As I mused on what Henry thought about me, I walked towards the special care baby unit. I reasoned that as he hadn’t seen me as anything other than a girl, that was how he saw me. Oh well, I can’t turn back into a boy just to annoy him, can I? I’m permanently stuck as a female, legally too now. Hooray!
I breezed into the unit, feeling quite good for a moment, although I knew it couldn’t last. “Look sharp, here comes Lady Muck,” said the snotty nurse/midwife.
“At ease, chaps,” I said in as plummy a voice as I could manage.
“Yes, ma’am,” she replied.
“May I see my niece?” I asked.
“You can feed her if you like, we’re running a bit behind today.” She came out with a bottle of the warmed milk; “You can change her too if you want, after of course.”
“No I think we’ll take this one home,” I joked back, today was looking up after all.
“Eh?” said the nurse, either not picking up on the joke or having no sense of humour–maybe both. I didn’t explain the joke, it’s time was past.
I gave Puddin’ her bottle and she wriggled about, cooing and laughing to herself. When I’d finished, I asked about changing her.
“I thought you said you were going to keep her?” So she had heard it, probably many times.
She handed me a fresh nappy, some wipes and a plastic bag in which to bin the dirty one. She opened the incubator, “There you go, hello beautiful, your auntie is going to change you today,” with that she left.
I talked with the baby the whole time I was touching her. It felt so good to think I was actually touching her, well through a latex glove. I undid the dirty disposable nappy and wiped her naughty bits and bum with the disposable wipes the nurse had given me. Then a bit of cream and on with the new nappy. Easy peasy, if a bit smelly. I wrapped up the dirty stuff and dumped them in the bin.
I felt so much love for this little scrap of humanity, yet she was no relative of mine except by forthcoming marriage–if we went ahead with it. Part of me had qualms about it, as I’m sure Simon must, not least because of his bruised ribs.
I closed up the incubator, wondering why I loved this little one so much. Was it just her helplessness, or that she was related to Simon and Stella, or even Des? Perhaps it was simply that I loved babies, I knew I did when one of the dormice dropped a litter. I loved babies–so what?–I’m a woman, it’s allowed. Another reaffirming moment. The day was getting better, although I still had to travel through the valley of death, where Stella was.
I blew Puddin’ a kiss and went in search of Stella. I found her and wished I hadn’t. What was she wearing? A dress over a pair of jeans and her nightdress on top of that. She hardly knew me. However, I decided I was going to make her look more normal and less ridiculous.
It took all of my powers of persuasion to get the nightie off her, then the dress. I explained I needed to wash them. Then, as she didn’t smell too sweet, I persuaded her to take a shower and wash her hair. Amazingly she did as I asked. And I helped her dry afterwards, her naughty bits were very different to Mima’s, which were different to mine. That made me feel good too. It seems we’re all different yet the same.
After she washed and dressed, I rinsed out her jeans and hung them to dry in her shower room. It was very warm in there so they’d be dry by tea time. I helped to style her hair, at which I’m no expert, but she looked a bit better, at least lived-in rather than unoccupied.
I sat looking at her, holding her hands. “Yes, just take her, I don’t care.”
“What?” I asked as she appeared to have read my mind. She went back to her distant stare which frightened me. “I’m going home now, Stella. I’ll try and come and see you again tomorrow.” She stared straight through me by way of reply, I found it unnerving and left the ward.
I did some shopping on the way back and after dropping it off began preparing for the lamb dinner I’d promised Tom. It would be just the four of us, he and I and the two girls. What a waste?
Mima had fallen asleep with Tom and Trish was glad to come and help me. She seemed to have something to talk to me about as well. I waited for the oven to come up to temperature and popped in the meat and potatoes to roast. I made a cuppa and sat down at the kitchen table with it while Trish drank a very milky tea.
“So, what’s on your mind, young lady?” I asked her. She became very shifty and looked at the floor or the table.
“Gramps said something about his daughter, Catherine.”
“Oh what was that?”
“She was a boy, she’s like me, isn’t she?”
“Sadly she’s dead, Trish, but yes, she was born a girl but with a plumbing problem, just like you. He helped her to become a young lady, just as I will help you, if that’s what you want when the time comes.”
“Of course it is, I’ll never change my mind, Mummy.”
“I don’t doubt it for one moment, darling, but just in case you do, we have to enable you to have that choice.”
“You didn’t change your mind, did you Mummy?” as my brain received these words I felt quite sick and hot.
“About what, darling?” I made light of it.
“Being a girl.”
“What do you mean?” I felt myself blushing and shivering at the same time. What do I do now? Bluff my way through it or tell the truth? Oh shit, if only I was prepared for this, but it’s like a lightning strike.
“The judge man in the court, he said about it and so did the man talking for you. Gramps mentioned you were like his daughter, and I wondered why Dr Rose asked you to look after me, when no one else would.”
“So what are you saying exactly?”
Trish began to weep and blush, “I’m sorry, Mummy,” she jumped down off the chair and rushed upstairs.
I was shell shocked, had she worked it out; had we dropped too many hints despite knowing she was very bright? Was this a good thing? Should I lie to her or tell the truth?
I reflected on what Henry had said, the publicity about the film or some other time, like the wedding–it could all come out then and others might tease her. If she knew already, it would at least give her a chance to choose what she said in response rather than be shocked by the revelation. I knew what I had to do.
I found her sobbing, not on her bed, but on mine. I sat alongside her and stroked her hair. “Do you want to talk about it?” I asked her. She nodded then shook her head.
“I was going to tell you,” I sniffed, then felt the tears roll down my face. “I wasn’t lying to you, but I just wanted you to feel like you had a normal Mummy. I’m sorry, Trish.”
She scrabbled about and wrapped her arms around me and lay her head in my lap. “I love you, Mummy.”
“I love you too, sweetheart.”
“You’re the best Mummy, I’ve ever had.”
“Thank you, sweetheart, it’s very kind of you to say so.”
“You are a lady, really, aren’t you?”
“I am now, though I started out feeling like you do, I was girl who everyone wanted to be a boy, except me–I wanted to be a girl. I had to wait a bit longer than you have, but I eventually became a proper girl and had my body fixed to match my idea, my feelings about myself. Do you understand?”
She nodded, “Yes, Mummy. Can I become a real lady, too?”
“If it’s what you want to do when you’re a little older, I’ll do all I can to help you.”
“Thank you, Mummy.”
“I’m sorry if I deceived you, sweetheart, I knew you’d find out sooner or later. When they show my film on the telly, there could be some publicity about it all. Some people like to make a song and dance about what is essentially a personal matter for myself and my family and friends. So rather than you hearing it from an outsider, I was going to tell you anyway. However, you beat me to it. You’re far too clever for me.”
She hugged me close to her. “I love you, Mummy. You’ll always be my Mummy, never mind what anyone else says. You’ve been so good to me, and I love you, and want you to be my Mummy.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” I hugged her and tears rolled down my face in profusion, “of course I’ll be your mummy, it’s a privilege and an honour, even if I’m not really worthy of it.”
We hugged for several minutes. The cat was firmly out of the bag, and no amount of shoving would get it back in there ever again. In some ways I felt cheated, because I did want Trish to see me as an ordinary woman. In others, I felt so relieved that my guilty secret was out.
“Does Daddy know?” she asked after a long pause.
“Yes, and Gramps and Grampa Henry, only Meems doesn’t know and I don’t think she’d understand just yet.”
“Because, I wasn’t going to tell him.”
“You are one special little girl. Thanks for your offer, maybe we’ll just keep it from Meems for the moment, although one day soon, I shall have to tell her.”
“Okay, Mummy, I won’t tell her.”
“Thank you. Well, young lady, I can smell roast lamb, so we need to get the vegetables on. C’mon, I’ll show you how to do curly kale.”
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