“Nervous yet?” I ask my best friend as we may our way through the college to the vast lecture hall for our official ‘welcome’.
“A little bit,” Ophelia replies. “Yourself?”
“Shitting myself,” I confess, bringing a brief smile to the teal-haired girl’s face.
“Perhaps a thong was not the best idea today, then,” Ophelia muses.
“Actually…” I say as I look around at the countless unfamiliar faces, all of whom look at me and see a girl- but some of whom clearly see something behind the ‘façade’. “It was definitely the RIGHT idea.”
Last year, when I returned to my further education college as Jacinta, I was around people who’d already grown familiar with ‘Jason’. And whilst I was already known to be the ‘G’ part of LGBT, and living in one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the world, showing up to college wearing a skirt, wearing make-up and calling myself ‘Jacinta’ got some seriously mixed reactions from the other students. Here, however, no one- with the obvious exception of Ophelia- knew about ‘Jason’. All they see is ‘Jacinta’, which is the way it should be, the way it must be. However, when they look more closely at ‘Jacinta’, they’re bound to see that something’s a little ‘off’ about ‘her’… I’m just thankful that Ophelia’s drawing a lot of the ‘attention’ I inevitably would if I’d come into university by myself.
Nonetheless, I still feel uneasy as Ophelia and I take our seats in the middle of the lecture hall. There are a surprising amount of people here today, and given that there are only other first year students in the lecture, that means that there’ll be even more students in the university as a whole. More people to potentially see through me…
“Good morning, everyone,” the chancellor of the university says with a wide grin. “I’d like to welcome you all to the London College of Fashion.” I try to pay attention to the welcoming lecture, which is very basic in nature- just going into fire drill procedures, the security arrangements and so forth. After the lecture, Ophelia and I head to reception to get our university ID cards printed, before the moment comes that I’ve been dreading all morning.
“Now I must head to my first class,” Ophelia says with a nervous smile. “I shall see you at lunch, Jacinta.”
“See you there,” I whisper, trying to catch my breath and ease the butterflies in my stomach before turning and walking away from Ophelia. “Okay, Jacinta, you got this. There’ll just be a load of older teenagers in the class, same as you, you’re all there for the same reason, no need to panic…”
Naturally, I feel a moment of panic as I step into the small classroom and sit down at one of the free desks. For the next three years, I’ll be working closely with the people I meet in this room, and as they say, you can only make a first impression once… This is going to be the make or break moment, whether university will be the best three years of my life or whether I’ll be banging my head against a wall for the next three years.
“Ex- excuse me?” I hear a nervous voice ask, snapping me out of my reverie. I look up to see a slender girl with long, mousey hair tied into a ponytail and a lot of freckles staring down at me uneasily. “Can- can I, umm, sit next to you?”
“Umm, sure,” I say, looking around at the rest of the classroom. With only 18 people in our class, it’s not like it’ll be cramped in here, but then again, no one wants to be on their own, I guess. “There- there are plenty of other seats, though…”
“Oh- would- do you want me to sit somewhere else?” The girl asks, and I find myself pausing to think. She seems friendly enough, and there’s a good chance that if I push her away, I could end up sitting next to someone a lot worse- as proved when two girls walk into the class who look eerily like Ophelia’s younger sister with their excessive fake tan and their obviously bottle-blonde hair. Then again, there is only one reason why this brown-haired girl would have automatically gravitated toward me when she saw me in the class… The question is, is she only sitting next to me to make sure, and if so, what will she do when she makes sure?
“I don’t mind you sitting here,” I say, trying to smile as the freckled girl grins and sits down next to me, straightening the translucent tights underneath her denim shorts before getting her books out of her bag. Better the devil you know, I guess- or in this case, barely know… “I’m- I’m Jacinta, by the way. Jacinta Hanley.”
“Katie Henderson,” the freckled girl replies as we exchange a loose, feminine handshake. My smile widens as, for some reason, I feel like I know the name from somewhere. “So… You from London, or come here for uni, like, the ‘real student lifestyle’?”
“’Real student lifestyle’,” I reply, making us both giggle. “I’m originally from Brighton, I’m here with my best friend, we’re sharing a flat, living off of Pot Noodles, the whole works.”
“Heh, sounds SO cool,” Katie laughs. “I’m from London so I’m still living at home with my parents, and even worse, my little brothers. Want to move out soon, though, get my own place with my best friend, you know?”
“Is she studying here too?” I ask.
“Yep!” Katie says with a grin. “She’s doing fashion design, along with another friend of ours.” My tension almost immediately disappears as Katie tells me this- this is almost too much of a coincidence.
“Oh my god, so’s my best friend!” I say, making Katie almost squeak with excitement.
“Ah, so cool!” Katie giggles. “So there’s, like, five of us in a ready-made group?” Just like Jamie-Lee last year at college, I think to myself as my smile starts to fade.
“Yeah,” I laugh. “Assuming- well, umm, I’m sure you’ll like Ophelia, heh.” It’s either both of us or neither of us, I defiantly think to myself.
“Ophelia?” Katie asks, making me internally sigh. “Cool name, hehe! She must’ve had some ‘interesting’ parents, then?”
“Umm… She actually chose the name herself,” I say. “Changed it by deed poll.” And she’s not the only one who did…
“What was it before?” Katie asks, making me bite my lip.
“…Not important?” I mumble, breathing a sigh of relief as Katie giggles.
“Good answer!” The freckled girl laughs, before we’re both silenced as our tutor arrives to start the class.
Naturally, with it being our first day, we don’t really get any significant work done- the class is more about getting to know everyone on the course, setting out the timeline for the next three years, our assignments and our required reading. All throughout the class, though, all I can think about is whether or not Katie and her friends will like Ophelia- and how lonely the two of us are likely to be if she doesn’t. Even worse is that Katie doesn’t yet know about me being transgendered yet, god knows how she’ll react to THAT.
The relative lack of sexy guys on the course- and in the whole university, for that matter- doesn’t help matters either. ‘Prince Charming’ seems further away than ever…
Eventually, after three brain-melting hours, Katie and I are finally dismissed from the class, and with both of our stomachs rumbling, we head straight to the university’s vast dining hall. However, hunger isn’t the only thing that’s causing my stomach to make some very troubling noises…
“Okay, THAT was a lot to take in in one morning!” Katie giggles. “Feeling like running back to Brighton yet?”
“Felt like that every second of today,” I reply making Katie giggle.
“Ah, hope I’m not part of the reason!” The freckled girl says with a nervous-sounding chuckle. That’s up to you, Katie, I think to myself.
“Nah, you’re cool so far,” I say.
“’So far’?” Katie asks. “Are- is there a reason I might, you know, become UNcool?” Like you don’t already know, I think to myself while trying not to roll my eyes.
“Umm, well…” I say with a grimace, before taking a deep breath. “I- I’m transgendered. Been transitioning now for about a year…”
“Oh my god, again,” Katie mutters to herself, before turning to look at me with a wide grin on her face. “That- and you- are perfectly, 100%, cool. I’ll put that in writing if you want?”
“No, that’s okay!” I say, breathing a sigh of relief and letting out a happy giggle. “You- you really have no problem with it?”
“I’d be living in the wrong century if I did,” Katie says. “And I know for a fact that Lauren and Sarah will be cool with you as well. I guarantee it, hehe!”
“Thanks,” I say, taking another deep breath to try to return my heart rate to normal. As I smile, though, a thought occurs to me- Katie DID seem to gravitate toward me as she entered the class… “Did- did you, umm, did you already know?”
“…I suspected,” Katie sighs, making me frown. “I’m sorry, I’m so, so, sorry, I don’t mean anything by- I- I just, umm, kinda- kinda know what to look for…”
“It’s okay,” I mumble, subconsciously lowering my fringe to hide more of my face.
“Honestly, you DO pass,” Katie blurts, clearly as embarrassed as I am. “Like I said, I-“
“You ‘know what to look for’?” I ask, trying to smile as Katie’s cheeks turn bright red. “So, umm, do- do you have other transgendered friends?”
“…You might say that,” Katie says, a smile returning to her face. “I’ll let Lauren and Sarah explain further. I can’t wait to introduce you to them!”
“Yeah,” I chuckle nervously as my thoughts suddenly return to my sister, who is inevitably sat on her own in a corner of the dining hall… And when we arrive, a quick glance around the room reveals that the teal-haired girl is indeed sat on her own in a corner of the room, quietly picking away at her lunch. My anxiety begins to rise again as Katie quickly located her two friends- a short, curvy girl with jet black hair and a slightly taller girl with light brown hair tied back into a tight ponytail.
“Hey girlies!” Katie squeaks as she exchanges tight hugs with both the girls.
“Hey Katie!” The black-haired girl says. “Soo… Made a new friend, then?”
“Umm, hi!” I say, nervously giggling and waving to the two girls. “I- I’m Ja- Jacinta Hanley. It’s nice to meet you!”
“I’m Lauren Burnett,” the black-haired girl says, giving me a gentle hug.
“Sarah, Sarah Phillips,” the brown-haired girl says, exchanging a hug with me as I muse on how both the girls’ names and faces seem familiar. “So are you doing photography too?”
“Yep!” I say, hesitating as my three friends all sit down while I remain standing.
“Jacinta?” Katie asks with a confused look on her face. “What’s u- oh, right, your friend!”
“Another new friend?” Lauren asks with an excited giggle.
“Yep!” Katie giggles. “Though I think I’d better let Jacinta explain, hehe!”
“Thanks,” I laugh, nervously scratching my head. “Yeah… I- I kinda moved up from Brighton with my best friend, we now live together and we study here… She’s doing fashion design.” I grin as Lauren and Sarah’s eyes light up at the mention of their course. This is going better than I could’ve imagined…
“Oh- oh, cool!” Lauren squeaks. “Who is she? Can we meet her too?”
“As long as she’s not the weird girl with the multi-coloured hair and dress,” Sarah giggles, making my heart sink and my face fall. “…Oh.”
“Yeah,” I say, letting out a long sigh. “I- I’ll see you back in class, Katie.”
“Wait,” Sarah sighs, a pained expression on her face. “I- I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that about your friend, especially as I haven’t even spoken to her yet.”
“Invite her over,” Lauren says, an obviously forced smile on her face.
“Are- only, umm, only if you’re, you know, sure,” I hesitantly mumble.
“I’m sure,” Sarah says, before allowing her face to slump forward onto the table. “Goddddd... I can’t believe what a Dannii I just was…”
“What a- a what?” I ask.
“Bit of a long story,” Katie giggles. “Go and get Ophelia and we’ll clue you in.”
“Okay,” I say with a nervous, hesitant smile as I head over to where my BFF is sat in the corner of the room.
There’s a very large part of me that just wants to park myself down next to Ophelia and forget all about Katie and her ‘gang’, just write them off as yet more close-minded Mean Girls wannabes, but if Sarah’s genuine about wanting to apologise, and Katie is obviously cool with me… I don’t want to push away friends who are willing to accept me for who I am. But only, ONLY if they’re willing to accept my sister for who she is as well.
“Hey,” I say quietly as I approach the teal haired girl. “Umm…”
“I see you have made some new friends,” Ophelia says, and her voice sounds so hurt it actually makes a tear form in the corner of my eye.
“Yeah, they’re… Okay,” I say with a slight grimace.
“If you would rather sit with them, then by all means, please do so,” Ophelia says, not looking up from her food.
“I would,” I say, taking a deep breath. “But only if you’re sitting there too.”
“I- I am comfortable where I am,” Ophelia mumbles, her affected accent audibly slipping.
“Come on,” I say. “The last time you made a friend on the first day at a new place, it worked out well, didn’t it?” I giggle as a wide smile spreads across Ophelia’s face.
“That is because that girl was drawn to me,” Ophelia said, casting a glance over at where my three potential friends are sat. “The black-haired girl and her friend were repelled by me during our first class. And besides which… They’re on the other side of the dining hall. I would have to walk past everyone…”
“So will I,” I shrug. “And Sarah and Lauren… They do want to talk to you. Well, they want to say one thing, anyway.” Ophelia nods, before letting out a long, tired sigh.
“I’m really starting to wish I’d just worn a plain top and skirt today,” Ophelia whispers, smiling as I place a supportive hand on her shoulder.
“Chin up,” I say with a smile. “Let’s walk across there the way we should. With pride.” With a nervous smile, Ophelia nods, picks up her meal and follows me back to the table where my- or rather, our three new friends are waiting.
“Girls, this is Ophelia Love,” I say with a proud grin. “Ophelia, this is Katie, Lauren and Sarah.”
“Hi!” Sarah says with a nervous grin, gingerly standing up and approaching Ophelia for a hug, only to settle for a loose handshake instead.
“Erm, Oph- Ophelia’s not really a hugger…” I grimace.
“Meh, sometimes I think people hug too much nowadays anyway,” Sarah says with a snort of laughter. “Hi, I’m- I’m, um, Sarah, Sarah Phillips… I- I’m sorry if we were, you know, distant during our first class, me and Lauren…”
“Your apology is accepted,” Ophelia says as she elegantly sits down next to me at the table. “Though it was also unnecessary. I am keenly aware of the… Image that I project.”
“Just as long as you’re not embarrassed by it,” Sarah says. “You- you do look weird. But weird is- it’s good, you know?”
“Yeah,” Lauren concurs. “Who wants to be normal, anyway?”
“…Dannii, for one,” Katie scoffs, making Lauren and Sarah giggle as she dramatically rolls her eyes.
“Ooh, yes,” I say with a giggle. “What is this ‘Dannii’ thing, anyway?”
“’Thing’ is the best word for her,” Sarah spits. “She’s the sort of girl who rarely has anyone say ‘no’ to her, and when someone does say ‘no’, god help them.”
“Used to be my best friend in secondary school,” Lauren says. “Emphasis on ‘used to be’.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t see the video that went viral over the summer?” Katie asks. “The one of the girl getting dunked in the swimming pool?”
“Umm… Thing I might have seen it,” I say. “Was- was that you?”
“Well, us, Dannii and my girlfriend Nikki,” Sarah says, and all of a sudden, the final piece of the puzzle slides into place.
I have seen the video the girls mentioned- on a blog I regularly follow. A blog belonging to a London-based transgendered girl named Nikki Thomas, who happens to regularly talk about her girlfriend named Sarah, her friends Katie, Lauren and- occasionally, anyway- Dannii. And her job as the PA to one of Britain’s biggest modelling cliques… What are the odds I’d just happen to run into Nikki’s ‘gang’ here, of all places?
“This ‘Nikki’,” I say hesitantly. “It- would it- would she, umm, would she be Nikki Thomas, by any chance?”
“Ooh, looks like somebody’s got a fan…” Katie teases, making me blush. “We’re SO going to have to introduce you two when she eventually shows up!”
“Wha- Nik- Nikki’s coming here?” I ask, blushing harder as the other girls- Ophelia included- have a good-natured giggle at my expense. I barely have the chance to remember Ophelia telling me that she thought Nikki's partner was going to be on the same course as her before the conversation continues almost like a runaway train.
“I’ve got her well trained,” Sarah says with a playful wink. “Doubt she’ll be bringing any of the Angels, though!”
“Doesn’t matter, this is just TOO cool,” I sigh happily.
“It is,” Ophelia confirms with a shy smile. “You’ve always talked about how much you would like to talk with Nikki.”
“True,” I say, earning quizzical looks from both Lauren and Sarah- clearly Katie didn’t clue them in whilst I was away from the table. “…Really? You- you don’t know?”
“’Know’ what?” Sarah asks.
“You, of all people?” Katie giggles, before her face contorts into a grimace. “Ehh… Sorry, Jacinta… Know this might still be kinda sensitive for you…”
“Know what is kinda sensitive?” Lauren asks, clearly as confused as Sarah.
“…That when I was born, my name was ‘Jason’,” I confess, trying not to blush as my two newest friends’ jaws both drop. “Oh come on… Katie ‘spotted’ me instantly…”
“Well- not ‘instantly’,” Katie mumbles. “I kinda- kinda had my suspicions, you know?”
“Is there a transgendered equivalent of a fag hag?” Lauren teases, before grimacing as her grey eyes meet mine. “Ehh… Sorry, Jacinta…”
“You don’t need to apologise to me for everything you say,” I chuckle. “Trust me, I’ve heard everything already, even after growing up in Brighton, heh.”
“Still though, it’s not pleasant,” Sarah sighs. “And I should know, you know, same-sex relationship and all… Though I guess this means I WILL have someone to go to LGBT society meetings with, hehe!”
“Are- are you two…?” Lauren hesitantly asks, pointing at myself and Ophelia.
“Oh- no, trust me, no!” I laugh.
“We are… Incompatible,” Ophelia says. “I know you would not think it to look at me, but I am both cisgendered and heterosexual.”
“So…” Lauren asks. “Do- do either of you have a boyfriend?”
“No,” I sigh. “Single, looking, came to the big city to find my ‘Prince Charming’, heh.”
“Ah, SO cool,” Lauren giggles. “Welp, Katie, looks like you and I are going to have to play ‘fairy godmother’ to these two…”
“There is no need on my account,” Ophelia mumbles.
“There’s someone out there for everyone,” Katie giggles. “No matter how ‘unique’ you are, hehe!” I smile happily as Katie’s use of the word ‘unique’- a word Ophelia has long since used to describe herself- brings a grin to my BFF’s face.
“Perhaps,” Ophelia mumbles, leading to an awkward silence at the table.
“So, umm,” Sarah says. “Have- have you ever, you know, sold any of your designs, Ophelia?”
“No,” Ophelia whispers. “I… I mostly just design for myself.”
“The dress is Ophelia’s own design,” I say with a proud smile as my BFF starts to blush. “And yes, so is the corset!”
“So cool,” Lauren says, taking out her phone. “Sarah and I have an online store, if you want to look?”
“Please,” Ophelia says, looking at some of the designs on the phone Lauren hands her. “Your designs are very good. They are also well-modelled too.”
“Ooh, speaking of which…” Lauren giggles, looking toward the corner of the room, where a young woman wearing a tight red turtleneck and a black miniskirt has just walked in. It doesn’t take her long to find our table, prompting Sarah to jump up and greet the newcomer with a kiss.
“Nikki!” Sarah squeaks. “Girls, this is Nikki. Nikki, you already know these two, but I’d like you to meet Jacinta and Ophelia!” I smile as Nikki nervously waves at us, before standing up and trying not to let my jaw drop at the sight of the girl- and despite her genetics, despite the way she was born, there is no mistaking her for anything other than utterly, 100% female.
“Oh my god, YOU’RE Nikki!” I say as I exchange a gentle hug with the slightly shorter girl. “I’m SUCH a huge fan of the Angels, it’s SO good to meet you!”
“Um, likewise!” Nikki giggles nervously, making me grimace.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I say with a nervous laugh. “I- I’m Jacinta, Jacinta Hanley!”
“Nicola Thomas, nice to meet you!” Nikki laughs. “Do- do you study fashion design as well?”
“Nope,” Katie says with a smug chuckle. “She’s a photographer, just like you and me!”
“Just like I used to be,” Nikki laughs, before turning to Ophelia and- having obviously not been ‘warned’, exchanging a gentle hug with her. “And you’re… Ophelia?”
“Ophelia Cassiopeia Love,” my BFF says with a shy smile. “So delighted to meet you.” I try not to giggle as Ophelia- obviously feeling some peer pressure- leans in to Nikki and exchanges air kisses with her.
“Now Ophelia IS one of us,” Lauren laughs as the six of us all cram around the one tiny table- something that my BFF clearly isn’t happy about.
“Unsurprisingly, she made that dress,” Sarah says.
“AND that corset!” Lauren giggles. “I’ve been dying to make a proper tight-lacing corset for ages now…”
“I would be quite happy to help you,” Ophelia says, and I wince as Sarah and Lauren are clearly struggling not to giggle at her voice. “Nicola, Sarah showed me some of the dresses you modelled for their internet store, it would be delightful if you could model for our assignments.”
I grin widely as Ophelia and Nikki begin chatting, and soon it’s like they’re old friends- and before too long, the same could be said of Nikki and myself, especially when the lunch period ends and both Ophelia and I send Facebook friend requests to all four of our new friends, all of which were quickly accepted. Despite my initial anxieties, the six of us have quickly bonded as a group, and as I walk back to class with Katie, my heart is deeply warmed by the sight of Lauren and Sarah walking back to their class side-by-side with Ophelia.
“I knew you’d like them,” Katie says with a smug grin. “Knew they’d like you, too.”
“Yeah, they’re cool,” I laugh. “I’m glad they like Ophelia, too…”
“Yeah, that was a bit shitty of Sarah,” Katie grimaces. “Though you have to admit, Ophelia IS weird…”
“I have a penis and I'm wearing a skirt, some people would call that weird,” I retort. “We’re both, you know, just being who we’re supposed to be. If that’s me wearing a skirt or Ophelia wearing a corset, then so what?”
“…Can’t argue with that!” Katie giggles. “Though there is one thing that surprises me…”
“…Yes?” I ask.
“That you and Ophelia are both still single!” Katie says, making us both laugh as we head back to our class.
After an afternoon of browsing the university’s library, looking at the various societies (including the LGBT society, which Sarah and I immediately sign up for) and reading through the brief of our first assignments, Katie and I pack our bags and head to the front entrance of the university, where our friends- all three of them- are waiting for us.
“One down!” Sarah giggles. “Terrified yet?”
“Bring it on!” I reply, earning giggles from all of my friends as I bid farewell to Katie, Lauren and Sarah before walking side by side with my BFF to the nearest tube station. “I dunno about you, Ophelia, but that went better than I expected!”
“It did,” Ophelia said, though her voice being even quieter and more reserved than usual is a definite hint that she may not be entirely honest in what she says.
“…Ophelia?” I ask. “Are- are you okay? Do you not like Lauren or Sarah?”
“They are perfectly nice young women,” Ophelia replied. “As are Katie and Nikki. And when we were all sat around the table talking, it- it reminded me of when I was younger, at home with my sisters…”
“Oh- oh god, Ophelia…” I sigh, gently placing a hand on my friend’s shoulder. “I’m so, so sorry, sometimes I just forget- gah, I dunno. But you have to know that Lauren and Sarah are nothing like your family, right?”
“They are as opposite as it is possible to be,” Ophelia says with a smile. “But they are still teenaged girls.”
“So are you,” I remind my ‘sister’.
“So are WE,” Ophelia whispers, a wide smile creeping across her face. “I just… I just dislike peer pressure. I’ve face it my whole life, I thought here, at university, I’d be allowed to be who I am, allowed to be individual. I don’t see how I can do that if I’m going to be part of a group. Or worse…”
“’Worse’?” I ask.
“…You might prefer being their friend to being mine,” Ophelia mumbles, and this time, despite her dislike of being touched, I do give the teal-haired girl a gentle, sisterly hug.
“Never,” I say with a grin. “I like Katie and the other girls. But I LOVE you. We’re sisters forever, okay? Other friends can come and go, but that won’t change.”
“Thanks,” Ophelia says with a shy giggle, clearly embarrassed by both her confession and by the very public hug. “Please don’t ever tell anyone-“
“My lips are sealed,” I say, giggling as Ophelia smiles at me. “Did- did you chat much during the afternoon? With Lauren and Sarah, I mean.”
“Not much,” Ophelia says. “They mostly told me about their lives, I shared with them what I wished. Both come from very upper middle-class families, Lauren’s parents are accountants and Sarah’s mother is a psychiatrist. Who specialises in gender identity issues, believe it or not.”
“I think I remember reading that on Nikki’s blog,” I say. “God, what are the odds of that, eh? I follow her blog for years and within hours of starting university, I meet her… Guess I’ll have to thank Katie for that properly at some point, heh, find out when her birthday is, maybe…”
“I suppose I will need to get to know Katie as well,” Ophelia says with a smile. “And Nikki as well.”
“I’m sure we’ll get the chance to get to know each other over the next few years,” I shrug. “Friends for life, maybe?”
“That would be nice,” Ophelia says. “But I was thinking that instead of the next few years… We- we are yet to hold a flat-warming party, aren’t we?” I grin and start to giggle as Ophelia beams a wide, toothy grin at me.
Naturally, when we get home, we begin ordering supplies for tomorrow’s party- most of which contains alcohol, naturally- before settling down for an evening of reading for our courses and checking out our new friends’ Facebook profiles. Naturally, I give Nikki’s profile the most attention, especially when I find photographs on her page of her partying with all six members of the Angels, as well as all five members of the new band Out of Heaven- and it doesn’t escape my attention that both groups contain a transgendered member. Nikki is so lucky to have had such an amazing network of friends… But as I look at Ophelia curled up on her oversized, plush chair, I realise that I’d had more than my fair share of luck when it comes to friends… And if today is anything to go by, I’m just going to get even luckier.
Of course, when we tell Katie, Lauren and Sarah about the party the following day, they immediately sign up, as do a handful of other students on both our courses- some of whom happen to be attractive young men, much to mine and Katie’s delight! In total, about ten people (not counting myself and Ophelia) sign up for the party throughout the day, and by the time the five of us head to the cafeteria for lunch, our excitement level is high- though for one of us, our anxiety level is also unfortunately high.
“Eee!” Lauren squeaks, bouncing up and down in her chair like a five year old girl. “So cool, our first proper student party!”
“How many of the Angels’ parties have we been to before?” Sarah asks with an excited giggle of her own.
“Ahh, this is different, though!” Lauren laughs. “It’ll be, like, our party, you know?”
“Well…” I say with a sly grin. “Technically it’ll be OUR party, hehe!”
“Oh- oh my god!” Lauren nervously giggles. “I am SO sorry…”
“Bring along booze tonight and I’ll forgive you,” I say, earning giggles from everyone at the table- well, all but one person, anyway…
“Are you- are you alright, Ophelia?” Sarah asks. “You’ve been kinda quiet all morning…”
“I am fine, thank you,” Ophelia replies in a quiet, nervous voice that clearly isn’t fooling anyone.
“No, you’re not,” Sarah sighs.
“I thought your mother was the shrink?” Katie asks, making Sarah roll her eyes. “Seriously, Ophelia, if something’s up, you can tell us, we won’t judge, I promise.”
“I am… Just a little nervous about the party, that is all,” Ophelia says, and it takes all of my willpower not to lean toward her and give her a hug.
“…It IS your home,” Katie sighs. “If you feel that you’re not up to it-“
“No,” Ophelia says defiantly. “I have come to London to make new friends. This is the best way to make new friends. The party will go ahead.”
“Good girl!” Lauren says with a giggle.
“And as for MAKING new friends…” Katie says with a knowing smile, “I’d say you’ve already MADE them, hehe!”
“Damn right,” Lauren laughs, bringing a wide, genuine smile to Ophelia’s face.
“Especially if you share some of your designs with us!” Sarah asks, making Ophelia actually giggle. Unsurprisingly, this is one of my favourite sounds.
“That can be arranged,” Ophelia says. “As long as you both share yours!”
“Deal!” Sarah and Lauren giggle simultaneously, each playfully shaking Ophelia’s hand.
“Ah, I SO can’t wait for Halloween,” Katie giggles. “You must be AWESOME at designing costumes, hehe!”
“Oh god, and how!” I giggle as I remember Ophelia’s catsuit from two years ago. “’Category four’ clothing, hehe!”
“’Category four’?” Sarah asks. “What’s ‘category four’? If you don’t mind me, um, asking…”
“I’d kinda like to know what categories one, two and three are too,” Lauren says.
“Category one is casual clothing,” Ophelia explains. “Similar to what you are wearing now. Category two clothes consist of uniforms, clothing worn for a purpose. Category three clothes are costumes, clothing worn solely for the purpose of fun. Category four… Category four is clothing worn specifically to derive pleasure from the act of wearing them.” I grin as Ophelia explains her ‘theory’ to the other girls, but my face quickly falls when I see the three of them fidget awkwardly in their seats.
“…What?” I ask.
“Clothing specifically to, umm, derive pleasure…” Katie mumbles, glancing in my direction- specifically at the tight sweater, pleated miniskirt and black tights that are covering my body. I let out a long sigh as I immediately cotton on to what Katie’s referring to.
“Trust me, this isn’t ‘category four’,” I say. “None of this is. Not even the thong, hehe! I’ll admit, at first, it WAS, you know, ‘category four’… But the more I dressed, the more- the more it became a part of me, you know? Right now, this skirt, it- it’s category one. I barely even know I’m wearing it, heh. Clothes don’t make the girl… It’s the girl who makes the girl.”
“Nikki says the same thing a lot,” Sarah says with a smile. “Definitely helps that the girlier she gets, the cuter she gets, hehe! Though I am DEFINITELY going to have to tell her about ‘category four’…”
“Yeah,” Lauren muses, a wide grin spreading across her face. “Yeah, too right! I mean, just because we were born girls, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy dressing like girls, right?”
“That- that isn’t exactly what I meant by the categories…” Ophelia says with a grimace, before sighing. “Though I will admit, there is overlapping in the categories. I mean, most casual clothing doesn’t include a tight-laced corset, for starters.”
“So…” Sarah teases. “Category four underwear under category one clothing?”
“Category four underwear under a combination of category one and three clothing,” Ophelia says, giggling loudly along with the rest of the table.
“Ah, birthday parties from now on are going to be AMAZING,” Katie sighs. “Not that they weren’t before, hehe! Oh my god, we need to know whose is next! When are you two’s?”
“February 2nd,” I reply.
“December 17th,” Ophelia replies, smiling for the first time ever at the thought of celebrating her birthday.
“Looks like you win, Miss ‘November 27th’!” Katie says toward Sarah, who giggles bashfully.
“…I think Jamie and Charlotte already have something in mind for… Ah, shit,” Sarah says, before sighing heavily.
“Something up?” I ask the brown-haired girl.
“It’s- it’s one of the Angels’ partners’ birthdays today, I promised Nikki I’d go to that party,” Sarah sighs.
“…Not exactly your best friend, then?” Katie asks.
“Nikki will be going, she can’t get out of it,” Sarah shrugs. “And she IS my best friend.”
“Aww,” I sigh happily.
“Now you know why we call them ‘Snikki’,” Katie says with a smug grin as Sarah cringes.
“You know I hate that name,” Sarah mumbles.
“Only because it has one letter from your name and five from Nikki’s,” Lauren retorts, giggling as Sarah sticks her tongue out at her. “Don’t blame me that ‘Nirah’ or ‘Nikah’ didn’t roll off the tongue as well.”
“Or ‘Sarki’,” Katie says, before her eyes suddenly light up. “Ahh, it’s such a pity you two aren’t in a relationship.” I look on in confusion as Katie, Lauren and Sarah all look in my direction.
“Umm… What?” I ask.
“Because ‘Jacelia’ is the greatest couples name EVER!” Katie giggles.
“Oh Jacelia, you’re breaking my heart…” Lauren sings, making myself and my BFF roll our eyes.
“Simultaneous eye rolls!” Katie giggles. “I knew it, they’re meant for each other!”
“Unfortunately, there is one major thing that prevents me from being attracted to Jacinta,” Ophelia says with a sly grin. “She is not male.”
“Girl life forever!” Sarah cheers, before letting out another long sigh. “…I can live without Nikki for one night, I guess. I’ll be there. I’ll text Nikki when I get back to class, explain why I won’t be there.”
“Atta girl!” Katie cheers. “And who knows? Maybe you’ll find your ‘Prince Charming’ at tonight’s party?”
“You never know…” I giggle as I finish my lunch.
Naturally, neither Katie nor I get much work done for the rest of the day due to our excitement about the party- especially as Wednesday is a free day, meaning we can party as long as we like tonight and not have to be up early tomorrow! Unsurprisingly, this is what ends up happening, with all of us partying until gone midnight- even Ophelia, though as the party is being held at her flat, it’s not like she has much of a choice!
Even with just a dozen people, our flat is packed almost full with people chatting, dancing and flirting- with plenty of the latter being directed toward me! Everybody attending the party has fun, and everyone compliments me and Ophelia on our home and our hosting ability, but as the party ends, I’m still as single as I was at the start of the evening. This is despite Katie & Sarah’s best efforts to set me up with literally every guy at the party, and whilst they are admittedly very cute, none of them are what you’d call ‘Prince Charming’ material, even through beer goggles.
When I wake up on Wednesday morning, I am alone and in my own bed, and I feel like somebody’s using a pneumatic drill on the inside of my skull.
“Ugh,” I weakly spit as I slowly open my eyes, wincing at the sight of the sunlight streaming through my curtains. “Ophelia? Are you up?” A quick glance over at Ophelia’s bed reveals that she is indeed up, as does the sound of the television coming from the living room and the heavenly smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting into my bedroom.
Taking several deep breaths to steady myself, I head through to our open plan kitchen and living room, where I’m not surprised to see that Ophelia is already fully dressed and made-up and making breakfast. What is surprising, however, is the sight of Katie and Lauren cuddled up together under a blanket on our sofa bed.
“So then, Katren?” I tease as I sit down in Ophelia’s usual chair. “Or ‘Lautie’ maybe?”
“Shut up, we’re hungover and cold,” Lauren moans.
“Did- did you guys sleep here all night?” I ask, letting out a tired laugh as Katie nods.
“Technically speaking I think I passed out rather than fell asleep,” Katie moans. “Woke up to find that Ophelia had set up the sofa bed and thrown a blanket over the two of us. So thank you again for that, O!”
“You are very welcome, Katie,” Ophelia replied with a wide smile.
“Sarah not here too, then?” I ask.
“Think she went back to her mum’s house,” Lauren says. “Think I remember her calling Nikki and panicking ‘cause she wasn’t answering her phone…”
“Ugh, that’s more than I can remember,” Katie moans.
“Don’t blame me just because you weigh 2 stone and you drink like a fish!” Lauren admonishes the freckled girl, making me giggle despite my hangover- and much to my surprise, making Ophelia giggle as well.
“I’m blaming these two,” Katie snorts as she pulls the blanket over her head. “Their flat, their booze, their bad influence!”
“My ‘bad influence’ of drinking two glasses of wine all night and tidying up after you two?” Ophelia retorts, and I actually feel a tear form in the corner of my eye as my sister and my new friends tease each other like they’ve been friends their whole lives.
“She’s got you there…” Lauren says, making Katie moan and roll over on the sofa bed.
“FINE,” Katie says with a dramatic huff, before breaking into a fit of giggles. “But seriously though, it was a GREAT party.”
“I thought you couldn’t remember any of it?” I ask, making Lauren giggle at Katie’s embarrassment.
“That’s how I know it was great,” the freckled girl shrugs, smiling gratefully as Ophelia hands her a mug of hot coffee. “Just wish I was a bit more immune to morning afters…”
“What time is it, anyway?” I ask, squinting at the clock on the television.
“Ten past nine,” Ophelia replies. “I got up early as I wished to prepare the flat for the day ahead.”
“And be our nurse!” Lauren giggles.
“Hope you’ve got more planned for today than just the two of us nursing the two of you, heh!” I laugh.
“I dunno,” Katie sighs. “We SHOULD be at our ballet class today…”
“Ugh, room’s spinning enough as it is,” Lauren chuckles. “I’ll text Krys to apologise, kinda sucks, I mean, she DID move the lesson from Monday to Wednesday just to accommodate us, but still…”
“I was planning on heading to the library later today to do some reading,” Ophelia says, earning a sympathetic smile from myself and Lauren- obviously, with Ophelia’s dyslexia, she’ll need to set aside more time for reading than any of the rest of us.
“…I could read today,” Katie shrugs. “Need to head home to change first, though.”
“Speaking of,” I say with a concerned look on my face, “I hope you’re at least wearing underwear underneath there!”
“So do I,” Lauren says, before giggling as Katie lets out a long sigh. “It’s okay Jacin- Jacelia, hehe! We’re both clothed. Though these clothes will DEFINITELY need a wash tonight…”
“You may use our bathroom to freshen up if you want,” Ophelia says. “Shall I see you at the library later today?”
“Sure,” Lauren says, letting out a pained moan as she stands up and stretches her hungover body. “Can you text Sarah, get her to meet us there?”
“Of course,” Ophelia says, reaching for her phone to send the message.
“I’d better freshen up too,” Katie moans. “Feels like I’ve swallowed a cactus…”
“I’ll see you at the library, then?” I ask the freckled girl, who smiles and nods before climbing out from underneath the blanket.
“Jacinta, could you tidy up the sofa bed, please?” Ophelia asks. “I struggle to bend down and lift when I’m wearing a corset.”
“Sure,” I say, folding up the blanket and turning the bed back into a sofa. “Reckon we’ll get houseguests a lot the next three years?”
“I hope not,” Ophelia says with a sly grin. “Then I might not find another pair of buttocks in MY chair…”
“…Not sure I like this more confident Ophelia,” I mumble, making the teal-haired girl giggle as she elegantly lowered herself into her armchair and put her feet up on the coffee table I’d just moved back into position.
45 minutes later, after changing into a comfortable turtleneck sweater, a knee-length black skirt and a pair of really comfortable ribbed black tights, I walk into the university’s library alongside my BFF- who is, as always, dressed in her own ‘unique’ style. Today’s outfit consists of an ankle length, form-fitting dress in dark violet satin, spike-heeled stilettos and, of course, a tight-laced corset.
“…You know, purple actually suits you,” I say to the colourful girl, who turns the heads of everyone as she strides through the library.
“Thank you, Jacinta,” Ophelia says with a smug smile. “Perhaps next year, I shall change my hair colour to purple.”
“Why not change it now?” I shrug. “You’ve never been shy- yeah, ironic, I know- about changing your look in the past.”
“I have only just changed it to teal,” Ophelia explains. “I do not wish to waste the money I spent on the dye. And-“
“’And’?” I ask.
“…Never mind,” Ophelia mumbles, but I know my BFF well enough to know what her real reason is.
“’And’ you don’t want to change your look before our new friends have had a chance to get used to it?” I ask, making Ophelia sigh.
“You know how I hate peer pressure,” Ophelia mumbles, her cheeks starting to redden.
“It’s only peer pressure if it’s not your idea,” I shrug. “If you were really concerned about it you’d never have gone teal in the first place.”
“Very true,” Ophelia says with a light chuckle. “Though I do still wish to not waste money.”
“Meh, understandable,” I shrug. “But take it from someone who knows from experience- do NOT waste time being someone who you don’t want to be.”
“You are probably the only person who knows that better than I,” Ophelia muses.
“I dunno,” I say as we approach a table at which is sat the partner of the transgendered girl I briefly met yesterday. “There might be a few other people who know…”
“Oh, hey girlies!” Sarah says with a grin as we sit down next to her with our books, but I can’t help but notice a tinge of sadness behind her grin.
“Everything okay?” I ask the brown-haired girl. “Hungover?”
“Had worse,” Sarah shrugs. “Just- just had a bit of an argument with Nikki this morning. It’s nothing serious, we’ll be fine.”
“Well- if you’re sure,” I say. “Wouldn’t you rather be with her?”
“Oh, pretty much constantly,” Sarah laughs. “But she’ll be at our ballet class this morning, and after last night I’m REALLY not feeling up to that, heh, so figured I’d put the time to SOME good use.”
“Yeah, Katie and Lauren said the same thing,” I say.
“Did they get home okay last night?” Sarah asks.
“Neither of them got home AT ALL,” Ophelia replies, giggling along with Sarah. “They spent the night together on our sofa bed.”
“…’Together’?” Sarah asks with a twinkle in her eye.
“Don’t think anything happened,” I say with a giggle. “They’ll be along in a bit if you want to tease them about it, though.”
“Oh, that WILL be arranged,” Sarah laughs. “And thanks for the party last night- don’t think I’ve said that properly yet. Or soberly, for that matter.”
“You are very welcome, Sarah,” Ophelia says with a smile. “Hopefully Nikki will be able to attend any that we hold in the future.”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Sarah says with a tired-looking grin. “Oh, by the way, Nikki wanted me to ask you- long shot, I know- whether the two of you would be interested in attending our ballet lesson sometimes? Only we kinda get to recommend-“
“We would be delighted to,” Ophelia says, earning looks of surprise from both myself and Sarah.
“…Really?” I ask.
“Why does this surprise you?” Ophelia asks. “I was never able to attend dance classes when I was growing up. You know this, Jacinta. And neither were you. Why would we NOT want to take up such a gracious offer?”
“Well, umm,” Sarah says, clearly taken aback by Ophelia’s enthusiasm. “You- you kinda have to wear a uniform, for starters. You don’t strike me as, well, a ‘category two’ kind of person…”
“How strict is the uniform?” Ophelia asks.
“Umm… it’s a pair of pink tights and a black leotard,” Sarah says. “Beyond that, the style doesn’t matter much…”
“Perfect,” Ophelia says with a twinkle in her own eye.
“Ah, I know that look,” I say with a giggle. “Think Ophelia’s already got about 10 different ways of interpreting ‘leotard and tights’ flowing through her brain… I’ll be happy just to wear the ‘proper’ uniform, though. For obvious reasons, heh!”
“Yeah, I- I kinda know,” Sarah says with a sympathetic smile. “Nikki was so excited before her first lesson, even if it was originally my idea. Though it wasn’t just because of the uniform, it’s a really great way to keep fit, to learn balance, elegance…”
“We’re sold!” I laugh. “Sounds like you’d rather be there than here, heh.”
“…I kinda would,” Sarah confesses.
“I assume that this would be just a regular dance class,” Ophelia asks. “And not the one that you and the Angels attend?”
“Well…” Sarah teases. “I may be able to have a word or two, hehe!”
“So cool!” I giggle, and much to my surprise, Ophelia is excitedly fidgeting in her chair as well. I knew she admired the Angels, and fashion models like them, but I never realised she was THIS big a fan of them…
“I’ll see what I can do,” Sarah says as she pushes her current book to one side. “I need to go and hit the uni’s magazine stores, great thing about our course, we’re actually encouraged to sitting around reading fashion magazines all day!”
“Same here!” I laugh. “Of course, I don’t personally know anyone likely to be in any of them…”
“Give it some time,” Sarah teases as she and Ophelia head to the ‘fashion design’ section of the library, while I head toward the photography section.
I spend the next twenty minutes browsing through magazines and books for information necessary for my course, deliberately trying to avoid any magazines with the Angels in them out of fear of getting too excited! I eventually accumulate an armful of reading material to take back to our table, but as I’m on my way back there, I run into an unexpected face- not one of my current friends, but a face from long in the past…
“T-Tom?” I ask, my jaw dropping. “Tom Randall?” I bite my lip as the tall, black-haired man turns to look at me- it HAS been a long time since I last saw him, but if it isn’t him, then he definitely has a doppelganger.
“Who- who are you? How do you know my name?” Tom asks, making me breathe a sigh of relief- it WAS him after all…
“You- you don’t recognise me?” I ask, before my eyes go wide as I realise that he almost certainly wouldn’t recognise ‘Jacinta’, when the last time he saw me, I went by a different name entirely.
“You- you do look kinda familiar,” Tom says. “Did you go to Frank Bridge School? In Brighton?”
“Yeah, yeah I kinda did,” I say. “I’m, um, I’m Jacinta, Jacinta Hanley.”
“I don’t recognise the name,” Tom says. “I knew a Jason Hanley from school, and you look a little like him. Are- are you his sister?” I bite my lip before answering- I must’ve played a scene like this- where I meet an old friend from school- out in my mind a dozen times since I came out to my father and started living full-time, and each time, it went differently. Sometimes, I’m accepted as an old friend and we reconnect. Sometimes I’m yelled at, called a ‘freak’ and left crying in a heap on the floor. Sometimes I even meet Prince Charming…
When I left school, I thought I’d put my old life behind me, and that went especially so when I moved to London. All of my hypothetical scenarios were exactly that- purely hypothetical, my imagination running away with me. Now here I am, for the first time ever, about to present ‘Jacinta’ to someone who only knew ‘Jason’. And I am TERRIFIED. I know I shouldn’t be- Tom and I weren’t exactly friends, and were barely acquaintances, and the university is fiercely LGBT-friendly so any rejection I get would reflect extremely badly on Tom- but my legs still quiver as I try to form the word to explain the situation.
“…Not quite,” I eventually say, my tongue almost numb with nerves. “I- I am Jas- I mean, I WAS Jason Hanley…”
“…Oh,” Tom says, his face going blank as he tries to process the information. “So, umm, then…?”
“Yeah,” I say with a nervous giggle.
“How- how long?” Tom asks. “If, um, you don’t mind me asking…”
“Just over a year,” I reply. “Well, just over a year full-time, on and off… Pretty much my whole life, heh. So, umm, are- are you studying at LCF?”
“Yep!” Tom laughs. “Doing PR and communications, in my second year now. You?”
“Just started fashion photography,” I say with a giggle. “God… Of all the places to run into each other, eh?"
“Yeah,” Tom says, fidgeting as I try not to unconsciously flirt with him. “Umm… Anyone- anyone else here? From Brighton, I mean?”
“Just a friend I met after school, you probably wouldn’t know her,” I reply. “And trust me, you would know if you knew her, hehe!”
“Oh, the- the blue haired girl who was here a few minutes ago?” Tom asks.
“Well, teal, actually!” I giggle.
“The one who was hanging out with one of the Teen Angels?” Tom asks, making me frown with confusion.
“Yep!” I say with a grin. “That was a bit of a surprise, when one of them sat down next to me on my first day, heh!”
“We’d heard that a group of them was starting LCF this year,” Tom says. “If you’re in their social circle, you’ve REALLY done well in your first week, heh! Who knows? You might even end up getting famous yourself…”
“Umm, sure, if you say,” I laugh. “Why do I get the impression this social ‘circle’ is a lot more complicated than I first thought?”
“It’s not THAT complicated,” Tom giggles. “Not like you’ll need to have, say, your own wiki in order to just live your life or anything.”
“Still, though,” I say. “Weird that you, a straight guy, knows more about Heavenly Talent than me, a transgendered girl, hehe!”
“I applied to do work experience there last summer,” Tom shrugs. “Didn’t get the spot, obviously, but did the homework nonetheless.”
“And now you’re hoping that I could get you an ‘in’ with the agency?” I tease.
“…Well I am NOW!” Tom says, making me giggle girlishly. “Though it was you who approached me, not the other way round…”
“…Yeah, it was!” I giggle. “Umm… So, umm… Do- do you fancy, you know, getting a- getting a coffee, maybe? Or lunch? Or, like, a coffee for lunch?”
“Umm, sure,” Tom says, nervously scratching his head as he looks for- and, thankfully, fails to find- a way to brush me off. “Want to get these books home first, though. See you at, say, 12:30pm at the Costa near the tube station?”
“It’s a date!” I say with a wide grin that makes Tom nervously laugh again as he walks away, leaving me with a VERY wide smile on my face as I return to where Ophelia and Sarah- and the recently-arrived Katie and Lauren- are sat.
“Ooh, after you with that one!” Katie says as she sees the magazine on top of my pile.
“That’s a hell of a smile you’ve got there,” Lauren teases, making me blush. “Don’t tell me that after all our hard work last night, you just happen to run into Prince Charming here in the library?”
"...Maybe," I tease, earning giggles from all four girls.
"Sooo..." Katie asks. "Who is he?"
"And more importantly," Lauren interjects, "where are you meeting him, hmm?"
"He's someone I know from school in Brighton, and none of your business," I reply, earning giggles from all of the girls- Ophelia included.
"Ooh!" Katie retorts with a mock pout. "Girls, I kinda get the impression we're not wanted here!"
"Well- ugh, no, it's not THAT," I sigh.
"It's okay," Lauren says with a grin. "First week in the big city, running into someone you know, of course you're going to want time alone with him."
"Just a case of how 'alone' they get," Katie teases, making everyone giggle and me roll my eyes as I return to my reading.
Naturally, I don't get much reading done during the morning, thanks to my mind being obsessed with my upcoming ‘date’. Despite my best efforts to slip away early to go home and get changed, the rest of the girls (especially Katie) insist that I stay and study with them until just before 12:30, meaning that I practically have to run to the coffee shop where I’m meeting Tom- much to the others’ amusement.
Fortunately, by the time I arrive, I manage to catch my breath just in time for the arrival of the attractive young man- which almost causes me to start hyperventilating again!
“Hi,” Tom says nervously as he sits down opposite me. “Have- have you, umm, ordered yet?”
“Not yet,” I say with a goofy-sounding giggle. “Was, umm, was waiting for you…”
“Umm, okay,” Tom laughs as we both stand up and head to the counter. “So, umm…”
“Yeah,” I giggle awkwardly. “Umm, you- you still live in Brighton? I mean, when you’re not at uni…”
“Yep,” Tom says. “Still live with my parents, heh.”
“Me too,” I say. “Well, my dad, but, well, you know…”
“Yeah,” Tom says quietly as he orders our coffees. “I- I remember hearing about your mum when you were, well…”
“…A boy?” I ask.
“Younger,” Tom clarifies, earning a giggle from both of us. “Though- umm, what- what you said also, kinda, you know, ‘counts’…”
“Yeah,” I whisper. “Kinda feel guilty leaving him alone, I don’t have any brothers or sisters and he doesn’t have another partner, probably won’t ever get another serious partner…”
“Yeah, I’ve got one brother but he’s, like, eight years older so he moved out ages ago,” Tom chuckles.
“I kinda consider Ophelia to be my, you know, ‘sister’, actually,” I say. “She got kicked out of her parents’- well, her mother’s house, anyway- so she’s lived with us the last few months before coming to uni. I know dad likes her a lot too.”
“Oh, umm, that’s cool,” Tom says. “So, umm, are- are you two, you know…”
“What, me and Ophelia?” I ask with a giggle. “No, heh. We- we’re both straight. Umm, as in, only interested, you know, in guys…”
“Yeah,” Tom says, fidgeting a little as we collect our drinks and sit back down.
“Are- is, you know, umm,” I mumble. “Are- are you okay with me being here? I mean, because you used to know ‘Jason’-“
“No, no that’s not it at all,” Tom reassures me. “You… Everyone at school, you know, kinda knew that there… There was something, you know…”
“’Wrong’?” I ask.
“’Unusual’,” Tom says. “Though even that word is probably, you know, too discriminatory, heh. You know I’ve got no problem with transgendered people. I wouldn’t have applied to work with Heavenly Talent if I did. And it’s not like I knew ‘Jason’ that well, anyway, heh.”
“Okay, then…” I say. “So, umm, so what- you know, you’re kinda acting, you know, ‘uneasy’…”
“I- ugh,” Tom sighs. “It’s good catching up with you, Jacinta. Kinda nice to have a familiar face here in London, even if I’m not used to the face being covered in, you know, make-up…”
“So- umm, so, you know, what- what is it?” I ask.
“I kind- I kinda already have a girlfriend,” Tom sighs, making my heart sink. So much for ‘Prince Charming in week one’, I think to myself, before taking a deep breath and smiling. After all, it IS only week one, I’m in London for three years, there’s bound to be plenty more fish in the sea, especially one as big as London.
“Oh, okay,” I say, shrugging and trying not to look nonchalant.
“Back in Brighton,” Tom clarifies. “You might know her from school, her name’s Caitlin, Caitlin Gunn?” My heart sinks further as I hear the name that I haven’t heard in a long time- the name of the girl who I was so close to as a child, but who I haven’t spoken to in years…
“Yeah,” I sigh. “Yeah, I know her. Is- is she studying in London too?”
“No, works at Primark back in Brighton,” Tom says. “Think I remember now that you used to be friends with her back at the start of school? That you went to the same primary school, right?”
“You remember correctly,” I say, before letting out a long sigh. “Used to be me, her and two other girls, Jessica Campbell and Noor Iqbal. They… They used to treat me like another one of the girls, heh.”
“No wonder you hung out with them so much, then,” Tom says softly. “Cait- Caitlin, umm, hardly talks about you, though… Though I guess I don’t really talk about my primary school days either, heh.”
“Is- ugh, this’ll sound like a stupid question,” I moan.
“No, go on,” Tom says.
“Is- is Caitlin a fan of the Angels too?” I ask, trying not to blush at the question.
“She definitely watches the show, dunno if she’s a die-hard fan,” Tom shrugs. “Why?”
“Just figured that if she was a fan of Jamie-Lee Burke… Ugh, not important,” I sigh. “She really doesn’t mention me?”
“’Fraid not,” Tom says.
“She still talk about Jessica and Noor?” I ask.
“Umm, think they went their separate ways after school,” Tom says. “I know Noor’s at uni in Birmingham, think Jessica works at some shop in Eastbourne now, I dunno. I’ll definitely tall Cait I ran into you next time I see her. Heh, she’ll probably be surprised!”
“I dunno about that,” I giggle. “I would be GREAT to speak to her again, though.”
“Even though you’ve now got celebrity friends?” Tom asks. “Well, minor celebrity friends, anyway?”
“Assuming they don’t get sick of me before too long,” I chuckle. Like Caitlin, Jessica and Noor did, I think to myself.
“Can’t see that EVER happening,” Tom says with a grin, making me giggle as we finish our coffees and go to get another drink. Okay, so maybe I haven’t found my ‘Prince Charming’ today, but that doesn’t mean Tom and I can’t be friends, and I have a wide grin on my face when I return to my flat just after 3pm.
“I take it that the date went well, then?” Ophelia asks with a smug grin.
“It wasn’t a ‘date’,” I retort. “I just knew him from school, I wanted to catch up…”
“Of course you did,” Ophelia says with a sly grin. “When shall you be seeing him again, and how much of him shall you be seeing?”
“I don’t know and we’ll both be fully clothed,” I scoff. “I’m not THAT guy-hungry, for god’s sake…”
“I shall be sure to let Katie and Lauren know that they CAN continue to look for a suitable young man for you, then,” Ophelia giggles. “But that shall be tomorrow, I still have much to read tonight, as do you!”
“Yes, yes, I know,” I sigh as I pick the borrowed books and magazines out of my bag and prepare to while away the rest of the evening reading.
Naturally, Ophelia’s smirk doesn’t leave her face for the rest of the evening, and when I walk into college the following day, the grin on Katie’s face tells me that news of my ‘date’ has spread quicker than I would have imagined.
“Sooo…?” Katie asks as I sit down next to her.
“You know,” I sigh, “Ophelia used to HATE Facebook? Flat-out refused to sign up for it for ages, now she’s gossiping on it like a pro…”
“What makes you think it was Ophelia who told me about the date?” Katie asks, before giggling as I sigh at her. “Okay, so maybe it was, but she did say you had a BIG smile on your face when you came home yesterday…”
“I was just meeting up with a friend,” I sigh as I get out my notebook and pen.
“If you say so…” Katie teases, giggling as our tutor arrives to begin our class.
Naturally, when Katie and I arrive at our usual table for lunch, my freckled friend’s grin is mirrored by the other three girls, who all have to suppress a giggle as I sit down with my meal.
“Hey girlies!” Katie squeaks excitedly, before her head slowly turns to face me, which only widens my other friends’ grins.
“Oh, please,” I sigh.
“What?” Lauren protests. “Not every day one of us has a first date…”
“Ugh,” I spit, taking a deep breath. “So, girls, what were you doing in your class?”
“Other than gossiping, you mean?” Lauren giggles. “Still just getting to grips with the basics, the software programs we’re going to be using, that sort of thing.”
“We’re ‘getting to grips’ too,” Katie says. “And not just with the software is Miss Hanley’s grin yesterday afternoon is to be believed, hehe!”
“Oh- for the-“ I moan.
“Girlies,” a slightly subdued Sarah says, “I think we may be touching a nerve…” I sigh softly as Sarah turns and looks at Ophelia, almost as though she was looking for permission.
“No nerves have been touched,” Ophelia says with a smug grin, and I prepare myself for a barrage of teasing from the brown-haired girl when all of a sudden, she looks over my head at the latest arrival to the table.
“Nikki!” Sarah squeaks, jumping out of her seat to give her lover a kiss and a long hug.
“Aww,” Katie sighs, her attention having thankfully been distracted. “Love watching ‘Snikki’ together…”
“You two ARE so cute,” I giggle. “Kinda wish I had a hunky guy I could, umm, ‘have a couples name’ with…” Way to go, Jacinta, I think to myself.
“Hey, we tried to set you up on Tuesday, didn’t we?” Sarah says, making me giggle.
“And did I or did I not see you spending a LOT of time with Tom yesterday afternoon?” Lauren asks, making my cheeks redden.
“For the last time, we’re just friends,” I say with an exasperated giggle. “We knew each other from school, Ophelia, back me up here, please?” Even though you didn’t go to the same school as me…
“They do indeed know each other from school,” Ophelia says with a sly grin. “That’s all I’m willing to say.”
“You never fancied any guys, Nikki?” I ask, hoping to deflect attention away from myself.
“Umm, no, never,” Nikki says with a happy smile. “Only ever Sarah.”
“Oh, that is just so sweet,” I sigh, staring at the tight black miniskirt clinging to the slender young woman’s body. “Trust me when I say, though, that you could EASILY get any guy you wanted, especially in that skirt!”
“Aww, thanks!” Nikki giggles. “My skirt thanks you too!” Nikki and I share a genuine giggle, and all of a sudden, I’m reminded of the years I spent as part of Caitlin, Jessica and Noor’s ‘group’, the times when we were young kids when we’d get together and talk about trivial stuff- games, music, toys, all manner of childish nonsense. I realise now that it doesn’t matter what we were talking about back then, what matters is who you’re gossiping with- and from the smiles on all of my friends’ faces- both old and new friends- I know that Tom was right when he said that I struck it lucky when Katie sat down next to me on Monday morning.
Especially lucky as many girls her age would look at a transgendered girl, or a teal-haired eccentric cisgendered girl and run a mile. If they saw both together, they'd run a light year. But not these girls. Katie actually sought me out purely because she believed I was transgendered, and thought nothing of crashing at mine and Ophelia's flat less than 48 hours after meeting us for the first time. And now, three days on from our first meeting, I'm being teased by the girls like we've been friends our whole lives.
Of course, my first attempt at finding the 'Prince Charming' I'm being teased about didn't go exactly according to plan, but that's not a problem- there'll be plenty more opportunities to find 'the one', especially with Katie and Lauren promising to play 'fairy godmother' for me on literally every night out (or in) we have! It's going to be a mad three years... But a damn fun three years!
It'll be especially fun if Katie & co introduce me to their celebrity friends- not that I'd pressure them into doing so, of course, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Ironically, though, the one thing I think about every time I picture myself attending an 'Angel' party is Caitlin sending me a message on Facebook, wanting to reconnect, and my old gang meeting my new gang.
An even bigger irony is that Ophelia would probably be more excited to attend those parties than I would! I've said before and I'll say again that Ophelia is worth a million 'other' friends. Now, thanks to Katie & co, I don't have to make that choice.
And last but not least, I now have a friend I didn't have in Brighton- a T-girl just like myself. I haven't got to know Nikki as well as I'd hoped- well, not yet, anyway. I was disappointed that she didn't come to the flat warming, but to be fair I'd probably have picked the celebrity party too if given the choice. Her fledgling fame and her successful job makes me realise that there's nothing a T-girl like us can't do. Nikki and Sarah sporting fancy diamond engagement rings on their left hands the following week just serves as proof of that.
One chapter of my life has ended, and another has begun- and I can't wait to see what it'll bring!
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