“Whatcha doin’?”

Ben was lying under his favourite tree in the woods adjoining his parents house. He lazily lifted one eyelid. The other followed suit rather more abruptly. Seven year old Ben had grown tired of running after his (decidedly more physical) older brother (especially) early today.

Intense eyes stared at him from a freckled face framed with bangs of curly blonde hair. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. A vision, clad in wafts of pink frills and lace.

“I just came from a party. Would you like some sweets?” She held out a brown paper bag to him.

And useful too he thought as he stuck a paw out and clumsily fumbled in the bag.

“My name’s Linda. What’s yours?”

“Ben.” He managed to pry it out despite his tongue being stuck to his palate.

“Do you wanna come with me?” She asked.

Ben instinctively knew he would follow her anywhere. He was too overwhelmed to say anything though so he just stood up. She took this as her cue and headed directly for the deserted old warehouse behind the woods. The whole place had been nailed shut years before but she’d somehow managed to pry an opening which they both squeezed through. It was dusty and dirty from years of neglect but it had become her paradise and playpen. As they got to the remnant of an office Ben could see that she’d obviously spent many hours there. The place was relatively clean with a table set in the middle, some dilapidated chairs spread round and a neatly decked tea set forming the centrepiece. A well-worn Teddy bear sat collapsed in one of the chairs.

“Mr. Wiggles we have some company today!” She said.

Mr Wiggles was unequivocally (not to mention unceremoniously) demoted to a smaller chair in the corner from where he would have to observe proceedings from now on.

“Do sit down.” Indicating the chair forcibly vacated by Mr. Wiggles, she spoke like she’d heard her mom speak many times when she had guests.

Ben almost fell over as he stumbled into the chair vacated by Mr. Wiggles. Somehow he could not pull his eyes off his captor.

“It’s so nice having you round Ben. Can I pour you some tea?”

“Uhhh… Yes, please.” Somehow he managed the polite response drilled into him.

She poured some air and after handing him the cup, he awkwardly pretended to drink from it. Her voice droned on but he had no clue what she was saying, yet he knew he could spend hours in her presence without the slightest sign of boredom. What was it about her that captivated him so?

After a while she noticed she’d hardly gotten a response from him yet he hadn’t budged an inch from his chair. She noticed his eyes alternating between her face and her dress, face and dress…

“Do you like it?” she enquired.

“Huhhh!?”

“Do you like my dress?”

Swaying violently Ben nearly fell of his chair.

“No! … No!” he stammered but he failed to avert his eyes.

“It’s okay Ben. I mean, it’s okay to like my dress. My dad also says it’s lovely, so it’s okay!”

Ben could not be moved as he sat frozen in his spot. Okay!? What?! A dress!? Lovely?! … Never! A million thoughts ran through his head and scared him in a helter-skelter fashion he could never fathom. Instinctively he knew he had to get out of there and fast! Slowly life crept back into his legs and it catapulted him to his feet.

“Bye!” was all he could manage. He only heard one more thing as he ran out the door.

“Going so soon? Do come visit again!” She could emulate her mother all day.

The next couple of days Ben tried his level best to keep up with the other boys. Trying desperately to somehow erase the memory of that fateful day. Eventually he grew weary and found himself lying under his favourite tree again. He could not stop thinking about her. Somehow he missed that silly little girl! Could it be? He wondered what she was up to… Could she still be playing in the old warehouse? Maybe he could sneak in quietly, have a look round the corner and she wouldn’t be any the wiser. What if she saw me he thought to himself? Would that really be such a bad thing? He had to admit that he was intrigued, which went against his normal feelings of girls being the most ghastly creatures imaginable… How could this be? The universe was turning on it’s head! Hmm… maybe he could pull this off. Yes, he had to at least give it a shot…

******

Ben eventually managed to pry his eyes off the back of the girl sitting at the table. He felt guilty as he turned on his heels as quietly as he could and started tiptoeing towards the secret entrance.

“Ben! Is that you?”

Panic gripped him like a vice and nailed him down on the spot. He could not move a muscle though the adrenaline pumping through his veins dictated that he should. A white organza haze floated round the corner and spoke in the most heavenly voice:

“How do you like this one?”

“Nice!” he blurted it out before he could retain control of his tongue. His hands grabbed at his mouth in an effort to seal those harrowing words off but to no avail. He felt like biting that deserter off!

“I have a surprise for you. I think you’re going to like it!” Her eyes lit up as she led a very meek looking yet internally conflicted young man into her domain.

“Come! Have a look!” With a twinkle in her eye she pulled him behind a dusted room divider.

“So!? What do you think?”

Ben was flabbergasted. His legs turned to jelly and he nearly fell to his knees. His arms started quivering yet he could not pull his eyes away from the object in question.

“It’s yours… Well, for the day at least…” Slowly the words sank in. What does she mean: “It’s yours… Mine!?”

Linda released his hand and stepped behind the divider.

“Come on. Put it on you silly. We haven’t got all day you know!”

But… But… I’m a boy! Boy’s don’t wear such ridiculous things he thought. Yet…

“Make up your mind already. I’m waiting.”

Hypnotized, Ben stuck out his hand ever so slowly. Like touching a neglected animal for the first time in a loving way, scared that it may flee. Stroking the warm softness. Caressing the lace overlay. Smoothing the gentle ruching and drinking it all in with unblinking eyes.

“Hurry up!” came the impatient cry from behind the divider.

He found himself inadvertently pulling it off the hanger, then clumsily trying to hang onto it with one hand as he pulled his t-shirt and shorts off with the other. As the soft material cascaded down over his sensitive skin a mighty counter ripple, emanating from the tips of his toes, ran counter directionally up his young body. A resulting resonance, so powerfully evoked from these two mighty frequencies intersecting halfway up his body, it was felt reverberating in the follicles of his hair. He had never ever felt like this before but somehow knew he’d been hooked…

“You finished yet?”

Ben managed to pull two leaden legs round the divider very ungracefully.

“It’s about time… You look lovely my dear! Now, let’s have some tea! I’m sure it must be cold by now…”

It sounded as if it was an everyday occurrence seeing him in a dress. Somehow it set him at ease. Ben plonked down in his chair his dress was all over the place.

“First off, let me teach you how to sit down properly.” She beamed at him.

Standing up she proceeded to sweep her dress in underneath her with little hands. She managed to sit down with as much elegance as a seven year old could muster.

“See! Try that… Go on…”

Ben pulled himself upright. Decidedly less elegant he flopped back down on his hands. At least he managed to not teeter on yards of material underneath him anymore.

“That’ll have to do for now… You know what? Yesterday I had a discussion with Mr. Wiggles. We agreed it would be lovely having that boy over… ”

Ben had lost her again. He only had eyes for her now and didn’t even notice her dress any more. For that matter, he didn’t notice his own! Odd, he thought to himself…

*****

Ben eventually did find his tongue after enigmatically stumbling to the warehouse daily. Ben and Linda became inseparable that summer. Every day Linda brought a different surprise for him and their humble tea parties expanded to extravagant theatrical productions. It was all good until one day…

“You little pervert!” Ben whipped his head round as he heard his mother speak! But how? How could she have managed to pull her (decidedly more generous) frame through the opening without alerting them? How did she know they were there? And who was she speaking to?

“Turning my boy into a little girl… You pervert!” She continued.

Linda? A pervert? What was a pervert anyway? It sounded bad really, really bad. So how could she call my friend that then Ben thought?

“And you… You! Get out of that dress right now young man! Young lady! You run on home and never ever come near my boy again! Do you understand me?” Ben felt as if she over-emphasized the word “boy”.

He did not dare speak up against his mother for he knew there would be hell to pay if he did. He just ran in behind the divider as quickly as he could, pulled the dress off and in one motion threw his own clothes back on. When he came round he saw no trace of Linda. She had fled and he knew instinctively he probably would never see her again. He did as his mom commanded but his heart bled profusely. He didn’t care about the dress but he knew he had lost his best friend…

******

“Ben! Is that you?”

Ben could not remember when last he heard his name sound so sweetly. Abruptly he swung round. Could it really be that this vision knew him from somewhere? Somehow beautiful women tended to avoid him. Well, to be fair most woman avoided him. There was something strangely familiar about her though.

“It’s me… It’s… Linda.”

“Linda!?”

“Don’t you remember? The old warehouse… The tea parties… The…” She was almost pleading now.

“Wow… Linda! Is it really you? I… I can’t believe it!” Ben cut in before she could say something silly in front of other inquisitive ears.

“Yes! At first you seemed familiar but I didn’t want to impose. But then I saw your name on the registration form and I just knew! How have you been?”

“I’ve been good. But you! You’ve become a knockout!” Ben could not help but wonder if the shoe was on the other foot, would he have recognized her? He always thought boys just grew into the adult version of themselves but girls had this knack of transforming into womanhood like a butterfly. This made it neigh on impossible to recognize them if you ever lost touch.

“Well… Let’s finish up this registration and have some coffee. Unless you are previously engaged? Linda inquired politely, still sounding a lot like her mom.

“I would love that!” Ben could not think of anything he wouldn’t put off to be with this woman. They lost count of the hours as they talked endlessly. About their lives, their hopes, their dreams. It was a magic moment lost in time. Finally it became time to say goodbye. Ben sighed with relief, glad that she didn’t inquire about the dressing. He did not want to ruin this. He had a shot at being with the woman he had always dreamed of and he did not want to ruin it. They went out again and every time things just seemed to click into place. Ben was happy that Linda avoided asking about the dressing. Maybe she thought it was just a silly little thing kids do and that he had probably outgrown it. He was happy to let her think that way, scared she might drop him like a hot potato for the contrary.

“Do you still wear dresses Ben?” The question came out of the blue one night as they went out. It hit Ben like a ton of bricks and he was momentarily stunned.

“No! No… That was just kids’ stuff…” he mustered. Ben could not see her reaction as she was distracted by a waiter walking past.

“Oh… Just thought I’d ask.” Could it really be that there was a hint of disappointment in her voice? No, Ben thought to himself, I must be mistaken.

With that the conversation ended. Ben was sure he’d made the right response but something about Linda seemed a bit different from that moment on. They continued to see each other though and the relationship still managed to grow.

******

It was the first night Linda visited Ben at his place. She had to think of an excuse to get him out of the apartment for a while so she could do some snooping. She felt guilty about it but she just had to know whether Ben was upfront with her. Seeing that he had no wine, she enquired and Ben was only too keen to run down to the convenience store to get her some. She knew she did not have much time but made the most of it, being very careful to put everything back in place. She could not find any trace of a secret life. She had to hand it to Ben, if he did he was expert at hiding it.

The next day she had to fly out of town very early for business. Her mind was a mess. It felt as if things weren’t going anywhere. Somehow the relationship wasn’t deepening the way it should when two people spend that much time together. She felt shut out and decided it would be best to break things off with Ben when she got back. She ran out the door of Ben’s apartment and saw the elevator door was just about to close.

“Hold the door please!” she called out.

She ran in and the door shut behind her. An elderly lady, on her way to walk her numerous dogs, studied her up and down. She felt a bit uncomfortable but eased off when the lady spoke up.

“You know, that nice young man you frequented doesn’t get a lot of lady visitors…”

She was a bit taken aback by the forthrightness of the mature lady.

“…but I can tell that he likes you.”

“Why?” she blurted flabbergasted.

“When a man goes through that much effort to clean out his apartment before his female company arrives, it’s a sure sign he likes her. I saw him carrying numerous boxes down to his garage yesterday.”

The elevator doors opened and Linda exited at the older ladies prompt, then stopped and turned on her heels.

“Excuse me, why did you refer to Ben as a nice young man?”

“My dear, unlike most young ones these days he still has manners.”

What an old sweetie Linda thought as she left the building. Maybe she would give Ben one more chance to see if he would opt to be truthful.

******

“I lied.”

“Whaaat?”

“I lied Linda… I do still dress… I mean I do still wear dresses…”

“I know.”

“What? … How?”

“That’s a story for a different day.”

“But… I thought if you knew. You know, that I hadn’t outgrown it you wouldn’t want to be with me…”

“Yet here I am.”

“Indeed you are… You know, I just wanted so bad to live up to the expectation I thought you had of me. I see the way other men act around you. You could have most any man you want! Why on earth would you want to be with weird old Ben who likes to wear dresses?”

“Brenda…”

“What!?”

“We’ll call you Brenda! Then it won’t be so weird anymore…”

“It just got a fair bit weirder!”

“Let me tell you a story Ben. Maybe that will put things into perspective. A long time ago there was a little girl called Linda. Linda struggled to make a connection with the other girls in the neighbourhood. Besides, there weren’t that many to go round and all of them seemed to be paired off.  Linda often found herself running around in the woods next to the deserted old warehouse alone. One day Linda found a way into the old warehouse and proceeded to deck out an empty office with some of her stuff. She had tea parties with Mr. Wiggles her teddy bear but for some reason she longed for a real person to connect with.

One day, resigned to her fate of solitude, Linda was on her way to have another tea party. Some exuberant boys ran past her into the woods. Intrigued she followed at a safe distance hoping they wouldn’t spot her. At the front an older boy seemed to determine proceedings. He ran, he jumped, he hung from and swung from the trees. The other boys tried to keep up but failed. I looked them all over. He was magnificent…”

Ben cut in as Linda paused for a moment.

“His name’s Chris. His my brother and if he wasn’t married, I’d give you his number.”

“Shhh… My story.” Linda put a finger to her lips before she continued.

“He was magnificent… The lanky, slightly goofy one, trying but mostly failing to emulate. After a while as the others ran off somewhere else again, he gave up and flayed himself down dispirited under a tree. I watched him for a while and could see that he was daydreaming.

Then he got up and engaged in some decidedly less physical games. I could not hear his mutterings but it looked like he was engaging in some form of role play. He seemed to skip between parts and from his manner I could tell the one was a girl! … Could I? Should I dare approach him? Maybe I needed something to lure him in? He flopped down on the grass next to the tree, pulled out a Pez dispenser from his pocket, and proceeded to empty it. So, I thought, he likes sweets… ”

“So you had it all planned! I had no idea you could be that conniving…”

“Why? I came to you with a bag of sweets wanting to be your friend. The dress I wore was my mothers idea. She made me put it on that morning saying she was tired of always seeing me in shorts and a Tee. I was so upset with her because I thought it would ruin everything. That you would just think me some silly girl in a pink dress. I had no idea it would turn out to be the clincher! How surprised my mom must have been to see me in a dress again the next day!”

“And the next… And the next…”

“I think she was so glad to see me in dresses she didn’t even notice my laundry doubled!”

Turning serious Linda inquired:

“But how did your mother find out Ben?”

“Simple really. After a while my brother noticed I wasn’t running behind him anymore so he followed me. Mostly I tried to cover my tracks but that day I was running a bit late. You know him, he climbed onto the roof of the warehouse and saw us through a window, told my mom and the rest was history. I don’t hold it against him anymore or my mom for that matter. I suppose they just did what they thought was right and you can’t fault them for that. After that day my parents watched me like a hawk and I rarely got to dress but for some rare occasions. The thrill was still there but I suppose it was now laced with feelings of guilt. After I left home and I gained my independence it all came back and I started dressing more frequently. That’s my story in brief.”

Ben had spoken openly and honestly feeling comfortable that there was no judgement from Linda.

“I am amazed that you can be so forgiving towards your family. Do you still feel guilty?”

“Sometimes I do but mostly I suppose I’ve come to terms with it. Linda, now that we’ve been reunited, I understand the reason why things worked out the way they did. If we’d grown up together chances are we’d just have ended up being best friends, nothing more.”

“My story doesn’t read any more exciting. I cried all the way as I ran home that day. In the following days I proceeded to remove all my stuff from the warehouse. Hoping against hope that I would see you there but knowing deep in my heart that I wouldn’t. After a while we moved to a different town and it was only then that I realized I would probably never see you again. But, as you know, life goes on and it will hit you with another twist or turn along the way but, eventually, things do have a way of working themselves out. That’s why I believe there’s a reason you were in front of me in that registration queue and something about you seemed so familiar.”

“But why, Linda? Why? Why do you fancy me above the other boys if you know that I wear, well, dresses?”

“Honestly Ben, I don’t know. I suppose it just gives you an air of vulnerability that they don’t have. It kind of takes the edge off. Seeing you in that dress that very first day you just seemed to be at ease with yourself for once. Besides, you looked cute and I bet you look even cuter now!”

“Linda! But, but doesn’t that make you kind of a lesbian?”

“I tried that, once. Suffice to say it wasn’t really for me. I like boys and in particular a certain one who likes wearing dresses. I suppose it’s just the first of all the little peculiarities you’ll uncover in time if you decide to stick around. So now that all the cards are on the table, will you dress for me some time?”

“I’d be happy to and I look forward to learning more of your peculiarities. Word of warning though, I don’t just do dresses anymore…”

“Pervert!” She teased.

“If you can handle a world of lingerie, dresses, corsets, wigs, make-up and heels you’ll be ready to go.”

“Bar the corsets it’s not a world a modern girl is unfamiliar with you know.”

******

So it transpired they rekindled what had been many years before. They grew ever closer and shared interests on many other levels as well.

One day they sat down in a restaurant in that comfortable quiet characteristic of a couple at ease with each other and their relationship.

“I have something to ask you.” Linda spoke up first.

“That sounds serious. Please proceed.”

“Will you be my maid for a day?”

Wow! In just a couple of words she had managed to turn his whole world upside down! It was all out there now and he struggled to gather his thoughts. He took a deep breath and stared out the window. Things were headed in the wrong direction…

“No… No, I can’t. I admit it is tempting. But no, I can’t. I’ve seen those stories on Storysite where the hero ends up way deeper than he ever imagined. That is not what I want for us.”

He looked back at her and saw the look of playful exuberance make way for a profound seriousness. Could it really be that his Linda, the woman he loved and cherished, was nothing more than one of those selfsame domineering women from the stories who would stop at nothing to viciously subjugate their victim? He did not want to lose her yet he did not want to end up in that kind of relationship. He did not know whether to run or cower. She firmly took his hands in her own and looked him straight in the eye.

“I’m going to be forthright with you and tell you exactly where I see our relationship headed.”

“Run!” He thought. He was fearful of this intimidating figure he thought he loved only minutes ago. What was she capable of? She was taking control in no uncertain terms and he was powerless to stop it. He knew he had to run but all he ran out of was time.

“I’ve decided to lay it all out on the table…”

Here it comes he thought! But his legs had turned to jelly.

“I love you. I want to be with you. I want to marry you. I want you to father my kids. I want you to be a father to my kids. My question? It was a test. I wanted to see if all you’re interested in is playing dress up all day. Or whether you’d live up to what I’d hoped you would. You’ve passed the test Ben now all you need do is decide whether to oblige or not.”

The silence was only broken when she spoke again.

“But when the kids are away visiting the grans for a weekend, I want you in a dress. Any dress and heels for that matter.”

Or don’t run! Now everything really was out there. He turned quiet. Now it was her time to be fearful. Maybe it was just a bit much laying it all on him at once she thought. Just as she was about to rephrase in a desperate effort to somehow soften the impact he spoke putting a finger to her lips.

“Don’t. You’ll spoil it. Do not mitigate the profoundness of the thoughts you just spoke. Linda, I love you. I’ve always loved you. From the very first moment I saw you under that tree it’s always been you. When my mom caught on I was shattered. Because I could not dress anymore? No, because I lost the one thing that mattered in my life and that was you. Now I only want to be with you. I want to marry you. Have as many kids with you as you want. Raise them with you. That is what I want for us. There is nothing in this world that I want more than to oblige…”

He paused for a while.

“… And on the odd one of those odd weekends that I find myself in a dress, I will sit you down. Make you some tea and disappear. Just as you feel like calling out impatiently I will waft round the corner, lightly lift my dress as I curtsy my mistress for the day.”

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