I pout my deep red-coloured lips for the camera as I take shot after shot of me in various poses. My dark brown hair has been styled into a feminine bob, framing my immaculately made-up face.
My dress is unique- truly one of a kind. Made up of three layers of multicoloured organza, it is simultaneously elegant and modern, sleek yet fun. The wide shoulder straps cover my padded bra, and the asymmetrical skirts cover the top half of my hairless legs, encased in thin black tights. On my feet are black stiletto pumps with a 2.5" heel- not even close to being a match for the dress, but all I can afford on my limited budget. I raise one hand to my hip, my completely hairless arm ending in long, deep red nails. To look at me, you'd never suspect I was a fifteen year old girl- let alone a fifteen year old boy!
"I wish you didn't have to sell this dress," I pout as Sarah takes another photo of her latest creation- by which I of course mean the dress, not me!
"There'll be another one along in a few weeks," Sarah says with a smile. I grin briefly before resuming my earlier 'model's pout'. "Okay, your turn!"
"That WAS my turn," I joke as I take the camera from Sarah and begin to photograph her in her own dress- a deep blue spaghetti-strapped creation with emerald-coloured detailing. Sarah is, of course, also wearing her own make-up, nail polish and heels. Before too long, the dresses we're wearing will be for sale on Sarah's online store and will no doubt be eagerly snapped up by a fashionista with an eye for style!
Once we're done with our photographs we dismantle the impromptu studio we'd erected in Sarah's living room and change our dresses for casual skirts and tops.
"Are you girls all finished now?" Beverly calls from the kitchen, having known better than to interfere in her daughter's 'summer project'!
"All done, mum," Sarah replies, prompting Beverly to enter the room and hand us both tall, cold glasses of fruit juice.
"Thanks," I say as I sit down on the sofa, elegantly sweeping my light, knee-length skirt underneath me.
"Do you both have to keep your heels on?" Beverly chastises, causing me and my girlfriend to sheepishly remove our footwear and put them neatly away in the hallway. "I also don't get why you have to wear so much make-up too..."
"We're supermodels!" Sarah explains with a smug smile. "We can't exactly go in front of the camera bare-faced, can we?"
"There's a difference between 'some' make-up and 'that' make-up," Beverly says firmly, before letting out a small giggle. "I suppose you can't stop teenaged girls from being teenaged girls. And- make-up aside- you are being very professional about your business. I am very proud of what you've achieved, Sarah."
"Thanks, mum," Sarah says with a bashful smile as she cuddles up closer to me. "I couldn't have done it without you. OR without my best girl Nikki!"
"You probably could've," I say in my practised feminine voice as Sarah gives me a quick cuddle. "I mean, you're the uber-talented designer, I'm just a clothes horse with a face."
"No," Sarah quickly corrects me, "you're a supermodel. You really could do this professionally."
"Um, are you forgetting the small problem with that?" I sigh. "No model agency's going to hire a former boy. Or a current boy..."
"How many times do I have to tell you," Beverly interrupts, "you'll never know until you try. And you know I'm not just referring to modelling, right?"
"Yeah," Sarah says. "All the time you've been a schoolboy all you've wanted to be was a schoolgirl. You've only got one year left before leaving school for good..."
"I know, I know," I say, trying to keep my emotions in check. "It's just... too much of a risk."
"You won't be able to keep it from them forever," Sarah persists. "Telling them you've shaved your legs and arms for swimming, you've grown your hair long because I asked you too... How long do you suppose you'll be able to keep your parents fooled?"
"Only until the end of my GCSEs," I say firmly. "Then I'll think about it." Deep down, however, I know that I'll never have the courage to face my parents as Nikki. The doubt eats away at me for the rest of the day, even as my make-up and nail polish is removed and I'm putting away my outfit in the 'Nikki drawers' in Sarah's bedroom. It's amazing just how much my collection of girl's clothes has expanded in the last four months- I now own over a dozen skirts and dresses, some girly shorts, even a pair of tight-fitting jeans. I have several tops and shirts, and even- at Sarah's insistence- one long-sleeved bodysuit. I have five pairs of shoes- some that even have heels- and even one pair of boots that I saw going cheap in a charity store. Hell, I even own a girl's black one-piece swimsuit, even though I'm never likely to ever wear it anywhere near water. And my underwear drawer is filled to near-bursting with panties, bras and several different colours of tights.
"You know this can't go on," Sarah tells me as I finish putting 'Nick's' clothes back on. "Every time you stop being Nikki you're more and more miserable. I hate seeing you with a frown on your face, it's like your mouth won't form a smile unless it's wearing lipstick." I lick my bare lips and stare at the floor.
"Would- would you still love me if I was a girl all the time?" I ask quietly. Sarah immediately drops what she was doing and wraps her arms around me in a tight embrace.
"Of COURSE I would!" She practically yells in my ear. "You're my girlfriend!"
"I just thought, you know," I stutter, "right now you have the best of both, and-"
"I don't care what category you want to put yourself in," Sarah says. "Just as long as you're you." I return Sarah's hug as we head downstairs, hand in hand.
"Nick," Beverly says to me as I prepare to leave, "can I have a quick word?" Confused by this sudden request, I park myself down on the sofa, where just minutes earlier I had been snuggled up next to Sarah in my cute skirt and top.
"I think it would be best for you if you started to see a psychiatrist," Beverly states bluntly. I'm slightly taken aback-and slightly insulted by Beverly's forthrightness.
"You always said there was nothing wrong with the way I am," I say defensively.
"And there isn't," Beverly retorts. "You don't need to be 'cured', Nikki. But you do need to be happy. The difference between looking at you now and looking at you half an hour ago is astonishing. You're not happy as a boy, and you need help. Whether this is to get you help to come out as a girl full-time, or to help you be happier as a boy, I can't say- you'll have to talk that out with your counselor. I'd be happy to help you myself, but obviously, you're practically family so I wouldn't be able to be professionally detached."
"...And you probably couldn't afford her," Sarah snarks, prompting me to giggle a little.
"Sarah," Beverly chastises, effortlessly silencing the defiant teenager. "I know someone who can help you, and she's NHS so she can help you without you having to pay. You just need a referral from your GP."
"I-I can't talk to my doctor," I complain, panic rising in my chest. "He'd tell my parents, he'd-"
"Hello?" Sarah interrupts. "Doctor-patient confidentiality?"
"That's right," Beverly confirms. "I can almost guarantee you won't be the first transgendered person your GP will have seen, and probably not the first under-16 either. He won't tell your parents unless you specifically give him permission."
"When I see him..." I say, my voice quivering, "could you come with me, please?" I look at Beverly, knowing I'm asking a lot but not expecting a positive response. I almost break down in tears when she smiles.
"Of course I'll come with you," Beverly says warmly. "I'll have to fit the appointment around my work but as it's the school holidays it shouldn't be too hard to get you in to see him soon."
"I'll come with you too," Sarah offers, squeezing my shoulder.
"Thanks," I say hesitantly, "but-"
"But?" Sarah asks, mild offence creeping into her voice.
"But..." I say, picking my words with extreme care. "...I want your mum to come as she's the only adult I can trust. I mean, of course- I'd want your support, but-"
"You want this to be done properly," Sarah finishes my sentence. "It's okay, I get it. Can I come if I promise to be quiet?"
"There's a first time for everything," Beverly snipes with a smug smile on her face, laughing when her daughter sticks her tongue out at her.
"The big question is- do you go as Nick or Nikki?" Sarah asks. Beverly, however, replies immediately.
"Go as Nick, at least for the first appointment," Beverly advises. I nod quietly- I never thought what was a childish obsession with girl's clothes could reach the point where I'm actually seeking medical help, but I trust Beverly absolutely.
As I'm leaving the house, Sarah stops me with one final hug.
"God, I missed you," she mumbles into my shoulder. "I'm so glad I'm back from America. You must be, too- I'm guessing you didn't get any Nikki time whilst I was away?"
"Not a second," I confirm. "I missed it. But I missed Sarah time more!"
"Right answer!" Sarah says, squeezing me tighter and giving me a quick kiss before letting me depart.
The very next day- and without my parents' knowledge- I book an appointment with my doctor, and just three days afterwards I rendezvous with Beverly and Sarah outside the clinic. I'd told my parents I was spending the day with Sarah- which I guess isn't entirely untrue.
"Hey Nikki," Sarah says, giving me a quick hug that I eagerly reciprocate. "I've got make-up in my bag in case you need to become the 'real' you before we get home."
"Thanks," I say, unsure exactly how to react. I'm wearing just a boring pair of jeans and a t-shirt and with my hair slicked back I'm obviously a boy- but some lipstick now would feel SO good...
It's not long before I'm called in to see my doctor, and after Beverly introduces herself and Sarah and the two women take seats either side of me, the middle-aged man turns to face me and asks me a question that stumps me entirely.
"So Nick, how can I help you today?" I freeze under such a direct question. I've played through this scene a hundred times in my head and each time I speak eloquently, make a grand gesture with fanfares playing in the background, but now that the moment's come, I'm at a loss for words.
"I-" I stutter, my mouth seemingly incapable of forming another coherent word. Fortunately, Sarah is there to grab my hand and give it a comforting squeeze.
"Take it slowly, in your own time," Beverly whispers in my ear. "We're here to support you no matter what."
"I-" I stutter again, before taking a deep breath and finishing the sentence in one continuous sound. "I think I'm transsexual," I blurt. Instantly it's as though a weight is released from my chest and I almost melt off the chair in exhilaration. I've said it! I've actually said it, and to a man I've known for almost my entire life. And the doctor doesn't look shocked, or offended- he simply nods professionally.
"How long have you had these feelings?" He asks. With the first question answered, the next questions are a piece of cake.
"As long as I can remember," I say confidently. "I've always dreamed about being a girl, being part of a group of girls, growing up as a woman. I feel much happier when I'm being a girl instead of a boy."
"Have you told your parents this?" The doctor asks, to which I simply shake my head.
"I can't," I say quietly. "They wouldn't understand, they'd think I was a freak."
"You'd be surprised," the doctor says with a smile. "I don't think you're a freak, your friend and her mother obviously don't. It's nothing out of the ordinary or freakish for some people to feel they were born the wrong gender, and I think you'll find your parents will understand that better than you think."
"I wish that was true," I mumble. The doctor simply smiles comfortingly at me and probes further, asking the same questions Beverly had earlier asked about my genuine desire to be female, before making the recommendation Beverly had promised that he would.
"I'm going to refer you to a counselor who specialises in these sorts of things," the doctor says, typing into his computer. "She'll be happy to see you once a week to talk through how you feel, but one of the first things she'll say will be what I'm saying now: TELL. YOUR. PARENTS. If you're diagnosed with gender dysphoria you can be started on hormone replacement therapy very quickly- provided, of course, you have your parents' consent."
"Bu-but I'm only fifteen, I can't take hormones!" I exclaim, taken aback by the doctor's positivity.
"Hormone replacement is available to patients from the age of twelve," the doctor explains. "You're going through puberty now, which is the biggest hormonal change our bodies ever experience. It's a lot easier and a lot quicker to get the right hormonal balance in you now than it would be after puberty finishes." I sit back in my chair, dazed by what I'm hearing.
"From what you've told me I believe that you are a girl trapped in a boy's body," the doctor explains, "and I think you truly believe that as well. The longer you put this decision off, the harder it will be in the long run." I nod and thank the doctor for his time before leaving the clinic with Beverly and Sarah.
"That's two people now who have told you the exact same thing," Beverly says confidently.
"Two TRAINED PROFESSIONALS," Sarah emphasizes. "Two people who know what they're talking about probably even better than you do! How long are you going to keep running away from what you want more than anything?"
"My parents just wouldn't understand," I whine as Beverly drives us back to her home.
"Yes. They. Would." Sarah insists. I simply sigh and gaze out of the window, tired of arguing further. However, the streets we're driving down look familiar- but not as the streets leading to Sarah's home.
"Are- are you driving me back to my house?" I ask anxiously.
"Yes, yes I am," Beverly confirms.
"I'm not telling them!" I blurt, panic setting in. "I'm not telling them today! I-"
"You've made that perfectly clear," Beverly jokes. "However, you are always saying just how intolerant your parents are, and as I've never met them, I figured it was time to judge for myself. Besides, it seems strange that you've been my daughter's boyfriend or girlfriend for months now and I've never met them. Today seems as good a day as any." Knowing when I'm defeated, I slump back in my chair.
Mere minutes later, we arrive at my house where Beverly formally introduces herself to my parents. As the adults talk in the living room, I lead Sarah up to my room, where we both sit down on my tiny single bed.
"Thus sucks," I complain.
"I dunno, I kinda like your room," Sarah says, trying to cheer me up. "It's... Androgynous." I smile and take the compliment the way it was intended.
"Yeah, but I don't have a single bit of PROPER clothing anywhere in it," I whinge. Sarah smiles knowingly as she undoes her bag.
"You've got make-up though," Sarah chuckles as she tips out my cosmetics onto my bed. I pick up the lipstick and twirl it around nervously.
"I wouldn't get away with it," I sigh. "I'd have to go out into my bathroom to wash it off, and my parents would DEFINITELY wonder what we were both doing in there..."
"Nikki!" Sarah interrupts, grabbing my head and directing my full attention toward her. "I'm here. My mum's here. I can make you up right now, we can go downstairs and you can explain everything to your parents with the best back-up in the world." I pause briefly as I seriously consider what Sarah's saying. I've had two trained medical professionals tell me that they believe I'm a girl trapped in a boy's body. Very soon I'll be referred to a third who will undoubtedly- hopefully, anyway- say the same thing. But if my parents don't accept me... I'll be left with nothing. Either I'll be forced to stop being a girl- and even worse, stopped from seeing Sarah- for good, or I'll be kicked out completely. I can't risk either of those thing happening.
"I... Am... A girl," I whisper shakily. "I just... Can't be, just yet." Sarah hugs me as I finalise my decision yet again.
"You know," Sarah says, "this is the first time outside school I've spent a prolonged period of time with 'boy you'. And he's nowhere near as fun as my Nikki!"
"I'm sorry," I whisper.
"Don't you dare be sorry!" Sarah admonishes me. "Except for your lack of courage!" Sarah sticks her tongue out at me to let me know she's joking, and I retort in kind before we link hands in our 'girl love handshake'.
"I shouldn't need to remind you that it's not really 'girl love' if it's not between two girls," Sarah teases, quickly pulling her hand away from mine. I sigh and collapse back on my bed whilst Sarah puts on a CD as we waste the afternoon talking, listening to music and NOT being two girlfriends.
Beverly eventually calls Sarah down less than 30 minutes later, but before they leave, Beverly speaks to me privately.
"Your parents are nice people," Beverly explains. "I don't know where you get this 'intolerance' from. I explained to them what I do for a living, the people I deal with, and they were curious and non-judgemental."
"Non-judgemental of strangers," I retort. "It'd be different if it was their own son."
"You'll never know for sure until you try," Beverly advises as she departs, closely followed by her daughter (though not before Sarah gives me a goodbye hug & kiss!).
"She seems like a nice person," dad enthuses as I collapse down on our sofa and pretend to take interest in the television. "Dealing with transsexuals all day... Must be hard keeping her 'his' and 'her's straight! It is a bit weird all that, don't you think? Can't understand how someone can feel they have a burning need to chop and change their parts to become the opposite gender."
"You can't understand why people suddenly stop liking certain types of food," mum jokes as she sits down next to dad.
"Well it's not natural, is it?" Dad asks, but with confusion in his voice rather than anger. "If someone's born a boy, surely they'd want to grow up to be a man?" Inside, I die a little with each word my father says reinforcing my belief that I'd never be accepted as his daughter.
"Anyway, it obviously keeps her and her daughter well-fed," dad concludes. "I was kinda hoping you were going to get a haircut today, Nick. Let it get any longer and maybe we'll have to see if she can give you a few counselling sessions!"
"Ha ha," I sarcastically laugh, secretly wishing we could continue the previous topic of conversation. Because I came close to letting Sarah make me up. I came close- so close- to finally biting the bullet and telling my parents that deep down inside, I'm not a boy.
That night as I sleep, I once again find myself dressed in a pristine white wedding dress, walking down the aisle to where Sarah is waiting for me at the altar, dressed in her own pure white gown. I look up at the face of the person walking me down the aisle and I see my dad smiling warmly down at me.
"I'm so, so proud of you," dad beams. "My beautiful daughter."
If only, if only dreams could come true.
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