Testing Times - Chapter 1 "Welcome Home"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  

Part
One

 

"Welcome Home"

 

Thurday 9th April

Tammy stepped off the lunchtime flight from Stansted to Glasgow and headed into the terminal. Her first job was to get to the hotel she had booked for the night in the centre of Glasgow. Unfortunately no-one seemed to think that a train connection from this airport would be needed so, instead, she took the shuttle bus into Glasgow City Centre, landing at the Glasgow Central Hotel around four.

The only reason she was in Glasgow was so she could see Professor Roberts before what was looking to be a very busy late Spring and Summer period. For now, however, she needed to check-in, both at the hotel and with a few other folk.

"Hi Dad, I'm in Glasgow."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, the mobile reception was a bit dodgy at the house, and I only just made the flight so didn't have any time at Stansted."

"Okay, how are you getting back tomorrow?"

"Assuming everything goes to time, there's a train at 1010 to Inverness and a connection into Thurso that gets me back just before six."

"We've got snow on the ground so don't expect a helicopter to meet you at Inverness."

"I won't, but I need to buy a winter coat, I didn't need anything heavy in Cornwall and now I'm freezing."

"Go do that now, the shops will be closing shortly. Where are you?"

"Just off Argyle St."

"There's plenty of shops near there so get moving, we'll speak tomorrow."

"Bye, dad."

"take care Tammy, love you."

"Love you too."

Tammy hustled out of the hotel entrance and into the Princes Square shopping centre. Tammy knew that she wasn't short of money, but paying over two hundred pounds for a coat that was unsuitable for school or college? The shops here were not what she needed. Further along the road was Primark, even at four thirty there was a bun fight in the ladieswear section. She was sure she could get something reasonable that fitted her requirements but the queue looked half an hour long.

The temperature was dropping fast, coming back out onto Argyle Street Tammy looked across the road at the Saint Enoch Shopping Centre, an inner city mall that almost backed onto the River Clyde. She dived into air-conditioned building, but decided against shopping at first and instead headed to a coffee shop. She took her phone out and tapped a few messages.

Hi Aunt Heather, I've arrived in Glasgow and it's cold! I get home tomorrow evening then have a week to get ready for an engagement party. I hope you and Sophie are fine

Hi Tanya, I'll be back tomorrow and I passed!

This had an immediate response.

Your driving test? Well done girl! You'll have to tell me all about it, what time tomorrow?
 
Six at the station but gone seven before I'll have eaten, I don't think I'll be up for anything?
 
We'll see you on Saturday at The Mill for rehearsal?
 
Sure, when's John back?
 
Next Thursday, too long!
 
You'll get over it, are you ready for your engagement party?
 
No! I don't know what to wear, find something for me in Glasgow, please!
 
I need something for myself, can't you sort yourself out?
 
Help me Tammy! I can't get into Glasgow, or even London, and you've been in both!
 
I've been busy. Look, I'm in a shopping centre right now so I'll have a look.
 
Thanks!!!!!

Tammy put her phone away then finished her drink. The fact that Tammy and Tanya were now the same size, UK Size 12, and similar height meant that Tammy could see whether a dress would suit her best friend. What followed was two hours of intensive frock shopping, although Tammy only remembered a few minutes before the stores closed that she needed a coat, plus gloves, hat and a scarf.

The tally for the unscheduled dress search was four frocks, Tanya would have to choose one. Tammy had deliberately gone for knee length, or shorter, as much of her own wardrobe included mid and maxi length dresses. This was the first time Tammy would have experiences Spring and Summer as a girl so she was determined to get it right.

One plan had been to eat in the food court but that was closing shortly. Instead Tammy put the coat over her fleece and picked up the dress bags ready for the walk back to her hotel. She had just reached the hotel entrance when she heard her name, she span around.

"John?"

"What a surprise, Tammy, what are you doing?"

"I have an appointment at the Royal Infirmary tomorrow morning so I'm getting the mid morning train tomorrow. What about you?"

"I needed a suit for the party but I also want to be there for the rehearsal on Saturday so I convinced my folks I could travel here today and get into Thurso tomorrow. Have you been shopping?"

"Er, yes."

"Typical! I hope Tanya doesn't get the shopping bug too bad."

Tammy decided to leave that one alone. "Did you get a suit?"

"Yes, I was just going out for something to eat, want to join me?"

"Sure, can I just lose these bags and freshen my face?"

"How long?"

"Ten minutes."

"I'll come up to your room, just don't tell my fiancée!"

Tammy took closer to an hour, she wanted a shower and then decided to wear one of the new dresses but it was awkward dressing with John in the room, the cramped bathroom didn't help.

"Sorry John, I mean I know we have known each other for a long time, but I don't want to put my dress on just yet. Could you go to your room and come back in twenty? You are in this hotel, aren't you?"

"I am, I'll see you in twenty five in the lobby."

Tammy sighed as John left her room. Until nine months earlier there wouldn't have been any embarrassment between them but things were different now, not least of which he was engaged to her best friend. That she used to be Tom Smart, and was now Tamara Smart, seemed less important.

It was a different, relaxed Tammy who met back up with John.

"Wow!"

"Down boy, down!" Tammy giggled. "Shall we go?"

John took Tammy's arm and guided her the short distance to Bella Italia.

***

"Thank you John, that was lovely." They were walking back to the hotel.

"My pleasure Tammy, but you didn't tell me anything about what you have been doing for the past two weeks."

"I thought I did?"

"Not really, but you did tell me four times that you'd passed your driving test, but didn't say where you did it."

"Was that important?"

"Obviously not. What's your plan for the morning?"

"I have to be at the Royal Infirmary for a nine o'clock appointment so I'll need a taxi soon after eight thirty. My bags need to go to Queen St so I can get the train to Inverness."

"I'll look after your bags, just bring them down before you go in the morning?"

"Okay, thanks."

"Please don't tell Tanya you've seen me, I want this to be a surprise."

"Okay." She leant over and kissed him on the cheek before heading towards her room. "Goodnight, John."

"Night, Tammy."

 
Friday 10th April

"Good morning Miss Smart."

"Good morning Professor, I hope you and your lovely wife are well?"

"We are indeed, just back from a holiday in the Islas Canarias."

"Oh, the Isle of Dogs?" Tammy laughed.

"Not to be confused with that part of London!"

"I have an apartment near there."

"Do you now, anyway we are not here to discuss holidays or property ownership, are we?"

"Of course not."

"Now, Tammy, I wonder if you could explain a strange phone call my secretary received a couple of weeks ago from the Royal Navy Psychiatry Service in Plymouth that queried when you would be eligible for GRS."

"I don't know anyone in Plymouth, although I've just got back from Cornwall but that doesn't explain the Royal Navy or why someone would know - oh!"

"Yes?"

"Heather."

"Heather?"

"I've just spent a week and a bit in Cornwall as a prelude to an internship in the summer. The placement is sort of government so that might be where the military aspect comes in?"

"Sort of government?"

"An agency."

"Okay."

Tammy started thinking out loud. "Thing is, why would Heather be talking about GRS unless she herself was transgendered? I'm wondering if she was trying to schedule us both for the same time? That would be weird!"

"Indeed, so if we continue that theme, would you like the surgery?"

"I'd like to finish the job, but the idea of surgery worries me. Anyway, I'd have to fit it into everything else."

"That's an unfortunate turn of phrase, but it's quite normal to be concerned about major surgery, when do think you'll be ready?"

"I'm ready now, but I have an induction course and internship once my exams are over that will last most of the summer, then I start at college. Maybe next year?"

"So what's more important?"

"Making certain I have a career path, and the internship is definitely an opening onto a very interesting career."

"Doing what?"

"Sorry, I can't say."

"Can't say or won't say?"

"Can't."

"Signed the official secrets act then?"

"Yes."

Professor Roberts laughed. "I signed it once or twice myself, not that signing the piece of paper actually means anything."

"It doesn't?"

"No, it's just you saying that you understand your obligations, it doesn't actually tell you what those are! Never mind, if it was possible for you to have your GRS later this year, would you?"

"Yes."

"Fine, let's see each other in October, at half-term?"

"Sounds good. Oh, we're putting on Macbeth in a couple of weeks at the Mill Theatre."

"I guess you're Lady Macbeth?"

"Of course."

"I saw the pictures and report from the Thurso Echo about your school production."

"You did? I've not seen anything."

"Didn't you check the paper's website?"

"Oh."

"Anyway, I can see that you're ready for the surgery, just don't schedule it before the end of October, right?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Off you go, or you'll miss your train."

"How did you know?"

"You've been checking the clock on the wall every few seconds!"

***

"Tammy, we only have a few minutes to spare!"

"Sorry John, I had the cab driver from hell."

"Can't be that bad?"

"When he's more interested in chatting you up than actually driving you, then it is that bad."

"Look, I've got our tickets so you can owe me, grab your bags!"

They had just settled down in their seats when the train lurched forward as it made the steep climb out of Glasgow' Queen Street Station. Ahead of them were three hours before they reached Inverness. John tried to tease Tammy into telling him what she'd been doing over the previous couple of weeks.

"I know you weren't in London as I called Angela when I couldn't get you."

"Oh, what did she say?"

"That you hadn't even gone to the apartment with her or Mrs Small."

"I might not have done."

"So where did you go?"

"Cornwall."

"Cornwall!"

"Keep it down, yes I know it's a long way from here, but it took less time to fly from Edinburgh to Newquay two weeks ago than this train across Scotland will take."

John softened his voice, "so what did you do? I didn't know you knew anyone down there?"

"I do know people there, but I don't put a list out and, no, they're not friends on facebook either. I've been offered some work expereince, an internship, for the summer and this was a taster. It's not being advertised so I don't want anyone to get jealous."

"Oh, I doubt that would happen."

"It would, believe me, anyway the sun shone, I had plenty of exercise and healthy eating, and I passed my driving test."

"You said that last night."

"Well, have you passed your test?"

"Yes."

"When, when?"

"Wednesday."

"Why didn't you say?"

"I couldn't get a word in edgeways!"

Tammy gave John a hug and a kiss. "I'm sorry."

"Don't, and please don't say anything to Tanya."

"I won't! What are you going to do about a car?"

"Mum and Dad will look at them when they get up to Thurso later next week."

"They're staying with Elsie McPherson, aren't they?"

"Yes, so am I but not for a few days."

"Where will you stay tonight?"

"I hadn't worked that out, yet."

"Let me guess, you don't want to call Sandy and ask her?"

"I want to go see her tomorrow."

"I can ask Dad if you can stay a night or two?"

"I'd be grateful if you could."

Knowing that the mobile signal quality along the line, outside of urban areas, was pretty lousy, Tammy simply sent her father a text. A minute later she had a response.

"He says that's fine."

By mutual agreement the pair pulled headphones and music playing equipment out, ready to listen to their own selection. By midday, two hours into the journey, Tammy was regretting rushing breakfast.

"How long do we get at Inverness?"

"Half an hour."

"Not really enough time to have a decent lunch?"

"No, but plenty enough to get a sandwich, it's then almost a four hour ride into Thurso."

"I was hoping Dad would send a helicopter to collect us at Inverness, but he said there was heavy snow on the ground, the choppers only go urgent work under those circumstances, I don't count apparently!"

"I thought you part-owned the company?"

"I do, but Dad's the Chief Operating Officer, plus the firm is supposed to be making a profit."

"Can't argue with that, although it would get us back several hours quicker."

Finally, at half past one, the train pulled into Inverness and the two stepped out onto the platform. Snow had settled here, but Tammy's shoes were inadequate, John looked down as she tried to remove the white powder from her toes, shaking his head.

They reached a sandwich bar outside the station just as the owner was pulling down the shutters.

"Sorry, it's been a slow day and I can't justify being open any longer."

They looked across the road at a café but there seemed to be a queue, although the misted windows didn't help.

"When's our train?"

"At two, we've got just over twenty minutes."

The only option was a plastic pack of overpriced sandwiches from the station shop. Taking advantage of a 'meal deal' it cost Tammy a tenner for the pair of them. Their train was waiting but no-one was boarding, Tammy found a railway employee.

"Is there a problem with the Thurso service?"

"The heating system packed up just before the train got here from Wick, if we can't fix it then it'll be cancelled."

The air temperature on the platform seemed to drop at that point so John persuaded Tammy into the station foyer, in front of the information screens.

"We've got ten minutes before it goes, Tammy, I'm sure they'll sort it out."

"Your faith is better than mine."

"Obviously."

With promises that the train was ready, they departed Inverness ten minutes late. An hour into the journey the heating failed in their carriage so everyone was moved along to the next carriage. That wasn't too much hardship but there weren't many empty seats so Tammy ended up sat next to John, eventually nodding off against him.

"Come on Tammy, we're almost in Thurso."

Tammy stretched. "Sorry John, did I fall asleep on you?"

"Yes."

Another passenger, facing them, spoke. "You make a lovely couple."

Tammy blushed and wanted to say something, but John had other ideas.

"Move, Tammy, we're here! Don't forget your bags, all of them!" As they stepped off the train he added, "and if you ever say that to Tanya I will murder you!"

"Duly noted."

Her father, Richard, was waiting outside the station with his Landrover. "Get in, both of you, it's not warm enough to dilly or dally."

Tammy checked the time, it was gone six in the evening, they'd been travelling for almost eight hours.

As Richard pulled up outside the front door Tammy stepped out of the car but then didn't know where her house keys were, not having used them for two weeks. Fortunately Joan, her adopted mother, opened the door to let the pair in. Tammy gave her a hug but went straight to her room.

Half an hour later she appeared in the kitchen wearing a onesie, her hair still damp. Her sister, Angela, took one look and started to laugh but quickly stopped, immediately giving Tammy a hug. "I've missed you, Angela!"

"I missed you too, Tammy, welcome home."



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