I packed my overnight case and sighed. I hated this, hated going anywhere far away from home during the heart of the winter. I was always scared that my car would break down in the middle of nowhere, during a snow storm. But I had to conquer my fear this particular frosty Friday afternoon. I had a call of duty. My old friend had a pressing need to see me today. He sounded desperate on the phone. He wouldn’t enlarge on his plight, just said that he needed to see me this very day, and that I could stay overnight, so I wouldn’t have to drive back in the dark.
I started up my car, leaving the engine running while I scraped off the ice from the windows. The forecast wasn’t looking good; more snow was expected overnight. The journey would be difficult on ungritted country roads. My car skated down my little used cul-de-sac, and on to the main road through my estate, where there were at least tracks in the snow that I could follow. The main roads would have been gritted, so I didn’t expect there to be too many more problems until I got to my friend’s area, right in the heart of the country. I turned up the radio when I reached the main road, and settled back more comfortably. An hour later, I was on the ungritted roads leading to Mark’s village. There was no way I was going to attempt driving back after dark, it was bad enough now, in daylight.
I reached Mark’s house just as it was starting to get dark, but I could see the welcoming lights of his cottage as I approached. With any luck he would have a roaring wood-fire going in his sitting room. Mark heard me approaching, and opened his front door to welcome me.
“Hi Sweetie,” he said in his usual cheerful fashion as he kissed me on the cheek. “Come on in. I’ve got a log fire going, and I’ve cooked you your favourite – roast lamb.”
“Well that’s a relief,” I retorted. “Now what was so goddam important that I had to risk life and limb driving all the way over here in the snow to see you?”
“I’ll tell you later,” he replied. He always was one to keep up the suspense. He led me into his sitting room, taking my overnight bag from me and setting it down in the hallway.
“I see you’ve opened a bottle already,” I said as I spied the glass of mulled wine sitting on the table next to the sofa.
“I poured that when I saw your car coming. Have a warm and sup up Sweetie, and I’ll get the dinner sorted.”
Mark went off into the kitchen. I knew better than to follow him in there. His chaotic way of working would only irritate me. I settled down on the sofa in front of the roaring fire, and picked up a magazine. The mulled wine was slipping down nicely, and my ordeal of driving through the snow soon was a distant memory. The smell of the roast lamb was very tantalizing, and I wondered how long it would take him to get the vegetables done. I hadn’t realised how hungry I was.
I noticed the table was nicely set, with candles flickering in the candelabra and a single red rose lying by my place. “Uh oh!” I thought. “He’s got plans for me tonight again!” We had a turbulent relationship a few years ago, which Mark kept trying to rekindle, and I usually kept resisting, but Mark knew I was a bit of a soft touch after a some gentle wining and dining. Oh well – not to worry. I could do with a bit of a cuddle tonight.
Dinner went well, and so did the wine. Mark had opened a good bottle of red. He poured me yet another glass.
“Are you trying to get me drunk? You needn’t think you are going to get your evil way with me tonight,” I teased.
“No, I want you sober tonight, for when I reveal what I called you over here for,” he replied mysteriously. “I’m going to get the dessert. Wait here.” Off he trotted, into the kitchen with our empty plates.
I wandered from the table back to the sofa in front of the fire, and sat back enjoying my glass of wine. Mark seemed to be ages in the kitchen, and I think I nodded off for a while.
I was aroused from my soporific reverie when suddenly the music on the hifi started playing louder. It was ‘Lady in Red’ playing. At the same time, into the room came a beautiful woman, dressed from head to toe in red. She was wearing an off-the-shoulder slinky red dress and red stillettos with a red rose nestling in her tumbling blonde curls. I was just about to say “Hello,” when I realised who she was.
“Hello Sweetie,” ‘she’ whispered huskily.
“Good grief man,” I replied horrified. “What an earth do you look like?”
“Hopefully I look like one of your girlfriends,” Mark replied. “This is what I’ve been doing since we split up last year. Remember that bag of your cast offs that you gave me for the charity shop? Well, I tried them on – we are about the same size. I liked what I saw. I decided that as I couldn’t have you, I would try to be you. Somehow, I seem to prefer my alter ego now.”
I was totally bemused. Mark had never shown any signs of transvestite tendencies before. Was this all my fault?
“But I joined a dating site for transvestites and I have met someone. We are getting married……..tomorrow. Will you come? Will you be my bridesmaid?”
“But I’ve got nothing to wear,” I spluttered.
“Yes you have. We are the same size, remember. I’ve bought you a dress. I’m the bride, and I’d like you to meet my groom. Here he is…..Jerry, come on in.”
My jaw dropped as in walked Jerry in a well tailored winter white trouser suit, with a blood red bow-tie. Jerry was quite obviously a woman, but made a perfect man. What a couple!
“Hello,” said Jerry. “It’s lovely to meet you at last. Marcia has told me so much about you.”
“Marcia!” I nearly choked on the wine I had just taken a swig of. “Marcia! Oh my!” I couldn’t help it. I just started to laugh. This couldn’t be happening.
“Mark, tell me this is a joke. Tell me this is one of your gotchas! I know how you always used to like playing pranks on me. I’m not falling for this one.”
“Sorry, Sweetie. It’s the gospel truth. Jerry and I are having a civil ceremony. We’ve both had our names changed by deed poll. We will be living as husband and wife, I’m Marcia, the wife of Jerry. The clothes I was wearing before are the only man’s clothes I possess now. Come and see my wardrobe. It’s even better than yours.”
I shrugged resignedly. “Now I understand why you always used to enjoy going shopping with me!”