Only Sixteen 20

Only Sixteen 20

Only Sixteen 20

By Susan Brown

I am not a doctor or solicitor, so please forgive me if the medical and legal stuff isn't accurate. Let's face it. It's only a story. If I was a doctor or solicitor, I would be much richer than I am now!


‘I forgave you as soon as you kissed and hugged me in the restaurant. It’s lovely to have you as a brother and not someone who was so bad to me in the past. I will never speak about it again and I want you to promise me that you won’t either.’

He nodded and then we hugged again before leaving the shelter and returning to the others in the restaurant. I held his hand which was maybe a bit weird but felt rather nice.

We went back into the warmth of the restaurant and walked back to our table. The others stopped talking and looked at us expectantly.

‘Aww,’ said Megan, ‘they’re holding hands.’

‘Shut up Megan,’ I said smiling.

And now the story continues…


It was nice to spend time with my brother, Tamsin, Anne and not forgetting Megan.

We made a sort of unwritten rule not to talk about our past and just talk about the now and the future. Tamsin was a delight, and I could see that Tommy and she were really in love. I did ask if Anne had anyone ‘Special” and she went all coy on me. All she would say was that she was working at it, whatever that means!

I would have a meaningful conversation with her about that at a more appropriate time.

After a lovely meal, it was time to go. Anne had places to go and so did Tommy and Tamsin.

We agreed to meet up regularly and we said our goodbyes. It was nice to give my brother a kiss and a hug. Just a few months before, that would not have been something of which I had ever dreamed of doing!

I was slightly tearful as they went on their way and Megan had to cheer me up a bit.

‘You’ll see them again soon Emma.’

I sighed.

‘I know but it's a shame that they don’t live a bit nearer. Anyway, thanks for coming with me Megan.’

‘No problem. Now what do you want to do?’

‘Fancy having a walk around the shops?’

‘Ooh, I do love a shopping trip!’

I laughed; she was almost worse than Hannah and that was saying something!

I was getting more into shopping now that I was in girl mode. Previously, when I was much younger, I was dragged around the shops by my mother and sister and had to wait an intermittent time whilst they tried on all manner of clothes. At the time, it was the most terrible thing I could think of doing. Even then, I was thinking how lucky they were, being able to dress as they liked and there was me, unable to do what they did and dress prettily. It was so frustrating.

One time, I was sitting on a chair next to a changing room in a big department store. Anne was being told to try on all manner of dresses for a party that she was going to at the weekend. Some of the dresses were truly horrendous on her; you know the sort, the Shirley Temple type, all ribbons, bows and flouncy bits. She wouldn’t look out of place as a fairy on a Christmas tree.

I could see that she hated some of the things she was forced to try on, but Mother was full of praise.

‘Oooh Darling, you look adorable,’ she said enthusiastically on more than one occasion.

I must admit I laughed and then was scolded by Mother for being so insensitive!

There were some clothes that she tried on that I would have loved to have worn, but there was no chance of that ever happening.

Back to the here and now, Megan and I had a pleasant time shopping, and I bought a few things like jeans, tops, bras and panties. Megan bought a nice dress for a Christmas party that she was going to. She looked fantastic in it, and I was so jealous of her. I would have had it if she hadn’t!

Christmas! I couldn’t think that far ahead, and I marvelled that some people could.

Christmas for me wasn’t very festive in the past but I hoped for greater and better things in the future. I knew that Hannah was mad keen on Christmas and given the chance, she would have a tree and decorations up all year round.

Mind you, after Halloween, the shops would be full of Christmas things accompanied by Christmassy music; something to look forward to?


After getting off the bus and walking a little way, I said goodbye to Megan at the top of her road and made my way back home. In the kitchen was Mum and Hannah.

‘Hi, ‘I said as I put my bags down and sank into a chair with a sigh.

Taking off my shoes, and rubbing my tired feet was a heavenly experience. I wasn’t yet used to wearing heels but a girl had to suffer for the privilege of being able to wear them.

‘Well, said Hannah, ‘how did it go?’

‘OK,’ I replied, ‘I needn’t have worried, Tommy was sweet and nice to me. Things were a bit awkward at first, but we went for a little walk and sort of made up and hugged – talk about a bit weird. We had never done that before, but it was nice. I liked his girlfriend Tamsin. She’s got her head screwed on and I think she keeps him in check. Megan was great too and helped a lot.’

‘Sounds good,’ said Mum, ‘are you going to see them again soon?’

‘I hope so. The trouble is that we all have different lives and are busy at the moment. I’m hoping that we might meet up during the holidays though.’

‘I want to see this Tommy,’ said Hannah determinedly. ‘I want to make sure that he doesn’t go back to his bad ways.’

‘Ooh,’ I said, ‘My little heroine!’

‘Shut up Emma.’

‘I see that you are nearly back to your annoying self.’ I said sweetly.

She poked her tongue out and we all laughed.


So, life went on as normal. Well as normal as it ever was with me.

I was really getting into my studying and spent much of my time either buried in books or on my laptop when I wasn’t in college for lectures or meetings with my tutors.

Life was good to me, and I started to relax a bit. I had a few hospital appointments to sort out some minor plumbing issues but other than that, I was fine. I wanted to have full surgery to make me as girlie as possible, but as everyone was telling me, I was only sixteen and I would have to wait until I was eighteen and just keep taking the pills. I was never sure why that was the case where I was concerned as I was never truly a boy and never, ever wanted to be one.

I could, I suppose, have gone abroad to have the work done, but I didn’t think that I would ever get the funds from Antonia to do it and anyway, I had heard nightmare stories where things had gone wrong. No, I would have to be patient and wait for things to happen. My small breasts continued to grow but I knew that I would never have large breasts as my mother and sister weren’t that well-endowed. I was kind of pleased at that as I didn’t want to have huge breasts. The few girls that I knew who had larger breasts, thought them to be a pain in the neck. Was I mixing metathingies about that?

We were well into Autumn by now and the weather was far from nice. All over the country, the weather was awful. It seemed to rain every day. Cornwall is not so nice in the winter when it rains cats and dogs a lot of the time.

It was good in one way, as I could concentrate on my studies, but I missed going down to the harbour or onto the various beaches dotted around our area except on rare occasions. Occasionally all of us girls went into Penzance for a shopping, eating or cinema trip and that was nice, but all in all, I couldn’t wait for Spring and Summer to arrive.

Then, one day I had some news.

My mother had died.

I came back from college a bit late, I had met up with a few of my new college friends, ones that were in the same study group as me. We had talked shop and I didn’t realise how late it was getting. I caught the bus back to the village at sunset, which was getting annoyingly earlier and earlier by now. I wasn’t too worried as this was the night when Hannah went to Guides and wasn’t due back home until some time later.

I was no longer worried about being out alone during the day, although I would have second thoughts about doing that at night. I walked up the lane to our cottage and let myself in the back door. We rarely used the front one.

Mum and Dad were sitting at the kitchen table and they looked a bit glum. Dad was in uniform and looked very smart. He always looked good when he wore his uniform. Rare now as he was in CID...

‘Emma honey,’ said Mum, ‘come and sit down,’

‘What have I done wrong? ‘I asked as I took my coat off, hung it on the back of the chair and sat down.

‘Not made the bed or tidied up?’ I continued, ‘I was late for college and even so, what’s wrong with Hannah? She could have…’

‘It’s not that,’ said Mum, ‘look, we have some bad news.’

‘What?’ I asked, my heart suddenly thumping, ‘it’s not about those boys who tried to rape me…’

Mum sighed and looked at Dad, who nodded.

‘No Emma it’s not that. Look, it’s not easy to say, but your mother has died.’

My heart sort of flipped. After a moment, I looked at Dad and Mum, they looked so sad. I didn’t know how I felt at that moment.

‘What… what happened?’

Dad took over.

‘Your name flagged up a connection. Because of the attempted rape on you and the problems you have had with your family, I thought it prudent to have anything connected with you to be flagged up and passed on to me confidentially. All with the agreement of my superiors, as we felt that you might at some point, be in danger.’

‘What happened?’ I asked in a quiet voice.

I felt slightly sick and had a lump in my throat.

Dad continued whilst Mum held my hand.

‘According to reports and information from your father, she had been home for just a day from the hospital. They had let her out and removed the sectioning order, as she was no longer considered to be a danger to herself or others. Your father had gone out to do some shopping. When he came back, he went up to the bedroom and saw that she had overdosed on sleeping pills. He called an ambulance, and she was rushed to hospital but died on the way. I am so sorry Emma.’

From the history that I had with my mother and her cruelty to me, I should not have been affected by the sad news, but I was. I cried my eyes out on Mum’s shoulder and then once I had gotten over the initial shock, I said that I wanted to be alone and went upstairs to my bedroom.

I was glad that Hannah was out, as I didn’t want company at that moment, even hers.

I lay down on my bed and had another crying fit.

Once I calmed down a bit, I got up, went into the bathroom, and washed my face. My eyes were red with crying and my face looked a bit blotchy but, to be honest, I didn't care.

Going back to my bedroom, I went over to the window and stared out. I wondered why I was so upset. She had never brought any joy to my life and had actually hated me. She treated me as if I wasn’t a real part of the family and tried to poison everyone against me.

So, once again, why was I so upset?

Perhaps it was because of the shock and manner of her death and the fact that she should never have been let out of the hospital in her condition.

I was all cried out by now, but I had a splitting headache. I went back into the bathroom, took two paracetamols, and then lay down on the bed. I was soon asleep.


I awoke to someone cuddling me. Opening my eyes, I could see Hannah lying next to me. I smiled and kissed her.

‘Hello,’ I said.

She opened her eyes and then focussed.

‘Oh, I must have dropped off. How are you?’

‘Okay, I suppose,’

‘Sorry to hear about your mother.’

I shrugged.

‘I’ll get over it. I don’t know why I was so upset. She means nothing to me.’

‘Don’t fib. You don’t cry over someone that means nothing to you.’

We both sat up and she kissed me deeply. It was nice and took a bit of the unexplained pain away.

‘Do you want to talk about it?’ she asked.

‘No, just kiss me again.’

After a while, we got up and after cleaning my face up, yet again, I followed Hannah downstairs. For some reason, I didn't want to be alone anymore.


The funeral was six weeks later. There were delays due to an autopsy and inquest. I didn’t go. Perhaps I should have, but I couldn’t face it or my father being there. My brother and sister went and had a stand-up row in the church with my father. He seemed to blame everyone for Mother's death, except himself. I believed then and still do, that Father would have gone mad if he saw me as a girl and not the wimpy boy he thought I was. Mother was ill for many years, I knew that and perhaps I should have gone, but I didn’t. She was out of my life now and I hoped that she was now at peace.

It was fast approaching Christmas and the village started to show its festive side. Many houses and cottages had started to put up decorations and down on the quay, a Christmas tree with lots of lights was to be switched on by the mayor of our small community on Saturday. The whole of the quay had been festooned in colourful Christmas lights and I was sure that it would all look very festive when the mayor threw the switch. Over to the side of the quay, part of the car park had been cordoned off and Hannah said that it was because an ice rink would be put together in time for the big switch-on. There would be plenty of Christmas stalls selling the usual Christmas nick-knacks, food and drinks. I was told that Christmas was a big thing in our village and plenty of people came from near and wide to get involved with the festivities and help the local economy at a time when otherwise it would be very quiet.

There would even be an appearance by Father Christmas and the local young children always got excited when that happened.

Evidently, the previous year the council leader had managed to get a few real reindeer in a pen so that the children could look at them and feed them carrots. Unfortunately, they escaped and were last seen on Bodmin moor having the time of their lives.

The small primary school up on the hill would hold a Christmas concert and that was always well attended. There would be a Christmas Eve carol service in the church next to the school and I liked the idea of that. I was a bit of a softy regarding carol singing, although my singing could crack windows according to Hannah, who had to listen to me when I was in the shower.

Looking forward to Christmas rather helped to improve my rather sad and depressed mood after the death of my mother. For some reason, for a while, I blamed myself for her death. I know that it was illogical, but it was how I felt.

My new family helped to get me out of my doldrums, and I eventually saw that it was a mental illness that caused my mother’s death and not me. I gradually came out of my shell and back into normality. I kept in touch with my brother and sister and we hoped to all get together in the not too far distant future.

As far as my studies went, I threw myself into my work and it got results. I was close to the top of my group and my tutors all thought that I was a star in the making! I wasn’t so sure of that as I was always full of self-doubt, no doubt due to my negative upbringing. Hannah told me not to be a wuss, whatever that means.

I was spending several hours a week on a clinical placement at West Cornwall Hospital and I was enjoying it immensely. I loved being part of a team and I was gradually been given more responsibility, like helping patients where I could, cleaning, bed pan stuff, and making beds. Together with learning all I could from the nurses and doctors on my ward and most importantly, being a sympathetic ear to the patients. My mentor, Sister Clare, said on occasion, that she was very pleased with my progress and in my considered opinion, I fully expected to perform brain surgery in a few months’ time!

I would have to be careful, as my big head might not be able to get through the door soon!

On the Saturday evening of the big lights switch on, just after dark, the whole family went down to the quay. We all dressed up as warm as possible, as it was a bit chilly outside, but at least it was a dry clear night. Amongst the twinkling stars, the full moon was bright and helped us down the lane by flooding it with a soft light.

We had spent the day decorating the cottage with the usual twinkling lights and decorations. We had a real tree in the corner of the sitting room freshly festooned with the usual lights and baubles. It was so pretty. Hannah and I had bought it just that day and struggled up the hill with it.

As I had never really enjoyed Christmas at my old, depressing home, what with the family problems that I had to contend with, it took a while to get into the spirit of the thing, but I was now an enthusiastic convert and I was getting quite excited about everything Christmassy.

Walking down the lane, we passed several houses and cottages that were brightly decorated and it all helped get me in the mood. Hannah, who was holding my gloved hand, could tell that I was getting excited. I was sixteen but I was feeling a bit more like a ten-year-old.

‘You can sit on Santa’s knee if you’re a good girl,’ she said grinning.

‘Ooh, can I – can I!’ I said, jumping up and down a bit for effect.

‘Weird,’ replied Hannah as we all laughed.

We were soon down on the quay and I was surprised at the number of people milling about. The ice rink looked great under the floodlights and already, a few hardy souls were falling about on the ice.

There were families with young children who looked almost more excited than me, and that was saying something. Everyone was making their way over to where the splendid, tall Christmas tree was. We passed several food stalls that had delicious smells that made my mouth water. Other stalls were selling Christmas decorations, crafty things and winter woollies.

Christmas music was coming out of strategically placed speakers and the whole thing was magical to me.

I remembered the previous Christmas and that lack of festive spirit when I lived with my parents. We never bothered with decorating the house. Father, more Scroogey that Scrooge always said that there was no point as they would only have to be taken down after a few weeks. We did have a tree, it was one of those weedy, false, plastic ones that never really looked like the real thing.

This was as different as chalk and cheese from those bad times and I made a conscious effort to forget those negative thoughts and just proceeded to enjoy the moment.

We stood with others as the mayor, Mr Jenkins, the plump and jovial butcher, who was the current mayor, resplendent in a red coat and with his chain of office around his neck, came up to the rostrum next to the tree.

He tapped the microphone and the music in the background stopped as he started to speak.

‘Thank you for all coming out on this chilly night. I know that the first thing I’m going to do after switching on the lights is to go and get some mulled wine, if my wife lets me.’

He glanced over to the Lady Mayoress, who smiled and nodded.

‘It’s a bit too cold to make long speeches, so all I need to do now is to say that the Christmas festivities are well and truly open and…’

He pressed a big red button in front of him and the lights on the Christmas tree and all the other colourful lights on the quay burst into life, transforming the whole area into something magical and wonderful to see.

Everyone went ‘ooh and ahh,’ and the kids young and old (including me), shouted with glee.

Slade’s, Merry Xmas Everybody came through the speakers, and everyone clapped. It was a good start.

Of course, I had to try the mulled wine. I had never had it before. There was a strange lack of anyone querying my age or Hannah’s for that matter, it was, after all, alcoholic. The hot mulled wine helped warm me up inside and out and I soon forgot how cold it really was. I had a hot dog and the others either had the same or a roll with hot pulled pork that looked nice and was tempted to try later.

Mum and Dad went off to the ice rink. I thought that they were mad but Hannah told me that they were both rather good. She suggested that we might have a go ourselves later, but as I had two left feet, I was a bit concerned that I might go base over apex.

We had agreed to meet our friends, Megan and the twins Sophie and Stephanie over by the coffee shop and that was where we made our way to after finishing our delish mulled wine. I was feeling suddenly slightly lightheaded. I wasn’t used to alcohol at any time, and it made me a bit giggly.

I held on to Hannah as she was swaying about slightly. She said that it was me doing the swaying but you can’t believe anything she says sometimes.

Anyway, our friends were already at the coffee shop, wisely sitting inside due to the weather. We ordered our drinks and I had a strong coffee as I was sorely in need of some sobering up. It was ridiculous that I felt this way and I wondered if I was allergic to alcohol and then I recalled that I was on medication and drugs and alcohol don’t always mix very well. Being a prospective doctor, I should have known better, but nobody is perfect. I would even avoid my favourite wine gums now, just in case. As for chocolate liquors…!

Soon, the warm drink sort of brought me back to relative normality and I stopped giggling as much and slurring my speech. The others thought that it was highly hilarious for some reason but I didn’t share their view, of course.

After our drinks, we went back outside and had a look around. Of course, we had to go and see how Mum and Dad were doing on the ice rink.

They were actually doing rather well and I was quite impressed. Whilst most around them were spending more time slipping over and falling about, they were going around in circles looking quite impressive. Mum even did one of those spinning things and I started to get a bit giddy just looking at her.

Sophie and Stephanie decided that they wanted to have a go and soon they were making a very good impression of Bambi as they tried, in vain, to keep standing.

Megan said that she was cold enough already without going on the ice to make a fool of herself and Hannah and I agreed, so we went off to have a look at some of the stalls. Over to the side was a queue of parents with excited children waiting to go into Santa’s grotto, complete with snowy stuff on the ground and a couple of girls dressed as Santa’s not-so-little helpers; the green and red striped tights were very convincing, if a little thin for the weather. I would have hated anyone to get frostbite; although, realistically, it was not that cold and I was just being a bit wimpy.

Hannah and Megan had another mulled wine, but I wisely decided not to and just had a hot chocolate complete with whipped cream and marshmallows bobbing on top.

We saw several people we recognised and had brief chats with them. That was the thing about our village, you got to know people and most were quite nice.

We did in the end go on the ice rink and I did fall over several times and have the bruises to prove it, but nothing was broken except one of my nails, a small price to pay for such a joyous occasion. One downside was that I was considered a bit too big to sit on Santa's lap, according to one of his helper/minders.

I didn’t sulk too much!

It was all for the best though, as my bottom was a bit sore from falling down on it on the ice rink and I felt that I might have to purchase a rubber ring to sit on. Hannah told me not to be such a wimp.

On the way back, full up on drinks and the occasional hot dog, burger, chips and pulled pork roll, we promised ourselves that we would go down there again, several times, as you can’t have enough of a good thing.

We said our goodbyes to the twins and Megan, promising to catch up in a few days and then Hannah and I, hand in hand, went up the lane to the cottage. Mum and Dad were still down on the quay and I marvelled at their stamina.

It had been a magical evening and one that I would remember for a long time. It was toasty warm in the cottage and the fireplace was warm and glowing from the logs that hadn’t fully burnt away. We put more logs on the fire so that when Mum and Dad came home, it would be warm for them.

‘I’m tired,’ yawned Hannah, ‘want to go to bed?’

I looked at the clock, it was only nine o’clock.

‘A bit early, isn’t it?’

‘Well,’ said Hannah, ‘We don’t actually have to go to sleep, there are other things we can do in bed,’

‘I can’t think of anything,’ I replied innocently.

‘I can,’ said Hannah smiling, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively and grabbing hold of my hand.

The perfect end to a perfect day, apart from my poor bruised botty!

To be continued...

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