Mother and Daughter, part 7

Janet fidgeted as she sat back down in her stiff, uncomfortable seat. She was immaculately dressed in a smart black skirt suit, a clean white blouse, wrinkle-free light-coloured tights and low heels that matched that her suit. Beside her, Ellie was also dressed smartly, far more smartly than she ever had been in her soft white blouse and knee-length black pencil skirt. With her toned down make-up and her blonde hair clipped back into a ponytail, she was every inch the smart young woman.

Any outsider looking in would have assumed that Janet and Ellie were just like any other mother and daughter- but the two women knew they weren't, and they also knew that everyone else in the intimidating room knew that they weren't.

"Mr. Cole, please rise," the smartly-dressed judge said, and Janet had to fight her initial instinct to rise from her chair. After all, she wasn't 'Mr.' Cole anymore- a decision that had been partly responsible for her being in the court today. Janet glanced over to her side, where her son- a young man she hadn't seen in almost eighteen months- stood up, gripping the desk in front of him to keep his hands from shaking. The young man looked terrified- and as hard as Janet tried to convince herself that he deserved to be stood where he was, she still felt sympathy for her son. For he was still her son, even if he himself refused to acknowledge it- or acknowledge Janet, pointedly not looking in her direction as the judge addressed him.

"You have been charged with one account of assault and battery," the judge said as Ethan's skin grew paler and paler. "On this charge, how do you plead?" Janet found herself blinking back tears as Ethan's hands began trembling uncontrollably. When Janet had been confronted by the boy's mother- her ex-wife- she had been so sure that she would face a fight in the courtroom, that he and his mother would try to pin the whole blame for the assault onto Ellie, but when Lisa had seen the wound that Ellie bore on the back of her head- the scar from which was still present almost three months later- her whole demeanour had changed. All of a sudden, her innocent little boy's story had seemed a lot less innocent. When coupled with the testimony from the other partygoers that fateful night, Ethan's claims of acting in self-defence had grown a lot quieter.

"Guilty, your honour," Ethan replied in a hoarse voice, barely louder than a whisper. Despite her best efforts, Janet shed a tear as she heard her son confess to his crime- and as she felt Ellie's hand gently squeeze hers.

"So be it," the judge said. "As you have entered a guilty plea, I am now prepared to pass sentence. The crime you committed was a horrific one, and one motivated by bigotry, of that there can be no doubt. However, you are still a young man, and you have shown genuine remorse for your crime. As such, I am satisfied that a custodial sentence would not be appropriate on this occasion." Janet felt further tears flow from her eyes as Ethan lowered his head and began to gently weep himself.

"However," the judge continued, "you must answer for your crimes. I hereby sentence you to 300 hours of community service. I am also imposing a restraining order. You are not to travel within 500 metres of Miss Blake, her home or her place of study, and you are to have no contact with her over the internet. Any breach of these conditions will be treated seriously and will see your sentence increase. Do you understand?"

"Yes, your honour," Ethan whispered.

"I suggest that you learn from this experience," the judge advised. "Like I said, you are still a young man, and you have plenty of time to see the error of your ways." Janet listened intently as the judge passed on his advice to Ethan and brought a formal end to the case, but as hard as she tried, she couldn't get her hopes up that Ethan would actually heed the judge's advice. Sure, Ethan would almost certainly never assault anyone ever again, but he wasn't going to suddenly transform into a tolerant person- and the angry look in his eyes as they briefly met Janet's was all the confirmation the middle-aged woman needed.

Janet watched as her ex-wife and her son silently left the courtroom, not even stopping to acknowledge her existence on their way out. What hurt Janet the most, however, was that the final member of her family did acknowledge Janet's presence in the room- and with an even angrier glare than her mother or her brother. Lindsay had been the one person who hadn't immediately rejected Janet when she'd came out, and while she'd never returned any of her calls, Janet still held out hope that she would one day have her back in her life. However, the look on the sixteen year old's face as she left the courtroom made it clear that not only was she firmly on her brother's side, but she placed 100% of the blame for his conviction at Janet's feet.

"Are you okay?" Ellie whispered as the Cole family left the courtroom, snapping Janet out of her funk.

"Hmm?" The 43 year old woman replied. "Oh, umm, yeah, I'm fine. Come on, let's go home, it's way too hot a day to be sat around dressed like this, heh!"

"Ugh, totally!" Ellie giggled, adjusting the waistband of her skirt to let it breathe more as she followed Janet out of the courtroom and into the hot July air of the street outside. Despite the heat, both women wore smiles on their faces as they headed to a nearby coffee shop, partly because their ordeal was now behind them, but mostly because of the person who was waiting for them- a friend that neither of them knew that they had until a few weeks before the trial.

Ethan's decision to not plead his innocence had not been solely down to Ellie showing his mother her scar. A few weeks before the trial, Janet had received a letter from one of London's most expensive lawyers, offering to write to Ethan and Lisa's lawyer on her behalf and, if necessary, represent Ellie at trial- and at no cost to either Janet or Ellie themselves. Janet had been initially hesitant to accept an offer that seemed too good to be true, but a face to face meeting with the person who would be footing the bill convinced Janet to accept the offer- and it was that person whom Janet and Ellie would be meeting inside the coffee shop.

"Hey!" The famous face of Jamie-Lee Milton, model and reality TV star, called as she spotted the two women entering the coffee shop. "I got you two each a drink."

"Thanks," Janet said as she elegantly lowered herself into her chair. "Hope we didn't keep you waiting too long?"

"Only got here a couple of minutes ago," Jamie replied. "My 'chauffeur' is parking the car, heh."

"Cool," Ellie said softly as an awkward silence descended over the table.

"...Okay," Jamie said nervously. "Obviously, I'm interested in how it went today, but if you're not comfortable telling me it's-"

"It's okay," Janet sighed. "He pled guilty, got 300 hours of community service. Didn't get prison, and in a way, I'm kinda relieved, but kinda disappointed, you know?"

"I guess," Jamie shrugged. "Don't even want to imagine what you're going through, but at least you can put it behind you now."

"That's true," Janet sighed. "Thank you so much again for what you did- well, what your lawyer did, heh."

"She is the one who deserves most of the credit," Jamie chuckled. "I've lost track of the favours I owe her now, after all the work she's been doing helping me and my husband to adopt."

"Are- are you any closer to that?" Ellie asked.

"Hopefully by the end of September," Jamie replied with a dreamy smile. "We've got our agency, we're on the waiting list, just waiting for a baby."

"Wondered when you'd start talking about that," Jamie's 'chauffeur' teased as she approached the table.

"Hi Nikki," Janet said as the brown-haired transwoman sat down next to her friend and mentor.

"Hi you two," Nikki replied with a sad-looking smile. "I- I hope today went well?"

"Pled guilty, got community service," Janet replied with a tense grin as she remembered that just over a month earlier, the woman she was talking to had gone through the exact same thing as Ethan.

"Yeah," Nikki said hesitantly. "If it helps, I can tell you from firsthand experience that community service really, really sucks."

"...A little," Ellie shrugged.

"And he won't be allowed to travel abroad until it's all done," Nikki added. "That probably hurts the most for me, me and Sarah were planning on going to America this summer, that's not happening now."

"Ugh, Lisa will NOT like that," Janet sighed. "We- well, they, I guess- when I was with Lisa, we always went to France over the summer holidays, and with Ethan finishing his A-levels and Lindsay finishing her GCSEs, they'd have wanted a special holiday for that."

"I hear Skegness is nice at this time of year?" Nikki suggested, earning a snort of laughter from Ellie, a scowl from Janet and a disapproving look from Jamie. "...Sorry."

"Nope, not your fault," Janet said. "Ethan did the crime, now he has to do the time. I just hope he can learn something from the experience."

"Tolerance, I'd hope?" Jamie suggested.

"Doubt it," Janet sighed. "But like you said, Jamie, we can put it behind us now. Just wish I didn't have to put nearly two decades of family life behind me as well, but there's no point trying to un-burn a bridge."

"I'm sorry," Jamie whispered.

"It's hardly your fault," Janet said with a sad chuckle. "Just do me one favour? When you get that kid of yours, make sure you don't make the same mistakes that I did with Ethan."

"Heh, I'll try," Jamie said. "Honestly though, I'm excited, but I'm also terrified, you know?"

"Yep, that sounds like parenthood to me," Janet said. "You try your hardest, but even that might not be enough."

"Well, I know who I'm going to ask if I need advice in the future."

"What, the woman who destroyed her own family?" Janet snorted.

"I dunno, I think you did a pretty good job," Jamie said firmly.

"With who?" Janet asked. "My convict son or the daughter who hates my guts?"

"With Ellie," Jamie replied, instantly silencing the older woman and bringing tears to her eyes.

"She's right, Janet," Ellie whispered. "And not just 'cause she's famous. I dunno what I'd have done without you."

"...Thank you," Janet whispered, her confidence suddenly boosted again by the simple gesture from her friends.

Jamie and Nikki stayed at the coffee shop for another half an hour, discussing topics such as the former's impending parenthood and the latter's recent wedding, as well as more personal topics such as Ellie's impending assessment for HRT. As they left, Jamie and Nikki reiterated their offer of ongoing advice and support for the other two women, an offer that Janet and Ellie stated they would make the most of if ever they needed it.

As they headed home, though, both women were just happy to be able to put the events of the past few months behind them. Janet would have to move on with her life without her family, but she would be able to move forward, and Ellie looked forward to enjoying her summer holiday safe in the knowledge that she would never have to set foot in a court again, or have to see any other members of Janet's family again. As they changed out of their smart skirts into lighter, more comfortable clothes, Janet and Ellie felt themselves beginning to truly relax for the first time in several months.

Little did either woman know that they had only just begun to deal with the fallout from Ethan's assault on Ellie.

"Well, at least it's all over now," Meredith said as she and Janet got ready to start their shift on the morning after the trial. "I mean, you can move forward, look toward the future, 'cause you're getting more feminine every day, right?"

"I like to think so," Janet replied as she straightened her regulation tights and tried to stealthily adjust her bra. Almost eight months on oestrogen had begun to make subtle changes to her body, but it would take a long time to undo the several decades Janet's body had had to endure the constant onslaught of testosterone. Her breasts had become more tender, but had yet to significantly grow, her skin had become softer, but she still needed to remove hair from it on an almost constant basis, and while her waist had narrowed, her hips hadn't widened, and Janet found herself wondering if her diet was having more of an effect on her body than her hormone treatments. Occasionally, she wondered if her hormone treatments would ever have the desired effect at all...

"I'm pretty certain you are," Shannon said with a nervous smile, earning a happy giggle from the older woman.

"I'm absolutely certain you are!" Meredith said. "You actually look more like a woman then you did when you started. Not that you ever looked like a man, I mean, not as long as I've known you, which is as long as you've worked here, but-"

"Thanks," Janet said, making the younger woman chuckle nervously as she was cut off mid-sentence. "Twelve months from now, I'll be even more feminine, but also twelve months from now, someone in this room will be the new Mrs. Grantham, won't she?" Janet and Meredith both giggle excitedly as their younger friend tried to hide behind her long blonde hair.

"...Yeah," Shannon giggled.

"So..." Janet continued to tease. "How's the wedding planning going?"

"Slowly," the blonde woman sighed. "All we've got is a date, don't have a venue yet, I haven't even started looking at dresses..."

"Ugh, the only reason I'd EVER want to get married is to wear a dress like that," Meredith said. "Something so gorgeous and flowing and moving around me with every step I took... Umm, sorry again..."

"Uh- sorry, are you apologising to me?" Janet asked. "Why, exactly?"

"Well, because, umm, you're the only one of us three who's been married," Meredith said. "And, well, on that day I'm guessing you didn't wear a dress, heh, but, like, you wanted to...?"

"...Yeah," Janet sighed, before smiling as her motor mouthed colleague stared intently at the floor. "But it's okay, really. There's no need to feel bad, I don't mind talking about it. Therapist says it's actually good to talk, to not bury my past away. I was married, now I'm not, that's how it goes sometimes."

"But it won't for Shannon's marriage, right?" Meredith asked, earning a nod of approval from the older woman.

"Absolutely," Janet concurred. "As long as your new hubby doesn't mind us borrowing you for the occasional Friday night post-work drink?"

"He knows who's boss on Friday nights," Shannon said with a confident smirk as she clipped her name badge to her blouse and got ready to head onto the shop floor.

Later that evening, the three women headed to their regular pub and whiled the evening away gossiping about their work, their lives and Shannon's upcoming wedding. As had been the case at every girls' night, with every passing minute, Janet felt more and more at ease, more and more accepted as 'one of the girls'. The contrast with the courtroom was jarring to Janet, and she continued to be amazed by how two effective strangers could show her more love than her own so-called family- but she was determined not to reject her friends' love, nor would she take it for granted.

At the same time, Ellie and her two friends were enjoying a relaxing evening at Janet and Ellie's flat, watching TV and indulging in their own gossip session. As Janet had done, Ellie marvelled at how her friends had shown her more support than her own family, even when the support had come at her friends' expense as they were alone in a flat rather than at one of the many house parties that they had attended prior to Ellie's assault. Monique and Kacey had explicitly stated that they were not interested in attending any more of those parties unless Ellie was able to attend as well. Ellie had been sceptical at first that her friends would be patient with her reluctance for long, but with every passing weekend that passed, she was more and more confident that the two girls were sincere, and that they would never let her down.

To all intents and purposes, Monique and Kacey- and especially Janet- had become Ellie's family. However, there was one member of Ellie's family who hadn't rejected her, and it was this person's impending visit that saw Ellie rise from bed before 9am on the Saturday morning, long before she would normally get up. To Ellie, however, it was no sacrifice, as proven by her wide grin when she opened the door and greeted her visitor with a tight hug.

"Hey Jack!" Ellie squeaked excitedly as her younger brother tried to wriggle out of her embrace.

"Hi Ellie," Jack said, letting out a nervous giggle as he sat down on the sofa next to his sister. "Hi Janet, umm, thanks for letting me come round today."

"Quite alright, Jack," Janet replied with a smile. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"Something cold, please!" Jack chuckled. "Roasting out there..."

"Coming right up," Janet said as she headed to the kitchen, smirking as she watched the two siblings interact. Ellie was never happier than when she was with her brother- and Janet couldn't help but observe that Jack seemed equally as happy to be chatting with his sister.

"So then," Ellie said with a giggle. "Only one year of school to go..."

"Heh, yep!" The fourteen year old boy replied. "Seems mental to think that it'll all be done this time next year."

"Know what you're gonna do after school?" Ellie asked.

"Dunno," Jack shrugged. "Best grades are in English, so I might study that. Really dunno yet though."

"Meh, you got time to think about it," Ellie shrugged.

"You going to uni next year?" Jack asked.

"That's the plan," Ellie replied. "Hopefully gonna stay in London. Not that I have any family to stay for, though, besides you..."

"Yeah..." Jack grimaced as Janet returned with their drinks.

"Did I interrupt anything?" Janet asked.

"Just talking about college and uni," Ellie replied.

"Ah yes," Janet said with a grin. "Got to get your application in soon, heh!"

"Yeah, don't remind me," Ellie snorted. "Another thing to worry about..."

"Another thing to look forward to," Janet corrected the young woman. "You'll make new friends at university, have new experiences you never even dreamed of... God knows I did, heh."

"Did- did you go to university?" Jack asked.

"Yep," Janet replied. "Started in 1992. God, that was 25 years ago... It was the first time I'd lived independently, the first time I even got to explore who 'Janet' was."

"Yeah... Think I've had enough 'independent living' for now," Ellie sighed, making Janet frown at her own insensitivity. Janet tried to rack her brains for an explanation or an apology, something to say to make Ellie feel better about her situation, but much to her surprise, it was Jack who spoke up first.

"You're better off with Janet," Jack said, making both women blink with surprise.

"Umm, sorry?" Janet asked. "I mean, I'm flattered, but- what?"

"You know what mum and dad are like," Jack mumbled. "You know how mental they are, you know how mental they'd be if they knew that I was round here seeing you. I can't wait to move out of there."

"Jack..." Ellie sighed.

"I just- I just wish they'd pull their heads out of their arses and let you move back in," Jack moaned. "What does it matter to them if you want to wear a skirt?"

"I- ugh," Ellie sighed. "Wish it was that easy."

"At least you see it as a positive, Jack," Janet said with a smile. "Ellie can point to one member of her family and say 'at least he gets it'."

"Yeah," Jack nervously chuckled.

"Anyway, can we please change the subject?" Ellie moaned. "No point hearing what's happening at home 'cause it's the same thing that was happening the last time you visited and the time before that too. Mum and dad's minds are closed and they aren't opening anytime soon."

"Sure," Jack said with a sigh. "I really, really hope you're wrong, though."

"So do I," Ellie sighed as she switched on the flat's Wii and settled down for an afternoon of videogames with her brother.

Jack left shortly after 3:30pm, leaving both Ellie and Janet feeling relaxed after the stress of the previous few days. Even though Janet had no familial connection to the boy, she too was energised by Jack’s presence, even if it did remind her about her destroyed relationship with Ethan. Janet saw Jack as evidence that being male and having an open mind weren’t two mutually exclusive things, and held out hope, no matter how vain, that Ethan might follow Jack’s example and come to accept her for who she was.

Janet’s hopes, however, would be set further back the following day when she answered her front door and was reminded that bigotry and transphobia were far from an exclusively male thing.

“L- Lisa?” Janet asked, her body instinctively tensing up at the sight of her ex-wife’s furious face.

“Hello, JOHN,” Lisa growled as she barged past her ex-spouse into the apartment, followed by an equally furious face that Janet didn’t expect to see so soon.

“Lin- Lindsay?” Janet asked, instinctively reaching out to hug her daughter, only to frown when the sixteen year old girl pulled away from her with a look of pure disgust on her face.

“Don’t- don’t touch me!” Lindsay spat. “Don’t ever touch me again after what you did to Ethan!”

“What- what I did?” Janet replied, confused by her daughter’s accusation.

“Yes, JOHN, what you did!” Lisa hissed. “Thanks to what happened on Thursday, Ethan has had his place at university- which was a guaranteed place- withdrawn. He had such a bright, promising future, and now thanks to you, it’s in ruins.”

Janet paused and took several deep breaths as she tried to process what she was being told. Ethan had always been a bright boy, in all the top classes at school and destined for a high-paying career in either teaching or finance. However, with a criminal record, those aspirations had been rendered impossible. A feeling of guilt started to well up within Janet- Lisa was right when she said that Ethan wouldn’t have gained a criminal record if it hadn’t been for Janet’s direct influence in encouraging Ellie to press charges. However, it was Ethan’s choice to commit the crime in the first place. If he hadn’t assaulted Ellie, there wouldn’t have been any charges to press, and as he was legally an adult, he alone was responsible for his actions.

“What’s going on out-“ Ellie asked as she emerged from her bedroom, freezing when she saw the two intruders into the flat glaring at her with pure fury in their eyes.

“You little whore,” Lisa spat.

“I- I think you need to leave,” Janet said firmly.

“I hope you’re happy,” Lisa growled, ignoring Janet’s request. “Thanks to you and this bastard my son’s future is ruined.”

“Thanks to your ‘son’ the back of my head is ruined,” Ellie sneered, tossing her hair to one side to show Lisa and Lindsay her scar before disappearing back into her bedroom, where she collapsed down onto her single bed and burst into a flood of tears.

Ellie tried her hardest not to listen to the argument happening on the other side of the wall, but the volume of the three women’s voices left her no alternative. Every angry word, every emotion-filled shout drove home to Ellie the fact that if it hadn’t been for her coming on to Ethan, he wouldn’t have attacked her, he wouldn’t have been convicted and Janet wouldn’t have had to deal with such viciousness from her family. Ellie knew consciously, just like Janet did, that Ethan was responsible for his own actions. Ellie didn’t force him to attack her- at worst, she provoked him, but even he had admitted his own guilt.

Ellie frowned as a feeling of anger began to swell inside her, anger toward Ethan for his vicious assault, but mostly anger toward Lisa and Lindsay. How dare they invade her and Janet’s home and try to belittle them? How dare they blame the victim of a crime for the crime happening? And how dare they state that Ellie and Janet didn’t have the right to live their lives the way they wanted? Ellie felt her hands ball into fists, and with a sense of determination filling her body, she jumped off her bed and opened her bedroom door, only to see that Lisa and Lindsay were already on their way out of the apartment.

“You two disgusting THINGS deserve each other,” Lisa spat. “I don’t ever want to see either of you again!”

“Then try not coming round here in future!” Ellie yelled after the middle-aged woman as she left.

“I used to be so proud to call you my father,” Lindsay said, her voice trembling with emotion. “Now, I- I don’t ever want to see you again either.”

“Lindsay…” Janet whispered as tears welled in her eyes.

“Goodbye, da- Janet,” Lindsay spat as she followed her mother out of the cramped flat and gently closed the door behind her.

“Janet,” Ellie whispered. “Are- are you-“

“No,” Janet sobbed, shaking her head. “I- I think I need to- need to be alone for a bit…” Ellie bit her lip as she remembered that the previous year, when she’d been left alone, Janet had made a very reckless choice.

“I- I’m going to call someone,” Ellie announced. “I’ll see if Meredith’s available, or Stephanie-“

“Don’t go to any trouble on my behalf,” Janet sniffled. “I’ll be fine.”

“No, you won’t,” Ellie mumbled, gently leading Janet to her usual chair before heading into the kitchen to make a hot drink. “We’re the victims here, Janet. Not your family and definitely not Ethan. We’re not to blame here, Janet, You need to remember that.”

“Easy to say when it’s not your fam-“ Janet replied, before sighing as she realised what she was about to say. “…Sorry.”

“S’okay,” Ellie shrugged.

“I thought Lindsay at least might-“ Janet said, before sighing. “…Never mind.”

“When are you seeing your counsellor next?” Ellie asked.

“Tomorrow, actually, after work,” Janet replied. “So don’t expect me home early, heh.”

“Same here,” Ellie chuckled. “Reckon we’re going to have a LOT to talk about, heh.”

“And I’m going to make sure that we do talk,” Janet said. “You need to make sure that you do too."

“Yes, yes, I will,” Ellie said. “And I’m going to ask the same question I’ve been asking for the last year too, heh.”

“You’ll get hormones before long,” Janet said reassuringly. “You’ve got to have shown the right commitment by now. I mean, if I can get the prescription, right?”

“You’d have thought so,” Ellie snorted. But we’ll see. “Just- just make sure you’re okay, okay? Neither of us deserve this.”

“You’re right,” Janet said with a determined nod. “We DON’T deserve this. What we deserve is to be allowed to live life as the women we truly are.”

“Hell yes we do!” Ellie cheered as the kettle boiled and she served herself and Janet each a mug of frothy hot chocolate.

The following day, Janet tried her hardest to maintain her positive attitude throughout a full day at work, distracting herself with Meredith and Shannon’s tales of their lives and taking an interest in each customer that came through her checkout, but deep inside, Lisa’s words continued to eat away at her. By the time Janet left work, her stomach was churning from all the mixed emotions she was feeling- and that didn’t go unnoticed by her counsellor as she walked through her door.

“Hello Janet,” Dr Healy said softly. “Please sit down, I imagine it’s been a fairly hectic week for you?”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Janet groaned, straightening her slender pencil skirt as she sat down. “I’m guessing you want to talk about the trial?”

“It must’ve been an unbelievably stressful situation for you,” Dr Healy said.

“That’s putting it VERY mildly,” Janet said with a snort of laughter. “It was like being torn between two families. I mean, I wanted to do what’s right for Ellie- I have a legal responsibility toward her, after all- but- but Ethan is my son, my own flesh and blood. In the end, we got a result that works for everyone, Ethan avoided prison, but- huh. Didn’t quite work out for everyone.”

“Was Ellie unhappy with the outcome?” Dr Healy asked.

“No, Ellie was okay with it,” Janet replied. “I think. I hope. Ethan got punished for what he did, and that’s okay by Ellie. It- ugh, it’s Lisa that’s the problem.”

“Your ex-wife?” Dr Healy asked.

“Yep,” Janet sighed. “She- she actually showed up at my flat yesterday to send me on a guilt trip, Ethan’s conviction has resulted in him losing his uni place and Lisa puts the blame for that squarely at my feet.”

“I hope you don’t believe what she’s saying,” Dr Healy says firmly. “And I also hope you realise that her behaviour in doing that was totally unacceptable, going round to your home, invading your private space like that could easily be seen as harassment. You could be within your rights to press charges yourself.”

“And make things a million times worse?” Janet snorted.

“I seem to recall you saying that Ellie said the same thing after she was assaulted,” Dr Healy said softly, making Janet pause.

“…Nope,” Janet said, shaking her head. “Lisa said she doesn’t want to see me again, so I doubt I’ll have to worry about her. I really hope I don’t.”

“You sound almost disappointed,” Dr Healy said.

“Maybe I am,” Janet sighed. “I know I am about one thing, when Lisa dropped round, she had Lindsay with her- my daughter. She was just as snotty as Lisa was, and that hurts the most. I’d always hoped that Lindsay would be the one member of my family to- ugh, I dunno why I’d expected that.”

“It’s only natural to hold out hope,” Dr Healy advised. “Lindsay was the baby of your family, she’s the one who generated the strongest parental feelings within you, she’s the one who matters the most, for want of a better way of putting it. I’m not accusing you of playing favourites, I’m just saying it’s a natural reaction of any parent. I’m guilty of it myself- my kids are 18 and 12, and I fuss over the twelve year old a lot more than I do my older child.”

“I suppose,” Janet sighed. “I just- I- ugh. Maybe I’m clinging onto a lost cause too tightly.”

“It can be hard letting go,” Dr Healy said. “In cases like this, when it’s your family, it can be nearly impossible. What you need to remember is to not neglect your own needs or put down your own thoughts or opinions, because they’re just as valid as Lisa’s or Ethan’s or Lindsay’s. And yes, I am referring to your biggest need of all- to be the correct gender. You’re not selfish for needing to live life as a woman, no matter what anyone else says, and you need to remember that.”

“Easier said than done,” Janet sighed.

“That just goes to show what a kind-hearted person you are,” Dr Healy said, bringing a happy tear to Janet’s eye.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, Ellie was deep in conversation with her own counsellor, letting the emotion flow freely from her as she recapped the events of the previous week.

“…And then, yesterday, she actually comes round to our flat just to have a go at us!” Ellie moaned. “I mean- is that even legal?”

“I’m not a lawyer,” Dr Leach- Ellie’s counsellor- replied. “Though I wouldn’t have thought so, not if she solely went there to harass you. How did it make you feel when you saw Janet’s ex-wife?”

“Angry,” Ellie sighed. “Confused, nervous, scared… Everything, really. But mostly angry.”

“What happened next?” Dr Leach asked.

“She actually blamed us for everything that happened,” Ellie snorted. “Like it was my fault I got my head smashed in. And- ugh.”

“Go on,” Dr Leach gently urged.

“And- and for a moment, I actually believe her,” Ellie moaned. “Like I just filled up with guilt, I ran off to my bedroom and- ugh. Bet I sound stupid.”

“Not at all,” Dr Leach said softly. “Not everyone responds to confrontation the same way.”

“I’d rather not have to respond to it at all,” Ellie mumbled.

“I know you wouldn’t,” Dr Leach said. “And you need to understand that what happened with Ethan wasn’t your fault. I repeat: Not. Your. Fault.”

“I know,” Ellie sighed. “Doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty about it, I mean, I DID come on to him…”

“You’re a seventeen year old heterosexual girl and you saw a boy you fancied,” Dr Leach retorted. “Sounds like you did what any other girl in that circumstances would do.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not ‘any other girl’, am I?” Ellie snorted.

“Fortunately, nowadays there are things we can do about that,” Dr Leach said with a wide grin. “I’ve been reviewing your case carefully, Ellie. The way you’ve responded to the hardships over the last year has been admirable, and all throughout, you’ve demonstrated a firm, unwavering commitment to living your life as a female.”

“Are- are you saying?” Ellie asked as her excitement levels rose.

“Yes,” Dr Leach replied. “I am prepared to start you on hormone replacement therapy, effective immediately. I won't even need to clear it with your legal guardian, as you're already seventeen.”

“Oh my god, thank you so much!” Ellie squeaked, bouncing up and down in her chair with nervous excitement. “You have NO idea what this means to me!”

“Hmm, I might,” Dr Leach said with a smirk. “Don’t forget, you’re far from the first transgendered girl to sit in that chair. Pretty much all of them reacted the way you did too.”

“Yeah, hehe!” Ellie giggled, fanning herself with her hands to try to calm herself down. “Oh my god, this is the best news I have EVER had.”

“I can tell,” Dr Leach said with a warm smile. “Of course, this is just one more step of your journey, there will be plenty more to take.”

“I’m ready,” Ellie said. “I want this. I really, really want this. I- I think I NEED this. Especially after what happened with Ethan.”

“I wouldn’t be prepared to write you this prescription if I didn’t agree with you,” Dr Leach said. “Like I said, you have a long road ahead of you, but I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you celebrated tonight.”

“Oh- oh trust me, I will, hehe!” Ellie squeaked as she tried to process the news.

Ever since she’d first heard of hormone replacement therapy, Ellie had fantasised about the ability to ‘take a magic pill’ and transform herself into a real woman. As she read more into it, she realised that the process wouldn’t be quite as instant, but that didn’t dampen her excitement at the possibility, and even after holding the prescription in her hand, she felt energised by the potential her future held- even if it meant that a bigger wedge would be driven between her and her biological family.

However, Ellie was certain that the prescription would bring her closer to her ‘new family’, and after stopping off at her pharmacy to get her prescription filled, she headed straight home to break the news to Janet. When Ellie opened the door, she was unsurprised to find the older woman sat in her usual chair watching television, and the look on her face immediately told Ellie that her counselling session hadn’t been as successful as Ellie’s was. Nonetheless, Ellie had a wide grin on her face as she kicked off her shoes and dropped her handbag on the table.

“It went well, then?” Janet asked, smirking at the wide grin on Ellie’s face and musing on how rare such a grin was- and how much it suited the teenaged girl.

“Better than ‘well’,” Ellie replied as she removed the small bottles of pills from her handbag. Janet instantly perked up as she recognised the significance of the pills- a sure sign to Ellie that her brother had been right when he said that she was better off living with the older transwoman.

“Is- is that?” Janet asked, before squeaking with excitement as Ellie nodded. “Oh, wow, congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”

“Thanks!” Ellie giggled.

“And it’s been a long, LONG time coming,” Janet chuckled. “But take it from someone who knows, once you’re on this path, you’ll never want to go back, hehe!”

“I never want to!” Ellie giggled. “Not for anyone. And certainly not my parents.”

“They’ll have no choice now but to accept you as their daughter,” Janet said. “A few months on that and you’ll be almost unrecognisable!”

“Good,” Ellie said with a smile. “The less of ‘Liam’ that remains, the better.”

“Have you told Kacey and Monique yet?” Janet asked.

"Doing it now," Ellie replied.

"Invite them round tonight," Janet said with a wide, genuine smile. "Something like this deserves to be celebrated!"

"Can do!" Ellie giggled, getting her phone out of her bag and sending messages to her friends, as well as a public post on her Facebook page that quickly got several dozen 'likes'.

A short while later, Janet and Ellie were joined by the latter's two best friends, and the four women spent the evening celebrating Ellie's good news with an expensive takeaway pizza.

"So then," Monique asked between bites of the dish, "how exactly do those pills work?"

"One of them blocks the production of testosterone," Ellie explained. "The other one replaces it in my body with oestrogen."

"I've been taking them for months now," Janet interjected. "The changes are gradual but they are very real. Ellie's skin will get softer, her waist will narrow, her hips will widen..."

"And, yes, I'll grow boobs," Ellie said with a smug grin. "Actual, proper flesh and blood boobs. The only thing missing will be, well, the thing that can't be got without surgery. But after a few hormones, I can go ahead and have that too, hehe!"

"One step at a time, though," Janet cautioned.

"I'm just glad I'm actually finally taking any steps," Ellie chuckled. "Finally feels like things are going right for me, you know?"

"Glad to hear it," Kacey chuckled.

"...And yes," Ellie sighed, "if you guys want to head out somewhere this summer, maybe... I'd be up for that." Ellie smirked as her friends' mouths slowly curled upward into warm smiles- she knew just how patient they'd been with her, and now that she'd had her win, she resolved to reward their patience.

The celebration continued for another fifteen minutes before being interrupted by a knock on the front door. Thanks to some of their recent 'guests', Janet and Ellie's nerves were immediately on edge as the latter slowly opened the door, but they quickly relaxed when they saw who was on the other side.

"Hey Ellie!" Stephanie squeaked excitedly as she exchanged a hug with the seventeen year old girl.

"Hey Steph!" Ellie replied, before smiling confusedly as Stephanie made way for yet more guests. "Oh, hey Nikki!"

"Hi Ellie!" Nikki giggled. "I heard your good news and couldn't not drop round, hehe! Ellie, this is my wife Sarah, Sarah, this is Ellie, the girl I told you about who has FINALLY had the good news she's been waiting for for what, a year now?"

"Just over," Ellie chuckled. "Felt like a hundred years though."

"Trust me, now that you're finally correcting your body, the time will fly by," Nikki sighed happily as Sarah introduced herself to Janet, Kacey and Monique.

"We figured you'd be celebrating," Stephanie explained. "And we couldn't not join in, hehe!"

"I'm afraid we're kinda having a 'junior' celebration today," Janet explained as she poured the three new guests each a glass of a chilled soft drink. "As these three are only seventeen."

"That's okay," Sarah replied. "Probably best we don't drink before tomorrow anyway, heh."

"What's happening tomorrow?" Janet asked as Monique smiled, suddenly remembering something.

"Is- is it the football game tomorrow?" Monique asked.

"Football?" Janet asked. "Really?"

"...Yeah," Stephanie chuckled. "Our manager recently bought a football team, he's having a few of us play a charity match, like, Angels and Out of Heaven and a few friends... It'll probably be even more embarrassing than when I had to play football at school, heh."

"Ugh, don't remind me," Ellie spat. "Rugby was, like, a million times worse."

"What, seriously?" Kacey asked. "Being shoved into a scrum full of fit boys?"

"You didn't go to my school," Ellie snorted. "'Fit' is not the word I'd have used."

"And then you actually have to play rugby," Nikki grumbled. "One good thing about this match is that there'll only be girls on the pitch."

"And by 'girls' we mean 'people whose primary hormone is oestrogen'," Stephanie said. "Which includes everyone in this room!"

"Or will once I start taking the pills," Ellie chuckled.

"Close enough," Nikki said with a smirk. "So... We've still got tickets available for tomorrow if you four want to come along? Steph's treat." Ellie giggled as the famous singer rolled her eyes at her friend's teasing.

"Call it a 'congratulations gift' or something," Stephanie said. "Just a reminder that you have a wider family out there that you're every bit a part of."

"Can we come to an Angel party?" Monique asked, earning a giggle from the singer and her friends.

"...Maybe when you're all eighteen," Stephanie replied. "Don't need your- umm, don't need Janet shouting at me for getting you drunk underage, heh."

"Heh," Ellie laughed nervously as she avoided her legal guardian's gaze. "But the football match would be cool, thanks. Will- will there be any, you know, boys there?"

"And the old Ellie is back!" Monique teased, making the blonde girl blush and giggle as she and her friends continued to celebrate her good news.

The following evening, the four girls headed along to the small football stadium in the west of the city to watch their new friends play their football match. While the action on the pitch didn't quite hold the women's excitement, they all enjoyed getting to meet the celebrities afterward, all of whom welcomed the group like old friends. Ellie also found confidantes in many of the transwomen who played in the match, all of whom had begun their own hormone replacement treatments and all of whom were willing to share advice with the young woman.

As they left the football ground, however, Ellie and her friends paused as the sound of a loud, angry argument filtered through from the car park. They watched in surprise and confusion as many of their new friends rushed past with concerned looks on their faces.

"What's happened?" Janet asked, grabbing Stephanie as she rushed past.

"Ugh, what I worried might happen," the singer replied. "One of our friends- like, mine and Jamie's- came down from Cardiff where he lives to watch the match. Long story short, he's estranged from his parents, who still live in London, and his mum's tracked him down to the stadium."

"Are- are they estranged because- well, you know?" Janet asked.

"That's part of it," Stephanie sighed. "He was, like, born a girl, is now a boy, and his mum won't stop freaking out about it."

"Poor guy," Janet sighed. "Though I know how he feels."

"Yeah, I remember you saying," Stephanie said quietly.

"I hope he'll be alright," Ellie mumbled.

"He will as long as he remembers one important thing," Stephanie says. "That no matter what his so-called 'family' say, his friends will always be there for him, and he is NOT alone. Even if the only way he can talk with us is online, it still counts."

"And you're not just talking about your Welsh friend, are you?" Janet asked.

"Precisely," Stephanie said softly. "'Cause you know I've been where he is. I was lucky to have my family support me. Some people aren't, but that doesn't mean they don't have anyone at all. There'll always be people out there willing to help if you just ask. And I'm really, really glad that you two did."

"Not as much as I am," Ellie said with a smile.

"Or me," Janet whispered, taking a deep breath to control her emotions.

When she'd left her family home after coming out, Janet had thought that her life was over for good. She couldn't imagine life without her wife and children in it, and didn't want to imagine it either. But she soon gained a friend in Stephanie, and shortly afterward, a friend in Ellie, as well as Meredith, Shannon, and even Kacey and Monique. Even when her family went to her flat to confront her, just as the poor young Welshman's mother was confronting him, her friends unconditionally supported her.

Janet and Ellie still had a long road in front of them, but they were both confident that they were heading in the right direction. Janet allowed herself to rely more on her friends, while Ellie's body gradually began to change under the influence of the hormones running through her veins. However, both women knew that life wasn't done setting them obstacles- as Ellie would find out when she returned to college at the start of September...

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