Chapter Two


 

 

I thought that would be an end to it. I thought that by running out on them, they would be saying how I wasn’t worth it and that I wasn’t one of the girls - which with all due respect, I wasn’t and wasn’t it better without him?

I was wrong, on all counts.

The first thing I was wrong about was being able to stay in my room and sulk, mum saw to that.

“Dinner’s ready!” she announced. I just buried my head deeper into the pillow and tried to pretend to not hear. It wasn’t long before there was a sharp rapping on my door.

“I don’t know what the matter is, but it’ll be a whole lot worse if you don’t come and have you dinner NOW!”

Putting on my best ‘hurt’ pout, I went and opened the door. I thought she had gone back to the kitchen, but to my surprise, she was waiting outside, arms folded and tapping her foot in that way a woman does when you’re in the wrong and they are at the end of their patience.

“Get your backside into…” she began and then all at once, her eyebrows started their ascension to her hairline and didn’t stop there. “Oh - my - God! Are you wearing makeup?”

“NO!” I assured her.

I had rubbed my face almost raw back at Mandy’s and was sure there was nothing left; if I had rubbed any more, she would have been looking at my bones, wouldn’t she?

Evidently not.

She caught my earlobe in between her thumb and forefinger and dragged me yelping and squirming into the bathroom, hauling me up to the mirror.

“So what’s that?” she demanded, pointing at the mirror.

“Er…” I spluttered.

It was obvious that where I had rubbed, the makeup had been removed, but I just hadn’t rubbed enough all over. In fact, I had missed more than I had got, my eyes looked like those of a panda and there was still enough rouge on my cheeks to look more than just a healthy blush.

She dragged me back out of the bathroom and into her bedroom and my ear by was feeling like one more tug and it would come away, probably complete with the half of my face.

“Here.” she said, thrusting a tin of makeup remover at me. “Don’t come into the kitchen until it’s all off.”

“I’d rather not go into the kitchen at all, if it’s all the same,” I said miserably.

“I didn’t go to all the trouble of cooking your food, just to have you leave it,” she growled, her eyes flashing with an anger I’d not seen before. “Now get on with it and come and have your tea. If you don’t hurry up, it’ll be cold.”

She turned to leave her bedroom and both of us could hear the scampering or four other feet that no doubt belonged to the brats. I could still hear their titters and giggles well after mum had gone.

I picked up some tissue from a box on her dressing table and started to smear the cold gloop over my face, being careful to cover where all the makeup was then threw that tissue away, picked a fresh one and started to wipe the gloop and makeup off.

It wasn’t a long job; not nearly as long as I had hoped. I had hoped it would take forever so I could just go to bed, but no. A couple of minutes and it was history, a bad memory, or rather, a good memory gone bad.

I tried to stay invisible as I crept into the kitchen and my two brothers we giggling into their hands. I wasn’t happy and told them to shut up, but mum was having none of it.

“What do you expect you big sissy.”

“I’m no sissy!” I said and I thought that had I been ‘big’, this probably wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

“Well, boys don’t wear makeup do they?”

“What about Boy George, Adam Ant or Duran Duran?” I asked. “Maybe OMD or Tears for Fears and Gary Numan?”

“But they’re all bloody poofs.” she said spitefully, making the two brats laugh even harder.

I couldn’t eat all my dinner that evening. I was too interested in getting the hell out of there. I wasn’t a poof and what was wrong with Gary Numan or the Durannies anyway? I was pretty sure after consideration, mentioning Boy George didn’t help my cause though.

I couldn’t believe that my own mother could be so negative, especially since she had Slade, Sweet, Kiss, David Bowie and Marc Bolan albums in her collection, not to mention Roxy Music when Brian Eno was with them and there were some serious makeup jobs on a few of them that’s for sure, never mind the suits!

Another thing that shocked me was the fact that this was the first thing she had actually given an opinion on with regards to what I was doing. Up until then, she’d shown little or no interest in my schooling, the subjects, marks or my reports. Why the sudden interest when legally, I was allowed to leave home, get a job and be my own man or woman for that matter?

 

*        *        *

 

(Keep feeling) Fascination

The next thing I was wrong about was the girls just giving up on me.

It was a few days later when Mandy, Lisa, Caroline and Julie turned up mob-handed to drag me out with them.

Mum answered the door and was shocked to see that there were four girls asking me to go out with them.

Boy was that a shock - for both of us.

I didn’t feel that it was necessary to point out that I wasn’t having a relationship with any of them, more’s the pity and just like Mandy and I at school; that was just a detail.

Mum could believe what she wanted to believe.

Meanwhile, it deflected the anger that mum was still harbouring to some degree over my returning with makeup on last time I was with them because, how could a poof go out with four girls? She’s a dear mother, but can be a real simpleton sometimes.

It was with a look of wonder that mum watched me waltz off with my friends and I have to say, it felt good to be in their company again.

“We’ve got to stop off at my place, and then we’re all going to that café along Western Road, The Cordoba to play some pool and have coffees,” Mandy announced.

“Lead on!” I said grinning and the four girls looked at one another and giggled. I tried to ignore it, but once again, I was just one pathetic and skinny lad with four rapidly maturing females that frankly scared the bejesus out of me.

In no time, we had arrived at Mandy’s house and were ushered inside. I was grabbed and led to the bathroom. I didn’t even have time to react before the shower was turned on and I was told to get on my knees and lean over the bath.

Before you ask, yes I did try and resist, but in my defence, there wasn’t a lot of room and it was a four-to-one spilt, so the long and short of it was, I lost and was on my knees with my head over the side of the bath within seconds of my objection.

They weren’t too discriminate about the water, my t-shirt and sweatshirt soaked after a few moments amidst much giggling and yelping. I felt like I had been pushed through a car-wash by the time they’d finished and I was told to turn round. My wet things were roughly pulled off and hung up to dry while one of them towel-dried my hair.

“You’ve got lovely hair.” said Lisa and for the first time, I felt proud to get the compliment although, with everything else that was happening, I wondered how much sincerity there was there.

After much patting and rubbing of my hair, I was led to the bedroom and sat down on Mandy’s chair in front of the vanity.

“We’re really sorry about the other day.” said Mandy. The others chorused in with a murmur of affirmation. “And we feel really bad about you having to go home like you did.”

There were more affirmatives, but I was starting to see something here, bubbling as it was just below the surface and I had a strange feeling I probably wasn't going to like it.

“So we decided we needed to look after you.” said Lisa. I looked up into the mirror before me, to see Lisa standing just behind my right shoulder. The look she gave me could have melted my heart right there and then, in fact it did. “So do you trust us?”

“Oh God!” I thought as a resounding “NO!” crashed like an ICBM into my conscious thoughts, but I was looking at Lisa’s face and any resolve that may have been present disappeared with a ‘ping’ like it had been zapped by a magic wand. “Yes,” I said in a small voice, thinking that I trusted her, but I wasn’t sure about the others.

It was like letting off a firework. The stillness was broken by the four girls going into overdrive, each moving in a different direction, each with an agenda and all moving together like the cogs of a well maintained precision instrument. This one, swift movement culminated in the covering of the mirror and then all hell broke loose.

The next stage rushed at me like a herd of stampeding bison as Lisa began applying makeup.

“Hey! What’s going on?” I started, backing away as far as the seat back would allow.

“Shh. You trust us, right?”

“Well…”

“I promise I won’t let anything bad happen okay?” she said and kissed me lightly, her lips barely touching mine, but the feeling was like being hit in the stomach with an out of control truck.

I was trembling like a leaf, but I let her carry on and Caroline started brushing out my hair, sectioning it off and putting it in rollers. I was just a complete mess inside and was about to turn completely to jelly when Mandy returned from wherever she’d been along with Julie with a whole host of clothes, none of which matched my gender.

Now with my eyes closed and Lisa being oh-so-gentle with the pencil, I succumbed to what was inevitable. Even though I knew what was about to happen, frankly with the feeling of the pampering I was getting, I didn’t care.

My hair completely rolled, I was told to raise my hands, which I did almost in a dreamlike state and felt a very strange sensation of something been draped over my arms and fastened about my chest behind me.

I can’t say I didn’t know what it was or what was going on, because that wasn’t true. After the makeup session, I was as intrigued as they were as to what I would look like and was content to go with the flow. The fact that four pairs of very feminine hands were brushing, touching and just being on my body, probably swung it.

I felt some things being shoved down the front of the bra and then my hands were raised again and a very soft, silky garment was dropped over my head and buttons were fastened when it was in place.

“You’re going to have to do this last bit,” I was told.

I opened my eyes to see all four girls turned away, one holding a pair of cotton knickers in pale lavender with a tiny purple bow in the front on the waistband and one holding a plain black pleated skirt. I understood what was expected and dropped my trousers and briefs, stepped out of them and took the proffered underwear.

I have to say, that women get the better deal in the undies department. I know they’re not supporting anything like in the male’s, but the construction is lighter, the material softer, more gentle and well, much more comfortable than the crappy things I was expected to wear.

I stepped into them and pulled them up, marvelling at the feeling, partly because I knew they were girl’s undies and partly because I liked the feeling. Then I stepped into the skirt, zipping it up and turning it round as I had seen mum do thousands of times before.

“Are you done yet?” asked Mandy.

“Just about, I said smiling ruefully. They turned round and although that part wasn’t choreographed, I have to say that what happened next couldn’t have been done better in a film.

They all turned at about the same time and their jaws dropped one at a time from right to left as they looked at me, standing in a skirt and whatever else with a silly grin.

Oh, don’t forget the curlers.

“Right, sit yourself down,” said Caroline, patting the seat in front of her and when I had plopped back down in the chair, she started to take out the curlers one by one, teasing the hair gently with the tail of the comb.

I lifted an arm to see the blouse I was wearing and although it wasn’t particularly showy, it felt gorgeous and I could feel the butterflies starting to do their own version of Riverdance in my stomach at the anticipation of the final outcome. The last thing was a pair of low-heeled sandals that fortunately fitted quite comfortably.

I didn’t have long to wait either as with two girls on either side of the mirror and to the count of “one… two… three…” the cover was removed from the mirror and I gasped.

“Holy…” I cried, finding it hard to take my eyes from the reflection of the teenage girl that was staring back at me. I rose slowly, smoothing the front of the skirt as I did and turned equally slowly, looking at myself from every conceivable angle.

The girls were nudging one another as they looked at me, my eyes nearly out on stalks.

“You like?”

“I-I don’t know w-what to say.” I stammered. My mind was in warp-drive as I felt the material of the skirt touching my legs like a whisper. I liked alright. I could see Lisa standing just behind them all and when I caught her eye, she looked down, demurely. That feeling of being hit by a truck resurfaced and I had to sit back down.

I got my breath back, got up and walked straight up to her. I looked her in the eye and whispered “Do you like?”

She blushed and I could tell without her saying anything what the answer was.

Club Tropicana … The Cordoba

I was caught up in a whole range of emotions, the most overpowering on was the feeling of Lisa’s touch. I got the collywobbles just thinking about it and I think the silly grin was fast becoming a permanent fixture.

I sat waiting for the next thing to happen, my brain somewhere in outer space I think. I had completely forgotten the bit about going out into the big, bad, very wide world and was preoccupied with the feeling of the blouse, the skirt and the knickers.

I don’t know or care how long I had sat there, but I nearly jumped out of my skin when Mandy announced that we were now going to the Cordoba.

“What?” I almost screamed.

“That’s what we said, remember? Now come on or we’ll be late.”

Late? I thought. Were we meeting others there or something?

“I-I don’t know if I c-can d-do this,” I stammered, suddenly turning very green. I couldn’t see the colour change, but I felt like I was just a moment away from actually being sick, so I think it’s a fair assumption.

“Yes you can,” said Mandy as usual, taking charge of the situation.

I wasn’t so sure. I mean, okay, I liked the way I looked, how I felt, but for over sixteen years, I had been Paul. Now I suppose I was Paula or Pauline, which was a complete departure from what I was used to.

Lisa came and put her arm round me and gave me a hug. I wished that we could have just stayed there while I cuddled Lisa. I think that would have been infinitely more preferable to wandering around town in a skirt for the first time in my life.

Once again, I found myself outnumbered and it was only because of Lisa that I found the courage to go with them.

I have to say though that Mandy was starting to worry me and had been from the first time I had seen her looking at me. I don’t know what it was that I found bothersome, but there was something there and I got the impression on numerous occasions that she was working to an agenda I knew nothing about.

The trip to the Cordoba wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. I walked close to Lisa and no-one even gave me a second look.

We were in there for about half an hour I suppose when some boys came into the little café. I recognised Greg Bridger and one or two others, but I didn’t know their names. The rest I didn’t know. I guess they were like the girls and went to different schools.

I knew that if Greg Bridger saw me, I was dead. My life at school would be over, if I got to live that long. I immediately found the toilets and nearly went into the gents rather than the ladies. I was in there for about twenty minutes before anyone knew I was even missing.

I expect that it was just a coincidence, but I thought I saw a look on Mandy’s face when the boys came in and it didn’t look as though she was particularly shocked by their arrival.

It was Lisa that found me.

“Are you alright?” she asked, her face showing concern.

“No,” I sniffed. “I know some of those boys that came in. Are they still out there?”

“Yes. You know them?”

“One of them is Greg Bridger. He’s friends with one of the boys at school that like to make my life a living hell.”

Lisa thought for a moment.

“We can get you out of here. You’re not feeling good right?”

“Not now, no.”

“Well just rest your head on my shoulder and we’ll walk out. They won’t even see who you are and they stop us, we’ll just say you’re not well and I’m taking you home.”

It was so simple, it had to work.

I tucked my head into Lisa’s shoulder and I could smell her perfume, I couldn’t help but plant a kiss on her neck. She was reaching for the door when I did it and she froze. I looked up at her.

There was a look on her face I couldn’t read and she pushed me back into the room a little way. I wondered whether I had done something bad, something that would leave me on my own again to deal with a situation that I really didn’t need to be in.

She took my face in her hands and drew me closer, planting her lips on mine. I could feel her tongue against my lips and opened my mouth for her to let it slip inside. Within seconds, we were wrapped in a very passionate kiss that left me breathless and weak at the knees to say the very least.

We broke apart and assumed the position again to get me out of there.

Walking at a slow but steady pace, my weak knees just adding to the effect and we left, passing the pool table.

Mandy and Julie were talking with the boys that had come in, while Caroline was sat on the edge of the pool table, her legs wrapped around the waist of one of the boys. I think that given a little more prompting she’d have been prepared to have sex there and then. As I said, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch.

Anyway, they didn’t notice us until we walked past the window outside and along the road.

There was a shout from behind and still arm in arm, my head against Lisa’s neck, we stopped.

“Where are you going?” asked Julie.

We stopped and Lisa looked directly at our friend “Do you know who those boys are?”.

“Yeah, they’re friends of Mandy’s I think,” she answered. Lisa looked at me and nodded. She pursed her lips and nodded again.

“She knew they’d be there then?” It was more rhetorical than a question.

“Dunno,” said Julie shrugging. “They’re in there most afternoons.”

Lisa nodded again. “Thanks Julie, see ya.” she said, turned around and we carried on up the road.

“Hey! Just a fucking minute. What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Those are the boys who have been giving Paul grief. Mandy must have known that. She set him up.”

“You don’t know that.” said Julie defensively, although her defence seemed to lack conviction. “Oh shit. Wait a minute.”

We hung around for a few moments before Julie reappeared complete with jacket and the three of us walked back towards my house. I didn’t know what I was going to say to mum, but I needed to understand what was happening to me and I needed her to understand that too.

We got to the front door and I asked if they wanted to come in for a drink.

“We’d better not,” said Lisa and we kissed again before she and Julie disappeared up the lane and out of sight.

My heart sank. I knew that thanks to me, the quintet was now down to a quartet and I wasn’t overly sure about that. I was in tears as I opened the front door and ran upstairs to my room. I didn’t care whether mum saw me like this or not. All I cared about was the fact that my one friend at school turned out to be an enemy or at best, someone I could no longer trust any further than I could spit.

 

*        *        *

 

All cried out

I didn’t know whether mum was in or out. I didn’t care. I was sobbing like a little girl, looked like a little girl and wasn’t sure I wasn’t really supposed to be a little girl.

I had apparently been tricked and by someone with whom trickery of this nature should not have been an issue. Perhaps I was being overly sensitive to all this, but all I knew right now was that I wouldn’t piss in Mandy’s ear if her brain were on fire. In the heat of the moment, there were one or two other things I wouldn’t have minded subjecting her to either.

I locked myself in the bedroom and basically bawled my eyes out. For about half an hour, I cried and cried and then I cried some more.

During this, I contemplated all sorts of dark things, not least of which was an end to all this. I was just so angry and upset by the litany of bad events over the last… well years really.

I wanted it to stop and one way to do that was to end it once and for all.

On my bed and through the copious flow of tears, I tried to fathom how my life had got this far into the mire. I knew that my size was part of the problem, but there was little I could do about that and it scared me that my first sojourn into feminine attire had made me feel something I had never felt before, something that in amongst the angst and turbulence, felt right.

Through the snivels and sobs, I tried to come to terms with the fact that I liked being one of the girls; I liked playing their games, well, not the ones that Mandy appeared to be playing, but the dressing up and the makeup. I even caught myself thinking that I had wasted so much time not joining in with the dressing up before, but then I wasn’t given the opportunity before.

I went back to the beginning, to where the brown pungent matter started hitting the air conditioning…

The issues at school began about half way through the last school year, but then I already knew that part. The disquiet at home started before that, long before that; before I started at senior school, so I guess that would have made me about ten.

Mum had found this guy, out of whose arse, she thought the sun shone and after a whirlwind romance, they became an item getting married shortly after. Soon I was a big brother when Phil was born. Roger - the man with the shining bum and now my step-father, was over the moon, or so it seemed.

All was going well. I would help with looking after my young sibling and by the time he was about eighteen months old, I was going to be a big brother to yet another sibling when Terry arrived.

By now, I had started at a secondary school and had gone from a small primary with no more than a hundred and twenty students, to a huge school that had ten times that number. The classes were twice the size and for the longest time I felt lost as I was one of the only pupils from my old junior school, the rest having gone to another school which I had to thank my lucky stars I didn’t go to.

Anyhow, about half way through the first year there and much to the school’s administrator’s disgust, I got sent home to help mum. I was worried as I had no idea what had happened, but when I arrived, I found she had slipped a disc in her back and was lying prostrate on the sofa. Phil was about two and Terry was only six months, needing almost constant attention, something mum couldn’t give.

I became a surrogate mother for the next month, doing everything from feeding to changing nappies, cooking, cleaning and some light shopping from the shop down the road.

Mum and Roger argued almost constantly.

He knew she was in pain, but wouldn’t accept any responsibility. She almost pleaded with him to help, but that was too much for his fragile, macho ego to cope with and he point blankly refused.

Mum argued that the house should not be being run by an eleven year-old, but he just laughed, saying that it should be right up my street. I didn’t understand, largely because I couldn’t hear everything that was said and in some cases I felt that I had already heard too much, but I really didn’t understand what he implied.

Mum was in tears, shouting at Roger and I could only make out certain things that were being said as their arguing had woken Terry, who was now screaming blue murder and Phil wasn’t far behind. I had to close the kitchen door and spent the next however long trying to calm the two boys.

The upshot was that mum had asked Roger what he thought would have happened had I not been there. What did he think she was going to be able to do without being able to walk, even sit up?

Roger stormed out, slamming doors and swearing, undoing all I had done to calm my brothers and starting them off again. That coupled with mum’s sobbing from next door was all I needed to make that afternoon a most memorable occasion.

From that point forth, Roger treated me differently. I tried not to read too much into things, but I got the distinct impression that he was jealous. I wasn’t sure why I was seeing this from a fully-grown adult.

That started the rest off.

From then on, mum was different too. Roger had accused her of favouring me over ‘their’ children and mum, ever the peacekeeper, tried to even the score by showing me less affection, thinking that I was obviously mature enough to run the house for a  month, so I was therefore mature enough to understand what was going on and more pointedly, why.

But I wasn’t. Christ - what eleven year-old would be?

I had been put under a lot of pressure to keep things together over that month and at the end of it all, I felt like I was being cast aside by the one person I felt should have been there for me.

Over the years, this ‘he’s your favourite’ was a regular in their arguments and mum’s outward displays of affection towards me became fewer and fewer. I got the feeling that I had done something somewhere down the line that was pushing her away, but every time I tried to get close, it was always the wrong time, there was always something else to do; something more important.

I had reached the stage where I knew the little boy in me was going away, but I didn’t know what was coming. I was sure that I was supposed to grow to be a larger boy then on to a man, but every time I looked at myself, that’s not what I saw. To be honest, even if I was some big strapping lad, I don’t think that’s what I would have seen.

Meanwhile, I had a more immediate problem to deal with - back here in the present…

Mum was banging on my door, demanding entry. That’s mum, subtle as a brick to the soft bits. I wondered whether changing was a good plan, but considered the amount of makeup that was abseiling down my face and decided against it.

“Good God!” she exclaimed as I stood in the doorway in skirt, blouse, training bra, sandals and eyes like Alice Cooper on a bad night - again. “What the hell do you think you’re playing at?”

I didn’t know.

Was this playing?

I guess not.

Was I serious about being a girl?

I didn’t know that either.

“I-I’m sorry m-mum.” I stammered not really knowing what else to say.

“So you bloody-well should be. What are the neighbours going to think seeing you coming and going in all this… this… stuff?” she continued angrily.

Good point, but then I didn’t suppose that the neighbours had the issues I had. I just shrugged and looked at my toes poking out through the straps of the sandals and wondered what they’d look like with a nice deep cherry-coloured polish.

“Perhaps Roger was right about you. Bloody poof!” she spat and turned to walk away.

To my horror, she wasn’t alone. Lisa was there behind her and up to this point in our ‘discussion’ was keeping mum.

“Hey, that’s a bit unfair. It was just a bit of fun that got out of hand,” she said.

My God, if she wanted me to fall in love with her, she was going the right way about it. I’d never had anyone stand up for me before.

“What’s it got to do with you? You don’t know anything.”

“I know a lot more than you do by the looks of things,” she retorted hotly.

Foxy bitch!

I was getting hot flushes just thinking about her and I wrapped in each other’s arms, kissing like we were in the café. This was just making me tremble all over; at least I think it was that that was making me tremble. Fear may have had something to do with it though.

“I think you should leave. I see that my son has problems with his choice of friends and I don’t think you’re actually a particularly good influence on him. I’d prefer it if you left.”

I could see Lisa’s eyes flash anger then start to fill and my own were going the same way.

“No!” I shouted. “Stay here, I think I need you to be here. Please Lisa?”

“I’m not going to ask you again Lisa. Just get out of my house!”

Lisa turned and with a slight sniff, she descended the stairs and disappeared.

I dropped to the bed like a stone. My stomach felt queasy and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to withhold the next bout of tears.

Mum turned to me.

“Get out of that ridiculous costume immediately and wash that crap off your face,” she snarled and walked away, leaving me with tears rolling down my face, a knot the size of Europe in my stomach and a feeling I can only describe as loathing forming in my head.

 

*        *        *

 

Say hello wave goodbye

Once I had calmed down, changed into my own clothes and cleaned the makeup from my face, I went to face the music.

“Ah. I have a son again,” said mum, a note of sarcasm in her voice. “I was beginning to wonder.”

“I don’t know why you bothered. You never take any interest in anything else I do.”

“How dare you? Don’t speak to me like that. I’m your mother, show some respect.”

“Why? You’re not showing me any. Talking to me like that in front of my friend, never mind the way you spoke to her.”

I didn’t know where that came from. Had I suddenly discovered courage?

No.

It wasn’t courage, it was frustration.

I had had enough of her treating me like I wasn’t there most of the time and not having time for me when I needed it and…

All those things I had tried to tell myself were just part of being a parent and then trying to find excuses for when she’d sit either of the brats on her knee and talk them through something. I hadn’t had time like that with her since I was eleven.

“This is my house and while you’re in my house, you’ll obey my rules,” she said with that ‘holier than thou’ look on her face.

“So I’m not allowed to see Lisa, I’m not allowed to have fun with my friends unless you like them. Is there anything I can do, or is that asking too much?”

“Yes, you can go to your room. I’m fed up with you talking back like that. I’m sick of the sight of you, get out of my sight.”

“Talking back? I only asked a question.”

“Roger was right. It would have been so much better had he not had to compete with you all the time.”

Well that was it for me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was at my wits end and didn’t know what to do for the better. I just wanted to get away, to run and hide somewhere and not come out again. Roger had never had to compete as it was made clear very early on where my place was and it never came before him.

I went to my room and spent about thirty microseconds weighing up my options. With a few things packed in a rucksack, I waited until mum went into the bathroom, then legged it downstairs and out.

The feeling or relief when I got to the outside world again was tremendous. I had no idea where I was going, but I was sure I’d think of something.

I ended up some three hours later at my Uncle Ray’s house.

He was cool. He liked making model aeroplanes and had a ‘young’ outlook on life. His woman and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye, but he was alright.

He opened the door and the floodgates opened. I was bawling my eyes out yet again and even I was shocked at the amount of emotion that had come out that day.

He just stood there in a state of shock, wondering what the hell was going on.

“I’ve run away from home.” I blurted. “Please let me stay here, please.” That didn’t reduce the look of incomprehension on his face at all.

By then Lily, his other half had come to see what all the fuss was about.

Ray asked Lily to leave me with him for a few minutes and he led me into their lounge. I sat, my rucksack clutched to me on my lap, my head just about poking over the top.

“What do you mean you’ve left home?”

“Well I had a big argument with mum and snuck out while she wasn’t looking.”

“You’ve obviously given this some thought,” he said a wry smile playing on his lips.

“Er, not really. I just couldn’t stay there any longer.”

Lily arrived with tea.

The three of us went through home, the bullying, the time in bandages, the first makeup job and then the café, culminating in the row with mum and hers with Lisa.

“I’m just about all in with this. Whatever I do it’s wrong. I can’t see my friends and now they’re not allowed to see me either, well not at home. They’re not even bad people. I thought the best thing to do was to end it all. I don’t fit and I don’t know whether I’m a boy or a girl…” I stopped there as two jaws hit the deck simultaneously. “Did I just say that out loud?”

“Er, yes,” Ray said, looking more than a little perplexed. “I’m not sure what you mean by that,” he continued, going from perplexed to embarrassed.

The truth was out and I felt strangely relieved at the fact. Oddly, they were shocked, but I had imagined them backing away, trying to get as far from me as possible in case they caught it too.

They didn’t.

“Well actually, exactly that. I don’t, I mean, look at me. I’m sixteen going on seventeen and I look like I’m about twelve.”

“I was going to say thirteen actually,” said Lily.

“Well, whatever age, that doesn’t mean you should be a girl. Whatever gave you that idea?” asked Ray.

“I only have two or three ‘friends’ and they’re all girls. Lisa is my girlfriend--sort of, well maybe - and they dressed me up today, makeup, the works. It felt great, I felt like I belonged for the first time in my life.”

Ray and Lily looked at one another and I could feel that depression looming once again.

I knew they were going to tell me I was being ridiculous and didn’t know what I was talking about. Perhaps they were going to back away from me, but I was surprised when Lily came to me, prised the rucksack from my grasp with a great deal of difficulty and drew me to her in one of the nicest hugs I’ve had - apart from Lisa.

“It’ll be alright.” she whispered. “Do you want us to tell your mum you’re here?”

“Do you have to?” I asked, hanging on to her for grim death, envisaging an angry parent trying to bash their door down in the middle of the night.

“Not really I suppose, but it might be wise. She might have the police out looking for you. At least if she knows where you are…”

I didn’t want to tell Lily that I thought the police part unlikely as I always seemed to be in the way, but I didn’t want mum to know where I was. I wanted her to sweat. I wanted her to wonder about what she had said and what she’d done and to think about what she had put me through.

“I don’t know. I mean, if she knows I’m here, she’ll give you hell. I’m just afraid of what she’d do.”

“Why? She’s never hit you before has she? She certainly won’t do anything like that here.”

“Just because she doesn’t hit, doesn’t mean it’s not painful. I’ve had the non-hitting abuse for the last five years and I don’t want any more.”

“I see. You’re serious about this aren’t you?”

“I think I am, yes. Very.”

“What about school?”

“I could walk from here. It’s closer than mum’s anyway. I don’t want to miss the exams.”

Ray and Lily left the room. They stood out in the hall and I was ready for them to send me back on my way, asking not to be involved.

Incidentally, Ray’s not my real uncle. He’s the son of my grandfather’s second wife from her former marriage. He’s closer to me than most of my relations and has always made me welcome. I don’t know why Lily should suddenly have changed her tune, but I couldn’t say I was unhappy about it.

I could hear them talking in the hallway.

“I’ve seen this coming for ages,” said Lily. “I think he’s very brave.”

“Yeah, I know, but he’s Sarah’s kid. I don’t know that we should be interfering.”

“Oh come on. He’s been branded a queer and a sissy. He’s had to put up with abuse at home, bullying at school, been to hospital for that very reason and I can’t see that Sarah’s cutting him any slack. You know what I think about her. I think she’s only interested in one thing and it isn’t Paul.”

There was quiet for a few moments then Ray came back into the lounge.

“Okay sport. You can stay here, but only on one condition…” he announced.

I rushed him, throwing my arms round him and hugging him soundly.

To say he looked embarrassed would be a crass understatement. He was beet-red and didn’t know where to put his face.

“Thank you so much Ray and you too Lily.” I said, going to her and hugging her. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Ray coughed, uncomfortable with the open displays of affection. “Yes, well… One condition: You must attend school until your exams and everything are over. Is that clear?”

“Crystal!” I said.

“Good. We’ll deal with the other things as they come up.”

 

*        *        *

 

Lifeline

Ray and Lily had handed me a lifeline. I was given my own room and the atmosphere was really pleasant. Ray helped with my studying and often it would bring tears to my eyes, the fact that I wasn’t related to him and yet, he went out of his way to be a good and helpful person.

Lily too was a revelation. I had never got on with her too well, I don’t know why, but perhaps mum had something to do with that. She made it plain to Ray what she thought about mum and I think that my development into a completely separate person and not an extension of her made a difference.

Lily was patient and we would often sit and talk. She wasn’t a psychiatrist, but she had a degree in psychology and understood the issues regarding transgendered people, a subject which was becoming more widespread. I suppose I was a brilliant opportunity to study one in the flesh. She would write things down as we spoke and I was surprised how much.

I was happy to talk, as things became clearer in my mind after I’d chatted with her and each time I felt I was closer to becoming what I was supposed to become, although I still wasn’t sure what that was supposed to be. Nevertheless, I was getting comfortable with what I currently was.

I missed the girls though and most of all, I missed Lisa. I know we had only known each other for a short while, but there was a connection there I didn’t want to lose and I was sure that if we could get together again, I would have a friend, I mean a real friend if not more.

I didn’t miss mum. I know ‘blood’s thicker than water’ and all that, but as one of my friends once said, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family” and I can’t say I disagree.

Similarly, they couldn’t choose me either, so I can’t be disappointed with them for being disappointed with me. I can however be upset with the treatment and since I’d been out of that house, I was less stressed than ever before.

Ray and Lily had to ring mum and tell her where I was, but apparently she showed no emotion until Lily said that they ought to get something financially to keep me with.

“If he wants to live with you, though I can’t see why he would, he’ll have to pay his own way. There’s a perfectly good home here for him here if he stops all this queer business and gets himself some proper friends. I’m not having him wandering around in skirts and dresses. The next thing I know, he’ll want to bring his boyfriends home. What would the neighbours say? I’ll be a laughing stock.”

“You can’t make demands like that,” argued Lily.

“I’m afraid you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s my house and I’m not having my son acting like a girl, making a fool of himself with those girls he calls his friends dressing him up and that’s final. You want him; you have him, but I’m not paying for it.”

“Fine! We will. If that’s what it takes to get him away from you,” said Lily angrily, slamming the phone down.

I ran to my room. Lily was shaking, in tears and I didn’t think I should hang around.

 It was quite a shock hearing afterwards what mum had to say and the fact that Ray and Lily were prepared to pick up the mantle of mum and dad.

The thought of me calling Ray ‘dad’ was very funny indeed, but so sweet too since I never knew my real dad. Ray said that under no circumstances was I ever to do so. I could happily call Lily ‘mum’, but I don’t think she’d have liked it much either.

 

*        *        *

 

The school holiday was over all too quickly and I went back to face a whole heap of exams. I had to do well if I wanted to go to college and learn a trade or maybe go to university, but that was all in the future. I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring let alone what I wanted to do for a living.

I took a deep breath and walked through the gate.

It was a very strange feeling walking into school after the break. We had few lessons and most of those were revision classes to help us through the examinations. I felt relaxed and ready which surprised me. I was expecting to feel as tense as an over-wound clock, but no. Maybe it was moving out of home and the tension that released.

I was half expecting to run into the girls, but the only one would have been Mandy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to run into her, but somehow, the time that passed between the café and now, had relaxed what had initially been a rage towards her.

I was now just curious to know what on earth possessed her to make a date at that café, but I knew for sure the relationship would never be the same as it was and would not deepen as I thought or hoped it might.

I did see her that first day, but she ignored me and judging by the look on her face, I figured that it was just as well we didn’t meet face to face. I’d calmed, but it didn’t look as though she had.

Lunch was another place we passed like ships in the night and although I tried my best to avoid her, I would have had more luck sweeping air into a heap.

Confrontation was inevitable and as much as I had feared it before, now I was becoming more relaxed with myself thanks to Ray and Lily I just thought “ho-hum” and couldn’t wait to get it over with. I don’t know for sure, but I think Lily was for me like a cerebral Vallium. I just couldn’t be bothered to get worked up about it.

It was sad that Mandy didn’t feel the same way. I could sense that each time she saw me she was getting more and more agitated. It was visible in her body language, visible in the look on her face. I just shook my head and wondered how long it would take for her to develop ulcers with that much stress going on.

I predicted the confrontation wouldn’t take long to come to pass and I was right. It actually only took a couple of days for her to get round to it. I didn’t know either whether it would take place in the school or outside. She chose outside.

“What did you say to Julie and Lisa?” she demanded. She had that lop-sided stance of someone that was ready to fight.

“Why?” I asked.

Just a single word reply and no stress on my part was all it took to diffuse the situation. I think her belligerence was expected to get me to curl up and beg for forgiveness.

“I haven’t seen or heard from them.”

“Why do you think that would have anything to do with me? They were your friends.”

The balling of the fists and the almost pursed lips made it look as though her thought processes were working overtime. I could see that she was just looking for something, anything to blame me for, but couldn’t.

She ended up walking away with no joy.

I smiled inwardly and thanked Ray and Lily for their advice, as normally any form of confrontation ended in bruising, but this time - alright it was a girl I was confronted by, I walked away with nothing and the aggressor got nothing either.

I knew it wasn’t over though. I knew that there was more to come and it was probably going to end up in a cat fight.

That night as I sat on my bed, I thought about that day; the one at the café; the feeling of being dressed in the skirt… well everything really. I went to my chest of drawers and drew out the outfit. I treated it with reverence and still do. It doesn’t fit now, but I still have it.

Anyway, I got it out of its safe place at the back of a deep drawer, tucked away in a stout polythene bag. I made sure the door was shut and disrobed then put on the bra, the knickers and then the blouse, pulling the skirt up last of all.

I looked in the vanity mirror and twirled this way and that, taking in the incomplete, but still girlish image that returned my gaze. I could feel the skirt as it swished against my legs, the feeling of the bra, like a harness to keep the girl in me in place and the soft, light underwear. The finishing touch was the footwear; the sandals that felt so nice, not like sandals that boys wear at all, like shoes with no uppers. It’s hard to put my finger on, but when I looked at myself, it felt so freeing.

I stayed in my room all evening, not taking the outfit off until bed time and even then, it could be viewed that I only did it under duress.

I was feeling so much better that I didn’t even flinch when I was confronted by Fuller and Bridger. I just didn’t care anymore and they must have known as all I got was the knocking of shoulders as they walked past trying to get a rise out of me, but I wasn’t playing anymore. I was starting to feel empowered and all it took was a change of attitude and perhaps the new living arrangements.

Ray wasn’t a big bloke and I guess he’d had to take his turn with the big bullies too in his time, but he had worked out a way of deflecting the situation. It was so simple but one of those things that if you don’t know about it, you’d never know and now I knew. True, it didn’t work in all cases, but it did enough to get me through the exams without a scratch.

The whole week went past and although I could see that Mandy was just bursting to have another go, nothing actually happened. I was sad. It was like having something hanging over me that I didn’t want there. I also didn’t want the friction between Mandy and I. I had too few friends already.

 

*        *        *

 

Lily invited me to go shopping that weekend and I jumped at the chance.

We weren’t going for me, but Lily wanted to get some things and I was surprised that she asked my opinion. I enjoyed it.

She would go and try something on and then come out of the cubicle and pose. I’d give my opinion and she’d either smile or frown, but it was all done with a smile really. It didn’t even bother me that I was a boy, in fact, I never gave it a thought until we got home and realised that what I’d done today was very typically girlish and again my ‘up’ came down with a thud.

I didn’t get depressed though because while we were out, I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen since the day at the café: Caroline.

I made my excuses and left Lily for a few moments to catch up with Caroline and once I had scanned the horizon for incoming Bridger’s, we settle to chat.

“You left so quickly,” she said of my departure from the café.

“Yeah, well,” I replied blushing slightly. “I had good reason. The boy you were wrapped up in wasn’t exactly friendly towards me and I felt it best to get out of his way.” I said, underplaying the reasoning.

“I know what you mean,” she told me. “I chucked him the day after. He was such a moron. He looked nice until he opened his mouth. I felt really bad, but that was the only reason I wanted Mandy to go to the Cordoba, so I could see him.”

Well now that was revelation.

We had all jumped to conclusions about that day and now Caroline had just made Julie, Lisa and I look like complete weasels. I felt so bad about Mandy. She had been blamed for everything. I wondered whether she could ever forgive me.

 

*        *        *

 

Back at school on Monday and even at the risk of being late, I waited for Mandy at the school gate. I didn’t want to wait any longer than I had to, to explain where everything had gone wrong, why I thought that Julie and Lisa had given her the brush-off and why I didn’t want to not be friends with her.

I didn’t have long to wait and at first she tried her level best to ignore me, those shrewish looks and the undeniable belligerence, written all over her face.

“Mandy! Wait!” I shouted. “What’s happening with Julie and Lisa: It’s not your fault.”

I now knew all three of us had jumped to conclusions, but all three of us weren’t there anymore, it was just me. If I wanted to get this mess cleared up, I knew it was going to have to be me who made the move.

She stopped and turned slowly, her face like thunder.

“I, I mean, ‘we’, that is Julie, Lisa and I, jumped to conclusions after the café,” I said; ready to take anything she could throw at me. “I saw Caroline on Saturday and well, it all came out in the open. We thought it was your idea to go to the Cordoba and now I find out that it wasn’t.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m sorry?” I said, my face turning beet red with the embarrassment of thinking that I had been instrumental in putting her though the mill. “I don’t expect you to accept it, much less forgive me, but what can I say? I’m really sorry. Really sorry.”

“Huh!” she said and went on her way.

I stood there, having poured my heart into those few words and was left there to stew. It could have been worse I suppose. She could have hit me or given me a mouthful of abuse, but instead, she just went “huh!” and left me to it. How was I supposed to deal with that?

I felt bad for the rest of the day, trying to hide in the shadows, keep myself to myself and not to think about what I had done to someone who was only trying to include me when she could easily have just left me to my own devices. I owed her a lot and I had stuffed it down the toilet like so much tissue paper.

Back at home, I couldn’t think straight. I was more confused now than I have ever been, but this time, I was confused about what to do about someone else. I wanted Mandy to like me, wanted her to be my friend and include me in her life, so I could include her in mine, but now it looked as though that was over and I had to move on.

I spoke to Lily about it.

“If she wants to come back, she will. I think she will, but I don’t know that. You’ll have to wait and see. Don’t try and force it though,” she advised.

I suppose that was the right thing to do, but as with all teenagers, I didn’t want to take forever; I wanted it to be okay now!

Meanwhile, we got back to the matter at hand, which was me and my problems, deciding which side of the fence I was supposed to be on.

 

*        *        *

 

Strange little girl

The next day, I waited for Mandy again at the school gates.

When she arrived, she looked a lot less harsh. Was I starting to come off of her ‘ten most hated’ list?

I hoped so.

According to Lily, there was likely to be a time of suffering.

“What’s that?” I asked.

It turned out to be the time - indeterminate in length - that a person who has been scorned, makes the scorner suffer. The length of this suffering is directly proportional or not, to the amount of scorn that was suffered. In some cases, the penance or suffering the scorner has to endure, far outweighs the scorn inflicted.

“Harsh.” I said.

“Then so was what you, Julie and Lisa did. You know you may end up suffering for all three of you, don’t you?”

“Ouch!” I thought as I slowly climbed the stairs to my room.

To calm myself, I decided to indulge myself and changed, once again pulling the outfit from it place in the drawer in its bag and dressed, taking out a magazine and lying on my stomach on the bed, my head propped up on my hands and the magazine in front of me on the pillow.

I wasn’t paying attention when the knock came on my door.

“You decent?”

“Yeah,” I said automatically without looking up and in walked Ray.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Is Paul in the loo?” he said. I turned my head, realising that I wasn’t quite what he expected to find and it took a few seconds for the penny to drop. When it did, I don’t know who was more embarrassed: him or me.

I kind of shrieked I think would be the best way to describe the noise that came out of my mouth and rolled off the bed away from the door, landing unceremoniously in a heap by the other side of the bed.

Ray turned and tried to flee when he heard something that possibly sounded like the war-cry of Xena, Warrior Princess, but turned the wrong way and hit the door. Reaching for the door-knob he yanked the door and hit himself with it again. His nose was extremely tender after that for about a week.

I wasn’t flavour of the month.

I put my own clothes back on, went to apologise and when I got to the lounge, I could hear Lily sniggering as Ray was recounting the sight he saw laying on my bed when he entered the bedroom.

“It’s not funny Lil, I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Oh, come on. Surely it’s up to him; I mean it’s his room after all.”

“It’s my house though.”

“Pardon?”

“Sorry. It’s our house. I didn’t even realise it was him. Nothing said bloke-in-frock, my brain just read girl.”

I felt a surge of pride I think it was. Whatever, I was bloody pleased since it was what I wanted to believe.

I knocked on the lounge door and the talking stopped.

“Can I come in?”

“Of course,” answered Lily.

When I got in there, Ray looked a little hurt and Lily still had a smirk.

“I’m sorry Ray.”

“No, my fault.”

“Well, okay. You can argue if you want, but if I was dressed like this, nothing would have happened would it?”

“He’s got a point.” said Lily, the smirk getting bigger.

“I’m going to the shed for a while. I feel outnumbered here.” he said and giving me a fairly wide birth, he sidled out of the door, closing it behind him.

Lily and I looked at one another and when we heard the door to the garden closing, we both burst out laughing.

“You changed?”

“Yes. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I thought I’d opt for the safer option.”

“Shame. I’d like to have seen you.”

“I can change back if you’d like.”

“Would you? Anything that can have that effect on Ray I’d like to see.”

I was back in minutes in my outfit.

“Oh my…” said Lily. “I see what he means.”

She sat there, an odd look on her face. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew it wasn’t bad. She kept asking me to turn this way and that and I was happy to oblige. Back out came the writing pad and more notes got scribbled. Looking back, I wonder why I never asked what she was going to do with all those notes, but I don’t know, perhaps I was too wrapped up with the effect that talking to someone was having on me.

“I’d like to take you to see a friend of mine,” she said at last. “But I need er, what do you call yourself when you’re like that? I mean Paul doesn’t fit, does it?”

“I’ve never really given it much thought. I just went with ‘her’, but I don’t know.”

“What about Paula or Pauline. They’re nice and close to your own name.” she asked.

“I don’t think so. I usually dress like this to forget about Paul. He has a really hard time, but like this, I have fun. Well, I did until mum got stuck in. I like Suzanne, but do you think it fits?”

“I think it’s perfect!” she said beaming at me. “Do you think I could take Suzanne to see my friend?”

It was a done deal and I felt really nervous, but excited at the same time. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t think it would be bad and Lily would look after me.

 

*        *        *

 

Back at school and Mandy still hadn’t let me off the hook. I think she found it amusing to walk past and pointedly make me aware of the fact that she wasn’t talking to me. She’d stick her nose in the air and wander past, with this imperious look on her face. I could see she wasn’t angry and I would like to have seen a list like Paul then Julie, then Lisa at the top with a pointer down one side, so I could see where I was in the ‘suffering’.

She hadn’t forgiven me by Friday and I went home for the weekend wondering whether I was ever going to be forgiven.

Friday after school, Lily asked me for my outfit. I was loathed to let her have it as it wasn’t mine to give, but there was a look in her eye when she asked for it and curiosity made me give it to her. I know it sounds weird, but I thought I saw something else, lurking. Somehow I knew though, that it wasn’t being taken away from me as mum would probably have done.

“Please be careful, they’re not mine,” I said, sad to hand them over to anyone.

“I’ll be careful. Is that all of it?” she asked.

“Er, yes,” I lied.

“Where’s the bra? Come on, hand it over.”

“But it’s not even dirty,” I complained.

“All of it!” she said in a more commanding tone. I ran upstairs and brought it down. “You’ll like it better when it’s all clean and fresh.”

But I liked it as it was.

It had a smell about it, a sort of lingering fragrance that I would like to believe came from Lisa, but anyway, it reminded me of my first day. I was a very glum puppy after that.

Saturday afternoon we were to be going to this friend of Lily’s. I was supposed to be going as Suzanne and the closer it got, the more petrified I became. I knew I’d look good since everything would be clean and freshly ironed, but it didn’t take away from the fear that was building up in me.

Friday night was a nightmare, literally. I awoke sweating and breathless. I was chasing through darkened streets that I was familiar with, but wasn’t sure of. It was like being amidst the twists and turns of a ghost train at the fair only it was streets and roads near my school, my old home.

I was searching for something and whichever way I turned up popped a snarling Bridger, Fuller or an angry mother. Shrieks and moans accompanied the ghastly-lit effigies of my most feared foes and I can remember the image of my mother springing forth at the end of a dark alley, with a hideous, cackling laughter as thunder struck and lights flashed like lightening.

The further I went, the narrower the alleys became and more frequently the images appeared, popping up with fangs and teeth like saw blades. The faster I ran, the more my feet felt like I was running through treacle that got thicker and more viscous as I made my way through the maze of alleys and empty streets that just reeked of horror.

Then I caught a sight of a figure in the darkness, its silhouetted form just barely recognisable. Lisa.

I tried to shout, but my throat was dry from the running and nothing more than a hoarse rasp would come out. I ran and as hard as I tried, I only seemed to move at a snails pace, the figure in the background, getting further and further away.

I tried with one last-ditch effort to reach her. I could see her face, mournful and sad, her eyes empty and uncomprehending as I reached out to touch her when another effigy popped up, followed by a second and a third and within the blink of an eye, I was surrounded as Lisa’s form slid backwards into the many shadows.

“NO!” I shouted and sat up, the sweat beading on my forehead and the darkness I opened my eyes to strangely similar to that that had engulfed me in the dream.

The door opened and a soft padding moved across the short space between me and the door. My eyes shut fast.

“If I can’t see you, you can’t see me” was the dream logic that coursed through my brain and I gritted my teeth waiting for the inevitable.

A hand touched my head and a voice, sweet and caring asked if I was okay.

It was Lily and I let go of the tension in one gasp that turned into sobbing, clutching her to me and hugging her tight as she whispered soothing sounds, rocking gently back and forth as I drifted back off to sleep.

I was nudged awake by Ray the next morning as he brought in a cup of tea. I blinked away the sleep and tried to recall the dream of last night. He sat beside me on the bed and looked concerned.

“You alright there sport?”

“Yeah, a big groggy is all,” I assured him. He ruffled my hair and I giggled.

“Well, drink that and come and have some breakfast. From what Lil’s told me, you’ve got a busy day ahead when she gets back.”

“Thanks Ray,” I said and sat up looking out over the garden through the open window.

 

*        *        *

 

Lily returned and called me into the kitchen. I was in jeans and sweatshirt and she looked me up and down critically.

“That won’t do. I need you smarter than that if we’re to make a good impression on Doctor Whaite this afternoon.”

“Doctor? You said your friend.”

“And she is. She just happens to be a doctor.”

“Oh. Like me and Mandy? She’s a girl and my friend, but not my girlfriend?”

“Hmm, something like that,” she said smiling. “Anyway, you’re going to have to get out of that and into something decent if you’re going to come with me.”

“But you took my clothes yesterday. Will they be dry?”

“No Paul, I took your friends clothes. These are yours.”

She handed me a carrier and I looked inside. There was a lot of stuff and immediately my eyes filled.

“I don’t know what to say,” I said, the tears starting to flow. “No-one’s ever done this for me before.”

“Then don’t say anything, well not until you have tried it on and like it. Now run along, we don’t have long.”

I was in my room in seconds, leaving rucked, scorched carpeting and a vapour trail in my wake.

I sat on the bed and started to go through the clothing while it was still in the bag, but gave up and tipped it all out. There were small packs, large packs and little packs. I didn’t know where to start.

I fished out one of the little ones and opened it. It was a compact. Inside were about ten different colours of eye shadow and in another was some mascara. Another contained foundation and the last of the little ones, contained an assortment of bungees and clips for my hair.

The middle-sized packages contained a five pack of knickers - nothing exotic, just everyday wear, but along with them were tights and two training bras just like the one I already had.

The big packages were two skirts, three blouses, a dress and some medium heeled court shoes.

A dress?

I was gobsmacked.

I just sat there for the longest time picking the items up and putting them back down again; scared I’d wrinkle them or something. I became aware of a figure in the doorway and looked up.

“Well?”

“Oh Lily, they’re wonderful. I don’t know what to say,” I gushed, running to her and hugging her tight.

“Hmm. Twice in one day? That’s a first!”

I threw the knickers at her and she ducked out, laughing and telling me to get a move on. I shouted back that I didn’t know what to wear and she just told me that they were mine now, I’d have to make that decision for myself.

I tried on the dress and apart from the fact that I really could have done with being fuller in the hips, it looked wonderful. The shoes went perfectly and were quite comfortable considering I had never worn big heels before. The image in the mirror almost brought me to tears, especially after I had finished the makeup.

I floated downstairs, or it felt like I did and walked into the lounge. Ray nearly dropped his tea down him and Lily’s mouth opened several times before so much as a squeak came out.

“What do you think?” I asked, giving a little twirl.

“Um, well, you know? It looks alright, I suppose,” said Ray.

I scowled at him. “Can’t you do any better than that?”

“Well, I don’t know what to say.”

“I had that problem too. I can’t believe these are really mine,” I said going a bit giddy.

 Lily’s mouth was still opening and closing, but there wasn’t a lot coming out.

“You alright?” I asked.

“Mmmphst,” she mumbled.

“I’ll take that as a yes, shall I?”

 


 

 

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