The notice board, in keeping with tradition, is tired and worn. With chunks of the cork knocked out, drips of paint from various attempts to liven up the entrance to the community centre, and a small selection of “local happenings”. It kinda shows we’re one of those villages that’s just far enough off the beaten track to be a bit dead.
“...Rap battle, Beachy Head vs. the Brown Liberation Front... again? Can’t those idiots find someone else to talk at?” that’s Maisie, she’s the angry one.
“At least it means the BLF twins won’t be racing quads down Front Street on Saturday.” And that’s Katie, she’s the sarcastic one.
“How have they not been arrested yet?” and that’s me, Ashton Gilbert, token boy/honorary girl.
“Hell if I know. Still looks like the best thing we can get to on sat?” we’re all 13, all summer babies, mine the only b-day in term-time (some years).
“Yeah, might as well, not like we can get anywhere else with the busses on strike. Why the hell are they on strike on whit week anyway?”
“Can’t strike in term time, they lose school contracts if they miss just one run.” I know cause my dad drives for one of the coach companies, just as a way to fill in time, he’s got a decent military pension (which is kinda weird... and a little scary).
“So they’re shitting up our hols instead?” She’s a bit angry, well, no more than usual.
“Well yeah, we’re just kids, like we matter to them. And I’m gonna say no to the rap battle, not really in the mood to listen to a midlife-crisis-dressed-like-stereophonics and the farm brats with weird socio-political views about a literal colour rapping at each other so badly they make Vanilla Ice and John Cena look like masters of the art. Anything up there that’s gonna hit us next week?” redirect, redirect, redirect... maybe it’ll work, for once.
“Old biddies Tai chi is moved up an hour up right next to you two with the Brownies, and only other thing on on thurs is some ‘trans support group’ about an hour and a half after us.” They don’t trust Maise around the Brownies, her temper is a little short for long exposure to sprogs.
“We’ll be fine on tues, Brownies are finishing early and starting way early, doing a rush on badges, half term innit.” Oh and, in case it wasn’t obvious from us doing things with the Brownies, we’re Girl Guides (the guy who is leader of the only Boy Scouts troop in the village has a serious hate-on for my dad, something about a schoolyard fight and a broken nose. So when I was depserate to do scouty things as a tiny sproglet, I ended up in Rainbow Guides)
“What about Friday, this and next? Got rehearsals for Dick Whittington this and emptying out the costumes cupboard to see what’ll fit for it, what’s fit for the skip and what we need to get quote-unquote ‘new’ next.” And with the role I’ve got I’m totally going for it, this’ll go way beyond ‘testing the waters’. Hell, my life has gone way beyond ‘testing the waters’, at some point someone has to call me out on this, right?
“Can’t see anything other than our theatre stuff. Still can’t believe you’ve really going for it Ash.” Katie has to catch it soon? I can’t believe we’ve been friends this long and she hasn’t got it yet... Maise I can understand not getting it, she didn’t even realise her mam and Katie’s mam had been dating, and doing a terrible job of hiding it... for like 3 years.
“Oh yeah, if nothing else, I’m gonna look bitching in that costume.” Hopefully that I’ve been on diy HRT for over a year isn’t too obvious in it mind.
“Girls, Ash, come on we’re starting.”
It feels proper weird for the rest of the family to be packing for hols and me to just not, but then I don’t want to go anywhere near Uncle (technically 1st cousin once removed) Gareth ever again, especially not where it’s him acting like he owns grandma’s house.
“Are you sure you want to stay here Sproglet?” I do love my dad, but sometimes he gets a bit smothering. Glad he doesn’t live up to the rest of the widower dad/military dad stereotypes too much.
“Yes, for the fortieth time dad; Yes I want to stay here.” Seriously, just finish packing and go, I want some privacy!
“Well you do realise just how much I’m trusting you right.” Oh for smegs sake, not this all over again.
“Yess daddy. And if know I have any problems I need to go next door and ask Miss Winkler for help and if it’s really bad to call you as well. I’m not Will, you can trust me to not burn down the house.” If he’s trying to stare me down, it works better when his glass eye isn’t rolled round to the brand logo side of it.
“HEY!... I only burned down the shed.” That’s Will, 17, my littlest big brother, our bigger brothers are all off at uni or working.
“Will, be quiet, you’re not doing yourself any favours, just put the last of the bags in the Landie and get in.” Oh no, it’s extra serious face dad, this isn’t going to be fun...
“Ash, you do know that you can come to me about anything right? Any secrets you can’t deal with on your own. I won’t judge you, I just want you to be safe and happy. That’s why I’m trusting you kiddo.” Shitohshitohshitdoes he know?!? Be cool Ash, don’t blow the game now.
“Daaaad.” Whining teen is a good deflection right, right?
“Yeah, ‘dad’, it’s my job to be all weird like that innit. Now be good and don’t do anything Will would do.”
-“HEY!!!” is he listening at the door?
“Bye sport. See you in a week.” ... he kissed me on the head... he never kisses any of us on the head... shit, he knows he knows he knows he knows... one last week of freedom...
... Shit, got to get to rehearsal!
Well it’s obvious what I’m doing today isn’t it, spending the whole day as me and getting all my homework done right off. What, you want to know what I’m wearing? Dude I’m 13, lay off a bit, sheesh. Okay fine, it’s a pair of gray sweats with pink stripes down the legs and a green slouch T, both with paint stains, happy? I’ve got art homework and it’s hoying it down so I figured I would paint some of my warhammer stuff after, why would I ruin a second set of clothes if I’ve already got a set of paintys?
Just because it’s a staycation doesn’t let me get away with no chores, and I might as well do them on schedule, better that than panicking to get them all done on Saturday morning before Dad and Will get home. Especially cause they’re all indoors and can all be done as me, well today’s isn’t, but our lawn is only overlooked by Miss Winkler’s study, she’s the only person who knows Ash is more Ashley than Ashton, and we’ve sorta got a mutually assured destruction thing going on, I might explain it at some point.
“You look just like your mother did when she was your age in that dress, especially with how you’re fighting that mower, just like she use too.” ... I can believe that last, this is mam’s childhood home, and this bloody mower has a Radio Shack label.
“Hey there Miss Winkler, checking up on me already?”
“Don’t start that, of course your dad asked me to keep an eye or two on you.” of course he did, “Now give me a twirl, let’s see how it looks up close”
“It’s not too short for your standards?” It does only reach mid thigh on my when I’m standing still.
“Cheeky brat, and no it’s perfect.”
“You really think so?”
“Of course sweetheart, it’s like looking back in the past, well, except there’s no one to take the place of your dad hanging about... or is there?”
“No, not yet, you’re still the only person who knows, and you only know because I worked you out first, not ready to be coming out to everyone yet.” Nope, nuh uh.
“You know your father isn’t stupid, rather too quick with his fists, but definitely not stupid. You don’t get pulled up from the ranks for intel work if you can’t see what’s right in front of you. Will has your mother’s looks too, but he never looked just like her, you really think your dad, retired Major in non-descript ‘military intelligence’ hasn’t been paying attention to you?”
“Well yeah, I’m not stupid either, but Will keeps things... exciting [jazz hands] enough most of the time that Dad is always busy cleaning up his messes instead of mothering me.”
“That’s a bit of a risk to be risking your future on.”
“I can’t tell him, not just yet.”
“You won’t be able to hide those for much longer sweetheart.” The dress does show off the girls in an understated but there sorta way.
“If he confronts me I can deal, just can’t say it.”... I think I can deal, “and I think he’s on side-ish already, he put Gareth in the pond when he went off at me about being ‘a sissy’ at easter.”
And now she looks angry, “Never liked that little shit, woulda expelled him if I’d ever been able to pin anything big on him.” ...okay, Very angry, now I get why dad says he was scared of her when she was Head at the primary school, “is that why you’re staying here then?”
“Your Grandma was always reasonable when I had to deal with her, I can’t see her taking Gareth’s side.”
“It’s easier to just stay away and keep secret. If I’m not around family I can’t slip up around family. And don’t say it’d make things easier, misses I’m-so-stealth-not-even-the-government-knows-about-me.”
“Okay, I’ll drop it. For now.” Better than nothing I guess. “Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you’re planning on spending this whole week as yourself?”
“Well things are pretty quiet for me this week, the only kids I’ve got are here when you’re off with the Guides, so you are safe to come round and use the pool as yourself. Tomorrow. I think with the state of that mower you’ll be at this the rest of the day. Have fun.”
Clean my room (which while making sense on Monday outside the holidays makes sod all sense in half terms), pool stuff, “listen” to Maisie bitching over the phone about their mams dragging them on a family day out... “listen” to phonecalls from Katie bitching about Maisie bitching about everything, bitchy phonecall to Yodel for their driver blatantly lying about delivering a parcel, angry phonecall to Hermes for their driver blatantly lying about delivering a parcel that they have fake delivered twice already, all the normal things you end up dealing with in half term.
Brownies this week is more exhausting than usual, doing a bit of a badge rush lasting most of the day. I mean I get to dress as me outside (helped by a visiting higher up complaining about me going about without a bra a year or so ago, giving me an excuse to wear one for Guides, and just in general to “get used to it”, very useful now DIY has me growing me.) but I am still technically a boy there and all the little kids sorta know, so it’s a bit draining dealing with them.
Bit worrying how much Katie has been staring at me though; my ass isn’t anywhere near good enough to justify her burning a hole through my skirt.
Well at least one of my parcels arrived when it was supposed to today, getting nervous though, the Japan exclusive Warhammer stuff isn’t what I need to keep hidden from dad though (hell, most of this order is for him anyway). What’s the point of ordering my ‘mones to be delivered while dad is away if they fuck about with the delivery till he gets back.
“Hey Ash, wanna lift when the mams get here? Looks like someone pissed off Thor out there” As crude as she is, Maisie has got a point, or would if I actually were leaving anytime soon.
“Nah, gonna wait, see if it dies down a bit, got my brolly anyway.”
“Alright, see you at rehearsal tomorrow?” I’m going to try my hardest for you not too; your stares are getting way too intense.
“Can’t really miss it, Madame Bernard would skin me alive if I missed first fitting.”
“That’s tomorrow? Might sneak in, I’m literally dying to see you in tights with your arse almost hanging out, can’t believe you’ve got a boy as principal boy.”
... well, no we don’t.
“There’s our ride, good luck getting home.”
“Oh, I thought all the Guides would have been gone by now, waiting for a lift?” Well, either there’s two people in town with subdued but still apparent French accents... or I’m about to make tomorrow’s fitting much easier when/if I turn around...
This is even harder than I thought it would be. Okay Ash, deep breath and turn around.
“Ash?” Come on, you can do this. “What’s wrong?” am I crying? “Whatever it is we can sort it out kiddo.”
“I... this... sorry.”
Way. To. Go. Idiot! You left your bag and brolly there, and now Miss Winkler is going to go all fussy about you turning up soaking wet after her spare key.
What a successful evening.
Okay Ash, keep cool, you’re already late, just sneak in, act like nothing happened, get fitted, say you have to be home for a delivery of dad’s stuff and get the fuck outta here...
“Ah there you are Ash,” so much for sneaking in, “and here I was thinking you’d caught a chill after running off in the rain like that last night.”
“N..nope, ready for fitting and everything, gonna have to jet off after i’m done, delivery drivers have been the usual.” She’s gonna bite my head off isn’t she. I can’t look.
“It’s alright sweetie, I’ve just been setting up the best Dick outfits in the little room, give you a bit of privacy checking them out, I doubt you want to showing off to everyone.” ...if it’s this hard dealing with her, how bad is it going to be when it comes to Dad.
“...Um, about yesterday...”
“You can tell me whatever it is when you’re actually ready and not pushing it just cause it was on when you had an excuse to force yourself to it.”
“...Can you just keep it really quiet, I’m not ready to come out yet... yesterday was a mistake...”
“That’s quite alright, now quickly try those costumes on, and you can go home.”
Well, this week has been a right farce... at least Yodel actually delivered my meds, 2 hours earlier than the arranged time, at least I’ve got 4 months of them ready now, honestly just wanna go to bed (even if it is only like 2pm).
“Hey Ash! You alive in there?” shit... if I keep quiet maybe she’ll think I’m not here “You’ve been all weird and Bertie was all unconcerned about you not been there today.”
Please just go away Katie...
“Miss Winkler said you’re in, you can’t play the ‘I’m not in’ trick on me.”
I won’t need to open the door the way she’s hammering on it.
“I’m not going to leave you here, you’ve got me all worried.”
Fuck it, let’s get this over with.
“Why? I’m fine, you’re the weird one, staring at me all the
“You’re not fine, something’s been up with you for a while, even Maisie has started to notice it.”
“So what, you’re gonna put me on pseudo-suicide watch?”
“Just keep an eye on you, till your dad get’s back.”
“Fine, whatever, come in, make yourself at home.”
How long does it take to go to the toilet, she’s been gone 20 mins... shit.
Of course she’d take the chance to snoop...
“Katie! You okay up there?”
Bathroom is empty, which mean’s she’s in my room.
...okay, this feels (and probably looks) really backwards... and I think we need to have a talk about opening other people’s mail.
“Why Ash?” oh shit, has she been crying
Fine, lets both sit in the tiny space under my desk, why not.
“... Because this is the real me.”
“Duh, I got that from the bag of hormones that you’ve obviously been taking for a while. I mean, why didn’t you tell us?”
“I’m not mad, I’m scared for you. You’ve been all weird and secretive for ages and it’s been like Dad not telling us he was sick all over again...”
“I’m scared, scared about everything. It’s so hard to tell anyone.”
“But we’ve been so cool about everything that’s now clearly been testing the waters.”
“Worried you’ve all just been humouring the weird boy.”
“Ash, why would you think that?”
“Because I’m scared. Can we just leave things at now for tonight, you know now, isn’t that enough for now?”
“Alright, still not letting you out of my sight till your dad gets home mind.”
“Well hello there, what do we have here, has my little brother become a man?”... uggh, what’s Will doing home already?
Why is Katie in bed with me... “What are you doing in my room!”
“Dad wanted me to check you’re alive up here, and I find you’re very alive. I’ll give you a few mins to sort yourself out, don’t want Dad to catch you two in bed together with no tops on, you know how strict he is.”
No tops? NO TOPS?!? ... and covers up to the collarbone.. phew.
“Was that Will? Being nice?” why is she so calm.
“Can’t have been... mutual incompatibles thingy.”
“You are fucking useless when you’ve just woken up.”
“... Gimmie a break, it’s been a bad few days.”
“Yeah well, we kinda needa get dressed, I don’t want the ‘protective dad’ routine from the guy with serious facial battle scars, especially when I’m not the sister who wants into his daughters knickers.”
“Get dressed, and I’ll see you later.” How’d she get dressed that quick?
“Finally, the conquering hero graces us with his presence.” I have really missed Will this week... not.
“Will, don’t be so crude. And go get some milk, we’re out and I’d like a brew some time soon.”
“Oh come on, you’ve always given us hard times about bringing girlfriends round, why’s Ashton get off easy?”
“Because one; Ash hasn’t ever tried to sneak anyone in, and two; I am fairly sure there isn’t actually anything like that going on here.”
Does he hate doors or something?
“Now then sweetie, I think we need to have a father-daughter chat, don’t you.”
“I only lost one eye, I’m not blind. You do remember downstairs and outside are wired with cameras right?”
all folks... ain’t I a stinker ;)
(This is a bit trash, I ran out of
time and have been struggling to write for a while (since I moved last year
tbh) so basically cut the entire reason for going to brownies and shortened a
bunch of other bits, there’s probably loadsa polishing missing. Fuck it,
something is better than nothing right?)
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