Only Sixteen 7

Please note that some sections of this story might be upsetting.

Only Sixteen 7

By Susan Brown

I am not a doctor or solicitor, so please forgive me if the medical and legal stuff isn't accurate. Let's face it. It's only a story. If I was a doctor or solicitor, I would be much richer than I am now!
23

‘Are you all right Miss?’

I hadn’t noticed that a policeman had, unseen by any of us, appeared as if by magic. He was big, very big and was probably a rugby prop forward, whatever that was.

Neanderthal 1 immediately got up and Neanderthal 2 moved away from my personal space.

‘Yes, they won’t leave me alone.’

‘Just talkin'.’ said N2.

‘Sayin' hello to a friend,’ said N1.

‘They aren’t friends of mine.' I said hotly.

I had my standards and they were well below them. Anyway, I was into girls…well, one in particular.

‘Hop it you two otherwise I might think about charging you.’

‘What for?’ said N2.

‘For being a pain in the neck.’

‘That ain’t an offence.’

‘I’m sure that you know all about what constitutes an offence. How about harassment, wasting police time? I’m sure if you are searched, I could come up with some other evidence to nick you. Now hop it, before things get nasty for you.’

They hopped and in seconds they were thankfully, out of sight.

I stood up.

‘Thanks for that.’

‘No problem Miss. Let me know if you get any more problems with those boys. Can I just have your name?’

‘Emma Penhaligon,’

‘Any relation to Gladys?’

‘She was my Grandma.’

‘You look a bit like her although much younger, obviously. I was sorry to hear that she had passed away.’

‘Yes, I was very upset.’

‘I’m sure. Anyway, here’s my card.’

He gave me a card with his number and the number of the police station.

‘Thanks officer.’

‘Call me Larry, most locals do. Anyway, have a nice day and steer clear of scum like them.’

‘I’ll do my best.’ I replied smiling.

With that, he continued down the quay.

What a nice policeman!

I had a few more chips but wasn’t feeling that hungry for some reason. I picked up my shopping and put the remains of my meal into a waste basket and then made my way back to my cottage.

I kept looking around to make sure that those boys weren’t following me. I was feeling a bit vulnerable. Maybe I should have been flattered by their attempts to pick me up, but all I felt was… defenceless, I suppose was the word I was looking for. It could have gone badly wrong for me. I decided that I would get some pepper spray or something. A girl can’t be too careful. I wondered if Hannah or the twins carried anything in the line of self-defence, like a bazooka or an axe. I would have to ask them.

This was my new reality and what many girls go through. Let’s face it, there are people out there who like to take advantage, be nasty or try it on and it’s quite often young males who think that they are God’s gift to women on the one hand and consider themselves superior to the fairer sex on the other.

I had another layer of insecurity because I am trans. That was something that I just had to live with.

That encounter was a lesson learnt for me. It wasn’t all sweetness and light being a girl, there were distinct disadvantages, especially when being confronted by aggressive stronger people like those slobs.

I reached home and let myself in, feeling safer immediately. After putting my shopping away, I went to my computer and powered it on.

Then, I decided to text Hannah.

Hi Hannah,
Do you carry pepper spray?

That done, and to take my mind off my recent unpleasant experience, I decided to do some more studying, being a glutton for punishment!

That’s a fib really.

I am, I think, unusual (especially when I was at my old school) in as much as I enjoy studying. It helps that I have a very good memory although not photographic, as that is a myth. This helped a lot when taking exams and that is why I have been good enough to obtain very good grades. Grades that I needed for me to obtain my dream of eventually going to medical school.

It was a wonder that I was able to do so well at school as it was a particularly crappy one, always inadequate in OFSTED (school evaluation) reports. I was bullied, of course, and the classes I was in had several troublemakers who loved to make my life more of a misery than it already was. It wasn’t good being what was considered to be a pretty boy!

Then at home, I wasn’t encouraged to study and I never had any help from my family with my studies. I spent much of my time in my bedroom out of the way and I was able to study without many interruptions, for which I was thankful.

On parent nights, my lovely, darling parents always turned up to see the teachers of my brother and sisters. Somehow though, they were never available to see my teachers.

Back to my studies. You may wonder why a girl who is terrified of injections can even contemplate becoming a doctor. The sad fact is that I have no problem dealing with others having injections as long as it’s not me on the end of it!

Also, as far as other people getting injured or ill or losing blood, it doesn’t bother me anything like the situation would be if I was the patient. I have heard stories that many people in the medical profession are the worst of patients and I can well believe that.

I understand that new medical students are warned on commencement of their studies that when learning about the various aches, pains and illnesses, they can experience symptoms themselves.

Weird but true.

Anyway, I was soon deep into my studies and the time went quickly.

After about an hour my phone made its text chirpy noise.

What?

What do you mean – what?

I can be as obtuse as the next person. Where was I coming up with words like obtuse, had I swallowed a dictionary?

Why do you want to know if I have pepper spray?

I had problems with two spotty yoofs down at the quay.

Yoofs? Don’t bring your London-type language down here. Talk proper Cornish like what I do. Hope you are okay. We’ll talk later. By the way, according to dad, pepper spray is illegal, but hair spray is a good substitute. See you later- Love you xxx

Love you too. xxx

I carried on with my studies for a little while longer but my eyes were a bit sore from staring at a screen for too long and eventually I called it a day and gave myself a break.

Grabbing a cola from the fridge, I went out into the garden. It was nice and warm out there and as I slurped my drink, I watched the two ducks, obviously man and wife or is that wife and man, come out from behind a bush and then go for a swim in my lake. They were going around in circles and quacking enthusiastically. A bit like me sometimes. The going around in circles thing, not quacking, now, that would be weird!

I wondered if I should give them some bread, and then I remembered that I had read somewhere that bread was the last thing you should feed birds with. I might, at some point find out what they could eat and get some supplies in. they looked like Mallard ducks, the male looking much prettier than the female; funny that.

Looking at my watch, I noticed that it was now nearly 4.30. I wondered where the time had need gone. I loved to keep myself busy and time flies when you are having fun. Not that it had been much fun meeting those stupid boys down at the quay. I wondered if I would dare go out by myself if I was going to have experiences like that.

Then I thought that I was being stupid. I would have to get a backbone and get used to receiving some attention that I wouldn’t want. Many girls have that problem and they just deal with it and got on with their life. I hoped that I would be one of those girls.

My phone rang.

Picking it up, I saw that it was Hannah.

‘Hi, hon,’ I said.

‘Hi yourself. Just got home want to come round to mine?’

‘Okay, when?’

‘Are you busy now?’

‘Just looking at Daffy and Dolly in the garden.’

‘Who?’

‘My ducks, in the pond. It’s a warm day and they’re just cooling off, I think.’

She seemed to sigh.

‘Are you coming then?’

‘All right, I’ll be around in a minute.’

‘See you soon.’

With that, I got up and went inside. I locked the French doors rushed upstairs, brushed through my hair, refreshed my lipstick, and after coming back down again, I put on my new cool white sandals that showed of my painted toesies and then let myself out of the front door – all done in ten minutes flat.

24

I went next door and knocked.

Hannah answered the door, glanced behind her and then hugged me. We then had a short kissing session which I never wanted to stop.

I had missed her so much and I think, judging by her reaction to seeing me, she felt the same about me.

After she put me down, we made our way into the kitchen.

I had no idea where Auntie Clare was, I still loved calling her that, but we were alone.

We had a can of cola each and sat at the table.

‘So,’ said Hannah, ‘what’s all this about pepper spray?’

I took a deep breath and told her what had happened to me down on the quay.

‘Idiots, they probably only had one brain cell between them. Some grockles are like that.’

‘Grockles?’

‘Holidaymakers. Some of them think that they are God’s gift to women.’

‘How do you deal with people like that?’

‘I know that you shouldn’t have to, but there is strength in numbers. I rarely go out by myself, especially during the holiday season. We don’t get that much crime down here but it’s mainly grockles that cause the problems. If I do go out, as I said in my text, I have a very handy small can of hairspray. A quick blast of that in the face would stop almost anything. I haven’t had to use it yet but I will do it if I have to. Also, Dad gave me a personal attack alarm, it's pink and I keep it on my key ring. It makes a hell of a noise.’

‘I was thinking of doing self-defence classes and I wonder if they have any clubs at the college.’

‘I think they do. If you want to go, I’ll come as well. I would love to be able to throw some great hulking troublemaker over my shoulder!’

We both laughed.

Just then Auntie Claire came in.

‘Hi, Emma, something funny?’

‘She’s just encountered her first male creep.’

‘Oh?’

I repeated what had happened to me.

‘Well, you shouldn’t have to worry about going out by yourself, but in the real world, you have to be aware of what is going on around you. Your idea of doing some self-defence classes is a good idea. Maybe you should do the same, Hannah.’

‘That’s what we were saying before you came in,’ she said.

Just then, Uncle John came in. He was wearing his police uniform and was looking very handsome. He kissed Auntie Claire on the cheek and then turned to us.

‘Hello girls. Oh Emma, I’m glad you’re here. I need to have a word if that’s okay? Come into the conservatory.’

He took off his jacket and put it on the back of a kitchen chair and I then followed him into the bright conservatory wondering what law I had broken and if I would be sent to maximum security prison.

I have, you may have noticed, a rather colourful imagination.

‘Sit down love.’

I swept my skirt under me to avoid creases and sat on the soft and comfy chair and he sat down opposite me.

‘Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong. You had a few problems down at the quay?’

‘Yes, how did you know?’

‘One of my officers mentioned it. A bit of a coincidence really. We had a bulletin come in about a missing boy called Christopher Latham. His parents went to their local nick and reported him missing some days ago. The bulletin would have gone out to all police stations.’

My heart went cold.

‘What’s going on?’

‘It looks like your parents are saying that they are worried about you.’

‘Never, there must be something else going on. They know from the note I left that I was going and why.’

‘Well, anyway, we had a note on record from Antonia, your solicitor, about your circumstances and I understand that she has now been in touch with them and told them that you are safe and have no intention of returning to them. Whether they want to take any further action or not is up to them. I understand that Antonia has told them that she is a sort of go-between and any enquires should go through her. We have closed the case, not that it was really a case. You are sixteen now and have a lot more freedom than anyone younger. Your parents do have some say, but it’s somewhat limited. It could be argued that you have suffered mental cruelty, but that can be difficult to prove. However, it’s a mark against them and if it ever went to court, which I doubt, you would be in a strong position to reject them.

‘I don’t want them to find me.’

‘I realise that. Well, you have changed your name and are living a long way away from them and as long as that stays confidential, you should be okay. I, of course, unofficially know all about your circumstances as we have been in communication with Antonia, a distant cousin of Claire’s and yours I believe, about all of this. So I think that we have everything covered. If you have any worries and concerns, come to us.’

I got up and hugged him.

‘Thank you so much Uncle John for looking out for me.’

‘Put me down or I’ll arrest you for hugging a police officer in the course of his duties. That must be a crime, I’ll have to check…’

We both laughed.

‘What’s so funny?’ asked Auntie Claire as she came in.

‘Nothing,’ we both said together, laughing.

She sat down next to Uncle John.

‘Had a nice chat?’ she asked.

‘Erm, yes,’ I replied, ‘sort of.’

We talk for a few minutes regarding what Uncle John had told me.

‘Well,’ said Auntie Claire,’ at least you know what the position is. Look, John and I have talked…’

That sounded slightly ominous.

Hannah came in.

‘Hi all, like, wassup?’

Her mum turned to her.

‘Hannah, we have taught you to speak proper English and “wassup” and saying “like” every few sentences is not the way to speak.’

‘Sorry Mumsy, could you possibly tell me what you are talking about and can I be rather rude and join you in this terribly interesting conversation?’

I smiled as this was said in the plumiest, terribly posh English accent possible.

‘Hannah?’

‘Yes, Mummykins?’

‘Go away.’

‘Away?’

‘Yes, leave us, go up to your bedroom and do some homework or paint your nails or whatever.’

‘Do you want me to leave my girlfriend?’

‘Only for a few minutes.’

She looked at me and shrugged.

‘Like, see ya in a mo.’

And with that, she left us.

Uncle John looked bemused and Auntie Claire, world-weary.

‘Right, now that she’s gone…finally, we can speak. As I said, John and I have been talking about you. I know that you are sixteen and you want your own space. Having the cottage as your home is great, but you are on your own there. We are worried about that. You had a nasty experience earlier and it shows how vulnerable you young girls are. We would be happier if you stayed with us… no, let me finish, as far as we are concerned, you are part of this family. Even if you and Hannah weren’t so close, we would feel the same.’

‘That’s true,’ said Uncle John, ‘even though we haven’t known you long, you are one of us and we want to protect you and look after you, even though you consider yourself as an independent girl, you are vulnerable and it worries us that you are living alone, all be it just next door.’

‘Thank you,’ I said, doing my usual tearing up at anything that was in any way emotional.

There was a look between them and then Auntie Claire continued.

‘We want you to stay with us, at least at night. You can have a key and come and go as you please. We want you to treat this as another home and us as sort of surrogate parents.’

She stopped for a moment and looked at Uncle John and then continued.

‘As I think I have said before, We knew about what was going on with you and your family. Gladys asked John to check to see if anything could be done for you, but we came up against a brick wall. There was no independent proof of abuse and unless you had physical signs, it would have been difficult to do anything about it. Anyway, the level of abuse that we knew about would be considered as hearsay as we knew of this via your Grandma and what she knew about the situation.’

I looked at their kind faces and it was hard for me not to break down. It appeared that they knew a lot more about my past than I thought they did. My emotions were all over the place and I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I took a deep breath.

‘I didn’t tell anyone about what was going on except Grandma and I didn’t tell her everything. Anyway, not getting presents and the lack of love or support and ignoring my education together with the drip, drip of hate that I was getting from my parents and brother, in particular, wouldn’t have been enough. I know that because I looked all this up on the internet. The stories of mental abuse on there made my problems seem trivial.’

‘Never mind,’ said Auntie Claire who was now sitting next to me and holding my hand, ‘it’s all water under the bridge now. As far as we are concerned, you have been badly treated and we want to make sure that you are safe and happy. So will you come and at least stay overnight? We won’t tell you to do anything you don’t want to do.’

I looked at them both. In the past, apart from Grandma, I had trusted few people. I had only known them for such a short time, but I had felt love and affection almost from the moment that I met these lovely people.

What should I do?

‘Can I think about it for a minute?’

‘Of course,’ said Uncle John, ‘we’ll leave you alone and keep that pest of a daughter out of your hair. Come into the kitchen when you’re done.’

Uncle John left and then Auntie Claire went to leave but stopped at the door.

‘I know that you’ll make the right decision Emma. As far as we are concerned, you are part of this family no matter what you decide. After I had Hannah, I couldn’t have any more children. Living down here, we are a long way from any other relatives that we know about, so our family is effectively just the three of us.

‘What I’m trying to say love, is that we want you to think of us as family. As I said earlier, we could be surrogate parents if you like, even though Hannah wouldn’t think of you as a sister, of course. She doesn’t say much about it, but it’s obvious that she has very strong feelings for you and from what I have seen, you feel the same about her.

‘Whether you come to stay with us or not, remember we are family and will always support you through thick and thin.’

She said that with tears in her eyes. With a smile, and without saying anything else, she left me to my thoughts.

25

I stared out of the window. I had a lot to think about. After a moment, I wiped my eyes with a tissue, noting the eye shadow marks on the tissue. I realised that it might be a good idea to get some waterproof makeup.

This was all getting a bit heavy

After a moment, I stood up, smoothed down my skirt and went outside to the garden.

It was a nice garden with plenty of brightly coloured flowers in the borders. The garden was well looked after with a closely cropped, slightly brown lawn due to the hot spell we were having.

I walked down the path. At the end was an oak tree with an old rope swing hanging from a branch. I sat on the swing and thought things through.

I loved Grandma’s cottage and the fact that she was kind and generous enough to give it to me. I was envious of Hannah and the parents that she was lucky enough to have. The fact that they had all welcomed me into their home and the love and affection I had for Hannah was wonderful.

I didn’t like the fact that I was dragging them into the problems that I had had. They had a nice life, living in that wonderful place and then I came along. A problem child, well teenager actually with major issues. I realised that at sixteen, I wasn’t anywhere near to being an adult. Ironically, though, I also realised that in many parts of the world, I would be of an age where I would be treated as an adult.

Different societies had different attitudes, I supposed.

This was all pretty deep for me, but I was always overthinking, saying to myself, ‘what if?’ Having a pretty strong imagination wasn’t always a gift. I was always worried about what might happen in any given situation…

I was rambling and not staying on point, as they say.

So, what should I do?

I started swinging slightly, the rope making rubbing noises from the branch. My skirt was lifting slightly in the gentle breeze as I moved and it felt strangely comforting. I was facing away from the house, so there was no danger of anyone seeing a shocking panties episode. Although there was a robin in a bush that seemed to be looking strangely at me, although that might have been my rather fevered imagination…

Just then, I heard some heavy breathing and I looked to my left and a dog strolled over. It was a Labrador, quite a young one I could see by the spring of his or her step. As the dog came closer, I could see that it was a boy dog.

‘Hello, who are you?’ I said, getting off the swing and crouching down.

Tail wagging like mad, he barked and then, without warning, he licked my face.

‘Yuk,’ I said as I stood up laughing. Looking down, I could see a name tag.

I read it.

‘Well Charlie, you are a friendly one.’

I vaguely remembered Hannah saying that they had a daft dog.

He rolled over onto his back with his pink tongue hanging out and I rubbed his tummy. He seemed to like that judging from the daft look on his face.

After a few blissful moments, he stood back up, woofed again, licked my hand and shot off up the garden, through the French doors of the conservatory and into the house.

I smiled. I loved dogs and when I was small, always wanted one. Of course, my parents wouldn’t let me have one. No surprise there!

I walked back up to the cottage, feverishly thinking about things and what I should do.

I loved my cottage and liked the freedom that I had now I was away from my unloved parents, brother and sister. I must admit that I didn’t like being alone at night with the noises and the terrible nightmares that I had been experiencing lately.

I had come from a place without affection to somewhere where love was all around me. I obviously wasn’t as adult as I had thought I was.

I wasn’t a normal girl, I knew that. As far as the world was concerned, I was just a boy who dressed as a girl. It didn’t matter to some people that in my head, I was a girl and had never been a boy. Physically, I was male and not female, although I had lovely small breasts now and sort of looked more like a girl. I would do all that I could to change my physical appearance even more as soon as I could so that I would be as near a girl physically as I could be. But for now, I would just have to accept the situation.

I suppose that incident down at the quay with the Neanderthals, trivial to some but not to me, had shaken me a bit. Also, the news that my old family was looking for me made me feel even more vulnerable.

What to do?

I went into the cottage and then the kitchen.

They were all in there, even Charlie, who was noisily hoovering some food from his bowl.

They looked up as I went in, except Charlie, who had more pressing matters.

It was obvious that they had been talking about me. Hannah looked like she was almost bursting to say something but, for once, she was quiet. Looking at them, I saw them for what they were, a loving family.

I made my decision, I wanted to be part of this family.

‘Thank you so much for asking me to stay. I would very much like to, if possible.’

26

There was a group hug and Hannah made whooping noises. I think that she was in favour!

Once everything had calmed down, John had to go out. Before that, he came over and hugged me.

‘It’s great that you’ve agreed to stay. You’ve made us all very happy. It’s a two-way thing. You are now a larger part of our life and we are part of yours. I’ll see you later.’

He kissed my cheek and then he was gone. Why wasn’t my dad like that? It wouldn’t have hurt him to have shown me some sort of affection.

Hannah came over.

‘You are thinking deep things again, aren’t you? I can always tell; you start frowning and you bite your bottom lip. You don’t want to do that, it’s not good for you and smudges your lipstick. Come on, let's go to yours and get a few things to bring back.’

So that’s what we did.

I filled a case but left everything else that was not needed. We had agreed that I wasn’t abandoning my cottage. I would still spend a lot of time there, but not overnight; a time when I felt most vulnerable.

There was almost certainly no need for me to worry overnight about people breaking in or anything nasty like that, but it was more my state of mind and everything that was happening to me. I now had the best of worlds. If I wanted to be alone to think or study, I could just go to my cottage to do my own thing.

Anyway, it was nice to feel part of a family that wanted me around rather than one who wished that I had never been born.

We arrived back at Seashell cottage. I struggled with my case and Hannah carried my rucksack and other bits and pieces that I hadn’t been able to pack.

Auntie Claire was in the kitchen.

‘Hello, you two. Got everything you need?’

‘Yes thanks,’ I replied.

‘Right, you have a choice. We have a spare bedroom, but it’s tiny. You can sleep there or you can do what you did on your sleepover and use the truck bed.’

I looked at Hannah and she looked at me. She smiled and I smiled.

‘Truck bed,’ we said together.

‘I thought that you might want that option,’ she said smiling, ‘right, house rules. We will trust you to not do anything inappropriate. You are both only sixteen Emma, sorry to embarrass you, but I know that your erm, male bits are not functioning so, that does not worry me, however, Hannah’s girl bits are functioning and as such I want you both to promise me that you will not do anything that you shouldn’t. Do I make myself clear?’

We both nodded and my face felt hot for some reason.

‘I wouldn’t do anything to betray your trust,’ I said.

That sounded a bit pompous, but I meant it.

‘You know me Mum, I’m not silly.’

‘Hmm, I’m yet to be convinced.’ she said doubtfully, ‘well, we’ll try it out and see how things go.’

‘We’ll go up and sort out Emma’s things,’ said Hannah enthusiastically.

We took everything upstairs and in her room, she put the bags down and turned to me.

‘This is going to be great,’ she said enthusiastically.

She came over and gave me a hug and then we kissed. It was wonderful, as it always was. I could easily get used to this!

After a few minutes of this, we finally put each other down. We both looked a bit flushed and were out of breath for some reason!

‘I’ve cleared a space in my wardrobe for your things. Some of my stuff is like, well out of date. I’m going to have to go shopping soon to buy more clothes, what a pain – not!’

Soon, everything was packed away and I noted that Hannah had about three times the amount of clothes that I had. Maybe I needed another shopping experience too?

‘Girls, tea time,’ came the call from downstairs.

We clattered downstairs and into the kitchen.

Claire believed in feeding people up and we had a homemade chicken pie with mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and gravy so thick that you could stand your fork in it.

This was followed by hot apple pie and ice cream. I thought that could certainly get used to this. I was lucky in as much as I was quite thin and I didn’t gain any weight if I ate what was considered by some as naughty food.

Things were quiet, as you can’t talk with your mouth full. Afterwards, Auntie Claire put all the tea things in the dishwasher and then came back and sat down, while we finished our drinks.

‘Well girls, what are you going to do now?’

‘I have to do a bit of studying,’ I said.

‘Boring!’ said Hannah.

‘Don’t you have any to do?’ asked her mum.

‘Erm, well like, yes, but…’

‘Don’t “but” me young lady. Remember, you want to be a nurse and that requires a good degree. You need to get in the habit of studying hard. You should be like Emma and go and do some work for an hour or so, then you can relax.’

Hannah looked at me as if I had said or done something wrong.

‘What?’ I said.

She sighed.

‘Nothing, let’s go and study.’

So that’s what we did and we went upstairs.

On the landing, Hannah said, ‘I normally study on my dressing table; my laptop fits nicely and I have enough room for my papers. We can’t both work there as there’s not much room.’

‘Okaaay.’

‘Don’t say okay like that. Auntie Hannah has a solution. We’ve put a table in the box room and you can use that, if you want or if like, you are being totally unsociable, you could always go back to your cottage to study.’

We went to the box room, which, as its name implies, is small or as estate agents would say, deceptively spacious.

The table was by the window with nice views out and there was an office chair in front of it. It would suit me fine.

‘That’s great Hannah, although I will use the cottage sometimes. I don’t want to neglect it and you are so noisy sometimes.’

‘Bloody cheek, I’m as quiet as a church mouse! Anyway, I have no problem about you abandoning me occasionally. I won’t feel hurt - much.’

With that, she pretended to cry.

I sighed.

‘Anyone tell you that you are a bit of a drama queen?’

‘It’s part of my fascinating personality.’

‘If you say so!’

We both giggled.

And so I did some work in the box room while Hannah did her thing, whatever that was, in the bedroom.

27

An hour soon passed and I had finished my studies. It’s surprising what you can do in an hour without interruptions.

I stretched and was just about to stand up when my phone rang, well say rang, but I had changed the ringtone to Tubular Bells, a favourite of mine.

‘Hello?’

‘Emma?’

‘Yes.’

‘It’s Dr Sullivan.’

‘Hello doctor.’

‘How are you feeling?’

‘I have the occasional achy pain down below and my moods are a bit up and down. I still can’t stop crying at the slightest thing and I have nasty nightmares. Apart from that, I’m fine.’

She laughed at my flippancy.

‘What I’m ringing about is that I have touched base with your solicitor who confirmed things. I have contacted a BUPA hospital in Penzance, St Hilda’s, who would be willing to treat you. Also, I have received your blood report which shows that you have a higher level of oestrogen in your blood than normal, lower testosterone and you are also slightly anaemic possibly due to the pills you have been taking.’

The hospital can fit you on Friday as they have had a cancellation. Would you be willing to go at such short notice?’

‘Yes.’ I replied quickly without really thinking.

‘Your appointment is at 10 am; go into reception and give your name. Dr Withers is your consultant. They are trying to get your records from your previous surgery, but there have been problems due to your name change. Your solicitor is dealing with that though and it’s hoped that they will be available tomorrow. Wear loose clothes and try to do without makeup!’

‘I will; thank you doctor.’

‘No problem. Let me know how you get on.’

‘I will, goodbye.’

‘Bye.’

I put the phone down. Of course, me being me, I started to worry and “what if” everything. It was all happening so fast. I didn’t like the sound of my blood results and that was just another thing to fret about. Maybe I was turning into a hypochondriac?

I went downstairs and found Auntie Claire in the sitting room reading a magazine.

‘Auntie.’

She looked up and smiled.

‘Yes love?’

‘Dr Sullivan rang. I have an appointment on Friday at St Hilda’s at 10 o’clock.’

‘That’s quick.’

‘They had a cancellation.’

‘I suppose you will want a lift.’

‘Erm, if you aren’t busy.’

‘Well I was going to bake a cake on Friday and do some laundry, but I’m sure that can wait.’

‘I don’t want to put you out. I could catch a bus…’

She laughed.

‘I was only joking. Of course, I can come and I’ll be with you as much as I’m allowed, is that all right?’

I went over and gave her a hug.

‘Thank you so much Auntie!’

I was getting to be quite a huggy, feely person now. What a change from my previous life!

‘Wassup?’

Hannah was standing in the doorway, a can of Coke in her hand.

‘Hannah, speak English please.’

‘Sorry like, yer know?’

She giggled and I had to laugh. I didn’t think that Auntie thought it was that funny though.

I explained what was going to happen on Friday.

‘Cool, maybe they can sort your plumbing out sooner rather than later.’

‘I wouldn’t put it like that, Hannah,’ said Auntie, frowning.

I giggled, living with this family was proving interesting. I could see that Hannah liked to press her mum’s buttons, but it was all good-humoured.

I was always comparing this family with my old one. I called them my old family because that was exactly what they were – part of my past.

‘Right,’ said Hannah, ‘let’s go down to the quay.’

And that’s what we did.

28

Auntie suggested that we shouldn’t be too late back because I had an important day tomorrow, as I would be going to see my new tutor. I agreed but for now, going down to the quay would take my mind off the future.

Of course, Hannah contacted the twins and another of her friends, Megan and it was agreed that we would meet them by the lighthouse at the end of the quay.
Hannah and I walked down the lane, hand in hand. It seemed so natural and the only people we saw, just smiled and greeted us, seemingly without any hang-ups regarding our, for lack of a better word, closeness. Ten or twenty years before, there might have been signs of disapproval at our intimacy. Despite my run in with those yobs, with Hannah, somehow I felt safe and it was nice and I began to relax.

There wasn’t a huge amount of things to do for people of our age, so the quay was the place to go, especially in the summer. Evidently, the winter was different as many of the shops, restaurants were closed. But for now, everyone who was anyone met up down at the quay. It was quite vibrant. In the summer when the numbers were swelled by holidaymakers, the place was sometimes heaving, especially during the school Summer holidays.

There were stalls selling hot food, others were selling tatty and not-so-tatty souvenirs. There were a few street musicians and one who was doing party tricks and cool acrobatics that made the crowd go ooh and ahh at his antics.

There was even a Punch and Judy for the kids to shout at.

It was all busy and bustling, and I loved it.

We met the others by the white lighthouse at the end of the quay. The twins were there together with another rather tall girl.

‘Hi girls,’ said Hannah, ‘Emma, this Megan, Megan, Emma.’

‘Hello,’ I said shyly.

‘Hello,’ said Megan, ‘so you’re Hannah’s girlfriend?’

‘Erm, yes.’ I replied.

‘I've heard a lot about you from these two,’

She pointed at the twins.

‘Nothing bad?’ I asked.

‘No, strange really, I expected to hear all the gossip and character assassination about you, but they say you’re nice and you two are happy together.’

We walked back along the quay to where all the action was. Megan was a chatty girl, very pretty and she had auburn hair that went down her back, almost to her waist. Her skin was fair and her face was full of freckles.

There was something about her that I just couldn’t get and it was bugging me slightly, but she was so nice and friendly and I thought that we would be friends. I hoped so.

I didn’t think that Megan knew about me or what I was. For that, I was grateful as I didn’t want to tell her about me until I knew her better. I know that I had told the twins, but for some reason, I was now being more cautious. I obviously had trust issues due to my old family and maybe that was the reason.

I knew that eventually, my trans status would become common knowledge, especially after going to college. My private life should be just that – private, but I knew that things get out and I was sort of gearing myself up to be prepared for it

Everything was happening ridiculously fast. I had only been in Porthlowen for a week and look what had happened. I wanted to step back a bit and I longed for what would be considered a normal quiet day. That wouldn’t happen any time soon, what with college and hospital appointments.

Maybe one day, things would settle down and I can have a few normal days?

Some hope!

*

Being young and full of energy. We wanted to have something to eat after about an hour of wandering around. We went to one of the stalls that sold Cornish pasties and bought some together with some cans of Coke.

The pasty seemed huge in my hand as we sat on a few seats overlooking the harbour. It was the first time I had ever eaten a Cornish Pasty and I wondered if I had the appetite to get through it – but I did, it was delicious. I’m a quick eater and I soon demolished it before the others were halfway through theirs.

As we sat there, the girls talked about lots of things but mainly about other girls they knew, some good, some bad and some very bad! The latest, greatest fashions were picked apart and I could see that they had different views on what to wear and not to wear. I could see that fashion for them was an individual thing. Then they turned to boys, periods and other stuff that made me blush a bit. And thankfully, I sort of zoned out there and just watched the passers-by.

I felt the call of nature after a bit and I got up.

‘Just going to the loo,’ I said.

‘Want me to come?’ asked Hannah who, like the others, was still munching away at her pasty.

‘No, you’re fine, it’s just around the corner. I won’t be long.’

I left them to it. I had a bit of a weak bladder, so I hurried as fast as I could down the quay and into the narrow lane where the public toilet was before I could have a little accident.

This was the first time I had used these toilets and it was nice that they didn’t have that horrible pee smell that you sometimes get in the gents, probably because there were no urinals. Not that I ever used a urinal. I was a sit-down-to-go person.

One of the cubicles was occupied but the others were free. I went into an empty one, wiped down the seat with some toilet tissues and sat down, letting out a sigh as I let the river run!

I could hear the lady flush her loo and then after a few moments, leave the Ladies.

Once finished, I went out and washed and dried my hands and then left the toilets.

It was quite dark outside now with one streetlamp a little way down the lane the only source of light other than the lights from the quay about fifty yards away.

As I walked out, I was just going towards the quay…

‘Hello, what do we have here?’

I turned and there they were, the two boys who had hassled me on the quay earlier.

I looked around. The lane was empty apart from those two. I could hear the happy sounds of people having a good time coming from the quay but for me, it all could have been miles away for all the good it would do. I was more concentrating on what was happening.

To say I was scared was an understatement. This was all I needed.

I didn’t say anything but just started to walk towards the bright lights of the quay.

One of them ran around and blocked the way.

‘Leave me alone,’

‘Why?’ said the boy, ‘not afraid are you?’

‘No, I just want to go back to my friends.’

‘You should be afraid.’

‘Why?’

‘Because we don’t like you, do we Bill?’

‘No,’ came the reply from Bill, who was behind me and I was getting creeped out as I could feel his breath on the back of my neck, he was that close.

‘Let me go. I’ll scream.’

Suddenly, Bill put his hand over my mouth and grabbed me.

Still, there was no one else around and I was so scared that I started to tremble.

‘There aren’t any coppers around to help you now. You disrespected us and you’re going to pay. I told Bill here that I didn’t like the way you looked at me, didn’t I Bill?’

‘Yea, little Miss Perfect, fucking with us.’

There was an alley by the side of the lane that was the rear passageway to some cottages and I was dragged in there.

I struggled as I was being dragged by Bill who was much stronger and taller than me.

I bit Bill's hand and tasted his blood.

‘Shit, you cow,’ he shouted as he hit the back of my head with his fist and I fell to the ground.

‘What shall we do with her Fred?’ said Bill as he sucked his hand. It had blood on it.

‘We need to teach her a few manners.’

I was dragged to my feet and held from behind by an angry Bill.

‘Shout out or say anything and you will regret it.’

Fred came up close, he had bad breath and I turned my face away.

‘Not good enough for you, am I?’

He pulled my face back towards him and then he kissed me.

I struggled away from him but Bill had me firmly and I couldn’t move.

Fred suddenly grabbed my skirt and pulled it up.

He put his hand down my panties. His eyes went wide.

‘What! You fucking shit. Bill, it’s a boy!’

He pulled back, looked at me with hatred in his eyes and then hit me full on the jaw.

I fell to the ground. I had my eyes shut.

‘Take that you queer freak, tranny, shit!’

He kicked my genitals and it was as if I had exploded.

Dimly I heard some shouting and then everything went black.

To be continued...

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