Senses working overtime
I hadn’t heard from mum since the last phone call, which I considered a success because I didn’t get yelled at. Really though, I was angry with her for not listening. I know by that time I should have been used to that kind of response, but still it hurt.
Lily and Dr. Whaite had pointed out that it’s often more difficult for the parents to accept the kind of decision I was making, but assured me that given time, she would probably come round.
I desperately wanted mum to at least acknowledge what I was doing and listen this time, not just give me the “I can’t deal with this right now” line.
I dialled the number and was half hoping she wouldn’t be in.
“Hi mum.” I said brightly. “It’s Suzie.”
That wasn’t the best of starts and despite my initial reluctance to phone her, I wanted or perhaps needed to make her understand what was going on, what I was going through.
“Your son. At least I am technically for the time being anyway.”
“Oh, Paul it’s you.”
“No, it’s Suzie, er, Suzanne,” I corrected. “Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that my treatment is going well and I have a job and...”
“So what’s all stuff about Suzanne then?”
“It’s my name. I told you last time we spoke.”
“I thought you were joking.”
“No, it’s real alright. I’ve got the paperwork and everything.”
The line went quiet for a few moments.
“So who are you now?”
“Suzanne Paula Turner.” It still gave me a shiver. Mmmm.
“You’re mad. I bet you’re only doing this because of Ray and Lily. You wouldn’t be involved in all this nonsense had it not been for them. Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?” she asked.
For whatever reason, she still thought that I was incapable of making a decision on my own. Curious when I came to think that she was perfectly happy to leave me in charge of the brats while she and fart-face went out.
“Don’t be silly, of course I wouldn’t, but then they’re not asking me to do that are they?” I assured. I could feel tears forming in my eyes and that obligatory lump in the throat. “Anyway, it’s not nonsense. My psychiatrist suggested it.”
“Psychiatrist?” she almost yelled. “What the bloody-hell do you need a psychiatrist for?”
“So that I can become Suzanne physically as well as in name. I did tell you.”
“Are you insane?” she asked, her voice going up a couple of semitones.
“Actually no. According to Dr. Whaite, I’m perfectly sane. I have what’s termed as Gender Dysphoria. It means that I’m a girl in a boy’s body, so we decided to put that right.”
“Put what right? There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“Actually there is. Inside, I feel like I’m a girl, but on the outside, I’m a boy. If that’s not bad enough, my boy stuff doesn’t work anyway and I haven’t even started going through puberty, so the doctor has put me on hormones.”
“Hormones? For Christ’s sake Paul.”
“It’s Suzanne mum and like it or not, it’s my legal name, please use it. Anyway, my body is still that of a teenage boy. I need those to make my body right; to be a girl.”
“Of course you’ve got a boy’s body. You’re a boy for crying out loud! It’s that bloody Ray and Lily isn’t it; filling your head with all this idiocy. I knew this would happen.”
“Firstly, it was my decision and secondly, Ray and Lily are not in any way to blame. In fact, they have been wonderful and supportive, which is more than I can say for you.”
“Why you disrespectful little shit.”
“Me?” I asked, outraged. “I’m not the one using bad language am I? Why can’t you just accept that I need to be on the outside what I know I am on the inside. It’s only hormones at the moment, I don’t expect I will be able to get surgery for at least a year maybe two, depending on whether I can afford it of course.”
“SURGERY?!” Her voice went up a full octave and was making the phone crackle, not to mention my ears.
“Yes, surgery, now would you please stop shouting? I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve had God knows how much counselling and both my psychiatrist and I think that it’s for the best. I’ve basically been Suzanne for the last three months now and I want it to be permanent.”
“Look, you need to stop all this silliness and come home. I need you here. I can’t do anything with you over there.”
“But there’s nothing for you to do. I moved out in the first place because we weren’t getting along. You didn’t like my friends, wouldn’t talk to me, hug me or be a mother to me. You never once asked me about school and even when I was being bullied according to you it was my own fault. You don’t have time for me mum and my being Suzanne isn’t going to make that any better. This is a very big step for me and it’s serious. I am what I am and what I need you to do is please understand that.”
“I can’t accept that, Paul, it’s not natural.”
“It’s Suzanne or Suzie for the last time and I assure you, it’s perfectly natural,” I said, finding it difficult to keep my tone reasonable. I could feel steam coming out of my ears as the temperature rose. “It’s far more common than you would imagine and it’s certainly not unnatural.”
It went downhill from there.
Nothing I said would convince her. What I was doing was nothing more than rectifying a technical glitch in the build phase of my life. Somehow wires got crossed the software or firmware got corrupted and I wound up being something I shouldn’t.
I imagine that if I not had such an oppressive time at school and home, I might have accepted Paul for longer, but in all honesty, I don’t think that the track I was on could have been termed anything other than inevitable as agent Smith would say. However, in the here and now, mum’s words cast a big, black shadow of doubt over all I was doing.
The apparent calmness disappeared once I had put the phone down. I was shaking, angry, confused and upset. I went up to my room and collapsed on the bed. The image of a safety net being pulled out from underneath me came into my head and I started to panic.
Paul had been stripped from me and the safety net that had been there when ‘things go wrong’ so I could go back to being him was no more. Not only that, but neither was mum. I was beginning to see that all too clearly.
I was being unreasonable I know.
She, in truth, had never been there for me since she remarried. I guess I was asking a lot for her to suddenly have time for me and accept the changes I was going through all in one go, but she was my mother after all.
It all seemed so simple in Dr. Whaite’s office with the comfort and encouragement from Lily and the doctor herself, but I found I was on my own at this point and it felt like I was stepping into a black hole with no idea of what was on the other side.
Lily knocked softly on my door and asked to come in.
“It’s all very real now isn’t it?” she said.
“Oh Lily,” I blubbed. “I think I’ve made a big mistake.”
“What if mum’s right? What if Suzanne is all wrong? I don’t know if I’ve made the right decision.”
“Your mum didn’t understand, did she?”
“Maybe she never will, but don’t let it alter what you want or need. She may be disappointed, but it’s what you need that’s important not how she sees it.”
And she was right. It was my life and I had to live it the way I thought was right, not in a way that was convenient to mum.
* * *
The panic settled and as soon as I went back to work, I was right as rain.
Gwen was in a minor state of panic too. Trends were going away from the traditional hair salon to something that was more ‘unisex’. She was getting in a right old two-and-eight since it was only a short while ago that she had the place refurbished.
Her salon was quite big, divided into two sections, one larger than the other. The larger section was for the ladies.
One wall was a row of static hairdryers, each with a vinyl seat beneath, a small table or shelf between each chair had on them copies of popular magazines to keep the women occupied whilst waiting for their hair to dry. These were more or less redundant nowadays with the modern methods of hairstyling, going a long way to making the shampoo and set obsolete.
“After Ray redid this place for me, I couldn’t get the old biddies from under those quick enough,” she said looking at the empty row of hairdryers. “Now, I have trouble getting anyone under them. Perhaps it is time for a change.”
Gwen was a big woman, about five feet four tall and five feet five round with a huge bosom and a smile that never seemed to leave her face. She was always impeccably turned out and set an example to all of us. It was mainly her example that prompted me to take a real pride in my own appearance.
Apart from me, the only other full-timer was Steve and as I said before, he was gay. To be honest, it was only a couple of the customers who got uppity about him, the others just saw him for what he was - a typical hairdresser. After a bit, he and I got on famously, mainly because I couldn’t believe how outrageous he could be, oh and I liked him.
Frances and Beth were two women who worked in the mornings as they both had children and dealt with the shampoo, set and blue-rinse brigade that was thankfully a dying breed. That is, the styles were changing. These days their time was being taken up more with winding perm rods or pulling hair through those unbelievably uncomfortable rubber caps for highlighting or streaks.
A salon makeover was not far away and I wondered what my role in it would be or whether there was one for me at all.
I needn’t have worried.
* * *
It wasn’t long before my body responded to the hormones. My nipples were swollen and very sensitive. I had inadvertently knocked them a couple of times and nearly ended up hanging from the ceiling by my finger nails.
The bra helped, it kept them snug and stopped them from rubbing on my blouses and stuff. I left it off one day and within half an hour I was putting it back on again. They weren't large but if I jumped or tried to run, I knew they were there. Lily assured me that the tenderness was only temporary, the bounce I'd have to get used to. She couldn't help smiling at that. I smiled back. Even so I looked forward to not feeling like my senses were working overtime.
I had some problems with tears, which just seemed to want to switch on for no apparent reason and I’d have to go and sit somewhere while I bawled my eyes out, but it just meant I had to take more makeup with me just in case.
For a while, I thought I was going loopy. Everything was bringing tears to my eyes. Even the demise of Wily Coyote made me cry, especially the one with the spring, but I was assured that like the production of breasts, this was just another by-product of the hormones and would settle down, at least a bit.
* * *
Love is a battlefield
Gwen had a plan and it even involved Ray.
The ‘barber’s’ side of the shop was to be turned into a beauty salon and the main salon was going to become unisex instead. It was a big step for the salon and a big step for Gwen.
My part in it all was to go to college and learn how to be a beautician.
In no time at all, I was attending college one day a week and the first day was a complete jaw-dropper.
Brighton as a town had a reputation for being cosmopolitan and I was shocked by just how cosmopolitan, not only in racial mix, but in preferences too. I had only been in the college for about an hour when I had seen several Boy Georges umpteen Siouxies, Lord alone knows how many Nick Rhodes’ and more John Taylor’s, Jim Kerr’s and George Michael’s than you could shake a fair-sized stick at.
It did help me to relax though. Suddenly I didn’t feel I was quite the weirdo my mum seemed to think I was. If she ever saw inside that place, she’d have had kittens!
About three weeks into the course and I was having the time of my life. Okay, I didn’t associate with any of the people there on a social basis, but I was with people who had a much more “live and let live” attitude than I had been used to at school or at my mum’s and at break-times we would all go to the common room, get coffees or other drinks, maybe a snack and have a good laugh.
We were lined up to get coffees from the machine when out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone I recognised, or thought I did. By the time I had turned round though, the person was gone and I nearly lost my place in the queue, craning my neck trying to see where they were.
I couldn’t have been.
By the end of break, I had completely forgotten all about it.
The following week, I was on my own. I was the only day release student and the full-time were off at some meeting or another. I went into a largely empty common room.
I had my notes in my hand and rather stupidly, was trying to read whilst aiming my coin somewhat haphazardly at the coffee machine when I bumped into someone.
“Sorry,” I said without looking up.
“That’s alright… Hey, don’t I know you?”
It was a girl’s voice and I did recognise it, but I was still glued to skin types, treatments for oiliness, greasiness and conversely, dryness, for an up-coming test. I dragged my eyes from the badly copied script and looked up.
“Wow! It’s good to see you,” she said enthusiastically.
That wasn’t what I expected, especially after the indifference in our last encounter.
“You too,” I said as she gave me a hug.
I couldn’t help it. My skin felt like it was tingling all over, a feeling I hadn’t had since the last time we were that close.
“How are you keeping?” she asked.
“You know, working - the usual,” I laughed, trying to sound offhand about what was really happening. I had only been in her company for a matter of a few moments and all the hard work I had put in getting her out of my mind was rapidly coursing its way down the proverbial toilet.
“You look… wow!” she said and automatically, I blushed, going a deep crimson colour and feeling my cheeks getting almost hot enough to spontaneously combust. Plus, that feeling inside that had started at the hug; the feeling like going over a hump-back bridge too fast in a car, became almost all-consuming.
“Thanks. So do you, but then I don’t have to tell you that,” I said, blushing even more at my mouth going into warp drive and not taking my brain with it.
We stood side by side at the coffee machine while I fumbled with my purse for some more change, neither of us saying anything. I was finding it difficult to think and get change out at the same time.
I managed to get the rest of the money and was pushing it into the machine when from beside or behind me, I heard someone - a girl - talking.
“Hi sweetheart, have you been waiting long?” she asked. I looked as I lifted the flap for my drink and could see someone draped all over Lisa. It looked as though she was kissing her cheek, but I couldn’t quite see. I only caught one part of a black leather biker-style jacket with a holographic badge on one of the lapels.
“No. I’ve only just got here,” Lisa replied.
I was wondering what I was supposed to do, but as it happened, Lisa and friend were not into hanging around or goodbyes… or see ya rounds….
“Ready?” said the friend.
“Yeah,” said Lisa and still with this other girl all over her like a cheap suit, they wandered off. I watched as they strolled across the common room and had I not been paying attention, I would have missed two things.
The first was a very slight wave Lisa gave me along with the second thing; an equally slight smile as she looked back at me.
Once again, I went from being focussed to being a bag of nerves. I had only known anything similar to love once and she was it. Why did it have to be something like a war zone?
How I made it home that evening without making a complete fool of myself I’ll never know, but I was sure after that that Lisa was into girls after all and I was still into Lisa.
* * *
Love plus one
I can’t understand why I was being so ridiculous. I was acting as though I had been jilted and that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” expression proved itself as, as soon as I saw her and she was nice to me, I went back to being a love-sick puppy.
At home, I sat on my bed trying to reconcile the fact that I hadn’t been jilted. We weren’t seeing one another, so why shouldn’t she go find someone new? The song on the radio was Nick Heywood and Haircut 100 with Love plus one.
I must have had a face as long as a wet weekend for days afterwards and even Steve gave me a wide berth, but after the weekend I had managed to calm down sufficiently to be back to something resembling approachable.
“How are we this morning?” he asked tentatively.
“Better thank you. I can’t apologise enough for last week. I had a bit of a nasty turn.”
“Oooh! I know just what you mean sweetie.” he said, his face lighting up. “I hope you made him pay for it. Perhaps a good spanking?” He shuddered suggestively.
I was stunned into silence and blushed.
“Er, it wasn’t my boyfriend,” I said, realising immediately that I hadn't phrased that at all well and had left the door open for Steve to wheedle yet more info out of me.
“Hmm. Never thought of you as one that would be playing the field,” he replied, adopting that stance with his finger on his chin and a “What have you been up to” wide eyed, innocent look on his face.
“I wasn’t playing the field. I don’t do that.”
“Hmm.” he murmured and looked away, his finger still on his chin, evidently not believing what I had told him. Jesus, he could put more into what he didn’t say than others could with what they DID!
“It wasn’t a boy,” I said quietly.
“Ooooh! Well aren’t we the dark horse?” he said and his eyebrows almost went into a low orbit. “It wasn’t a horse was it?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “No. Not a horse either.”
“I should hope not. They can make a real mess of the sheets,” he said fluffing up some towels. “Well are you going to tell me or not?”
In for a penny… I thought.
“It was a girl I used to know. I thought I was over it, but it seems that well, I wasn’t. I saw her again and all those feelings came back up and months of work trying to forget her amounted to nothing.”
“Look at you,” he lisped. “I would never have guessed. Such a quiet one too.”
“Yeah, well. We all have our crosses to bear, I suppose.”
“Hmm. Well that’s a first, ducky.”
“Me not reading you.”
I froze momentarily wondering what was coming and dreading the “I know what you really are” speech.
“I had you pegged as the little miss house maker. You know two point two kids, semi-detached dog and door chimes.”
I just laughed again. “I’m a bit young for that yet,” I said, a wave of relief washing over me.
“Hey-ho! Can’t win them all,” he said and minced out into the salon.
Well that was a weird one. I thought that he had spotted that I was a transitioning transsexual, but no. He’d gone away thinking I was a lesbian instead. I wasn’t sure which was worse.
Was there a ‘worse’ and under the circumstances, did it matter?
I suppose both were true and I certainly didn’t like the idea of the ‘little miss home maker’, so I settled for lesbian.
I would have argued until I was blue in the face that I wasn’t gay at school and yet there I was, standing in the salon accepting the fact that I was a gay female, but not only accepting it, actually getting a kick out of it. It felt right.
* * *
After bumping into Lisa, going to college was a mix of dread and excitement. On the one hand I was excited by the prospects of learning more about a trade that not only had I never considered before, but actually got me enthusiastic on a daily basis, while on the other, was the dread of bumping into Lisa again with her girlfriend. Strangely, I also felt a certain amount of excitement about bumping into Lisa too. Providing she was on her own that was.
Christ, it was getting complicated. Why did she still have that effect on me?
The fact was, it was only once a week and for five days out of the remaining six, I was putting my newly learned skills to good use in the salon. When I wasn’t plying my side of the trade, I was helping with hair washing and the occasional blow-dry. I was obviously doing something right as the number of customers was rising and the amount of work I was doing rose considerably.
We were doing a few things that I had mastered and that I had demonstrated on either Steve - who was fond of the facial massage, Gwen - who could take all I could do, all day if she could, or one of the two part-timers - both of whom were partial to the manicures and most weekends had me apply false nails. Nevertheless, it attracted custom and everyone was pleased. The plan was, to integrate as much as I felt comfortable with as soon as I was comfortable with it.
December came and Gwen cheered me up no end by giving me a pay rise. It wasn’t a large rise, but she promised to increase that regularly since I was doing so well. Things were definitely better now than they had been and I was sure that if I had stayed at home, none of this would be happening.
The shame was that the one person I would have liked to be congratulated and patted on the back by, was conspicuous by her absence.
Mum and I had not spoken since the last phone call and all the time “blood’s thicker than water” kept intruding and I just hated the thought that I was blanking her out.
In point of fact, I wasn’t blanking her, she was blanking me.
Perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t fit into a nice neat package anymore and I got the impression that she couldn’t deal with that. “Here’s my daughter who used to be my son”, probably wouldn’t have sat well in her mind. I felt sorry for her, but sorrier for me, because her absence left a large hole in my life and I couldn’t help feeling that if I could only do something...
The “WHAT” though was the hard part.
Facing the truth was harder than anything else I’d had to do. I was being stubborn I know and I had to realise that it was down to mum to get her head round what I was doing. It wasn’t as if I was doing anything nefarious or illegal, I was doing what I felt was best for me given the facts.
It was for her to come to the same conclusion and whether it took a day, a week, a year or a decade, it was down to her and her alone. I couldn’t force the issue, chuck facts down her throat or talk until I was hoarse. I wasn't at all sure it would make the least bit of difference anyway.
* * *
Party fears two
My birthday arrived and I went to the front door before I left for work to see if anyone had sent me a card. I was only looking for one, but it wasn’t there.
“Maybe it’ll be here when you get home.” said Lily helpfully, but I doubted it.
The rest of the day was much like any other. I got a couple of “Happy Birthday” wishes from the staff, but I hadn’t been there long enough to expect anything, so I was surprised when Steve went and got a whole bunch of ring doughnuts, Danish pastries and the like.
“From Gwen,” he said.
It took my mind off of the fact that I didn’t get a card even from mum and made me feel like part of Gwen’s family.
Sometimes I don’t know whether all that guff about ‘family’ is actually worth a damn, because frankly, I have felt better with the people in the salon and Ray and Lily than I ever had with my own family.
Ray and Lily had not only bought me a present, but had provided me with a cake and card too. It was only a small cake and had a single candle on it. The card was emblazoned with a large ‘1’.
“But I’m seventeen,” I said.
“We know, but Suzanne isn’t is she? She’s having her first birthday. Happy Birthday, Suzanne.”
I was in tears before they had finished with the Happy Birthday bit and when I threw my arms round Ray, I could feel him flushing. I don’t think he ever got used to me going from boy to girl at all and even if I had been a girl all my life, Ray was just one of those people who got easily embarrassed with any affectionate displays.
Lily on the other hand, was a real hugger and I could hug her anytime, this one was a real excuse for an extended hug, which even got her a bit bleary-eyed too.
My present consisted of some more clothes and a pair of ankle boots I had had my eyes on for a while, but couldn’t bring myself to buy because they were a bit out of my price range. So it was off with the old and on with the new. I didn’t care whether they were the most uncomfortable boots out there, but I was going to wear them tonight!
Mandy had something planned for me and I had to leave just before things got too slushy with Ray and Lily. I hugged the two of them once more and thanked them for my presents, the card and the cake and left for the evening.
God, how I wished they were my parents.
I had no idea what Mandy’s plan was and when I got to her place, we went straight out. I was fully togged up and as nervous as hell. This would be the first time I had ‘gone out’ in any sense of the word - visits to friends and family aside of course.
I had work the following day and was under strict instructions to be back before midnight. We met up with Julie and Caroline who now had someone else in tow and mercifully, I had no idea who he was or he me.
We went to a small place just up from the Old Steine that at the time we’d got there was pretty empty. No-one questioned our ages, but we were only drinking soft drinks anyhow while we played pool and badly I might add.
It was a lot of fun and after a while more people came in and soon we were relegated to sitting to one side while people who could really play took over the tables.
Mandy was the last of us to finish and I don’t know where she learnt to play like she did, but she gave this guy a damned good run for his money. Anyway, he joined us or rather Mandy when I went to the bar to get some drinks.
Julie and another lad called Jeff were playing pool now as part of a foursome with Mandy and her new beau whose name was Marcus. I felt momentarily left out, but I was so bad at the game anyway that I was happy just watching and cheering both sides equally.
I was joined at the table by a girl named Annabel. She was a bit older than me, but she was good fun and as the place filled even more, she dragged her stool round to my side of the table.
“Want some of this?” she asked, taking a small silver-coloured hip-flask from inside her bike jacket.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Just a little something to ward off the chill.” she said with a mischievous grin.
“I don’t know…” I said, but then relented. “Oh go on then. It is my birthday after all."
She surreptitiously poured a small amount into my glass on top of my coke and nothing more was said. I don’t know what it was, but after a while I started to feel a bit warm and fuzzy, not at all unpleasant.
The place was heaving by about half nine and Annabel and I were hitting it off nicely. I was getting drunk I could feel that, but I hadn’t seen her slip anything else into my drink since the last one and as I tasted my coke, I couldn’t tell the difference. She kept looking at me and grinning and I being unaware of the situation just kept grinning back.
Then the hand went around my shoulders as we sat watching more people playing pool and really getting into the atmosphere. I turned to get my drink from the table and as I did, I found she was there waiting for me.
We kissed and it seemed very natural. It wasn’t the same tingly kiss that I got from Lisa, but it was nice and before long, the kisses were getting more passionate and more frequent.
I don’t know if she was topping my drink off with more of whatever she had in that flask, but things were beginning to get a little blurry and starting to spin.
“Wassin the glass?” I asked, aware that I was having trouble forming my sentences.
“It’s just a little winter warmer,” she said. “Do you like it?”
“I just don’t think it likes me,” I said. “I don’t feel so good.”
She helped me out to the toilets and I was as sick as a pig. I didn’t think I’d had that much to drink or eat, but there was more than I was expecting that was for sure. I rinsed off at one of the sinks and I couldn’t stop the room from turning. My head was spinning like a top and had it not been for Annabel, I don’t think I’d have made it out of the toilets at all.
She was helping me back into the bar and I spotted something on her jacket.
“Tha’s nice.” I said as I tried unsuccessfully with shaking hand to poke at it whilst I stumbled to the table.
“Christ Suzie! Where’ve you been?” asked Mandy.
“Wiv my frien’ An… An…(hic!) An’bel.”
“Shit. You’re pissed. What’ve you been drinking?”
“Win’er warmer,” I giggled.
“I’ll see you around.” said Annabel, although I was too sloshed to realise she’d said that until later.
“Thanks for helping, Annabel,” Mandy said.
“No problem,” she replied as she threaded her way through the people and out the door.
“I’ll go and see the others then I think we’ll have to get you out of here,” Mandy told me and plopping me down on a stool, disappeared to the other side of the table to find Julie and Caroline.
It wasn’t long before she was back and peeling me off the table. I put my arm round her and we started to stagger towards the door.
“I luff you,” I said very seriously.
“Thanks,” said Mandy, trying hard to stay upright under the weight of the drunk on her shoulder - me.
Outside, we made our way to the taxi rank not far from the King and Queen and before I knew what was happening, I was asleep in the back of a cab.
Ray and Lily were still up and one look at me, told them I was more than a little the worse for wear. Lily hurried me off to bed and without a telling off too. Mum would probably have given me the third degree, which would only have served to make a bad headache worse, but not so with Lily.
As I lay in bed in the darkness, my head on a cool part of the pillow, I couldn’t help wondering about that kiss in the pub. Had I asked for it or was it just someone taking advantage?
I came to the conclusion that it was probably some of both.
I won’t be drinking ‘unknowns’ again though.
I awoke to the sound of the alarm clock beating the shit out of my ears.
I felt diabolical.
I should have guessed that she was spiking the drinks more than I knew about. I went all giggly and stupid for a start and I’m not normally like that. As much as I liked her, my condition wasn’t just from her company that’s for sure.
Coffee brought me round, but I just couldn’t face the thought of eating anything. I think Lily was secretly amused by what happened and the state of me that morning, but after the walk to work I was at least starting to feel like a human being.
So that was a hangover, was it? I could hear myself muttering those immortal words “never again”. I know now that that’s like saying “I’m not going to breathe again”, but it was meant with the best of intentions!
* * *
Christmas came and I spent half of my time over the holidays at Mandy’s and half with Ray and Lily. I got nothing from mum, not even a card and the more I stopped feeling piteous and thought about it, the more I realised that Lily was right about her.
It didn’t stop it hurting though.
In the New Year, Gwen was making plans with Ray about the new fittings in the salon and I was nearly half way through my college course. I was enjoying it and had even bumped into Lisa a couple of times more. Although the feelings hadn’t gone away, I had much more control over them.
As far as Annabel was concerned, I hadn’t seen her since that awful night. It didn’t surprise me though as I didn’t spend much of my time in that neck of the woods and I don’t know whether I could face her again after my drunken display anyway.
My breasts had actually started to look like breasts and I had even started to ‘round over’ as Ray put it. My figure was starting to look a lot more feminine. Even my face was changing and the further on I got, the more I was sure that I had made exactly the right choice, exactly the right decision.
* * *
I don’t think I had ever felt so good. I was truly happy. It goes without saying that things could have been better, there’s always room for improvement, but the hormones were kicking in nicely and I had even got used to the mood swings, which by now were diminishing.
I was doing well in the salon and more people were coming in for manicures and the occasional facial. I felt more alive than I have ever done and whilst thinking about mum and the fact that she made me feel as though I was like a rat deserting the sinking ship, my own life was gaining momentum.
Learning to deal with my new persona in the real world was fun. I was fending off advances from boys and was gaining in confidence all the time. At first, I didn’t know what to do, but I soon got the hang of letting them down gently and instead of blurting out that I was a lesbian transsexual, I would simply say that there was already someone else.
Maybe I'd keep the other for ‘special’ occasions.
Around February, I was in the common room at the college and was once again getting coffee. I bumped into someone I didn’t think I’d ever see again - Annabel.
There was a big crowd in there that day, more students than I’d seen in there in a while and I was surprised to see her standing to one side of the main group.
The memory of talking to God down the great white telephone came to my mind and I felt embarrassed by the scene, but well, if you want to spike someone’s drink I guess there’s every chance that what happened to me is likely to happen.
I swallowed my pride and decided that whether her fault or not, I thought an apology was in order.
“Hi Annabel,” I said brightly and the look on her face was a picture. I thought she was going to swallow the coffee, cup and all. Her eyes went as big as saucers and I swear, she took two involuntary steps backwards. “Well, I’ve never had that effect on anyone before!”
“Er, hi,” she replied.
“I just wanted to apologise for that night. I made a fool of myself and you’d been so nice to me. I really enjoyed being with you too. I felt rotten afterwards. Can you ever forgive me?” It was a bit theatrical perhaps, but, hey.
She was starting to make weird kind of strangled noises and suddenly Lisa turned round. I had been so intent on Annabel, that I just didn’t recognise Lisa from behind.
“Forgive who?” she asked. “What’s going on?”
Suddenly, the picture became whole.
Upon Annabel’s jacket was a badge, a holographic badge and it became overlaid with the one that belonged to the girl that was all over Lisa the first time I saw her in the common room, which also became overlaid with the one Annabel was wearing the night of my birthday.
“Oh shit!” I said as realisation kicked in. “I’m soooo sorry Lisa.” I turned, fleeing with eyes brimming full of tears.
I was sent home early that day because I couldn’t keep it together.
I couldn’t believe what had happened. I had no idea who Annabel was in the pub and it never dawned on me until I saw the two of them together and caught sight of that badge.
I laid on my bed at home, my eyes sore and puffy thanks to the crying. I was pretty sure how this would look to Lisa; in fact I knew how it would look to anyone. Every time I tried to find an excuse, my head kept on telling me that it was Lisa’s girlfriend, regardless of the mitigating circumstances that surrounded the event.
* * *
I avoided the common room like plague from then on. I told a couple of my friends what had happened and apart from them being shocked because I was apparently dating another girl, they generally thought I was beating myself up over something that I couldn’t possibly have known beforehand.
It didn’t make me feel any better.
By about mid March, I was just about over it all. I had finally told myself that Lisa was gone forever. What girl would be interested in me after I had apparently ‘stolen’ her girlfriend after all?
I was just about to go to lunch when the door to the newly refurbished ‘unisex’ salon opened.
It was Lisa.
Christ! I thought. She’s finally tracked me down and now I’m going to get it.
“Hi Suzie,” she said.
“Have you got a minute?” she asked and she didn’t look comfortable.
“Well, I was just about to go to dinner. Would you like to come along?”
We left the salon and I could feel Steve’s eyes following me out of the door.
“It’ll end in tears.” I heard him saying to no-one in particular.
We walked to the café in silence. I had a plethora of thoughts swirling around my head, none of them ending well and all of them leaving me needing another makeup job, at least.
I ordered two coffees and we sat down at a table in a quiet corner.
“Lisa, I had no idea who she…” I began before her finger touched my lips.
“I’m not blaming you,” she said, cutting my words off. “Truth is I had an idea something like that was happening.”
“Yeah. There was a distinct lack of respect there. I was kind of expecting it.”
“Oh,” I said as all my fears and misgivings evaporated.
“I tried to tell you, but I couldn’t find you. After what you said in the common room, I wanted to cut you into little pieces, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t you. You were just the person who pointed out that it really was happening and it wasn’t my imagination.”
We sat for a while, the sound of the people in the café and the little transistor radio burbling in the background.
“What happened to us? I mean, I know it didn’t really get started, but I really thought we had something and I was so hoping we could be friends, but then I didn’t see you again,” I asked.
She looked at me and smiled. I could feel that “hump-backed bridge” feeling welling up like a swarm of butterflies about the size of jumbo jets in my stomach and I was starting to tremble.
“I didn’t think you were into me, least that’s what your mum said.”
“What?” I was dumbfounded. I had no idea she had been back and mum didn’t see fit to tell me either. It’s just another of those shocks that justified my being where I was, doing what I was and not involving her in any of it.
“Yeah. I went back to apologise, but she told me you’d run off to live with some guy named Ray.”
I nearly wet myself laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“I don’t suppose she mentioned his wife, Lily?” I asked, still laughing.
“No,” she replied, giving me a real curious look.
“Ahh. Ray’s my uncle, well, sort of. It’s a bit complicated, but he’s kind of part of an extended family. If it weren’t for him and especially Lily, I wouldn’t be here now I don’t think.”
“Lily helped me see myself for what I am, got me help to find a direction and professional support, she still is. They’re amazing people and I have always wished that I could have been their daughter and not mum’s, but c’est la vie.”
“So you’re going all the way with this?”
“I guess.” I said. “My male parts have never really worked, so I think it’s for the best. Not to mention that I feel better and look better like this than I did as a boy.”
“Yes. You’re looking really good, I must say.”
“Thank you,” I said blushing furiously.
For goodness sake, I thought. She’s been here no more than a couple of minutes and said one thing nice to you and look at you…
It was true. She just gave me a simple compliment and I went to pieces. I decided if after all we’d been through, she could still do that to me, maybe I did something similar to her. She was here after all.
“Do you think we could start over?” I asked, trembling with the thought that she was going to say no, but even if she did, I would know that at least what little we did have, didn’t end acrimoniously.
“It’s possible.” she said smiling.
* * *
That all seems like an eternity ago.
I still wonder how I ever doubted what I should be, but having helped a number of other young people through - both male and female, I realise that it’s not everyone who ‘knows’ what they should be, many just know that something’s not right and that’s as far as it goes.
Am I happy?
As a pig in the brown, smelly stuff.
I’m sitting in the office or what’s known as the office, just finishing reading through this. Parts brought tears to my eyes and whilst I don’t expect that it will have the same effect on other people who might read this, you have no idea how much better it makes me feel realising - for the first time in some cases that it’s all in the past and I can let go.
I have found it quite cathartic writing it all down. It’s like throwing a load of old stuff out of the attic, you don’t realise how much excess baggage you’re carrying around with you until you pluck up the courage to actually get rid of it.
Paul now is like a film. Yes I can appreciate how he felt, but now, it’s like it happened to someone else. I have kept one or two things to remind me, they help me keep my feet on the ground.
Before you ask, no, I couldn’t throw out that old skirt, blouse, bra and briefs that I wore for that first time. Since Lily washed it, I haven’t taken it out of the plastic bag. In fact, it was that that prompted me to write this down in the first place, after rooting around in the attic.
Sadly, even after all this time, I haven’t heard from mum. I have driven round there a couple of times, but have never got past sitting outside for a few minutes and catching the occasional glimpse of her or the brats, who are now two strapping young men and are going to be breaking hearts any time soon.
Mandy is married and if I don’t go round to her, she will often come into the salon, which I now run and after all she did for me, I feel a free hair-do, or facial is the least I can do. She’s expecting her second child in August. It must have been a good Christmas.
I get on well with her and her hubby Justin and am God mother to Suzanne, their first. Now the tingles I get on hearing that name are for a different reason and whilst I’m not exactly what anyone would call religious, I take my role very seriously, even though there are those out there who would disagree with me, my life, what I have done or am doing with it.
I like to think of it as the natural flow of the universe.
I cannot stress how lucky I was to have Ray and Lily around for me. They were everything I needed in parents but never had. Speaking of which, they should be here soon, so I will bid you a fond farewell and draw a close to that early chapter of my life.
That was the door bell. Speak of the devil and he shall appear as they say.
“Lisa, would you mind getting that, I think it’s Ray and Lily.”