and start to have a social life
or, how I got my first job
by Louise Anne Smithson
Establishing a social life
I’d been fairly confident that Mum was going to accept me as Emily for the time being, largely due to the positive emails which I’d received from her over the last two weeks, but two results of our meeting had taken me by surprise. First of all I’d assumed that she would not want me to leave school, and that I’d have to revert to being Chris at the end of the holidays, and begin a gradual process of trying to persuade her over a period of time. Secondly, the idea of our moving away from our present home in Eastbourne to Shrewsbury had just been a pipe dream, which I formed when I began to have so much fun as Emily. I never thought that she would even consider the idea. Yet she had agreed to both my suggestions and, almost without giving the matter much thought, I had committed myself to remaining as Emily for an indeterminate period stretching into the autumn, and beyond. I had no doubts that it was what I wanted, but I now wondered how I was going to explain these plans to Aunt Carol and my cousins. How they would react to the news? How would they feel about us moving to Shrewsbury? They were bound to ask me, and in any event would soon find out from Mum. Then there was the additional complication of Rob. He was bound to have read my email and know about me by now; how would he react to the news?
Before taking the shuttle from the Airport to Birmingham International Station for my train to Shrewsbury, I bought half an hour on an Internet terminal and checked my email. There was a message waiting for me from Rob, which I opened with some trepidation. It was short and to the point.
Your email came as a total surprise. I had absolutely no idea! I don’t know what to think at present, but I will contact you when I get back to Shrewsbury next Sunday.
I think that was about as good as I might hope for. At least he hadn’t seemed to be angry or accused me of tricking him. I responded
Sorry for having shocked you, but it was only fair that you should know. Take as long as you need, and only get in touch if you want to.
At least I’d made it clear that I was still interested, everything else was in his hands.
The first train to arrive at Birmingham International was an express which went through to Wolverhampton. There were a good number of seats vacant once the airport passengers had left and so I was able to sit on my own occupying two adjoining seats, without any difficulty. I tried to read one of Clare’s magazines but in reality spent most of the time going through the events of the last two days in my mind and trying to make sense of my feelings. Things were now moving so quickly, it was as if I was in a boat being carried along in a torrent. Yet I was not frightened; if anything I was feeling exhilarated by the experience.
Once at Wolverhampton, I found out the likely time of my arrival at Shrewsbury and telephoned Aunt Carol to let her know that I was on my way home. She offered to collect me from the station.
‘Thanks. I was intending to take a bus, but it’ll be hard work to walk to the bus station in these heels and with my luggage.’
‘Clare and I have to do some shopping, so we’ll be taking the car into town. I suggest you telephone me again when you arrive and I’ll tell you where you can find us.’
An hour and a half later I was sitting in a coffee bar in Shrewsbury with my cousin and my aunt, having just deposited most of my luggage in the car. I handed over their respective gifts.
‘Mum also bought me a rather cute yellow dress for my birthday, I’ll show it to you when I get home,’ I said.
‘So you’d better tell us how you got on then,’ instructed Carol.
I shrugged, not knowing quite what to say.
‘Mum was pleased to see me and we spent an enjoyable evening together at the airport hotel,’ I answered.
‘Of course she was pleased to see you, but what did she say about Emily?’ Carol asked.
‘She seemed to cope quite well with the idea of having a daughter and wanted to know the full story. She asked me about my plans for the future, but in the end accepted that Chris had been depressed and how much happier I was as Emily. She was quite relaxed about things continuing as they are until she gets back at the beginning of September,’ I answered.
‘And then what?’
‘She’s talking about moving away from Eastbourne to somewhere cheaper, where she could set up her own studio. I suggested moving to Shrewsbury.’
‘That’d be nice if it did ever happen,’ said Carol.
‘She’s asked me to look out for suitable premises in the local Estate Agents and send her the details,’ I continued.
‘But what’s going to happen about you and your longer term future?’
I looked her in the eyes and did my best to sound confident and relaxed.
‘Mum has agreed to let me continue living as Emily at home for a while as long as I continue studying for my ‘A,’ levels at the same time. Mum has even offered to employ me part-time,’ I answered.
‘So you really are determined to remain as Emily,’ she said.
‘For a few months at least,’ I answered.
‘And then what?’
I shrugged my shoulders.
‘Ultimately I’ll have to decide what I want to do with my life and whether it’ll involve Chris or Emily. At the moment I’m having a great time exploring the options for Emily.’
Clare came to my rescue.
‘Good for you, Emily,’ she said, ‘are you going to tell Jenny and my sisters the good news?’
‘I suppose I’ll have to, now that you both know,’ I replied.
We finished our coffee and made our way back to their car.
‘Mum, can I organise a special tea with a cake to celebrate Emily’s birthday on Saturday and also the beginning of her new life,’ asked Clare.
‘I suppose so, as long as you’re prepared to make the necessary arrangements and clear up afterwards.’
Who will be coming?’ I asked.
‘Just my sisters, Jenny and our various boyfriends,’ she replied.
‘Will that be alright with you Emily?’ Carol asked.
‘I’m not sure,’ I said. ‘Jim and Daniel are ok as they already know about me, but I don’t know about the others.’
‘Come on Emily, you can’t live in an all female shell all summer. You need to learn how to interact with guys as well. In any event, it’ll give us both a chance to meet Jenny’s new boyfriend.’
‘Can we trust him to keep my secret?’
‘I hope so, but who could he tell that’d have any effect on you?’
‘The Shrewsbury Chronicle, or perhaps even The News of the World’ I suggested, ‘in which case I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to show my face again in this town.’
‘I don’t think you would be that much of a celebrity these days, unless, of course, you did something truly outrageous. But if you’re worried Jenny and I’ll swear him to absolute secrecy, on pain of perpetual banishment from our friendship.’
‘Alright but you’d better also explain to Geoff about me in advance so that he doesn’t freak out at the party.’
‘He already knows, apparently Rob phoned him to ask if he knew about you when he received your email. Geoff and I spoke about you last night; he was surprised by the news as well but in the end was quite relaxed about your situation.’
‘In that case you’ll need to check who’s working on Saturday evening first of all,’ I answered, feeling a little stunned by Clare’s revelations.
‘I’ve already done so and everybody is free,’ she answered.
Carol left us to go to pay at the parking kiosk.
‘Emm, would you mind if I also invited Rob as well now he knows all about you?’ asked Clare.
‘I wouldn’t mind but I don’t think he’s planning to come back to Shrewsbury until Sunday, and in any event I can’t see him wanting to come when everyone else but me will be coupled up.’
‘I did try to get him fixed up with Jenny, but it came to nothing. I get the impression that he really likes you,’ she said.
I blushed, and tried not to let myself think the possibility.
‘Perhaps he did before he knew about my background.’
When I got home I handed over my mother’s gifts to Karen and Anne and told them about my plans for the autumn. They both professed themselves pleased for me but neither seemed particularly surprised by my intentions. They also confirmed that they would be happy to join me in a birthday tea at 6.00 pm on Saturday together with their boyfriends. Everybody in the house apart from me had made plans to go out for the evening, but I welcomed the opportunity to stay in unpack my clothes and reconsider the implications of my recent meeting with my mother. I also continued my investigations on the internet. For the first time I began to think about the implications of a permanent transition to Emily.
Joyce had arranged a very full schedule of work for the three of us for the remainder of the week, beginning soon after breakfast and sometimes not finishing until ten at night, although we did of course have meal breaks. As a result I would be able to complete nearly a full-weeks work by Friday evening. As we were returning to the kitchens after work on Wednesday she called me over to her office to pay my wages which were due.
‘I understand that you’ll be sixteen on Saturday Emily.’
I confirmed that it was so.
‘Well this is just to thank you for being such a hard working waitress over the last three and a half weeks and to hope that you will stay on for as long as you’re staying in the area.’
She handed me my wages due together with a card that contained a £30.00 Boots voucher.
‘Thank you so much Joyce, I’m really pleased that you took the risk in employing me,’ I answered, and I hope to be staying until my mother returns to the UK at the beginning of September.
‘I’m glad that we did as well,’ she said.
On Saturday morning I came down to breakfast to find that there were seven cards and a gift-wrapped parcel, all addressed To Emily, waiting for me on the table. I wasn’t really expecting anything more than a few cards. However, my two elder cousins and their respective boyfriends had clubbed together with Clare and Jenny in order to buy me a lightweight summer jacket that had clearly been chosen with my new dress in mind. There were also girly cards from my granny and aunt, my three cousins (each one also signed by their boyfriends), Jenny, and, somewhat to my surprise, even one from Rob.
I just had time to thank everyone before Karen and Anne left for work. Aunt Carol was also busy that day, but Clare and I only had a small job to do at lunchtime which would only involve a couple of hours. We went into Shrewsbury together a little earlier than was needed. Clare had to collect my birthday cake and I wanted to call into Boots to buy myself a new lipstick, some more nail varnish to go with my new dress, and some smellies using Joyce’s voucher.
‘Have you spoken to Rob about me?’ I asked as we sat together on the bus.
‘Yes, I told him it was your birthday today and invited him to join us tonight, but only after you said I could.’
‘What was his reaction?’
‘He said he’d been surprised by your news, but he didn’t freak out or anything. He told me that he was amused that he’d been so taken in and glad that things hadn’t gone any further between you. He wasn’t sure whether or not he could come tonight, due to family commitments.’
I felt a combination of relief and disappointment by what she said.
‘I always assumed that any guy would look down upon me once he knew.’
‘I don’t see why that should be so, girls are far superior beings to boys and so it’s perfectly understandable for you to aspire to be one. In any event, nobody could possibly look down on someone as attractive as you.’
‘That’s kind of you to say so.’
‘No, I’m being quite serious, pretty young girls like you can have plenty of power over men, if only they learn how make full use of it.’
I blushed, and was pleased that there was nobody sitting near to us who might overhear our conversation.
‘So how do I learn how do use this power?’ I asked.
‘Just use your instincts. It’ll partly come with confidence in the way you look, which you’re gradually beginning to achieve. If it feels right then it probably is. Above all, remember you’ve nothing to be ashamed of or to apologise for. If other people are unable to deal with the way you dress then it’s their problem not yours.’
‘I suppose you’re right. Do you think I should ring Jenny to tell her to warn her new boyfriend about me,’ I said.
‘He already knows, I told her to tell him when you said I could tell Rob. He is also kewl about the idea and is looking forward to meeting you.’
‘My goodness, this little tea party is going to be quite – um make that very - stressful for me.’
‘If you look as good as you normally do, then you’ve nothing to worry or feel awkward about,’ she said. ‘What’re you planning to wear?’
‘I thought I’d wear the yellow dress that Mum gave me, Granny’s jewellery, the coat that you bought me, and the watch and perfume Aunt Carol gave me. That way everyone will be represented,’ I replied.
‘Good, and make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to fix your hair and makeup. Remember that I’ll be doing all the arrangements this afternoon, your job is to come in looking totally gorgeous.’
‘Alright, Miss Bossy,’ I said laughing, but just a little disappointed that Rob wouldn’t be there.
I followed Clare’s advice once we finished work. I had a long soak in a perfumed bubble bath, making sure that my legs, arms and armpits were completely smooth. Finally I devoted an hour and a half to getting myself ready to meet my friends.
(Next time My birthday tea, and aftermath.)
With thanks to Angharad for her help in editing.
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