Lost in Translation - Part 4

 

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Lost in Translation
Part 4 - Red Letter Day

by Persephone

 
Author's Note: It's been a long time since I started this story. I'm sorry for the delay. I was probably too close to some of what I was writing so had to give it a healthy pause. However now I'm up and running again I hope that you find some small pleasure in this tale. As ever please be tolerant of my failings, and forthright with your criticism. ~Persephone
 

Sometimes going through transition can feel like you're walking through a minefield. And sometimes you actually are...

Leamington Spa - 2019

From that drill night onwards Josie found things slowly starting to get better. There were still good days and bad. Snickers behind the hands of some of her work colleagues were balanced by a kindly smile at her local corner shop, ‘Good morning miss. How can I help you today?’.
To her surprise Josie found herself spending more time in the office as the snide comments and sidelong looks became easier to ignore. She grinned to herself, perhaps the hormones were making her skin thicker rather than softer?

A fortnight later, and under the watchful eye of Sergeant Major Paddocks, Josie finally managed to get her uniform reissued in sizes that didn’t suggest lycra might be a better option.

“Better Ma’am. Definitely better.” Claire Paddocks nodded her approval. “If you recall ma’am I mentioned some of the other items you would need?”

Josie winced guiltily. “Sorry Sarn’t major. I didn’t get a chance to go shopping last weekend.” She fibbed.

“That’s alright ma’am, I know how busy you are. However with the upcoming mandatory MATTs weekend for the whole squadron at the end of the month, you might wish to have everything squared away beforehand?” Sergeant Major Paddock gently suggested.

Well, it might have sounded like a suggestion, but Josie knew damn well that her Sergeant Major’s ‘suggestion’ carried the weight of a couple of carved stone tablets. Josie suppressed a sigh. “Absolutely Sarn’t major. I have some time on Friday. Could you help me with a list of what I might….”, her words tailed off as she saw Sergeant Major Paddocks holding up a neatly typed list, complete with quantities and where to buy them.

With a rueful grin Josie accepted the list. “Thank you Sar’nt major. I won’t let you down.”

Claire Paddocks smiled as her newest duckling got it. “Of course you won’t ma’am. None of my girls ever do.”

~o~O~o~

So it was that, two days later, Josie found herself locking her car door with list firmly in hand and handbag over her shoulder. She was already stressed with the ‘fun’ of manoeuvring a Landrover in a multi storey car park apparently designed for motorised skateboards and then squeezing her beast into a slot narrower than an anaemic supermodel.

Shopping was not something Josie had ever considered a relaxing recreation and accordingly she had planned this operation with suitably military precision. First stop was at Boots the chemists for the cosmetics and hair care stuff. Then through the shopping centre to Marks and Spencer's for sports bras’ and sensible knickers. A quick pass down the High Street on the way back to the car park. Have a look in Waterstone’s book store to browse for a bit and then back to the car and home. One hour and thirty minutes max, no worries.

Yeah… right.

It all started so well.

Into Boots, grab a shopping basket, locate hair accessories.

‘Bobby pins - check’.

‘Hair grips - check’.

‘Donut?’ Thankfully Josie spotted the offending item, checked it was sort of the right colour, stuffed it in her basket and then realised her hair might be too short. Two minutes of humming and aahing and she grabbed a smaller version as well, just in case. Phew, no problem.

‘Wet wipes - check’.

‘Pocket tissues - check’.

‘Panty liners - check’. Hang on, why do I need panty liners? Josie quickly stifled that thought, it was on the list and they would come in useful… eventually. With a mental shrug Josie continued.

‘Cotton wool pads - check’.

‘Nail polish remover - check’.

‘Clear nail varnish…’.

That’s when things started to go wrong.

“Hi there, I’m Sammi. Can I help you with anything today?” The sales assistant’s question, backed up with a bright bubble gum smile, knocked Josie off track. “Umm…no, not really. I just needed some nail polish.”

“Ohh wonderful! I always feel better when I’ve done mine. Are you looking for a particular shade? We have some lovely new shades here in the Jessica range. What do you normally wear?” Sammi’s verbal steamroller continued to ride straight over Josie’s excuses before they could even reach her lips. “With your colouring I think you’d look great with with this one. What do you think? Would you like to try it? It’s called ‘Raspberry Bombshell’”.

By this time Josie had been manoeuvred onto a stool with her right hand pinned to the counter top. “Your nails are rather short. You really should get them shaped to make the most of them.” Sammi chattered on even as she reached for an emery board.

“I need them short.” Josie finally got a word in edgeways, “to handle an assault rifle.”

There! That will shut her up.

“Oh, cool! Well you probably need some nail conditioner and hardener then. Don’t worry, we’ve got it in stock. My sister swears by it. She says she hasn’t had a broken nail once since she started using it. As soon as we’ve done here I’ll get some out for you.”

Twenty minutes later and ninety pounds poorer a stunned Josie finally managed to win free of the evil sales machine that was Sammi before escaping and evading her way out of the store. Ninety quid! And those bottles are tiny! Josie breathed out a sigh of relief and checked her list for the next target. Right, Marks and Sparks, perhaps she could make up some time there.

Josie found her way to the lingerie department and managed to suppress the anticipated twinge of embarrassment and guilt, sternly reminding herself Yes I belong here. I’m entitled to buy underwear just like every other woman. It’s no big deal. With that she rechecked her list and forged ahead.

Knickers cotton multipack white, 2 of - check.

Sports bra 36A, 3 of…

Josie hunted through the rails and displays muttering to herself as she did. “36C…. 36C…. 36B, getting warmer, 34D. Hang on, where did 36A go?”

She retraced her steps and scoured through the display again until at last forced to admit defeat. “Where the heck are the 36A’s? They have to have them.” Josie looked around to spot one of the store assistants trying to stay out of sight in case a customer might actually need help.

“Excuse me?” No reaction. “Excuse me? I wonder if you could help please?”

The sales lady flashed Josie a brittle smile. “Yes madam?”

“Urmm, I need a couple of sports bras but I can’t find my size.”

“And what size do you need madam?” Her eyes flicked briefly to Josie’s top.

Josie lowered her voice embarrassedly “Umm, I usually have a little ‘help’. I’m actually only a 36A.”

“Have you looked on the rails? We normally have all our stock out.” She gave Josie a pitying look for a moment, “and 36A isn’t a size we usually carry many units for.”

Josie blushed and was about to thank the assistant when a spark of anger grabbed her. She had her list, her timetable and damn well wasn’t going to give up that easily. “Do you think you could check your stockroom please? I’m not worried about colours, just the size.”

The assistant’s brittle smile returned. “Its unlikely we will have…”

“But you could just take a quick look?” Josie interjected. “I’d be very grateful.”

It was five minutes before a rather surprised assistant returned clutching a handful of various neon shades of lycra. “We only had these three…”

“I’ll take them.” Josie swiftly relieved the woman of her load and triumphantly headed for the checkout. She’d be out of here in no time.

Ten minutes later…

The queue shuffled forward another small pace.

In front of Josie a harried mother was being attacked by her two screaming brats who had no intention a sitting calmly in their buggy. Josie checked her watch again as she saw her self imposed extraction time heading off into the sunset; along with her temper. The queue shuffled forwards again.

A thought hit Josie causing her to chuckle. Every bloody TG story has the ’shopping is wonderful’ trope. If life was like fiction she’d be here with her best friend loaded down with frillies and having a ball. Instead she was stuck in a queue clutching two packs of granny knickers and three bras that looked like a cross between body armour and a scaffolding set. She decided she was definitely going to write a letter of complaint to Tanya Allan about setting false expectations on the ‘joys’ of retail therapy.

~o~O~o~

By the time Josie finally got home her nerves were frazzled and her temper frayed. If the grumpy old git downstairs had even poked his nose out of his curtains she would have happily snapped it off. Of course, as a result he was nowhere in sight and therefore annoyed Josie further by depriving her of the pleasure.

After juggling with keys and bags Josie finally got her front door unlocked and pushed it open against the usual pile of mail shots and pizza takeaway menus. Ignoring them she dumped her bags on the side and flipped the switch on the kettle before plonking herself down on the sofa as she waited for the kettle to boil, her mind spinning from her afternoon.

Josie glanced down to admire her nails. She still wasn’t sure about the colour but it was growing on her.

Do I pass? She asked herself, certain that everyone else could see her too strong jawline, her adam’s apple and make the obvious connection. But no one said anything. Were they just being kind? Embarrassed? Maybe I really do pass. Maybe RLE won’t be the nightmare I thought it was going to be.

A memory surfaced from an old friend at university. Whilst Josie had hung around the edges of the TG group, dressing occasionally and feeling self-conscious every time she went out, there was one girl, Sarah, who had thrown herself body and soul into her own transition. One evening after a glass too many of wine Sarah had shared her wisdom. “You gotta ‘member Josie. Simple rule of passing. You start passing when you stop trying.”

Maybe I’m getting there.

Eventually the kettle bubbled and shut down and with a sigh Josie pulled herself to her feet and made herself a cup of tea. Mug in hand Josie turned to deal with the pile of crap behind her letterbox.

The first was a bright yellow glossy advertising a pizza delivery service. Ugh! Josie had tried it once and swore never again. Recycle bin.

Do I have enough life insurance? Recycle bin.

Bank statement. Damn, still addressed to Joshua. I thought I’d written to them. Josie sighed with relief when she scanned her current balance, she had enough to pay her rent and avoid going overdrawn… again. Perhaps she might set a bit more aside towards her surgery. Although at this rate it would still be four or five years before she could afford it.

Finally she turned to the fattest brown envelope. The lip wasn’t just stuck down, someone had taken the time to carefully stick Sellotape along it to make absolutely sure, A wedge of folded sheets resisted her attempt to pull them free and in frustration Josie ended up tearing the envelope apart. When they were finally free the bundle sprung open to reveal a photocopied crest.

Dear Captain Wells
I am directed to inform you that under the provisions of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 you are hereby being compulsorily mobilised for military service. You are to report to the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre (RTMC) at Coldhale (see attached joining instruction) no later than…

Oh shit!



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