[At a School, somewhere two weeks before Christmas]
“Miss Featherstone, the Headmistress would like to see you in her Office?” said the Head’s secretary after she’d popped her head around my classroom door.
Sadly, my class of fifteen year olds were more interested in which ‘C List’ celebrity had either had a boob job or was … well, having it off with some other reality TV performer than 'Britain during the Industrial Revolution'. I refuse to call them stars. Most of them had as much talent as I had in my little finger.
“Break will be in ten minutes. Is that soon enough?”
The secretary smiled.
“I’m sure that will be fine.”
She left us alone. There had been some tittering amongst my class. My eyes were drawn to Tony Robbins. He was the class joker.
“Tony Robbins? What is so funny? Care to share it with the rest of us?”
He sat there going red in the face. The person sitting next to him, spoke up.
“He found it funny that you were being summoned to see the head when it is normally him who has to go.”
“Thank you, Desmond. For that you are excused tonight’s homework.”
There was a collective groan from the class. Many of them were thinking 'if only I'd spoken up...'.
“I know that there is only a week left before the end of term but we have work to get through before your mock exams in February.”
The mention of the exams got everyone’s attention. This class weren’t a bad lot as a whole provided you could get their interest.
“Tonight’s homework should only take an hour but anyone who just copies what they find on the Internet will get a fail mark. Do some research and draw your own conclusions as if you were living at the time.”
“The question for tonight is. ‘What was the effect on Industry of the granting of the Steam Engine Patents to Boulton and Watt’. There is no right or wrong answer. Argue that it had no effect or that it did and why you came to that conclusion. Remember to cite your references. Much of what you learned during the field trip to the ‘Black Country’ Museum will be useful background. Think of the social implications of what such a restrictive patent could mean.”
I looked at the clock. There was less than two minutes of the lesson remaining.
Everyone but Desmond Shaw left the room at a great rate of knots.
“Miss…” he began.
“Don’t say it Desmond. I know that you could answer this question in your sleep. It remains to be seen if anyone else quotes your Father’s Paper on the subject.”
“But… Miss, I need to get my coursework average up.”
“That’s why you will get an ‘A’ for this.”
He smiled broadly back at me.
Then he dashed off.
His father had been a mentor to me and had written a recent history or rather a one thousand page tome on the Matthew Boulton company.
I gathered my things and headed for the Headmistresses Office.
“Come,” came her voice from within just after I’d knocked on her door.
I went inside still feeling a bit uneasy even though I was now ‘staff’ and not a ‘pupil’ at the school but the head was still my Mother and... Well she was… still the ‘boss’.
“Ah, Jayne. Please take a seat.”
I sat down and waited while she took off her glasses.
“Jayne, darling, we have received a complaint from one of the parents. It is about your style of dressing.”
I was shocked.
“What… What is wrong with the way I dress?”
“To me nothing. You don’t wear short skirts or skimpy tops or show too much of the things that you should not show. However, one of the parents found their son’s phone. The picture on the phone was of you, or rather of the back of your legs.”
“Jayne, this boy has apparently been fantasising about your legs and …”
She was lost for words for a second.
“Jayne, they object to you wearing high heels and seamed stockings. Apparently, it has been giving their son wet dreams. He took a picture of you on the stairs and used it on his phone.”
I tried to suppress a laugh but failed.
The head smiled back at me as well.
“This is silly,” I said.
“We both know that it is. However…”
My stomach turned over and I felt my lunch want to come back out the way it went in.
“However, looking at the pupils reports from other members of staff, I don’t think that he was having that sort of wet dream. I get the distinct feeling that he is just like you.”
I knew in an instant whom she was referring to.
“You are talking about Tony Robbins, aren’t you?”
She smiled back at me.
“I see you have noticed as well. That was why I didn’t mention his name at the outset.”
I remembered back some ten years when I’d come out as a transsexual. Things had improved a lot since but some parents were still living in the dark ages.
“What do you suggest we do?”
The head smiled.
“Tony is in the end of year review, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is. He is part of a double act. They are supposed to start the second half of the show.”
Then I saw what the head was getting at.
“What if we got him to impersonate me? He is forever mimicking me in class. His voice is just about perfect.”
“Exactly what I was thinking. He was sent to me from Mr Jones’s Chemistry class last week for doing that very thing.”
The head looked up at the clock that was on the wall behind me.
“He’s in Maths at the moment. You have my permission to take him out of his next class which if I remember rightly is Mr Smith and Biology.”
“It will take a lot of work and there isn’t a lot of time.”
“It will but remember how you got on once you’d come out? You were a different person.”
“Not needing the Ritalin helped,” I replied remembering back to those dark days.
The quacks thought I had ADHD because I was always going off the subject at a tangent. The reality was that I could not face talking about my own sexuality. Then mum caught me in the act of wearing a skirt and preening myself in the mirror. Instead of giving me a hard time, we sat down and talked. After a bit, it all came out. That event changed both our lives.
Then she said,
“Are you up for the challenge?”
“I think so.”
I stood up and left her to get on with something.
I waited for Tony outside of his next class.
“Tony, hold on a moment.”
“Miss, I need to get into class. Mr Smith is a stickler for timekeeping.”
“I know but he knows that you won’t be attending his lesson today. The Headmistress has cleared it with him.”
His face went sad.
“What did I do wrong now?”
“Nothing Tony, nothing. Come on, we will go into the Library. I have something relating to the End of Year Review to discuss with you. There may well be a change of the running order.”
His demeanour changed when I mentioned the review.
We found a quiet area of the library and sat down.
“The Head has received a complaint about me from your Father. Do you know why this is?”
He went red in the face. Eventually, he said,
“What has this to do with the review?”
I smiled. He’d tried to deflect the subject of our conversation.
“I will come to that later.”
Then I said,
“You father went as far as saying that your phone picture of my legs was causing you to have…”
then I said in a whisper,
He said nothing but I could see the tears welling up inside him.
“Don’t worry about the phone or the dreams. Why did you take the picture? The real reason?”
“Miss, I… I wanted…”
Then he clammed up.
“Did you want to wear the shoes and the stockings? Don’t be shy. This is not that uncommon amongst teenage boys.”
He answered with a barely perceptible nod of the head.
“Good. Then if I were to offer you the chance to wear them in the Review would you take it?”
He froze rigid.
“What? In front of all those people and my family? Dad would go bonkers.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Miss, you don’t have a clue. You don’t know what it is like.”
“Like what? To know that your brain and your body don’t match? To have the feeling that you just don’t fit in with everyone else? To feel every moment of every day that you are living a lie?”
Again, his answer was a slight nod of the head. There was still a look of fear in his eyes.
“Stay right there,” I said as I got up and went to get two books from another part of the library.
I returned. He’d not moved a muscle.
I sat down and opened the first book.
“These are pictures from the review we did here twelve years ago.”
I then pointed to one of the actors.
“That’s me, second from the right.”
The picture was of four boys trying badly to do a bit of break dancing.
“Miss? It can’t be. That’s a boy.”
“Yes, and if you look at the credits, you will see my name. David Hall. The Headmistress is my Mother.”
Then I opened the other book.
“This is me two years later.”
This picture showed me performing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.
“Miss? Is that really you?”
“Yes. Now I'm just a teacher called, Kelly Featherstone.”
I closed both books and asked.
“Do you want to have the opportunity to show the world who you really are?”
“What do you mean?”
“Impersonate me in the review. Go the whole way. Let your take off of me rip. No holds barred.”
There was silence in the library.
Then I added,
“What would you call yourself if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Eve. I’d like to be called Eve,” he said slightly hesitantly.
"Then come back next term as Eve. You now know that you won't be the first pupil to tread that road here."
He didn't reply but looked back at me with happy tears in his eyes.
“Well, Eve, may I suggest that you go home and think about what I’ve just said. Let me know tomorrow what you decide.”
He nodded his head.
“Oh, and this thing about me once being like you is not common knowledge. People who were here at the time know but for some reason it has not made it to Facebook or Twitter. The information was there for anyone to find if they took the trouble to look but… Well, I think you can guess why we don’t advertise it. But I'll always be in your corner.”
“Miss, you have nice legs.”
“Thank you, Eve but that is between us you understand. No more photographs of my legs. Take your own leg selfie's from now on ok?”
He grinned once more.
Then I reached into my handbag and pulled out a plastic bag.
“This is for you.”
“Open it when you get home and somewhere private.”
“Good. Now I need to take you to Mr Smith’s class.”
“Do I have to?”
“Yes, you do or there won’t be a spot in the review for you.”
[the next day]
“Ah, Mrs Robbins. What can I do for you?” I said as she was shown into the now empty classroom. Everyone was at lunch. She'd called the school first thing that morning as asked to see me urgently.
“It is about Tom,” she replied.
“He told me about the review. He told me everything.”
“What do you think? More importantly, do you support him?”
“I… I dismissed his dressing up as a fad but now I know differently. His father will be difficult.”
“That’s why showing him Eve in the review is probably the best way to win him around. Everyone will see her make her debut at the same time.”
“I agree but what will he do?”
“Eve is a great mimic. She’s going to impersonate me.”
“You talk about him as a her. Why?”
“Because your child is really a woman inside a man’s body. This is her chance to break free and be the person she should have been.”
Mrs Robbins looked at me strangely.
“Don’t go all Psychology on me. I studied it at Uni before I switched to Business Studies.”
I sighed. There was nothing for it.
“I have been exactly where your son is now. And, here in this very school.”
Her mouth dropped open.
“I know from personal experience how hard it can be to... To tell your parents who you really are. Thankfully mine understood and helped me along and allowed me to become the person I am today. I hope you will do the same to her.”
She didn’t reply straight away. Then she said,
“What do you need me to do?”
[The night of the review]
I was as nervous as Eve was. She’d been rehearsing separately from the rest of the ‘troop’. The only people who knew what was going to happen were Eve herself, her mother, me and the Headmistress and of course me. It was now or never.
I’d given her an outfit to use. It was one that I’d actually worn to school. Her mother had bought a pair of shoes for Eve to wear and Eve had been wearing them around their home whenever her father wasn’t there. I saw the delight that Eve had when wearing just a skirt and heels. It was as if a new person had been born.
Eve and her mother had come to my home earlier that evening to get ready. Tom was now Eve who was looking an awful lot like me. She could even sound like me but I’d seen that many times in class. I felt rather odd seeing a slightly smaller version of myself wearing my clothes and sounding like me.
“I would never have believed it,” said Eve’s mother.
“I can’t see any of Tom left. It is as if another person has come out of nowhere.”
I took her hand.
“It is a bit weird but that’s how my Mother felt when she saw the real me for the first time. You have an advantage in that Eve could already talk like a woman.”
“It is time we left.”
Eve looked pleased as punch with her new self.
“How do you feel darling?” asked her mother.
“Are my seams straight?”
We all laughed. I checked hers and mine. They were perfect. The stockings she was wearing were the ones that I’d given her that day in the library.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the Headmistress.
“There is a slight change from the advertised programme. The next act will be Eve Robbins.”
There was some chatter amongst the Audience. I was standing at the rear of the Auditorium. Eve’s parents were sitting on the front row.
The piano played a few bars of something as an intro and Eve strolled onto the stage.
She proceeded to take me off splendidly. She exaggerated my actions perfectly and her telling of a story about what happened on the way to the theatre had the audience laughing as one.
At the end of her act, she took a bow. There was rapturous applause from the audience. She’d had them laughing almost all the time since she'd began to talk.
I’d moved to the side of the stage while she was performing. I moved onto the stage and raised her hand.
I could see Eve’s mother grinning and her father looking shaken. At least he’d not left in anger.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, that delightful take off of me brings to an end the first part of the show. There will be a twenty-minute interval. Refreshments will be served in the refectory.”
Then the house lights went up.
I watched as Eve quite nervously went down the step at the side of the stage to be with her parents.
I breathed a sigh of relief as her father hugged his daughter. Eve’s mother was beaming and gave me the thumbs up.
I joined them and said,
“I think you should all go home and get to know each other properly. Eve, I expect to see you in the new year wearing regulation school uniform. That does not include heels and stockings.”
Then I added,
“Oh, and no more impersonating me. You are too good at it.”
We all laughed.
It had been an interesting end to the term. The next one promised to be even better.
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