“Seventeen!” The assembled guests yell. “Sixteen! Fifteen! Fourteen!” I stare over at Sarah, who is smiling happily, much to my relief.
“Thirteen!” The guests continue. “Twelve! Eleven! Ten!” I look to my left at Katie and Lauren, who are both excitedly bouncing up and down in chairs.
“Nine!” The crowd yells, working itself into a near frenzy. “Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!” Dannii- the most excited person of any in the packed restaurant- takes a deep breath and, in one go, blows out the seventeen candles on the rich chocolate cake placed in front of her.
“Happy birthday!” The table yells as Dannii squeals excitedly from all the attention that’s being lavished on her.
“Oh my god, you guys!” Dannii squeaks. “I love you all so much!” I gaze over at Sarah, whose neutral facial expression betrays the fact that she’s not fully forgiven Dannii for our ‘mistake’ four months ago, despite the gorgeous dress she- well, she and Lauren- made for Dannii, which the birthday girl is currently wearing.
The dress is made of dark blue chiffon, has spaghetti straps and very form-fitting, showing off Dannii’s cleavage and her slender curves. The skirt is ankle length- an impressive achievement, considering that Dannii is 6’ 4” in her heels- and flows and ripples with every step, yet never catches, snags or bunches as Dannii elegantly strides around.
I, of course, am also wearing one of Sarah’s brand-new creations, a gorgeous knee-length strapless fuchsia gown with a fitted bodice and matching stiletto heels, but next to Dannii’s amazing dress, I feel like I may as well be wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The same applies for Sarah’s light pink knee-length dress, Lauren’s tight strapless purple dress and Katie’s short red dress. It’s plain to see that all four of us are jealous of the birthday girl today- even the two girls who made her dress!
“Happy birthday babe,” Calvin- Dannii’s new boyfriend- says, handing the statuesque girl an armful of gifts that she eagerly unwraps. It’s clear from both of their reactions that the gifts are intimate, for their eyes only, and certainly a lot more personal than the collection of nail polishes I’ve given her. I glance over at Sarah, reminding myself just how lucky I am to have her in my life, but all throughout the birthday meal, there’s a tiny, shameful part of me that’s jealous of Calvin and his relationship with Dannii.
“God almighty,” Sarah sighs as she drives us both back to my house. “I thought that would NEVER end...”
“Tell me about it,” I sigh.
"Kinda appropriate that her birthday would be Friday the 13th," Sarah sniggers. "Hey, that's a thought, what day of the week was it when she was born?" I force a grin on my face as I take my smartphone out of my handbag and type in Sarah's request.
"What day of the week was 13th June 1997...?” I say aloud as I type, and I can't help but snigger at the answer. "Friday."
"Haha!" Sarah laughs heartily. "That explains so much..."
“Did she say how long she's been going out with Calvin? I make it 3 weeks?”
“For her, that’s probably a record,” Sarah spits. “Did we ever establish how old he actually is?”
“Twenty, I think,” I reply.
“Do you suppose Dannii has a sign on her vagina that says ‘you must be eighteen or over to ride’?” Sarah jokes, making me giggle despite myself.
“I’d… Rather not speculate about what Dannii has going on down there,” I laugh.
“Are you still thinking about getting your own surgery?” Sarah asks. “After reading Jamie-Lee’s recovery blog, I mean.”
“Oh, it’s definitely happening,” I reply. “Probably after my first year of uni, if I can get on a waiting list. Though my ‘sign’ will read ‘Sarah J Phillips only’!” Sarah giggles happily as we drive into the bustling Friday night.
After we arrive home, and Sarah’s parked her brand-new Mini on my driveway, we head up to my bedroom, careful not to disturb my sleeping parents. Once my door is closed, we quickly strip each other from our beautiful dresses and climb under the sheets, completely naked. I sigh happily as Sarah's soft hands move over my body, gently caressing my soft, hairless skin and lingering over my growing B-cup breasts. 13 months on hormones have given me a body nearly indistinguishable from that of a genetic woman- with one significant exception, of course. An 'exception' Sarah still takes the time to fondle and play with as we disappear underneath my sheets...
As Sarah slumbers, her arms wrapped around my curvy, feminine form, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Today was Dannii’s 17th birthday, and she’s the youngest of the ‘New Angels’, meaning that in under a year’s time, we’ll all be adults, and ready to embark on grown-up life. As much as my body is maturing, my mind is too- and I miss being the carefree 14 year old who messed around, dancing with Sarah in her school uniform. Back then, if you fell behind with schoolwork, you simply got detention, or extra homework. Now, if you fall behind with college work, it could jeopardise your future career… And I’m falling behind a LOT.
As good as I am at photography, the theory behind it is deeply complicated, and something I struggle to put into words. Whilst Katie is consistently one of the top students in our class, I’m consistently near the bottom- and my odds of getting onto a level 3 course next year, let alone university the year after, look to be effectively zero. It doesn’t help that in addition to my Saturday job, I’ve recently taken up another job- that of part-time model for Stephen Daniels talent.
After my appearance on Jeremy Kyle, my interview in Teen Globe and a handful of other magazines, my public profile has increased- in that I now actually have a public profile. I took Krystie’s advice and called her old agent, who happily snapped me up and has sent me on the occasional job- usually just portrait shots for magazines, no fashion or make-up shoots just yet, despite Steve (my agent) nicknaming me ‘Jamie-Lee Jr’! The place where my public profile has increased the most- thanks in no small part to Steve’s advice and assistance- is online. I started a blog and a YouTube channel, which quickly gained 400 subscribers in the two months it’s been live. On it, I talk about my life: college, transitioning, family, Sarah (who frequently makes cameos appearances). I’m lucky in that most of the comments are positive, but I do still get the occasional troll, the occasional transphobic idiot who tries to make me miserable. I make sure I give as good as I get, but every unkind word or comment cuts, and it cuts DEEP.
Fortunately, I’ve also been able to use my publicity as a force for good. After my appearance in Teen Globe, Pippa actually contacted me asking me to write a monthly column, which I was only too happy to do (though the two I’ve written so far have very much been collaborations between me and Sarah!). I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from these columns, especially from pre-teen T-girls who- for some unknown reason- view me as a kind-of role model.
With my life getting ever busier, and Sarah’s free time dwindling ever since she and Lauren officially became business partners, it’s a miracle we have any time for each other anymore. Fortunately, with our increased workload comes increased income, and following a meeting with all of our parents in which I agreed to pay a token rent to Beverly and Sarah agreed to give money to my parents, we now spend virtually every night together, and every night I find myself loving Sarah more and more. Last month, on May 16th, the two of us had a private party to celebrate the 1st anniversary of my ‘coming out’. I wore the special dress Sarah made me for my sixteenth birthday, even if it was tighter around the chest than it had been previously, and I’d never felt happier or more content than I did when I ended that night in bed in the arms of the woman I love more than life itself.
As much as I’m growing ever closer to Sarah, my relationship with the ‘New Angels’ is, if anything, falling apart. With college nearing an end and us both working on finishing off our individual projects, I rarely get to spend any time with Katie- especially as her work is leaps and bounds ahead of mine. I still get to spend time with Lauren, but even then it’s only when she’s working with Sarah so we don’t get to gossip like we did when we first met, and Dannii… I don’t think I’d ever DARE spend time alone with Dannii again, such is Sarah’s utter dislike of the girl.
I know I’ll make new friends, wherever I end up after the summer- I did so this September just gone, after all- but I really thought the ‘New Angels’ would be best friends for life, just as the ‘real’ Angels are. However, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned from life, it’s to appreciate what you have, rather than despair over what you’ve lost, and as I wake up at 7am on Saturday morning, my arms wrapped around the warm, soft form of the woman I love, I make a promise to myself to do just that.
“Morning, sexy,” I whisper, gently kissing Sarah’s neck.
“Mmm,” Sarah dreamily moans as she awakens. “Morning, gorgeous…”
“It’s 7 o’clock,” I say. “We’ve got to get up…”
“Ugh,” Sarah moans. “Can’t we just skip my dad tomorrow and give your dad his surprise then?”
“You know you’d never hear the end of it if we did,” I sigh. “And you know your brother and sister are looking forward to seeing you again…”
“Fine,” Sarah sighs, gently sliding her naked body out of bed and pulling on fresh underwear and a dressing gown, prompting me to do the same. Taking care not to disturb my parents, we head downstairs and prepare a massive, slap-up breakfast- bacon, scrambled eggs, fried bread, orange juice, coffee and a selection of fruits. Almost struggling under the weight of the food, we carry the delicious-smelling meal upstairs into my parents’ bedroom, where Sarah and I shake my father into reluctant awakeness.
“Happy father’s day!” We both yell, giggling as dad judders with confusion, before smiling tiredly at the two of us.
“Father’s day is tomorrow,” dad laughs, before seeing the cards, gifts and breakfast we’ve prepared for him. “…Thank you, thank you BOTH. Suppose this is the second to last one I’ll get before you head off to university…”
“We’ll be home at the weekends,” I say smugly. “You can’t expect us to do our own laundry, surely?”
“I can, and don’t call me Shirley,” dad jokes, tucking into his breakfast.
“Hmm?” Mum mumbles, waking up from the commotion.
“The girls have made me breakfast in bed!” Dad says smugly. “Smells delicious!”
“Smells FATTENING,” mum complains, sounding slightly nauseous.
“Got to keep my gut wide somehow!” Dad laughs, patting his belly. “And you didn’t hear me complaining on mother’s day, did you?”
“I got croissants on mother’s day,” mum laughs. “Not THAT monstrosity.”
“Hey!” Sarah and I say with mock hurt.
“Oh, I’m sorry girls,” mum giggles. “I can tell you’ve worked really hard on it.”
“Well, you’re the only parents I’ve ever had,” I say. “Got to do SOMETHING to show how much I appreciate you, don’t I?”
“Just being happy, and being YOU is all the appreciation I need,” mum says with a warm smile.
“Though the breakfast is very much appreciated!” dad laughs. “As are the cards and the gifts!”
After work, Sarah and I spend the rest of the day spoiling dad, giving him full control of the television for one night only, keeping him supplied with freshly chilled beer, making sure he knows just how much I appreciate him- because I do. There aren’t many parents who would go to the lengths mine have to ensure I’m happy and content, especially considering the ‘journey’ I’m taking and the obstacles I’ve faced from other members of my family. Dad and I have been attending counselling sessions with my grandparents in an effort to repair our relationship, and it’s been slow going. Granddad’s been trying, but it’s clear he’ll never be able to see me as anything other than the little boy I used to be. However, he is trying, and we are finally communicating as grandfather and granddaughter, and that’s a lot more of a relationship than we had over the past 12 months, and as I climb into bed with Sarah, I’m reminded of just how much worse it could be.
“Goddd…” Sarah moans. “I don’t want to go tomorrow…”
“Why do you hate your dad so much?” I ask, gently wrapping my arms around Sarah’s body.
“I don’t HATE him,” Sarah replies. “I just… Ugh. YOUR dad is much more of a father to me than he’s ever been.”
“Well regardless, I’m sure he still loves you,” I sigh into Sarah’s shoulder.
“Yeah, well the same can’t be said of the wicked stepmother,” Sarah snorts. “Still think she’s turning Karl & Kerrie against me.”
“Those kids ADORE you,” I remind my lover.
“And I adore them,” Sarah sighs. “But… I dunno. Let’s get some sleep, okay?”
“Okay,” I whisper, settling my head on my pillow and gently drifting off to sleep.
We wake up the following morning at 8:30, quickly showering and changing into smart summer dresses and low-heeled sandals, before Sarah drives us the 30 miles to her father’s home in High Wycombe.
“Happy father’s day!” Sarah says, giving her dad a half-hearted kiss on the cheek as he answers the door.
“Sarah, so good to see you today!” Mr Phillips says warmly, before turning to me with a stoic face. “Hello, Nikki.” After exchanging an uneasy glance with my lover, we enter the large house.
“Hello Sarah,” Diane- Sarah’s stepmother- says coldly, before walking into the kitchen, completely ignoring me.
“Hi Sarah!” An excited young voice comes from the living room, and moments later Kerrie- Sarah’s 7 year old half-sister- runs up, giving Sarah a massive hug.
“Hi Kezzie!” Sarah says warmly, cuddling the excited young girl.
“Kerrie, this is Nicola, Sarah’s best friend,” Mr Phillips says by way of introduction. “She doesn’t see her father any more so we agreed that Sarah could bring her to our house today.” I seethe a little at the blatant lie, but put on a happy face for the little girl.
“Hi Kerrie!” I say happily. Kerrie smiles and goes to give me a hug, before her father steps between us.
“No, Kerrie,” Mr Phillips says. “No, don’t touch her.” My smile falls off my face as Mr Phillips leads us into the living room where Kerrie & Sarah’s 11 year old brother is waiting, playing on his Xbox.
“Hi Sarah,” Karl says, barely diverting attention from his game.
“Karl, this is Nicola,” Mr Phillips says. “She’s Sarah’s best friend and has come here today as she doesn’t have any contact with her own father.” Karl looks at me with a knowing look in his young eyes.
“Hi,” he disinterestedly says to me.
“Hi,” I reply, before sitting down next to Sarah on the sofa, much to Mr Phillips’s distaste.
The next half hour passes awkwardly as Sarah fills her father in about everything that’s happened to her lately- her career, her studies- but she is very careful not to mention anything whatsoever about our relationship, and every time Sarah and I start moving closer together, a well-timed cough from either Sarah’s dad or his wife puts a stop to it. Fortunately, the awkwardness is soon broken by an unexpected source.
“Sarah,” Kerrie says, “would you like to see my new party dress?”
“I’d love to!” Sarah says happily.
“Nicola, would you like to see it too?” Kerrie asks, making me smile happily.
“Of course!” I say happily, preparing to stand up when I’m abruptly cut off.
“Nicola would rather stay down here,” Diane says curtly, earning herself my filthiest glare.
“Don’t you want to see the dress, Nicola?” Kerrie asks, clearly upset.
“Maybe- maybe some other time,” I say with as kindly a smile as I can manage. Once Sarah and Kerrie have left the room- and despite Karl being present- I decide I can’t hold my tongue any longer.
“Thanks for telling me what I think,” I say defiantly.
“How dare you!” Comes the inevitable response from Diane, but I remain unfazed. “How dare you come into MY house and speak to me like that!”
“Did you not see how disappointed your daughter was?” I ask.
“She’ll get over the disappointment,” Mr Phillips says darkly. “Better she’s a little upset now then she finds out the truth about you and Sarah and precisely… what… you are!”
“Karl, leave the room,” Diane orders, and the young boy meekly obeys.
“And precisely what is wrong with ‘what I am’?” I ask.
“You KNOW what’s wrong!” Mr Phillips argues. “Yes, obviously you have a right to live your life anyway you want, I wouldn’t dream of stopping you doing that, but at the same time, I have a duty to protect my children from what you… What you… represent.”
“Interesting attitude from someone who used to be married to a transsexualism expert!” I muse. “When I met Sarah, she was well aware of people ‘like me’, that it was a simple fact of life that sometimes it happens.”
“So is rape, war and murder,” Diane retorts. “We don’t want our children exposed to THAT either.”
“So are you telling me that my living my life the way I want is like I’m raping someone!?” I ask, my voice raising.
“No, of course not,” Mr Phillips says defensively. “We’d just prefer it if they didn’t find out the truth until they were old enough to cope with it.”
“How old, exactly, is that?” I ask.
“Eighteen,” Diane says firmly.
“Oh, so older than both myself and Sarah are right now?” I retort.
“Well neither of you are exactly a picture of maturity, are you?” Diane sneers, and I feel my blood begin to boil and the woman insults not just myself, but her own stepdaughter. I smile evilly and play my prepared ‘trump card’.
“What if Sarah and I choose to get married?” I ask. “Would you stop your children from attending their own sister’s wedding?”
“Yes,” Diane says.
“No,” Mr Phillips says simultaneously, causing him and his wife to exchange confused glances. Despite myself, I sit back with a smug look on my face.
“…You can’t tell me I can’t walk my own daughter down the aisle at her wedding, surely?” Mr Phillips asks his wife.
“You hardly ever SEE the girl,” Diane retorts.
“Still though… She IS my daughter,” Mr Phillips says.
“And how, pray tell, would you tell your OTHER children, who you DO see more than twice a year, ‘this is your sister and her wife’? Hmm?” Diane angrily asks her husband. Mr Phillips is about to reply when the room is interrupted by a cough from the door- stood there is Sarah, holding Kerrie’s hand.
“Oh Kerrie,” Diane mewls, running up to the small girl and giving her a quick hug. “How much of that did you hear?”
“Some of it,” Kerrie says. “Are Nikki and Sarah getting married?”
“No, of course they’re not,” Diane says. “Only men and women get married.”
“But if they love each other, why shouldn’t they get married?” Kerrie asks, and broad smiles creep over the faces of both myself and my lover.
“Because they’re both girls,” Diane says, but it’s clear that Kerrie isn’t accepting the explanation.
“But that's not fair,” Kerrie says. “Sarah, do you love Nikki?”
“Yes,” Sarah says firmly, exchanging a loving stare with me. “Yes, I love her very much, just like your mum and dad love each other.” Spotting my cue, I stand up and link hands with Sarah.
“And I love your sister,” I say proudly.
“I think you should both leave now,” Diane says quietly, aware that the ‘bubble’ she’d been keeping her children in has been well and truly burst.
“Aww,” Kerrie says. “When will you come back, Sarah?”
“When I can, I promise,” Sarah replies, giving Kerrie a gentle hug. “I think… I think your mum and dad need to have a long talk with you and Karl. But any time you want to talk to me, I’m only a phone call away.” Kerrie nods, then looks up at me. Sensing my cue, I crouch down and allow the small girl to give me a brief yet tight hug.
“Well, this was certainly interesting,” Mr Phillips sighs, escorting myself and his daughter back to Sarah’s car. “God knows how I’m going to patch this one over.”
“’The truth’ is usually a good place to start,” Sarah says.
“Yes, yes, I know,” Sarah’s dad sighs. “Stay in touch, Sarah. I love you.”
“I love you too, dad,” Sarah says stoically before driving us both away.
“Hey,” Sarah says, a smile returning to her face, “how d’you suppose the dragon would’ve reacted if we’d told Kerrie that you used to be a boy?”
“How about we save that for next year?” I ask, making Sarah giggle happily.
“God, I can’t believe them at times,” Sarah sighs. “I mean, I knew that you could be in love with someone other than the opposite sex for as long as I can remember. I knew about civil partnerships, gay marriages…”
“Have- have you ever thought about it?” I ask cautiously.
“…Thought about what?” Sarah asks.
“You know, getting married,” I say, my heart beating faster. “You and me.”
“Sometimes,” Sarah whispers. “But… We’re only seventeen, I don’t want to think about getting married. Not yet anyway.”
“I know for a fact that I’ll never love anyone as much as I love you,” I say softly.
“I feel the same way,” Sarah says quietly.
We make a brief pit-stop at my house before heading to Sarah’s mum’s house for the night. Despite it being Sunday afternoon, both mum and dad are still at work, so I let myself in to change into a t-shirt and a denim mini and grab some clothes for tomorrow whilst Sarah makes us both a drink. I’ve barely packed my case, however, when I hear a cry from downstairs.
“Nikki!” Sarah calls in a state of near-panic. “Nikki! Nikki!” Fearing the worst, I hurry downstairs to the kitchen where Sarah is stood staring wide-eyed at a small cardboard box.
“What?” I ask, nearly panicking myself. “What it is?”
“I found this in the bin,” Sarah says quietly. “Nikki… It’s a box for a pregnancy test.” My eyes go wide as I take the box from Sarah and stare at it.
“Wh-whose is it?” I ask. “It- it can’t be yours, surely?”
“We haven’t had sex ‘like that’ in months,” Sarah says. “It’s got to be someone else’s…”
“But whose?” I repeat. “How far down did you find it?”
“Near the top,” Sarah says, before sighing and dropping the grotty box back in the bin. “When was the last time the New Angels were all here?”
“Umm, Tuesday, wasn’t it?” I reply, still in a state of shock from the discovery. “Besides, you only found the box, for all we know the test was negative?”
“You don’t take a pregnancy test unless you think you’re pregnant,” Sarah muses. “Did you notice how at Dannii’s party, she hid away all the presents she got from Calvin? What if they were baby clothes?”
“They’ve only been going out a few weeks…” I counter.
“You only need to have sex once to get pregnant,” Sarah retorts. “And it would be SO her to do the test at someone else’s house, out of sight of her parents…”
“Katie and Jason split up last month so it’s probably not her,” I muse.
“…And if it was Lauren, she’d surely have told me,” Sarah says. “So that’s it. It’s got to be Dannii.”
“Do- do you want to ask her at college tomorrow?” I ask quietly.
“No,” Sarah whispers. “Not without more evidence.” I nod, picking up my bag of clothes and leading Sarah back to her car. The drive to Sarah’s house is conducted in near-silence, and this doesn’t go unnoticed once we arrive at our destination.
“Mum, we’re here,” Sarah says wearily.
“Are you girls okay?” Beverly asks. “How was your father?”
“Ugh,” Sarah moans, slumping down on the sofa. “Bad, and ‘the dragon’ was even worse…”
“Oh dear,” Beverly says sympathetically, supplying us both with very welcome cups of tea. “Well, at least it’s done for another year.”
“…And it looks like one of our friends is pregnant,” Sarah sighs, making Beverly pause.
“Do you know who?” Beverly asks quietly.
“It’s not me,” Sarah sighs. “And obviously not Nikki either!”
“Well, no, obviously,” Beverly says. “How do you know?”
“…Not important,” Sarah says.
“Well, just try to relax for the rest of the night,” Beverly advises. “You’ve got a long week and a lot of work to do, make sure you’re rested for it!”
“Will do,” I say with a smile.
“Same here,” Sarah sighs.
Sarah and I opt for an early night ahead of college tomorrow- both of us are so tired after the day’s events that we even forego sex, and we’re both quickly asleep, snuggled together in each other’s arms.
“You may kiss the bride,” the priest says, and Sarah and I lift each other’s veils, looking deep into each other’s eyes. Before I lean in to kiss her, however, I stare down at Sarah’s pregnant belly pushing her dress out further and further…
I wake up with a start, thankfully not disturbing my still-sleeping lover, and gaze over at Sarah’s alarm clock- it’s due to go off in ten minutes anyway, and it’s already light (not to mention hot!) outside so I carefully extract myself from Sarah’s embrace so as to get in the shower first.
“Boo!” Sarah surprises me as I exit the bathroom, before wrapping her arms around my naked body and giving me a long kiss. “Thought you could get away without me realising?”
“Well,” I reply, returning Sarah’s embrace. “You looked so peaceful sleeping, not to mention beautiful…”
“But I’m more beautiful when I’m awake, right?” Sarah asks, making us both giggle and kiss each other again.
“Reckon we’d get away with showering together?” I ask. The sound of Beverly’s alarm clock, however, answers my question for me.
“Get dressed,” Sarah says, giving me yet another kiss before jumping underneath the shower. Once we’re ‘cleansed’, Sarah and I both dress in light, floaty miniskirts and girly t-shirts for college, and after bidding farewell to Beverly, Sarah drives the both of us to our place of education.
“When IS your next lesson, anyway?” Sarah asks as we navigate the packed streets of London.
“Ugh, whenever dad’s free,” I sigh. “Yes, I know, I’ve got two jobs, I can afford to pay for lessons, but…”
“Yeah, I know,” Sarah says. “And it’s THREE jobs if you count Teen Globe, even if I do most of the work there myself!”
“Only ten days to the next deadline,” I giggle. “Had any ideas for quote-unquote my next column?”
“Just… Concentrate on college today, okay?” Sarah asks, making us both giggle.
After yet another morning of banging my head against my theory work- whilst staring frustratedly at Katie happily rattling off page after page of her own work- the five ‘New Angels’ come together for lunch on our usual cafeteria table.
“Hey girlies!” Dannii squeaks excitedly.
“Hey Dannii!” Katie says. “Enjoy your big birthday weekend?”
“Of course!” Dannii replies smugly. “Lots of presents from my rich, extended family and lots of sex from my tall, sexy boyfriend! Back to work tomorrow, sadly…”
“Poor you,” Sarah says sarcastically, making the table- thankfully including Dannii herself- collapse in a fit of giggles.
“I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain,” Dannii laughs. “Especially not when I get to spend all day tomorrow showing off this sexy seventeen year old body in one ballet leotard after the other!”
“Ooh, make sure you tell Krystie that tonight,” Katie says. “Can you say ‘endorsement deal’?”
“You don’t need to remind me twice!” Dannii giggles. “How about you, Nikki, my fellow professional model? Steve got you any more work yet?”
“Huh?” I ask, barely paying attention to the conversation. “Oh, just a magazine shoot next Thursday, another teen mag.”
“You’re such a heroine to 12 year old girls!” Dannii jokes. “Almost makes me wish I was 12 again!” Unsurprisingly, Sarah shoots yet ANOTHER disapproving look at Dannii- and I can tell that Lauren and Katie noticed as well.
"God, I envy you two, I really do," Katie sighs. "I'd be putting out portfolios to every agent I could find, if I wasn't so wrapped up in college work and my weekend job..."
"How about you, Sarah?" Dannii asks, her tone suddenly cooling. "You can't tell me you didn't enjoy getting in front of the camera with your girlfriend for Teen Globe?"
"A little," Sarah replies. "I'm happiest behind a sewing machine, though!"
"Oh GOD yes," Dannii giggles. "You know that dress you made me?"
"WE made you," Lauren interjects.
"Sorry," Dannii says playfully. "You know that dress you TWO made me? My mum's already asked me to get something similar, so has Becca from work!"
"We... don't really do commissions," Sarah replies.
"Oh I dunno," Lauren retorts. "Give them our contact details, I'm sure we can work something out for the right price." This time, Sarah shoots a dirty look at Lauren- who seems a lot more put out by it than the usually-unflappable Dannii.
"We'll... Talk it over," Sarah says.
Lunch fortunately ends shortly afterwards, but before I can get back to work, Sarah drags me into the toilets.
"'Almost wish I was 12 again'?" Sarah asks. "She's GOT to be up the duff..."
"I dunno, she seems just as bubbly as she normally does," I counter.
"Meh," Sarah shrugs. "Well, she's stick-thin, she can't hide it forever."
"And what was that between you and Lauren?" I ask.
"Ugh," Sarah spits. "That whole birthday dress for Dannii was her idea. I mean, I get that Dannii's her BFF, but we lost almost £50 and two weeks on that damned thing, and now she wants us to start working for commission?"
"You've made commission pieces for me before," I remind Sarah.
"Yes, but I LOVE you," Sarah says with a smile, wrapping her arms around my neck.
"What does Lauren think about you making me those pieces?" I ask. "ESPECIALLY the lingerie..."
"She doesn't think anything," Sarah says. "They're all my own work."
"Ooh, intimate," I say, giving Sarah a quick kiss. "Though I wouldn't mind if you got Lauren to help with them. Well... Maybe not the undies!"
"You wouldn't mind, but she WOULD," Sarah sighs. "Wish I'd never partnered with her..."
"Oh come on," I plead. "She's still one of your best friends, right?"
"Yes," Sarah sighs. "Maybe- I dunno. Can we just get back to college and then home, where I know I'm around REAL friends?"
"Okay, okay," I concede, taking the time to straighten my skirt before heading back to my work.
When we arrive home, I'm all ready to drop onto the sofa for the next few hours when mum and dad call me into the living room- and by the looks on both of their faces, I can tell that what they have to say is serious.
"Is- is everything alright?" I ask, sitting down next to the equally-concerned Sarah.
"Nikki, Sarah," mum whispers emotionally. "There's something we need to tell you. Something very important."
"Are- are you guys splitting up?" I ask, tears welling in my eyes.
"No," dad says with a smile. "No, nothing like that. Your mum and I- well, your mum..."
"I- I'm pregnant," mum says. "Two months gone. Just had it confirmed by the doctor today."
"Are- are you sure?" I ask, dumbfounded by the news.
"Quite sure," mum replies.
"But- but- aren't you, you know, too old?" I ask, trying to process the information.
"I'm only 42, you cheeky madam!" Mum says with a smile.
"Nikki," dad says. "I want you to know that just because we're having a baby, it doesn't mean we love you any less. You'll always be our firstborn, our special- well, not 'little girl', I suppose. You'll always be our special young woman."
"And the best big sister in the world!" Sarah says, grabbing my hand for support.
"Absolutely!" Mum says with a warm smile. "It does mean there'll have to be a few changes, though."
"Wh- what changes?" I ask.
"We're going to need to move," dad sighs. "This is only a 2 bedroom place, and we can't ask you to share with a toddler."
"I- I can move out when I go to uni," I argue. "The baby will only be what, a few months old at that point?"
"Nikki," mum says softly. "I know this is a lot to take in. But I promise you, we won't make any decisions without telling you first."
"Okay," I whisper.
We spend the entire evening discussing the impending arrival, but everything say goes over my head like it isn't real. Even as I get into bed with Sarah, the enormity of the situation still hasn't fully dawned on me.
"Oh my god!" Sarah quietly squeaks. "You're gonna be a big sister!"
"Yeah," I reply. "My mum? My mum... Pregnant?"
"I know!" Sarah whispers excitedly. "And here we were convinced it was Dannii... Your mum's a better mother than she'd ever be anyway. Her first child turned out pretty damn well!"
"Who- who was that?" I ask, not realising that Sarah was referring to myself.
"Get some sleep," Sarah says, giving me a loving kiss before snuggling into her pillow. I do the same and am quickly asleep myself.
"Oh, doesn't she look beautiful?" The crowd in the church coos as my father leads me down the aisle to the altar.
"Such a beautiful young girl!" Another person says.
"She's so beautiful!" Another person says, and I become quickly aware that none of the crowd's attention is on me, but is instead on the little flower girl- my younger sister- walking ahead of me, sprinkling rose petals on the floor...
I wake up with a groan, wondering why I have to have such a vivid imagination. After showering, eating breakfast and dressing in a black miniskirt and light blue short-sleeved top, I hop into Sarah's car as she drive us both to college. Sarah is, of course, hyper-excited about the new arrival, but I'm still in a near-state of shock- something that's picked up on when I arrive at college.
"Hey Nikki," Katie says happily as I sit down next to her in the computer suite.
"Hey," I quietly say.
"Are you okay?" Katie asks.
"Not really," I reply, desperately trying to keep my emotions in check.
"Oh my god, what's wrong?" Katie asks with clear, genuine concern.
"It's my mum," I whisper. Nodding, Katie leads me to the nearest restroom, where we can speak in private.
"Is she okay?" Katie asks. "Is- is she ill?"
"She's pregnant," I reply.
"Oh my god," Katie says, a smile creeping onto her face. "That's so exciting!"
"Is it really?" I ask.
"Take it from someone with two little brothers, yes it is," Katie replies. "Didn't you ever wish you weren't an only child?"
"Sometimes, maybe," I reply. "I- I just can't shake the feeling that... God, this sounds stupid..."
"No, go on," Katie says quietly.
"I just can't help but feel," I say, "that they're having another child because I went wrong, somehow." Katie simply sighs and gives me a long, very welcome hug.
"You did NOT go wrong!" Katie says. "You're one of the coolest people I know!"
"Thanks," I sniffle. "But I'm not your daughter... I'm never going to give my parents grandkids... I'll always be 'the son who wanted to be a daughter'..."
"You ARE their daughter," Katie says firmly. "I've met your family, I saw you on Jeremy Kyle, it's clear your dad's accepted you as his daughter."
"Yeah, and you also saw that my granddad HASN'T accepted me as his granddaughter," I sigh. "Maybe- maybe a new grandchild would repair the damage I caused?"
"Oh god, you really are messed up, aren't you?" Katie sighs, giving me another hug. "Your parents work shifts, right? Are either of them home right now?"
"Yeah, think my mum's off work today and tomorrow," I reply.
"Go home, talk to her, explain all this," Katie advises.
"I... really can't afford to fall behind on my work," I retort.
"Oh for god's sake," Katie laughs. "If you need something urgently doing I'll happily do it for you, I'm well ahead on my project."
"I- I couldn't ask you to do that..." I say meekly, knowing that my friend won't take no for an answer.
"Hey, if by some miracle my mum gets pregnant again, you can return the favour," Katie laughs. "Now go!" Nodding, I hand Katie my memory card of unedited photos and hop on the next bus back home, where mum is sat in the living room, browsing the internet on her laptop.
"Nikki?" Mum asks as I step through the front door. "Why are you home so soon?"
"Mum..." I whisper, before giving the middle-aged woman a long hug and spilling my guts, just as I had to Katie. After a long talk- and a bit of a cry- I feel like a weight has been lifted from me.
"Nikki," mum sighs. "We've NEVER viewed you as a failure as a child, me or your father."
"I know," I say. "I just... Were- were you and dad trying for another child?" Much to my dismay, mum nods, and the weight that had been lifted comes crashing back down.
"I know that sounds like it contradicts what I just said," mum explains. "But you gave us both so much joy over the last 18 years... Call us selfish, but we want another 18 years of that joy."
"...And grandchildren afterward?" I ask quietly.
"We don't care about grandchildren!" Mum laughs, though I find it hard to completely believe her. "We're going to have our hands full as it is with the new arrival."
"...And if," I begin, "12, 13, 14 years from now, he or she goes up to you and dad and says 'I want to live life as the opposite gender'?"
"We'll let them," mum says without any hesitation. "We did the same for his or her sister, and she's turned out to be a wonderful young woman!" For the first time since returning home, I giggle, and mum almost cries at the sound.
"One thing I always wanted to know," I say hesitantly. "What- what did you and dad say to each other, that first night, May 16th last year?"
"After you became our little girl?" Mum asks, to which I nod. "Everything we talked about what based purely around how we could help you. If anything... We wished you'd told us earlier."
"So do I," I sigh, smiling happily.
Following the revelations of the last 24 hours, I almost choose to skip ballet, but after another talk with my mother, I head upstairs and change into my white tights and black leotard- hot as they may be on a warm June afternoon- before pulling on a pair of denim shorts, tying my long brown hair into a tight bun and heading off to the dance studio with Sarah. When I arrive, I'm greeted with an unexpected sight that makes me glad I decided to come- the sight of Jamie-Lee Burke, wearing a ballet uniform identical to my own, stood a few feet away in the studio.
"Before we start," Krystie announces as we all take our place at the barre, "we've got a new temporary student joining us for the next few weeks. I'm sure many of you may have heard of Jamie-Lee Burke, though you're forgiven if you haven't!" I can't help but giggle as Jamie pokes her tongue out at our teacher!
"She's been off her feet lately," Krystie continues, "I'll be working with her throughout the lesson to help her get back up to speed."
Throughout the lesson, I can't help but occasionally glance over at Jamie as Krystie helps her with her technique. It's clear that she's not nearly as flexible as she was when I saw her perform at Krystie's birthday party last year, but she's still getting down reasonably low in her plies.
After the lesson, as I'm getting ready to leave, I hear the voice of my idol calling my name.
"Nikki!" Jamie shouts, making my heart almost skip a beat- Jamie-Lee Burke knows who I am!?
"It is Nikki, isn't it?" Jamie asks, skipping over to me with a smile on her face.
"Y-yes, yes it is!" I reply enthusiastically.
"Cool, I'm so glad I got the chance to catch you before you left!" Jamie enthuses. "Do you have a second to talk?" I glance over at Sarah- my ride, after all- who eagerly nods.
"S-sure," I stutter.
"Cool!" Jamie says happily. "Let's go somewhere a bit cooler, this is DEFINITELY the wrong time of year for tights!" I giggle as Jamie leads me to Krystie's reception desk, which has a very conveniently-placed (and very welcome) desk fan running on it.
"I know I didn't sound so in our phone call," Jamie begins, "but I was really, really impressed with the way you came across on Jeremy Kyle. God knows I wasn’t that mature when I was seventeen!"
"Thanks," I say, still nervous about the woman I've looked up to for ages heaping praise on me. "Are- are you, you know, 'getting better'?"
"It's been ten weeks," Jamie shrugs. "I'm a hell of a lot more mobile than I was this time last month. Yes, I'm still a little swollen, the scars still hurt, but the stitches are long gone, and everything's settling down to how it should be."
"Good," I say with a smile. "I've got to admit, I'm not looking forward to the recovery..."
"But..." Jamie replies. "You do still want to have it done, right?"
"Absolutely," I answer. "Do you- do you regret having it done?"
"No," Jamie says with a smile. "In fact, I regret it less and less every day. It really does feel like, natural, like it's been 'that way' my whole life. Obviously though, you can only do what's right for you."
"Yeah," I say, my nerves calming.
"How long have you been doing ballet with Krystie, anyway?" Jamie asks. "I remember seeing you at her birthday last July..."
"Since the end of May last year," I answer. "Just after I started on hormones."
"So just after the place opened?" Jamie asks.
"Yeah," I say. "It was actually my girlfriend who signed us both up, we're both- oh god, I can't believe I'm saying this, I'm going to sound like such a creep..."
"No, go on, I promise I won't judge," Jamie says.
"We're both big fans of the Angels," I sigh. "Think Sarah must've made some connection between Krystie and you and Charlotte. Anyway, the rest is history, yadda yadda yadda."
"So you're not en pointe yet?" Jamie asks.
"Not yet," I say. "Maybe later in the year. Assuming I can find the time to keep up practice, that is!"
"Ah yes," Jamie says warmly. "Krystie says you FINALLY called Steve about representation?"
"Yep!" I say happily. "Only done a couple of jobs for him, reckon it's because I'm not eighteen yet..."
"Well, get your photography qualification and you'll be doubly valuable to him and get double the work!" Jamie giggles, but I can't help but sigh. "...What's up?"
"Well, turns out I suck at photography," I sigh. "It's a lot of hard work, a lot more than just pointing a camera and pressing the shutter."
"I know the feeling," Jamie says. "I just barely scraped a 2:2 in my uni studies this year."
"I'm just barely PASSING my studies," I sigh. "I never realised it until recently, but I'm much more comfortable in front of the camera than behind it..."
"Then tell Steve!" Jamie insists.
"I'm still very much bottom of his food chain," I say. "We can't all be 'Angels', heh, even though- and if I didn't sound needy and pathetic before, I will now- me and my friends at college actually refer to ourselves as the 'New Angels'. I know, right?"
"Meh, nothing wrong with having aspirations," Jamie says with a smile. "And you're hardly the first group of friends to do that. Helps that you're actually all models too. I've seen pictures online of all-male 'Angel imitators'. Makes me sick, sometimes..."
"...Sorry," I say, troubled that I might have offended the famous young woman.
"Oh, god," Jamie says, shaking her head. "YOU have nothing to be sorry about. I don't see you as a crossdresser, or even a T-girl, Nikki. To me, you're just a girl. Well, um, not 'just' a girl, um..."
"'I am a girl'," I say with a giggle. "Don't know how many times I said that to myself growing up!"
"Yeah," Jamie says with an uneasy laugh. "Um, me too..."
"And we're not all models," I say. "In fact, only me and my friend Dannii have representation."
"Dannii Samson?" Jamie asks, and I nod to confirm her suspicion. "Is she as clingy amongst friends as she is every time I see her?"
"You don't know the half of it!" I giggle. "Made especially bad by the fact that my girlfriend can't stand her..."
"Your girlfriend should definitely be a model too," Jamie says.
"Nah, she prefers sitting behind a sewing machine," I say. "She makes the clothes, I model them..."
"Yeah, Krystie showed me the website," Jamie says.
"It's weird as she's always loved performing," I continue, opening up to Jamie like I would to an old friend. "I said she's the one who signed us up for ballet, she was on our school's rhythmic gymnastics team, she actually wanted to sign us up for our college's cheerleading squad, fortunately common sense won out there!"
"Aww, you'd have made a cool cheerleader!" Jamie giggles.
"Wouldn't have had nearly enough time for it," I moan. "I'm only barely passing college as it is, I'm working a Saturday job, doing my modelling work, now I've got a baby on the way as well..."
"Oh my god," Jamie gasps. "Is- is your girlfriend pregnant?"
"Um, hehe," I giggle. "I may have misspoken, um, I'M not having the baby, my parents are."
"Aw, so you're going to have a little brother or sister?" Jamie asks with a wide grin on her face.
"Yeah," I sigh.
"Surely this is good news?" Jamie asks.
"It is," I say. "Well- maybe. Perhaps. I dunno! My head's all over the place at the moment, I don't even know what I'm going to be doing two months from now..." As if on cue, Krystie steps up to the desk, opening her drawers.
"Sorry, don't mind me," Krystie says. "Just need to find a post-it..."
"Have you ever actually cleaned those drawers out?" Jamie laughs as Krystie rummages through one drawer after another.
"I know where everything is," Krystie retorts. "I have a system."
"No you don't," Jamie jokes.
"Ugh," Krystie grunts, conceding Jamie's point. "Sometimes I think I need to hire a secretary..." As Krystie continues to shuffle through her drawers, Jamie casts a sly grin in my direction.
"Hey Nikki," Jamie says. "You got anything planned for the summer?"
"Um, not really," I reply. "Just work, probably."
"How'd you like a summer job?" Jamie asks, and I can't help but grin widely myself.
Five minutes later, after accepting Jamie's job offer- and her Facebook friend request! - I head back to Sarah's car with a wide grin on my face.
"Oh my god!" Sarah squeaks. "I can't believe Jamie-Lee Burke knew who you were!"
"Yeah," I say smugly. "You're also probably not going to believe that I just got a summer job as the Angels' PA..." Sarah gasps and nearly enters a state of shock as we drive off into the night.
Even though it's my mum and dad having the baby and not me, I can't help but feel in some way responsible, even if it is just as a big sister. I've got so used to being the 'child' of the family that it's only just dawned on me that I do need to start growing up, and fast- my confrontation with Sarah's dad and her stepmother proves that, regardless of how morally 'right' I was. Sure, a new job isn't a guaranteed way to become more mature, and time will tell whether or not I'll be able to handle the pressure of the role.
Life moves on, and I need to move with it- it's a simple fact of life that the friends I make today won't last forever, but I'll make new friends- like I have today- true friends who will accept me for who I am. Jamie's absolutely right- I don't consider myself, or her, or any of the transgendered girls who've written to me via Teen Globe to be crossdressers or T-Girls. We're 'just' girls.
And now it's about time I became a woman.
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