By Sydney Moya
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Nikki spent the rest of that day feeling awful because she blamed herself for the Chopra’s actions. Being a girl wasn’t supposed to impact on Laura’s life like this even though she knew it couldn’t be helped. Despite how she felt it was nothing compared to how Laura felt. Nikki was older and had experienced prejudice first hand at school, from her boyfriend and me but Laura hadn’t and Nikki was sorry for her to discover it like this.
It was like being barred from being friends with Clara, visiting her or having her over and the mere thought of it made her shiver. Laura was very upset that afternoon and uncharacteristically silent during the trip from school. She’d been friends with Jasmine for nearly half her life and knew Mrs Chopra very well and it shocked her that someone could do something like that because she thought Nikki was a bad influence.
Nikki Brent of all people, the model student, child with lovely manners and a sweet disposition, how was she supposed to be a bad influence? Did they think Nikki would make Jasmine transgendered too, like that was possible, as if Nikki would ever want another person in her shoes?
When we got home she skipped lunch and went to her room.
“Why is Laura so quiet, what happened?” asked Mum, concerned.
“Jasmine’s parents told her to stay away from Laura and this family apparently we are a bad influence,” explained Nikki.
“Why? The two of them are best friends and how are we a bad influence?” replied Mum in astonishment.
“They meant me Mum, Jasmine told them about me in August and that’s when she was forbidden to come here and be friends with Laura but she couldn’t do that and she’s been keeping that a secret until we made that cake and she showed her mother. When they learnt she’d continued being friends with Laura and still came over they ordered her to stop or they’d take her to a different school,” said Nikki, sighing.
Mum and I couldn’t believe it.
“That’s not fair!” I burst out involuntarily.
Nicole looked at me shrewdly for a second probably waiting for me to condemn her before she turned to Mum again without saying anything.
“No it’s not,” agreed Mum unhappily.
“Jasmine won’t be coming back here but she said she doesn’t like it and will go on being friends with Laura no matter what,” continued Nikki, “and she said she won’t forget how nice you’ve always been.”
After that Nikki went to Laura’s room.
“Mind if I come in,” she ventured as she popped her head in.
“No,” replied Laura as she lay on her bed.
Nikki entered and joined Laura at the foot of her bed.
“Hey I know you’re upset about Jasmine. I feel like I’m to blame. My transition wasn’t supposed to do this to you, I’m sorry Laura,” said Nikki quietly.
Laura sat up and faced her sister.
“I don’t blame you Nikki, it’s not your fault her parents are prejudiced. I just hate the fact that they have to bring you in like you’re the bad influence when it’s actually them,” answered Laura.
“Don’t worry about that, I’m used to it. I get that sort of thing week in, week out. I’m just sorry that you have to experience it because of me,” replied Nikki sadly.
“Nicole, you’re my sister and I love you. If peoples prejudice is the price for you to be here I’ll pay up freely. Sister’s always stick together right?” came Laura’s reply.
“Yes they do,” agreed Nikki, very touched.
They hugged each other.
“Laura I love you so much, you mean a lot to me,” whispered Nikki emotionally as they embraced.
“I love you more Nikki and don’t ever forget it girl,” returned Laura with a smile.
“I won’t,” chuckled Nikki.
“Good because sometimes you have a very short memory Nikki,” teased Laura.
“Oh yeah, like when?” retorted Nikki.
“Like the time you tried to tell me you were a chick by leaving a mag on the table. You’d obviously forgotten that I’d never stop loving you which is why you couldn’t tell me openly although I suspected that’s what you wanted because you’d always talked about it when we were small and I never forgot it,” recalled Laura.
“I was scared,” said Nikki softly.
“Of being hated- there’s your amnesia again!” pointed out Laura.
“You told me the girls in that mag were insane and you were my last hope. When you told me that I was crushed because I’d been counting on you, if you’d said something positive I’d have told you straight away,” replied Nikki quietly.
Laura squeezed Nikki’s hands.
“Nikki I’m so sorry about that honey but I already knew what you were up to coz I’d read your diary and I’d seen all the things you’d written about you being a girl called Nicole. I only said that to find out if you trusted me enough to tell me the secret,” said Laura.
Nikki was amazed.
“You knew! Laura! Is that why you told Becky you knew I hated being a boy?” replied Nikki, stunned.
“How did you find that out?” replied Laura, also amazed.
“I overheard you talking about me after I’d had an argument with Mum about my breasts,” said Nikki.
“Oh, well I did know. I stole your diary whenever you were out because you fascinated me so much, you were so different from every boy I knew, you’d kept a diary since you were eight and never let anyone read them, you acted so differently from other people’s brothers’ so I was curious about you and I found out in your diary,” replied Laura.
“You nosy little brat,” said Nikki throwing a pillow at her sister and making Laura giggle, “I wish you’d told me you knew Laura. I don’t think I would have been angry with you because I desperately needed someone to talk to,” added Nikki thoughtfully.
“I know sis but I wasn’t sure how strongly you felt about it and I thought there was a reason you kept it secret. I only found out how bad it was when Mum told us you’d almost died. Thank God you met her before anything happened and you told her everything, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if you'd died Nikki and that’s made me realise how much I care for you,” answered Laura.
Nikki smiled, “You don’t know how cool it is to have a little sister as awesome as you,” responded Nikki sweetly.
Laura gave her a cute smile, “You’re right I don’t, all I know is you’re a fab older sister a wonderful friend and a really beautiful lady on the inside and outside,”
“I’m flattered to hear that,” replied Nikki warmly, “since I find that hard to believe sometimes,” she added.
“Why?” Laura asked all ears as usual.
“Um okay you said I’m a fab older sister yet Becky can’t stand me. I’m the one always leaning on Clara for support and look at me what beauty are you talking about?” pointed out Nikki wryly.
“Becky is jealous with a capital J Nikki! You’re nearly everything she isn’t, you’re sweet, brilliant, friendly, capable, loving it’s like you’re Miss perfect that’s why she’s always trying to put you down cause she feels inferior. Clara loves you a lot and you’ve been through a tough time so it’s only natural for you to get her support but knowing you one day you’ll return the favour.” answered Laura firmly, “Now as for beauty what do you think Wayne saw the first time he saw you?” she hedged.
That wiped the smile of Nikki’s face, hearing why I didn’t like her and Wayne, she thought of their first meeting, how shy she’d been and how attractive and fun-loving she’d thought he was.
“It suits you. I love you Nicole,” she recalled, the words before their first kiss.
Of someone who isn't even sure of their gender?”
‘I love both of them and they both hate me. Wayne I’m through with but I’ll never forgive Becky for what she said to me that day. If she can only be bitter and cruel to me why on earth should I ever be nice to her, let alone talk to her?’
‘Because you love her and she’s your sister and you wouldn’t forgive yourself if you treated her like she treats you.’
Her eyes filled with tears but she fought them back.
“Nikki what’s the matter?” asked Laura worriedly interrupting Nikki’s train of thought, “Is it something I said about Wayne?”
Nikki shook her head.
“No it’s not really Wayne. I know I’m through with him for good and it hurts less. I’ll get over him,” replied Nikki, doing her best not to sound upset.
“Good he wasn’t the one for you. I bet you’ll find someone else soon,” replied Laura, hoping to perk up Nikki.
Again Nikki shook her head, “No I’ve decided I’m going to stay single until my surgery. I don’t want to go through this again,” replied Nikki quietly
“I understand but you’re a girl, a very pretty one too. What if you meet someone irresistible and he also likes you?” enquired Laura.
“I meant what I said. I won’t meet anyone like that because I rarely go out, all the guys I’ll meet are at school and there’s no way any of them would ask me out since to them I’m just pretending,” said Nikki.
“Is that what George thinks too?” Laura questioned.
“No ways. George isn’t like that. He accepted me the day I told him he totally supports me. He is the only guy I’m friends with,” said Nikki defending her friend.
“In other words the perfect guy to go out with,” suggested Laura impishly.
“What? That won’t happen and I don’t want it to,” returned Nikki indignantly.
“Your diary says you had a crush on him,” remarked Laura gaily.
Nikki blushed, that was a secret she’d never shared with anyone except the diary she kept and had named Di.
“That’s private info!” objected Nikki.
“Is it true?” queried Laura.
“Yes I did once have a crush on George but I obviously couldn’t tell him. Still it was ages ago and I stopped feeling like that a long time back. We’re just friends and that’s how I want it to stay. I also happen to know he really loves Sammy who is also my friend and feels the same about George. I will never go out with him and you will never bring this up again, okay?” replied Nikki with a touch of impatience.
“Me thinks the lady doth protest too much,” teased Laura.
“Okay I won’t tell but I still think you’re fascinating and that you’ll fall for someone soon,” said Laura saucily.
“Oh please. Why don’t you fall for someone yourself and leave me out of it?” answered Nikki with small smile.
“I’m too young to have a boyfriend but you on the other hand aren’t and my intuition tells me you’ll fall for a great guy,” returned Laura easily.
Nikki raised her hands in surrender, “Oh I give up. What am I going to do with you?” she said in mock despair.
“Loads of thing like taking me shopping on Saturday for instance,” joked Laura.
They were still talking hours later when Mum sent me to call them down for dinner.
“Mum said it’s dinner time,” I announced after knocking and popping my head into Laura’s room when I saw them lying across her bed chatting amicably.
Laura didn’t look upset anymore being with Nikki seemed to have cheered her up immensely. They were good for each other.
I knew Nikki hadn’t forgotten what I’d done because on hearing my voice she’d looked up and she’d stopped smiling and so had Laura who’d fallen silent. We stared at each other for a second before Laura told me to leave.
“You can go now, we’ve heard you,” she said firmly and it stung. She was letting me know I was unwelcome there and it hurt because I knew then how Nikki must have felt every time I’d snapped at her, now the table were turned and Laura was giving me a taste of my own medicine. I left and tears filled my eyes as I did so.
Dad sighed when Mum finished explaining Jasmine’s story. Everything that had happened to Nikki since she’d come out weighed heavily on our parents, more than they let on to us because they felt it was their duty to shelter us from things like prejudice but it seemed like they were failing.
“Susie maybe we ought to get out of here and find somewhere else to live where no one will know Nikki and the three of them can grow up peacefully,” wondered Dad morosely.
“You know they’ll say no Brian. All of them love it here,” answered Mum imagining the reactions we’d have if we heard that.
The weeks fly away in no time and life went on as before. Nikki had recovered from being dumped by Wayne but had kept her word, she was still very single and it didn’t bother her at all. Clara had a boyfriend for the first time in over a year, his name was Liam and he was in her year at school albeit in a different set of classes.
Nikki was happy for Clara though she disapproved strongly of her choice. When they were 14 he’d lost a tennis match to Nikki and he’d tripped her over in revenge. Nikki had got a couple of bruises and had been insulted by him and his pals. At the time Nikki was alone and no one had seen the attack and she’d been too afraid to tell anyone and being Nikki she hadn’t fought back but had gone home and tried to forget it although she’d written it in her diary .
Naturally Nikki didn’t like him but he was Clara’s choice and she hoped he’d grown up since then. She recalled how excited her friend had been. It was just after her maths lesson the only one she and Clara didn’t share.
“Nikki,” she’d said grabbing her arm.
“What?” replied Nikki, clearly confused.
Clara dragged her to her bathroom made her open the door and then shut it behind them.
“You won’t believe this,” Clara informed her, bursting with excitement.
“Okay I won’t. Tell me what it is?” queried Nikki full of suspense.
“Somebody asked me out, I’ve got a date,” squealed Clara.
“Oh wow that’s great!’ exclaimed Nikki throwing her arms around her buddy.
“Thanks but I haven’t told you who it is,” answered Clara happily.
“Yeah who is it?” replied Nikki a bright smile on her face.
“Liam Miller,” said Clara breathlessly.
Instantly Nikki remembered the inter-house match and getting tripped, “You stupid fairy, watch it,” he’d said before his friends laughed.
“So what do you think?” asked Clara expectantly, not noticing Nikki’s agitation and her weakened smile.
With an effort Nikki smiled once more, “It doesn’t matter what I think. Do you like him?” she asked gently.
“Yes I’ve liked him for ages,” confided Clara softly.
“Congrats Clara,” said Nikki before hugging her pal.
Clara looked so happy she couldn’t bear to tell her what she thought of Liam and for the first time in months she hid her inner feelings from her friend.
At home Nikki still wasn’t talking to me; she simply avoided me and acted like I didn’t exist. This was worse than her speaking to me rudely and being short with me because she wasn’t trying to hurt me instead she was doing what I’d been telling her to do- minding her own business and avoiding further quarrels. Because of her personality she would never hate me or stoop to my level and treat me the way I’d treated her, she just used the same tactic she’d learnt at school, ignore a fool to avoid trouble and it was painful to be receiving what I’d asked for with all my guilt.
To worsen things Nicole had told Mum and Dad to give me back the allowance I’d lost to replace her perfume saying she didn’t want a bottle of perfume bought unwillingly.
“I don’t want it, give it to her since she wanted my perfume that badly,” she told Mum.
“Nikki..,” returned Mum.
“No Mum, how will I feel something bought unwillingly?” interjected Nikki.
“So are you telling me you won’t touch it because it was bought with Becky’s money?” queried Mum.
“Yes, it wasn’t bought with her own free will. She isn’t sorry about what she did so why should I take it?” asked Nikki.
“You’re not planning on forgiving Becky are you?” asked Mum in a sad voice.
“Why should she? Becky isn’t even sorry,” answered Laura.
“She’d rather see me dead Mum,” replied Nikki emotionally before rushing to her room, fighting back the tears.
“Nikki!” called Mum, also upset.
“Susan, let her go. She’ll work this out,” advised Dad quietly.
Meanwhile Nicole kept her distance from Liam while he ignored her as much as possible. In Clara’s presence she’d force herself to say a constrained ‘hi’ to Liam before extricating herself from the two of them but she never talked to him in Clara’s absence. Liam could tell Nikki disliked him and he knew the exact reason. He wondered if Nikki would do her best to influence Clara against him.
“So are your friends happy we’re going out?” he asked Clara off hand during a date.
“Yeah why shouldn’t they?” responded Clara fondly, “I was the only single one left until Nikki broke up with her boyfriend a few weeks back. She was the happiest of them,” she added.
Liam did his best not to gasp in surprise at the fact that Nikki had been seeing someone and that she’d been happy.
“Boyfriend? Everyone says she’s gay,” he replied in disbelief, “a lesbian,” he added.
“What did you just call my friend?” said Clara angrily not liking the whole idea of people talking about her buddy behind her back.
“Look no offence I’m not the one who said that, it’s just what people at school are saying,” replied Liam apologetically.
“Which people?” queried Clara, still flaring.
“The guys mainly,” answered Liam.
“Their twits, why can’t they just leave Nikki alone, she has never harmed any of them but all they want is to give her a hard time. Nikki isn’t a lesbian, she likes guys like I do but I’m not surprised she doesn’t like any of the boys at school when they’ve treated her so badly,” declared Clara.
Liam just avoided squirming in his chair.
“So you’re real good friends then?” he responded for lack of anything better to say.
“Better than that, she’s my homie, a once in a lifetime friend. She’s got my back and I’ve got her. I love her like a sister,” replied Clara with conviction, “I met her on my first day of high school and we’ve been friends ever since. I’ve never met a gentler, kinder more loving person than her,” she finished warmly.
Liam was shocked and a bit ashamed. He was also concerned Nikki might tell Clara what had passed between them and it might scuttle their relationship before it had really begun.
He cornered Nikki after Maths, a lesson they learnt in together by waiting until everyone besides Nikki had left because she wasn’t rushing to another lesson. When Nikki walked out he approached her.
“Eh, hi Nicole,” he said in greeting.
“Hi Liam,” responded Nikki coldly, wondering what on earth he wanted from her.
They had nothing in common besides going to the same school, being in the same class and liking Clara.
What on earth does she see in him? I know he is good looking but inside, yuck! Nikki thought.
“Um look,” started Liam uncertainly as Nikki’s eyes drilled into him and she stood impatiently, loathing him with every fibre of her body.
She wasn’t the same insecure, unhappy kid she’d been three years ago.
“I know you and Clara are good friends..,” Liam was saying when Nikki cut in,
“What do you want Liam? The last time you wanted to talk to me you tripped me and insulted me so I think I’m the last person you can come talk to about Clara,” she said vehemently.
“About that, can’t we put the past behind us,” offered Liam.
Nikki was aghast, “You treated me like dirt and now because you’re going out with my friend you want me to forget that, why?” asked Nikki, “Is it because you’re scared I’ll tell her you were a bully?” asked Nikki shrewdly.
The expression on Liam’s face was answer enough.
“Well don’t worry. Clara likes you and it’s not my place to show her what a jerk you are. I would never destroy someone’s relationship,” said Nikki sharply before walking away.
To be continued.
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