Maybe, if he managed to get to his desk now, Mrs Holland wouldn't know he had been late. None of the guys would split on him. He was by now well regarded by them. Lunchtimes of exchanging beauty tips and gossip had paid off.
He was within three feet of his desk when Mrs Holland's voice rang out "Ray! Step into my office, please!"
Ray groaned. He had been so close! The other boy admin assistants gave him sympathetic looks. Ray went into Mrs Holland's office to face whatever punishment she was about to inflict upon him.
Mrs Holland closed the door behind him and said "Take a seat". Ray walked over to the chair opposite that usually occupied by Mrs Holland, smoothed his skirt under him and sat down. Mrs Holland took her place opposite him.
Ray said nervously "I'm sorry about being late, Mrs Holland...it won't...". He stopped, as Mrs Holland waved her hand at him to shut up.
"I'll let it go, this time!" said Mrs Holland "But don't make a habit of it. Now, Ray, how do you think your traineeship is going?"
Oh, no! thought Ray. Don't tell me I'm about to be fired! That would be a disaster! His and Doug's plan to rob Al La Mode would be dead in the water.
He answered cautiously "I think, it's going ok, Ma'am. I do what I'm asked. I try to get things right. I try to be helpful and friendly".
"You know what, Ray? I couldn't have put it better myself! You are all of those things. Those types of skills are just we what we are looking for in a future secretary. Would you like to be a secretary, Ray?'
A secretary? His masculine nature rebelled at being cast in a traditionally feminine role. When he had first seem Al La Mode, he had expected to have a secretary, not be one! But if his and Doug's plan was to come to fruition, he needed to be in a more senior position, so he nodded.
"Good. Because I've spoken to your sister about your future and we've agreed that you should be sent to a secretarial college. You'll be away for six weeks. It's a very intensive course, so you'll really have to alert and focused, but if you graduate you'll move straight into a higher grade with, of course, higher pay! This is a great opportunity for you".
All Ray could think about was the bit about being away for six weeks. "Um, Mrs Holland, when do I go to the college?"
"Keen to start, eh? Excellent attitude! You're booked in to start a week next Monday".
It was a Thursday, so he and Doug had less than two weeks to carry out their plan. He had to let Doug know immediately.
"Are you ok, Ray? Anyone would think I'd just fired you if they saw the expression on your face right now" Mrs Holland said jokingly.
The first opportunity he got, for it had been a hectic morning, Ray went outside and used his pink mobile to phone Doug. As he had expected, Doug was not at all happy at the news.
"You know what this means, don't you?" Doug asked him.
Ray didn't really, but he said "We'll have to wait until I return from secretarial school?"
Doug snorted "Not only have they got you dressing like a bimbo, they've got you talking like one too! No, you dummy, we'll have to bring the plan forward!"
"But...that's less than two weeks away!"
"But we don't have the combination for the safe and I've no idea how to get it!"
"You really have become a helpless bimbo, haven't you? Grow some balls, take your barbie doll head off and put your man's head on!" The phone went dead.
Ray had to sit down at a nearby bench. He was shaking. He realised that Doug had been right about him. He had gone from streetwise hood to an airheaded girl! He was timid, indecisive and submissive and desperate for someone, anyone, to take the lead.
What had happened to him?
When he went back inside, Mrs Holland summoned him into her office again and put him to work putting figures onto a spreadsheet. Ray was bewildered. He had never used a spreadsheet in his life and felt embarrassed to have to be shown the most basic functions. His typing speed was pitiful and it took him ages to do the work.
Mrs Holland came to check on his progress and shook her head "That isn't right, but not to worry, we can easily fix it". Mrs Holland entered some complex formulae and pressed and few buttons and corrected the work it had taken Ray hours to do in less than a minute.
Ray was awed by Mrs Holland's skill. No wonder women were in charge, if they could work magic like that! He felt totally inadequate by comparison and went home, depressed.
Higgins and her staff had prepared a sumptuous meal, but Ray did little more than pick at it and eat a few morsels. He went to bed, telling his mother and sisters that he wasn't feeling too well. The women exchanged a knowing look as if to say "Men. They are such delicate, fragile things!"
Ray took refuge in his room. He put on a pair of satin PJ's and climbed into his princess bed, miserable and confused. He was deeply worried by his gradual transformation from masculine to feminine male. On top of everything else, he had to think about how he was going to get the combination to that safe! Doug was depending on him.
Ray found that he was unable to sleep, so he put the television on. It was dominated by women's sports and current affairs, where virtually all of the world leaders were female. He finally found a talk show called "Women Today" with the topic of "Men: How feminine should they be?"
The hostess, Kirsty Charles, was a fiesty thirty year old, who was already a millionnairess in her own right. But she enjoyed her work too much to consider early retirement.
"Ladies!" she was saying (for her studio audience was predominantly female) "Once upon a time, man was the dominant sex and we women were subservient, and believe me, it was no fairy tale! Thanks to feminism and various other factors, we overtook men academically, professionally and economically and replaced them as the dominant sex. We could have been satisfied with that, but then we began feminising our men, moulding into the ideal, feminine partners we wanted to complement us working girls!"
Charles paused to let that sink in.
"There are some amongst us that say that we have taken things too far. That men have to be allowed to be men and that to feminise them is perverse. Others say we need to need to completely de-masculinise men - turn them into women! Or as close to women as hormone treatments and current technology allows!"
The introduction over, Charles brought on her first guests. These were a young woman, wearing a print frock and a man dressed in shirt and trousers. There were boos and hisses from members of the audience.
"My first guests are Herman and Clarissa" said Charles "They are members of a religious movement which advocates that the man is the natural head of the family and that the woman's duty is to obey and support him. As you can see, Herman and Clarissa are dressed as a man and a woman used to dress"
The boos and hisses intensfied.
"So, Clarissa, why do you think it is your duty to obey your husband?"
Clarissa gave a long winded speech saying god had ordained that man should hold dominion over woman and it was unnatural for any woman to upset that balance.
The reaction from the audience was very hostile. Charles, satisfied with the shock value, quickly ended the interview.
The next couple were Janice and Ian Reese-Dunston, an upper crust couple in their fifties. Janice wore a trouser suit and Ian wore a designer dress and high heels.
There was a polite ripple of applause from the audience.
"Janice and Ian are typical of a couple of today. They married young. Ian was initially the breadwinner and head of the family but Janice went back to work after their children went to school and soon earned more than Ian. Ian lost his job in the he-cession of 2008/09 and he and Janice switched traditional gender roles. This story is a very common one, but this one has an interesting twist" Charles stated.
Charles interviewed the couple. Janice said how liberating going out to work had been after years in the home and that she loved her job. Ian related how hard it had been going from being the breadwinner to being the secondary earner and then a househusband. But, his current state of dress had not been imposed on him by his dominant wife. Bored with housework, he had tried on his wife's clothes "for a bit of a laugh" but had found them so comfortable that he wore them as often as he could. Eventually, the couple switched clothes. "It suits us so much better" said Janice "And, frankly, and I hate to have to admit this, but Ian has better legs than me!"
That raised a titter from the audience.
But Janice said that she would not consider taking things further with Ian, such as making him take female hormones.
Charles wheeled on her next guests. These consisted of a tall, trouser suited woman who clearly worked out and her son, who had curly long blonde hair, a flawless, ladylike complexion and who wore a lace blouse and a long, embroidered skirt.
He looks more like a girl than any girl I have ever seen! was Ray's thought.
The boy tried to sit on a chair of his own, but his mother picked him up, even though he must have been at least ten years old, and made him sit on her lap.
Charles introduced them as Brianna and Karl Avery. "Brianna has already put her son on a course of female hormones, but she intends to take Karl's development further, with breast implants and even a complete sex change operation to make him into a full woman planned!"
Brianna was asked why she would consider doing those things. Brianna said "Karl is an adorable boy, but with a sex change he will not only look better but he will experience complete femininity. Karl wants this, don't you, Karl?"
The feminine boy snuggled up to his mother by way of reply.
"So" Charles said "We have had guests representing the traditional male/female roles, a typical couple - masculine womand and feminine man, and at the extreme end, a mother who wants to completely feminise her son, complete with breasts and female genitalia. Let's open up the debate to the floor - how feminine should men be?"
It was obvious that the traditional couple had gained no friends from the audience. They were completely hostile to a scenario where men were deemed to be superior to women. Almost of the audience to a woman approved of both the modern day couple and of Karl's mother. Some of the audience went even further and suggested that men should be completely feminised from birth or that sex selection procedures should be used to ensure that only female babies were produced, thus eventually weeding men out of the human race altogether.
Ray watched the closing credits were with a mixture of fascination and fear. Almost all women favoured the complete feminisation of males and now that they were in control, they were getting their way.
He lay in bed and to his horror, began weeping just like the girl he seemed to be turning into. He was confused, frightened and shocked by what he was turning into. He was being turned not into a modern woman, who was confident, assertive and aggressive, but a puny girl who exhibited classically feminine traits such as timidity, indecisiveness, submissiveness and a lack of self-confidence.
Unconsciously, Ray took refuge in femininity. He took a long bath, sprayed his body with perfumes, painted his nails and put on a silk nighdress. He undid the lace curtains and allowed them to surround his bed and then climbed into the soothing satin sheets. His vision was filled with the delicate lace of the curtains, his skin was caressed by the silk of his nightdress and the satin sheets of his bed. His senses were overcome with the musky scent of his own body.
Ray felt like he had entered a different plane and that he now he had some understanding of the delights of femininity.
He fell into a deep sleep. He had bizarre, confusing dreams of himself dressed in the gown and tiara of a fairytale princess and being awakened by the kiss of a handsome woman, or of him, dressed in a bikini wobbling down a fashion catwalk in front of an all woman audience, and, even more strangely, being dressed as a small girl, complete with ribbons in his curly hair, and playing with dollies, as his sisters used to do.
Ray suddenly woke up in a cold sweat. He lay awake for the rest of the morning, bewildered and very confused.
What was happening to him?