Wearing one of Nick’s shirts, Steph crept downstairs like a woman who’d spent a night at her boyfriend's house and wasn’t sure who else he lived with. Last night’s post reveal sex had been explosive, needy and downright hot. Nick in a silk nightie had done funny things to her down below. It felt nice against her skin when they’d tumbled together.
At the breakfast table reading his paper, Nick sat. They wore their shirt and tie, and braces. All traces of Nicola had gone. She still didn’t know whether or not she should be calling the other woman Nicola. After the first kiss there had been a lot of noise but none of it could be classed as a conversation.
Under his braces she ran her hands down his warm chest and kissed his cheek. “Love you, honey.”
They turned their sexy smile towards her. Their eyes narrowed and gave her the come on. The kiss was deep. She tasted the coffee and jam from his breakfast, had a brief moment of being worried about morning breath, and continued. Time disappeared until she needed to come up for air.
“Oh my God. You two. I get up early just this once and I’m subjected to a disgusting display of heterosexuality.” Ellie picked her plate up and took it to the sink. “Anyone would think you didn’t have a room. You know one with a door that you can shut.”
“Good morning, dear.” Steph went over to make herself a cup of coffee. “Plans for the day?”
“Yeah. I have Harry Potter in German and a dictionary. I’m going to try and read it.”
“You don’t know German do you?”
“Not yet but I want to learn in case I decide I’m going to university there. Although Brexit may have put an end to that.” She pulled herself up on the worktop. “So gather you and Dad are good then?”
Nick came over. They looked angry. “She knows?”
“Yes. I told the people at home ed group and Jake overheard.”
“I didn’t say you could tell other people.” They picked up their briefcase and suit jacket. “I wasn’t ready for anyone else to know. I’m gong to work.” Nick left the kitchen.
Steph ran into the hallway and out onto the driveway, forgetting she had nothing but a shirt on. “I’m sorry. You didn’t say...”
“I didn’t think I’d have to. Why do you want people to know?”
She was confused now. And she blinked at him. “Why wouldn’t I? It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Their anger baffled her. “Nick, don’t leave angry like this.”
They ignored her and got in the car, slamming the door.
The old lady next door chose that moment to come out. Not as anything interesting just out of her front door. To be fair she went out at the same time every day. “Are you OK, dearie?”
“Fine. Thanks.” But Steph was not OK. She’d messed up without even thinking about it. This was Nick’s secret to tell and not hers. She wasn’t sure how to tell them she’d also told Stefan.
These were drag icons I have enjoyed in my life and naturally when Mr Kimlin first came down the stairs in his beard and frock they were where my brain first went. As they form part of the story I felt a need to introduce them to you. Warning: Cupid can get a bit blue but she gave me the blog title.
I've been a Michael Ball fan since I was fifteen and he was in Eurovision. He's the only act I've ever waited outside a stage door for (it was cold and miserable and I decided not even he was worth that again especially as he didn't show).
Nothing makes me laugh like a great double entendre. As a child my mother never really banned me from watching anything except He-Man and She-Ra (both of which I watch and enjoy as an adult) and I loved Kenny Everett. He's one of my comedy heroes.
I'm not a huge Queen fan. I turn them up on the radio but only ever bought the Greatest Hits. Once seen this video cannot be forgotten.
Nick put an indulgence down in front of Steph, an icky, sticky sweet gorgeous cinnamon roll. It was dairy free but full of nasty gluten and yeast.
“Thanks.” Her stomach was like a piece of rotting fruit, attracting every butterfly in the world. “See you… I mean her in a little bit.” After she'd eaten the gooey treat she was definitely going to smell like something was rotting in there.
His face was stricken with nerves and she felt sorry for him.
“Go on, hon. We’ll survive this. I promise.” She picked up the remote and unpaused the cooking show in an attempt to forget what Nick was doing upstairs. The sweet cinnamon roll helped to distract her further until an item on chicken breasts stuffed with a paprika and yoghurt filling brought her mind back to it. They reminded her of an interview with Michael Ball. When he’d been Edna Turnblad he’d been rather proud of his triple E with nipples chicken fillets. It had her wondering what Nick would look like with boobs and the thought of them with his hairy chest had her giggling.
“Come on, Steph, behave yourself,” she chided herself. It was important she got this right. No matter what happened in her marriage she loved Nick and she knew how hard this was for him. A wrong reaction could destroy him and she refused to do that to him. He’d been half an hour already and she was bored. The cinnamon roll had been demolished and she used her finger to clean up the coconut yoghurt topping. After licking her fingers noisily, she went over to Nick’s computer. It was one he… she… they… maybe they would be the appropriate pronoun after all Nick and the woman both inhabited his body didn’t they? Well anyway he had built it from bits of other old computers. Open on the desktop was a Reddit chat. One were transwomen put up pictures of themselves and asked for opinions from other transwomen.
The first was a woman with a big Roman nose and bushy eyebrows. Comments from the other women… how easy it was to say that about transwomen that weren’t Nick… either told the woman how beautiful she was and she should love herself as she was or they told her constructively and sweetly how to minimise her nose with make-up and provided links on how to deal with eyebrows.
Step read a couple of the links and winced like a man discussing castration. Her own bushy affairs were not quite a monobrow and the thought of waxing or plucking was a painful event too far for her.
Underneath the Roman nose was a beautiful woman, she was stunning physically. There were a few supportive comments underneath… But… Steph also read comments that were sexual in nature or doubted the authenticity of the woman – was she really trans they asked? There was an undertone of jealousy and bitchiness that hadn’t been present with the more masculine woman.
Behind her she felt him, his presence. He.. she… they hadn’t said anything. Their nerves were so palpable that Steph fed off them and it took a good bit of her relaxation breathing before she was able to spin round in the desk chair. And… she so couldn’t help it… all her good intentions went out the window. “All done in the best possible taste.” Her attempts at crossing her legs like Kenny Everett’s character caused her to fall off the chair and land in an undignified heap on the floor. Tears flooded down her face and she wiped them away. In between peals of laughter she tried to sing the Queen song: I want to break free.
Nick had put on makeup and they looked better than she did in the ugly maroon dress they’d chosen but they’d not shaved. Having been born in the US two years before Steph they missed both cultural references. Their face registered confusion and they blinked down at her. It was unlike him to be so ungallant and leave her on the floor; she guessed he was in shock.
Her giggles couldn’t stop, not even the inevitable bladder issues (she had had three children) were enough to halt all the emotion of the day coming out. At the corners of Nick’s mouth a smile was ghosting and they was fighting a desire to join in. After what felt like a long time she pulled herself together enough to ask, “For goodness sake, Nick, help me up.”
With a grin, they held out their hand and they pulled her up. She gave them a kiss and fought her desire to stop when she tasted the lipstick. Steph never wore it herself so it was a foreign sensation on her lips but she relished the tickle of his beard. Her hands moved down and stopped. Boobs! They were kind of squishy and felt fairly realistic. “Umm where did they come from?” She was drawn to them and couldn’t stop playing with them. “Boing, boing.”
They removed her hand but kept tight hold of it. Their face had relaxed and their confusion had gone. “They’re condoms filled with water. Don’t play or they burst. Did you mean it? We’ll be OK?”
“Think so. I don’t intend to go anywhere. Specially if you wash a few more dishes.” Steph took their hand. “But there’s some cultural icons you need to be introduced to.” One last kiss was in order because she loved his beard, she loved the familiar tickle but it was going to have to be the first change they made.
After an evening of pain Ellie finally slept. Steph sat in the chair in her bedroom and watched her sleep for awhile. Ellie clutched tightly to Tigra, a grey dishcloth thing that had once been a white fluffy tiger. These days Tigra resembled an ageing woman with his scrawny neck and all his stuffing concentrated in his bottom. It was hot and the room had begun to smell of sleeping teenager, so Steph opened the window and breathed in the blossom scented night air. “Night, Ellie,” she whispered and left the room, closing the door gently behind her.
Next she entered the room with the Never Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle sign on it. Luke lay on the bed, stark naked and spread eagled. He’d never got the hang of wearing pyjamas to bed. His cuddly, Little Lion-oh lay on his chest in a similar spread-eagled position. Steph opened his window a little and covered him up. She gave his forehead a kiss. “Night, Luke.”
The next room had Always Kiss Me Goodnight on it. These days Jake was embarrassed by it but she refused to let him take it down and still insisted upon always kissing him goodnight. His meditation CD was playing. He was still awake although he was pretending to be fast asleep. A loud and very fake snore gave him away. Normally she just went away but today she went and sat on the bed. “You OK, Kid?”
“Yeah.” It was a grunt intended to put her off and send her on her way.
“You know that it wasn’t your fault don’t you? It was an accident and she was trying to kick you.”
She grinned and reached over to ruffle his hair. It didn’t feel like enough so she scooped him up in her arms and gave him a big sloppy kiss which extended into several big sloppy kisses. He pushed her off. “Eww yick, Mum, that should be illegal.” The tone of his voice suggested he’d actually needed it.
His room was also a little niffy so she opened his window.
“Night, Jake.” Once more she kissed him then set about straightening his room. Before she left she picked up the clothes from the floor and the mouldering dishes for the kitchen. The clothes she dumped in the linen bin and the dishes she took down to the kitchen.
Most nights she would have left the mess for the morning but the alternative was going into the living room where Nick was. She wasn’t face him or her yet. By the time she had finished the room smelled of lemon and the sink sparkled, the work tops shone and the floor gleamed. It was time for supper. She put two bananas, a pack of oatcakes and two glasses of wine on the tray. Even if Nick didn’t need it she did. All day she’d dreamt about a whisky but now she needed to be easy to arouse in case Ellie needed her.
In the living room Nick sat at the computer shouting, laughing and chatting with strangers from around the world. She wasn’t sure if he was fighting with them or against them. Mech Warriors wasn’t her style of game. Steph stared at Nick for a bit and it was like looking at a stranger. She didn’t know how to act so she decided to act normally and wait for him to say something. She placed his wine and supper down in front of him and kissed his cheek.
He gave her a smile. “Thanks, love.”
Steph retreated to the sofa with her supper and the remote. It took a good few minutes of flicking through the channels to even decide what she was in the mood for. In the end she settled for a cooking, reality TV kind of thing which she could ignore and maybe think.
Sweet banana and nutty oatcake was a supper she’d grown used to since going on her fibromyalgia diet. Only time would tell if she was really better because of it or if it had been a cruel coincidence and a remission had happened just as she’d started on it. The wine didn’t last long enough. She was so exhausted that the fibrofog made thinking impossible, so she muted the TV. It pissed her off that yet again in their marriage Nick expected her to take the lead. This was his body and it wasn’t something she wanted. “So then?”
He had the temerity to look befuddled. “So then what?”
“When do I get to meet her?”
“Who?” His focus had yet to shift from the game he was playing.
The casual nature of his response had her worried. What if she’d dreamt it this morning? Maybe it hadn’t happened. But she’d told so many people. Crap! And the kids. “The other woman.”
“What other woman?”
By now she was in a minor panic as he genuinely seemed confused. However he was still mostly focused on Mech Warriors. “This morning. You did say you wanted to be a woman?”
“Oh yes. I did.”
Thank goodness for that! “Right. So when do I get to meet this woman?”
For the first time he turned from the screen and stroked his beard. It was nerves that made him do that every time. “You want to meet her now?”
Steph sat in the park. The children played and for the first time that day she was alone to think. She drained the last of the lemon drink and held the bottle out so the wind could blow over the top, replicating the sound of pan pipes; it contrasted sharply with the silent piper, a statue of a man playing the bag pipes. The beauty of the moment carried her mind into another place and she worked on a poem with a symphony of spring flowers and a rustle of the trees. The nearby road brought in a little heavy metal.
She shook her head in an attempt to pull herself back into her daily life and the fact Nick wanted to be a woman.
A Jack Russell yipped. Its owner threw a yellow frisbee in the air. It was blown off course. Could it be a gold disk? The dog was really getting its teeth into it. The wind played her bottle again.
“Bugger,” she said to herself and tucked the bottle away in her Mary Poppins bag.
“Muuuuuuuuuuuum!” a scream from the swings.
Ellie and Jake had been fighting so she ignored it.
“Muuuuuuuuuuuuum!” both of them screamed this time and there was a hint of panic. The fact Ellie and Jake were singing in harmony did not bode well.
She forgot all about her and Nick and raced over with her heart beating, but not yet completely stressed out.
“Mum, I think I’ve broken my leg.” Ellie’s tears were real and she was clinging to the swing. “I think I’ve broken my leg.” She slid from the swing and doubled up (everything except the leg) on the floor. “I’ve broken my leg.”
Jake was in tears. “I’m so sorry. Did I do it?”
Steph took the breaths she needed to remain calm and helped Ellie to her feet. With a lot of hopping, wincing and grunting they made it to the bench. What were they going to do? She didn’t have the car and the walk home would be impossible. “Phone?”
From her jeans pocket, Ellie took out her phone and did the pattern pin code. Even at a time like this she wasn’t going to share it with anyone. She handed it to Steph.
“Nick where the hell are you?” Steph shouted into the phone that was still only ringing. He picked up. “We need you to come and get us. Ellie’s hurt her leg.”
He was being bloody awkward. Bloody awkward. Well OK he took a breath in and said he would see what he could do.
“Your daughter’s in pain. She needs to go to A&E. I can’t get her anywhere and you’re quicker than an ambulance.” Looking round she wondered what to do. Her bag contained plasters, painkillers and alcohol wipes. The Mary Poppins bag had let her down there was no bandage. Steph handed Ellie a bottle of water and some paracetamol. “Wait here.” She grabbed her purse and ran across the park. It was in a panic, worried about the three children she’d left behind, that she bought the bandage and dashed back.
Nick was there.
Any thought of Nicola was gone. She handed him the bandage. He was better at those kind of things. In a much quicker time than Steph could have managed Ellie was bandaged.
“I’ll go get the car,” he said.
And now Steph felt guilty because she was relieved the man in her life was here. It was a sense of safety. A sense of safety she wasn’t sure she could feel with another woman. But that other woman was Nick. Nicola would still be able to drive and bandage the kids. Great and now I’m thinking of Nicola and not Ellie. She felt even more guilty and sat down next to her daughter. “How did it happen?”
“I kicked Jake whilst I was on the swing – he was in the way.” She indicated her brother. “And he’s not even hurt.”
Nick drove the car over the grass. Together, Nick and Steph did a hospital carry and got Ellie into the car. The boys kind of tagged along and sorted themselves out, Luke appeared stunned and Jake was still crying about it all being his fault. On the drive to hospital the car was quiet except for crying but Steph was too numb to think.
Jake and Luke were building a fort in the garden, at least Steph hoped they were, there had been no blood curdling screaming so she chose to suppose they were OK . After a bit of a row, the content of which Steph didn’t really understand, Ellie had gone up to her bedroom declaring she wasn’t a Newlove anymore and never wanted to see any of the family ever again.
A coffee was in order. Steph's hand hovered over the whisky bottle in the cupboard but she shook her head and selected the hazelnut syrup instead; after the crap coffee at the hall she needed a decent one.
The doorbell rang.
It’d better not be the bloody Jehovah’s Witnesses if it is I’m going to ask them if the Watchtower has an article on how to become a lesbian by five thirty. She went down the hallway and opened the door. “Stef. About bloody time.”
“Some of us have to work, dear. I brought cake?” He held up his clear cake box with a calorie content that was off the charts.
“Gluten free, egg free, dairy free in fact it’s practically cake free.” He floated past her and showed himself into the kitchen. “What’s this about you needing lesbian lessons?” With deft, careful movements he set about making Steph’s coffee and one for himself.
She sat at the breakfast bar and opened up the cake. “Do we need plates or shall we just use forks?”
“That’s a sixteen portion cake.” Stef poured hot water into the coffee mugs, releasing the reasonable coffee aroma into the kitchen. “Are things that bad?”
“My husband wants to be a woman. I don’t even know what to call him… her. I mean Nicola maybe? He or she picked this morning when I was getting over our night out to tell me.” She touched her head. "Seriously, it was all cotton wool in here I wasn't functioning."
“How did you handle it?” He placed a mug in front of her along with a fork and a napkin, and sat down opposite her similarly furnished. His face registered a deep concern. “Coming out of a closet isn’t easy you know.”
“I told him to buy his own tights.” She grinned and dug into the cake. Nobody made sweet goodies like Stefan. “Think I handled it right?”
Stefan laughed. “I suspect he was expecting more anger and things being thrown.”
“I wasn't in a fit state to throw anything. Ooh this is fabulous. The cake’s so good. So you were going to tell me how to be a lesbian?”
“I’m the wrong man to ask when it comes to female attraction. I thought you knew that.” He winked. “Or we’d be doing more than eating chocolate cake right now. I think you need to wear khaki and haven’t you already got a pair of Docs?”
She wished she had something to throw at him. “I didn’t say turn me into a stereotype. Seriously, Stef, what the heck am I going to do? I love Nick and I don’t mine him being a woman but he’s no Joan Armatrading.”
“Apparently she’s coming to Findhorn. Fancy tickets?”
“Yeah.” The cake, coffee and chat were helping her soul heal a little but it didn’t change the basic problem that she didn’t like women that way. And Nick, the love of her life, wanted to become a woman.
"Best Possible Taste" is very loosely based on real life events.