A Strange Attraction to Concrete Cows
by Karen Page
proof read by Angel O'Hare
At breakfast the next day Beth didn’t mention anything about my nocturnal visit and Mum didn’t say anything about knowing about it. Nothing more was mentioned about the pantomime. Conversation however was quite heated about items that were on last night’s news. Dad always talked about current topics to keep us abreast in the world. Mum just continued when Dad had left.
I left the house just as Anna and Erika came down the road and we walked together to school. I thanked them for calling round last night and apologized for not being up to visitors.
During the first break I was sat on a bench talking with Anna and Erika when Beth came up.
“Hi. Bill, I’ve sorted out what we talked about last night. However some assistance might be needed. Could Anna or Erika accompany you?”
Both of the younger girls looked confused at Beth’s cryptic message but they both responded that they would both accompany me. With her mission completed Beth skipped off back to her friends. I had known Anna for years and wouldn’t mind discussing my hips as she had already mentioned them but I was unsure about Erika.
After we had lunch the three of us went to the sewing area. It was a largish room to the right of the home economics department. When we got there Beth was waiting and Mrs Harries fussing over two other people in the pantomime.
Mrs Harries and Beth came up to us.
“Hi Beth,” I said looking surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“Bill, as you are aware Beth, like yourself, took the Food and Nutrition version of Home Economics early with highest marks. As you have also been taught sewing and clothes making at home she has volunteered to be the first student at this school to try the Textiles version and has to make an outfit for her GCSE course work. She has asked if she can make your costume, which I have agreed to. This will be a great help, as I will have six other costumes to alter. I will leave her to measure you while I continue with Harry and Tania.”
Mrs Harries walked to the other end of the room and Beth took charge. “Anna, will you jot down the measurements while Erika helps me measure?” They both nodded. “Bill, take off your shoes and stand over here.”
I took off my shoes and placed them on the table by Anna and moved over to Beth. She got out a tape measure and with Erika’s help started with my height, arm length, inside and outside leg measurement, chest, waist and hip size. Beth stated each figure and Anna wrote it down. I saw her eyebrows rise when she heard some of the measurements and I knew that she and Erika now knew my secret.
“Thanks for doing this sis. I know that it’s a big undertaking.”
“Are you going to be okay?” she responded
“Yes thanks. You know my feeling on this. I don’t mind doing it as long as I don’t look ridiculous. If I have to play the part of a woman I want to be the most realistic looking one possible.”
“No problem.” She replied with a smile and turned to Anna and Erika. “We are taking a gamble with letting you in on this but you are Bills friends and I know that you will keep quiet, even to your parents.”
Both Anna and Erika nodded. I thanked Beth with a hug and we left.
Erika went to the toilet leaving me alone with Anna while we waited for the bell signalling the start of afternoon lessons.
“What do you think of me now?” I asked Anna.
“I think you are very brave. You are aware that Tom probably set you up but you are making the most out of it. The shape thing has been quite a shock for Erika. I’ve known you for years and this was worse than I thought so I’ve no idea what Erika thinks. We need to discuss this after school. Can you come to my house at about seven?”
I nodded as Erika came out of the toilets her face looking ashen. She had the air of somebody that had just regurgitated her lunch. Knowing that Anna would need to help sort out Erika I made my excuses and went to the music practice rooms.
When we filed into afternoon registration Erika looked a lot better. “Sorry,” she whispered into my ear. “I will explain at seven.”
I walked home with Erika, as Anna had to see her English teacher about her homework. The quality was good, too good and she wanted to set some extra work to tune her skills. We avoided discussing what had happened at lunch and instead had a good laugh at what had transpired in French. Poor Tom had got some of his French mixed up with German and had got the teacher, who was Italian most confused.
Later during the evening meal, as we were finishing off a Lancashire Hotpot, Mum asked me, “So what is the schedule for the pantomime?”
I caught the twinkle in Beth’s eyes. It was obvious that she had not discussed her plan with Mum. “It has already started. Today we were measured for the costumes and we start to read through the script tomorrow.”
Mum looked worried. She felt guilty for taking her eye off the ball. “Measured?” she squeaked. “Already?” I nodded. “Who measured you and who is doing the dress?”
I felt sorry for her and let her out of her misery. “As Beth has already completed the food Home Economics course she has decided to take the textiles version. She has volunteered to do my costume as her GCSE coursework. She did the measurements at lunch. Mrs Harries wasn’t involved at all.”
She looked relieved and she glared at the smirking Beth. It suddenly dawned on her that Beth would not have been able to do all the measurements on her own. “If Mrs Harries wasn’t involved then who assisted? Who wrote the details down?”
“Anna and Erika,” I responded. “They had already noticed my...unusual shape.” I crossed my fingers under the table while saying that part, as it was only half true. “I’m their friend and they won’t say anything, even to their parents. I can’t hide forever and people do see me when I shower after PE.”
“True,” she said resigning herself to the fact. “Some people can be very cruel and I just didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“That is why you should be thanking Beth for what she volunteered for today. Do you know that Mrs Harries son is in my class and what the reaction would be if he found out? It is thanks to the way you alter my clothes so it isn’t as noticeable that other people haven’t said anything.”
As Mum started to put out the pudding, which today was baked apples the core filled with sugared currants, she suddenly realized the implication of my previous statement and nearly dropped the dish.
“YOU knew about your hips and also knew I was altering your trousers?” she spluttered.
Oh dear time to stretch the truth again. Beth had been a big help and I didn’t want to get her into trouble. “Of course I knew about my hips, I shower with other boys and could see they were different. I also have seen women during the summer when they wear a lot less and could see I was developing in a similar manner. The clothes? Well you did teach me about sewing and altering clothes. I could tell that you altered some of them. The non altered trousers I presume are girl’s trousers; Anna has some that are very similar.”
Mum quickly finished dishing out the desert and sat down with a bump. “I’m sorry,” she said between bites. “I should have trusted your judgment and not tried to hide everything from you.”
“I think you should keep Bill in the loop as he won’t know that he can turn to you or me if he doesn’t know that we also know,” added Beth fanning her mouth, as the apple was still too hot.
“I’m sure that you have a few questions regarding your condition,” stated Mum. “When we’ve finished lets cleanup and all go into the lounge and discuss it and then you will need to go to Anna’s so you won’t be late.”
When we entered the lounge I sat down on the three-seat settee. Beth joined me and Mum sat opposite on one of the two individual settees so she could watch my reaction and stop if it got too much. Mum pored herself a small brandy and took a large sip. I then knew how difficult it was for her to discuss the details.
“As you know you have been to the doctors once every three months over the last two years; at eleven you were too young to understand the problem so we didn’t mention it. You were about eight and you started puberty, which is very early. Boys normally start puberty at between ten and fourteen while girls start at about two years earlier. At first your puberty was on track such as developing underarm hair and facial hair. However you also started getting wider at the hips. Your father was the first to notice this when you asked him to put an extra notch on your belt. You were starting to need larger trousers to get over your hips so you needed a narrower waist.”
“You are aware of the different number of tests that you have had and they ruled out most syndromes. Six months ago we got the tests back which pointed to a rare genetic / hormonal issue. What you won’t have learnt yet in biology is that the male body produces both estrogens and testosterone. The male body just produces much more of the testosterone that negates any affect the estrogens might have on the body. There is however a rare condition which causes the body to ignore the testosterone and the boy might start to develop breasts, wider hips and other secondary female characteristics. However your condition is somewhat stranger. In your body it is just one area that ignores the testosterone.”
“You mean that I will have a male body which still produces sperm but with wide hips? I won’t get breasts or anything like that?”
“As I said this is quite very unusual and the doctors are unsure what is going to happen. The testosterone receptors in other parts of your body are weak and it wouldn’t take much to disrupt them. In that case you might start to develop other secondary female characteristics. However the receptors in your groin region are strong, so no mater what you will always produce sperm.”
The thought of me actually getting breasts was just too much for me and I broke down. If I was getting stick at school now for just wide hips imagine what it would be like if for all outward appearances I was a girl. “School?” I eventually managed to get out between sobs.
“If the worst happened then we could move to a different area and therefore a different school where they wouldn’t know you as anything different. However the doctors are carefully monitoring you and we would have several months notice of failed receptors before anything visible occurred.”
I eventually started to calm down and noticed the time was quarter to seven. I was supposed to be at Anna’s in fifteen minutes. I really didn’t feel like going as I wasn’t ready to discuss this. I went to the phone and dialled her number.
“Hi Mrs Scott, this is Bill. Can I speak with Anna?”
There was a pause will Anna came to the phone. “Anna, I can’t make it tonight. Can we do it tomorrow instead?”
My voice was still shaky as her response was “Are you okay? You sound like crap.”
At that point I broke down again and Beth kindly continued the phone call for me. “Mum has just been explaining the complete medical situation behind what you found out at lunch. It’s been quite a shock for both of us and Bill couldn’t take reliving it again today.”
There was a pause for a second “Tell Bill that we are thinking of him. We will not mention it to him and he can tell us when he is ready. Can you just answer one thing though...it isn’t fatal?”
“Bill isn’t going to die and his condition is currently stable. He can live with that; however what he is concerned about is if it doesn’t stay stable. That is something that Bill will talk to you about when he is ready.”
They said good-bye and Beth hung up the phone. I went back to the lounge and I curled up leaning on Beth while listening to some reflecting classical music. I must have drifted of as I awoke the next day in my bed with my Mum confirming if I was able to go to school.
On the way to school the conversation was stilted. They appeared to be avoiding raising anything that might be misconstrued as prying into last night. Towards the bottom of Hill Street I’d had enough.
“Just stop pussy footing around. Yes I’m still a bit fragile from yesterday but you two are my friends and I’m going to need your support. Now isn’t the time to discuss this as there are too many people around and there isn’t enough time. As long as my Mum doesn’t drop another bombshell I will be there tonight”
The day went as well as any other Wednesday. Football was another lesson in humiliation. Why doesn’t the teacher pick the sides instead of having two captains picking them?
At lunch the read through went well as all the other actors wanted to be there. Nobody made fun of me being the Dame, which helped the nerves. We were told that for the rest of the week there would be daily lunchtime rehearsal. The following week we would start to practice on the stage.
During the afternoon we had Art. As usual during any actual drawing Mrs Lewis had the room in virtual silence. The only noise would be an occasional whisper. Today we were drawing a bowl of fruit. All was going well till Anna made a slight mistake when trying to get the shadow of the pineapple correct.
“Erika,” she whispered, “do you have a rubber?”
“WHAT!” exclaimed Erika who looked rather shocked. The whole class looked up wondering what was going on.
“Is everything okay?” asked Mrs Lewis approaching our table. As she approached Anna dived into Erika’s pencil case removing an object.
“Yes miss,” answered Erika. “Sorry miss.”
“See me after class,” she said moving away to deal with a slight disturbance at another table.
“Sorry”, whispered Erika to Anna. “We call that an eraser. A rubber is something completely different.”
”What?” whispered back Anna who was intrigued, actually so was I.
Erika leaned right over to Anna and told her why she’d freaked. Anna just started to giggle and was also told to see the teacher at the end of class.
At seven I strolled up the street to Anna’s house. As I walked I quickly ran through my mind how I was going to tell them and worried how they would take it. Mrs Scott answered the door after I rang their doorbell and was ushered into the lounge. Erika and Anna sat there looking shocked and looked like they both had been crying.
“Are you okay?” I queried. “I’ve not even told you my news yet!”
Anna rushed up and gave me a very tight hug. “Oh Bill it’s awful. We’ve just had some awful news”. Erika came up and hovered so I turned and crushed her as well.
“We want you to tell us your news first,” stated Erika. “Then we will tell you what upset us.”
I nodded and Anna dragged the both of us to her room as I pondered what could have happened which had upset them both. Also Mrs Scott didn’t look like her cheerful self. Just as we settled down Mrs Scott came bustling in with a tray of snacks, cakes and drinks. She also put out three boxes of tissues.
“This should help,” she said with a weak smile. “Just to ensure privacy we are going down to Erika’s parents. Give us a ring when you are finished.”
I grabbed a handful of crisps and started by putting the onus on them. “So from what you found out when Beth took my measurements you tell me what you think is wrong. If we start with Erika because Anna has known me for longer and don’t hold back because no matter what you say isn’t going to cause offence.”
Well I think that surprised them as they both looked at each other for support. Erika swallowed some of her orange juice and after a moment started. “Well when Beth took the measurements I was very surprised as I had never noticed your shape. Are you a girl who wants to be a boy?”
I almost spluttered my crisps over Anna who was sitting opposite. Anna just giggled and handed me a paper napkin. Erika started to apologize and I waved her down.
“I’ve known Bill for nearly ten years,” stated Anna. “Therefore I don’t think that Erika’s theory holds water unless this has been going on that long. Bill’s hips are very feminine but he has no other signs such as breasts. You’ve also never got on with many other boys and have always preferred to hangout with girls. He is also an excellent cook so here is my theory. Bill is a boy who wants to be a girl and has started taking female hormones.”
Luckily I had emptied my mouth of crisps otherwise my choking fit would have covered both of them. After a moment and a complete glass of water I was able to continue.
”Well let us start with Erika’s theory. I am male and I am fully equipped. I can prove it but I dread the punishments that our parents would dream up for us all if I did. As for Anna’s theory I don’t want to be female and never have. I am certainly not taking female hormones.
“If only one of your theories were correct it would be much easier. However what I am going to tell you stays with the two of you. My life is going to be difficult enough without worse hassle than I currently get. I’m probably going to get upset telling you the details but it is something that I need to tell you so please let me get it out. Also some of the details are very medically technical but there is no other way.”
Erika moved the empty food tray and put it outside the door. Anna grabbed the boxes of tissues and sat to my right. When Erika returned she emulated Anna’s position on my left. I could feel the warmth of their closeness and it gave me the courage to relate what I had been told twenty-six hours earlier.
I told them about how my hips were the only things affected and how my parents had kept it secret. As we finished tears were trickling down my cheeks like a leaky tap. Anna had her arm around me and Erika had her right hand on my leg. They both looked shocked at my news.
Erika was the first to recover. “So that is why Beth took your sizes. Nobody else must suspect. I feel honoured that you both trusted me enough to tell me. You haven’t known me for as long as Anna so it mustn’t have been easy.”
Anna, always the clever one, looked at me and said, “That’s the past and present. What does the future hold for you?”
I bent my head and gazed at my feet. Somebody turned on the taps behind my eyes again as I said, “I have two possible futures. If something is found to strengthen the receptors then I might stay fully male. The receptors by my scrotum are strong so I will always be a fertile male however the likelihood is that something will cause the other weak receptors to fail and I will get a more feminine figure including breasts. Then I will have to live as a woman.”
I then fully broke down into a fitting sob. I spat out, “I don’t want to live as a woman. I fancy girls not boys.”
Erika and Anna both grabbed me and held me as I chocked on my seeping mucus. Anna scooped me into her arms and rocked me till I calmed down. We separated and Anna rushed out of the door mumbling something about needing the toilet. On her return we talked about incidentals till I realized that earlier they were both upset about something. I glanced at the clock and it was about 9:30.
“You both had some depressing news for me and I have to be home by ten.”
“I’ll tell you,” injected Erika. “I don’t think Anna could cope with explaining this after what you’ve just told us.”
Anna had repositioned herself next to me and we both held on to each other. She appeared to need as much comfort as I had earlier.
“Our fathers both explained this evening that all the manufacturing is moving here but personnel and the main management are moving to Milton Keynes. We have to sell our house and move in the first week of January.”
Anna burst into tears and after a moment pulled away from me and ran out of her room again. I stared at the door she had slammed in shock. In all the years I had known her I had never seen anything so emotional. I blinked several time and continued to stare for a few more seconds. Turning to Erika I asked “What?”
Erika shot to the bathroom to find out what was happening and in a moment returned pulling Anna along.
“I’m sorry” she forced out. “You need me and in a few months I will be gone.”
I heard the big grandfather clock that was in the lounge chime ten. I knew this was important and decided to break my curfew. Anna needed me. Erika was now on Anna’s left and me on her right. We both hugged her till she calmed down. When she saw that it was 10:15 she kicked Erika and me out of the house.
When I got home I quietly opened the front door. The house was silent. I locked the door and tiptoed towards the stairs. My mother came out of the kitchen and saw my tear stained cheeks and knew it had been a bad night.
“Go on up,” she gently said. “I will let the lateness go this time.”
After I slid into bed I found I had too much on my mind and couldn’t sleep. I heard my Mum come up the stairs and go into her room. The house was silent. I tossed for another ten minutes and then the impact of Anna leaving crept up to me and I had a vision of Anna leaving behind a removal van.
“NOOOO,” I yelled. The floodgates again opened and I openly wept into my pillow. Beth rushed in, scooped me into her arms and tried to comfort me. My Mum arrived at the door having donned a dressing gown. They both thought it was a reaction to my medical problems but I managed to get out “Erika and Anna are moving to Milton Keynes”.
“Mum you go to bed,” firmly insisted Beth.
Mum obviously got some hidden message as she kissed me good night. “Don’t stay up too late” she warned Beth as she returned to her room.
“Come into my room so we don’t disturb Mum,” ordered Beth. We decamped and soon we were sitting on her bedroom floor with her bed supporting our backs.
After a several reflective minutes she whispered, “You still fancy her don’t you?”
I nodded as the tears started again. “I’ve loved her for years but never had the courage to say so.” I then related what had been said and Anna’s reaction.
“What has stopped you from telling her? Most people have assumed you were seeing each other already. You are always with her.”
I sadly shook my head. “With all the changes that I’m probably going to be experiencing Anna’s support and understanding would be invaluable but she is going. I’ve known her for nearly ten years and we have done everything together. She understands me and knows what makes me tick. Why did I never ask her out? If my feelings weren’t reciprocated then I might have lost a valuable friendship.”
My sister looked a bit hurt and I hurried on, “I know you know me well and you always support me but you are my sister and that bit older. You have your own friends and it wouldn’t be right for me to go out with them.”
My sister nodded her understanding. She comforted me for a few more minutes with her words and I left for my own bed. Sleep still didn’t come easy but eventually I drifted off into a troubled sleep.
The next day Mum was concerned if I should go to school. “You don’t look like you have had much sleep. You have black rings under your eyes and look like you haven’t slept well for the last few nights.”
“I’m fine Mum. School keeps my mind on other issues. Last night was about the news of Erika and Anna moving. First Dad and now my best friends are leaving for Milton Keynes. Do you think there’s some strange attraction to the concrete cows?”
Beth stifled a giggle at my cheeky response and Mum just told me to be home on time.
I saw Erika and Anna coming down the road and I slipped out to join them. Erika looked fine but Anna looked just as bad as me. The breeze blew against us all the way to school and that drained what little energy we had.
At lunch I went to the pantomime walkthrough and we managed to complete the whole play. “Friday lunchtime off,” I thought to myself. Unfortunately Mr Abbots had other ideas, “Well done with the read through. We will meet tomorrow in the hall and we shall start acting the lines. Apparently all the costumes are going well so we will soon start limited dress rehearsals so we can get your characters down better.”
During the afternoon I was starting to get weary. Lack of sleep was quickly catching up with me. During religious education my eyes started to droop. I was suddenly jerked awake as an elastic band struck me firmly on my left cheek. I looked to my left just in time to see another one stream across and hit a tired Anna on her cheek. Mandy, a shy girl, appeared to be responsible. She gave a small wink to let me know it wasn’t malicious and carried on as if nothing had happened. After that I managed to stay awake till the end of the school day.
The walk home up Hill Street was torture. My legs just wanted to go to sleep. My brain had already turned off and a headache was slowly growing. If I walked any slower Erika would have had to give me a shove or gravity would have sent me backwards. It was with some relief that I saw my home in the distance and somehow I managed to open the front door.
Mum had just come down the stairs and saw my condition. “Why don’t you have a small rest before dinner?” she said as she steered me in the correct direction.
I stumbled up the stairs and upon entering my room took off my shoes. I lay on top of the bed and entered the dream world.
I awoke refreshed with the sound of my alarm. I was surprised to find myself fully clothed covered with a blanket. Yesterdays events came back to me as I stripped for a shower. I’d missed dinner and slept for about fifteen hours. My goodness I must have been tired but that was now replaced by a panging hunger. When I came out of the shower I smelt bacon. A cooked breakfast on a school day was unheard of. Mum must have anticipated my hunger. What a Mum.
Anna looked a bit better but apparently she was still having disturbed sleep. She wasn’t looking forward to leaving the area she had grownup in. The one bit of good news was that Erika and Anna’s parents had decided to go house hunting together so it looked like they would move to the same area and hence attend the same school.
The rehearsal at lunch was awful. I knew the majority of my words. The part isn’t very word intensive. I just make appearances when something silly is needed to be said and get a good laugh from the audience in a stupid costume. However every few minutes I was getting pulled up.
“Bill you can’t move like that. I know Widow Twanky is supposed to be a man in a dress but not that wooden. You need to move with more grace than you do. You have made no effort to change your voice.”
The bell rang just before another avalanche of criticism came my way. I quickly left and headed towards afternoon registration. As we stood inline waiting to be let in Anna whispered, “Are you okay? You look really down.”
“I’ll tell you both on the way home.” I replied as we were ushered into the room.
I pondered on the situation during the last two lessons and by the time of the leaving bell had the basis of an action plan. During the walk home we crossed onto the left hand path, which was empty, so we could have privacy. I explained what had happened in the rehearsal.
“To sum up I act too much like a man. If I don’t get more feminine movement and attitude into the part I am going to me more of a laughing stock than Widow Twanky normally is. It’s bad enough that I will be wearing a dress but I couldn’t stand the humiliation of jeering.”
“I take it you have a plan?” asked Anna.
“This is the difficult bit. I need both of your help. Are you doing anything on Saturday?”
“Our parents are going to Milton Keynes house hunting. We aren’t going as they think that we might find it boring. We thought about going into Wolverhampton and were planning to ask you along. Helping you sounds like it should be more interesting.”
I looked around to make sure that nobody could overhear me. “If I do something I like to do it properly. I need your help to understand how to act like a girl.”
The girls looked a bit shocked “But I didn’t think you wanted to be a girl?” retorted Erika as she gave a glance to see Anna’s reaction.
“I don’t.” I responded with my head down. “I just hate being jeered at more.” My voice started to break under the emotional strain I was under.
We were walking by a bench, just before the passageway to the new estate, when Erika grabbed me and we all sat down.
“There’s more to the request than just the play, isn’t there?” Erika gently asked.
I sat there; my body slightly bent forward, eyes facing the ground. My silence spoke volumes. I started to shake slightly with worry.
“It’s okay,” said Anna putting and arm round me. “We want to help but we need to know how far to take this.” She paused for a moment while a calmed down a bit. “Is this the medical issue?”
I slowly nodded. “I’m frightened. The probability is that in the future I am going to have to live as a woman. I was planning on asking your advice if that ever happened. However you are leaving so I need to learn now. My education therefore needs to be more comprehensive than the small amount needed for the pantomime.”
Erika grabbed my hand a gently squeezed it. “Anna had already thought you might ask for our help. That girl knows you too well. Come to her house at nine thirty tomorrow and we shall start.”
“Thanks.” I said getting up. We walked the final quarter of a mile silently. There was a peace between us. I was just glad they understood the help I needed and why. They were just pleased that I trusted them enough to ask for help.
More [A Strange Attraction to Concrete Cows]
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