The day hadn’t been extraordinary in any way. The sun hadn’t even made an appearance through the thick grey clouds for a second that whole day. They had just gone about their day in the most mundane way – nothing exciting had presented itself, not even that morning. Anne hadn’t tried to touch or handle Ann much at all – feeling slightly annoyed with the blonde at present, she had been so poorly for almost a fortnight and her nerves was eventually getting on Anne’s. But dutifully and loyally Anne had walked to Cliff hill at four to meet Ann up and walk her home. She thought she might snap if she needed to hear another word about her aching spine – Anne had her own problems presently not helped by her nervous wife’s complaints. So, as they walked down Lightcliffe road it was with some surprise the sky opened and rain and thunder came over them. Anne growled – just their bloody luck. Nevertheless, she seized Ann’s arm and tried to get them cover somewhere. They ran under a large oak and despite Anne’s fervent prayers she heard lightning strike the tree and looking up, neither she nor Ann had time to react before a large branch crashed over them.
Anne regained consciousness and felt a headache come on where she had been hit by the branch. She felt around her skull but couldn’t feel a wetness, and so concluded there was no gash to her head. Her spine did ache terribly though – she must’ve pulled something because nothing had fallen on her it, but it did feel as though someone was stabbing the small of her back making pain shoot up her spine.
Anne’s pulse quickened, and she forced her eyes to open, and the sight almost made her faint – which wasn’t something Anne Lister did… ever.
“Oh Lord. Oh Fuck!”
The sound familiar to her ears but it shouldn’t have escaped her mouth. Anne stared at her own body next to her, her hat lay a few feet away from it,
‘Am I dead?” Anne thought to herself, glancing down at the petite body she inhabited, but no she could feel pain – the pain in her back most acute but she refused to believe that this could’ve happened. How did something like this happen? Was she going mad? An involuntary shudder went through her at the thought of ending up at an asylum like poor Eliza had.
“Focus…” Anne told herself sternly and was again freaked out by her voice, first things first – she needed to check on Ann or ‘herself’ or whatever that lump of flesh and blood was – resembling herself. Anne heaved herself up, winching only slightly as her spine protested her movement – she must’ve fallen on it somehow – this wasn’t normal! With trepidation Anne kneeled next to her body, reaching her hand out to touch it. It was a rather queer experience.
Anne shook her gently, glancing nervously at the chest – maybe she was dead. But no, the chest heaved up and down and there was a face pulled as she came back to consciousness.
Ann stopped, forehead wrinkling – a hand raising to press against it to lessen the headache,
“Why…” Ann tried again but her sentence was left hanging as she opened her eyes to glance up at her own face staring back at her and quite understandably, she gave a stunned cry at the sight.
“You’re not dead! Well, at least I don’t think we’re. But hey-ho – what do I know?” Anne spoke sounding slightly annoyed – and she was – how on earth did they sort this business out? – They couldn’t well tell anyone – they would send them off to bedlam without hesitation, damn it. What had happened to them anyway? Anne hated being in the unknown. And there weren’t any books covering this type of happening.
“Why… Why do I sound and look like you?” Ann wondered flabbergasted, staring at the body and then back at her own, well, ‘Anne’s’ face.
“I know, what a tragedy for you.” Anne replied tartly.
“What? – Anne, you know I think you’re beautiful and handsome.” Ann argued and Anne rolled her eyes, waving a dismissive hand,
“Mm, So. Anyway, I have no idea how this happened – and no idea how to turn us back but needless to say, we can’t tell anyone.”
“No, I’d rather not be sent off to a madhouse.” Ann agreed and Anne hummed in thought rubbing her chin,
“Are you unhurt by the way?”
“Mm, slight pain to the head but otherwise fine.”
“No pain to your back?” Anne found herself asking, because hers was giving her hell at the moment but Ann shook her head,
“None at all.”
“Lucky you – I must’ve fallen on mine.”
“Mm, no, my back does ache – you know that, during my… and close to my ‘cousin’.” Ann told her, crossing her arms, eying her closely but Anne didn’t affirm it with more than a ‘mm’ because she didn’t really think Ann could suffer this much regularly. She had hit her back and she would be fine in a few hours or in the morning.
“What are we to do then, dearest?” Ann spoke quietly and Anne was almost taken aback – her voice that way – so fragile and quiet was novel. But somewhere deep within her, she suspected Ann might be aware of her irritation and thus hesitant about saying the wrong thing.
Anne didn’t know, but she wanted to know the time and so searched her midriff for her watch – absentmindedly, it was more of a tic really than actual want of knowledge, but her face turned to confusion for a mild second when she couldn’t find it on her person but then Ann dangled it in-front of her eyes. Anne was suddenly brought back to the fact that they had switched bodies and half-smiled at her wife, accepting the silver watch tentatively. Maybe weeks of pent-up frustration had made her distance herself from her wife because she felt almost shy or rather hesitant about it all. She had buried herself under work and obligations whilst Ann had struggled with her own mind and spine which Anne, of course – ignored. Well, procrastinated in some way as she felt too annoyed and had too much to do to be bothered by it at present and it filled her with some slight guilt to realise her blunder. No matter how much of the pain was merely in Ann’s head. She was her wife, and she should’ve been there for her – not pushing her away from her. But she didn’t have time to consider that at present. They had a bigger problem to solve - how to change back to themselves.
“What’s the plan then? As we obviously can’t tell people.” Ann asked startling Anne out of her thoughts,
“Um, I guess the only thing we can do right now is pretend to be the other until we’ve figured out how to switch back.”
Ann smiled at her genuinely, a small chuckle escaping her,
“Hm, good, excellent!”
“I don’t sound like that!” Anne protested and Ann raised her eyebrows amused,
“Mm, on the contrary, I think you’ll find that this is exactly how you sound, dearest.”
“Right, um, and I will try and do you. Um. Oh, the names!”
Anne held a finger up to the heavens; they would need to be careful and really think before they spoke lest someone suspect anything.
“I think you’ll find, Anne – that we have the same bloody name.” Ann told her with a smirk and Anne rolled her eyes and sighed,
“I know! I meant our pet names. Obviously.”
“Good thinking, Adney. Not just a pretty face!” Ann replied her to that, and Anne huffed,
“I don’t sound that patronising – ever!”
“I wasn’t being patronising.” Ann teased, and Anne shook her head at her before scrambling up from the ground despite her body protesting her hurried movements and it took Ann some self-control not to laugh at her wife – not wanting to put her in a fouler mood than she already was. Ann rose quickly, relishing in the way her body just followed her orders without giving her any pain. Maybe, just maybe it was a good thing to be in the other shoes, so to speak, for a little while, Ann thought.
“We need to act perfectly natural.” Anne told Ann whilst she brushed the dirt off of the black hat putting it over her hair.
“Mm... No, I’m going to give Marian a hug and tell her that she’s the best sister in the whole world after I’ve told her she’s been right all these years.”
“It’s not funny!” Anne protested and Ann glanced back at her, twinkle in her eye and Anne huffed – oh.
“Anne – you know I love you just the way you are but if you’re going to pass as me, you’ll need to walk more feminine.” Ann told her watching her attempt at large strides and Anne slowed down looking annoyed.
“Could you slow down a bit then?”
Ann’s eyes darted back to her,
“I could, but I’m supposed to be passing as you. And isn’t this the way you’ve walked with me the past couple of weeks? – Ahead of me at all times.”
The guilt welled up in Anne’s chest again, she had treated Ann rather abominably this past fortnight.
“Yes. But we need to talk and get into the act.”
Ann slowed down and fell into step with Anne brushing her hand against hers discreetly,
"Sway your hips, dearest - don't look so awkward."
"I bloody will not!" Anne huffed, and Ann raised an eyebrow,
"Well you'll just have to, or I will, and I think it'll just ruin your reputation among the people in Halifax."
Anne looked glum, throwing her wife an angry look, refusing to change her walk until Ann began moving her body in a feminine walk,
"Stop that - what if someone sees!" Anne cried, pulling her wife by the arm to halt her, and Ann smirked,
"I'll stop if you start - I don't want people wondering what's happened to the perfectly accomplished lady that I am."
"Fine. But I don't see how I am supposed to move gracefully in this!" Anne gestured to the frivolous dress, that looked beautiful on her wife who knew how to move in it but just felt uncomfortable and ridiculous when she was the one in it.
"You'll get the gist of it. Hopefully this isn't for long." Ann told her, as they moved along the road - rather slowly, talking in hushed voices, trying to come up with an explanation for what had happened to them until they saw Mr Haworth approach them. Ann greeted him with a nod,
The man seemed confused but continued down the road and Anne halted Ann,
“You don’t greet them randomly on the road! Especially not him – he is useless!”
“You don’t greet your… why?!”
“Because it isn’t how I do things.”
“Oh! You big snob!”
Ann gave Anne a harsh nudge in the back and Anne winched – her back so sore.
“Anne – what are you doing!?”
Both women turned their head forwards and saw Marian approach them and they shared a look trying to channel their inner actresses.
“Marian, why are you bellowing like a cow!” Ann told her sounding well annoyed and Anne glanced at her almost smiling at the comment but then remembering herself and instead scowled at her,
“Anne! You don’t liken your sister to a cow, that’s ill-mannered!”
Ann gave her a look that said ‘I don’t sound like that’ but Anne neverminded that.
“Where you caught out in the terrible weather that came over us?! Did my sister have you leave your aunt despite it looking like thunder?” Marian asked when she reached them and Ann huffed,
“None of your business, Marian – what are you doing out anyway? Looking for another rugmaker?
Marian merely rolled her eyes at her, turning to Anne instead,
“Oh but you’re soaked! Anne, why would you keep her out…”
“Yes, yes, thank you, Marian. We don’t need you to lecture us – we were just heading home.”
Again, Marian did her best to ignore her sister,
“Are you alright, Ann?”
“I’m fine, thank you, Marian. We took cover under a tree – because of the thunder, that’s why we’re just getting home.”
“You’d think that someone who looks at their thermometer more than five times a day would know to expect the weather – right Ann?” Marian looked to the blonde for agreement, and it took every ounce of Anne’s self-control not to snap at her sister.
“Well, you know how Anne is – here, there and everywhere. It probably escaped her notice and I think even Anne Lister can’t stop the weather from surprising her every now and again. She’s not almighty... though she might like to think she is sometimes – the way she acts. Isn’t that right, pony?”
Ann merely hummed, walking in large strides slightly in-front of them. Though Ann was obviously amused by the whole act – she couldn’t break her character.
“Mm, is Aunt alright? The thunder didn’t frighten her?”
“She’s as bright as a button. You forget Anne, that you’re the only one terrified of it.”
“It is perfectly natural to be scared of something like thunder. I mean…” Anne trailed off when Marian gave her a surprised look – realising she was coming across as… well, quite cross and it wasn’t like Ann who Marian thought Anne were.
“Not… It’s not. Anne you’re a… a… wimp.”
“Do you… are you sure you’re alright, Ann?” Marian eyed her concerned, “How’s your spine? Better or worse since morning?”
Anne almost rolled her eyes – her bloody spine. Though of course it did give her pain from hell at present but that’s merely because she fell on her back. However, Anne must remain within the boundaries of Ann’s normal behaviour.
“It’s… I fell on it when the branch came over us, so it’s eh, um, a little achy.”
“A branch fell over you?” Marian’s whole face scrunched up and both Anne and Ann realised they hadn’t told her, not that they had initially planned to.
“Mm, yes – quite a small branch. I will ask Pickels to fell the tree. I do not want any more accidents on my land. I’ll send him a note when we get inside – first thing.”
“Dinner is ready.” Marian huffed as the three of them approached the door and Ann pulled it open, glancing over her shoulder,
“Mm, excellent. And I assume it will still be there once I’ve written my note.”
“Isn’t she a handful?” Marian turned to Anne who fought every instinct to keep up her façade – smiling mirthfully,
“That she is, Marian, that she is.”
Ann hurried upstairs, dragging mud across the carpets and Anne wanted to run after her – make sure the note was well-written, but she couldn’t – Ann would never be uncivil, she would never rush from the set table – she was always on best behaviour, at least in-front of the rest of the family.
“Oh, do you think ‘Caligula’ will appreciate you taking her seat?” Marian joked when Anne seated herself at the table – realising her mistake,
“I guess you’re right – and we have had enough of her foolery for one day, haven't we?.”
Marian laughed merrily with her, though Anne’s laughter was hardly sincere – she switched seat and gripped her knife and fork tightly in her hands, annoyed to lengths with Marian, her aching back and this ill-timed switch. How on earth was this supposed to clear up?
Anne almost knocked the jug down for a fourth time, earning worried looks from both Marian and her aunt meanwhile she herself glared at the damned sleeves on her damned dress – who was the idiot that invented this type of fashion? Anne would find him, and she would kill him – strangle him with one of the sleeve poufs. Also, where was Ann? – How long could it possibly take her to scribble down a quick note?! - 16 minutes apparently, Anne thought irritably when her wife did appear in the doorway.
“I’m sorry I’m late. How are you, aunt?” Ann bent down and kissed the elderly woman on the cheek, and she let go of her fork to touch her arm affectionately,
“Well, thank you dear but sit down - have some dinner!”
Ann sank down in her seat reaching for the boiled potatoes, noticing Anne who was staring at her,
“Is something the matter, Adney?”
“Did you send that note?”
“Mm, I did, well, Joseph promised to take it out as soon as he finished whatever meal he was having in the kitchen.” Ann told her with half-a-look and Anne sighed, her knife tightly clutched in her hand and that annoyed frown making appearance,
“Well, what did you tell him!?”
“Just that, that I wanted the tree to be felled.” Ann replied, and Anne’s hand fell to the table, startling the others,
“It took you sixteen minutes – you must’ve written something else! Or do you just write a word every two minutes?!”
“We’ll talk about this later. We do not need to discuss business at the table. How was your day, Marian? What did you do?”
Ann turned her face to Marian who seemed baffled at being considered, and Ann tapped her fingers against the table nervously, glancing at Anne – realising her blunder. But Marian, as well as Aunt Anne recovered, and Marian told her of her day. Which needless to say managed to wind Anne up.
“Mr. Washington was here, and he told us about the plans for a new pit. You’d think two be enough – but no!” Marian complained and Anne tried to keep her forehead perfectly straight, but she must’ve managed poorly because Aunt Anne glared at Marian, mistaking Anne’s irate frown for distress, stopping her from further discussion of the subject,
“Well, if our Anne wants to sink a new pit with Ann – I don’t think there’s any reason to complain. It doesn’t affect you negatively in anyway, dear.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, Ann.” Marian hurriedly said, not wanting to upset the blonde in any way though she wouldn’t mind getting her message across to her uncommonly silent sister – but Anne waved her hand though it shook a little from all the pent-up anger – why must Marian always contradict her business plans.
“No worries. Anne, is… I’m sure we can agree that she’s a little enthusiastic sometimes – I understand your standpoint.”
“The pits already run at a profit, and this one would too. It’s also to be sunk on Ann’s land so it really isn’t any of your business and it shan’t affect you in any way whatsoever.” Ann butted into the conversation, thinking she must unless they thought her ill.
“Mm.” Marian glanced suspiciously at her but said naught about it.
“Have there been any letters for me today?” Anne wondered then, almost raising her hand to rest on her back to still the pain but resisted – not wanting to admit the severeness of her pain to Ann.
“Were there any letters for Miss Walker today?” Marian looked to their aunt – The Captain was useless; he was dozing in his chair. Aunt Anne shook her head slowly,
“I don’t think so.”
“Ah.” Anne put her glass to her lips – once more remembering that she wasn’t herself, reminded that they needed to find a solution to this peculiar problem. Anxiety washed over her, and she wondered whether it was because of their situation or if it was because she inhabited Ann’s body.
“Is something wrong, Ann? Were you expecting a letter from your sister?” Marian wondered, studying her face – noticing the worry and anxiety. Anne sat her glass down nervously, looking at a spot slightly behind Marian,
“Uh, yes. Oh, I’m just… um, eh the fire is a bit warm – I might get some fresh air.”
“In this weather? Are you certain that’s a good idea? – I’m almost of a mind to call Doctor Kenny or Day – you both are acting rather weird, and you said that a branch fell on you...” Marian didn’t seem convinced, but Anne had already stood up, making for the door,
“Oh absolutely, besides what doctor in his right mind would advise against fresh air – I’m just overheated though – there’s no need for a doctor.”
“I’ll come with you; you shouldn’t go out alone.” Ann stood up quickly, bumping into the table slightly, hurrying after the blonde.
“Did Miss Walker just quote my sister?”
Marian turned to Aunt Anne who nodded,
“I think so, yes. And they were acting awfully like one another at times. Anne asking you (!) about your day et cetera.”
“Yes... I guess they do rub off on one another.” Marian rolled her eyes and Captain Lister chuckled to himself – surprising both women,
“I don’t doubt they do. I don’t doubt they do.”
Aunt Anne whacked the old soldier over the head, but Marian was none the wiser as to why and neither were Anne and Ann concerning their own problem.