chapter 8
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The university corridors were almost empty. Most of the students had
gone off for half-term or were studying from home, so our heels clicked
with a spooky echoing sound.

"Just down here," said Katie. She opened a door, holding it for me to
follow her. Our hips brushed as I stepped through into the design
archives and it was a lot more erotic than I'd expected it to be, but
nothing to what went through me when she tucked a loose strand of hair
over one ear and bent over to check the labels on the nearest stack of
boxes. For the first time I was actually relieved to be not currently in
possession of a penis because those trousers looked really good on her.
Although when she stood up again, tutted and brushed dust off her blouse
I actually felt something down below twitch. Easy girl, I told Little
Francesca, sternly. You're barking up the wrong tree there.

"So," I said in a much higher voice than I meant. "Are these the boxes

It took ten minutes or so to get Katie's car loaded up. Somehow, I'd
found myself doing the manly thing of trying to impress her with how
many boxes I could carry at once, which turned out to be, once I
remembered Francesca's frame was considerably more delicate than mine, a
total of one. Luckily, Katie didn't notice what an idiot I'd nearly made
of myself, but I couldn't find another way of leading the conversation
back to relationships. My grip on the situation was starting to loosen,
and I had no idea how to get it back.

"Well, thanks Francesca," said Katie finally, and then to cap it all, it
started to rain.

"Shit," said Katie. I was taken aback. I honestly don't think I'd heard
her swear before. "Can I give you a lift anywhere, or have you brought
your car?"

And suddenly I was back in the game. "I walked," I lied, and then, "Hey,
how about I help you unload these at your place and I'll get a taxi back
or something. Wherever your place is," I added quickly, and I must have
got away with it, because she grinned at me and opened the door.

"Come on then."

All the way to Katies" flat I had to pretend I had no idea where we were
going, even though all I could think about was the last time we'd made
this journey. We'd been out for a meal, the conversation had flowed, I'd
actually made her laugh for the first time in ages, and I genuinely
expected we'd be going back to her place. I wasn't even thinking about
sex, just that when I thought about, she'd been too busy to come over to
mine, or vice versa the last few times we'd met up. We finished the
meal, lingered over a coffee then got a taxi over to hers. She put the
key in the lock, looked at me and said "Okay then', and went inside,
closing it behind her without even looking back, leaving me bewildered
and annoyed on the pavement until I finally decided she hadn't forgotten
I was there or had a stroke or something, she'd just decided to end the
evening then and there.

I left it for a day or so, send a gentle enquiring text, got a non-
committal reply and then... nothing. That had been a month or so ago and
I hadn't seen her since.

We parked just outside the flat, a rare occurrence, although I managed
not to comment on it. It was raining buckets now, and the blazer jacket
thing I was wearing wasn't in the least bit waterproof, but I managed
not to get too soaked as I helped Katie transfer the boxes into the
hallway. The flat was two floors up, but again, I couldn't have known
that and I was starting to think the day had run its course. Something
about actually getting into Katie's flat under false pretences crossed a
line for me, and to be honest, I'd just enjoyed spending time with her.
If this was it, if for whatever reason I never saw her again, this had
been a great way to spend time with her, the real her, even if she'd
never have any way of knowing it was me.

I stepped back onto the pavement. It was time to cut my losses.

"I'll call a cab then," I said.

"Okay then," said Katie, and I must have done something odd with
Francesca's face because she froze and opened her mouth to say something
and that was when an enormous lorry drove past at full speed,
redistributing an entire roadside full of filthy rainwater all over me,
blazer/jacket, thin top, short skirt, heels, neatly brushed hair and

"This is all my fault," Katie kept saying as she passed a dressing gown
to me through the bathroom door. A bathroom I'd hoped I'd get back into
one day, with its pale grey tiles and expensive power shower and neatly
arranged bathroom products. And the fern! Hello Fern! It's just that
these weren't exactly the conditions I'd expected.

Katie had insisted I shower the dirty water out of my hair and pass my
soaked clothes out to her. All of them. The shower had been irritatingly
small before, it was just fine now, of course. Reluctantly, I used as
little of Katie's shampoo and bodywash as I could get away with, coming
away smelling like my ex seemed just too much. Although, of course, it
was about to get much worse.

"There's a dressing gown hanging on the back of the door," shouted
Katie, and I remembered it. It was considerably shorter that the luxury
items back at Francesca's, and although I'd always got a frisson at how
when Katie wore it, it barely covered her bottom, now that I pulled it
on, I just felt vulnerable and embarrassed.

I stepped damply into the corridor, standing up as straight as I could.
Katie thrust a bundle of clothes at me. "I've put your stuff in the
wash," she said briskly. "Low temperature, obviously. Better not tumble
dry them, but I'll give them a good spin. In the meantime this stuff
should fit you, we're pretty much the same size. Do you want to go and
get changed in my room?"

It was the most domestic conversation we'd ever had. Numbly, I stepped
through into Katie's bedroom, all patchwork duvet and hanging plants and
yellow-tinted prints of Italy.

Oh God, I actually recognised the pants she'd given me. Faded red
cotton, a tiny bow on the front (why did so much women's underwear have
tiny bows on them? Men's didn't have footballs or cars). It hadn't been
that long I'd taken them off her, and now she was lending them to me as
an act of kindness, one girl to another. A beige strappy vest, yoga
pants and an old t-shirt. I recognised the t-shirt. It was mine, from a
Nick Cave tour a few years back. I hadn't seen it for a while and now I
knew why: I'd left it at hers. For a moment I wondered if it had
sentimental value for her, and then I thought no, she'd just never
thought to give it back to me.

"Are you okay?" asked Katie from the doorway. I hadn't even realised she
was still there. And then, "Oh no, are you crying?"

"I don't why," I sniffled, and that was sort of true, although more I
didn't know exactly which factor had set me off: the cumulative stress
of coping with being in the wrongest of wrong bodies, the embarrassment
of getting casually soaked in front the woman I loved, the same woman,
who had ghosted me just a month before now showing me unthinking
kindness, or finally finding out where my Nick Cave t-shirt was.

"Heyyy," Katie said, wrapping me in a hug that only made me feel worse,
I think because somewhere at the back of my mind I knew I should be
reaching down to wrap her in my strong arms, rather than her hugging me.
"Are you okay?"

I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, suddenly very aware her face was
level with mine, just a few inches away. "Um-" I said, and that was when
she leaned forward and put her lips on mine.

I'd missed her kisses. She tasted just the same, aloe vera chapstick and
toothpaste and a hint of the orange juice we'd been knocking back at the
event. I was so busy taking it in, I just sort of stood there, my eyes
wide. She pulled away in alarm.

"Oh Christ," she said. "I'm so sorry, I don't know why I just-"

And then it was my turn to kiss her back. It went on longer this time,
and eventually it became clear neither of us was planning on stopping
and her hands slid beneath the dressing gown that was too short anyway
and one thing led to another and the belt came undone and then I didn't
have anything on at all.

All I wanted to do was pick her up and carry her over to the bed, but we
sort of fell onto it instead and had to stop kissing otherwise I think
some teeth would have got broken.

"Um," I said. She was leaning over me, her hair lightly brushing my
breasts, which felt incredible, obviously.

"Oh dear," she said insincerely, as if she'd only just noticed. "You
don't seem to have any clothes on."

I reached up to her shirt and considered tearing it open but I don't
know, that felt like the wrong vibe and anyway, it was a nice shirt.
Instead, I focused on undoing the buttons as quickly as I could, while
she wriggled out of her trousers. She then had to pull off her socks,
and I had to try not to laugh, because before, in this bedroom, it had
been me who'd had to do that. Then I helped her get her bra off, then
she got her pants off without any help, then neither of us had any
clothes on.

For a moment we were sitting back on our heels opposite each other. It
was like looking in a, well, not a mirror exactly, but we were the same
height, roughly the same build, both with shoulder-length hair. I don't
know what she did with her eyebrows, but they looked amazing. Somehow,
being on a parity with Katie, no longer bigger and taller, but close
enough she could offer me her clothes and I could reach over and kiss
her just made me appreciate her beauty more. Although I couldn't help
notice her breasts hung slightly lower than mine. She caught me looking
and raised an eyebrow.

"It'll happen to you," she said. I smirked and wanted to say I very much
hoped it wouldn't, but luckily didn't even get the chance because she
kissed me again and this time her breasts were moving against mine and
that felt very nice, thank you. But then I felt a hand sliding between
my knees, pushing between my thighs and gently stroking... me. And the
hand wasn't mine.

I gasped, and wasn't even aware of changing position, but the next thing
I knew I was lying back on the bed, trying hard not to bite my bottom
lip so hard I drew blood, while Katie licked delicately at my stiffening
nipples while her fingers worked some kind of arcane magic between my
legs. Unlike the previous times I'd explored, Little Francesca was being
extremely receptive, opening up a way that definitely hadn't happened
before. I had to give her credit too, she'd called that one right, back
in the archive room.

"Oh, okay," I heard my voice, or Francesca's voice, it was all the same
at this point, say as if from a great distance as Katie moved her
fingers in and around and then: "Oh wow" and then "Oh wow" and then a
sort of breathy ahhhhhh for a while and then it was like every ligament
in my body melted and the bed and I had become one.

"You seemed quite tense," said Katie eventually, propping herself up on
one elbow. "Was that your first time?"

Not with you, I nearly said, but that wouldn't have been helpful so
instead I said, "Um, sort of?"

"Well, when you're ready," said Katie, placing soft kisses on my breast,
my stomach and finally the exact place her fingers had just been, "you
could try doing the same sort of thing with me?" She lay back and smiled
at me.

God, I wanted to fuck her so much. The traditional way. My traditional
way, at least. I wanted to push her down on the bed, get on top of her
and kiss the side of her neck and push myself between her thighs until I
was done, and up until a week ago I would been able to because I would
have had an absolutely massive erection. But instead, I had a warm wet
feeling between my legs and, my breasts felt full and heavy, which was
interesting but not exactly helpful.

Clearly, Katie sensed my hesitation, because she kissed me long and hard
and just when I thought she was done, she nipped my tongue a little with
her small sharp teeth.

Huh, I thought. I did roll on top of her then, although I was painfully
aware I weighed if anything slightly less than her so she could have
just pushed me off at any time and held my hair back with one hand as I
bent down to kiss her breasts while my own breasts - and did I mention
how full and heavy they felt?- grazing her stomach as I did so. Then I
slid down the bed and down her body and kissed the inside of her thighs
and then I used Francesca's neat little tongue to lap at what neither of
us had ever referred to as "Little Katie," and it seemed to go down, if
you like, very well.

We did some more stuff after that. I remember limbs intertwining like
snakes, and places rubbing together, and at one point looking down and
genuinely not knowing whose body was whose, but I think I can be
forgiven that, bearing in mind everything that had happened lately.

Eventually we both lay there, panting, wrapped around each other,
staring up at the ceiling. Only then did certain thoughts start flitting
through my mind and possibly it's weird that "Wait, aren't you under the
impression I'm a student?" came before "Hang on, how long has Katie been
into girls?" and "So, is this why you ghosted me?"

"I really didn't plan this to happen, you know," I managed finally.

Katie scoffed. "I guessed as much." She reached out with her free hand
and lazily drew circles around my aureole. I felt the faintest twitch
down below, but more out of politeness than anything. I was thoroughly
done, for now at least.

A new thought: was that Francesca's first time with a woman? I felt like
it might have been.

"Don't take this the wrong way," continued Katie, "but I might not be
the best person to mentor you anymore. In fact, I think I might have
taught you everything I know. Fly free, grasshopper."

I had never heard Katie talk like this before. I propped myself up on
one elbow and looked down at her.

"Are you not into guys at all, then?"

My voice, Francesca's voice, was very calm, but I felt I was stepping
out onto some very thin ice indeed.

Katie looked at me evenly. "I like guys. I've been into guys. But
sometimes I like girls. What about you?"

"Um," I managed. I was trying to be truthful for me and Francesca,
although I wasn't entirely sure why. "I think I've mostly been into one
thing? But lately things have got... confusing and I've found myself...
getting a bit caught up."

Katie gently took a strand of hair that had got caught over my face and
pulled it aside. "It's funny. I always liked you, you know, I just never
go that vibe off you. And then earlier you just seemed different."

For the first time, I realised starting a thing between Francesca and
Katie wasn't the cleverest of moves, bearing in mind in a few days" time
I wasn't going to be Francesca anymore.

"I think I'm having a bit of a phase," I said. Katie winced immediately
and I moved quickly to reassure her. "I don't mean you're a phase, I
really don't. I just, I don't know what I'm doing at the moment. I'm all
over the place. I mean, weren't you just in a relationship? With-" and I
managed to convey a sense of tactful vagueness at this point - "someone
else at the university? Another lecturer, I mean."

She went quiet then. "I'm sorry," I said quickly. "It's none of my

"It's fine," she said. "Yes, I was seeing a guy I liked, a colleague,
but... I don't know what I want."

"You mean like, a guy or a woman?"

"I mean what I want in a person. The gender doesn't matter that much."

Potentially handy, I thought. I held her hand tight for a moment.

"It's all right," I said bravely. "I know this isn't a long-term
thing." At least I bloody hoped it wasn't. For a moment I considered
again bringing up the mini break, as though I'd heard of it in some way.
But that would have been over-egging it and instead I was content to
stare into her eyes for a while. She didn't know it was me looking at
her, of course, as far as she knew she'd semi-accidentally just swept a
pretty young female student off her feet and it had all worked out
extremely well.

We kissed, long and hard and I really felt like we could have had
another go of it, but honestly, the next time Katie and I made love, I
wanted it to be as myself. My real self.

"I need a... wee," I said. I nearly said "piss" then but managed to pull
it back just in time. I scampered off, picking up the bundle of clothing
on the way, deeply aware that Katie was watching me go.

"Careful with the flush," called Katie. "It can-"

"-come off in your hand if you're not careful," I said. "I know."

I sat on Katie's toilet for a long while, humming a little tune to
myself until I was done. Then I gave myself a quick flannel wash,
cleaning my pits and... down there, and then I pulled on the clothes
Katie had given me. It didn't feel weird wearing her stuff now. We'd
just got closer than any couple could expect to be, even if we weren't
technically a couple again, not quite, so it seemed silly to be self-
conscious about that anymore. The yoga pants looked great on me, the t-
shirt fitted very differently to the last time I'd worn it, but it
smelled of Katie now, of her deodorant and her washing powder. I pulled
it to my face and breathed her scent in and only then did I realise what
I'd just said.

When I opened the door again, Katie had pulled on pair of leggings and a
sweatshirt and was staring at me from the bedroom door. The faint smile
I had put on Francesca's face faltered.

"How the fuck," said Katie, her voice tight and controlled, "do you know
about the flush?"

I told her everything. I could have tried to bluff it, said she'd
mentioned it before, but I didn't want to lie anymore, and it all came
out in a tumble. Me and Rob not realising Amalfi's was a gay club,
seeing Francesca and Banshari there, this confirming their fantasy,
waking up the following morning in their bodies, me only going to the
event because I hadn't wanted Francesca to miss out on a mentoring
opportunity (okay I kind of tweaked that part) and one thing had led to
another and here we were.

She just stared at me.

"Ask me anything," I said. "Something only I would know. I don't mean
Francesca, I mean me."

But she didn't say anything. "All right," I said, and instead I told her
things only I would know. Things she'd told me about her family, her
past, little moments on our first date. A couple of times she looked
genuinely shocked and I knew she knew no-one else could know these
things. But then the shutters came down and I knew it was a lost cause.
There was no way she could believe the Francesca in front of her was her
male ex and why should she? How could she?

I started faltering and finally I had nothing. "Look, I know how it
sounds," I said. It came out even more pathetic than it was in my head.

She got up then and disappeared into the kitchen, returning with my
clothes, damp but clean, which she stuffed into a carrier bag, handing
it to me with my shoes and bag.

"I don't want those things back," she said, and the next thing I knew I
was standing on the pavement.

"I don't want to see you at university anymore," she said coldly. "Not
to talk to, anyway. I just won't be teaching you. And if you try and
spin this to get me into trouble, I'll make life very difficult for

She shut the door on me. Again. At least it had stopped raining.

It's fine, I told myself as I trudged back to the university to get the
car. I wasn't even thinking about crying, I'd done my crying earlier,
now I felt numb. It's absolutely fine she thinks her student had a crush
on her and is incidentally completely insane, because that's Francesca's
problem to deal with because I'm going to be me again in five days.
Except I saw the look of deep unease that had come over her face when
I'd mentioned stuff that only I could know and at that moment I'd
poisoned the well. Katie wasn't going to want to see either of us again.

It was dark when I got home. Rob was in a fetching set of pink sweats
with his feet up on the coffee table, staring at Banshari's phone. He
didn't even look up.

"All right, you big twat?"

I kicked off the heels, dumped the bag of damp clothes on the floor and
sat next to him on the sofa. Rob slid a bottle of beer over to me.

"Ooh," he said glancing up briefly. "You found your Nick Cave t-shirt

I opened the bottle of beer. Rob was texting at breakneck speed.

"Bans has got an admirer," he said. "He's quite forward. Or he is now,
anyway, I think he's quite shy really."

"Erm," I said, but Rob patted me reassuringly on my knee.

"Yoga pants," he said approvingly. "Nice. Bans is fine with it, I
checked. Actually, I think she's quite into him, but he's up in the
Midlands somewhere so she said it was all right to get things moving on
her behalf for when he's down next."

"Wait," I said as I saw him briefly scroll up past a photo of a man's
well-defined abs, a trail of dark hair leading down to the waistband of
some expensive boxer shorts. "You're sexting someone? You're sexting a

"For Bans," he explained patiently. "This guy Mark really fancies her,
he sent me a picture of his cock earlier."

I groaned. "You know how I feel about blokes who do that. Prison time."

"I asked! It was solicited. I had to ask twice actually. And first I had
to send him a pic of one of Bans" boobs. Do you want to see?"

"No I- wait, do you mean boobs or cock?" I rubbed my eyes, barely able
to believe I I was having this conversation.

"You've seen the boobs, I was talking about the cock. Just screening,
you know. Make sure he's suitable for our Bans."

I rubbed my eyes. "Rob, if you knew the day I'd just had." But then,
bearing in mind the day I'd just had, seeing a picture of a stranger's
penis just seemed like one more thing. "Fine, go on then."

So, Rob showed me the photo. We stared at it in silence for a while.

"Shall I expand a bit?"

"No, you're fine." Somehow, neither of us could tear our eyes away.

"Can I ask," said Rob finally. "Do you find that... attractive? More than
you would have done, say, off the top of my head, a few days ago?"

"I honestly can't say I find that attractive, Rob, no. But then I don't
know many women who do find... those attractive, exactly."

"But," continued Rob, and his voice had gone a little higher now. "Does
the thought of having one of those, you know, sort of in you... feel a
bit weird?"

"Definitely a bit weird, yes."

"But would you say good weird, or bad weird?"

Christ, neither of us could look away. Bearing in mind how I'd recently
got a lot more familiar with the wants and needs of Little Francesca, I
felt able to think about this more objectively than just a day before.

"I mean," I said slowly. "I'm not freaking out about the idea?"

"Me neither," said Rob. "Although the fact that I'm not freaking out is
also, in its own way, slightly freaking me out. Because I don't have a
problem with gay dudes, as you know, but also I'm definitely not gay
myself. Or I wasn't. But when that guy sent me that picture of his cock,
and I totally asked him to do that, my very first thought was 'yum.'"

"Oh," I said. "Oh, okay." And then, to change the subject: "Hey, so I
accidentally slept with Katie earlier."

"What?" said Rob. And then, pointing at me: "Like that?"

"No," I said sarcastically, "I popped back into my old body, without
telling you I could do that, went over to Katie's and we did it, then I
went back into this body and came home again. Yes, like this."

"Holy shit," said Rob, holding his hand up for a high five. "I always
said you needed to bang her one more time then move on, never thought
you'd pull it off under these circumstances. Mate, respect!"

I looked at his raised hand but did nothing. Slowly, Rob lowered it

"You didn't," he said. "You didn't try and tell her?"

And that was when I started crying again.

An hour later I was lying on the sofa, my head on Rob's lap, watching
some barely comprehensible Nordic Noir thing, the remains of a home
delivery curry spread out around us. We'd also gone through a whole
bottle of wine, which a week or so ago would barely have touched the
edges, but now was enough to root us firmly to the spot.

"Awww," said Rob, absently stroking my hair. I was still sniffling, but
that was more from the curry than anything else. He passed down a
tissue. I blew my nose.

"Better now," I said and got up from his lap. "Sorry about that." I
leaned into him instead. He put an arm around me comfortingly. Why
couldn't we have done this when we were dudes? In just five days we'd be
back to taking the piss and shoving each other and although I couldn't
wait for this to just be over already, the thought of losing this
version of Rob made me indescribably sad.

"I can't believe you and Katie lezzed up," said Rob for at least the
third time.

I sighed. "What are you talking about? You got yourself groped in the
pub by that hockey chick. And you got to at least second base at that
party, which we should talk about sometime by the way. You've been
firing on all lesbian cylinders ever since we arrived here."

"I mean, I suppose," said Rob. He sounded unusually thoughtful. "But
also, I'm still thinking I'm me, you know what I mean? If was this age
again but me, I'd be carrying on exactly the same, I reckon. Quick feel
up of some bird in the bogs, snogging another one at a party..."

"Wanking in my bed."

"Exactly. All right, I might not have done that but only because there's
less to clean up after."

"I had to change the sheets."

"Oh," said Rob sheepishly. "Sorry mate."

"S'fine," I said.

I waited for Rob to continue but he fell silent. On screen, the female
detective went into an abandoned Soviet-era bunker in search of her male
partner. Or possibly the other way around, I'd lost track.

"This is because of that dick pic, isn't it?" I said finally.

Rob sighed. "It's all I can think about. Is it me thinking that or is it
what's left of Bans in this body when she's out of it? I mean, let's say
something goes wrong and we don't get back to our bodies."

I sat bolt upright, staring at him. "Jesus, let's not say that!" The
thought hadn't even occurred to me.

"I'm just saying, if it did. I've been in this body for, what, three
days nearly? And I'm already thinking about cock. What if this goes on
for a month, a year? Will I even be Rob then? And will they start acting
more like us? Will we even remember anything happened?"

I couldn't help feeling impressed. "Wow, Rob, you're having an
existential crisis. This is good."

"It is?"

"Well, it's good to ask questions, I suppose." I thought about it.
"Maybe it's nothing to do with Bans. Maybe, now we've kind of got used
to used walking around with..."

"Vaginas," said Rob helpfully.

"... okay, vaginas, it's just natural to think about the arrangements we
used to have would work when seen from, erm, a different angle."

"Ah," said Rob. "So, you reckon really I'm thinking about my own cock."

"I honestly have no idea," I said giving up. "I wonder what
conversation the girls are having right now?"

"It doesn't sound like they're talking much, from what Bans tells me,"
said Rob sadly. "Anyway, tell me what it's like having sex with someone
as a chick when you've already done it with them as a bloke."

I really didn't know how to put it into words, but I did my best. How I
had to pretend I didn't already know Katie's body intimately, but how
this time round I had to approach it in a whole new way. How at times it
grew hard to tell which parts of our bodies belonged to who. How the
pleasure rose and fell in waves, linking up all the different parts of
Francesca's body instead of being focused in one place and then being
gone. How just lying there, stroking Katie's hair, feeling her warm body
against mine, gave me as much pleasure as the sexual experience itself.
How much I missed her in my life and how much I wanted her to know it
was me in bed with her, which led to my disastrous confession and the
ruining of the whole thing.

"But was it better or worse?"

I sighed. "It was so much better, it just felt like something was

"Ah," said Rob wisely. "A cock."

We shared a bed again that night, although I did have to ask him not to
have a wank. Grudgingly, he agreed. I think he was worried he would
start thinking about cocks again. We did have a bit of a cuddle, me
wrapping my tired lanky frame around Rob's smaller curvier one, but if
either of us got a bit turned on by it, no-one said so. I fell asleep
with my crotch pushed firmly up against Rob's naked butt, my face buried
in his neck so I could smell his hair, my arm over him, cupping one
heavy breast in the palm of my hand. He really did have magic tits.