The feeling that they would be lost like this forever had settled, and any hope that they would somehow be turned back seemed to abandon them little by little. After the eventful morning they had suffered, they had a rather peaceful afternoon and evening – there was a calmness about them, knowing that they would need to find a way to navigate this new life together as one another. They needed to find some common ground in each other because they couldn’t live a whole life pretending to be someone else. To be fair they had prior to their switch had to compromise with their relationship and act as though they were only close companions but then again – could still be true to themselves to some extent. This was something else entirely – they would have to deceive everyone including the people they loved – for the rest of their lives. Anne, Ann thought had lost more than herself – and it was painful to watch her gloomy surrender to an eternity stuck like this. Though she had done her best not to let that show, it seeped through her whole being and Ann had spent all day thinking of possible ways for her wife to enjoy more freedom even as her.
Come evening, they had both let their maids attend to them and help them ready for bed – it was unavoidable, they needed to make the transition at some point – they couldn’t well keep servants without a purpose. Anne was comfortable enough with Eugénie and her help but felt rather exposed with Sarah and in a body, she didn’t quite know as well as her own – that is to say, how to move it.
“Do you think anyone will notice?” Ann pondered out loud, glancing at her bedfellow that lay alongside her, staring into the ceiling of the four-poster bed. Anne slowly moved towards her,
“How do you mean?”
“That we’re gone in some sense. Will they know that we are not ourselves anymore? – That every word of affection or alike won’t be to its intended recipient. That slowly but certainly the relation will fade away because it doesn’t exist anymore.” Ann said quietly and thoughtfully – anxiety and sentimentality weighing her down and her thought brought Anne down too, and she sighed, rolling back to rest propped up against her own arm,
“I think they might understand something’s up – but obviously they will never know and then they might just think something changed… Oh Lord, urgh, my aunt, she won’t know.”
Ann grasped her hand in hers, pressing her lips against the back of it, thinking it might bring her some comfort though there was little she could do to console her partial loss.
“Maybe we could tell her...”
“She would think we were insane.” Anne shook her head, her voice firm but Ann caught sight of a teardrop escaping slowly down her cheek.
“Could we please talk of something else?” Anne begged, her voice deeply affected by her emotion and Ann shut her mouth and let her words die, trying to find another subject – searching her mind desperately as she didn’t want to sleep just yet – she wanted to be with Anne – hoping that if she held onto her and their conversation until sleep took her with force, she might dream of her – the real her – body and soul.
Anne rolled over on her side, gazing at her wife, gingerly reaching her hand out to caress her face slowly with her fingers, as if she was tracing her own skin and contours to scorch it into her memory, her eyes closed though, and she sighed deeply, her hand falling to the mattress, eyes opening to meet Ann’s gaze again.
“I miss you.”
It was the way she said it, so brittle and tender, that made Ann’s body ache with longing for her wife – she never knew she could feel such desire and yearning for someone and this time there was no solution – no one that could still that want, because they were trapped in the other.
“I miss you too.” Ann replied low, shuffling closer to her on the bed, leaning her head forwards to kiss the hand she had taken in hers and Anne looked so heartbroken – which was how Ann felt and seeing her own face reflect her inner almost overwhelmed her with anxiety.
“Would it…” Anne’s words died before they had formed, her eyes closing as she reconsidered them, and Ann lay waiting patiently for her to speak her mind, hoping she would - that they had made progress that morning with her opening up to her.
“I just thought, that if we are to live like this…”
“Yes? – Go on, dearest, tell me.” Ann urged her, brushing curls out of her face, and Anne hesitated for another second,
“Would it be weird if we… if we slept together?”
The question took Ann by some surprise, though she suspected it shouldn’t have, her wife craved physical touch, as much as she did and a life never being near one another again would be thoroughly mundane and almost insufferable. Anne was made nervous by her lack of reply and grimaced,
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked – did I offend you?”
“No.” Ann mumbled,
“Are you sure?” Anne pressed to which Ann smiled small,
“You didn’t offend me, Anne. And no, I don’t think it’s strange, well it might be at first – but I’d rather have something you than nothing at all. I couldn’t possibly resist you, even if you’re me, for the rest of our lives.”
Anne beamed at her, caressing her cheek tenderly – tracing her cheekbone before she leant forwards to capture her lips in a slow kiss, eyes closed trying to lose herself in the feeling – imagining for her inner-eye that it really was Ann she was kissing and not her own lips. The all too familiar dance of their tongues did almost give them a sense of them being themselves – it was uncanny: as long as their eyes remained shut, they could pretend for just one moment that everything was alright and back to normal.
“Are you sure you want this?” Anne mumbled in-between kisses, and Ann nodded,
Anne responded by raising her hands to weave them into her dark hair to bring her closer, though no matter how close they were, it still seemed too far away – the feelings and passion were there but as soon as their eyes opened their hearts sank, and a feeling of sorrow of some kind tugged at their heartstrings for a second.
“Is it too bizarre?” Anne enquired, forehead resting against Ann’s, hands on either side of her face, Ann touched her face lovingly in return, though her eyes remained shut,
“I don’t know - as long as I close my eyes – it’s fine. But even then, it’s like I can’t feel you, be near you the way I want.”
Anne agreed with her, it was strange and again this fear nestled within her, and perhaps it was a superficial fear, she thought, but nevertheless it dwelled within her and weighed her down with the dread that she might never be near her wife again the way they used to be.
“Then let’s not proceed – I do not want you to feel uncomfortable.”
“Are you disappointed?” Ann murmured, eyes opening to observe her face, worrying that she might have upset her wife, but Anne merely shook her head, remaining close,
“Not with you, never with you – just this.”
She pointed between them, and Ann chuckled sadly,
Ann did want to - needed even her wife close to her, but making love to herself, this way, might take some time to get used to – she would have to get used to the thought, unless she wanted to go her whole life without feeling Anne’s touch on her again – and she didn’t want that. She desired her with her whole being.
“We will work it out. In some sense it will be much like when you’ve touched yourself in the past – only you’re not yourself obviously.” Anne told her gently, wanting to reassure her, that somehow, they would work this whole thing out – not just their lovemaking but this whole act. They still had each other.
“I guess you’re right. I just put so much of my hope to the fact that we would change back.” Ann averted her eyes, disappointment filling her chest – and she didn’t want Anne to see the tears that had welled up, she must be exhausted by her constant tears. But Anne didn’t groan nor sigh when she noticed, she wrapped her arms around her as well as she could and let her rest in her embrace for a while.
“We’ll be alright, Adney, however this turns out, we’ll make it fine. I promise you that!”
Neither of them could sleep, though they remained quiet for a long while. Anne thought Ann might have fallen asleep and didn’t dare to check for fear of waking her up. She raised her hand from Ann’s shoulder only barely – observing it closely, eying the rings that she had placed on that finger a year previously. They had really done it – Ann had agreed to be her wife and married her before the eyes of God. Sometimes it was still hard to believe that it had happened, that Ann wouldn’t just get up and leave whenever she was fed up with her. Which was why, Anne mused, she had been so distant at times, like the fortnight before their switch where she had almost avoided her – been annoyed with her. Partly because she hadn’t understood Ann, hadn’t realised the extent of nor the truth of her pain but also because she had been terrified that if she allowed Ann’s feelings to be real and gave them room for contemplation – Ann might have left her.
But Anne thought, that wasn’t fair to Ann, to believe that, because she had proven to have a stronger spine than most, and she was courageous – she defied the lot of them and overcame her own fears for her. No one could do more for her, no one had ever done more for her and the amount of love for the woman in her arms made her chest ache terribly, and her eyes sting with unshed tears. She didn’t deserve her. She had treated her abominably and yet was forgiven at the spur of a moment – Ann was, Anne decided a much better person than she was, and she should endeavour to be more like her in her relation to other people. Well, she would have to be in any case – since there seemed to be no escaping this body, she was trapped in. Anne glanced down at Ann again, straining her neck to be able to view her from the position they lay in only to be met with dark expressive eyes that startled her and made her yelp making Ann giggle at her,
“You scare so easily!”
“You didn’t scare me – I was merrily surprised at finding you awake.” Anne objected pouting and Ann grinned, thinking she looked rather sweet, biting her lip to still her chuckles,
“Oh, so that little cry was one of excitement?”
“Yes.” Anne told her resolutely, giving her a brave look, puffing out her chest where she lay as if challenging the audacity Ann had to assume she was scared of anything. Ann bit her lip down really hard, raising her hand to cover her mouth, all the while Anne stared at her daring her to oppose her – the last little huff from her wife was all it took for her resolve to break, and laughter spilled out of her mouth. Anne rolled her eyes at her, waiting for her to stop but she didn’t. Ann’s stomach cramped with the laughter, and tears tumbled down her cheeks – she didn’t know why she was laughing this much but it felt incredibly freeing though her ribs did ache some after a while. Anne clearly tried to keep a straight face but was failing miserably, a grin snuck unto her face as she watched her wife lose herself to laughter. Eventually Ann stopped, her chest heaving quickly up and down as she tried to gather herself, wiping tears off her cheeks. Anne eyed her amused,
“Are you finished?”
Ann smirked at her, a giggle escaping her, but she nodded, sounding a little out of breath as she panted,
“Yes, I… am.”
“It wasn’t that funny.”
“Clearly it was.”
Anne shook her head at her, leaning down to kiss her hastily, before withdrawing, eyes still on her.
“I miss your real laughter.”
The remark brought Ann back to the fact that they would probably always be like this, and though it did everything to alarm and frighten her, she brushed that feeling away and merely smiled at her wife,
“If you miss it so much, just laugh then!”
Anne didn’t expect her to say that and so did laugh, but then she realised how foolish the whole situation was – and began laughing louder, inevitably setting Ann off again. They should undoubtedly be worried that their laughter leaked through the walls disturbing the rest of the household, but once they had started – it was hard to stop. But it turned out nature would put an end to their laughter as suddenly thunder roared above the house and Anne, for the second time that night, cried out clasping Ann’s hand in hers immediately. Ann knew how scared her wife was of thunder – a childhood fear that never seemed to have left her – and this time she had no anger to distract her from the sounds, like the day they had switched places. Which was why she didn’t laugh at her but squeezed the hand that had grasped hers and shuffled closer to her on the bed again, sneaking her arm under her neck, across her shoulders to hold her close. Pressing a lingering kiss to the side of her face, keeping still and quiet, comforting her only by touches – knowing she would be more embarrassed if she tried talking her through it. It was weird to give one’s own body this kind of comfort though – Ann reckoned she should’ve got used it by now, but it did feel uncanny. She closed her eyes and tried to envisage that it was Anne completely and truly, but Ann knew her curves all too well for it to help much. Ann wondered fleetingly if it were shallow to think that in some sense their bodies were the key to their soul – which was why, even if they did come to terms with it, they might never be the same again – their mind was all that was left and Ann worried she might one day forget the touch of Anne’s hands on her skin, of her lips against hers – they would make do but it wouldn’t be the same. If there was anything positive with this switch, it was the fact that Ann now understood her wife better – and her admiration for her had only grown with it. Anne had suffered so much at the hands of other people, yet she had risen above that – continuously and the amount of time and effort she put into the estate and the people around her was commendable. Yes, Anne was sometimes irate and ill-tempered but– people were constantly questioning her, jeering her and waiting for her to slip up so they might once and for all bring Anne Lister down. Ann had understood it to some extent before but living it had opened her eyes and she now wondered at Anne ever being in a good mood with all the cruelties thrown at her. Her wife was so brave, so good and kind in despite of what other people did and said to her and Ann, though she evidently had rather switched back, only hoped she would make her person justice if they should spend the rest of their lives like this.
The lightening outside lit up the room despite the curtains being drawn, and Ann turned her eyes to Anne – who was holding her in a tight grip, face hidden into her side, but her breathing had eased, and soft sounds filled the interludes between the lightning and thunder and Ann continued to run her fingers over her back soothingly until she herself was whisked off to the land of the dreams.
There was a sharp source of light begging her to open her eyes though her tired and foggy mind wanted her not to. Ann groaned softly, trying to turn her face into her pillow but found her cheek was pressed up against Anne – they must’ve changed position in their sleep – after all this was their default way of sleeping together.
Ann forced her heavy eyelids to open and the sunlight, streaming in from a crack in the curtains, immediately stung her eyes and she frowned putting her hands in-front of her face to try and shield herself from the upsetting light when she caught herself in the mirror and her heart stopped in her chest. For a moment everything around her froze as she regarded her reflection, carefully, as if she was scared of it leaving her, she raised her hands to feel her own face, completely befuddled. She did not dare to trust her own eyes at what she saw, closing them slowly, taking a calming breath before she opened them again, sneaking a look down at her bedfellow and her heart fluttered wildly in her chest – beside her lay her wife sleeping peacefully – and it really was her! Ann fought an instinct to throw herself at Anne to kiss her face and put her hands all over her just to see if it was truly her.
“Thank you, God.” Ann mumbled, biting her lip but couldn’t contain the grin that formed on her face, if ever she had been happier to wake up – she didn’t know it. Hesitantly she reached her hand out to caress the side of Anne’s face gently, and it sent jolts of joy and love through her body when she touched the warm soft skin of her wife. She was real! This wasn’t a dream – their prayers had been answered. Ann rustled Anne awake, almost pushing her out of bed and Anne grumbled at her, squeezing her eyes tighter together before reluctantly opening them. And her face when she saw Ann was a look of pure astonishment as if she thought she was dreaming for a second. She cracked a smile, but Ann frowned deeply as she observed her,
“Dearest? Why do you look like Marian?!”
Anne’s heartrate went up by a thousand percent, eyes widening, and she fell out of bed ungraciously trying to fight the covers off her to see for herself. But as she tumbled onto the cold hard floor, she caught glimpse of herself in the mirror and turned in haste to glare at her wife who was laughing so hard she was wheezing.
“Adney! Why you!” Anne berated her, standing up from the floor, and Ann’s eyes sparkled with mirth as she admired her handsome wife,
“You should’ve seen the look on your face! I think I could die happy now.”
“It’s a good thing you feel that way…” Anne told her mischievously, preying on her, “Because you will!”
Anne jumped back into bed to tickle her into admitting she was wrong for tricking her like that. Ann screamed of laughter, trying to catch her breath and wrestle Anne at the same time – God, she had missed her wife.
“Fine, I… I, I’m sorry!” Ann panted, and Anne stopped her fingers, raising them from her sides, setting her hands down on either side of her face, leaning over her as they both tried to catch their breath. Anne slowly captured her lips with her own, tasting their sweetness and sighing pleased – Oh, to kiss one’s wife properly again, Anne was certain she had entered heaven. They broke apart for a second as Anne straddled Ann, taking her hands in hers, kissing the insides of her wrists, turning them to press her lips against her knuckles as well –whilst Ann watched her with an excited grin which only widened when Anne pushed her hands over her head, keeping them in hers as she trailed hot lingering kisses from her cheek down her neck and Ann moaned softly, eyes fluttering upwards as she lost herself to her wife’s attentions.
Anne ran her teeth from her throat against the soft skin of her shoulder, following with a kiss, freeing one hand to reach down and fondle her left breast, brushing her thumb against her nipple through the fabric of her nightgown.
“Pony.” Ann whined impatiently and Anne grinned up at her roguishly, pressing a kiss where her thumb had been, before sitting back on her heels to catch the ends of her nightgown to pull it off. Ann helped her, and once it had been tossed to the floor, Ann pulled her wife on top her by the shoulders, a hand running up to her neck, to get her close enough to hungrily devour her lips.
“God, I’ve missed you.” Anne sighed against her lips and Ann raised her head to kiss her sweetly, weaving her hands into her dark hair, running her nails against her scalp,
“I love you, Anne.”
“Not as much as I do you.” Anne winked, as she took in the sight under her and Ann chuckled, playfully hitting her, and Anne bit her lip, her eyes gleaming and Ann’s stomach burned with desire for her – it should be illegal, she thought, to look as stunning as her wife did.
“I think we might have…not one” Anne began her voice teasing, pressing a kiss by her ear,
Another kiss to the other side.
“But three excitements this morning.”
Anne held her eyes for a moment before they fell to her lips, and Ann licked them consciously, smirking at her wife, running a hand across her strong shoulder,
“And if you’re really good. We might have a few tonight too.” Anne finished, giving into temptation and kissing the corner of her lips and Ann laughed at her wife’s forecast,
“We might have more if you do not plan them, dearest.”
“Oh? Well, I was planning on doing this,”
Anne’s hand traced the inside of Ann’s leg, running small circles against her inner-thigh making Ann’s chest flush slightly and her body squirm under her but then she stopped,
“But you might prefer if I did something less thought out than that?”
“Anne!” Ann whimpered, her forehead creasing with the pout that formed, and Anne raised an eyebrow,
“What, Adney? Didn’t you want this?”
Ann glared at her, still pouting,
“You are being cruel.”
“Tell me what you want then, love.” Anne tilted her head and Ann sighed at her, rolling her eyes briefly,
“I want you to do to me, exactly what you had in mind earlier, Pony.”
Anne’s hand resumed its motions, and her lips crashed onto Ann’s, and their breathing got more laboured as their excitement grew. Ann shuddered, and whispered gasps escaped her as Anne’s digits slowly made their way through her slick folds. Her grip on Anne’s shoulders tightened and she didn’t quite know what to do with her body – so she let nature guide her.
Her lips met Anne’s desperately, and Ann’s hands gripped at her, trying to get her as near as possible – savouring every touch, toes curling as Anne worked her closer to seal her ‘kiss’ by touching and teasing her how she knew her to like it. To think that yesterday all this lay so far away – and now here they were, wrapped up in each other’s arms again – making love.
“I love you.” Ann murmured, her skin turning clammy and hot – she was so close, and Anne was radiant above her, breath against her mouth as she for a second released her lips to let her moan – and Anne grinned so clearly proud and pleased with herself for making Ann feel this way.
“You are so gorgeous, Adney.” Anne mumbled in her ear, loving the feeling of her wife writhing under her as she gently circled her entrance about to ‘connect’ them with each other – and push her wife properly over the edge,
“Pony – please!” Ann whimpered, her hips bucking against Anne’s hand, and she was going to give in to her pleads when there was a loud banging on the door and Ann pushed her off her, covering herself with the quilt – staring at the door wide-eyed. Anne scowled at the door, cursing whoever stood behind it for ruining a splendid ‘kiss’.
“Anne? Is Ann with you?” Marian shouted through the keyhole and Anne, looking like thunder, muttered a hoarse,
“Mrs. Priestley is downstairs – she’s asked to see Ann.” Marian replied, sounding a tad vexed with her sister’s rude sounding ‘Yes’. Ann tucked her bottom lip under her teeth, trying not to laugh at Anne’s cross expression, she was so incredibly adorable when like this.
“Thank you, Marian – we will be down as soon as we have dressed.”
Anne turned to Ann on the bed, gesturing with her hands,
“Is she a seer? – I swear she always knows to call at the absolute worst times.”
A small chuckle escaped Ann, and she sat up on her knees, caressing Anne’s cheek with her hands, placing a tender kiss onto her lips, tracing her bottom one with her thumb fondly – smiling at her,
“Well, I’m just thrilled that things are back to normal. And if you behave downstairs – we might skip lunch and sneak down to the chaumiére instead.”
“Then what are you doing, Ann – get dressed!”
Anne hurled herself out of bed, grinning as she threw the nightgown back at her wife on the bed and Ann shook her head at her, putting it over her head to be decent for when Sarah would help her dress.
“You know, it wasn’t all bad.”
“What wasn’t?” Anne wondered impatiently, foot tapping against the floor – she couldn’t wait to get the social call with Mrs Priestley over and done with so they could resume what they were doing – hopefully the ‘kisses’ weren’t spoiled by their interlude just now.
“Seeing the world from one another’s perspective for a little while.”
“No, I agree. It did me good – looking through your eyes.” Anne agreed, thanking the Lord in her head for a moment – thinking it had improved their relationship vastly, her wife might never irk her again. But then Ann walked past her, about to go into dressing, when she threw her a quick impish look over her shoulder,
And all was well and back to normal again though Anne nor Ann would never be quite the same as they were before their switch.