Birthday Blues

It was early, very early, in fact it way just 3.00am. I had woken up every hour, virtually on the hour and looked at my bedside clock that was glowing greenly in the dark...

Birthday Blues

by

Susan Brown

Angel

It was early, very early, in fact it way just 3.00am. I had woken up every hour, virtually on the hour and looked at my bedside clock that was glowing greenly in the dark.

That particular night was the longest one in my 13-year memory and it dragged on and on.

I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep, but it was so hard to sleep when so many things were happening to me.

Just a few months before, our Dad had left us. Now there was only me, James, my Mum, baby brother Mark and my twin sister Jacque or Jacqueline, if she had been naughty.

I was kind of sad and glad at the same time that Dad had left us. When he lived with us, there had been constant rows between him and Mum. It never used to be like that. At one time, I thought that we were the happiest family on the planet.

Appearances could be deceptive.

Now I knew that it was all a front, so that we didn’t get involved —we evidently needed protecting so it was all kept secret from Jacque and me.

Mum and Dad hid things from us, like the fact that Dad had a drink and gambling problem. Dad never did things by halves, other people would either be an alcoholic or have a gambling addiction; Dad, being Dad, had both.

Then there was Dad’s work colleague, or more specifically, secretary, Cynthia. I had seen Cynthia once and I didn’t think much of her. When she smiled, it never seemed to reach her eyes and her laugh always seemed to be a bit forced. Now I hated her for helping to break up our family.

Sometimes late at night, I could hear raised voices coming from downstairs. Dad was shouting and Mum too. I couldn’t catch the words, but I knew that something was up. Jacque was worried too, but we were too frightened to ask what was up.

This secrecy encouraged me to keep my own secret. I suppose, despite Dad’s behaviour, I blamed myself for Dad leaving and I was convinced that it was me that caused my parents to finally break up. although I suppose I knew in my heart of hearts that it was going to happen anyway, due to the way Dad was.

Anyway, back to me.

It had all started innocently enough when Jacque and I were a lot younger. We used to dress in each other’s clothes and pretend to be the other one.

Mum always knew somehow and laughed with the rest of us when, as was frequently the case, Dad didn’t realise that we switched and sometimes got angry when we did.

Dad didn’t approve of my wearing girls clothes, even if it was apparently just a joke. Funnily enough, he was more upset about me dressing as a girl than Jacque dressing as a boy.

I looked at the clock again, 3.05am. I sighed; this was the longest night ever.

Turning over, I shut my eyes in the hope that I would drift off, but I didn’t. I was so very tired, but my thoughts kept me even more awake.

I don’t really know when I realised that wearing Jacque’s clothes was something other than a game to me. Both her and I were so very alike and we seemed to almost read each other’s thoughts, one thought that she didn’t get though was the fact that I started to get jealous of her. She was able to be a girl and do girly things, whilst I was expected to act, behave and be like a normal boy.

Only I wasn’t a normal boy. Outside I was James, but inside I was Hannah.

What normal boy fancied looking as pretty as his sister?

What normal boy preferred the company of girls rather than boys?

Boys played rough and the girls I knew didn’t.

Boys tried to be big and strong and show everyone how brave they were. I just wanted to be myself and that didn’t include having to prove on a daily basis that I was as big, brave and strong as they were.

Jacque and I stopped swapping clothes when we went up to senior school. Jacque said that it would only be a matter of time before we were caught, and anyway, she didn’t like wearing boys’ clothes any more. She still sometimes called me Hannah, when parental ears were not present, but she never again mentioned the possibility of wearing her clothes any more and I didn’t like to ask.

I think at about that time, Mum got fed up with our “cross-dressing” too, as a lot of the rows that she and Dad had were about what my sister and I got up to. Dad was a mans man and my wanting to look girly, I think, dented his pride, somehow.

I have to admit, that Dad tried his hardest with me. We had some ‘quality man time’ as he liked to call it. We went fishing and I hated it and worried about the poor little fishes and whether the hook hurt their little mouths.

We played football together, but I was no Mark Hurst and had two left feet and absolutely no coordination.

Cricket was the same. I couldn’t get out of the way of the ball quickly enough and got hit several times when trying to bat. I was good at catching though.

Whoop-de-doo! (not).

In the end, he gave up with me.

All the time, I blamed myself as I should have been more of a boy and then maybe he wouldn’t have turned to drink, gambling and that other woman.

And then, as I say, I considered that it was my fault that he left us.

One day, he caught me wearing one of Jacque’s cast-off dresses. I thought that I was alone. Mum, Mark and Jacque had gone off to the shops and Dad was supposed to be at work.

I had my own stash of panties and even an old bra of Jacque’s that I found in the bin. She had started to develop breasts and I was so jealous of her. I on the other hand could only look forward to male puberty, with all that hair and deep voice stuff which I dreaded. Anyway, I was dressed as a girl, doing my homework up in my bedroom and feeling very happy that I looked the way I felt — a girl. I even had an old wig from the dress-up box in the attic and I was wearing that. I couldn’t have felt much more girly than at that moment.

I was quite engrossed in what I was doing and didn’t hear the door of my room being opened.

‘Jacque, what are you doing in James’s room?’

‘I’m James,’ I said, not even thinking what I was saying.

‘What!’

He didn’t hit me, but I think that he came very close.

Mum and Dad had a stand up row over that as he blamed her and she blamed him. It all got a bit messy and they didn’t speak to each other for ages and he even slept in the spare room.

The rows got more and more frequent then and my parents no longer tried to hide it.

I had been forced by Dad to throw my few precious clothes away and that nearly broke my heart.

Then things got worse, if that was possible. Dad started drinking and gambling more . What money we had was taken up with his addictions. He also spent more and more time away with her.

He came home less and less and Mum would only say that the only reason why she didn’t ask for a divorce was because of us.

Eventually, after yet another blazing row, Dad stormed out, never to return. He had decided to divorce Mum and live with her.

Things were quite hard when Dad left. At first he wouldn’t pay Mum any money to keep things going and it was only when he was forced to pay maintenance that we started to manage a bit better.

Mum had been at home with us prior to the marriage split, as Dad’s job paid well, despite the drinking and gambling, but she now had to get a job. She had been Dad’s secretary until she married him, and she was lucky enough to land a job at a firm of solicitors, very handy when Dad tried to get out of paying maintenance.

Now things were on the up. Mums salary and Dad’s contribution to our upkeep, meant that, at last we were seeing the wood through the trees.

3.30am; would this night never end?

I turned over in my bed. It was my birthday the following day, Jacque and I would be fourteen — correction we were fourteen now, as it was after midnight.

It was the first birthday without Dad. I had an ache in my stomach about that and also because I had decided that I wouldn’t try to be a girl any more. My clothes were all gone and I just didn’t have the heart to try to stash any more. If I did, I was scared that Mum might leave us too.

It was a silly thought and I knew that would never happen, but what occurred with Dad kept on coming back and haunting me.

I threw my covers off as I was hot. Wearing boys PJ’s was horrible. I wanted to wear a nice thin girlie nightie, but I didn’t have one, just those horrible boys, scratchy PJ’s.

Staring up at the ceiling, I wondered where my Dad was now. Was he with Her?

ENOUGH!

This was getting me nowhere. Sighing deeply, I switched on my bedside table lamp and reached out for my iPod. Putting my earphones on, I chose some music and then switched the light off again.

Finally, at last, I found myself relaxing and before I knew it, I was asleep.

‘Wake up, it’s our Birthday,’ said an excited voice from the distance.

I was so tired that I just wanted to sleep.

‘Come on, you have to wake up, we have pressie to open!’

Grumbling, I got up. This wasn’t Christmas, then, it was normal then to get up early and open presents. It was only eight in the morning and on a non-school day too! It just wasn’t fair. I had had next to no sleep and now I was being dragged out of bed by an overactive sister, who should really know better. After all we were both 14, almost adults and adults don’t do things like that.

‘Will you come on, no time to get dressed!’

I looked at her with bleary eyes. She was still in her nightie. A shortish pink cotton one; vey pretty, I wouldn’t have minded one like that…

‘I need to go to the loo.’ I said, taking my mind off it.

‘Oh, all right, but hurry, I can’t wait to find out what we’ve got. Mum’s been up for ages. I’ll go down then shall I?’

‘If you like,’ I sniffed.

‘Lighten up, will you? It’s our Birthday!’

‘Whoop-e-do!’

‘You’re no fun,’ she said, making a face and poking out her tongue like some little kid. I was going to do the same, but remembered that I was the elder of us by at least three minutes, so I needed to act responsibly.

I just glanced at her pityingly and went to the bathroom while she clomped downstairs.

I sat on the loo and did my stuff. I never stood to wee, that was a thing that boys did. Despite the fact that I looked like a boy and had chucked all my girly stuff away; in my heart I was still a girl and I wouldn’t and couldn’t change that fact.

I was getting tearful again. I would have to stop that. I didn’t want to spoil things for Jacque, despite our bickering, we loved each other to bits and I wanted her to be happy today, even if I couldn’t.

I was 14 now and any day I would start sprouting hairs all over and muscles where I didn’t want them. Then my voice would break, together with my heart.

‘STOP IT.’ I shouted in my mind.

I had to forget about my problems and make the most of it for Jacque and Mum, for today at least. I shouldn’t be so self-centred and think of myself. There were three of us in the family and I had to think of the others and let them have a nice time today. I would do my best to forget things and make the most of it. I would even smile at the presents I would be getting.  ¬I just hoped that I wouldn’t be a football or a fishing rod…

I washed my face and hands to freshen and wake myself out a bit. Looking at the face in the mirror, I still thought that it was a rather feminine face. Soon that face would need to shave. I would also have to cut my hair shorter. I had resisted the temptation to have it cut and it was almost down to my shoulders. I normally had it in a low ponytail for school and luckily a few of the cool kids wore it like that, so I hadn’t been hassled too much about it — yet. Mum hadn’t said anything and neither had Jacque, but I knew that they felt that boy’s hair should be shorter.

‘’What are you doing?’ shouted Jacque from downstairs.

‘Coming.’ I replied.

I went downstairs and put on my happy face.

Going into the kitchen, I found Mum and Jacque having cornflakes for breakfast. I joined the at the kitchen table and we ate in relative silence after Mum had given me a nice hug and whispered Happy Birthday in my ear.

I nearly cried then, but I didn’t, I just held back my feelings. I was getting quite emotional in my old age!

After breakfast, I went to do the washing up, as it was my turn but Mum said, ‘leave that for now, and come into the lounge.’

Reprieved!

I followed the others in to the lounge and there, in front of the fireplace were two piles of presents. Traditionally, my pile was on the left, so I went over to it.

‘My turn first!’ said Jacque, enthusiastically.

This was yet another tradition. We took turns in who opened their presents every year. This year was hers, next year mine and so on. This meant that we could enjoy seeing the reaction of each other as we opened our presents.

I looked over at my presents and tried to guess by the shape what each one was. It was hard, but one box looked suspiciously like it would have a football in it…

Jacque opened her first pressie and as expected, it was clothes in the shape of a nice white top. Then she had a dress, some shoes, a makeup box, some underwear and her biggie was a new phone. This didn’t surprise me, as I knew that I would be getting one too. Mum liked to keep in touch with us when we are out and liked the idea that we could call her in an emergency.

After hugs all round (I had given her a charm bracelet out of my pocket money. It wasn’t expensive, but it looked nice), it was my turn.

They all looked at me expectantly as I opened the first present. It was from my Dad.

It was a football.

I sighed inwardly. Would he never learn?

The next present was the phone and it was a nice one. I would look at it later.

‘Thanks Mum.’

‘You’re welcome love. Now I can text you when you are up in your room to come down for dinner instead of shouting for you.

We all laughed at that and I went on to the next present.

Clothes, by the shape, maybe a jumper or new trousers for school?

I was always very careful about unwrapping presents. Jacque used the bull in the china shop method and tore the paper to shreds in no time at all.

I, on the other hand, opened the presents carefully, trying not to tear the paper too much…

This method was very frustrating for those viewing the proceedings, but that was their problem, not mine.

I picked away at the sellotape and then unwrapped the next package.

It was a pretty cream blouse.

‘Oh, Jacque, this is yours.’

‘No it’s not.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Open up some more presents,’ said Mum gently.

Confused, I opened the next present. It was a black pleated skirt…

‘Why?’

‘Why what dear?’ asked Mum as Jacque looked as if she was dying to say something but somehow held herself in.

‘Why have y…you g…given me these, ar you making fun of me?’ I felt the tears well up in my eyes.

‘Because it’s about time you stopped blaming yourself for everything and come out as Hannah.’

‘Oh, y…you know about Hannah?’ I gasped.

‘I have for a long time sweetie, but it was up to you whether you told me or not.’

‘I never told Mummy about it until after Daddy left,’ said Jacque, ‘I knew that you were upset and blamed yourself, but Daddy had problems that had nothing to do with you. I couldn’t stand to see my big sister be unhappy, so I went to Mummy and told her all about it.’

‘I guessed a long time ago that you loved switching clothes with your sister,’ said Mum with a catch in her voice, ‘at first I thought that you did it for a laugh, but there was something else.

‘Even in the brief times I saw you dressed and looking as pretty as your sister, I realised that you were almost too much of a natural when dressed as a girl. What I mean by that is you seemed happier and had blossomed out and could I see little of the James I thought I knew. It was only when you changed back into your boys clothes that I could see how unhappy you were.’

‘It wasn’t just the clothes.’ I said as I went over to my Mum and she hugged me, ‘it was more like that I could look like the girl I really was, inside and out, if you know what I mean. But then everything went wrong with Dad and I blamed myself for that…’

‘What your father did was his fault and no one else’s. A real father would not have put his family through hell like he did. All right he had problems with drink and gambling, and I would have helped him, if he ever asked, but he never did. In fact he never thought that he had any problems and that he was in control of the situation.

‘Then he started going out with his secretary and I knew that the writing was on the wall. I could have forgiven a lot, but not that. He cheated on me and you kids too. So, don’t blame yourself honey. We need to get on with the rest of our lives and if that means Hannah instead of James, then that is what it will be.’

‘Thanks Mum!’ I said enthusiastically, ‘and you sis.’

‘That’s okay, I can’t wait to have a sister, full time!’

We all laughed at that.

I had a few more presents for my birthday, all of them girly in nature and all necessary for me to dress as Hannah.

I was in an emotional turmoil. I had never expected this. I kept pinching myself, as I wondered if I was still up in my bedroom dreaming.

But it was real

For lunch, we went to a restaurant near the shopping centre. I was wearing a lovely peach dress, tights and black shoes. Jacque was wearing the same outfit but the dress was in lemon. We truly looked like identical twins now and I loved it, although I was feeling rather self-conscious about actually going out as a girl.

I was even allowed to wear light makeup from the set that was yet another present and I loved the way it changed my whole look and made me feel so nice.

My hair had been styled and feminised a bit by Mum prior to us leaving home, but I had an appointment the next day for the salon where my ‘tomboyish’ hair would be styled more appropriately. I would also have my ears pierced, which I was sort of looking forward to, but not the pain bit!

As I mentioned before, I was kind of nervous going out in public for the first time dressed as a girl, but no one seemed to scream, shout or look on in horror, so I soon relaxed and started to enjoy myself.

After the meal, we were going to go shopping for more clothes for both of us, and that was wonderful. Mum had had a bonus from work and she just wanted to blow it on us. We weren’t going to argue with that!

Eventually, we finished our lovely meal and I was quite full up. It was nice and maybe a bit embarrassing when a waitress came up with a birthday cake with lots of candles on it. Everyone in the restaurant clapped and sang Happy Birthday and then, Jacque and I blew out the candles and were told to make a wish. I didn’t really need to as my wish had already come true. But I did make a wish that my Dad would come to his senses and be nice to us again. Time would tell if that unlikely event would ever come to pass.

That night, I lay in bed wearing a nice pink satin nightshirt. I felt girlier than I had ever done before. I looked around my bedroom and wondered what I could do with it now that it was out in the open that I was a girl.

With the help of Jacque and Mum, I would change my room to a more feminine one and I hugged myself at the thought of all the changes that would now be happening.

I recalled the special day that I had had and smiled.

After the lovely meal, it was all a bit rushed, as we seemed to visit every clothes shop in the shopping centre. I tried on what seemed like hundreds of items of clothing and shoes and somehow managed to come away with several bags.

I so looked forward to wearing all my nice new clothes and being treated as the girl I really was. Also, most importantly, I would now be able to get even closer to Mum and Jacque than before. In the past, I had put up a bit of a barrier to protect myself from the hurt of acting or pretending to be a boy, I always felt that there was some sort of gender barrier between us.

Now that barrier had been blown away and I would be Hannah. Things would be tough for a while, there was school to consider and whether I would need to change it and then there were the appointments with doctors. I was warned that I would have to go through hoops to prove who I truly was, but I didn’t mind that.

It was worth it to be Hannah.

I would remember my first birthday as Hannah for the rest of my life.


THE END

Please leave comments and kudo thingies...thanks! ~Sue



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