Penny wakes from her coma to find her world has changed
This is the story of Penny. A closet Transwoman thrust into the outside world 24-7 when she would rather go and hide away. Perhaps the title should be Welcome to Penny’s Paranoid World…
From part seventeen
The anaesthetist… asked me to count back from ten.
“Ten, nine, eight, seveen,” I began, then it started to get difficult. “… siiiiix… fffii…,” then, before I could finish, the ceiling rushed down at me and surrounded me in darkness.
He was just a shape. The fist slammed into me, the sharp pain doubling me over as I collapsed down onto the ground…
I smiled and looked around the cottage garden in the bright sunshine. It was so peaceful. I could hear the birds singing. My sister and I grew up playing in this garden… I was looking at the runner beans growing along their cane sticks stuck in the ground when I realised I could faintly hear a playing the piano…
And now as they say, read on…
“Foxtrot Mike, on my mark turn left to heading three four six.”
“On your mark, turn to three four six. Foxtrot Mike.”
“Foxtrot Lima, on my mark…”
Gibraltar Radar gives the same instructions to Mike who has dropped back from flying a lose formation over on my left and touch behind me.
I can hearing faint piano music again over the headphones, not loud enough to tell what the tune is, but annoying enough when you are trying to concentrate as things are getting busy. I’m sure I can hear a little girl as well calling someone. Someone’s child in plane playing with the mike and the parents not paying attention to what she is doing.
We are almost at Bravo and then it is just ten miles to touchdown.
When we left Casablanca an hour and a half ago we had plenty of time to land in Gib before the two 737s from the UK were due to land. But a tailwind has changed all that and now the EasyJet from Manchester and the British Airways flight from Heathrow are due in less than ten minutes after us. So unless we wanted to spend the next half hour going around the racetrack at Charlie waiting for both 737s to land and for the wake turbulence caused by them to dissipate. We had better get a move on and land first.
These SF260Ws are ex-Libya Airforce given the faded paint job on them and must have been bumming around various African wars curtsey of Gadhafi for years. Morocco confiscated them in the Western Sahara. Presumably nabbed from the Sahrawi Arab people and sold them to the American who we were now bringing them back to Blighty for. Where they will be prepped for the flight across the pond to the USA after a full service and removal of the rocket launcher pylon from under each wing!
But now, going at 200mph and even with the power pulled right back, she is still a slippery little bird. At this speed you are doing over three miles a minute and the seventeen miles from Charlie to Bravo where military aircraft turn sharp left to head for The Rock and runway 09, soon disappears.
“Foxtrot Mike. Turn to heading three four six.”
Stick over and pull back a bit and we are in a steep left bank. I key the mike while watching the both the speed and vertical speed indicators like a hawk.
“Turning to three four six. Foxtrot Mike.”
Left hand on the power lever ready to add power as needed. You fly military aircraft from the right seat so your left hand is on the power lever. The SF260W loses speed and height if you are not careful when pulling G in a turn, and if you are not paying attention you can lose too much and stall and spin into the Med, getting yourself a pair of heavenly wings in the process.
“Foxtrot Lima. Turn to heading three four six.”
Behind me Mike acknowledges and will be doing the same as me. Doing a steep turn to shed speed and height. I was down to one hundred and twenty four mph, now. I was already feeding the power back in and dropping the wheels.
“Foxtrot Mike, five miles to touchdown.”
“Five miles to touchdown, Foxtrot Mike.”
Time to start adding flap. I put down 20 degrees. More to come. I still have my finger on the flap switch, when Gibraltar Radar came back to me.
“Foxtrot Mike, three miles to touchdown. Visual Decision Point Yankee. Contact Gibraltar Approach. One One, Two, decimal Eight.”
“Passing Yankee. Contact Gibraltar Approach on, One One, Two decimal Eight. Good-day and thank-you Gibraltar Radar.”
“Gibraltar Approach, Golf, Hotel Sierra Foxtrot, Mike. Two miles to touchdown. Runway in sight. Three greens.”
I put another ten degrees of flap down as Gibraltar Approach acknowledges me and tells me I am clear to land. Stick over to the right this time, aiming to be in-line with the runway as I pass over the yellow buoy with the white flashing light on it. Ahead I can see the runway is clear and no cars and buses are still crossing the runway.
Passing over the end of the runway now and aiming for the touchdown point. You need to fly her down. She may be smaller than a Cessna 152 training aircraft, but she is not a light aircraft and you cannot fly her like one. Flare as you would for a 152 or a light fast aircraft and you will drop like a brick those last few feet to the runway. Likewise don’t flare and you will still be waiting to land halfway to Ibiza. So. Like I said she is not a light aircraft. She is a military trainer designed to take a new pilot from his/her first step in an aircraft to leaving it to get into a fast jet trainer. So she flies like a jet and you flare at the last moment to put the main wheels on the deck and keep the nose wheel off the ground so you don’t break it as it is a tender little thing that needs pampering.
As I slow down and approach the road across the runway (Winston Churchill Avenue, but you don’t have to play chicken with the traffic, they are good sports in the Tower and stop the traffic for you), I bring the flaps up. Soon as I am across the road, I take the very short taxiway on the right onto the South Military Dispersal Apron. Calling clear of the runway as I do. A bit pointless, that, but it is procedure, as I am actually opposite the Tower on the other side of the runway when I do it!
With Mike parked beside me I pull back the canopy just as the British Airways 737 beats the EasyJet in and thunders past us down the runway with full reverse thrust going to help slow her down.
“Emily, what are you doing here?”
The waves passing beneath me are hypnotic. I am leaning on the rail high up on the Sun Deck looking down at the sea.
I am all alone up here in my evening dress. Everyone else must be getting ready or still at dinner. I turned and looked back at those two big lovely mustard coloured funnels, side by side at the aft of Canberra and shiver. I’m home. I smell the air and can smell Canberra. Modern cruise ships are powered by diesel engine power generators. You want to go faster. Switch on another engine. But Canberra. She is a proper Ocean Liner of the old school when ships were ships and not floating hotels stuck on a hull. She has SS in front of her name because she is a Steam Ship, with steam turbines turning her electric generators and you can smell it. Wonderful, I’m so happy to be home.
Faintly, I can hear someone tinkling the ivories. Must be in the Bonito Club. I decide to go down and see who it is. Even though I know who it must be. My favourite Aussie. I smile, he is playing Forgotten Dreams. I make my way down the steps to the swimming pool and past it. They have the net over the pool to stop anyone who has had too much to drink from falling in. The big full wide windows at the back of the Bonito Club have been retracted down into the floor leaving the space wide open between the club and pool. Some of the clubs tables and chairs have been carried out and placed on the pools patio area. It is going to be a hot night.
At the far end of the club I can see Colin Hindmash on the small bandstand playing the up-right piano. In the middle of the dance floor my Mother and Father are dancing. He smart in his uniform, my mother in a long evening dress that flows around her like falling water, looking beautiful, and she is younger than I can ever remember seeing her, apart from in photographs. I know I’m dreaming now, but it’s a lovely dream. Mother was forty when I came along three years after my sister much to everyone’s surprise. Here, dancing with my father she is barely in her thirty’s.
They must have given up hope of having children by the time we came along, but we could not have asked for a better mother, or father for that matter. Even if he was very strict.
Colin is grinning at me from behind his piano.
Every time a Deck Officer walked across the dance floor during evening rounds he would stop playing whatever tune he was playing and play Laurel & Hardy’s Cuckoo Song until they were off his dance floor. We would all watch some new unsuspecting officer come in taking the quickest route to the starboard aft doors by walking across the dance floor. And those in the know would smile and wait for Colin to start playing… Dar-dee-dar, dar-dee-dar, diddle-dar, dee-dar, dee-dar…
I trembled, thinking Father was going to be cross, seeing me in this beautiful evening dress wearing my high-heels. I could feel my breasts rise and fall with every breath. But he will be cross with me.
“Come here and join us sweetheart.” He calls to me, smiling at me, his face full of pride. “How could I have not seen how beautiful you were and what a wonderful mother you will make.”
I opened my mouth, but nothing comes out. Instead I run to them and they enveloped me in a loving embrace. Then mother slips smiling from us and my father put his hand in the small of my back and starts to dance with me. I closed my eyes and let my head rest on his shoulder as I let him lead me around and around the dance floor. At long last I was doing what I had always dreamed of, dancing with my father. Even if it was in a dream. We danced it seemed forever, till he led me over to my mother, sitting, beaming with pleasure as she watched us dance.
I sat down next to her. She took my hands in hers smiling.
“Well now, sweetheart. You took your time getting here. I was all for coming to find you. But your father said you would come here when you were ready and to wait for you here. He was right, wasn’t he. And here you are.”
She wrapped me in her arms and hugged me tight. I felt her warmth flood into me and I felt at peace with the world and satisfied.
“Mummy, I…” She gently shushed me, leaning back to look at me.
“You are going to be a wonderful mother, sweetheart. You have taken such good care of me. You saw to it I lacked for nothing while you let your own life slip by as if it was nothing important to care about. But now my darling it is time for you to live your life to the full for yourself, and to be the person you were always meant to be.”
She leant forward and hugged me again.
“You know you can’t stay here sweetheart.” She told me softly, “it’s not your time yet. You have a big, wonderful, adventurous life ahead of you, your dreams are about to come true. And you know your father and I will be watching over you with all our love. But you must go, now. Before it is too late.”
I shake my head. “No.” I’m home here with you on Canberra. We are together. All my happy memories on board are coming back. Daddy likes me now.”
She smiled and hugged me. “He always loved you sweetheart, he just did not understand, then. But he does, now.”
There is a sound that takes my attention away for a second, something happening elsewhere on the ship making a racket.
What, that’s not me?
“Mummy? Pleasseees. Wake-up. Pleasseees.”
The light blinds me, so bright it burns into my eyes, I scrunch them up tight. Someone is shouting at me, shaking me.
Emily? I can hear her being told off…
“Gran, but Gran. Mum opened her eyes. She did.”
I hear other noises, now, people rushing. I slowly open my eyes again to see shapes hovering over me.
“Evie?” I say, or I think I do. But the only sound I hear is an un-intelligent almost no-existent mumble.
“John, quickly get the nurse. She’s awake.”
Everything is blurry, I can just make out a face, Evie’s, and she’s smiling, grinning at me. Crying as well, but happy.
“Hi,” I mumble.
“Hello, darling. You gave us such a scare.”
Suddenly there is load of people fussing around me. It’s overwhelming, confusing, and the light still hurts my eyes, it is so bright, far easier to close them and ignore them all and go back to sleep.
It is a number of days before I can make any sense of the world I am in. I am in a hospital. Was I in a car accident? Knocked over in the street? I don’t know. Evie was their most afternoons. Jenni André came most mornings. And then sometimes these three whirlwinds would enter and climb on my bed all excited to see me and sometimes cry and laugh. And with them was John. Who I guessed was my husband, if these girls were mine. He seemed surprised when I called him Honey and asked if the girls were behaving for him. I knew he had to be my husband as the girls called me Mummy. But he seemed confused by everything.
But with three delighted girls bouncing on my bed to be close to me. I was not really paying attention or understanding much myself. I was just basically responding to what was going on around me.
Evie did not say anything until I suddenly asked where Carol was one day. When she hesitated, I started to remember. Carol was my sister. Over here from America so I could have an exploratory op on my lower quarters to find out just what was there sex wise down below. Then I remembered Mother. Carol’s looking after Mother, right?
But I knew that was not right, either. Fred was in bed with me. I was holding him tight. But he and mother were inseparable. If he did not need to be by her side. Then Mother know longer needed him. But he was her rock. And wherever she was, he was. And if he was free to be with me. That meant she was no longer here… so I cried and asked Evie where Carol was.
With a sigh she told me that Carol and her husband and boys had gone home to America a week ago. The boys were due back at school next week and they had to go back to collect their school books etc. Evie added that Henry was quite at home in her kitchen. So he was safe and terrorising young Patch the dog whenever he felt like it.
“Carol stayed as long as she could, Penny. Carl had flown in with the boys as soon as school broke up. Clare had offered her house for them to stay in.”
I did not know it, but it seems I fell asleep soon after that. Later that day she told me about mother.
She had died a week after I slipped into a coma. Jenny, Evie said had told Carol that she loved her dearly, but Penny was in trouble, and she needed to go to her. When she fell asleep later on, Carol went to make a cup of coffee. But half way through making it she realised it had gone very still and quiet. She rushed back to the sitting room and found your mother had slipped away with a smile on her face.
I tried not to cry, but failed and Evie cuddled me.
As I became more compos mentis about things. I began to realise the hole I had dug myself in with John. I had acted like we were married and a normal married couple at that in front of the girls. In the end he had acted that way back with me. Now I knew the truth and I was deeply embarrassed. Evie just laughed and said I had made my bed and now had to lay in it. But she agreed to take the girls to the hospital café. So I could talk to John alone.
That evening, John phoned her when they reached the hospital as she had arranged with him to do. Picking up her handbag, Evie tuned to me as she headed for the door.
“Okay. I’m off to hi-jack the girls. I’ll take them to the café for tea, so you two can talk. Just remember this. As unconventional as your meeting each other was. You both love each other and that is all that matters.”
Five minutes later there was a knock on the door and John popped his head round.
“Hi, can I come in?” he said nervously.
“Sure.” I replied just as nervous.
“Mums taken the kids to the hospital café to get some tea. We came straight here from school.”
He grinned, I nodded, and he sat down beside me.
“I’m sorry.” I started after a while, “I must have embarrassed you when I came round, acting like we were married. I didn’t know what was going on, but the girls acted like I was their mother, so I thought you must be my husband.”
He shook his head. “Don’t worry, it was rather nice. You calling me Honey, to be honest.”
I nodded ok, and we both sat silent for a while longer. Before he took my hand, holding it, looking at me.
“Look, Penny. We’re both grown-ups. Too old to mess about like teenagers. We clearly have feelings for each other. The girls love you. And yes, they think you are there mother, but you know that.
So why don’t you move in with us when they let you out of here. We can take things between us slowly. I promise I won’t make any moves on you. We will take things at your pace.”
Then he added, I think afraid I might not agree to his idea.
“If you like you could stay in the spare room instead. We tell the girls you need to sleep alone for the moment while you recover.”
I did not know what to say. This was it. Everything I had wanted and was afraid to dare to hope for. It would mean sooner or later we would have sex. I was not sure how I felt about that. I think I really am a lipstick lesbian at heart. Well, ninety percent sure of it, because he does make my heart skip-a-beat. So maybe I swing both ways, or maybe it is just him that gets me going man wise. But there was that navy officer, wasn’t there.
Well. I was equipped for it, now. Malcom along with Anna had told me what had happened in my op.
She had done my boobs. He had found the start of cancer in the groin and removed it. All of it. And after a quick telephone call to Carol, he had removed the items that made me look like a man. Along with the piece of skin that covered up the entrance to my girly bits. That needed to be done anyway they said, just in case I surprised everyone by having menstruation start. It was a long shot, a very long shot given my real age. But it could happen. That meant I could parade naked all I wanted in the bedroom and not frighten the horses.
They told me everything had gone to plan. Trouble had stared when I was being wheeled into recovery. All of a sudden my blood pressure dropped and they could not find the reason why and they were losing me. In all honesty, Malcom told me he thought they had lost me, when everything began to stabilise.
Except I did not come round when I should have and stayed just ticking over. Dead to the world around me. My brain was working fine they could tell. But I just stayed in my own inner world refusing to come out. Evie, the girls and Carol made a tape of their voices and music I liked to play to me. It was then a waiting game.
“You woke up when Emily lost it for a moment and shouted in your ear. Her Father and Grandmother were telling her off, when she yelled at them you had opened your eyes. And well, you know the rest.”
Yes I did.
I looked at John, waiting for my answer. A worried look on his face. “Ok.” I said softly. “But if we do this, we might as well start as we mean to go on and be in the same bed from the start. Children have an instinct for when things are not quite right.”
He nodded and I smiled to myself. It was a nice feeling to know this man wanted to sleep in a bed with me. Wanted to make love to me when I was ready.
I smiled back at him, pleased with what was happening.
“I will have to take you down and introduce you to Baby. She has been safely stored in the bungalow garage for a couple of years now. I couldn’t drive her as Mother could not get in her. About time I got her out.”
John kind of twitched, when I said that.
Carol came over for a flying visit a week later after getting the boys back to school. Evie picked her up from Heathrow. They came straight to the hospital and were waiting for me when I was brought back from physio.
We hugged and she told me Mother just slipped away in her sleep with a smile on her face, so she was not in any pain. We could go to the Isle of Wight later on with her ashes and spread them up on Culver Down Hill, as she asked us to do.
Evie had brought in a hand full of letters for me, which had been delivered to me courtesy of Apple Tree Farm. I wondered why my mail was going to Evie’s, but did not say anything. The letter with a cheque from the council was a shock.
“I don’t understand. The council has sent me a cheque for two and a half months rent they say they took by mistake after the keys were handed back?”
I look from my sister to Evie and back. They both look uneasy.
Both to each other, before my sister speaks.
“We did not want to tell you this until you were further recovered. The council would not transfer the bungalows tenancy to you. They said it had been done once already and council rules forbad more than one transfer to a family member. They gave us a fortnight on being told mother had passed away to return the keys.”
Evie took up from there. “John had a dry heated store room at the farm, so we moved everything there. Your sports car is in the garage at White Gate Farm. It was to be a surprise for you find it there. Then we would have told you about the bungalow.”
It was not losing the bungalow that hurt. But this.
“Did John ask me to move into the farm because he knew I was homeless?”
They both came either side of my wheelchair. Both telling me how silly I was.
“John asked you because he loves you, stupid.” Evie said smiling.
I was kept in another two weeks before they decided to let me go. Evie and Jenni André had come in to make sure I was dressed how they thought I should be. The weather was fine they said, and super glamorous was the order of the day according to them. So my white dress with red roses printed on it. Was to be worn. Legs had sheer stockings and high-heel sandals and freshly painted red nails on hand and foot. My hair needed their attention. I will have to visit Rosemary and Melissa at my soonest opportunity when I am home.
Make-up was chiefly Jenni’s province.
Eventually three excited girls and one man appeared mid-afternoon…
To be continued…maybe ?
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