Vesta's Hearth 7 and 8

Vesta’s Hearth Chapters 7 and 8

By

Frances Penwiddy

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.

Helen, still confused and frightened has come to terms with who she is but is now confronted by an enormous hurdle and freezes. And then goes shopping.

7

Paul arrived with a mini-bus and with him as escort I had the feeling nobody was going to mess with us. He was six two with the shoulders and muscled chest of a heavy in a rugby team. His wrists must have been close to the diameter of my upper arms, dark curly hair, gorgeous brown eyes and a melting smile, Barbara was lucky and you could tell how much he loved her by the way he treated us, we were family.

“Where did you meet him?” I asked her as we took our seats on the bus
.
“Here, he was driving for the Café. I had only been here a year and he took me to the hospital for a blood work out. I was his only passenger, so we had time to talk and on the return journey, he stopped about a half mile down the road, I’ll show you the spot on the way, and he asked me to go out with him the next time I was allowed outside. I tried to tell him who I was, you know being TG…”

“New Girl,” I corrected. She nodded, “New Girl. He shut me up. Told me he knew about the Café and didn’t care, he wanted me to be his girl. Personality he said was everything and I was full of life. We’ve been engaged for a year, he’s taken me dancing, to the theatre and even up to London to see Swan Lake,” and then she grinned, “We’ve slept together fourteen times. When the mentors and doctors asked me about SRS, he said no before I did, said he didn’t want to change anything about me. We’ve found a nice flat and between us have the money to furnish it or look for a bigger place and I have this,” she held up her left hand and showed me the diamond on her ring finger.”

“Wow,” I said surprised, “I haven’t noticed it before.”

“I don’t wear it in the Café, Boris asked me not to because of the effect it might have on the others but I don’t think he would object now, they know I’m engaged and they think the world of Paul.”

Maria and Paul finished their conversation with Boris and got onto the bus, Maria sitting in the seat across the aisle from me whilst Paul stood beside the driver’s seat and said; “Right you lot, Boris said I was to shoot anybody who tried to do a runner. You’ve been warned.”

“You haven’t got a gun,” said Diane. Paul reached behind him and pulled a water pistol from a back pocket and waved it in the air, “It’s loaded and I’m a crack shot.” Then he sat down, started the engine and we were off on my adventure into fashion.

After only five minutes, Barbara whispered, “It was here in that lay-by, it’s my favourite place in England, I want my honeymoon there.”
I laughed, “It’s a long walk to the beach you won’t get the chance to wear a bikini.”

“Hadn’t thought of that, I suppose I will have to take some pics and pin them to the walls of our honeymoon suite and I can pretend we’re here and then walk down to the beach in the bikini.”

“Make sure you honeymoon in a country that doesn’t slam girls up for wearing a bikini, it would make your criminal record interesting reading.”
She giggled and sat back to look out of the window at the spot where her life had begun.

Maria leaned across the aisle, “What shop you start looking for clothes first.”

“I don’t know I want to visit all of them. Do you think I should get my ears pierced first, buy separates, dresses, lingerie, jewellery, accessories or shoes?”

“Dresses first, then separates, lingerie, shoes, accessories and make-up then you get colours right for your dresses. Leave ears to last in case we haven’t enough time.”

“We have to buy your hat, Maria, don’t forget that.”

“Leave hat for another day, plenty of time and not important.”

“It is to me, I want you to have the hat.”

Barbara leaned forward, “Helen is right. We get your hat and leave something else out if we have to. We can all go and help you pick one.”
Maria shook her head, “No, mustn’t do that too many women’s and picking hat will take all day. Me and Helen in shop and you can look through window.”

“But I want to learn how to pick a hat by watching you.”

Maria shook her head more firmly, “Lady only need one head, one mirror, one shop assistant and one friend to pick hat, rest is instinct, you go buy hat and see.”

“Then I shall go off and sulk and buy some shoes.”

I stared at her, “Buy shoes but you must have a dozen pairs in your room, I’ve seen them.”

“A dozen! You think a dozen pairs of shoes is enough; you’ve got a lot to learn. An absolute minimum is thirty and that’s scrimping.”

“She right,” said Maria, “Need thirty or forty pairs to be real lady.”

“I couldn’t carry that many pairs, not even if I forgot everything else.”

Barbara sighed, “You don’t have to buy them all at once. Today just get three or four pairs to suit the clothes you’re buying and then buy the others as you increase your wardrobe.”

Diane looked over the back of her seat, “Same with make-up, let Maeve sort yours out today, she knows your complexion and she can get the basic stuff and then you can add as you need more.”

“Must remember the girdle,” said April sitting beside her.”

“Girdle, what do I want with a girdle, I’m quite slim.”

“Straight or pencil skirt, you will need it. If something slips out of place, you know what I mean, your girdle is the best line of defence.”

“What do you mean?”

April giggled, “Little Willie might make an un girly bulge in the front of your skirt.”

Maeve poked her head around her aisle seat and called back, “Or have it off!”

I shut my eyes, rested my head on the back of the seat and sighed, “This is all too complicated.”

Maria stood up and said, “You girls be quiet, Helen getting scared.” Then she reached across and squeezed my arm, “You not to worry, they just having fun, Maria will look after you.”

I smiled, “I think you’ll have to.”

Fun over, the girls started singing; and thirty minutes later we pulled into a car park in the centre of Chichester and suddenly I was terrified. So far I hadn’t felt any fear, I had dressed, walked and spoken amongst friends within the safety of the Café, now it was something else altogether, I was going out into a fairly crowded town shopping centre amongst strangers, strangers who would speak to me, brush past me, LOOK AT ME!”

Barbara and Maria knew what had happened and Maria stood, stepped into the aisle and took my hand, pulling me from the seat, I stepped forward as Barbara moved in behind me. Paul was waiting at the bottom of the steps and he held out his hand and helped me down. I took three paces forward and then froze and immediately four girls, Maria and Paul were around me. I looked down at my body, the gentle swell of the fake boobs, the tight hold my belt had on my waist, the line of the skirt and the white strappy sandals and lost every vestige of confidence. I wanted to get back on the bus, I couldn’t do this, I shut my eyes, the world was too big, too crowded and I knew if I opened them there would be hundreds of people staring at me, pointing and laughing.

Maria’s arm went around my shoulders and she squeezed me and whispered, “Look at April, just April, she is opposite you, open your eyes, forget everybody else, just look at April.” I did, she was wearing a light, sleeveless, patterned dress with an A line skirt and two-inch heeled court shoes and a gentle smile.

“She and the others are as close to you as anybody is going to get today. Now Diane next to her,” I moved my eyes to the right, ignoring everything else, almost like a camera panning slowly and Diane appeared in the frame, a dark grey casual skirt suit, white ruffled blouse, three inch-courts.

“Now to the left, look at Maeve,” my eyes did as Maria instructed, a straight off-white dress with soft pleats at the bodice and waist line of the skirt, a shoulder bag with one hand resting lightly on the clasp, white, two-inch heels. I felt movement and then Barbara appeared in front of me, cream blouse, pale green cardigan and skirt with matching three-inch strappy sandals and she poked her tongue out and broke the paralysis and I offered a weak smile and felt Paul link his arm into mine, “Are they pretty?” I nodded, “Do they look like young women?” Again I nodded and looked up at his face, “You’re the looker here, Helen, mind if I walk with you, it’ll do wonders for my self-esteem.”

Then it was okay and I took the first step, then the second and the third and I was walking, swinging my arms and hips and the others all followed with Maria and Barbara at my other side. “You’re right Barbara, I do walk with my elbows in and my lower arms out.”

“You won’t when we’ve finished shopping, they’ll be hanging straight down with the weight of the bags and they’ll be six inches longer.”

“Bags yes. First you buy shoulder bag, I have all your money in mine and am scared I will lose it.”

That was the signal; we split into two groups’ Paul with Maeve, April and Diane, Maria with Barbara and me under her wing. Before us lay Chichester going about its daily business blissfully unaware that the local economy, well the ladies clothing section anyway, was in for a boost.
My first port of call was an ATM, I had my cards but if I tried to use them, there would be problems, a woman using a card with a man’s name on it was going to be challenged but ATM’s are totally committed to sexual equality and as long as you know the pin they worked. I withdrew three hundred pounds from my debit card and three hundred from one of the credit cards. I didn’t use the other card because I reckoned that both being Visa, the computer would smell a rat with daily maximums being withdrawn from both cards at the same place on the same day but with the cash I had I still had over nine hundred. I could have spent more if I had the time, but I was going to treat everybody to lunch, which meant we didn’t have time for a clothing deprived, awakening New Girl to get everything she wanted, I would have to settle for costume jewellery in lieu of gold and diamonds and just two dresses from high street shops rather than six from Bond Street.

Maria was getting nervous about the money so the first port of call was an accessories shop for two shoulder bags one large the other smaller. I stuck one lot of money in a bag, gave some to Barbara and left the remainder with Maria so at least if one of us lost theirs, it wouldn’t stop the day.

Next port of call was a milliner, which we found on the corner of a side street. In we went and straight out again went Barbara when she was shoed away by Maria and then the fun began as Maria tried on hat after hat, looking at me and then out to Barbara, nothing was quite right and then Paul and the others turned up and joined Barbara on the pavement and after fifteen minutes, exasperated as is the way of men when women are buying hats or shoes, he came into the shop, nodded at the milliner and went to the pile of hat boxes, pulled one out, gave it to Maria and said “Here, the pale yellow one, try it on again.”

“It not good, too young.”

“Maria, try it on,” it was a command, not a request and Maria being fifty, Spanish and used to men did as she was told.

Paul was right, it took ten years of her, the colour was perfect and the wide brim cast shadows over her face that gave her the look of a woman of mystery. “It too young for me,” she protested.

I took her by the hand, led her to the window and the girls nodded enthusiastically, we returned to the milliner and Maria looked nervously at me, “It too young, yes?”

“It makes you look like a woman of mystery, beautiful but deep and interesting.”

Paul walked around and looked at her, nodded and said, “Madam will take the hat.”

Then there was an excited tapping on the window and when I looked, April was rapping with one hand and pointing with the other. I walked across and looked to where she was pointing. It was a hat, similar to Maria’s, a smaller brim and white with a pale yellow ribbon around the domed crown. I went closer and touched it, looked at the girls and as one they nodded and pointed at me. I bought it, they knew me better than I knew me and it made my knees go weak, I had bought a hat that wasn’t a baseball cap, not androgynous, it was a young woman’s hat, very pretty and would need hat pins to keep it on in even the lightest breeze. I knew exactly what sort of dress to buy to go with it and almost started planning Ascot in June and Goodwood in July, on Ladies Day of course.

I paid for the hats and Paul offered to take them to the bus.

Out we went and I asked Barbara “Where next?”

“You tell me.”

“No, I have handbags and a hat, Maria has a hat, it’s your turn.”

“Great, a dress shop. I haven’t a really nice little black dress.”

“You’ve got two,” pointed out Paul.

“But I have four pairs of black shoes, I need another one, one with a little more lace and a lower neckline.” Barbara led us off to a shop where she had seen just the one she had in mind.

A half hour later, we left; Barbara with her little black dress and me with a pale blue silk cocktail dress and then we went into Debenhams and everybody bought skirts, blouses, lingerie and woollens. I managed to find three camisoles and a girdle that had enough control to keep my front flat whatever happened and a dozen pairs of knickers. Maria took me by the hand and said, “Trousseau, come with me,” and she led me to a rack of nightwear and pulled a nightdress to the front of the rack. It was beautiful, all white, virtually see through with a faint lace pattern woven into it, a low neckline and gathered under the bust. I wanted it and looked at the price tag, “Maria this is nearly two hundred pounds.”

She nodded, “Is silk and includes this,” and from behind it she produced a matching peignoir with a satin under bust tie, “Best for a bride’s first night, you not wear until married.” I bought it but I wondered if I could keep my hands of it until the day I married, if that ever happened.

Whilst I was paying for everything, Maria disappeared for about ten minutes and came back with a gift-wrapped parcel, the wrapping I noticed was white with silver, wedding bells. She gave it to the girl and said, “Put it with my daughter’s parcels, please.”

“Who’s getting married?” I asked.

“You. Is for trousseau, not open until wedding.”

We were on our way to a jeweller when out of the corner of my eye I caught a sight of the dress I was looking for. It was two doors up in a little side street and the shop had a bow window, “Go on, I’ll catch you up at the jeweller.”

“No you won’t,” said Maeve when they had stopped to see what I was looking at. “You’re into retro and that’s a retro shop, I’ve been in there before its Aladdin’s cave, you’ll be in there for a fortnight, we’ll come too.”

We walked in and Maeve was right, they had wartime stuff, the New Look, fifties, sixties and seventies, I was in heaven. A middle-aged woman came from behind a bead curtain, “Hullo, are you all shopping?”

“Just her,” said April, the yellow dress in the window.”

The woman looked at me, “It will fit and the colour will suit you, its Fifties, would you like to try it on?” she said smiling and taking the dress of the wire manikin, “Here, the changing room is behind the curtain on the left.”

I went in and carried the dress as if it were made of eggshells, it was the colour of my hat ribbon and I knew I was going to buy it and prayed it would fit, which it did.

“I’d like to have it please.”

“It’s full skirted, you’ll need a Fifties style bouffant petticoat otherwise the skirt won’t stand out and look its best.”

“Oh,” I was crestfallen but not for long.

“I have three out back, come on.” I followed her and there they were, a white with black polka dots, a white with pink satin lace and a plain white lace, all full and ready to rustle at the slightest movement.”

“I can’t make up my mind.”

“The white. It’s the best of them; here try it with the dress. I was into the changing room before she had finished speaking and once dressed I stood in front of the mirror, turned every way, twirled and pulled back the curtain, “What do you think?”

She smiled, “You don’t need to ask me, go and show your friends.” I walked back into the shop; Aprils hands flew to her mouth, “I want one,” Barbara nodded and smiled, Maeve said; “I’m jealous and will want to borrow it,” and Diane with a big grin on her face said, “I just want to see you jive and keep that skirt from flying out.”

I went back to the woman, “I’ll take both petticoat and dress,” and then I saw the other dress, it too looked Fifties, a white laced, square necked bodice with a white satin lining and very faint pink polka dots over a full skirt. The woman turned to see what I was looking at, “You want that as well?”

“Will it fit?”

“Yes, same size and length as the yellow dress and the petticoat will go with both.”

“Can I have it?”

“Of course and I’ll even give you a discount as you’ve bought so much. Don’t forget to style your hair with a pony-tail to complete the look.”

Paul had returned from the bus, “You lot will have to get a move on if you want lunch before we go back.” He looked at the bag I was carrying reached out his hand, “Gimme that and I’ll be back in thirty minutes and that’s all the time you have before lunch and lunch will have to be forty-five minutes not two hours.” And off he went with the last of our bags and parcels.”

Barbara led the others into another accessories shop and Maria and I went into the jeweller. I bought a wristwatch for myself and another for Diane she didn’t have one. Maeve I found hoop earrings for, April a little heart shaped pendant and a butterfly brooch for Barbara. “Why all these,” asked Maria as we were waiting for them to be gift-wrapped.

“The girls have been terrific for me, Maria and this is like the hat I bought for you, a little way of saying thank you.”

She shook her head, “You spend all your monies nearly.”

“Nope, Barbara still has two hundred and I’ve money in the bank when I get my accounts and cards sorted out. What I’ve spent today is less than I would have done if I had been outside these past few weeks.” I walked down the counter and spoke quietly to the assistant, handed over some more money and then steered Maria into the computer shop and ignored her tut-tutting as I bought an iPod.

“Who for?”

“Paul, I heard him telling Barbara he would like one and he has run around for us, he deserves a thank you.” I paid and asked Maria to wait for it whilst I went back to the jeweller to collect everything else.

After lunch as we were returning to the bus I asked Paul if we could stop at the lay-by where he had dated Barbara. He looked at me suspiciously but nodded, “Five minutes or I leave you standing there.”

When he stopped, I got up and said to Barbara, “Take me to the exact spot.” We got off the bus and walked back a few paces, “Here,” she said, “Why did you want to stop?”

“I want to say a little prayer,” and I closed my eyes, stood for a few seconds and then said, “Okay, all done, let’s get on the bus before Paul leaves us.”

“I don’t have to ask who the prayer was for,” she whispered.

8

“Write your names on a piece of paper and tape it to the outside of your doors, unless you want me to leave everything in the common room. Then you’ll have time for tea.”

“What about you, Paul.” You never had lunch with us, you must be starving.”

“Not into all that pasta and salad stuff, I had a quick meal in Burger King. Now go on hoppit, I’ve all this lot to deliver to your rooms and get the bus back to my yard.

I caught Barbara up in the corridor, “Barbara, will you give this to Paul?” I rummaged around in my bag and found the iPod.

“What is it?”

“An iPod, I heard him tell you he would love to have one.”

“What did you buy him that for?”

“Well, he’s been terrific today, looking after us, keeping us on schedule and carrying all our stuff back to the bus, I thought it would be nice way of showing him we are grateful.”

“We are grateful?”

“Of course, he looked after all of us that’s why you should give it to him.”

“Helen, I am not the jealous type, Paul loves me and I him and I know your heart lies elsewhere. Go and give it to him and don’t faint if he gives you a kiss.”

“You sure you don’t mind?”

“Certain, go on, do it,” then she smiled, “Just be back here in five minutes or I’ll come down there and tear your hair out.”

I nodded and went back outside. Paul was in the bus sorting all the bags and packages, “I have a something for you, I’m sorry about the girly wrapping but the assistant must have thought it was for one of us.”

He took it and looked at it mystified, “What is it, what’s it for?”

“It’s a present to thank you for being so good to us today, open it. You do know how to open small satin bows don’t you.”

He grinned and to my surprise opened it carefully, taking care not to tear the paper and then looked up at me, “An iPod.”

“Is it, I don’t understand much about those technical thingies, it’s about all I can do to work my cell phone.”

“You lie badly, Helen. I’ll bet you can find your way around a computer better than any of them and it’s not from them, it’s from you.” Before I could deny anything, he placed both hands on my shoulders and kissed me; not on the cheek, not on the forehead but on the lips.

And I backed off quickly, it was nice, “Barbara said you would do that.”

He grinned, “Can’t resist a pretty girl.”

“I don’t believe you, you’re too much in love with Barbara but the kiss was nice.” I turned and hurried back.

“Six and a half minutes,” said Barbara as I entered the kitchen, “Another thirty seconds and I was coming down to see what was going on.”

“There was nothing to worry about, it was only a quickie and doesn’t mean a thing, lust not love.”

She grinned, “You don’t know Paul, he’s a master, no quickie man I can assure you. You’d think to look at him he doesn’t have a delicate bone in his body but when he caresses you, it’s like a feather, soft, slow, delicious.”

“He should be an artist,” said Maria, placing a cup of tea in front of me, she pointed at the cakes, “Only one…Dinner late today, Boris said is okay. Light because you each have good lunch.”

“We’ve had a great time, Helen, a day to remember, thanks for letting us come,” said Maeve and the others echoed her and then gave me a clap.
I blushed but I was happy that I had done something for them; they had been so good for me. “Do you think Boris will let us do it again?”

“I doubt he’ll let us escape lessons but he might allow us to go out as a group at the weekend if an escort can be arranged.” Replied Maeve, “But it would have to be a dinner or a quiet pub somewhere.”

“Oh, I was hoping perhaps we could go to a disco.”

We all looked at April, “Disco?” asked Diane, “We’re in prison, not on holiday.”

April shrugged, “I was just hoping. Couldn’t we say we wanted to put our dancing lessons to the test?”

“No, how do you think they could keep an eye on us in a disco.”

“Well, we’ve proved we aren’t going to behave badly or try to abscond,” I pointed out.

“It isn’t that, he’d be more concerned with our safety than any threat we might be to society.”

I frowned, “If there were the five of us, we’d be safe enough and I’m sure if Paul couldn’t be the escort, there would be somebody else.”

“Not in a crowded, noisy disco. We would each need an escort and even then there would be no guarantee.”

“Surely not, this is Chichester, not London or Manchester. They’d realise we were just a bunch of trannies or something like that and the worst that could happen is a few unkind remarks.”

Diane leaned forward and said,” Helen, have you any idea of what sort of affect you have on men.”

“Me, what do you mean, I didn’t speak to any men other than Paul. We were together all the time.”

“You didn’t have to speak to them,” said April. “Didn’t you notice the greengrocer?”

“Greengrocer?” I can’t even remember a greengrocery.”

“When you spotted the retro shop, you dallied and as you went past his shop trying to catch us up, the greengrocer watched you the whole time.”

“Nonsense, if he was watching, it was all of us.”

“You were a few yards behind us, it was you he was watching and he did it again when we went back. He never took his eyes off you.”

I shrugged, “Well I never noticed.”

“No,” said Maria, coming back to the table, “And you didn’t notice the three men who went past when we came out of the hat shop. Even Paul spotted them and didn’t take his eyes off them until they turned a corner. Several times men looked at you, a longer look, not just a casual glance. And you weren’t even dressed up, just neat, nothing special.”

“Exactly,” agreed Barbara “And if you were dressed up as in disco, you would attract a great deal of attention.”

“You’re just saying it to give me confidence.”

“No we’re not,” said two or three of them together.

I stood up, ran my hands from my waist down over my hips. “I’m not even girly shape except for a padded bra.”

“Barbara, I think you should talk with Helen,” said Maria and at that point Paul came in and said, “All deliveries done, I’m off.” He looked at Barbara, “See you next week, Luv, nodded at me and left.”

“You see,” said Barbara.

“See what?”

“Paul glanced at you.”

“That doesn’t mean a thing, he just glanced at me but spoke to you.”

“Yes he did but you may not think the glance means anything, you’re right, it doesn’t but he still glanced. No man is going to enter a room without at least glancing at you. It doesn’t mean they want to take you to bed or sweep you into their arms but they will glance.”

“Helen,” said Maeve gently, “Men will notice you. You are a touch more than pretty. There is something that radiates from you and it comes from inside.”

This was getting embarrassing; they all seemed to agree with what was being said. Had I acted coquettishly, even trampy, if I had it hadn’t been deliberate. The one thing I was sure of was that had I noticed the men looking at me I would have frozen or run back to the bus. I can’t be that attractive, ten or eleven days ago I was wearing a bomber jacket and trousers – ‘you were walking like a woman, you cross your legs when sitting, touch yourself, your hair,’ I remembered Barbara’s words. “I have to go and put my things away,” I paused at the door and turned back to them, “Thank you, I have heard what you said.”

Paul had placed my parcels neatly on the bed and I sat down before putting them away. Idly my hand caressed the parcels thinking of what had been said to me in the kitchen. Surely they were joking with me, giving me a morale booster and then I remembered Melissa’s look when he passed me in the corridor, a look of lust. Adam and Boris, their attitude and behaviour towards me, the courtesy, the gentleness, they were dealing with a young woman not a prison inmate. I got up, I had to speak to Adam or Boris and to Barbara, I was too feminine, and it had come upon me too quickly. The amount I had been reading about transgendered people and their treatment was not covered by this, everything said it would take at least two years before bust development was anywhere near complete, nine months before any physical changes became apparent and hours and hours of training and practising to acquire the necessary female behavioural skills. Within a week I was curling my hair and doing my make-up skilfully if not perfectly I was acting like a woman who had been doing these things all her life, needlework, cooking, knitting and dancing all things I learned too quickly for a beginner.

With determination I put the thoughts aside and began on my shopping. First the dresses were hung up, the petticoat fluffed out and hung then the make-up, jewellery, lingerie tidied away into drawers and cupboards and then I looked around me. This morning I had one or two pieces of women’s clothing, now I had nightdresses, drawers full of lingerie, three dresses, two skirts, four blouses, woollens, shoes, stockings and handbags even a hat, not a full wardrobe but certainly a firm beginning of one. I went to the wardrobe and pulled out the two retro dresses and hung them on the outside of the door, sat and looked at them trying to make up my mind which to wear for my appointment with Adam. There was a knock on my door and when I opened it, there was Maeve carrying her toolbox.

“You asked me if I could do your hair and a make-over before you go to see Adam.”
“Yes, thank you do you have the time?”

“Course and I’ve brought this,” she held up what looked like a gun.

“What’s that?”

“Ear piercing, we didn’t have the time when we were in Chichester, I can do it now if you like, I have studs as well. What’s wrong with your hair, it only needs a brush?”

“I want a temporary change of style.”

“We don’t have time for anything too elaborate.”

“I don’t think it is, can you give me a ponytail, a fifties ponytail to go with one of the dresses.”

She laughed, “My you do have the retro bug.”

“It’s very feminine, I would like to have lived during those years.”

“She gave me a funny look, “Yes, very feminine. Right let’s get cracking, ponytail won’t take long, got an elastic band or scrunchy.”

An hour later I looked in the mirror, perfect and the ponytail was just right. Maeve had used clips and a pretty peacock hair clasp on one side to set off the look. “Which dress?” she asked.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

She went over to look at them, “The yellow; the white will need a light iron run over it before you wear it and you haven’t the time.
She looked at her watch, “Get cracking, you have less than thirty minutes to get dressed, Oh, and wear the cameo necklace and a ring on each hand. Good luck, killer, sock it to him, I’m off and we’ll all be waiting in the common room.”

I did get cracking and as I was buttoning up the dress I heard Adam come in and go to his room and my heart started hammering but I took a deep breath, retained control, finished buttoning the dress and fitted the patent belt and then I looked in the mirror and I had to smile the reflection was a women, there was no man in there anywhere.

I put on the cameo necklace, removed the studs from my ears and fitted the long single pearl pendant earrings. Maeve had said not to, even their tiny weight might distort the piercing before they had healed but I would change back when I had finished with Adam. I stood and looked again and liked the real me. If I had had any doubts before I didn’t now, I was a woman and was going to stay one.

I put on the watch and bracelets, picked up my shoulder bag, took a deep breath and went to see him.

He opened his door and for a split second he looked puzzled and then his face broke into a smile, “Helen, you look absolutely stunning. Come in, my word the butterfly has emerged.” He brought a chair over and held it whilst I sat and then walked round his desk sat and pulled my file towards him before looking at me again. “I am impressed, are you going out this evening?”

“Well no, I didn’t think I’d be allowed out. No, I put these on just to show you some of the things I bought today,” (I know Paul had said I was a bad liar but I did my best to sound sincere.)

“Well I’m flattered that you should take so much trouble.”

“It didn’t take long,” (I was getting better at the lies.)

“I’m not an expert on women’s fashion but whatever look that is, it suits you, shows your personality. Do something for me, get up and walk a few paces, let’s have a good look at you.”

I got up half expecting my legs to collapse beneath me and walked across the office stopped and turned around and then, heaven only knows what got into me, I did a twirl. I felt the skirt and petticoat lift but kept the speed slow enough to not reveal anything that should not be revealed and then I walked back and sat.

Adam was smiling, “A twirl as well, you are a confident one. Dancing soon I expect.” Then he became business-like but not before looking at my knees. “Over the weekend I managed to speak with the judge at your trial and he strongly believes you should appeal. He thinks a retrial will not be necessary and the conviction will be quashed. I spoke to a barrister friend of mine and he is of the same opinion and will happily take the case if you decide to go ahead. Have you made your decision yet, I am not hurrying you, you can have more time if you feel you need it?”

I stood up and stepped away from the seat, “Look at me Adam, I’m a woman, all woman and this is me. I may not have the right shape yet but that will come, in the meantime I intend to stay as I am now, not to leave here and revert to my other side, the dead side. I have some concerns that I would like to speak about, preferably with you and whoever else you suggest but they are technical not mental.” I sat down again and said quietly, “I am Helen Vesta Finch, nobody else.”

He looked surprised, “Vesta, where did that come from?”

“Ancient Rome, the Goddess of the Hearth.”

“Ah, a name and a statement.”

“Yes.”

He turned a page in my file, checked something and returned his eyes to me. They were smiling, “Well my Virgin Goddess of the Hearth, I have news for you. I have booked an appointment for you to see a doctor, I know her well and she works closely with us and agrees that you have classic symptoms of gender dysphoria, transgendered if you prefer but won’t confirm anything until she has seen you. Next Thursday morning at eleven if that suits you. Subject to her report, you will then see our panel and get things moving, medical treatments etc. You will also need to see our solicitor who will arrange for name changes to your bank accounts and get that side sorted out and then I will help you with everything else.”
He looked at me expectantly, I smiled, “I love men of action.”

He got up, “Right Helen Vesta, that’s enough for now. I will see you tomorrow meanwhile, go tell the girls and have a good evening. Lights out at eleven tonight, that’s if any of you can keep your eyes open that long.”

I wanted to kiss him but thought better of it and simply said, “Thank you, it’s been a wonderful day,” and went back to my room to change my earrings before Maeve gave me a rocket but I could feel his eyes on me until I closed the door.

A few minutes later with their presents in my bag, I skipped along the corridor, went into the common room, walked to the centre of the circle of chairs and settees, did a double twirl and this time didn’t give a damn how high my skirt and petticoat rose, I had pretty panties on, straightened my skirt and sat in the armchair they had left for me.

“You bitch,” swore Diane, “Even I can’t do a double twirl.

“I am definitely going to buy a dress like that,” added April.

“What happened?” asked Maria jumping up, “What is the decision are you still my daughter?”

“Well?” said Barbara and Maeve simply smiled.

“I told him I was Helen Vesta Finch and that is the way I intend to stay. A barrister is taking my case to appeal if I want, I can stay here for the time being and I’m seeing a doctor on Thursday to start my treatment.”

They clapped and cheered and Maria clasped her hands in front of her and said a prayer.

“Vesta?” asked Barbara.

“Roman, she was the Virgin Goddess of the Hearth, the homemaker, the Vestal Virgins,” Maeve told her.

“Virgin? Goddess of the Hearth? Isn’t there an oxymoron in there somewhere?”

I smiled, “A rose by any other name shall still smell like a rose and should it become necessary or desirable to alter the virgin bit, I am willing to give it a go.”

“You keep yourself for husband,” admonished Maria. Then she pointed at three bottles of white wine and a bottle of lemonade sitting on a desk. “We celebrate.”

“Before we do, I have something for each of you.” I handed them each their gifts and sat back to watch and hope that I had guessed right.
Maeve whooped, Held the earrings up and said, Celtic Goth, I can go punk with these. April put her pendant on and said a quiet thank you. Diane looked at me, “You’re very observant, I missed my old one when it broke,” and put the watch on immediately and Barbara exclaimed, “My God, this is Mother of Pearl,” and Maria sobbed loudly and ran out of the room and into the kitchen where we could hear her crying.”

“What happened?” asked Barbara.

“I gave her a gold locket.”

“That’s not something to cry about,” said April.

“I had the inside engraved; With Love From Your Two Spirit Daughter.”

“Oh goodness,” and Diane jumped up and ran after Maria, crying just as loudly.

“That’s some heart you have Helen,” and Barbara wiped tears from her eyes.

April got up, smiled weakly at me and said’ “I’ll pour some lemonade and wine champagne.”

I had got it right, they liked the presents, Barbara said I had a big heart and I turned men’s heads, I was happy. I folded my arms around my chest under my bust, looked down at the curve and hugged myself, eventually, these were going to be real, I was very, very happy.

Three spritzer champagnes later I stood up stretched, “I’m off to bed.”

“So soon? I have a disc player in my room, I could get if and we could have a dance, you can teach me to twirl in heels.”

“Nope, too much excitement today, I want an early night and you know I can’t twirl after three spritzers, you just want me to fall over.”

She giggled and that set everybody else off which was the scene that greeted Adam when he popped his head round the door, “Maria, I’m going home now, I think you could use a lift. Girls, Boris will be in his room if you need him, there are extra Paracetamol in the kitchen first aid cabinet, don’t burn the Café down, goodnight, looked at me and smiled, took Maria by the arm and walked her out.

Barbara was chuckling, “I just won a bet with myself.”

“What was that?” asked Maeve.

“I bet myself that Adam would look at Helen before he left.”

“I’m off before we start that again,” and as I walked down the corridor a thought popped into my head, ‘I wish Adam would take me to my room and help me undress’.

In the next chapters; a walk in a meadow with an unknown lover and a new musical ensemble/pop group is formed.

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Vesta’s Hearth and Footprints in the Sea are available on Amazon Kindle and there is a link directly from this Top Closet site in the right hand column of the Home Page.



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