Reggie didn’t feel anywhere near as uncomfortable being a woman as he had done. In fact he felt very, very different all round.
After the picnic and getting told off so horribly by his Uncle Howard he had made himself scarce, hiding away in the library. He had always hated getting told off by grown-ups, but this time it had been strangely different. The Earl had been a frightening and domineering man, just as he always was, but oddly Reggie had felt better and better during the punishment he was given.
Part of that was because he had suddenly been able to write! And the more he wrote, the easier it got! He couldn’t believe it, but now he could write just as well as any grown-up he had ever seen!
He had wondered if he could read too, and sure enough, as he took book after book down from the shelves he found that he could read every word. His education had, of course, been extremely limited up to now. To be able to read any book he chose was incredibly liberating.
He hunted round for children’s books, eager to finally be able to devour them without the assistance of somebody else. But when Reggie sat down with one he found it rather dull. The language used was over simplified and the situations didn’t engage him. Disappointed and bored, he discarded the book and looked round for an alternative.
Eventually he settled on a lovely illustrated book about horticulture. He settled into a comfortable leather chair and smiled to himself as he read the detailed descriptions about garden flowers and the advice on cultivating them. This was much better; far more interesting.
He didn’t feel quite so odd in this body anymore. Being a very fat middle-aged woman was a world away from his physicality as a little boy, but since returning from the picnic he didn’t feel that uncomfortable at all. Instead he found it new and exciting having such a round and squishy body; such bountiful breasts.
Being told off by his uncle had put things into perspective. He understood that he wasn’t to act immaturely anymore. As long as he was his Aunt Elizabeth he had to pretend he really was her. Now he was really looking forward to trying to do that; to fool his mother and father. It would be so funny if he could.
He read the horticulture book for quite a while and started to imagine putting the advice within to good use. He thought initially of his garden over in Blacklake, but quickly realised that it made more sense to think in terms of the garden here at Griply Manor. He didn’t know how long Uncle Howard would want him to stay like this but it would certainly be diverting to put some of his knowledge to newfound use in the meantime.
Just as he was thinking that, the door opened and in strode the Earl, swinging his arms confidently, chin raised, eyes blazing. “Ah there you are Elizabeth,” he said.
Reggie sat up straight, feeling rather on edge.
The Earl shut the door and then turned back in more furtively. “What have you been doing Reggie?” he said. “Keeping out of trouble I hope.”
Reggie decided to show how well he was doing by playing along with the game. Doing his best impression of his aunt, he said, “Really Howard; I would rather you address me as Elizabeth. I am, after all, your wife.”
The Earl got a look of abject shock on his face, followed by confusion, and Reggie couldn’t help burst into a fit of giggles. Seeing this, the Earl frowned deeply and Reggie tried to supress his laughter.
“That is you Reggie?” asked the Earl edgily.
“Yes Howard,” replied Reggie, proud of how well he was doing at pretending to be his aunt. “Am I doing better now?”
The Earl straightened, shifting his chin from side to side as he observed Reggie’s posture. “Yes. You’re doing far better young man. Far better.”
“I’m not a boy at the moment Uncle Howard,” said Reggie, feeling rather more confident talking to the domineering man than he should have. “Shouldn’t we pretend that I really am your wife?”
The Earl frowned and shifted his chin again in thought, making his moustache shift and fall. “You’re quite right… Elizabeth. I am… very pleased; though surprised, by how well you are doing and how… willing you are to persist in this charade.”
Reggie beamed happily, as pleased at the compliment as he was at being able to understand such complex words and concepts.
“For now then, yes,” said Howard. “I will refer to you as Elizabeth, as a woman, and as my… as my wife.” A shadow fell across his features as he said this but he went on anyway. “If you continue to play the part of my wife this well during dinner later then you will find me extremely grateful.”
“Ooo Howard… How grateful?”
Reggie hadn’t been quite sure why he said that – the words had just slipped out – but the look of alarm that passed over the Earl’s face at hearing it was hysterical.
But it was ripping to play such a hilarious game with the Earl of all people. He had never imagined that pompous old man would wish to engage in such shenanigans. But now he had overcome his initial reservations, Reggie was eager to go on with it. He wanted to pretend to be Elizabeth Neville in front of his parents and the servants and the whole world.
He couldn’t wait!