Mum and I had indeed had a talk. She had told me not to get drawn in by boys because I was in a vulnerable state. I had told her that she had nothing to worry about which she didn't believe and neither did I if I was being honest.
I went to bed after talking to Gaby about my stupidity at which point she told me that lots of women sabotage their own relationships because 'it's too good to be true'. She really was the perfect sister.
After we talked, I calmed down a bit enough to sleep.
It almost felt lonely sleeping alone in my room after I'd gotten used to sleeping as a group but eventually I did fall asleep wearing only a t-shirt and panties like I used to.. well maybe not the panties bit.
The next day, I woke up rejuvenated, slipped on my old pajama pants and went down for breakfast like I always did.
"Morning mum, dad" I said as I took my regular seat at the dining table. "Where's Gaby?" I asked.
In that moment, other than Gaby's t-shirt, everything was the way it's always been.
"You know how your sister insists on jogging every morning" Dad said at the head of the table, computer on the table, mug probably holding coffee in hand.
Mum comes out of the kitchen with two cups in hand. Two cups of tea if I had to guess. Mum hates coffee. She hands me a cup and I say thanks. Another thing I missed while on that island. Tea that's tasty as well as functional.
Mum took a sip of her cup before saying "Dr. Clifford's contact reached out early this morning. A woman. She said she's a therapist" Mum paused either for dramatic effect or she waiting briefly for a response. "Said she can fit us in sometime today"
"I don't need a therapist" I said
"It's not optional. If you're going to do this, you have to see a therapist first"
Dad shook his head briefly "I hope you know what you're doing, Jonathan"
That name stung.
"Say dad, I was wondering" I said casually "Didn't you say I was going to be 'Joanna' if I'd been born a girl"
He turned to look at mum who shrugged.
"I uh.." He paused to scratch his brow "Yeah that's right but..." He turned to look at his watch "I better get to work"
He stood up, kissed mum on the cheek and was out of the house as soon as he had collected all his stuff.
Mum looked at me concerned. She took a seat beside me.
"You know we love you right?" She asked not expecting an answer but I nodded anyway
"Up till yesterday, you were our beautiful boy. You understand it's going to take some time, right?"
This time she waited for an answer. I nodded again not having an audible reply.
"I'll have your breakfast out in a bit" It dawned on me that dad didn't even eat. "Do you want any more tea?" Mum asked cheerfully once again as she stood.
"No thanks, mum" I managed a smile.
Mum popped her head into my room later while I was getting dressed.
"Honey?" She had said innocently.
I had been standing there in panties and one of Gaby's puffy bras which I was about to stuff when I heard her. I immediately turned around.
"Mum! Get out!"
She laughed walking into the room."You remind me of Gaby when she was growing up"
I grabbed the nearest t-shirt slipping it on. The bra had made a noticeable bump on my chest.
Mum sat on my bed chuckling.
"Looks like we need to have another talk"
"Fine but could you just wait outside for one second while I get dressed" I said still having my back to her.
She tapped the bed lightly gesturing me to sit down. Slowly I did still turned away from her.
"You have such a beautiful body. You shouldn't try to make it something it's not."
I slowly turned to her.
"This just helps me fit in more." I said gesturing to my chest "I just don't want people to see me as some freak."
"Oh honey" Mum said touching my hand "You've clearly decided that this is who you want to be. But this is going to spark some backlash from all sorts of people"
I didn't reply.
"You have to be ready for that and this false image is not the way. Gaby means well but she has you in this false sense of normalcy that simply isn't the case. The truth is that you're not normal. Not anymore"
That hit me but I didn't respond to it.
"You're going to have to deal with kids at school and kids can be cruel"
"I met a couple of them at the mall yesterday. They seemed cool with it"
"And I'm so happy that that's the case but I'm your mother and I love you so I can't help but worry that that won't always be the case and you need to be ready for that"
I didn't reply. She hugged me.
"Just know that there are people who will always love you.." She said during the hug "No matter how you look"
She let go "And as someone who has been there, stuffing isn't the way" She said smiling.
I couldn't help but smile along.
"Now get dressed. Your father won't be able to make it but I think Gaby is ready."
It almost felt like déjà vu as the same nurse called out my name. This time however, she led us in a different direction. I had decided to forego the bra and padding after I'd decided to be me.
I was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt which I tucked into a pair of dark blue cropped jeans. I had brushed my hair and put it into a high ponytail which I thought suit me very nicely.
I also took a black and white patterned jacket which I carried in one hand, and the same bag from yesterday in the other hand.
"Go right in, miss" the nurse said before she walked away after opening the door for us.
As soon as we stepped in, a black woman who appeared to be in her thirties was already on her feet smiling. She walked out from behind her desk to meet us stretching her arm out to mum for a handshake.
"Dr. Pearl Chadwick, pleasure" She said as mum took her hand. She had a very distinct British accent and was dressed very smartly. She was wearing a full grey suit under her white coat and her short hair encased her face perfectly.
"Hello" Mum said "I'm Barbara Fahey and these are my daughters, Gabriella and Joanna"
Dr. Chadwick smiled and nodded to the two of us.
"Please have a seat" She gestured at the chairs before walking back to hers.
When we were sat, mum and I at the desk and Gaby by the wall, Dr. Chadwick began,
"Bill... uh Dr. Clifford has told me the basics but I'd like to talk to you for a bit" She was looking directly at me "Don't think of it like an quiz because there are no right answers. Just honest ones"
She turned to mum. "I'm sure you're aware that these discussions are usually a one on one affair. It's to ensure honesty"
"Of course doctor. We'll be right outside" Mum said before she and Gaby left the room.
Suddenly the room got very claustrophobic. I tried to swallow but couldn't.
"I want you to relax, Joanna. I just want to get a sense of you" She said smiling after the door had closed.
She took a notepad and a pen before speaking again.
"Why do you want to be a woman?"
I took a breath.
"Because it makes me happy"
"Weren't you happy before?"
"I was, or I thought I was. Since I began dressing like this, I've realized that I wasn't really."
"Since you began - that was less than a month ago, wasn't it? Hardly enough time to base a life changing decision on, don't you think?"
I didn't reply.
"I assume you'll be attending classes as Joanna?"
"How do you think your classmates will take it?" She said as she scribbled something down. She looked up at me.
"I'm not sure. So far it's been okay"
"Are you prepared to deal with harassment should it arise?"
"I'm not afraid of bullies" I said sharply.
She studied me before continuing.
"You're a very pretty girl. Very lucky. Would you have shown up here dressed like you are if you weren't?"
"If I didn't pass?"
"I don't think so. I think I would wait until I passed before I started dressing like this"
I readjusted in the chair. I thought about putting on the jacket but didn't.
"I'm worried that this might just be a phase. You found something that you like doing and it's very exciting. Have you ever heard of crossdressers?"
"It's not like that" I said sharply sitting up "I want to be a woman. I already said I wouldn't be wearing this if I couldn't pull it off. I want people to see me as a woman"
She smiled "It's okay"
"Let's talk about your sexuality"
I sat back down.
"Would you say you fancy boys or girls?"
"Boys" I said, then thought "But I'm not repulsed by girls or anything."
She nodded and wrote something down.
"Anyone in particular?"
"Care to tell me about him?"
"Uh sure.. we've been friends for a while, he was on the island with me, recently I found that I liked him and he liked me too... Not sure what else to say"
"Is he gay?"
"No. He sees me as a girl"
She wrote again before continuing.
"Do you think your feelings for him may be influencing your decision to be a woman?"
"No" I said sharply.
"I just want you to consider it. It's not uncommon for women.. or men to change for someone they care about"
I didn't reply.
"Do you think he'd prefer you as you are now or how you were a month ago?"
It took a while for me to answer. I knew where she was going with this.
"He'd probably prefer me as I am now but I'm not..."
She cut me off before I could say anything else "I just want you to consider the possibility. Shall we continue?"
I didn't want to be here anymore. I didn't want to answer any more of her questions.
"Let's talk about that island. That's where it all began? Where you wore women's clothes for the first time?"
"Did you ever consider wearing women's clothes before the island?"
She looked at me as if she was going to say something but changed her mind.
"When was this?"
"Lots of times. Usually when I'm around my sister."
I'm not entirely sure if I was lying or not.
"But you never did it?"
"Did you want to wear the clothes on the island?"
"Not at first"
"I found that I liked it. And that nobody was laughing. That's why I didn't want to wear the clothes at first. I thought it'd be embarrassing"
"So you wanted to wear the clothes? Not just around them?"
"No, I mean, I didn't think about it. It just wasn't something guys did"
"So you considered yourself a man"
"At the time"
I took a deep breath.
"I guess, nothing. I'm still the same person, I just want to be seen differently"
"And if you wake up tomorrow and want to be seen as a man?"
"I won't. I don't want to have to be a man for another second"
She took a deep breath putting down the pen and paper.
"Okay I think I have everything I need for now. Please call in your family"
When we were all settled back in our seats, I looked to the doctor intently.
"Ma'am, Joanna might indeed be transgender but I simply haven't heard anything that convinces me of that. It's just too early to make any conclusions. The best course of action would be to continue these sessions until I can make a proper assessment of her"
I wasn't looking at mum but I could tell she was nodding.
"So we do nothing for now? What about the clothes?"
"There's no harm in the clothes but it's important that she keeps an open mind that this might not be the only way forward. But as it stands now, I can't in good conscience tell the endo to prescribe anything except maybe blockers which wouldn't serve too much purpose at this point anyway."
"So I stay like this?" I asked incredulously
"There's nothing wrong with how you look, dear. You look like any girl your age." Dr. Chadwick said "You have nothing to worry about Joanna, you'll make a very beautiful woman if that time comes. I just don't want you to make any changes to your body you might regret. Let's have these sessions until you're sixteen then we can have a different conversation"
"You mentioned 'blockers'? What are those?" Gaby who had been silent until then asked.
"Oh anti androgens. These affect the body's testosterone levels. These may help to prevent Joanna's body from developing any additional male traits. At fifteen, her body should be done with puberty but judging from the lack of body hair and her size, they might help curb any late traits."
"Sounds helpful" Mum said "Any side effects?"
"Nothing you should concern yourselves with. Lower sex drives, a calmer demeanor, nothing bad"
"Could we get Jo on these blockers" Mum said finally.
"There will be some tests first but I don't see why not."
Eventually, we said our goodbyes and left the room. We scheduled our next meeting with Dr. Chadwick and one with an endocrinologist and went home.
"Jo?" Mum said as she opened my door after knocking twice.
"Yeah?" I replied with my head in my closet. I was dressed like I'd been this morning.
"We're waiting for you, honey" She said softly.
I turned to her. She looked very nice. She was wearing light blue jeans and a pink and white check shirt. Although mum was over forty, you'd never know it. She had one of those faces that never seemed to age. Her long blonde hair which she had given Gaby and I wasn't in a ponytail for the first time in a long time. Maybe it seemed like a long time because I'd been away so long.
"I can't decide what to wear"
She took a few steps forward smiling.
"It's a homemade dinner, not a wedding. Wear whatever you feel like"
"Mum no, I can't just wear whatever, it's basically the first time Mikey's parents are seeing me. This me. Wait is he dressed up? Or is it casual?"
She laughed "You sound like I did when I first met your father's mother."
"Then you should know how important this is. I can't overdress and I certainly can't go too casually"
"I do, really. Except I was in love with your father." She looked at me seriously "Do you like this boy? More than a friend I mean?"
I blushed "Maybe"
"What am I going to do with you?" She walked up to me "It's like you enjoy me giving you a lecture"
I smiled "I look forward to it everyday"
"You know I can't approve of this."
"I know. The whole thing is a mess" I said with my head dropping.
"Do you want to talk about it?" She touched my shoulder "Gaby never wanted to talk to me"
"Maybe sometime. We have guests"
I stood atop the stairs wearing a loose white blouse tucked into a pair of pink flower print pants and pink sandals to finish it off. It thought I'd chosen quite well. It wasn't at all overwhelming but definitely a woman's outfit. Wasn't too casual and wasn't too formal either.
I had even applied lip gloss and a bit of eyeliner like I'd been practicing earlier.
From where I stood, I could hear the TV downstairs and the laughter.
When I started down the stairs, I wished the sandals didn't click and clack so much.
I took a deep breath bracing myself before I turned the corner in full view of everybody.
Slowly but surely, the only sound to be heard came from the TV. I spotted Mikey sitting on one couch next to Gaby. His parents sat on another with his little brother, Chad and my parents sat nestled together on the couch closest to the door - closest to me.
The were smiles on the all faces except those of our three newest guests who showed shock - and dad's, which showed embarrassment.
I managed a smile.
"Evening Mr. Harris, Mrs. Harris" I said in my regular voice.
"Jonathan?" Mikey's father asked shocked
"No flippin' way" Chad added.
"Michael said you'd made a few changes, I didn't expect anything like this" Mr. Harris added.
I went and took a seat between Mikey and Gaby.
Mikey's mother tapped his father.
'Desmond, it's impolite to stare" she said
He caught himself.
"Now that we're all here" Mum said "Let's eat"
Whether to spare me the stares, I'm not sure but Mum added "Jo, Gaby, care to help me with the food?"
I stood and followed her into the kitchen.
Not long after, Gaby and I were done handing plates of fried rice to our guests.
"So Jonathan..." Mr. Harris began "Michael told me how you took one for the team on the island. Wearing those clothes."
Lately, that name had started getting to me.
"Please, Jo is fine" He nodded "Anyone in my position would have done the same. We had to make a lot of sacrifices"
He nodded again but I felt he wasn't taking me seriously.
"Michael also told me you were the main cook on the island?"
"Jo?" Gaby said shocked "You cooked?"
Mum and Dad had a similar expression.
"I'm not saying it was good, but it was edible. And that was the goal given the circumstances" I said.
The room smiled.
"What did you eat on that island anyway?" Dad asked which was his first sentence since I'd been there.
"Mostly wild animals. Deer, rabbits. Whatever we could find really" I said
"And who caught all these animals?" Mr. Harris asked
"Well, Coach Evans and this one kid Doug did most of the hunting" They were all nodding attentively "Gabe and Tate set traps and sometimes scored, Ollie..." I froze.
Suddenly everything came back. It was almost like I was back there. Back on that rock.
I felt the sting of his palm on my cheek once more, the pain of both my wrists pressed together. I felt his mouth pressed against mine. I felt the hopelessness as I couldn't scream because that would mean opening my mouth to him.
"Jo? Jo, are you okay?" Gaby was tapping me.
When I came to, I was shaking. "Yeah" I said trying to calm down "it's just.." I felt like crying again. Not at all the kind that feels right. The annoying kind that never went away.
"Sweetie, you don't have to talk about that place if you don't want to" I heard Mrs. Harris say.
"No, it's not that, it's..." I froze again
"You don't have to talk about it" I heard Mikey say.
"It's fine." I said forcing a smile. "I had this garden which in the end, we never got to use but it was blossoming. I also cooked and gathered fruits and edible plants and Mikey helped a lot. We're actually really good at that stuff now"
"That's impressive" Mrs. Harris said "Isn't it, Desmond?"
He grunted his agreement. How sincere that was, I'll never know.
"You're a dude right?" I heard Chad asked.
I wasn't sure how to answer that.
"It's complicated, son. Best not ask" Mr. Harris said putting his palm on the young boy's head.
The rest of the meal went uneventfully with the group only making small talk here and there.
When Dad broke out the wine, I stood up and invited Mikey up to my room but that didn't go over so well.
"Absolutely not" Mum had said.
"Yeah I don't think that's such a good idea" Dad added.
I was shocked. That had never been a thing before.
"Mum, dad, that place is like Mikey's second home at this point"
"I'm pretty sure different rules apply now" Mum said
"Why? It's not like anything is going to happen because your son has had a wardrobe change" Mr. Harris said.
I could tell most of the group was about to say something, so I hurried before they had a chance to.
"It's fine. We can hang at the table"
The table was in full view of the siting room so I figured it would be okay.
Mum shrugged, Dad relaxed in his chair after which Mikey came with me.
Before long, we were sat at the table taking chairs that made us have our backs to the others.
"Can they hear us?" He asked
"I don't think so" I replied.
"I'm sorry about last night" I told him "I was a total bitch"
"You were" He said as he took a seat beside me "But you were right. There are things I haven't considered"
"If you'll have me, I want to be yours"
He turned to me surprised "What?"
"If you'll have-"
"Yeah I heard that, what changed?"
"I'm no longer an idiot?"
"I wouldn't want anything more than to be yours" I said as I moved my hand to touch his.
He looked into my eyes and I was suddenly glad I was sitting down.
"God I wanna kiss you right now" He said smiling.
I was staring back into his eyes, lost.
"I'm willing to risk it if you are".
I closed the distance between us and closed my eyes and I felt our lips touch.
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