(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
This is a work of fiction any mention of real people, places or institutions is purely coincidental and does not imply that they are as suggested in the story.
It was Tuesday and my children had run amok yesterday according to Jacquie. The full story as I eventually understood it began when Danielle went off to meet Cindy in town and Livvie, Hannah and Trish felt they should have been allowed to go as well. Meems was quite happy looking after Lizzie and Cate and Jacquie was looking after Meems.
Apparently the three middle order mouseketeers made themselves a total nuisance and drove Jacquie to distraction. She used more vernacular descriptions but I suspect you get the picture.
To complicate matters, Danielle would be going off after lunch to catch the train up to London, where Simon would meet her and take her to the team hotel near Wembley, where the England ladies football squad were staying. The team would be picked tomorrow but Danni was pretty sure she’d be picked for at least part if not all the game. The opposition were being supplied by Russia and that had my blood pressure rising once I learned it—surely lightning couldn’t strike in the same place again, or could it.
I also heard that they tried to accuse England of playing a boy and they responded by saying all their players were female. I suggested they should ask the Russians how many had failed drug tests recently. The FA didn’t however take up my idea, possibly in the name of detente.
My visit home, mainly to see Danielle off and run her to the station, was hijacked by having to deal with three stroppy twelve year olds, who I eventually agreed could go to town by themselves provided they promised to behave themselves. They had pocket money to burn and I suppose these days it’s what girls do, meet up and float round the shops to amuse themselves. At their age, I was out bird watching most of the time, most of my contemporaries were also out watching things—boys were watching girls, and girls were watching boys though most interactions would have been flirting or mock scornfulness, their hormones would have been flowing or starting to, mine didn’t.
Having said that, if you recall I had quite long hair and was smallish, skinny and I suppose quite girlish looking, and any of the boys I went birding with knew I was a boy but often called me Charlotte, because they called me that in school or were beginning to. Part of this was due to Mr Whitehead testing his hypothesis, or rather his wife’s that I was possibly more girl than boy. This was a couple of years before the Macbeth production brought it to a head and Whitehead wasn’t involved in that.
He began getting us to read plays in English literature classes and one day he picked on a play with two or three female parts. He chose me to play the female lead which had me blushing and the rest of the class roaring with laughter. Two other boys were chosen to play other women’s parts and other boys were picked for the men’s parts.
He then asked us to stop messing about and to try as best we could to read the parts as if we were really doing it as actors—and there would be no embarrassment from actors about who was reading what. He also told us that if we didn’t do our best in reading the parts, we’d have to read them for the duration of the play, which at one lesson per week could take several weeks to complete.
Of course his idea was to get me to read the whole role throughout the play to see if I could act as a female. Given I had no real experience, I was very uncertain about doing it or if I could do it well enough to pass it on to someone else because at this stage I wasn’t aware of what he was up to.
We simply sat at our desks and read the lines. The first effort was awful, we were all so embarrassed, me more than the rest. So we were told we’d do it again next week and the ten cast members who’d been chosen were told to practice or we’d be reading it until we did it better.
I was trudging home wondering how I could practice it to sound better, in other words how I could find someone to read bits with me, could hardly ask my dad, he’d be on the phone to the school the next day so I thought it would probably have to be my mother—just wunnerful; when fate took a hand and I bumped into Siân who asked me why I looked so miserable.
“We’ve got to read this stupid play for English lit.”
“I’d have thought you were quite good at that sort of thing.”
“I have to read the girl’s part.”
“So, what else would you read?”
“What d’you mean?” I said standing on what was left of my dignity.
“Come off it, Charlotte, you could hardly read the men’s parts could you?”
“I thought you were my friend but you’re as bad as the thugs I go to school with.”
“Don’t be such a priss, we both know you’d be happier as a girl.”
“No I wouldn’t.” I’d never admitted this to anyone before although I knew it myself—deep down inside—telling someone else would make it real, not just my imagination.
“That’s not how I see you.”
“Well maybe you should get some specs then.” I said and stormed off, tears starting to run down my face.
Instead of letting me go she chased after me and stopped me. “Look, Charlie, I didn’t mean to hurt you, you’re my best girl friend.”
“What?” That felt like insult being added to injury.
“I mean it, you’re my best friend and I think of you as a girl, my mum thinks you’re a girl too.”
“What?” I gasped.
“Why else would she let you come up to my bedroom with me?” I’d never thought of that before. I just assumed because we’d been friends for years and we’d always played in her bedroom, or listened to music there as we got a bit older, that it was something all kids did. Sex or fumbles and gropes didn’t even occur to me, I just had no libido at all as i was still trying to understand what I was as well as who I was.
Instead of squabbling we talked as we walked home and when I told her I had to read the part until I sounded like a girl playing it, she offered to help, “It’ll be fun,” she said. For much of Sunday we were up in her room reading the part, me with a dress on over my tee shirt and jeans to help me feel the part. She read all the other parts and once we stopped fooling about, I began to understand her advice.
“Look, Charlie, you’re supposed to fancy this guy, you sound as if he’s just kicked your dog.”
“Oh, sorry.” She’d then read the part and I began to understand the nuance in her tone and expression. I’d copy it and then add something myself. We actually did the whole play and I understood it much better myself as well as understanding the female perspective a bit better, so I could read it with a seductive voice rather than the freshly cut piece of wood I was before. This wasn’t reading the lesson in assembly, it was playing a part, the part of a flirty young woman—now whether i could repeat this in class was another matter, but I had a much better understanding of it.
The following week, I was very self conscious but eventually realised I had to relax and do what Siân had shown me if I was to get out of this predicament, so I took a deep breath and flirted with the three other members of the cast in the first act. The class became silent and I wondered if I’d overdone it but Whitehead waved at me to continue, so I did. At the end he began to clap and the rest of the class did so too, boy did I blush.
“That was brilliant, Watts, I want you to read the rest of Amelia’s part for the rest of the play. Smith, you can read Algernon next week and Plummer, you can do Jonathon...” I felt sick and elated at the same time.
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