Clive lifted one eyelid to greet the new day, though it had been long established when he flopped onto the bed while it was still dark. His mouth tasted like the bottom of a birdcage - would he ever learn?
It hadn't been bad as agency parties go; a Mexican restaurant, margaritas and Dos Equis, followed by fajitas, enchiladas and steak-and-chips for the unadventurous, then live salsa and a Gloria Estefan look-alike until the small hours. As at every contractor "do" there was the berk techie who wanted to bore someone with shop-talk but Clive miraculously saw a colleague at the other side of the room and made his excuses.
The small brunette had been sending him all the right signals but he'd spotted the wedding ring. No great problem; he'd just have to be a bit more discreet than usual. Her work number was written on the beer mat that currently resided in his jacket pocket.
All in all it had been a great evening. He'd joined in the ritual denigration of "Dim Prawn" Primarolo with the rest of them; the stupid bitch deserved it. The only contention of the night was a rerun of the age-old debate; which was the worse, periods or shaving? The assembled company had predictably divided on gender lines. Geez, these women, they don't know how lucky they are; positive discrimination, everything arranged to suit them, so they suffer a few days' inconvenience each month.
He'd cut his chin shaving that morning and that added piquancy to his pursuance of the case. He wasn't a chauvinist but someone had to stand up for the male sex now and again. The thickset mouse-brown database administrator who'd led the case for Eve - Angela, he'd heard someone call her - he'd bet a week's pay she'd never made it with a man. He'd told her, hadn't he? He'd welcome the chance to prove her wrong.
Clive felt the call of nature and staggered to the bathroom. Leaning on the low-level cistern in his usual stance he let go the flow of the previous night's excess. A warm, wet sensation greeted his legs. "I've heard of brewers' droop", he thought, "but this must be an acute case." Turning, he focused his bleary eyes on the bathroom mirror. Those tits, they'd have to go. The rugby season was about to start and he'd have to get back into shape PDQ.
The realisation hit him like a sledgehammer. That was no man's body staring back at him. He ran his fingers over the 38A breasts with their underdeveloped nipples. In dread he slowly lowered his hands over a sagging stomach to a full-bearded mons veneris and ran a finger down the cleft of the labia.
He must have stood like that for five minutes but it seemed like five hours. Holy shit, what was he going to do? He wasn't a bandit, a rent boy; he was a regular bloke with a girlfriend. "Jeez", he shouted, how was he going to explain it all to Suki? He'd met her on his previous contract and had almost persuaded her to move in with him. They were due to go out that evening and they always ended up in bed together afterwards.
He'd heard of people who'd had sex-change operations and tried to continue their lives and work as if nothing had happened but he couldn't imagine getting much support and understanding from his colleagues on the help desk. He found himself worrying about any number of trivial details that would have to be dealt with - his passport, driving licence and season ticket to Arsenal among them. What name would he take? He could hardly continue as Clive. Bloody Hell!
Across town Marie finished her night shift and took a near-empty bus from the hospital to the stop a few doors away from her first floor flat. She collected two bottles of semi-skimmed milk from the doorstep, climbed the stairs and entered the flat. She put the milk in the fridge and took out three individual portions of cat food in the same transaction. Three Persians appeared and wove their way back and forth against her ankles as she emptied the sachets into three named china bowls. After a quick look around the immaculately kept flat she kicked off her shoes and walked softly across the small hall.
A brief session in the bathroom sufficed after the gruelling casualty shift and Marie silently entered the darkened bedroom as she had done many times before. She unbuttoned her uniform overall, unhooked her bra and stepped out of her pants. Lifting the duvet she got into bed and snuggled against the sleeping naked figure lying on one side. In a familiar move she slid her hand over Angela's hip, across her stomach and between her thighs. What she discovered caused her to scream so loud and long that the neighbours above and below thought someone was being murdered.
© Brian Smith 2000-2007
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