Campfire songs Chapter 5

Chapter 5

We walked down to the canal and then along the path, passing quite a few houseboats until we got to the right one. Steph took my handbag and rucksack from me, handed me her watch and asked me to give her half an hour. It was late afternoon by this point and the light was beginning to fade. I was knackered. It had been a long day and it was catching up with me. Crying had been strangely therapeutic. At least I didn't have any make up to run. 100 metres or so from Steph's mom's houseboat I found a tree behind the path that was big enough, with enough hand holds for me to climb and sit relatively comfortably. By the time the half hour was up, I was feeling quite chilled, waiting outside the houseboat.

Steph stepped out of the main entrance and motioned me in. “Quick, we don't want to let the heat out.”
I hurried in. I had never been on a houseboat before. If someone had asked me to picture one, I would never have imagined these long thin contraptions that definitely did not look big enough to make a comfortable home. When I stepped inside, going down a few steps, and had to lead the way, I was surprised by how much room there was. Like a Tardis, there was a lot more room than you would expect, looking from the outside. We passed a toilet, kitchen, bathroom, which actually had an big tub in it, and came to the lounge which had two double sofa's facing each other. Standing in front of one was this beautiful lady. She was pretty enough for a mature woman, but what made her beautiful was the warmth in her eyes and the smile and open arms, waiting to greet me with a hug. Maybe because I had had a hell of a day, or perhaps it was because I had had so little previous warmth from my mother. Whatever the reason I fell into a loving embrace as if I was a long lost daughter. She held me tightly and rubbed my back soothingly.
Stephanie was standing at the entrance to the lounge. “Mother, this is.... er.. Laurence.”
“Hello Laurence. My name is Tracy, but you can call me Mum if you want. You are, after all, the sister of my daughter.”
“I would like that.” I had never called my mother anything but mother. Most of today I felt I was a lot older than my 16 years. In her arms, I felt younger, like a little girl, able to leave the cares of the world in someone else's hands.
“Sis, I need to get back. I will see you tomorrow, if you need me before, just let me know, I will be there for you.” Steph waved and left me with her mother.
Tracy motioned me onto the sofa and made us both a hot chocolate, she even put mini marshmellows to float on the surface. “Right, I think we need to have a bit of a chat. First of all, I can't keep calling you Laurence. My daughter mentioned Amber, but that you hadn't really chosen it.”
“No, I haven't really worked out my new name yet. For most of the last 2 years I have been called Florence or Flower more often than Laurence and it wasn't a compliment.”
“Well, I don't think Amber quite suits, I always thought girls called Amber should have brown eyes.”
I shrugged, I didn't care if she was a bit odd as long as she stayed kind.
“Any ideas?”
“If you had another daughter, what would you have called her?”
She looked me over carefully. I think to see if I was brown nosing so to speak. Satisfied that I was being honest, she started to smile. “How about Gretchen?”
“Err... No thank you.” I was fairly sure that she was just teasing, but I didn't really know her that well. She may have felt that I was jumping into the relationship that she was offering rather fast. In fact, I had decided to just relax and be myself and hope that we got on. I wasn't going to hold back or refuse to accept affection if it was given. I was going to try to be true to myself. She had this aura about her that made me feel that she would accept anything except dishonesty.

“I always wanted more children. I really struggled with boy names so I was very glad that Stephanie was a girl. We had two names in the running, Stephanie and Sophie. How about Sophie?”
“Sophie. Yes, I like it. What does it mean?”
“It comes from Greek, meaning wisdom.”
“I could certainly do with more of that.”
“I think you have done really well, from what my daughter has been saying. Why don't we try it out and you can see if you like it. We can always try something else if it doesn't seem to fit. Now, Sophie, could you tell me more about this medical condition. Steph was saying that you want to be a girl. At the moment, looking at you, I can't imagine you as anything else.”
I took a deep breath. “It is difficult to explain. I have been thinking about it a lot, over a lot of years, but only recently have events, really forced me to self examine my psyche. I think of it as three different aspects. The easiest for me is sexuality. It gets confusing when you start using terms like gay or straight, because that depends on whether you are male or female. I reserve the right to change my mind, but at the moment, I am only attracted to women. The next aspect is whether my mind is male or female. Do I have female thoughts and emotions or male ones. That is a bit harder. I think most people are not 100% one thing or another. From the tests I have taken, I am more female than male, from a personal perspective, I get on with women a lot better than I do with boys or men.” I stopped to take a bit of a drink of the delicious hot chocolate.
“And the 3rd aspect?”
“The 3rd aspect is the physical one. Genetically I am male, but my body has developed as a female. I have estrogen naturally flowing through me and almost no testosterone. Admittedly, my groin is maleish and I have no female bits inside.”
“What do you mean by maleish?”
“I have no balls and a very underdeveloped penis.”
“I don't mean to be crude, but I want to understand. I know you can't have children, but does it still, you know, function?”
“Not since I woke up from the induced coma.”
“You've tried to ….”
“Yes, I tried, and got nowhere.”
“So physically, would you say you were more female than male.”
“That is a difficult question to answer, but this is how I see it. If I was walking down the street and someone was looking at me. I had unisex clothing on and a hat, so nothing to give any clues. Pretty much everyone's going to say that I am female. My height, my shape, my voice, so everything they could see or hear says female. Taking it one step further. To exist in society as a female, I don't need any surgery or hormones, all I have to do is tuck myself away. To exist as a male I would need HRT for the rest of my life and surgery to remove my breasts. Even then, I probably wouldn't meet most male normals. So yes, physically I consider myself much more female than male.”
“OK, so does this mean you want SRS?”
“Yes. I have read about it and so I know it is really painful, but that is the one part of me that does not match, so yes, if I could, I would. I don't hate my penis like I have heard many male to female transexuals do. Nor do I think it defines me. Having it just doesn't fit. I would always worry about discovery, and if am lucky enough to have a lesbian girlfriend, having that would just be embarrassing.”
“There is one other concern I have. The path you are on is a complete separation from your old life. It would be like Laurence died. Your mother would be devastated if she doesn't hear from you, as well as any friends you have.”
“I don't have any friends. A couple of years ago, I had a few girlfriends, but when my Dad died, my mother, despite his wishes and mine, moved me to an all boys boarding school. I have had no contact with any of them since. I hope my mother loves me. I can't say I have ever seen any evidence of it, but I haven't seen any to the contrary either. Apart from not listening to me. I think that is just her natural selfishness.”
“I can't help but put myself in her shoes. If Steph disappeared from my life, I would be inconsolable.”
“You have shown me more love and caring in the time I have known you than my mother has in my whole life.”
“You are not telling me that she never cuddled you?”
“You might find it easier if you imagined her as a man. She went to work, came back and expected dinner on the table. If I wanted care or comfort, I went to my father. She did cuddle me, but only when she thought she was supposed to and I never felt like there was any emotion in it.”
“Actually, that does help. If Steph disappeared from my ex-husband's life, I think he would be upset, but not like I would be.”
“There is one other thing to consider. I did not really chose this. If my identity is found out, I will either be killed or have the fear of being killed hanging over me.”
“I believe in a benevolent universe. Call it fate, destiny, whatever you like. You always have choices. You chose to bite. I expect you were offered male hormone supplements previously, but refused them, waiting for the universe to decide for you. You could have disguised yourself differently. You chose your clothes, your wig. You could go through life thinking that you have no choice, that you have to do something a certain way. That is a very negative way to look at life and I don't think it is the truth. You chose to go to your sister and agreed to come to me. There are so many things that you could have done differently that would not have led you to me. I have the means to grant some of your wishes. Come sit next to me.”
I moved to sit next to her on the sofa, both of us turning facing each other. She held both my hands and looked me in the eye. “If we do this, there is no going back. Laurence will be dead and Sophie will be born. Are you sure you want this?”
I didn't answer too quickly. She wanted a serious answer. I tried to listen to the little voice inside, see if there was any resistance within me, but there wasn't. “Yes.” I said quietly but firmly.
“You will not be able to contact your mother or any relations or friends again, ever.”
“I know.”
“If you had any thoughts of revenge or getting back at those who hurt you, you will have to give them up.”
“My father was very big on forgiveness. He used to say that you have to do it for yourself not for them. If you stay angry you only hang on to unhappiness. If you forgive, you find peace. I am trying to let it go. It's not as easy to do in real life as it sounded when he talked about it, but I know it is the right thing to do. I will leave Karma to sort out the rest.”
“You are sure, sure?”
Keeping eye contact I replied. “Yes.”
She nodded her head firmly once. “I will put things in motion. Now onto other matters. Lets say you are now Sophie, my adopted daughter. What do you want to do with your life? Finish your education? Play guitar?”
“In the last 2 years, I have just been trying to get through the day. It was all about what strategy I could use to keep myself safe.”
“What about before that, when you were with your father?”
“I suppose, I wanted to be just like him. Have a child or preferably children and show them the love that he showed me.” I had cried so much today. My eyes started welling up again and I didn't think I had any more in me, but when she gathered me in her arms, I couldn't hold them back and the floodgates opened.
She just hugged me and let me get it out.

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