Vesta's Hearth 5 and 6
Copyright© Frances Penwiddy 2012
This is a work of fiction, the characters and the Café are fictitious and any resemblance to places or persons living or dead is coincidental.
Cooking lessons, a pretty pinny, Two Spirit New Girls, a chat with Barbara and good news.
“How good you cook?” Maria looked me up and down. “You learn how to make you beautiful and will make man happy but to keep love you learn to feed man well or he leave.”
“I can’t really cook. Well eggs and chips, sausages and mash, stuff like that and if I’m pushed, spaghetti bolognaise from supermarket sauces, not much else.”
“That bad food will make you fat like Maria,” she patted her stomach “But Maria not interested in men now, had three husbands in Spain, two died and the last, he thought more of wine than Maria and never work so I send him away and come to England to teach English how to cook good food, fresh food, plenty fish, fruit and vegetables. So now Maria teach you. Roast lamb, roast and boiled potatoes, spinach, broccoli and peas and then good girls who eat dinner have fresh fruit and ice cream.”
“I know how to slice or dice fruit,” I replied hopefully.
“Good then Maria do that if you already know how and I will teach you to prepare vegetables, roast and make sauce.”
“Maria, if I cook the Sunday roast the girls will throw it at us.”
She wagged a finger in my face, “If Maria show you, you will cook good. Maria show April, Barbara, Maeve and Diane and they cook good, April best, she cook English and Spanish and next I teach her Italian and then Chinese. I will teach you same.”
I sighed, “Why not throw in French and sushi as well.”
“Okay do that if you want.”
I wasn’t going to win this one and the sooner I became a cordon bleu chef, the quicker I was going to get my thinking time in the garden.
So my first formal lesson in cooking began and Maria was fun to work with. I enjoyed the experience of cooking something more complex than a burger. Maria had a small cupboard where she kept her personal cooking utensils and just before we put the lamb in the oven, she went to it and came back with something in her hands, “Take of apron, not good for you. Quick now, take off.”
I did as she asked and removed the white cook’s apron and then looked at her, “Turn around.”
Obediently I did as I was bid and I felt her hands reach over my head, “Close eyes.”
I did that, expecting her to put some sort of cook’s hair net over my hair and then I felt something slide over my head and whatever it was, rested on my shoulders and then fell down my front. I still stood there with my eyes closed expecting a hat or net but Maria was fiddling around at the rear of my waist. “Now open eyes, much better now.” I opened them and looked down and started to laugh. Hanging down my front was a new pinnie, the bodice was heart shaped, edged with lace and the whole thing was printed with colourful flowers and fruit. There was a lace edged pocket and without being able to see, I knew Maria had tied the waist tapes in a bow.
“You like it? Much better than ordinary one, suits you, is pretty, yes? Come look,” and she grabbed me by the hand and took me next door into the common room where there was a freestanding mirror beside the lecture board and she stood me in front of it. “Yes, look good, pretty like you.”
I turned to her and gave her a hug, “Maria, I love you, you make me feel so happy and I want to cook with you every day.”
She smiled, “Good, now come we have work to do.” And back to the cooking we went with me looking down every ten seconds to make sure I hadn’t any stains on the pinnie.
The roast was in, the vegetables and fruit prepared and Maria called a halt, “Now we sit for while and have coffee until time for vegetables to cook.”
“You sit, Maria, I’ll make coffee,” I smiled, “It’s something else I know how to cook.”
“Good, then you cook coffee and I’ll find secret biscuits but you only have two or get fat.”
I had just finished pouring the coffee when Diane walked into the kitchen, “My look at you, really getting into the part. Where did you get that pinnie?”
“Maria lent it to me, I think it makes me into a tidier cook because I’m afraid to get it dirty.”
Maria laughed, “Is true, Helen is good cook, learn quick, soon will be perfect wife.”
“She hasn’t got a lover yet and you’re marrying her off.”
“She not have lover, she keep herself for husband, be a good girl.”
“I’ve got just the shoes to go with the look, four inch strappy sandals, white, I’ll go get them.”
“I can’t wear heels, I’ll fall off, I’ve never ever worn them.”
Diane shrugged, “I’ll put them in your room and you’d better practice cos you’ll be wearing a pair on Tuesday, I have the jacket as well, I’ll leave it for you to try on,” and she was gone before I could object to the four inch heels.
I sat down and took a sip of coffee and obeying Maria’s instructions, I placed only two biscuits on my plate. “Maria?” I asked, “Do you like working here in a prison full of T girls?”
Maria smiled and for a couple of minutes used a biscuit to chase a second one around her plate and then she looked at me and smiled again. “Not a prison, no this is place where people discover who they are. Here is lovely people, lovely girls just like my niece Isabella.”
“Pretty name, is she here in England?”
“No, she with family in Mexico.”
“You come from Mexico?”
“No family all from Spain, Sister go live with husband in Mexico, he important man. Two childrens, two nieces for me, Concepcion and Isabella, Isabella like you, New Girl.”
“New Girl. That sounds so much better than T Girl.”
Maria nodded, nibbled at a biscuit, sipped her coffee and frowned, “At first Isabella had much troubles but my brother in law and sister loved her much and he sorted problem with local people.” She chuckled, “When he sorts problems, they are sorted forever, now Isabella happy girl and have three boyfriends.”
“She twist man round finger and keeps boys on hop. You do same if you want to.”
“Not just yet,”
“Not easy to learn who you are but you will adjust and be happy. When Isabella had troubles, father go to a friend, good friend, influential friend, he Indian Chief,” she started laughing then. “Chief come into village where Isabella live, he come on horse with all feathers and forty Indian braves with tomahawks and arrow bows and they find Isabella walking from shop and surround her and get of horses and kneel in a circle round her. Then they lift hands in air and bow heads to ground and begin Indian dance with much whooping. Tell people of village that Isabella is Two Spirit and Indian Goddess,” she leaned across table and said quietly, “Many Indians do believe girls like you have two spirits and hold them in great esteem.”
“What happened then?”
“Indians do more dance and Chief goes to Isabella and places band around head and puts eagle’s feather in band and call her Great Two Spirit Woman then they get on horses and leave with more whooping. I was visiting then and it was so funny, now people love Isabella and go to her for help sometimes because they believe she can speak to Indian Spirit Gods, Manitou.”
“And your brother-in-law got the Indians to do it?”
“At first they do it for him yes, then when they saw her beauty, they did it for themselves. Now she has two birthdays, one when she was born from mother and second when she is born a New Girl and they always come to village with gifts and every year she goes to stay with them for a month.”
“Maria, that’s a lovely story.”
“It is why I like work here, Two Spirit Girls are special for me as well and I want to show Isabella how much I love her. Come now, enough of chit-chat, we cook vegetables and you will be my Two Spirit Girl, like Isabella.”
The Sunday lunch was a success because Maria kept us enthralled with her stories of the Indian Chief and Two Spirit Girls and the second reason was the meal. Though it was Maria who had been the Chef De Cuisine, she was lavish in her praise and insisted that I had a magic touch and the credit was all mine. I wished she hadn’t because I had a feeling I was going to be lumbered with the job every time we had a ‘binge’ meal.
After everything had been cleared away, Maria came to me and said, “I finish now and go to church this evening and pray to Virgin Mother for you and I will pray to the Manitou as well.”
I felt the tears beginning and just had time to get out into the garden and claim a deckchair under the oak tree. I had a song thrush for company and his serenading made my eyelids heavy and I drifted into a nap.
I wasn’t asleep long and when I opened my eyes, the thrush had gone but there was somebody sitting beside me. I turned my head and Barbara smiled, “That was a great lunch but you only had one roast and one boiled potato.”
“It was Maria, she wouldn’t let me have any more, said I had to keep a good figure or I wouldn’t find a husband of wealth and power.”
“She’s adopted you I think. Wangled you a bottle of forbidden wine and then gives you a pretty pinny.”
I looked down, “Oh, I forgot to give it back.”
“Don’t worry about it, she won’t mind if you want to wear it when you cook all our breakfasts tomorrow.”
“Me. That’s not fair, I cooked today.”
“Yea but nobody else has the magic touch.”
I grinned at her, “The magic touch only works on roast lamb Sunday lunches. Which reminds me, there are leftovers if anybody is still hungry.”
“They’ve had their fill but don’t worry, if it isn’t eaten this evening. You can produce a magic touch lamb curry tomorrow.” I threw a spare cushion at her.
We lounged in the chairs in companionable silence for fifteen minutes and then Barbara asked, “Any more questions about this place?”
“I thought for a moment, I didn’t have any really except a more personal one. “Can I ask you something personal?”
“Is it about my sex-life cos if it is, it’s racy and not best suited for the telling after a heavy lunch?”
“And I suppose it would take a long time, a week or two. No, not that personal, it’s about your boobs.”
She chuckled, “They are a part of my sex life.”
“No, seriously, Barbara,” I sat up and looked directly at her, “They are real aren’t they?”
She glanced at the windows to make sure nobody was peering out and then undid her blouse, pulled it open and lifted the cups of her bra to expose two beautifully formed breasts with large, dark areola and proud nipples. “Touch them, feel the softness, go on, we’re girls together here.”
I tentatively reached out and placed the flat of my hand over one, then cupped it and felt the warmth and then touched the nipple.
“Oi, you’re turning me on, don’t tickle me there.”
I grinned, “Course not, that’s gay.” I cupped one and lifted it to feel the weight. “Oh, I didn’t think they were that heavy. I had the idea that they be more like balloons made from heavy rubber.”
“They’re not empty bags that get filled with milk,” said Barbara, lifting the other one, “They are tissue and the milk, when a woman is lactating, is stored in small compartments surrounded by fat tissue and each is connected to others and the connecting tubes all end at the nipple. If they were empty bags, they’d hang down like punctured balloons.”
“I nodded, yes I understand some of the technical stuff but I was just surprised at the weight. How long did it take you to get used to having them there?”
Barbara fell back into the chair and started laughing, she pulled her bra back into place and began buttoning up, “I didn’t wake up one morning with 38B boobs suddenly stuck on my chest. I grew them slowly with hormone treatment; I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to buy new bras because I had outgrown the old ones. These little wonders have taken two years to get to this.”
“Will they keep growing?”
“Can you remember your mother’s bust?”
“Well yes, I did see them once or twice when I was younger,”
“That’s probably about the size yours will grow to, maybe a little smaller. What size was she?”
“I don’t know the bra size but her dress size was twelve, two years before she died. I know that cos I went with my dad to buy her a dress, they were going to a ‘do’ and he wanted to surprise her with the new dress.”
“She’d be a 36 then, assuming she had a figure that was proportional. You will probably be a little smaller. On the whole children are usually similar sizes to their parents, girls follow their mothers, boys their dads. There are exceptions of course, fat parents can produce skinny kids and vice-versa but if you follow a normal food and exercise regime you should be around your parent’s sizes. Do you favour your mother or father?”
“How do you mean?”
“Have you your mother’s eyes, hair, complexion, that sort of stuff, did people ever tell you that you take after your mother or your father.”
“Mother, her hair and eyes and I suppose her skin tone were similar to mine. Dad had dark hair, brown eyes; I have mum’s light brown hair and blue green eyes. She was very pretty, even allowing for a child’s prejudices. All kids think their mothers are beautiful and their dads handsome, but my mother really was pretty, no beautiful.”
Barbara reached out and cupped my chin and looked at my face, “Yes she would have been, I can see it in you. I think you’re probably the prettiest T girl I have ever met.”
“We’re not T girls anymore, we are New Girls, Maria calls us that, so it must be true.”
Barbara smiled, “She’s a lovely person our Maria. The way you’re speaking, it sounds as if you’ve made up your mind.”
“To become a New Girl you mean?”
“I haven’t made a definite decision but I do know what I want to do. I am thinking about it all the time but I said I would make the decision on Tuesday evening because there are one or two other things to be taken into account, like when I get out of here, do I go back to my old work and would they have me as a girl or will I have to change my job perhaps even my career.”
“Universal problem that but whatever decision you make on Tuesday, there’s wagon loads of help here and you can still change your mind again, well certainly in the early days. It’s not something that happens overnight, it takes a year or two, Adam will tell you all about it and we have to see doctors and shrinks who will assess whether or not we should change. You’ll have plenty of help to make your decision.”
I nodded, “Yes I know, you lot are really nice and I know I have lots of shoulders to lean on. It just puzzles, even scares me that everything happened so suddenly. One minute I was a man and happy with it and then suddenly I start becoming a girl, not slowly but all at once, I have been here a week, when I arrived I was really frightened of where I was and what was going to happen but then suddenly after only a few days I’ve changed, dressed up, done my hair, make-up, started thinking about more feminine things, still wearing this piny because I think it’s pretty and I’m perfectly at home in a girly bedroom and making friends with all of you and being happy in you company, no more than happy, I would prefer sitting here chatting with you about dress styles, make-up and how to use curling tongs, than going down to the pub with the lads and a game of darts or rabbiting on about cricket and football.”
Barbara nodded, “You’ve made one mistake though.”
“You think it all happened suddenly, it didn’t, it’s been there all the time but you suppressed it subconsciously until the rape business brought you to this place. You had a catharsis, your mind found itself in a threatening or uncomfortable, even hostile environment and let the real you lose to deal with the problem. I won’t say any more about that because I am not qualified, I will tell you a bit about what happened with me later but it’s best if Adam and the other doctors, the people who really understand the human mind, guide you through and Adam will see to that when you announce your decision but do remember, you can change your mind in the first few months, it isn’t a question of, I’ll go for it and totally commit myself, it’s more of; I want to do this but if I find I can’t see it through to the end, I’ll switch back. And here come the others, getting curious as to what we’re doing out here I expect or coming to tell you what they want for breakfast in the morning.”
“Give me that cushion, I want to throw it at you again.”
They didn’t mention breakfast but they did thank me for my efforts and then they wandered off to play croquet and Barbara went to pick a few flowers and brought them to me. “Find something in the kitchen, put water and a splash of lemonade or aspirin in and take them to your room.” I stood, took them from her, kissed her cheek and said “Thank you,” When I got back to my room I found that Diane had left the jacket, it fitted so did the strappy white sandals but I was certainly going to need to practice walking, as for dancing well…
There was another small package on my pillow, gift-wrapped and my name on it with the message ‘You will need these for Tuesday,’ and when I opened it, there was a pair of cream panties with lace trim and small pink bows, a suspender belt and a pair of tan stockings still in their packet. They were pretty and sexy, I loved them and I held them to my cheek for a moment before putting them safely in a drawer. I picked up the wrapping paper with the intention of folding it and keeping it for the day I started a scrapbook and detected the faintest hint of perfume, I held it to my nose and recognised it, Aprils. I lay down and let a few tears creep out of the corner of my eyes and run down my cheeks, Life had thrown me into a dung heap and I had arisen smelling of roses.
If I chose to leave here, I will leave the best people I had ever known, possibly never see them again, if I elected to stay and ask Adam not to pursue my appeal, then I would gain a criminal record that would stay with me all my life but I may keep my new family. I had to try and find a middle way, give myself three choices, something down the middle because at the moment, the two choices I had were unacceptable. I loved these girls and I wanted them around, like forever but I didn’t want a criminal record haunting me, a record that would show up like a beacon if ever I needed a Criminal Records Check. Perhaps have my passport stamped with a warning and my name on the Sex Offenders List.
I awoke from my nap and heard the voices of the girls coming from the common room, there was laughter so I jumped of the bed, slipped the piny off and with some trepidation, put the sandals on, and began the journey of a lifetime, from my room to the common room in heels. Oddly enough, after I had taken a few paces with one hand brushing the wall of the corridor to help me keep my balance I began to get the knack. Smaller steps and keeping my feet in front of me which made my hips swing a little and slowly I began to look less like a penguin staggering about on ice and more like a teenager trying her first heels.
“Tra-la-la,” I sang as I opened the door, hands away from the wall and stopped in the doorway. “I didn’t fall once.”
The girls jumped up, Diane said, “They suit you, pity about the uniform. Go on, walk around,” ordered April, “Without sticks,” added Maeve, “Could you do a twirl?” asked Barbara.
With an air of triumph, I walked slowly into the room as gracefully as I could and said, “No twirls, straight lines and gentle bends only.”
“Don’t sit,” called Maeve when I reached the chairs, “Come back here, try the corridor again.” And that started it, an hour of walking back and forth along the corridor, around the common room, then the kitchen, the corridor again until, in her best Pygmalion voice, Barbara said, “By Jove, I think she’s got it.”
“Not yet, you lot go and get comfortable, I have to fetch something from my room, won’t be long,” I grinned, “I shall trip daintily along the corridor.”
and off I went to get the bottle of wine that Barbara and I had forgotten to open. My confidence grew with every step, my calves were hurting but I persevered claimed the wine, called at the kitchen and found five assorted glasses and returned to the girls. “Let’s celebrate it’s been a perfect day.”
“Wait a tick and then April vanished to return minutes later with a half bottle “We’ll get two glasses each if we’re careful.”
“Not if Boris comes in and catches us,” said Diane.
“Boris?” I asked.
“You haven’t met him yet, he’s the boss mentor.”
“He won’t mind,” said Maeve, “We don’t do it often and two glasses is not going to send us over the top,” and then she chuckled, unless I go and get my bottle of Beaujolais, and we mix our drinks and have three glasses each.”
“Get it!” we all cried.
Two glasses might not have sent me over the top but three glasses certainly let me know I had been drinking. I kept up my practice and was the one who kept getting up to fetch things and pour the wine and by ten I was getting quite good and offered to do a twirl but the others suggested I leave that until tomorrow in view of the fact that I had become a bit giggly. They did escort me to my room and I didn’t let the side down, I walked with something approaching grace albeit grace was still a long way away.
Monday morning, I awoke at six and my head had an attitude, my calves had an attitude, my stomach felt as if it was thinking of having an attitude and collectively they were giving me an attitude. I had told Barbara yesterday that I preferred staying in the Café and chatting with them rather than going to the pub with the lads, I think I might have to reconsider my preferences. I never did have a tolerance for alcohol; usually two or three halves of beer were enough. On adventurous days I’ve been known to have five halves but I think my already intolerant intolerance to booze was increasing, it must be something to do with the hormones.
I remember a couple of years ago, the agency I worked for had been commissioned to produce a short TV ad and we produced a winner. It was for a cosmetics company who had been losing market share and decided to switch agencies and we were invited to submit proposals along with five or six others. I had come up with an idea and did the storyboard; and we won the contract. Partying at a local pub club I had one glass of wine with the meal and three halves of lager and was all over the place. One of the other guys had told me if I had been a girl, I would have been low maintenance.
I could hear noises in the kitchen; Maria must have come in a little early so thinking that a couple of dozen Paracetamol might help. I climbed into my bathrobe, couldn’t find my slippers so put on the heels and went to seek her help.
“You have party,” she accused when I entered the kitchen.
“A celebration, how did you know?”
“Find empty bottles and dirty glasses.”
“Oh sorry about that.”
“Not matter, everybody entitled to celebrate birthdays.”
“It wasn’t a birthday, we were celebrating my first journey in high heels.”
Maria then noticed my gain in height and looked down at my feet, “Oh! Not notice when you come in, show me, walk around,” and she waved her hand in a circular motion, so I obliged but the impact of the heel on the floor was sending horrible messages up my calves to my head so I sat and groaned.
Maria chuckled, “You good but suffer, yes?”
“Is one of drawbacks to being girl. Wear uncomfortable clothes to make men happy. Not worry, Maria fix punishment for celebration,” she went to a cupboard and came back with two pills and a glass of water. “Drink and go back to room, I do breakfast and send girl with coffee and toast to you.” I climbed to my feet, took the cure with me and walked towards the door, “You good for only little practice, you suffer much before getting perfect,” and I walked down the corridor with her chuckles following me.
April came down later with a cup of coffee and two thin slices of lightly buttered toast. She put them on the dressing table, pulled the chair back for me and then sat on the bed. “Maria said; ‘No marmalade, Helen is watching figure,’ I tried for you.”
“It’s not me that’s watching my figure, it’s her.”
April smiled, “I think she’s adopted you, keeps saying Helen like cousin for my little Isabella, like daughter, good New Girl.”
I took a sip of coffee and a nibble of toast. My attitudes had vanished and my stomach made no objections. “I’m okay now, that wine went straight to my head last night.”
“It certainly did, you were giggling at everything. Maeve was going to give you a Shirley Temple perm, but we managed to stop her. Dance classes at nine thirty, deportment at twelve will you be fit enough?”
“Yes, of course, I daren’t miss dance.”
“Before you go to classes, Boris wants to see you.”
“Oh, it sounds as if I’m in trouble.”
“Don’t think so, Adam isn’t here until this evening and there’s one or two points he wants to bring up.”
“Do you know what they are?”
“No, Boris is one of those everything is top secret people, but if it was trouble, he would probably have come down here to speak to you personally rather than send a message.”
“What’s he like?”
“He’s a luv, tries to look strict and super professional but he’s like Adam, a softy really. He does care about us though, likes to get we girls all fixed up when we leave, makes sure we have somewhere safe to live and keeps a bit of an eye on us to make sure we are not getting into trouble. Doesn’t worry me, I like to feel somebody is looking after me.”
“You’re alone when you get out?”
“Yes, I could go back to my parents but they have intimated that though they won’t refuse they would prefer if I went my own way.”
“That’s not very nice, April.”
She shrugged, “Nothing less than I expected. They think I am guilty of all sorts of things, said I shouldn’t have allowed the girl to give me drugs so I lost control of myself as well as my self-respect. And there’s this sex change thing, every time I bring the subject up they steer the conversation away from it, pretending it hasn’t happened I suppose, ashamed of me.”
“The rape, did you?”
“To be honest, Helen, I don’t know. I had intercourse with her but the details of how it got to that is lost. Judge said that had it not been for the girl admitting she had given me the drugs, he would have sent me to prison but he was sending me here because I needed correction and guidance. Funny thing is the girl got six months for possession and distribution.”
“Not undeserved though.”
“Do you think so, I thought it harsh, after all I might have raped her, even if it was a sort of statutory rape.”
“Would you have raped her if you hadn’t been on drugs?”
“Of course not.”
“Well there you are, she’s as responsible as you and anyway, you say you can’t remember it so how did you know you raped her.”
“Well I did say I didn’t know what happened but I did recall we had intercourse.”
“Admission of sorts then, you should have pleaded insanity.”
She laughed, “I’m that anyway. Maeve told me if I could grow double Ds’, chew gum and smoke a joint, I’d become a perfect bimbo.”
“You going for implants then?”
She laughed again, “Nope, going to settle for what I have, B going on C cup. I tried a cleavage bra on a month ago, padded of course, and they looked good, felt good so they will do me.”
“Got a job lined up for when you get out?”
“Not yet. Boris said he’ll try and get me fixed up once I know where I’ll be living.”
“Good office organiser, I was doing that before I came here but Maria says I should become a chef or open a small restaurant or patisserie. I wouldn’t mind the latter, I enjoy making cakes pies and stuff like that.” She stood up, “I’d better get back and give you time to get ready to see Boris.”
“What dress code?”
“Normally as a first yearer you would have to wear the skirt and a blouse but in your case, I don’t suppose he’ll be too fussed.”
“Think I’ll wear my tomorrow clothes then with the Café undies.”
“Not the ones I gave you?”
“No, they’re special, keeping them for tomorrow in case I pull a hunk.”
“You can’t, Barbara’s Paul is escorting you and he gets jealous if anybody goes near his birds.”
“He thinks we’re all his birds?”
“Well Barbara looks upon us as her sisters so he feels he has an obligation to look after us as we’re family.”
“That’s sweet but with him on the outside and Maria inside, I’m gonna die a virgin.”
April looked back from the door, “Would you mind?”
I thought for a second, I would but I said, “I’ll let you know tomorrow,” and she was gone.
The skirt was just below the knee, dusky pink and gathered into soft folds. There was a white cotton and polyester blouse and a deep burgundy jacket. Nothing outrageous, the look was soft feminine and my shoes and stockings where just right. I checked my make-up in the mirror but not for long otherwise I would find myself starting all over again. It was okay; all I need to do now, I thought as I left my room is not trip and fall flat as I entered his office. My timing was poor, as I left my room; Melissa escorted by two guards was coming down the corridor. He looked at me with, I don’t know, hate, scorn, not nice, creepy. As he got closer the look changed, he turned and stared and there was something akin to desire in his eyes and then he was gone.
I walked carefully, paused for a moment at the door, this was going to be the first man I had encountered dressed as a woman other than Adam and even he had only seen me in the uniform. And then my self-esteem trebled, Melissa had desired me, a horrible person granted but he desired me, a man fancied me! I took a deep breath and knocked.
I expected a ‘Come-in’ but there wasn’t one. I was on the point of knocking again when the door opened and he stood there with a smile on his face.
“April said you wanted to see me, Mr er Mr…”
“Sanderson but Boris is nicer, less formal, Helen or would you prefer Miss Finch or perhaps Ms Finch?”
“Miss, I don’t like Ms, but please use Helen. As you say, friendlier but if we have to be formal at any time, then definitely Miss, Ms sounds more like a noise a bee would make.”
He laughed and stood aside, “Do come in and sit down, I would offer you a small drink but I think you would prefer not at present.”
“Oh dear, you know about last night, are we grounded?”
He closed the door and walked to his desk, “Grounded, good heavens no, a little relaxation now and again is fine and two and a half bottles of wine between five is hardly likely to lead to rowdy behaviour.” He picked up a folder with confidential stamped across the top. “I had a chance to read your file over the weekend and I wanted to speak to you if only to let you know that I agree with Adam’s assessment of your case.”
“Thank you, it helps to know that I am believed.”
“Now why did you ask him not to stop your subliminal messages and hormone treatment? Please don’t think this is a grilling, I simply want to understand why, given the chance, you didn’t want to return to a normal schedule and get out of here as soon as possible.”
I was sitting with my legs crossed and I absently run my fingers across my knee whilst I considered his question. I knew the answer but should I tell him the real reason, he might override my request and speed up my release. I had to tell him, if I didn’t he might make the wrong guesses and have me thrown out because I was a drain on the prison budget; “I don’t want to leave here yet, I think I am transgendered and I wanted the chance to think and make up my mind before leaving. Well that’s part of it the other part is friendship. The other girls have become a family to me; they are kind and have been a help. If Adam goes ahead and stops my treatment and then has me released, I won’t know what to do with myself, who to go to, what to do. I promised Adam that I would let him know tomorrow evening as to whether I wanted to go ahead with the appeal, I hoped that I would be given that much time.”
He nodded, “There is no time limit at present. This facility is as much a hospital as a prison and we certainly won’t send you out into an unfriendly world without making sure you can cope. It would be very counterproductive if we released a girl before she was ready and then have her go on to commit crimes because her mind was unstable and then have to put her into prison. It is cheaper to cure somebody so that they don’t re-offend than it is to simply punish them and wait for them to offend again. The girls here are only the third intake we’ve had; we released our first intake of girls some time ago. Two of those girls switched back to a male existence, the remainder slipped into a female roll and are still doing it. The point being that not one of them has re-offended, it’s a small sample but a highly successful one and the prison service is currently considering what other classes of offenders would benefit from a similar approach to that used at the Café.
“The only pressure you would have is the need for you to continue your treatment, we can’t have you receiving a pardon or having the sentence quashed and then allow you to use this place as a convenient hotel and friendship club, unless of course you were employed here.”
“Yes, I understand that.”
“It seems you have two choices, one to stay here under sentence but you would continue to have a criminal record as a sex offender with all its ramifications, the other is to go ahead with your appeal and gain your release with a clean record behind you…”
“I had hoped there might be a middle way, I know I am asking for the best of both worlds.”
“You are but Adam, Allen and I are considering your case and think we may have an answer but I won’t say anything at this stage until we have discussed it with those above us.”
“The third of the three counsellors here. Allen is away on leave at the moment so Adam is full time, normally he covers when Allen or I are unable to work and spells us for days off.”
“Oh, he will be leaving then, I won’t see very much of him.”
“I may become your mentor when Allen returns but Adam will be here quite often and you will see him frequently,” he smiled, “You will find me easy to get on with as well.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that you weren’t good enough for me.”
“I realise that but it is quite normal for a new girl to be nervous of any changes. Now. I see you have dressed in your own clothes and they suit you and seem to have given you an air of confidence. The rules normally require a new girl to wear uniform for the first year, this is partly to remind them of why they are here and partly to create a level playing field, we don’t want you girls polarising into separate groups. The others here have been wearing their uniforms so that you would feel comfortable. When they see you dressed as you are, they too will start wearing their own clothes and I am suspending the dress code in your case because of your special circumstances. One exception, no male clothing.”
“I wouldn’t dream of switching back, I like the new me.”
“Can I take that as a signal that you have reached your decision?”
“I want to continue but I need to speak to somebody about it first and I was hoping Adam would be able to explain things to me. You know, what I need to consider, career, living accommodation, relationships, that sort of thing.”
“Of course, we will wait until tomorrow, have your day out, see Adam when you return and then perhaps the three of us can sit down together and iron things out so that you can make your decision. There is one other thing, a favour I would ask of you but please don’t worry if you feel you can’t oblige.”
“I’d need a good reason not to help.”
“Thank you. Barbara, as you know is being released in about four weeks, Diane soon after, Maeve is due for release in January and April is due out in March. They are all girls that can be trusted and I was hoping you would allow them to accompany you tomorrow on your shopping trip. You will not…”
“All of us out together, I’d love to, we could have a really nice time.”
“I was about to say, you will not be responsible for their behaviour, Barbara’s young man Paul will do that and also ensure you don’t have any problems with other people…”
“I said I’d love to.”
“Are you sure, it won’t be spoiling your day, I understand you are going to Chichester.”
“It would make the whole trip really exciting and I would have four advisors telling me what to buy. We could have lunch together…yes, I’ll do it.”
“Well, if you are sure and it appears you are, then you’d best go and invite them, I’ve already asked Paul if he minds and he says no, it’s not every day he gets to be seen around Chichester with five beautiful chicks, they were his words not mine.”
I got up and went to the door, “You’re happy that they won’t try to run off?”
“Absolutely certain, I don’t think it would occur to them to spoil a day out shopping.”
“Will they have enough money because I can let them have some?”
“That’s very generous but they all have a good amount in credit, which reminds me, ask them to pop down and let me know how much they want to take with them.”
“Okay, I’ll do it now, we have dance classes soon,” I started to open the door and stopped again. “I think Paul may need help with five of us going, can we take my mum with us?”
“Your mother? I thought you were orphaned?”
“I was, got a new mum now, Maria.”
“Maria in the kitchen?”
“That’s the one.”
Boris scratched his head and reached for a schedule sheet, looked at it and said, “She is doing breakfasts for you and there is a cookery lesson in the morning and she is supposed to be giving you another one-on-one lesson for the evening meal but if you are out, there won’t be any need for her here. Ask her?”
“You’re a dish, Boris,” and I nearly ran to the common room, heels or not.
“I got some news,” I almost shouted, “Good news, terrific news.”
They all jumped up, “You’re being released?” said Maeve.
“No, better than that.”
“We’re all being released,” asked April, “I don’t want it yet, I’m not ready.”
“Better even than that.”
“Well tell us then,” demanded Barbara a little exasperated, “It can’t be that you managed to run down the corridor in heels and not fall flat on your arse.”
“You can all come shopping with Barbara and me tomorrow, every single one of you.”
For a moment, nothing happened and then suddenly they started cheering and dancing around.
“Boris wants to see each of you in turn to arrange for your money, so get down there now whilst I go and see Maria.”
I left and April followed, “I can’t believe this, how much do you think I should take, I want to save as much as possible for when I get out.”
“I stopped at the kitchen door, “What do you need?”
“A little black dress, couple of skirts, some make-up and a bra one size up, I think my boobs are still growing a bit.”
“Well yes, I suppose I could do with a pair.”
“Hundred and fifty unless you are going haute couture.”
“Goodness no, Marks and Sparks,” and away she went to see Boris.
I went into the kitchen and Maria was just emptying the dishwasher, “Ah my little one is your head better now?”
“You had a hangover earlier.”
“Oh yes, all gone now I’m rearing to go. Maria, I want to ask you a favour.”
She wiped her hands on a towel and hung it over the rail, “Ask away.”
“Boris has said we can all go on the shopping trip tomorrow but I think all five of us will be a little much for Paul to keep shepherded in a single group.” I walked up to her and took her hand, “Will you come with us? I will need your advice even if the others don’t.”
“Oh my little one, of course I will come.” She took her hand back opened her arms and wrapped me in a lovely embrace and kissed my forehead. “I will have great joy to see you become you, real you,” she unwrapped her arms and held me at full length, “We will buy something for your trousseau while we are there.”
“Of course, every girl must put together a trousseau, it is never too early to start.” She shook her head, “You English girls are too modern and leave everything to last minute. We will start your trousseau and Maria will help you all time until your wedding day and when Maria helps, you will be a most beautiful bride. I need a new hat as well.”
I laughed, “I’ll buy you a new hat, we’ll go to a milliner and have one made just for you, a designer hat that nobody else will have.”
“No. Ordinary hat is good enough, why you want to spend lots of money on hat?”
“Because, the Mother of the Bride must always have the best hat at the wedding.”
In the next chapters; Helen freezes and then goes on a shopping trip and the girls have a party and is there love in the air?
Vesta’s Hearth and Footprints in the Sea are available in the Top Shelf Amazon shop.
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