There have been changes to Ollie's life since his mum's new friend and her daughter arrived on the scene. Ollie spends more and more time playing with his new best friend, Hannah, and the changes mean he spends more and more time with the girls at school.
My life settled into a routine: weekends with Hannah and school days with boys ignoring me. At least the girls were friendly. Not that I did anything to encourage them. I didn't want to be a girl, but they were the only ones who spoke to me, now. I wore the leotard at PE but no longer gave it much thought, really. Neither did anyone else. Occasionally, a few new items would appear for me to wear and I realised that Alison had been encouraging my mum again. When I got new wellies, they were bright red ones. New trainers appeared that were white with a light blue trim. I knew they were not boy trainers but I hoped when they were muddy no one would take any notice. My new tracksuit was a kind of lilac in colour even though my mum called it purple. I took it to school but didn't wear it. Even having it in my bag made me worry, though, in case anyone saw it. My new coat definitely was purple with a satin sheen to it. Chloe had one just the same. It didn't cause any fuss at school. Everyone seemed to accept that I was a bit different to the other boys.
The posters of the boy band and the ballet dancer in my bedroom were joined by a poster of Aaron Carter, a boy singer with long blonde hair, which Hannah gave to me along with one of his CDs. I also acquired a few fluffy toys from shopping trips with Hannah. I had thrown out my old baby ones a few years ago but being with Hannah made me wish I hadn't. My new duvet cover had horses cantering along a beach on it. Mum bought curtains to match and my old 'Action Man' ones came down. My 'Star Wars' stuff had gone and I hadn't played with my Play Station for months. In some ways I preferred my new room and Hannah was very encouraging. My mum said, "It's because you are growing up."
When we stayed with Alison and Hannah I wore my nightdress and white slippers. At home I wore my pyjamas and boy slippers. That became 'normal' for me. I only wore tights when we were playing ballet dancers but we did this quite a lot because it was a favourite game. I enjoyed it so much I actually thought it would be good to go to ballet lessons. The only thing that stopped me asking was this feeling that it would be another move towards being a girl. So, I satisfied myself with the dancing Hannah and I did at home. My tights collection grew to six or seven pairs in a range of colours.
One time mum asked me to take the rubbish to the dustbin and because I had been dancing I decided to nip up the garden in my tights. I put my wellie boots on and took the rubbish off her. Mr Thomas was in the garden and, because I knew he wouldn't like the way I was dressed, I decided to ignore him. I walked up the path in my red wellies, navy blue tights and red sweatshirt. I felt Mr Thomas's eyes in my back the whole way up the garden and all the way back. 'I don't care,' I told myself. 'He doesn't understand.'
My hair grew longer. Each time we went to the hairdressers, Mel cut my fringe and tidied up the back and sides but it reached shoulder length. "Blonde hair should be long," Mel said. "Otherwise it's a waste." I even agreed to her colouring it on one visit so that it was lighter, 'like a Scandanavian', Mel said. It felt, as the months went on, that mum and Alison had backed off. They certainly didn't insist I wore anything in particular anymore and I began to relax a bit more. I would have liked to get my hair cut. I had longer hair than any of the other boys and even longer than some girls. Apart from that things weren't so bad.
The time when I noticed things change again was when I needed new school trousers and mum bought me some black ones. I knew straight away that they were not for boys. They were tight at the top, had no zip for flies, and had a definite flare at the bottom. In fact, they were the same as the ones several girls at school wore. Not that any one mentioned it. If the boys noticed they didn't make fun of me and the girls continued to treat me as one of them. I hated the fact that, with my long hair and school trousers with the sweatshirt there was nothing to mark me out as a boy. The worse thing was that I didn't have any pockets at all. Where did girls put things? I soon spotted that they all carried pencil cases so I got one too. It was very handy.
Mrs Vincent took me aside at school one day and said quietly, "If you need to go at any time you can use the staff 'facilities.'" This last word was said more quietly than the rest of the sentence. I didn't understand her at first. 'Go where?' I thought but then it dawned on me. She wanted me to use the staff toilet. "Why?" I asked, genuinely perplexed.
"It's better all round, dear," she said. "Then no one will be upset."
I was upset. I was being told I could no longer go to the boys' toilet!
Mrs Vincent hadn't finished, "And it might be best if you changed in there for PE as well." I stared at her. "We don't want to scare the boys, do we?"
I had to face it. People around me were treating me like a girl. In my school uniform I certainly looked more like a girl than a boy. This was made obvious to me when, one day after school, we went to the supermarket to buy a few things. I was wandering around hanging on the trolley while my mum was looking intently at the shelves. Someone banged into my leg with a trolley and I turned to see a small boy trying to control one. "Mind the little girl," his mum said. She then apologised to me. My mum smiled at the boy and his mum and said, "no harm done." They passed on and I stared at my mum. I waited until we were in the car before I asked her about it. I didn't want to do it in the supermarket where anyone could hear me.
"That woman called me a girl," I said.
"I know dear. Wasn't that sweet!"
"But you didn't tell her I was a boy," I continued.
"Neither did you," she told me. That was true.
"Everyone thinks I'm a girl," I continued. "I need a haircut."
"Excuse me, you do not," she said emphasising each word. I glared at her. She smiled back at me. "You look very sweet, and everyone thinks you are adorable."
"They think I'm a girl." I folded my arms and huffed back in my seat. A month ago I wouldn't have dared speak harshly to my mum but I felt I was losing a battle with her and I no longer cared as much about hurting her feelings.
"Why do you make me wear girls' clothes?" I asked.
"You wear the clothes that suit you. Isn't that what everyone does?" she said.
"I didn't used to wear girls clothes until Alison came along" I replied. "Now I've got girls' underwear, girls' socks, girls' trousers, long hair…"
"You were the one that started behaving like a girl," she told me. I was shocked to hear this. She was changing the truth to suit herself. I stared at her. It was a few moments before I could speak.
"I have never behaved like a girl," I shouted, my voice going quite high. Two passers by looked our way when they heard this. I sank even lower in my seat.
"The boys at school don't play with me. Josh doesn't play with me anymore", I continued.
"Well doesn't that just prove what I'm saying?" mum answered. "Boys like to play with other boys. If they don't play with you it is because they see you as a girl."
"They see me as a girl because I wear girls' clothes," I said trying and not succeeding to keep the tears from falling.
"Oh Olivia," mum said. "I know this is hard for you, but you know it is about more than clothes." She paused. “You act like a girl." She waited. I didn't say anything so she continued, not sure how far she should go. "Your dance moves are so elegant." She paused again. I looked at her. "And you always looked so awkward dressed as a boy. You look more natural as a girl. It just fits you better, love." I didn't say anything after that. I stared out the front of the car. I didn't even brush away the tears that were falling. Mum brushed the hair out of my eyes and smoothed some strands behind my ear. Then, she started the car and drove away.
As soon as we got home, I stormed upstairs and flopped on my bed. It was there that I remembered she had called me Olivia. I hadn't been Oliver for ages, always Ollie to everyone. But my mum had called me Olivia! There was no hiding from the fact that I was being turned into a girl whether I liked it or not.
I missed tea. I stayed spread out on my bed refusing to join mum downstairs. I didn't weaken all evening. Mum left me alone for ages. She must have realised how upset I was and it was quite late when she finally came in. "Time to get ready for bed, Ollie," she said gently. I didn't reply. I wanted her to suffer. I actually began to think that I had got through to her. She hadn't repeated the mistake of calling me Olivia. I got off the bed in my own good time and went to put on my pyjamas. But they weren't in my drawer. Instead the nightdress was where my pyjamas should be. I checked under the bed and the white slippers had appeared where my blue ones used to be. "Mum!" I yelled. Mum came in and sat on the bed.
"I think the time has come to stop pretending," she said. "Don't you, Olivia?"
I started to cry immediately. "I'm Oliver," I said.
"Come on, you're upset. Get into bed and we'll talk about it tomorrow."
I didn't want to wear the nightdress. "I want my pyjamas," I said.
"Who does this nightdress belong to?"
I didn't answer.
"Have you worn it before?"
I knew the answers would trap me.
"So, stop being a silly girl, and get ready for bed."
I cried even more loudly at this but the fight had gone out of me and I didn't resist when she undressed me, put the nightdress on, and then brushed my hair. By the time she had finished I was calm again. Mum moved me over to the mirror.
"What do you see?" she asked. I looked, and a ten- year old girl looked back.
Next day at school I went around in a daze. I noticed in a way I hadn’t before how the boys behaved. Was it true? Was I an awkward boy? It was true that they had nothing to do with me anymore but I was hurt by that. That must prove that I wanted to play with them rather than the girls. Yet, the girls were friendly and complimented me on the things I wore. Mrs Vincent noticed I was upset and asked if I was okay. I tried to convince her that I was. I didn't want another conversation where I ended up in tears. I would have managed it except that she finished our talk by saying, "You know the school rules say that long hair should be tied back, don't you? Ask mummy to buy you a scrunchy or something so that you can have a pony tail." I went to the corner of the playground and cried. Immediately several girls were around me wanting to know what was wrong and what they could do to help. I didn't want to tell them. How could I tell anyone that I was a boy being turned into a girl? Who would believe that it wasn't my own choice? Chloe put her arm around me. "When I'm upset I tell my daddy. He always makes things better." Of course!
At home that evening I told mum I wanted to talk to dad and I rang him. "I was expecting you to call Oliv… Ollie," he said. "I'm coming to collect you next weekend." Why was he expecting my call?
"What has mum said to you?" I asked.
"Just that we need to talk. It's true. We haven't had a good talk in ages."
"I need help," I whispered. Dad was going to be my lifeline.
"That's what I'm here for, Oliv…Ollie." Twice he nearly called me Oliver and then didn't. The phone call rescue I had imagined wasn't turning out quite as I had planned it. Mum was relaxed when I came off the phone. "Did you two have a nice chat?" she asked. "You need to spend some time together."
"He's coming this weekend," I said, but she already knew that.
It was a surprise, then, that Hannah and Alison were waiting at home one day when I got home from school. They never came over during the week. Hannah was so excited she was nearly bursting.
"Guess what!" she said.
"Its my birthday next week," she trilled. "And mummy said I can have my ears pierced! Isn't that great?"
I had completely forgotten about the promise I made to her. My birthday had come and gone and it hadn't been mentioned, probably because Hannah, as she now reminded me, was desperate that we had our ears pierced together. She jumped around in that infectious way she has when she is really excited and I laughed because she was so funny, even though I was starting to feel uneasy about what might happen next. Hannah jumped around and around.
"Oh Ollie, I just love coming around here, and I just love playing with you, and I just love your pony tail." I fingered my hair which had been tied back ever since Mrs Vincent mentioned it. Another change that everyone, except me, accepted as normal.
"Come along girls," Alison said as she picked up her bag. "We don't want to miss the appointment at the salon, do we?" I looked across at my mum to see if there was any chance of rescue. Not likely, and Alison had obviously decided it was okay to call me a girl, now, as well.
"I'm seeing my dad this weekend," I said as an announcement; one that was supposed to threaten Alison, although I wasn't sure why she was supposed to be scared.
Hannah raced for her mum's car and yelled for me to hurry up. I muttered, "I'm not getting it done," but only to myself and I really didn't believe it. Mel greeted us at the salon as her two favourite customers and asked who was going first.
"Hannah," I said too quickly. They looked at me. "It is her birthday," I continued.
"That's true," Hannah said and jumped into the chair. A minute later she was the owner of two pierced ears with studs in them. "You next," she said.
"I'm not having it done," I said. They looked at me. "I don't want a pierced ear."
"Okay," said Alison and Mel put the piercing gun away. I breathed a sigh of relief. That hadn't been so hard. Then Hannah started crying. I hadn't expected that.
"You promised," she said. I was shocked to see her cry. I had never seen Hannah cry before. "We were going to have it done on the same day." I waited for Alison to tell me off but she didn't.
"Ollie doesn't want it done, sweetie," was all she said. This surprised me. I expected her to pull me into the chair. Hannah cried some more, then announced that she wanted her brand new earrings out. Mel didn't think this was a good idea and Alison tried to comfort Hannah and I started to feel bad.
"Alright," I said. "I've changed my mind." I got in the chair as quickly as possible to try to repair the damage I had done. Immediately, Hannah calmed. Mel got out the gun and fired a stud into my right ear. She, too, didn't want more of a fuss. I looked in the mirror trying to work out whether that was the ear boys wore earrings in when she held my head, told me to keep still and shot a stud into the left ear as well. I stared at my reflection which looked more feminine than ever. Shoulder length hair and a stud in each ear. "What will my dad say?" I said to myself.
The next few days passed slowly as I waited for my dad to come and rescue me. At school I braced myself for the name calling that was sure to follow my ear piercing. It didn't happen. Chloe and a couple of other girls mentioned them but only to tell me I looked really good. The boys took no notice. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want anybody to make fun of me but the fact that no boy even mentioned my earrings made me wonder why not. I would have done if, say, Josh had got his ears pierced.
The number of times I was called a girl increased. In shops, when out, people might say 'mind the little girl' or 'and what would you like, young lady?'- things like that. I never once told them I was a boy. I could see a problem. If I started declaring that I was not a girl everyone would want to know why I was dressed as I was. Each time I was called a girl, I clenched my fists but said nothing.
At home things were different. I didn't want to be a girl. Let me make that clear but there were times when I enjoyed being treated differently by my mum. One of the things I loved was when my mum brushed my hair. It was quite long now and having it brushed was fantastic. There was a rule, though. I had to be ready for bed before she would do it. One evening I put on my nightdress and sat in front of the television while my mum slowly brushed through my hair. There was a knock at the door and mum went to answer it. I didn't move because I didn't think it would be anybody coming in so was surprised when Mr Thomas entered the room. He was chatting to my mum as they came in.
"Have a cup of tea," mum said, "and stay for a chat."
Mr Thomas looked me up and down in his disapproving way. I hoped he wouldn't stay because things were so awkward between us. However, he decided he would and sat himself down while mum went to the kitchen.
"You look pretty," he said. I wasn't sure whether this was sarcastic or not. I looked down, red in the face. "Your hair has got very long," he continued.
"I want it cut," I replied and gathered it up at the back and lifted it. I was conscious of just how long it had become.
"Sweet earrings," Mr Thomas said. I let my hair drop. I had forgotten about my ears.
End of Part Three
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