Jacinta, part 11

“God, I always feel so out of place every time I come here…” I moan as I step into the vast dance studio, surrounded by my friends.

“I really hope that’s NOT because you feel uncomfortable wearing THAT!” Lauren teases, making me giggle as I stare down at the short-sleeved black leotard and baby pink tights that are covering my body.

“Hell no!” I reply, making my friends giggle and cheer. “It’s just- you know? You girls are all so good at ballet, and I’m still just a beginner… Not to mention the fact that everyone here is, like, famous!”

“Yeah, I’m a national celebrity,” Katie says with a playful roll of her eyes as she straightens her own pink tights. “And you’ve been dancing for almost eleven months now, haven’t you?”

“Not, you know, ‘intensively’,” I reply. “Just the beginner class…”

“And…?” Nikki teases with an expectant look on her face.

“…And the intermediate class,” I sigh. “Starting this January just gone. Thanks for the vouchers, by the way.”

“You’re welcome,” Katie, Lauren, Nikki and Sarah say simultaneously, before breaking out into giggles, which only intensify as our famous teacher approaches us with a wide grin on her face.

“Ah, couldn’t stay away, eh?” Krystie asks as she greets me and the equally-nervous Ophelia (who is, of course, wearing one of her own ‘custom’ leotards) with gentle hugs. “Can’t say I blame you, hehe! Though I’m afraid this week, you’ll just be dancing in what you’re wearing!”

“…I can live with that,” I shrug, making the tall, blonde woman giggle more as we both remember back to seven days ago, and a very, VERY special day of my life.

Today is Thursday, the 9th of February 2017, meaning that seven days ago was the 2nd of February… And exactly 21 years after the day I was born. As luck would have it, it (like all Thursdays this year) was a day I had free from university, meaning that from the second I woke up to the second I went to bed, I was treated like a princess. Ophelia brought me breakfast in bed, the rest of our ‘super six’ dropped round shortly afterward to give me my presents, which included- in addition to free ballet lessons- ornaments for our flat, CDs (including a signed copy of Out of Heaven’s second album), cosmetics and loads- and I mean LOADS- of clothes. As I’m the first of us to turn 21, the girls went all out- Nikki and Sarah got me two new dresses, including a fancy prom-like dress that I can’t wait to wear to a fancy party, Lauren made me a skater skirt and a cute slouchy jumpsuit, and Ophelia- well, it should go without saying that Ophelia went all out.

Thanks to my BFF, my wardrobe now includes a new corset (obviously), two new sets of sexy lace lingerie, two new dresses, a new vintage-style pencil skirt suit, a new satin blouse, a new ‘everyday’ bodysuit and even a new hat. It eventually transpired Ophelia had been working on these presents for over eighteen months (before we’d even started at university), wanting to make my 21st birthday the most special day of my life- and she more than succeeded. By the time I finished unwrapping my gifts from her, I actually started to feel guilty at the money and attention that she’d lavished on me. I received more presents than I’d got Ophelia for her most recent birthday and Christmas combined, though with Ophelia being Ophelia, she didn’t seem to mind. Naturally, though, I made several mental notes to ensure that she is as spoiled on her next birthday as I was a week ago- especially as her next birthday is also her 21st!

After my gifts were opened, I was marched into my bedroom to change, though instead of any of my new, fancy clothes, I was instructed to change into the same tight dancewear I’m wearing now. Once I was properly dressed, I was driven to the dance studio I’d attended nearly every Thursday evening for the last 11 months. The other girls had told me about the ‘tradition’ the studio has, where birthday girls are made to dance in a special custom tutu, but I never expected to have the tradition apply to me for two reasons- firstly, my lack of experience, and secondly, there’s another girl who usually attends the Thursday lessons called Brooke who has the same birthday as me. And yet, my lumbering 5’ 10” form was stuffed into the fancy pink tutu, soft satin ballet slippers were attached to my feet with shiny ribbons and a tiara was perched on my head, and in front of a crowd that included friends, celebrities and- best of all- my father and my boyfriend- I performed (or at least, tried to perform) a specially choreographed routine. Brooke did the same routine afterward, and of course performed it much better, including dancing using her painful-looking toe shoes, but it was my performance that got the loudest applause, especially from my two biggest male fans!

“I am so, so proud of you,” dad said, bringing tears to my eyes as he gave me a gentle, fatherly hug. “Everything you’ve accomplished, all the friends you’ve made, you’ve earned every bit of it. Yes, that includes Simon as well.”

“Heh,” I whispered in a hoarse, emotional voice, before exchanging another longer, tighter hug with my boyfriend, followed by a long, deep kiss- which definitely delighted the assembled crowd!

“Happy birthday babe,” Simon whispered, before giving me another, longer kiss. Never in my life had I felt more loved, and not just by my close friends, but by my ‘extended family’ as well. Everybody in the room- even those who barely knew me- had no problem accepting me as a woman. It didn’t matter what Caitlin Gunn or people like her said or thought. The people who mattered had embraced me as one of their own, and that was probably the best gift I could have received- along with the invitation for me and Ophelia to come to Thursday lessons whenever we wanted, an invitation I’ve taken up today and intend to take up as many times as possible.

After the lesson- and unwrapping dad and Simon’s gifts for me (well, most of Simon’s gifts anyway, as some of them weren’t exactly suitable to ‘open’ in front of dad), we headed to a fancy café for lunch, and the evening, the eight of us- me, the girls, dad and Simon- headed to a very posh restaurant for a fancy meal. The chef was said to have a Michelin star, but the food wasn’t the most important thing on the night- nor was the fact that I got to dress up in one of my new dresses. What mattered most were the people I spent the day with- and the person I spent the day AS. On my 18th birthday, I was still known to the world as ‘Jason’. And there are some people who still only think of me using that name. But my friends, family and lover aren’t in that group- and neither am I.

Of course, it was back to reality (and university) the following day, but the memories of that magnificent day are something I intend to treasure forever- as are the pleasant memories I made the following day, and the day after that, and the day after that…

“Just because you are not wearing a tutu, it does not mean that you will not be dancing!” Zoe- the other teacher in the school- says, snapping me out of my reverie and ushering me into the dance studio, where I’m stopped in the middle of the room and forced to stand next to Nikki, Jamie and Stephanie (yes, as in Stephanie Abbott, the singer) with our backs to the crowd. One by one, Krystie ties our hair into tight, elaborate ballerina buns, ensuring that the room is full of giggles even before the ‘lesson’ starts.

By the time the lesson ends, the giggles have turned into full-blown fits of laughter from everyone present, laughter that continues even as we change back into our street clothes.

“Ah, my toes!” Nikki moans in a ridiculously dramatic voice as she slips her stiff ballet shoes off her feet, wiggling her toes to try to regain her circulation.

“Oh shut up, you love it really,” Katie teases.

“…Yeah, I do!” Nikki giggles, before turning to me and Ophelia. “Put in the work and you two can torture your feet for an hour each week too…”

“Mmm, tempting!” I sarcastically retort, making my fellow transgendered girl roll her eyes.

“Ophelia?” Nikki asks.

“I hope you are not implying that I would enjoy torturing my feet because of my fashion sense,” Ophelia says accusingly- though her smirk is a dead giveaway that she’s having as much fun as the rest of us.

“Says the woman who’s wrapping a corset around her waist and about to torture her feet with these!” Sarah retorts, holding up a pair of Ophelia’s sky-high stiletto heels.

“I thought your leotard had a built-in corset anyway?” Lauren asks.

“It has a built in GIRDLE,” Ophelia says. “As a fashion student, I’m sure that you can appreciate the distinction?”

“As a fashion student and a lingerie enthusiast… Yeah, kinda!” Lauren giggles.

“So, what’s everyone got planned the rest of the day?” Nikki asks, giggling and blushing as five tired pairs of eyes stare in her direction.

“C, o,” Sarah begins.

“U, r,” Katie continues.

“S, e, w, o, r, k,” Nikki finishes with a sigh. “Okay, point taken, have fun you five. I’ll just stay here and hang out with my rich, famous friends, I guess…”

“Poor you,” Sarah teases, pulling on her skirt and her shoes before crouching down to give her fiancée a long, tender kiss on her lips. “See you at home, okay?”

“See you,” Nikki says with a dreamy smile as Sarah leaves, followed by Lauren, Katie and Ophelia. “…Sticking around a bit longer, J?”

“I’ve…” I say with an embarrassed grimace. “Kinda made other plans this morning, hehe!”

“Are these ‘other plans’ the same height as me, brown-haired and wearing glasses?” Nikki asks.

“…Taller than you, actually, but yes and yes to the other points,” I say with a wink.

“If I still had my pointe shoes on I’d have a thing or two to say about the ‘taller’ thing,” Nikki retorts. “And I sure as hell am not putting them back on just to prove a ‘pointe’, hehe! And I’ll try not to sit here getting all jealous that you’re riding your boyfriend all the way home while my fiancée’s blown me off for a book… Pun not intended, by the way.”

“Umm… What pun?” I ask.

“’Blown me off’,” Nikki clarifies. “Not that that’s technically possible anymore, hehe!”

“Heh, yes!” I giggle. “God… Only a few months to go for THAT!”

“The recovery’s a pain in the- well, you know where,” Nikki explains. “But once it’s done, it’s done, and it feels SO good to finally have it, you know, ‘done’.”

“Even dilation?” I ask.

“…Feels less good,” Nikki says with a grimace. “But needs to be done.”

“Even when, you know…” I say. “You’re not… Technically… ‘Using’ it?”

“I didn’t get it done just for THAT,” Nikki says. “I got it done for me, and me alone. Though, you know, I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to, you know, ‘get help dilating’ if you get what I mean.”

“Does it actually, you know, ‘count’?” I ask as Nikki and I finish covering up our dancewear and head out into the reception area.

“…After a year, I think,” Nikki replies. “So it wouldn’t ‘count’ for me just yet, I’d still need to dilate properly, but it would ‘count’ for Jamie, who’s been post-op for almost 3 years now. Your counsellor should’ve gone over this already with you, shouldn’t she?”

“Not yet,” I reply. “’Cause we’re not looking at SRS until after I finish uni.”

“Oh, okay,” Nikki shrugs. “And I guess it’s not like your love life is any the worse for it, judging by the smile on the person who just walked through the front door…” I giggle uncontrollably as Simon walks up to me and gives me a long, deep kiss while everyone else left in the reception area lets out several loud ‘ooh’s- Nikki being the loudest of everyone.

“Hey babe,” I say to the handsome young man.

“Hey sexy,” Simon says quietly, obviously nervous about the number of people staring at us. “You- you ready to go?”

“Yep,” I reply, making Simon smile as I untie my bun into a loose, playful ponytail (and my usual fringe). “Unless you want to come in and have a go dancing?”

“Not in those shoes, he isn’t!” Krystie giggles, making us both blush. “Go on, get going, need to get the studio cleaned for tonight.”

“Can do!” I giggle, linking my fingers with Simon as we head out into the chilly February air, accompanied by our transgendered friend.

“Need a lift anywhere?” Nikki asks.

“Thought you were heading to work?” I ask.

“I can make a detour,” Nikki shrugs. “So… You two made any plans for Tuesday yet?”

“Tuesday?” Simon asks, making me internally cringe. “Oh, Tuesday- Valentine’s Day, right?”

“Yep!” Nikki giggles. “Me and Sarah are probably just gonna get takeout and crash under a blanket on our sofa. Then again, we’ve been going out five years rather than five months, hehe!”

“And if memory serves, your V-Days have never been, you know, brilliant, right?” I ask.

“Yep,” Nikki sighs. “Hopefully that’ll change once we’re married, hehe!”

“It’s pretty cool that you’ve, you know, found your soul mate,” Simon muses, making me squirm as I climb onto the back seat of Nikki’s car.

“Yeah,” Nikki says in a dreamy whisper. “So, you two…?”

“Umm, no plans yet,” I say.

“Don’t want to leave it TOO long,” Nikki says. “Your first V Day as a couple, you want to make the most of it!”

“Heh, yeah,” Simon says as I get more and more uncomfortable in my seat.

It’s been six months since I started going out with Simon, and at the start of the relationship, things were great- we spent virtually every available second with each other, were out seemingly every other night and had ridiculous amounts of sex. After a couple of months, things started to ‘slow’ a bit, though my return to university and Simon’s work played a part there- and obviously, neither of those things could be helped, but the relationship began to feel… Unexciting. It’s not that Simon hasn’t put in the effort, of course. He makes as much time for me as I make for him, he’s clearly VERY into me- the way he’s squirming in his seat is a good indicator of that- but there’s this niggling feeling I can’t shake that I’ve got as much as I’m ever going to get from this relationship. One of Simon’s favourite hobbies is running, but as hard as he tries, he’ll never be Mo Farah- and even though I know he likes me and vice versa, as hard as he tries, he’s almost certainly never going to be ‘Prince Charming’.

Then again, he IS only 19, so maybe I’m expecting a bit too much from him. Then again, the fact that we’re going to spending today at Simon’s mother’s house- and that our engaged friend (who’s younger than me) has to give us a lift there- is a good indicator that I’m maybe not getting as much as I deserve.

And there’s always the chance that Simon might be as good as I’m ever going to get, boyfriend-wise. Simon has no hang-ups with going out with and having sex with a pre-operative transsexual, and there aren’t a lot of people in the UK who can claim that…

“Mum won’t be home from work until just after 3pm,” Simon says as we walk through the front door. “We’ve got the whole house to ourselves…” Despite my anxiety about our relationship, I find myself tingling with excitement as Simon's hand goes straight to my thigh, gently squeezing it and rubbing his expert fingers up and down, gradually getting more 'up' than 'down' as our lips meet each other's. Simon may not be the most physically impressive man in the world, but as the old saying goes- size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Sure enough, half an hour later, my whole body is tingling with satisfaction- particularly the areas that saw the most 'use'!

“Mmm,” I dreamily moan as I stretch my tingling, perspiration-covered body. “And I thought ballet would be the most exercise I’d get today, hehe!”

“Yeah, heh,” Simon replies, wrapping his arms around my waist as I try to pull my leotard and my skirt back on over the spare pair of black tights I always keep in my handbag. “So… What ARE we doing for Valentine’s Day?”

“I- I dunno,” I reply. “Could always have a quiet meal at our flat, I suppose?”

“We could go and see a movie, maybe?” Simon suggests.

“…We went to see a movie last Saturday, didn’t we?” I retort.

“I get an employee discount, may as well use it,” Simon shrugs.

“Meh, I guess,” I say. “Still prefer the idea of something, you know, ‘intimate’.”

“Well we’ve got time to work it out,” Simon says. “Won’t Ophelia be home on Tuesday, then?”

“I can always lock her in her bedroom,” I say, smirking as Simon giggles.

“Date night at your flat sounds good,” Simon says with a smile. “Shall we order takeout then?”

“I can cook,” I reply. “I don’t mind doing that.”

“Cool,” Simon says, linking his fingers with mine as we head downstairs, where we while away the afternoon watching TV and (in my case, at least) doing coursework for uni.

Eventually, 4pm rolls around, and I take a deep breath to brace myself as the front door of the house opens and Simon’s mum returns, accompanied by two school uniform-clad children, one of whom stares at me with a look of excitement in her eyes, while the other one… Just stares at me.

“Hi Ally, hi Jenson,” Simon says with a heavy sigh.

“Hi guys!” I say, trying not to wince as the eight year old boy fixes me with his eerie stare.

“Oh my god!” Ally squeaks excitedly. “Were you at the Angels’ ballet lesson today? Was Hannah Dexter there? Did you get to-“

“Ally, calm down, Jenson, blink,” Simon says, forcing me to suppress a snort of laughter.

“Oh my god I am SO sorry,” Ally says. “I’m, umm, I’m going to go and change…”

“Take Jenson with you before his eyes roll out of his skull,” Simon’s mother says with a sigh. “Sorry about that, Jacinta. Six months, you’d have thought he’d get used to you by now…”

“It- it’s fine, honestly,” I say.

“You two got any preference for dinner?” Simon’s mother asks.

“I… Don’t mind, honestly,” I reply. “Thanks for letting me stay.”

“Whatever’s in the fridge,” Simon says with a shrug.

“Yep, you two just- keep making decisions,” Mrs. Clarke sighs as she heads into the kitchen to start the evening meal. “You been up to much today?”

“Just coursework,” I reply.

“Just watching Jacinta do coursework,” Simon says with a smirk.

“Well, can’t blame you for working hard, I suppose,” Mrs. Clarke says. “You on the other hand, lazybones…”

“I am work tonight, aren’t I?” Simon replies. “Want to make the most of the time we get to spend together.”

“By spending all day indoors?” Simon’s mother replies- and I can’t help but grimace as I agree with her. Am I wrong for wanting more from this relationship?

Dinner with Simon’s family goes as awkwardly as it always does. All throughout, I’m bombarded by questions from Simon’s sister about my morning, about the various famous faces I interacted with and will interact with in the future (whether I like it or not, apparently), while Simon’s brother continues to fix me with his unblinking stare. Eventually, the dinner ends, and despite the fact that I’m not going to get more time with my boyfriend, I’m actually relieved- though as I leave, a part of me wonders if I’m relieved BECAUSE I’m not going to spend more time with my boyfriend…

“One of these days we’ll figure out what’s up with Jenson,” Simon sighs. “He knows all about your- well, you, we’ve explained to him about, you know, and how it’s normal- well, nothing weird, you know-“

“Yeah, I know,” I sigh. “Maybe I’m just not good with kids, I dunno. Good job I’m never gonna have any of my own, heh!”

“Nothing stopping you from adopting if you wanted to,” Simon says with a shrug.

“Pass,” I reply, before giggling as I give Simon a kiss goodbye. “Have fun at work!”

“Will try!” Simon giggles. “See you soon.”

“See you,” I say, giggling before heading to the nearest tube station to catch my train home.

As always, I feel a twinge of sadness whenever I leave Simon, though today, I feel a sense of guilt as well, which leads ultimately to a deep sense of irritation. Not irritation at Simon- irritation at myself for not allowing myself to be happy with what I’ve got. I’ve often been told ‘it’s better to want what you have than have what you want’, but it’s never that easy. And I do like Simon, it’s just- I ‘like’ him. When I met my Prince Charming, I always assumed that it’d be love at first sight. It was for Sarah and Nikki, after all. Then again, Jamie & Stuart often tell me about how their relationship didn’t blossom until after they’d already been friends for a while (and I know that their relationship has had its ups and downs as well).

Half of my instincts are telling me that my relationship with Simon has run its course. The excitement of the relationship- sex notwithstanding, of course- isn’t nearly what it was. Then again, I’ve never been in a relationship that’s lasted this long. Maybe it’s natural for the ‘spark’ to go out, and people like Sarah and Nikki are the anomalous ones. And maybe Simon IS Prince Charming after all, and I just don’t realise it yet. One thing’s for sure- continuing on the way I am, doing nothing about the relationship is stressing me out, so I need to do SOMETHING. I just need to make sure that what I do is the right thing.

Things would be so much easier if Simon was an arsehole, but the frustrating thing is, he is a genuinely nice guy. He’ll definitely make some girl very happy someday- I just don’t know whether or not that person will be me.

And the fact still remains that there aren’t that many guys out there who are comfortable getting physical with a transgendered girl…

“Good evening, Jacinta,” Ophelia says as I walk into the house, kick off my flats and dump my handbag on the sofa. “How are Simon and his family? Well, I hope?”

“Ugh,” I grunt by way of reply.

“That well, then?” Ophelia asks.

“…Yeah,” I reply, before laying back on the sofa and letting out a loud sigh. “Oh god, Ophelia, I- I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“You need to talk, don’t you?”

“Sorry,” I say, making the purple-haired girl giggle.

“There is no need to apologise, Jacinta,” Ophelia says. “I am your best friend. Of course you can talk to me whenever you wish. And if I may be frank, it’s good that you’re finally willing to talk about your relationship.”

“Has- has it been THAT obvious?” I ask.

“For the past few weeks,” Ophelia says. “Ever since Christmas, to be truthful. You seem to be more tense when you are around Simon, when I would have thought that the opposite would be true.”

“Normally, yeah,” I sigh. “And if we were just, you know, ‘friends with benefits’, it’d be easier, but- but I-“

“You want an ‘actual’ relationship?” Ophelia asks, sighing as I nod. “I cannot blame you for that.”

“The frustrating thing is,” I say, “I don’t know whether or not Simon is ‘the one’.”

“You have had six months to find out,” Ophelia says. “Do you require longer to find out for certain?”

“It’s never THAT easy,” I say. “And I like Simon a lot, I really do. There's a lot to like, I mean, he's funny, he's kind...”

“But do you love him?” Ophelia asks, and I’m forced to admit to myself that this is the million dollar question that I’ve been avoiding. Not being love at first sight is one thing. But not being love at any sight is something that a relationship simply can’t survive.

“It’s only been six months,” I feebly reply. “You need to give these things time.”

“It has already been six months,” Ophelia retorts. “You have given it time. Do you love Simon?” I close my eyes and take a deep breath as I give Ophelia's question the full attention it deserves. There's a lot to like about Simon, and a lot to love, too. Not just his kindness or his sense of humour, but his skill in bed, his genuine interest in me- and not just in a physical sense- and the fact that he doesn't even blink twice about 'what' I am. I could definitely love him. But at the same time, the relationship doesn't 'feel' right. I always thought that when I met 'Prince Charming', it'd be love at first sight. But with Simon, the 'spark' was never there, meaning I have only one answer to Ophelia's question...

“…No,” I concede.

“Do you believe you will ever love him?” Ophelia asks.

“I believe I could,” I say.

“Do you believe that you WILL?” Ophelia asks forcefully.

“…I doubt it,” I sigh. “Ugh, I shouldn’t have said anything…”

“On the contrary,” Ophelia says softly. “You should have spoken earlier. Then you would have avoided all this stress.”

“When you become such a relationship guru?” I ask, making Ophelia smirk.

“When I became your best friend,” My BFF replies.

“Oh- hey!” I protest.

“My apologies,” Ophelia mumbles, blushing with embarrassment.

“No- no, you’re okay,” I say. “And you do have a point. Maybe I’m just too high maintenance, I dunno.”

“You wish to find your Prince Charming,” Ophelia says. “Thus it follows that you wish to be treated like a princess. I fail to see why this would be such a problem.”

“Thanks,” I whisper.

“And you do not want to waste any further time on a relationship that does not satisfy you anymore,” Ophelia says. “It is fair on neither you nor Simon.”

“Ugh, I’m going to have to tell him,” I moan. “Breaking up with someone sucks.”

“Better to do so sooner rather than later,” Ophelia says.

“Just as long as I do find ‘Prince Charming’ sooner rather than later,” I moan. “Don’t want to be walking up the aisle on a zimmer frame.”

“Trying to force the issue will only make things worse,” Ophelia says.

“Are you saying I shouldn’t go out looking for Prince Charming?” I ask.

“In the original Cinderella, he was the one who did the looking,” Ophelia reminds me, and as hard as I rack my brains, I have no reply. “Would you like me to prepare dinner tonight?”

“Nah, we can get takeout,” I say with a heavy sigh.

“Jacinta, are- are you okay?” Ophelia asks, surprising me by using her natural accent.

“I’ll be fine,” I reply. “Honestly. Plenty more fish in the sea, that sort of thing.”

“Whatever you need, just ask,” Ophelia says softly.

“I just- I just need someone to love me,” I sigh.

“…Well you know you’ll always have that,” Ophelia says with a warm smile, bringing tears to my eyes- but tears of happiness. I may not have my Prince Charming, but I’ve definitely got my ‘fairy godmother’ (even if the way she dresses, she’s more reminiscent of Tinkerbell).

…And as I find out when I arrive at university the following day, I don’t have just one fairy godmother, but five of them, all of whom- even Nikki, when she arrives at lunch- give me a comforting hug when I tell them of my decision to end my relationship.

“Honestly, I’m not surprised,” Katie says with a heavy sigh. “You two never seemed… Right together, somehow.”

“And not just because of the height difference,” Lauren says.

“Thanks, girls,” I say with a sigh. “Still don’t know how I’m going to break it to him, though…”

“He’s a guy, he’ll take it on the chin,” Katie shrugs. “He’ll probably have a new girlfriend within a few weeks.”

“Yeah, that’s the thing,” I sigh. “Any other guy, maybe, but Simon’s sensitive, and warm-hearted…”

“Make sure that you’re comfortable in your seats,” Ophelia says to my friends, who all roll their eyes as they realise what she’s implying.

“Ah crap,” Lauren sighs. “Jacinta, you-you HAVE made up your mind, right?”

“I’d be lying if I said it was an easy decision,” I say.

“Break-ups never are,” Katie says softly. “They’re not the sort of thing you can simply change your mind about though.”

“I know,” I sigh. “Thing is, the relationship just wasn’t going anywhere… How- how do you guys, you know, keep it ‘exciting’? I mean, you two have been together for what, four years?” Sarah and Nikki grin as they exchange a brief, but loving gaze.

“Five and a half,” Sarah says. “And I guess we don’t really have a ‘secret’ to making it work.”

“We’ve got the same interests, though,” Nikki says. “The same friends… But- but I guess it’s just a case of us ‘knowing’. Deep down, I know that there isn’t anyone in the world I’d rather be with. And there never will be.”

“D’aww,” Katie coos, before sighing as she sees my unconvinced face. “There will be someone for you too, Jacinta. Someday your ‘Prince Charming’ WILL come.”

“Just as long as he doesn’t make TOO much of a mess!” Lauren says, making me roll my eyes.

“I’m less and less sure that that’s the case,” I sigh.

“Well I’m still sure,” Katie says. “Kinda need to be, I want a Prince Charming too!”

“You mean there’s someone out there who can meet the high standards of Katherine Michelle Henderson?” Lauren teases.

“There’s someone out there who can meet the high standards of Ophelia Cassiopeia Love!” Katie teases, making my BFF blush and roll her eyes. “And DEFINITELY someone for Jacinta Amelia Hanley. So what if it’s not Simon? You’re not going to hit the jackpot first time out unless you’re, like, some kind of weirdo.”

“Hey!” Sarah and Nikki simultaneously protest, making the rest of us giggle.

“Point is, just ‘cause you didn’t find him first time out, doesn’t mean you should stop looking,” Katie says. “And that applies for second time, third time, tenth time, fiftieth time…”

“You were too good for Simon anyway,” Lauren says.

“We both know I’m not,” I sigh. “He IS a decent guy. And we all know why I won’t be good enough for any other gu-“

“No, just- no,” Nikki says firmly. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

“It’s easy for you to say when you’re sat there, snuggled up next to your soul mate,” I retort.

“It’s never mattered to me, what- well, ‘what’ Nikki is,” Sarah says firmly. “What she keeps in her pants matters even less.”

“Usually Sarah cares more about which pants I’m wearing,” Nikki says, eliciting a giggle from her fiancée.

“When you meet your ‘Prince Charming’, it won’t matter to them ‘what’ you are,” Sarah says softly.

“That’s the thing,” I sigh. “It never mattered to Simon…”

“…Never said he was a ‘bad’ guy,” Katie shrugs. “But there is better out there- and better for you, Jacinta.”

“Thanks,” I whisper.

“When are you going to tell him?” Lauren asks.

“Tonight,” I say with a sigh. “No sense in stringing it out… I’m probably not gonna be great company tonight so I’ll skip the night out if that’s okay with you girls?”

“Of course,” Nikki says softly.

“We shall, of course, be coming out with you next Friday,” Ophelia says, momentarily confusing me.

“No- Ophelia…” I sigh. “Don’t miss out on a night out just ‘cause of me, I-“

“What were we talking about last night?” Ophelia asks, barely suppressing a smirk. “If you need company, then that is far more important than a night out I shall be having in a week’s time anyway.”

“…The rest of you are going out tonight or I’ll literally throw you out of our flat,” I say, making the other girls smirk. “Seriously, Uncle Phil style.”

“If you insist,” Lauren shrugs. “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for any damage to your nails anyway!” I let out a derisive snort of laughter as Lauren sticks her tongue out at me.

“But we’re coming over to yours tomorrow,” Sarah says.

“No- seriously, no,” I say. “The party at Charlotte’s-“

“Can wait,” Nikki insists. “You can never have- no, wait, a better way of saying it is… You can never do enough for your friends.”

“You can never do enough for your friends!” Nikki and my other four friends all cheer, making me giggle even as my insides churn at the unpleasant prospect that lies ahead.

When I leave the college at the end of the day (and indeed, the week), my four friends (Nikki having had to head back home) all bid me farewell with tight hugs and wishes of good luck. Fortunately, I’d already agreed to meet with Simon after uni, so I don’t have to summon him to his own dumping- something I would NOT have felt good doing. Not that what I’m about to do will feel any better…

“Hey babe!” Simon says with a grin, greeting me with a kiss as I sit down at our usual table in our favourite coffee shop. “How was uni?”

“Same as usual,” I shrug, before taking a deep breath. “Simon, we-“

“I had another think about Tuesday, by the way,” Simon says. “Not sure it’s fair to make you cook, even though you’re a MUCH better cook than I am.”

“Umm…” I mumble.

“We can go out somewhere, if that’s what you really want,” Simon says. “I know, everywhere’s likely to be booked, but we can try to find somewhere, right?”

“We need to talk,” I say in a hoarse voice. Immediately, Simon’s face falls- he knows all too well what I REALLY mean when I say ‘we need to talk’.

“…Oh,” Simon mumbles.

“Simon…” I sigh. “You- you’re a nice guy-“

“But not nice enough, right?” Simon asks.

“No- well, you ARE nice enough, but-“ I stammer.

“Not tall enough?” Simon asks. “Not famous enough?”

“Neither of those are important,” I insist.

“Then what IS important?” Simon asks, clearly getting angrier with every passing second.

“I- I want more,” I say. “I- I’m just not sure where this relationship is going, and-“

“Can we- can we skip to the end of this conversation, please?” Simon asks in an exasperated voice. “By the time we leave this table, will we still be boyfriend and girlfriend?”

“No,” I whisper, blinking back tears as I shake my head.

“…Well, thank you for your honesty, at least,” Simon sighs. “Ugh. I thought we actually had something good, you know?”

“It was good,” I say. “But, you know, not ‘great’…”

“Okay, that’s maybe enough honesty for now,” Simon growls.

“Where did you see us six months from now?” I ask bluntly.

“I dunno,” Simon shrugs. “Probably where we ar- where we WERE.”

“Exactly,” I say, making my now ex-boyfriend roll his eyes.

“Okay, fine, I guess,” Simon sighs. “I’m not gonna force you to change your mind, I trust that this isn’t a spur of the moment thing, etc, etc, hope you find someone, blah, blah.”

“I did enjoy our time,” I say. “I would kinda like to, you know, remain… Friends?” The withering look on Simon’s face is all the answer I need to my question. “Guess not, then.”

“You’ve made up your mind,” Simon says. “I’ll respect it, but don’t expect me to like it.”

“Fair enough,” I say, before sighing as both of us stand up. “Is- is a handshake appropriate in this-“

“Let’s just- let’s just go home,” Simon says with a sigh. “For what it’s worth, I enjoyed our time together, but if I’m not enough for you- well- I guess that’s that.”

“I guess,” I whisper. “But- but, umm, Simon?”

“…Yes?” My ex-boyfriend asks.

“Thanks,” I say. “Thanks for not, you know, bringing up the trans ‘thing’.”

“The trans ‘thing’ was never a ‘thing’, not as far as I’m concerned,” Simon says, making me smile.

“But good luck finding someone else who feels the same way?” I ask.

“Yes…” Simon says cautiously. “But I don’t mean that sarcastically. I really mean it when I said it was never a ‘thing’ for me. Anyone who does see it as a ‘thing’ is just some kind of weird Neanderthal and deserves to, like, go extinct.”

“Thanks,” I whisper, internally chastising myself as I find that I’m already regretting my decision- but like Katie said, there’s no undoing this decision. “See you round, Simon.”

“Bye,” Simon says, before letting out a heavy sigh and walking away, out of my life.

Needless to say, several tears escape my eyes on the short tube ride back to my flat, and when I open the front door, I’m immediately wrapped in a tight hug from my BFF, who simply holds me as tears freely flow from my eyes onto her shoulder.

“Goddddd…” I moan as Ophelia sits me down and places a mug of hot, sweet tea into my hands. “I don’t even know WHY I’m so emotional, I mean, I’m the one who dumped him, not the other way round…”

“It’s only natural to be emotional,” Ophelia says softly. “You had high expectations, and they haven’t been reached.”

“Yeah, this is more ‘heartbroken’ than ‘disappointed’,” I sigh. “God… I’ve broken up with guys before, why is this one so different? I mean, we worked out that Simon wasn’t ‘Prince Charming’, right?”

“And yet, for six months, you believed that he might be,” Ophelia says. “And let’s not forget that while you may still possess some male… ‘Particulars’, you are chemically female, with all the side effects that that brings.”

“Hey, don’t blame oestrogen for this,” I say. “It’s easily the best thing that’s happened to me in the last two years. Well, that and coming to uni. And meeting Katie, Lauren and the girls. And the Angels. Okay, so things have been going pretty great for me in the grand scheme of things, this Simon thing is, like, a ‘speed bump’, I’ll find someone else soon enough, but- ugh.”

“You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself more than you’re trying to convince me,” Ophelia says.

“Yeah, that’s ‘cause I am,” I say, before letting out a long, heavy sigh. “And I know why, too.”

“Go on,” Ophelia whispers.

“It’s because no matter how hard I try to convince myself,” I explain, “or how much oestrogen I take, or how short my skirt is, or how much make-up I wear, or how many ballet classes I take, or how much my tits grow… I’m always going to be pretending to be something I’m not.”

“You and I both know that that is untrue,” Ophelia says. “Completely and utterly untrue.”

“You and I know that,” I say. “Katie and Lauren know that, Nikki and Sarah do… Does the average man on the street?”

“They would look at you and see the beautiful woman that you are,” Ophelia replies.

“Then they’d look closer and see the boy I used to be,” I sigh. “Especially if we end up in bed together, it’s kinda hard to disguise it THERE.”

“’Jacinta’ is not just ‘Jason’s disguise’,” Ophelia says.

“Again, I know that, you know that…” I sigh.

“Simon knew that too,” Ophelia says quietly.

“Exactly,” I moan. “And that’s why it was so hard to dump him… If it was Katie who dumped him, or even you, you could just go out to a club, or to a party and pick up another guy and not have to ‘explain’ everything. Every time I’m dancing with a guy at a club or chatting with him, I’m constantly on edge, wondering when I’m going to explain to him about what I am, or what might happen if he somehow finds out and reacts badly…”

“You picked up Simon at a party,” Ophelia reminds me.

“One I hosted myself,” I retort. “And you and the girls were there to, you know, ‘prepare’ him first…”

“What makes you think that that will ever change?” Ophelia asks- and this is a question I don’t have an answer for. “I have told you many times, Jacinta, that I love you, and so do all the girls. We will NEVER allow anything bad to happen to you. Ever. And we will do our absolute best to ensure that your ‘Prince Charming’ is everything you dreamed of and more.” Once again, tears flow freely from my eyes, though this time, it’s tears of happiness.

“Thank you, thank you so much,” I sniffle as I give the purple haired girl another hug, one she eagerly reciprocates.

24 hours later, after a mercifully boring day in my Saturday job, I find myself once again slumped on my sofa, though instead of the tight top and short skirt I wore last night, or the fashionable minidress and heels I usually wear on Saturday, I’m wearing a very warm, snuggly lilac onesie- as are four of the other five girls in the room. Unsurprisingly, the ‘sleepwear’ of the sixth girl is the main topic of conversation.

“I mean, I guess it DOES look comfortable,” Sarah says. “The sewn-in mittens are a really nice touch, but- do-“

“Do you, like, have a catheter in or something?” Katie asks my BFF, who simply smirks in response.

“If I need to relieve myself, I simply remove my pyjamas and replace them once I have finished,” Ophelia replies.

“Stripping off a leotard and a pair of tights to pee is one thing,” Nikki muses. “How do you handle that corset as well?”

“…I never wait until I am ‘desperate’ before going,” Ophelia replies, obviously suppressing a giggle. “And besides, loosening the corset relieves the… ‘Pressure’.”

“I can imagine,” Nikki says. “No wonder you never drink much.”

“Or eat Indian food,” Lauren says, giggling as the rest of us- Ophelia included- pelt her with cushions. “Ahh… You know, I’m actually having more fun here than I would at Charlotte’s? Sure, the parties are fun, but they kinda get, you know, samey after a while?”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Nikki giggles. “Maybe I should suggest a onesie party to Charlotte?”

“Uh- excuse me?” Katie asks. “Nikki Thomas NOT wanting to get dressed up in a fancy dress, heels and jewellery?”

“Don’t worry, it’s still the real Nikki,” Sarah says with a giggle. “I can check more thoroughly if you’d like?”

“No!” Katie, Lauren, Ophelia and I all yell simultaneously.

“Besides,” I sigh. “The Angels don’t split up every week from their-“

“Bechdel!” Sarah yells, making me roll my eyes. “You know the rules.” I let out a long sigh, before downing my glass of wine in two large gulps.

“Don’t I get any, you know, leeway for being the ‘reason’ for this party?” I ask.

“Nope,” Katie says bluntly.

“If anything, you should be treated MORE harshly,” Lauren explains. “We need to remind you that you don’t need- excuse me,” Lauren giggles before finishing her drink. “BOYS to have fun!”

“Or to be loved,” Ophelia says, making me bite my lip to keep me from crying again.

“And we can always go to Ann Summers tomorrow to prove that you don’t need them for the S-word either!” Katie giggles.

“…Sounds like a plan!” I giggle. “Ahh… You girls really are the best thing that ever happened to me, you know?”

“…What, are you trying to make us cry now?” Nikki mumbles.

“Yes,” I say bluntly, making the girls all giggle happily. “And I guess, you know, it’s better to want than to have…”

“Unless you have the right one,” Sarah says, making us all sigh happily as Nikki unsuccessfully tries to sniff back tears. “And I’m NOT finishing my drink as I’m not talking about a boy!”

“Bechdel!” I yell, making Sarah sigh with frustration, before giggling happily as she finishes her drink.

“Heh,” Katie giggles. “You know, I always thought that the girls I was friends with at school would be my best friends for life, but I wouldn’t trade 500 of them for the five of you.”

“Been there!” I say with a giggle.

“Even though, as well know, you can never have too many friends?” Ophelia asks.

“…Friends, now, acquaintances… Maybe,” Katie replies. “But I’d definitely not say no to 500 of you girls, hehe!”

“500 Nikkis sounds like most of Sarah’s fever dreams!” Lauren teases, making the posh, ponytailed girl blush.

“Shut up,” Sarah mumbles. “Anyway, speaking of the most gorgeous, kissable girl in the world, we five have a birthday party to plan for a few weeks’ time, don’t we?” I giggle as my fellow transgendered girl starts to blush.

“Hell yeah we do!” Katie giggles, staring expectantly at Nikki. “…This is your cue to say ‘oh I don’t mind, don’t make any fuss’, that sort of thing.”

“Fuck that!” Nikki snorts. “This is my first birthday since my SRS, I want the works!” The six of us all cheer happily as we spend the rest of the night party planning, drinking and gossiping about every topic under the sun APART from boys.

By the time I wake up on Sunday, I feel renewed (and hungover, but that’s to be expected). Unlike my previous break-ups, I don’t feel as though I’m ‘back at square one’. Thanks to my amazing friends, I’m ready to hit the ground running with uni, with work, with my whole life- regardless of whether or not I currently have a man to snuggle up next to at night.

Of course, I spend the following Friday night wearing my skimpiest dress and dancing in clubs with virtually every single guy I see, but that’s less to do with finding ‘Prince Charming’ and much more to do with having fun with my friends- something I intend to do a lot more of in the coming few months.

Then again, if ‘Prince Charming’ does randomly pop up when I’m not expecting, then I certainly won’t say ‘no’…

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