When the train finally left it was such a relief. The train was not an express, so stopped frequently, but I didn't mind, it gave me a chance to think. I was 99% certain that there was a contract out on me. The guy who attacked me didn't ask for any money, just waited until I was close enough, and went for it with a knife. I went through my reasoning from last night, were there any other options for me? Escape and disguise still seemed the only viable option. Could I do this by myself? I didn't know. Was there anybody who I could turn to for help? The only friends I had were the girlfriends I had at my previous school. That was 2 years ago though. Could I risk them getting involved? I don't think any of their parents were that impressed with me. No, I don't think that would work. I didn't have any relatives who I could turn to, well, not in the UK anyway. I think I would need ID to get to Spain. Maybe that should be my longer term goal. Get to Spain and stay with my Grandparents. They really had no involvement in my life, they didn't even send Birthday or Christmas cards and although that probably meant they would not be thrilled to see me, there was also less chance that I would be traced there.
Let's break this down. I have a long term goal which I have no clue how to achieve. Short term goal. What do I need to do next. I need to complete my disguise and add to my wardrobe, but really cheaply. I need pants and bras, my ears pierced and some studs in. More durable clothes, jeans and T-shirts, trainers, socks or tights, some kind of bag to carry it in and I have to do something about my hair. I hope it is long enough for a pixie cut. If not, a wig. Hopefully, I can do most of it in charity shops. I don't know London though. I guess I can just ask where the nearest Oxfam shop is. Oh, that reminds me, I have a step-sister in Oxford. Could she help me? I only met her for a few minutes, but she seemed nice. I know that she is at St Catherine's College, so I should be able to find her. I don't think I can do this alone. I really hope she can help me. Are there any better possibilities? I couldn't think of any.
I arrive at Victoria Street Station, I throw away my school clothes and the mask. I will have to be careful with my face, I was supposed to wear that for another couple of weeks. I find a Marks and Spencer's and get measured for my first bra. My emotional numbness has officially worn off. Trying to act nonchalant whilst being terrified. I wasn't that convincing, but I guess I look younger than I am and some girls my age probably act nervous too. I am a B cup. I don't think you can go back from that. Not without surgery. I could bemoan the loss of my masculinity. I have to face reality. I am in a girls body apart from a small bit at the front. I am producing significant levels of female hormones. I can die as a man or live as a woman. I have never felt women were lesser in any way. My best friends were girls and, apart from my father, the vast majority of men or boys I have met, have been arseholes. I have never felt attracted to them either, despite all the names I have been called. I guess that would make me a lesbian. I get changed in my new underwear in the station Ladies, my boy pants I leave in the nappy bin. Then I wait for the Oxford tube.
The coach journey is uneventful. More time for thought. I don't really come to any different conclusions. I have done what I think is right. I hope I can live with my decisions. I arrive in Oxford around lunch time. I head for the tourist information centre. A very nice lady gives me a map and marks the location for all the things I am interested in and even goes online to find out what bus to get, from where, to get to St Catherine's.
I pass a supermarket, so I nip in and grab a few buns with cheese and bacon baked in and a big bottle of water. My perusal of the charity shops turns up a rucksack, pair of trainers, a couple of girly T-shirts, girl jeans, that actually fit me way better than the men's version ever did, a winter coat that buttoned down to my knees and wonder of wonders a wig. It is dark brown, which is very different from my natural golden blonde. I don't think it is real hair, but it is very realistic and makes a huge difference to my look. The lady running the till helps me secure it with some pins, tut tuting about my own hair. I love my new look. I can't see any boy there at all. How weird, I am enjoying looking girly. I change into my new stuff in their changing rooms and pack the rest in my rucksack. Pretty pleased with myself I head off to St Catherine's.
I arrive at St Catherine's still trying to work out the best approach. Do I question strangers and ask if they know her or do I wait outside and hope she will go out in the evening and I can meet her. I look unthreatening, so I look for girls of a similar age to Stephanie, my step-sister, who look like they are approachable. I had worked out my story before hand. I am pretending to be a girlfriend to Laurence and really need to contact him. I didn't want to bring Laurence into it at all, but I couldn't think of anything better. I would try not to mention him at all unless pressed. The third person I asked, was vaguely aware of her, but knew someone who might know her. Very kindly, she phoned her friend, who phoned someone else, who phoned Stephanie. A message was passed and I waited with baited breath for my step-sister to appear. No one questioned me closely, so Laurence's name was never mentioned.
10 minutes later and there she was. She didn't recognise me at all. I had to wave at her to get her attention. She came over.
“How can I help you?” Even close up, she had no idea at all. Then again, I only spoke to her briefly.
“Thank you so much for coming down to see me. I really need to speak to you about Laurence.”
“Yes, have you heard about him being assaulted?”
“Assaulted, no. I heard he had an accident, but was going to be fine.”
“Seriously, that is what you were told.”
“Amber, call me Amber.”
“OK Amber, what has this got to do with you or me?”
“It is a long story. Is it possible we can go somewhere and I can tell you all about it.”
She looked me over, I think assessing my threat level. She was quite a bit taller and bigger than me.
“Lets go up to my room.” I followed her up with my rucksack and handbag.
When we got there, she sat on the bed and gestured for me to sit on the desk chair.
“Thanks Stephanie, I do appreciate it.”
“I haven't done anything yet, and just call me Steph, everybody else does.”
“I mean taking the time to listen to a stranger when you don't even know Laurence very well.”
“How do you know that?”
I sighed. “That will all become clear.” I considered revealing who I was now, but decided to let the story reveal itself. “How much do you know about his medical condition?”
“I didn't know he had a medical condition.”
“Well, maybe medical condition is putting it a bit strongly. Genetically he is predisposed to producing too much estrogen. This means that until he hits puberty his body edges closer to female norms than male ones. It also means that puberty is delayed until he is producing enough testosterone to overcome those effects.”
“That explains why he looked so,... shall we call it underdeveloped.”
“Underdeveloped. That is the most polite word my condition has ever been called.”
“Your condition? You don't look like Laurence.” She was frowning at me.
In a way, it was great, even having been told, she didn't believe me. I searched my hair for the pins holding it in place and removed my wig. I did a sort of finger wave. “Hi, sis.”
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