major leagues are franchises, companies with, you know, a corporate identity. A bit like if Soixante-Trois got bought by Virgin or, you know, relocated their business entirely.”

“And it’s not like it doesn’t happen over here,” Natalie said. “Wimbledon moving to Milton Keynes, for example.”

“Or the women’s team moving from Lincoln to Nottingham,” Hayley (Hayley Fisher, Sophie’s flat mate) interjected. “It’s still weird though, just suddenly changing identity like that.” Adopting a whole new identity? Sophie thought to herself. ‘Weird’ didn’t even begin to describe it.

Sophie tried to relax and engross herself in the pre-game show and in the match itself- she’d read up on the rules of American Football (and had played the Madden NFL videogames a lot as a child) so she was able to follow the game, but every time she went to talk to her American friends about the game, she found herself pausing. Would a girl- an English girl, at that- really be as knowledgeable about American Football as Sophie was? And how would she justify discussing it, especially with Jessica, a woman she barely knew?

Even as the party was leaving the stadium at the end of the game, Sophie remained quiet, not wanting to intrude on a conversation she felt she didn’t really belong to- especially when the topic abruptly changed to something much more ‘intimate’.

“So, how’s Anna-Jade doing?” Jessica asked Abbey, who responded with a grin “Know she’d have loved to have been here today.”

“She’s doing much better,” the Essex native replied. “Kinda, you know, terrifying how much pain she was in at first.”

“Don’t tell me it put you, of all people, off of the idea?” Paige teased.

“HELL no,” Abbey giggled. “The sooner I get it done, the better!”

“Well, just remember who’s next in line,” Paige said, earning a loud sigh from many of the women around her. Despite her best efforts, Sophie couldn’t help but let her natural journalistic instinct override her desire to stay silent.

“Next in line for what?” Sophie asked, internally cringing the second the words left her mouth.

“Well, for SRS,” Jessica explained, frowning in confusion at the blank look on Sophie’s face. “Also known as GRS? Genital reassignment surgery?”

“Aka ‘the big chop’,” Natalie interjected, giggling as her transgendered friends all groaned at her.

“It’s not a ‘chop’,” Paige retorted. “It’s a-“

“I think we’d better not go into details,” Jessica said softly. “Not when we’re about to take my family out to dinner!”

“Thank god,” Jessica’s sister said, making the whole group laugh as Jessica, her fiancée and her family all split from the main group and headed toward the people carrier Jessica’s parents had hired for their trip to London.

“…Everyone want to come back to ours, then?” Abbey asked. “Say hi to Anna-Jade, see how she’s doing in person?”

“Sure,” Natalie replied. “Seems like ages since I last talked to her. And I don’t think any of our newbies have met her yet, have you?”

“I did a couple of flights with her while I was in probation,” Amy replied. “But I know for a fact she went off before either of our two newest newbies started…”

“…I know I haven’t met her yet,” Hayley, Sophie’s flat mate, shrugged.

“Or, umm, or me,” Sophie said, trying not to cringe as she suddenly realised that her chances of getting away from the group and relaxing at her home just went straight out of the window.

Sure enough, just over half an hour later, the remaining members of the group- all seven of them- crammed onto the doorstep outside the small London flat, all of them giggling excitedly as Abbey reached into her handbag for her keys. All but one, that is- Sophie tried her hardest not to fidget as she found herself surrounded by the unquestionably, unapologetically feminine young women.

“Hellooooo!” Abbey called as she entered the flat, before sighing as she saw her flat mate rise from the sofa to greet the crowd. “What- no, just- don’t strain yourself, for god’s sake!”

“It’s not my fucking legs they cut off,” Anna-Jade protested, straightening her loose, knee-length skirt as she slowly hobbled toward the group. “What, are we having a fucking party or something?”

“Sophie, Hayley, meet Anna-Jade,” Abbey said with a long, sarcastic sigh. “I forgot to ask whether or not either of you were offended by someone who can fit the F-word into literally every sentence she says.”

“Nice to meet you both,” Anna-Jade said, exchanging gentle hugs and air kisses with the two young women. “Ah, fuck it, you brought the other ginge as well?”

“Nice to see you again too, you potato sucking slut!” Amy replied, prompting Sophie to look on in confusion as the two women giggled devilishly and shared a long, obviously genuine hug.

“Ahh, I’m actually glad you’re all here,” Anna-Jade said as she gently lowered herself back down onto her sofa. “Missed, you know, ‘this’, all the girls together, old friends and new… Even if Jess and Paige do think they’re too good for us, heh!”

“It’s not really their fault, honey,” Annabelle said in her distinctive southern drawl as she sat down next to Anna-Jade. “Their family-“

“Yeah, I know, I know,” Anna-Jade said with a grin. “I’ll catch up with them when I get the chance, heh. Assuming I actually get the three months I’m entitled to, anyway.”

“Ugh, can’t believe the company are pressuring you back to work already when you can barely walk,” Zoe spat, piquing Sophie’s curiosity.

“I- I thought the three months was guaranteed in the contract?” Sophie asked.

“Ah, you can tell she’s new,” Anna-Jade teased, giggling as the Englishwoman blushed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like THAT…”

“The company likes saying one thing and then doing another,” Natalie explained. “And they’re really not above using emotional blackmail- like, saying ‘we’re really understaffed’ or ‘your colleagues will have to work extra shifts to pick up the slack’, that sort of thing.”

“Both of which I’ve heard in the last two months,” Anna-Jade said.

“Of course, if we had a trade union…” Natalie said, making most of the occupants of the room roll their eyes.

“Thank you for that, Miss fucking Corbyn!” Anna-Jade snorted as Sophie grew more and more curious about the Irishwoman’s tale- and how valuable it could be to her expose…

“What- what exactly have they said to you?” Sophie asked, surreptitiously reaching into her handbag and switching on the recording device she had hidden in the bag for just such an occasion.

“Ugh, every-fucking-thing,” Anna-Jade spat, before smiling as Sophie sat down next to her. “Told me straight to my face that this is counted as sick leave and as such will be counted against me if I ever apply for promotion- which has got to go against some law or another. Which will effectively end my career as I’m 29 in January, and according to Antoine fucking Masson, you can’t push a trolley or, more importantly, look sexy doing it if your age begins with the number ‘3’.”

“Yeah, I’d heard that,” Sophie said.

“Basically, Masson and his arse-lickers resent actually having to pay us to do their hard work for them,” Anna-Jade said. “Nat the commie would have you believe this is a common thing, employers saying ‘you should be grateful just to have a job at all’ and using that as an excuse to abuse their employees. Never mind the fact that in the last couple of years, application numbers for the airline have SHARPLY dropped.”

“Even- even after the reality show?” Sophie asked.

“If anything, that was what made it drop,” Anna-Jade chuckled. “Masson likes to pretend he’s this super-liberal friend to the working class when in reality, he makes Trump look like- well, Corbyn.”

“He can’t be THAT bad, surely?” Sophie asked.

“Well- maybe not,” Anna-Jade said. “But how many airline owners do you know insist on their stewardesses being under 30, wearing corsets, high heels and the tightest skirts imaginable on all flights? I’m just thankful that even post-op, I’m not allowed to do grey route. Heard of girls actually passing out mid-flight over there.”

“Ugh, grey route was DESPICABLE,” Zoe spat as she sat down next to the two girls. “The skirt was just as tight, but the length of your ankles so it was even harder to walk, the heels were lower but they were boots that covered all of your leg bottoms to your knees, the corset was just as tight, you had to wear a skin tight bodysuit and- I am turning you on, am I not?”

“Fuck you,” Anna-Jade playfully retorted as the Frenchwoman giggled. “Seriously though, I’ve been living full-time as a woman for over three years now and I’d still find a uniform like that sexy, fun to wear… But not in, you know, forty degree heat.”

“Yeah, walking around Dubai dressed like that sounds like medieval torture,” Sophie said. “Reminds me a bit of Trooping the Colour, the fainting guardsmen.”

“It’s exactly like that,” Zoe said.

“Sure, the south of Spain in summer can be just as bad,” Anna-Jade said. “I’ve known a few girls drop on those flights too, T-girls too who’ve just started oestrogen and are taking time to get used to it… And yes, I was one of those people.”

“Se- seriously?” Sophie asked.

“Yep,” Anna-Jade said. “August 2014, been with the company six months, just started HRT, I felt dizzy on a flight from Paris to Malaga, sat down for a bit and the next thing I know, I’m waking up in a bed in the first aid room at the airport.”

“Jeez,” Sophie said.

“Worst part was that the company then said it’d be counted as a day of sickness as I didn’t complete half the fucking flight,” Anna-Jade spat. “Sure I lost a promotion because of that. Reckon that’s why they’re pressuring me so much as well, think I’m one of these people who pulls sickies just because I once fainted mid-flight…”

“That’s appalling,” Sophie sighed.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of Soixante-Trois Airlines,” Anna-Jade said with a snort of sarcastic laughter.

“Yeah,” Sophie chuckled, internally grinning at the material she was getting for her expose.

“’Course, if I shoved my nose up the arse of any male member of the Masson family, I’d probably be fine,” Anna-Jade laughed, making Sophie even more excited. “And yes, that includes ‘le connard’.”

“Is this- is this Antoine Masson’s nephew you’re talking about?” Sophie asked.

“Second cousin once removed,” Anna-Jade corrected. “But same difference, yeah. If you ask me it’s no coincidence our boss at the London hub got her job within a month of shacking up with him.”

“I thought Alana got the job before that?” Zoe asked.

“Still explains why she overlooks his obvious, well, you know,” Anna-Jade said.

“There’s a part of me that almost wants to meet him now,” Sophie chuckled. “All the stories I’ve heard…”

“If you do, take some fucking de-greaser with you,” Anna-Jade snorted. “Better yet, don’t let him get within ten feet of you!”

“Or one hundred feet,” Zoe said with a giggle.

“I- I doubt he’d be that interested in me anyway, umm,” Sophie mumbled. “Because I’m, umm, you know…”

“No need to be so shy,” Anna-Jade giggled. “You just heard me announce to the whole room I just had SRS for god’s sake. And Jacques was into me- well, so to speak- long before that. That’s probably his one saving grace- he chases everything in a skirt, but isn’t too fussed what’s underneath it.”

“Unless that skirt is part of a Little Bo Peep costume,” Zoe said, making Anna-Jade almost wet herself laughing.

“God, don’t remind me of that!” The Irishwoman laughed.

“Is- is this an in-joke?” Sophie asked. Something an expose might want to know about? The Englishwoman thought to herself.

“You are Rachel’s cousin, are you not?” Zoe asked. “Has she not told about, umm…”

“About- about the tutu project?” Sophie asked. “Yeah, I know about that.”

“Really?” Anna-Jade asked, surprise plastered all over her face. “And you still signed up anyway?”

“There- umm, there aren’t many employers as, you know, umm,” Sophie stammered, trying desperately to think of an excuse and cursing the fact that Rachel hadn’t come to the after party from the game. “So, umm, accommodating for trans people, you know?” Sophie took a deep breath and braced herself- she’d inevitably be fielding the same questions about her ‘transition’ that she’d already answered what felt like a million times.

“Oh- yeah, I guess that IS true,” Anna-Jade says. “Jacques’s attitude is shared through the whole company, if you say you’re a woman, then you’re a woman, no questions asked. Heh, regardless of what you’ve got under your skirt or how you got it!”

“Even for Natalie, who is not taking any steps to change her body,” Zoe said.

“There are a lot of private companies who wouldn’t be as accepting, in fairness,” Anna-Jade said. “Then again, Soixante-Trois only are because the EU would tear them a new arsehole. And no jokes about me and ‘tearing new holes’!”

“What- what’s it like?” Sophie found herself asking, only realising once the words had left her mouth that she had actually asked that question.

“…Takes a bit of getting used to!” Anna-Jade giggled, clearly comfortable discussing it with another transgendered woman.

“I can imagine,” Sophie chuckled.

“Yeah, I bet you fucking have!” Anna-Jade teased, sighing as Sophie started to blush. “I- I’m sorry if I touched a bit of a nerve there- Sophie, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Sophie replied, fidgeting in her feminine clothing, which suddenly felt more uncomfortable than ever.

“There’s no need to be so shy, Sophie,” Anna-Jade said. “We ARE all girls here. Doesn’t matter what you’ve got under your skirt or what types of hormones you’ve got flowing through your veins. You tell me you’re a girl and your name’s Sophie, that’s good enough for me.”

“…Thanks,” Sophie mumbled, thankful that she was well-practised enough to unquestionably pass as a girl.

“You just started HRT, then?” Anna-Jade enquired.

“Umm… Not yet, no,” Sophie mumbled. “Only, umm, only just started-“

“Just started living full-time?” Anna-Jade asked, smiling as the Englishwoman nodded. “It’s okay. You’ll get there eventually. Within a few years you may even be sat on a rubber ring having regular dates with these things!” Sophie tried not to shiver at the sight of the long, stiff plastic rods Anna-Jade withdrew from a nearby pouch- or the thought of inserting them into a part of her anatomy that didn’t even exist.

“…Maybe!” Sophie said with as much forced enthusiasm as she could muster, before bracing herself for an evening full of questions- most of which she knew she’d end up having to answer, rather than ask…


“So, how’d you like Wembley Stadium?” Paige asked her soon-to-be family as they tucked into their starter at the expensive restaurant she and Jessica had booked. “I mean, it’s not a patch on Hampden…”

“That- that’s the Scotland national stadium, right?” Jessica’s father asked.

“See?” Jessica asked with a smug grin. “You guys ARE getting to know each other!” the American woman giggled as her fiancée gave her a sly elbow to the ribs, before breaking down in a fit of giggles herself.

“And in fairness, Hampden is like a school playing field compared to some of the big American stadiums,” Paige said.

“Next time you’re over, we’ll have to take you to a game at The Bank,” Mr. Tyler said with a wide grin.

“Or if the Ravens make the Super Bowl, you can come over for that!” Aaron said, making Paige and her fiancée giggle.

“Keep dreaming, Aaron,” Jessica teased her brother, before letting out a long, happy sigh. “You know… I’m so happy we can just sit round a table and laugh like this. After everything that’s happened the last few years, the arguments… It really means so, SO much to me that we can all be together like this.”

“No matter how much we argue,” Mrs. Tyler said softly, “and no matter what gender you choose to be, you’ll always be our child, and we’ll always love you.” Jessica tried not to bristle at the use of the phrasing ‘what gender you choose to be’, but she decided not to challenge it. Jessica knew that her mother would probably never be able to fully understand what it was like to be transgendered, she’d never understand the sheer need that she- and Paige, for that matter- had to abandon their old identity in favour of the person they always wanted to be, deep down. But that was okay- Jessica didn’t need her mother to fully understand her, she just needed her to love her, and to accept her.

“You’re happy, you’re healthy, you’re making good money and you’re engaged to the girl of your dreams,” Mr. Tyler said. “No parent could ask for anything more for their child. Of course, it would be nice if we didn’t have to take a transatlantic flight every time we wanted to see you- both of you- face to face…”

“Going to be a while before Soixante-Trois goes transatlantic,” Jessica said in a voice barely louder than a mumble. “And it’s not like I’m the only one of your daughters living over a thousand miles away from home…”

“Oh- shut up!” Hayley mumbled.

“I still don’t know why you couldn’t have gone to a university on the east coast, like your brother,” Mrs. Tyler said.

“I want to be my own person, do my own thing,” Hayley replied. “And Minnesota’s got one of the best law schools in the country.”

“It’d going to be different, that big house with no children in it,” Mr. Tyler mused. “Especially with no grandchildren on the horizon…” The glance Jessica father gave her reminded the American woman that he knew exactly why she wasn’t going to produce children any time soon- or at the very least, no biological children.

“Can you- can you wait until your last child has moved out please, before going on about grandchildren?” Jessica asked, making her family chuckle. “You’re, what, 51?”

“…My sisters are both over thirty, and neither of them are married or have kids yet,” Paige interjected.

“Not really helping,” Jessica whispered, sharing a frown with her fiancée.

“Umm…” Paige mumbled. “When- when you go to Minnesota, we’ll give you the contact details of a couple of girls we met when we were there in July, they’re really friendly and I’m sure they’ll help you settle in…”

“I think they recently got engaged too,” Jessica said. “Wonder what people now would think if they knew that someone who’ll be president thirty years from now was mentored by a lesbian couple, one of whom was transgendered?”

“Oh- shut up!” Hayley protested. “I’m studying law, not politics…”

“Like Bill Clinton and FDR?” Paige teased.

“You- you really do know your American history, don’t you?” Aaron asked, making his future sister-in-law blush.

“Aye, I love everything about your country, you know that,” Paige giggled. “Especially its daughters, hehe!”

“And all but one of its sons, right?” Jessica teased, giggling as Paige loudly sighed and rolled her mismatched eyes.

“…I’m not taking a drink this time, you brought him up!” The Scottish woman snarled, earning looks of confusion from her future in-laws.

“Normally, every time Paige starts talking politics, we make her take a drink,” Jessica explained, making her parents and her siblings giggle.

“I know an office that could use a rule like that,” Mr. Tyler chuckled. “One of the best things about London: No ‘Make American Great Again’ signs anywhere.”

“Maybe you could get your office to install a ‘Trump Jar’?” Aaron suggested. “Our dorm has one, it was inspired by that show Jessica watches, with the Australian host.”

“And the really cute guy with the curly hair,” Hayley giggled.

“I’ll have to suggest it when we get back,” Mr. Tyler chuckled.

“I know Rachel’s bar has a ‘Masson Jar’ in it,” Jessica giggled. “Kinda makes it tricky to talk about work there, heh.”

“Think that was the idea,” Paige teased her fiancée, who responded with a giggle. “Should have them on some flights, heh!”

“Ugh, especially the Paris ones,” Jessica sighed. “Which is where I’ll be going all this week.”

“Well, I’m sure thing will go just as smoothly as usual, especially with you in charge of the flights!” Mrs. Tyler said with a proud grin. “You don’t mentor anyone now that you’re a flight supervisor, do you?”

“Umm, not anymore,” Jessica said. “And Paige didn’t take a trainee this time round but she’s on the list for November. Though when you’re supervisor, you do fly with a lot of the girls who are still in probation.”

“You got any of the new girls this week?” Paige asked. “On any of your flights?”

“Yeah, Tuesday I’m flying with Sophie, Rachel’s cousin,” Jessica said. “Sweet girl. Obviously still struggling a little to settle in.”

“With the company, you mean?” Mrs. Tyler asked.

Yeah,” Jessica replied. “…And, kinda, you know, in other ways too…”


Sophie groaned as her alarm clock woke her just before 5am, signalling the start of another working week. After swinging her smooth, hairless legs out of her bed, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in her bedroom mirror and let out a long sigh. Even without make-up, if she’d been asked to guess which gender she was, she would have said ‘female’ a hundred times out of a hundred- a misconception definitely helped by the glossy red polish on all twenty of her nails and the soft fabric and feminine cut of the vest and shorts she wore to bed.

As the morning progressed, Sophie found herself trying to contain her shudders as every action she took pushed her further and further down the path of femininity. From showering with various scented shampoos and shower gels, to shaving off any stray body hair with her Ladyshave, to pulling on her groin-flattening thong and padded bra, to knocking on Amy’s door and enlisting her help to tighten her company-mandated corset, Sophie felt herself being smothered more and more by her assumed identity, but the most damning thing to Sophie was that the more she did this new morning routine, the more normal it felt to her. The sensations of the clothes covering her body, her altered gait from walking in high heels, the smell of her overtly feminine apartment, walking through Heathrow Airport with the eyes of every male commuters on her, getting changed into her uniform in front of other women, transgendered and cisgendered alike… All of it, much to Sophie’s horror, was becoming commonplace, like ‘Sophie’ was who she really was, and ‘James’ was a fake identity she assumed at weekends…

“…Our stewardesses for today are Jemma,” Carly- the flight supervisor- announced to the passengers in the cabin. “Paige, and Sophie. Take off will be in five minutes. Flight duration today 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!” Sophie took as deep a breath as her corset would allow, before adjusting her blue pillbox hat and sitting down, smoothing her straight blue skirt over her nylon-covered thighs.

“Hey,” Sophie heard a strong Scottish accent whisper from the seat next to her. “It- it’s Sophie, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Sophie replied, smiling involuntarily at the grin- and the mismatched blue and green eyes- on her face. “P- Paige, right? You were at the game yesterday…”

“Aye,” Paige replied. “Had to skip out after the game though, dinner with the future in-laws, heh!” Sophie giggled as Paige waved her left hand, and more importantly, the pale band around the third finger. "Just pretend our uniform code isn't so strict and that there's a diamond ring there, hehe!"

“Nice,” Sophie said with as much fake enthusiasm as she could muster. “How long are they in town?”

“Flew back last night,” Paige said. “Aaron’s got college, Hayley’s in her final year of high school so they can’t afford too much time away. Obviously they DIDN’T fly Soixante-Trois heh. Though that is only because they don’t go to America, of course!”

“Yeah,” Sophie replied. “Paige, do- do you know Anna-Jade?”

“Heh, worked with her for three years and lived with her in Paris AND London, so I’d say so!” Paige replied with a giggle. “Did you see her last night? How’s she doing?”

“She’s doing fine,” Sophie replied. “Swearing a lot, though.”

“Ah, so back to normal, then?” Paige asked with a giggle. “Good to know, as it’s my turn next!”

“Your… ‘turn’?” Sophie asked, before her eyes went wide as the Scottish girl mimed a ‘scissoring’ motion. “…Oh.”

“Yep,” Paige said. “Might- might have to wait until we’re NOT in front of passengers before talking about this in any further detail, hehe!”

“There- there’s no need,” Sophie said, gripping the armrests of her chair as the jet thundered down the runway at take-off thrust. “I mean, it’s sensitive, right?”

“I’m a girl, you’re a girl,” Paige shrugged. “And from what I understand from Jess and a few others, you’re you know, not only new to the company… I know- I know you’re technically Abbey’s newbie, but, you know? With ‘great experience’ comes great responsibility, that sort of thing.”

“I- I don’t get it…” Sophie mumbled.

“…I’ll explain when we’re in the air,” Paige said with a wink.

A few minutes later, once the ‘fasten seat belts’ light had extinguished, Paige and Sophie headed to the kitchen area at the rear of the plane, where Sophie began boiling kettles and preparing snacks for the plane’s passengers while Paige began unsecuring her drinks trolley.

“What I was saying,” Paige said with a warm smile, “is that I’ve been taking oestrogen now for almost two and a half years. I know what to expect, all the steps to take, all the hurdles you’ll go through in your transition… If you ever have any questions, all you need to do is ask.”

“…Thanks,” Sophie said with a shy grin. “I- I think I’ll be okay, though.” Especially as a few months from now, ‘Sophie’ will just be a memory, the Englishwoman thought to herself- a thought she had every time she felt her feminine life starting to overwhelm her.

“Offer’s always on the table,” Paige said. “A very wise, not to mention sexy, not to mention transgendered woman said that you can never have too many friends, after all!”

“Yeah,” Sophie nervously chuckled.

“And god knows,” Paige sighed. “Working for this place, you’ll need all the friends you can get, heh.”

“The- the tutu project?” Sophie asked.

“How- how the fuck did you know about that?” Paige whispered, before nodding as a wave of realisation washed over her face. “…Of course, you’re Rachel’s cousin, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, that’s how I found out about it,” Sophie replied, happy not to have to lie to the Scottish woman. “I heard something about ‘Little Bo Peep’?” Sophie looked on with a puzzled look on her face as Paige almost bent double with laughter.

“Ask your cousin to show you the video if she hasn’t already,” Paige said. “And before you ask, yes, the costumes are real- ALL of them, hehe!” Great, another thing for me to dread wearing, Sophie thought to herself.

“Will do,” Sophie said. “Didn’t realise the tutu project was so, well…”

“Secretive?” Paige asked. “Kinda need to be.”

“I was thinking more ‘organised’,” Sophie said. “Like, you know, a proper ‘gang’, that sort of thing.”

“Or a union?” Paige asked, making Sophie smirk as she remembered Natalie’s words from the previous night. “Got to stand up for ourselves somehow. You been to Paris yet?”

“Umm, once, when I was observing,” Sophie replied. “Doing it, you know, ‘properly’ tomorrow.”

“They have become REALLY bad lately,” Paige sighed. “They’re pretty much exclusively used to ferry friends and colleagues of Masson back and forth, while he builds up his London base, anyway. On those flight the customer isn’t just right, they’re fucking GOD.” The Scottish woman let out a long sigh as the call light illuminated within the cabin. “Ugh, speaking of… We’ll talk in a bit, Soph.”

“Sure,” Sophie said as Paige pushed the heavy trolley out into the cabin. Sophie allowed herself an internal smirk as she watched the Scottish girl go- she’d known that Paige and her close circle of friends had been members of the tutu project, but now that they knew that she knew about it, she hoped it would mean that they’d be more happy to open up to her and give her a LOT more material to work with.

However, for the rest of the flights to and from Dublin, all Paige was interested was talking about was her transition and Sophie’s ‘transition’. The Englishwoman fielded questions from her Scottish colleague about her counselling sessions, the pros and cons of HRT, and even a description of the recovery process for SRS, which, when combined with the turbulence on the plane, caused Sophie to start to feel queasy. Any questions about the tutu project were quickly glossed over by Paige, frustrating any hope Sophie had of gaining more material for her expose.

Nonetheless, as they disembarked the plane, Sophie was left with the definite impression that she’d made a new friend. Paige had opened up to Sophie like they’d been old friends, and not once had she felt awkward around her, not once had Paige treated Sophie as anything than a fully-fledged female. However, with every passing minute, Sophie felt herself growing more and more awkward- though she couldn’t tell if it was because of the way Paige was perceiving her, or because she was afraid of what the Scottish girl would think if she learned ‘the truth’ about her…

“Thank you for flying with Soixante-Trois Airlines!” Sophie said with an enthusiastic squeak as the numerous passengers disembarked in front of her, barely acknowledging her existence.

“Thank you, young ‘lady’,” an older woman said, looking disinterestedly at Sophie as she walked through the tunnel connecting the plane to the airport. Sophie kept her fake, plastic smile plastered to her face as the passengers disembarked, but once the last one was out of sight, she let out a long sigh- and much to her surprise, so did her new friend.

“I heard what that woman said,” Paige grumbled. “Don’t take it to heart, okay?”

“Why do they even fly with the airline if they think that way about transgendered people?” Sophie asked.

“Heh, I wondered the same thing myself for a long time,” Paige chuckled. “Then I found out the answer, and you’ll LOVE it.”

“Go on,” Sophie asked, her journalistic instincts tingling at the possibility of more information.

“It’s so ironic,” Paige laughed. “Most of Soixante-Trois’s customers are corporate, businesses making block bookings for regular commuters and corporate getaways, that sort of thing.”

“Yes…” Sophie prompted.

“If any of these businesses threatened to withdraw their custom,” Paige said, barely suppressing her giggle, “Soixante-Trois would simply threaten to report them to the EU on the grounds of discrimination.”

“What- really?” Sophie asked.

“Yep,” Paige said. “The same company that treats us like disposable Barbie dolls is only too happy to ride to our defence the second it affects their profit margins. And not one second before.”

“Has this ever happened?” Sophie asked. “Have they ever made good on that threat?”

“Never had to,” Paige shrugged. “Reckon everyone’s scared of the negative publicity, heh. And it’s only on certain routes, red route’s usually better as it’s full of holidaymakers and families. And there’s another less ‘official’ reason why I reckon everyone keeps flying with us.”

“Go on…” Sophie said in a teasing voice.

“Because there are middle-aged men out there who get off on the idea of young quote-unquote men dressing up as sexy stewardesses and serving their every whim,” Paige snorted. “Maybe repressing something, I dunno.”

“Or they get off on the idea of demeaning us,” Sophie mumbled.

“Uh- no,” Paige retorted with a snort of laughter. “No, no, no, no, no. No one is fucking well demeaning me!”

“Yeah- but, umm, you know,” Sophie mumbled. “They might see it…?”

“They can see whatever they want, I don’t care,” Paige said defiantly. “First time I put on this uniform, I wasn’t even on hormones yet. But it gave me the kind of confidence ‘Paul’ never, ever had. I’m sexy and I SO know it. When I take the uniform off, I go home, snog my fiancée- my also transgendered and female fiancée- change into a comfy short skirt- about as normal as it’s possible for clothing to get- before making dinner, eating dinner, spending the evening cuddled up on the sofa watching Netflix and heading to bed.”

“…Sounds like most people’s evening?” Sophie replied, musing that for her, the short skirt was also becoming an increasingly normal part of her evening routine.

“Exactly,” Paige said. “But I’m sure some people reckon we get shoved into a box or something, or spend the whole evening weeping at the slightest criticism or sneer or something.”

“Maybe a customer service role ISN’T for you?” Sophie asked, making the Scottish girl giggle.

“Oh, I don’t mind customer SERVICE,” Paige said. “It’s the customers who kinda ruin it, hehe!” Sophie smiled as she and the rest of the cabin crew finished the post-flight checks, before heading back to the locker room to change into their commuting clothes. As always, Sophie was forced to smirk at the total comfort the other women- all of whom were either genetic women or on HRT- had when stripping down to their underwear in front of her, a comfort that was slowly growing in Sophie herself as she removed her uniform to expose the bra, thong and corset covering her body- something that mere weeks ago would likely have induced a panic attack in her.

Sophie’s ‘new normal’ continued when she exchanged gentle hugs with Paige and her other colleagues before heading to the nearest tube station, which ferried her back to the small London flat that she called ‘home’. Sophie let out a long sigh as she opened the front door of the flat, both at the relief of finally being home, and the sound of a loud, excited discussion coming from the living room.

“Hey girls!” Sophie said with as much enthusiasm as she could muster as she entered the living room, though her tiredness was plain to see for her friends.

“Hey girl,” Amy replied. “Now THAT is the sound of someone who’s been badly overworked today, hehe!”

“Good guess,” Sophie said, sitting down on the sofa next to Hayley and letting out a long, happy sigh as she slipped off her high-heeled shoes.

“Bet you never thought you’d get sick of heels, eh?” Hayley asked with a giggle.

“…No,” Sophie replied, chuckling to disguise her lie.

“Soixante-Trois Airlines,” Amy announced dramatically. “The only employer that can make even trannies fed up of women’s clothing! Well, apart from skirts, obviously. And hose.”

“And lacy underwear,” Hayley said.

“And make-up and mail polish,” Amy continued. “If they just did away with the corsets and gave us lower heels to wear on flights, it’d be the perfect employer!”

“…Apart from the customers, right?” Sophie asked, earning giggles from her flat mates.

“Ah, not ANOTHER moron?” Amy asked, making Sophie blush.

“As they were disembarking,” Sophie replied. “Said the phrase ‘young lady’, with the emphasis-“

“Yeah, not hard to guess,” Amy sighed. “I get that a lot, even with being 5’ 4” and very, VERY cute, hehe!”

“A lot of genetic girls get it too,” Hayley said. “Doesn’t make it any less inexcusable. Of course, if my doctor would just prescribe me oestrogen…”

“Ah, here we go,” Amy sighed. “You know this sort of thing doesn’t happen overnight. Took me two months before I got my prescription, Soph isn’t on them either…”

“Doesn’t mean I need it any less!” Hayley protested. Sophie took a deep breath as she rose from the sofa to change out of her commuting attire, knowing full well exactly what was going to be said over the course of the following ten minutes. Hayley would complain about her lack of hormones, Amy would remind Hayley that transformations are slow by their very nature, Hayley would complain about it hindering her chances to get a gender recognition certificate, Amy would remind her that she doesn’t have one either… Sophie had been dragged into the argument far too many times- by both women- and on each occasion she’d felt more uncomfortable than she’d ever felt in her whole life. And as Sophie noted as she slowly unlaced her corset, there was definitely a lot of competition for that ‘honour’.

When Sophie emerged from her bedroom she wasn’t surprised to find that the argument was still raging, but she was surprised when it almost immediately stopped as she plopped herself back down on the sofa.

“…What?” Sophie asked, tensing up as her flat mates regarded her with confused, almost judgemental stares.

“What we were saying about getting fed up of women’s clothing,” Amy said, making Sophie roll her eyes.

“This IS women’s clothing,” Sophie sighed, gesturing to her pink hoodie and grey sweat pants and preparing to put on one of her regular ‘acts’. “Do you know how you can tell?”

“Is it…” Amy replied, the smile returning to her face. “Because it’s infinitely more comfortable than BOYs’ clothing in every imaginable way?”

“Got it in one,” Sophie said with a smug grin- even as she was forced to admit to herself that Amy was right- the lounge wear was far more comfortable than anything ‘James’ had owned, and even when ‘Sophie’ was a memory, she could easily visualise ‘James’ lounging around in the same hoodie and trousers.

“It’s not good for your skin to leave make-up on too long anyway,” Hayley concurred, playfully brushing a stray hair out of Sophie’s face even as the brown-haired girl protested.

“Even though with the amount the company makes up wear, you need a jackhammer to remove it!” Amy giggled.

“Yeah,” Sophie giggled, before frowning as an awkward silence filled the room. “…So, then? Who won this time?”

“Ugh, there are NEVER any winners in THAT argument,” Amy moaned.

“There might be if there was, say, someone to break the tie…” Hayley said, staring intently at Sophie, who simply sighed in response.

“Forget it,” Sophie said, making her flat mates giggle- something that caused her to involuntarily smirk.

“And besides, it’s not like we don’t support you, right?” Amy asked.

“Umm- yeah, that’s right!” Sophie concurred.

“You’ll get oestrogen eventually, Hayley,” Amy said softly. “You just need to stop pushing it so much, relax, let it happen. Learn to love life the way you are.”

“I know,” the 19 year old woman sighed.

“Same goes for you, Sophie,” Amy said, making the brown-haired woman’s eyes go wide.

“Umm… Okay, I guess…” Sophie mumbled.

“I know, I know,” Amy giggled. “It’s not a priority for you right now. But sooner or later, the call of the girl will draw you in and there’ll be no going back…” Fat chance, Sophie thought to herself.

“I know I should be patient,” Hayley moaned, curling her legs underneath her and snuggling as deep into the sofa as she could go. “I- I guess I’m just stressed out about my dad, you know, I mean, he- sorry, she- she’s been on oestrogen for god knows how long…” As Hayley began talking about her dad, Sophie couldn’t help but notice that Amy immediately started fidgeting, looking extremely uncomfortable with the topic of conversation.

“Do- do you reckon we’re, like, a proper ‘gang’?” Amy asked. “Not in, like, the guns and violence kind of way, but like the Angels, I mean?”

“Umm, I guess,” Hayley mumbled, confused by the sudden change in the topic of conversation.

“But what should we call ourselves?” Amy asked. “We’ve got to have, like, a group name, right?”

“…Do we really?” Sophie asked, bemused by the sudden turn the conversation had taken.

“Team ASH,” Amy said with a confident grin. “As in Amy, Sophie, Hayley, right?”

“Makes sense,” Hayley says. “Putting Soph in the middle to keep the two of us apart…”

“Ah, where would we be without you, Soph?” Amy asked, making Sophie blush and embarrassedly giggle.

“Ah, don’t feel too bad,” Hayley reassured the brown-haired woman. “That’s just Amy admitting that you’re maturer than both of us put together!”

“By miles,” Amy concurred.

“As compliments go…” Sophie teased, before shrugging. “Meh, I’ll take it!” Sophie let out a long, genuine giggle with her flat mates as she felt herself relax more and more. When Sophie went to bed at the end of the evening, she had to admit to herself that she’d truly enjoyed the evening, and that regardless of what happened in the future, she hoped she’d be able to remain friends with her flat mates- though whether or not they’d want to be a member of ‘Team AJH’ was another matter entirely…

The following morning, Sophie had her usual plastic smile on her heavily made-up face as she and her colleagues performed the pre-flight safety briefing for her passengers, though on this particular morning, it wasn’t quite as fake as it had been previously. Sophie mused as she sat down at the end of the briefing that even the heels had started to feel less high, her skirt less tight and her corset less restrictive…

“Penny for your thoughts?” Jessica asked as the plane started to slowly taxi down the runway.

“Hmm?” Sophie replied. “Oh, umm, nothing. Just- just, you know, eager to get through the day, got tomorrow AND Thursday off.” Unless you count writing up the expose as work anyway, Sophie thought to herself.

“Ah, so jealous,” Jessica giggled. “I’m at work all week but Paige has got tomorrow and Thursday off as well. The- ah… I think we’d better continue this conversation in private, hehe!”

“Sounds good to me!” Sophie said, smiling at the thought of more material for her expose as the plane roared down the runway.

A few minutes later, when the plane was high above the English Channel, Jessica and Sophie rose from their seats and headed into the plane’s kitchen, where the brown-haired Englishwoman began preparing the refreshment trolley in the same practised manner she’d seen Paige do the previous day. Jessica, however, wasted no time in continuing the conversation she’d begun while the plane was taking off.

“Normally I wouldn’t be doing this,” Jessica said as she began to fill jugs with water. “Flight supervisors do get to delegate, but I did want to talk to you in particular, Sophie.”

“…Really?” The Englishwoman nervously replied.

“Yeah,” Jessica said. “I figure anyone who knows the name ‘tutu project’ and hasn’t told Alana about it must be trustworthy, right?”

“Right…” Sophie replied, a grin quickly spreading across her face. “Paige told you that I mentioned it yesterday, then?”

“We do kinda share a lot,” Jessica giggled. “Has Rachel shown you the video yet?”

“Video?” Sophie asked. “Or you- of your and Paige’s proposal, you mean?”

“No, but I’ll circle back to that in a bit,” Jessica said, giggling happily at the memory of the day she and Paige got engaged. “It’s- well, next time you see Rachel, ask her to show you ‘the video’. She’ll know what you mean!”

“Will do,” Sophie said with a grin of her own.

“As for me and Paige… Yeah,” Jessica said, her smile quickly fading. “That video of us getting engaged didn’t exactly win us any favours with management.”

“Yeah, you mentioned before,” Sophie said.

“So, me and Paige are literally NEVER scheduled off on the same day,” Jessica sighed. “Our management can be truly spiteful at times. They can’t punish us properly, but they’ll make sure we ‘know our place’ somehow. We both do the Paris route a lot more than usual, too.”

“I’ve heard some horror stories,” Sophie said. “This is my first time as, you know, a ‘live’ flight attendant…”

“Looks like you’re about to find out,” Jessica sighed, pointing to the call light in the kitchen. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Sophie whispered, straightening her hat and her skirt before pushing the trolley out into the cabin, where she quickly located the passenger who had summoned her. Much to Sophie’s chagrin, the passenger was middle-aged, male and wore an expensive business suit on his body… And a very deep scowl on his face.

“Good morning sir, how may I help you?” Sophie asked in her sweetest voice.

“Mmph,” the man grunted in response, confusing the young flight attendant.

“I- I’m sorry, sir?” Sophie asked. “How- how can I hel-“

“I asked for a brandy, you stupid girl!” The businessman spat in a refined Parisian accent. “Do your ears not work or do you have no brain?” Does your dick not work, Sophie thought to herself.

“My apologies, sir,” Sophie said, pouring the business man a drink and carefully laying it on a napkin on his tray table, doing her best to ensure he had nothing further to complain about. However, as hard as she tried, Sophie knew instinctively that her best simply wasn’t going to be good enough…

“You nearly spilled it!” The businessman snarled. Really? Sophie thought to herself with a heavy internal sigh.

“I apologise sir,” Sophie simpered. “I’ll try harder next time.”

“So you didn’t try hardest this time?” The businessman spat, making Sophie blush furiously as his friends all laughed at her expense.

“I- I-“ Sophie stammered.

“Just get lost,” the businessman scoffed, chuckling evilly as Sophie dragged her trolley back to the kitchen.

“If you want to sit down, have a cry, go ahead,” Jessica whispered softly. “I’ll take the trolley out the next few calls.”

“Thanks,” Sophie sniffled, trying her hardest not to cry. “Why- why should we put up with this?”

“The man you served was Bertrand Marchal,” Jessica explained. “Old friend of Antoine Masson, on the board of Soixante-Trois Industries- Industries, not just the airline- and worth several hundred million Euros in his own right. You make a fuss, you’re more likely to get fired yourself.”

“Money doesn’t equal a good character, obviously,” Sophie spat.

“Yeah, look at the government of my homeland if you want more proof,” Jessica snorted. “Masson’s friends have this game, the first to make a stewardess cry ‘wins’.”

“What do they win?” Sophie asked. “A big badge with twat written on it?”

“They should!” Jessica asked, laughing heartily before sighing as the call light illuminated again. “Stay here, take several deep breaths.” Sophie nodded and remained in the kitchen for the next two minutes, before Jessica returned with a deep frown on her face.

“…Don’t need to ask, do I?” Sophie asked with a sympathetic smile.

“For what it’s worth, they didn’t ‘win’,” Jessica replied. “Every time you rise above it, YOU win.”

“Easier said than done,” Sophie sighed. “Have- has no one ever even tried to challenge management about this?”

“Where’s the point?” Jessica shrugged. “We do, we get fired and replaced at the drop of a hat. Tutu project’s only, like, a very tiny part of the company.”

“But what if it was bigger?” Sophie asked. “What if literally every stewardess complained at once? They can’t fire everyone.”

“Are- are you talking about a union?” Jessica asked. “Or- or even a strike? That’d never happen…”

“Never say never,” Sophie whispered. “Things can’t carry on the way they’re going, can they?”

“Sadly, that’s not for us to decide,” Jessica said, sighing as the call light illuminated yet again.

Fortunately for Sophie- and the rest of the cabin crew- the flight back from Paris to London was less stressful, with the businessmen tired from a hard day’s work, but as the last of the passengers disembarked at Heathrow, Sophie still let out a long, pained sigh.

“Ah, take a deep breath, you won’t have to even look at another passenger until Friday!” Jessica teased. “Where are you off to then?”

“Umm, Amsterdam,” Sophie replied. “Being kept on blue route while I’m still in probation.”

“Yeah, but you’ll be out of probation in November,” Jessica said with a smile. “And red route is REALLY enjoyable in winter, trust me. I would say I’d put in a good word with Alana to get you transferred, but if I put in the word you’d probably end up flying to Iceland in December or somewhere like that.”

“Does the airline even fly to Iceland?” Sophie asked.

“Wouldn’t surprise me if they started flying there just to punish us,” Jessica snorted. “Either way, don’t worry too much about it. Keep your nose clean, don’t mention the tutu project to anyone- especially Alana- and you’ll be fine.” Not even Team ASH? Sophie thought to herself, before frowning as that thought began to linger in her mind.

“Have- have you flown with, umm, Amy Harris or Hayley Fisher?” Sophie asked.

“Yeah, I flew with Hayley yesterday, actually,” Jessica asked. “And I’ve been on a few flights with Amy before, too. They’re your flat mates, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Sophie said. “They’re pretty cool, you know?”

“Asking if they’d be suitable for the project?” Jessica asked. “Your cousin’s the best person to ask there.”

“My cous- oh, Rachel?” Sophie asked.

“You have more than one cousin?” Jessica asked, before rolling her eyes. “Heh, silly question, most people probably do! But yeah, if- if you want to, you know, ‘induct’ them, I’d ask Rachel. But I would be kinda careful, you know? This dream of a union you have will die the second you talk to the wrong person, or if Alana gets wind of it… Don’t want to get fired just six weeks into the job, do you?”

“Not really,” Sophie replied. “It’s just- you know?”

“You want your ‘gang’ to be integrated into the rest of the ‘gang’?” Jessica asked with a grin. “Understandable. I mean, I guess if Rachel trusts you to be in the tutu project, you must be a good judge of character, hehe! Just be thankful there are no initiation rituals, like a fraternity- sorry, I mean sorority!”

“Yeah,” Sophie chuckled.

“Unless, of course, you want there to be an initiation ceremony,” Jessica teased. “You’d have to dress up in a sexy costume…”

“I- I’ll pass, thanks,” Sophie chuckled.

“Saving it for when you pass probation?” Jessica giggled. “You can never have too many parties, you know…”

“Like you can never have too many friends?” Sophie asked, making Jessica giggle and nod.

“Okay, okay,” Jessica giggled, throwing her hands up in mock defeat. “Take Hayley and Amy to see Rachel, explain about the project. Just don’t drop me or Paige in it, okay?”

“Deal,” Sophie giggled as she and her colleagues completed their post-flight checks.

A short while later, with her uniform having been exchanged for a smart pencil dress, Sophie strode through the front door of her flat with a confident, determined look on her face. Amy and Hayley WERE her friends, and she WOULD include them in her life, and her projects- one project in particular…

“Hey Amy,” Sophie said to the ginger-haired woman, who was snuggled into her chair wear a very similar outfit to the one Sophie herself had worn the previous night. “You’re looking… Plain.”

“Kiss my arse,” Amy replied with a giggle. “I look, and feel, comfortable. Some brown-haired woman taught me about the joy of sweats yesterday evening!”

“Sounds like a clever woman,” Sophie said with a smug grin.

“Not to mention a woman who looks great in a smart dress and heels,” Amy said, making Sophie bite her lip with embarrassment. “…I’m just teasing, god! Anyway, how was the dreaded Paris run?”

“Dreaded,” Sophie snorted. “Justifiably dreaded, too.”

“Yeah, I’ve had to deal with ‘the game’ a few times,” Amy snorted. “I don’t let them get to me. They want to play their stupid game, I say let them. I’ll just smile even more, piss them off even more.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Sophie mused. “Rise above it… Don’t you- don’t you sometimes, wish, though?”

“…I spent most of my childhood wishing for one thing in particular,” Amy said, sighing as a guilty look crept across Sophie’s face. “…Then again, I guess I’m not the only one, heh. What, exactly, do I wish for?”

“Customers that behave themselves!” Sophie replied with a snort of laughter, studying her flat mate’s reaction carefully.

“…Literally every single flight,” Amy confessed. “As much as I rise above it there are times I just want to grab the coffee pot and dump it down the passengers’ trousers, heh. Though given the way they watch me wiggle up the aisle, they’d probably get off on that, heh.”

“No ‘probably’ about it,” Sophie said, making Amy giggle.

“Sometimes I wonder if they keep flying with us because they secretly fantasise about mincing around their homes with a feather duster shoved up their arse,” Amy snorts. “Or worse, it’s more than just a fantasy at times!”

“So you wouldn’t exactly call yourself Antoine Masson’s biggest fan, then?” Sophie asked.

“He probably shoved a vacuum cleaner up there, let alone a feather duster,” Amy said, smirking as Sophie almost bent double in fits of laughter. “This- this isn’t, you know, a secret test of character or something, is it? You don’t have a microphone hidden in your bra and this is all being broadcast to Soixante-Trois HQ, is it?”

“…Yes and no,” Sophie said with a warm smile. “I’m not, you know, a spy for Masson, but I may know a few people you might be interested in meeting… Fancy going down the pub?”

“Dressed like this? Umm, no?” Amy retorted.

“So get changed then,” Sophie said, earning a surprised look from her flat mate, followed by a loud giggle.

“…Deal,” Amy said. “On one condition- after last night, however girly I dress, you have to dress girlier!” Naturally, Sophie thought to herself. However, even she was forced to admit it was a small price to pay to get a co-conspirator onboard.

“Deal,” Sophie said, grinning as Amy jumped out of her chair and headed to her bedroom, while Sophie herself entered her own room.

Just over forty five minutes later, the two women walked into the pub side by side, each dressed in a short black skirt, a clingy low-cut top, sheer black tights and high heeled shoes- though as per their ‘agreement’, Sophie’s skirt was shorter, her top was clingier and her heels were much higher than Amy’s. And yet, as she walked up to the bar, Sophie found that she didn’t feel nearly as self-conscious as she did the first time she walked through the bar dressed in women’s clothing. She put this down at first to the fact that she was with Amy, who was dressed identically to her and in more or less the same situation as her, but as she sat down and unconsciously straightened her skirt, Sophie began to wonder whether or not she actually did feel comfortable in the revealing clothing…

“Evening, ladies!” Danny said with a warm grin. “What can I get for you?”

“Your missus, please,” Sophie replied with a warm grin of her own.

“In a glass or straight from the bottle?” Danny replied, laughing loudly as his partner snuck up behind him and hit him over the head with one of the pub’s menus.

“Make them two white wines,” Rachel ordered Danny, before turning to the two young women who had just walked in. “And good evening to you two ladies! What brings you in here?”

“She does,” Amy says, gesturing toward the blushing Sophie.

“Yeah,” Sophie said with a shy giggle. “Rachel Harrison, meet Amy Harris- Amy HarrisOFF.”

“Ah, so you work with Miss Connelly, then?” Rachel asked.

“And live with her, sadly,” Amy mock sighed, giggling as Sophie rolled her eyes. “But yes, I’ve worked for Soixante-Trois since May. And yes, I am, well, you know.”

“Yeah,” Rachel whispered. “You two- you two grab a table, a private one somewhere, I’ll join you in a bit.” The two young women smiled as they took their glasses of wine to a secluded booth in the corner of the pub, where Amy turned to Sophie with a look of concern on her face.

“That- you brought me here to meet Rachel Harrison?” Amy asked. “The same Rachel Harrison who is loathed by all of the airline’s management?”

“Trust me, the feeling mutual,” Sophie replied, sipping her drink. “And besides, she’s my cousin, I thought I told you that?”

“Well- yes, but- ugh, I didn't think you were THIS close...” the ginger-haired woman replied. “But- still, you know? Are you trying to get us fired?”

“You- you can’t fire someone for going to a pub, surely?” Sophie asked, before sighing. “And even if you can, you SHOULDN’T. Isn’t that what you were saying before we came here?”

“I said I wished that working conditions were a little better,” Amy replied. “But they’re not BAD, you know?”

“How many Paris flights have you done again?” Sophie retorted, silencing her flat mate as Rachel slid into the booth opposite them.

“So then,” the blonde woman said with a grin. “What, exactly, can I do for you two ladies?”

“I’ve been repeatedly told by mutual friends of ours that you have a video I may be interested in watching,” Sophie said, causing Rachel’s eyes to go wide.

“So- Sophie…” Rachel grimaced. “Can- can we talk in private, please?”

“Umm, but- but we just got here?” Sophie replied. “And our flat mate isn’t here yet…”

“We won’t be a second,” Rachel said, rising from her chair and grabbing Sophie by the arm. “Excuse us a second, Amy.” Sophie frowned in confusion as Rachel dragged her behind the bar and up the stairs to the pub’s private kitchen.

“What- what’s wrong?” Sophie asked as she was sat down by the 29 year old woman. “Did I do something wrong?”

“Uhh- yeah, just a bit!” Rachel sighed as she sat down opposite Sophie. “What exactly did I ask you to do?”

“Help make matters better for Soixante-Trois employees,” Sophie shrugged.

“That’s the GENERAL idea,” Rachel retorted. “What SPECIFICALLY is your role in this project?”

“…To gather information and write it up,” Sophie replied, her voice dipping into a quiet mumble.

“Exactly,” Rachel sighed.

“I’ve got a LOT of great information, honestly,” Sophie pleaded. “I could probably write it up now, even, but-“

“…’But’?” Rachel asked as Sophie hesitated.

“…But, umm,” the brown-haired girl mumbled. “I- I could get more if, you know, I get closer to the other stewardesses…”

“Well- probably,” Rachel said. “I’m not denying THAT, but- what exactly is this all about, Sophie?”

“I just think- I just think that Amy and Hayley would be good fits for the tutu project, that’s all,” Sophie shrugged.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Rachel said with a stern voice. “I’m not definitely saying no but you’ve known them how long, a month?”

“And lived with them for a month,” Sophie retorted. “I’ve got to know them. I- they’re, umm, they’re my friends…”

“Ah, I wondered whether or not this would happen,” Rachel sighed. “You’ve gone native, haven’t you, Sophie?”

“No,” Sophie retorted. “I- I just don’t like keeping secrets from my friends, that’s all…”

“You’re keeping a secret a hell of a lot bigger than the tutu project,” Rachel reminded the brown-haired girl. “Though… I suppose ‘going native’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you know?”

“Honestly, I’m NOT ‘going native’,” Sophie said futilely.

“You’re getting emotionally invested,” Rachel retorted. “You said yourself just now, you’re in this to make life better for the other stewardesses. And I noticed you using the word ‘other’. You- you consider yourself one of them, don’t you?”

“…Maybe,” Sophie mumbled.

“And- and when I say ‘them’,” Rachel asked hesitantly. “Does- does that include, you know… Not just being a stewardess, but being a woman too?”

“No,” Sophie immediately retorted, before sighing. “Maybe. I don’t know! The more it- the more THIS went on, the more I hated it. And not just the clothes, but the treatment as well, men treating me like- like I’m some piece of meat or something, like I’m some airheaded bimbo just because I’m wearing a skirt and make-up…”

“Imagine,” Rachel sarcastically snorted.

“But- you know?” Sophie sighed. “I’ve made friends, friends I never would have as ‘James’. And it’s not ALL bad, I mean, there are worse things than wearing a skirt, right?”

“I never thought it was all that bad,” Rachel shrugged. “Then again, I’m pretty sure the first time I wore a skirt, I was less than a year old, so I kinda have a lot of experience there…”

“…People get too hung up on ‘gender’,” Sophie mumbled.

“Spoken like a true T-girl,” Rachel teased, giggling as Sophie blushed.

“I’m not a true T-girl,” Sophie mumbled. “When this ends, I’m going to go back to being ‘James’. This is a purely temporary thing, not like Amy or Hayley.”

“Of course,” Rachel said.

“But I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Sophie continued. “Heh, maybe even enough to write another book. Sometimes I reckon every man should spend time living as a woman, reckon they’d learn a LOT of respect for us- for you- for them- ugh. Men should have more respect for women. Full stop.”

“Congratulations on not saying anything every woman hasn’t said before,” Rachel said, giggling as Sophie rolled her eyes. “I meant that as a compliment, believe it or not. There are far, far worse things than ‘going native as a girl’.”

“Just like there are worse things than wearing a skirt?” Sophie asked.

“Exactly,” Rachel said with a smug grin. “And yes, wearing a stupid corset and stumbling up airplane aisles in high heels definitely qualifies as ‘worse’, as does being treated like piece of meat by men who should have more respect. And on that note, I believe you asked to watch a video, didn’t you?”

“I did,” Sophie replied with a confident grin. “But we’ve left Amy downstairs for AGES, she must be wondering what’s happened to us…”

“Yeah…” Rachel grimaced. “I- I’m sorry, Soph, it’s just- there’s a LOT at stake here. Not just the expose, or even your job, if- if this video leaks, it could mess with a lot of people’s jobs, you know?”

“Okay,” Sophie sighed as she and Rachel rose from their table and headed back down to the public area of the bar. “But you have to believe me when I say that Amy and Hayley ARE cool. They won’t go squealing to Alana or to anyone called ‘Masson’, I promise. In fact, I’d be really surprised it ANY stewardess would.”

“Think we’re still miles away from THAT,” Rachel sighed. “But it won’t hurt to at least meet them!”

“Definitely!” Sophie giggled as the two women returned to the booth, where the found that Amy had been joined by the final resident of the flat.

“…Literally UP my skirt,” Hayley spat, eliciting a disgusted look from Amy. “I swear, from now on, I’m going to find a way to do this job on my knees. How he was able to angle his head like that anyway when he was supposed to be flying the plane… Ugh. Makes me sick!”

“Ooh, don’t need to guess who you’re talking about, do I?” Rachel giggled as she sat down and extended her hand to the newcomer. “You must be Hayley, right? I’m Rachel Harrison. Sophie’s told me a lot about you already!”

“All good, I hope?” Hayley asked, flashing a smug grin at Sophie.

“Can’t be any worse than what she said about me,” Amy giggled. “And yes, Hayley, this is THE Rachel Harrison.”

“My reputation precedes me, then?” Rachel asked.

“Management aren’t- umm, aren’t exactly, you know, fond of you,” Hayley mumbled. “I’m not even sure I should be here…”

“If- if you’d rather leave, then you should,” Rachel said softly as Sophie’s cheeks began to flush.

“If you want management to dictate to you how to spend your free time, anyway,” Sophie mumbled.

“We’ve only been working there for a month,” Hayley protested. “It’d mean nothing to the company to cut us loose, and I can’t afford to be unemployed right now!”

“But you can afford to have perverted pilots staring up your skirt, right?” Amy asked, bring the smile back to Sophie’s face.

“Yeah, well, he’s the nephew of the company’s owner,” Hayley sighed. “Not much I can do about THAT. And it’s not like he’ll be on every flight…”

“He will if he takes a liking to you,” Rachel said. “Take it from someone who knows FAR too well.”

“…Then I’ll tell him I’m trans,” Hayley shrugged.

“Yeah, like THAT will stop him,” Rachel snorted. “Fortunately, I know something that will. If Jacques Lacroix gets too close again, simply say the words ‘Little Bo Peep’ to him. That’ll shut him up pretty fast, hehe!”

“Why do I get the impression that this is REALLY something I shouldn’t know?” Hayley asked, a smile creeping onto her lips as Rachel glanced over at Sophie and let out a long, tired sigh.

“…Okay, okay,” Rachel chuckled. “Gather round, I’m not putting the sound on on this, but I’m sure you can probably infer what’s being said…” The three stewardesses all giggled excitedly as Rachel took her phone out of her pocket and loaded up a video. All three women were surprised when they were confronted by the sight of the dreaded co-pilot wearing a VERY unusual costume…

Half an hour later, after several more glasses of wine had been consumed and countless amounts of gossip had been exchanged, the four women in the booth all had happy, contented smiles on their faces, safe in the knowledge that new friends- and, more importantly, new allies- had been made.

“Did I, or didn’t I tell you?” Sophie asked Rachel, who playfully sighed and rolled her eyes.

“Yes, yes,” Rachel giggled. “And for what it’s worth… I do hope this makes you feel a little better.”

“Was our Sophie feeling unwell, then?” Hayley asked.

“It- it’s just that, umm,” Sophie mumbled. “I kinda- kinda don’t like, you know, keeping secrets…”

“Oh- don’t worry about that at all, seriously,” Amy chuckled. “Everyone has their secrets. Believe me on that one…” Yeah, Sophie thought to herself, not noticing the faraway look that had suddenly come over the ginger woman’s face. I bet my secrets are bigger than yours…

“You did always, you know, seem like you had something bugging you, some ‘dark secret’ or shit like that,” Hayley said softly.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were transgendered or something,” Amy quipped, earning giggles from all the girls at the booth. “But yeah, whatever help you need for this ‘tutu project’, me and Hayley will give it, won’t we?”

“Of course!” Hayley giggled. “Especially if it means we get to wear actual tutus, hehe!”

“Well…” Rachel said with a smug grin. “What will you girls be doing tomorrow at about 9:30am?”

“Nothing, probably getting a lie-in,” Hayley shrugged, to which Sophie nodded in agreement.

“Whereas I’ll probably be 5 miles above Germany,” Amy sighed. “Which IS a pity as I think I know what this might be…”

“Oh really, miss Harrisoff?” Rachel teased. “Care to enlighten the two newbies?”

“Put it this way,” Amy said with a devilish smirk, “it’s a pity we don’t have the time to go shopping right now for new clothes of a very, very specific kind…”

The following morning, Sophie had a nervous, almost terrified smile on her face as she stepped out of the taxi and followed Hayley into the small, modern building, the front door of which proudly bore the slogan ‘Welcome to the Krystie Fullerton School of Dance’. Sophie felt self-conscious dressed in her tight leggings, pink trainers and short athletic crop top, though she soon realised that the situation could have been a lot worse when she and Hayley were immediately greeted by Rachel.

“Hey girls!” the blonde woman excitedly squeaked, exchanging a hug with the two women. “You’re not exactly dressed for the occasion, but you’re okay if you’re only watching, hehe!”

“Meanwhile YOU’RE dressed like…?” Sophie replied, a look of surprise and disdain in her eyes.

“Like a woman going to her dance class,” Rachel replied, doing a twirl in her skin-tight black leotard and baby pink tights.

“Like a four year old going to her dance class, maybe,” Sophie said.

“What?” Rachel protested. “Just because I’m a few weeks shy of thirty, I’m not allowed to get dressed up for my dance class?”

“Well I for one am REALLY jealous,” Hayley giggled. “Hope I’ll still be allowed to get dressed up for a dance class when I’m SIXTY, hehe!”

“Think you might be going shopping after the lesson,” Rachel said with a wink, before giggling excitedly as the group was approached by a dark-haired woman that Sophie immediately recognised, and found herself involuntarily smiling at. “Ah, and here she is, the woman for whom the tutu project was named!”

“And the only one not to work for Soixante-Trois when the project was executed,” Zoe said with a giggle. “Rachel? You have brought me more students?”

“Possibly,” Rachel replied. “You already know Sophie, my cousin, I’d like you to meet Hayley Fisher, her colleague and flat mate.” Hayley giggled excitedly as she and Sophie exchanged air kisses with the Frenchwoman.

“It is a pleasure,” Zoe said. “Even if you are both not dressed for a lesson.”

“They didn’t really have time to go shopping last night,” Rachel said. “This was kinda a last minute thing…”

“It’s fine,” Zoe said. “You will have plenty of time to shop before your first lesson on Sunday! I would take you myself this morning but after this lesson I have to each my toddler class, and sadly we do not keep any adult sizes in stock here.” Sophie forced a giggle out of her mouth, even as she wondered how and when she’d suddenly signed up for a full-blown ballet class.

“Think we’re DEFINITELY going shopping after this lesson, hehe!” Hayley giggled, bouncing up and down with excitement. “So is- is this, like, a private lesson for members of the tutu project?”

“Not- not quite…” Rachel teased, pointing to a figure in the corner of the room, the identity of whom made Hayley’s jaw drop- and, much to her surprise, made Sophie’s jaw drop as well.

“Han- Hannah Dexter!?” Hayley squeaked, loud enough to attract the attention of the tall blonde supermodel.

“And is- is that Steph Abbott?” Sophie gasped, blushing as Rachel bent double in a fit of giggles and the small group was approached by the two famous women, both of whom were dressed identically to Rachel.

“Hi Rachel,” Hannah said in a teasing voice. “You brought some friends along today, then?”

“Hi have,” Rachel replied with a smug grin. “Hannah Dexter, meet Sophie Connelly and Hayley Fisher.”

“Hi girls!” Hannah giggled, exchanging air kisses with the star-struck young women. “Do you both work for Soixante-Trois, then?”

“Umm, yeah, hehe!” Sophie replied in a barely-coherent babble.

“Just, umm, just started last month,” Hayley mumbled, her cheeks turning a bright red.

“I think two LITTLE GIRLS might be a little embarrassed to be around all the celebrities,” Rachel teased, turning Hayley and Sophie’s cheeks an even brighter red.

“Hi Rachel,” Stephanie said as she approached the growing group. “Have- have you brought along fans?”

“Looks that way, doesn’t it?” Hannah teased.

“It was all made okay with me and Krystie,” Zoe reassured the young singer. “Two new members of my Sunday class who might come along on Wednesdays as well in future!”

“Stephanie Abbott, meet Sophie Connelly and Hayley Fisher!” Rachel said, giggling loudly as the transgendered singer exchanged air kisses with her two friends.

“Oh my god, I am SUCH a huge fan of yours!” Hayley squeaked.

“Thanks!” Stephanie giggled. “I- I can get you tickets for our London concert in October, if you’d like?”

“Oh my god, really?” Hayley squeaked in a pitch high enough to make Sophie wince.

“Filles? After the lesson?” Zoe ordered, making the two celebrities blush as she ordered them into the main body of the dance studio. “Though after the lesson, the four of us shall chat. If we are adding new members to the tutu project, then there needs to be a party, does there not?”

“Damn right there does!” Rachel giggled, leading Sophie and Hayley to the seats at the side of the studio before taking her place among the other women at the barre.

The lesson lasted for just over an hour, during which Sophie expected herself to be bored to tears, but found herself oddly enthralled by the sight of the young women dancing and stretching. 'James's tongue would likely have been on the floor at the sight, and Sophie had to admit to herself that even dressed as a girl, she was just as attracted to them- but that the attraction would only ever be one way. Even after the lesson ended, Sophie found herself lost in thought at the sight of the women, a reverie that was only broken when Rachel snapped her fingers in front of her face, causing Sophie to jump with shock.

“Lost in thought?” Rachel teased. “It wasn’t THAT boring, was it?”

“Umm- no, not really,” Sophie said.

“Glad to hear it,” Zoe giggled as she approached. “As your next free Sunday, it shall be you doing the dancing!”

“Umm- I dunno,” Sophie said hesitantly. “I’d- I’d be like a hippo on roller skates, heh.” And wearing a costume like that really would be a bridge too far, Sophie thought to herself- even though she was forced to admit that it was hardly any different than the underwear she wore on flights, and she had already worn a one-piece swimsuit to a pool party held by the company…

“Which is why it is a LESSON,” Zoe insisted. “I shall teach you to be graceful, elegant and feminine like any beautiful ballerina!”

“If you do, you’ll probably be the best teacher in the world!” Sophie giggled.

“Merci beaucoup,” Zoe replied with a smug grin. “And you are already elegant, are you not? You walk with grace in heels, do you not?”

“…I’ve practised,” Sophie mumbled.

“And you shall practise ballet too,” Zoe shrugged. “Look at the little girls coming into the studio now, you think any of them can dance The Nutcracker yet?”

“They- they’re three,” Sophie snorted.

“Some of them are two,” Zoe retorted. “But they will grow, and they will learn, and all of them shall be beautiful ballerinas, and if you put in the work, so will you. Both of you. Provided you dress appropriately for class, anyway!”

“Oh, don’t worry, THAT can be arranged!” Hayley giggled, bringing a wide grin to the Frenchwoman’s face. “Right, Soph?”

“Umm, yeah!” Sophie replied with forced enthusiasm, even as she tried to remind herself that shopping for dancewear was unlikely to be as embarrassing for her as shopping for underwear. Or swimwear. Or cosmetics. Or shoes… And it wasn’t like she didn’t pass for a convincing female. A more convincing female with every passing day, in fact…

“First though,” Rachel said, “tonight, we party! We’ve got three new members of the tutu project to induct!”

“Absolument!” Zoe giggled. “And I know just the woman to help us prepare! Madame Phillips-Thomas!” Sophie tried her best to smile as the group approached one of the young women who had been a part of the class, and who was now fussing over one of the tiny toddlers who’d entered the dance studio.

“You be good for Miss Renou, okay?” The brown-haired woman said to the toddler, who nodded enthusiastically. “Gonna give your big sister a hug?” All the women watching- including, much to her own surprise, Sophie- let out a happy sigh as the tiny girl leaned in to give the older girl a cuddle, before running off to join her friends in the centre of the room.

“Hey Nikki!” Rachel said to the brown-haired, leotard-clad woman.

“Hey Rachel!” Nikki replied with a happy giggle. “Ooh, got new friends for me to make?”

“I have indeed,” Rachel replied with a smug grin. “Hayley Fisher, Sophie Connelly, I’d like you to meet Nikki Thomas!”

“Nikki PHILLIPS-Thomas!” Nikki corrected the blonde woman, pointing to the gold band on her left hand before exchanging air kisses with the two women.

“They’re helping me and Zoe out with that project I’ve told you about before,” Rachel explained.

“You- you told her about the tutu project?” Sophie asked.

“Relax, Nikki’s sound,” Rachel said, making the brown-haired woman blush. “Need your party organising skills, MRS Phillips-Thomas! Sophie and Hayley, and their friend Amy, have just joined our little ‘conspiracy’ so we need to throw them a party to celebrate!”

“Say no more!” Nikki giggled as she led the group to the changing rooms, where she pulled a smartphone out of her dance bag and began composing a text message to Rachel. “These places do last-minute catering- and yes, booze- and they’re pretty affordable too. Not having the party at the pub, then?”

“A ‘tutu project’ party?” Rachel asked. “Emphasis on the ‘tutu’?”

“Ah, say no more!” Nikki giggled. “So, how long have you two been working for the airline?”

“Just a month,” Sophie replied, before biting her lip. “Umm, if you don’t mind me saying…”

“…Depends on what you’re saying,” Nikki replied with a cautious giggle.

“You- you don’t look, you know…” Sophie said hesitantly, earning a sigh from the brown-haired woman.

“…Okay,” Nikki said, biting her lip. “I’m surprised you have a problem with THIS if you work for Soixante-Trois, you know?”

“I- I know what?” Sophie asked. “I, um, I meant that you look a little young to be married… Did- did I just put my foot in it?”

“A little,” Hayley replied with a smug grin. “Nikki here is kinda- kinda a girl like, you know, like us?”

“Like us?” Sophie asked, before her eyes went wide in realisation. “Oh, you- you mean-“

“’Fraid so,” Nikki said with a giggle, her tension slowly easing. “Though in fairness, I couldn’t, you know, ‘tell’ either of you either, hehe!”

“Thanks,” Sophie chuckled, sure that she’d been paid a compliment but unsure how to react to it. “So, umm, how long have you- have you-“

“Since I was sixteen, four and a bit years ago,” Nikki replied with a proud smile.

“You- you got married when you were sixteen!?” Sophie asked, causing Nikki to giggle with embarrassment.

“Oh- god, not quite!” The brown haired woman laughed. “No, got married this summer just gone. Though I have been with my wife for six years this month, heh!”

“Wait, so that- so that means,” Sophie said as she racked her brains. “Your wife, she- she got with you when you were a boy, and is still with you now that you’re a woman?”

“…Bit of a blunt way of putting it, but basically, yeah,” Nikki said. “Of course, helps that we ARE soul mates, hehe!”

“She does sound pretty cool,” Sophie mused. “A lot of women wouldn’t look twice at a boy who became a woman…”

“Well- all those women suck, then,” Nikki shrugged. “True love overcomes silly things like ‘gender’.”

“Or even men who prefer to wear women’s clothes,” Zoe interjected. “Listen to someone who knows.”

“I think we can agree that femininity is, generally speaking, a very, VERY good thing,” Rachel said, exchanging a knowing smile with Sophie.

“It’s definitely not the worst thing in the world,” Sophie mused, a happy smile on her face as she giggled along with her new friends.

Later that night, Sophie had a nervous smile on her face as she stood in front of the women in the crowded flat, her hands crossed with Rachel’s, Amy’s and Hayley’s. Her costume was easily the most ridiculous thing she had ever worn- stretchy white tights, an embellished white leotard and a stiff white tutu skirt, along with a white feathered head-dress and stage make-up so thick it made her usual work make-up seem like nothing. Any real man would have felt mortified to wear such a costume, especially in such a setting, but Sophie found that she wasn’t embarrassed, not even slightly. As with the previous night's visit to the pub, Sophie put this down to the fact that her three friends were dressed identically to her, and all the other women in the room- all of whom WERE women, regardless of how they were born- were wearing the typical ballet attire of a black leotard and pink tights. If she hadn’t been dressed like a ballerina, then she’d have stuck out like a sore thumb and felt cause to be embarrassed. Sophie tried her hardest to convince herself of this, even as the music started and she began dancing in sync with her friends- even though the four women quickly became desynchronised, and their attempt at performing an elegant dance ended with all four of them laid on the ground in an undignified heap.

“…You cannot even give me three steps?” Zoe criticised, before giggling along with the four ‘swans’.

“How many lessons have we had again?” Amy protested, posing with her hands on her hips, before smiling sweetly and raising her hands above her head in a perfect fifth position.

“Then let us show you how it is done!” Zoe said with a smug grin. “Natalie, Nikki, Sarah!” The assembled crowd all cheered as the four women took to the front of the room and flawlessly performed the opening steps of the Dance of the Little Swans.

“Ahh…” Amy sighed happily as she sat down on the sofa next to Sophie, trying hard not to crush either of their frivolous tutus. “I’m gonna be able to dance like that soon.”

“You wish,” Hayley snorted as she sat down on the other side of Sophie.

“Yes, I do wish,” Amy said with a smug, defiant grin. “And thanks to my fairy godmother, my wish might just come true!”

“…Fairy godmother?” Sophie asked.

“You, silly!” Amy giggled. “YOU’RE my fairy godmother! I told you you were the ‘glue’ in team ASH, right?”

“Not sure I want to be a fairy godmother,” Sophie giggled.

“Well you’re dressed for it…” Amy teased, stroking the stiff netting of Sophie’s tutu.

“Umm, no,” Sophie retorted, a wide, genuine grin creeping onto her face as she stood up and posed in front of her friends with her hands on her hips. “I’m a swan, not a ‘fairy godmother’! I can’t be both, can I?”

“If anyone can, it’s probably you,” Hayley said, making Sophie giggle.

“A toast!” Amy suddenly announced, grabbing a half-drank glass of wine from a nearby table. “To Sophie Connelly, fairy god-swan-mother extraordinaire!”

“To Sophie!” Hayley cheered, causing Sophie to squeak excitedly as she was ushered into a pose by her two flat mates for what felt like an endless string of selfies- and for the first time ever, the longer the party went on, the more fun Sophie found herself having- to the extent that when the time came for the party to end, Sophie was genuinely disappointed.

As she removed her tutu, Sophie wondered exactly when the point had came when she started to enjoy her new life- but her main thought was that she was glad she was able to enjoy it. Just because she’d been born a boy, just because she’d never dreamed of being able to be a woman, like Amy or Hayley, it didn’t mean that she had to reject femininity or rebel against it, especially when it was as much fun as she’d had during the party- during HER party. The fact that the clothes and the costumes were designed with women in mind was utterly irrelevant to Sophie. Women’s sweats were much more comfortable than men’s, her skirts were comfortable, her underwear was comfortable, and even the leotards she tried on at the dancewear store before the party were surprisingly comfortable. And one thing was for certain- Sophie would never have as much fun with ‘James’s old male friends as she’d had with Amy and Hayley. If Sophie just tried, even slightly, to enjoy life as a girl, she found that she loved every passing second more and more.

Sophie just hoped that she didn’t love life as a girl so much that she wouldn’t be able to go back to being ‘James’ once her task was complete…

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