On the way home from the restaurant, I have to admit to being a little distracted.
Every time I thought about being at Cliffside as Jamie - with all the love and respect I was getting - I could only feel a sense of loathing towards the other me and his life.
I knew it would mean starting afresh, starting a new school, but Jamie could do that. James was much more introverted - in every way much less outgoing and in my opinion, it was doubtful that Jamie would have any trouble whatsoever.
“I said, what d’you reckon?” asked Megan, irritably.
“Weren’t you listening to anything I said?” she demanded.
“I’m sorry. I was miles away,” I said, smiling apologetically and whilst it was dark in the back of the Shogun, I was sure I saw a frown on Megan’s face and that wasn’t good. “What was it you said?”
“Doesn’t matter,” she muttered, shaking her head. “You’re obviously not interested. You’ve obviously got much more interesting things to think about.”
I tried to get her to tell me what was troubling her, but without success. I didn’t get another peep out of her.
When we got out of the cars back at Cliffside, she simply went straight to Mum, Dad, Frank and Deirdre. She said, “Goodnight and thanks for a really nice evening,” stuck her nose in the air and strode past me as if I wasn’t there at all.
Chris, looking more than a little bemused by Megan’s behaviour, bid us a hurried “goodnight” and followed after her, leaving the four adults, Jess and myself, standing outside on the driveway in the twilight.
“We’d best leave you all to it. You will at least consider my offer, won’t you?” Frank asked, before taking Deirdre’s hand to lead her into the house.
“I will, Frank, and thanks for everything.”
With everyone else gone, Mum, Dad, Jess and I, stood in awkward silence for a few moments.
“I’m going to be leaving really early in the morning,” Dad said, breaking the silence. “So I’ll say goodbye now.”
“You’re not taking Frank’s job offer then?” Jess asked.
“I haven’t decided and even if I had, I still have to go to work tomorrow or I might lose more than a few hours pay.”
She threw her arms round him and hugged him. “It would be nice if you did take it. I mean, we’d get to see an awful lot more of you, but whatever you choose,” she told him and let go, standing back.
I stayed where I was for a moment before almost launching myself at him, teary-eyed and hugging him as tight as I could. “I’m sorry for everything, Dad and I hope you can finish in time to come back.”
He didn’t respond for what felt like ages, but then I felt his arms squeeze, tighter and tighter, holding me close and it was one of the nicest feelings I’d felt for a long time.
“So do I, Squirt. So do I.”
* * *
The next day things were a tad strained.
For a start I had a dream during the night and whilst most of it is a bit fuzzy, the gist was that I was at school, standing very close to another boy. That was a little disturbing as I wasn’t dressed as Jamie, but as James.
I was trembling and I could feel the tears beginning to trace those irregular patterns down my cheeks as he stood gazing directly at me. He wasn’t going to hit me, he was trying to comfort me and all I wanted to do was to hold him, or rather, for him to hold me.
“Why do you keep on pretending?” he asked. “You’re not a boy are you?”
I didn’t answer, just shrugged and looked up at him.
“So why don’t you just come clean and be what you really are. You know, I knew you weren’t really a boy right from the start. You’re way too pretty.”
With that, he bent to kiss me and as his face got closer my head began spinning like a top.
“I’m not a girl,” I kept telling myself. “I am a boy.”
The thought of Megan came to mind and that first kiss I shared with her; that kiss so chaste and yet at the same time, so powerful. That was what I wanted wasn’t it? Not a kiss with that… that… boy?
Just then, I didn’t know.
I didn’t even know his name, although I knew I knew him and the feeling of the closeness; the anticipation of our lips meeting, soft and gentle…
I wanted to feel him take me in his arms and hold me tight, but most importantly, to kiss me.
I woke up at that point, feeling scared - very scared, my whole body trembling and not in a good way either.
Lying there with the sound of the early morning birdsong for company, I wondered whether that nightmare had been more than a dream; whether it was a portent of what would become of me, but it couldn’t have been.
Awake and rapidly regaining my faculties, the thought of kissing that boy made me feel physically sick to my stomach.
I got up and put on some clothes, trying to shake off the thought of my wanting to kiss another boy, before pulling a clean thong up my legs and tucking what little I had away as best I could.
Was it getting smaller?
I pulled the thong back down again and it did seem smaller.
I thought so anyway.
Was just pretending to be a girl causing me to change sex...?
That couldn’t be the case could it...?
Were it that easy, there would be no reason for transsexuals to have ’the operation’, would there? God, if that’s all there was to it, there would be some pretty freaked-out people about; especially those who weren’t expecting it. I giggled to myself as I thought of a boy having to wear his sister’s pyjamas for some reason and waking up the next morning sans willy.
What I was considering seemed so absurd, but my willy really did seem smaller and I had to have another look.
Pulling it out from between my legs, I peered at it inquisitively. I couldn’t really tell whether it was smaller or not. Probably not actually. I must have just been imagining things.
It couldn’t have got any smaller could it?
I tucked it away again, finished dressing then crept out of the caravan and tip-toed along to the main house, letting myself quietly into the kitchen.
“You’re up early,” Deirdre observed.
I froze, wondering what to say. I couldn’t tell Deirdre about the dream, could I? That would have given the game away. I thought quickly and came up with something I thought would explain my early arrival.
“I know. I was just excited at the prospect of getting to see Valentina again today and, well, you know, hopeful that Dad will take the job.”
I lied - well not entirely. I was excited about getting to see Valentina again and I was excited about the possibility of Dad taking Frank’s offer.
“I shouldn’t get your hopes up too high. He hasn’t agreed yet, has he?” she pointed out as she slapped several rashers of bacon on the grill pan and slid it under the grill.
“I know,” I said resignedly, sitting at the table.
I was well into my breakfast and feeling much better when the girls arrived. The dream I decided, was just that - a dream. There’s never anything to them is there? It was possible that it was simply a result of appearing to everyone as a girl and aren’t girls expected to have boyfriends?
Anyway, it wasn’t real and by the second rasher of bacon, a slice of toast and some of Deirdre’s excellent tea, I’d put it behind me.
“Morning,” I said brightly.
My enthusiasm wasn’t exactly reciprocated; all I got was a couple of yawn-stifled “mornin’” kind of replies from Jess and Chris, but not a peep out of Megan.
“You alright?” I asked her.
“Fine!” she replied, curtly.
I blinked and kept my mouth shut from that point on. I just hoped that some explanation would come out pretty soon as the longer Megan remained silent, the more I wanted to know what it was that was eating her.
“You ready?” Deirdre asked once Jess had finished the last of her mug of tea.
“And waiting,” I responded, eagerly. The others didn’t seem to be as enthusiastic and with another chorus of mutters, muffled by yawns and stretches, we followed Deirdre outside.
Once we got to the stables, I went straight to Valentina - which was no real surprise, only this time, the black looks, cold shoulder treatment and mutters of disapproval came from Megan.
What had I done or said to make her so awful to me?
She made me feel as if I was with a completely different person than the one at the TV studios and restaurant. I couldn’t understand it at all.
I went and picked up some hay to take into the stall and she was there, bashing my shoulder with hers as we passed one another. I know I’m a boy and I’m supposed to shrug that sort of thing off, but I’m not exactly meaty and it actually hurt.
“What’s going on?” I asked, but just at that moment, Deirdre came in and Megan just turned away, bashing me yet again. I took my bundle of hay and did what was necessary, my anger and frustration rising. I mean I wouldn’t have minded had it not been for the fact that a few hours ago, she was practically swearing undying love and now she didn’t appear to be able to stand the sight of me.
“Yes,” said Deirdre, looking concerned. “What is going on?”
“Nothing,” I answered quickly, hoping that a flat denial might head off any further questions that could prevent us from going out on the horses.
“Good,” she responded in a business-like manner. “I wouldn’t like to think I couldn’t trust you to behave yourselves while we’re out.”
“You mean we’re going out?”
“On the horses?” I pressed.
“No,” she said, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. “I’ve got us pogo sticks. Yes of course on the horses.” She looked at each of us, as by then, Chris and Jess had come out of their stables and were standing with Megan and I. “You’re not wearing boots or shoes with heels - which I would recommend, but since we’re not going to be doing anything flamboyant, you should be fine - but remember to be careful.”
“But Jamie’s never been on a horse,” said Megan, who got a sharp dig in the ribs from Chris for her trouble.
“I thought your parents said you all rode horses. Oh well, never mind. We’re just going to take them for a gentle walk - for the most part anyway. I’m sure Valentina will be perfectly alright with Jamie.”
Now many of you may feel that Valentina, being so big, would not have been the wisest choice and believe me, I was scared silly at the thought of getting on her back - it being so far up and all - but as Deirdre said, since she had taken such a shine to me, it was likely she’d be no bother.
Nevertheless, the others weren’t so pleased at the prospect of a pedestrian pace and showed their displeasure, scowling at me as Deirdre helped me up into the saddle, grabbing my ankle as I slipped and looked as though I was going to go straight over the other side - much to their amusement.
I’ll tell you one thing: once I was on, it looked a hell of a lot further down than it did looking up!
With the others mounted, we headed out of the yard, the sun beating down and the horses’ hooves crunching in the gravel. Just before we got to the road, Deirdre made a sharp right into the trees along a narrow path. She moved aside and allowed the girls and I to pass and Valentina immediately took point, with Deirdre bringing up the rear.
We rode the horses at a walk through what looked like something out of Robin Hood or something, heading away from Cliffside in glorious dappled shade that after a few hundred yards began sloping downwards. I have to say though; my image of the woods was slightly marred by the almost constant giggling coming from behind me.
“Don’t stick your elbows out, just relax,” Deirdre said from the back of the line. “Remember, heels down and grip with your knees.”
This brought forth peals of laughter and calls of, “Oh why did you tell her,” and “It was better when she looked like a spastic,” from the girls.
I had no idea what I looked like until then and once I did, I understood why Jess and the others had been laughing so much.
“Stop that!!” I yelled, turning and giving them my best Paddington hard stare, which just made them laugh harder. Even Deirdre was trying to stifle a laugh.
For what seemed like ages, we plodded through the trees, winding this way and that, the ground getting steeper as we went until the trees parted and we sat upon our mounts, overlooking a huge expanse of grass that just seemed to roll on for ever.
“The beach is just down at the bottom there,” Deirdre said, pointing her finger at a speck in the distance. It’s pretty safe round here, so if you want to give your horses a run, feel free, but please be careful. ”
I’d been happy enough plodding, but as soon as Jess kicked her heels into the flanks of her horse and streaked off down the hill with a delighted squeal, Chris and Megan followed suit, hurtling after her - squealing equally as loud.
Only trouble was, Valentina got the idea what they were doing was fun - all that screaming and laughing and before Deirdre or I could do anything to stop her, she was flying along with me bouncing painfully up and down in the saddle, yelling at her to stop as I pulled on the reins, doing my best to sound authoritative and failing miserably.
The feeling was akin to going really quickly down Bostal hill on my mountain bike. It’s a very rough and very steep path that heads down from Truleigh Hill; a favourite haunt for BMX and mountain bike riders - though unsurprisingly, some don’t make it all the way to the bottom, or if they do, they’re rarely attached to the bike or the right way up when they get there.
However, the moment I started thinking ’mountain bike’ and stood up in the stirrups, things got a lot easier. Her movements were not entirely unlike those of the bike and all I had to do was keep my knees slightly bent and welded to her ribs, keep balanced and hang on.
I got the hang of that bit and thereafter, I was surprised at how easy it was, although much of that was probably down to the fact that Valentina liked me and was making it fairly uncomplicated.
After a little while of hurtling round the huge field, I noticed that Deirdre had not joined us and was sat on her horse, looking out over the sea. I cantered back up the hill to Deirdre.
“You alright?” I asked.
“I’m fine thank you. I usually come here to think and just get away from it all. There’s been a lot happening and I needed to be on my own.”
“But you aren’t on your own. We’re here.”
“Not all the time. Mostly you’ve been horsing around down the bottom of the hill.” She looked at me, her expression probing. “You sure you’ve never ridden before?” she asked.
“First time,” I said, the grin threatening to split my face in half.
She shook her head. “You really are going to tell me how you do that.”
“If I knew, I would,” I told her with a giggle.
“Well don’t go getting overconfident will you?”
“I won’t,” I assured her and kicking Valentina’s flanks with my heels, we headed back down the hill, the wind in my hair and the sun on my face.
I swear I could have stayed on that horse all damned day. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever done. Hurtling across the grass, feeling Valentina bunch and stretch as she covered the ground between us and the girls effortlessly, was so exhilarating that I didn’t even think about the safety aspect, I just wanted to carry on doing what I was doing.
The girls were a long way off, galloping around, so I decided to try and catch up with them. It appeared on the surface to be a case of simply letting Valentina go for it, and once again, with the wind in my face and the feeling of a live animal under me was just so intoxicating.
I eventually caught them as they pulled up to rest.
“Wow!” I gasped. “I can’t imagine why I haven’t tried this before.”
“You’re doing really well,” said Chris. “Better than expected - much.”
“Yeah,” Jess echoed. “Nice one.”
“Huh!” Megan snorted. “You call that doing well? Elbows sticking out like wings; it’s a wonder he didn’t take off. That’s not doing well.”
“Megan!” said Jess. “That was uncalled for. It’s her first time, give her a break.”
“What? He’s been on a horse for five minutes and already he thinks he’s the Lone Ranger.”
“I never said that,” I replied, noticing that Megan had reverted to calling me a ‘he’. God, she must have been really pissed-off with me.
“That’s what you’re thinking though isn’t it?” she said. “Just like you think you’re all that with your big fake boobs and everyone thinking you’re so goody-goody.”
Jess and Chris gasped, cringing and looking wide-eyed at their companion while I felt that almost ubiquitous lump in my throat; that seemingly ever-present prelude to the tears.
“Look Megan, I don’t know what I’ve done, but I surely didn’t deserve that.”
“That’s right,” said Jess. “What’s got into you?”
“What do you care? He’s your brother and you’re bound to protect him aren’t you? Never mind that he’s just as big a shit as any other boy - regardless of what he looks like.”
With that, she wheeled her horse round and took off, leaving the three of us staring at her; mouths agape, totally dumbfounded.
I couldn’t let this go on any longer. I hadn’t asked for any of this and whilst there were aspects that appealed to me about being Jamie, this wasn’t something of my choosing; not something I was doing for me and she knew that. For her to suddenly do a complete one-eighty and get all bitchy was completely uncalled for.
I took off after her, thumping my heels into Valentina’s flanks and getting a rather startled whinny from her as she reared up and bolted.
I was alright to begin with. To me, it was like riding a bike. Once you got the hang, you didn’t even think about it. Anyway, I’d done fine up till then and the only thing on my mind was trying to talk to Megan and straighten things out, but almost instantly, things began going pear-shaped.
Valentina went off like the clappers and it was all I could do to hang on. Suddenly the exhilaration I felt beforehand was now plain, simple panic, as whatever I took to being a gallop before was nothing compared to what the big grey mare was doing right then. She was going so fast I couldn’t keep my balance and then everything seemed to slow down - at least that’s how it felt.
I could feel myself slipping as I was being thrown around and as much as I tried to remember to grip with my knees, my heels down, the rattling I was getting on Valentina’s back just didn’t lend itself to clarity of thought.
I felt my left foot slip through the stirrup and with nothing to brace myself on that side, I began sliding round. Each time I tried with all my strength to right myself, she bunched and stretched, launching herself forward in pursuit of Megan and I slipped back to where I came from, only further.
I could see Deirdre through the blur, as she started down the slope towards me - at least I think that’s what I saw and I also think I saw Megan looking behind her at the idiot sticking out sideways from Valentina’s flanks.
My hands were sore and beginning to cramp from trying to grip the reins with all my might; my thighs and calf muscles not far behind. I thought by being a keen cyclist, I would have no problem with the ‘heels down, grip with the knees’ thing, but it seems that however much you use your muscles, using them a different way puts strains on you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
I could feel my fingertips becoming numb and could see how white my knuckles were as I hung on for what felt like hours, swinging and constantly bashing against Valentina’s ribs and shoulder. How I had managed to hang on as long as I had was a mystery.
Then it happened.
I felt the leather reins slipping from my grasp and I redoubled my efforts to hang on until Valentina decided it was time to stop, but I couldn’t and let go, seeing the last fraction of an inch, flapping about in mid air - not between my fingers as it should have been.
If I thought the last bit was in slow motion, the next bit felt like ’stop motion’ and from the corner of my eye, I could see the long strands of Valentina’s mane as it rose and fell with her movements, strong enough for me to grip on to and hopefully right myself, but it was just fractionally out of reach.
Wheeling my arms, I tried with one last ditch effort to grab something else, anything to prevent me from falling off and it was at that point that I realised that I hadn’t completely lost contact.
My foot remained through the stirrup and as I fell, I got a severe jerk down there as the stirrup strap pulled taught and my entire weight was suddenly hanging from my ankle, being jerked and thrown this way and that with every movement Valentina made. My face contorted with the sudden rush of pain and I felt my body twist. Suddenly, I was looking back at Jess and Chris who were trying to catch up.
I could see the looks of concern and fear that were obvious on their faces as they shouted something, but I couldn’t make out whether it was at each other, Megan, Deirdre or me.
It was a weird sensation - one I wouldn’t recommend - especially since it was accompanied by a blinding flash of light, which occurred about the same time as my head hit the ground.
After that, everything went black.
* * *
The first thing I noticed when I came to was there was no pain. There was some discomfort, but it wasn’t pain.
There was no grass either. In fact, there was none of that horse-cum-hay-cum-straw-cum-sea smell I remembered. That had all been replaced by one of antiseptic. I knew that smell after so many bumps and grazes on my knees, but what was it doing here?
I moved my hand, noticing almost immediately the taught skin across the back of it and something hard underneath.
I opened my eyes to find myself in what appeared to be a hospital room. I raised my hand and saw tubes coming from needles poked in under sticking plaster. In the background, I heard the sound of soft-soled shoes squeak, squeak, squeaking as they passed my door and as I continued to think and to listen, I noticed many more.
The only other place I had known that squeaking sound to happen with such regularity was in a library.
Well, the bed, the tubes, the smell - ah yes, the smell. Libraries didn’t have that smell. They smelt kind of papery, leathery and like furniture polish, not like this and anyway, how many libraries had beds in?
Yep; it certainly looked like a hospital room. At least that explained that bit, however, where was everyone?
I was trying to figure out the passage of the time, but found that although I could remember the accident and everything before it, I had no idea how long ago that had been. To me it seemed like it had just happened and that there had been no break at all between then and now.
I knew there must have been some time since it happened, because of the lack of people around me. Even if they only allowed family in to visit, Jess was missing and I’m sure Mum would have pitched up at some point. With tubes sticking out here and there, she was sure to have been worried and probably would have stayed far longer than the doctors thought she ought.
It kind of pointed to the possibility that I may have been there for some time - some considerable time. I felt very lonely at that moment and pulled the covers up, fighting back sniffles.
If where and how I found myself right then wasn’t bad enough, as I pulled on the sheet, I discovered that my boobs had been removed. I felt a distinct feeling of regret; a profound sense of loss.
I know it sounds ridiculous to hope that trained doctors and nurses wouldn’t have noticed that the two rubber blobs stuck to my chest weren’t real, but that’s what I did, just for a moment anyway, wishing they had left them where they were and that I could have said goodbye to Jamie the way I wanted to, in my own time.
However, gone they were and I was left feeling pretty despondent. I pulled the bed clothes up even further, trying to hide from…whoever - whatever, but trying nonetheless.
I was surprised - no, shocked at how I felt about giving up being Jamie. I imagined that she would just slip away like James did, I mean, she’d only been around for a week, hadn’t she? I imagined too, how all the old James-isms would return and I’d have to say goodbye to the treatment I’d begun getting used to as well.
God that was sooo depressing.
A nurse walked into the room with the almost obligatory squeaky shoes.
I have a theory about them: They are worn for two reasons. The first is plain comfort and the second is so they can’t sneak up on patients unawares. They can be heard coming along an entire corridor, so people get fair warning that they’re on their way.
The thought made me giggle - out loud too.
The nurse gave a bit of a start.
“Oh,” she said, her eyebrows raised and her eyes wide. “I’m sorry I wasn’t expecting… Um, I’d better get the doctor.”
I grinned and she smiled back as she did an about turn and headed out, the tempo of the squeaks doubling.
A thought occurred to me.
I had giggled.
I know; so what?
But it was a giggle, not a laugh.
James laughed - often too hard at things that weren’t that funny and it dawned on me there and then, that giggling was natural for me, laughing like a bloke wasn’t. Oh sure, I laughed, but when things weren’t particularly funny or just something a bit private to chuckle over, I giggled.
A few moments later, the doctor came in.
She was nice and I noticed how when she saw me, she seemed a little surprised.
“How are you?” she asked with a smile.
“A bit confused and upset,” I answered. “Where’s my mum?”
“Ah,” she replied, nodding sagely. “There was always a risk of you coming to before she got back. What say we get some tests and things out of the way first; then I can go give her a ring and we can have a bit of a chat? There’s quite a lot to talk about, you know.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“I’m afraid I can’t say - not without your parents here. They made me agree to wait.”
“So you’re not going to tell me?”
“Er,” she said rubbing her chin and looking heavenwards. Then after a pause, she shook her head and said, “No,” quite emphatically.
I giggled again and smiled, feeling a little better as this doctor really had a way of putting me at my ease. Nevertheless, I still had no idea how long I’d been there or what they’d done.
I just had to wait.
After the doctor had gone, my mind went back to the fact I had giggled - twice.
Because, that was pure Jamie.
James would never have giggled. He was very cautious not to give the other boys - or girls for that matter - any reason to pick on him. James giggling was totally out of the question.
That development was a real revelation. To me, it meant that the reason being Jamie was so easy was because I was Jamie.
James just wasn’t me at all.
James was a pain all the time. I felt that trying to do things the way others expected was difficult and as I’ve said many times, being Jamie was easy on me.
I realised that I hadn’t actually been taking on the affectations of a girl to be Jamie at all, but dropping what I had been doing to be James, which proved to me that it was James who was the imposter; the charade.
I WAS Jamie and I’d never felt better.
The question now was how I went about telling everyone that I wasn’t James, that I was Jamie and wanted to stay that way.
Oh I knew that they’d try and talk me out of it. I knew they’d try and tell me that it had only been a week; too short a time to have made a decision that would affect the rest of my life, yet I knew Jamie was who I was and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone.
The excitement rose, feeling like I was on the back of Valentina again with the wind in my face and the sensation of her bunching and stretching as she flew across the ground. I felt the butterflies fluttering about inside, that feeling like going over the edge of the precipitous drop on a roller-coaster, turning my insides up-side down.
I spent the next forty minutes just staring at the ceiling, but then a familiar voice came at me like a bullet.
“Jamie, Jamie, we thought we’d lost you!” shrieked Jess, landing on the side of the bed and engulfing me in a hug.
“Careful there Jess,” Mum said cautioning Jess not to be quite so exuberant. She came over and gave me a hug too. “How are you?”
“I’m fine - least I think I am. There was some doctor in here a while ago and she seemed to think there was a lot to talk about, but she wouldn’t because you and Dad weren’t here. So now you are; why am I here?”
“That was a nasty accident you had on - or rather off - Valentina. You got kicked pretty badly.”
“Kicked?” I asked. “I thought I just bumped my head.”
“Well, stomped on would be more accurate,” Jess clarified. “At first, yes, it was just a bump.” She looked very serious suddenly. “But when your foot came free of the stirrup, you rolled under her hooves and got stomped.”
“Wow. I never knew.”
“Probably just as well.”
Both Mum and Jess had serious expressions and I figured it was just the pain of reliving that accident with Valentina. I was glad I wasn’t awake when it happened. Getting clonked on the old noodle was bad enough.
“So how long have I been here, because I have no idea whatsoever?”
When I came to think about it, I didn’t know where I was and I sort of thought that I was at our local hospital, but then if that was the case, why hadn’t the girls come to see me?
Mum looked like she was about to answer at least about the time thing, but the door opened and in walked Dad.
“Wotcha, Squirt,” he said, his big beaming grin lighting up his face. “We thought you were gone for good.”
“Derek!” Mum said brusquely.
“Ah!” said Dad, blushing furiously and turning to Mum. “You haven’t told - ” he said covering his mouth - badly and pointing repeatedly in my direction. “Have you?”
Mum rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“Told me?” I quizzed, screwing my face up. “Told me what? I’m not stupid you know. I might have had a bump on the head, but I haven’t lost all my faculties.”
“Sorry sweetheart,” he replied apologetically.
“Derek!” Mum hissed.
So what was going on? There was something these people weren’t telling me and where were Megan and Chris?
Before either of us could get anything out, in walked the doctor whom I’d seen briefly earlier.
“Mr and Mrs Powers. Thank you so much for coming so quickly.”
“Thank you for getting back to us.”
“No problem. Would you mind coming with me. I have some questions for you.”
“Certainly, doctor,” Dad replied. “Jess, you don’t mind staying here do you?”
“I’ll be fine, Dad,” she told him with a sigh.
“Remember what we talked about?”
“Yessss, Mu-uum,” she said, closing her eyes, her face downcast.
While they were gone, Jess filled me in on what happened to Chris and Megan.
“They had to go home,” she said. “Megan was beside herself. She’s blamed herself for what happened to you.”
“It wasn’t her fault. It was me,” I said, sounding shocked.
“That’s what Mum said too - after Deirdre told her what had happened. Mum told Megan not to be so silly and to stop being so selfish, that it wasn’t your fault that things were happening.”
“So why was she being such a bitch?”
“She knew if Dad took Frank’s job offer that you’d have to stop seeing her - well, you would have, wouldn’t you?”
“Yeah, well, she decided she’d make it easy for you to hate her.”
“But I didn’t hate her, I mean I don’t - I couldn’t.”
“I know and so does she. Your chasing her on Valentina sort of proved that, which is why she blamed herself.”
“So is she; I mean, are they going to come and see me?”
“I don’t think they can get time off.”
I was disappointed. I would have thought that either one or the other, if not both would at least have popped in to say hello or something.
“So what else is new?” I asked.
Jess looked thoughtful and I wondered whether that was likely to encroach upon one of those subjects she and Mum had talked about. I wondered too whether I should tell her what I had decided, but before I could say anything, Mum, Dad and the doctor returned.
“Hi, Squirt,” Dad said quickly, which probably meant he felt uncomfortable.
“Is someone going to tell me what’s happening?”
“Okay,” said the doctor. “You were admitted nearly seven weeks ago...”
“Seven weeks?” I demanded. “What the hell’s been going on?”
“I’ll get to that - IF you’ll let me finish.”
“That’s alright. Seven weeks ago - give or take anyway, you were brought in unconscious with head injuries and one other injury where, as your sister told you, you’d been trampled by a horse.”
“Stomped,” I corrected. “By Valentina.”
“Right. Well, when we examined you, we discovered that the damage was pretty severe - severe enough to warrant surgery. It was then we discovered that it was likely you had undescended testes.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that your testicles hadn’t dropped from inside your abdominal cavity into your scrotum. When we investigated further, we discovered that you didn’t have any at all.”
I was shocked to say the least.
“We did some exploratory ’keyhole’ surgery and discovered that not only did you not have testes, but you did have something else we weren’t expecting: a complete set of female reproductive organs - underdeveloped, but there nonetheless.”
“You mean, I’ve got girly bits inside me?”
“Well, I wasn’t going to put it quite like that, but that’s approximately what it amounts to, yes.”
“So I’m a girl?”
I thought about this and tried to let it sink in, but I couldn’t quite get my head round it.
“What does that mean?”
“Well, owing to the damage the horse caused, we were either going to have to operate and remove your penis or repair it - as far as we could. We could have tried the repair, but you probably weren’t going to be able to use it for sexual relations afterwards. So we spoke to your parents about the likelihood of your internal organs developing and the dangers and...”
“You made me into a girl?”
“Yes. We started you on HRT to try and kick start your apparently dormant reproductive organs and with the surgery, we performed, you should start developing as you should have done to begin with in no time. The preliminary results are very encouraging. You won’t even have to use a stent either, as the plumbing has just been a case of rerouting, not reassignment.”
“Stent?” I asked.
“It’s a sort of torpedo-shaped thing in a variety of sizes to stretch your...” she must have seen my look of bewilderment. “Never mind, you won’t need them anyway,” she said.
I looked at Jess, who shrugged and Mum tried to look away.
“This issue of your innards may also explain why you didn’t hit puberty and I suspect there have been other things that you have been worried about that hadn’t happened or had happened as well...”
“Such as?” I asked.
“Emotions can run quite high in a girl of your age for instance, but hopefully, we caught you in time and can set you off down the right track from here. The final thing is that due to the medical condition we found you in, there was obviously a mistake back down the line and as a result, we have been able to correct your birth certificate from male to female, which should counteract any suggestion that you’re anything but a girl.”
“So you turned me into a girl?” I asked again, but it was just my mouth making sounds.
At that instant, I couldn’t stop the tears. They just flooded out and as soon as I began to cry, Mum sat beside me, trying to console me.
“We knew it was going to be hard on you...” she said soothingly.
“Hard?” I asked. “It’s not hard, it’s fantastic!”
“What?” she asked, sitting up straight, looking at me wide-eyed and shocked. “I thought...”
“That I didn’t want to stay a girl? That I wanted to go back to being James? No way. There’s a reason I found being Jamie so easy - I was supposed to be Jamie all along, that’s why. I knew it.”
“So you don’t mind?”
“Mind? I’ve been trying to work out how I was going to tell you that I wasn’t going back to being James practically since I woke up. It’s brilliant news.”
“You mean you’re not upset?”
“Far from it,” I said, the smile widening as Jess leapt at me again and engulfed me with more hugs and tears of her own.
“I only wish more people this sort of thing happens to would take it so well,” said the doctor.
* * *
My bits were all but healed and very odd. I’d never seen a girl’s bits before and this was something of a revelation.
“How am I supposed to pee?” I asked when the doctor came to examine me and remove my catheter.
“You sit down.”
“Ah, right. Got it.”
It may seem like teaching your granny to suck eggs, but don’t forget I’d never had to do any of that stuff before.
Standing in front of a mirror later, I can’t say as I was overly impressed. There was little to see - especially in the breast area. I guessed I’d have to wait till I got home before I could examine myself properly, but what I did see in that area was that my own breasts had begun to stick out a little more and were sort of conical with rather sensitive nipples.
I considered them and concluded that they were going to take some getting used to.
A few days later, I was ready to go home.
I had assumed that because Dad had been visiting regularly with Mum and Jess, we’d moved back to our area and I’d been transferred to our local hospital. I knew the holiday was long since over and while I never got to go to Aston Park, it had given me something I never knew I wanted, as well as managing to bring Jess and I together in a way I never thought possible.
“You ready, Squirt?” Dad asked.
“I think so,” I replied, scanning the room for anything I may have left - not that there was much in the first place.
“I just wanted to say goodbye,” said a familiar voice and I turned to see the doctor. “You will come back and see me if you have any problems, won’t you?”
I had developed quite a soft spot for her. I know I should have been outraged at losing my masculinity and being turned into a girl, but let’s face it, there wasn’t much there in the first place now was there? Not only that, the discovery that I should have been a girl all along was for me, and what I’d become was just the icing on the cake.
“I will and thanks.”
We hugged and the doctor shook Dad’s hand. I was sure Dad gave her a look - a look of resignation. I’m not sure he viewed the prospect of two daughters with quite the enthusiasm I thought he should have.
Outside, things didn’t look at all familiar.
“Where are we?” I asked, giving Dad the evil eye. “Is there something you haven’t told me?”
“Just wait,” he said, cryptically.
We drove for about twenty minutes and I began seeing things I thought I recognised, but due my time in hospital and the bang on the head, I couldn’t quite work out whether what I was seeing was from our home town or from holiday.
The further we went, the less I recognised and in the end I confronted Dad.
“Okay, this is not the way home. At first I thought it was the bump on the head, but now I’m sure of it. This is not the way home.”
“It is now,” Dad replied, the grin on his face unmistakable.
“You took Frank’s offer?”
“I did. I had a blazing row with the boss of my old job and told him to stuff it. Our first holiday in God knows how long and when I got there, I discovered the problem could have been fixed by anyone and then when I put that right, I got the phone call from your mum to tell me you’d had an accident and the boss said I was just trying to wriggle out of my responsibilities. I realised then that you, Jess and Mum were my responsibilities and told him to stick his job up his arse - but don’t tell Mum I told you that.”
That was another one of those things that made me giggle and Dad turned to me and grinned some more.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dad so happy. The money’s a lot less than he’s used to, but he says that Mum was all for the move. He said that she had never said anything before, but wasn’t happy with the amount of time he spent away from home and I can’t say I disagree.
* * *
Jess and I were both enrolled at a new school and whilst we don’t get to see Chris or Megan, we’re still friends. I managed to smooth things over with Megan - by email of course - and finally she accepted that my accident wasn’t her fault. Once I explained that medically it was the best thing that could have happened as it could have been dangerous, that was enough for her to calm down.
For once, Jess and I were on equal footings at school. Our being ’almost’ identical twins stood us in good stead, with the Cliffside Heroine thing getting us in with all the right people. It’s the first time I’ve been to school and not been bullied, made fun of or anything. In fact, I’m quite popular, actually.
We got new jobs too, which are fantastic. We got to work in the stables with Valentina and the other horses at the weekends with Deirdre, Frank, Mum and Dad and now the new cabins have been built, plumbed and wired, the place is ready to go. Thanks largely to the media exposure I got after the mudslide thing, they’re fully booked - despite the season coming to an end soon.
Just as a final surprise, the weekend before Jess and I started our new school, Mum and Dad took us to Aston Park. Thanks to having been in the papers, we got preferential treatment, which meant not having to queue. Jess was nearly sick on one of the rides, but being about as stubborn as a mule, she managed not to actually hurl, although she did get off at the other end as white as a sheet.
And, just to iron out whether the HRT worked, I had my first period about six months after getting home, which shocked and confused the hell out of me - and one or two members of the family too. No wonder I’d been bitchy for the week beforehand.
I don’t think Jess realised what the medical stuff actually meant and I know Dad didn’t, but there it was, large as life and twice as bad as anything that had happened before - including the accident, but that’s just one more thing I’ve got to look forward to - sorry, get used to.
Just as a final thought: I still find it hard to believe the whole thing was due to accidents. Okay, I said it was an accident at the beginning of this little tale, but instead, it was actually a series of three.
The first happened before I was born and the other two happened during the holiday, which just goes to illustrate the fact that sometimes the universe does use some pretty weird methods to straighten out its problems, doesn’t it?