"...I think people might be staring," I whispered to Ophelia as we walked through the cramped shopping centre.
"What they wish to do with their eyes is their business, not ours," Ophelia replied, holding her head high even as every head we passed turned to look in our direction.
"Easy for you to say," I mumbled as I tried not to let my cheeks go too red.
It was a few weeks after Christmas, and Ophelia and I were on one of our regular shopping sessions, where we'd visit all the local charity and second-hand shops, looking for old clothes- women's clothes, of course- to expand my wardrobe or for Ophelia to experiment with.
Naturally, following the success of Halloween and Christmas, I was very much dressed as Jacinta, and not Jason. I had on a full face of make-up and my hair had been brushed into the most feminine style I could manage. I was wearing a grey ankle-length skirt with a high slit up one side and a tight, navy blue long-sleeved bodysuit, underneath which I was wearing translucent black tights and my usual foundation wear of a tight waist cincher, a padded bra (into which I had slipped extra-large forms to draw attention away from my broad shoulders) and a new 'control' panty, which had a thong back that sent tingles of excitement up my spine with every step I took on my 3" wedge-heeled ankle boots. When my modest jewellery and a light spritz of perfume were factored in, I looked and felt just like any other teenaged girl out shopping with her friend- albeit a girl who was being stares at by everyone in the mall.
"It is easy for me to say," Ophelia retorted. "As I'm the one everyone is staring at."
...And, of course, Ophelia was right. As self-conscious as I felt, being a boy dressed as a woman, I could at least rest easy in the knowledge that anyone looking at me would probably think 'that's an oddly masculine-looking girl'... Before looking at Ophelia and thinking 'what IS that girl wearing?’
Ophelia was dressed in a lacy black knee-length dress, on top of which she wore her obligatory excruciatingly tight corset, and underneath which she wore a pair of blue and black striped tights and three petticoats that rustled with every step she took- and given that her shoes had 5" high and very narrow stiletto heels, she was taking a LOT of steps. Her arms were covered in bicep-length opera gloves, her face was covered in an extra-thick layer of blue-tinged make-up and her royal blue hair had been styled into braids and tied away from her face. As with every time she set foot outside her house lately, Ophelia turned heads everywhere she went- and not always for good reasons.
"Ugh," an older man spat, letting out an exaggerated shudder as we walked past the bench where he was sitting.
"...He lives in Brighton," I sighed as we headed to our next destination. "The LGBT capital of the UK. What was he expecting us to wear, a twin set and pearls?"
"He was expecting the entire world to miraculously become cisgender and heterosexual," Ophelia explained. "That is what he prefers, therefore it is what everyone else should prefer as well."
"He'll have a hell of a wait," I snorted.
"Maybe if he learned that the object of his scorn is neither L, G, B nor T, it would change his mind," Ophelia mused.
"Yeah," I said. "It'd probably make him hate cishet people too."
"Not that I 'embrace' my heterosexuality," Ophelia said with a sly grin.
"You're certainly embracing your birth gender, though," I said, widening my friend's smile. "Seriously, you should let me put some of your pictures on a blog, or on Facebook or somet-"
"You are fully aware of my feelings toward that site, and toward the internet in general," Ophelia said in a stern voice as we arrived at our next charity shop.
"Oh come on," I pleaded. "I have, like, seven followers on my blog. I put some of your designs up-"
"-And they would not be YOUR followers," Ophelia said, before sighing. "Jacinta... I appreciate your frustration. But even I know that internet followings do not simply happen overnight."
"Jamie-Lee Burke's did," I mumbled. "Nikki Thomas's is growing a hundred times faster than mine."
"Both of those women have one thing in common," Ophelia said softly as I moaned in frustration. "It is not something that you cannot have too."
"I know," I moaned as we looked through rack after rack of vintage dresses.
The 'thing' Ophelia mentioned was, of course, that both women had come out to their parents and were openly transgendered, rather than 'in hiding' like I was.
Ever since Christmas, my dressing as Jacinta had seriously increased in frequency. Even when wearing male outer clothes, I wore my foundation wear almost constantly (even if it did mean I suddenly took charge of doing all the washing in our house), and when dad wasn't around, I would spend every possible second dressed as Jacinta, and I always cried when the time came to strip away my make-up and my clothes and pretend to be Jason again... And every time I told Ophelia how I was feeling, she would always respond the same way.
'Tell your father how you feel'. That was the advice, and seemingly Ophelia's answer for literally everything. She pointed to her own transformation as evidence that I should take the plunge... Except in her case, it was a change that could be reversed. She had the option of abandoning 'Ophelia' and writing everything off as a 'phase'. If I told my father that I wanted to be a woman, there wouldn't be any easy way- or any way whatsoever- to 'untell' him.
"If you are to tell your father," Ophelia said, "You must do it soon, if it is your wish to be a girl... And not a woman."
Once again, Ophelia was right. Wikipedia defines 'girl' to mean 'a female human from birth through childhood and adolescence to attainment of adulthood when she becomes a woman'. The attainment of adulthood takes place on a person's eighteenth birthday... And at the time of my conversation with Ophelia, mine was just eight days away.
"Nothing wrong with being a woman," I mumbled as I examined a slender pencil dress.
"Of course there isn't," Ophelia said. "But do you really wish to become a man?"
"Bite me," I retorted, making my friend roll her eyes as she paid for her purchases.
"That is the reality you face, Jacinta," Ophelia said matter-of-factly. "In eight days’ time, you shall become an adult. Whether you become a man or a woman is a decision that can only be made by yourself."
"Yes, yes, yes, I know," I complained.
"I, of course, have only purchased gifts for Jacinta, and not Jason," Ophelia continued.
"And I WILL be grateful for them, I promise," I said.
"I very much believe that you will," Ophelia replied. "It is just that-"
"Topic change!" I suddenly announced, silencing my friend. "What are you planning on doing with those dresses you got?"
"One of them shall become a long-sleeved playsuit," Ophelia announced, obviously put out by my rudeness. "The other one shall remain a gown, but shall be altered in some manner that I have not yet decided."
"I look forward to modelling them for you," I said, feeling bad for snapping at my friend every step of the way back to her home.
At Ophelia's house, I went through the usual ritual of removing any visible trace of 'Jacinta' from my body, which consisted of stepping out of my shoes and my clothes, removing my make-up... And crying like a baby when I saw 'Jason's face staring back at me in the mirror.
"It's never too late to step through the door," Ophelia whispered as I dried my eyes with a tissue.
"But I'll never be able to step back through," I sighed. "Even if I wanted to."
"But would you want to?" Ophelia asked.
"If I was forced to choose between Jacinta and the only family I have... Yes, yes I would," I sighed, prompting a sad sigh from my best friend as I pulled 'Jason's clothes back on and headed home.
As the days counted down to my birthday, I grew more and more miserable. In addition to the obvious reason- that it'd be 'Jason's birthday and not 'Jacinta's- there were two other things that contributed to my misery. The first was that I was still very much without a Prince Charming, and the second was that other than Ophelia, I wasn't really swimming in 'princesses' either.
As I'd discovered at the Halloween party, neither Ophelia nor I were popular with the other teenagers at college. We weren't outright bullied, sure- anybody bullying me would face immediate accusations of homophobia, whereas anyone bullying (or rather, trying to bully) Ophelia would probably have gone away more confused than whatever feeling bullies usually get. But at the same time, nobody was going out of their way to make friends with us. Or even engage us in conversation. If it hadn't been for the fact that there weren't that many teachers at our college, I get the impression that everyone else at college would go out of their way not to be in the same room as us... And that included all the hot guys.
This didn't concern Ophelia, of course- any boy going anywhere near her was told in no uncertain terms that she was NOT available. I didn't have any such reservations. Then again, I didn't have any cute boys waiting in the wings... Until two days before my birthday. It was Friday afternoon, Ophelia and I had just finished college for the week and we were preparing to head back to our respective homes, when behind us I heard...
"Jason!" A young man called, causing me to pause briefly and reflect on how odd it was to be called by my legal name, rather than 'Jacinta'.
"Oh- Dylan! Hi!" I said to the short, blond man. "'Sup?"
"Umm... It's your birthday this weekend, isn't it?" Dylan asked hesitantly.
"Yeah, on Sunday," I replied. "Why?"
"I- umm..." Dylan mumbled as he started to wither under my and Ophelia's gazes.
"You do not need to be nervous around me, Dylan," Ophelia said, though her cool smile did little to set the young man at ease. Hell, it did little to set ME at ease, let alone Dylan...
"I, um, I have a card for you..." Dylan mumbled as he handed me a card- which, gratifyingly, was in a light pink envelope. "I, umm, also wondered if, umm, you know..."
"If you're asking me out," I said, subconsciously biting my lip and crossing my arms in a very feminine manner, "then the answer is YES."
"Oh- oh, umm, great!" Dylan said with a nervous giggle. "When- when do you-"
"I'm free tomorrow," I shrugged, before instantly kicking myself as I realised that I wasn't free tomorrow- 'Jason', who was the person Dylan no doubt thought he was asking out, had plans to spend the whole day not even existing.
"That's great!" Dylan said. "Want to meet in town for, you know, a coffee or something?"
"Sure!" I giggled. "You've got me on Facebook, right?"
"Yep!" Dylan giggled. "I'll message you tomorrow morning!"
"Great!" I said, before grimacing as Dylan walked away. "...Shit."
"Might I assume that my services will not be required tomorrow?" Ophelia asked, deepening my grimace.
"Sorry," I mumbled.
"There is no need to apologise," Ophelia said with a smile. "He is an attractive young man. Even if he is less 'Prince Charming' and more 'Print Shop'."
"Nice pun," I sighed.
"In fact," Ophelia continued, "as he is even shorter than me in stocking feet, he would make an even more convincing woman than you would." Naturally, I didn't need to reply to what Ophelia said in words- my frown did all the talking for me. "...I apologise, Jacinta. My words were poorly chosen. Please forgive me."
"Yes, of course I forgive you," I sighed. "And you're not wrong. It's hard to be swept off your feet by someone six inches shorter than you. But..."
"...But?" Ophelia asked.
"But he's the first person to pay ANY attention to me in months," I sighed. "I know you don't 'get' the whole need to be with someone, but-"
"Oh, I 'get' the need for sex," Ophelia said.
"That's not QUITE what-" I said, before being cut off.
"It may surprise you to know that I actually masturbate quite often," Ophelia said candidly, making my eyes widen.
"'Surprise' would be way down the list, behind 'horrify' and 'disturb'," I retorted.
"I even employ the use of various devices-" Ophelia continued.
"Okay! Thank you! Nice meeting you!" I said, startling my friend. "And it's not really the 'sex' thing that's important. Okay, okay, maybe it IS important. But what's most important is, you know? The whole romance thing. I want to be swept off my feet. Treated like a princess, fall in love at first sight and live happily ever after..."
"And you believe that Dylan can fulfil these wishes for you?" Ophelia asked.
"Maybe," I replied. "Yes. No. Maybe. I don't know! All I know is that he's the first guy in forever to actually pay me any notice. I mean- HE asked ME out! I'm not just going to ignore that, you know? And maybe size doesn't matter."
"...I find that when I am alone at home, the size of my devices does ma-" Ophelia said.
"Nice meeting you!" I said, shaking my confused friend's hand before heading back to my home- but not before wondering exactly how Ophelia could safely masturbate when her nails were as long as they were.
The following morning, I was woken by my smartphone- but it was a Facebook message that woke me, rather than my alarm.
'Hey Jason,' the message, which was from Dylan, read. 'Want to meet up at lunchtime? Need to do a bit of shopping first.'
'Sure,' I replied. 'See you at twelve at the Costa on North Street?'
'It's a date!' Dylan replied with a winking emoji that made me giggle in a very effeminate manner- right up until I realised what, or rather, who I was giving up to be with him.
These feelings were only hammered home as I got ready for the day, ensuring my face was clean shaven and my hair was carefully combed, before returning to my bedroom... And instinctively reaching for 'Jacinta's clothes. It was only as I was browsing my meagre selection of skirts and dresses that I realised I was wearing my hip and bottom pads- something that Dylan probably wouldn't see as a turn on. I fought the urge to shudder as I eased the padded undergarment off, before stepping into a very plain pair of trunks and sliding a pair of loose jeans up my legs. I completed my look with a smart long-sleeved button-up shirt, before grabbing my coat (it was the start of February, it was really cold) and examining myself in the mirror.
It was only then that it hit me that I was indeed about to go on a proper date- and that yet again, rather than going WITH Prince Charming, I was going AS Prince Charming.
"Fuuuuuuuuuuck," I moaned as I pulled on my coat and tried not to dwell on how utterly WRONG I felt.
However, as hard as I tried, I couldn't put myself into the mindset of 'Prince Charming'- the guy Dylan was undoubtedly expecting to sit down next to him. I probably didn't help myself by choosing Nikki Thomas's blog as my reading material for the bus ride into the city centre, digesting her latest tales of passing her ballet exam and her latest exploits with the group of friends she'd dubbed the 'New Angels' (after Jamie-Lee Burke's 'regular' Angels). It was actually a relief when I received a text message, which distracted me from Nikki's blog . A very large part of me even hoped that the message was from Dylan, cancelling our date- though all that did was cause a huge wave of guilt to wash over me.
Naturally, the guilt only got worse when I read the text message.
'Hello J,' the message- which was, of course, from Ophelia- read. 'Hope your date goes well today. I will be around to talk after if you want. Jacinta is always waiting here if you want her. O.'
"Fuuu-" I moaned, before remembering that I sat on a packed bus and I didn't want to have to pretend to have Tourette syndrome all the way into town.
Every step that brought me closer to my dates made me feel more out of place. I'd grown so accustomed to walking around town as 'Jacinta' that being 'Jason' just felt... Wrong. I tried to remind myself that 'Jason' was never really the 'Prince Charming' type, that Dylan probably knew this and was probably not expecting to be swept off his feet, but the effeminate wave and giggle he gave me as I walked into the coffee shop only served to make me more uneasy.
"Hi!" Dylan said in a near-squeak as I sat down next to him. "God, I am SO nervous..."
"...Sorry," I mumbled, a grin creeping across my bare lips.
"Oh- no, you REALLY don't need to apologise," Dylan giggled. "First date jitters... I'm sure you know all about them, hehe!"
"Ugh, totally," I replied, subconsciously flicking my shoulder-length hair out of my face- and grimacing at the look of discomfort that action brought to Dylan's face. Hoo, boy, I thought to myself, are YOU going to be disappointed with this relationship... "So, umm, did you- did you, you know, get all your shopping done?"
"Yep!" Dylan giggled. "May have got you a little present for tomorrow too..."
"Oh- seriously, you didn't have to..." I mumbled.
"It's just a little thing," Dylan giggled. "Something small and sweet, a bit like me, hehe!"
"Heh," I giggled as Dylan- clearly more relaxed than he was yesterday- leaned forward in a very effeminate way. Of course, he then grimaced at the look of discomfort that brought to MY face.
"You're- you're not, you know, allergic to nuts or anything, are you?" Dylan asked. "'Cause I'm kinda addicted to Choccywoccydoodah, and I figured-"
"Nope, no allergies," I said with a laugh. "So, umm... You still live at home? You know, with your parents?"
"Sadly, yes," Dylan sighed. "I'm going to university in September though, spreading my wings and all that."
"Anywhere nice?" I asked.
"Manchester," Dylan responded. Ah, I thought to myself. Another reason why this relationship is doomed from the start... "Studying graphic and web design. You?"
"Not really looked into it yet," I mumbled. "I'm only on the first year of my course as I did resits last year... I'd kinda like to go uni, I guess? But, you know, it's just me and my dad at home, I'm kinda worried he'd get lonely..."
"Ugh, he must have FLIPPED when you came out to him!" Dylan snorted, before biting his lip as I regarded him with an angry glare.
"Actually he was cool with it," I said with a smug grin. "Absolutely 100% cool. I still remember the day I came out, he seemed more irritated that I was interrupting his watching the Olympics than me, you know, preferring boys."
"LUCKY you," Dylan sighed. "My dad FLIPPED when I came out. And the dumb son of a bitch doesn't even live with us. I dunno, maybe he expected me to be a big, tough car mechanic like him. Umm, hello? 5' 4" and stick thin? The dumbass."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I mumbled.
"It's SO good to hear that that isn't always the case," Dylan said. "That there are some fathers who don't fly into a rage if they find out their son isn't a big, macho heterosexual moron." Try replacing 'heterosexual' with 'cisgender', I self-pityingly thought to myself, which brought a question to the front of my brain- something I'd wanted to ask later in the date, but which I was almost desperate to ask immediately.
"Dylan..." I mumbled.
"Jason...?" Dylan replied.
"How- how do you feel, you know, about, umm, trans girls?" I asked. "Or, um, trans guys, people born a woman but living as a man?"
"To each their own," Dylan shrugged, rebuilding my damaged confidence. "Why do you ask?"
"I- umm," I mumbled. "I- I kinda got asked out, umm, by a transgendered girl. You know, a couple of weeks ago... I said no, of course."
"Probably best," Dylan shrugged. "I've got nothing against transgendered people, I'd just, you know, prefer not to have any 'thing' against them, hehe!"
"Really?" I asked, my confidence once again deflating.
"Well, yeah," Dylan said with a chuckle. "I mean, if it's a trans girl, I'd always be thinking 'but you're not really a guy, I don't fancy you', and if it's a trans guy, as, you know, 'realistic' as they might seem, when it came down to the sex... Ew."
"Fair enough," I shrugged.
"Not that either of us need to worry about that, hehe!" Dylan giggled. "I mean, we're both two very male, very GAY guys, right?"
"Right!" I said, forcing myself to giggle as I clinked my coffee cup against Dylan's.
Needless to say, I had to force a smile on my face all throughout the rest of the date, and all throughout the following day, which was, of course, my eighteenth birthday. The day I finally became a man. I got up early in the morning to unwrap my gifts of deodorant, clothes and vouchers, thereby getting the disappointment out of the way early.
My smile became very genuine, however, when a knock came from our front door- only for it to once again fade when I realised that it was Dylan standing there and not Ophelia.
"Dad..." I said nervously as I led the short young man into the living room. "This is Dylan, the boy I was telling you about. Dylan, this is my dad."
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Hanley!" Dylan said with a nervous giggle that dad, to his credit, didn't seem even remotely fazed by.
"Likewise," dad said, before shooting an accusing gaze at me. "Jason, what did I say about bringing boys home?"
"'Not until I was eighteen'," I retorted. "How old am I today?"
"Fair enough," dad shrugged with a smirk as he gestured for myself and Dylan to sit down, before grilling my new 'boyfriend' about his life.
Thankfully, Dylan only stuck around for half an hour- he had to join his parents at church- and as he left, I let out a long sigh of relief, which didn't go unnoticed by my father.
"I won't bother adding him to my address book, then," dad quipped as I sat back down.
"...It's early days," I replied. "We've only been going out a few days, haven't even got physical yet..."
"Don't need to know about the physical side!" Dad laughed. "Though on that subject- or near enough, I suppose- he doesn't really seem like your 'type'.
"How do you mean?" I ask.
"Well- and no offence- I always..." Dad said cautiously. "I always kinda thought that, you know, in your type of relationships, it was always, like, one person playing 'the woman'. And I don't know why, but- but I always picture you in that role. That's probably not going to happen with you going out with Thumbelina there."
"...Kinda stereotyping, dad," I said.
"Sorry, sorry," dad sighed.
"Though you're right in saying he's not EXACTLY my type," I said. "Or, you know, even close to my type." As I spoke, my phone chimed to inform me of a new text message- and this time, the smile returned to my face and stayed there.
"Speaking of walking anti-stereotypes," dad said with a smug grin as I rolled my eyes at him.
Half an hour later, Ophelia greeted me with one of her rare, gentle hugs as she stepped into the house, her dark blue cocktail dress, spiked stiletto heels and black opera gloves (and, of course, tightly corseted waist) contrasting with my jeans and sweatshirt. The bag of presents in her hand, however, was enough to reassure me that I wouldn't be dressed the way I was for long.
"Good morning, Mike," Ophelia said as she dropped the bag of presents in the hallway, retrieving one from the top to bring with her into the living room.
"Good morning to you too, Ophelia!" dad chuckled. "I would ask why you're overdressed, but from what I gather, this is you UNDERdressed, heh!"
"I merely wear what I feel most adequately reflects the person whom I choose to be," Ophelia retorted, making me giggle.
"Good job you didn't say 'I merely wear what feels comfortable'," I said. "Dad would've had a field day with that corset alone!"
"Emotional comfort is more important than physical comfort," Ophelia retorted, and to my surprise, this brought a genuine smile to my father's face. I was very much aware, though, that her words were intended for me alone.
"You can't do that without turning your waist inside out, though?" Dad asked. "Or a hairstyle and colour that makes you look like Sonic the Hedgehog?"
"...I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought the same thing," I mumbled, making my blue-haired friend roll her eyes.
"Is this any way to treat a guest?" Ophelia protested.
"No, no you're right, it isn't," dad chuckled as he headed into the kitchen. "Fancy a cup of tea, Ophelia?"
"That would be most welcome, thank you Mike," Ophelia replied, before turning to me with a look of disdain in her eyes. "Sonic the Hedgehog?"
"...He's a videogame character, dad used to play-" I explained.
"I know who he is," Ophelia sighed, her posh affected accent making way for her natural working-class way of speaking. "One of my sisters had a Sega when we were growing up. But- you couldn't have told me earlier?"
"...If it makes you emotionally comfortable," I shrugged. "You being comfortable in your skin is more important than wondering if you'll shoot gold rings out of your arse if you stub your toe, right?"
"Says the woman sat on the sofa wearing men's clothing," Ophelia retorted, effectively ending the conversation.
"Here you go," dad said as he returned seconds later with two hot mugs of tea.
"This is the perfect opportunity to present you with this," Ophelia said, handing her (public) present to me, which I opened to find a very smart-looking diary.
"Ah, thanks Ophelia!" I said with a happy giggle. "Never owned a diary before..." My smile faltered, though, when I opened the diary on the February 2nd page and saw that Ophelia had already written an entry- 'Told my father about who I really was'.
"Jason's not really one for writing down feelings," dad said with a quiet chuckle. "Or talking about them. Or even, you know, having them. Like father, like son, I guess. I bit my lip and tried to hold back a tear as I quickly looked back and forth between dad and my mum's urn beside the fire. Yeah, dad, you DO have feelings... That's what makes this so difficult.
Ophelia stayed for a couple of hours, chatting with me and dad, before leaving just after lunch. Immediately after she went, I took my other presents from her up to my bedroom to open later, before returning to the living room, where dad regarded me with a quizzical stare.
"...Dad?" I asked.
"...Jason?" Dad replied. "Don't take this the wrong way, but- and I'm trying NOT to sound too, you know, toff, but..."
"But...?" I asked.
"Are- are you sure you're gay?" Dad asked. "I mean, Dylan comes round and you look desperate for him to leave, Ophelia comes round and it's like you're desperate for her to stay. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were in love with the girl."
"But you DO know better," I said, before sighing. "Okay. Yes. I DO love Ophelia. But I'm not IN love with her. She's- she's like my sister. More than a best friend, you know? I can share things with her that I can't-" I immediately stopped talking and bit my tongue as dad stared at me with a confused look on his face.
"What 'things'?" Dad asked. "I mean, you've already told me that you're gay, what else is there that's so bad you can tell Ophelia but not me?"
"...Nothing," I mumbled. "Just- just forget it, okay?"
"It's your birthday," dad shrugged. "But I bet I know who we'll be seeing here next out of Dylan or Ophelia..."
Dad was, of course, correct. Even though our relationship had only started on the 1st of February, by the time Valentine's Day rolled around on the 14th, I was single once again. And when I stepped out of Ophelia's house on Saturday the 15th, wearing (amongst other things) the off-the-shoulder top and asymmetrical skirt Ophelia had made me for my birthday, I resolved that Dylan would be the last boyfriend that 'Jason' would ever have. It wasn't fair to Dylan to string him along in a relationship that I knew was doomed from the start, and it wasn't fair to me to pretend to be the man- or even A man- in the relationship when all I wanted was for the world to see me as the woman I was, deep down inside.
The world, however, wasn't the problem- it was my father. As I was eighteen, technically I could transition whenever I wanted. I could change my name without dad's consent, begin looking at treatments without dad's consent, do anything I wanted without dad's consent... But what I craved, more than anything in the world, wasn't just dad's consent, but his blessing to become Jacinta, and for him to love his daughter the way I knew he loved his son.
As winter changed into spring, I wasn't any closer to plucking up the courage to come out to dad, even as my dressing became more frequent and more thorough. I made sure I was clean-shaven every day, and even began regularly shaving my arms and my legs- once going with Ophelia (whilst in 'Jacinta mode') to a salon to have them waxed, which even brought a tear to my normally stoic best friend's eye! I almost never wore boy's underwear, preferring thongs, and even wore my corset under 'Jason's tops on several occasions- though, of course, it wasn't laced nearly as tight as Ophelia's ever-present corset!
Easter was very late in the year in 2014, meaning that the Easter holidays were later as well, but I made sure to take the opportunity presented by them and dressed as Jacinta virtually every day I could- usually at my own home, and usually with the company (and expert fashion sense) of my best friend. On the Thursday after Easter, though, something unexpected happened- something that would end up changing my life forever.
As usual, Ophelia had dropped round just after 9:30 (just after dad had gone to work) and as usual, she had helped me with my hair and make-up as I changed from my jeans and t-shirt into a short, smart skirt and a stripey short-sleeved bodysuit. As we sat down in the living room to start our college work, I happened to flick through my twitter feed on my phone, and by sheer luck, the first one I read was from Nikki Thomas- and read 'going on Jeremy Kyle was SO terrifying, but I'm so glad I did it!'. My eyes went wide as I read the tweet- she would only have written it if she'd been on the show that day, and as it was almost 10:30am, I could even watch it on ITV's 'plus one' channel...
"Umm, Ophelia..." I mumbled.
"Jacinta...?" Ophelia replied.
"Umm..." I mumbled with a grimace on my fully made-up face. "Can- can we- you know..."
"Can we... What?" Ophelia asked, confused by my behaviour. I took a deep breath, before replying.
"I want to watch the Jeremy Kyle show," I announced, making Ophelia roll her eyes and spit disgustedly.
"Are you sure, Candice?" Ophelia retorted, making me roll my eyes.
"...Nikki Thomas was on it today," I said, making my blue-haired friend's jaw drop.
"Re-really?" Ophelia asked. "As in THE Nikki Thomas, the girl whose blog you've been following all year?"
"THAT Nikki Thomas, yes," I said.
"Well," Ophelia said. "Then by all means..." I smile as Ophelia reached for the remote control (naturally having a hard time leaning forward due to her corset) and quickly found the channel in question, where the show's opening credits had just ended and its controversial host had stepped out on stage.
“Welcome to the show,” the host said into the camera.
"If she isn't the first guest, I will never forgive you for making me sit through an episode of this garbage," Ophelia said, though the barely-concealed grin on her face told me that she wasn't being entirely serious.
“My first guest today," Jeremy Kyle continued, "says her grandparents have disowned her because- get this- they refuse to accept that she’s transgendered and insist that she goes back to living as a boy! Nikki’s on the Jeremy Kyle Show!” My heart rate increased as the young woman, who I felt like I knew intimately even though we'd never met face to face, stepped out onto the stage looking as feminine as any genetic girl in her tight blue top, black skirt and black tights.
“Welcome to the show, Nikki,” Jeremy said as he sat in the seat next to the terrified-looking teenager. “I understand you contacted our researchers because you want help repairing your relationship with your grandparents?”
"Yes," Nikki whispered.
"Poor girl must be shitting herself," I mused as- much to my surprise (and probably hers too), Ophelia concentrated hard on the action onscreen.
"Tell us a little about the situation," the host asked.
“Well,” Nikki began. “I was originally born a boy, but I’ve known all along that I was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Last May, I came out to my parents, and began living life full-time as a female.”
"A familiar sounding story," Ophelia said with a warm smile on her face.
“You’re undergoing hormone replacement therapy, is that right?” Jeremy Kyle asked.
“Uh-huh,” Nikki replied. “I want to, you know, ‘go all the way’ and have gender reassignment surgery.”
"Is that something that you have considered before, Jacinta?" Ophelia asked.
"Sometimes," I whispered, trying to sniff back tears as I cupped the (very fake) breasts hanging from my chest- breasts that could easily become real after just a few years of taking female hormones.
“How did your parents react when you came out as transgendered?” Jeremy Kyle asked, piquing my interest.
“They were shocked,” Nikki replied with a nervous laugh. “They wanted to make sure this was what I really wanted, but afterwards I had their full, 100% support.” The applause from the audience warmed my heart- they were clearly on Nikki's side, which gave me confidence that many in the general public would be on 'Jacinta's side. However, it wasn't the general public who bothered me...
"Ultimately, what do you want to get out of today?" the host asked
"I want my grandparents to understand that this is who I NEED to be," Nikki replied. "I just... I just want to be Nikki."
“Chris is your father, right?” Jeremy Kyle asked, causing my heart rate to increase even further. “Okay, let’s get him out here. Chris is on the Jeremy Kyle show!” I watch intently as Nikki's father walks onto the stage, and the first thing he does is hug his daughter before greeting the host and sitting down.
"What a thoroughly decent man," Ophelia mused.
"I wish I had a father like him," I said.
"How do you know that you do not?" Ophelia asked, totally silencing me.
“Welcome to the show,” The host greeted Nikki's father. “How does a father react when their son suddenly announces one day ‘I want to live life as a girl’?” That's the $64 000 question, I thought to myself.
“It came as a shock,” the middle-aged man sighed. “Like Nikki said, we wanted to make sure it was what she really wanted…”
“Because for the first 16 years of her life, you must have thought you were raising an ordinary boy?” the host rudely probed further.
“Yes,” Nikki's father replied, “but looking back on it, there were some clues, Nikki never really took an interest in sport, she always had longer-than average hair…”
"Sounds familiar," Ophelia said.
“But I assume there’s a difference between being having long hair and being a full-time girl?” Jeremy Kyle asked.
"Or being 'gay'," Ophelia interrupted as I became more and more lost in thought.
“There is,” Nikki's father answered. “Fortunately, Nikki had signed herself up to a counsellor who helped her through her issues. We have a written diagnosis of gender dysphoria, so there’s ‘proof’ that it’s not just a whim, Nikki is, from a medical standpoint, a girl trapped in a boy’s body.”
"How do you suppose your father would react if he came home now and found you dressed like this?" Ophelia asked.
"I- I wish I knew," I sighed. "If I knew for sure, I wouldn't have to panic and stress anymore... I hoped he would act like him on the TV."
"Parents should always love their children," Ophelia whispered, causing my heart to sink as I remembered that Ophelia herself had never been shown such love from her mother- and had never so much as met her father.
My heart sank further as the TV programme continued and Nikki's grandfather stepped out onto the stage and immediately turned his back on the young woman, calling her every derogatory name under the Sun and erasing what little self-confidence I had built up from seeing the love Nikki's father clearly had for her. Even though the three people left the stage together as a family and agreed to work to mend the rift between them, I still felt no better at the end of the segment than I did at the start of it.
"...You're right," I sighed as Ophelia switched off the TV. "That show's crap."
Nonetheless, I found it difficult, if not borderline impossible to remove the skirt and the bodysuit I'd worn throughout the day, even as dad walked in through the front door. All I wanted to do was skip down the stairs and present myself to him as his daughter... But the risk that I might then be forced to skip out the front door- or worse, have to watch as dad cried at losing yet another member of his family- was far too great a risk.
And yet, over the following few months, 'Jacinta' became more and more prominent in my life. By that point, I hadn't had a proper haircut (only light trims) in almost 24 months, my diet, exercise and waist training regimes had narrowed my waist, my mannerisms- even when it was just me and dad at home- became more effeminate and I spent as much time as I could dressed as 'Jacinta', even if it was just in the privacy of my own bedroom. Some days, I would even sleep in 'Jacinta's day clothing, just so I could experience it as much as possible.
On some days, it even made me physically sick to get dressed as 'Jason'.
Eventually, the school year ended, freeing myself and Ophelia up for six long summer weeks, during which I intended to spend as much time as 'Jacinta' as I could. A couple of weeks into the holiday, though, I was handed one of the best gifts I had ever received when dad announced that he was going away for four days with a group of his old friends from university, leaving me home alone for the first time in my life.
"I'm trusting you to make sure the house stays clean and tidy," dad said as he packed a small suitcase.
"I do most of the housework around here anyway," I retorted.
"And no, I repeat, NO parties," dad said. "Especially as I won't be able to come to them."
"Okay," I said. "But can-"
"Yes, Ophelia can stay over if she wants," dad said. "Frankly I'd actually prefer that she stays here than in that shithole she lives in. And yes, she can sleep in my bed if she wants. As long as she doesn't turn the bedroom into some kind of medieval Disney princess castle or something." Mind if I turned MY bedroom into a Disney princess castle? I thought to myself.
"I'll pass it along," I said.
"And make sure you have fun, okay?" Dad asked with a warm smile.
"Umm, dad..." I replied. "You- you're the one going on holiday, shouldn't I be saying that to you?"
"...Piss off and let me finish packing," dad chuckled as I left him in peace.
Naturally, less than twenty minutes after seeing him off in his taxi, Ophelia was in my house and I'd changed into a skimpy baby pink tank top and a very short denim skirt (it was the middle of August, it was warm)
"So tell me, Jacinta," Ophelia asked as she fixed my make-up for me. "How does it feel, today?"
"...How does what feel, exactly?" I asked.
"How does it feel to know that at the end of today," Ophelia asked, "you WON'T have to change back into Jason?"
"I- I'd never really thought about it," I confessed. "I mean, I guess I knew, but- but it's just dawning on me, you know? I go to bed as Jacinta, I wake up as Jacinta... Like this dream never has to end. Not for a few days, anyway..."
"It is fortunate that I made this, then," Ophelia says, removing a small, delicate nightdress from her bag and handing to me.
"Ophelia," I gasped as I took the dainty garment and held it to my body. "It- it's beautiful, thank you SO much..."
"Now you can truly be 'Jacinta' for 24 hours each day," Ophelia said with a proud smile. "Even when you are sleeping."
"Thank you," I whispered again as I examined the nightdress and fought the urge to pull it on right then and there.
"So how do you intend to enjoy your 72 uninterrupted hours of being Jacinta?" Ophelia asked, causing my mind to race.
A better question would've been how DIDN'T I intend to spend it. Relaxing on the beach in a swimsuit or a bikini, heading around town shopping with my best friend, maybe even going to a bar or a club later, as I had ID to prove that I was eighteen- even if it did also say that my name was 'Jason'.
"I- I dunno," I sighed. "There's so much I want to do and, like, no time to do it in..."
"It's YOUR holiday, Jacinta," Ophelia said with a warm smile that I've only seen her use on very rare occasions. "What was the first thing that you thought of when I asked?"
"...Going to the beach," I mumbled. "Hanging out in a bikini or a swimsuit..."
"Perfect," Ophelia said, her smile not wavering. "I shall go to my home to fetch our swimwear and return shortly." I smiled in bewilderment as Ophelia suddenly left me alone in my bedroom, returning just under an hour later with a shopping bag. In the meantime, I had taken the opportunity to tidy up my bedroom, finally finding a proper space for my clothing and make-up collection rather than dumped in suitcases and bags underneath my bed.
"You were a bit longer than I expected," I said, handing Ophelia a tall, cool glass of water as she lowered herself onto my sofa. "Bus late or something?"
"I took the opportunity to change my own clothing," Ophelia said, suddenly standing up and removing her knee-length blue dress to reveal her own navy blue one-piece swimsuit. "Do you like it?"
"A better question would be 'would I like it'," I said as I examined the skin-tight garment. "And the answer would be yes. To both questions!"
"I am pleased you said that," Ophelia said, handing me the bag she brought. "Because I-"
"Wait, wait a second," I interrupted as I examined Ophelia's swimsuit more closely. "Are- are you, you know, actually wearing your corset underneath that thing?"
"No, the corset would show through the fabric," Ophelia answered. "And besides, it would not react well to the water. Instead, I customised the swimsuit and added in some boning to mimic the same effect. I also cut the legs slightly higher than they were originally."
"Wow," I gasped as Ophelia traced the outline of the boning with her finger. "You really are a talented, you know, clothes maker..."
"Thank you, Jacinta," Ophelia said with a well-earned smug smile.
"Does my swimsuit have any boning in it?" I asked, making my friend giggle excitedly.
"Not as much as mine," Ophelia replied. "As I know that you do not like your corset to be tied as tightly as my own. I have also sewn in padding to help enhance your figure, like the foundation garments that you wear."
"This is amazing," I whispered as I held up the heavily engineered teal one-piece swimsuit. "Thank you so much, I- I honestly don't know what I'd do without you. I don't even know who I'd be without you!"
"You're going to hug me, aren't you?" Ophelia asked, her smile fading.
"...I'm pretty sure I couldn't hug you in that thing without causing about five different sex offences," I retorted, earning a snort of laughter from my friend.
"Then put your swimsuit on first," Ophelia ordered. "Unless you'd prefer to wear the bikini I brought? It shows off more skin, but there's nowhere to include any boning or any padding..."
"...Better stick with the one-piece," I whispered, making Ophelia giggle again as I headed upstairs to change.
As Ophelia promised, the swimsuit not only cinched in my waist slightly and enhanced my figure, but the enclosed 'pocket' also tucked away my groin, giving me a fully flat front and hiding any trace that I had ever been a boy. After I pulled my skirt back on and slipped my feet into a pair of flip-flops, the illusion was 100% complete.
"Beautiful," Ophelia- who had pulled her dress back on- said as I walked down the stairs. "Now, I believe you wanted to spend the day at the beach, is that correct?"
"Hope you've brought some sunscreen!" I giggled as Ophelia grabbed her handbag and put on her (surprisingly plain) sunglasses. "You don't look like you tan easily..."
"It would surprise no one to learn that the sun and I are NOT best friends," my naturally pale-skinned friend said. "Besides which... I prefer the best friend that I already have, anyway." I giggled as I followed Ophelia to the bus stop, and soon, the two of us were laid under the sun on the packed beach.
Naturally, the two of us attracted a LOT of male attention on the beach (and, with it being Brighton, more than a bit of female attention as well). And naturally, I paid a lot of attention back at the tanned, chiselled bodies of the young men who walked past us, some of whom wore little more than a speedo (and as such, weren't nearly as 'tucked away' as I was in my swimsuit).
However, every time I tried to pluck up the courage to speak to one of the potential Prince Charmings walking past- even when it was obvious that they were interested- a voice at the back of my head reminded me that in three days’ time, 'Jacinta' would be back in her closet and I would, once again, be plain, boring 'Jason'.
It was almost a relief at the end of the day when Ophelia and I returned home, and- after applying some Eucerin to my friend's painful-looking skin- I got ready to change into the delicate nightgown Ophelia had brought with her. Sure, 'Jacinta' only had a few days left, but that was still longer than I had ever had before- and there was no reason why I shouldn't enjoy every last second of it- especially as my best friend was sleeping in the next room to me.
The following day, Ophelia and I went on a brief shopping trip- the second item on my 'list'- before returning to the beach on the Monday to top up our tans.
"If I may make an observation," Ophelia said as she pulled on her dress at the end of our day in the sun, "you will have a difficult time explaining to your father how you gained suntan lines in the pattern of a one-piece swimsuit."
"...I'll cover up with a t-shirt or something, he won't see them," I mumbled.
"Or you could show him your tan lines," Ophelia suggested. "And when he asks, you could tell him the truth." Ophelia's suggestion caused a wave of nausea to wash over me- I had less than 24 hours of 'Jacinta time' left, and the prospect of going back to being Jason the following day horrified me. Naturally, this didn't go unnoticed by my friend.
"I wish it was that easy," I sighed.
"I wish you realised that it isn't as hard as you believe it to be," Ophelia said.
"Easy for you to say," I snorted.
"Yes, yes it is," Ophelia said, before taking a deep breath. "We will return to my house tonight before going back to yours."
"Umm... Why?" I asked.
"You will see," Ophelia said, taking her phone out of her handbag and quickly tapping out a text message.
Half an hour later, the two of us walked up the overgrown path of Ophelia's mother house, my heart rate increasing with every step I take.
"But- but they've seen me before!" I protested. "They'll know who- what I am!"
"Do you honestly believe that my mother or my sister care enough about my life to remember as little as the identity of my best friend?" Ophelia asked with a derisive snort.
"Well- no, I guess not..." I mumbled as Ophelia let herself into her home. "Everyone, I have returned."
"Ooh, Lady Snot's back," Francine- Ophelia's youngest sister- scoffed. "And who the fuck's this?"
"Watch your fucking language!" Ophelia's mother chastised the teenaged girl. "She's a guest! You don't fucking swear around guests!"
"Hi, I'm, umm," I mumbled as I felt the eyes of everyone in the room fix on me- not just those of Francine and Ophelia's mother, but three other, older women I quickly realised were Ophelia's older sisters.
"This is Jacinta, my friend from college," Ophelia said.
"What, YOU have friends?" One of the other sisters scoffed in a barely coherent voice as I began to tremble with nerves- though my nerves didn't even come close to those of my friend, who was so tense I could almost feel it standing next to her.
"Why we here anyway?" One of the other sisters spat.
"I am here to make an announcement," Ophelia stated.
"What, that you're a lezza?" One of Ophelia's sisters snorted.
"More loser than lezza!" Francine said, before almost wetting herself laughing at her own joke.
"From now on," Ophelia said, "I do not wish to be known as 'Amanda', and certainly not as 'Mandy'. For months, I have possessed forms pertaining to a change of my name by deed poll. Tomorrow, I shall post them. From now on, my name shall be Ophelia Cassiopeia Love." The room fell silent, before Ophelia's mother and all four of her sisters burst into loud fits of laughter at Ophelia's announcement.
"You shall either accept me, or you shan't," Ophelia said with a shrug, before leading me back to her front door.
"Get out of here, you fuckin' freak!" Francine shouted after her sister as we walked out of the house.
"...I think you need a hug," I whispered.
"I think you're right," Ophelia said, sniffing back tears as she all but jumped into my waiting arms.
"And I think everyone in that room deserves a punch right in the middle of their smug, arsehole faces," I spat. "I'm sorry, Ophelia, I know they're your family but-"
"No, YOU are my family," Ophelia said with a smile. "And you're right, they do, they absolutely do. I hope- I hope that helped you, Jacinta."
"I don't see how," I sighed.
"By showing you that all you need is a little confidence," Ophelia whispered. "Do you honestly believe that your father would react in the same way as my so-called family?"
"Well- ugh, I don't know. I really, truly don't know," I sighed. "Can- can we just go home, please?"
"Of course," Ophelia said, gripping my hand for support as we headed back to my home, where we spent the rest of the evening watching TV in near-silence, deliberately NOT talking about what had happened at my friend's house.
The following day, for the third morning in a row, I woke up to the feeling of the soft, smooth material of my nightdress clinging to my chest, and if it wasn't for Ophelia stirring in the other room, I would happily have stayed in bed all day- especially as it was the best chance I had of remaining in 'Jacinta mode' all day.
"Jacinta?" Ophelia called, knocking on my door. "Are you awake? Your father will return in under an hour."
"I know," I moaned. "Just- just leave me alone, please..."
"You will have to get up at some point today," Ophelia said.
"No I don't," I groaned, my groans only growing louder as Ophelia entered my bedroom, uninvited- and looking very different than usual with her make-up free face and bed hair.
"You do," Ophelia said softly. "You have to make a decision, Jacinta, and you have to make it now." As if to punctuate her point, Ophelia reached into my clothes drawers and withdrew two outfits for me, placing them at the end of my bed. One of the outfits was what I was no doubt 'supposed' to wear today- a very plain boy's t-shirt and a baggy pair of jeans. The other outfit was a low-cut short sleeved white bodysuit and a floaty knee-length skirt, both of which I've worn before and absolutely loved.
"Ugh," I moaned as I stared at the two piles of clothes.
"I will let you have some privacy," Ophelia said, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
On the one hand, it would be so simple to just climb into Jason's clothes and pretend to dad that nothing was wrong- but that would be precisely what I was doing, pretending. As something WAS wrong. Very wrong. Merely touching 'Jason's clothes made me shiver, made me feel physically ill at the thought of denying myself the life I so badly wanted, so badly NEEDED.
Or maybe nothing was wrong, maybe something was actually very, very right. The mere feel of the skirt and the bodysuit in my fingers lifted my spirits, made me feel like I could pull them on and take on the world, conquer any obstacle put in my path... Just as Ophelia had done the previous day. There was one obstacle, though, that could be insurmountable...
I don't know how long I was sat in my bedroom, torn between the two piles of clothing, but the sound of dad opening the front door snapped me out of my 'trance'.
"Hello?" Dad called, causing my heart to race with nerves. "Jason? You still in bed? Actually, no, ask a stupid question. Are you planning on actually getting out of bed at some point today?"
"Umm, yeah," I replied, using my 'male voice' for the first time in three days and musing on how utterly foreign it sounded coming out of my life. "Just give me a sec..." Instinctively, I reached toward 'Jason's pile of clothes, but as I picked up the jeans, my entire body froze.
All of a sudden, eighteen and a half years of my life flashed before my eyes- from starting primary school, to making friends with Caitlin, Jessica and Noor, to starting secondary school, to my first sexual encounter with Martin, to meeting Ophelia, to the last three days of blissful femininity... And in that moment, something inside me snapped. It's nothing I can describe in words, but in that instant, I knew without a shadow of a doubt the direction my life would- or rather, the direction my life MUST take.
"Are you in the living room?" I asked as I skipped down the stairs.
"Yes, why?" Dad asked, his eyes going wide as I walked into the room and stood in front of him, my face made-up, my hair brushed and my body clothed in the bodysuit and skirt Ophelia had laid out for me earlier.
"Dad..." I said in my practised feminine voice. "I- there's something I want to tell you..."
TO BE CONTINUED
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