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I found the following letter on my pillow when I went to my room.
We wrote this because we love you. You’re our sister and we can’t stand fighting and not being able to talk to you. We’d like to work things out and put our differences aside because we believe in this family and if the three of us hate each other what good does it do us? Do you enjoy not being friends with us, because we don’t and we’d give almost anything to be like we were when we were kids and were each other’s world? What happened to that? Is it because Nikki’s a girl that we don’t see eye to eye or that Laura is comfortable with it? Do you think Mum and Dad love Nikki more than you or that they expect more from you because of us?
If that’s the case please understand us. Nikki isn’t a guy and can never be one. Think, just for a second that you had to be trapped in a boy’s body, knowing you were a girl, how would you feel if you had no breasts, a beard, horrible hair everywhere and liked boys? You could never wear dresses or skirt or do your hair and your voice sounded funny and everybody would assume you were male when you just know you’re female.
Nikki felt like this from way back that’s why she took hormones and wanted to die because it was unbearable to live as a guy. Nikki told us all this but you may not have liked it but that is how she feels and you can’t expect her to suppress it and not be a girl, it would kill her just like it would if it was you.
Secondly we suspect that because of how we perform at school and how Mum and Dad react to it leaves you feeling like they value us more than you. That’s not true. When Nikki lived as a boy she thought Mum and Dad didn’t care about her that was one of the reasons she was so ready to die.
Mum and Dad absolutely love all three of us more than anything, their love has no strings attached that’s why they were willing to help Nikki. Everyone has different skills and talent but that doesn’t determine if their inferior to the next person, our parents know that you gifted in other things besides school but that doesn’t mean they love you any less for it.
Becky we've known you all your life and we can tell you’re lonely and unhappy though we don’t know the exact causes of this. We love you even though we might quarrel and call each other things. The fact is we’re hurt when you treat us like we don’t exist or wish one of us didn't exist although we think you said it in anger and might not have meant it since you did cry when you heard of Nikki’s suicide attempt and all through our lives you’ve behaved like you loved us.
Believe it or not we do hurt when you hurt or see you upset just like you do in your heart. If we’ve wronged you in any way we’re very, very sorry. Please forgive us and let’s be friends. We also want to say we forgive you and won’t hold a grudge with you anymore.
What do you say?
Love and lots of hugs and kisses
Nikki & Laura
P.S We really mean this! It’s not a prank (There’s a peace offering under your pillow)”
Tears streaking down my face I picked up my pillow and found the gift from my sisters, a hair clip in the shape of a teardrop on top of two photos, one of the three of us when I was 6 and Nikki and Laura were 8 and 4 our arms locked around each other’s waists on a beach in Spain, smiling innocently.
The other was a recent photo of Laura and Nikki smiling and looking gorgeous. Turning over the picture I saw a message in Nikki’s hand-
“Someone special is missing from this picture who is there in the older pic. There’s a hole in our hearts only she can close.”
My tears worsened as I thought of the significance of her words, Nikki loved me so much despite how horrible I’d been to her. Laura too while I was petty, mean-spirited and uncaring. I’d hated Nikki without ever thinking how things looked from her eyes while she took the time to understand my motives and still love me. I’d told her I wished she was dead and she’d forgiven me. I cried for how cruel I had been and how I hardly deserved to have such a loving, gentle person as my sister and then someone like Laura who was just like Nicole, incapable of the evil I’d done but willing to forgive me and offer the olive branch even though I was completely in the wrong.
Without stopping to think and dissuade myself like I would normally do I stood and went to Nikki’s room and knocked while I cried. Nikki opened the door and said,
“Hey Becky,” in a soft voice, her pretty blue eyes bright with compassion.
“I’m so sorry Nikki. Please forgive me,” I pleaded, gulping down the sobs.
Nikki opened her arms and we hugged each other tightly for a long moment.
“It’s alright,” said Nikki gently, “don’t be upset okay?” she told me.
“I forgive you,” she continued.
My crying intensified and Nikki placed my head on her shoulders.
“I love you,” she said to me as I sobbed.
When we drew apart Laura was standingbeside us. She hugged me too.
“Friends?” she asked me.
“Uh huh. I’m sorry Laura,” I told her.
“Me too Becky,” replied my baby sister.
After our reconciliation we all crowded on Nikki’s bed and lay there chatting about our grandparent’s golden anniversary.
“Do you think you could ever stay married that long?” said Laura in amazement.
“If you met the right guy I suppose so but Nana and Grandpa married at like eighteen,” said Nikki happily.
The right guy I thought remembering Wayne and my part in engineering Nikki’s breakup. I felt like a fraud because I’d taken the olive branch they offered without disclosing my crime.
“Imagine getting married at eighteen Becks?” pointed out Laura.
“Crazy isn’t it?” I agreed.
“Why not if it feels right?” offered Nikki.
“Don’t be too sure. I read somewhere that guys are still emotionally immature at 19 that’s why women tend to marry older men because their as mature as them,” I told them.
Nicole laughed, “Well that explains why the boys at school don’t act their age,” she said wryly
“Tell me about it,” remarked Laura giggling.
Mum opened the door and found us doing each other’s nails, Nikki trying on one of my tops and chatting away in excitement like we’d always been in each other’s good books. It felt strange yet normal to be interacting with Nikki like this because she was just like any other teen girl yet she’d been my brother until recently. If she was so girly being boy must have been horrid, no wonder she wanted to die I thought feeling a mixture of sadness and guilt for having made fun of her problem and being as spiteful as I’d been. No one deserved a sister like me.
When we noticed her presence she smiled at us, her pleasure in our making up apparent, “Well girls, what happened here?” she asked folding her arms across her chest.
The three of us looked at one another then Nikki placed her arm around my shoulder and Laura and I did the same.
“Does this answer your question?” asked Laura.
Mum came over and sat with us. She kissed each of us in turn, “Thank you, you’ve made my day,” she said to us before we all embraced each other.
Our family flew to Scotland five days before Christmas and we were the last to arrive at Grandpa and Nana’s Edinburgh home. Nikki was tense all through our flight and the drive from the airport, none of our extended family had seen her as a girl and one of our aunts was hostile to our parents decision to let Nikki transition. For the first time I thought how tough it must be for her, always fighting to be seen as a normal person and be accepted for what she was, a 17 year old girl. I squeezed her hand frequently to boost her morale and she’d just smile at me sweetly. My heart went out to her; no wonder people liked her as much as they did. When we arrived at Nana’s all of us were nervous for Nikki and Mum gave her a little squeeze when we stepped out of the car.
Uncle Bill answered the door.
“Brian! Good to see you man, Susan, how are you?” he said warmly, shaking Dad’s hand and hugging Mum.
His eyes passed over our parents to the three of us and settled on Nikki.
“Hello Laura, Rebecca, Nicole,” he said to us. We smiled, Laura and Ihugged him while Nikki went to Mum’s side. Uncle Bill looked at Nikki momentarily; he seemed a bit disorientated before he led us in.
Mum and Nikki held hands as they followed Dad and Uncle Bill. Aunt May was the next person we met. She greeted Mum and Dad warmly before her attention fell to my sisters and I.
“Laura you’ve grown a bit, how are you honey?” she said, hugging Laura and exchanging kisses with her.
“Why you too Becky!” she said to me just as warmly.
Her gaze fell on Nikki and all of us held our breath as she just looked at her ex-nephew and digested the fact that that the beautiful teenager in front of her was her niece. She held out her arms.
“Come here Nicole,” she said gently.
Nikki stepped forward and was enveloped in a hug.
“You’re so beautiful,” said Aunt May when she let go making Nikki blush.
“Thank you,” said my sister.
“Mum’s dying to see you all especially you Nicole,” said Aunt May taking Nikki’s hand and leading her to the lounge.
Nana wasn’t there and May suggested we go upstairs with our stuff till Nana and Grandpa showed up.
Our grandparents owned a sizeable three storey Victorian house that had been in the family since it was built in the 19th century. It was large enough for Nana and Grandpa to host their children and grandchildren all at once though I wondered how they lived there day to day in such a big house. The three of us went upstairsto find our rooms.
“So far so good Nikki,” said Laura the minute we ascended the first step.
“Yes I can’t wait to see Nana and Grandpa,” Nicole answered.
On the landing we ran into Katie who was delighted to see us especially Nicole. She was mesmerised by our sister.
“OMG you’re drop dead gorgeous,” she murmured breathlessly as she admired Nikki.
“You too Katie,” replied Nikki fondly,Katie being her absolute favourite cousin.
They hugged each other, Katie clearly glad to see Nikki.
“It’s been yonks’ and now you’re such a beautiful chick Nicole. I’m so proud of you,” she said happily before taking Nikki’s hand and hurrying up the rest of the stairs with her.
“You’ve got to tell me everything! Pete, guess who’s in the building? It’s our dear cousin,” she yelled out for her twin brother.
Laura and I smiled at each other.
Pete stared in amazement at Nicole.
“Hey Pete,” said Nikki on seeing him.
“Stop staring she’ll never be your girlfriend man,” teased Katie, “you used to pick on her all the time saying she was a giirrll!” continued Katie, mimicking a girly voice.
Pete hugged Nikki, “Hey Nicole how are you?” he said warmly to his favourite cousin and childhood playmate.
“I’m fantastic and please call me Nikki. Only Mum calls me Nicole when she’s pissed off at me,” responded Nikki with a smile.
“All right Nikki. Now about the girlfriend thing, turns out I was always right about you so how about it?” he teased. Katie rolled her eyes and Nikki giggled.
“Not on your life!” she retorted as Laura and I walked in and Pete smiled at us.
“Hey Laura, Becks, how come everyone in your family’s a stunner?” he joked.
“When we heard about you being a chick we weren’t really surprised, you’d always acted like a girl anyway,” said Pete a few minutes later.
“We wanted to check you out you know but Mum wouldn’t hear of it,” added Katie.
“She was totally against it, I mean you being a girl and us visiting,” went on Pete.
“She had an argument with Mum about Nikki,” joined in Laura.
“Yeah we know. That was really uncalled for on her part. If I was in your shoes Nikki I’d need my mother’s support and that’s what Aunt Sue gave you,”said Katie indignantly.
Pete nodded, “Katie’s right but I think Mum doesn’t want to believe your story. At least your Mum understands,” he opined.
“How come I understand?” queried Laura.
“Don’t be a twit, you’re my sister and you read my diary, grew up with me so it was easier for you to understand me,” pointed out Nicole with a smile.
I felt guilty on hearing this because I was also her sister and had understood but still refused to accept her as a girl.
“Where is Aunt Janet anyway?” asked Laura.
“She went out with Nana. I hope she doesn’t make a scene when she sees you Nikki, that would be awful,” said Katie.
“Yeah,” agreed Pete at which moment the rest of our cousins came in.
David, 15 was carrying his baby sister Jeanne, 2 along with Emma their sister who was nine behind them. The two older children stared at Nikki and Emma’s hand went to hermouth to stifle a scream.
“Wow you really are a girl!” she said excitedly making us laugh.
“Hello Ems, hey David,” said Nikki warmly.
Laura got up and kissed David on the cheek leaving him beet red and bringing more laughter.
“Eh hi Nicole,” said David, flustered.
“Hello Laura, Becky,” he said before we hugged him and Emma and Laura and I took baby Jeanne into our arms.
“Can I touch your hair?” said Emma, fascinated by Nikki’s ash blonde mane and her appearance.
“Um I guess so,” replied Nikki with a wry smile and the awed Emma gently touched a strand of my sister’s hair before looking up at Nikki, Laura and me.
“The three of you are so lucky. I wish I had your hair colour,” she sighed longingly.
“Get Aunt May to colour it for you,” suggested Laura.
“It’s not the same honey. How come the three of you are the only blondes here?” responded Katie.
All our cousins had dark hair with the exception of Emma a vivid redhead.
“Well that’s a trait from Mum’s side of the family,” said Nikki.
“Yeah even our cousin Amanda looks like us,” I offered.
“Could you introduce us,” said Pete light heartedly.
We heard Katie groan.
“How did everyone at your school take it?” asked Katie after she and her brother had persuaded Nikki to take a stroll outside while Emma had begged me and Laura to play monopoly with her.
“A few people tried to make my life hell by insulting me daily until they did it in assembly,” replied Nicole forlornly.
“How awful, what did Mr Delaney do?” asked Katie. She’d attended our school up to GCSE with Pete.
“He gave the school a lecture then the teachers talked to the classes involved. Things settled down afterwards, I haven’t had a problem since,” explained Nikki.
“Why didn’t you just go to a new school? No one would have known about your past,” wondered Pete.
“I love Holyhead and I didn’t want to leave my friends and teachers I really liked, I don’t think I’d have settled as well in my last year of school,” replied Nicole.
Katie placed an affectionate arm around Nikki’s waist and Pete did likewise.
“You poor kid, I wish I you’d told me. I cried so much when I read your email, how could you be so miserable and not confide in anyone?” said Katie sadly.
Nicole was touched.
“I didn’t think anyone would understand, that people would say I was crazy,” she replied softly.
“Nikki you’re my friend and my cousin. I have every reason to love you. the crazy thing would have been for you to just throw away your life the way you planned to without telling anyone the full story,” answered Pete quietly.
Nicole looked up to Pete her eyes filling with tears and he hugged her before Katie did the same thing.
“Excuse me David, have you seen Katie?” enquired Aunt Janet when she returned with Nana.
“She went out with Nicole and Pete,” replied David.
“Come on David,” yelled Laura form next door where the rest of us were waiting for him to arrive with the pack of card he’d gone to retrieve.
“Who is that?” said Aunt Janet not knowing we’d arrived.
“Coming,” responded David, “that’s Laura, Uncle Brian and Aunt Sue came two hours back,” he said in a lower voice.
Aunt Janet’s eyes narrowed.
“Oh,” she said, “and you said Pete and Katie went out with Nick?” she asked.
Confused, David shrugged, Aunt May had told him and Emma not to use Nikki’s old name under any circumstances.
“They went out with Nicole for a walk,” he repeated before leaving only to meet Mum at the door.
“Oh, hi Aunt Sue,” he said warmly.
“Hello David,” Mum replied kindly as Aunt Janet turned and faced then.
Mum had heard Aunt Janet call Nicole Nick and was not impressed.
“Susan,” said Aunt Janet formally.
“Janet,” said Mum coldly.
David looked from aunt to aunt feeling the tension between them. at that point Laura appeared coming to help David since he was taking so long only to Mum facing down Aunt Janet.
“Hello Laura,” said Aunt Janet sweetly.
“Hi,” said Laura sullenly not at all pleased that Aunt Janet was trying to act nice to her when she’d been against Nikki.
As you will have noticedLaura was fiercely loyal to Nikki and considered anyone against her an enemy. Mum looked down at her daughter not sure whether to rebuke her or to smile. In the end she smiled, not that she usual overlooked bad manners but she knew Laura loved Nikki too much to pretend she liked Aunt Janet or was happy to see her.
“Laura Nana’s here she’s waiting downstairs. Tell Becky,” Mum informed her child.
Laura’s face lit up and she hurried to fetch me. Mum turned to follow leaving her sister-in-law without saying another word to her.
Nana was overjoyed to see us; she gave us big hugs and asked about our year. We told her some stuff about school. She then asked about Nikki’s whereabouts. It was an open secret that Nana’s favourite grandchildren were Gil, Nikki and Jeanne.
“Where’s Nicole?” she asked.
“She went out with Pete and Katie,” said Laura.
“But she’s dying to see you,” I added.
“I’m sure she can’t be as eager as I am,” laughed Nana.
“Tell me is she happy nowadays?” Nana askedseriously.
Laura and I nodded, “I’ve never known Nikki to be as cheerful and open as she’s been in the pastsix months. She was really upset when some dolts at school made fun of her and when she broke up with her boyfriend but she got over it. If something is bothering her she doesn’t keep it a secret now, she’ll just tell Mum or her friends or us,” said Laura.
I was glad she didn’t tell Nana about how I’d upset Nikki but I still couldn’t forget her crying over Wayne and the reminder of that needled at my conscience.
“Before she told Mum she was miserable, she never ate much and wanted to be alone. Afterwards when Mum and Dad let her be a girl she just changed Nana it was like something that had been stressing her had been blown away. She’s definitely a girl and she loves it. You won’t recognise her when she gets back,” I added.
“She’s had a boyfriend?” asked Nana in surprise.
“Yes Nikki’s so beautiful, boys are always admiring her when we go out,” gushed Laura.
“How do you feel about her being your sister?” asked Nana gently.
“I love it. Nikki was always meant to be a girl. I admire her so much and it’s awesome to be around her. You know how kind and sweet she is? Now it’s better because she’s happy with herself,” replied Laura happily.
“Nikki’s a darling Nana; she’s a wonderfulolder sister to have. Being a boy never suited her at all and I’m happy she’s a girl, it’s what she always felt she was and it makes her feel okay with herself and you know Nikki, when she’s happy it’s hard not to be happy with her,” I said meaning it with all my heart. Laura gave me a cute smile.
Nikki and Katie walked into the kitchen hand in hand with Pete just behind them. Nikki was telling Katie about how she’d met Wayne and she was all giggly just like Katie. The three of them wanted a snack and hadn’t expected to find their mothers and aunts there. Mum, Aunt Janet and Aunt May were making dinner when the cousins popped in, all of them in a light-hearted, cheery mood in contrast to the tense atmosphere between their mothers.
“And you actually told him you’re a nerd?” asked Katie in complete disbelief.
“Yeah and he said I don’t believe you,” said Nikki.
“Who would, you’re too gorgeous to be anything but a shopaholic party animal,” teased Katie making Nikki and Pete laugh.
“Oh, hi Mum,” said Katie as they entered the kitchen.
Nikki tensed slightly at the sight of her aunt who stared at her with curiosity.
“Hello Aunt Janet,” said Nikki, ever polite.
Aunt Janet said nothing but just stared at her which broke Nikki’s heart.
“Mum she said hello,” said Katie indignantly.
Aunt Janet turned away and walked out of the kitchen leaving her children in shocked outrage, Mum incensed, Aunt May disgusted and Nikki saddened. Katie put her arm around Nicole in support.
“Nikki don’t mind her okay,” she said gently.
Nicole felt tears in her eyes but she controlled them.
“Nikki go see your gran, she’s waiting for you,” suggested Mum.
“We’ll go together,” said Katie and she led Nikki to the drawing room.
“Nana there’s someone to see you,” Katie told her grandma while Nikki waited outside.
“Who is it?” said Nana in surprise.
“Nikki,” called out Katie to my sister.
Gran was left speechless at the sight of her grandchild and emotion overcame her.
“Come here darling, let me hold you,” she said gently her eyes filled with tears.
Nikki and Nana hugged each other, delighted to see each other. Nana said the same thing most people said on seeing my sister, “Beautiful!” she exclaimed when they’d pulled apart.
“You look like your mother but you’ve got my eyes,” noted Nana as if that was her first view of Nikki ever.
They hadn’t met in 18 months and Nikki had stopped living as a boy in that time.
“Thank you! it’s so wonderful to see you again. I’ve really missed you,” replied Nikki happily.
“You have, have you?” said Nana with a smile.
“Yes, very much. I made something just to make it up to you, do you want to see it?” said my sister.
“Do I? Of course lass, where is it?” replied Nana.
Nikki smiled at the ‘lass’ part.
“Nan before I get it you’ve got to tell mesomething,” said Nikki.
Grandma already knew what Nikki wanted to know so she told her.
“I don’t mind you being a girl Nicole. Deep down I always thought was who you were and now you’ve proved me right. You’re so pretty, I only hope you’re happy with your life now,” said Nana, shrewdly guessing what Nikki wanted to know for sure.
Nikki threw her arms around Nana and kissed her cheek.
“I love you!”
Grandpa found Nikki and Nana chatting about everything that had happened to Nikki in the last six months. Nana listened in horror at how people had made fun of Nikki and how she’d taken it, how Mum had been such a great source of support and comfort.
“Oh dear!” said Nana shaking her head, “I think your parents were right a new school would have been the best,” she advised.
“Not at all, I would have been lonely without my friends,” responded Nicole.
Grandpa made a coughing noise getting Nana’s and Nikki’s attention. Nikki stood up and gave him a hug.
“So it’s true, I’ve lost my grandson,” said Granddad, when they separated, “still you look wonderful,” he continued gently, taking in Nikki.
“Hello Grandpa. You haven’t lost anything since you can’t lose something you never had in the first place,” teased Nikki with a smile.
Granddad chuckled and ruffled Nikki’s hair like she was five again.
“You’ve always been too clever by half,” he joked.
My sister was delighted by the reception she’d got but needed to be certain her grandfather was behind her.
“You don’t mind me being a girl do you?” she asked tentatively.
“In all honesty I was dismayed but what saddened me was that you felt miserable and didn’t tell anyone and thought you would be better off dead. This family loves you so much honey, telling us would not have changed that. Never allow yourself to think of suicide or that we’d hate you. You’re far too precious to just throw your life away,” said our grandfather.
“I won’t,” said Nikki, very moved.
They hugged each other again.
“If you’re happy being a woman then I’m happy Nicole,” said Grandpa.
“I am Grandpa, I feel so fulfilled,” came Nikki’s emotional reply.
“Good then I’m happy for you,” said Grandpa as he held Nikki
“I was so scared of how everyone would react to Nikki,” admitted Mum as she and Dad lay in bed later, “but all her cousins treated her normally and your mother kept her at her side the entire evening,” added Mum.
“Yes but Mum has always spoilt Nikki, I think she’s her favourite,” concurred Dad with a smile.
“Did Bill say anything about Nikki?” asked Mum worriedly.
“No we just talked about football not the kids,” remarked Dad.
“Is that all men ever think about, work and sports?” queried Mum wryly.
“Yes and our beautiful wives and expensive children,” joked Dad.
Mum tapped Dad’s shoulder, “Brian! How can you say that, is that the order of your priorities?” asked Mum indignantly.
“I should think so,” said Dad gravely then at the sight of Mum’s frown added, “From back to front that is,” before kissing Mum lightly.
“Janet didn’t answer Nikki when she greeted her but she said hello to Laura and Becky. Why is she doing this to my daughter? Nikki hasn’t done anything to her yet she stared at her like she hated her presence,” complained Mum.
Dad fell into a thoughtful silence, wondering how much more prejudice his daughter had to face just for being true to who she was.
“How did Nikki take it?” he finally asked, deeply concerned.
“I think she was hurt though she didn’t say it but I could see it on her face everytime she looked at Janet. Even Katie and Pete seemed so disappointed with her,” replied Mum, “I hope she doesn’t say anything to upset Nikki some more, you know how much Nikki can’t stand quarrels,”
“Hey Nikki! How is Scotland, I hope you’re having fun! Mark’s back and we’re going to Europe for some skiing, what are you up to?” announced the text from Clara.
“Hey Clara! Happy holz! I’ve had a good time so far, all my cousins are fantastic esp. Katie and Pete. I think their mum hates me though which is 2 bad. Give my love to your family. Loads of kisses and hugs. Nicole. KIT,” was Nikki’s response as she lay in bed thinking of her aunt’s behaviour towards her.
Besides being rude to Nikki, she had given her a continuous icy stare at dinner.
‘If looks could kill…,’ thought my sister morbidly.
‘Still at least Nana and Granddad were brilliant,’ she reflected happily.
To be continued.
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