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But who am I really? - 2-7
Chapter 3 ------- -
Hugh sat uncomfortably in the departure lounge. "How do you stand it?"
"How do I stand what?" Erin looked up. She was going through Hugh's wallet, minutely examining every credit card, ID, and slip of paper.
"This!" Hugh gestured towards his chest. "These clothes are so uncomfortable!" Hugh looked left and right, leaned in towards Erin and whispered "it's like a pair of hands are constant cupping and holding my tits. And the panties are constantly riding up into my crotch. I'm getting horny just sitting here!"
"Oh that. You'll get used to it. Or not - you could be sexually stimulated all day long! Wouldn't you be the lucky one!" Erin giggled.
It was strange seeing such a cute giggle come from Hugh's mouth.
Hugh sat back and crossed his arms. It had been a strange, surreal morning.
First, after they had slept all morning, he automatically put on his own shirt and pants when he got out of bed. Of course, the clothes were much to large, and so he tripped and fell flat on his face, which caused Erin to nearly die laughing.
"Shit, I can't wear this!"
"Tch, tch. A proper young lass should watch her language!" Erin shook her finger at Hugh. "I think it would be best if you wore my clothes, at least for now. At least we know that they'll fit!"
And so he had. But the result was a host of strange new feelings that caused his mind to be constantly diverted. Erin had to help him shower, showing him where to scrub and where not to, and how to wash and dry his new long hair. Fortunately, he didn't have to worry about makeup or any of that. But, after his hair was dry (which took forever, even with the Hotel's blow dryer), Erin did braid his hair. As his head was gently pulled to and fro, Hugh realized that he was enjoying the attention. He felt so close and comfortable with Erin, and he thanked her for her capable help. "Why, you're quite welcome!" Erin had replied. "I'm enjoying this too. It's like being with my baby sister."
Hugh had blushed at the comparison. But when he looked into the mirror, the braids did make him look like an awfully young woman. Erin was 28, but right now Hugh, in Erin's body, looked no more than 20. Hugh's body was 32.
Erin's realization about age made her think twice, "I've lost 4 years of my life!" she said, seriously.
"Worse than that," Hugh replied, "given the life expectancy of men, you will die 8 years sooner, so you've really lost 12 years."
"Well, aren't you the cheerful one." Erin wrinkled her nose at him. It was a very un-Hugh like expression, and Hugh couldn't help laughing at how incongruous it looked. "Well," Erin continued, "at least I'll still be able to father children when I'm 90."
"Well, hopefully we can switch back tonight, so that you'll never have to test that out."
All in all, Hugh could barely think straight, and was glad that Erin seemed less affected by her transformation. She took the lead and drove them both to the airport. Predictably, Erin had no trouble whatever driving on the left side of the road. Driving in the passenger seat for the first time, Hugh had nearly panicked when she took sharp turns at 50 miles per hour and brushed too close to the bushes on the side of the road.
And there was another thing. Erin had not bought her tickets yet. In fact, she didn't even have enough money to purchase them. "My plan was to stay in Dublin with a friend, do a bit of work, and then wait for a cheep flight in the paper."
But Hugh's ticket was for that evening and he knew that he wouldn't be able to pass customs in his condition. So what to do? In the end, Hugh had paid a full-coach fare for Erin to join him. Erin apologized for the expense and promised to pay him back.
"You will not! Besides, the money is least of my worries right now," Hugh had replied. Mostly he was worried about what would happen if they couldn't switch back. He tried to control his anxiety, but it was difficult, and he constantly had to rely on Erin to calm his fears.
"Why aren't you more worried, Erin?" Hugh asked.
"Well..." she thought for a second, "I guess I planned this trip so I could experience strange new things, and I couldn't have wished for anything more strange or more new than this! And besides, my job is more flexible than yours. All I do is manage my father's business affairs."
"That sounds like a pretty big responsibility to me."
"Well, it can be - especially at auction time. I've always had a good head for accounting and business, so most of the time it's pretty easy."
All kinds of little difficulties had had to be overcome. Erin had to distract the lady at the ticket counter so Hugh could sign for the tickets. The pen had felt strange so the signature came out really bad.
Probably Erin could have done just as well. Hugh's new proportions made everything feel different and strange, from going down stairs, opening the car door, putting on shoes, to the most basic functions, like sitting down and eating.
"Speaking of basic functions," Hugh muttered to himself. He had recognized at least one of the reasons why he was so uncomfortable.
Hugh leaned over to Erin and whispered into her ear, "Erin, I have to go to the bathroom."
Erin looked back, amused. "Well go on then! The WC is right over there," she pointed.
"But you have to go with me!"
"Oh, don't be silly. You're a grown up young lady now, I'm sure you can manage."
Hugh blushed at being called a 'grown up young lady'. He stuck out his tongue at her, and Erin stuck out her tongue in reply. After a moment to gather his courage, Hugh got up on wobbly legs and headed to the ladies room.
Hugh had only been in a ladies restroom once in his life, on a dare in middle school. Now, he had to consciously force himself to go against years of training and step into the wrong bathroom.
It was like stepping into a strange foreign land.
Really, all of the fixtures were the same, except no urinals and there was a little foyer with a countertop and a bench. But it was the atmosphere that was totally different. First, it was crowded. All of the sinks were in use, and he had to wait in line for the toilet.
Second, the smell was nice - of perfume, baby powder, and hairspray.
And third, the noise. Pairs of women were chatting with each other, about work, flight arrangements, babies, or men.
Hugh felt like a covert operative, undercover, trying to fit in and look like he belonged. "But of course I do belong," Hugh realized, "because I am a woman. I should fit in perfectly." But still, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched.
Eventually, a stall opened up and Hugh was able to do his business. The relief was palpable, and Hugh made a mental note to use the bathroom more frequently. Even though he had gone that morning, the feeling of pissing from a place deep within his abdomen was still strange and weird. Different parts of his body were being stimulated and it just went to emphasize how foreign his new body was.
Hugh cleaned up, relinquished the stall to the next woman in line, and then went to wash his hands.
"Erin?" Hugh completely missed the voice behind him. He reached for a towel.
"Erin, it *is* you!"
A hand tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around, panicked!
"Oh sorry! Did I frighten you?" A friendly Irish face presented itself. "Don't you remember me? Your very best friend from grade school?"
Hugh could do nothing but look frightened, like a deer caught in headlights.
"It's Margaret! Margaret O'Conner!"
"Oh, of course!" Hugh felt relief wash over him now that he knew her name. Hugh reached out a hand.
"Is that all I mean to you? Come here." Margaret reached forward kissed Hugh on the cheek, and then pulled him into a warm embrace. For a second, Hugh didn't know what to do, so he tentatively hugged her back.
Despite himself, Hugh couldn't help but think how nice it was to be spontaneously hugged by a lovely Irish lass.
"Margaret," Hugh exclaimed, "It's been so long! I'm sorry I didn't recognize you, it's just being so far away from home. I didn't expect to run into anyone I know."
"What do you mean?" Margaret looked puzzled. "You know that I work in the airport. You were supposed to call me when you got into Dublin!
"Uh..." Hugh stammered, not knowing what to say. "I'm sorry, I..." He looked into her quizzical eyes and then understood that he needed help.
"Well... I, uh, met someone."
"Oh now, did you?" Margaret's smile was radiant. "And now who would this be?"
"Well... his name is... ah... Hugh." This was not going well. "Listen, would you like to meet him? He's right outside." Hugh looked at her, hopefully.
"Well, of course!"
As they walked out of the WC, Erin's face lit up in instant recognition. "Margaret!" Erin rushed forward and gave Margaret a big hug and kiss.
This time, it was Margaret's turn to be flustered. She hugged tentatively, kissed back, and then coughed nervously.
Erin realized her mistake. "Uh, Margaret!" She looked at Hugh, who looked back, amused that someone else was embarrassed for a change.
"Hugh... I mean I've... I mean, Erin... has told me so much about you.
I feel like we've been old friends."
"Well, certainly pleased to meet you. I see that Erin has found a very... um... friendly... boyfriend."
Hugh caught his breath. Someone had just called Erin his boyfriend! For some, inexplicable, reason, this seemed to cause Hugh's heart beat faster. He suddenly felt butterflies in his stomach.
"So, what part of Ireland are you from... Hugh?"
Erin looked confused. "I'm not from Ireland. I'm from America." She looked at Hugh's driver's license, which she had been studying.
Margaret laughed. "Well, *apparently* you must be Irish, your accent is county Galway all the way!"
Hugh and Erin looked at each other, astonished. Margaret's comment made them realize that they were still speaking with their original accents!
"Oh, that's great!" Hugh blurted out with a surge of joy. Hugh was relieved that he maintained this one small outward sign of his original identity. The other two looked at him.
Erin tried to cover. "He means, that we've been together now for a week, and look at how much we've rubbed off on each other! Why, I feel like I've known Erin all my life."
'Me too,' Hugh thought ruefully to himself. 'In fact, I've learned more about Erin in 8 hours than I know about any other person on the planet.'
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*Breeeeeep Breeeeep* The alarm clock had a whining tone which insisted that Hugh wake up. Wearily, he rolled over and turned it off. After a second, he sat up, brushed his hair aside, pushed out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
He looked in the mirror. "Oh shit!" He ran back, banging his shins on the bed frame, reached and turned over Erin.
Hugh saw his male body turn over. "It's true! Wake up, damn it, wake up!"
"What, what?" Erin looked up. "Hey, don't you look nice. What's the matter?"
"Dummy! I'm still me, you're still you! And it's morning!"
"Of course I'm still me." Erin grumbled, but then her eyes opened wide as she understood. "Oh! Oh!" They ran to the bathroom together and looked in the mirror, side by side.
"What happened?" Hugh whimpered. "I was sure that we did everything last night just like we had the first time. Where did we go wrong?"
"I don't know! I've never had this happen before, so I have no clue what went wrong. I thought we were perfect. Maybe it's something else, like the wrong time of night,"
"I checked the clock, we were within a half an hour of the previous time - unless the time zone makes a difference."
"...or maybe it needs to be a certain time of month, or a certain day of the year."
"NO!" Hugh wailed. "It can't be a month or a year! I've got to go back to work. What will I do?"
"You mean, go back to work to get fired?" Erin replied calmly. She reached over and pulled Hugh into an embrace.
Hugh thought over this, and realized that Erin was right. It probably didn't matter if he never went back to work at all. "You're right.
Screw 'em. I'm free now."
"Well," Hugh continued, after he had settled down somewhat, "I guess I'll have to call my boss and tell him I'm sick. The bastard can fire me over the phone if he likes."
"You could..." Erin hesitated. Obviously, she had been planning for this moment, "or I could go in for you."
"Yeah, right. Wouldn't that be a hoot?"
But Erin was serious. They debated the pros and cons for nearly an hour. Erin felt that they might be switched for a long time, and if so, they might as well try to make the best of it. Besides, she was having fun as a man, and wanted to see what it was like in America. And further, if Hugh's fears were correct, all she would have to do is go in to work, get fired, tell the staff, and head home.
The wickedness of the plan appealed to Hugh. It would be a great joke to play on a stupid company that had ignored all of his great software.
But half of him thought that maybe they should wait. Apparently, something had gone wrong when they had re-enacted the ritual and the song the previous night. Perhaps they would get it right tonight?
Eventually Erin won out. She told Hugh that she'd carry his cell phone with her all day long, and would call him every half-hour.
As Erin showered and dressed, Hugh found a picture of the recent company picnic. He clipped out all of the faces, taped them to a sheet of paper, each face identified by name. He ran through the most important faces with Erin before she headed out.
Erin headed for the door. "Wait," Hugh called, "I'm coming with you.
I'll need to drive you."
"You need to stay by the phone. I'll be fine. I've driven in France many times."
After a second, Hugh figured out that Erin was referring to driving on the right hand side of the road.
"But, you don't know how to get there!"
"I'll call for directions."
"Wait!" Hugh rushed up to Erin, whose hand was on the doorknob. "Good luck." Hugh kissed Erin, on the lips. "Have a good day at work, dear!"
"I will, honey."
Chapter 4 ------- -
At first, Erin and Hugh were on the phone constantly. Erin drove to Hugh's office, and marveled at how large and modern it was (compared to offices in Ireland). After entering the building, Erin made it safely to Hugh's desk without seeing anyone by going in the back entrance and taking the stairs 8 stories to his office.
Wondering what to do next, Hugh suggested that they go through his E-
mail. As they went through each E-mail message, Hugh dictated to Erin what to write. This turned out to be a useful technique for Erin to learn about Hugh's office environment, including the politics, customers, and personalities. Unbeknownst to Hugh, she had found a pad of paper, and was furiously taking notes.
Next, a tour of the offices. Erin walked around, saying 'Hi' to everyone, and with a combination of picture flash cards and Hugh on the phone, she was able to identify most everyone and mostly avoid embarrassment. Almost everyone asked about Hugh's vacation to Ireland, and Erin was so convincing about how wonderful it was - mentioning all kinds of places that Hugh had never seen, that several of the staff started, right then, to plan their next vacation trip.
"What now" Erin asked Hugh.
It was now 1:30 PM. Erin had just finished a tuna fish sandwich from the local deli.
"Well," replied Hugh, "I guess we better get it over with."
'It,' of course, was the meeting with his boss. The boss had left a voice mail asking for a meeting as soon as Hugh had come back to the office.
Erin called and arranged the meeting with the boss's secretary. "She says he's available right now." Erin gathered up all her notes.
"Good luck. I'm sorry you have to go through this."
"Hey, I'm not the one getting fired. This will be easy for me. I'm just sorry that this is happening to you. But cheer up! At least you have your stock, right?"
"Right," but Hugh was depressed, all the same.
"OK, see you later."
Erin hung up the phone with a click, and Hugh waited.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Five hours later, the phone rang.
Hugh rushed to pick it up. "Where have you been!! What have you been doing? I've been dying here!!"
"Sorry, sorry, I've been busy!"
"BUSY?? Busy doing what? What's going on for God's sake?"
"Hugh," Erin's voice could barely contain her glee, "sit down, you won't believe this."
"Uh, oh, I don't like the sound of this." Hugh sat down.
"I bought the company."
"Well, not bought it, exactly, and it was really John's idea, but we convinced your boss that he should spin off your group into a separate company. The Telco will own 25%, and the remaining 75% will be split amongst the new employees. Everyone from your group has signed up! You have 26%, and John has 25%."
"I don't believe this."
"Believe it. I ran into John on the way to your boss's office. He mentioned the idea, I thought - hey you're about to be fired so there's nothing to loose - and then we went ahead and did it. John was very impressed with my negotiating skills."
"And they did it?" After first feeling hurt and angry, Hugh's understanding of what had been accomplished began to dawn on him.
"Well, John and I were very persuasive. Also, the fact that we gave back half our stock may have had something to do with it."
Chapter 5 ------- -
Hugh woke up at 5AM the next morning, the unwilling victim of jet lag.
He looked over at Erin, sleeping soundly. "How can he sleep so soundly?" he wondered. With a start, Hugh realized that he had just referred to Erin as 'he'.
Unable to get back to sleep as the morning light began to filter in, Hugh decided to get dressed and walk to the local bagel shop to fetch some breakfast.
After putting on a pair of old jeans, Hugh looked at Erin's bra on the chair and tried to decide what to do. He had not worn it since they had got home from the airport. When dressing for the trip, Erin had insisted that he wear a bra in public. "I'm a proper catholic girl," she stated, matter-of-factly. Hugh wondered if that meant he also shouldn't polish his black leather pumps. As if he had any. In the end, in the spirit of cooperation, Hugh decided to wear it. He threaded his arms through the straps, leaned over, reached back, and after a bit of gasping, was able to join the two hooks. "There must be a better way," he muttered.
Regardless, he had to admit that it felt good. The nipples on Erin's female body were so incredibly sensitive, at least to Hugh, and the intimate contact of the bra just caused his mind to focus entirely on his boobs. In public he had felt that everyone was staring at them.
Certainly they were ample, but not outrageously so. Not so large that they should attract much undue attention. Hugh squeezed and stroked his breasts for a second and then put on a loose shirt.
Finally, he pulled his hair together with a scrunchy (Erin had taught him that after he had complained that it got all over the place), grabbed the keys, and headed out.
The feeling that he was impersonating someone was hard to shake. And of course, he was, but with an impersonation so fantastically good that it would stand up to the closest scrutiny. Still, he was acutely aware of his surroundings, of cars passing by, of early joggers running down the beach (Hugh lived in a small condo north of Boston, two blocks from the ocean, in Swampscott). The whole world seemed so alive, his body seemed so new and exciting. Somehow, his whole outlook on life had been rejuvenated.
After Erin had got home the night before, they stayed up talking about the new company until 2AM. Hugh couldn't get over how brash she had been. It made Hugh recognize how much fire and energy he had lost over the last 5 years.
In the end, John's proposal was something the parent company could not turn down. The stock they gave up was worth more than the original price of Hugh's company. And, the parent would now have an investment on the books, and they could also get rid of the entire group of employees without a loss. In fact, the only real concession was to become a guaranteed customer for a year, with a large initial payment.
It would be enough to run the new company for 6 months, after which they would have to find new customers or investments.
There were now thousands of details to work out. Hugh planned to rent a second car and do some shopping for new offices today. Erin would work with John on the contractual and legal issues - Hugh had been surprised to discover that she had recently received her MBA from a community college in Waterford. Whatever, once Hugh had explained the basics of American business practices in the software industry, Erin had understood. Hugh realized that she was much better at accounting and tax issues than he ever cared to be.
Hugh entered 'Kaegel's Bagels' and stepped up to the counter. "Hi Rick!" he called out. "I'll have double the usual."
Rick Kaegel, the owner, looked up. "Well, hello! And what's your name?"
"I'm Hugh!" Hugh paused, "...'s new girlfriend! Uh, yeah, that's right, Hugh's new girlfriend. My name is Erin. Pleased to meet you. We met in Ireland."
Rick shook the proffered hand. "Well, pleased to meet you! Of course, this means I lost 10 bucks in the pool."
Hugh laughed, nervously. "What pool?"
"Oh," Rick looked a bit embarrassed. "Can you keep a secret?"
Hugh nodded, looking interested.
"Well, we had a running bet about whether or not Hugh was gay. I mean, he's a handsome man, and I've never seen him date in the 8 years he's been living here. I had bet that the next person he was going to sleep with was a man."
'My god,' Hugh thought to himself, 'in a way, you did win the pool.
But I'll never tell.'
"Anyway," Rick continued, "Janice had you pegged. She said you were a ladies man all the way, and liked the 'female mystique' too much to go after men. I guess she was right!"
Rick, paused for a second. "Say, you wouldn't know if Hugh and Janice..."
"Hugh and Janice...?"
"You know... It was against the rules for Janice to... well, approach Hugh, if you know what I mean. She sure wanted to. Well, never mind, doesn't matter now. You're a lucky girl to have him! He's rich, good looking, tall! He'll I'd take him myself if I was you."
"Well, thank you. I guess I am a lucky... a lucky girl."
Hugh stopped to think. Had he really never noticed that Janice was coming on to him? How dense could he have been? He realized how wonderful Erin had been to so easily charm him out of his shell.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Erin was in the shower when Hugh got back with the bagels. Hugh put on a pot of coffee, toasted the bagels, set everything out, and sat down to read the paper.
"Well, aren't you the sweetest thing, making me breakfast!"
Hugh looked up and smiled. "Don't know if they eat bagels in Ireland, but here you go."
"Well, not really, mostly it's eggs and ham. But this looks great. You know, my mother made breakfast for my father the first day after they got married. It's funny, because my Grandmother told her not to. 'If you make breakfast for that man on your first day together, he's going to expect it every day for the rest of your life,' she said, mimicking a broad Irish accent. But mother did it anyway. That's true love."
"Yup, sure is. Just don't get any ideas."
"Hey, a lad can wish." Erin walked over behind Hugh and put her arms around him.
"Mmmmm, you smell nice," Hugh commented.
"And you stink! Get your shower! We've got a company to start!"
Hugh jumped up. "Yes, sir!" He bounded to the bedroom.
Hugh stopped, mid-bound, and turned slowly around. "Yes?"
"Well, you're not going to wear that, are you?"
"Ah... I guess. Is something wrong with it?"
"It's just..." Erin coughed, "no self-respecting woman would go shopping for office real-estate in jeans and a shirt. A man's shirt, for heaven's sake."
"Well what do you recommend I do? All you have are jeans!" Hugh's whine was plaintive.
"I was talking to Amy yesterday..."
"Yes, *our* secretary. She's going to join our new company, by the way.
Anyway, Amy told me about this really great store in the mall, which has fantastic fashions."
Hugh was incredulous. "You were discussing women's fashions with my secretary?"
"*Our* secretary. Yes, that's right. It's called Nordstrom's, and wouldn't you know, they have this service called a 'personal shopper'
who will help you with all of your purchases. And best of all, it's free!"
"Of course it's free, their prices are outrageous! I'd never shop there. I'll just go to K-mart, or Sears, or something."
"You will not! I shall not have you parading around my body in some cheep nylon outfit. You are going to look smart. After all, when we switch back, what will all your friends think of me? If we were still in Ireland, I'd have all kinds of proper traditional clothes to wear.
But here, I think this is the best solution. And besides, have you seen how much money is in your bank account?"
"Uh... I don't know, something, I guess."
"Over a hundred thousand dollars! My goodness, Hugh! Don't you ever do anything for yourself?"
"Well, it's about time you learned to treat yourself, and you can treat me at the same time!"