Vesta's Hearth 11 and 12
Copyright© Frances Penwiddy 2012
This is a work of fiction, the characters and the Café are fictitious and any resemblance to places or persons living or dead is coincidental.
Helen has a gender specific medical and is assessed but her future hangs in the balance. Her doubts and fears about the outcome frighten her and she feels that life is about to end and she visits her old apartment as a stranger.
When we arrived at the main prison a guard checked Paul’s identity and looked at the letter of authorisation, “Drive into the yard and wait, a guard will be coming with you and he’ll give you directions. He walked down to me and looked through the window and signalled that I lower it. “You’re Miss Finch?” I nodded and opened my bag to show him my prison ID but he waved my gesture away, “I’ve seen you over at the Café,” he grinned and nodded to Paul, “In you go, mate, careful with her, don’t want to go upsetting Miss Finch,” and he chuckled as he went to the main gate controls.
“God, Paul, what do they think of me in here?”
“Forget it Helen, he was pulling your leg.” And then he stopped again to pick up our escort.
When we entered the prison’s hospital wing I was surprised. This was no dreary grey cellblock; the walls were sunshine yellow and white, the floor was covered in deep green linoleum and there were pictures on the wall, prints of Old Masters, landscapes, modern cubism all bright and cheerful. We stopped at the counter and our escort said, “Miss Helen Finch for Doctor Freeman,” and we were nodded through.
Doctor Freeman’s office and the consulting rooms were on the first floor; a receptionist was at a desk typing, she looked up at me, “Helen Finch?” I nodded and she indicated some padded chairs, “Take a seat, they’ll be somebody out in a tic.”
“Er, will they be coming in with me?”
She smiled, “Those too uglies will sit quietly and wait for you here, if they went through that door, they wouldn’t see the light of day again until they could sing alto.
When I sat next to Paul he whispered, “I’ll get you for that.”
“We don’t have an alto in the concert group,” I answered and smiled warmly at him. A moment later a nurse came through a door, “Come on in, Helen,” and in I went, knees knocking but so far nobody had treated me any differently than I suspect they would have treated other patients but now I was going to have to undress.
“Sit in that chair for the blood sample,” she said pointing to a well-padded chair.
“I’ve got this letter,” I said opening my bag, “It’s for the doctor from Adam Worthington at the Café”
“She’ll be out in a moment, keep it till then.”
I slipped my cardigan off and she took it from me and I sat in the chair. A quick swab and she made me press on a vein and then the needle went in.
“I didn’t cry, where’s my mint humbug.”
“Wouldn’t you rather have a cup of tea or coffee?”
“Wouldn’t I just, I’m suffering from caffeine withdrawal symptoms.”
“Well good girls are entitled to NHS coffee, will that do?”
I finished the coffee, felt a hundred times better and then the bomb dropped. “Pop into that cubicle and undress if you will, keep your bra and panties on for the moment.”
“Off,” she said, “They’ll get laddered.”
I did as I was told and felt a little better when I put the hospital dressing gown on, it was knee length and patterned with blue forget-me-nots. The nurse led me to the scales, noted my weight and measured my height, then produced a pair of callipers from the tray, “This will squeeze your flesh a little but doesn’t hurt,” and then she measured my bone diameters. “I wish I had your figure,” she said, “So slim. If I even look at a Malteser I put on a pound. You a twelve?”
I nodded, I couldn’t say yes, my voice would have cracked, here was a pretty nurse telling me she envied me my figure. When I did feel confident enough to speak I asked, “Is that your bedside manner?”
“What. Oh, no, I mean it, you’ve got a terrific figure, apart from the six pack,” she patted my stomach.
“What!” I looked down.
I laughed, “You frightened me to death,” and then I realised she had put me totally at ease. Which I needed because then the doctor came in. She was a cheerful looking woman, late thirties I guessed. “All done,” she asked the nurse.
She held out a hand. “Amy Freeman, now it’s my turn to prod and poke,” she said as we shook hands. She then proceeded to lift each arm and run her hands along the length, then I turned round and she did the same with my legs and made me rest against the wall whilst she bent each leg at the knee, then back to my arms and bending them and when she finished that, as cool as a cucumber she asked, “Can you undo your bra and hold it up, I need to check your chest. I looked up as I felt her measure across my chest over the nipples and then the bra band line and then she measured the aureole and finally the nipples, where she frowned for a moment. “Okay you can do it up again,” I sighed with relief but I was too quick, as soon as my bra was in place, she said, “Pull your briefs` down a bit.” I shut my eyes and thought of England and did as she asked and felt her gently squeezing and weighing with her hand. “Right, all done. You can get dressed now, you okay.”
“Yes,” I lied.
“Right get your clothes on and we’ll go into my office and have a chat and a cup of coffee.”
“There’s a letter from Adam Worthington.”
“Okay, I’ll take that now,” and she followed me to the cubicle took the letter and said to the nurse, “As soon as Helen is ready, bring her into my office.”
I dressed again and the nurse tapped, “Can I come in?”
I pulled back the curtain, “Yes, all finished.”
She held out a mirror and brush in one hand and a mint humbug in the other, “I knew I had one of these somewhere in a desk drawer, I don’t know how long it’s been there so keep the wrapper in case you need to spit it out.”
I laughed, “Cos I didn’t cry.”
“Yes it was your first medical like this,” she indicated my skirt. “I thought you were brave, it must have been an ordeal.”
“It was a bit, what’s the doctor going to do now?”
“Nothing except questions and answers. Are you the girl they’re all talking about here?”
“Oh my God, has it reached you as well.”
“You’re famous, when I heard it, I fell over laughing and so did Amy.”
“It was probably well embroidered.”
She nodded but never-the less you are famous.”
“More like infamous,” I handed back the mirror and as we walked to the doctor’s office she asked, “Paul told us you are putting a concert together for the prisoners, is it true?”
“Yes but we won’t be ready for a few weeks.”
“Will you send us some tickets, I wouldn’t want to miss it, I have a feeling you’re going to be a hit.”
“I’ll see you get them, near the front.
I went into the office and Doctor Amy was writing busily in a folder. “Sit down, Helen, I just have to give this to Ronnie.”
“Veronica, the nurse outside. “When she came back, she stopped for a moment behind my chair, “Excuse me a moment, I want to look at your hair,” I felt her moving the loose end of my ponytail, “You have a soft wave underneath, why did you do it up in a ponytail?”
“I thought it would be better for you, not getting in the way, its shoulder length.”
She said nothing and went round to her seat, “No more prodding,” she smiled, “Just questions and the first is; now it is essential you tell the truth, Helen, if you deny something or give us the wrong information you could risk making yourself very ill, possibly even precipitating your death. Hormones are a part of our lives; they govern a lot more than gender. Now,” she had a very direct look, “Prior to coming here, have you every experimented with progesterone or estrogen, tried it perhaps either or both, taken a girl friend’s birth control pills?”
“Never, it never occurred to me, and I’m sure I didn’t take them in error, I have never been prescribed, no never, I’m certain.”
She nodded and wrote in the file. Again, prior to here, did you have any homosexual experiences?”
“You mean sleeping with a man?”
“Or kissing, cuddling except of course a father, brother or other close relative.”
“As certain as anybody can be, certainly not since I reached the age of awareness and knew the difference between homosexual and heterosexual.”
“Did you have thoughts about it, thought it might be interesting to try or fancied another man?”
“No. Look would it make it easier if I told you that before the rape thing, I had no knowledge of this wanting to be a woman business, I thought I was a normal, heterosexual man, I had a few girlfriends and slept with them sometimes.”
“How often?” she smiled, “Don’t brag.”
I grinned back, “Nothing to brag about, I don’t know what the statistics are for unmarried males of my age but I can bet I am below the average. Without thinking hard about it and counting carefully, I would say probably about six or seven times.”
“Did you ever want to get married or wished you were married?”
“Not really, I worked hard, didn’t have a lot of time for relationships. The longest I was with one girl was a little over two months. I never seemed to find the time after that. I wasn’t one for partying so I suppose I never spent a lot of time in places where people meet the opposite sex socially.”
“How did you get on with the girls where you worked?”
“Fine, we worked well together, men and women.”
“And your job there was what?”
“Ideas as much as anything. I wasn’t the only one, I was part of a team but generally we would be given a product, a lot of tech stuff, told the intended market and then I got to work producing what we call a story board for a television ad. That’s a series of drawings showing roughly how we want the film made. Then there would be brain storming sessions and eventually I would produce the finished drawings and we would show that to the client with the copy and other details concerning media to be used, but my main task was to get it off the ground with the original idea.”
“What sort of products did you work on?”
“The last one was perfume and cosmetics, a big account and we won it against all the main agencies but before that, all sorts of things, soaps, detergents, soft furnishings all sorts.”
There followed another half hour of questions and then Amy asked me two that I thought a little unusual; “When did you last shave your body hair?”
“The day I went to the Café.”
“That was what three weeks ago. You haven’t done it since?”
“Did you shave, use a depilatory cream, epilator or waxing?”
“Last question; when did you last shave your face, normal day to day shave I mean?”
“That’s it then, Helen. Now you’ve got to see the other doctor in Chichester?”
“Yes,” I looked at my watch, “About an hour and a half.”
“You have time for lunch then but I would suggest you use somewhere outside; prison food is not haute cuisine.”
I got up to go, “Can I ask a question?”
“Are you a medical doctor or a psychiatrist?”
“Medicine, I specialise as an endocrinologist.”
“Hormones, things like that.”
“Yes, hormones and the effects they have on the body.”
“I see so my next port of call is to get my head examined?”
She laughed, “There’s nothing up there to worry you. You have a team behind you now, Boris and Adam at the Café, me here and Peter Thompson in Chichester, we are good at our jobs and always feel free to ask to see any of us at any time if you have a worry, okay?”
“Okay,” I replied, “It’s just that I am worried that things seemed to have happened so suddenly.”
“Nothing to worry about there, we are interested and need to know why because we will have to treat you and of course we need to know everything we can to ensure our treatment is right for you.”
“Tell me this then, what am I. Three weeks ago I was a normal hetero male. Now, you tell me what I am.”
Amy stood up and took me by the arm and walked me to the door and answered as she opened it, “Helen, you have the bone weight, facial features, hair and skin type, mannerisms and voice of a female, I can’t say much more than that this early in your treatment but as far as I am concerned, I see before me a very pretty young woman.”
“Dead right,” agreed Ronnie, “I could walk past you a thousand times and not think you were anything else, and I hate you for your figure.”
“You’ve got bigger boobs than me, Ronnie.”
They laughed and I left them, my worst ordeal of the day over and only a shrink to deal with now.
Paul stopped at a nice pub on the way to Chichester and we had a light lunch, well I did, he had a steak and kidney pie. We started off again and then I remembered the shopping list, “We need to go shopping after the doctor, will Adam or Boris mind if we’re a bit late, there’s something else I need to do.”
“Well if you wouldn’t mind and the Café okay it, I need to go to my old apartment and collect my clarinet and I suppose I should pick up my mail.”
“Wasn’t that redirected by the post office?”
“Yes but I want to make sure nothing slipped through. I’m going to sell the apartment and get a new place but the important thing is the clarinet.”
“Where is it? Your flat I mean?”
“South part of the town,” I jotted the address down and gave it to him, “You won’t know it, it’s a small cul-de-sac off a side turning.”
He glanced at the paper, “No but that’s no prob, he reached into his pocket and produced the iPod I had bought for him, “There’s a sat-nav on this, it was a gift from some ditzy bird I know.”
I laughed, “I must have had this trip in mind when I got it for you.”
The psychiatrist, Peter Thompson was easier, a lot easier. Lots of questions, a few inkblot cards to look at, more questions and then he was done. “We will be having a meeting next week to discuss your case, Amy, Adam, Boris and I and then we will see you again, in the meantime Amy has asked for a scan on your lower abdomen.
“Scan. Why does she require that?”
“Wants to see if there are any signs of female reproductive organs.”
“Womb you mean?”
“That and ovaries, traces of fallopian tubes.”
“Is that possible?”
“It’s unlikely but yes, possible.”
“What gave her that idea?”
“I don’t think she was given an idea so much as being mystified by the suddenness of your switch and I agree with her. We need to know what made you suddenly adapt yourself to being female.”
“You and me both. It scares me still.”
“Helen, after the incident with the girl, the incident that ended with you being charged with rape, did you feel any remorse or guilt?”
I thought about that and then shook my head, “Not really, I never believed I had raped her, it was she that took hold of me and inserted me into her. I felt sorrow a little, wondered why she had done it.”
“But you didn’t hate yourself for what happened?”
“And the first day in the Café when you were dressed in the uniform, how did you feel.”
“Scared about what was going to happen to me, how long I was going to be in there, what came after.”
“What about the female uniform?”
“Nothing much, a bit or resentment, embarrassed.”
“You didn’t find yourself excited or hate them?”
“Not really, I thought it a bit silly but no love or hate. I had been found guilty of rape and Adam explained why I was wearing the clothes and I didn’t think any more of it…that’s not quite true. I do remember thinking about the knickers and wondering why, if they wanted us to empathise with women, they didn’t make us wear something more feminine, lacy panties, stuff like that.”
“You told Amy that you had never experimented with cross-dressing?”
“I have remembered one incident, I think I was about six at the time. My mother was sorting out the washing and asked me to go into their bedroom and bring some of her clothes that she had left on a chair. There was a blouse and a bit of lingerie and I vaguely remember thinking how nice the lingerie felt and once or twice since then, one occasion particularly when I had been driving for a long while and my underpants had started cutting into me, I wondered why men wore such heavy underwear and not have our Y fronts or boxers made out of the lighter, smoother materials that are used for women’s lingerie.”
“Pretty, lacy you mean?”
“No, just lighter, smoother.”
“Would you be comfortable if I asked you to undo your blouse and let me have a look at your chest?”
“Yes, but I’ll do it,” I smiled, “Are you a tit man?”
He chuckled and when I had unbuttoned my blouse, he lifted my bra and looked at my non-boobs but only for a minute or two then nodded, “Okay, thank you.”
“Is there a problem there, Amy seemed to spend a bit of time looking at them?”
“Not a problem. You’re healthy, no lumps or anything like that but you do have a little more flesh than your general physique would indicate, the nipples are slightly larger than is normal on a man and the areola also larger.”
“I would accept that if you had more fat elsewhere but you haven’t”.
“I am being treated with estrogen.”
“Yes but the dose is too low to produce that effect. Did you notice them before you joined the Café?"
“No, they seemed to have grown, if that’s the word, after I joined.”
“Right, that’s it then, don’t worry about your chest, there is nothing nasty lurking there and we’ll have our meeting and see you again in a week.”
“I have to ask you the same question that I asked Amy…”
“Who or what are you?”
“Amy has written it in your report, she spoke to me on the phone and told me what she told you. I agree with her, Helen, you are a pretty young woman. More than that I can’t say until I’ve seen the reports of your blood tests and had our meeting. But carry on as you are, don’t feel you need to alter the way you are or how you are reacting until then, unless of course, you want to.”
“No, I’m happy with me at the moment.”
“That’s it for the time being. One thing though, the next time we meet I want you to wear the clothes you want to wear.”
“Is there something wrong with what I’m wearing today?”
“No, they’re fine, feminine, practical but I sense you dressed more for a medical examination than an interview. Wear the hair the way you prefer, wear clothes you would normally pick for a meeting with somebody, a friend.”
“Okay, I’ll dazzle you.”
I left his office and Paul asked, “Where next?”
“Well I need to get some lipstick for Barbara and the music stuff and then call at my flat. Whichever best suits you. The shopping won’t take long.”
He looked at me sideways, “Oh yeah.”
I smiled. “Really. I’ll need an ATM and I would be happy spending a few thousand on clothes and things but I’ll leave all that until I’ve gone a bit further down the road with my treatment, my sizes may alter.”
“I believe you. Right the music shop is close to the High street and the lipstick shops are in the High Street and there are two or three ATMs so we’ll use the same car park.”
“You’re coming with me?”
“If you want me to, it’s daylight and if you’d rather I didn’t, I’ll wait in the car.”
“No come with me, I know you like to be seen with a tasty bird on your arm.”
He nodded and chuckled, “That’s true, especially one that has a reputation at the prison.”
Less than an hour later I stood outside the door to my apartment, the keys in my hand, hesitating. “Something wrong?” asked Paul quietly, his voice soft.
“Not really wrong, it’s that I’m not sure I want to go in there again, see something of my old life, the lie I seemed to have lived all these years.”
He took the keys out of my hand and opened the door and stood to one side. “Go in there, Helen and face it and ask yourself which you want, your old life back or the new one you have begun to build.”
I nodded and went in. Originally I intended to go straight to the bedroom and collect my clarinet from the wardrobe but I didn’t. I walked into the kitchen, touched a few things, checked that the fridge had been emptied as my solicitor had arranged and then I went into the sitting room and stood looking around. There was nothing except a good reproduction of Turners ‘Fighting Temeraire’ and a few music discs. “Can I take that picture and the music discs with me, just the ones in the green case and my laptop?”
“Of course, plenty of room in the car. You go and check the other rooms and I’ll put this lot beside the door.”
I went into the bedroom and again stood in the door looking in. “There was still a hint of my deodorant, my man deodorant but everything else seemed alien, it was as if I had entered another person’s room, a stranger. I went to the wardrobe, opened the door and stood back. Just clothes, the clothes of a stranger and I felt no yearning to touch them, take them with me, nothing, they belonged to somebody else. I reached up to the shelf and took down my clarinet case, opened the lid and took it out. I ran my hands down it and sighed, this did belong to me and had no business in the wardrobe of a stranger and I smiled, turned around and went to the street door.
“That the lot?” asked Paul, “Just these few bits and bobs?”
“I suspect there will be other things I will want to keep but nothing I yearn for. Paul, this is the flat of a stranger, I feel like an intruder.” I picked up the laptop, “Can you manage the rest?” and I walked away and didn’t feel any regret.
I remained silent in the car for the first ten minutes and Paul left me to my thoughts. Eventually I stirred, “There is one fear I have now.”
“I am frightened that something will happen to change me back to the way I was. Paul, when I walked into that apartment, I felt nothing, no longing, no regrets, nothing. I want to keep what I am now and am terrified that I will wake up one morning and want to go back to that place, that life.”
He slowed the car a little and looked across at me, “Helen that is not going to happen. I’ve told you before, you’re Barbara’s twin and it never happened to her. You’re Helen, will stay Helen and one day, some lucky bloke is going to win your heart and love you.”
I leaned across the seat, put my arm around him, hugged him, kissed his cheek and leaned back before he had an accident.
He just smiled. Five minutes later I remembered something, “Oh my God!”
“The car. At the back of the apartment block there is a private car park, I have a black Porsche parked there. I can’t leave that, it’s only three years old.”
“Want me to collect it for you?”
“No, not for me. I’m not a Porsche girl.”
“What then, you want me to sell it for you?”
“Would you, if you want it for yourself I’ll let you have it for what you want to pay.”
“Barbara is not a Porsche girl either and I have three Rolls Royces, a Bentley, two Mercs, a Lexus, Range Rover and the mini bus, I don’t need a Porsche. I’ll sell it for you.”
“What do you need all those cars for?”
“I own a chauffeur driven hire service. Porsches aren’t best suited to that type of work. Do you want me to look for a good car for you?”
I ran my hand over the dashboard of the Lexus, “Not now, I think I might develop a taste for limousines, chauffeur driven ones.” I grinned at him, “You got any good looking drivers working for you?”
“Loads, I’ll stick your requirements on the notice board.”
We entered the Café to find it filled with music, there seemed to be practice sessions going on everywhere. I could dimly hear the piano from the rehearsal room, a cello was playing in the common room and April was singing a Ruby Murray hit in the kitchen. Adam’s head popped round the corner of his office door, “Ah, Helen can you come in, there is somebody here you should meet.”
“You want me to put the stuff in your room,” asked Paul.
“Please, and these I said putting the clarinet and laptop on the floor beside my door,” and then I went into Adam’s room. There was a stranger sitting at the side of Adam’s desk and he rose as I entered. Adam brought a chair for me, “This is Allen our third mentor, Allen, Helen Finch our new pupil.”
Allen stepped forward and offered his hand, when I placed mine in it he closed it gently and gave a small shake; “I’ve heard a lot about you already and it’s a pleasure to meet you in person.”
“Lot about me?”
He nodded, “And Maria has ordered me to report to you, said something about concert duties.”
“Ordered you?” I glanced towards Adam.
“Asked really but a request from Maria is as good as an order. Refuse without good cause and the coffee becomes bitter, the ham sandwiches curl and the biscuits are soft.”
I smiled at him; I liked Allen, “That sounds like Maria. We are putting on a concert for the main prison and we need some help.”
“I can dance a little, sing a little but have been advised not to give up the day job.”
“Another Fred Astaire then?”
Almost but I do belong to a music society and will be happy to help where I can.”
What’s your singing voice, tenor?”
A little and musicals but I never had the lead.”
“Yes but not Rodolfo.”
“How about the love duet.”
“I know it.”
“You’re hired, the pay is zero, no holiday entitlement but all the tea and coffee you can drink and I’ll guarantee the ham sandwiches won’t be curly.”
“Sounds like a good deal, I’ll take it.”
“Are you staying for a while this evening?”
“I’m duty mentor.”
“Oh good, we can chat later. The voice you can hear singing Softly, Softly is April I would like her to partner you in The Love Duet or Lovely Maid in the Moonlight. She’s not Soprano but I think you would be able to get around that.”
“Yes, have you not heard her sing before?”
“No, never, she sings well.”
“Go up and see her, ask her to sing Softly Awakes My Heart.”
Allan glanced at Adam, “Is that okay with you?”
“Fine, I need to speak to Helen anyway.”
Allan left and Paul appeared, “Stuffs in your room, I put everything against the wardrobe.” He looked at Adam, “Will it be okay if I pop up and see Barbara for a minute or two before I leave?”
“Go ahead,” and Paul vanished. “Helen, I have some news for you.”
He closed the door and returned to his desk, “First, the girl in your rape case has been interviewed by the police again and there are inconsistencies in her story, enough to raise doubts. I’ll give you the details later but for the moment you’re sentence has been suspended subject to further enquiries. To all intents and purposes you can come and go as you please and you have no obligation to undertake any of the chores. But there may be a snag; we started your treatment so we are obliged to see that it is continued until a full assessment of your condition has been made but the Governor has said the Prison Service may require you to find outside accommodation.”
“I was afraid of that. Oh Adam, I wish this hadn’t happened.”
He smiled, “Don’t worry, the Governor, Boris and I put our heads together and we’ve come up with a solution that will certainly see us through a few months. There is a live-in vacancy here for a further member of staff on the domestic side. It was never filled because there was no need. If you agree, we can employ you in that position for a probationary period and it means you can keep the room.”
“I’ll do it.”
“Whoa, you don’t know the conditions of service. The pay is low but you are entitled to meals when on duty. Four weeks holiday a year,” he grinned, “And a modest clothing allowance.”
“I said I’d do it.”
“What about your duties?”
“What are they?”
“Carry on as you are, even the concert, you can be a part of that because it involves prisoners and staff.” He grinned again, “But that means you will have to go back to your chores as well.”
“I don’t care, I would have done that anyway if I had stayed as a free patient.”
“The other news is your legal position with regard to your new status, living as a female…”
“Adam, I am a female I’m not just living as one, I am one.”
“Not legally, not yet. I have arranged for you to see a solicitor, he was the one who handled your case. He knows about you and of course he knows the full position with regard to the case. He has said he would be happy to take you on as a client and help you with your name changes and eventually the amendments to your official records, birth certificate, driving license, National Insurance, that sort of stuff. If it suits you he can come here next Monday morning as he has business at the prison. How do you feel about him taking your case?”
“Okay. I met him several times when the case was on, he represented me well and got me out of the prison I was destined for and into your care and he’s a nice man. You say he knows all about me?”
“All that the Data Protection Act will allow me to tell him. He knows you’re transitioning and he’s done that work before.”
“Good, I want him to handle everything. There is the other meeting; well there are two really. I will need to speak to my financial advisor about my investments and stuff after I have spoken to the solicitor but the important one is about me. I know you have arranged a meeting with Amy and Peter and that they will want to speak to me again soon after but I’m worried a bit about what happened to me and why they seem concerned. They did try to reassure me but I still worry.”
“That’s understandable. First they are certain you have nothing physically wrong with you…”
“Peter told me that but Amy wants me to have a scan, she wants to know if I’m female inside.”
“Not quite, she wants to know if there are any signs of development of internal female reproductive organs during your embryonic stage. Ovaries, uterus, that sort of thing.”
“And if there are?”
“Helen I specialise in psychiatry it would be better if that was left to Amy to discuss with you. She has said that if there are any, they do seem to be having an impact on your life, the suddenness of the recent desire of yours to be recognised as female aside. Sorry, I put that badly, I mean your recognition of your true gender, does that sound better.”
“More accurate.” I smiled. “So what do I do now?”
“Carry on as you are, you are happy, the others like you a lot and you seem to be enjoying yourself. The only concern I have is your naivety, you do not possess the normal defensive mechanisms that women have when it comes to men.”
“You mean I might be vulnerable and allow a man to take advantage of me?”
“Yes. For that reason, if you do decide to go out for a day or an evening I advise you to go with somebody else.”
“Get a trusty boyfriend you mean?”
“Not necessarily a boyfriend. There’s Paul, Allan, Boris, myself, Barbara, Maria, any of the people you know and who you can trust.”
“Wow, all those escorts, beautiful women, dishy men I’m gonna have a whale of a time.”
“Get out of here and go sort your concert out.”
I did have a whale of a time but not hitting the town but getting the concert off the ground. Allen had virtually become a full time member of the group and May, the dancing teacher was an enthusiastic instructor and slowly took on the role of producer. It wasn’t all plain sailing, there were arguments, never serious and quickly resolved and there was practice, practice, practice until our calves ached, our lips were sore and our throats, at times, felt as if we had severe laryngitis but it was taking shape.
I had my meeting with the solicitor and arrangements were made with the banks and credit companies so that initially a second name could be added to the accounts, that of Helen Vesta Finch so now I wouldn’t have problems when presenting my cards or calling into the banks. I also asked him to arrange for the sale of my apartment, there was no way I would ever go back there to live and I asked Paul if he and Barbara would like to come with me one day and take a look at the furniture and see if there was anything they could use for their own place. This started an argument when they insisted that anything they took they would pay for but I won that by first reminding them I was family and family often gave things like that to each other and as they would be getting married when Barbara left the Café. It was my wedding present to them. Paul also sold the car and another argument started when I insisted that he take a seller’s commission he had after all acted as my agent. We both won that, I wanted him to give me only what a dealer would have paid had I sold it that way but after a while, he got me to agree to his receiving half of a dealers profit.
So one way and another I burned my bridges except for the job. To my surprise the agency wanted me back even though they knew about my transitioning. They pointed out that I was still a valuable asset as a graphic artist and an ideas girl. Again there was a compromise, I agreed to work freelance for them until we all adapted to the new me and then perhaps consider going back as a full time employee. They were okay with that but did urge me to hurry up and get settled because there wasn’t much I could do whilst at the Café.
There were evenings, in my room when I had serious worries. It was all going too well; nobody ever had that much luck and happiness without a cost and at times I felt as if I was waiting for the bomb to drop. I got out of these moods quickly enough once we were rehearsing and then the day came when I had to speak with my doctors and mentors again, this was another decision day but this time the decision would not be just mine to make.
The morning I set off with Boris and Adam to meet Amy and Peter at the prison hospital, I was so frightened I kept getting tears in my eyes and hardly said a word on the trip. Adam and Boris allowed me to ride quietly, there was no false optimism, no remarks like, ‘It’s going to be all right,’ they allowed me enough space to think, wipe away tears and remain inside myself, they knew what I was going through and also knew that anything they said would likely make things worse rather than better.
I had dressed as Peter had suggested. Pure girl in the yellow dress, petticoat and the prettiest undies I had; rings, earrings, bracelets and watch. My hair was down and curled into its soft waves. I had the small shoulder bag onto which I had stuck a pink poodle. I was stating very firmly I’m a girl now. And that was how it was to stay regardless of what any doctors thought. We stopped at the prison gates and a warder came out. It was the man who had escorted us around the hospital on my last visit. He nodded and smiled at me and went to Paul who already had the documents ready. He checked them and looked inside the car and recognising the passengers he was about to wave Paul on when I called out, “No wait.”
They all looked at me, “I need to get out for a moment before we go in.” The warder started to open the door but Boris leaned across from the centre seats and said, “If you want the ladies, there are better ones in the hospital.”
“No, I just want to get out and look at the countryside for a moment, just stand a little while.” Boris understood immediately and nodded at the warder, “We won’t be long, will it be okay?”
“Yes, of course,” he held the door wide, “Come on Miss Finch, take all the time you want,” and he held out his hand and helped me out of the car. I walked back down the road just a dozen paces and stood, my arms hanging loosely at my side. The prison was out of sight behind me and in front there was a common, gently hilly with a large copse of trees to the right. To the left, barely visible were some houses and I guessed they were for prison staff. The common stretched before me, studded here and there with small groups of trees and bushes before rising slowly to the horizon about a half-mile away. It was the first week of September and a warm day and I hardly needed the cardigan draped around my shoulders. I could feel a breeze playing with my hair and the hem of my skirt and I let it happen enjoying the feeling, looking at the sky and its sparse groups of white clouds. I just stood there, listening to the birds, the hum of insects until about five minutes later I felt a presence beside me. It was the warder and he looked at me for a moment and said, “You have the appearance of somebody who is taking a last look at the view before entering the prison for a long sentence.”
“Something like that, I feel like a condemned woman about to be executed and regretting she would never see a day like this again.”
“Yes. Are you going to get seriously bad news in there?”
“Maybe. You know who I am?”
“Yes of course, I was with you the last time you came, I know the purpose of the clinic when Amy is there.”
“I am going in to be told my future today. Amy and the others are going to make a decision as to whether I can continue being who I am or must go back to my old self.”
A sad look came into his eyes and he placed his hand on my shoulder. “You must do what you want to do, Miss Finch, as far as me and the lads are concerned you are a nice lady and will always be one. If those people inside have an ounce of sense, you will come out still looking pretty and smiling at us.”
“You’ve made me feel better, I can go back, thank you for this moment.”
“You’re welcome,” and he gently took my arm and walked me back to the car, “I would ask you one thing before you go. Will you make sure some of us get tickets for the concert?”
I turned to him and kissed his cheek and got into the car, “I promise,” I said as he closed the door.
“Where did you get that dress?” asked Amy as we went into her office, “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
“The Retro shop in Chichester.”
“Let me have the address before you go, it’s out of this world,” she came closer and asked me to hold my arms out, “God it’s you.”
And then she changed and became all business. “Ronnie will get us coffee shortly but I suspect you would like to know the results of the tests and scan.” And without waiting for me to reply she opened a folder and then looked at me. “First the blood workout. All your vital signs are okay, liver, kidney and cholesterol; all fine but there is one anomaly. Your hormone balance is all over the place. The estrogen is very high, the testosterone very low, nearer a woman’s level and it can’t be explained by your hormone treatment, it was too low a dose to produce that effect. That leads us to,” she turned a page over, “The scan and sperm count. Hope you didn’t mind my adding the later to the test when you went to the county hospital?”
I shook my head, “Embarrassing and a bit difficult.”
“They gave me girly books to look at and they were no good, I would have done better with hunks in trunks so I just shut my eyes and used my imagination.”
She nodded and smiled,” I should have told them, sorry, but we did get a sample.” She looked at me, “Not good, exceptionally low for a man of your age, a healthy man that is. Had you got married, Helen you would never have sired children with that level and would have required a longish regime of testosterone treatment and that may not have been successful. That leads to the scan.” She closed the folder, “Are you comfortable with the men in here, doctors or not?”
“Yes, go ahead please.”
“Right. I had my suspicions confirmed. During the period you were in the womb your body had started forming female reproductive organs and then something happened to make your brain change its mind and send signals to produce male. You have two ovaries, traces of the fallopian tubes and the suggestion of a uterus. Apart from the ovaries, the rest are just suggestions of their presence but the ovaries are complete. Now we think what probably happened is the shock of the rape charge and your imprisonment started those ovaries of into doing their job and they probably produced ovarian eggs.” She looked at me closely, “You understand what I’m saying.”
“I think you are suggesting I may be hermaphrodite?”
“In a way yes. Not completely; human hermaphrodites usually have both sets of sex organs and a vagina and penus, one of those is primary and the second smaller and less formed but there none the less. You don’t have that. Your testes are small and your penus below average but there is no sign of a vagina either externally or internally other than your scrotum which has a more pronounced suggestion of separation than is usual. The ovaries are producing normal levels of estrogen and that would explain the sudden, as you describe then, girly thoughts and the rapid and unusual change in your nipples and breast tissue. Your body is trying to catch up and even our small doses of hormones accelerated that growth. Now, have you experienced hot flushes, moodiness, headaches and depression or short temperedness since you came into the Café?”
“Yes twice, the first was a few days after I joined, I kept feeling hot and then it would go away and I was depressed. I just put it down to being in a prison. The second time was last week, same sort of thing but again I put it down to the worry of what was happening to me and the pressure of the concert.”
“Helen, they were the equivalent of a woman’s menstruation. Your ovarian eggs formed and had nowhere to go but the ovaries increased their production of estrogen. The eggs were absorbed back into the body because there was no uterus and the body doesn’t throw away useful tissue so reclaimed them.”
I shook my head, “I could fertilize myself!”
She smiled, “No, your sperm is too weak and it would have no way of reaching the egg, the routes are not joined. I also think the ovaries may stop producing the eggs soon if they have not done so already but the estrogen will probably continue to be produced at female levels and your testosterone and sperm count will continue to fall.”
“So what happens now?”
“We stop the hormone injections, you are producing all you need on your own and if we continue, it we would increase your risk of a stroke.”
“So I have to go back to being a man?” And that was my most urgent question, was it over for Helen?
Amy sat back in her chair, “Peter and I have discussed this and we are both of the same opinion. It would be in your best interests to continue as you are…”
I punched the air in a very unfeminine manner, “Helen gets to live, blossom, I can stay female?”
She smiled but shook her head, “Hear me out. If you want, and it appears you don’t, we can operate and remove the ovaries and stop the production of the estrogen but I doubt you will ever be a fully functioning male again. Your testes may get back to normal but I seriously doubt it and so does everybody else. If you continue along your seemingly preferred path you will be able to function as a woman, even enjoy normal love-making but you will never become pregnant. Not even if we allowed the ovaries to continue producing their eggs and if we do that then we would have to remove your testes to ensure there was absolutely no chance of an ectopic pregnancy, that is an egg being fertilised and attaching itself to something outside the uterus. It happens in about one percent of pregnancies and an operation is needed to remove it or the woman dies.”
“Will that change my personality, make me into a different me?”
“Not to a large extent, you will be you, perhaps even a happier you and any changes in personality will be from an increasing preference to things female,”
I looked at Adam but spoke to everybody, “Are you happy with the diagnosis,” I asked with a big smile on my face. Each of them nodded and Peter added, “We cannot advise you which path to take we can only give you the facts and we are going to ask for second opinions and I have already spoken to Charing Cross Hospital in London, they have the best gender clinic in Britain, possibly the world and they said yes, they want to see you. Even then, they can only give you the facts, the final decision must be yours.”
“That final decision is already made. So when do I have to go up to London for more prodding, poking and squeezing?”
“More than once, I’m afraid Helen, they will need to make a lot of tests and scans,” said Amy “And then you have to make up your mind about gender re-assignment surgery.”
I nodded and remembered the decision that Barbara and Paul had made, “I’ll make that decision when the time comes; meanwhile I can carry on being Helen, that’s what matters to me. The sun had vanished when I came here today; it’s out now and shining brightly.”
Amy got up from her chair, came round and gave me a hug, “I’m so happy we had good news for you.”
“The best,” I said and we both started laughing as we wiped tears from our eyes. “Mind you, I will still want to see you every month to check your hormone levels and watch for complications.”
“You can prod away all you like now.”
“I’ll need to see you as well,” added Peter.
Amy took me by the arm, “Come on, Ronnie has bought more humbugs and happy tears don’t disqualify you. And I want that retro shop address.”
“Why not come with me, I’m going there next week.”
“Fine, I’ll charm Paul into coming with us, if not we’ll find somebody to drive us.”
“No, we’ll take my car, I’ll pick you up at the Café. Girls only.”
On the way out we stopped at the main gate again and my favourite warder was still on duty. I got out of the car after he had checked and signed us out, “How did it go in there?” he asked.
“I’m an excellent prisoner, I am doing exactly what you instructed me to do.” He looked puzzled, “I’m leaving here smiling.” I kissed him on the cheek again and got back into the car, he had a grin on his face as Paul drove away.
On the way back I asked Boris if he would stop at an off-licence.
In the next chapters; Doctor Amy discovers the retro bug is highly infectious and takes Helen on a shopping trip to the retro shop but Helen is identified as being transgendered Later Dr. Amy drops a bombshell that involves Adam. Helen discovers the problems with mini-skirts and stocking tops before she is suddenly taken ill and collapses.
Vesta's Hearth and Footprints in the Sea are available through the Hatbox Amazon Kindle link on the Home Page.
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