Jacinta, part 2

Over the course of the next few weekends I was given- and took- the opportunity to become Jacinta several times. Despite her own limited storage space, Ophelia (which, by October, was the only name I addressed my friend by) was more than happy to keep 'my' clothes at her house.

She was also happy to wash the clothes for me, especially the underwear- which came as a huge relief to me when I saw that she'd bought me a packet of thongs.

I'd spend every waking moment of every weekday anxious looking forward to Saturday, and when it finally came I'd spend virtually every possible second cooped up in Ophelia's bedroom, allowing her to transform me into 'Jacinta', whilst she was able to spend the time honing her dressmaking skills and working on her own college assignments. Obviously, I had no problem acting as the 'clothes horse', but after a few weekends, much to my dismay, the 'novelty' began to wear off.

"Both of the garments you will wear today were made from other types of clothing," Ophelia explained as she held up a red top-like garment. "This was originally a long dress that I customised and repurposed into a bodysuit. However, there are no fasteners in the crotch, so you will need to step into it through the neck, as you would a swimsuit or a leotard."

"Okay," I said as I took the bodysuit and stepped into it as instructed, stretching it past my nylon-covered legs and over my bra (which, as always, contained a pair of thick socks in each cup).

"This skirt was made from an old pair of ladies' jeans," Ophelia said. "The extra denim panels on the front and the rear should make it comfortable to walk in, but please do tell me if it is too tight."

"Will do," I said as I stepped into the skirt, zipping and fastening it shut before walking back and forth in Ophelia's room a few times to test the 'stride' the garment had. "Seems okay to me..."

"Marvellous," Ophelia said with a genuine grin. "Whilst purchasing these items from the charity store I was also able to procure for you a pair of shoes. They are only a pair of plain, flat ankle boots, but they are labelled as women's boots, and would suit your outfit very well."

"Cool," I said, lacing up the boots and trying to smile at how they complemented the skirt and the bodysuit.

"Jacinta..." Ophelia said as she sat me down and fussed with my hair and make-up, "are you feeling alright today? You don't seem to be your usual self, if you don't mind me saying so."

"I'm okay," I shrugged, frowning as Ophelia fixed me with a quizzical stare. "Honestly, I'm fine. This is the first time I've ever worn anything like a leotard or a bodysuit. I remember being so jealous of all the girls in swimming classes, getting to wear one-piece swimsuits whilst I shivered in a pair of trunks..."

"I am glad," Ophelia said. "I had a feeling that such a garment might excite you... But I expected it to excite you more than this."

"...I'm sorry," I sighed. "I don't know what it is. I spend so much time building each weekend up in my mind, maybe I give it a bit TOO much build-up, you know?"

"Is there anything more you would like me to do?" Ophelia asked.

"Oh- seriously, you've done WAY too much for me already," I laughed. "I really wish I could repay you somehow."

"You ARE reimbursing me," Ophelia urged me. "Every assignment I complete, every passing grade I achieve brings me closer to my ultimate goal."

"University," I whispered. "God... That would be SO amazing. Living away from home, having the opportunity to be who I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted..."

"There is no reason why you couldn't go as well," Ophelia said softly. "Your assignment scores are satisfactory, are they not?"

"They're okay," I shrugged. "Reckon if I worked hard and applied next year, I'd stand a good chance of getting on a photography course."

"Then what is preventing you?" Ophelia asked.

"...Because I don't know whether it'd be 'Jason' or 'Jacinta' who went," I confessed.

"...You wish that you could attend university full-time as a woman?" Ophelia asked.

"I wish I could attend EVERYTHING full-time as a woman," I laughed. "Guess the reason I'm not so excited by- by all this is because I know it'll end eventually."

"Then why don't you simply tell your father about Jacinta?" Ophelia asked.

"Because he's the only family I have," I sigh. "And I'm the only family he has. It's- it's too much of a risk."

"Surely if that is the case, then it would be more reason to tell him?" Ophelia asked.

"I can see why you'd think that," I mumbled. "But ask yourself this- why haven't you told your family about Ophelia?" I bit my lip as Ophelia remained quiet, clearly affected by my question. "...Sorry, I know that was a bit, you know, close to the bone. Didn't want to say 'below the belt'..."

"You are right," Ophelia said, before suddenly reaching underneath her bed and pulling out her laptop, sitting cross-legged on the floor as she booted it up.

"Umm... What are you doing?" I asked, confused by my friend's sudden antisocial behaviour. "I'm kinda still in the room, you know."

"I know," Ophelia said as she opened up a website.

"...Finally signing up for Facebook?" I asked, earning a stern stare from the brown-haired girl.

"I would rather skin myself," Ophelia spat. "I am browsing to the government's deed poll website. I am consigning the name 'Mandy Lowe' to history, where it belongs."

"...So you're really going to be known as 'Ophelia Lowe'?" I asked, earning another stern stare from my friend.

"I have as little connection to the name 'Lowe' as I do the name 'Mandy'," Ophelia snorted. "I already know what my new surname shall be. I've known my entire life what I wished it to be."

"...And?" I asked.

"My name shall be Ophelia... Love," my friend explained.

"That's even worse than 'I feel you low'," I commented, earning a punch in my shin.

"When I was younger," Ophelia said, "I suffered greatly from dyslexia. I had difficulty telling certain letters from each other, certain words from each other. My mother, of course, didn't care at all. Her attitude is that I shouldn't need to read or write when I was destined to become a single parent at the age of sixteen. But I was determined not to resign myself to that fate. I wished to learn. It didn't come easy, but I tried my hardest, and I did learn."

"Let me guess," I said. "One of the words you had difficulty telling apart was 'Lowe' and 'Love'?" I'm forced to giggle as my deduction is met by a very rare grin from my friend.

"You're very perceptive, has anyone ever told you that?" Ophelia asked.

"...Lucky guess," I mumbled. "And you've got a hell of a vocabulary for someone with dyslexia."

"Because I refuse to allow my dyslexia to hold me back," Ophelia said in a confident voice. "Just like I refuse to allow my family to hold me back. Just like you should refuse to allow your biological sex to hold you back."

"How do you think your mum will react?" I asked in a low, quiet voice. "Or your sisters, when you tell them that your name is now 'Ophelia Love'?"

"With scorn and ridicule," Ophelia spat. "The same way they have always reacted to me. But as I said- I refuse to allow them to hold me back."

"...Are you saying that I shouldn't allow my dad to hold me back?" I asked. "Worrying about how he'll react, I mean."

"How has your father always reacted to you?" Ophelia asked.

"...With unconditional love," I sighed.

"That doesn't sound like something you should be worried about," Ophelia mused. "Nor should you be worried about 'Jacinta time' ending when it doesn't have to. I found a blog online a few days ago."

"That's where you usually found them," I retorted, earning another punch in my booted shin. "Was it Jamie-Lee Burke's? Because I already follow her on just about every website ever."

"It was by a girl called Nicola Thomas," Ophelia said. "She is more or less the same age as me. She began transitioning during this past May. If Jamie-Lee Burke's blog can't give you confidence, then maybe Nicola Thomas's can."

"...Confidence to do what, exactly?" I asked.

"To leave this room and show Jacinta to the world," Ophelia said.

"Well... Okay then," I sighed. "But only if you leave this room and show Ophelia Love to the world at the same time as me."

"Deal," Ophelia said confidently, offering me her hand to shake.

Over the next few weeks, I read both Jamie-Lee's and Nikki's blogs, gaining confidence with each word I read, and every time I set foot in Ophelia's room, I was excited by the prospect of new 'Jacinta time'... Only to find myself feeling oddly empty once dressed, and downright miserable once 'Jacinta time' came to an end. 'Jason' would then spend the next week going through life in a daze, wondering why 'he' had been dealt the losing hand- why I had to be forced into a body that didn't belong to me, and into a life I didn't want to live.

For weeks, it seemed like I would be stuck in this rut forever, with no 'breakthrough' in sight, only for salvation to suddenly come one day when I was least expecting it.

"Hi, Ophelia!" I said with a giggle as my brown-haired friend sat down opposite me in the college dining hall.

"Hello, J," Ophelia replied, using the genderless nickname we'd agreed on for use in public.

"Good lesson?" I asked.

"It was educating," Ophelia answered. "We are studying the history of skirts. Something I imagine would interest you..."

"Only if I can do a practical demonstration," I retorted to Ophelia's teasing, making the brown-haired girl giggle. "Not that anything like that will ever happen anytime soon."

"I would not be so sure," Ophelia said with a smug grin.

"Ophelia..." I said, before letting out a quiet sigh. "What have you done?"

"It is not what I have done," Ophelia said confidently. "It is what WE are about to do."

"Just- just keep explaining," I sighed. "Don't want to have to squeeze it out of you..."

"As you are undoubtedly aware," Ophelia said, "this coming Thursday is the 31st of October, or All Hallows' Eve, as it's better known."

"Or Halloween, as it's even better known," I said, before nodding as I caught onto Ophelia's line of thinking. "And you're thinking I could, what, have a repeat of last Halloween?"

"I was not suggesting that you contact that man with whom you made love, no," Ophelia said.

"We gave each other a BJ whilst splattered on a bathroom floor," I retorted. "Hardly 'making love'. And he was hardly a 'man', he was barely older than I was."

"If you would kindly permit me to finish," Ophelia said with a stern glare that immediately silenced me. "You yourself have said that it is the one time each year when a boy is permitted to dress as a girl."

"Well- yes," I said. "But you yourself have said- in your opinion, anyway- that there are three- ugh, what did you call them, 'levels' to clothes? Regular clothes, uniforms and costumes."

"Yes...?" Ophelia asks.

"The last few weekends, I've been wearing clothes," I explained. "The 'top level' of your little ladder. If I went out on Thursday, I'd be in a costume- the bottom rung of your ladder."

"Wearing ordinary women's clothing appeals to you more than wearing a feminine costume?" Ophelia asked.

"As silly as it sounds... It kinda does," I confessed.

"It does not sound silly at all," Ophelia said with a supportive smile. "Rather, it sounds like your desire to be a woman is based on a struggle with your identity, instead of a more... 'Basic' desire."

"Thanks," I whispered. "Though I do, you know, kinda have those 'basic' desires too, I'm only, you know, human..."

"Trust me, I know all about those 'basic' desires," Ophelia snorted, her 'posh' accent slowly making way for her natural one. "My family couldn't be anymore 'basic' if they tried."

"And you reckon I might get those 'basic' desires fulfilled at this party you want me to go to?" I asked.

"That is one possibility, yes," Ophelia said. "However, the vast majority of people who will be attending this party are women."

"'Women'?" I asked with a sigh.

"Alright, they will mostly be 'girls'," Ophelia said. "And you have made it clear in the past that girls do not have any effect on your 'basic' desires."

"Correct," I said. "So what would I gain from going, exactly?"

"I'm very glad that you FINALLY asked," Ophelia said, giggling as I stuck my tongue out at her. "What you would 'get' is the chance to introduce 'Jacinta' to a dozen or so girls who have never met 'Jason' before, and do not even know that he exists." My jaw dropped as I realised the seriousness of what Ophelia was suggesting.

"...The chance to leave your bedroom and show Jacinta to the world," I whispered, my heart starting to beat faster at the prospect.

"Precisely," Ophelia said, her smile wider and smugger than ever. "I shall start work on our costumes immediately upon returning home."

"Thanks- thanks for this," I said, my own mouth stretched into a happy grin.

"That's what friends are for," Ophelia said softly.

Not for the first time, I spent the rest of the week in a daze, but this time, it was for a good reason- excitement and anticipation over what Ophelia would whip up. With only two days to make the costumes and her extremely limited budget, I tried to convince myself not to expect too much, but every time I went into college to be met by her knowing grin, I couldn't help but get more and more excited. But it wasn't just the costume that excited me- it was the hope that maybe, just maybe I would stop feeling like a man in a dress, and start feeling like a real girl, just as I had twelve months earlier- and that maybe I wouldn't need a man to 'help' me feel that way. As much as I might have wanted the 'help' of a cute guy...

Finally, by the evening of Thursday the 31st of October, I was almost literally bouncing with excitement as I accompanied Ophelia on the lengthy walk from our college to her house.

"I take it then that you are looking forward to the party?" Ophelia asked.

"Just a bit!" I replied, making my friend smile. "How- is, umm, is the costume, you know..."

"All ready and waiting for a beautiful young woman to don it," Ophelia said with a confident smile. "I truly believe that you will find the costume to be VERY much to your liking!"

"I don't doubt it!" I giggled.

And I was right not to doubt it. The second I set foot in Ophelia's room, my jaw dropped when I saw what was hanging on her wardrobe door. Even though to all intents and purposes, it was a plain, long-sleeved, floor-length black dress, to me, it was sexier and more feminine than a hundred cheerleader outfits.

"First," Ophelia said, removing a carrier bag from underneath her bed, "you must don these."

"Okay..." I say as I looked in the bag at the underwear within- though some of the garments looked like they had left Ophelia's 'clothing' category and belonged to the engineering department of our college.

First came a pair of highly elasticated shorts, which not only flattened my crotch but added extra shape to my hips and my backside. Next came a pair of sheer black tights, to match the dress, and third was a black cotton bra with 'inserts' sewn into each cup to give me a very feminine figure. The final item in the bag, though, would be what would give me a totally feminine figure- and would spark a lifelong obsession for my BFF.

"This," Ophelia explained as she wrapped the stiff black garment around my waist, "is called a waist clincher. It is a type of corset, and will give you a narrow waist to match your hips, your posterior and your chest."

"Okay," I said, before grunting as Ophelia gently laced the corset tighter and tighter. "How- how tight does this thing get?"

"How tight would you like it to get?" Ophelia asked.

"...This tight will be fine," I said, making Ophelia giggle as I pulled the dress on over my head and stepped into the 4" stiletto-heeled shoes Ophelia had supplied me.

My make-up came next- obviously, as it was Halloween, my make-up wasn't what you would call 'subtle'. Pale foundation was followed by thick black eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara, and blood-red lipstick completed my look. Well, before Ophelia produced a set of 3 inch long false black fingernails, anyway, but I was instructed not to put them on until I was ready to leave.

However, fingernails or no fingernails, when I examined myself in the mirror, I almost gasped at the sight. I was still tall and broad-shouldered, just as I had been the previous year, but I certainly didn't give off the vibe of a 'man in a dress'. I was very much a womanly woman. With subtler make-up, I could even have worn this outfit to a regular, non-Halloween party.

I was more happy and more excited than I had ever been in my entire life... And then Ophelia revealed her costume for the party, and my happiness and excitement were quickly replaced by shock and disbelief.

"...What. The. Fuck?" I asked as Ophelia removed her costume from her wardrobe.

"Surely you didn't think that I would not be wearing a costume, Jacinta?" Ophelia asked as she stripped down to her bra and her panties, before sitting down in front of her dressing table with her make-up kit.

"'Costume', yes, but- but this!?" I exclaimed. "And since when did you wear make-up?"

"Since today," Ophelia announced. "Wearing that outfit is a source of pleasure to you, is it not? As it is with that make-up, I assume?"

"Well- yes, yes it is..." I mumbled.

"Then if you can derive pleasure from dressing in a feminine manner," Ophelia said, "it surely stands to reason that I, as a person fortunate enough to have been born female, would also derive pleasure from being able to dress in such a manner?"

"I'm not sure you've got a grasp of how this whole 'transvestitism' thing works," I retorted. "Also, that only applies if what you're wearing is actual, you know, clothing."

"I explained to you my theory of my three levels of clothing," Ophelia said as she, much to my shock, removed a pair of contact lenses, replacing them with a pair that caused her irises to appear a bright white colour.

"Yes, and this only barely fits the category of 'costume'," I said. "And since when do you wear contacts?"

"Since I was thirteen," Ophelia said with a smug grin, before applying an even thicker layer of make-up than my own. "Just because my mother dislikes me wearing spectacles, it doesn't mean that I will wear them simply to spite her when I also dislike wearing them. And as for my costume, it goes into the fourth level of attire- clothing worn solely to induce pleasure in yourself."

"...So this is a 'wank suit'?" I asked, sighing as Ophelia rolled her pinprick eyes at me.

"No, it is not a- what you just said," Ophelia snorted. "What it is, is a way for me to truly express who 'Ophelia Love' truly is. Just as you are expressing 'Jacinta Hanley's true identity."

"Well- okay, I guess..." I said with a grimace as I handed Ophelia her costume. "Good job neither of us are legally allowed to drink alcohol, peeing's going to be a challenge for both of us, I think!" Again, Ophelia rolled her eyes as she stepped into the costume, a black catsuit that seemed to be several sizes too small for her.

Fortunately, as it was made from a shiny lycra fabric, it easily stretched to cover her petite feminine form, even if it left very little to the imagination- not helped when Ophelia wasn't happy with the line of her underwear showing through the catsuit, so she removed her underwear. Even then, her 'camel toe' was bordering on the obscene.

"Hand me my waist clincher," Ophelia said, and I dutifully obliged, little knowing exactly what impact this would have on my friend's life.

"Okay," I said. "Not that you need one, you've already got, you know, a narrow waist and curves."

"It could be narrower and I could be curvier," Ophelia replied. "Now please, tighten my laces."

"Now I see why I was banned from wearing the nails until I left," I said as I reduced my friend's waist by three inches. "There."

"Can it go tighter?" Ophelia asked.

"Well, yes, but-" I replied, before being abruptly cut off.

"Tighter," Ophelia said, grunting as I reduced another inch from her waist. "Tighter."

"If I go any tighter, I'm probably going to snap your spine in half," I retorted, to which Ophelia simply nodded.

"Tighter," Ophelia ordered, letting out a moan of pain as I pulled the laces in even further. "Tighter."

"The back panels are locked shut," I said. "I don't think it will physically go any tighter."

"Then next week," Ophelia announced, "I shall buy a smaller corset. Hand me my measuring tape, please." I nodded as I handed Ophelia the instrument from her bed, before sighing as she wrapped it around her new tiny waist. "Good, twenty inches, just as the manufacturer promised."

"How has your stomach not been squeezed out of your arse?" I asked, making Ophelia roll her eyes yet again.

"Hush," My brown-haired friend commanded as she reached into her wardrobe for a pair of bicep-length gloves that seemed to be made of a shiny black latex-like material, followed by a pair of thigh-length boots of a similar material that had a six inch platform heel. After stretching her catsuit's tight hood over her head, Ophelia turned to face me.

"Are you ready?" The sixteen year old girl- who barely looked human anymore- asked.

"God, are you?" I retorted.

"I shall take that as a 'yes'," Ophelia said as she carefully made her way down the stairs, closely followed by me. "We are heading to the party now, we shall be back later."

"Yeah, whatever," Ophelia's mother replied, not even getting off her sofa to look at our costumes. Suddenly, I felt very guilty about my earlier criticism of my friend's costume.

"Ophelia..." I whispered as we left the squalid home.

"You heard what my mother said," Ophelia said, not even trying to disguise the bitterness in her voice. "'Whatever'."

"I- I'm sorry," I mumbled.

"For what?" Ophelia asked. "You have shown me nothing but love and friendship over the course of these past few weeks."

"And I took the piss out of your costume," I said.

"You will not be the last person tonight to do that," Ophelia said stoically as we slowly- due to the height of my friend's heels- made our way to the party venue. "What do you know of the girls with whom we shall be partying tonight?"

"Umm... They're on the same course as you?" I replied. "That's about it, really."

"They are on the same course as me," Ophelia said. "Fashion designer. They keep up with all the latest trends, the latest labels, they idolise celebrity culture and all things plastic."

"...So why are WE hanging out with them tonight?" I asked. "I mean, no offence if you think otherwise, but I always got the impression that we were kinda the oddballs at college."

"I very much doubt that I myself shall be doing much hanging out tonight," Ophelia said. "It is you who shall get to interact with the girls- girl to girl." Tears began to form in the corner of my eyes as I realised the enormity of the gift that Ophelia had given me. She knew she'd spend the evening being ridiculed by her so-called 'friends'- but that would be no different than any other evening in the Lowe household. The difference was that I would be there- and next to Ophelia, in her exotic 'costume', I looked just like any other girl... An ordinary girl.

"Hug incoming," I said with a grin, making my friend spit with disgust.

"Get it over with," Ophelia said, grimacing as I gave her a tight embrace.

"You know," I said smugly, "with this corset it's REALLY easy to hug you. I could, like, cuddle you with two hands, let alone two arms!"

"Yes, thank you," Ophelia sighed as I let her go.

"Is it done up so tight so that it feels like someone's hugging you all the time, only they don't actually have to touch you?" I asked, giggling as Ophelia moaned with frustration all the way to her 'friend's house.

When we arrived, I allowed Ophelia to knock on the door, and when it opened, I immediately began to realise what my friend was talking about when she'd described her 'friends'.

"Oh, um, hi, Amanda!" The girl said, looking at my friend's costume in a state of near-shock. The girl herself- who was clearly no older than sixteen, like Ophelia- was dressed in what might be called a 'cat costume', if cats had a habit of going everywhere in a bikini, furry mittens and Ugg boots.

"Hello, Chloe," Ophelia replied, letting herself into the posh house. "This is my friend Jacinta, who I said would be accompanying me tonight."

"Hi..." I said, nervously greeting Chloe with a gentle hug. "Thanks for letting me come along tonight, I REALLY didn't want to spend Halloween alone!"

"No problem!" Chloe giggled, clearly feeling more at ease around me than she did around Ophelia. "Are there, like, no girls on your course you can hang out with? Or, like... No, you know, 'boys'?"

"...None I'd want to spend any time with," I replied. Not dressed like this, I thought to myself. Or speaking like this, or acting like this...

"Ugh, I SO get that," Chloe laughed, leading the two of us into her living room where the party was already in full swing. "And I LOVE that witch costume! Where'd you get it?"

"From my super-talented BFF!" I gushed, causing Ophelia to blush underneath her extra-thick make-up. "Seriously, Ophelia is SO cool."

"...If you say so," Chloe said. "Help yourselves to drinks, it's just us girls here at the moment but I've been reliably informed by my boyfriend that there'll be some guys along soon to trick or 'treat' us, if you get what I mean, hehe!"

"Thanks," I said as I grabbed a bottle of a strong-smelling alcoholic soda from the table and sat down on the sofa, keeping my knees pressed tightly together.

Mere seconds later, as Ophelia carefully browsed the drinks selection, I was joined on the sofa by a Playboy Bunny in fishnet tights, who seemed to be having a lot of difficulty keeping her costume up over her boobs.

"Hey," the bunny said. "You're, like, Amanda's friend, right?"

"Ophelia's friend," I corrected the rabbit.

"Amanda, Ophelia, whatever," the bunny snorted. "The weird girl who wears weird clothes."

"...Yes, yes I am her friend," I said.

"Like, what's her problem?" The bunny sneered. "She, like, goes everywhere by herself, or with that weird gay friend of hers. She wears weird clothes and hardly talks to anyone, and now she's here, dressed like THAT... What's with her?" Oddly, even though I knew that when the bunny said 'weird gay friend', she was referring to me- or rather, to Jason- it was the way she spoke about Ophelia that caused me to take the most offence. How DARE she speak about such a kind and loving person in such a way, just because she chooses to be different from everyone else! How DARE she imply that by being the person she was, Ophelia was somehow less than her, or anyone else!

"Ophelia," I said, trying in vain to keep calm, "is cool. She's had to overcome a lot in her life, and she's still kind, warm and friendly."

"Okay! Jeez!" The bunny protested. "Like, are your knickers ACTUALLY twisted or something?"

"...No," I mumbled as I calmed down. "But- you know? She's my friend. Actually, she's my BFF. I'm gonna stick up for her if someone puts her down, you know?"

"Sorry I breathed," the bunny spat as she stood up, uneasy on her heels and walked away.

"That was Hayley," Ophelia said as she gingerly- due to her extra-tight corset- lowered herself into the seat the bunny had just vacated. "She is one of the more... 'Trendy' girls on my course."

"Beginning to think that 'trendy' and 'friendly' are mutually exclusive," I snorted.

"Not always," Ophelia said with a smile. "But when it comes to this college... You're probably right."

"I still don't know why we're even here," I mumbled. "We stick out like a sore thumb."

"We were invited," Ophelia reminded me.

"That's probably WHY we were invited," I scoffed. "To make everyone else feel better about themselves."

"If that's what they want to do, then fine," Ophelia said. "But it doesn't mean that we have to feel worse about OURselves."

"...You're right," I said, earning a rare grin from my BFF.

"And did Hayley, at any point, ask why a boy was dressed as a witch?" Ophelia asked.

"...She didn't," I replied, my eyes lighting up.

"Then this party, so far, is a success," Ophelia confidently announced. "MISS Hanley!" I smiled as the two of us rose from our sofa to refresh our drinks, before mingling with the rest of the growing crowd.

Every girl I spoke to at that party asked me the same thing- 'what's with Ophelia?'. Or rather, 'what's with Amanda?'. Every time I heard the question, I had to take several deep breaths to calm myself, but every time the girl who asked the question walked away, clearly offended by my refusal to insult my friend, a smile from Ophelia reminded me of the most important thing- that I hadn't been clocked, that I was just another one of the girls.

Soon, the party got into full swing as we were joined by a gaggle of boys from our college, each of whom soon found their way to one of the girls in the room- or rather, one of the other girls in the room. I flirted with my fair share of the boys, some of whom were even as tall as I was in my heels, but it was strictly on a 'look, but don't touch' basis. I didn't even get so much as a snog from any of them, let alone the 'activity' I got the previous Halloween... But that was okay with me, as none of the boys were able to 'clock' me either- or if they did, it didn't stop them from flirting with me. For one night only, I wasn't just a girl, I was a cute girl... And I wanted so, so much more.

Eventually, the boys and the girls paired off, and I found myself 'paired' with Ophelia as she took my hand in hers and led us toward the exit.

"I believe it is time for us to depart," Ophelia said, clearly sweating and uncomfortable in the heat of the room and the tightness of her costume.

"You're probably right," I sighed. "Though I did have SO much fun tonight..."

"I will be sure to pass your compliments onto Chloe tomorrow," Ophelia said. "Assuming she comes into college, of course."

"Yeah, that might be a long shot," I giggled as we stepped out into the cold October air and I took several deep breaths to clear my head.

"Did you enjoy this year's Halloween more than last year's?" Ophelia asked.

"You know, I actually did," I chuckled. "Even though last year ended in sex- well, kinda... And I was in drag last year too- again, kinda... This year was still better. Wish I knew why..."

"Because last year, you were Jason, and this year, you are Jacinta," Ophelia said confidently.

"I guess," I said with a grin. "Still minus a 'Prince Charming', though..."

"Someday, Jacinta, your prince WILL come," Ophelia said softly.

"I guess," I sighed. "I'd just prefer him to be somewhere near me when he DOES come..." I giggled as Ophelia gave me a playful punch in the arm to tell me off for my crude joke.

"You are the wittiest woman in the world," Ophelia sighed as we turned onto the street containing my house.

"How- how about you, Ophelia?" I asked my friend. "See any guy at the party who caught your eye? Whatever's passing for your eye tonight, anyway..."

"No, I did not," Ophelia replied, triggering an awkward pause in the conversation.

"You know," I mused, "I don't think I've ever heard you even mention a boy, like, ever. It's like, I dunno, you're completely disinterested in them or something."

"Perhaps I am," Ophelia said.

"Because of your family?" I whispered.

"Partly," Ophelia whispered. "I- I don't want to discuss this, J. I'm sorry."

"No, no, I'm sorry for pushing too hard," I sighed, leading to another awkward silence. "...They're still calling you 'Amanda', then? At college, I mean?"

"I haven't put through the deed poll application yet," Ophelia mumbled. "I'm- I'm kinda scared about what my parents will say..."

"I thought you were doing this precisely as a 'fuck you' to your parents?" I said, grimacing as Ophelia regarded me with an angry glare.

"No, I am doing this so that I can finally be who I always wanted to be," Ophelia said. "Your desire to transition is not a- is not a reaction to your parents, and nor is mine."

"Sometimes feels like it is, though," I sighed as I cupped the fake breasts on my chest and the extra padding on my hips. "Especially to dad, taking away the only family he has left... And to my mum, too."

"How so?" Ophelia asked, leaving my jaw hanging loose as I was lost for words.

"Umm, this is my house!" I chuckled as I pointed behind me at my home. "No lights on, so dad's in bed, that'll make things a LOT easier getting in, heh."

"Please answer my question, Jacinta," Ophelia asked in a soft whisper. "I can tell it is important to you."

"I- umm, I, umm..." I mumbled. "Look, it's dark, your house is about half a mile away, I- you shouldn't walk home by yourself, come in and I'll call you a taxi, okay? I'll pay for it. My treat, after what you did for me today."

"Very well," Ophelia said with a smile as she followed me into my house- the first time she had ever set foot (albeit a suicidally high-heeled foot) in my home. "Your house... Is lovely."

"It's small and cramped," I said with a snort of laughter.

"Remember to whom you are talking," Ophelia whispered, once again making me feel guilty.

"Sorry," I mumbled. "I know I should be grateful for what I've got. That's not always easy, though... Do- do you want a cup of tea?"

"Desperately," Ophelia said, making us both giggle as I put the kettle on. "The lady in the photographs... Is that your mother?"

"Yep," I sighed sadly. "Amelia Eileen Hanley, 1967-2002. I make a point of looking at her picture every day, so that her image stays fresh in my mind... I know dad does, too."

"She is beautiful," Ophelia said softly. "And looks a lot like her daughter."

"Her dau-" I retorted, taking several seconds to realise that by 'daughter', Ophelia was actually referring to me. "Huh. Maybe a little... You know- god, this will sound morbid..."

"It is the correct evening for it, is it not?" Ophelia asked, making me chuckle and roll my eyes.

"Leave the bad jokes to me," I scoffed, making my BFF giggle. "That urn by the side of the fire- those are actually her ashes. Dad never lets them out of his sight for longer than he has to." Much to my confusion, Ophelia immediately returned to the living room and carefully knelt down in front of mum's urn.

"Hello, Mrs. Hanley," Ophelia softly whispered. "My name is Ophelia Love, and I am your daughter's best friend. Your daughter is a wonderful, kind and beautiful human being, and I am proud to call her my friend."

"Umm, okay," I said, hastily blinking tears out of my eyes. "I guess if nothing else, mum would be proud of me for having good taste in friends, heh."

"She would be proud of you for being a beautiful and warm-hearted young woman," Ophelia said, making me blush and shed yet more tears.

"You know..." I mumbled. "I'm really, really... Not interested in you sexually OR romantically. I mean, if you had a penis, and you lost the boobs, then maybe-"

"Shut up and serve me my tea," Ophelia ordered, making us both giggle again.

"You're right," I sighed. "About mum. I reckon she'd have loved to have had a daughter, and if it hadn't been for the cancer, I'd have at least one younger sibling right now."

"Other than me, you mean?" Ophelia asked, making me shed yet another tear.

"...God job I'm about to wash my mascara off, heh!" I said, making Ophelia smile sadly. "I'll, um, I'll call you that taxi now..."

"No rush," Ophelia whispered as I reached for the house phone. "Jacinta... There is another reason I haven't filled in the deed poll form yet. I- I want a middle name."

"You don't already have one?" I asked.

"I want a middle name that ISN'T 'Lulu'," my BFF retorted. "And I can't really afford to keep sending off deed poll forms. I want to get this RIGHT. Right first time. Have you ever thought about what your middle name would be? When you become Jacinta, I mean."

"I like that you say 'when' instead of 'if'," I whispered. "And it'd be 'Amelia', my middle name. No question."

"To honour your mother," Ophelia said with a smile. "My own mother deserves no such honour. Nor do any of my sisters."

"Well it's up to you," I shrugged. "If you're going to choose your own name, it should reflect who you really are, deep inside. 'Ophelia' and 'Love' definitely do that."

"As do 'Jacinta' and 'Amelia' for you," Ophelia replied as the taxi firm answered the phone and I arranged her ride home. "I'm afraid I don't know enough about the origin of the surname 'Hanley' to pass judgement."

"I looked it up a while back," I replied. "It's apparently Irish, short from 'O'Hanley'. Means 'beauty' or 'grace'."

"So it DOES reflect who you are, then," Ophelia whispered, bringing another tear to my eye.

"...Drink your tea, your taxi will be here soon," I mumbled. Mere minutes later, the taxi arrived, and I made sure to escort my still-black clad friend to the car, just to make sure that she was okay.

"Jacinta," Ophelia said as she suddenly looked up. "What is that?"

"...It's the sky," I replied, earning a firm punch in my bicep from my friend.

"I mean those five stars!" Ophelia sighed, before giggling at her own frustration. "Do they have a name?"

"I believe that's the constellation Cassiopeia," I said. "Why, exactly?"

"Ophelia Cassiopeia Love," my friend suddenly said, extending her gloved hand for me to shake. "It is a pleasure to meet you."

"Jacinta Amelia Hanley," I replied, gently shaking my 'new' friend's hand. "Likewise."

"I shall see you tomorrow at college, Jacinta Amelia Hanley!" Ophelia said with another giggle as she got into the car, waving at me as she was driven away.

With a loud sigh, I returned to the house, where I smiled sadly as my eyes were drawn to mum's urn beside the fire. Just as my friend had done minutes earlier, I knelt down in front of it, smoothing my dress over my lap as I lowered myself.

"...So, that was Ophelia," I whispered. "And I guess... I'm your daughter. In fairness, the clues were always there, having only female friends at primary school. And secondary school. And now college. And the fact that I'm only attracted to men- not that that means a whole lot, I guess... And the fact that I love wearing women's clothes, and make-up, and I think like a woman, and- gah, mum... I really wish you were here. If just to shut me up. How about this- if I'm making the wrong decision, if I'm not meant to be a woman, just give me a sign. Any sign." I paused briefly and held my breath in the silence of the room, almost expecting there to be a sign- but of course, no sign was forthcoming.

"...Thanks, mum," I whispered, leaning forward to give the top of the urn a gentle kiss before removing my high-heeled shoes and carefully tiptoeing to my bedroom.

As I removed my make-up and my clothes, though, I was overcome by an overwhelming wave of sadness, like I didn't want the night to end- and that was precisely because I didn't. I'd tasted a world of pure femininity, where I was just another one of the girls, and I wanted more, so much more. I wanted the padding on my chest to magically become real breasts. I wanted the padding on my hips to be flesh and blood, I wanted the falsetto I'd been using all evening to be my real voice and I wanted me- I wanted me to be the REAL me. Not Jason 'natural born loser' Hanley, but Jacinta 'beauty and grace' Hanley. Just like my best friend wanted to be the real her- not Mandy 'cycle of poverty' Lowe, but Ophelia 'smart, creative and unique' Love.

However, just like Ophelia's family weren't going to let her go without a fight, the sound of dad's snoring from the other room reminded me that there were always going to be obstacles that would prevent 'Jacinta' from being as real as I wished she was...

The following morning, I dragged myself into college while trying to fight off my very first hangover. Nonetheless, I had a smile on my face all throughout the morning, a smile that widened when I saw my best friend in the cafeteria- even if it took me a while to recognise her.

"...Ophelia?" I asked as I sat down next to the brown-haired girl.

"You were expecting someone else?" My BFF retorted.

"Well I usually sit next to someone who doesn't wear extra-thick make-up," I replied. "Or any make-up at all. Or a very tightly laced corset over her dress. Are- are you feeling alright?"

"You of all people should appreciate that a person can change," Ophelia said, before letting out a long sigh. "J... Last night- last night, when I arrives back at my home, my mother was waiting up for me."

"Okay...?" I asked.

"She took one look at my costume and laughed like a donkey," Ophelia spat. "She thought that because I wasn't dressed like a prostitute, I deserved to be ridiculed. She didn't care that I made the costume myself, she only cared about whether or not I would become a baby factory like her."

"I- I'm sorry," I mumbled. "Are- are you okay?"

"Better than okay," Ophelia said with a smile. "Now I know that nothing I do will ever please her. Therefore, I no longer need to care about what she thinks. Or what anyone else thinks, either. I want to be my own person. I want to be Ophelia Cassiopeia Love. If that means wearing no make-up, then so be it. If it means wearing excessive make-up, then so be it."

"And a torturously tight corset?" I asked, making my friend roll her eyes.

"This from the GIRL who's still wearing HER hip and backside pads," Ophelia retorted, making me blush as I squirmed under the tight embrace of my underwear.

"Okay, touché," I sighed. "Are these easy to wash, by the way? I- I kinda want to wear it as much as I can..."

"To bring you closer to being Jacinta," Ophelia whispered. "Just as my corset brings me closer to being Ophelia."

"If you say so," I said with a smile. "I still reckon you're in danger of pooping out all your internal organs, though."

"Normally I would punch you for that," Ophelia said as we rose from our seats and prepared to head back to class. "However, I have been informed of what you said at the party last night, to Hayley and to the other girls."

"Okay..." I said. "Umm, and?"

"And," Ophelia said with a wide grin. "Prepare to be hugged." I stood in shock as Ophelia wrapped her arms around my torso and gave me as tight a squeeze as her slender arms could manage.

"Umm..." I mumbled. "Everyone- everyone's kinda looking."

"Do you care?" Ophelia asked. Naturally, the only reply I had was to giggle and hug Ophelia right back as the entire cafeteria stared in a mixture of disbelief and disgust.

Over the next few weeks, Ophelia and I began to noticeably change, both in appearance and attitude. We were virtually inseparable wherever we went, and whilst this was usually just Ophelia's bedroom, on occasion- when Ophelia's mother or sisters weren't around- we ventured out of the house too, with me of course only wearing 'Jacinta's clothing. 'My' wardrobe grew to include more skirts, more dresses, more girly tops and bodysuits and plenty of underwear- all of which was, of course, 'padded', and a lot of it I wore underneath 'Jason's clothes too so that I didn't have to let go of the 'feel' of Jacinta. I even wore my corset a few times- both underneath 'Jacinta' and 'Jason's clothes!

Ophelia's change, though, was even more dramatic than my own. She wore her corset almost 24/7, always lacing it down to at least 22 inches, and her make-up style became even more eccentric, mixing colours of eye shadows and lipsticks so much that she often looked psychedelic. She began styling her long hair into elaborate braids, and always wore brightly-coloured or elaborately-patterned tights with her dresses instead of the usual sheer black tights that all the other girls (and 'Amanda' in years past) wore. When I say 'other girls', I of course include myself in that category!

Eventually, the end of the first term at college rolled around, and brought with it two important occasions. One of those occasions was obviously Christmas time, but eight days beforehand was Ophelia's birthday, and even though she had insisted that I shouldn't do anything special- or anything at all- for the day, I felt that I owed her so much for what she'd done throughout the year that I bought her a couple of gifts anyway.

Little did I realise that by doing so, I would do more harm than good.

In 2013, Ophelia's birthday fell on a Tuesday, so after college, on the pretense of working on our assignments together, I followed Ophelia back to her home. I didn't know what to expect when she opened her front door- at the very least, I would've expected a few cards to be on the mantlepiece, or a cake, but instead there was... Nothing. The Lowe 'family' hadn't even put up any Christmas decorations, despite it being December 17th, and Ophelia's mother's only reaction to her daughter returning home from college was to grunt, before turning her full attention back to the trashy reality TV show she was watching.

"Umm... Ophelia?" I whispered as my friend led me straight up the stairs and into the bedroom that had become our sanctum over the previous few months.

"We should get on with our work," Ophelia said, and as hard as she tried to make her voice stoic, I could tell that on the inside, she was suffering.

"But- but your birthday..." I mumbled.

"What about it?" Ophelia asked, tears welling in the corners of her eyes. "I don't- I don't feel like celebrating, J. I'm sorry."

"...Do you really feel that way?" I asked in as soft a voice as I could manage. "Umm, what I mean is, is it YOU that feels-" Before I could finish my sentence, I was interrupted by Ophelia wrapping her arms tightly around me and squeezing me as hard as she could whilst bawling her eyes out onto my chest. I tried my best to comfort my friend, but her behaviour was so uncharacteristic for her that all I could do was stand in a state of shock until she was calm enough to sit down on her bed.

"Umm," I mumbled. "We- we should do some work..."

"No- no, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Ophelia sniffled.

"Do- do you want to talk about it?" I asked.

"More than anything," Ophelia sighed. "You know, I've never actually had a birthday present, not a single one? Mum always said 'my birthday's too close to Christmas', and 'I should be grateful for what I get then'."

"Ophelia..." I whispered, shocked by what I was being told.

"And even then," Ophelia moaned, "all I get are a few pairs of underwear and a packet of fags. And I don't even smoke! My sisters usually end up nicking them."

"That- that's awful," I said, wrapping an arm around my friend and only realising a few moments later that even though I'd hugged her without warning, Ophelia wasn't complaining.

"It's okay, it's okay," Ophelia moaned.

"It's hardly okay," I said, pulling the bag of gifts out of my backpack. "These- these are yours. It's not much, but-" Again, I was silenced mid-sentence as Ophelia gave me another long, tight hug.

"Thank you so much," Ophelia said, wiping a tear from her eye. "You know, every year, there's always a piece of me, deep down inside that tries to persuade me that this year, this birthday will be different..."

"This year, it was," I whispered, earning another hug from my best friend as she 'unwraps' her presents. "It's just stuff you mentioned you wanted, a few different-coloured lipsticks, some make-up... Got some interesting looks in Boots when I went in there to buy them. The looks got even weirder when I said that they were for me, heh."

"Hehe," Ophelia giggled as she rooted through the make-up for a mascara brush, which she used to repair the make-up that was destroyed by her tears.

"There are some fake eyelashes in there too," I said. "I didn't know how you felt about them, whether they were TOO fake... I tried them out myself, though, and they ARE good. Might be a fake eyelash girl for life, heh."

"Show me," Ophelia commanded, making me giggle as I took a pair of the fake eyelashes from the pile on her bed and gently teased them to my own lashes, giggling as I playfully batted my eyelashes as my friend.

"Thank you," Ophelia whispered, taking several deep breaths to try to compose herself. "I am terribly sorry that I burdened you with my problems, Jacinta. I feel thoroughly embarrassed at acting the way I did."

"Don't," I said. "I- I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pushed things the way I did, forced you to celebrate your birthday when it's a sensitive thing for you."

"I am glad that you did," Ophelia said with a grin. "Now, shall we get on with our work?"

"Of course," I said, having learned better than to argue further.

For the next two hours, we completed college assignments, which happily for me involved modelling several of Ophelia's creations as she altered them, before the time came for me to pack away my books and get ready to leave.

"Jacinta..." Ophelia said with a sly grin as she repeatedly blinked at me.

"Ophelia...?" I asked, before rolling my eyes and removing my fake eyelashes. "God... Really wish I didn't have to take these off..."

"Then I know what I shall be getting you for Christmas," Ophelia said with a smug grin. "Speaking of which, when do you want to get together to exchange presents?" I opened my mouth to begin to respond, but before I could say a word, I was overwhelmed by the thought of what Christmas in the Lowe household would be like, with Ophelia facing indifference and ridicule from her so-called mother and her so-called sisters... And after all she's done for me, she deserves at least some happiness.

"...How about next Wednesday?" I asked with a sly smile.

"Next Wed-" Ophelia replied. "But- but that's-"

"Christmas Day," I said.

"Do you not spend that day with family?" Ophelia asked.

"Only dad," I shrugged. "He'll be happy with you coming around, I know he will. He's been miserable every Christmas since- since mum, you know..."

"I would be honoured to accept your gracious invitation," Ophelia said, making me smile as I gave my friend one final hug before heading home.

In actuality, dad took some persuading, but was ultimately happy to share Christmas with Ophelia. Just after 10am on the 25th of December- after opening my predictably disappointing presents of clothes, shaving kits and deodorants- a knock came at our front door, which I answered to find my best friend stood holding a bag full of presents.

"Merry Christmas, Jacinta," Ophelia said with a genuine grin.

"Merry Christmas, Ophelia," I replied. "Hug?"

"As it is a special occasion, then yes, we can hug," Ophelia replied, smiling as we shared a brief cuddle.

"Don't leave her out in the cold, Jase!" Dad yelled from the living room.

"...Come in," I said, chuckling as Ophelia entered the house, removing her extra-tall high heeled shoes and long, patchwork coat to reveal a short gingham dress, her usual elaborately patterned tights and, of course, an extra-tight corset around her waist. "You look... Great."

"I look like Ophelia Cassiopeia Love," my friend replied. "'Greatness' has nothing to do with it."

"If you say so," I said as I opened the living room door, causing dad's eyes to go wide as he saw Ophelia- and her royal blue coloured make-up- for the first time.

"He- hello," dad said, cautiously standing up and approaching my friend. "You- you must be Aman-"

"Ophelia Cassiopeia Love," my friend said, giving my dad a light handshake. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Hanley."

"...Mike will be fine," dad mumbled. "So you- you know Jason from college, right? You um, know that he's-"

"I am fully aware of the situation regarding your son," Ophelia said, giving me a wink to let me know that she actually knew more than dad himself did!

"I'm the 'gay best friend'," I explained. "Ophelia and I... We, um, we 'help' each other."

"Like those three girls you hung around with primary school?" Dad asked with a smile that widened as I nodded in confirmation. "Well, as long as you're a friend of Jason's you're a friend of mine. Come on, I'll get you a drink. What d'you want?"

"Whatever you have to offer will be fine, thank you," Ophelia said, sitting down next to me on the sofa as dad headed into the kitchen. "Your father is delightful."

"He's okay," I shrugged. "I doubt he'd be okay if he saw the contents of that bag of presents in the hall, though."

"You might be surprised," Ophelia said with a grin.

"Did- did you get away okay?" I asked. "From home, I mean."

"I doubt mum will even notice that I'm gone," Ophelia spat as dad returned with tall glasses of sparkling wine for the three of us.

"I know you're only seventeen, both of you," dad said. "But I figure it's Christmas, and one glass isn't going to kill you. If you'd rather have something non-alcoholic-"

"This will be absolutely fine, thank you," Ophelia said, sipping her wine. "Shall I bring in your presents?"

"You didn't have to get us anything!" Dad chuckled.

"Nonsense," Ophelia said. "You are my hosts, it is only fair that I present to you a gift as a token of my esteem." As Ophelia left the room to fetch her bag of gifts- and sort through the ones that were and weren't 'dad-friendly', my father turned to me with a look of confusion on his face.

"Is this the girl you've been hanging out with for the past few months?" Dad asked.

"Yep," I replied. "Problem?"

"She- she's a bit weird, isn't she?" Dad asked.

"Yep," I replied. "Problem?"

"Well- none, nothing, I guess," dad said, before sighing. "I should've known when you said you were bringing a girl home not to expect- well, what I'd have meant if I said I was bringing a girl home."

"She's not exactly had an easy life," I said. "She- she just wants to express herself. There's nothing wrong with that, right?"

"Well- I guess not," dad sighed. "As long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, anyway." So much for getting my hopes up and dashing them, dad, I thought to myself as I took a big sip of my sparkling wine.

"This is for you, mist- Mike," Ophelia said, handing a small, bottle-shaped gift to dad. "And this is for you, Jason."

"Thanks," I said, opening the gift to find a small tub of men's hair gel within- however, the rattling sound made by the tub when I shook it told me not to expect men's hair gel when I opened it up, which I intended to do later on.

"Aww, thanks, Ophelia!" Dad said as he opened his gift to find a small bottle of whiskey. "I'm guessing that you had a family member buy this for you, then?"

"Yes, my sister," Ophelia said.

"...Candice?" I whispered to my friend, who tried her hardest to suppress a giggle.

"Who else?" Ophelia replied as I handed her her gift, which she opened to find a bottle of dark blue hair dye. "This is perfect. Thank you very much, Jason."

"Blue hair dye?" Dad asked. "Bit extreme, isn't it? Sorry, I don't mean to criticise, but-"

"It is a desire to express myself," Ophelia explained. "Obviously, I was not always called Ophelia Love. My name, at birth, was Mandy Lowe. But that is a name I do not, and cannot associate with."

"...So as well as changing your name, you're changing, what your image to match?" Dad asked.

"I am changing my image to match who I always was, deep down inside," Ophelia said, casting an aside glance at me to let me know that her words were for my benefit alone. "Is it not a good thing to live the life you always wanted, rather than pretending to be someone who you are not and making yourself miserable?"

"...If it makes you happy, then who am I to judge?" Dad replied with a shrug, bringing smiles to both my and my friend's faces. "Now come on, need your help cooking dinner. Try not to get too much blue in it!"

"My pleasure, Mike," Ophelia said as we stood up and followed dad into the kitchen.

The dinner was a success, of course, and all three of us had a great time for the rest of the day as we talked and watched TV. By the time 7pm rolled around, it was time for Ophelia to leave- and as she was putting her shoes and coat back on, I could see in her eyes (which were, of course, covered by dark blue contact lenses) a look of reluctance I was all too familiar with- it was the same look I had in my eyes every time 'Jacinta time' came to an end.

"Thanks for coming," I said as Ophelia fastened her coat.

"No, thank YOU," Ophelia whispered. "This has been the best Christmas ever."

"Until the next one," I said. "Hug?"

"Hug," Ophelia replied, giving me a gentle cuddle before making her way back home through the dark and gloomy streets.

"You know," dad said as I returned to the living room, "she may look weird but she's obviously got a heart of gold. I'm glad you've found a girl like her, Jason."

"FRIEND like her," I said. "We're not an item. 'Incompatible' would be putting it mildly!"

"Still waiting for a handsome prince to come and sweep you off your feet?" Dad asked with a chuckle that turned into a full-blown laugh when I stuck my tongue out at him.

"Maybe," I retorted.

"Well I do hope you find him," dad said with a grin. "There's enough misery in this world. Now come on, we need to catch Doctor Who on IPlayer, it's Matt Smith's last one before he turns into that Scottish guy from that show with all the swearing."

"Maybe later," I said as I fiddled with the pot of 'hair gel' Ophelia had given me, before remembering the bag of presents still sat out in the hall. "I'm, umm, I'm going to head up to my room for a bit."

"Okay," dad shrugged. "You're doing the washing-up, though."

"I won't be long," I replied as I grabbed the 'hair gel' before taking Ophelia's bag of presents up to my room, where I hastily unwrapped all of them, sighing happily at what was inside- cosmetics, women's underwear (including more of my 'special' underwear), even a bottle of dark purple nail polish. I sighed happily as I spread the presents on my bed, before finally twisting the top off of the 'hair gel' to find a small, handwritten note inside.

'If you open the other presents in front of your father,' the note read, 'you'll get what you REALLY want for Christmas.'

"...You're probably right, Ophelia," I sighed. Dad's reaction to my eccentric friend had been to shrug and go 'live and let live'- but that was to another person's teenaged child. If I'd shown up in the living room wearing what Ophelia had worn, he wouldn't have reacted as calmly... But then again, if I'd shown up at Ophelia's house wearing what Ophelia had worn, her mother would probably have reacted even worse.

Nonetheless, I had myself a brand-new 'stash of Jacinta' available to me at home whenever I wanted it, and based on that alone, it was already the best Christmas I had ever had.

The 'stash' saw plenty of use over the Christmas holiday, not least on New Year's Eve. With dad out of the house at a party, I'd been left alone to do whatever I wanted, and this of course meant pulling on a bra, a pair of hip and bum-enhancing underpants, a tightly-laced corset, a pair of black tights, a long-sleeved top, a tight black miniskirt and a pair of high-heeled shoes. I had applied a full face of make-up, and I'd even painted my fingernails using the new nail polish Ophelia had given me for Christmas.

Of course, sat next to me on my sofa was my BFF, who was dressed up just as elaborately as she had been at Christmas, with the exception that her hair was now, of course, a dark blue colour.

"How did your mum react to your hair, then?" I asked my friend, grimacing as she scowled in response.

"How do you think?" Ophelia snorted. "But her scorn is all the more reason TO dye my hair as I see fit."

"Damn right!" I chuckled as I handed Ophelia a glass of sparkling wine, which she clinked against my own.

"How did your father react to the 'real' present I got you?" Ophelia asked.

"...How do you think?" I asked, making my friend's frown even deeper.

"He did not react, because he doesn't know about his daughter," Ophelia correctly guessed.

"Can- can we just watch TV, please?" I asked. "It's about to turn midnight..."

"The end of 2013," Ophelia said. "A year in which I changed more than I ever thought I would."

"You said it," I laughed, clinking Ophelia's glass again as the chimes of Big Ben rang in the New Year. "Wonder how much things will change in 2014..."

As it turned out, 2014 would be a year of more change than either of us could possibly have predicted.



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