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But who am I really? - 6-7

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Chapter 9 ------- -

The next two weeks passed in much the same way. Erin spent a lot of time at work, and Hugh spent all of his time at home, usually on the phone coaching Erin. They had got through the first week together without any major embarrassments, and no one had seriously questioned Erin's authority to be Hugh. But how could they? Hugh had thought, physically she's perfect in every respect. Any curiosity about his new personality was written off as love-sickness - after the dinner with John, rumors quickly spread around the office, and it became an easy explanation.

The second week was much easier. Hugh generally took up projects that Erin gave him, such as settling the details for the new office space (the office had chosen, by vote, the office closest to Hugh's condo, which was great), researching potential customers, reviewing contracts, even writing some software. Hugh realized that he was having fun: It was a huge relief not to have to be responsible for employees anymore.

For convenience, Hugh and Erin now referred to each other using the names of the body, rather than the name of the person. After a day or so, this turned out to be much easier. After all, Erin looked like Hugh, Hugh reasoned, so it just makes sense that I call her Hugh. And, by most anyone's definition (certainly everyone in the office), she was Hugh.

'But where does that leave me?' He wondered. 'Or her, for that matter?

Who am I? I feel like Hugh, I remember growing up as a boy, I remember college in Boston, I remember starting this company. But now, I'm a different person. Am I still Hugh, even though everyone calls me Erin?

Or am I Erin, now that, in every physical sense, I am Erin?'

Or maybe, he thought, a bit perversely, I'm both?

Fortunately, Erin was there to discuss this with. It was during these discussions of identity that Hugh realized just how compatible they were. Everyone else he knew, with the exception of John and a few buddies from college, thought that discussing existentialism was a waste of time. Hugh, however, felt his whole philosophy on life changing dramatically, and he had to talk that over with someone.

Since Erin spent 12 hours at the office every day, and since Hugh was mostly at home just answering phone calls, Hugh had decided to be the best host that he could. He restocked the groceries, cleaned the laundry, took clothes to dry-cleaning, and generally cleaned up the place.

Somehow, with Erin sharing the condo, Hugh became much more aware of what a slob he had been. Of course, Erin didn't say a word, and was always polite and appreciative. But with another person watching what he did, Hugh became much more careful about keeping the place clean.

For example, now he always washed the dishes right after they ate.

Before, he would have left the dishes to sit until there were no more dishes to eat on, and then he would do them all at once. Of course, Erin also did dishes, but in the mornings she was always rushing out to work, and in the evenings she would be working on business or talking with John on the phone, so generally it was Hugh who would clean up.

Breakfast was another routine that they had fallen into. Hugh, when he had been a man, had never eaten breakfast, with the possible exception of bagels on the weekends.

Now, however, he woke up very early (usually 6AM, and sometimes earlier), and he always woke up starving! At first he discounted it as being just jetlag, but now, 6 days later and at the end of the week, he had to admit it was unlikely to change. It must be this new body, he thought to himself. Now, I'm a morning person. Boy, if anyone in the office knew, they wouldn't believe it.

So, Hugh would get up early in the morning, have his shower, and then don a fluffy bathrobe over panties. Then he would pad to the kitchen in slippers and make breakfast. And since Erin was always still sleeping, Hugh would make her breakfast too, so it would be ready for her when she woke up.

So now it was Friday, just under two weeks since they had first met, and Erin had decided it was time for a fancy night out. They were too tired for any real entertainment, but a good meal at Chez la Mer seemed in order. Erin even made the reservations.

This delighted Hugh, since it gave him the opportunity to wear one of the fancier cocktail dresses he had purchased. This one was totally classic, a one-piece shift, high necked, a hem line which ended just below his knees, and with a light cream linen jacket. It was the fabric that was most incredible. A dark green knit fabric, with glittery threads woven in. It caused the entire dress to shimmer as he walked.

Underneath, he went very simple: just matching bra and panties. The shoes were high-heeled (4 inches), silk, and dyed to match the dress. A pair of simple pearl dangles as earrings, makeup, perfume, and Hugh was ready.

Erin, when he saw Hugh, gave a low whistle, slipped his arms around Hugh's waist and gave Hugh an intimate hug. Since Erin was already dressed in her suit from work, they were off.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"What?" Hugh gasped. "Get up off that floor!"

"No," Erin replied, "I will not get up off the floor until you take this ring, and then give me an answer, either yes, or you'll think about it."

"Alright then, here, give it to me. I'll think about it." Hugh snatched the engagement ring from Erin. It was a gorgeous 1.5 carat diamond.

"Now get back to your seat. I'm so embarrassed." Hugh tried hiding his head. Others in the restaurant were looking on and grinning at Hugh's reaction. Some of them applauded.

"You know, if you had just acted pleasantly surprised then it would all be perfectly normal."

"normal? Normal!" Hugh hissed. "This is anything *but* normal! I'm the guy here. I'm the one who's supposed to be proposing to you!"

Erin chuckled, and then said with a leer, "You are definitely not the guy."

"Yes I am. Things are just all confused, that's all. And you can't do this yet! We've only known each other for a week!"

"Almost two weeks," Erin corrected, "and I am already as sure about this as I have been about anything."

"But how can you be? And which you is proposing to me? The Erin who is Hugh? Or the original Erin?"

"Whichever. It doesn't matter." Erin was serious.

"What do you mean, 'It doesn't matter?'"

"What I mean is that I want to marry you whether I'm Hugh, or Erin. God willing, we'll switch back in a month, and then I will be your wife, assuming that you want me."

Hugh's heart skipped a beat. He looked at Erin and saw the real Erin in Hugh's expression. It had been a week, and now Erin had become pretty seamlessly integrated with Hugh's body.

"Do you love me?" Hugh asked.

"Yes, very much. More than I have loved any other person in my entire life. Do you love me?"

Tears spontaneously sprung to Hugh's eyes. He couldn't help himself. It was as if Erin's expression of love had uncorked a bottle. The emotions overwhelmed Hugh's inhibitions and he sobbed shamelessly. "Oh Erin," Hugh sniffled, "I love you too." Hugh had said it without any thought or analysis. The truth had just bubbled up and he realized consciously, for the first time, that he was very deeply in love with her.

Erin gently rubbed Hugh's hand. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have sprung this on you so suddenly. But I need the security of knowing that we are committed to each other."

Hugh settled his breathing and wiped away his tears. "I understand..."

"No, you don't, Erin." Erin put an affectionate emphasis on calling Hugh by her name. "I have another surprise for you. Are you ready?"

"Yes." What, what?? Hugh's mind was in wild turmoil now.

Quickly, so he wouldn't have time to think about it, Erin blurted out, "I think you're pregnant."

Dead silence.

Hugh instinctively put his hands on his abdomen. "Pregnant? What? Are you sure?"

"No, I'm not. But my period was supposed to have been three days ago, and I'm never late. Further, I never use birth control, it's against my religion."

Hugh was gasping for air, breathing heavily in and out. "So that's why we didn't have wine with dinner."

Hugh's shocked mind was now a total blank. At last he blurted out:

"But, what are we going to do?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The first thing they did, of course, was rush to a pharmacy and get a home pregnancy test. And then another. And then a third. And then a fourth.

And when they got home, each and every test, from 4 different companies, all turned out positive. I could do a product evaluation, Hugh thought, wryly.

This time it was Erin's turn to cry. "Oh Hugh!" she sobbed, "We're pregnant! Oh, I never meant for this to happen, but now that it has, I think it is as wonderful as a dream."

"What do you mean? How could you never meant for this to happen?"

"Our first night together, I never meant for us to have intercourse, but somehow I became entranced."

"...but I thought you were causing the trance?"

"I started singing, a song which my mother taught me when I was just a baby, which I thought would help sooth you. But then you started singing along, and I just sort of... well... lost control."

"Me too."

"Anyway, the next day I realized what had happened, that I was unprotected. But I counted the days and it was just after the end of my fertile period. So I thought, 'chances are, nothing will come of it', and I figured it would be OK for us to continue to have sex, since at that point I would only be getting less and less fertile."

"I see."

"And so, I didn't say anything. I figured we had enough to worry about." Erin winced. "I'm sorry. Should I have told you?"

"Oh, Erin, I don't know. I'm such a dummy! If I had just thought, I could have douched or something!"

"Erin," Erin looked at Hugh intently. "I could not have let you do that. I'm catholic, remember? And I'm from Ireland. It's against my religion."

"What, even condoms?"

"Well, that's a gray area. Our priest is more practical than some, and doesn't see condoms as big of a sin as other forms of birth control."

"And premarital sex?"

"I know, I know. That's bad too. I'll probably have to do a million 'Hail Mary's' when I get home, but it will be worth it. "

"But then, why not birth control? Or abortion?"

Erin's face blanched and a hand involuntarily covered her mouth. "Don't even think about that! Human life is sacred! Our baby's life is sacred." Her voice hardened, "Hugh, you know perfectly well that that is *my* body you have borrowed, and I expect for you to care for it as I would. And if I want for my body to carry the child to term, then it will."

She paused for a second. "But I know you don't mean it. I can hear it in your voice. And the way you reacted at dinner... you really love me, don't you?" She was pleading. "And," she was crying again, "I love you so much."

At this, Hugh's heart melted. He reached out to Erin and stroked her face. "Oh Hugh, Erin, whatever. I love you too."

"And do you want to get married?"

Hugh pulled out the ring and looked at it. It was stunning. He found himself unable to breathe. And as his mind whirled with all kinds of thoughts, he knew, above all, that he was about to make a decision that would have a profound affect on his life.

Erin reached over, took the ring from Hugh, and gently held Hugh's hand in hers. She slipped the ring over his finger and slowly slid it on until it was firmly seated.

Erin asked again. "Will you marry me?"

Hugh felt the cool gold band around his finger and marveled at the diamond, which winked at him. He looked Erin directly in the eyes. All that was left was to step over the threshold.

"Yes. Yes Erin, I would be proud and honored to be your wife." Hugh's eyes opened wide at his mistake. "I mean, your husband! Right, I meant husband." But Hugh was uncertain.

Erin replied, without missing a beat. "And I will be proud and honored to be your husband."

It was only later when Hugh realized that Erin never corrected her mistake.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

'I'm pregnant,' Hugh thought.

It was about 1:30 AM, and Hugh was sitting up in bed, not feeling sleepy. The room was quiet, save for Erin's light snoring, and the trees outside his window fluttered gently in the breeze. Hugh put a hand on his abdomen.

'There's a baby growing in here.' Hugh marveled that he would be carrying another human being, a child, inside. The concept was astonishing.

'My son, or daughter. Hugh wondered which would be better. A son to play football with? Or a daughter for pretty dresses? With my luck,' he thought, 'it will be a daughter to play football with, or a son who wants pretty dresses.'

'But who am I to judge? If my son wants to wear pretty dresses, then let him.' Hugh made a vow, 'let this child develop in the most natural way possible, free of prejudice and coercion.'

Hugh sighed. Here the child had just barely been conceived, and already he was deciding how he would react if it was a son, and if the son liked pretty clothes. 'This is ridiculous, might as well decide what color suit he'll wear at graduation.'

Hugh continued to rub his tummy. He had a powerful urge to talk to the baby, but he knew that was silly. 'It's like, what, 12 cells now?' But still, he looked down and hugged himself. 'I think I'm getting an inkling of what the mothering instinct feels like.' The need to take care of the baby was overwhelming. Almost frustrating, in fact, since there was nothing to be done.

Hugh looked around the room, lit by the soft glow of the nightlight.

Erin's face was idyllic. 'Did I look so untroubled when I slept?'

wondered Hugh. He doubted it. He remembered angry dreams of arguing with nasty customers, lazy programmers.

'I certainly have been more relaxed as Erin,' Hugh decided, 'but I bet that changes when the baby arrives. Of course, I should be back to being Hugh by then,' he thought, ambivalently.

The moonlight peeked into the window through the trees, casting dancing shadows on the far wall. Hugh watched the patterns for a while. After a second, a glint inside the closet caught his eye.

Curious, Hugh quietly got out of bed and walked into the closet, turning on the light.

The shiny object was a plastic bag on a hanger, which contained his formal evening gown. Hugh had just picked it up from the tailor the previous afternoon.

'Well, I guess I'll never have a chance to wear you,' Hugh thought sadly. He took the dress of the rack and held it up.

It was beautiful, like Sleeping Beauty under glass. Hugh stroked his hand across the plastic bag. He took a sidelong look at Erin, still sleeping, and then slowly unzipped the bag. He slipped his hands into the bag, across the rich fabric, and carefully pulled out the dress, like the blossoming of a rose, the folds of fabric were released from their clear plastic confinement.

It was strapless and off the shoulder. A hidden bodice would hug his torso closely, following every curve. The outside was a veritable waterfall of fabric, made of a smooth silk blend of pearly color and shimmer, cascading down his body in fold after fold, gathered at one side and ending just above the floor. It was a fluid masterpiece, which was striking, asymmetric, and contemporary. For Hugh, it was perfect.

Hugh ran his hands over the fabric folds, touching and delighting in the sensual feel of the fabric. It was an opulent use of fabric.

Hugh looked over again at Erin sleeping. She snorted softly, then shifted, then turned over and resumed snoring. Hugh picked up a half-

slip, a strapless bra, garters, stockings, a necklace, and a pair of high-heels. He turned off the light, and with a rustle, walked out of the bedroom and into the living room, where he wouldn't disturb Erin further.

Hugh slipped out of his nightgown and tossed it onto the sofa. He was naked except for panties now, a slim Irish beauty, with unkempt hair.

He started with the bra, which hugged his chest more tightly than he was used to, causing his cleavage to plump out a bit. He grinned when he saw the results reflected back at him through the window.

Next, the garter belt and stockings. Having straps running down his legs felt strange, but Fenway had insisted that there were times when dressing the part meant going all the way, and not skimping on the parts that would be hidden. The garter hugged his hips. The stockings were much finer than he had been used to, their caress felt more like a breeze against his skin than fabric.

Next, the half-slip, which went down to his ankles. The silk against the stockings was cool and light. The lace trim brushed against the tops of his feet.

Hugh paused for a second. He thought he had heard something moving in the bedroom. He held still, holding his breath. The refrigerator clicked on and started humming. This was followed by a tired groan, which he knew to be the automatic icemaker. After a few more minutes, he continued.

Now it was time for the dress itself, which Hugh carefully opened. It unzipped down the side, where the folds were gathered. Hugh spread out the skirt and stepped inside. He pulled up the bodice, adjusted it over his bosoms, and then reached down and slowly, carefully, zipped it up.

The zipper ran from his left hip to his underarm.

As he closed the zipper slowly, the fabric tightened around his body.

First around his hips and buns, then hugging his waist, then over his rib cage, and finally compressing his breasts where it came together.

He did up the hook at the top, which completed the closure.

Hugh sighed. He had been holding his breath, and now he forced himself to breathe normally. He couldn't help but run his hands down his dress, stroking the folds of fabric, feeling his taut body underneath, feeling how the tight bodice embraced, clung, and trapped his body in it's silk confinement.

Hugh stepped forward to the stereo that was in the living room. After a second of searching, he selected a CD of Strauss Waltzes as being most appropriate, and put it on at very low volume.

As he listened to the introduction to the first waltz, he stepped into the high heels (4") and reached down for the necklace. It was a necklace that Erin's father had given her, a beautiful light purple topaz in a gold setting with a gold chain. It hung at just the right length and served to add a little color and to draw the eye.

Hugh saw his reflection in the mirror and sighed with pleasure. He smoothed the dress around his legs, and then danced lightly in circles, enjoying the music, enjoying the dress, and pictured himself dancing the waltz in Vienna, in the palace. He was a little unsteady in the heels at first, but gradually he gained in confidence.


Hugh looked up, shocked. He almost stumbled. "Erin! How long have you been watching?"

"I woke up when you left the bedroom. Here, I need help with these."

Hugh walked over and then realized that Erin was dressed too, in Hugh's formal black tuxedo. On a whim, Hugh had bought it a few years back for some company function, and had forgotten that he owned one.

Erin held up four gold studs. "How do these work?"

Hugh chuckled and used the studs to button up Erin's tuxedo shirt. "I swear," Hugh exclaimed, after doing up the cufflinks and straightening Erin's hair, "nothing, but nothing, makes a man look more elegant than a black tuxedo. And that stubble," Hugh stroked her face, "just makes you more roguish."

Erin then pulled on the tux jacket, trimmed in black silk. "Shall we dance?" She held out her hand.

"Oh! Wait!" Hugh darted back to the closet, where he retrieved a pair of long silk gloves. He walked back to the living room, and slipped them on. They covered his arm over the elbow. They compressed and stroked his arms intimately. Hugh stepped into Erin's arms, put one hand in his, the other on his arm.

And they danced. Erin was definitely the better dancer, but Hugh had had lessons with an old girlfriend and they paid off. After a few clumsy steps, they both got into the rhythm of the dance and slowly twirled around the living room in three-quarter time.

"Oh Hugh," Hugh said, using Erin's masculine name, which seemed appropriate at the moment. "You dance divinely!"

"And you, Erin, the lovely lass so light in my arms, that dress is enchanting." Erin leaned over and kissed Hugh, who giggled.

They continued to dance through two more waltzes, with the kisses becoming more and more frequent, until gradually, they stopped, music swirling around them, lost in fabric, arms, smells, gloves, and lips.

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