When I accepted Nicole’s unsolicited proposal I had no idea where it might lead. Looking back to that moment in my life, I am not entirely sure I would have acted any differently had I known the end result. It all started very slowly, almost innocently. It was just a game that she helped me play. The game that I wanted to play myself. What could possibly go wrong?
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, Nicole made me do a few things that she thought were necessary to proceed further.
Firstly, I took a sabbatical from work. My upcoming divorce was a convenient excuse and no questions were asked. I had a lot of vacation days stocked up too. So my manager was more than happy to have me burn through them as well. That was probably for the better anyway, as I was currently in no shape to work as efficiently as before.
Secondly, there was some online shopping that needed to be done for my transformation. Nicole found a number of specialised crossdressing and drag queen websites that offered products, many of which I had no idea even existed - from padded panties with pockets for jelly-like forms to give one a womanly behind to fake breast and artificial, but very realistic-looking vaginas made from silicone as well as wigs in all shapes and colours, high heeled shoes in men’s sizes, clothing, makeup and so on.
Apparently there was a huge market for this sort of thing and my companion and I were about to take full advantage of that - much to my rising excitement and fear. With each passing day, I wanted this to work, but I was also becoming more and more paranoid. I was acting out my deeply-seated fantasy, that I also felt was wrong. I kept having those inner dialogues with myself, trying to convince the sceptic in me that I wasn’t hurting anyone, I was an adult and this was my own business and nobody else’s. However, the inner sceptic's reasons also made sense - if it was all totally fine, why was I having this sense of shame? Is it something I could tell my friends about? My family? And if I could not, then there must be something wrong with it, no?
Nicole, to her credit, was very supportive, albeit in her usual somewhat patronising and dismissive way. She wasn’t forcing anything on me, it was all my own dream, as she kept reminding me over and over again. So I should either stop it right here and now or make it happen. There was no other way, she would tell me, as I couldn’t do both and constantly whine in the process to boot.
As we waited for the online orders to arrive - some of them had to be sent from the United States, which, by the look of things, had a far bigger selection than anything we could find in Europe - Nicole also began my training in the art of cleaning. As much as I was fascinated by cleaners, my own exposure to the nitty gritty details of this occupation was minimal. So we bought some needed supplies and, under Nicole supervision, I began cleaning my own house daily to her satisfaction.
Nicole brought me a unisex uniform identical to the one cleaners in our company were using and would have me wear it around the house when she was there. It was deliberately unsexy and plain - the short-sleeved blue polyester costume was a far cry from the black-and-white satin dress that I'd put on the night that Danielle left - but still I found the sensation of being dressed exactly like the female cleaners on the job, including Nicole herself, incredibly exciting.
On the first day of my cleaning tutorial, Nicole showed me some basic tricks of the trade - what chemicals to use and in what quantity, how to best operate the vacuum cleaner (I had no idea there were various techniques there, that produced very different results in terms of speed and cleanliness), what sequence to stick to when you are working (always cleaning from top to bottom was the main takeaway for me), knowing how to plan my time in the most efficient manner possible, because, as a cleaner, I would always be under immense pressure and would not have the luxury of spending a full hour on a few bathroom tiles.
“I think that pretty much covers it for now,’’ she told me, leaving me on my knees in my own bathroom, trying to clean off a greasy spot, that, by the look of things, had been there for a few months if not longer. “I will leave it to you for now, let me get a cup of coffee and watch some TV while you work.”
I used some cleaning powder exactly like Nicole just taught me and began working on the greasy spot, that, despite my best efforts, showed little inclination to surrender to my energetic advance. Danielle, like most girls of her generation, detested housework and only did the bare minimum - this spot, as well as many others Nicole professionally pointed to during her inspection of the house, was a case in point. Now I was to pay for my wife’s laziness, essentially doing the wifely duties in my own home. I found the idea oddly stimulating; after all my dream of being a cleaner was precisely shaped by this need - no, desire - to be used for something as demeaning and menial as this. The fact that I was doing it instead of my wife only added to my utter humiliation. I suddenly heard Nicole shouting across the hall.
“Where is your TV? I don’t see it!” she asked.
I dropped my dynamic scratching and rose to my feet. “Sorry, I don’t have one.”
I heard her quick steps in the corridor and then saw Nicole, a surprised expression on her heavily made-up face: “What? What do you mean? Why not?!”
“I just don’t like it that much, it’s stupid. I like reading books. And, if there is a good program, I can watch it online,’’ I responded.
Still, she continued looking at me as if I’d just confessed to something unusual and extraordinary, like only walking on the even side of the street or never wearing shoes. Of course, she was absolutely certain that everyone in their right mind must have a TV or two. If she still needed further proof I was strange in more ways that one, this was it.
“This...is… very odd,’’ she told me. “What do you want me to do then? I thought I’d watch Les Anges. It’s on in five minutes.’’
“I have a good book collection about Napoleonic wars, there are some art albums there too. Please be my guest,’’ I responded patiently.
“Seriously? You expect me to read a book about Napoleon? What? Am I back to school?’’ she responded furiously as if I’d deeply offended her by the suggestion. “You got an iPad or something?”
I gave her my tablet and went back to the bathroom to finish my work. Finally, after my Herculean efforts, the spot in question was eradicated and I moved on to polishing the brass taps and the shower cabin’s thick glass door. And after that - saving the best for last - I worked on the toilet, cleaning it thoroughly on the inside and the outside.
Nicole inspected my work and nodded her head. “Not bad at all, not bad at all. It’s taken you way too much time though. Something like this should not take more than 20 minutes, even 15 minutes, it’s not like you had piss-covered floor or a toilet that won’t flush because some idiot stuck paper towels there - that is something you’d have to get used to once you begin real work. This is just training, you know,” she said and returned to the living room.
The following day, as per Nicole’s instruction, I had to order a television. That was another expense I could live without (on top of Nicole’s per visit fee I'd reluctantly agreed to), but she was adamant she could not stay in my house to train me if she could not watch her favourite shows when they were on. Of course, I could always hire someone else or just stop it all, she told me, knowing full well I was already hooked. As much as I hated the idea of a TV in my living room, it was installed there and the next time Nicole came to train me - that time I was doing the kitchen, which had proven even more time-consuming than the bathroom - I could hear the sounds of upbeat music, excited conversations, and unnatural canned laughter as I was honing my cleaning skills.
Strangely, my cleaning helped me to get at ease with Danielle’s departure. I just switched off my brain and concentrated on the task at hand - whether it was to dust the furniture, or to clean the oven and the refrigerator, or to scrub the floor. My mind was completely calm. I was working methodically and did not have the luxury to dwell on my marriage situation. I liked the feeling of not having to worry about bigger things when I was in my cleaner mode.
Still, there were things I had to take care of, as a call from Danielle’s lawyer reminded me. For some reason my wife wanted it to be super formal. She did not feel like talking to me ever again, the lawyer would do that for her. I did not really mind. It was her decision, not mine. Anyway, as I was told, there was the endless paperwork that had to be filed before we could officially begin the divorce procedure. We had no children, which made the whole thing a lot less painful than it could have been otherwise, but a mortgaged house complicated the procedure nonetheless. All in all the entire procedure could take up to a year if we were unlucky, the lawyer told me. I wrote down a list of things he needed from me and decided to “think about it tomorrow”. I was just too busy with my preparations with Nicole.
Finally the stuff we ordered online arrived. I felt extremely excited and could not wait to unpack it all. Nicole did some research, even went to crossdressing forums for advice on what works best, and I was now the proud owner of very realistic-looking and soft-to-the-touch breast forms and a matching bra I had a wig, that reached to my shoulder blades, hip pads to give me an exceedingly womanly shape and special gaffs to conceal my manhood. I laid it all out on my bed and suddenly felt a sense of unease. I was now close to my fantasy, closer than I ever had been, but the feeling that I was doing something wrong still would not go away.
Excitement and shame were locked in never-ending battle inside my brain. It was all I could think about, forgetting about my divorce, my financial situation, my work… What if Nicole was right and finally fulfilling my fantasy would somehow “cure” me of this obsession? If I stopped now, I’d never get to experience life as a cleaner and it will forever remain unachievable, yet desirable. I just had to continue. Otherwise I would forever regret it. I wasn’t doing anything permanent. It was just a game, I kept telling myself. When put like that, it really seemed like I had no other choice, but to try it out. Danielle’s departure opened this window of opportunity for me and it would have been stupid to let it close before I even looked outside.
I closely inspected my artificial “equipment” and put it back into the box. Nicole would pay me a visit again tomorrow and we would be able finally to begin my exciting transformation in earnest. I couldn’t wait.