I went back upstairs and had a go at my hair again. Nothing going, it simply refused to look feminine and I learnt the hard way what 'bad hair day' meant. I was close to tears when I gave up and nearly cried out for Mum to help me out but my pride objected so I turned to comfort food and a few good movies and spent my first full day as a girl in my bed eating cookies with copious amounts of milk while watching the DVD’s I'd collected and alternately wishing I hadn't been born XY or at least had a little sister.
Basically I was utterly miserable. Not exactly what I'd had in mind.
That evening I decided that the problem was the atmosphere at home. It wasn't exactly beneficial to my cause so I begged Pete to let me spend the day in his apartment and he agreed. I was wearing a pink top and denim skirt with my feet in low heels and clutching a goody bag with all my toiletries and my laptop when he and Myra turned up in the morning.
“Please don't laugh I know I look pathetic but if you laugh I'll burst out crying,” I moaned as Pete shook in his seat with barely repressed laughter and tried not to grin too much.
“Stop it Pete! Your voice sounds lovely Charlene and for a start you look okay. You just need extensions and a bit of make-up,” said Myra kindly.
She'd called me Charlene and was being so sweet. My eyes filled with tears.
“Thanks, could you help me out?” I replied.
“I'd love to,” said Myra and she came over to the back and we rifled through my bag.
She made a list of stuff to get for me and then set about examining my hair to see what shade of extensions would go with my hair. Pete had looked at us amazed at our girly chatter and the sound of my voice which he hadn't heard as I hadn't used it till that morning. He drove us to his place while the pair of us conferred in the back seat.
“Pete I thought Charlene was your buddy. How could you do that?” said Myra angrily once they'd left me at their flat.
“Do what?” said Pete confused.
“Laugh you twit. She was really close to tears you know,” retorted Myra, “Put yourself in her shoes for a second. Imagine how hard things are for her without her best friend laughing at her,” she added.
“Looked funny, sorry,” mumbled Pete.
I spent that day pretending I was at work and meeting clients. I wasn’t confident enough to venture outside so I stayed in the whole day waiting for Myra and Pete to come back from work and trying to look at the bright side of things and doing a better job of it than the previous day. When my friends came I felt much better and had put my culinary skills to good use by making a sumptuous dinner which earned me a big smile from Myra
“How come you're such a good cook and Pete is hopeless?” laughed Myra.
I just shrugged remembering that it was thanks to me having been Mum's kitchen helper and messing about in there with Ellen.
“You did a great job kid. If you ever feel like leaving your job I’ll hire you,” Pete teased.
After dinner Myra and I went to work with the make-up she'd bought for me- step by step she showed me how to apply make-up from cleansing my face to the foundation to the eye shadow and variations depending on the setting and time of day. It was fascinating and when we were through I was very pleased with the final effect. Myra told me to practise at home.
“Thank you so much!” I said gratefully.
“Don't mention it okay,” she told me. “Now,” she said eyeing my face critically, “about your hair. Hmm, how about we go to this place I know on Saturday?” replied Myra.
“Whatever you say,” I agreed happily, thankful for her going out of her way to assist me.
I spent the next few days at their flat going back home in the evenings. I was very grateful for the use of their home since it gave me the chance to practise with nobody giving me funny looks if I messed up. I worked on my make-up skills, moved around in heels and generally built up enough self-belief to begin to think that barring my hair I might not be a complete disaster after all when I returned to work. Besides I’d always looked more like a girl than a boy, I just needed a bit of help to look like a woman my age.
Saturday dawned bright and hopeful although I was terrified about going out into the world as a girl. I spent ages trying to get myself ready for my first outing; all my self-belief seemed to have ebbed away overnight. It didn't help matters when I met Jo downstairs with Rhys my two year old nephew and Mum looking at me like I was insane. I ignored the looks and greeted them cordially because there's no point in showing self-doubt before one's detractors. Instead I ate a tiny breakfast and waited for Myra to rescue me.
Once in the car I let my anxieties assail me. I wondered if they’d serve in the salon or hound me out the minute I showed up.
“No. The owner is a pink guy and they serve all sorts happily,” said Myra with certainty, “It’ll be okay Charlene. You do want to look good right?” she added.
“Great. I promise you won’t recognise yourself,” she said with a smile.
When we got there Pete stayed in the car playing with his phone while Myra whisked me off to my salvation. Inside the people at the counter treated us warmly and directed us to a guy they said was called Ivan.
“Hi ladies,” he greeted when as we reached him.
I wondered who the other lady was, then smiled when I realised he meant me before I frowned thinking he was having me on seeing as I wasn’t anywhere near looking like a lady let alone a girl.
“Hi,” we chorused.
“I’ve got a problem with my hair. It’s too short and I can’t wait for it to grow,” I explained.
“No problem. Take a seat and let’s get started,” he replied cheerfully.
Satisfied I was in safe hands Myra left to do her own hair while Ivan got to work on my extensions. He was really chatty telling me I had a lovely face and how pleased I was going to be when he finished. His manner was so reassuring I found myself readily telling all about myself and how I was supposed to go back to work that Monday and my fears that I’d look ghastly.
He understood and was sympathetic.
“Only the first few weeks are tough but if you get the right look at the beginning it’s easier. And you’re lucky, you have a lovely oval face and a pert nose so you don’t look like a guy,” he replied before giving me loads of handy advice about the look I should aim for and how to get it.
Steadily my hair lengthened as he deftly added the extensions to my existing mop. Before I knew it he was done and I was the proud owner of a blond mane that swept past my shoulders. It looked so nice!
But that was only the beginning; he started styling my hair after that. I was just thrilled and just managed not to fidget as he magicked my hair into something incredible.
“Voila!” he exclaimed, twirling my chair my chair in front of the mirror.
I gasped when I saw Charlene looking at me. She was awesome.
I was mesmerised, I had gorgeous blonde hair in a wavy style.
“Thank you,” I gushed, “it’s wonderful!” I exclaimed.
I searched the handbag I’d borrowed from Myra and gave him a twenty which he turned down under the pretext that he’d had fun working with me and only hoped I’d do well on Monday and that I’d become a regular.
I thanked him profusely and promised to come back.
He gave me instructions on how to maintain my hair and the stuff to use on it before steering me towards the nail parlour where I had a manicure and pedicure followed by a facial. I loved it and Myra was especially pleased,
“I told you you’d look great,” she purred.
I felt like a totally new woman when we left.
Pete was at a loss for words when we climbed into the car and Myra presented me as Charlene Cross.
“Wow, you are a girl,” he finally said.
I beamed at him.
We went shopping for work clothes, accessories and shoes after that. I discovered that ladies clothes are cheaper than men’s clothes but as you need more of them they became more expensive in the final reckoning. We bought nine different outfits to start with but Myra made sure they were all interchangeable so I would be able to mix and match them for variety. Getting me a handbag was a cinch as we were now on a roll and having a ridiculously good time buying things.
Finding me nice ladies shoes for my size seven and a half feet was easy and I was thankful for small mercies like not having size 11 or 12 feet.
Pete who was tagging along with us said as much while adding that he’d never known I harboured a passion for shopping as we hauled the bags to the car.
“That’s coz I hated buying guys clothes and it would make me depressed but now..,” I explained.
We had a cosy lunch with Pete picking up the tab saying he was worried about my financial future seeing as my shopaholic instincts had surfaced!
Unfazed Myra and I went on another round where we got earrings, hair clips and then casual clothes. We wound up our shopping spree because Pete was getting jittery about missing his football teams’ game and we drove home at top speed and I thanked Myra profusely but she told me it was nothing and she’d do it again any day.
But it was something. Myra will always have my gratitude for how she helped me take my first few steps as a woman and making the difference between me looking like a guy in drag and a decent looking girl. I will always be in debt to her and won’t ever forget her help.
I was all smiles when I floated into the living room and was greeted by Jo and Mum’s looks of stunned disbelief.
“Hello Mum, Jo,” I chirped loving how surprised they were with my appearance.
Rhys, my two year old nephew didn’t recognise me. I opened the shopping bags and handed him a teddy bear and a toy car which I’d bought for that exact moment. I’ll admit it was a bribe but I didn’t care.
He said, “Thank you,” but it came out as, “Tankyou,” as he smiled. It had worked.
I turned to Mum who wasn’t easily bought.
“Remember I told you. I’m getting my name changed next week. If you and Dad want to give me a second name I won’t mind,” I told her.
“What are you going to be called?” asked Jo curiously.
“Charlene,” I replied.
Jo gazed at my hair then the rest of me all the way to my now lovely feet. She looked impressed against her will but didn’t dare say so in front of Mum.
“So you’re going ahead with this?” said Mum.
It wasn’t really a question more an expression of frustration.
“Yes I am,” I said happily.
“What about your job? What will they say?” said Mum, trying and failing to reason with me.
“Nothing, I told Mr Smith on Monday and he said the agency had no problem with me being a woman so he gave me one week leave to fix everything,” I told her before picking up my things and going upstairs.
I went back downstairs to make myself a cup of tea and Jo found me there. Mum had taken Rhys and gone next door to chat with her old friend Mrs Dalny no doubt about me.
“Umm,” she began hesitantly, “where did you get your makeover?” she asked, curiosity overwhelming embarrassment.
I told her the place.
“How much did it cost?” she went on.
I couldn’t remember but said I thought it’d been worth it.
“Yes you look awfully nice,” she said warmly.
“Thanks,” I said with a big smile.
“I owe you an apology for not taking you seriously and thinking you’re crazy when you’re not. You wouldn’t be going through all this unless you really wanted it so I’m sorry,” she offered.
“That’s fine Jo,” was all I could say.
I was too happy to think up anything else.
“Charlene, Charlene,” she repeated, rolling around my name on her tongue, “it suits you,” she offered.
“I picked it when I was six and it’s sort of what I always thought I should have been called,” I replied.
“Six? So you thought you were a girl by then?” asked Jo amazed.
“Yes I knew it even before that when I started pre-school. I noticed that I preferred playing with the girls and playing house but not the games boys liked and I figured that I couldn’t be a boy and that I was supposed to be a girl. I told Mum and she said not to be silly but I still didn’t want to be a boy and being a child I thought some fairy godmother would help me out sort of like Cinderella. When I went to school all my friends were girls and my best friend was a girl called Ellen and she believed I wasn’t a boy either and we’d spend ages playing with her dolls or dressing up in her clothes or her sister’s. It didn’t change as I grew older instead it only became worse. You won’t believe how awful it feels to go through puberty as a boy when you think you you’re a girl and discover that you like guys but they’ll never like you and not know what to do about it. I think I’d have killed myself if it hadn’t been for Ellen being there for me. When she moved away I felt lonelier than ever and I honestly wished I was dead. I made friends with Pete and took my frustrations out on my books while trying to be a boy and forcing myself to forget how I felt. It worked for a while but deep down I knew I was lying to myself and I only wanted to be a girl more than ever.
The rest you know- I started drinking to ease the pain I felt and if I wasn’t drinking I was drowning myself in my work. My drinking spiralled out of control and Mum and Dad told me to get help. The psychologist told me I could either go on denying who I was and eventually kill myself or I could accept that I had a female brain and stop living a lie and I accepted it.
I don’t want to die or to go back to how I was 2 months ago and being a girl feels normal, it’s like I’ve left jail especially today,” I finished on a happy note.
“Oh my goodness, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry Charlene. I had no idea,” Jo apologized looking horrified at my life story.
I was touched, “Look it’s okay Jo,” I replied kindly, “my life’s back on track now so don’t worry about the past,” Jo nodded and offered to help me.
“If you need anything or you want to talk just say so,” I told her.
I would and asked her about hair products. Soon we were chatting away like old friends and I had the sister I’d longed for, my first ally at home.
Dad’s reaction to my new look didn’t show. He didn’t gasp, show surprise or say a word. He just took one look at me and went back to his paper but then again Dad had always been a man of few words and he probably guessed it wouldn’t make a difference if he criticised me. Good old Dad!
He preferred his peace and quiet to noisy arguments. Wills takes after Mum I suppose because when he came in the following day and saw me in a skirt with long hair totally changed from the last time he’d seen me he was aghast, “Charlie! What on earth’s gotten into you?” he demanded.
“It’s Charlene not Charlie and I told you I’m transgendered meaning I don’t want to be a guy,” I replied patiently.
“You mean to tell me you actually believe that bull your shrink gave you as the cause of your drinking?” he retorted.
“It’s not bull it’s the truth,” I answered calmly.
“Gosh, you need serious help! You, a woman? Lord help us,” he said which hurt but I didn’t let it show.
“Whatever. It’s my life so you can think whatever you want,” I replied indifferently before turning my attention back to my coffee and laptop.
Wills glared at me before shaking his head and leaving me to my devices. I was rather hurt by his attempt to ridicule me but I vowed not to let it get to me especially as I might get similar treatment at work.
To be continued.
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