It all started with Miriam. She was a suspicious woman, particularly when it came to a pair of tights in the glove compartment of Alfred’s taxi-cab. It wasn’t as if Alfred hadn’t strayed before, just that she hadn’t realised his tastes were so exotic. She knew immediately that they were his tastes, not those of some new mistress or tart. No woman in Alfred’s age bracket would have contemplated fishnet.
What went with the tights, she wondered; one of those teensy maid’s outfits with frilly petticoat beneath? Maybe Alf was into bondage and liked to be attired in fishnet and frilly petticoat whilst some giantess flayed him with a black leather thingummy. Or perhaps he just liked to dress up in women’s clothes when she was out. He couldn’t be mincing around in her clothes, however. She was a good twenty-four dress size and Alf was – smallish. So where was the rest of the outfit? If he’d hidden it anywhere around the house she’d have found it by now. Miriam was a demon housewife.
Should she confront him, she wondered, or let sleeping tights lie? In the end, curiosity got the better of her. He went as red as a beet and confessed, after a lengthy pause. Yes, he said, he was a transvestite. He hadn’t liked to tell her. He didn’t sound entirely sure, so Miriam wasn’t entirely sure either.
‘Show us your dress, then, and your makeup and – all the other stuff.’ In spite of herself, she was fascinated. How did he manage the bosoms? Where did the willy go? Perhaps that didn’t matter in a frock.
And so it came about that next afternoon Alf was pacing around Marks & Spencer in the High Street searching for something long and glamorous in electric blue satin with high heels to match, this being what he imagined a transvestite – had he in fact been one which, in spite of his confession, he was not – might wear with fishnet tights. Miriam could have told him that Marks & Spencer was not the best bet for electric blue evening gowns, but she was at home making rock cakes.
That evening, having fortified himself with several of Miriam’s rock cakes washed down with a mug of strong tea, Alfred retired to the bedroom to transform himself into his alter ego. He was not an imaginative man and all he could come up with for a name, should he be asked, was Alfreda. The whole process was nerve-wracking since this was the first time he had done it.
He wasted quite a bit of time rearranging socks inside a black bra, which he had also purchased, anxious not to appear amateurishly lumpy. The fishnet tights were also a problem. His toenails, which he hadn’t considered at all, were in need of cutting and his toes kept getting snarled up in the net. By the time he’d got them on the tights had acquired several ragged tears rather than the ladders he had been half-expecting. Luckily the dress was ankle-length and would cover that.
He had gone for a rather swish emerald number in the end. It had slightly over-the-top puff sleeves and a lot of subtle “ruching” around the bodice, a technical term which the saleslady had explained to him in rather more detail than he had patience for. At her suggestion he had added a sea-green chiffon scarf – ‘so flattering to the mature décolletage’. He had not asked her to explain décolletage.
Finally, Alfreda’s makeup. Alfred was not so daft as to plaster it on and end up looking as if he’d escaped from the circus. Stroke of luck, he’d been into model-making some years back – battlefield dioramas, that sort of thing. An eye for detail and a steady hand were qualities he’d discovered then.
He was in the middle of his demonstration, wobbling up and down on the living room carpet in full kit whilst Miriam looked on, making short work of the rest of the rock cakes, when there came a knock at the door. Alfred froze – no time to run, and anyway how, in the unfamiliar heels? So it was Miriam who opened the door to the two uniformed police officers.
‘In planning to execute a bank robbery,’ said one, ‘your husband would have been better advised to go for Sun Mist, winter weight. Fishnet is somewhat…’
‘Transparent,’ said Alfreda, emerging from the living room with a sigh.