“Don’t see why you’re moaning,” dad laughs as I pass him yet another handful of pink and silver streamers. “You’re the one who insists on hanging out with these celebrities, attending their parties… There’s no ducking out of it now just because it’s your turn to organise one!”
“Give me a break,” I sigh. “I’ve been at work every day this week…”
“Ooh, poor you, having to work for a living,” Beverly laughs, making me sigh. “Thanks for helping out today, Chris.”
“My pleasure,” dad says. “She’s my future daughter-in-law, that makes her family, right?”
“Indeed it does!” Beverly laughs as I pump up a seemingly countless number of pink and silver balloons, taking care not to ruin my carefully-sculpted gold-coloured fingernails on the hand pump. Even though I’m complaining of being tired after a full day of work- and am still wearing my clingy work attire of a tight white blouse, a tight black miniskirt and black stiletto heels- I’m giddy with excitement at the prospect of what’s happening tonight, especially as I pump up two giant balloons- one in the shape of the number ‘1’ and one in the shape of the number ‘9’.
Less than half an hour later, accompanied by mum and Jenny, dad, Beverly and I all cheer as the familiar, tired form of my fiancée walks through the front door and is confronted by the pink and silver landscape the three of us have spent the past hour carefully sculpting.
“Happy birthday!” I say, wrapping my arms around Sarah’s slim waist and giving her a long, deep kiss. “Again!”
“Oh my god!” Sarah squeaks. “You guys…”
“Happy birthday, Sarah!” Dad chuckles, giving Sarah a brief, fatherly hug. “I figured now that you’re a member of the family- well, as good as, anyway- we’d better, you know, ‘go the extra mile’, so…” Sarah gasps as dad hands her a generous-sized pile of presents, all of which are wrapped in the same glittery wrapping paper as the gifts I gave Sarah earlier this morning.
“Thank you so much!” Sarah gushes, giving my mum and dad another hug before eagerly unwrapping the gifts, which include study guides for her university course and fabrics with which Sarah can make more of her amazing clothes. “This is so awesome, really, you didn’t have to do all this…”
“As he said,” mum chuckles, “you’re family now, and that means you get spoiled on your birthday!”
“Thank you,” Sarah giggles, before sitting down next to me on the sofa and giving me a tight hug. “And especially thank YOU!”
“You’re the woman I love,” I say with a smile. “You’re the woman I’m going to marry, that means I’d happily do ANYTHING for you!”
“So,” mum says, interrupting the two of us before we get any more ‘intimate’, “19 years old… Just one year left of teenage life, enjoy it while it lasts! Soon you’ll be up to your ears in bills…”
“Thanks, Sandra!” Sarah laughs. “Always nice to have something to look forward to…”
“Concentrate on the ‘enjoy it’ part rather than the ‘while it lasts’ part,” dad chuckles. “When are you off to your big, fancy celebrity party?”
“Heading out just after 8:30,” I say.
“Well… It’s 4:30 now, that doesn’t give you much time to get ready!” Dad jokes, earning a playful whack with a cushion from me.
“Try and deny it all you want,” Beverly laughs. “I’ve been a nineteen year old girl, I know that four hours usually isn’t enough, especially for you two!”
“Girls will be girls,” dad laughs, giving my shoulder a gentle squeeze as he, mum and Jenny leave the house. “See you two after your big weekend!”
“Bye, dad,” I say.
“Bye, dad-in-law!” Sarah giggles, before resting her head on my shoulder. “Thank you so much for today… And I thought last year was amazing!”
“You deserve ‘amazing’,” I sigh happily. “Good day at uni?”
“Tiring,” Sarah laughs. “It IS a lot harder than I was expecting… But to answer your inevitable next question, yes, I do still love it!”
“Good,” I say with a giggle as I inspect Sarah’s pile of presents. “Think my parents have spent more on you than they did on me last birthday, heh!”
“Your parents are so amazing,” Sarah sighs happily. “God knows your dad’s more of a dad to me than my own…”
“Don’t- don’t be too hard on him,” I say, giving Sarah a quick cuddle. “You don’t know yet what he’s got you…”
“Your father’s always splashed out on you in the past,” Beverly says. “No reason he wouldn’t now…”
“I can think of a reason,” Sarah sighs. “The scaly, fire-breathing creature dad’s currently married to…”
“Diane’s not THAT-“ I say, before wilting under Sarah’s glare. “Umm… We should probably start getting ready at some point…”
“After dinner,” Sarah says, the smile returning to her face. Sure enough, two hours later, I find myself in the familiar position of being stood next to Sarah and stripping down to my bra and thong, before applying layer after layer of thick make-up, including dark eyeshadow, thick eyeliner, huge false eyelashes and dark fuchsia lipstick. As much as I enjoy applying my make-up, it’s made a hundred times better by the fact that Sarah is stood next to me doing the exact same thing, and a million times better by the fact that if I hadn’t had the courage to come out to my parents two and a half years ago, right now my face wouldn’t have any make-up on it at all, and my life would be one long string of misery with or without Sarah. Sure, as a man, it’d take me a tenth of the time to get ready… But for someone with sixteen years to make up for, getting ready for a party can be just as much fun as the party itself!
I prove this to Sarah when pulling on my tights causes me to giggle uncontrollably- though that may be due to the fact that the tights are fishnet, rather than the sheer tights I usually wear to parties. The dress I’m wearing to the party is, unsurprisingly, one of Sarah’s creations- unusually for her, it’s a slinky black number with a thick halter neck, but it has a very cute short flared skirt that swishes around my fishnet-covered legs with every step, especially when paired with the 4” heeled stilettos I’m wearing to the party.
“You are seriously the most beautiful woman in the world,” Sarah says, encircling my narrow waist from behind.
“JOINT most beautiful,” I say, turning around and giving the birthday girl a long, deep kiss. “That one of your dresses?” I giggle as Sarah breaks away from my embrace and does a twirl in her short, extra-tight strapless dress.
“One of Ophelia’s, actually,” Sarah says with a smile. “Hence why my boobs are nearly popping out of it…”
“It definitely gets my seal of approval,” I say with a mischievous giggle. “For exactly that reason!"
“No boobs until we get home,” Sarah says with an equally mischievous grin. “And that includes yours!” I giggle and press my chest into Sarah’s partially-bare back, causing her to sigh happily.
“I mean it,” my fiancée says.
“I’ve still got sixteen years of ‘no boobs’ to make up for,” I say with a mock pout.
“Trust me, you ARE making up for it,” Sarah giggles. “And we’ll MORE than make up for it when we get home. For now, though, we- sorry, I- have a party to get to!” I smile as Sarah’s immaculately-manicured hand grabs mine and leads me down her stairs to our waiting taxi, which soon whisks us away to Charlotte’s house, which is still as elaborately decorated as it was when I left it earlier in the afternoon.
“Happy birthday!” Charlotte and Jamie yell simultaneously, giving Sarah a tight hug as she enters the mansion.
“Oh my god, thank you both so much!” Sarah giggles, before scrunching up her face in confusion as she’s handed a plain white t-shirt. “Umm… what’s this?”
“Tonight’s theme!” Jamie says, handing t-shirts to myself and Charlotte before pulling one on herself over her dress. Sarah and I both giggle when the logo on the front of the t-shirt is revealed- an elaborate purple logo featuring the letters ‘SJP’, underneath which is the slogan ‘Sara Jeni Phi- London’s best sorority, established 27/11/1996’.
“Oh my god, that is so cool!” Sarah laughs as she pulls on her t-shirt, taking care not to get make-up on the collar.
“We didn’t know if you were in an actual sorority,” Charlotte explains, “but Viks says that British universities don’t have them, so we figured we wouldn’t be offending anyone.”
“Other than Viks herself, who hates the whole ‘sorority’ thing!” Jamie giggles.
“So, what do we do in this ‘sorority’?” I ask.
“Drink, drink and be merry!” Charlotte giggles, leading Sarah and I into the main room where the birthday girl is showered with cheers and we’re both handed tall glasses of champagne, which are followed by numerous glasses of wine and spirits that leave the two of us- along with everyone else at the party- feeling very drunk by the time we depart just after 1am.
I don’t remember how we got home or how we got into bed, but the first thing I’m aware of on Saturday morning is waking up in Sarah’s bed, still wearing my party dress and my t-shirt. The second thing I become aware of is what can only be described as sheer agony in my head, my throat and my stomach, which becomes even worse as I turn my head and a wave of nausea sweeps over me. I roll off of Sarah’s bed and hit the floor with an undignified thump and crawl toward her en-suite, barely reaching her toilet in time to loudly vomit into it, before collapsing on her cold tiled floor.
“Out of the way,” Sarah groans as she stumbles into her en-suite, before hunching over the toilet bowl and vomiting even longer and louder than I did. “Ugh… Why, why did we drink so much last night?”
“I swear I am NEVER drinking alcohol again,” I moan as Sarah lays down next to me, still clad in her own dress and t-shirt and her hair still mostly tied into her updo from last night. “The damned vodka had vodka in it…”
“Ugh,” Sarah spits, before rinsing her mouth out with water and crawling back to her bed, where I join her a short while later. “…It WAS a good night, though!”
“I’ll take your word for it,” I sigh. “What time is it?”
“It’s…” Sarah says, looking at her phone. “…Shit.”
“Half past shit or quarter to shit?” I ask, earning a weak, playful shove from Sarah.
“Ugh, we were meant to be up an hour ago,” Sarah sighs. “I told dad I’d be there mid-morning… It already IS mid-morning.”
“I really, really don’t want to get up,” I moan. “And not just because of the alcohol…” Sarah smiles as she gives me a brief, gentle kiss before grimacing.
“No offence, Nikki,” Sarah says, “but you really, really taste like booze…”
“…So do you,” I sigh, before wincing as a knock comes from Sarah’s bedroom door.
“Morning, girls!” Beverly yells, making my fiancée and I groan with pain. “You two decent?”
”We’re clothed,” Sarah replies, prompting Beverly to enter the room and groan at the sight of the two of us.
“No- don’t tell me,” Beverly sighs. “Borderline alcohol poisoning, right?”
“It certainly doesn’t feel ‘borderline’,” Sarah says, yelping with pain as Beverly draws back her curtains.
“Breath,” Beverly says, to which Sarah slowly, gingerly sits up and breaths into the face of her mother, causing the middle-aged woman to recoil in disgust. “Nope, you’re not fit to drive, I can tell just by looking at you that neither of you are. What you both are, however, is deeply irresponsible for drinking so much and sleeping in your expensive clothes!”
“…Sorry, mum,” Sarah meekly mumbles.
“Sorry, Beverly,” I mutter.
“Get up, get showered and dressed,” Beverly orders. “I’ll drive you to Euston, you can get a train to see your father. Hopefully you’ll sober up en route!”
“Yes, mum,” Sarah sighs, waiting for Beverly to leave before peeling off her t-shirt and her dress and heading into the shower. I take the opportunity to shake some of the drunkenness out of my skull before checking my own phone and grimacing at the app that was left open last night.
“Umm… Sarah?” I ask. “Does your mum follow Katie’s Instagram? Or Lauren’s?”
“Don’t think she’s even HEARD of Instagram,” Sarah replies. “Why?” I giggle at the image on my screen, of myself and Sarah sprawled on Charlotte’s floor with our dresses riding up and our thongs in full view of the camera.
“Umm…” I say. “Let’s just say it’s gonna be a fun train ride to Milton Keynes!” After Sarah’s showered, I take her place under the hot, running water, allowing it to cascade over my naked body and wash away the ‘fog’ that built up last night. After applying a very modest layer of make-up, I dress for the day in a plain, long-sleeved black bodysuit, black tights, a loose knee-length skirt with a playful pattern and, after the pain my feet were in when I woke up this morning, a pair of cute dark purple flats. Sarah, of course, looks even more beautiful than normal in her clingy white top, patterned black tights and grey pinafore dress, with her hair, as always, tied back into a cute ponytail.
“Mmm, LOVE that bodysuit,” Sarah says as she gives me a gentle hug. “Have you been taking style tips from Jamie again?”
“After last night I just wanted comfort, comfort, comfort,” I say, adjusting the sleeves of the bodysuit to better support my breasts.
“If you REALLY wanted to be comfortable,” Sarah teases, “you’d have worn jeans…”
“A pair of skinny jeans WOULD go well with this bodysuit,” I giggle. “But this skirt is much, much girlier, and what do we say about ‘girlier’?”
“The girlier, the better!” Sarah giggles, giving me a quick kiss and linking her fingers with mine in the same way we’ve done for the last four years. “Girl love forever!”
“Girl love forever!” I say, giving Sarah another kiss before taking her hand and heading downstairs to where the stern-looking Beverly is waiting for us.
“Feeling better, girls?” Beverly asks, her voice a mixture of concern and disappointment.
“A little,” Sarah shrugs. “I- I’m sorry we got so drunk…”
“It’s okay,” Beverly says. “I didn’t have anything planned today anyway, the house is so empty when you’re not here… Though I guess I’ll eventually have to get used to that, heh. And it’s not like I didn’t have similar ‘incidents’ when I was at uni. And it was the eighties, so alcohol was cheaper back then… Just as long as you actually learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them!”
“Trust me, we’re steering away from alcohol for a long time!” I say, making Beverly snort with laughter.
“No, no you’re not,” Beverly chuckles. “But that’s okay, you’re not girls any more, you’re young women, you can make your own decisions, no matter how bad they are!”
“Or how GOOD they are,” Sarah says, pressing her left hand- and her engagement ring- against mine. Sarah and I keep our hands linked all the way to Euston station, where we board a packed train to Milton Keynes. En route, we cringe with embarrassment at yet more photos of our ‘disgrace’ last night- more photos of us accidentally displaying our underwear, photos of our faces showing just how drunk we were, including several drunken snogs. The other girls didn’t get away unscathed, though, as proved by a photo of a very drunk Lauren curled up asleep with her head resting in the lap of the barely-awake Katie. The highlight of the evening, however, has to be a video of a drunk Dannii attempting to dance- a dance style that Sarah and I quickly dubbed the ‘baby giraffe’ when we first saw it earlier in the year.
“Did Jacinta and Ophelia stick around long?” I ask my fiancée. “Can’t see many photos of them…”
“You’re asking me?” Sarah giggles. “I’m looking at photos of things I definitely saw last night but I’ll be damned if I can actually remember seeing it… I hope they did stick around, though. The sooner they become a ‘full’ part of the family, the better!” I smile as Sarah rests her head on my shoulder, where it remains all the way to Milton Keynes. One short taxi ride later, and the two of us- and our overnight cases (that we had the good sense to pack before last night’s party)- are stood outside the familiar backdrop of Sarah’s father’s house.
“Remember,” I tell my fiancée. “It’s YOUR birthday, it’s YOU who they’re going to make a fuss over. Even Smaug.”
“Well, miracles do sometimes happen,” Sarah sighs. “Come on, let’s get it over with…” My fiancée forces a smile on her face as we ring the front doorbell and are greeted by the smiling, middle-aged face of Sarah’s father, who immediately gives his daughter a long, tight hug.
“Hey there, birthday girl!” Robert laughs. “Can’t believe I actually have a daughter who’s nineteen years old, thanks for making me feel ancient!”
“It’s your fault I exist, dad,” Sarah laughs as we head into the large house. “You remember Nikki, right?”
“Ah, yes,” Robert says, his smile falling. “Hello, Nikki, good to see you again.”
“Likewise, Mr Phillips,” I reply.
“Sarah!” The familiar voice of Kerrie, Sarah’s nine year old sister, cries. I giggle as the small girl runs up to her big sister and gives her a tight hug, before giving me a quick hug as well. “Hi Nikki!”
“Hi Kezzie!” I giggle, before my smile fades as I see the looming figure of Diane- Sarah’s stepmother- enter the hallway.
“Come here, Kerrie,” Diane orders in a stoic voice. “Hello Sarah, hello Nikki. I hope you had a good birthday yesterday.”
“I did, thank you,” Sarah says, not allowing Diane’s dark mood to affect her. “Where’s Karl?”
“Upstairs, in his room,” Diane replies, leading to an awkward silence.
“Guess I’ll see him later, then!” Sarah says, putting on a brave face to counter her stepmother’s passive-aggressive attitude.
“We’ve got you loads of presents, Sarah!” Kerrie says.
“Cool!” Sarah giggles. “Are… Are we going to see them at any point?”
“It wouldn’t be right, not without Karl,” Diane says, leading to another awkward silence.
“Oh for god’s sake,” Sarah’s father mutters under his breath, just loud enough for me- but not his wife- to hear. “Karl! Your sister’s here!” Mere seconds later, Sarah’s thirteen year old half-brother- who is a lot taller than the last time I met him- walks down the stairs.
“Hi Sarah,” Karl says in a deep, manly voice.
“Hey Karl,” Sarah says, giving the young man a quick, sisterly hug. “Now that everyone’s here…”
“Now that everyone’s here,” Robert says, “there’s a heap of presents in the front room for you to unwrap. And you’ve got three months of university to fill me in on as well!” Sarah giggles as her father leads the family into the front room, where she gasps at the pile of brightly-coloured presents waiting for her on the sofa.
“Oh my god, thank you all so much!” Sarah says, making her father grin happily even though her stepmother remains stoic. Sarah quickly unwraps all her gifts, which include books and materials for making clothes, photos of the family and smaller trinkets, including a small ‘charm’ from Kerrie for Sarah’s charm bracelet.
“This is all so amazing,” Sarah sighs after opening her final gift. “Thanks so, so much for all my gifts…”
“Well, it’s not quite over yet,” Diane says with a smug smile, producing two more small, elegantly-wrapped gifts. Maybe she isn’t such a dragon after all…
“Aww, thanks!” Sarah giggles.
“Oh,” Diane says with a smug grin, “these aren’t for you. Karl, Kerrie…” The young boy and girl look confused their mother hands the presents to them, but soon shrug and tear open the wrapping paper to reveal the small trinkets within.
“I didn’t want them to feel left out,” Diane explains, but it’s obvious that the gifts weren’t given out of altruism, and one glance at the disappointment in Sarah’s eyes tells me that whatever it was that Diane was trying to do to my fiancée, she succeeded. However, the look of pure fury in Robert’s eyes hints that Diane’s ‘gesture’ may have had an unexpected side-effect.
Sure enough, when Sarah and I leave the room a short while later to put our suitcases away, her father immediately follows us with a look of contrition on his face.
“Sarah, I am so, so sorry,” Robert says. “I had no idea she was going to do that…”
“It’s okay,” Sarah shrugs.
“My parents gave my little sister a gift on my last birthday, and she was only two months old!” I lie, before grimacing as Sarah glares at me.
“No they didn’t,” Sarah says. “Don’t stick up for her, Nikki…”
“Let- let’s just try to enjoy this weekend, okay?” Robert sighs as he lifts our cases up the stairs and into the modest spare room.
“Dad…” Sarah whispers. “Is- is everything okay between you and Diane?”
“…Nothing for you to worry about,” Robert says. “Cheer up, it’s your birthday! You only turn nineteen once…”
“And with any luck, we might actually remember some of tonight!” I say, making Sarah giggle.
“Got a bit tipsy last night, then?” Robert asks.
“Got utterly arseholed,” Sarah laughs. “Sorry for making you feel ancient, having a daughter who’s old enough to get arseholed…”
“And old enough to get engaged,” Robert says, making me and Sarah freeze. “Oh come on, I know the two of you have Instagrams, I saw the photos…”
“We- we were going to tell you, honest,” Sarah pleads. “We just wanted to tell you face to face…”
“It’s okay,” Robert says, gently squeezing Sarah’s shoulders. “I mean yes, a phone call would’ve been nice… Do your brother and sister know?”
“Not unless they figured it out from Instagram too,” Sarah giggles. “And I haven’t got either of them on Facebook…”
“We were planning on telling them tonight,” I explain. “At the meal… Make it a kinda double celebration.”
“Figured if we announced it in a public place, Diane couldn’t make a scene…” Sarah says, letting out a nervous giggle.
“She won’t,” Robert says. “I’ll make sure of it. But for now… Congratulations. To both of you. I take it I’ll still be allowed to walk you up the aisle?”
“Of course!” Sarah giggles, sharing another hug with her father before we follow him back down to the living room.
“Hey Sarah,” Kerrie asks before we’ve even had a chance to sit down. “Do you still do ballet?”
“As it happens, yes we do!” Sarah giggles. “Nikki and I may have even brought our leotards and pointe shoes along today…” I giggle as the small girl gasps excitedly, but before Kerrie has the chance to respond, her mother interjects.
“No, no leotards,” Diane says, pointing at me. “Especially not for you.” I bite my tongue- it’s obvious why she doesn’t want me wearing a leotard, even though I never really ‘showed through’ a leotard or a similar type of garment, and certainly don’t now after 2 and a half years on HRT.
“Well, we can still do SOME pointe dancing, maybe tomorrow,” I say as Sarah and I sit down next to the young brown-haired girl.
“Why doesn’t mum want you to wear a leotard, Nikki?” Kerrie asks me, prompting a look of pure fury from Diane.
“It- it just wouldn’t be appropriate, that’s all,” I say, prompting an awkward silence.
“Anyway,” Robert says, “the six of us have a LOT of catching up to do!” Sarah and I force smiles onto our faces, though even as we gossip, Diane’s mere presence in the room makes what should be a relaxing afternoon into a tense, stressful situation as we watch everything we say out of fear of saying anything that might offend her.
Eventually, 5pm rolls around, giving Sarah and I an excuse to leave the living room and head upstairs to change for our meal.
“The ironic thing,” Sarah laughs as she pulls on a pair of thin tights and a multi-layered, knee-length, dark grey dress, “is that I actually DID bring gifts for Karl and Kerrie myself.” I sigh sadly as Sarah pulls two items of clothing out of her suitcase that are clearly not intended for either of us- one a very fancy-looking matte blue shirt in Karl’s size, the other a playful multi-coloured knee-length party dress that’s clearly intended for Kerrie.
“Where did you find the time to make those?” I ask. “Thought you were inundated with uni work?”
“Aww,” Sarah laughs. “How many times do I have to tell you that jealousy doesn’t suit you? I did these over the summer, hopefully Karl isn’t planning on growing any more, heh!”
“I’m just glad I come from a short family so I can still fit into all of your dresses,” I say as I pull on the flared strapless indigo dress- one of Sarah’s creations, naturally- that I’ve brought for tonight’s meal. “A 5’ 8” woman isn’t out of the ordinary, a woman who’s over six feet and has a forty inch chest, on the other hand…”
“You’ll be happy to hear I’m more than pleased with the way your chest turned out!” Sarah giggles, giving me a quick cuddle before zipping me into my dress and tying my hair into a playful updo to match hers. After touching up our make-up, we both slip our feet into designer stilettos and head downstairs to where the rest of Sarah’s family are waiting, all whom are dressed smartly if not quite as chic as Sarah and I.
“Wow!” Kerrie giggles as we head out to the car. “You’re both so beautiful!”
“Aww, thanks Kezzie!” I giggle. “You look cute too!” Kerrie giggles as she plays with her dress, before Diane abruptly takes her hand and all but shoves her onto the back seat of her car, whilst Sarah and I climb onto the back seat of Robert’s car.
“Diane… Really doesn’t like me, does she?” I ask as we set off for the restaurant.
“She’s protective of Karl and Kerrie,” Robert sighs. “Sometimes overprotective… I’m pretty sure both of them would understand if we were to tell them the ‘truth’ about you, Karl certainly would.”
“You’ve corresponded with girls younger than Karl, haven’t you?” Sarah asks me.
“Yep,” I say. “Only thing they ever needed ‘protecting’ from was fundamentalist parents who thought wrongly that they were acting in their best interests…”
“Well- it’s not harming them if they DON’T know,” Robert sighs. “I’m sure you yourself feel that you’ve always been a girl, right?”
“More with every passing day,” I say, making Sarah give my hand a supportive squeeze.
“Then that’s good enough for me,” Robert says, “and it’ll be good enough for Diane and the kids too.”
“Not to mention me,” Sarah says with a smile. A short while later, we arrive at the posh restaurant where we’re ushered to our table and served our very tasty starters. Forty-five minutes later, the six of us are just about full when a generous-sized chocolate cake is wheeled to the table, complete with two candles that are, predictably, in the shape of the numbers ‘1’ and ‘9’.
“Today has been so amazing,” Sarah gushes after blowing out the candles and cutting the cake. “Thank you all so much… There is one more thing, though, something I- well, something Nikki and I have to announce.” I giggle as I rise from my chair and stand next to Sarah.
“Oh no,” Diane says. “It’s getting late, we should probably get home…”
“This won’t take a second,” I say in a voice more forceful than intended.
“Nikki and I,” Sarah says, not giving Diane any further chance to interrupt. “We- we’re getting married!” Sarah and I both giggle as we slip our engagement rings onto our fingers and display them for the rest of the family. Robert, obviously, has a wide grin on his face, as does Karl, and Kerrie is literally bouncing up and down in her seat with excitement. Diane, however, has a look of pure fury on her face.
“Congratulations, you two!” Robert says, giving myself and Sarah a quick hug each.
“Congratulations!” Karl says, giving us both brief, awkward hugs.
“This is so awesome!” Kerrie squeaks as she gives me and Sarah a tight hug each, before being almost literally dragged away by Diane. I take a deep breath as the stern woman approaches the two of us, but I don’t shrink, or back away- there is nothing Diane can do, legal or otherwise, to prevent Sarah and I from getting married. No matter her personal feelings, she surely has to realise that…
“I do not approve of this wedding,” Diane says bluntly. “By allowing two people like- like- you to get married, it just cheapens real marriages like my own.”
“Mum!?” Karl asks, clearly shocked by Diane’s attitude.
“If they let two people of the same gender get married,” Diane says, “where does it end? Will they allow children to get married, or allow men to marry animals, or household appliances?”
“Two words!” Sarah says smugly. “Consenting. Adult. Both Nikki and I are legally adults, we are legally able to consent and therefore can legally get married. Children, animals and household appliances, as I’m sure you know, can’t.”
“You call yourselves adults when you go around getting drunk and falling on people’s floors,” Diane spits, causing the eyes of the other diners to slowly be drawn toward our table. So much for not expecting her to make a scene in public…
“So we got a little drunk last night,” I say. “Neither of us have had more than one glass tonight, have we?”
“How many glasses had you had when you tried to drown your friend in a swimming pool in Spain?” Diane asks. I have to bite my lip as Karl sniggers under his breath- he’s clearly seen the viral video of Dannii’s dunking, and I’m willing to bet he watched it more than once.
“She could swim,” Sarah shrugs, making Karl laugh even louder.
“And I don’t see what you’re laughing at, young man!” Diane says, causing her son to flinch.
“Well, um,” Karl stammers. “I don’t see what difference it makes if they want to get married, they clearly love each other, right? And if you’re worried because it’s a same-sex marriage, well, Nikki was born as a boy, wasn’t she?” My eyes go wide and my entire torso feels like it’s being squeezed in a vice as Karl ‘outs’ me to the entire restaurant. Okay, it’s not like I go out of my way to hide my ‘status’, but this is the last way I wanted Sarah’s family to find out…
“What?” Kerrie asks, making me grimace. “Nikki, did you used to be a boy?”
“Don’t be silly Kerrie, Karl,” Diane says, snarling at her teenaged son. “People can’t suddenly decide to wake up one day and decide they want to ‘be’ a boy or a girl, Nikki’s always been a girl, isn’t that right, Nikki?” I flinch as Diane stares at me with fury in her eyes, and a quick look around at the rest of the restaurant confirms that virtually everyone is now staring at me, waiting for my response.
“Yes,” I say, frowning as Diane stands back with a look of smug victory on her face. “I have always been a girl… On the inside. But my body- that used to be a boy’s body. Two years ago, I started taking hormones- special pills that are helping to transform my body and my blood into that of a girl, so I can live the way I feel is right.”
“Why couldn’t you just live as a boy?” Kerrie asks.
“Because it hurt me to be a boy,” I reply. “If you were forced to live as a boy, you wouldn’t like it, would you?” I smile as the 9 year old girl shakes her head. “Well neither did I, so I spoke to a doctor who gave me my hormones, and with the support of my family, my friends, and especially your sister, I’ve been able to live my life the way I want, so that it doesn’t hurt anymore. It doesn’t make me any less of a girl, it just means it’s taken me a bit longer to catch up to who I really am on the inside.” I let out a small giggle as, one by one, everyone in the restaurant applauds my speech- everyone apart from the middle-aged woman still stood in front of me with a look of absolute anger on her face.
“We’re leaving,” Diane says. “Robert! Karl! Kerrie! Get your coats! And you two are NOT welcome in our house tonight!”
“Wait a minute,” Robert says, “we can’t simply kick them out on the streets, can we?”
“The streets are where people like them belong!” Diane snaps, before shuddering as she is showered with boos. “Fine! You can stay the night, but I want you gone before I get up tomorrow!” Sarah and I watch in horror as Diane literally drags Karl and Kerrie out of the restaurant, leaving Sarah, Robert and I stood in a state of near-shock.
“Ex-excuse me?” One of the waitresses, a young woman not much older than Sarah and I, asks. “I- I couldn’t help but overhear, sorry…”
“It really wasn’t your fault,” Robert sighs. “Sorry we caused such a disruption…”
“Oh no, that’s not it,” the waitress says. “It’s just- what you said was just amazing. Our manager has a nephew- well, a niece now- who just came out, and she wanted to let you know that she’s covered the bill for your meal. AND has offered a discount if you want to have your rehearsal dinner here as well!”
“Oh my god, thank you so much!” Sarah laughs. “We- we actually live in London, but we’ll definitely remember your offer!”
“I’ll- I’ll happily talk to her niece if she wants,” I say. “Is she- the niece, I mean- a fan of the Angels?”
“She might be,” the waitress says as I write down my email address for her. “I’ll let my manager know. Thanks again, and congratulations!” Sarah and I both wave nervously as the waitresses scurries away.
“Let’s get you two back home,” Robert sighs, leading us out of the restaurant.
“Dad, I- I’m sorry,” Sarah mumbles as we get into the car.
“No, no don’t be,” Robert sighs. “This was meant to be your day, your night… Yes, you’re not Diane’s child, but you are mine, and that means I have responsibilities toward you. I’d have hoped that she’d have realised that at some point over the last fifteen years…”
“God knows if Diane had had kids before you married her, you’d have been a better stepfather than she is a stepmother,” Sarah moans. “I wonder how much of it is just homo or transphobia and how much of it is her resenting me…”
“No- no,” I say, squeezing Sarah’s hand. “No one could possibly resent you, she’s just a bigoted woman- uh, no offence, Robert…”
“Let- let’s just get back home,” Robert sighs. Sarah and I smile as we arrive back at the house, where a stern glare from Diane results in us heading to our room, where we stay for the rest of the evening, catching up on our social media pages.
“She’s probably gonna charge us for using her Wi-Fi,” I sigh as I lazily fiddle with my iPad.
“In fairness, we did kinda spring it on her,” Sarah mumbles.
“Now who’s sticking up for her?” I laugh. “You heard her, she saw our Instagram photos, that Dannii video, she had to have known about the engagement ahead of time, just like your dad…” Before Sarah can respond, we’re interrupted by a knock on the bedroom door.
“Who is it?” Sarah asks.
“Karl,” comes the deep voice from the other side of the door.
“Come in,” Sarah says, smiling as her younger brother nervously steps into the room.
“Oh, sit down,” I laugh. “We won’t bite. Though I will ask… How did you know about me? I mean, about ‘me’?”
“I subscribe to you on YouTube,” Karl says. “I thought I saw Sarah in one of your videos, so I watched it, and… Yeah.”
“Always nice to meet a fan,” I laugh.
“Stop staring, Karl, it isn’t polite,” Sarah teases. “What did you want?”
“Mum’s gone mental,” Karl sighs. “She and dad are arguing again…”
“…Sorry,” I mumble.
“S’okay,” Karl says. “I just- I just wanted to go somewhere quiet…”
“You just wanted to hang out with your big sister and her fiancée?” Sarah asks.
“Something like that,” Karl shrugs, making myself and Sarah giggle. “And I wanted to say ‘bye’ before you went in case I don’t see you tomorrow. And cadge an invite to the wedding…”
“Now THAT we can happily do!” Sarah laughs. “In fact… Give that the wedding will have two brides, there won’t be many roles available for boys. Just ‘fathers of the brides’ and ‘page boy’… Feel up for the task?”
“Page boy?” Karl asks. “Aren’t they, like, four?”
“Page MAN then,” I say. “We’ll get you a proper tux and everything… In fact, given that we’re not even supposed to be so much as talking about the wedding for another ten months-“
“Sorry!” Sarah giggles.
“-By the time we DO get married,” I continue, “you’ll be at least sixteen, and there’ll be plenty of good looking women there who’ll be very interested in a young man in a tuxedo…”
“I’ll think about it,” Karl mumbles.
“Nikki, stop making my brother blush!” Sarah says.
“Sorry!” I giggle.
“Where’s- where’s Kerrie?” Sarah asks, her mood suddenly becoming more sombre.
“In bed,” Karl sighs. “I’m meant to be in bed to, should probably go before I get another bollocking…”
“We should get some sleep too,” Sarah says. “Especially if we have to get out of here early…”
“Night, Sarah,” Karl says as he leaves the room. “Night, Nikki. Can’t wait to watch your vlog about THIS one…”
“Ugh, you may be waiting a while,” I sigh. “Night, Karl.”
“We probably should get into bed,” Sarah sighs, putting away her iPad. “I know, normally I’d say that with a slightly happier voice…”
“I know,” I say, giving Sarah a tight cuddle. It doesn’t take us long to change into our modest nightdresses and climb into bed, where we both fall into a deep sleep.
“Do you, Nicola Christine Thomas,” the minister asks expectantly, “take this woman, Sarah Jennifer Phillips, to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
“I do,” I whisper.
“And do you, Sarah Jennifer Phillips,” the minister asks, before being interrupted by a voice from the back of the church.
“People like them belong on the streets!” Diane screeches, sprinting up the aisle toward Sarah and myself as the entire world fades from view…
“Aah!” I gasp as I wake up, my nightdress having twisted around my body as I sleep. A quick glance at my phone reveals the time to be 4:45am- too early to get up, even with our enforced early start, so I wrap my arms around Sarah’s waist again and sigh as I try to get back to sleep, where I hopefully won’t have any further run-ins with the woman Sarah understandably refers to as ‘the dragon’.
Sarah’s phone’s alarm goes off at 6:30am, forcing us both out of our bed and into the bathroom to get washed, dressed and made-up for the day (neither of us showering for fear of waking the sleeping ‘dragon’). Rather than the elaborate outfits we wore last night, today Sarah and I have both opted for more conservative clothing, Sarah going for a plain knee-length black skirt and a grey top, with me going for a youthful short tartan skirt and a clingy black top. Both of us are, of course, also wearing black tights and ankle booties with a moderate heel.
“Morning, girls,” Robert says as he meets us at the bottom of the stairs.
"Hi, dad," Sarah sighs. "Diane still in bed?"
"Yeah, so are Karl and Kerrie," Robert sighs. "I'll take you past a drive-through so you can get some breakfast on the way home..."
"Again, I am so sorry things worked out like this," Sarah sighs.
"And again, you shouldn't be," Robert says. "One of these days I'll come to visit you in London, I've been meaning to show Karl and Kerrie around for ages..."
"I'd like that," Sarah says, before we're interrupted by the sound of someone slowly walking down the stairs.
"...Sarah?" The tiny voice of Sarah's sister asks. "Are you going?"
"I'm afraid so," Sarah says.
"But you only just got here," Kerrie moans. "Were you going to leave without saying goodbye?"
"Uh- we'd have called once we were on the train," Sarah says, making Kerrie frown.
"You're lying," Kerrie says. "You're only going because mum's mad at you..."
"We don't want there to be any more fighting," I say.
"But we'll be back as soon as possible," Sarah says, giving her little sister a brief cuddle. "We promise. BOTH of us."
"...And will you promise to do some dancing, too?" Kerrie asks.
"Uh, absolutely!" Sarah giggles.
"And will you let me know when it's your wedding?" Kerrie asks.
"I'd better," Sarah says with a warm smile, "seeing how I want you to be one of my bridesmaids!" I giggle as Kerrie's jaw drops and she literally bounces up and down with excitement.
"A bridesmaid?" Kerrie squeaks.
"Who better?" Sarah asks.
"Thank you so much!" Kerrie laughs, hugging her sister tightly, before the happy moment is interrupted by a confused voice from the top of the stairs.
"What's going on down there?" Diane asks- not out of anger, but out of confusion. "Why haven't you left yet?"
"We were just heading out," Robert says. "Come on, girls..."
"I'll see you soon, Sarah!" Kerrie laughs. "And thank you for letting me be a bridesmaid!" Sarah and I both wince as we await Diane's inevitable explosive reaction.
"A what!?" Diane asks, anger creeping back into her voice. "A bridesmaid!?"
"Sarah wants me to be one of her bridesmaids when she marries Nikki," Kerrie says to her mother, who snorts and rolls her eyes.
"They're NOT getting married," Diane says. "At least, it won't be a REAL wedding, so you won't be a REAL bridesmaid, no matter what they tell you!"
"Diane," Robert says quietly, "just let her have this one, please-"
"No, Robert," Diane says in a snappy, condescending voice. "I'm not having THEM fill our children's head with nonsense like this!"
"Why are you so opposed to Nikki and Sarah getting married?" Robert asks. "You've never been homophobic before..."
"THEY can do whatever they want in their lives," Diane says, waving a dismissive hand at myself and my fiancée. "But I want have them muddling up our children's minds!"
"My mind isn't muddled," Kerrie says in a small, meek voice.
"Don't be stupid, of course it is!" Diane snaps, before her face falls as Kerrie starts to slowly cry. "Oh, Kerrie, I'm so sorry... Look what you've done!" Sarah and I both do a double-take as Diane's fury is directed towards us.
"Me!?" Sarah asks. "What the- what did I do!?"
"You made my daughter cry, that's what you did!" Diane spits.
"No she didn't!" I retort. "Maybe you could try asking Kerrie if she wants to be one of Sarah's bridesmaids rather than stomping all over her dreams like some middle-aged Godzilla!" I wince the second the words leave my mouth as Diane's face starts to turn purple with rage- but boy, were those words fun to say...
"HOW DARE YOU!" Diane shrieks, causing Kerrie to cry even harder and wriggle in her arms. "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! NOW!!!"
"Come on," Robert says quietly, ushering myself and Sarah out of the house.
"Oh, that's right," Diane snorts. "You take the opposite side, as always!"
"Wh-what?" Robert asks.
"A real man would've stuck up for his wife," Diane snarls, "not given the PERSON who insulted her a lift to the station!"
"W-we can always get a taxi," I whisper.
"No," Diane snarls. "You know what? You go, the three of you! Kerrie, go upstairs and get your suitcase. We're staying with your nan and granddad for a while."
"D-Diane?" Robert whispers, the shock evident in his voice.
"You want to fuss over your OTHER daughter? Fine!" Diane snaps. "Just don't expect to see either of your REAL children in this house ever again! Karl! Wake up! Pack a suitcase!" My jaw drops and I find myself gripping Sarah's hand for comfort as Diane drags the still-crying Kerrie back upstairs with her as she storms into the bedroom of my future brother-in-law.
"Wa-wait! Diane, wait!" Robert pleads as he runs after his wife, leaving Sarah and I stood alone in the house's entrance hall.
"So, um," I mumble. "Should we-"
"Go up there?" Sarah asks. "Yes."
"Wh-what?" I ask. "When they're in the middle of a massive-"
"Dad's done nothing but stick up for me this whole weekend," Sarah says. "I should probably return the favour, right?" I silently nod as Sarah and I climb up the stairs to find the whole family in Karl's bedroom, where Diane is packing the young man's suitcase as Karl himself looks on in confusion.
"Diane," Robert pleads. "Please, you're the woman I love, you're the woman I married, for god's sake! You and the kids mean everything to me!"
"And how many of your children mean everything to you?" Diane asks. "Two or three?"
"Well, three, of course!" Robert says. "I don't expect you to share my responsibility for Sarah, but I'm still-"
"But you still bring her into our house anyway!" Diane snarls. "You need to decide which of your children mean more to you, because the only way you'll ever see Karl or Kerrie again is if you promise, right here, right now, that you'll never see that- that little witch again!" I snarl as Diane insults the woman I love, but before I can retort, the argument is interrupted from the most unlikely of sources.
"Mum!" Karl snaps, momentarily stunning Diane. "That's my sister you're talking about!"
"HALF-sister!" Diane growls.
"That's still enough for me!" Karl says. "You- you must've known that dad had his responsibilities when you married him, and if I married a woman and had a child, but then got divorced and married another woman and had another child, and I then neglected that first child, you'd go mental at me!"
"That's different," Diane mutters, her will obviously fading. "Now keep packing!"
"NO!" Karl yells. "I- if you want to leave, fine... But I'm staying with dad."
"You're what!?" Diane asks with pure rage in her voice.
"If you're going to make me choose... I'm choosing him," Karl says, his voice wobbling with the emotion of his decision.
"Son," Robert says quietly.
"Why do you all have to fight all the time?" Kerrie wails through a flood of tears. "Why can't you all just get along?"
"Oh, Kerrie..." Diane sobs, reaching to hug her daughter only to watch in horror as the 9 year old girl recoils from her.
"I want to stay with dad too," Kerrie blubs. "He never shouts... And that way Sarah can come and stay more often!"
"I- I wouldn't be able to stay as often as you think," Sarah says. "I'm very busy with university..."
"But would you stay more often if it was just dad here and not mum too?" Kerrie asks, and my eyes start to fill with tears as I realise the terrible situation Sarah finds herself in. I know- and fully agree with- just how much Sarah abhors her stepmother and dreads these visits, but if Sarah were to tell the truth, it could irreparably damage the relationship between Kerrie and her mother- and that's something Sarah would never be able to forgive herself over.
"No," Sarah says after a long pause. "It doesn't make any difference whether your mother's here or not." For the first time this weekend, Diane's face changes from a look of barely-concealed contempt to one of actual gratitude toward her stepdaughter.
"Diane," Robert whispers. "Please, please can we talk about this?"
"...Fine," Diane says. "Kids, get washed and dressed. And unpack your suitcases."
"We'll get going," I say quietly. "We'll, um, we'll get a taxi..." I laugh as Kerrie gives big hugs to both myself and Sarah, before Robert leads us downstairs.
"Robert, I am so, so sorry," I say. "I should've kept my mouth shut, I should've-"
"What's done is done," Robert says. "We managed to avoid a meltdown... Though it'd probably be best if you kept your distance for a while... Both of you." I grimace as Sarah sheds a solitary tear as she gives her father a farewell hug, before we don our coats and head out to wait for our taxi, which arrives a mere five minutes later.
The entire wait, along with the entire taxi ride to the station, is conducted in deathly silence, though as we arrive at the modern concourse of Milton Keynes station, I'm unable to hold my tongue any longer.
"Sarah, I'm sorry, I-" I plead, only to be silenced as Sarah presses her lips firmly against mine.
"You only said what I've been thinking for the last fifteen years!" Sarah laughs. "'Middle-aged Godzilla'... Gonna have to remember that one!"
"Heh," I laugh. "But it's like, every time we visit I somehow stick my foot in my mouth..."
"But they are very pretty feet," Sarah says. "And a very, very sexy mouth! And you heard dad, disaster was averted..."
"But you also heard him say to keep our distance," I say. "I know how much you wanted to visit over the Christmas holidays..."
"There'll be other holidays," Sarah shrugs, forcing a smile on her face even though I can tell from her eyes just how upset she is. "We get, like, three months over summer... Now come, let's just get home, I've got a lot of work to do ahead of tomorrow..." I smile as I follow Sarah into the first train back to London, and subsequently onto the tube back to Sarah's house, where my fiancée dramatically collapses onto her sofa with a long, drawn-out sigh.
"Welcome back, girls!" Beverly says with a smile. "Was the trip THAT bad?"
"Worse," Sarah sighs. "Dad and the dragon had a massive fight..."
"Ahh, that's terrible," Beverly says, sitting down next to Sarah and giving her a quick hug. "At least you're back home now, no fighting allowed in this house!"
"Yeah," Sarah says. "I should call dad, just to make sure everything's alright..." I sigh as Sarah heads into the kitchen to make her call, before taking her place next to Beverly on the sofa.
"...The fight was all my fault," I sigh, prompting Beverly to give ME a quick hug.
"You can't blame yourself," Beverly says. "Robert and Diane are adults, they can make their own decisions and they're more than capable of deciding not to fight if they don't want to."
"Yeah, I know, but still..." I sigh.
"Was- was the fight because of your, um, 'status'?" Beverly asks.
"...I don't know," I moan. "Partly. Maybe. I know Diane was angry because we sprang the engagement on her, and I got outed in public too..."
"Ahh," Beverly grimaces. "I know just how stressful that can be... Are you sure YOU'RE okay?"
"Heh," I laugh. "You know, you're the first person to ask that since the 'outing'..."
"Didn't Sarah check how you were?" Beverly asks.
"No," I say, before shaking my head. "But she had enough on her mind without having to worry about me as well."
"Heh, you two really are soul mates," Beverly giggles as Sarah returns from the kitchen.
"So... Gossiping about me?" Sarah asks, smiling as her mother and I both share a chuckle.
"How's your dad?" I ask.
"He's fine," Sarah says. "They're all fine. Fine now that I'm not there, anyway..." I sigh sadly and give Sarah a long, tight hug as she has a gentle cry onto my shoulder.
"Your dad loves you," I say.
"I know," Sarah sighs, drying her eyes. "I- I should do some coursework..." I sigh as Sarah heads upstairs to fetch her laptop.
"She'll get over it," Beverly whispers. "You know Sarah..."
"It's her birthday," I sigh. "Meant to be the happiest day of the year..."
"Trust me," Beverly says with a sad smile. "I know my daughter... This time next week she'll have her old smile on her face."
"Yeah," I sigh. "I just wish she had that smile on her face now..." I force a smile onto my own face as Sarah returns with her laptop and begins eagerly beavering away at her coursework as I catch up with my correspondence on my iPad, the two of us only stopping to eat before we both head to bed together just after 10pm.
"Nikki..." Sarah sighs as she snuggles up next to me. "...I'm sorry, I should've asked how you were feeling, I mean, last night in the restaurant, being outed like that, and all..."
"I'm fine," I say, giving Sarah a long kiss on her forehead.
"As always," Sarah giggles. "Feel kinda guilty, I mean, I should've asked earlier but I've been so obsessed over my own problems..."
"As you should be!" I say. "That must have been so difficult for you, there's no need to worry about how I am." I smile as Sarah stares deep into my eyes with a look of pure happiness.
"I love you so, so much," Sarah says, giving me one long, gentle kiss before turning out the light.
"I love you too," I whisper, before slowly drifting off to sleep.
When Sarah's alarm wakes me the following morning, I'm unsurprised to find Sarah sat in front of her dresser applying her make-up, having already showered and dried her long brown hair.
"Morning, fiancée!" Sarah giggles. "Go on, get in the shower, don't want to keep Jamie waiting today!"
"Yeah," I say as I jump under the hot water. "You feeling any better today?"
"It's a new week," Sarah says. "Chance to put things behind me, move on... Well, immerse myself in my work, anyway!" I force out a giggle as I shave a couple of errant hairs off of my otherwise baby-smooth legs, before stepping out of the shower with towels wrapped around my hair and my torso.
"You know," Sarah says, "Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for you, relishing every day you're able to wear a skirt to work like it was some form of rare treat..."
"Uh, hello?" I giggle as I apply my make-up. "Gender recognition certificate? In the eyes of the law, I'm just as much a woman as you are!"
"I know, I know," Sarah laughs. "But- but you get what I mean, right?"
"Definitely," I say, gently pulling on my bra and smiling as I feel it support my modest breasts, before pulling on a tight thong and smiling as I roll a pair of dark, clingy tights up my smooth, shiny legs. "You know, if it wasn't for you, I almost certainly wouldn't be dressing like this today..."
"And not just because my teenage obsession with the Angels ultimately got you this job, right?" Sarah asks, making me giggle.
"Not just that, no," I laugh. "You've done so, so much for me..."
"Because I LOVE you," Sarah says, kissing me as I pull on my tight black skirt and my heels, ready for the day ahead. I hold on tight to Sarah's hand as we descend the stairs and say goodbye to Beverly, before getting into my car and heading straight to Sarah's university.
"Have fun at work," Sarah says, giving me a kiss as she gets out of the car. "Give my love to Jamie and any of the other girls you might run into today!"
"Will do," I say with a smile, dreamily watching Sarah in her tight black shorts, translucent tights and knee-high boots as she walks away. Sarah truly has done so much for me... If only there was a way I could return the favour and patch things up between her and her 'other family'...
I mull over my dilemma has I head to my next rendezvous, but everything I think of just seems inadequate. Diane inevitably loathes me as much as she hates Sarah, so any attempt to get her to see reason will be immediately rejected, and if I speak to Robert, Karl or Kerrie behind her back, it'll only add fuel to the fire of her anger.
"Hey, Nikki!" Jamie giggles, elegantly smoothing her dress beneath her as she sits down in the passenger seat of my car. "GREAT party on Friday, even if I am still a teeny bit hungover! Did you enjoy your weekend?"
"No," I sigh. "Weekend was an even bigger headache than the hangover I had on Saturday, heh."
"Aw, really?" Jamie asks. "I know you've talked about Sarah's 'wicked stepmother' in the past..."
"...Yeah," I say. "And this weekend, our announcement of our engagement damn near split her from her husband, Sarah's dad."
"Would that necessarily have been a bad thing?" Jamie asks.
"Long term... Probably not," I concede. "But short-term, given that Sarah and I would've been partially to blame, and because they have young children..."
"Ah, point taken, sorry," Jamie grimaces.
"And after everything I've done for Sarah," I say, "I kinda want to make it up for her. I mean, it WAS her birthday meal that got 'dramatised', and she's done so much for me in the past..."
"I know how you feel," Jamie sighs. "Like, when I started transitioning, Charlotte did so much for me in addition to juggling her career, I'm just glad I can be there for her now when she needs me the most..."
"How is her son, anyway?" I ask.
"Growing every minute!" Jamie laughs. "He's got a dad who's well over six feet tall, you can tell when he's older he's going to be beating the girls away with a stick..."
"Assuming, of course, that he wouldn't prefer to be on our side of the 'great divide'," I say, making Jamie giggle happily. "Speaking of, I got some news yesterday that might interest you, you remember that girl you, me and Steph went to see last spring, that Laura girl?"
"Yeah, I remember her," Jamie replies.
"Started oestrogen pills last week," I say with audible pride. "Beat her eating disorder, now she's fully on the path to being a 'real' girl."
"Good for her!" Jamie giggles. "Oh, speaking of Steph, have you spoken to her much lately?"
"Umm, not really," I say. "Hardly get the chance, they're usually so busy with promotional stuff, and of course, they have their own PAs... Why, exactly?"
"Uhh, nothing important," Jamie says as we arrive at the magazine offices where the famous transwoman will be photographed and interviewed today. After ensuring that her dressing room was suitable- which it of course was- I sit back and watch as Jamie transforms herself into the glamorous celebrity the country sees her as, even if I do see cracks of the kind, friendly mentor shining through. With the obvious exception of Sarah, and anyone who is 'obliged' to help either personally (like my family) or professionally (like Dr Williamson), Jamie has done the most to support me in my transition... Which makes it all the more awkward as she's changing back into her dress at the end of the photoshoot, tired after a long day's work.
"Can't wait to get home," Jamie sighs as she stretches her tired muscles, before climbing back onto the passenger seat of my car. "I left Stu in the quote-unquote tender care of the boys, god only knows what they got up to today..."
"I can say with a very smug voice that I don't WANT to know what boys get up to on a daily basis!" I say, making Jamie giggle happily. "Girl life forever!"
"'Girl life'!" Jamie cheers. "May have to steal that as a slogan..."
"Dibs on royalties!" I say, making Jamie giggle again. "...I kinda need to pick your brains, if that's okay..."
"About this Sarah thing?" Jamie asks, sighing as I nod. "I'm guessing this 'wicked stepmother' isn't particularly fond of you either?"
"Understatement of the year," I sigh.
"If you're going to approach her, you need to do so carefully then," Jamie says. "What exactly is her main problem with you and Sarah? Is it the lesbian thing, the trans thing?"
"I think it's just a combination of everything," I say. "I don't know..."
"If you don't know," Jamie says, "then maybe you shouldn't interfere, just in case you do more harm than good?"
"But I have to do SOMETHING," I moan. "It's killing me seeing Sarah upset..."
"Sometimes..." Jamie muses. "Merely trying is enough, regardless of whether or not you succeed."
"...Thanks," I say, before dropping Jamie at home and heading back to my house for the first time in what feels like ages.
"Bloody hell," dad laughs as I walk through the door. "Almost forgot for a second that I had two daughters!"
"Utterly hilarious," I sigh. "Where are mum and Jenny?"
"At a playgroup," dad says. "Trying to see if Jenny can pick up a few more words so she doesn't constantly shout 'mama' all day long..."
"Aww, she's so cute when she does that though," I giggle.
"It gets less cute with every hundred times she says it," dad laughs. "How was the weekend?"
"Utter disaster!" I say with fake cheerfulness, making dad sigh. "Sarah's dad and her stepmother nearly split up right then and there..."
"God above," dad mutters. "Hope you're not blaming yourself for that?"
"...I certainly didn't help," I say. "And now I want to make things better, I hate seeing Sarah miserable."
"There's not really much you can do," dad says. "God knows you don't want to end up on Jeremy Kyle again, and I'm guessing the 'wicked stepmother' feels the same way?"
"Yeah," I say. "But that's just proof that relationships CAN be repaired. For a while I thought I'd never be able to speak to granddad again, now we see him every month, he's coming over to ours for Christmas..."
"We mended fences with granddad by sitting down and talking," dad says. "If you're going to do that with Sarah's stepmother... Good luck."
"I just can't do nothing," I sigh.
"Sometimes life only throws you bad choices," dad says. "It's up to you to pick the least bad one. But look at it this way- you're healthy, you have an amazing partner who you're engaged to, you have a great job and loads of friends. And, last but not least, you're able to live your life as the girl you want to be. That's a hell of a lot of big 'wins', so you can afford the odd 'defeat' now and again."
"Doesn't mean I have to like it, though," I sigh as I slip off my heels, grab my iPad and immerse myself in my social media pages until mum, Jenny and Sarah return shortly afterward.
"Hey, beautiful!" I giggle, greeting Sarah with a kiss as she steps through the door. "How was uni?"
"Exhausting!" Sarah laughs. "Really looking forward to a quiet night in, just us and the TV..."
"How are you feeling, Sarah?" Mum asks. "I heard you have a bit of a long weekend..."
"Ugh..." Sarah spits, causing my heart to wrench. "I just- I just want to put it behind me, if that's okay?"
"Of course," mum says. "But you know, we're always here to talk, and to listen, if ever you need us."
"Heh," Sarah smiles. "Thank god I struck it lucky with my in-laws, at least!"
"FUTURE in-laws," dad jokes, bringing the beautiful smile back to Sarah's face, though by the time we get into bed later in the evening, her smile has significantly faded.
"Am I going to be needed to model any sexy skirts or dresses at any point in the future?" I ask as I pull on my light, slinky nightdress. "Or even- no, or especially one of Ophelia's amazing corsets?"
"We've done most of the practical stuff already for the assignment," Sarah says. "It's really just write-ups that we need to do now..."
"Can I model them anyway?" I ask with a cheeky grin on my face. "I was thinking about what you said this morning about how wearing skirts and dresses used to be a 'rare treat' for me... I've got sixteen years of trousers to catch up on, and I want to wear every single item of female clothing that I can!"
"Even, say, a skin-tight latex catsuit that leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination?" Sarah asks.
"You make it, I'll wear it," I reply, surprising Sarah with a kiss. "Though if it leaves NOTHING to the imagination, I may wait until after my operation..."
"God," Sarah sighs. "Can't believe that twelve months from now, you'll actually have a vagina... Dunno why it's making ME nervous, heh. I already know that no matter what you have between your legs, I'll love you all the same." I smile as Sarah returns my kiss, before turning out the light and rolling onto her side. "'Night, Nikki."
"'Night, Sarah," I say, sighing as I wrap an arm around the waist of the woman I love, who is still clearly upset despite my attempts to cheer her up. When I wake up the following morning, Sarah is, for the second day in a row, already awake and all but dressed and ready to head out. As I have a free day today, I simply roll onto my side and watch as Sarah applies her make-up and straightens her tights, before laughing as she notices me watching her.
"Morning, beautiful!" Sarah giggles.
"Morning, gorgeous," I say. "Need a hand straightening your tights?"
"No, but you're more than welcome to help me take them off tonight!" Sarah smiles, leaning in to give me a kiss. "As long as I get to return the favour, of course?"
"Nah," I laugh. "Day off today, I was thinking I'd just lounge around the house in a comfy pair of baggy jeans..."
"You- oh, piss off," Sarah laughs, making me giggle. "Miss 'I want to wear every single item of female clothing that I can'!"
"They make baggy jeans for girls," I shrug. "With my hips, my waist and my tits, I doubt any boy's clothes would even fit me anymore... Which, yes, is a boast!"
"When I see your legs tonight," Sarah says as she grabs her handbag," they'd better be encased in something skin-tight, shiny and dark!"
"...Or?" I ask.
"'Or' I will turf out every single pair of tights you own and put them on myself!" Sarah laughs. "At the same time!"
"Seems almost worth it," I giggle. "Are- are you feeling better today?"
"...Yeah," Sarah says with a smile. "Yesterday was a new week, today's a whole new MONTH. Get to Christmas, and I'll have finished my first semester. One down, five to go!"
"Knock 'em dead," I say, giving Sarah one last kiss as she heads out of the house. I get up myself an hour and a half later and shower, before applying my make-up and, as per instructions, dressing for the day in a pair of dark, shiny tights, a black denim miniskirt and a warm purple sweater.
"Morning!" Dad says as I slump into my sofa and tuck my dark legs underneath me. "Got anything planned for today?"
"Not a thing," I sigh. "Was looking forward to the day off, especially after the weekend, but... Ugh."
"Still hung up over what happened?" Dad asks. "Stop blaming yourself. Some people just can't be reached, no matter how hard you try."
"...But sometimes," I say, remembering Jamie's advice from yesterday, "merely trying is enough, regardless of whether or not I succeed, right?"
"Well, sometimes, yes," dad says. "But even with the best of intentions, you could make things worse."
"But if I show that I'm willing to at least try," I say, "that will show that I'm sincere about wanting to make things better, right?"
"Well, I mean, maybe, I guess," dad says. "But what exactly are you going to do?"
"Sit down and talk," I say, rising from my sofa and heading upstairs.
"I'm pretty sure she wouldn't answer the phone for you, from what I've heard," dad says.
"True," I say. "But she can't ignore me if I show up there in person." I smile as I wave my car keys in front of dad's face, which immediately starts to turn pale.
"You're not driving there, not while you're so distracted," dad says. "I'll drive you to Euston and you can get a train. Help me with Jenny's car seat, will you?"
"You're not going to try to talk me out of this?" I ask as I place my infant sister into her sturdy car seat.
"When have I ever succeeded?" Dad asks, making me laugh. "And besides, every decision you've made so far has made me proud. I don't see why this one should be any different." I smile as the three of us head out to the car, and within minutes, I'm once again on a train to Milton Keynes for another showdown with 'the dragon'.
All throughout the train ride and the subsequent taxi ride to Diane's house, I rack my brains trying to think of what to say to the woman I insulted. I have an entire dictionary full of things I want to say, but will inevitably make things worse, and another dictionary full of things I know I need to say but doubt I'll be able to. As I knock on Diane's front door and come face to face with the angry woman, I know there's only one thing I can say that will suffice.
"I'm sorry," I say, interrupting Diane before she can shout or slam the door in my face. "I'm sorry for what I said on Sunday, for the way I behaved... I'm sorry."
"You came all this way just to say that?" Diane asks, her anger rapidly dissipating.
"If I'd called you on the phone, would you have answered it?" I ask in return.
"...Probably not," Diane sighs, leading to an awkward silence that she herself breaks. "Come- come on in out of the cold... You want a cup of tea?"
"Thank you, and please," I say, following Diane into the kitchen. "I felt really bad about what happened on Sunday, but you should know that Sarah feels even worse." I grimace as Diane pauses- the last thing I need to do is say something that would make matters even worse.
"She shouldn't," Diane says. "Robert and I, we've been arguing for a while now... Sunday was just the latest in a long line."
"If you don't mind me asking," I say cautiously, "Why do you hate me and Sarah so much?"
"I don't 'hate' you, or Sarah," Diane sighs. "It's- it's just a constant reminder that- god, I don't know."
"It's because I'm, umm..." I stammer.
"I don't 'hate' you because of that," Diane says. "I won't deny it makes me uneasy, but I stand by what I said when I said that it was your life. I'd just- I'd just prefer that my children found out some other way, that's all."
"They're smart kids," I say. "Karl especially."
"...God, I really must come across like some kind of dinosaur," Diane sighs. "You have to understand, my first concern- my only concern is for my children. It's something you'll never understand if you don't have children, the need to protect them."
"Never say never," I say. "I know at least one couple where one person's transgendered and they've adopted children. Though I do need to ask... What are you protecting them from, when it comes to me and Sarah?"
"It's- I don't want them to be confused," Diane says. "They're raised in a household with a mother and a father. Then if they see two women getting married, one of whom used to be a man but who altered herself into being a woman-"
"They'll see two people who love each other very much," I say. "It's not like I'm ever going to strip in front of either of them, or ever do any more than kiss Sarah... If there's one thing people, especially children DON'T need protecting from, it's love. Well, you know what I mean when I say 'love', right? 'Proper' love, not-"
"You're right," Diane says. "Neither you nor Sarah have ever done anything 'inappropriate' in front of Karl or Kerrie. And I trust that neither of you would. It's not easy. It's REALLY not easy, knowing how much Sarah hates me..."
"She doesn't hate you," I say. "She may dislike you a little..."
"I took her father away from her mother," Diane snorts. "What's not to hate?"
"She was three," I say. "I don't have any memories from back then, and it's not like her father hasn't been a part of her life."
"God, when did an eighteen year old girl become wiser than me?" Diane laughs- the first time I have ever seen the woman smile.
"Not to boast, but it was about the same time I became a GIRL," I say with a giggle. "Girl power for the win!"
"Ugh, now you're taking me back to my university days," Diane chuckles. "Just finished my second year when 'Wannabe' came out, and when I went back, literally every one of my friends was trying to form a Spice Girls cover band..."
"You know," I say, "I am friends with the members of Out of Heaven, if Kerrie's a fan I could always get her some signed merchandise?"
"Oh, I don't let her listen to music like that, she's too young," Diane says dismissively. "...But I do appreciate the gesture. It can't have been easy to come here and apologise in the way you did."
"Sometimes life only deals you bad choices," I say, quoting my father's earlier words of wisdom. "You just have to pick the least bad one. And I didn't want myself or Sarah feeling guilty anymore over the state of your marriage."
"You can tell Sarah her conscience is clear," Diane says in a calm, relaxed voice I didn't realise she was even capable of. "And that she's welcome to visit over Christmas. You both are."
"And can we dance a little ballet in our leotards?" I ask expectantly. "I promise nothing will 'show'..."
"I'll think about it," Diane laughs. "Though it'll probably make Kerrie want to take it up again, that's an expense I DON'T need..." I share a chuckle with Diane as we gossip for the next half hour about our lives, before she gives me a lift back to Milton Keynes station. I have a smile on my face as I arrive back in London, and on the tube back to my house.
"Welcome back, prodigal daughter," mum jokes as I step through the door. "Your dad told me what happened today... I take it it all went well?"
"Better than I could have hoped," I say with a grin. "I can't wait to tell Sarah..."
It doesn't take long for my fiancée to return from university, and when she does, I greet her with a long kiss and a wide smile, before crashing down on the sofa with her.
"You're happy," Sarah giggles, before taking a sly squeeze of my nylon-covered thigh. "AND properly dressed..."
"I had a good day," I giggle. "I went to some places, spoke to some people..."
"Um, where and who, exactly?" Sarah asks.
"Let's just say," I say, "I may have got us reinvited to your father's house for Christmas..." I grin widely, but my grin slowly fades as Sarah stares at me in disbelief.
"You- you went to see Diane?" Sarah asks. "What- what the- are you mad? What did you think you were doing?"
"Sa-Sarah?" I ask.
"That's MY family, Nikki!" Sarah snaps. "What did you think gave you the right to interfere?"
"I- I only wanted to help out," I say in a meek, terrified voice. "And I did, Diane calmed right down..."
"You could at least have told me before going down there," Sarah says, visibly calming down but still seething with anger. "I- I can't deal with this right now. I'm going home."
"Wait- what- wait, Sarah, please!" I say. "I'm sorry, okay? But it all worked out-"
"I- I just need to clear my head, Nikki," Sarah sighs. "I'll see you at ballet tomorrow morning."
"I love you!" I yell after Sarah as she walks out, but my fiancée merely shakes her head and walks away, leaving me stood on the doorstep in a state of shock, which soon gives way to tears as mum leads me back into the house for a long, much-needed hug.
I lay on the sofa for the next half an hour crying, before drying my eyes and letting out a long, loud moan.
"Why does everything I touch turn to absolute garbage?" I ask.
"It does not!" Mum says, sitting down next to me and giving me another long hug. "So you and Sarah had an argument. It happens. You know she's been highly-strung lately, she probably just needs some time alone. Things WILL go back to normal, I promise you."
"I just thought- I thought we'd always be able to talk to each other," I sigh. "Now I've screwed things up forever, yet again..."
"NOT forever," mum says, holding my left hand up to the light. "You're still wearing the ring, aren't you? Last I checked, so was Sarah."
"Well- I guess," I mumble.
"So stop worrying," mum says. "You heard Sarah, she'll be at your dance class tomorrow. You'll talk it out and you'll be back to your old selves before you even know it."
"I guess," I say, before reaching into my handbag for my phone. "I should text her..."
"She said she needs to clear her head," mum says, gently holding my hand in my bag. "Give her space, Nikki. Sometimes that's what women need... Maybe even you, some day."
"...Okay," I sigh, before smiling as mum picks up my baby sister and dumps her on my lap, where she wriggles around, constantly yelling 'mama' despite my attempts to calm her down.
Eventually, Jenny heads to bed, and a few hours later, so do I, sighing as I unbutton my skirt and slowly roll my tights off of my legs, trying not to think about Sarah's earlier promise to do this for me, or the way she touched my thigh earlier, or the many ways she's touched my thigh over the last four years, regardless of whether or not I was wearing the tights I'd longed to wear for so long. Once I'm in my nightdress, I get into bed, but am unable to sleep, such is my worry about Sarah. Ignoring mum's advice, I grab my phone off of my nightstand and hastily compose a new text message to my fiancée.
'Sarah,' I type. 'I'm so sorry I went behind your back, I didn't think about what effect this would have on you. I hope you can forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you. N. xxxxxxx.' I press 'send' before immediately locking my phone's screen and switching it to silent- if Sarah does respond, I want to read her message with a clear, rested head.
When I wake up the following morning, the first thing I do is check my phone for any new messages, but much to my dismay, I don't have a single one. I sigh as I head into the shower and pray for the warm water to wash away my stress, before heading back into my room and rolling a pair of soft pink tights up my legs, before stretching my favourite black tank leotard up my body. After tying my hair back into a high ponytail, I examine my body, snorting with satisfaction as I see that nothing really does 'show'. After pulling on a loose sweater dress and shoving my work clothes into my dance bag, I check my phone one more time in the hope that Sarah's tried to get in touch with me- but alas, she hasn't.
I force a smile on my face as I arrive at the dance studio and am greeted by my usual cohort of friends and acquaintances- specifically Katie and Lauren, who both greet me with tight hugs.
"Hey, taller half of Snikki!" Katie giggles. "Sarah not with you today?"
"No," I sigh. "We- we kinda had a bit of an argument last night..."
"Ah, that sucks," Lauren says as she adjusts the strap of her leotard. "I know she's had a lot on her mind lately, your weekend did NOT sound fun!"
"It wasn't," I mumble. "I tried to fix it yesterday, but I'm worried I just ended up making things worse..."
"Sarah ADORES you," Katie says, giving my shoulders a comforting squeeze. "It won't stay 'worse' for long, believe me!" I smile as I look over Katie's shoulder and am surprised by the sight of two familiar faces at the lesson.
"Why are Jacinta and Ophelia here?" I ask Katie. "Don't tell me they've finally given in?"
"Yep, at long last!" Katie giggles.
"Sarah's been wearing them down over the past few weeks," Lauren says. "Hope she gets here soon so she can see her 'hard work' pay off..."
"So do I," I whisper as I head into class to have my ballerina's bun tied before taking my place at the barre, whilst Jacinta and Ophelia sit in the seats at the side of the class with another 'guest', a young, dark-haired woman. Just before Krystie gets the class started, we're interrupted as the door bursts open and Sarah rushes in, hastily stripping off her street clothes before tying her soft ballet shoes to her feet and taking her place at the barre.
"Sorry I'm late," Sarah gasps between breaths, "I, um, I overslept..."
"I bet you did," Krystie giggles as her eyes dart back and forth between Sarah and myself. "Okay, now that Miss Phillips ISN'T holding us up anymore, let's start our stretches." I glance over at Sarah, who smiles a sad smile at me, her beautiful face flushed with embarrassment from her tardiness.
Sixty minutes later, at the end of the lesson, I head straight over to Sarah, not stopping even to untie my bun or my pointe shoes.
"Sarah, I'm-" I say, before my fiancée holds up her hand, silencing me.
"I'M sorry," Sarah says. "I shouldn’t have gone off on you the way I did yesterday... I know you were only trying to help. But you know, if we are to be married, we have to share everything, okay?"
"We ARE to be married," I say. "And I'M sorry I went behind your back. I promise, in the future, only sharing. Deal?"
"Deal!" Sarah giggles, grabbing a generous handful of my pink-hosed thigh. "Now I believe I promised to help you remove those, didn't I?" I giggle as I follow Sarah to the changing room, where we find a secluded corner and remove each other's leotards and tights and 'enjoy' each other's bodies for a brief, blissful moment, before pulling on our street clothes. As we head out of the small room, however, we're greeted by yet another unexpected visitor to the studio.
"D-Diane!?" Sarah asks, her jaw almost dropping to the floor.
"Hello Sarah," Diane says in a quiet, polite voice. "It's nice to see you..."
"What are you doing here?" Sarah asks defensively.
"I want to apologise," Diane says. "For the way I've treated you over the last fifteen years... Nikki has helped me to realise that there's no reason for us to be enemies, so with your permission, I'd like to bury the hatchet, so to speak."
"...I'd like that too," Sarah mumbles. "And I'm sorry too, if I acted like a brat over the past fifteen years..."
"Apology accepted," Diane says with a smile. "And it would be my honour if you would come to our house over Christmas, yourself and your fiancée. And... I would be honoured if Kerrie could be your bridesmaid."
"Of course she can!" Sarah says with a happy laugh. "In fact, I can't think of anyone more suited to be my maid of honour than her." I smile happily as Sarah and Diane share an awkward hug, before they both walk away with genuine smiles on their faces.
"So then," Jamie says as we both get into my car, "‘happily ever after'?"
"Not yet," I reply, "but not far off! You were right in what you said, just the gesture of trying opened doors- literally, in my case, heh."
"Glad to be of service," Jamie says. "Kinda like being the fairy godmother, indirectly melting the heart of Cinderella's wicked stepmother!"
"As long as I'm PRINCESS Charming!" I say, making Jamie giggle uncontrollably.
"You are the prettiest, prissiest princess in the whole of the world!" Jamie says, making me giggle as we head to work.
What dad says is true- sometimes life is a case of choosing the least bad of a selection of bad choices. But sometimes, a bad choice can lead to a good outcome, depending on how sincere you are about wanting to make things better. Sarah's just gained herself a better relationship with her stepmother AND a maid of honour. And anything that makes Sarah happy makes me happy.
Slowly, but surely, the whole world is waking up to the fact that yes, I used to be a man, but I am now a woman, and as a woman, I am going to marry another woman. For some people, this revelation takes long to sink in than it does for others, but regardless, it's a fact that simply isn't going anywhere. I was born a boy, I'm now a girl, and soon, I'll be a bride. Sarah and I will both have our entire family behind us as we finally tie the knot, and for me, that day, the 'happily ever after' Jamie asked about, can't come soon enough.
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