Vesta’s Hearth Chapters 1 and 2
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.
A considerable number of births throughout the world result in an intersexed child. Many are discovered at birth, some in the early years of childhood and puberty but some do not discover their condition until reaching adulthood when perhaps the brain reverses its original decision to favour one gender and the true battle of the sexes begins.
In some cases, the intersexed condition is not discovered until after death when the cause of that death required an autopsy. However, not all human deaths require an autopsy and one wonders how many intersexed people are never discovered.
During the 40 years I held a licence to drive a London taxi I was privileged to meet a wonderful kaleidoscope of people. Passengers from just about every nation, every strata of society, every level of intellect and every occupation and many of them influenced my thinking and under-standing of humanity but some are unforgettable for good and bad reasons and I confess to stealing a few to use as characters in my novels.
One such person gave me the character of Helen Finch. I won’t give any details because I promised to write nothing that would reveal her true identity and she has read Vesta’s Hearth, liked it and is comfortable about its publication.
What is she really like?
A truly beautiful woman both inside and out, very successful and happily married and that is all you’ll get from me!
I’ve even changed the description of a number of the characters who were real-life friends to her and needed to be included in this novel.
As for me, I have no medical qualifications I write novels so don’t be tempted to look upon Vesta’s Hearth as a textbook. I have done a great deal of research but have used the knowledge I gained to suit the novel rather than educate people.
Every other person living on this planet is different to you, so make allowances and enjoy those differences.
Helen’s journey to discover herself and search for a new family and home begins
I stood with my hands loosely clasped in front of me, my head bowed and very frightened. I was wearing a navy blue cotton ladies wrap over overall, the sort that office cleaners wear, a pair of ankle length white cotton socks and white cotton briefs. On my feet was a pair of androgynous black leather flat-heeled shoes with Velcro fasteners. I carried a navy blue button up cardigan, which was, bearing in mind it was June, totally unnecessary. Where my own clothes were, I had no idea and why I wore the cleaners overall, again, no idea. It certainly wasn’t standard issue prison uniform, taking into consideration that I was male, 29 years old and unshaven. The only part of me that might have matched the clothing was my hair, long but in a masculine way, well I thought so anyway. But I was frightened, very frightened, I didn’t know where I was, what sort of establishment I had been sent to. If I could have escaped from this place, I would easily have found a job in a freak show as The Bearded Housekeeper.
I looked up and saw the owner of the voice, he was tall, about 6’ 2”, dark haired, good looking, broad shouldered and smartly dressed in a black blazer, pressed black trousers, leather shoes that shone and he carried a clipboard. He looked like authority, not a guard, something else, managerial perhaps but power was there, something under my ribs gave a jump.
“That’s the name they told me I was to answer to in here, a girl’s name for God’s sake! My real name is…” He held up his hand, “I know your outside name but it is not used here. You answer to Helen Finch,” he looked down at the clipboard, “Five years for rape.”
“I didn’t rape her!”
He tapped the board, “The court order is here and it states rape, though I do recognise that the judge at your trial has made a qualifying note. It appears he was not happy with the jury’s verdict; thought there was some doubt. You are lucky,” he said looking back at me, “Rape usually means a long sentence in a maximum security establishment amongst a bunch of convicts that would beat you senseless at every opportunity. The judge reduced your sentence to five years in this correction and adjustment facility. With good behaviour that may become three years, with exemplary behaviour it could result in your serving only thirty months then a conversion to parole made by a panel on the advice of your mentor.”
“Mentor? Who is my mentor?”
“I am. Now follow me, we have to draw the rest of your kit.”
“A ball gown, silk nightie and make-up,” I sneered.
He stopped so suddenly I nearly bumped into him, “I am going to pretend that that was a genuine enquiry and not sarcasm,” he turned to face me forcing me to look up, “I have told you, I am your mentor, it is my decision as to whether you stay here for five years or thirty months, bear that in mind on every occasion I am with you. Now the question you asked, it was a question?” I nodded, “Good. There will be no ball gown; the nightie will be cotton though it does have some broidery Anglaise. Now if you find it convenient, may we proceed?”
I followed rather meekly resolving to be more careful, to all intents and purposes, this man held my future in his hands and wisecracking was not the way to win hearts and minds. We entered a room with a counter behind which stood a man whose size and weight, muscular weight I stress, would have made it easy for him to enter and leave the establishment without the need of keys, he could have ripped the iron barred doors and windows out of their frames. “New intake?”
My mentor nodded, “Helen Finch.” Shrek glanced at a clipboard lying on the counter, turned and opened a locker. “Shoulder bag,” he placed it on the counter, undid the straps and flipped back the flap, “Note books, textbooks, a packet of ball point pens” I glanced at my mentor but he held up his hand, “Later.”
The storeman then continued with the issuing of my clothing and accessories. Another one of the wrap-overs, two pairs of the briefs identical to the ones I was already wearing, two pairs of white socks, three white shirts and another pair of shoes. Then he placed a zip up toiletry bag down, “Camay soap and cosmetics…”
“Camay soap, cosmetics?” Again the Mentor held up his hand.
There were also tubes of Nair hair remover, I knew about that stuff, I once shared a flat with a girl, a platonic arrangement and she had left a tube in the bathroom. It had been a particularly grotty morning and I had, mistaking it for toothpaste, squeezed some onto my toothbrush. It took fifteen minutes and a gallon of mouthwash to get the taste out of my mouth. To give credit where it’s due, I have never grown hair on my teeth or tongue. I didn’t bother to ask why I was given them; I knew the answer would be an imperiously raised hand.
The storeman ran his eye over everything and nodded, “Bedding is already in your room; your mentor will get you to sign for them once you’ve checked everything. Now go through this form to make sure you have everything and then sign it.”
Before I could read the form, the mentor took it scanned down and nodded as he handed it to me, “Sign it as Helen Finch.”
The storeman spoke again, “Shorts, T-shirts, and leotard will be issued when you start sports and dancing. That’s everything Miss Finch,” he smirked, “Have a nice stay.”
I was about to make a retort but remembered the warning from my mentor and bit my lip and taking the shoulder bag I followed my mentor out of the store, across a brightly lit reception area and waited whilst he unlocked another door and walked into a pale pink painted corridor with doors on both sides. He stopped beside the third of eight doors, unlocked it and stepped back, “This is your room,” and pointing to the door opposite, “That is mine and the doors at the end of the corridor are the dining area and kitchen on the right, common room and library on the left.” He reached out and felt my hair, “Long enough but it does need some work. Start unpacking. I’ll be back in twenty minutes and I’ll fetch a set or curlers for you.”
Before I could answer he had turned away and walked back into the reception area locking the door behind him. I felt a cloud of doom descend; locked up and locked up for at least thirty months, I wasn’t going to survive, it didn’t need the unusual clothes or the other things that I would have to do, just being locked up was enough. I looked into the room and stepped across the threshold. It was a bright, welcoming room, pink of course but the wallpaper was decorated with hearts and cuddly animals, very girly but it was at least cheerful. There was a four-foot bed, which gave me something of a surprise, was there going to be sleepover partners? I didn’t dwell on the subject, sleepover with me in a cotton broidery Anglaise nightie meant a different kind of sleepover, I knew bad things happened in prisons and it would seem the authorities did not stop short of encouraging it. God! What was happening to me, what were they going to do? I felt tears welling-up, fear, a terrible fear of the unknown fate awaiting. Thirty months in this weird place. I brushed my wrist over my eyes and continue my inspection.
There was a double wardrobe, containing only clothes hangers and for a while I pondered, there was something not quite right and it took a long moment for me to realise that all the hangers were for dresses, skirts and blouses, there wasn’t one that included a trouser bar. Next I inspected the dressing table complete with triple mirror. I opened the top drawer, it was partitioned for makeup and jewellery, definitely a woman’s drawer and without thinking I went to the carryall and started unpacking. The bag holding toiletries I unzipped, removed the Camay soap, didn’t dare look at the rest of the contents and put it away in a cupboard next to the chair-well. The nighties went into a chest of drawers and the shoes into the wardrobe. I took the books and other stuff out of the bag and put them into a cupboard in the dressing table and carried the Camay and Nair into the small bathroom I placed them in a cupboard under the hand basin, next to which was a towel rail with towels hanging over it, in pink! There was only room for a shower; ‘I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the luxury of soaking in a bath…’ where did that come from? I was a quick shower man and can’t remember soaking in a bath, was there some sort of subliminal conditioning going on in this room. I stood still and listened carefully but could hear nothing, not even music coming from other rooms. Absently I unwrapped a bar of the Camay, held it to my nose and breathed in the perfume, ‘it was pretty, I liked it’ and then stopped again there it was again, a girly thought.
I listened again but there was nothing. I inspected the walls half believing I would discover a camouflaged TV screen pumping out subliminal messages but I drew a blank. I hurried back to the bathroom and looked in the mirror at my unkept hair, my unshaven face. Perhaps if I didn’t shave and let my beard grow, it would put an end to this nonsense. I shook my head; the mentor would not like it, bad marks and a longer sentence. If I could convince him that I was willingly travelling along the path that ‘The Authorities’ had mapped out for me then the sooner I would be out of here.
Returning to the bedroom, I hung up the clothes and was about to return to the bathroom to clean myself up when the mentor returned. He looked through the open door and asked’ “Settling in?” I nodded, “Here, the curler set, just plug them in when you are going to use them, you’ll find instructions for their use inside the box. The common room is empty so in a minute or two, we’ll have a cup of tea and you can start asking questions.”
Surprise, surprise, the common room wasn’t pink; they probably ran out of paint. It looked a little like a classroom. The walls were a pale, hint of yellow. Against the far wall stood library sized bookshelves and judging by the bindings and mixture of sizes there was a very eclectic choice of titles. Novels and reference books I imagine. The wall on the left was a double set of French windows and beyond them was a beautifully laid out garden with flowerbeds, lawn, trees and garden chairs. To the left of the garden were a larger lawn and swimming pool complete with sun loungers and a small brick built shed. “The exercise area,” said the mentor. "The garden is for relaxation and study, the lawn and swimming pool for exercise. The shed contains a shower unit and sports equipment; handball, exercise mats, table tennis and lawn croquet,”
“No cricket bat or football?”
“No, they were considered a little too boisterous given the purpose behind this facility.
“The library as we call the bookshelves contain the Greco-Roman classics and philosophers, various educational textbooks suited to the aims of the establishment and classical and modern English literature, Shakespeare, Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, through to modern crime, romance, adventure and fantasy. No pornography or violence.”
The mentor stepped to one side and waited for me to walk further into the room. “You will note there is a laptop on each desk and the parental guide is switched on and blocks anything considered inappropriate. The hatch in the right wall, next to the bookshelves divides this room from the kitchen, which you will be shown later.” He turned, “And this area next to the door is furnished with settees, arm chairs a table and television set. The latter is not allowed to be switched on until 6pm and off at 10.30pm and as with the laptops, access to unsuitable programmes is denied. Finally, you will have noticed that every room and corridor has security cameras. The guards in the reception area monitor those in the corridors. The cameras in here and in each of the bedrooms’ are linked to screens in the mentors’ rooms. The camera in your room is fitted with a red warning light to warn you when it is switched on, it is not our intention to spy on your privacy unless we think there is a need.” He crossed the room to the hatch and opened it, “Barbara, will you bring a pot of tea for two in here please.” Returning he closed the door and waved me to the armchairs, “Sit down and we can start our questions and answers session.”
I was about to ask my first question when there was a knock on the door; the mentor stood, opened it and let Barbara in. She carried a tray of tea things to a coffee table, smiled at me and walked out without saying a word.
My impression was that Barbara was a girl. She wore the same uniform as I but there the resemblance ended’ Barbara’s face was lightly made up. She didn’t need much her complexion was faultless and unless I was mistaken, her breasts were real, there was a hint of cleavage above the top of her wrap-over and their movement when she placed the tray on the table and walked was too natural.
The mentor returned to his chair and sat, “Before you ask the question, Barbara is like you, she has been here two and a half years and will be leaving soon. A job is waiting for her and she has a nice flat and a boyfriend. Now, your first question.”
“What exactly is this place, I know I am being punished for a rape I did not commit but what really happens here?”
“Its full title is The Centre for Adjustment and Female Empathy. The inmates and guards refer to it as The Café.”
“And its purpose?”
“To create an environment that will enable the staff to demonstrate to the inmates the cost of their actions. Rape is a violent act which most often leaves the victim traumatised, and in some cases in need of counselling for some years. There have been cases where a victim has committed suicide after the event and often the perpetrator of the act shows little remorse.
“Such offenders are sent to prison, sometimes for the rest of their lives but others; you are one of those; where there are doubts about a verdict are sent here. In these cases, the authorities have decided that imprisonment is too harsh when one considers that convicts are very prejudiced against rapists and give them a hard time that often leads to hospitalisation and even death. A second type of prisoner sent here is where the gender is ambiguous and may not be suited to a life in either a male or female prison.”
Ambiguous? Is that me? Is my sexuality ambiguous? I was on the point of asking what he meant by ambiguous but changed my mind, I needed more time to think about that but there was one question I had to ask; “So, whilst I am here I will be changed into a girl?”
“Not necessarily, that choice is yours, Barbara chose her path and chose it of her own free will and she still has her male genitals.”
“That is an often used expression, yes. But she could have left here as a full male or full female but both she and her boyfriend, chose for her to remain as she is. You will have noticed her complexion and hair, her bust, waist and hips; they are all classic female it is only her primary sexual characteristics that are different.”
“She never has an orgasm then?”
The mentor chuckled, “That is a personal question and you will have to ask her.”
“What about these silly clothes? If we are to empathise with women why are we not wearing more feminine clothes, silks, satins, ribbons, lace, the things that normal women wear, the clothes that make her look good not like a sexless office cleaner?”
“To all intents and purposes, this is a school. When the initial meetings of the Café project were held the subject of uniforms was discussed at length. Though technically this is a prison it is also an establishment that has a medical and psychological purpose. The choice of female attire was decided after the aims were established. Initially the prison authorities were going to issue female prison uniforms but on the advice of the psychologists it was decided that these would emphasise the prison side of the Cafe at the expense of the educational. A whole range of options were considered, school uniforms, blouse and skirt day wear and eventually the current ensemble of blue overall were selected which seemed to fit the purpose. The Café is to a large extent self-sufficient, the normal duties of preparing food and keeping the place clean and in good running order are, wherever possible undertaken by the inmates rather than staff. You will be taught domestic science, cooking of course, make-up, deportment, dance, both classical and ballroom, knitting, crochet, flower arranging, fashion and later, if you want, you will be allowed to wear more feminine lingerie, dresses, separates, perfumes and all the other things a woman enjoys.”
That answer stopped me in my tracks, satin or silk lingerie? See through blouses, baby-doll nighties and silk peignoirs – Good Grief!
He stood, “You’ve had a long day and have much to think about, dinner is served in two hours and you have time to shower and begin to get into the role. When dinner is ready a gong is sounded. For tonight you will not have any chores but you will be expected to clean your room before classes tomorrow. Read the schedule sheet pinned to the inner side of the door and there is a notice board in the dining room.” He opened the door and stood aside to allow me to precede him. I was in a daze as I walked down the corridor, ‘pictures of lounging in lingerie, of men standing aside to allow me to precede them, a certain changing of the mentor’s attitude when I was speaking. A covert softness in his voice, mannerisms and body language’ – he had me tagged as a girl already, when does he get around to fucking me? And I forgot to ask the important questions, his name and is there a concealed subliminal broadcast going on. I was having too many unmanly thoughts, ‘getting around to fucking me, the scent of the Camay soap, asking stupid questions about silk lingerie…’
When I got back to my room, I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the wall; ‘I was sexually ambiguous, was going to be taught a woman’s ways, her skills…what else, what did they think they were doing to me, what right did they have! And they could do it, if I refused to cooperate, they would send me to a standard prison, for five bloody years. If I curtsy politely, smile and talk sweetly, I am out in thirty months. I wasn’t between a rock and a hard place; I was between a quicksand and an alligator infested swamp.’ The tears started.
In retrospect, that first day in the Café was slow. It is now Friday and thus far I haven’t made a friend. I wasn’t being standoffish it was simply not having time to socialise during the day, it was lecture after lecture, class after class, and interviews with various members of the staff and two medicals where I had to put up with a series of embarrassing prod this, tug that, squeeze something else and injections.
There were two occasions when I managed to say more than good morning or good night to other girls; the first was dance class where we were being taught and made to practice the ladies steps in ballroom dancing. I am an accomplished ballroom dancer having enjoyed it in my ‘outside’ days but of course I knew only the male steps. Even something as simple as the waltz was an entirely new dance from the woman’s side. Being led in a dance is far more difficult than leading and I was having to think not only of ensuring my feet make the correct moves, but to concentrate on the body and hand pressures that my partner was using to let me know what was coming next. Lose concentration and suddenly you find that instead of following into a reverse turn, you kick each other because you read the signal as a whisk and chassis and go off, each in a different direction. It did allow for a little laughter though. I had Barbara as my partner and she is a good dancer and though we had only a little time to talk, she did say that on Friday evening she would make a point of having a chat and introduce me to the other girls. ‘Other girls?’ Well that’s what they looked like to me. They wore identical outfits as I, were definitely girly in their speech and mannerisms and all of them reasonably attractive. No, more than reasonably attractive, they were pretty and I wasn’t convinced that they were indeed like me but real females, plants perhaps, part of the ‘programming.’
The second time I spoke to one of them was outdoor activities; here I elected to try table tennis which meant hiding in the shed to change into a tennis skirt that was full and pleated and took little spinning or turning to make it flare and expose my briefs and I was having to use one hand to keep the skirt in place which resulted in my losing by quite a margin. One of those girly thoughts popped into my head whilst playing; ‘why don’t they at least let us wear something a little prettier than white cotton briefs?’ My partner in the game was sympathetic, her name was Diane and she told me I would get used to showing too much leg and might even get into the habit of doing it on purpose to attract attention.
But for the rest of the classes, it was please, thank you and have I done this correctly? All the lecturers were female and so too was the Spanish lady who cooked for us on some days. At other times, dinner was prepared and cooked by one of the girls and I dreaded the day when my turn came around, fried eggs and chips were not going to be judged the meal-of-the-week.
I did see the mentor twice, briefly and he told me he was duty mentor this coming weekend and he would be seeing me for another ‘chat’ on Saturday morning and I found myself looking forward to it, ‘he’s handsome, even dishy.’ Another girly thought, ‘Dishy’. Again I forgot to ask his name and my question about subliminal messages, I was a little dithery when he was speaking to me.
At the end of the school day, we had time for home-study, a quick wash and then we met in the kitchen dining area but most of the girls were too tired to want to become involved in chats. After dinner most went back to their rooms to rest and then, after an hour back to the common room for television or other leisure activities. I didn’t have the energy and usually had a shower and went to bed, I certainly didn’t have trouble getting to sleep, in fact I was becoming a sleep junky, I knew I was having lovely dreams but could never remember anything once I awoke.
Now I was waiting for Barbara, I was sitting at one of the desks in the common room and reading Ovid. The other girls were either watching a soap on the box, or chatting in the easy chairs, one, a rather butch type, was at a desk playing a computer game. No Laura Croft in here, it was Sonic the Hedgehog or the Mario Brothers.
“A classical scholar?”
I looked up, it was Barbara and she was smiling and her smile was one that made the sun come out. Looking at her, I couldn’t believe she was once fully male.
“Greco-Roman, yes. I like their poets, philosophers, even the medical books, Hypocrites, Galen, they were so advanced and in tune with the way things are today. Look at Galileo, he didn’t gaze up at the stars and wonder what they were, he studied them and began to understand a little of the universe and our place in it and knew the stars were other worlds not just the eyes of the gods.”
“So ballroom dancing and needle work bore you?”
“Needlework is fine. Admittedly a feminine activity, keeper of the hearth, that sort of thing but I wouldn’t call a man with a sewing needle a panty-waist, he might be a sailor about to stitch a canvas sail or tarpaulin.”
Barbara chuckled, “You have a natural ability at dancing as well.”
“Ballroom, yes but after the waltz lesson?”
“That was nothing, you’ll quickly pick up the ladies steps. You have a natural fluidity of movement and good legs, dancers’ legs, strong muscles, well formed and pretty.”
I blushed and my hand dropped to my knee and caressed its hairless smoothness and then quickly drew my hand away, girly thoughts and girly mannerisms now. “Barbara, is there some sort of subliminal programming going on in here?”
“I’m not supposed to discuss stuff like that but if you promise not to say I told you, the answer is yes, at night when you are asleep. It isn’t something for you to worry about; they are not programming you into becoming a female. The subliminal stuff only goes on for a week or two then it’s stopped. The idea is to reduce any aggressive tendencies and make you more accepting of the lessons you are being taught.” She reached across the table and put her hand on mine, “You must remember why we are in here, rape and sometimes burglary or common theft can be violent actions, in fact rape is an act of violence even when the victim is not otherwise injured.”
And sexual ambiguity I thought but asked; “The injections I have been having?”
“You are putting me on the spot, you should really save these questions for Adam.”
“Your mentor, Adam Worthington.”
“OK, I’m seeing him tomorrow.”
Barbara winked, “He’s a dish.”
I blushed, changing the subject before I said something I shouldn’t, I asked, “Will you introduce me to the others over the weekend?”
“Yes, that is all except one, Melissa.”
“Have I seen or met her yet?”
“He’s the one playing on the computer.”
Barbara nodded and dropped her voice, “It’s not tittle-tattle but there’s something you should know and if I don’t tell you now, Adam will tomorrow. Melissa is a ‘He’; there is nothing feminine about him at all. According to Adam he was sent here by mistake. His case involved violence beyond the rape itself but something went wrong in the court case and instead of getting fifteen years he was sent here. They never allow him to be alone with any of the female staff or us girls at any time. Adam says they are moving him out on Monday. He would have gone sooner but their Psychiatrist has him listed as a woman hater who thinks hurting women is fine. It would appear he is homophobic as well and is not allowed to be alone with us as I said. His being sent here was a mistake caused by the availability of a solitary confinement cell and they wouldn’t risk him mixing with other prisoners, they’d kill him.”
“But couldn’t they have used a police cell, surely he is a serious threat in here, things being relaxed the way they are.”
“Not in his case, he is watched 24/7 and always under escort when out of locked areas. Take a quick look at the camera above the library, it’s trained on him and follows him wherever he goes.”
“He’s wearing the uniform though.”
“Yes, they make him do it to keep him in line but you’ll notice he hasn’t shaved and the uniform is in a pretty gruesome state.”
I nodded, “I’ll keep away then. I met Diane, she beat me at table tennis.”
Barbara laughed, “She told me. Said that if you hadn’t been acting all prim and proper, you might have won the game. You were acting as if you were wearing a see-through thong instead of cotton briefs.”
I grinned, “I was thinking of the thong. By the way, when I went to the stores for extra bits and pieces and that bloody silly pleated skirt, I had to sign a receipt form for them; the storeman said my account would be debited. What does that mean?”
“Whilst you are in here, you get extra work, ironing shirts and replacing buttons for the men in the main prison, pressing the warders uniforms, repairing tears and,” she grinned, “Cleaning the windows. The shirt ironing is for when the prisoners are appearing before a parole board, it makes them look a little more human and improves their chances. There’s other stuff as well and we do the work in our free time, Saturday afternoon, Sunday and occasionally in the evening. They pay us the national minimum and we aren’t given cash unless we can prove we have a need for it. That money goes into your account and when you want a new lippy or a touch of racy lingerie, they get it for you and debit your account. We also use some of the money for extra food, luxury things so that we can have a binge a couple of times a month.”
I ignored the ‘lippy’ and ‘racy lingerie’, “Wine?”
Barbara shook her head, “Forbidden. So are drugs but we’ve never had a problem there, I think by the time we have had our injections and swallowed the pills they issue, we’ve had enough of drugs. Shall we go into the kitchen and have a cup of tea?”
I closed Ovid, “You can take any of these books into your room if you wish, just make a note in the register in case somebody else looks for it.”
“It’s just as well, I wouldn’t dare read all of it in here, it makes me cry.”
Barbara looked sideways at me, “Sad?”
“Very. There’s a poem in there of forbidden love and clandestine meetings between lovers that lead to suicides. Bit like Romeo and Juliet; in fact I am told that it was the poem that inspired Shakespeare to write his play. Real crying time.”
“Who do you identify with, Romeo?”
I shook my head, “It’s not Romeo and Juliet, the original by Ovid was about Thisbe who wanted to marry her boyfriend the handsome Pyramus.”
Barbara smiled, “Pedant. Which then?”
“Thisbe, she was a brunette,” I grinned, “We brunette’s need to stick together.”
“She was beautiful?”
“You said Pyramus was handsome.”
“That is how he is described.”
“Bit like Adam then?”
I turned to her as she was pouring the tea, “Barbara, what are you trying to say?”
She handed the tea to me, pointed at the sugar and said, “Nothing, just trying to compare your Greco-Roman heroes with modern men,” but there was mischief in her eyes.
I put two teaspoons of sugar in my tea and she tut-tutted, “You’ll get fat.”
“And I suppose Adam wouldn’t fall for me if I was fat,” I replied sarcastically, following her to a table.
We sat and sipped our tea, “You said that,” she said suddenly. “You are slim, have drop-dead gorgeous legs and beautiful bone structure, Helen,” she leaned across the table, “There’s lots of men who would fall for you.”
“Barbara, I am not gay.”
“Two people of the same sex having a relationship?”
“Yes. But a woman and a man is not gay?”
“Of course not, that’s heterosexual. What are you getting at, I have a feeling I am being analysed.”
“Nope, not by me, I’m not qualified. But I do know that male and female relationships are not gay and I can see you now and I saw you when you came here, before you changed into the uniform. You were wearing dark slacks, dark blue sweat shirt and black bomber style jacket, yes?”
“Yes, so what.”
“Helen you were walking between the two guards, your elbows were in and your lower arms were slightly out.”
That’s the way I walk I suppose, what of it.”
Barbara sighed, “Men walk with their elbows out because they have thicker waists and it is easier for them to swing their arms. Women walk with their elbows in, slimmer waists and their lower arms out because they have wider hips and need to keep their lower arms out to prevent their hands constantly brushing the hips.”
Barbara ignored me; “When you sit, you almost always cross your legs and slide one leg over the other rather than lift it. Men don’t usually cross their legs unless at the ankles with their knees apart or with an ankle hanging over a knee, that way they don’t squeeze their jewels and cause discomfort. You also refer to us as ‘The Girls’ and seem to accept yourself as one of us and unless I have an eye problem, there are signs on your face that you have been experimenting with the cosmetics.”
“You’re saying I am a latent homosexual?”
“No, nothing that simple, I would guess that you may, and I stress may be a latent transsexual.”
“You have other more feminine gestures and movements as well. You pick up a teacup by the handle, use a finger and thumb and sip; men will more often than not grasp the cup, often ignoring the handle and then gulp. You eat with small bites, sip your drinks, touch your hair and often sit with your hands in your lap. Those are feminine traits.”
I was surprised and remained silent for a while whilst I considered these points, my hips were a little wider than normal and I often had trouble buying off-the-peg clothes. Barbara was right but I had never looked at a man and felt desire, though I did think Adam was a bit dishy…could I make love to him? I don’t think so. I shook my head, “I don’t fancy men.”
She reached across the table again and rested her hand lightly on mine, “Don’t fight it one way or the other, let it take its own course, ask Adam to stop the subliminal messages if you like but I can tell you this, I did see you walk and I have seen you do the other things I described and the subliminal stuff we are exposed to wouldn’t make you change your gestures, way of sitting and everything else in three or four days.”
I sat silently and began to feel tears forming in my eyes and brushed them away, “If you are right, what can I do and what about the rape business. I know every convicted criminal is innocent, but I really am. I was on a date with the girl, she invited me back to the place she shares with roomies and took her clothes off as soon as we were in her bedroom. When she was naked, she just lay on her back on the bed and smiled. I stripped and lay beside her and we petted, kissed, caressed and suddenly she took a hold of my cock with one hand and pulled me on top of her with the other and she was the one who guided it into her pussy.”
“Well that’s certainly not rape. What happened?”
“We started screwing and she was encouraging me, once or twice she made little noises and on one occasion, just before it ended she cried out – ‘more, more, don’t stop’ and then, when I was a second or two away from a cumming she suddenly screamed and shouted ‘No! No!
“It was too late for me, I ejaculated and then she screamed again, pushed me off her, picked up her blouse, tore it and then rushed to the door, opened it and shouted out to her flat mates.
“I just lay there stunned wondering what on earth had happened and the next thing I know there are three other girls in the room all shouting at me
and soon after that, the police arrived.
When it went to court, she swore I tore her blouse off and then ripped her panties and both items were offered as evidence. It was confirmed that the DNA of the sperm was mine and that was it. I think, forgetting the rape bit, the fact that I was willing to make love to a girl proves that I’m not latent anything.”
“Helen, I’m so sorry to have said anything, sorry for making you remember such a terrible ordeal, forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, in fact it seems to have helped to be able to talk about it with someone, it sort of eases the frustration I feel at having been found guilty and sentenced. Do you believe me?”
“Yes, oh I believe you. I don’t think you are the sort of person who could have raped anybody but what was her motive, was she a thrill seeker, man hater, what was it?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know, I don’t even know what happened to her after the trial, never saw her again. I suppose I carry a faint hope that her conscience will prevail one day and she will go to the police and tell them the truth but I’m not holding my breath.”
“Have you told Adam any of this?”
“No, I’ve not had the right moment to bring it up.”
“I think you should when you’ve settled in.”
In the next chapters, Helen has an interview, wishes for M&S knickers and finds a sister.
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