The Widower

It was a bright mild sunny summer day, not right for a funeral, Skies should be grey and cloudy, the rain should be coming down, it should all help to stress the misery of why we were here.

I was coming out of the crematorium with Colin, the husband of Julie, my best friend since schooldays, we had just seen her coffin go behind the curtains to the strains of her favourite hymn, Jerusalem. Colin had given a wonderful eulogy of his life with and love for Julie, I had shared memories of our times together through challenging schooldays, teenage years of angst, joy and despair, and our continued friendship after we made our lives after our marriages.

Julie had been a lively bubbly girl and woman, always the first to offer to help if someone was in difficulties, which is what had led to her death, her murder to be more precise. Details were sketchy, the only witness was about 100 yards away and did not have a clear view, at least not enough for the police to be able to make any progress. From what they had seen Julie had gone to help a young woman who was being attacked by three men, and ended up with a knife through her heart. The attackers, and the other victim, left the scene before the witness could get there, realise she was dead and call the police. There was no credible witness, no evidence left behind, no weapon with fingerprints, no footprints on the pavement, no DNA traces on her clothes or body, the police thought that they hadn’t even touched her, just took away her life with one lunge, they were unable to make any progress, although they were trying. They desperately needed to contact the woman who was being attacked, but she hadn’t come forward despite TV appeals.

“ Colin, are you alright, you don’t have to go to the hall for the tea, I can look after people and explain that you were too upset, everyone will understand.”

“I am obviously upset Karen, but I am more angry and annoyed that this has happened to her, she was a lovely woman, liked by everyone, and didn’t deserve what happened. The police are getting nowhere and it is looking like the murdering scum will get away unpunished, life is do unfair. I will go along to meet everyone who came today, it is expected of me, I’ll just have to put on a brave face for an hour, and then go home and let all my tears and anger come out in private.”

“ If you want, I’ll come back home with you, I know you will want to be alone with your thoughts, I did when Mark died of cancer last year. At least Julie didn’t have to go through the prolonged pain and agony for months, it was awful seeing Mark just waste away.”

“ That’s kind of you Karen, i really appreciate it, if Julie could have chosen anyone to help me through all this , it would have been you. I know how close Julie and you were over the years and I accepted your friendship but we have never been close, we were always at opposite edges of the circle of her friends and acquaintances.“

After an hour of sympathetic discussions with people, friendly hands on his shoulder, and offers to call people if he needed to talk or needed any help, Colin needed to get away and left for home. I followed him there and invited myself in and went to the kitchen to make tea, but he said that he needed something stronger and I poured out two whiskeys. We sat for a while, me doing most of the talking, telling stories of all my adventures with Julie, and how I would miss her days and nights out with me, before I left for home.

After work the following day, I rang Colin to say that I would pop in on my way home. When I arrived the front door was unlocked and I went into the hall and called out for him.

“I’m upstairs having a shower, go into the kitchen and make yourself at home, I’ll be down in a few minutes.” he replied

“Sorry if I caught you at an awkward time, but I thought I’d just call in to make sure you are looking after yourself ok. After Mark died I just sat and cried for days, feeling sorry for myself as much as for Mark, but after a while I realised that I had to get on with my life, he wouldn’t have wanted me to lock myself away. You might think that I’m interfering, but I only want to help you see that you need to pull yourself together again.”

“Karen, feel free to say and do whatever you think might help, my mind is all over the place at the moment and having someone to be sympathetic when I need it, but telling it like it is when that is necessary too, is exactly what I need.”

I became a regular visitor on the way home from work over the next few weeks, Colin and I got on really well and I found him very easy to talk to. He had trained as an actor before going into theatre management and show production and enthralled me with stories of well-known showbiz personalities that he had worked with or knew personally. He was working again, but from home, organising his next big show, a Christmas pantomime, Aladdin, at the local theatre, arranging casting with actors’ agents, advance publicity, working with his musical director on the scores and orchestral requirements. it was all keeping him busy and, at least during the daytime, distracting him from thoughts of Julie.

I normally called in advance to let him know when I was coming, but I had left work early one day and forgot to phone and just turned up at the house. The door was unlocked so I just walked through to his study/office, but instead of finding him there, a woman was sitting at his desk engrossed in the computer screen listening to show music, not realising that I had come in.

“Excuse me, is Colin about?” i shouted over the noise of the music, and she turned quickly around, startled.

I suddenly realised that it was not a woman, but Colin. Despite a well-styled wig, perfect make-up and a stylish skirt and low-cut top showing a hint of cleavage she was recognisable as Colin, or a twin sister, that I knew he didn’t have. We stared at each other for what seemed like several minutes, neither of us knowing what to say or how to say it.

“You didn’t call to say you were coming, I never wanted you to find me like this. I don’t suppose you will be visiting any more now.” he said with a feminine lilt to his voice.

“I am still in a state of shock, and don’t know how to react. Can we sit down for a minute while I get my thoughts together, or better still, can I go and get us some drinks?”

“You know where everything is, help yourself, I’m not in a position to argue even if I wanted to.”

While I was getting the drinks my mind was racing, It was obvious from how well he was made up and the tone of his voice, that this was not the first time for him, even with his past as an actor he was into the role too well for that. I couldn’t decide whether I was shocked, or offended, or disappointed, or amazed at how good and natural he looked. The one thing I did know was that I couldn’t just walk out on him, he was still too emotionally fragile from Julie’s death, I would have to sit down and talk this through with him.

“ Don’t worry Colin, I am not going to start screaming at you and calling you names, but I would like you to explain to me what this is all about. I feel daft calling you Colin when you are dressed like that, do you have a female name you like to use?’

“ I don’t know where to start, I feel very uncomfortable having been caught like this, I wish it had not happened, I value your friendship too much and wouldn’t like to lose it.”

“Just relax, over the last few weeks we have had long conversations about all sorts of stuff and have been open with each other, just pretend it is one of our normal chats. I will try to do the same.”

“You can call me Caroline or Carrie. From when I was young, playing with my sisters I have always dressed up occasionally. When I am stressed I find that it relaxes me and gives me a feeling of peace and calm, don’t ask me why or how, I don’t know, it just does. Julie accepted it as long as it was only occasionally, and was kept discreet and private, and other than that we had a full and happy personal relationship. Since she died I have been dressing more often, wearing any of her clothes that fit me, I am not that much bigger than she is…was, and wearing her stuff somehow makes me feel closer to her and eases my pain.”

“Believe it or not, I can understand that, when Mark died I got a lot of comfort just hugging his clothes, sensing his scent, feeling him in the materials of his clothes, you have just taken it a stage further by wearing Julie’s stuff. What are we going to do about this, do you want to wear Julie’s clothes all the time, or is it just a tension relief that you need occasionally.”

“To be honest, apart from when I know you or anyone else is coming, I am wearing female clothes all the time, and even when I am dressed as Colin I am wearing feminine underwear. That time a few weeks ago when you arrived and I shouted down that I was in the shower, I was hurriedly getting changed and cleaning off my make-up. It’s getting to the stage where it is becoming a habit for me, I just dress in her clothes automatically without even thinking about it.”

“You look really good as a woman, your make-up is perfect, you have your wig styled nice and neat, and you have good taste in clothes, why don’t you just live as a woman full-time, who is going to know? Do you have regular visitors other than the postman and delivery drivers, do you have much to do with the neighbours?”

“I never see the neighbours, we are quite secluded here with trees and hedges all around, and despite what was said after the funeral nobody has called to see how I am apart from you. I would be surprised if anyone would even notice. I really appreciate you coming round here and talking to me, it has helped me a lot, I truly hope that you finding me like this does not cause that to stop”

“Don’t worry about that, I can live with it if you can. In any case, you cannot lock yourself away in here for ever, you need to get out, get some fresh air, and get used to meeting people as Caroline. Put on a coat, otherwise you are ok as you are, and we’ll go for a walk in the park and stop for a coffee somewhere.”

With Colin holding onto me as if he was drowning and clutching to a lifebelt, we left the house arm in arm and walked to the park, getting a few “ Hello, lovely day isn’t it” and other polite meaningless comments and as nobody had made any comments or given us funny looks Colin was getting more relaxed The park was quite busy, people taking their toddlers to the play area, people out walking their dogs, joggers - none of who ever looked happy- and everybody just passed us by and Colin was beginning to enjoy his first trip outside the house dressed as Carrie. We stopped at the park café and I convinced Colin that we should go in and he should get used to being with other people accepting him as a woman.

“ I’m going to the loo Carrie, the fresh air always does things to my system. If the waitress comes over just order me a coffee and Danish and whatever you want.” I quickly got up and left before Carrie had a chance to make me stay to place the order. When I came back she had passed her next big test, ordering our stuff and exchanging pleasantries with the waitress.

“You’re smiling, that wasn’t too bad was it, I saw you chatting with the waitress, just relax and act normal, nobody will ever realise who you are. From now on when you are dressed in a skirt you are Carrie, Colin has gone away”

When we went to leave Carrie realised that she had come out without any money and asked me to pick up the bill.

“Next lesson for you Carrie, a woman never goes anywhere without her handbag, you need it for your purse and keys and all sorts of feminine accessories. You’ve never needed one before, you always had pockets for stuff, but for women pockets are decorative not for putting stuff in, you don’t want to spoil the line of your clothes. When we get you home, I’ll dig out an everyday handbag for you from Julie’s collection.”

Our days out together became a regular thing, the park and café became a routine visit, walks around town and down at the riverside, visits to the cinema theatre and pub/restaurants, and generally mixing with people. Carrie was now totally relaxed and comfortable when out and dressed and we had even gone clothes shopping, with her trying on clothes and asking opinions of myself and the sales assistants. It was as if I had found a new girlfriend to relive some of the times I had previously spent with Julie, and I was beginning to be comfortable and happy with Carrie and was now treating her as I would any other woman friend rather than as the widowed husband of my long-time friend.

“You seem to be settling in as Carrie, have you given any thought as to what you want to do. Sooner or later you are going to have to put in an appearance at the theatre about your pantomime show. You could have a dual life, Colin during the day at work and Carrie at home, or full time as Colin with occasional visits to Carrie, or full time as Carrie. Theatre people have a reputation for being quite tolerant about sexuality and gender fluidity, you know better than me whether you would be accepted as Carrie. I must say though that your speech, mannerisms and the way you carry yourself are becoming very feminine ”

“ I’ve been thinking that myself, it may sound stupid, but I think I would be more accepted as Carrie rather than as an effeminate version of Colin, nowadays transgenderism is becoming more tolerated, even if not fully accepted, but, as you say, theatricals are a lot more open. I have a couple of long-term trustworthy friends in the theatre world, I’ll have a word with them to see what they think. My main problem, I think, would be with the police, they are still getting nowhere with finding who murdered Julie, and are calling me up or coming to the house to keep me updated on their lack of progress, I’m not sure that they would be as understanding.”

After a few days, and talking to friends in the theatrical profession and a serious conversation with me, Carrie decided to go full-time as a woman and come out of the closet.

“Right girl, if you are going to do this properly we need to get you completely and unmistakably transformed. You are using breast forms which are quite good but you need to have them fixed on, they look good just loose in the bra but the movement is not right, nowadays most women do not go for the firm fixed look, it is usual to let them jiggle a bit. Secondly although it is a quality wig you have, your own hair is now long enough to be styled and a natural look is always better, i’ll get you an appointment for a re-style and a full makeover, I think you will turn out to be an attractive woman if you look after yourself properly.

After full day in the beauty parlour, Carrie’s hair had been styled, coloured and highlighted, she had a full waxing, manicure, pedicure and makeover, she had her breast forms glued on, and came out to the car for me to drive her home looking not just attractive, but beautiful and totally feminine.

“Wow, you are looking fantastic, you put me to shame, I must book myself in for my regular cut and styling.” I said, not just being complimentary but genuinely feeling a bit dowdy in comparison.

Carrie expected her first day meeting her theatre cast and crew to be traumatic, and toned down her dress style to slacks and a baggy woollen top with flat shoes, and asked me to go in with her. It turned out that she had no need to worry, after a few minutes explaining her situation, and getting mostly very favourable comments, they all just got on with their jobs and treated Carrie in a totally nothing-out-of-the-ordinary way. One problem less to deal with.

However when you think things are going well something always comes along to spoil it. When I took Carrie home again, the doorbell went and when I answered the door I was faced with PC Sarah Marshall , the police family liaison officer looking after Colin’s case. Before taking her through I quickly explained Colin’s personal situation and the fact that he was now living as Carrie, and left them to discuss the case details.

“ Good evening Carrie, it has all been explained to me and your presentation as a female does not make any difference to me, I am still happy to be your contact with the force. However the news is not good, without some new evidence, or a reliable witness, preferably the victim of the initial attack, there is not much chance of progress. Despite our TV appeals nobody has come forward and there were no reports of anyone turning up at A&E with any sort of attack injuries.”

“ Why would anyone not come forward with information particularly as Julie was murdered trying to help them?”

“ We can’t be sure, but the only thought we have is that the attack took place near a club frequented by LGBT people and perhaps the victim had been to the club and for personal reasons does not want to be identified. Maybe the woman victim was gay or even a cross-dresser and is still not ‘out’, but that is probably just a lot of macho lad’s talk by the investigation team, they can be a bit like that.”

“But surely if it was a homophobic attack the people in the club should be pleased to help?”

“We have had a team talking to people down at the club, but nobody seems too willing to talk, understandably there is not a lot of trust in the police to be discreet, not fair really but that is the attitude we are up against. We are sure that, if we could break down the wall of silence, someone there must have been the attack victim, or at least have a good idea as to who they are.’

“Thanks anyway Sarah for keeping me in the picture, and I appreciate your understanding of my new lifestyle, but can you please not put it on record yet or let the team know, it’s not relevant to your investigations.”

When Sarah had left Carrie brought me up to date, and although happy that the investigation was continuing, she was extremely frustrated at the lack of progress.

“I have an idea Carrie, sometimes the police know more than they are telling. I know a reporter on the local paper and they often have inside information, or even details that the police are not aware of, and although they officially respect the wishes of the police to keep some information away from the public eye, they are less discreet about unofficially voicing their opinions.”

“ It can’t do any harm Karen, make your phone calls and see what you can find out.”

I met my friendly reporter for a drink and a chat and he filled me in on a lot of information that was not being made public. The police were convinced that it was someone who had been at the club that was attacked, but were unable to break the wall of silence there. The newspaper had sent someone in who was known at the club, but other than an acknowledgement that it had been one of their customers was not able to drag out any further details, reporters were almost as distrusted as the police.

Carrie and i decided that the only way to try to get close enough to people was for her and I to go to the club, her as an obvious cross-dresser rather than looking like the attractive woman she had now become, and with me in tow as the long-suffering partner giving support.

“Right girl, we need to go shopping, the clothes you have are too conventional and ordinary everyday wear, you need something really over the top to give the right impression.” and we ended up at a party wear shop looking through racks of glittery mini dresses.

“ This one will be perfect, go and try it on.” I said holding up a silver lurex mini dress with a draped top.

I can’t wear this,” Carrie said when she came out of the changing room, “it’s far too short, I’ll hardly be able to move without showing off my knickers.”

“Welcome to the world of seductive party wear Carrie, it will give exactly the right impression of over-the-top lack of taste. What you need to go with it are some silver fishnet tights and a pair of FM stilettos.”

A couple of nights later, with Carrie heavily made up and in her party gear, more like a drag queen than an everyday woman, we made our way to the club. One look by the doorman at Carrie and we were welcomed inside. The place was surprisingly tasteful, I had expected a much seedier bit of a dive. The clientele were totally varied and covered the whole LGBT spectrum, male couples, female couples, drag queens, shy introvert cross-dressers, and several natural, or naturally-looking women and men. As new visitors, we were treated with a bit of uncertainty at first, but soon people started to come over and introduce themselves. It became obvious that there were two main categories of clientele, those wanting a quiet comfortable night out somewhere they could just be themselves, and the sexual predators looking for a pick-up. We quickly let it be known that we were in the first category, and were left alone by those on the prowl and started talking to a few of the others. We kept off the subject of the attack and Julie’s murder, but talked generally about the difficulties of living a double life in a not-very-tolerant society.”

Having done enough to gain peoples’ confidence, we left the club for Carrie’s. She told me that she had never been more glad to get in, kick of the stilettos, slip out of the dress into something more comfortable and get rid of the overlong false lashes.

“Welcome to the real world of womanhood Carrie, kicking off stilettos and getting out of tight slinky clothes into something more comfortable is something that we all enjoy. Party wear is great if you are on the pull but generally is not made for comfort”

As it was getting late I had decided to stop over for the night and we went through the nightly routine of cleaning off make-up and moisturising, while discussing what we thought of the club and how to go about getting someone to talk.

“I need to go back a few times to let people get to know me a bit, some of the others seemed happy to chat and I think that I may be able to get them to open up. I don’t know how comfortable you felt in there Karen and whether you are happy to go back, it’s not really your scene, in fact it’s not mine either, I just want to be accepted as an everyday ordinary woman in the street, not as a caricature of someone trying to be something that I’m not.”

“I’m perfectly happy to go back with you anytime, but I think you might be more readily accepted and be able to gain more confidences by yourself.”

“I’ll go back tomorrow night then, but I think I will tone it down a bit, we went a bit over-the-top tonight.”

Carrie’s story

The next night I went back alone, still looking like a cross-dresser but not quite as garishly made up or dressed as the previous time. I was welcomed with a smile by the doorman and the barman, who remembered me from my visit with Karen.

“On your own are you love, no missus in tow tonight?”

“ No,” I said,” smiling sweetly “I just thought that I’d come by myself. She just came along last night to make sure I was ok”

“Well just be careful someone was attacked just along the way from here not long ago, a girl on her own can’t be too careful.”

“Oh, I heard that on the local news programme, but didn’t relate it to here. It wasn’t one of your customers was it?”

“ It was one of our regulars, but we are trying to keep it quiet, we don’t want to frighten off our customers.”

“ Poor girl, is she alright, I heard that the police have not been able to trace her?”

“ She’s fine, just had a few scratches and bruises, but most of them have gone away now. She has been back since then, and will probably be in later, it is one of her usual nights.”

Hardly able to contain my excitement and control my interest, I chatted to a few people I had met before, just general things, leaving alone the topic of the attack. Mostly they were a friendly and welcoming crowd, as last night there were a few on the prowl looking for pick-ups, but word soon got round that I wasn’t interested and I was left alone. Later an attractive and fashionably dressed young woman came in, looked around saw the people I was talking to, waved, and came over to join us.

“Hi Sharon, this is Carrie, she’s new here, she’s on her own, you don’t mind if she stays do you?”

“Pleased to meet you Carrie.” she said in sultry tones, obviously a cross-dresser, but pretty convincing. In fact, Carrie guessed that all of the group were really male.

I noticed that Sharon had some fading bruises and a recent scar on her forearm, and realised that she was the person I was looking for. The club was not the sort of place where real names and addresses were passed around, the ‘girls’ only knew each other’s female names. However I asked all the girls if they were regular visitors and when they next intended to come, and arranged to meet Sharon and a few of the others, same day next week.


The following morning, Carrie called PC Sarah Marshall to ask her to come round as she had some information for her, I stayed with Carrie to act as a witness and also to keep her in check in case she started to say too much.

“Right Sarah, you were not getting anywhere, so I decided to see if I could find out anything myself. I have found the attack victim, it’s not a female, but a cross-dresser who is a regular at the club near the scene of the attack. I also know what she looks like and when she will next be there, but before I give you any more details I want to meet your senior officer to get assurances from the police and the Crown Protection Service (CPS) that this will all be handled sensitively and discreetly and that any witness court appearances if needed will be anonymous or by video link with the names of the victim and myself withheld and no identification. There must be no leaks to the press or to lawyers representing the attackers of her and Julie. This has all been very traumatic for me and I don’t think I want it made worse by lurid stories in the papers”

“ I understand your feelings, my partner Jack, a fellow police officer, was killed while trying to arrest an armed robber and every time I read anything in the papers about it it cut me to pieces and I broke down crying, reporters are relentless if they think they have a good story. That is a good piece of work, I am not senior enough give you any assurances like that, I need to talk to the DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) managing the investigation. Let me make a call, explain the situation and see what he says.”

DCI Jack Cummings agreed to meet, on Carrie’s terms, and came alone. He assured us that at the moment he was acting alone, and he would be treating Carrie and I as his personal informers with no details given to anyone else on the team. At this stage he could not speak for the CPS, but guaranteed that if they would not agree then our evidence would not be handed over to them.

A few days later when Sharon was expected at the club, Jack Cummings, Sarah, Carrie and I waited in a car just down the road from the club, ready for Sharon to turn up. Carrie saw her walking up the street from behind us and just as she was passing the car Carrie got out to talk to her, leaving the door open so that we could catch the conversation.

“Hi Sharon, it’s Carrie, we met last week, could I have a word with you before you go into the club? It is very important. I know that you were attacked a while ago and are probably very wary, but we do need to speak. It will be easier if you just got in the car, but if you prefer we can just walk around a bit, or we can go into the club, but it might be better if we don’t go in there.”

“What do you want?”

“The people who attacked you will do it again. They have already killed one person, next time it may be you or one of your friends from the club. If you can give the police any help at all they may be able to stop these people.”

“I don’t want to get involved, you know what it is like, if anyone found out about me, my life would be ruined.”

“ I can assure you that the police have promised to be discreet, only those people sitting in the car will know about you, and even they will not ask your true identity without your permission, please, this is really important, it was my wife that was killed trying to help you.”

“ I’m so sorry about that, it was not a random attack, they were out to get me personally. I’ll come with you, but not to the police station, can we go somewhere else private?”

We all went back to Carrie’s house and I busied myself making coffee, while they all started to discuss the details of what had happened.

“ Sharon, at this stage I won’t ask for any personal details from you, but I might need to in the future, but you are in control of that. Please tell me what you know.” Sarah was leading the questioning as Jack felt that she would get a more sympathetic response than he would.”

“I had just left the club, when three men stopped me, grabbed my arm and held me from behind and started calling me lots of nasty names, ‘Tranny’ and ‘Queer’ being the most repeatable. Apparently one of them had tried to chat me up a few days earlier, thinking that I was a young woman, and I had shouted at him to leave me alone, pushed him out of my way and ran down to the main road where there were people about. He had then realised from my voice that I was really a man and was annoyed and embarrassed that he had been fooled. Anyway the night of the attack they threatened me, that if I really wanted to be a woman they would help by cutting off my p…..manhood. that’s why they had the knife handy when your wife came to help me.”

“Would you recognise them again from mugshots we have, it’s a long shot but we might already have them on record.”

“ Oh, I would recognise them ok, one of them had a big scar on his cheek and his nose had been badly broken at some time, the others nothing too distinctive, but I would know them.”

“When was the first attack on you, we checked local CCTV for the night of the murder and there were no clear images, but we might have better luck on the other night.”

“It was the previous Thursday, it was a lovely clear summer’s evening and it was still daylight, so you might have a better chance.”

“ Have you cleaned the clothes you were wearing on the night of the attack, forensics may be able to get some traces of DNA, or fingerprints from your handbag.”

“I still have them hung up or in the wash basket, and this is the same handbag. There’s not much in it , if Carrie can lend me another you can take it with you for testing.”

“ Right Sharon,” Jack Cummings interrupted, “that gives us something to look into, you have been a big help. I suggest that while we are investigating this, that you do not go to the club, or if you do, make sure you have someone with you, these people may come after you again.”

After the police left, Sharon stayed with Carrie and I for a while and told us a bit more about herself. She worked , as a male, as a manager in a travel agency along with a team of women travel advisers. Although nobody knew of his habit of dressing in female clothes, one of the women had one day remarked that he talked a bit like Sharon Watts, a character in the Soap Eastenders and the name stuck and was soon used around the office more than his real name. The other women were all very friendly and tried to include him in their conversations and social activities, but he was always on the fringes rather than being one of the group.

“ Sharon,” suggested Carrie, “ I am now living full-time as a woman, my work colleagues readily accepted it, and as far as I know, it is not an issue anymore, have you considered it at all? You make a very passable and attractive woman, you are working with a team of women who already treat you, possibly in jest, as a woman and call you by a woman’s name. If that is what you want to do, I’m sure that you would be accepted.”

“ I have thought about it, not just living as a woman, but actually going through transition to become one, but have never had the courage or support to go through with it.”

“ It’s a hard decision Sharon, I am comfortable dressing and living as a woman, but have no inclination to go all the way, you have to decide what you are comfortable with and make a commitment to go with it, whether it is staying part-time as you are, coming out to your colleagues and going full-time, or arranging to transition. You will have our support and be able to call on our help whichever you choose.”

Although we still did not know Sharon’s real name, where she lived or worked, we swapped phone numbers so that we could keep in touch, before she said goodnight and left us to go home in a taxi.

“Did you mean what you said to Sharon, that you have no inclination to transition to womanhood, and that you propose to stay as a full-time cross-dresser?”

“ Look Karen, I may wish to dress and look like a woman, but my sexual orientation is still as a heterosexual male, I am attracted to women, not to men, and hopefully someday will meet a woman who can accept me for what I am. In the meantime i will just get on with my life as Carrie”

“Colin, and I am deliberately calling you by your male name, I have known you for years, and particularly the last few weeks we have become very close. I love you as both Colin and Carrie, and accept you as both. Do you think that we could make it work together? I know it is far to early after Julie’s death for you to get into another close relationship, and I am sure that I am not fully over Mark’s death yet, although it was over a year ago, but let’s see how it goes, I’m willing to give it a go if you are.”

I stayed the night at Carrie’s, we kissed and cuddled and talked, but no more, but at least the possibilities were now up there for discussion.

Two weeks later Sarah phoned asking us to get in touch with Sharon. The police had found some acceptable CCTV images of a man fitting the description that Sharon had provided leaving the scene of the first attack a few minutes after her, and were questioning a suspect, and wanted her to attend an identity parade to see if she could pick out her attacker in a line-up.

Carrie phoned Sharon to arrange to meet at lunchtime to talk about it and we agreed to meet in a coffee bar near where she worked in the town centre. We arrived early and waited for her arrival. We were pleasantly shocked when she came in wearing a smart skirt uniform suit and heels with immaculate daytime make-up and a stylish professional-looking bob wig, looking very much the young professional woman.

“ Wow! What a change, you really look the part Sharon, I take it that you have made a big decision. Let’s order coffees and cakes and you can tell us all about it”

“Following our discussion I decided that as a first step I would talk to the women in the office, who were more than happy to accept me as Sharon and have encouraged and helped me to adjust. I am now living and working full-time as a woman, having had a frank but friendly discussion with my employers. I told them that I am in the process of transition, and have not met with any difficulties, as like most companies nowadays they have a strict anti-discrimination policy.”

She was a lot more relaxed and comfortable than she had been before and now came across totally as a woman rather than as a cross-dressing man. We were happy that out of the tragic circumstances something positive had happened.

“Sharon, the police have got a suspect and would like you to see if you can identify them, are you willing to help them. Obviously you can attend as you now appear, but they have advised that if a prosecution follows that your identity will have to go on record.”

“I was terrified that if my identity came out that my life would be ruined, but the other girls at work have been brilliant, my employers are being very tolerant and are happy for me to continue, my only problem is that I have not told my family yet, but I am not too worried about that, they should be ok. I am not really worried what anyone else might think, so of course I’ll go.”

There were actually two identity parades, the main attacker and one of the other men with him at the time, the third attacker was not yet traced. The main attacker was easy as, in addition to being generally recognised by Sharon, the old scar on his cheek left no doubt. When she picked out the second man it was confirmed that he was a well-known associate and that they had been seen drinking together earlier that evening. DCI Cummings was delighted and confirmed that he would be reviewing the case with the CPS with an intent to prosecute. Apparently they had found some fingerprints on the handbag strap which matched some on record, which is how they had traced him, and had tested his DNA which was a match for traces on Sharon’s coat

Both men were remanded in custody on a murder charge while further investigations were carried out ready for the main court trial.

Although Sharon was no longer a regular at the club as she was now socialising as a woman with the girls from work and a few new friends she had made, and Carrie had only gone there a few times to help the investigation, they decided to throw a party there for the friends they had made to say their goodbyes. All the regulars turned up to wish them well, particularly for Sharon who some of them had known for a long time. It was a very emotional night, the regulars were delighted that one of their own had come through their trauma unscathed and was now leading a happy new life, but also that there seemed to be an acceptance that the police, or at least some of them, were prepared to work with them to deal with any difficulties they were having without being judgemental.

“Thank you all for your support and friendship over the years it has been a great comfort to find acceptance, without you all I don’t think I would have got through the last few months. If any of you have any major problems with aggression or violence for being who you are, please call the police, I have left contact cards behind the bar for Sarah Marshall and Jack Cummings, who have treated me with courtesy and respect throughout their investigations.” Sharon said before she broke down in tears.

Carrie took over while Sharon composed herself. “As you all now know, i first came here to try to find out who carried out the assault and murder in the street outside the club. I found Sharon and broke down the wall of silence that prevented you speaking to the police, and also found a warm welcoming and tolerant bunch of people. Now that the police have the attackers in custody your lives should be a lot safer, but you need to keep it that way, please talk to the police contacts if you have any unwelcome approaches or intimidating behaviour. Sarah Marshall and Jack Cummings will take your complaints seriously and with discretion, the law is on your side.”

The three of us left that night knowing that it was unlikely that we would return, we were all forming new lives , especially Carrie and Sharon.

Three months later the trial for murder and assault was heard at the Crown Court. Carrie was not called as a witness as she only knew what had happened second-hand. Sharon gave her evidence under a false name, the judge had put a restraining order on the press to prevent identification of her. Her evidence along with the forensic evidence assured a guilty verdict from the jury in a matter of minutes, the case was so clear cut.

Prior to sentencing, the judge heard Victim Impact Statements from Sharon and Carrie describing the major mental anguish resulting from the assault and murder and the major impact it had all had on their decisions as to how to live their future lives, which although not a major game-changer on the sentencing it reinforced the judges decision to hand down long prison terms.

18 months later Carrie, as she was now officially recognised, and I married in a low-key Registry Office ceremony, in respect to our previous partners, Mark and Julie, with only two witnesses, Sharon, now having completed her transition, and Sarah Marshall, who had also become a close friend. All of us had suffered major traumas, but had got through them in our own ways, and with the help of each other and other good friends were now looking forward to happier lives.

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