Image: “Light Curtains” © Andrew Mason. Source – CC Licence.
Author: Sorcha Walsh
Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. Alanna woke up in a bed that was decidedly not her own. This did not, at first, produce any sort of unusual reaction within her. This was not, after all, the first time she had woken up in a bed she didn’t recognise. She turned over, expecting to see a strange man who was probably less attractive in the daylight, and mentally prepared herself to stealthily sneak out of the door. However, she was instead met with the sight of a woman, long brown hair mussed from a rough nights’ sleep, and her face half-buried in the pillow. Now this was new, even for her. Usually if she woke up in bed with a woman, there was a man between them. Far more disturbed now by this realisation, she decided it was time to leave, before the sleeping beauty arose. She sat up and swung her legs out of bed, and found that they landed squarely in a pair of slippers. Men’s slippers. She rolled her eyes. She’d promised herself she would stop homewrecking, weeks prior, and had mostly managed to keep that promise. They were pretty small men’s slippers, all things considered, her feet fit quite snugly inside of them.
She was suddenly struck with a sense of deep malaise. Her legs, surely, hadn’t always looked like that? And her head felt much lighter somehow, and, oh god, her hands, why were they suddenly so… hairy?
She stood up abruptly and ran out of the door, tripping as she went, coming to a hallway. Blindly, she stumbled her way to the first door she came to, which by some stroke of luck was a bathroom. She stared deeply into the mirror, aghast at the face that stared back. A strong brow covered deep-set eyes, crowned by a head of floppy hair. Below, an aquiline nose, below that a straight mouth and, between them, a well-groomed, full, silky moustache, accompanied by an immaculate goatee. Instinctively, she retched into the sink, and made her second unpleasant discovery of the day: she had been drinking Bloody Marys the previous night. When she stood back up, a third surprise awaited her: the brunette woman who had been sleeping was standing behind her in the doorway.
“Is everything ok love?” enquired the smooth voice. Oh God. Alanna thought. A Brit. I’m in a poxy man’s poxy body and I’m living with a poxy poxy Brit. Just my luck.
Out loud, she replied with an affirmative grunt, surprised by the resonance of which her voice was now capable.
“I’m making toast, d’you want any?” said the oblivious woman.
“M-mh” said Alanna, suddenly grateful for the cover her bout of nausea had provided her. She needed to think, fast. Her first instinct was to attempt to avoid suspicion and adopt the persona of this… man. But really, she hadn’t done anything wrong. Her only crime, as far as she could see, was waking up. Really, it would be bad (not to mention inconvenient!) to keep it a secret. So she gathered all the nerves she could muster, stood up straight, and made her way downstairs, only to be met by yet another unpleasant surprise: a side-tackle from a ball of kinetic energy that she quickly deduced was a child. She stumbled slightly but picked the kid up and carried them downstairs, somewhat awkwardly, gripping them around the waist and holding their body out horizontally. Luckily, the child seemed to think of it as a game, laughing and crying out “Wheeeee” as they went down the stairs. At the bottom, Alanna put the child back down on their feet (more or less) and tried to find what she could only imagine was her partner. She looked down at her left hand. No. Her wife. Steeling herself once again, she made her way into the kitchen.
“Can I talk to you?” she said in her natural accent, cursing the awkward formulation. Her wife (?) didn’t seem to notice the awkwardness and continued buttering bread while nodding.
“Listen, there’s a problem. Or something. I’m… I’m not… I’m not this.” Alanna said, gesturing vaguely to her entire self.
“As in, I’m… I’m a woman named Alanna.”
There was a beat.
“So do you want to do, like, hormones and that?”
“No, you don’t understand. I am a woman and my name is Alanna.”
“Yeah, you’re a woman. Of course I support you.”
Alanna wanted to tear her hair out. This support, under any other circumstance, would have been charming, and for someone in the situation the woman imagined her to be in, extremely validating and reassuring, but she didn’t want hormone therapy so much as her body back.
“I woke up in this body today, but this isn’t the one I fell asleep in last night. I have no idea who you are. My name is Alanna Quinn, I live in Dublin. I’m twenty three tomorrow, I’m like five foot nothing, I definitely don’t have children and a wife. And I don’t know how this happened.”
Unexpectedly, the brunette woman burst out in near-hysterical laughter.
“Oh, that’s funny! You’re such a joker, Liam. Now get Posey ready for school.”
And just like that, her wife, whose name Alanna did not know, pecked her on the lips and flounced upstairs. She reeled back, stunned for an instant, and gave a deep sigh. This was going to be, somehow, even more difficult than anticipated.