Choices

It was a struggle and my lungs were on fire. My legs felt like lead and I wasn’t feeling that great....

Choices

by

Susan Brown

Angel

It was a struggle and my lungs were on fire. My legs felt like lead and I wasn’t feeling that great.

We were three quarters of the way into the 50 mile ride and I wasn’t feeling myself.

I was off the pace and just hanging on for dear life in the second bunch. A few months before, I would have been up in the leading pack and taken my turn at the front, but the only way I could keep going was in the slip stream of the other riders.

I had started riding seriously when I was 10, now I was 13 and loved it more than almost anything. I was in the scouts with the camping, outdoor life and activities. I also liked messing about with computers, but road bikes were my passion. I wasn’t any good at football, cricket or rugby but cycling for my club and county gave me a focus in my life, and a few of my friends were into it too, though maybe not to the extent I was.

I had loads of cups and medals at home, proudly displayed by Mum and Dad in a glass fronted case. Dad was an architect and Mum a GP, so we weren’t poor by anyone’s standards, but both of them worked long hours and my twin sister, Moira and I had to fend for ourselves a bit and try to not cause them too much trouble.

Moira was heavily into ballet dancing and she too had excelled in that. There was talk of her taking it up as a career when she was older and we were all very proud of her.

I changed down a gear, as I could see myself drifting even more off the pace. Having a light carbon fibre bike helped a lot, but an expensive high spec bike is only good if the rider has enough stamina to make it work for him. I pulled out a gel bar and took some in. I needed all the energy I could get, and the last thing I wanted was to bonk or hit the wall. It started to rain and that was fun. The wind was coming head on and the thin lycra kit I was wearing did little to help the chill I was now experiencing. I knew that I should have pulled out, it was stupid to continued, they way I felt. There were support vehicles behind and the St John’s ambulance had my Mum in it, as she often helped out, time permitting.

No, I wasn’t going to give in. What did they say about ‘no gain without pain’? I was a stubborn so and so, and I was going to finish if it killed me!

We went up and down hills and tried to avoid some of the numpty car/van/lorry drivers and even motor bike riders who seem to think that it’s fun to scare the living daylights out of you by coming as close as possible to you as they passed. Then there were the ones who like to turn left in front of you and you have to brake sharply to avoid collision. Of course there were my all time favourites, the people who open car doors without looking ...

So I had to be very aware like everyone else that cycling can be dangerous, and the speeds that we were doing made that even more perilous. On top of that, I was feeling like death warmed up and it was only the fact that my dad and sister were waiting at the end and expecting me to be finishing with the others that made me stubbornly carry on.

I knew up ahead there would be Ditchling Beacon. Leading up to it was a hill that made men out of boys and women out of girls, especially those with little experience. The first time I actually managed to get up it without stopping was the crowning achievement when I was a fledgling rider. The ride today would finish at the top, which was brutal. I knew that I had no chance today to go for it so I knew that I would just have to grit my teeth, ignore the pains in my chest, legs and groin and dig in. To be fair, it isn’t that much of a brute and I had conquered it long ago. Once, I rode up Bison Hill in the Chilterns and that was 21% but the way I felt at the moment, a 5% hill would be a bit over the top let alone the 10% undulating twisty one coming up when my legs felt like jelly.

Before the big hill was a longish, flattish bit and I took the opportunity to tuck in close to the boy in front and have a breather. I was going to need all the strength I possessed soon, so I would make the best of it.

I kept a high cadence, my legs going round like windmills in a strong wind, al la Lance Armstrong and although I had to try to concentrate, my mind kept going back to the problems I had.

Some months before, I had noticed an itching and puffiness around my nipples. I ignored it, thinking that with all the bike riding and tight lycra, my nipples were just chafing. Then the puffiness grew more pronounced. I had to start wearing loose clothes as I didn’t want to be noticed at home and, of course, at school.

I looked up the problem as I did with many things, on the internet. I found out that the condition is called pre-pubertal gynecomastia and many boys have it to a greater or lesser degree. It would go away in time and I would just have to live with it.

I should have seen Mum about it, after all she was a doctor, but I was shy about my body and I didn’t fancy showing Mum my weird breasts.

Anyway, for a few years now, Mum had had a policy of not treating her family unless it was something simple and non-invasive as she was too closely involved with us and wanted to make sure that medical decisions were made without the added handicap of her personal connection to us.

Any tests, exams and routine stuff like that were therefore carried out by a doctor from the next village. He was a nice old chap, but well past retirement age, and not one that I felt any desire to talk to about my man boobs or any other strange things that were happening to me.

18 months before, he had examined me and had a look down below, it wasn’t pleasant.

‘Mmm,’ he said, ‘a bit under developed down there and your testicles are very small, but don’t worry, some boys don’t start puberty until quite late on. Come and see me in 6 months and we’ll see how you’ve been getting on.’

He laughed and continued, ‘you’ll be shaving soon enough, my lad!’

That didn’t fill me with confidence. I had already been ridiculed in the changing room for my lack of manly form. Some boys had already started growing hair and their voices had changed. A few had had erections and morning woodies, and there was I, small and thin, with a high pitched, almost girly sounding voice and no hair to speak of other than the short hair on my head. I looked so young compared to my contemporaries and I looked and felt inadequate.

That was why I threw myself into cycling. I was good at it, had a natural talent and I succeeded or failed by my own efforts. So I managed to get a more toned body and my legs were strong, but I didn’t start getting the bulging muscles that I thought I would. I just kept going back to the conversation that I had with the doctor. It would all be okay and I would grow soon enough so don’t worry.

I also recalled a conversation with my Dad. It was the birds and bees one, and I wasn’t sure who was more embarrassed, him or me. We had a few lessons at school, but it was all a bit academic and anyway, the teacher couldn’t control the class so most of the time it was bedlam and I didn’t take too much of it in.

As far as Dad was concerned, he used books and then answered any questions that I had.

I was so aware of my lack of growth and I plucked up my courage and told him about it and what the doctor had said.

He listened carefully and then after thinking for a moment he answered, ‘Well Ben, the doc was right, all kids, girls and boys grow and develop at different rates. You are worried that you aren’t growing and your voice hasn’t broken yet?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well don’t worry. I was nearly 15 before my body started to really change, you are probably like I was, a late developer. If you are worried about it though, go and see Mum.’

That was it really; I didn’t want to tell him about how I felt about it and the last thing I wanted to do was talk to Mum about it. It was a boy thing, and although she was a doctor, I was uncomfortable speaking to a female about a male problem, even if she was my Mum and I loved her to bits. I just gave Dad the impression that I was okay and I would just wait for time to do what it should do to my body.

Then shortly after, my nipples started itching and my breasts began to grow...

I was able to buy a few vests from the internet, they were compression vests and not that comfortable, but they did what they were supposed to do and flattened my breasts so that they wouldn’t be, erm, noticeable.

I was wearing one now under my cycling jersey and it wasn’t helping me in the breathing department but I had to manage. I wondered how long my breasts would take to deflate or whatever it’s called. On the internet it said that it could take one or two years. I didn’t know how much longer I could hide things. I had had a few near misses at school and once, my sister came into the bathroom when I had forgotten to lock the door. I covered myself up just I time and she just giggled and left me to it.

I should have told the doctor, but I was shy about my body and intensely embarrassed to talk about anything like that.

The rain thankfully petered out as we went started up Ditchling Bostal which led to The Beacon. At first things weren’t too bad, as I had managed to recover a bit in the previous five minutes, but soon the hill bit in and I was struggling. Others in the group of riders that I had latched onto were finding it hard in the wind and lousy weather which had made the road slippery after a long spell of dry weather. It didn’t help that the road wasn’t closed to traffic, and cars were whizzing up and down the road–daft really, as it is really bendy and you can’t see around the bends.

I was up out of my saddle fairly early on and I made full use of my cleated shoes to get the maximum peddle power that I was able to deliver. The trouble was, it felt like my tank was empty. I had drunk a lot from my bottle and taken on some fuel using liquid gel energy bars but this time it hadn’t helped. In vain I saw the others go on ahead leaving me last, a place that I had not been in for a long time. I was sweating buckets and sweat and rain was getting into my eyes. I knew that the support vehicles were somewhere behind me, and I wondered if I should stop, but I was stubborn and I carried on pumping away, my bike swaying under me as I tried to keep the momentum up.

My breasts were paining me now as the compression vest did little for me in the comfort department, and my groin felt like it was on fire.

I was nearly in tears now and I was going to give in, then I just said to myself, ‘just get up past the next bend...’

I did that three times and it went a bit easier for about a hundred yards as the road flattened out, just a bit.

There was a bend up ahead; it was, I knew from experience, quite a sharp one. I gave it a bit of welly and I increased my speed so that I would be able to go up the next bit with a bit of momentum behind me.

I could hear the sound of a car coming from behind me. The exhaust was loud and coming closer all the time. By the sound of the engine, it was in a low gear. I moved closer to the verge but not too close as the road was a bit uneven and cracked at the edges. The car would just have to get past me or wait.

He didn’t wait.

The bright red car roared up behind me and overtook me just as we had reached the bend.

Another car came the other way and the red car moved left and clipped me, then roared off.

I hit a pot-hole in the road. I couldn’t get my feet out of my cleats and I painfully clattered over.

My head hit the ground and I could hear and feel my helmet crack–well better that than my head.

My hip had smashed into the road and I could feel the pain immediately as my momentum carried me along the road for a moment with my bike, still attached to me by the pedals, landing on top of me.

I stopped.

I just lay there stunned, and then I blacked out.

~*~

I woke up and for a moment, I didn’t know where I was. Then I was aware of a throbbing headache and pain on my left hip.

‘Hello, awake then?’ asked a nurse who popped her head around the door.

‘Yes.’ I said.

‘I’ll call the doctor.’

‘Where are my...’

She had gone.

I laid there not thinking much. For a while, I must have been a bit out of it, almost in a dreamlike state.

The door opened and a lady doctor came in.

‘Hello Ben, how are you feeling?’

‘A bit groggy,’

She shone a light in my eyes and then used another instrument to check out my ears.

‘Do you feel nauseous?’

‘No, just a bit shaky and my head and hip hurt.’

‘Well not to worry, you can have pain killers for that. You had an x-ray while you were asleep and you haven’t broken anything. In a few minutes time we are going to give you an ultrasound scan as we need to check out that there isn’t anything else wrong.’

‘Will it hurt?’ I asked, not happy with this turn of events.

‘No, you will be fine. The reason why we are doing this is that as you are aware, you have unusual breast development and there are other things indicating that you may have problems that need sorting. How long have your breasts been developing?’

It took a moment to realise what she was talking about as I was still a bit zoned out. Then I realised what she was talking about.

So my secret was out, and I was going to be considered a freak. I wanted to cry, lash out, have a shout and scream about it. My emotions for some time had been almost extreme and it was only by a strong effort of will that I held myself together.

I told her all I knew and also what my doctor had told me about my lack of growth and what I had learned from my investigations on the internet.

When I had finished the doctor handed me a tissue and I wiped my eyes. I didn’t want to appear like a cry baby, but it was a bit late for that. Let’s face it, boys shouldn’t cry.

‘You don’t need to worry, we just want to have a look inside you and make sure everything is working okay. Some boys are late in developing and have problems with enlarged breasts, but as you are here, we might as well do the tests.’

‘Where are my parents?’

‘Outside with your sister; they have been a bit worried about you. Your mum has been kept up to date about what we are doing for your and has agreed to us doing the tests. Anyway, I’ll get nurse to take a blood sample or two and then they can come and see you.’

With a smile she left the room and a moment later, the nurse came in and took an arm full of blood. However, my mind wasn’t on that, it was how my family were going to treat me now that they knew that I was a freak.

~*~

A few moments later the door opened again and Moira rushed in followed more slowly by Mum and Dad.

‘Gosh Ben, look at you, all those tubes and things. How are you, are you hurting anywhere? When we heard that you fell we were worried and Daddy nearly had a fit. You should see the state of your bike and helmet...’

‘Moira, do shut up dear!’ Mum told her.

They all grabbed chairs and then sat around the bed. Mum and Dad were each side of me and Moira was doing her best to have a look at the charts at the end of the bed with a funny look on her face.

I didn’t want to look them in the eye, feeling guilty about–everything.

‘How are you, Love?’ asked Mum.

‘A bit sore; the nurse going to bring something to help.’

‘Good; so what actually happened?’

‘About what?’

‘The race, silly,’ said Moira looking up.

‘Oh, right.’

I told them all that had happened but left out the bits where I was struggling to carry on.

‘They got the number plate of the idiot who hit you; the police are after him,’ said Dad.

‘How is my bike?’ I asked.

‘The frame is cracked in three places and the front wheel buckled, it’s a write off, I’m afraid. It was a good job that you were wearing a helmet, otherwise you wouldn’t be here now.’ said Dad.

That set off the waterworks again and I had another cry. Mum hugged me and Dad and Moira went out to get some drinks.

‘You’ve had it a bit tough for a while, haven’t you Honey?’ Mum asked, stroking my hair as she hugged me.

I just nodded, unable to speak.

‘I wish that you told me; fancy hiding the fact that you had problems away from us. What did you think we would say?’

‘I...I thought that you would hate me. I’m a boy with huge breasts and ... and other things. I’m a freak.’

‘You are not a freak, Ben, you are my lovely caring child, and we all love you to bits. These tests will tell us what is happening to you and when we find out, we will deal with it, as a family.’

‘What is happening to me Mum?’

‘I have a pretty good idea, but the tests will tell us. There is no point in ‘what iffing’ before we have all the facts.’

I used yet another tissue to wipe my eyes, and then the nurse and doctor came in with a trolley, on the trolley was some serious looking equipment.

‘You will want to stay Debra?’ the doctor asked Mum as Dad and Moira went out, much to Moira’s disgust.

Mum nodded and held my hand as the nurse pulled the bed covers down and then pulled up the hospital gown.

I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see the expressions on their faces. I knew what I looked like. I had seen myself enough in the mirror. Breasts that would look good on a girl of my age and genitals which were, to my eyes, small, puny and a joke. I had seen other boys in the shower and theirs looked nothing like mine ...

‘Right Ben, we are just going to put some gel on you, it’s a bit cold, sorry about that, and then we can have a look at what’s going on.’

I jumped slightly as the nurse applied the gel and then I felt something hard slide all across my belly and groin areas.

There was no talking for a moment and then the doctor said, ‘Look at that.’

‘Yes, I see. Can you move to the left slightly nurse?’

I shut my mind to what they were doing and saying. There was a lot of medical jargon and I didn’t want to hear it. I was dying maybe, had cancer, this was totally unreal, I had people looking at me, poking and prodding me and making me feel like a lab specimen. I just wanted it all to end.

Eventually it did end, and Mum, after giving me a kiss on the cheek and reassurances that everything would be all right, left with the doctor.

The nurse gave me a couple of pain killers, cleaned me up and then pulled up the bed covers. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to hear the worst. I was very good at the head in the sand mentality.

‘There you are dear, all back to normal. Do you want a drink?’

‘No thanks.’

‘Well press the buzzer if you need anything.’ She smiled brightly and left the room with her trolley.

I lay back, staring at the ceiling and wondered what Mum and the doctor were discussing. I didn’t think that it was anything good, otherwise they would have went ‘whoopee!’ and congratulated me on being A1 fit.

Just then Moira came in and sat down beside me. ‘Wosup?’

‘I don’t know, you tell me. No one will say anything.’

‘Well, that’s adults for you. Secrets and the children must be kept in the dark. Anyway, I erm, well, what I mean to say...’

She looked embarrassed.

‘Spit it out.’

‘You have, I mean, where did, erm , how come...’

‘What is it Moi?’

‘You have breasts.’

‘We all have.’

‘I know that silly! No what I mean is you have some like er, mine.’

‘You noticed?’

‘Yea, well you can’t miss it, what with you wearing that grotty thin gown and no bra.’

‘I don’t want a bra. I don’t want big breasts, and I don’t want to be here. I want to go home, get a new bike and get back to normal.’

‘What’s normal, you hiding the fact that you have breasts like a girl?’

‘I’m no girl, and anyway, lots of boys have this. It goes away–eventually.’

‘Well I don’t know what’s going on. Mummy, Daddy and the doctor are in a huddle and they told me to come and keep you company.’

‘You don’t have to ...’

‘Don’t be like that Ben; you’ve been ever so snappy lately. You nearly bit my head off the other day when I asked you to pass the sugar.’

I sighed. ‘Sorry sis, I’m a bit like that at the moment. One minute I feel angry, then I want to cry, and then something sets me off and I get all cranky. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and now they are talking about me behind my back and I just want it all go away.’

Moira gave me a hug. Wow that was the third hug in half an hour; I normally didn’t get that many in a month!

My aches and pains gradually subsided. I had a pad held on by surgical tape on my hip and that wasn’t too great, but considering everything, I had managed to come out of the accident okay.

Moira was having another look at my chart as I stared into the distance, wondering why all this could happen to me when the door opened again and Mum, Dad and the doctor came in. They had their happy faces on, so I knew that I was going to get bad news.

‘Moira,’ said Mum, ‘would you like to go and stretch your legs?’

‘It’s okay Mum, let her stay.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, she needs to know almost as much as I do. So,’ I said after taking a deep breath, ‘am I dying?’ I said this in a flat voice, convinced that I was very sick.

Mum looked at the doctor and nodded and then came over and held my hand. Dad sat on the bed, his arm around my shoulder–it must be bad, I thought.

The doctor looked at her notes and then at me. ‘Well Ben, we have done some tests as you know, taken blood samples, given you a very thorough examination and then finally we did an ultrasound. I have spoken to your parents and colleagues, and we have agreed that we should book you in for an MRI, just to confirm our findings. What I can say is no, you are not dying, but yes, you have problems that need sorting out sooner rather than later.

‘What’s wrong with me then?’

‘Have you ever heard the term intersexed?’

‘No, well, I’m not sure, why?’

‘Well, we are almost 100% sure that you are intersexed. Basically that means that you have both male and female characteristics if you like. Reproductive or sexual anatomy in those who are intersexed can be ambiguous, meaning not clear. With you, you have outwards signs of being male–penis and scrotum, all be it very underdeveloped, but inside you have female organs. If this had been noticed when you were born or shortly after, a decision may have been made for you to be surgically assisted to be either male or female.’

‘Can they do that?’

‘Yes they can, especially if it is clear which would be the most beneficial to the baby. However, unless there is a medical necessity we no longer try to do anything surgically, and we wait for a decision to be made at a much later date when the person concerned is old enough to know more about the condition and is able to make an informed decision.’

To say that all this was a shock to me would be a bit of an understatement and I had difficulty in taking it in. Moira spoke up.

‘So is Ben a girl or a boy?’

‘Doctor Roberts turned to her. ‘A bit of both really, Ben has the reproductive organs of a boy and a girl, but there is a bit of a problem.’

‘What’s that?’ I asked, still getting my head around the boy/girl thing.

‘Well I can’t sugar coat it and you need to know all the facts so that you can decide what you should do. Your testicles have never developed, and it is highly likely that they never will. In fact, as a matter of urgency we will have to remove them because of the risks involved leaving them there. You will not be able to father children or have a meaningful sex life as a male adult.’

‘What about if I was a g ... girl?’

We need to run a few more tests and have an MRI, but it appears that you have all the organs needed to have children, although, as yet, we are not sure whether they are fully functioning. Also, another thing that is concerning us is, if you are fully functioning, the possibility that you are close to your first menses.’

‘Menses?’

‘Period,’ said Moira in a way that was far too smug for my liking.

‘Oh,’ I said, not knowing what to say.

‘As Moira says, it’s your possible first period we are talking about. Moira you have had yours?’

‘Yes last year.’ She said it like she was proud of it.

‘Well Ben, as your twin has already had hers, it seems likely that you will, if, as I say you are fully functioning, have yours sooner rather than later.’

‘So I am effectively a girl?’

‘There are things that we can do to stop you developing as a girl, and that is a decision that you and your family will have to decide. But I regret to say that as a male you will probably have problems both psychological and physical.’

‘Will I ever be big and muscular?’

‘Probably not, but male hormones can do a lot to make you more male looking, and there are other procedures that we can use to alter your appearance. Look, you have a lot to take in. There is no need to stay in hospital overnight. Your parents will keep an eye on you. With your permission, we will book you in for surgery for an orchiectomy; that is a surgery to remove both testicles. You will be better off without them, and this needs to be done as a matter of urgency. Also we have to have those other tests done so that we have a complete picture. You should go home now and talk about what option you decide to take up. Don’t worry; we will sort you out as soon as possible.’

~*~

Everyone was quiet on the way home, and I was in my own little world, trying to take in what I had been told. I knew that my family loved me and would give me a bit of space to work out what I wanted in my own mind.

We arrived home and I went upstairs to my bedroom. I wasn’t hungry and just told Mum that I wanted an early night.

‘We’ll speak about it tomorrow then,’ she said, (‘it’ obviously being the intersex thing.)

I got out of my baggy tracksuit that Mum had brought from home and into my pyjamas.

Luckily my hip wasn’t too sore, so I was able to get comfortable. My head was a bit painful, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

I went to the toilet, sitting as I always did. Standing and going for me was not an option, as it tended to spray everywhere. After washing and cleaning my teeth, I went to bed and turned off the light.

I could still hear people moving about downstairs but tried to ignore it. Then, after a bit I could hear Moira come up in her clunky heels. Soon it was quiet again and I closed my eyes, trying to sleep, but sleep wouldn’t come to me. Eventually, I got up, went to the bathroom and had a drink of water. As I left the bathroom, I could hear the murmur of voices coming from downstairs. I heard my name mentioned and went partially down the stairs and sat on a step, listening to what my parents had to say.

‘It’s my fault,’ Mum was saying.

‘Rubbish, you weren’t to know. The doctor said that in many cases it’s difficult to diagnose intersex problems until later in life. He looked pretty normal when he was born.’

‘I know that, but I should have seen the signs. I’m a bloody doctor for God’s sake!’

‘Don’t beat yourself up over it. It happened, no one picked up on it but we have now, and we need to be there for him.’

‘Or her.’

‘Yes or her; we love Ben and we will support him or her as much as we can. Playing the blame game helps nobody, least of all Ben.’

‘I know, I just want to go up and ease the pain, but he needs his space. We’ll talk about it tomorrow. But one thing is sure, he needs to have that surgery. There’s a high chance of cancer later in life if the testicles aren’t removed. Also I am worried that he will have a period and the flow of blood and cellular debris will not be able to leave his body.”

I left them to it and went back upstairs to bed.

~*~

All night I tossed and turned. At one point I took a couple of pain killers and at least the pain in my body went away. I no longer wore the compression vest and I was very aware of my enlarged breasts.

I wondered what it would be like to be a girl. Moira loved skirts and dresses, even though most of her friends seemed to prefer tops and jeans. She was what I would call a girlie girl, and always had been right from being a young kid.

I tried to imagine being like her with the long hair, feminine clothes and even makeup. I couldn’t imagine it. Then there was school. I went to a boy’s school and I would have to change to a girl’s one. How would I be treated by the other girls? Would I be bullied? Girls could be cruel just like boys, and I didn’t relish the thought of being bullied.

I supposed that I would have to leave the scouts and that was bad, as I enjoyed going. My bike riding would be different as I would be in the girl’s category rather than boys, or would I? They might think that I was neither as I originally had boys and girl bits.

I sighed and turned over again. I wasn’t able to sleep and it was all so confusing.

Eventually, I must have fallen asleep, but something woke me up. It was early morning a bit before dawn, although there was light in the sky. The birds had started to twitter like mad outside my bedroom window.

I carried on where I had left off the previous night, looking at what had happened and the choices that were open to me.

Getting up, I went to the toilet. I was a bit stiff from the accident, but not too bad. Quite often I got up early and went for a bike ride, and although I was a bit stiff, I decided to do just that using my old bike.

I didn’t bother with tight lycra but just put on my tracksuit, picked up my second best helmet and left a note for my parents.

I had a pang of regret where I saw the remains of my lovely carbon fibre bike lying forlornly at the back of the garage. It had cost a lot of money, and I was so happy when Mum and dad bought it for my birthday. Now it was a wreck. I thought that it was covered by insurance, but I wasn’t sure.

Soon I was out in the lane on my old bike and riding as fast as I could, bearing in mind the sensitive state my body was in. Not wearing the compression vest made me very aware of my breasts and the need for something to stop the chafing. A bra, I supposed, if I took the girly route.

The sky was quite bright now, promising a fine day.

Eventually, I found myself going through Ditchling and then up the hill where all this started the previous day.

I rode up the hill slowly, stopping occasionally to get my breath back. My hip became sore again, but I decided to complete the climb, as I hadn’t managed to do it the previous day. I suppose it was a bit daft to go for a bike ride like this after all that had happened, but this was the one thing that I loved to do, and getting to the top for some reason became the most important thing for me to do.

I passed the place where I had been knocked over but didn’t hang around. Luckily, there were only a few vehicles on the road, and I didn’t have a repetition of the previous day’s event.

I must admit that I stopped a couple of times before reaching The Beacon, but eventually, I made it.

I got off my bike, pulled it off the road and then just sat down and looked at the scenery.

The sun was just about to rise and the breeze was gentle against my face. I took a couple of swigs from my bottle and absent mindedly scratched a nipple.

‘Nice day, love,’ said a man on a mountain bike as he passed me and then hurtled down the hill.

‘Love he called me,’ I thought, ‘so he thought that I was a girl.’

I smiled ruefully; this was what it was going to be like. Even as a boy people would think of me as a girl. Don’t get me wrong, I like girls, sort of. The ones that I knew were fine. There were several in cycle club who were real friends, but that didn’t mean that I should be one. I was a boy, and I liked being a boy. Boys don’t have to take ages to get ready. They don’t start giggling at the slightest thing. Boys don’t wear makeup, and the choice of clothes is easy, and they don’t go all gooey at the thought of going shopping...

Maybe I could take the pills and injections and the surgery to make me more like a boy than I am now ...

I looked down at myself. … Who was I kidding? I didn’t look like a real boy, and no amount of surgery would change that. It was be a girl or nothing.

I thought about the abuse that I would take. Everyone I knew would laugh at me. They would call me a freak, or something worse. I would live my life in the knowledge that I was different, not normal.

Tears coursed down my face as I realised that life for me would be intolerable. I wouldn’t have any sort of normal life. I had been born a boy; well I thought that I was a boy anyway. I had lived my life as a boy, and now that had been taken away from me.

I got up, dusted myself off and got on my bike.

I knew what I had to do. I had to get rid of the pain. I needed to finish things now, and stop the pain in my chest, not a physical pain, but one that needed to be exorcised.

I clipped my right foot into the pedal and looked down the hill. It was a steep hill; God knows I had been down it enough to know that. I had once exceeded 50 miles an hour down this hill even though it was bendy. I would go down it as fast as possible and just carry straight on. It would be quick, there was a point on the road where I knew that I would go off the road and just sail into the air. It might hurt a bit, but it would soon end. All my pain would end and then–who knows.

I took a deep breath and looked at the fiery sun as it came up over the horizon. It was so beautiful. I could see for miles and the countryside was bathed in a warm light.

Something caught my eye and from the undergrowth there came a couple of rabbits. They chased each other across the field, playing and larking about as if they had no care in the world.

I felt envious of them and wished that I had nothing to worry about, but I did. I was this non-person, someone who by a trick of fate was not the person I thought that I was.

I was crying–again. My heart was beating loudly in my breast. I faced the road again which went down steeply and disappeared around the bend.

A last look at the lovely countryside surrounding me, bathed in the glowing golden light of the sunrise and then with a choking sob, I pushed down on the peddle and set off on my final journey.

~*~

My phone went off.

I nearly ignored it, but I didn’t. Stopping, I pulled my phone out of my pocket. And looked at the screen.

It was a message from my Mum.

‘Come home honey, we love you.’

I stopped and thought about it. I remembered the love of my family and what it would be like if I never came home.

The sun was rising even further now in the bright almost cloudless sky. I just sat there on my bike in the middle of the road, not knowing or caring if a car was coming. I was in my own world, a world inside my head. What should I do?

I thought about what would happen if I did die. And the pain and anguish my family would go through. I remembered last night sitting on the stairs and mum blaming herself for not finding out that I had problems.

Dad had always told me to stand tall and be proud of what and who I am. Would he still love me? I knew the answer almost before I thought about the question. He did love me, as did my Mum and Moira.

I wondered what it would be like to be a girl. Maybe I could try it and see; I suppose that I had nothing to lose. What I was feeling now was bad, very bad. Perhaps I should have been a girl and then all this pain and anguish wouldn’t have happened. My choice at the moment was death, and an end to all the pain or life, as a girl– there was no way I could function as a boy, and I didn’t want to be in some sort of twilight zone of being neither boy or girl. I had to choose...

Was I brave enough?

I looked at the text message again.

‘Come home honey, we love you.’

I made my decision.

Tears were falling down my face. I must have looked a mess.

I sent a message back to Mum, put the phone in my pocket, took a deep breath and rode down the steep hill–slowly.

I went home to loving embrace of my family, knowing in my heart that the power of love was all I needed to get through this.

And do you know, I did get through it.

The End

My thanks go to the lovely and talented Holly Hart for editing, and pulling the story into shape.

Please leave comments and kudo thingies...thanks! ~Sue



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