I was fast asleep when suddenly I was jerked out of my deep slumbers by the sound of the front door being slammed shut.
I snuggled deeper under my covers as I heard my father’s heavy steps go down the hallway into the sitting room at the end of the passage.
Then the shouting and screaming started as my parents had another one of their rows. I could hear it all clearly through the thin walls of the tiny flat where we lived on the twenty-second storey of a tower block of flats that was just one step away from a slum.
My heart was beating fast, as all feelings of sleep left me to be replaced by the fear and dread that had become all too normal for me.
I had a small bolt on my door and I had bolted it at bedtime, as usual. I didn’t want anyone, let alone my dad come in and find me wearing a nightie.
I jammed a finger into each ear, trying to cut out the awful row going on just down the passage. Then when that didn't work, I started humming Jingle Bells to myself to cut out the noise.
I could still hear them.
I was thirteen years old and a kid of my age, or any age, shouldn’t have to go through all this. Alright, I had gender issues as they would call it on the chat shows, but that didn’t mean that my life should be the living hell that it was. I had an alcoholic, violent father and a mother who hadn’t the strength or will to protect me or herself.
My name is Michael Jeffers (my secret name Samantha or Sammi), we live in London, Kilburn to be exact. Parts of Kilburn have been taken over by people with lots of money and the cost of houses and flats have hit the roof (sorry about that). But there are still some crappy high rise tower blocks run by underfunded housing associations that should have been knocked down years ago.
So, you may ask, why do I wear girls clothes when I can?
Its a question that I often asked myself before I realized that I wasn’t really a boy and had never been one. Okay, I had a penis, but that was just used to get rid of waste, it had no other function as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t only that. From a young age, I always wanted to be like my sister. She was lovely and had a wonderful smile. She was into skirts and dresses and was the girliest girl imaginable. I envied the fact that she could wear such lovely clothes and I had to dress and act like a boy.
I missed my sister terribly.
Dad, what should I say about him?
Dad used to take me to football and go fishing with him. He wanted me to be a man just like him, but all attempts failed. I could not play football, as I had two left feet and I hated fishing as it meant being cruel to fish.
I think that Dad wrote me off after his attempts to make me “man up”. He thought that I was some sort of weirdo sissy and after a bit, any love that he ever showed me, which was rare anyway, went out of the window.
We had been moved to tower block when our old house had been sold by the landlord and we weren’t wanted or needed as tenants. A young couple who worked in the City had moved in at four times the rent that we had been paying.
Mum couldn’t work because she had heart problems and other issues. She could barely walk up the stairs without getting totally out of breath, let alone go out to work. When the lifts weren’t working, which was quite often, she had to stay in and I had to do the errands for her, like get the shopping. Fancy the housing association placing her in a high rise tower with her medical problems.
Dad was fit enough, that is when he wasn’t drinking and developing an impressive beer gut. He had no job since getting sacked by the hospital, where he had been a porter. I never did find out why he had been fired, but I suspected that it was due to the fact that he didn’t always turn up to work after a night on the binge.
Our family was on benefits but much of the money was taken by Dad and he used the cash to feed his drinking and gambling habits. I supposed that he must have been an alcoholic as he drank morning, noon and night, but I’m no expert. We had been threatened with eviction several times due to the fact the rent wasn’t being paid, even though it was subsidized and we had to pay a reduced amount. Then Mum somehow made sure that the money for the rent was given directly to the housing association rather than given to us.
Dad didn’t like that and he hit Mum. He usually hit Mum and me when we did something that he didn’t like, which was almost anything and everything.
What about Rachel? You ask.
My elder sister Rachel had died the previous year whilst we were in our old house. She fell down the stairs and broke her skull. Everyone said that it was an accident, but I wasn’t so sure. Dad had been home with her and said that he was asleep at the time, but I wondered then and I still do, whether he had something to do with her death.
Things had never been okay since Rachel died. A little bit of Mum died and my dad’s drinking and violent behaviour gradually got worse. I lived from day to day, hoping that things would improve but they never did.
My thoughts suddenly came to the present when I heard screaming. It was Mum.
She never screamed like that, even when he hit her, she never, ever screamed like that.
I grew angry. I was rarely angry but when I was, a sort of red mist came over me and I said and did things that I didn’t know that I ever could.
Shaking, I got out of bed and went over to the door and unbolted it. My Mum was in pain and I couldn’t stand that. I left my room and went down the hall, opening the door, I went into the lounge. At the end of the lounge was the door that led into the kitchen. I could hear Mum’s whimpering and then she went quiet. Dad was shouting and swearing and making no sense at all. In a dream, I walked across the lounge and into the kitchen.
Mum was on the floor, blood seeping from her head.
Her eyes were open and she wasn’t moving.
Dad had a bottle of whisky in his hand and he was drinking deeply as if it was water.
He was swaying about.
Mum wasn’t moving.
‘What the fuck are you wearing?’
He was looking at me but I didn’t care. I was worried about Mum, she still wasn’t moving and her eyes were open and I was sure that she wasn’t breathing.
I went over to her and kneeled down, my bare knees cold on the lino.
The colour had drained from her face and the blood that had been seeping from the back of her head gradually stopped.
She wasn’t breathing.
I could tell at that moment that my Mum was dead.
Suddenly I was yanked to my feet, spun around and then slapped on my cheek.
‘You’ve killed her!’ I cried.
His face looked contorted with fury.
‘I said what the fuck are you wearing. I fucking nightdress, you little shissy!’
He slapped me again and I landed on the floor, banging my hip and making me cry.
‘Your Mum’sh ashleep, lazy cow. She hit her head when she shlipped on the floor. Now get up, you little panshy.’
He swayed before me and I got up gingerly. All I could see out of the corner of my eye was Mum, unmoving.
My knees were literally knocking.
He took off his belt and I knew what was coming. He took another huge swig out of the half empty bottle of whisky.
He didn’t seem to care that Mum was dead. All he cared about was getting at me and hitting me again. I could see that he was beyond any sort of reason and I was so scared that I felt a trickle of pee going down my leg.
He came at me and I dodged out of the way. He fumbled and dropped his belt.
‘Come ‘ere you little panshy.’
He swayed a bit, his unsupported trousers sliding slightly down off his beer gut.
Then he picked up a kitchen knife from the table and suddenly came at me.
I raised my arm to my face as he slashed at me. I felt a dull pain in my arm. Without thinking, I grabbed something from the table to protect myself and lunged at him.
He stopped, gasped and then dropped the bottle and looked down at his chest. He still had the knife in his other hand and he was waving it about feebly. I thought that he might come for me again.
With horror, I could see that there were the kitchen scissors sticking out of him at an upward angle. His grubby t-shirt had an ever-widening area of red on it. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and then sank slowly to the ground and collapsed into a heap, by the side of my Mum.
I knew he was dead.
Just like my Mum.
I had killed my Dad.
There was a silence.
No one had knocked on our door at the sound of screaming and shouting. It was that sort of place. Everyone minded their own business. Arguing was common where we lived and what if there was screaming, it wasn’t anyone else’s business. The police rarely got involved when there was what they called “a domestic”. If there was a drugs raid or someone suspected of fencing stolen goods, that was different.
I went out of the kitchen and quietly closed the door. Going into my room, I sat on the bed.
Feeling numb, I looked down at my nightie. There were specks of blood on it. My arm had a rivulet of blood going down it where my dad had cut me with the knife. The cut was shallow and was about ten centimeters long. It was funny, I had felt no real pain before, but now it was throbbing. It was then that it finally sunk in.
My Mum had been killed by my Dad and I had killed him.
I went into the bathroom and washed my arm and then grabbed a towel, wrapping it around my arm to stop the bleeding.
Then I went back into my bedroom and once again, sat on the bed. I was feeling very shaky, frightened and totally bereft.
I broke down and sobbed into my pillow.
I woke up. I had somehow fallen asleep. It was still nighttime and I saw on my bedside clock that I had only been asleep for about half an hour. It seemed much longer.
Sitting up, I suddenly remembered with awful clarity all the terrible events in the kitchen.
How could I have fallen asleep when so much had happened?
The towel was still wrapped around my arm and I gingerly took it off. The cut had dried and it didn't seem too deep.
I got up and went out of my room, along the passage, through the lounge and into the kitchen. I had to know if I had been having a nightmare, even though my nightie had spots of blood on it and my arm throbbed slightly from the cut, I just had to confirm things.
Maybe, Mum was alive and Dad just injured?
I slowly opened the door, for some reason I noted that the door still had that squeak. I would need to oil it, Dad wouldn't do it…
What was a thinking!
They were there, just as I had left them – both dead, Mum’s arms flung out and Dad too, still clutching the kitchen knife that he had tried to hurt me with. They both seemed to be looking at me, disapprovingly.
I shivered and it wasn't just from the cold.
It was a nightmare, a living one, only I was the only one left alive.
I shut the door on the horrors in the kitchen and went back to my bedroom. I had to think. Should I call for an ambulance? No point, they were dead and there was nothing hospital could do.
‘I should call the police,’ I thought, ‘I must ring the police.’
I went over to the phone and picked it up. No dialling tone. Then I remembered the phone had been cut off due to non-payment.
This was all too much.
I noticed then that I was dirty and damp down below, so I went into the bathroom, shed my soiled nightie and had a shower. I tried to rub off the dirt and filth and blood and scrubbed as hard as I could, but I still didn’t feel clean. I suppose I was on auto-pilot, still shocked at what had happened and I didn’t have the sense to just get dressed and go and ask for help from one of my neighbours. But then again, I knew what would happen to me when the police were inevitably called, I would be arrested for murder, even though my Dad killed my mum and then I just tried to protect myself. Even if they believed me that it was self-defence, I imagined that I would be put into custody for God knows how long and then either sent to prison if I was guilty or to a home for kids if I was innocent.
I needed time, time to think and decide what I should do.
I went over to the medicine cabinet and opened it. There were plenty of things to deal with wounds. We had a lot of wounds to dress in our household. Go figure.
Distractedly, I put a large plaster on my wound; it just covered it. It was shallow luckily, so I didn't think that it needed any stitches.
I shivered, the heating wasn’t on. On the back of the bathroom door was Mum’s pink towelling dressing gown. It was long for me, but I put it on anyway, as it was warm. I could smell her scent on it.
Going back into my bedroom, I sat down and then, of course, I started to cry again. It was all too much. I was only thirteen, why did I deserve all this? And Mum, she was dead and I missed her already. Dad, well I had stopped loving him years ago, but Mum, I wanted her to be alive and then we could make a new life together and she would let me be a girl and I would take the pills to stop me from growing into a man and then, when I was old enough, I could have an operation to make me into a true girl.
After a long while, I decided what to do. It helped as it took my mind off the loss of my Mum.
In Mum and Dad’s room was a computer, it was an old one, but it worked. No internet, that had been cut off with the phone, but it had a printer.
I switched the computer and printer on. While I waited for everything to load up and start, I went back to my room to get my digital camera, it was cheap one, a Christmas present from two years previously and it took reasonably good photos.
I messed about with the settings on the camera and then placed it on my chest of drawers, propped up with an old Lego box.
Taking Mum’s dressing gown off. I pressed the button to take a picture and then stepped back, waiting for the ten-second timer to take a photo of me.
I did that several times and then taking the camera back to my parent's room, I looked at the results on the computer and saved them to a memory stick that had some of my homework on.
I had taken photos of my face, which had a bruise on my cheek from when Dad had hit me, then another one of my back, where the marks of a belting last week was clearly visible; one of the wound on my arm finally, my bruised hip where I had fallen on it during Dad’s attack.
The photos weren't brilliant, but they would do and they were date stamped too, which was useful.
I opened the Word program and started typing.
My name is Michael Jeffers,
This is what happened tonight…
I put down all the facts, exactly as they happened but didn’t mention the fact that I was dressed as a girl as I didn’t want to complicate things.
I printed the note and put it down on mum’s dressing table together with the memory stick of the photos I had taken of myself showing the injuries that my dad had caused. I hoped that they would believe that I didn’t kill him on purpose, as I had grabbed the first thing that I could lay my hands on and was just trying to protect myself.
Then I went into my room and went over to my closet. Inside at the back was a suitcase. It was my sisters one, pink obviously, and in it, I had some of her clothes. After she had died, Mum had cleared out Rachel’s closet and drawers and had told me to take all her things to a charity shop. I hadn’t and had kept the case hidden in the back of my wardrobe ever since. As I was responsible for cleaning my room, it had never been found and when I could, I dressed up in her clothes. It wasn’t often, but I had relished those times. At first, her clothes were bit big on me, but after a growth spurt, they fitted pretty well.
I had another pang about my lost family, even Dad loved me once, even though he was a bit of a prick at times and nothing like the monster he turned into.
I took some clothes out of the case and laid them on my bed. After a bit, I chose what I should wear. It was cold outside, icy really and some forecasters were saying that we might be in for a white Christmas.
Rachel had more skirts and dresses than things with legs, you know, jeans and stuff, but she did have one pair of jeans and some rather thick leggings that could be worn under a skirt. It took me ages to decide what I should wear and I decided that it had better be the jeans, I didn’t want to get too cold and where I was going, I could get caught out in some nasty weather. The jeans were obviously girl’s ones, very tight and with close fittings legs and with flowers embroidered on the pockets. She had a nice thick white jumper with sparkly bits on it and I chose that. Underneath, I wore a short silky cami to stop any itchies from the jumper and white panties and some black tights, I was determined to stay warm. I had a navy blue coat of Rachels at the bottom of the closet and I pulled that out too. I was going to need it.
I went and got my rucksack and put some of Rachel’s, now my clothes in it together with my small makeup bag. I didn’t have much makeup, but what I had was okay, but very cheap.
Then, I decided that I should put some makeup on so I took the bag out, took it into the bathroom and used a bit of foundation to hide the damage to my face and then did my eyes and lips. I didn’t want anyone mistaking me for a boy.
I suppose that I was doing this in a sort of dream state. I was numbed by what had happened and no doubt suffering from shock. Everything that I was doing seemed kind of logical to me. I felt that I had no choice in the matter. All the time I was aware of the horrors in the kitchen and I tried my hardest to blank that out and try to think of other things, otherwise, I believe that I would have gone mad.
I had just finished my lippy and there was a knock on the front door.
I stopped what I was doing and listened.
There was another knock.
‘Bill, you in there? We are goin’ down the pub again, Fred’s having a lockout.’
A lockout, I knew, was when a landlord has illegal after-hours drinking. That was why Dad normally came home very late.
I stayed quiet. After a moment, I heard some sworn mumblings and Dad’s so-called friend went away.
I breathed a sigh of relief and put the cosmetics back in the makeup bag.
Soon, I was all packed. There was only one other thing to do. I had to go back into the kitchen.
I put on my shoes. I had one pair and they weren't that pretty, but they were black with a low heal and they were comfortable and more important, good to wear in cold weather. They were bought from a charity shop, the one and only time that I had plucked up the courage to go into one. Any other self-respecting girl would probably sneer at them, but beggars can’t be choosers.
I went into the kitchen, avoiding the bodies of my parents whilst trying not to cry, and then over to the welsh dresser. In the bottom cupboard, behind some plates, was a tin. I took the tin and then swiftly left the kitchen, closing the door quietly behind me, as if I didn’t want to wake anyone up.
Back in my bedroom, breathing heavily, I opened the tin and took the money out. It was the emergency fund that Mum had. Dad knew nothing about it, which was good for me because if he had, it would have used for his drinking and gambling and the tin would have more likely been empty.
Counting the money, I was surprised, as it £190 pounds. How my mum had managed to save that much, I would never know, but that would, I hoped, be enough to get where I needed to go.
Before I left the flat for the last time, I went into my parent's bedroom and over to Mum’s bedside drawer. In it was her address book and I took it out, flipped through the pages and confirmed the address I needed. There was a photo of my family, including Rachel on the dressing table. I took the photo out of the frame and took it together with the address book into my bedroom and put both in my rucksack. One final look around and then after putting on my coat, I left my bedroom and then the flat. I would never go back there again.
The lift wasn’t working, no surprise there, I walked down the stairs, my nose wrinkling at the smell of urine and other unpleasant unmentionables. Luckily, no one was around. It was getting late now, almost midnight, and I hoped that I would be able to get away without anyone wondering why a thirteen-year-old girl was out late at night all by herself.
As I walked out of the block of flats, I could see over in the corner of the car park, several people. There was a row going on and it looked like the row might turn into a fight. ‘More drunks or druggies,’ I thought as I hastily moved away unnoticed.
Luckily, the tube station was a short walk from where I lived, in fact, the line ran past my block of flats and the trains often kept me awake, as they ran until the early hours of the morning.
In the station was a ticket machine, it was one of those stations that had no staff. That was good for me as I didn’t want to be questioned.
A few people were out and about but minding their own business. This was normal for London as no one particularly cared about what others were doing. We were all in our own little worlds.
I waited for about ten minutes on the platform for the train to come in. There was one other person on the platform, an old man and I kept well away from him, nervous that he might be a threat or something.
The train finally came in and a few people got off as I got on. The train was quite busy as late-night travelers were on their way home. I was able to grab a seat and I just sat there not looking at anyone, wondering if I passed okay as a girl. I knew that I was a girl, but I had no confidence in myself and I was, to say the least, feeling fragile and scared.
I lost count of the number of stops the train had to go through, but eventually, I arrived at Victoria Station.
Once again, I was able to get a ticket at the machine, rather than talk to anyone who might wonder why I was there by myself. The ticket cost £22.00 and I pocketed it and then went over to the huge board that told people about the times of train departures and arrivals.
The last train was departing in twenty minutes and was on platform 10. Just then, I saw a policeman looking at me inquisitively and I hastened away to the platform, went through the barrier and got myself on the train. Looking out of the window, I saw to my relief, that there was no sign of the policeman and I sighed with relief.
Maybe I should have gone over and spoken to the policeman.
Being the last train, there were quite a few people on it. No doubt some were late night party goers and a few were a bit rowdy. I stayed away from them and made my way down the train there were a few families with kids; I assumed that they had been up to town to see the Christmas lights or something.
Thinking myself to be quite clever and scheming, I thought that it might be an idea to sit close to one of the families. Maybe people might think that I was with them rather than by myself.
As soon as I sat down a girl roughly about my age or a bit younger looked at me and pointed.
‘Mum, that girl’s wearing makeup, why can’t I. I’m nearly twelve now and my friends...’
I sunk down lower in my seat. This was all I needed.
‘Shut up Sharon, don’t be rude. We’ll talk about it later.’
The woman looked at me.
‘Sorry love, my daughter doesn't know when to shut up.’
I smiled weakly.
‘By yourself dear? You are very young to be on your own.’
‘Erm, Mum’s down the carriage, we had a row.’
‘Oh dear and this being Christmas too.’
As if that had anything to do with it. Did that mean that you aren't allowed to have rows at Christmas?
Just then, her young son started to bawl and that was good, as I didn't want to have any sort of extended conversation with an inquisitive woman.
The girl who made the remark about my makeup looked at me and scowled as if it was my fault that she couldn't wear makeup.
At least she hadn’t mistaken me for a boy, so that was something.
There was the sound of a whistle, blowing from outside and then, slowly but surely, the train left the station and then after, it started to speed up.
I was on my way.
It was quite dark outside as we left London behind and soon I felt sleepy. It had been a long, harrowing night. How I could even think of sleeping was beyond me after all that had happened. I kept on having flashbacks about the violent deaths of my parents and the fact that they were still in the kitchen, cold and stiff. I was so upset that I didn't have the time to say goodbye to Mum. The last thing she said to me was that I had to get up early to go and get some milk and bread. Hardly a loving thing to say, but at least we hadn't rowed the last time we spoke...
I awoke with a start. Looking at my watch, I could see that I had been asleep for almost an hour. The lady with the kids was asleep, as were two of her three children. The girl, the one who didn't seem to like me, was engrossed in doing something on her phone and seemed to be in a world of her own. I was glad of that as the last thing I wanted to do was to have a conversation with a girl with attitude.
Just then, I heard a click from the speaker and then the announcer said that the train was about to arrive at Worthing.
The kid looked up and then touched her Mum’s arm.
Then there was a lot of toing and froing as she, her family and other passengers got ready to leave the train. Luckily, they were all more interested in getting bags and kids organised than they were of little me. Although, as they went down the carriage, Attitude Girl turned to me and stuck her tongue out.
Charming, I thought.
I didn't want to sit by myself as questions might be asked, so I picked up my rucksack, moved down the carriage and into the next one, where more people were. I sat opposite a man and woman who were asleep, despite all the noise around them. Judging by the smell, one that I knew well, it looked like they were sleeping off a good night out. I hoped that anyone passing might think that I was with them.
The train moved off and I looked out of the window as we went through Worthing and out into the country again.
Soon it was all dark outside. I stared out of the window but just saw my reflection. I had longish hair as I always resisted having my hair cut. I had brushed it as well as I could into a girls style with a middle parting and a slight fringe. It looked a little bit girly, I thought, but it could do with a decent cut and blow dry so that I could feel a bit more comfortable with it. My features were more like Mum rather than Dad. I always looked a bit of a girl, or so my so-called classmates said. Not that I had ever had any real friends at school. The only “friends” that I had were just ones who picked my brains when homework was needed. I am quite intelligent and I have had to hold myself back in class, as it would never do to be seen to be too clever.
Dad had never stuck up for me when I came home after being bullied at school. He just told me to man up and give as good as I get. Mum was too afraid of going against his wishes. The fight had been knocked out of her years before.
Why did we stay with such a monster? Mum said that she still loved him, despite everything.
I could never understand that.
Rachel had rowed with Dad when we lived in our old place and I was convinced that he had something to do with her death, although the coroner said that it was accidental...
‘The next station is Goring-By-Sea.’
I picked up my rucksack, walked down the carriage and joined the few people getting off.
Outside the station, I looked at my mum's address book and noted the address that I needed.
There were three taxi’s waiting outside and I peered into each of them. One driver was a woman.
I knocked on her car window.
‘Hi, can you take me to South Drive?
I told her.
‘I’m not in front of the queue, but the men won't mind me picking up a young girl. Get in the front then.’
I did as I was told and was pleased that the car was warm, it was freezing outside.
She started the car and then drove off.
‘So, you are out late.’
‘Yes, I had a sleepover but it went all wrong as my friend had to go to the hospital, appendix, I think. Dad couldn't pick me up ‘cos he’s at work and Mum can’t drive, she said to get a taxi from the station and don’t speak to any strange men.’
‘Sounds like you’ve had a night of it.’
‘You can say that again,’ I replied.
Little did she know.
Ten minutes later, we pulled outside a rather large house and I had to pretend that I had come home.
I paid her ten pounds and another one as a tip.
‘Thanks love, now you get inside before you catch cold.’
‘I will, thanks.’
I shut the car door and walked up the drive. The lady waited for me to arrive at the door and then drove off.
I had expected to see the house in darkness and I dreaded knocking anyone up, but the house was ablaze with light and I could hear music coming from inside.
My heart thumped and I felt a bit sick as, with a trembling finger, I rang the doorbell.
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