Laura, part 17

I let out a long, tired sigh as my alarm clock wakes me from a dreamless sleep. It’s been a long summer holiday, but the time has finally come to head back to school. The only difference is that today’s ‘first day of school’ will be my last ever.

As I pull on my soft cotton panties and comfortable lace-trimmed bra, followed by my opaque black tights, smooth cotton blouse and my short, stiff grey skirt, my mind is drawn back to the day four years ago when I wore this uniform. Well, not THIS uniform, as I’m over a foot taller now than I was when I started school. Not even this style of uniform, either- back when I was eleven, I wore the pleated skirt of the ‘junior’ girls, not the straight one of the ‘senior’ girls, and grey tights, not black ones. I also didn’t wear a bra either, as, like most girls, my body changed a lot between the ages of eleven and fifteen. Most teenagers’ bodies didn’t change quite as much as mine has, though…

Back in 2013, I was very much an ordinary eleven year old boy. Average height for my age, maybe a bit skinny... And very much flat-chested and, worse yet, in possession of male genitals. Sadly, I still possess those- but they are so small as to be insignificant, especially when my chest is sporting a pair of B cup breasts, my hips have a very feminine curve to them and my waist is nice and narrow thanks to years of gymnastics and dancing- and a carefully controlled diet, following my 'scare' a couple of years ago. Thankfully, ever since then, I've been able to get my 'urges' under control- though there are times when that is easier said than done.

Other than being a little taller than average (I’m just shy of 5’ 9”), I’m indistinguishable from any other girl- especially after I apply my modest make-up and tie my long blonde hair into a high ponytail. Sometimes I catch myself wondering what would have happened if my mum hadn’t come to me all those years ago and asked whether I’d rather be a boy or a girl, what my life would be like now, whether I’d ever have had the courage to come forward myself and become the girl I was always destined to be. However, there’s no sense in dwelling on what might have been- especially when what is is much, much better, and what’s to come promises to be even better than that!

Two and a bit months from now, I will turn sixteen years of age- one of the most significant birthdays of them all. For me, it’ll be significant for two important reasons- firstly, I’ll be prescribed full oestrogen, and secondly- and most significantly- I’ll legally be allowed to have sex- provided that the person I have it with is also sixteen or over, of course. And I won’t lie- it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the summer.

Despite the initial ‘teething problems’, my relationship with Kain has only got stronger over the summer holiday. Every day that I didn’t spend with my friends, I spent with him, either in town, or going swimming, or seeing a movie... Naturally, all of our dates ended with a long kissing session, and toward the end of the summer, most of them started with one too! The more I get to know Kain, the more I realise what a kind, sweet and (most importantly of all) cute boy he is. Much to my surprise, my family are growing to like him as well- even Ricky, who isn’t outright hostile to Kain whenever he sees him, which is probably as much as I can expect from him!

Naturally, I have a smile on my face as I elegantly walk down the stairs to find my family eating breakfast. Four years ago, of course, I didn’t have a stepfather who’d be more of a father to me than my own so-called dad ever was, nor did I have a stepsister who worships the ground I walk on.

“Morning Laura!” Lily says with a nervous giggle.

“Hi Lily!” I say. “So… Beginning of the end, hehe! Looking forward to being the oldest in primary school?”

“A little,” Lily shrugs. “I’m really more looking forward to starting year 7 next year, though!”

“Yeah,” I sigh. “You’re gonna find it’s very different, but I reckon you’ll fit in great. The fact that the uniform’s a lot more grown-up definitely helps, hehe!”

“Speaking of which, young lady,” mum says as she hands me my morning cup of coffee, “aren’t you forgetting something on your uniform?”

“Oh yes,” I say with a smug smile, before withdrawing a shiny badge from my blazer pocket that has the letter ‘P’ inscribed on it. “Da da da-da!”

“It’s a sad day when the school decides that you’re mature enough to be a prefect,” mum teases, laughing as I respond with a very immature raspberry. “Seriously though, I AM proud of you. You’ve come a long way, these last four years. There were times when I worried, really worried that you’d end up hurt, or worse…”

“I know,” I whisper, biting my lip to try to keep tears out of my ears. “But, I turned out alright, didn’t I?”

“Certainly better than ‘Leon’ would’ve done,” mum whispers, making me giggle as I adjust my tights and brush a stray extra-long hair out of my face. “Just don’t take it easy now that the finish line is in sight. If anything, you need to work harder than ever this year.”

“I remember when I was in year 11,” Sean says. “Barely got ANY time to myself.”

“It’s not spending time by herself that I’m worried about,” mum says quietly. “After what happened last year with that Scott boy…”

“How many times do I need to apologise for that?” I sigh loudly. “I’m probably still paying the price at school for that rumour he started…”

“When you and Kain are both sixteen and you’ve shown that you can be mature about it, THEN I’ll leave it alone,” mum says, frowning as I sigh again. “And I’m pretty sure that ‘P’ stands for ‘prefect’ and not ‘pout’. Laura, you’re NOT going to have to wait forever. Just a few months. Heh, this time next year you’ll never have to wear that uniform again!”

“True,” I chuckle.

“Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up,” mum says, giving my shoulder a gentle squeeze. “That goes for both of you, okay?”

“Yes, Michelle,” Lily says with a gentle giggle.

“Ah, no avoiding it, though,” Sean says. “And you never know, you might end up wearing that uniform for longer… If they bring back Waterloo Road and you’re cast in it!”

“I heard that Jamie-Lee Burke was an extra in that before she was famous,” Lily says, making us all giggle.

“…I’ll stick with Frozen for now,” I reply, before grabbing my school bag and heading down to mum’s car.

A short while later, the car pulls up outside the front gates of my school, where yet another change to the norm awaits me- instead of being greeted by the seven girls who have been my closest friends for the past few years, I’m instead greeted by eight girls- more than a couple of whom have their boyfriends hanging out nearby.

“Hey girlies!” I squeak, exchanging hugs with Ashley, Suriya, Nicole, Harriet, Mia and my best friend Megan, whose 6’ 2” form absolutely towers over the rest of us- especially the two newest members of our group. “Hi Bryony!” I say to Ashley’s nervous-looking sister, before turning to Nicole’s equally nervous-looking younger sister. “Hi Sabrina! Looking forward to your first day?”

“Yep!” Sabrina says, nervously fidgeting before following the rest of us into the school.

“You’ll be FINE,” I reassure the mousey-haired girl. “And if anyone DOES give you any problem, we’ll sort them out, right girls?”

“Too right!” Harriet cheers, before giggling as me, Suriya and Megan point to the ‘P’ badges on our lapels. “…Ah, right, you meant sort out THAT way, hehe! Teacher’s pets…” Harriet’s wink tells us that her teasing is meant good-naturedly, but she still nonetheless earns stuck out tongues from us three prefects.

“I’m surprised it’s just us three wearing these badges,” Suriya muses.

“I’m surprised you’re one of the three, the way you teased your sister about it last year!” Nicole says, giggling as Suriya once again sticks her tongue out in response.

“I’ve got a clean disciplinary record, I have good grades, why wouldn’t I want some extra privilege?” Suriya shrugs. “Okay, it’s extra responsibilities too, but Priya always said it wasn’t too much of a hassle.”

“How is she, anyway?” I ask. “First day of A-Levels, she’s got to be nervous, right?”

“It’s going to be weird without her constantly bossing us around,” Nicole giggles.

“She’ll be fine,” Suriya says. “Give her a week and she’ll be bossing all the college around, heh!” I let out a chuckle, before grinning widely as I see a familiar cute, lanky figure loom into view. I briefly excuse myself from the other girls before walking over to the tall boy and- after standing on tiptoes- give him a long, soft kiss on his lips that earns ‘oohs’ from all of my friends, especially when our lips briefly part and the tips of our tongues gently explore each other.

“I missed you,” I quietly coo.

“We only saw each other on Saturday!” Kain retorts, smiling as I place my hand in his much larger palm.

“Meh, that’s still two days too many,” I say, giggling as we head into form before pouting as we sit down at our usual desks and we’re forced to let go of each other’s hands.

“You really do fancy him, don’t you?” Nicole asks.

“I wouldn’t snog him if I didn’t,” I retort. “Just wish his birthday wasn’t until April…”

“Oh god, this again,” Suriya moans.

“What?” I protest. “So I want to lose my virginity, big deal…”

“Uhh- yeah, it kinda is!” Nicole snorts. “Take it from someone who knows…”

“And after what happened with Scott last year?” Harriet asks, making me frown.

“Scott was a mistake,” I concede. “But if we’re both sixteen, then where’s the issue?”

“The issue is with you,” Suriya says, making me roll my eyes. “You should want it because you both want it, not because you ‘want to lose your virginity’. Kain might not even be ready when he’s sixteen.”

“The law says he will be,” I retort. “The law says that if you’re fifteen years and 364 days old, you’re not ready, but sixteen years and no days, you are. And besides, it’s not like he can make me pregnant…”

“Girlies,” Harriet says forcefully. “From now on, how about this- ALL discussions inside school, the ‘S word’ is banned. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Suriya says.

“Agreed,” Nicole says, making me sigh loudly.

“…Okay, agreed,” I snort. “So what do we talk about, then?”

“Fashion,” Nicole says.

“Make-up, TV, films,” Harriet says.

“Ballet, gymnastics,” Suriya says. “The fact that SOMEONE will have to play Elsa in the school production, and someone will also have to be the captain of the cheerleading club, and I know for a fact you want both of those…”

“…Yes, yes, okay,” I say, my pout making way for a giggle.

“AND we have a prom at the end of the year,” Nicole says smugly. “I realise that might be kinda S-word related, but we can still talk about prom dresses, right?”

“Hell yeah we can!” Suriya cheers.

“You gonna wear a sari, like your sister?” Harriet asks. “She looked SO gorgeous in her prom photos…”

“I might,” Suriya shrugs. “Depends on whether I see another, cuter dress! I am going to be a PRINCESS at my prom!”

“A princess, or a rajkumari?” Nicole asks, earning a mass giggle as Mr. Sheldon arrives to start the form session.

After the extended form session, our first ‘real’ lesson of the year is PE, but as none of us have our PE kits with us (as we obviously didn’t know our timetables before today), we instead head to the gymnasium in our regular uniforms, where we sign up for the various school teams. Naturally, Suriya, Nicole and I once again sign up for the gymnastics team and are issued with our club leotards, while Mia and Megan (who would normally be in a different PE group than us but as no one has their kit today, are all in one large group) sign up for the diving and netball teams respectively.

However, virtually all of my attention is focussed on the other side of the gymnasium, where the boys are signing up for their teams, and several of them- including one very tall boy I’m very familiar with- are messing around practising their basketball skills. Naturally, Kain doesn’t interrupt his game to come over and talk to me- he is a BOY, after all- but when he sees me watching he does flash a smile that leaves me giggling uncontrollably.

“Laura…” Suriya says, an angry tone to her voice and a scowl on her face.

“What?” I protest. “You say no TALKING about boys. Didn’t say anything about not ogling them?” I smile smugly as my Indian friend dramatically rolls her eyes, before giggling and dragging me away from the boys’ basketball game. “Okay, Priya would be proud of your bossiness!”

“I’m not being bossy,” Suriya retorts. “I’m doing my job as a prefect, bringing a misbehaving girl back in line!”

“So am I,” I shrug. “I’m making sure the boys don’t misbehave.”

“Well you can do that from over here!” Suriya says between fits of giggles. “Surprised you’re not more excited by the new leotard, I mean, we’re actually getting a mesh panel in it for the first time ever! Okay, so it’s in the shoulders only, but still, you know?”

“It’s cute,” I shrug. “But Kain is cuter, hehe! Besides, I’ve worn, like, hundreds of leotards before. And don’t you dare say that I’ve had hundreds of boyfriends!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it!” Suriya laughs. “Especially not when I’m trying to get over Laura White NOT being excited by a new leotard! You, the girl who actually spent a whole evening making a YouTube video of your entire leotard collection?”

“I said it’s cute,” I say defensively, before sighing. “…Okay, yes, three years ago, I’d have been excited by it. But- but it really has become everyday, you know? First time I wore this uniform four years ago I was excited literally all day just to be able to wear it. Now I barely even notice it.”

“Ah,” Suriya says. “So because you don’t get a ‘kick’ out of the clothes anymore, you need something even girlier, and what could be girlier than having a hot guy shove his- tongue, hehe! Down your throat?”

“Ex-actly,” I say, grinning as I dramatically straighten my skirt and my tights. “Though don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE this.”

“And this?” Suriya asks, pulling her new leotard out of her bag to show me.

“You really need to ask?” I reply with a smug grin that I maintain for all of three seconds before bursting into a fit of giggles with my friend.

The giggles last all the way into break, which we spend at our usual table- though the table has become a little cramped now that there are nine of us sat around it! The atmosphere at the table is also unusually tense as me and Suriya approach and are greeted by a stern, almost angry stare from Harriet.

“Girlies,” the ginger girl says in an authoritative voice, “from now on, the topics of BOYS is not, I repeat NOT to be discussed at this table under any circumstances! For two reasons: one, we have younger kids with us now, and two, because some of us are a little too obsessed for their own good!”

“…FINE,” I say, playfully pouting at Harriet. “Then we’re not discussing GIRLS either!”

“How can we not discuss girls when we ARE all girls?” Bryony asks, making me blush and roll my eyes as my friends all giggle at my expense.

“Ugh, FINE!” I say. “No B-words and no S-words from now on, promise!”

“Good!” The other girls- bryony and Sabrina included- all cheer.

“So…” Suriya coos. “Anyone at this table NOT following Strictly this year?”

“Well, duh!” Mia giggles. “LITERALLY the only good thing about September. You go back to school, but you get a new series of Strictly too!”

“Hey,” Sabrina protests. “September’s not THAT bad, my birthday’s in it!”

“Next week, in fact!” Nicole giggles, causing her sister to blush.

“Aww, SO cool!” Ashley sighs. “Got a big party planned?”

“Probably just having a few friends round,” Sabrina shrugs. “Nothing big.”

“Unlike the six girls at this table who’ll be turning sixteen in the next twelve months…” Ashley teases, a sly grin spreading across her face. “Starting with you, MISS White.”

“Yeah!” Mia cheers. “You’re up first- well, apart from Sabrina, hehe! So… Anything special planned for what will DEFINITELY be the sweetest sweet sixteen ever?”

“Until mine, anyway!” Harriet- whose birthday is next after mine- chuckles.

“I thought Laura wasn’t supposed to talk about boys or the S-word?” Bryony asks, making her older sister’s eyes go wide.

“And I thought you were too young to know about that?” Ashley scolds the eleven year old girl.

“We did sex education in primary school,” Bryony shrugs.

“To be fair, I’m pretty sure we did too,” I say, smiling sympathetically as Megan nods in agreement.

“So did I,” Harriet says. “And looking back I’m pretty sure it was all about heterosexual stuff, nothing-“

“Girlies,” I sigh. “I thought the ban on talking about the S-word applied to ALL of us, not just me?” I smile smugly as the other eight girls all pause, unsure how to respond.

“So, Strictly then?” Ashley asks.

“One S-word we CAN talk about, hehe!” Nicole giggles. “Reckon those sisters from Constellation will DEFINITELY get to the final.”

“Constellation must be desperate for publicity, considering how the REAL Angels are obliterating them on social media numbers,” Suriya chuckles.

“Hell, Nikki Thomas has more Instagram followers than most of them!” Ashley says as the table descends into a whirlwind of feminine gossiping and giggling- a whirlwind I struggle to peel myself away from when the bell rings to start our next lesson.

Fortunately, the next lesson is Spanish, which makes it a little easier- especially as it’s the only class I’m in that also has my tall, cute boyfriend in it!

“Hey bae!” I giggle, linking fingers with Kain as we head into the class. “Just so you know, the other GIRLS have banned me from talking about you at break and lunch, ugh.”

“…’About’ me, but not ‘to’ me?” Kain asks hesitantly, earning a giggle in response.

“That’s what they said,” I giggle, giving Kain a quick kiss before we’re forced to part and head to my usual table with Nicole. Fortunately, before I’m given yet another telling off, Mrs. Ambrose arrives to begin the lesson, and my brief liaison is soon forgotten about. Well, up until I catch my boyfriend staring at my legs, anyway!

Naturally, I treat Kain to another kiss as we leave class and begin lunch. Rather than head to my usual table, though, I head to one of the classrooms on the ground floor of the school, where I find Suriya, Megan, and 21 other pupils from my year- all of whom, like me and my friends, have badges with the letter ‘P’ on their lapels.

“Okay everyone,” Mr. McCleland, the head of year 11, says as we all take our seats in the classroom. “Think you’re all here. As you know, as we’ve done every year, we’ve selected 12 boys and 12 girls from the new year 11, all of whom we consider exceptional in one way or another, to act as prefects. In basic, your responsibility will be to act as a positive role model for the rest of the school, to ensure the safety of the younger pupils- but not at the expense of your own safety- and to assist teachers and lunchtime supervisors where necessary. It’s a lot of work, but it comes with a lot of privilege as well. When you’re applying for college or university, or even for some jobs, this is something you can put on your CV that will get you a LOT of notice. And, of course, you will be in charge of organising the school prom at the end of the year!” Naturally, this last bit creates a LOT of excitement with us girls!

“Thought that would get your attention,” Mr. McCleland says with a chuckle. “There’ll be prefect meetings every Monday afternoon in this room, but first, we need to decide who’ll be this year’s head boy and head girl, who will of course have the additional duty of chairing these meeting in case I’m not here. You’re not allowed to put yourself forward for head boy or girl, otherwise we’d have 24 candidates for each role! So now, I want you to nominate who you want for head boy and head girl. All nominations must be seconded, then we’ll vote by secret ballot.”

“I want to nominate Kai for head boy,” one of the boys, a member of the football team, says.

“Seconded,” another of the boys says.

“One nomination for head boy,” Mr. McCleland says, writing Kai’s name on the whiteboard.

“I want to nominate Laura for head BOY,” one of the other boys says with a smug voice, and it actually takes me a second to realise what he said before my jaw drops and an awkward silence fills the room.

“…Would you like to repeat that, Dean?” Mr. McCleland asks the fifteen year old boy, who suddenly looks a lot less self-confident.

“Umm…” Dean mumbles under the teacher’s fierce gaze.

“I didn’t think so,” Mr. McCleland growls. “Thank you for your time, Dean. You’re fired.”

“Wh- what?” Dean protests.

“Prefects are supposed to be the most mature, most responsible pupils in the school,” Mr. McCleland explains. “What you just said clearly shows that you’re not up to the task. Get out before I give you a detention too.” I bite my lip as the room is filled with quiet sniggers as Dean leaves. Even though I consciously know that the laughter is directed toward the disgraced boy, there’s a part of me that still feels like some of it is directed toward me, causing me heart to sink- and my stomach to churn…

“I want to nominate Laura for head GIRL,” Megan says defiantly.

“Seconded,” Suriya says.

“Seconded!” Almost a dozen other voices in the room call out, each one flashing me a sympathetic, supportive smile.

“W- wow,” I mouth. “Umm, thanks but no thanks, though.”

“Are- are you sure, Laura?” Mr. McCleland- who’s already written ‘La’ on the board- asks.

“I’m sure,” I sigh. “It- it’d just make me even more of a target than I already am, I mean, if a prefect can think it’s funny to make fun of me like that- you know?”

“If you’re sure,” Mr. McCleland says, erasing my name from the whiteboard. “We still need a nomination for head girl, though.”

“I nominate Megan,” I say, smiling supportively at my best friend.

“Seconded!” Suriya cheers.

“…Sure, why not?” Megan giggles, before mouthing a silent ‘thank you’ at me.

Sure enough, at the end of the lunch period, Megan walks out of the classroom holding a shiny gold-coloured badge with the words ‘head girl’ printed on it. Another girl was nominated, but with my ‘endorsement’, Megan won the vote almost unanimously.

“All hail Queen Megan!” Suriya teases, making our tall friend blush bright red. “Seriously, Priya is going to be SO jealous, she only made deputy head girl last year!”

“I guess,” Megan nervously laughs as she plays with her new badge. “Kinda feel bad though… This really should’ve been yours.”

“Oh- trust me, it shouldn’t!” I laugh. “Seriously, I meant what I said in there. Four years and you’d have thought people would get used to the idea of me being a girl, but still- ugh, some people…”

“Well Dean got what he deserved,” Suriya snorts. “Love to be a fly on the wall when he tells his parents WHY he’s not a prefect anymore, heh!”

“Hell, they might agree with him,” I shrug. “Ugh, I- I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Can we just get to our next class, please?”

“Of course,” Megan whispers, leading us toward our next class. Suriya, however, isn’t so keen to follow.

“Really?” The petite Indian girl asks, her arms crossed. “You’re not going to show off that shiny gold badge to the others?”

“…Tomorrow morning,” Megan says with a confident, almost smug grin. “I haven’t been officially announced yet, and I kinda want to surprise everyone. Especially George, hehe! Though I still reckon I’m just, you know, keeping this badge warm for you.”

“Oh- no. DEFINITE no,” I reply. “I don’t want to hear any more about this. That badge is all yours, and you more than earned it! Besides, it’s not like I can’t, say, go for captain of the cheer team…”

“If you say so,” Megan shrugs. “…You utter, 100% GIRL!” The three of us all giggle happily as we head toward our last class of the day.

Naturally, on my way out of school at the end of the day, I exchange hugs with my friends and a long kiss with my boyfriend before getting in my mum’s car, but as my lips meet Kain’s, I can’t help but wonder how much of the school is laughing at me, just as Dean laughed at me this afternoon- or worse yet, how much of the school is laughing at Kain…

“Hi Laura!” Mum says as I elegantly slide onto the passenger seat of her car. “Good day?”

“…Been better, been worse,” I shrug. “Megan got made head girl today!”

“Ah, had a feeling she might!” Mum chuckles. “Kinda surprised you didn’t go for that yourself, actually, or did you, Megan and Suri have, like, a pact as to which one of you would put themselves forward?”

“No, no pact,” I reply. “And I was actually nominated for head girl, but, you know, didn’t go for it. I withdrew, like.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to be head girl, Laura?” Lily asks me from the back seat of the car, prompting a long, loud sigh from me.

“…Because immediately before I was nominated for head girl, I was nominated for head BOY,” I say, earning a scowl from my mother.

“For god’s sake,” mum snorts. “And this was by one of the prefects?”

“EX-prefects,” I clarify.

“Good,” mum says firmly. “Four years, you’d have thought they’d have got the message by now?”

“This isn’t anything I haven’t said myself,” I sigh. “It’s something I’m just going to have to deal with, I guess. I remember reading Jamie-Lee Burke’s blog earlier in the year, how that bridal shop refused to serve her, and she was SIX years into her transition. She was even three years post-op at that point.”

“That just means the bridal shop was as stupid as that boy,” Lily says, earning smiles from me and my mum.

“…Not going to tell her off for calling someone stupid?” I ask mum, who simply chuckles in response.

“Why would I?” My mother replies. “She’s not wrong, after all…”

After arriving back home and changing into a very comfortable girly t-shirt and short denim skirt, I eat my dinner, finish my homework before grabbing my tablet computer from my room and parking myself on the sofa in the living room. Mum and Sean are out on a date tonight, which means that someone has to look after Lily, and as I’m almost sixteen- and, as Sean was quick to point out, in a position of responsibility at school- I get that job. And it’s not like I mind it, after all- I like Lily, she’s not a troublemaker (especially as she spends all evening playing videogames) and most importantly of all, I get extra pocket money for it!

As Lily engrosses herself in Sonic the Hedgehog, I open up Facebook messenger on my iPad, and whilst I’m immediately drawn into a group chat with the girls- Megan’s news having quickly become widespread knowledge- I only give it a little bit of my attention as I instead scroll down to my boyfriend’s profile and start a new conversation with him.

‘Hey bae,’ I type, followed by several ‘kissing’ emojis.

‘Hey sexy,’ Kain replies. ‘What you up to tonight?’

‘Just babysitting my stepsister,’ I reply.

‘Could be worse, could be your brother babysitting,’ Kain retorts, earning a ‘laughing’ emoji in response.

‘He’s too busy with his celebrity girlfriend, fortunately,’ I reply. ‘Did you hear about Megan getting head girl?’

‘Cool,’ Kain replies, obviously not interested about my friend. ‘You didn’t want to be head girl then?’

‘Long story,’ I type with a ‘frowning’ emoji that immediately gets a ‘hugging’ one in response. ‘You know Dean Barton?’

‘Yeah, think he’s on the school cricket team,’ Kain replies.

‘He nominated me for head BOY,’ I explain. ‘Kinda put me off going for head girl, I don’t need that hassle all year.’

‘Barton’s a knobhead,’ Kain types. ‘No idea how he even became a prefect, he’s always dicking about in class, talking shit about teachers.’

‘Let me guess- he doesn’t just talk shit about teachers?’ I type- the time it took for Kain to respond was a dead giveaway that he’d typed and deleted a different message.

‘Like I said, he’s a knobhead,’ Kain replies.

‘It can’t be nice for you, though,’ I type. ‘I sometimes worry that you’re having a hard time being the boyfriend of ‘the tranny’.’

‘Whatever,’ Kain types with a smiling emoji.

‘Seriously though,’ I type. ‘If you’ve been bullied because of me, I don’t want to be kept in the dark about it.’

‘I don’t listen to what idiots say,’ Kain defiantly replies. ‘So a few people have laughed at me, called me ‘gay’. What. Ever.’

‘You shouldn’t have to go through that,’ I type.

‘You’ve gone through a million times worse,’ Kain retorts, and this time, I have no response.

‘Maybe,’ I type. ‘But that doesn’t mean that either of us should have to put up with this [s**t].’

‘I’ll always have your back,’ Kain types. ‘Well when I’m legally allowed to anyway.’ Naturally, this results in an exchange of ‘kissing’, ‘heart’ and ‘sticking out tongue’ emojis that lasts almost a minute!

‘I knew what you mean,’ I type with a ‘winking’ emoji. ‘I’ve got your back too, me and the other girls. Reckon there’ll be a lot of people jealous of one of our gang getting head girl!’

‘Might surprise you to learn a lot of the basketball team are jealous of me going out with you,’ Kain types, bringing a smug smile to my lips.

‘Really?’ I ask with another winking emoji.

‘Really,’ my boyfriend replies. ‘I mean, you’re tall, skinny, got a great body, you’re a cheerleader and a dancer. If you weren’t transgendered, every guy in the school would fancy you.’

‘Thanks, I think,’ I reply.

‘What I mean is that every guy SHOULD fancy you,’ Kain types.

‘I know what you mean,’ I reply with a ‘winking’ emoji. ‘And I agree, but that might be my overinflated ego speaking!’

‘To be fair any girl who looks like you is entitled to have an overinflated ego,’ Kain types with a ‘kissing’ emoji that I happily reciprocate. 'Fwiw pretty much everyone on the basketball team's jealous of me for going out with you.'

'Thanks bae,' I reply with several 'kissing' emojis. 'Really?'

'Seriously,' Kain types. 'Especially when you show up to games in your cheerleader costume!'

'UNIFORM!' I type, followed by several 'angry' emojis that Kain quickly replies to with a 'winking' one.

"You have to admit it is a bit costume-y,' Kain types, earning a 'rolling eyes' emoji in response.

'So's your basketball COSTUME,' I retort.

'Touché,' Kain types with another 'winking' emoji. 'If you want to see real cheerleader cost- uniforms, my dad's got tickets for the NFL game at Wembley in September, if you want to come along?'

'American football?' I type. 'Seriously? THAT's your idea of a date?'

'You took me to a chick flick over the summer,' Kain retorts with a 'sticking out tongue' emoji. 'And like I said, there'll be pro cheerleaders there, you could say you're going to get some tips?'

'Sure, suppose it could be fun,' I type. In all honesty, it DOES sound like fun, but it's not an idea I want rooted in my boyfriend's head!

'It's a date,' Kain types with a 'kissing' emoji of his own. ‘Got to go now, got to get homework done. Talk tomorrow?’

‘Of course,’ I type followed by a string of ‘kissing’ emojis that last until Kain goes offline.

With my boyfriend gone, and Lily still engrossed in her videogame, I turn my attention back to the group chat, which is naturally centred around our new head girl.

‘We should SO dress you up as a Queen for your birthday!’ Nicole types, earning a ‘blushing’ emoji from my best friend. ‘Big fancy dress, a tiara!’

‘So would we be princesses or ladies in waiting?’ I ask with a ‘winking’ emoji.

‘Ooh, look who’s FINALLY been able to drag herself away from her boyfriend!’ Harriet types with a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji that makes me sigh. Obviously my absence was more obvious than I thought…

‘Sisters before misters!’ Ashley types, earning an ‘eye rolling’ emoji in reply.

‘So we were chatting, whatever,’ I type. ‘I’m now allowed to talk about him at school, got to get my dose of Kain goodness somehow, haven’t I?’

‘Thought you were going to OVERdose on him in PE,’ Suriya types with a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji.

‘Bite me,’ I type with a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji of my own. ‘If you must know, I messaged him coz of what happened in the prefect meeting with Dean. Wanted to know if people have been picking on him.’

‘And have they?’ Nicole asks.

‘Couldn’t tell,’ I type. ‘If they have he’s not saying, reckon he’s trying to act all macho and not let it get to him, that sort of thing.’

‘You know what my normal reaction would be to macho idiots,’ Harriet types. ‘But if he’s doing it for your benefit than fair enough.’

‘He IS cool,’ I type. ‘Definitely cooler than any of my other ex-boyfriends.’

‘Hey!’ Ashley protests with a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji of her own.

‘Laura said ex BOYfriends, MISS Moore!’ Mia types, making me giggle as the two girls exchange ‘hugging’ emojis.

‘And speaking of,’ Suriya types, ‘that’s more than enough discussion of the B-word for tonight!’ I giggle and roll my eyes as the other girls reply with ‘cheering’ emojis.

‘So answer my question, then,’ I type. ‘Princesses or ladies in waiting?’

‘Princesses, duh,’ Nicole types with a ‘winking’ emoji. ‘Just our dresses won’t be as elaborate as QUEEN Megan’s!’

As with the other girls, I reply with a ‘laughing’ emoji, but as the chat goes on, I can’t help but wonder whether or not Kain really is holding anything back, whether he’s been bullied because of his association with me. Then again, in our first year at school, Megan often said she was bullied because of her association with me, and as she has just been made head girl, maybe attitudes ARE changing. It may be too little, too late, but it is at least better than nothing. And I always have the comfort of knowing that my real friends will never abandon me or turn on me- and nor will Kain.

I wake up on the second day of my final year at school with a smile on my face, which only widens when I pull on a comfortable cotton bra and thong followed by the rest of my uniform. As always, I apply just as much make-up as I think I can get away with, but today, I include a little extra lip gloss- though it’s not like my mouth needs to be made more appealing to some people!

Naturally, when we arrive at school, everyone’s attention is focussed on our new ‘Queen’, whose smug smile from yesterday has faded to be replaced by a very nervous-looking grin. Instead of form, we head to a special assembly today (before which I make sure my lip gloss is ‘put to good use’, much to my friends’ irritation) where we prefects are called up on stage and ‘presented’ to the rest of our year, Mr. McCleland explaining our responsibilities just as he had to us yesterday afternoon. At the end of the assembly, Megan and the head boy are formally presented with their special gold-coloured badges (the one she was given yesterday being just a spare badge).

Obviously, I’m beaming with pride as my best friend is honoured in this way, though I still can’t shake from my mind what Dean did yesterday- and as I gaze out at the crowd in the assembly, there are more than a few frowns that bring to mind something my newest friend told me last year. As the assembly ends and we head to our first class for the day, I make a point of seeking out the raven-haired girl.

“Hey Mia,” I say, interrupting my friend as she grabs her bag and adjusts her skirt.

“Hey, Princess Prefect!” Mia teases, earning giggles from our other non-prefect friends. “’Sup?”

“Oh- it’s umm, nothing that can’t wait until break,” I mumble, struggling to find the right way to word my question.

“Nah, we’ve got a few minutes before our next class,” Mia says. “It has to be SOMETHING, or you wouldn’t have asked, right?”

“It- gah,” I sigh. “It’s about what you said last year.”

“I said a lot of things last year,” Mia giggles.

“When we started hanging out,” I say, quickly lowering the pale-skinned girl’s mood.

“…Oh, THAT,” Mia says. “Just- just ignore that, I was jealous, I thought I could be friends with Sam…”

“Yeah, but a lot of people will have agreed with you,” I say, making my friend suddenly look VERY guilty. “And now that one of our ‘clique’ is head girl…”

“Honestly, you’re worrying about nothing,” Mia says. “The other quote-unquote cliques will just have to get over themselves.”

“I don’t really like the thought that we ARE a clique though, you know?” I say. “I mean, I meant what I said last year, that we’re just a group of girls hanging out together, you know?”

“Which is kinda also known as a ‘clique’,” Mia laughs. “Seriously, Laura, where’s this coming from anyway?”

“…Yesterday at the prefect’s meeting,” I sigh, making Mia bite her lip.

“Yeah…” the dark haired girl grimaces. “Megan kinda- kinda told us about what Dean did- which totally sucks, by the way. She also told me that if you hadn’t passed it up, YOU’D be head girl right now.”

“Getting even more angry stares from the other girls in the year?” I ask.

“What. Ever!” Mia laughs. “The people who matter like you. And before you say anything as I know you’re thinking it, no, with me it WASN’T a case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’.”

“…I wasn’t thinking that,” I mumble. “Okay, maybe once or twice, but only at the start-“

“I hang out with you guys because an awesome GIRL once sent me a message saying ‘I want to be your friend, why not hang out with us?’,” Mia says, causing me to giggle and bite my lip to keep tears from forming in my eyes, before sighing loudly and giving the black-haired girl a long, tight hug. “The fact that you sometimes hang out with celebrities kinda helps too, hehe!”

“Definitely,” I giggle, before breaking the hug and heading to my first lesson of the day.

With Mia’s reassurance, I go through the morning with a newfound confidence. Sure, I’ve had four years of teasing, four years of whispers and giggles behind my back, but what my friend said was 100% true- the people who matter like me. Sometimes I need reminding of this, and I’m eternally grateful that I have friends who will remind me when necessary.

After a morning break spent supervising the younger children and a third lesson spent trying to suppress my boredom at the topic (physics), I quickly eat my lunch before heading back toward the school’s main hall for the first meeting of the year of the school’s drama club. In previous years, the club didn’t start meeting until November time, but now that we’re in year 11, we have to attend from the start of the school year, as it’s the year 11 students who’ll be playing the lead role in the annual school production!

“Let it go, let it go…” Suriya playfully sings as we walk into the sparsely-populated hall.

“Hey,” Nicole protests. “That’s Elsa’s song, not Anna’s! Unless you’ve changed your mind about who you’re auditioning for…”

“No, but ‘Let it Go’ has a billion hits on YouTube, and ‘Love is an Open Door’ doesn’t,” Suriya retorts. “Besides, as if I’d stand a chance, anyway! Doubt the world’s ready for an Indian Elsa, heh.” I start to blush as my friends start to playfully nudge me.

“But they ARE ready for a transgendered Elsa?” I ask.

“YES!” Suriya, Nicole and Harriet all cheer, making me blush.

“If you’re good enough, you’re girl enough,” Nicole says with a smug grin. “Just like you, Suri- if you’re good enough, you’re white and blonde enough!”

“Not that I’d ever want to be white and blonde!” Suriya says with a smug grin as she plays with her long, jet-black tresses. “No offence, Laura.”

“None taken,” I shrug. “Just as long as you leave Elsa to me, hehe!”

“The world will just have to settle for an Indian Anna!” Suriya giggles. “Besides, after yesterday, no one deserves the role of Elsa more than you!”

“Oh- can we PLEASE try to put that behind us?” I sigh.

“Sure, sure,” Suriya says as we grab the carefully-printed scripts from the table and begin rehearsing scenes with each other. Naturally, any and all of Elsa’s lines are performed by me, but as I say the words, I can’t help but picture myself up on stage, wearing the iconic light blue dress… And having the angry stares of everyone in my year fixated on me.

I’m no stranger to performing on stage, of course, whether it’s in a play, in a ballet recital, or even something like a gymnastics competition. I know countless tricks to avoid stage fright- but this is no ordinary case of stage fright when you KNOW that everyone staring at you disapproves of you merely existing. There’s a part of me that wonders whether or not I should audition for the part of Elsa…

Naturally, of course, my friends are not just confident, they’re certain that I’ll be playing that role come the end of the year, meaning that as we head to our final lesson, I’m serenaded with the tune of ‘Let It Go’- and even when I arrive at ballet class later in the evening, my friends are all still humming that tune, making me roll my eyes as I change into my pink ballet tights and my black tank leotard.

“Maybe we should persuade Mademoiselle Renou to do a Frozen-themed ballet performance,” Nicole teases, making me groan in frustration as my friends all giggle.

“God, I had enough of that when I went to Disneyland last month!” Ashley chuckles.

“Really?” Harriet teases as she ties her long ginger hair into a tight, severe bun. “You REALLY had too much Disney?”

“…Nah,” Ashley says, before breaking down in yet another fit of giggles.

“Well I’m DEFINITELY going for Anna if Mademoiselle Renou does put on the performance!” Suriya says confidently.

“I’ll probably have to go for Marshmallow, then!” Megan giggles, standing up straight and emphasising her thirteen inch height advantage over the Indian girl.

“Nah,” Nicole giggles. “You could play the original queen, that’d be appropriate, under the circumstances!”

“Circumstances?” Mademoiselle Renou asks as she walks past. “What ‘circumstances’ are these?” The seven of us bite our lip as the strict Frenchwoman regards us with a stern stare.

“I- I may have been made head girl at school,” Megan mumbles.

“Oh, c’est magnifique!” Mademoiselle Renou giggles. “If I had known sooner, I would have had our special birthday tutu adjusted for your fit!”

“…It’s not THAT big a deal,” Megan mumbles.

“Nonsense!” Mademoiselle Renou laughs. “My sister was the president of the girls at school and she celebrated for a week! Then again, Marie would!”

“Yeah… I’m not really a ‘centre of attention’ kind of person,” Megan grimaces. “Especially not as the school also needs to pick a captain for the cheerleading squad, the gymnastics team, AND who’s going to play the lead role in the school production!” I dramatically roll my eyes as Megan punctuates the end of her sentence by pointing her finger straight toward me.

“Okay,” I sigh. “First, Anna’s the lead role, not Elsa. Second, there’s no guarantee I’ll get the part. Third… I’m not even sure I’m going to go for it.”

“Oh- what?” Suriya spits. "Why, exactly?"

"It- ugh," I sigh. "It's gonna be really fun singing 'Let It Go' with an entire audience trying to kill you with their stares."

"Oh, get over yourself already!" Harriet moans, earning an angry stare from me. "Surely those angry stares are MORE reason to put yourself up there?"

"And I do not recall any 'angry' stares when you performed la soixante-troisieme papillon last December," Mademoiselle Renou says with a confident smile. "If there had been, I would have thrown them out by their hair!"

"Next time I see Dean I'm going to kick him in the balls, even if it's just to shut YOU up!" Suriya laughs.

"Who is 'Dean'?" Mademoiselle Renou asks, leading to yet another retelling of the story of yesterday afternoon.

"...And if that can happen from a supposed prefect," I sigh.

"You look closer at the word 'supposed'," Mademoiselle Renou says softly. "He is not your friend. We are. All of us. And if I have to buy every ticket for your production so that you will only have friendly faces in the crowd, I will!"

"...Thanks," I mumble.

"And if I have to throw people out by their hair, I will!" Harriet teases, giggling as Mademoiselle Renou gives her a playful shove.

"Now come on," the Frenchwoman urges. "Lesson starts now! Oh, but before I do, Suriya, please tell your sister that she can start our advanced adult class next week, an opening has become available!"

"Pri- Priya's joining the adult class?" Suriya asks. "I thought she dropped ballet?"

"And I thought she loved it," Mademoiselle Renou shrugs. "I spoke to her when we played football at Acton Rovers last month, she admitted she missed the class but felt too old for it, I suggested the adult class, she agreed. Especially as we will have an adult class performance next year!"

"Huh, I always thought Priya hated the idea of performing on stage," I muse as I head toward the barre.

"And I thought you loved it," Mademoiselle Renou says, briefly making me pause before we begin the lesson.

Naturally, an hour of dancing managed to ease my anxieties, especially when Miss Fullerton shows up at the end of the class with her super-cute week old daughter Maria, which we all take turns fawning over (especially Mademoiselle Renou!).

As I head home, I try to put the whole 'Dean' thing to the back of my mind, though I make a note of it in my 'mood diary' for tomorrow's meeting with Dr Williamson- it's definitely the sort of thing she'll want to hear about, and the sort of thing she'll no doubt have advice about- and if she thinks I should go for Elsa then I really won't have any reason not to- and I DO want the role. I DO want to act and sing on stage... But I always want people to love my acting and my singing...

The following day, I arrive at school as usual and am greeted by my friends (and, of course, my boyfriend), all of whom tease me by singing 'Let it Go' all through the first few lessons and first break, and even into lunch- which I begin in my 'private changing room' of the girls' toilets, where I change into my brand new gymnastics team leotard, alongside Ashley, Suriya, Nicole, and for the first time ever, Nicole's sister Sabrina.

"Looking forward to your first gymnastics club meet?" I ask the eleven year old girl as she stretches her leotard over her skinny frame.

"I was in my primary school's gymnastics team," Sabrina explains. "Which is why I'm starting the club now instead of November with the other clubs."

"Just like her big sister did!" Nicole giggles as she gives her sister a playful cuddle.

"Any chance of Bryony joining us?" I ask Ashley, who shrugs in response.

"Maybe," my fellow T-girl replies. "She's never done gymnastics seriously before- but then again, neither did I! And Bryony IS a good dancer. Maybe not as, you know, 'committed' as Cassie is, but she's still good at it."

"Mademoiselle Renou reckons me and Bryony could get our pointe shoes by March!" Sabrina exclaims. "I can't wait to dance on stage. AND take part in gymnastics competitions, hehe!"

"Well I'm sure you'll be great at both!" Suriya says, earning a giggle from the smaller girl as the five of us head up to the gymnasium in our matching uniforms.

As I watch Sabrina go through her stretches and her tumbles so that Miss Edwards can assess her strengths and weaknesses, I can't help but be impressed by her dedication to the sport, throwing herself into it without a care for what other people might think or say... As young as she is, I could maybe learn a thing or two from her. Though as I pull my uniform back on over my leotard, the 'P' badge on my blazer reminds me that maybe she should be the one learning from me, rather than the other way round.

After school ends, mum takes me straight to Dr Williamson's office, where the middle-aged counsellor greets me as always with a smile and a handshake.

"Hello Laura!" Dr Williamson says. "Big week this week, the first week of year eleven..."

"Ugh, trust me, I've noticed!" I giggle, handing over my mood diary and my food diary before sitting down and crossing one leg tightly over the other. "Already bombarded with homework, started training for this year's gymnastics competition today..."

"And I see you've got a familiar badge on your shoulder," Dr Williamson says, making me blush as I fiddle with my lapel. "I'm guessing the 'p' stands for prefect?"

"Yep!" I giggle. "My grades and my behaviour were good enough, I applied, they said yes!"

"I remember being a prefect when I was at school," Dr Williamson says with a proud grin. "That badge got me a lot of respect from my peers. I was even made head girl in sixth form- do they still have that in your school? Or because your school is only 11-16 do they-"

"No, no, they have head boy and head girl," I say, letting out a quiet sigh that immediately gets picked up on.

"I'm guessing you put yourself forward for head girl, but something happened?" Dr Williamson asks in a sympathetic voice.

"Sort of," I sigh. "The prefects had to nominate another person for head boy or girl, and one the boys- one of the boys nominated me for head BOY."

"Oh- Laura, I am so sorry to hear that," Dr Williamson says. "Obviously this has been preying on your mind since it happened?"

"Big time," I say. "I mean, I'm used to idiots at school. I've had to deal with them since day one. But this- ugh. Four years on you'd think people would be used to me by now, especially ones supposedly mature enough to be a prefect."

"I think the word you need to focus on there is-" Dr Williamson begins.

"'Supposedly', yes, I know," I interrupt. "Ugh, I mean- it's not like I CHOSE to be trans, is it?"

"Of course not, you can't help the way you were born," Dr Williamson says.

"And Dean can't help being a bigoted arsehole?" I ask.

"No, I think you'll find he CAN help that," my counsellor replies. "Laura, it's important that you don't let this affect you adversely." Here we go, I think to myself.

"I know," I sigh.

"Setbacks like this will happen in your day to day life," Dr Williamson continues. "And not just for transgendered people, they happen to everyone. But it doesn't make it right and it doesn't mean you have to accept it. What happened to the boy after he said what he did?"

"The teacher, he-" I say, before letting out a half-sigh half-laugh. "He threw him out of the class, basically fired him from being a prefect."

"So that's one person on your side," Dr Williamson says. "And your friends backed you up, I take it?"

"...Yeah," I say. "Even nominated me for head girl."

"Though- though I take it you didn't win the election, or vote, or whatever?" Dr Williamson asks softly.

"No, I- I turned down the nomination," I say. "It was right after what Dean said, and I was feeling low..."

"It's understandable," Dr Williamson says. "Wanting to run and hide is a natural reaction under the circumstances, but you mustn't let it be your default reaction. Sometimes you won't get other opportunities like that, and sure, being head girl may not be important in the grand scheme of things, but in a few years’ time, it could lead to you missing out on things like, say, a university place, or a role in a play or something like that." Decision made, then, I think to myself.

"...There is a play coming up soon," I say.

"There usually is this time of year, if I remember correctly," Dr Williamson says. "And I think I recall you saying something about it being an adaptation of Frozen, the Disney film?"

"Yep!" I say. "All my friends reckon I should audition for the part of Elsa."

"And what do you think?" Dr Williamson asks.

"I-" I say, before sighing. "I want to be an actress, I've said that loads of times... But I don't want to go up on stage and be laughed at, or booed before I've even had a chance, simply for being who I am."

"Then don't be," my counsellor advises.

"That easy, is it?" I snort.

"Let's work this through," Dr Williamson says. "The teachers at your school have known you for four years. They've known the other kids in your year for four years so they'll know not to let any potential troublemakers into the performance. The director of the performance will know this exact same thing, and wouldn't give you the part unless they were absolutely sure you were suitable for it, right?"

"That IS how directors work," I chuckle.

"I will be honest with you, Laura," Dr Williamson says. "Putting yourself out in public like this isn't something I'd recommend to kids who've had the same difficulties you have. But you're an exception. You've said all along you want to be an actress. You're looking at drama colleges for next year, and you've performed on stage for your ballet class so you do have experience of being in front of a crowd. I genuinely believe that this is something you can do."

"...Thanks," I say. "We actually sign ourselves up for auditions tomorrow after school. I know now what I'm going to do."

"Not 'let it go'?" Dr Williamson asks, laughing as I roll my eyes.

"The amount of times I've heard that song the last few days..." I say, earning yet more laughs as our session continues for the next hour.

As I grab my school bag and prepare to leave, however, Dr Williamson reveals that she has one final topic of discussion for me- and unsurprisingly, it's the one thing we've talked about during every session for the last few months.

"Are you still seeing that young man of yours?" Dr Williamson asks, making me blush.

"...Yes, I'm still going out with Kain," I say. "And no, I still have no intention of having underage sex with him."

"While I do believe you," Dr Williamson says, "the fact is that you won't be underage for that much longer."

"Yeah, mum has kinda had 'the talk' with me," I say. "I'm not going to suddenly jump into bed with him when I turn sixteen."

"...Isn't your boyfriend five months younger than you?" Dr Williamson asks, making me roll my eyes. "It's jumping into bed with him when HE turns sixteen that you need to be wary of."

"I know, I know," I say, trying not to sigh.

"The danger- and I'm not saying I think you'll do this," Dr Williamson continues, "is that when you turn sixteen you'll be tempted by another, maybe older boy."

"I won't," I say defiantly.

"Well- well it's something we can discuss next week," Dr Williamson says. "It's something we NEED to discuss sooner or later, Laura, and it's best to discuss it before it becomes an immediate issue."

"Okay," I shrug.

"Meantime, try to focus on your school work and your acting," Dr Williamson advises. "You're quite lucky in the amount of hobbies you have, and the fact that you excel at them."

"Keeps my mind off of the 'ultimate hobby'?" I ask.

"For one thing," Dr Williamson says. "It's also a reminder that you have a lot, a LOT to be confident about. Don't forget that, Laura."

"...I won't," I say with a smile as I leave the office.

The following day, during lunch at school, Nicole, Suriya, Mia and I head to the school gymnasium where we're issued with our cheerleading uniform for the year. It's very similar to last year's- trainers, a skirt, a leotard, a vest and of course, a pair of pom-poms- with just a few subtle differences in the colours and the fit. Of course, with this being the first cheer club meet of the year, there are more important things for the four of us (and the other three year 11 girls in the club) to discuss.

"Okay, girls," Miss Ellison says. "It's a new year, and I know you'll all be busy with your GCSEs, but I expect you to give it your all this year both at games and in competitions. First things first, though- one of you needs to be this year's captain!" A murmur fills the room as the seven of us look at each other, each wondering who the captain should be- but even though my friends outnumber the other girls, I still feel like everyone in the room is judging me for being transgendered, as though that somehow makes me unfit to be the captain. Never mind the fact that I'm one of the best dancers... And it doesn't help that one of 'my gang' got made head girl as well, if I was cheer captain it'd just prove that what Mia said last year was true- but that gives me and idea...

"I nominate Mia for captain," I say defiantly, earning a puzzled look from the black-haired girl.

"Laura- what are you doing?" Mia asks. "I thought you wanted to be captain?"

"Don't you want to be captain?" I ask.

"Not if you're still on about what we talked about after assembly yesterday," Mia says, before we're interrupted by an unexpected voice.

"I nominate Laura," Morgan- one of the 'other' girls in the cheer club- says.

"You- you what?" I ask.

"Laura, we heard what happened at the prefect meeting," Morgan says. "What Barton said to you sucked."

"Yeah," Sabrina (not Nicole's sister, but Morgan's friend with the same name) concurs. "Barton's an idiot. He isn't even that good at football."

"And he DOESN'T speak for us," Emily- Morgan and Sabrina's friend- says with a confident smile on her freckled face. "I nominate Laura too."

"Oh- oh my god, you girls..." I say.

"I nominate Laura too!" Suriya says.

"And me!" Nicole concurs as I feel my cheeks start to turn red.

"Well, that's four votes out of seven," Miss Ellison shrugs. "So I think I can officially announce that Laura White is our 2017-2018 cheer captain!"

"Woohoo!" The other six girls cheer, playfully waving their pom-poms in my cheering face, before lifting me off my feet and throwing me up in the air and catching me over and over again, just as we did all throughout last year at the club. Back then, I was never the 'flyer'- that was always the 5' 1" Suriya's job- but right now, I'm physically and emotionally higher than I've ever been.

It only takes one cruel word to bring your mood down- but at the same time, one gesture can lift you higher than you've ever been. It would've cost nothing for Morgan and her friends to step on me just as Dean had done three days earlier. But they didn't. They let me know that I was as much one of the girls as they were- and reminded me that just because someone isn't my friend, it doesn't mean that they can't be.

I have a great family, the best friends in the world, an amazing boyfriend, I'm a prefect at school and now I'm the captain of the cheerleading club. Any girl would be envious of all that I have- and given how much I've had to endure, I definitely feel like I've earned everything that I have. No more self-pity. I only have one year left at school. Time for everyone to see what I'm REALLY capable of!

My new-found confidence follows me into the first afterschool drama club meeting of the year, where I immediately sign my name on the list of people who will be auditioning for Elsa in the school play- and gratifyingly, it's a very short list, especially compared to the lists for Anna and Kristoff. Before I can feel too smug, though, Mrs. Ingram gets up on the stage with an announcement.

"Everyone," the head of drama says. "As only one person has put themselves down for the role of Hans, that role is hereby automatically filled. It is with great pleasure that I can tell you that the role of Prince Hans will be played by... Phil Brooks."

My stomach sinks as the name of my ex-boyfriend is called out and he walks up on the stage next to Mrs. Ingram with a smile on his face that I once found charming, but now find sickening. If I get the role, I'll be forced to interact with him virtually every day- and that's all I need right now. Even if he does turn sixteen before me...

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