She was brought up in a middle class family, her father was a director of several companies, and her mother was the epitomy of respectability. Frances was an only child, pampered to the point of distraction, and her life was mapped out ahead of her without having to think about it. Church on Sunday was a chance to show how respectable one was; golf club, rotary club, freemasons, bridge et al all propelled the family in the right direction and it was a natural progression for Frances to be sent to the right boarding school – not to get an education, but to mix with the right sort of people. Childhood was a blur; a never ending pursuit of her parents’ happiness, and the only relief came when she progressed from school to university. A degree in fine art seemed the right thing for a well bred young lady, and despite the choice being made for her, she actually enjoyed it.
The freedom she experienced at uni was like a breath of fresh air, but after all the years of being trained like a pet pooch, she found it difficult to mix with her new found friends; her conservative clothes and hair style did nothing to help her fit in with her more adventurous contemporaries, but she ached inside to dare to rebel, to colour her hair, to wear outrageous gear, to smoke, and not to stick out like a sore thumb.
Uni passed without incident, and Daddy knew someone at Sotheby’s who could give her something meaningless to do whilst the right suitor appeared; which he did, like clockwork, and two business empires merged when she finally married Adam who was a distant enough cousin for it to be acceptable in all the right circles. Adam’s career was of paramount importance, and Fran was just the eye candy he needed for when they were obliged to host dinner parties, go to the golf club, or attend weddings and funerals. It was not thought seemly for a lady of such standing to actually work, so Fran was confined to the home and visiting her ready made circle of friends for bridge on a Thursday afternoon; after the obligatory nine months, Jason was born and Fran had twelve years of perfect joy before he was sent off to boarding school – the same school Adam, Adam’s father and his forefathers had attended.
The marriage was a complete nonsense; all that kept it together was the ever increasing wealth that paid for luxury holidays in the summer, and skiiing at Christmas time. Enough was enough. Having nurtured one or two close friendships with the other ‘Stepford’ wives, she took to running two or three times a week with them. Sometimes with three of four of them, but usually with her closest buddy, Madeleine. It was whilst running with her one day that Maddy opened up with Fran about the state of Fran and Adam’s marriage and wondered if Fran had any idea why Adam spent so many nights away from home. Surely a man in his position shouldn’t need to stay in town so often- he employed other people to do the heavy lifting; he should just be able to spend more time a home and count the cash as it continued to roll in. Knowing how naive Frances was, Maddy came straight to the point – Adam was running another home in town together with a young art student 15. Anyone would have thought this would have come as a crushing blow. Far from it. Frances’ spirits suddenly lifted, and she decided on the spot that this would be the start of an entirely new life.
Frances ran home with a spring in her step, tossed her sweaty running kit in the laundry basket, and showered down thinking all the time how her life was just about to change beyond all recognition. She swung out of the shower, dried off, and went straight to her room where she hastily packed a holdall with only a few bare essentials she would need for the journey ahead. She texted Jenny, the house maid, and told her she would be away for a while if she could just keep an eye on the house, even stay for a while if she had any friends she wanted to entertain. There was plenty of money in the kithchen drawer and there was a credit card in the fruit bowl for anything she needed. The usual ‘ping’ on her mobile came when Adam texted to say he would be staying in town; she just replied ‘OK’. Finally, she threw the holdall in the car and left the family pile for good.
Leaving the house behind, the next thing was to phone her mum. It was only to say she was headed to Daddy’s apartment in London and she’d be staying there for a while. It shouldn’t be a problem, since he was now retired and was no longer in good enough shape to look after pretty young things that had always been a distraction for him during his earlier years. This was a new start, and where better than Paddington to brush off the cobwebs. She left the car in the private car park and thought ‘won’t be needing that for a while’. Tossing her holdall on the floor she made her way to the bedroom and, collapsing on the bed with relief – like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders – drifted off into a sound sleep, the best she’d had in years.
Waking up in the morning, the hum of the city excited her. First thing was to phone her friend, Josie, who she had known at university
‘Hi Josie, this is Frances, remember me? ‘
‘Well hello there, stranger, what hangs babe?’ Josie said, as though it was only yesterday they had last spoken.
‘Actually, Josie, I felt really bad about not keeping in touch. I guessed you’d have plenty to keep yourself entertained without stuffy old Frances hanging around. Anyway, I’m in town now, and if you’re not too busy I’d really like your help. How about it?’
‘Of course’, Josie replied ‘I’m just going for my daily run around the park, and if you’re ready, we can meet up after I’ve showered and brushed myself up. My diary isn’t full by any stretch of the imagination, and it will be really good to catch up with you. Shall we meet at the tea rooms near the bandstand – let’s say about 10a.m. ? I don’t have anything posh to wear, so don’t expect me to meet your immaculate standards! See you soon’
Josie’s parting comment struck a chord with Frances. Did her dress sense set her apart? Worse, did her university friends feel sorry for her?Never mind, that was all in the past. This was going to be a new beginning.
As planned, the two ladies met at the tea rooms and settled down to the business of catching up. The more Fran revealed about her life to date, the more Josie frowned and felt sorry for her. Finally, she cut the conversation short and said, ‘ok, Fanny, that’s enough dwelling on your hard luck. Draw a line under it an let’s get you sorted’.
‘But what about you, Josie, all you’ve done is listen to me harp on about my miserable existence and I feel like I’m imposing on you. After all, we’ve not met for years, here I aam, turning up out of the blue and laying all this on you. ‘
Once again, Josie changed to tone of the conversation and said, ‘Look, Fanny – and that’s what I’m calling you from now on, new life, new name – first things first, let’s get you out of those mumsy duds that keep you stuck in a 1950’s time warp, and do something about your appearance; you’re a pretty woman, but you need to feel more comfortable around other ‘normal’ people – sorry, I mean more ordinary ! I trust you’re well armed with credit cards in that fancy bag of yours. ‘cos we’re off to get you some therapy, jump to it and follow me!’
No sooner said than they were in a taxi; Josie gave the instructions and in next to no time they pulled up outside what looked like a rather bohemian piercing studio. Out she jumped, dragging Frances with her and said, ‘don’t be afraid, this is going to help you lots. Besides, I’ve already got an appointment for myself and Chrissy is bound to fit you in, no problem’
The lady formerly known as Frances, and Fran, but now told she is called Fanny, followed in dumbfounded amazement as her friend from years ago swept her along like a tornado. After a brief introduction, Fanny was shown a seat and given a cup of coffee and a pile of magazines to read through. She read through pages of pictures of girls with exotic piercings and tatoos, wondering what on earth lay in store, and then Chrissy, dressed up like a surgeon, with plastic apron, face mask, and surgical gloves beckoned for her saying ‘hurry up, Princess, your turn now. We need to hurry cos I’ve got customers booked in shortly’. Fanny stumbled towards the ‘surgery’ and Chrissy said ‘don’t worry, this won’t hurt much, Josie has already told me what you want so just leave this to the experts’.
Twenty minutes later, Fanny was ushered towards Josie in a state of bewilderment, and was greeted with ‘ hey, kid, that wasn’t so bad was it? oh, and by the way it looks great!’ Fanny hardly knew what she was talking about because she was transfixed by the huge plug that was now sticking through Josie’s bottom lip. ‘Come over here and look in the mirror’. Fanny followed her instructions and then looked at the result of her ‘procedure’. She had a medium sized diamond on the side of her left nostril, and a gold ring through her septum. This was the most daring thing that had ever happened to her. What would people think? What would her mother say? What would the Stepford wives have to say? -‘What the fuck! Who cares? This is for me, and I feel great’. No sooner had she absorbed what had happened and Josie was whisking her off in another taxi. This time for a haircut.
‘We’ve got to do something about your Women’s Institute hairdo, Fanny. It just doesn’t do you justice. Christ!, you’re not even forty yet, but you’re looking like you’re ready for God’s waiting room. Believe me, Hun, this won’t be too drastic to start with, don’t want your heart stopping all of a sudden. Still, once you start you’ll never want to stop’.
Like a well behaved child, Fanny followed obediently and was introduced to Dana – another one of Josie’s gluten free, vegan friends who said ‘Hi Fanny, sit down and let’s get this mess sorted out’ . Fanny never realised the impact her old fashioned haircut had on people, but was beginning to realise and said to Dana with a nervous smile ‘do what you need to do, and don’t worry about the money. Just don’t make it too radical, I’m in sort of therapy’
‘Ok deary, let’s start with a wash; that should make it easier to work with. Then we’ll do something about the length and give you a bit of a wow factor.’ The shampooing was mesmerising, and sent Fanny into a trance. It was wonderful, she wished it would never end. All too soon however, the sensational shampoo session was over and the real business was about to begin. Dana led Fanny over to the padded swivel chair and prompty started by gathering up the longest lengths of hair and piling them on top of her head fastening in a sort of bun. Then she carefully fashioned a parting from just above her right ear and carried it all the way around her head to the opposite side. No sooner had she done this than she fired up a pair of electric clippers and sheared all the hair from below the line, leaving just fine stubble behind, which was promptly removed with a few deft strokes of a straight razor. Once the shaving was finished, Dana released the longest hair from the bun, and clipped it into a short bob just above the earlobes, but rising at the back a little to reveal the soft, smooth nape. A few quick blasts of hot air from the hair dryer, and Dana whipped the cape from off Fanny’s shoulders, spun the chair around and said, triumphantly, ‘tadaaah!’ Fanny couldn’t believe the transformation. Why on earth had she persevered for so long with the conventional mumsy cut when she could have stood out as a person in her own right, instead of just the daughter of a wealthy family. She almost felt like she needed permission to touch her sensitive undercut. It felt soooooo sexy!
In fact, it was so sexy, that Josie remarked, ‘looking at the state of your slacks, and the mark on the seat, I reckon you really enjoyed that! We’d best rush off to get you a change of clothes’
Another taxi ride and they were at another of Josie’s friends. This time, it was a ladies outfitter but it was a young man who met them. Sporting a frilly shirt, skinny jeans, canvas shoes without socks, and black painted fingernails, Jon said ‘ hi Josie, who’s your friend, and what can we do for you?’
‘Jon, this is Fanny, and she needs your help. Today is the first part of her transformation, so be gentle with her’
‘Alright then, Fanny,’ Jon said, ‘just step in the changing room and take those things off, we’ve got a bag in the back we put things in for homeless people’
‘What?!’ said Fanny, ‘you can’t throw those away they cost a fortune’
‘ Hey there, Fanny, I’m here to help you. Trust me, once you leave here you’ll never go back to your golf club gear again, so someone less fortunate than you may as well make Ido with them’ he said, almost mockingly. ‘Better chuck out your bra and panties too, you won’t’ be needing them. If I can’t use them, I’ll put them in the bag as well, haha!’
‘Well ok, if you say so, but you’d better be right’.
Reluctantly, Fanny stripped naked and threw out everything she had known for ages. Jon sorted a few items from his rails, and handed them to Josie. ‘Here, take these in and help her get dresssed. She’s fairly slim so I’m guessing she’s a 6 to 8, but it doesn’t really matter because they are quite loose fitting. Oh, don’t let her out of here with them shoes either – she can wear these flats for the time being until we can find something more suitable’
Josie shuffled into the changing room with the items Jon had selected and stood there looking at Fran’s immaculate body. ‘I, I, sorry, I was just admiring your figure and can’t help wondering why you’ve kept it hidden for so long; you are absolutely stunning!’
Fanny was taken aback slightly but, at the same time, was happy for such a compliment. Her nipples were erect, and she could feel something running down the inside of her leg. Why did she feel like this? It wasn’t natural, such feelings were reserved for her husband. Her what?! Her husband who’d neglected her for so long, and who cheated on her whilst he friends didn’t want to say anything. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and reminded herself why she was here. She could feel Josie gently caressing her breast with one hand and stroking the baldness on the back of her head. It was wonderful. Josie handed her a white silky tank top which slipped gently over her perfect form, and a beautiful long satin skirt that must have been a double circle. They both kissed Jon on the cheek, paid and left arm in arm to get the last taxi of the day back to Fran’s apartment. All the while, Fanny couldn’t help but feel the smoothness of her shaved undercut and shuddered with excitement as she said to Josie, ‘I don’t suppose you would like to come in and help me with a bottle of wine? I don’t know how to thank you enough for helping me today. Besides I need to know more about your circle of arty farty freinds, and who knows, I could get quite used to being a little more extrovert, what do you think?’
‘Of course, I’d love to come in, it’s been a pleasure and I’d like to help you more if that’s ok with you. You might be approaching 40, but if you want something hard enough it’s never too late.
to be continued/-