So I continued to live my double life – Mandy by day and Estelle by night. I was young and so managed the long hours I worked some days without too much trouble. I kept in touch with my mother and sisters, and occasionally travelled north to visit them, although I confess my visits there always brought up memories of Tom, and I just wished I knew what he was doing. I was so glad he didn't know what I was doing, as I still harboured a fantasy that some day we would be together once more. Meanwhile my savings kept growing.
Each month I went to visit Dr Brentwell, and he expressed satisfaction with my progress. My testosterone level was down to the very low level of a female, and with continuing hair electrolysis and the effect of the oestrogen, I could see steady progress in my journey to becoming a woman. As far as Dr Brentwell was concerned, I was working purely as a typist. I did not think it necessary to mention my 'after hours' work which although it was part-time was earning me nearly twice as much as my day job.
Like many of the girls at the parlour, I found I was acquiring a small group of 'regulars' who asked for me by name. Miss Betty was pleased, saying it showed how much satisfaction I was giving to these men. It surprised me how many of them were married. They did not always tell me this, but the indentation caused by a removed wedding ring was too obvious not to notice. Perhaps they felt that because they were seeing a non-genetic female, they were not being as unfaithful as they would have been had I been born female? That's my theory anyway and perhaps I am totally wrong.
During a break between clients one day, Chloe informed me that a regular client had booked both of us in a few day's time. “He enjoys watching two girls like us together.” she said “Do you have a problem with that?”
I was a little surprised but answered “Not at all.” By now I was inured to almost anything that might be required of me, and after all I had no boyfriend to hide it from, so why should I care? Anyway I had wondered what sex would be like with another t-girl.
“I'll go through with you what's expected later. By the way, he can be very generous.” said Chloe, but in fact neither she nor I had time that evening.
When I got back to the apartment around 2.30am, her bedroom door was shut so I assumed she was already asleep. I was sitting at my dressing table, in my night dress and brushing my hair when there was a gentle knock on the door.
“Come in” I said, and Chloe appeared in the doorway. She was wearing a diaphanous night dress that left nothing to the imagination and her voice was low and huskier than normal.
“We didn't finish our conversation today,” she said. “In fact I thought that rather than describe what the client expects, it might be better to show you.”
She advanced into the room and I felt my heart beating faster. I suppose you could describe what we had as almost lesbian sex – it certainly didn't feel like two men together. Both our bodies were smooth, soft and hairless, and we spent much of the time kissing and caressing each other before we advanced to greater intimacies.
When I awoke in the morning, Chloe had gone back to her own room sometime during the night, and I was in a hurry not to be late for work. The previous night still felt something like a dream. Did she really mean all those things she had said, or was it all part of the act we were to put on for the rich client?
Chloe was right about the client. He just sat there watching as we went through a routine similar to what we had done together at the apartment, occasionally urging us on and saying words of encouragement, while stimulating himself with his hand.
When we finally finished, he got up and said “Thank you ladies. That was very err... entertaining.” Then he opened his wallet and left $200 on the little table “In token of my appreciation.” he said as he left the room. Chloe had been right – he was generous.
In those days before email, I kept in touch with my mother and sisters by writing letters. The telephone was far too expensive unless it was an emergency. Thus it was that they knew the address where I was living, One evening the doorbell rang, I opened it and was shocked to see my sister Bessie standing there.
“Hello Mandy, I thought I'd surprise you!” she said cheerfully. She wasn't wrong there. At that precise moment Chloe came wandering down the hall behind me. She was working that evening, so she was dressed in black lingerie that left little if anything to the imagination. I knew my face was puce as I stumbled over introductions.
“Err Chloe, this is my sister Bessie. Bessie, this is Chloe my flat-mate.”
“Hi Bessie, it's nice to meet you.,” said Chloe with a bright smile. I had to hand it to Bessie. Her eyebrows only went up a millimetre as she responded “It's nice to meet you too.”
“Come down to the kitchen and I'll make you a cup of tea,” I said to Bessie, as Chloe disappeared into her room. I put the kettle on and Bessie sat at the table as I got out cups and saucers, trying to delay the inevitable explanation as long as I could.
“Come on sis,” said Bessie “What on earth's going on? I couldn't help noticing that your flatmate wasn't exactly a 'she'.”
“Err no, she works in a massage parlour that caters for special tastes.”
“And how did you come to share a flat with her?" she paused "Oh no! Don't tell me!” But one look at my face did tell her.
“I do have a proper day job,” I said defiantly “But it doesn't pay enough and I need money for my surgery. It's only a temporary thing.”
“Well I'll be,” said Bessie slowly, “I'll say this for you sis, you're full of surprises.”
“Please don't tell Mum or Kate, please!”
“You know I won't, but what about Tom? What would he think?”
I flushed again. “Tom's gone for ever, you know that sis. Do you think I could do this if there was the slightest chance?”
Bessie sighed “I guess not.” We spend a couple of hours catching up on what was going on back home where it seemed all was well.
I couldn't resist asking if she'd seen Mrs Shore, and it seemed she had, and 'yes, Tom was well', as well as you can be when you spend your life in a wheelchair.
“You still love him don't you?” Bessie said softly, and then when my face crumpled, she got up and hugged me as I couldn't hold back my emotions any longer.
“But what's the point?” I sobbed “He doesn't want me. If he did he'd have never gone away.” Bessie said nothing. She just held me until I stopped crying.
Time passed and I was sure it wouldn't be long before I had saved the cost of having my surgery in Thailand, where it seemed it was almost commonplace. In some medical centres they performed several thousand SRS operations a year. It got me thinking that this has only become possible in about the last sixty years when some brave pioneering women such as April Ashley and Christine Jorgensen had surgery, although they weren't the first to do so. What of the women born in the wrong bodies over the centuries – they had to suffer in silence. Thankfully, times have changed and I was now able to have my body match my mind.
Writing this biography has forced me to face up to some of the silly mistakes I have made in my life. The money I was earning at the parlour was paid in cash of course, and instead of putting it into a bank account, where I was afraid someone might question how a typist was able to earn so much money, with remarkable lack of imagination, I secreted it in plastic bags under my mattress.
The time had come when with Dr Brentwell's permission, I had made a booking with a hospital in Bangkok, famous for transition surgery. He had written to the surgeon and everything was lined up for a date in another month. I had booked and paid for my plane ticket and also the hotel where I would be staying for a week or so after I came out of hospital. I had the money ready in cash to pay for the surgery. I had not discussed the financial side of things with Dr Brentwell and if he considered it at all, I suppose he assumed I had saved the money or obtained a loan for the surgery.
Everything was going so well, and then one evening after work, three days before I was due to fly to Thailand, I turned the corner of my street leading to the apartment I shared with Chloe, and was alarmed to see the blue flashing lights of police cars and the red flashes of an ambulance outside the building. I hurried up to the house and spoke to one of the policemen holding back a small crown of curious onlookers.
“I live here. Can you tell me what's happened please?”
“Mandy Collins. I share an apartment with Chloe Blake.”
“Chloe Blake?” he looked down at a notepad in puzzlement “We have a Miss Ann Blake in the ambulance.”
I realised that I had used her 'professional name' by mistake.
“I meant Ann. Chloe is a nickname her friends call her. Can I see her please?”
He led me to the ambulance and conferred with the paramedics “Ok, but just for a minute.”
I climbed into the ambulance. “Ann, what happened?” She had a bandage around her head and some bruising on her face.
“Mandy! Someone broke in while I was out in the yard. I tackled him but he was too strong for me. I'm not sure what he took”
“Never mind that, how are you?”
She managed a crooked smile “I'll live. Will you let them know at work what's happened?”
“Of course” I said “You just concentrate on getting better.”
“We have to leave for the hospital now, miss.” said one of the paramedics, so I got out of the ambulance and it drove off, lights flashing.
Later the police let me into the apartment to see what was missing. My room had been turned over, the mattress thrown aside and of course all the money was gone, but I could hardly mention that. Aside from how I came by it, the police would think me an absolute idiot for keeping it under the mattress. Instead I mentioned a few items of cheap jewelry that were missing, and when the policeman said “It seems you got off lightly.” all I could do was smile and squirm inside. How was I going to pay for my surgery now?
They kept Chloe in hospital for observation overnight and released her, a bit the worse for wear the next morning, and now I was officially on holidays I went to the hospital to collect her.
“Did you let them know at 'Sixty-nine' that I wouldn't be fit for work for a week or so?”
Yes I did. Madam Betty was very sympathetic and said you mustn't come back until you feel well enough.”
“She's not a bad old stick,” said Chloe. “What about you? Did he take much of your stuff?”
“Only all the money I was going to use in Thailand for my op.” I said with a grimace. “I kept it all under my mattress. I guess there's no accounting for stupidity.”
“Oh Mandy, I'm so sorry. If I had any money I'd lend it to you, you know that. So what will you do now?”
“I guess I'll just go back to my two jobs and save up again, only this time it goes in the bank, and if anyone asks, I got lucky on the gee-gees. I should have thought of that in the first place.”
I was scheduled for one final appointment with Dr Brentwell the following day, prior to flying out. Even though I couldn't pay for the surgery now I had a few dollars left, so I thought I might as well fly over to Bangkok and make it just a holiday. At least I wouldn't waste the air fare and hotel booking. I cursed myself for my stupidity in 'hiding' the money in the first place a burglar would look.
I arrived at Dr Brentwell's rooms the next day. Vicky, his receptionist knew me well by now and said brightly “All excited about your trip to Bangkok?” and then took one look at my face and said “Oh dear Mandy, what's wrong?”
“We had a burglary,” I said “They took my surgery money, so it's off for now.”
Vicky almost looked like she was going to cry. She really was a sweet girl.
“That's terrible!” she exclaimed.”Couldn't you get a bank loan or something?”
“I don't think so on my income. (I was referring to my typist's income of course) Anyway, I don't think there would be time.”
I sat down and waited for my appointment with Dr Brentwell. When he ushered me into his room and I sat down he said “Well it doesn't take a trained psychologist to see that something is wrong. Please tell me about it.”
“I took the cash out to take over to Thailand for my operation and we've had a burglary and it's all gone. I hid it under the mattress of all places. I might as well have put a notice saying 'here it is'. I've been such a fool.”
He looked at me with a serious look on his face and to my surprise said “Is that really what happened?” I felt myself colouring up. You'd have thought by now nothing would make me blush, but it was my worst failing.
“Yes” I replied, and then under his steady gaze I said haltingly “Well, sort of.” The fact was I just couldn't lie to him – he could see right through me.
“The fact is I have a second job, an evening job. That was the money I put under the mattress.”
“You don't have to go into details,” he said gently “I think I know what that job is.”
By now I felt if I got any hotter I'd burst into flames. Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I said “I felt too ashamed to tell you, but the typist job was never going to earn me enough money to afford all my treatment and the surgery. It's ironic but I had already made up my mind that I was going to give it up as soon as I saved enough and had my surgery. Now I see no option but to go back there and start saving again.”
Dr Brentwell leaned back in his chair, and I couldn't read the look on his face. Finally he said “I believe it's important for your mental well-being to have your surgery as soon as possible. I can't promise anything, so don't get your hopes up too much. Would you mind waiting outside for a while while I make some phone calls?”
I could hardly believe my ears. Was he saying that somehow he might obtain the money for me?
“If you can help me doctor, I promise I'll pay you back, every last cent.” I said in a choking voice.
“I can't promise anything right now,” he replied, “Just wait outside for a short while and I'll let you know the outcome.”
I got up and left his room and went back into the waiting room. There was a young girl waiting there. She looked up as I approached with that 'rabbit in the headlights' look I knew I'd had the first time I ever came to the rooms. I didn't hesitate but walked over to her.
“Hello. My name's Mandy. May I sit down?” I did so before she nodded dumbly. Now I was close to her I could see she was literally shaking.
“Are you, are you Dr Brentwell's assistant?” she quavered. I did not laugh – that would have been the worst thing to do. Instead I said gently. “No, I'm his patient, a girl just like you except I'm a bit further along the road, that's all.”
She looked at me with something like wonderment in her eyes “Really?”
“Really.” I replied as I took her hand. “The first time I came to see Dr Brentwell I was so frightened I nearly ran out of the door.”
She actually managed a weak smile “I was just wondering if I should do that.” she said softly.
“But you're not going to, because you are taking the first steps to making the most wonderful change in your life. Believe me I know that.” I said. I suddenly realised she was no longer shaking, and I thought to myself 'Well, you've done one good thing today'.
We started to chat about the path we were both taking, and how I was hoping to go to Thailand for my surgery, but there was a bit of a problem that Dr Brentwell was trying to sort out, and were so engrossed that we didn't realise Dr Brentwell was standing there until he spoke. “Miss Collins, would you come back into my room please?” and then to the girl “Miss Martin, I'll only be five minutes more.”
She actually smiled at him and said “I'm fine now doctor.”
When I sat down back in his room, Dr Brentwell looked at me and said “That was a fine thing you did just now.”
I blushed of course and replied “You won't remember, but the first time I came here, I was just as scared as she is and a young woman came out of your room and gave me words of comfort and reassurance. I've never forgotten that, and today I got the opportunity to return the favour to someone else. What sort of a person would I be if I didn't do that?”
He smiled at me “You're wrong on one point, I do remember what happened that day and what a difference it made to you. Anyway, I have good news for you. I have access to some funds that can be used at my discretion in deserving cases. I've spoken to certain people, including the hospital where you are going, and you can have your surgery after all.”
I started crying, I couldn't help it. “Oh doctor, you don't know how much this means to me.”
“I think I have some idea.” he smiled. “The money will be transferred directly to the hospital for your medical care, and I presume you have enough for your personal expenses?”
“Oh yes doctor. Oh this is such a relief to me.” I suddenly had a thought “The young lady I was talking to...if it would be any help, I would be more than happy to act as a mentor to her...if you think I could do that and she agrees? I know what it's like to go through this process alone, and there were many times I wished I had someone to talk to about what was happening to me.”
Dr Brentwell smiled “I will mention it to her in the course of talking to her, her name's Michelle by the way, and I'll let you know if she is interested. In the meantime, off you go to Thailand, and I'll see you when you return.”
I left his room walked over to Michelle to tell her I was going for my surgery after all. I gave her an encouraging smile and a 'Good luck' as Dr Brentwell called her into his room. She smiled back and said “And good luck to you too....and thank you so much.” It was stupid I know, but I had tears in my eyes as I walked down the corridor to the lift.
I had already packed my suitcase before the burglary, but of course the contents had all been tipped over the room, so I set about packing it again. I hated the thought that my clothes had been touched by the burglar who presumably was looking for more items of value, but he would have found nothing there. Anyway there was no time to wash them again, so I just carefully folded them up again and soon I was all ready to go. Thank goodness my passport and plane ticket was in my handbag which I had with me. If they had been stolen I really would have been in a mess.
The following day found me at the airport, ready to board a flight to Bangkok. I'd never flown overseas before so this was very exciting. I had a letter from Dr Brentwell explaining that I was going to Thailand for SRS and that why I was dressed as a woman and didn't look quite the same as in my passport photo. I made sure that I had arrived at the airport with hours to spare in case there was any problems arising from this, and indeed they did refer me to one of the senior officers, but she had dealt with similar cases to mine before, and in no time my passport was stamped and I was sent on my way with an encouraging 'Good luck'.
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