Chapter One


 

 

Damned don't cry

I was not a big kid, in fact I was only five-six by the age of sixteen. My body was still smooth and slender with no muscular definition whatsoever. I hadn’t much in the way of body hair (or body to put it on really) and my face was still baby-smooth. By this time, I would have expected to have something - even if it was just the obligatory dead caterpillar on my top lip.

It didn’t seem that long ago that I was the same as everyone else, but in the blink of an eye, my school friends had sprouted hair all over the place, grown up, grown outwards or both and some of them had even started shaving.

I meanwhile felt as though I’d been nailed to the spot not having changed at all that I could see. I hadn’t grown as much as an inch in height in over eighteen months.

The others had noticed these things too and this is where my troubles really began…

 

*        *        *

 

“Hey look, it’s girly Turner” called Jeremy Fuller, one of the school bullies as I entered through the school gates. “Wonder if he’s flush today.”

Fuller’s friend Greg Bridger grabbed me and without a word, Fuller pushed his hands into my pockets, swiftly divesting me of my lunch money. Then as a parting “thank you”, both punched me in the stomach, leaving me winded and penniless.

“You’d better bring some more tomorrow,” said Fuller tossing the coins in the palm of his hand. “Oh and you’d better not say anything or we’ll have to rip up your homework too.”

They walked away laughing, leaving me to gather myself together and get to registration.

This hurt more than just physically, since two years previous, I was at least as big as Fuller and Bridger was just the fat kid. Now, Bridger more closely resembled a brick shithouse and Fuller stood head and shoulders taller than me.

I on the other hand, was barely keeping up with the girls except where the hair on my head was concerned. Unlike the other boys, this was the only part of me that knew how to grow and was now shoulder-length. It wasn’t a fashion statement or anything, although I did like it long. It just never got cut.

No matter what I did to avoid them, Fuller and Bridger always seemed to find me before lunch time and for the next two weeks, I didn’t eat anything at school.

The next week, I tried a change of tack and bought snacks on the way in the mornings.

“Where’s our money you little poof?” said Fuller Monday morning.

“I haven’t got any,” I told them. This time it was the truth, but not taking my word for it, Bridger once again acted as a human crusher and held me in place while Fuller went about the search.

“Where is it?” they demanded.

“I told you. I haven’t any,” I assured them and before I knew what was happening, my exercise books, my biscuits and crisps were out of my bag and spread across the school entrance.

I got a good kicking, though I didn’t think it was that good. I could barely walk afterwards. I still lost my lunch and what was more, my homework was ruined.

The same thing happened the next day and the day after, but then it came to the attention of the school and boy did I get into trouble, refusing to tell them who was to blame.

“Who are you trying to protect?” they asked.

“Me,” I answered blithely. “If I tell you, the bullies get me.” It was a simple equation, which whilst not one hundred percent foolproof, did seem to at least minimise beatings.

“We can’t help you if you won’t tell us,” they countered.

“Are you mental?” I asked. “They’ll know it’s me who’s told you and I’ll get an even worse pasting - duh!”

This of course got back to mum, who told me to stand up for myself.

“I don’t think you fully understand the situation, mum,” I pointed out, using the same phrase as one of the teachers had used.

“Bullies,” she said sagaciously. “Are only strong, because they make you think they are.”

“Believe me mum,” I replied. “Bridger and Fuller are strong alright and bigger than me too.”

“Paul, Paul, Paul. It’s not the size of the man in the fight, but the size of the fight in the man,” she explained as if that answered all my questions and solved all my problems.

I had little going for me at that time as the few friends I had, were giving me a wide berth so as not to get beaten up by association, which left me well and truly on my own.

At a loss for anything better to do and without any sensible suggestions about how to deal with this situation, I tried fighting back, but that just made the beatings worse, so I tried another theory, which seemed only to put the expression “if at first you don’t succeed…” right up there with “clutching at straws”.

“Who thinks up all this rubbish?” I muttered after another beating, certain now that this angle just made bashing me up more of a challenge and I was sure, more fun.

The ‘help’ I was getting was probably alright in theory but it fell down somewhere short in practice. I decided to try the ‘running’ technique. It is here that we can examine the formula of the “he, who fights, but runs away, lives to fight another day” ethos.

In my case, it was more along the lines of “he who fights, but runs away, gets to be able to run”, so this was an improvement.

Steve Strange was busy singing about how the damned don’t cry, a sentiment I was finding very hard to agree with. I felt that I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t, whether I cried or not, made very little difference.

“If that’s the way it’s going to be, then so be it” I thought. “Fuck the lot of them.”

 

*        *        *

 

Stool pigeon

Games lessons got to be a pain - literally. For the guys who were developing as normal, their build and stature made them nearly twice my size on average and pounding me for ‘the good of the game’ became their primary concern. Of course if I complained, I was a wimp and the poundings increased, so I kept my mouth shut and instead, it was seen that I was getting used to it and the poundings increased.

Either way I looked at it, I would limp away from whatever sport was being played - even the non-contact ones, feeling as though I needed to rearrange my features and would still get it in the neck from Mr Georgeson, the games teacher, for not trying hard enough.

I couldn’t win and games lessons became something I dreaded.

Mr. Georgeson referred to what I was getting from the other boys as ‘sporting camaraderie’, but when it extended to the changing room, I started to get very upset very quickly.

Tired and sore after one particular session, I was sure my ankle had been damaged when I was tackled during the rugby game by one of the bigger boys. While I was on the floor, another had ground the heel of his boot into it.

I limped quite badly, which unsurprisingly angered Mr Georgeson and he spent the rest of the game shouting at me to get a move on. Mercifully, the game ended shortly after that.

Trying to be as unobtrusive as possible as I changed, I found I was hobbling more noticeably. I got shoved and my ankle gave way. Sent flying I hit the floor in a ‘belly-flop’ with a resounding ‘slap!’ I gasped and held my right ankle. God it hurt, and the verbal abuse that accompanied it, hurt almost as much.

“Get out of my way short-arse,” said Fuller with a sneer. “Christ, I don’t know why they let a puny little fart like you in here with us seniors.”

I tried to get up, but I couldn’t put any pressure on my right leg, which left me sprawled on the floor for Fuller and Bridger to continue with their ‘sport’.

“I mean shit, look at you, bloody wimp. Do you shave your legs? Look, girly Turner shaves his legs.” Bridger pulled away my towel, exposing my apparently hairless body.

“Hey look, he even shaves round his cock too and under his arms. Just like the girl he is,” said Greg

“Aw look, the little girl’s crying.” added Fuller.

The truth was, there were hairs on my legs, but not like the fuse-wire he had on his, a fact that seemed to go unnoticed.

The laughter that went round the changing room hurt more than landing badly on the floor had and nearly as much as my ankle was now hurting. The boys were jeering and pointing their fingers as I sat on the floor with tears running down my face.

Mr Georgeson entered at that moment.

“What’s going on here?” he demanded. “Get dressed all of you. Fuller, Bridger, get away from there.”

I was in plain view when Fuller and Bridger moved and Mr Georgeson looked across at me as I sat, rocking gently, holding my ankle with tears still running down my face.

“Turner! I might have known you’d be the cause of this. My office NOW!”

He moved closer, standing right over me.

“And stop that stupid snivelling.”

With that he turned and left the changing room. I hauled myself up onto the bench below my clothes and tried to pull myself together. It was just like home, I was the stool pigeon, taking the flack for whatever happened, regardless of whether I was at fault or not.

The other boys in the room were almost silent. I could see out of the corner of my eye that some of the lads knew something major was wrong and I was sure that they wanted to at least check me out and make sure I was okay, but Fuller was not someone you messed with.

He had no business on my side of the changing room anyway and neither did Bridger - it didn’t stop them though and I knew that the others wouldn’t move until he and his merry band of dickheads had gone, but they were still laughing about me at that point.

I managed to get my shirt and jumper on, but was finding it really difficult to get my underwear on thanks to the blinding pain I was experiencing from my now very swollen ankle, my right sock being a definite no-no.

I was pulling up my trousers when Mr Georgeson came back in. What small amount of talking was going on at the time, ceased immediately the guys knew it was him that had opened the door.

“Turner! I thought I told you to come to my office?”

“I’m dressing, sir. I didn’t think exposing myself in the corridor would be acceptable, sir.”

I was silently pleased to hear that my retort had met with the approval of some of the other students, but I couldn’t even smile as I was trying to hide the fact that the throb that was now almost constant and actually taking my breath away.

“I didn’t tell you to dress. I told you to get your puny little arse into my office.” This got a few snorts and chuckles from Fuller’s side of the changing room.

“I don’t think I can sir. I think my ankle’s broken.”

“Don’t be so stupid, Turner,” he said and strode round the racks in the centre of the room, grabbed me by the ear, hauled me to my feet and then dragged me across the changing room.

I didn’t have my trousers on properly at the time and I tripped, falling back onto the floor.

“Get up!” Georgeson shouted and bent down, grabbing me by my upper left arm and hauling me out into the corridor. I was trying to pull up my trousers with my free hand, when I suddenly howled in pain.

My ankle got knocked against the sprung door to the changing rooms as it returned to its closed position and it sent the most awful pain straight up my leg.

“Stop that noise!” Georgeson growled. “Or I’ll give you something to moan about.”

He didn’t let go until he’d slammed me onto a chair inside the doorway of his office. I just sat there and looked at the now tennis-ball sized swelling that was once my ankle.

He sat down and did that ignoring thing for several minutes before he looked up. I was tearstained and gasping every so often as the pain shot up my leg.

“You disgust me,” he said. “You’re about as much use as…” He shook his head and returned his gaze to the paper in front of him.

“Did you know you’re the bottom of the list when it comes to sports activities? You’ve made absolutely no effort whatsoever.”

“But sir…” I began.

I didn’t care that I was bottom of the list, but to say I didn’t make the effort was unfair and well, completely untrue.

“Shut up. I’m sending you to the headmaster’s office. I’ll be along shortly when I’ve got the other boys out of the changing rooms. Now get out of my sight.”

I got up and turned, put my right leg down and a bright light flashed across my field of vision as a bolt of pain shot up my leg and I went down like a sack of shit.

The next thing I knew was I was lying on a bed staring at the ceiling and trying to get my head round what had happened and it all started coming back to me. I could feel the pain in my ankle, but now it felt different, kind of numb, but there nonetheless.

I looked down the bed and saw that my ankle had been wrapped in bandage and I could hear voices from the small ante room.

“You bloody idiot Jeff. Didn’t you even look to see what he was talking about?” asked the headmaster.

“I thought he was just moaning as usual,” Georgeson replied.

“I’m disappointed, Jeff. I spoke to some of the boys and they’ve all told me the same thing; that you manhandled young Turner from the changing room and shouted at him for not keeping up. Is this true?”

“He was being obstinate,” Georgeson explained defensively.

“He couldn’t walk you imbecile. You saw his ankle. That’s not being obstinate. I can’t help you with this one, you’ve gone too far. You know this is bound to bring those other complaints to light as well don’t you?”

I heard the door close and the room next door went once again quiet.

I was taken to hospital for x-rays and all sorts of other tests. Apart from severe bruising that they said “was consistent with my ankle being crushed under someone’s boot,” I’d be alright, although they did say that it would take some time before I was back to full fitness.

I didn’t need an excuse now to get out of games. I couldn’t do them anyway and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Mum was concerned and told me off for being careless, but then changed her tune, looking suitably embarrassed when she was told what had happened. Why she should have thought that everything that happened was automatically my fault I don’t know.

Fortunately, Jeremy Fuller’s taunting got kind of washed away when what happened came out into the open. It was odd how many of the boys came forward after what happened to me and parents were lining up to cut one part or another of Jeff Georgeson’s anatomy off with a blunt knife.

Sadly, my mum’s opinion about how things are automatically my fault, soon returned to normal, but hey, I could handle that. I just didn’t tell her stuff, it was that simple.

I got a new found respect from some of the others after it was made known that the ‘accident’ that caused my ankle injury was “not sporting at all”. The fact that I couldn’t or rather wouldn’t tell who had actually crushed my ankle, when I knew perfectly well who it was, seemed to get me brownie points and the picking on me subsided somewhat.

 

*        *        *

 

Walking on sunshine?

I was given free periods for those lessons that would normally have been for games “until I felt fit enough”, so that was good. I would have looked a bit silly trying to play soccer or rugby on crutches anyway, so for a while at least, I wasn’t exactly ‘walking on sunshine’, but hobbling nicely anyway!

Free periods weren’t what they sounded like. I mean I couldn’t go off school premises, or just do my own thing either; I had to make use of them. It was more like ‘get-on-with-homework-and-no-talking-periods’, but this is where I met Amanda or Mandy.

I’d been in the classroom designated for this for about three weeks when she turned up.

I had lost the crutches by then and my ankle was just bandaged. What was even better was the fact that I got to wear trainers, which were infinitely more comfortable than the shoes I would have worn.

Anyway, Mandy was not one of the spectacularly pretty girls, quite plain actually, but I became aware of her stares quite soon after she arrived. I don’t think she knew I knew what she was doing, but I did. I just didn’t know why.

She approached me, which was cool as far as I was concerned, because I had absolutely no experience with girls and wouldn’t have known where to start.

I’d had a crush on one girl, Elaine, who was one of those ‘pretty’ girls, well out of my league, but if I was anywhere near her, I lost the power of speech. It was just lucky I suppose that she wasn’t near me very often. As with Elaine, all I knew about what was happening with Mandy was that I felt uncomfortable.

She came across to my table and the feeling of discomfort rose.

“It’s Paul isn’t it?” she asked and I just nodded, probably looking a little vacant actually as I twirled a lock of hair in my fingers. I had no idea what she was going to do or say and since most of my experiences seemed to involve getting pounded on or ridiculed, I was on guard; bayonet at the ready.

“Um... Hi,” I said, edging backwards and making ready to run or hastily limp for it.

“Amanda Jenkins! Go and sit back down,” said Mr Fredricks, a miserable Maths teacher, with all the teacher to pupil skills of an alligator with toothache. He had what he termed as ‘the misfortune’ to be assigned to supervise us during the first period of the lesson.

“I was just getting a rubber, sir,” she said in that way only girls can and he tutted, muttering something about having her own stationery, especially an eraser and not wandering around pinching everyone else’s.

Unfortunately for him, Mandy’s hearing was spot on.

“I don’t want everyone else’s, sir, nor was I ‘pinching’. I just borrowed this one,” she said, holding mine up for him to see, then looked at me and rolled her eyes.

“Well now you’ve got it you’d better sit back down.”

That didn’t work for long as after she’d finished rubbing out the error, she then needed to give it back.

“You again?” asked Mr Fredricks, sighing and looking at her over to top of his glasses, his fingers steepled before him on the desk.

“I’m just returning the rubber, sir,” she said, that look of dumb insolence returning to her otherwise plain and open face. She was a feisty one and I couldn’t help admiring her ballsy attitude.

“Well to save you getting it again, as I’m sure you’ll have to before this period is through, move your belongings to er…” he struggled for my name, but I wasn’t going to supply it. “his table. Come on girl, don’t take all day,” he added, waving his hand in my general direction.

“Here, sir?”

“Yes there! Now no talking.” he barked, lowering his head to whatever he was doing and muttering something along the lines of “Bloody kids!” but I can’t be sure.

We sat in silence until the bell for the end of the first period rang. The games lesson was a double period - one hour and as Mr Fredricks left, he barked out his no talking order as the door closed behind him.

“You’re that kid aren’t you?” Mandy asked, springing back to her normal animated self.

“I’m certainly one of them I suppose; only I prefer the term young man.”

“I know that, silly. I mean are you the ‘young man’ Jeremy Fuller was picking on in the changing room.”

Ah, so that’s where this was going. I shook my head and went back to the rigours of trying to work out what was so important about learning fractions and twirling that lock of hair again.

“I guess,” I said without looking up.

“He’s such an arsehole.”

I looked at her, trying to read where the ‘friendly’ conversation was going to turn into something else.

“I mean it’s not your fault you’re smaller or prettier than them, is it?” she asked.

“Thank you for pointing that out,” I said sarcastically, mortified by the ‘prettier’ part in her statement. I hope she meant better-looking, but well, that’s not what she said and I couldn’t help being cut to the quick by her remark.

“Well it’s not is it?” she asked, apparently oblivious to the effect she was having.

“Look, I don’t know where you’re going with this, but I really don’t want to talk about it.” I said, trying to head any further faux pas off at the pass.

“I was just saying.” she said as if I was being overly sensitive about being called small and pretty.

I got up to move to another table.

“Where are you going?”

“To sit somewhere else. I know you mean well, but just leave me alone.” My movement coincided with the arrival of Miss Clarke the home economics teacher.

“Sit down!” she commanded. “You’re not here to wander around.” I sat back down with a thump.

We sat in silence again and I tried concentrating on fractions. I knew I had less than half of the lesson left to get these, was only a quarter of the way through the problems and about a third of them just looked vulgar.

The silence didn’t last for long this time as not only was Miss Clarke the home economics teacher, but was also a year tutor for the year below me and as such, she was often on call. She’d only been sat at her table for a few minutes when she had to leave.

“I’m going to have to leave you lot on your own and I don’t want to hear anything about you talking, walking around or any other form of misbehaving. Is that clear?” We all looked at her, but said nothing.

“I said, IS THAT CLEAR?” she barked.

“Yes Miss Clarke.” we intoned in unison.

“Good.” she said, turning on her heels and disappearing.

Of course, as soon as she’d left the room, Mandy became once again reanimated and was probing.

“I didn’t mean to upset you.” she said, I expect trying to make me feel better.

“You didn’t.” I answered not looking up, that strand of hair wrapped again around my finger.

“You seem pretty upset now.”

“Look Amanda…”

“It’s Mandy.”

“Alright. Look Mandy, I really don’t know you and I don’t feel comfortable with talking to you about this, alright?”

“You’ve got to talk to someone.”

“Can’t you take a hint?” I said, looking at her and trying to convey a look of exasperation. “I – DON’T – WANT – TO – TALK – ABOUT – IT!”

“Oooooh!” she said, sitting back, her eyebrows raised and her eyes wide. “No need to get your knickers in a twist.”

“Just piss off will you?” I said shaking my head and doing my level best to ignore her. It went quiet after that.

I’ve said already that I didn’t have much experience in the ‘girl’ department. About the only ‘experience’ I’d had was with Sally Hurst two years ago. We lasted about a week and never went anywhere outside of school together.

At the end of a week, I was unceremoniously ‘chucked’ and I later found out that she was only with me on a dare. The grown-up feeling I got being part of a ‘couple’, disappeared about a millisecond after she did the chucking bit.

We didn’t kiss, well, we did, once and then it was the quickest of pecks behind the bike sheds when we thought that no-one was looking. Not exactly the most auspicious of beginnings.

Since then, even having passed my sixteenth birthday and had therefore reached and passed the age of consent, there had been no girls in my life and I was fast beginning to question the validity of the boy/girl relationship thing. I was confused at being legally allowed to bonk and yet I knew nothing about foreplay, intercourse or even ‘French’ kissing.

Mandy was the first girl since Sally who’d taken any kind of interest in me and saying I was cute. I think that was the best she could come up with, since the word ‘pretty’ upset me, but I’m not sure that ‘cute’ was any better.

To this day, I still haven’t found out what cute really means when a girl uses it to describe a boy, bloke or man, but I’ve since decided that it means, “you’re nice, but don’t try getting into my knickers.” Not that at that time I’d have known what to do if I did!

Anyway, back to the present and I was heading out of school later and who should be waiting for me?

Yup, Mandy.

She certainly was a tough nut this one and I think I underestimated her when I called her feisty. I think the word ‘feisty’ was coined as a mild alternative to ‘Mandy’. I obviously wasn’t going to avoid her this time.

“Can we talk?” she asked.

“Well I know you can. It’s stopping you that’s the hard part,” I said, mentally chalking one up for my side. She wasn’t happy with my remark.

“You don’t have to be like that.” she said. “I just wanted to know from your point of view what happened. Hell, I know how hard it can be, but if you’re going to be like that…”

I immediately mentally rubbed out the one up, returned the score to evens and apologised.

I gave her a potted version of my final year of school up to that point and played down a lot of the bullying I’d had to put up with, hopefully so that she didn’t think I was either being melodramatic or would look upon me with pity. That was definitely one thing I didn’t want.

By the time we got to her house, we were chatting away a lot more comfortably and I actually felt that - with certain reservations of course - I liked her. I was glad I had someone to talk to who seemed to understand the situation. From then on, Mandy was never far away from me or I from her–lessons permitting, depending on your viewpoint.

Still I now had a friend.

Mandy and I became something of an item and pretty soon, the guys that had been giving me grief, eased off because all of a sudden, I had a girlfriend. Well, I say girlfriend, but I don’t think she was really that.

She was a young female friend and I think there’s a vast chasm between that and the term ‘girlfriend’. I had at least, been seen with a girl that was not my sister or mother and perhaps I wasn’t such a weirdo after all; all of this thanks to Mandy.

Thanks Mandy - really.

The fact that nothing happened in that way between Mandy and I, was beside the point. It deflected the situation somewhat and I was able to get on with school without the fear of constant ridicule, my performance picking up enough for me not to be in regular trouble with the teachers and having to keep my mother from finding out - not that she took that much interest anyway.

After a couple of weeks, I was invited to go round to her place after school, where we just chatted and listened to music. She really was a very intelligent person, one with whom I could talk, laugh and joke and not feel self-conscious, although I did notice that she watched me closely whatever I did. I just thought it was her way.

I was late home and was nearly in trouble, but when I said that I was round Mandy’s, I was let off. I got the usual “Paul’s got a girlfriend, Paul’s got a girlfriend” and “Paul and Mandy sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” from my brothers.

It amused them, but as a pouting, underdeveloped teen, I was most annoyed which seemed to amuse mum and was an almost constant source of hilarity for the brats.

Friends

After a couple of weeks, I got to meet some of Mandy’s friends too.

They weren’t from our school, but they seemed nice enough. A bit standoffish at first, but that’s only to be expected since their normal female circle was being sullied by a male. I don’t know what happened to change this view, but it wasn’t long before I was accepted and the quartet became a quintet.

It all started innocently enough.

 

*        *        *

 

There were only three of them: Julie, a five-eight blonde with a real sharp sense of humour. Her body was behaving something like mine, so although mentally mature, physically, she was a bit slow off the mark, looking a bit like a stick insect.

Next, there was Lisa. She was the same height as me with dark spiky hair. She was into the new romantics (I DID say this was set in the eighties, didn’t I?) and as a result, her outlandish style tended to alienate her from the other circles. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she was only hanging about with us because there was nowhere else to be. She was actually really nice though.

Lastly, there was Caroline. She was a quiet one. Long straight hair and looked not unlike Violet Parr from the Incredibles. When they said “beware of the quiet ones, they’re the ones to watch out for”, they must have been talking about her.

This motley crew got together just before half term that year and I was just pleased to have someone to do things with, that it never bothered me that they were girls and not boys.

It didn’t take long before the makeup and makeovers started. I would sit and read to begin with, since I nearly caught fire blushing when Mandy first stripped down to bra and panties. Her argument was that it was no different to being in a bikini and suddenly it didn’t matter. I was pleased however that I was only asked to give an opinion and not actually join in with this pastime.

I was a pretty good artist and as such, got asked my opinion on makeup quite a lot – the apparently natural progression from dressing up. Lisa and her ‘colourful’ image was the starting point. She was somewhere between Siouxie and the Banshees and Steve Strange. I know that the idea was to shock or to be outlandish, but something can shock or be outlandish and still look tasteful can’t it?

I started by offering opinions just from observation and when Caroline said “Well if you think you can do any better” I was up and at it. Next thing I knew, it became almost ritualistic and I started to get asked to do all of them. Sometimes Mandy would even take pictures of the finished results.

It was during the two-week half-term break that things first stepped into a different realm.

 

*        *        *

 

Who's that girl?

Up until now, I had been able to just watch as the four of them would play ‘fashion show’ and they seemed happy enough to let it go at that. I was happy enough just getting involved with the makeup and the more I did it, the better I got, but it never went near MY face.

This time however, I had done all four girls’ makeup and was taking a well-earned break while they danced around to something on the radio. I was pretending to be reading a magazine, but in fact I was looking at Lisa. I liked her the most and I didn’t see anything wrong with looking since Mandy had not made any romantic feelings apparent to me.

So there I was, enjoying the ‘show’ and the music when Lisa suddenly asked “What about Paul?”

“What about me?” I asked and for the first time, I actually felt quite wary about what was to come.

“Well, you’ve done this for us so often and yet we never get to do yours.”

“No sweat! I don’t wear it do I?”

“We just want to see what you look like in it.”

Now I didn’t know where the ‘I’ suddenly became ‘we’, but somehow these women had an ability to talk to one another without moving their lips.

“Yeah, come on Paul. It’ll be fun.” said Mandy.

I thought she of all of them would have been a little more sympathetic, but no. Lots of ‘boys’ were wearing makeup since plenty of guys in bands like Duran Duran - especially Nick Rhodes and Human League were wearing it and Steve Strange of Visage had made it something of a trademark.

I was outvoted four to one and whether I wanted to or not, I was going to be wearing makeup.

It wasn’t a gentle experience either. While I gently tended to each of them in turn, with me, it was a case of all hands on deck - or Paul in this case, so the experience wasn’t like being pampered, but mauled.

At the end of their work, I was shown the mirror and staring back at me was a teenage girl in too much makeup.

“Don’t you just love it?”

“Er…” I began. Yes actually I did.

Boy George, eat your heart out, I thought, but the word pretty kept coming back into my head and it was shouting out that this was wrong.

I was confused since for the first time the image in the mirror looked right. I don’t think there’s anything worse than trying to be something that you’re not, but sometimes it can be more difficult finding out what you are and even more so, coming to terms with what that might be.

I was speechless. I saw a girl in the mirror, not a boy in makeup - a girl. Perhaps there was too much makeup, but it looked so much more believable than looking in the mirror each morning and seeing me staring back, trying to see the man, even the boy.

“Yeah, I guess…” I said not knowing what to say. It was all so much of a shock.

Looking this way and that and seeing the cheekbones highlighted with the blusher, the lips, full, glossy and pouting and the eyes… God those smouldering eyes…

I couldn’t get over how feminine I looked, how real.

I could see that the girls looked somewhat deflated, their efforts being shrugged off with an “I guess”, like an old coat that keeps you warm but you don’t want to be seen in and I felt sorry for being so offhand.

I was confused. I’d never seen me like this before, not even in my head. The idea that I could pass for female never occurred to me. I suppose it’s because I already had a lot on my mind, but now all the emotion I’d felt about not fitting in, not feeling comfortable with the way I was and a whole host of other things came crashing in all at once.

Tears started to well up in my eyes and in theirs too and I had no choice but to run into the bathroom and try to scrub it off my face. Believe me that was no mean feat, since the tears wouldn’t stop and I couldn’t see what I was doing.

I didn’t even stop to get my coat. As soon as I had ‘cleaned’ the war paint from my face, I was off. I ran nearly all the way home, sprinting upstairs two steps at a time into my room and closed the door behind me, ignoring the pleas of my mum to come in and find out what was wrong. My chest hurt, my head was spinning like a top and I really wasn’t sure which way was up.

 


 

 

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