Only Sixteen 11

I went into college regularly as I wanted to get used to things and I got a real enjoyment in just being one of the students…

Only Sixteen 11

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!
44

Things were relatively normal for the next week or so. I had gotten used to being just another one of the girls and I loved the way everyone had accepted me for what I was – a girl.

I went to college regularly, as I wanted to get used to things and I got some real enjoyment in just being one of the students.

I attended several lectures, some good, some bad and some indifferent, mainly down to how interested I was in the subject being taught.

One of the lectures I attended was with Professor Cheshire. It may have been my imagination, but he seemed to look at me rather a lot and that made me feel rather uncomfortable. I had a strange feeling that he did not approve of me and I wondered if it was something to do with my somewhat unique situation. He didn’t ask me any questions; well he couldn’t really as I was not, as yet, one of his students.

I tried to pull myself together. Ever since my attack, I had become a little bit insecure and chasing shadows. This wasn’t good for me and I would have to get over it.

It was great not having to be in a set time and place, as what I considered my formal education at the college wouldn’t start until the following term.

I spent some time with Hannah at college between lectures, which was nice. Also, Megan had a certain amount of clear space in her busy timetable where we could come together and get to know each other more and more.

I heard little about the case regarding the boys who assaulted me except, that it turned out that several police forces were interested in interviewing and “pursuing ongoing matters” with them. I wasn’t told any other details by Uncle due to ridiculous confidentiality rules. However, I got the distinct impression that the boys were up to their necks in hot water and if and when they were found guilty, custodial sentences would almost certainly be applied.

I hoped that they would throw away the key!

I was getting more comfortable living as a girl out in public rather than wanting to, if you know what I mean. I was no longer wondering if I might get clocked as a boy and not a girl. I realised that I looked just like any other ordinary girl and I was happy with that. I was still somewhat nervous about going out by myself and I hadn’t gone out running since my attack.

I fully intended to start running again and not let my concerns about my safety ruin my life.

I loved my new hair or rather the extensions that I had added to my existing hair. It was strange for a while as it took some time to get used to the heaviness of the extensions and the fact that I was brushing the hair away from my face a lot more than I used to, but I soon got used to it and felt like my hair had always been longer and fuller.

I suppose I was a bit of a girlie girl. Most of my friends more often wore jeans than skirts or dresses, especially if it was a bit cooler. I, on the other hand, preferred skirts and dresses, having lived in jeans most of my life in boy mode.

45

One day. I was in the kitchen of my lovely cottage, studying. Auntie was having a coffee morning with her friends from the parish council and I felt a bit in the way, so there I was, trying to get my head around a bit of human biology using a rather graphic book called Gray's Anatomy. It always amazed me how complex the human body is and just how it functions down to a microscopic level. The more I learned the more I was pleased that I had chosen the medical profession as my career choice. I just hoped that I was good enough to succeed in my ambitions.

Just then, the front door opened and then slammed closed.

Seconds later, the kitchen door opened and in walked Ivy.

‘There you are then. Shall I put the kettle on?’

I sighed. There was no way that I was going to do much studying with Ivy cluttering about and making cleaning-type noises.

‘Thanks’, that would be nice.’

Ivy walked over to the kettle and glanced down at what I was reading.

‘Bloody hell, what’s that?’ she asked, pointing at the open page of Gray’s.

‘A dissected leg.’

‘A real leg?’

‘Yes.’

‘Is that what it looks like inside?’

‘Yes Ivy,’ I replied smiling.

‘Blimey, I might not have a leg of lamb tonight, after all. It fair makes me feel sick, looking at things like that. There should be a law against it. Close the book, will you dear?’

Smiling, I closed it. Things like that didn’t bother me in the least. As long as it wasn’t my body being dissected, I had no problems with any non-self-body parts. I probably wouldn’t feel the same if it was my bits and pieces being pulled apart although I didn’t want to think about the surgery that I would be having some time in the future to correct my own faulty anatomy.

Soon Ivy was fussing about with the tea-making procedures. It had to be a teapot, no dunking teabags in mugs for her. Warm the pot first, tea from the caddy, not bags. Teacups and saucers, despite the extra washing up. The time it all took, I would have made mine and drunk it, but I’m a philistine according to Ivy.

I could hear the petrol mower going in the garden and then stop and start and stop. Then I heard some shouting and banging.

‘Len’s having troubles with the mower, needs a new one but won’t get it. “what’s good enough for Grandpa is good enough for me”, he says. Men, they think that they know it all, but they know nothing.’

That was a bit dismissive, but I had no intention of disagreeing with her. Am I a coward? Probably.

We sat and drank our tea with a strategically placed plate of biscuits between us.

‘So, Emma, how are you doing?’

‘Ok, thanks.’

‘I heard that those slimeballs are still in prison.’

‘Well, I don’t think that they are actually in prison Ivy. More likely that there are sent to a secure centre for children.’

‘Namby-pamby, wishy-washy way of dealing with the young thugs. They need stringing up.’

Her face had gone all red.

‘I think that’s a bit extreme Ivy.’ I replied dunking my biscuit in my tea and trying to avoid the dreaded soggy biscuit drop.

‘Your problem Emma is that you are too nice and don’t dunk like that. Three dips and eat, otherwise you’ll lose it. It’s all in the wrist.’

We spent a few minutes discussing the finer points of dunking biscuits before Ivy stood up.

‘No time for idle gossip. I have work to do.’

And off she went. Soon I could hear some frantic hoovering and outside the sound of a petrol mower starting and stopping with accompanying curses.

I looked at my book and sighed. There was no point in continuing. It would be quieter in a war zone!

I looked out of the window. It was warm and sunny. I decided there and then that I wouldn’t be a hermit and would just get on with my life. Up in my bedroom, I had some running gear and trainers. I quickly changed, went downstairs and met Ivy who was polishing the dining room table.

She looked up and stopped what she was doing.

‘Going for a swim?’ she asked.

‘Ha-ha, very funny,’ I replied.

‘Be careful honey.’

‘I will,’ I replied, leaving her to her vigorous polishing.

I went into the kitchen and filled my water bottle and stepped outside. Len was there kicking the lawn mower. The air was blue and I blushed at the sound of his colourful language.

He looked up and seemed to blush under his sun-tanned face.

‘Sorry Emma. This bloody lawn mower will be the death of me.’

‘Why not get a new one?’

‘That costs money.’

‘You do know that there is a lawn mower in the shed down the end of the garden?’

‘That isn’t mine.’

‘You’re welcome to it.’

‘I can’t use it. It’s yours.’

‘Yes, you can. I won’t ever use it. I hate gardening, I can’t tell the difference between a rose and a pomegranate. I love to sit in the garden and enjoy it, but there is no way that I’m going to get my hands and fingernails dirty.’

‘Are you sure?’ he said doubtfully.

‘Yes, I’m sure. Take and use anything you can find in there. Now I need to go and do my run. See you later.’

Without another word, I left him to it.

Actually, I did like very light non- strenuous gardening, but I hated to see Len suffer like that!

46

I set off up the lane and eventually found myself at the top and joined the West Coast Path. Some of that famous path is very rugged and you nearly needed to be a rock climber to use it but the section near us was nice and only had an undulating landscape.

I was blowing a bit. Not surprising as I hadn’t run for a while. I wasn’t feeling any pain from my groin, which was nice. It was a bit strange the feeling that I had without my, all be it quite small, testicles wobbling about, but wasn’t unpleasant and it was somehow, maybe a bit liberating? I looked forward to a time when everything down there was an innie rather than an outie. I had at least 2 years to wait.

Two years, at my age, seemed almost like a lifetime, but it was the law and unless I wanted to go overseas where age didn’t always seem to be a problem, I was stuck with the wait.

As I ran, I thought about how things were going for me. I was so much luckier than some girls in my situation. I looked like a girl and had the support of my new friends and family. I wondered what my old family would think about me now, running along the cliffs dressed in pink running gear with growing breasts, long hair, waterproof makeup and silver looped earrings.

Yes, I had problems, but so did everyone. I wasn’t that unique, just a girl who wanted to get on with life. I had a career plan and I was at a college that seemed to support me in my ambition.

The only flies in the ointment were those boys who had attacked me and the fact that they had pleaded not guilty. That meant that I might have to stand up in some sort of court and I hoped against hope that they would change their plea so that I didn’t have to go through that torture.

I was sure that they would use my gender situation as some sort of excuse for what happened. I did not want to advertise the fact that I was transgendered. It would mean that I might become a target, although, due to my age, my name should not be reported.

I was puffing slightly and I realise that I had been out for half an hour. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? I was glowing a lot – girls don’t sweat, we glow. What a load of rubbish; maybe I was getting lightheaded due to exercise-induced oxygen deprivation.

Smiling, I turned back. I hadn’t seen anyone on my run except an old couple sitting on a bench overlooking a lovely bay. I fancied going down to the bay with its secluded sandy beach, but it looked like it was inaccessible, which was a shame.

Continuing back, it didn’t seem long before I arrived at my cottage. Judging by the cars outside, the meeting was still going strong next door. I went into my cottage and passed Ivy just leaving.

‘There you are Emma, nice run?’

‘Very good thanks.’

‘Len used that mower. It was like he had died and gone to heaven. I have never seen him smile like that as he mowed. Are you sure that we can use it?’

‘Of course, take it away and use it and anything else that would be useful wherever you like.’

‘You’re a nice girl Emma.’

‘No, the stuff was cluttering up the shed.’

‘Hmm, anyway, we’d best be off, my cat needs feeding and Len wants to go down the pub for his lunch which will be a pint of brown ale knowing him.’

‘Bye then.’

She kissed me on the cheek, which was nice and she was off. Len was already in his pickup truck and I could see the lawnmower in the back. He looked at me, waved and smiled. I never knew that a lawnmower could cause so much happiness!

I went upstairs, stripped off my running gear, scratched my itchy chest and then got into the shower. I put on a shower cap as I didn’t want to have to dry my hair; the only downside to having long hair. I had only washed it that morning and it took ages. I would wash it again the following morning when I had more time.

Once dressed again in my go-to lemon sundress for hot days, I applied a little lippy, blush and eyeshadow, nothing heavy, it was way too hot for that. I then went downstairs and raided the fridge, which always had a ready supply of cold drinks, and grabbed a Coke. I was thirsty, thirstier than a camel who hadn’t been drinking for several days.

I once again tried to get into my Gray’s but my heart wasn’t in it. To be honest, I was bored and I wanted to do something. All my friends were busy in college, Auntie was next door in her meeting and supplying copious amounts of tea and cream cakes, knowing her. Uncle was doing his police thing and there was I all alone and bored out of my mind.

I sighed. This wasn’t good enough. A bored Emma was an unhappy Emma. I hated doing nothing, so I would do something. Then I remembered. When wading through cobwebs in the shed at the end of the garden, I noticed a bike. It was under a cover but from the brief time I lifted the cover, it looked quite new. I would go and have a look.

Not wanting to get my nice dress dirty, I rushed upstairs and changed into a black t-shirt and capri combo. It was nice that I could wear capris now that my bits had mended.

Going outside, I went down to the end of the garden. Daffy and Dolly, the ducks were going around in circles as they usually did on the pond. They ignored me as I had no food for them. Talk about cupboard love!

I opened the shed, which was quite large. The lawn mower had gone, obviously and a few other gardening-type stuff had been taken too like a petrol strimmer and a chainsaw, I think. I was pleased that they would be used they weren’t much use sitting in the shed doing nothing but collecting dust and spider webs.

Talking of spider webs, I wasn’t that keen on spiders and I had heard stories of false widows being found in parts of the country.

Anyway, I tried not to think too much about venomous spiders as I made my way to the back of the shed.

Under a black cover was the bike and as I pulled it away, sneezing with the dust, there it was in all its glory.

It was a woman’s bike, that was clear, but what I didn’t realise was that it was actually an electric bike, hardly if ever used. The lead attached to the battery was plugged into a socket. I knew that the shed was electrified because of the light switch by the door, but I hadn’t been aware of any sockets. I unplugged the battery charger and pulled the lead out. Then I moved the bike into the centre of the shed. It was lighter than I thought it would be. I always thought that electric bikes were heavy due to the weight of the battery but this one wasn’t too bad. The bike looked expensive and I wondered whether it had ever been used. Then looking at the tyres, I saw a little bit of dried mud on them.

Then my memory kicked in. Grandma mentioned in passing a while back that she was going to try to get healthy and she did mention something about a bike, she didn’t say anything about it being an electric one. Shortly after we had the bombshell that she wasn’t very well. I never knew how bad she was until shortly before she died. The cancer was very advanced before she was diagnosed and there was no hope for her. She refused treatment as it wouldn’t have made all that much difference. The talk of her bike went out of my head until just that moment.

I got a bit upset about that and had a lump in my throat. Then I tried to cheer myself up. I had to remember her for what and who she was before she became ill. I had more support from her than all the rest of my so-called family put together. The fact that she knew I was a girl obviously hadn’t made a scrap of difference and I loved her for that.

Grandma had had a full happy life and she was ill for thankfully only a short amount of time. I knew in my heart of hearts that she was looking after me from up above and that gave me a lot of comfort. I would never consider myself to be a particularly religious person but lately, living in and around this cottage had made me feel that she was there with me and that gave me a lot of comfort.

I pulled myself together and had a good look at the bike. The tyres were a bit flat but after searching around a bit I found a tyre pump and a few other unused bike tools in a cupboard under the workbench.

I inflated the tyres and in a short time, they were as hard as a rock. In the cupboard was a helmet too, still in its box. It was a white helmet and it didn’t look like it had ever been used.

I wasn’t a great lover of cycle helmets as they weren’t exactly fashion statements. In fact, I thought that they looked dorky. However, I valued my brain and let's face it, it would maybe protect my head in the event of an accident. I tried it on and luckily it fitted, although I had some issues with my hair. I would have to put on a scrunchie to use it. Luckily I never went anywhere without a scrunchy and I had a pink one on my wrist. How’s that for forethought? I tried it with scrunchiefied hair and it fitted much better.

After removing the helmet and leaving it on the bench, I went back to the bike. I used to ride a bike when I was younger. I had been given my brother's old bike when he was given a brand new one. Perish the thought that I would be given a new one! Tommy’s old bike had been a bit scratched and battered but it was just useable and I rode it occasionally but not often. It was a boy's bike and I was a girl and in my maybe twisted logic, it felt all wrong. That was how deep my feelings were about anything male related. I had been and still was, I supposed, a crazy mixed-up kid!

So, I knew my way around a bike and could ride one, but I had never been on an electric bike.

The controls looked simple enough though and I decided to try it out. The day was fine and I was dressed appropriately, so why not?

Using an old towel, I dusted the bike off and then pushed it out of the workshop. I pressed a few buttons but the bike was as dead as a doughnut. Then I noticed a key at the side of the battery compartment and I turned it. I heard a beep and a light went on at the top of the battery.

‘We have lift-off.’ I said enthusiastically to myself.

There was also another key on the ring and it didn’t take a genius to realise that that was the key to the bike lock that was handily attached under the seat. A good job that it had a lock as these bikes were highly nickable.

After testing the brakes, I tentatively turned the throttle slightly and the bike moved. The speedo thingamajig, whatchamacallit said that the battery charge was full and so it was, I hoped, ready to go.

I was secretly pleased that it was an electric bike, as the hills in Cornwall were epic and I didn’t think that I would get very far without some sort of assistance. Cheating? Maybe but I couldn’t care less. I liked running and tennis but I was never that much of a keen bike rider, probably due to the crappy second-hand bike I had used before. Maybe I could go to college using this bike on fine days and at least with the bike, it would give me a bit of independence. I didn’t like to use my auntie as a taxi service and the buses had a spasmodic service and depended on drivers being available. This wasn’t like in the city where there were plenty of options to get around.

I went inside the cottage and grabbed my backpack, putting in my purse, a few nibbles and my water bottle. I picked up my cool Ray Ban sunglasses, a present to myself that I could ill afford but nevertheless bought on sale, and then I was ready.

47

After locking up the cottage, I returned to the bike and pushed it onto the lane. Next door still had cars outside, so I didn’t bother disturbing Auntie and her cohorts. I just texted Auntie and for good measure, Hannah, to tell them what I was doing and then got on the bike.

It felt strange sitting on the bike, thinking that probably the last person on it was my lovely grandma. Still, no more thoughts of the past. I was ready to go. I tentatively pushed down on a peddle and then I was off.

It was slightly downhill at first and I couldn’t believe how fast I was going, looking at the speedo thingie, I was already at 13 miles per hour. I had read somewhere that in the UK, the maximum speed for electric bikes was 15 miles an hour. If you wanted more speed, you had to use the pedals more.

I was seriously impressed; I wasn’t even sweating – sorry perspiring.

The lane incline became steeper as I came closer to the quay and I had to keep applying the brakes.

Just before reaching the quay, I turned left and then the road started climbing, getting steep quite quickly. I had to peddle more and more, but it was easy and no real stress or strain was involved. I changed gear and I went even faster. This was great. I was glad I was wearing sunglasses as a few insects were flying about and the last thing I wanted was a bug in my eye.

In no time at all, I was out of the village and onto the green hills above. It was lovely out there and luckily, there were few cars about. I didn’t fancy meeting a 4X4 or worse a tractor as the lanes and roads around that part of Cornwall were narrow, to say the least. I could understand the popularity of electric bikes now. They were so much fun without the pain or much effort. I could see why Grandma chose to get one.

I carried on for some time, going through a few quaint villages. I even waved at a few people and they waved back. Imagine doing that in London? Eventually, I saw a slightly battered sign that said To The Beach and on a whim, I went down the narrow lane. I couldn’t see much, as there were tall hedges on each side. The winding lane gradually went downhill and once again, I had to use my brakes to stop the bike going too fast.

I had no real idea where I was but wasn’t too concerned as Google Maps was my friend and I could always find my way home when I was ready. My journey took me through some woods and eventually, the lane widened out and then opened to a small car park with a few cars dotted about.

To the side on top of a sandy hill was a small café and I went over to it and stopped behind it. I got off the bike and locked it using the bike lock, which luckily had a key. I took off my helmet and left it on the seat. Then I climbed the wooden steps at the side of the café and then stopped.

In front of me was a small sandy beach with dunes at the back and it was all lovely. The sand was almost white and the sea as blue as the Mediterranean on a good day. It was in a cove with steep-sided rocky hills on either side making it very sheltered and protected from the wind. There were a few people on the beach but nothing like as many as you would have thought a place like this would have.

I was thirsty and the café was open, so I went in and there was a lady behind the counter. A few tables had people sitting there including a mother with a very young girl in a pram who was demolishing an ice cream with half of it on her face.

I went over to the counter.

‘Hello, can I have a coke?’

‘Yes love, ice?’

‘Yes please. It’s lovely here.’

‘Yes it is.’

‘I’m surprised that it’s not busier.’

‘It does get busier in the holidays and at weekends but it’s a bit off the beaten track so you mainly only get locals here. It doesn’t help that the access is a bit narrow so you can’t get coaches and such like down here.’

‘What’s the name of this place?’

‘Pendowan Beach.’

I was handed my drink and after thanking the lady, I went outside and sat on one of the seats outside.

It was so nice there; the gentle breeze cooled me a bit as I watched a man play with a dog by throwing a ball on the foreshore. A little further along and man and woman were holding the hands of a squealing little boy who was being splashed by the gentle waves.

I smiled. This beach was somewhere that I would to return to as soon as possible maybe with Hannah. She must have known that I was thinking of her as my phone made a text-type noise and I pulled it out of my backpack.

Where r u?

At the beach?

Where?

Pendowan Beach.

I think I went there with Mum and Dad when I was little.

It’s nice.

Are u coming home?

Soon. Are you there?

Just got back

I’ll see u soon.

How did u get there? No buses, I think.

I used granny’s bike, it’s electric and cool.

I don’t do sweaty!

‘It’s not sweaty, it’s electric, not much effort.

Still too much for me.

You’re lazy.

I’m not lazy, I just like to travel in comfort.

Why aren’t we speaking on the phone, it would be quicker than typing.

Poor reception. Anyway, come home soon, I need a good kissing after my hard day studying.

OK, see you soon xxx

xxxx

I put my phone down and smiled. It was nice to have someone like Hannah who missed me when I wasn’t there. It was all a bit new to me; all this loving attention, but I could certainly get used to it!

I just sat there for a few minutes to finish my drink. To be honest, I was in no hurry to get back as I was reluctant to leave this magical beach.

Eventually, I felt like it was time to go home and so with a final glance at the beach, I left the café and walked down the wooden stairs to where my bike was. I put on the helmet and got on the bike.

Looking at the battery meter thing, it hadn’t used much fuel or whatever it's called. I wondered what the range of this beast was. I would look up on Uncle Google, the font of all knowledge.

48

Soon I was on my way back. The roads and lanes were a bit busier now and occasionally I had to go to the side to let the odd car, van or tractor go by, but soon I was back at my cottage. I wasn’t even a bit tired, despite all the hills. I noticed that the visitors next door had gone and the lane was relatively free of parked cars.

I put the bile back into the shed and plugged in the charger thingie. I intended to get a lot of use out of Brenda. Yes, I named her Brenda the Bike; it sounded good to me.

I went back into my cottage via the kitchen and then had a quick drink of water, as I had a dry mouth. Then I decided to go next door to see what was going I went into the hall and put the helmet on the coat hook by the front door. Then I looked down, there was an envelope there. It looked a bit grubby.

I picked it up. There wasn’t any name on the envelope.

Frowning, I opened it up and took out the slip of paper.

My heart went in my mouth and I nearly fainted as I read the words written with what looked like a red marker pen.

We know all about you and what you are Christopher.

Withdraw your complaints against Bill and Fred or you will regret it. If the police or the CPS make it go to court, do not testify against the boys, or else.

Do not tell anyone about this, including the fuzz otherwise your life won’t be worth living.

This isn’t a threat, it’s a promise.

A concerned friend.

I sank to the floor, my back against the door and with shaking hands, I re-read the note.

Tears pricked my eyes as I wondered what I should do.

To be continued...

Please leave comments and let me know if you want this to continue. Oh, and if you can, please do the kudo-thingie... thanks! ~Sue



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