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The dreaded visit by Grammy came ever with each passing day. Mum didn’t want to argue with anyone over Nikki buy she was prepared to support her daughter at all the way even if it meant a quarrel with her mother. After all Nikki was her baby and no one else’s, she’d witnessed the anguish her child had, the tears and she still had the razor and Nikki’s suicide note.
Who else had seen that, then the amazing way Nikki had blossomed when Mum had allowed her to live as she desired? There was no way Mum would entertain criticism that said letting Nikki transition was a mistake.
Ostensibly Grammy was coming to see us, it had been a while since she’d visited but we all knew the real reason was Nikki being a girl. She’d carefully expressed some reservations about it but hadn’t exactly gone against it. Nikki was afraid of Mum quarrelling with Grammy because of her and Grammy rejecting her which made her apprehensive about the whole visit. Grammy meanwhile took us by surprise and arrived a week earlier than expected and Mum was busy doing her work when the phone rang and her mother announced her arrival.
“You’re looking well Susie,” said Grammy as she hugged her daughter.
“Thank you. How’s Trish, Ben and Amanda?” asked Mum warmly.
“They are fine, they send their love,” replied Grammy.
Their journey home was filled with trivial chitchat and some catching up, both of them carefully avoiding the subject of Nikki until they got home. Over tea Grammy finally broached the matter of Nikki.
“Tell me about Nikki,” she requested gently.
“Like you know, I find out she had breasts in March and Brian and I tried to talk her into seeing a doctor,” began Mum.
Our grandmother’s expression remained the same- neutral as Mum used female pronouns to describe her child.
“She refused and withdrew from us becoming moody and staying in her room. We argued with her and told her it wasn’t normal for her to have to have breasts and I’m afraid Brian and I went overboard and said a lot of things we later regretted. Nikki thought we hated her and she avoided us for three weeks until closing day when I met her on her way to kill herself. She broke down and told me that she hated her life and being a boy. I took her home and she ran upstairs to pack all her things so she could run away but I got through to her and she poured her heart out and told me she’d hated being a boy and body since childhood. Puberty felt awful and she thought of killing herself three times but couldn’t. Then she found out about female hormones and began taking them over a year ago and she loved it, she said she felt normal for a change. There was no way I was going to force to be a boy after that day and I told Brian, Becky and Laura, all of them agreed that Nikki was different form the other boys. We changed her name to Nicole and saw a psychologist who found that Nikki has severe gender dysphoria. Basically it means she has a girl’s brain and a male body and the only treatment is for Nikki to stay as a girl or she’ll kill herself. We see her doctor once a month and she takes hormones every day and blockers once a month to alter her body to a girls and to stop male puberty from continuing. After 18 months of living fully as a girl she’ll get an operation which will change her bits to a vagina, it’s irreversible and she won’t be able to have her own children,” explained Mum as simply as she could.
“So you’ve let Nikki live as a girl since June,” asked Grammy after a lengthy silence.
“Yes and I’ve never known her to be happier,” answered Mum, “ever since she was small something always seemed off with her but I didn’t take it seriously but since we found she’s as right as rain,” added Mum.
“What if she changes her mind and decides she’d like to be a boy again?” queried Grammy.
“No problem, she has the next 13 months to do that but I’m certain she won’t do that. I’ve talked about it with her a couple of times and she assured me there was no way she’d go back to being a boy,” replied Mum with assurance.
“What do you want for Nikki?” asked our grandmother, looking squarely at her daughter.
“Mum I want the best for her. I’m convinced Nikki is a girl and I’ll do all I can to help her because it’s what’s right for her and what she wants. When she was smaller she once asked me when she would be a girl, she always behaved like Becky and Laura and has only had one male friend in her entire life. She preferred dolls and stuffed toys to toy cars and guns. She’s kept a diary since she was eight and every diary is signed Nicole not Nicholas, she loves dressing up and looking pretty and she’s attracted to boys and for Pete’s sake she wanted to kill herself! How on earth can I call her a boy after all?” responded Mum before dissolving into tears.
Grammy stood up and embraced Mum, “Don’t cry Sue,” she consoled in a soft tone.
“Gosh it’s freezing,” said Clara with a shiver as she stepped out of the taxi with Nikki.
“Tell me about it,” replied Nikki also shivering.
“I’ll race you to the door,” Clara challenged.
“You’re on,” replied Nikki before sprinting away as fast as she could in the fresh snow.
Nikki won the race, “You cheated!” complained Clara when she reached her.
“Sour grapes,” remarked Nikki as she opened the door.
They’d just got back from a geography field trip into the Cotswolds and had enjoyed themselves immensely alongside Vicky and Michelle and the rest of their class. Nikki had been glad to have Clara separated from Liam that day because the two of them had been getting closer and closer and were spending every spare second at school with each other to Nikki’s chagrin as she had to hang around waiting for her friend so they could go to class or club meetings.
She’d thought she was being unfair but she couldn’t stand Liam melting Clara’s heart the way he was and being lovey-dovey with her when he had a crueller side to him. Besides his flirting with Clara had got Nikki and Clara late by five minutes for a geo lesson the other day and they’d paid for it with extra work they didn’t need at that moment. That was part of the reason Clara was sleeping over at our place that night.
“They should let us wear trousers in this term my legs are stiff,” commented Clara as she followed Nikki in.
“Shh!” Laura instructed on meeting them in the passage.
“What’s up?” whispered Nikki.
“Grammy’s here,” replied Laura.
“What?” answered Nikki, “She was supposed to come next Friday?”
This wasn’t how Nikki would normally react at such news; she’d have rushed to wherever Grammy was to greet her now she hurried up to her room to map out a strategy.
“Oh gosh what is she doing here so early?” said Nikki worriedly, “And what on earth am I going to say to her?” wondered Nikki.
“Just be you Nikki,” advised Clara squeezing her hand.
But I’ll get out of there if she calls me Nicholas thought Nikki warily.
“Remember, wear a skirt so she’ll see how serious you are about this,” added Laura.
A few minutes later Nikki headed for the kitchen with Laura and Clara at her side. When they walked in Grammy looked up and saw her oldest grandchild looking as pretty as a picture but eyeing her apprehensively as if she was afraid of her and this fact coupled with what Mum had told her bowled her over.
“Well aren’t you going to greet me?” she asked with a smile, in the affectionate tone we loved.
Nikki went over and hugged her before kissing her on each cheek.
“Hello Grandma, how are you?” she enquired warmly.
Grammy held Nikki’s hands and looked her over before hugging her again.
“I’m fine Nicole and I’m so happy to see you,” replied Grammy affectionately, “gosh and you look lovely,” she added upon releasing Nikki.
All of us were gobsmacked; we’d expected Grammy to be displeased at the sight of Nikki looking like a girl with her long hair and girls clothes. We’d underestimated how much Grammy loved her grandchild and how glad it made her just to see her alive after the suicide scare.
“Nikki luv, I’d like to talk to you,” said Grammy after dinner was over and my sisters and Clara cleared away the dishes.
Nikki glanced at Clara and Laura nervously before giving Laura the things she’d been holding. Laura and Clara left leaving Nikki and Grammy alone.
“Come and sit down here,” Grammy invited, gesturing to a chair besides her, “good, now tell me are you happy with your life now?” asked Grammy gently.
Nicole nodded primly, “Yes I am Gran. I love being a girl; it’s like being let out of jail,” she answered frankly, “my body feels like it’s mine and I’m comfortable in my own skin for the first time,” she continued.
It was obvious Nikki was telling the truth just from the way she spoke, she showed a quiet conviction.
“You really want to be a woman no matter what? What about all the prejudice you might face in the future at work, in relationships and the like?” queried Grammy seriously.
“Being a woman is the only way I can live my life,” asserted Nikki, “and I know I might be victimized because it’s already happened at school and I lost a guy I cared about because of it but in the final reckoning I’m the person who counts most in my life and I’ve got to love myself before I can go through life and I cannot be a man and be happy even if it makes others happy. If I’m miserable what good will it do for my future colleagues and other people, charity begins at home right?”
She’s so mature thought Grammy proudly.
“What about your future family? I’m told you you’ll be unable to have your own kids?” said Grammy.
For the first time in the conversation Nikki’s face fell, she’d always dreamt of being someone’s mother because she loved kids so much. She wanted to have a relationship with her child similar to the one she shared with Mum. Her eyes filled with tears.
“I guess I’ll adopt Grandma,” she replied with a swallow, trying hard not to break down.
Life’s not fair, thought Grammy as she reached for Nikki and hugged her tight.
“It’s okay honey. I can see you mean this. You’re a girl and I love you, alright?” said Grammy soothingly, finally understanding Nikki’s situation and deeply moved by it.
“Move over,” instructed Clara later that night before snuggling into Nikki’s blankets.
“What will Liam think?” teased Nikki.
“Nothing he knows you’re my friend and if he can’t respect that then he isn’t my type,” remarked Clara.
“Oh, really? I thought he said I was a lesbian,” Nikki pointed out cynically.
“Shut up girl. You know he’s a guy and most of the guys at school are twits,” replied Clara, chuckling.
“So why are you going out with him?” asked Nikki shrewdly.
“Because I happen to be really attracted to him and he is handsome, sensitive and funny,” Clara answered with a smile.
In Nikki’s opinion most of the above was a put on, the guy was a jerk in her view, period. She suppressed a sigh and decided she would never tell Clara Liam had once bullied her.
“The guy of your dreams,” she offered neutrally.
“Yeah or I hope he is. Have you felt so right when you’re with somebody? That’s how it is with Liam and me,” said Clara dreamily.
“I have, the first time Wayne kissed me,” said Nikki tonelessly.
“Good luck to you,” she added.
“I wish you could hear yourself, you sound so bored. I know Wayne was a huge disappointment but put it behind you,” remarked Clara.
Nikki sat up, “I have Clara, I don’t cry over him every night any more but he was the first guy I ever went out with and because he hurt me so much it’s tainted my view of guys maybe forever. I do know it’ll be a long while till I fall for someone the way I fell for Wayne,” responded Nikki, “I was so naive.”
Clara sighed, “I miss that naive girl. She’s been replaced by a cynic I think, who’ll never trust her love to any boy,” she remarked.
Nikki turned away from her and lay down again very upset.
“Hey Nikki I’m sorry I didn’t mean to upset you,” Clara apologised.
“What Wayne did to me hurt very much and I was stupid to even think I could go out with him with my situation and everything. He’d have found out sooner or later and acted the same. I learnt a harsh lesson that’s why I’m a cynic and won’t date anyone till I’m okay with my body,” murmured Nikki quietly.
“I’m sorry I called you a cynic, you’re not. You’re just being cautious like anyone would,” replied Clara.
“It’s okay Clara maybe I’m being cynical about guys because of Wayne. I’ll do my best to keep an open mind from now on,”
“So tell me what your gran wanted to talk to you about? I’ve been meaning to ask you but couldn’t get you alone for hours,” Clara asked, extremely curious.
After dinner we’d all played scrabble then some bingo with Grammy making it impossible for the two friends to get a chance to talk till bedtime.
“Basically I think she wanted to find out if I was happy with being a girl,” replied Nikki, before repeating the questions Grammy had put to her and how she’d responded.
“Oh Nikki that’s wonderful,” said Clara gladly when her friend was through, throwing her arms around her.
“Uh huh to think I thought she’d disown me or something,” replied Nikki with relief.
“Impossible you’re a grandchild, she obviously loves you to bits,” replied Clara, smiling.
“Yeah maybe I was silly to think that, I’m becoming too pessimistic,” replied Nikki with a thoughtful look, “after all what’s more important my life or my gender?” she asked.
“You know what I really wish for, Nikki?” said Clara after a short pause.
“What?” responded Nikki.
“That you’d told me you were a girl. You were going through hell at that time and I was just unaware of it and I was supposed to be your friend,” replied Clara guiltily.
It seemed easier to tell Nicole this in the semi-dark than in broad daylight.
“You were my friend Clara, you kept me going with your cheerfulness and verve, keeping my mind of things,” responded Nikki softly.
“You meant so much to me it made me terrified I’d lose you if I told you how I felt,” Nikki said, holding Clara’s hand.
“It’s strange isn’t it, the first time we met in that queue I thought you were a girl and I always thought that maybe you should have been one. I mean you looked awfully pretty, walked, talked and acted like any girl and whenever you were mistaken for a girl you never got upset or tried to correct it. I ought to have guessed that was how you saw yourself. Would you have told me if I’d guessed right?” Clara mused.
“I longed so much to tell you what I was going through and I nearly did five or six times but fear held back. Losing you would have been the end,” replied Nikki, “and when we fought I thought that was it I’d lost you, mum and dad. There was no way I could have kept going, everything seemed hopeless. I thought I’d be better off dead,” she added quietly.
Tears rolled down Clara’s cheeks and the two girls hugged.
“Don’t cry Clara. I shouldn’t have doubted you, I’m sorry things turned out like that,” Nikki apologised.
“Hey at least you’re yourself now and at peace. I really love you Nikki, you’re a great friend and the sister I’ve always wanted,” responded Clara, sniffing as Nikki held her.
“I love you too girl. Now cheer up,” responded Nikki sweetly.
The rest of Grammy’s stay was an unqualified success although it didn’t heal the rift between me and my sisters. Neither of them seemed interested in burying the hatchet and this worried Grammy very much. Laura listed all the things I’d done to Nikki to explain why both of them couldn’t get along with me.
“Honestly Gran, we tried so much to get Becky to do stuff with us but she refused every time until she told Nikki to buzz off and that she wished she didn’t exist. She actually told Nikki she should have killed herself and that hurt,” she remonstrated.
Grandma sighed and turned to Nikki and me. Both of us avoided her eyes not wanting to see the disappointment reflected in them.
“Nikki, what’s the problem?” our gran queried.
“She just hates my existence that’s all. I have never tried to offend her or anything but she’s been on my case for a long time now,” replied Nikki in an embittered tone.
“Have not,” I replied quickly in self defence.
“Have too!” joined in Laura.
“Yeah gang up on me as usual,” I answered sarcastically.
“Gang up on you? You’re the one quarrelling with everybody,” shot back Laura.
Nikki said nothing.
“Who asked you?” I told Laura.
Nikki gave Gran a look saying, “You see,”
“All right stop it, both of you,” instructed Grandma calmly.
Unlike our parents she always kept her cool with us, no matter what we did which made her very influential with us. Laura and I fell silent immediately.
“Okay Becky what is the matter?” continued Grammy.
I was quiet for a while before I replied thinking how I could explain everything.
“Nothing,” I lied. Nikki looked shocked and she immediately left the room feeling very depressed.
“Becky I want to hear the truth about you and Nikki,” Grammy told me when she had me alone in her room.
I hesitated wondering what to do.
“Do you hate her?” probed Grammy gently.
I shook my head.
“Whatever it is you can tell me,” she insisted and that’s when I realised she would still love me if I told her the truth, the same way she loved Nikki.
“Grammy Nikki and Laura were right, I did tell Nikki I wish she’d died I meant it at the time because I was so jealous of her. She’s got everything, I’m awful at school but for her it’s a breeze, she’s Mum’s favourite and Laura’s as well. Mum and Dad have let her have anything she wants and our cousins adore her. At school she’s a prefect, club president, house captain and the like, all the teachers think she’s wonderful, she’s won all these trophies and Mum and Dad are so proud of her while I’ve never won a thing and they all think I’m lazy no matter how much I try. Laura’s her pal, they’re really close and I feel left out. Even my best friend doesn’t like me any more, she hasn’t talked to me ever since Nikki became a girl but she gets along with Nikki. Everyone likes her because she’s so clever, friendly and pretty and I couldn’t stand it, I was so jealous of her I couldn’t stand her being nice and I was horrid to her. She’d ask me to go shopping with her and Laura and I always refused, when she cooked I wouldn’t eat saying it was awful. When she talked to me I’d ignore her or snap at her just to hurt her. Finally I broke her perfume and we had an argument, I called her names and told her I wished she’d never been born and that she’d died. Mum and Laura were very upset and Dad grounded me, Nikki stopped talking to me and acted like I didn’t exist, she stopped being nice to me. When we got to school I was put on detention and I thought she’d done it to get even, so I, I..,” I trailed, crying.
“What did you do?” Grammy asked quietly.
“I, Nikki was going out with a boy called Wayne and she loved him a lot. So I tried to fix her by sending him a message telling him Nikki was a boy and that she was a freak getting a sex-change,” I confessed my voice choking.
“And he asked Nikki about it and she told him her problem and he dumped her. Nikki cried for a week, she was so hurt, she hardly ate or talked. I feel so guilty about what I did to her and I realised I didn’t hate her at all. She’s just a better person than me and I do want to start over with her but I know she’d never forgive me, she loved Wayne so much and I destroyed her relationship,” I finished bawling my eyes out like a baby.
Grammy hugged me but nothing could stem the flow of tears or assuage my guilt.
‘What a terrible mess,’ thought Grammy sadly as she held me.
“Becky you’ve got to tell Nikki and ask for her forgiveness, what you did was terrible,” said Grammy firmly.
“I know but I can’t. She’d hate me forever and I don’t want that. I can’t event look her in the eye any more,” I replied, distressed.
“I’ve been so cruel to her,” I moaned.
“If you don’t tell her both Nikki and Laura will continue to have nothing to do with you, things can’t get any worse than they already are, what do you have to lose?” responded Grammy sagely.
“I just can’t, how would she feel knowing I’d done that to her after everything I did to her on top of what she had to go through at school. What would the rest of them think of me?” I answered.
“Sweetie this is eating at you but thank you for telling me, sharing something always makes it less of a burden,” said my grandmother as she stroked my hair.
I pulled away from her, anxious to know if she wouldn’t tell anyone, “You won’t tell will you?” I pleaded.
“No, that’s up to you love,” responded Grammy.
“I want to make up with Nikki but I don’t want her to hate me forever. I’ve been so evil to her,”
“What nerve! I can’t believe she said that like she didn’t do the things she did of her own accord,” muttered Laura indignantly when she caught up with Nikki outside.
Nikki stopped to look at her, “Hey you’re crying,” observed Laura seeing tears on her sister’s face.
“I can’t help it Laura, she hates me because she thinks you like me more than her and you don’t do stuff with her, that’s why she said we gang up on her,” sobbed Nikki.
Laura paused, “Nikki don’t cry okay, I love you and Becky but I can’t stand the way she treats you, like you’re a stranger when you’re her sister. Besides didn’t we try to get her involved but she always refused. It’s one of our business if she wants to be like that, okay” responded Laura firmly.
“I know, I just feel guilty, it’s like I’ve stolen your affections and Mum and Dad’s and Rosie’s from her. She feels left out, I used to feel like that too but we’ve taken it differently. I hated myself while she blames me for it, no wonder she wished I didn’t exist, she thinks I’m ruining her life,” said Nikki.
Therein lay the difference between Nikki and I, she always considered others when she did next person’s point of view while I couldn’t and Laura saw that.
“Oh Nicole, don’t stress you’ve got it all wrong. You can’t steal our affections, it’s not your fault you’re a great girl and Becky isn’t and it makes her jealous. Just avoid her and stay the way you are,” Laura advised, holding Nikki’s hands before hugging her.
“You can’t blame yourself for being the way you are and people not liking it okay,” added Laura gently.
To be continued
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