Mid-term


The possibility of moving to another town had been on the cards for months. Peter's dad works for a logistics company which has been planning to relocate their head office to a more central location and when the office moves, so will Peter, his sister Kate and his Mum & Dad. When the news finally came, things began to move much quicker than they'd anticipated. No sooner had they broke
up for the summer holidays, their parents informed them that they'd be moving up to Butterworth, a small town somewhere in the Midlands. “It's in the middle of nowhere!” Kate whined as Dad pinpointed the town on Google Maps. “Why are we moving there?”

“Because the company's moving there.” their dad replied. “They're relocating the depot...” he pointed out a large industrial estate near the small town and explained that its close to the M1 and M6.

“And miles away from all my friends.” Kate moaned.

“Mine too.” Peter added.

“You'll make new friends, and you can keep in touch with your old ones.” their mum claimed. “They do have the internet in the Midlands you know. You can still keep in touch on Messenger or VideoChat.” she reminded her children.

“But what about school?” Kate asked. “I'm about to start Year 11.”

“I know, and it's not ideal.” she's told. “...but you'll be moving to a much better school with an 'excellent' Ofsted rating.”

“The house looks great too... look.” their father added before showing them the pictures of the house they'll be moving into.

“How can we afford that?” Peter gasped. Their current semi-detached house has three bedrooms, a small back garden and an even smaller garden at the front. The new house is a detached period home with four bedrooms, two reception rooms, kitchen/diner, utility rooms, a huge back garden, a detached garage, a front garden as big as their current back garden and a downstairs loo!

“It's the Midlands.” their dad shrugged. “You get a lot more house for your money.”

“When are we moving?”

“Three weeks.”

“THREE WEEKS!”

“I know it's sudden but we need to get settled in before September.” the kids are told.

With all the packing that needed to be done, those weeks went quickly... too quickly! Peter made no secret of the fact that he's going to miss his friends. It's the same for his sister too and according to their parents, them as well... but grown-ups don't need established friends like kids do. Peter's thirteen (just turned) and his sister Kate is fourteen going on fifteen. Both are very nervous of the move, but slightly optimistic too. They always enjoyed days out in the countryside but they also like everything that a big town has to offer. Butterworth is a small market town with a couple of supermarkets and handful of shops. The nearest cinema is miles away, there's no bowling alley, no ice rink and other than a sports & recreation centre, there appears to be very little to do.

There's two secondary schools in the town and Peter and his sister have been enrolled in the high school rather than the academy. The high school has a better Ofsted rating then the academy and the academy, according to their parents, has a long waiting list whilst the high school has plenty of places. They browse online to see what their new town and school looks like. From the satellite view they can see tennis courts, an athletics field, a maze like layout of buildings around an enclosed yard. The school's website looks about a decade old since it barely fills half of the screen. The pictures on the gallery page take an age to load and typical for a girl, Peter's sister says she likes their tartan skirts. “...but I hope those bottle green tights aren't compulsory.” she groans.

“Peter Pan tights.” Peter suggested with a grin. “I'm just glad it's not one of those EP schools.” he stated as they scrolled through the online gallery showing the boys and girls in their respective uniforms

“Apparently Upton Grammar nearly became one of those.” Kate said. “The PTA voted last year and it was 52% against, 48% for.” she claimed.

“I bet the sigh of relief from the Upton boys could be felt as far away as Windsor!” Peter said. “Isn't there one in Burnham?”

“There's two.” his sister stated.

“Really?” Peter quizzed. According to his sister, not only is Burnham's Queen Elizabeth Academy and EP school, but the adjoining Queen Elizabeth Junior school is too.

They spend their final week in Slough saying goodbye to their friends and frantically sorting, packing and chucking out many of their belongings. Peter's final day is spent with his two best friends, Noel and Mark fishing on the Grand Union Canal. Noel's sister Carol joined them and predictably, they didn't get a single bite. They did have fun reminiscing about old times though and Peter was being mostly optimistic about the move. He mentions the 'excellent' Ofsted rating that his new high school has, before mentioning that the town's other school has an average rating but a waiting list as long as ones' arm. “Maybe it's one of those EP schools.” Mark jovially suggested.

“Nah... I've already checked that.” Peter said. “Is it true that Upton Grammar 'almost' became one?”

“They voted on it but it was voted out.” Carol informed them.

“My sister said it was something like forty-eight percent for and fifty-two against.”

“You sure she wasn't talking about Brexit?” Noel grinned.

Eventually they packed up their tackle and headed down the tow path, two by two due to its narrowness. Carol and Peter walked together and much to his surprise, she linked onto his arm and said she was sorry that he was leaving. “I've always had a bit of a crush on you.” she said.

“WOW!” Peter thought.

Carol's in the year above him at school and she's what he'd call a 'looker'. If she'd told him this months ago maybe he'd have tried convincing his parents not to move them ninety miles away. Peter wouldn't see his friends again for god knows how long so they parted company with a manly hug. Carol gave him a hug and kiss, followed by a lingering smile. “Keep in touch” were her parting words.

~o0o~

It's early February 2017. Peter and his family moved away six months ago and apart from a few messages soon after leaving and a Christmas card, he's barely kept in touch with his old friends. Then out of the blue, he sends Noel a message saying that they're returning to Slough for a couple of days at mid-term. “Thought you'd forgotten about us!” is Noel's reply.

“Nah... soz... just been a bit slack.”

“So what's it like?”

“OK mostly... not enjoying school much though.”

“If it's owt like its website, it'll be ten years out of date.” Noel says. “Good sports facilities though... thought that'd be right up your street?”

“No footy, no cricket, no rugby... just tennis, track & field and stuff. :(” Peter typed. He'd deliberately not mentioned netball and hockey

“No footy!?” Noel quickly typed. “What kind of school is it?

“The worst kind imaginable.”

“Not an EP school is it?” Noel guessed. Peter didn't immediately reply, which isn't unusual on messenger. He could be multitasking, making a brew, anything. “Well?” Noel typed after a few minutes. “You there?” he added a minute later.

“Yeah still here... just trying to find a photo.” Peter replied.

A moment later, a window appeared on Noel's netbook screen saying 'Peter J is sending a file, Do you want to accept?'. He clicks Yes and types “Carol says Hi.” as the image begins to download.

Meanwhile, Peter had typed “Don't show this to everyone!” followed by, “Anyone!!!” ...and after receiving the message regarding Carol, Peter types “Is she there?”

“Yeah.”

“Shit.” Peter types. “Can you get rid before that photo downloads?”

“Too late.” Noel types. “She's seen it.... 'kin 'ell mate... Is that your school uniform?!”

“I'm not wearing it for fun.”

“You wear that everyday?!”

“Every school day.” Peter typed. “It's feckin' horrendous.”

“Carol says you look cute.”

“Tell Carol not to tell anyone... please.”

“Why not? You look cute.”

“I hope Carol typed that.”

“Yeah it's me. How you doing? You've hardly been in touch.”

“That is Carol?”

“Yeah.”

“Hi.”

“Hi :)”

“Yeah... soz... meant to stay in touch but...” After leaving Slough in the middle of the summer holidays, Peter fully intended to stay in regular contact with his old friends. He also fully intended to stay in touch with Carol, but within a day of moving into their new home, Peter's mum and dad sat him down for a chat about his new school. At first he figured they were winding him up but it soon became apparent that they weren't. Ever since that day, his life in Butterworth became a bit of whirlwind.

“So it's an EP school?” she typed

“Yeah... my folks didn't tell me 'til we got here.” he replied. “Explains why the best school in town has loads of spare places and the other one is ram packed.” he typed

Carol cast her eyes over the photograph again. Peter doesn't look too happy to be having his photo taken but he's sort of trying to smile. Maybe it's a bemused grimace on his face? Who cares? He still looks nice and it's the little pleated plaid skirt and his shapely slender legs she's looking at. “Do you have to wear green tights?”

“I feel like Peter feckin' Pan!”

“:D” she typed, followed by “Noel's laughing.”

“I bet he is... make sure he doesn't tell anyone will ya?”

“I can try. He wants to know if you wear knickers too.”

“Tell him to feck off.” Peter typed.

“I have.. but he's still laughing.” Carol replied. “What's the town like?”

“It's OK; shops, houses, streets, the usual.”

“Sarky!”

“:D ...it's small and if you ignore the M1 and industrial estates, it's just trees, fields and rolling hills for miles around. Got a road bike for Christmas so hope to get plenty of rides in when summer comes.”

“Cool. Sounds very verdant.”

“Compared to Slough, everywhere is!”

“LOL” she typed. “At least you'll blend in to the surroundings.”

“Eh?”

“Green uniform, green surroundings.”

“Oh yeah.”

“So the tights... do they have to be green or can you wear black?”

“Green only. I think I’d rather wear black ones.” he glumly typed, quickly adding “...or trousers!”

“Same here... but then again, I do!”

“Lucky you. :( ”

“Surely you can wear socks?”

“We can but I prefer tights... especially at this time of year!”

“Your skirt is quite short.” she types. “Is it warm?”

“It's too short!” Peter types, adding. “It'd be warmer if it was longer.”

“Nice though... better than my boring navy blue one.”

“You wouldn't be saying that if you were me.”

“Oh I dunno... if I were a boy I'd be bored wearing pants all the time.” Carol replied.

“Weird reading that from Noel's account! :D .” Peter typed. “Is he still there?”

“Nah, he's downstairs.” Carol typed. “Got any more photos?”

“Not that I’m gonna send!”

“Spoilsport!” she quickly replied. “Is it cold wearing a skirt?”

“Can be. Got some really thick woolly tights.” Peter typed.

“Cool.” she replied.

“No... they're actually really warm.” Peter chuckled as he demonstrated his razor sharp whit.

“Funny.” she typed. “Hey if you're gonna start cycling, you'll have to start shaving your legs!”

It took a good twenty seconds for Peter to type his reply. “Already am... but I s'pose you already guessed that.”

“Really? No.”

“Tights and hairy legs don't really work... too itchy, especially with woolly ones.”

“True.” she typed. “When did you start doing that?”

“October I guess... when it was getting too cold for my knee socks.”

“Knee socks?!” she typed, followed by “White ones I hope!”

“ :( ”

“Cute. Got a photo?”

“No.”

“Oh go on... I bet you have.”

“No.”

“Got any more girl's clothes?”

“What?” he quickly typed. “No!”

“Shame.”

“No it isn't.”

“Tiz.”

“Tint.”

“Tiz tiz tiz.”

“Yawn.” Peter typed. “Why would you think I’ve got more?”

“Well... don't you think it's a bit boring if the only skirt you've got is a school skirt?”

“That's one too many. Why would I want more?”

“Variety.” she replied. “It's the spice of life, apparently.”

“Not from where I'm sitting.” Peter typed. “I hope you're going to delete this chat before Noel gets back.”

“He is back.”

“Fuck!”

“Sorry, guess I should have said.” Carol typed. “Do you want him?”

“Er... nah... I’ll catch up when we come down at mid-term. Please keep this to yourselves. The only good thing about going to a petticoating school is the fact it's 90 miles away from all my mates... the last thing I want is them all to know.”

“Sure mate... sounds horrendous!”

“That you Noel?”

“Yeah.” he typed. “Can't believe you have to shave your legs too.”

“Me neither. :( ”

“When's half term for you?”

“Mid-term... in a few weeks.” Peter typed before double checking the dates. “20th – 24th.”

“Same as us.” Noel replied.

“Cool. See you then... and please... keep it quiet otherwise I'll never be able to show my face.”

“Will do mate.” Noel typed. “See ya.”

A message popped up on Noel's screen saying 'Peter J has logged out of this chat'. He turned to his sister. “Blimey I can't believe it!”

“Me neither!” Carol said. “You're not going to tell anyone are you?”

“Nah... he's a mate.” Noel replied. “You?”

Carol shook her head. “No... he asked us not to.” she said as she took hold of the mouse and scrolled back up the chat. “You've gotta let me have a copy of this picture though.”

“Why?” Noel quizzed. “To put by your bed?”

“No.” she defensively retorted. “To put under my pillow.” she grinned as she right clicked, selected 'send to', typed her email address in the box and clicked 'send'.

“It must be horrible having to wear that for school.” Noel gasped as he peered at the photo of his old friend; bottle green tights, a mostly green pleated plaid skirt, a green V neck tank top over a white short sleeved shirt.

“Apart from those tights it's quite nice... for a school uniform anyway.” Carol replied. “I wonder what shoes he's wearing?” she said. The photo cuts off just below the knee. “I wonder if he wears a girl's PE kit too?”

“I dunno... he did say they don't do footy, rugby or cricket though.”

“Maybe we could find out online... what's the name of his school?” Carol asked. She typed it into a search engine and clicked on the top result. “Blimey... how old is this website?” she exclaimed.

“Old enough not to mention that it's now an EP school.” Noel replied. “Pete and I checked before they moved up there.”

“Hmm...” she said as she followed the information link to the uniform page. “It does list both uniforms.” she said, scrolling down. “Oh, here... look.” she said, tapping the screen. In small letters it states that the boy's uniform is being phased out from September 2013. “Was that there last summer?” she asked.

“Dunno... maybe we didn't look hard enough.” Noel shrugged as Carol followed the breadcrumbs back to the information page and onto the curriculum page. “PE.” she said, clicking the link. “Netball, hockey, tennis, track & field, CCR, gym, dance, swimming.” she read. “You're right, no football, rugby, cricket.”

“What's CCR?”

“Cross country running.”

“Oh yeah.” Noel said. “Dance... is that even a sport?”

“No but it's physical.” Carol said as she clicked on it.

“Blimey!” Noel gasped as an information tab opened that stated 'Classical ballet, modern jazz and tap dancing form the core of our dance curriculum'. “I hope for Pete's sake they're optional.”

“For Pete's sake.” Carol grinned. She scrolled back to the top of the page and clicked the gallery link. “Blimey... did anyone optimise this website?” she said as the images loaded very slowly.

“Not by the looks of it.” Noel said. “Same pictures there were last summer.” he commented as they eventually began to appear. “Boys dressed as boys and girls dressed as girls.” he noted.

“Hmm. Pity.” she said. “I wanted to see if they all look as cute as Peter does.”

“He looks anything but cute... he looks ridiculous!” Noel claimed. Carol disagreed. “Well... you do fancy him, so you would say he looks cute.”

“I'm also a girl... and as such, I'm better at judging what looks good and what doesn't.” Carol stated. The cursor panned along the task-bar before opening the picture again. “If they wore black tights instead of green, that'd be one of the nicest uniforms I’ve seen.” she said.

“For a girl maybe.”

“For anyone.” she claimed. “I bet Mum'd agree.”

“I bet she won't.” Noel reckoned. Carol disagreed and Noel suggested she show her. “Well I would but we did promise Peter we wouldn't tell anyone.”

“Yeah... but... I might have told Mum before I made that promise.”

“You didn't?!” Carol exclaimed.

“Well... I hadn't been sworn to secrecy by that point.”

“Well I’d better go and make sure she doesn't tell anyone... and you'd better delete this chat.”

“Yeah.” Noel said. He grabbed the mouse and highlighted the entire conversation. “You did get the photo didn't you?” he asked. Carol nodded and Noel hit the 'delete' key.

Carol went to her own room, checked her laptop to make sure that the photograph had been received then went down to the sitting room. Her mother is on the phone. “...well they do say EP schools are outperforming normal schools...” her mother was saying.

“Mu-um!” Carol gasped, putting her finger to her lips. “Peter doesn't want anyone to know!” she shouted in hushed tones.

“Just a tick Joyce... Carol wants something.” her mother said. She put her palm over the receiver. “What are you saying?”

“Peter doesn't want anyone to know!” Carol repeated. “Who are you talking to?”

“Maureen, Mark's mum.”

Carol sighed. “Well... can you ask her to keep quiet?” she asked. “Pete's coming back down at half term and would rather no one knows that he's going to an EP school.”

“I see.... just a tick.” her mother replied. She put the receiver back to her ear and explained the situation. “Oh, I see... well, if you could explain it to them.” she said. “I'd better go ... See you soon Maureen … yeah … bye.” she replaced the receiver and informed Carol that both Maureen's husband and Mark probably overheard enough of her half of the conversation.

“Grrrr.... Pete's going to be really mad if everyone knows. I promised him I’d keep it quiet.”

“Well it was Noel who told me.”

“I know... and you wasted no time in telling Mark's mum.” Carol stated.

“Well I didn't know it was a secret.” her mother replied.

~o0o~

Meanwhile up in Butterworth, Peter is sat at the dining room table finishing off his homework. His mother pops in to check he's OK and not watching YouTube videos instead of studying. “Did you get in touch with Noel?” she asks.

“Yeah... and Carol.” Peter replied. “I think I did a stupid thing though.”

“What?”

“I sent him a photo of me in my uniform... and I’m worried he'll show it to everyone.”

“Well did you ask him not to?”

“Yeah, but I didn't realise that Carol was looking over his shoulder... so now she's seen it too.”

“What did Carol say?”

“She said I looked cute.” Peter sighed, “...but I think she was just teasing me.”

“Which photo did you send?” his mother asked. Peter dug it out and showed her. “You should have sent the one from September. It's much nicer.”

“Hmmmmm, nah.” Peter replied. “I'm wearing knee socks in that one and I hate knee socks!”

“Well you'll be back in them when spring arrives.” his mother stated.

“I'd rather wear tights all year.” Peter sighed.

“They'll be far too warm in summer.” his mother informed him as she cast her eyes up his legs; clad in thick cable knit tights.

“I'll wear thinner ones than these.” he stated. His mother told him that even 30 denier tights would be too warm. “OK.” Peter conceded. “But if I have to wear knee socks, can you get me some plain ones?” he asked. “I hate those pelerine ones.”

“Well now you're shaving it'd nice to get some sun on them.” his mother replied. “Anyway I was thinking of ankle socks rather than knee socks.” she added. “...with a little bit of lace around the cuffs.” she teased.

“I'm thinking I'd rather risk boiling to death in my tights.” Peter dryly retorted. He cast his mind back to his first week at his new school. He felt so out-of-place wearing a skirt for the first time and the fact that all the other boys wore one too really didn't help. Some wore the regulation bottle green tights, some wore ankle socks and some like him wore knee socks in either white or bottle green. The fact that his mother had a strong preference for white pelerine knee socks didn't help either... especially when most knee sock wearing boys seemed to wear socks with a plain knit. Girlie knee socks and a short skirt left far too much of his pale hairy legs exposed. His mother, sister and some classmates all encouraged him to shave them but Peter was adamant that he wouldn't. It was only after donning tights in the autumn that he decided to shave, and that was purely for comfort reasons.

“Have you got sports or dance tomorrow?” his mother asked.

“Dance.” he grumbled in a disparaging tone.

“When do you have sports next?”

“Friday.” he replied, adding “Hockey. Give me rugby any day.”

“You hated rugby.”

“I know... but hockey's worse.”

“Because of the skirt?”

“No because if the sticks!” he replied. “It's carnage... have you seen the state of my shins?” he added. “I wish we could wear tights for hockey.... it's freezing!”

“They wouldn't last very long.” his mother tittered. “Anyway it'll toughen your legs up.” she added. “I've noticed plenty of kids braving the winter in knee socks.”

“Some of the girls are still wearing ankle socks!” he exclaimed. His mother told him they've probably toughened up over the years. “Yeah maybe.” he said.

“Did you have ballet on Tuesday?”

“Yeesss.” he drolled. Why is she even asking?

“Have you got ballet again tomorrow?” she enquired.

“Yeesss.” he apathetically sighed.

“And you put your tights, knickers and leotard in the wash?” she asked.

“Errr... I'll check.” he replied.

“Well can you check now because I'm about to put a wash on.”

“Yeah.” he said. He got up and trotted to his room. His plaid pleats bounced off his lap as he bounded up the stairs. It wasn't too long ago he daren't do anything but walk slowly and cautiously in his two inch heels. These days he's completely accustomed to them. In his room, he digs out his dance bag and lo & behold, inside is his leotard, tights and the hateful control knickers. His pink satin ballet shoes have been cooped up in there too. He ties a loose knot in their ribbons and hangs them from the hook on his door for an airing, before taking the rest of his dance kit downstairs.

“Thank you.” his mother chirped as he dropped the items into her hands. She exited and he scooped up his little pleated skirt, sat and continued his homework.

~o0o~

A while later, just as Peter is packing up his homework, his laptop chimes to notify him of a message; 'Carol Scott has sent you a contact request'. He clicks 'accept' and a chat box opens. “Hi Peter... it's me again.”

“Hiya.” he types.

“Whatcha up to?”

“Just packing up my homework.”

“Not even started mine yet. Sorry 'bout before.”

“What about before?”

“Invading your chat with Noel.”

“Thats OK. I trust you not to say owt.”

“Yeah... think we might have a problem though. :( ” she wrote, before typing a concise version of events.

“Oh FFS!” Peter replied. “I don't mind you and Noel knowing but Mark!”

“Noel's spoken to him and explained why it's best to keep it quiet.”

“Yeah good luck with that.” Peter replied, knowing what Mark can be like. “Not just Mark to worry about, it's his mum, his dad, your mum...”

“I'm sorry.” Carol typed.

“Not your fault.” he replied. “Just a tick.” he typed before grabbing his school bag, unplugging his laptop and carting the lot up to his room. He drops his bag, straightens his duvet, sits on his bed and puts his laptop on his lap. “Back now.” he types. Meanwhile, Carol had sent a message asking what he's doing. “Just relocating to my room.” he tells her.

“Wanna video chat?” she asks.

“Er... nah.”

“Why not?”

“Still got my uniform on and about to get changed.”

“Still?!” she replied glancing at the time. It's 17.38pm. “Mine comes off the moment I get home.”

“Mine stays on 'til my homework's done :( .” he types, followed by “School rules.”

“Blimey... sounds a bit harsh!”

“Yeah... kinda used to it now... still hate it though.”

“The school or just the uniform?”

“The uniform. The school's mostly really good apart from that.” he replied. “The days are long though.” he added.

“?” Carol typed.

“8.00am 'til 3.45” he replied. “By the time I’ve done my homework it's a ten hour day.”

“Blimey! It sounds really strict.” she said. “Are all the teachers like Mr Walker or Windybum?” she asked.

The teachers mentioned are by far the strictest teachers in Peter's old high school. Windybum is the nickname for Miss Winterbottom, and heaven forbid she hears anyone use it! “Nah, the teachers are pretty cool actually.”

“What lessons have you had today?”

“Er... science, double drama, double geography, english, double D&T, maths.” he replied.

“Sounds normal enough.” Carol typed.

“Yeah, it is really, apart from the uniform.” he typed. He'd deliberately not mentioned his needlework class in which he's learned to stitch & sew and is currently learning knitting and is slowly making a scarf.

“Made any friends?”

“Yeah a few.”

“Any girlfriends?”

“Nah.”

A broad grin swept Carol's face as she typed, “Good.”

Peter replied with a single blushing smiley. “Did you get any Valentine's cards?” he asked a moment later.

“Hundreds!” she typed. “You?”

He smiled at her predicable yet clearly exaggerated reply. “Just the one.” he replied. “Off my mum.” he claimed. “She went all the way to Slough to post it!”

“You sure it was from your Mum?” she typed.

“Yeah, can't think of anyone else who'd send me one.” he typed, knowing full well that his valentine's card was from Carol. She replied with a smirking smiley and nothing more. A few moments passed before he asked. “So... what you up to?”

“Chatting with you.”

“I know that... I mean, generally.”

“Not much. Hibernating. It's fecking freezing.”

“Got snow up here.”

“Lovely!”

“Yeah... looks nicer through a window than it does when your trudging through it.”

“Is it deep?”

“Nah. Just cold and wet and white... well, mostly grey sludge now.” he replied. Imagining the scene, Carol asks about his footwear which isn't revealed on the photo he sent. “Er... yeah... I cropped the bottom off for a reason.” he replied.

“You wear girl's shoes too then?”

“You won't tell Noel?”

“If you don't want me to. He'd be OK anyway.”

“Yeah but... I'd just rather he didn't know the details.”

“Can I know the details?” she typed, adding “ :) ” followed by “I won't tell.” Peter wasn't sure what to type so his fingers hesitantly hovered over the keyboard. “Are they like ballet pumps?” she asked.

“Nah. Kinda wish they were though.”

“What are they like then?” she asked.

A moment passed before a window popped up on Carol's laptop screen, 'Peter J is sending a file: Do you want to accept?' She clicked 'yes' and waited for it to download. “Nice.” she typed after viewing the photo. It's identical to the one he'd sent to Noel earlier, only this time it isn't cropped just above the knee. “Mary Jane's!” she typed, adding a big grin smiley.

“With heels!” he replied, adding a frowning smiley. “ :( .”

“They don't look very high though.” she typed.

“They're higher than what I was used to.”

“Can you walk in them?”

“I can now.” he replied. “I can run in them!”

“Really?! :d.”

“Yup, not very fast though.” he typed, feeling both guilty and proud of this achievement. “Don't say owt... pleeeease.” he typed, followed by a blushing smiley.

“Promise.” she typed, adding a standard smiley. “Do you have to wear heels?”

“Well it's not through choice.” he sarcastically replied. “They reckon they're to discourage running in the corridors.”

“And do they?”

“Mostly.” Peter typed. “A sign saying 'no running' would work just as well though.”

“LOL.” she quickly typed, adding a big grin smiley. “Can we meet up when you come down?”

“Course. I'll be coming round to see Noel anyway.”

“I know but... just us two?” Carol added a blushing smiley.

“Er... sure.” Peter replied. “I'd better go... I still need to change and if we spend all night chatting we'll have nowt to talk about when I do come down.”

“Do me a favour before you go.”

“Sure. What?” he asked. A window immediately popped up on his screen. 'Carol Scott wants to video chat – click yes to accept'.

“Don't really wanna video chat.” he typed.

“Pleeeeaasssseee.” Carol replied. “I just want to see you, before you get changed.” she added a winking smiley followed by another elongated please.

Reluctantly, Peter clicked 'yes' in the video chat box and her face instantly appeared on his screen screen. “There you are!” she grinned. “Hey is that your tie?” she enthused.


“Shit I forgot I had that on.” he sighed as his hand reached up to the green satin bow tie around his neck. “You've probably noticed that my shirt is actually a blouse?”

“Nice though... I like the little sleeves.”

“Not so keen myself.” Peter shrugged as he sneered at his pin-tucked sleeves

“Move the screen so I can see you... sit back a bit.” she suggested. “That's better.” she said as he bashfully looked down at his school shirt. “So... what homework have you been doing?”

“Science, geography and English.” he replied. They chatted about school and homework and home and this and that. He tells her that it's a bit boring having to do his homework the moment he gets home from school and having to stay in uniform whilst doing it, “...but it's good to get it done and out of the way... better than rushing it over breakfast.”

“True... although I tend to rush mine over breakfast.” Carol confessed. “Can I see the rest of it.” she asked. “Put your laptop somewhere and stand where I can see you.”

Peter put his laptop on his dresser. “You better not be recording this.” he said as he angled the screen to get the best shot. He didn't believe for a moment that she would be recording as he coyly stepped away from the dresser and into view.

“Your legs look really long!” she said.

“They look really green too.” he said as he turned to face his laptop and looked down at himself.

“You've got different shoes on.” 

“Er... yeah.” he said as he twisted a knee inwards a little, pivoting on his toe to give a side view of his footwear.

A broad smile swept her face as he did so. “I bet you can't run in those.” she stated, noticing their heel is significantly higher than the Mary Jane's he was wearing in the photograph.

“Not really.” he replied. “I can walk OK in them though.... and they're lace-ups.” he added.

“I can see!” she exclaimed. “I'm actually quite jealous!” she said. “They look really nice.”

“Yeah.” he replied, still looking down at his feet from varying angles.

“Do you like them?” she asked.

“They're a lot better than those Mary Jane's.” he replied. “I got them for Christmas.”

“Cool.” she said as her eyes slowly trundled up his legs. “I'd probably get sent to Mrs Bilsden's office if my skirt was that short.”

Peter ran his hands down the pleats of his skirt, before bringing them to rest by his sides. “The rule is...” he began, “...the hem should fall between the tip of your thumb and the tips of your fingers.” he explained. “So this is about right, according to the regulations.” he said as his fingertips hovered around his hemline.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“No.” he chuckled nervously. “It wouldn't be so bad if it was a few inches longer but... rules are rules.” he shrugged.

“You look comfortable enough... and you certainly wear it well.”

“Only 'coz I have to.”

“Well I guess after six months you'll be used to it.”

“Sort of... I'd still prefer a boy's uniform though.”

“That is the boy's uniform.” she stated

“You know what I mean.” he dryly retorted.

“Yeah. Sorry. Just being flippant.” Carol replied. “It's a pity you can't wear black tights... it'd look so much nicer if you could.”

“Yeah I guess.” Peter replied as he looked down at his bottle green legs. “Still, any tights are better than knee socks.”

“True.” Carol replied. “Right, I'm gonna let you go.” she said after a short silence. “I'll see you next week.”

“Yeah see ya next week... when I'll be wearing something a bit more 'me'.” he said.

“You're still you, no matter what you wear.”

“Yeah I guess.” Peter replied. He smiled through pursed lips. Carol smiled back, said a final farewell before blowing him a kiss and suddenly disappearing from his screen.

“Yeah see ya.” Peter said to no one but himself as he looked down at his attire. At least Noel didn't invade that conversation, he thought as he perched on the edge of his bed. Peter had never really noticed his best friend's sister before the day they all went fishing the day before he left. Of course he knew who she was and knew she was OK... but your best friend's big sister is just that. However since that day when Carol told Peter that she has a crush on him, she's become far more to Peter than his best friend's big sister. Peter suspects that Noel might not be too happy should their friendship blossom, but with that thought, he realises that nothing will happen because they live ninety miles apart. “Oh well... it's a nice idea.” he thinks as he untied his shoelaces.

Peter pulls his feet out of his shoes and plants his heels on the ground for the first time since breakfast. He put the shoes neatly together and spent a moment admiring them; black suede with laces and a tongue that actually covers his foot. They might have a two-and-three-quarter inch heel but they have a rugged, grippy sole that makes them far better suited to the wintry weather than his other school shoes.

He stands to remove his skirt, but a sudden surge of paranoia forces him to first look at his laptop. Fearful that someone's hacked his system, activated the webcam and is currently watching, he shuts the lid and forces it to hibernate before reaching behind his back to unfasten his skirt. When he first began wearing it he used to fasten it at the front then twist it round but these days, he prefers doing it properly. He clips it to a hanger and smooths its pleats before pulling a pair of jeans on over his tights, checking his laptop is still shut as he does so.

Another detail he really doesn't want people to find out about springs to mind as he unbuttons his blouse. It's not stated on the school's out-of-date website but their strict uniform rules govern everything including their underwear. Pulling his arms out of his shirt sleeves reveals his training bra. He glances at his laptop and wonders what Carol would be thinking if she was still watching. It's an uncomfortable thought but at least Carol hadn't asked about his underwear, unlike her brother. Peter's never been a confident liar so when avoiding a question fails, his only option is to tell the truth. He prefers to call it a 'vest' or a 'top' than a training bra, but with its adjustable straps and back fastening, and the narrow band of lacy trim and little bow in the middle, it's clearly a bra of sorts. He pulls on a T shirt followed by a jumper over his training bra before heading downstairs.

~o0o~

It's Friday afternoon. Peter, his friend Alan and a handful of pals exit the school gates, each is looking forward to their mid-term break. Their heels clack loudly on the pavement. It's drizzly and they've spent the last two periods playing Hockey on the astro-turf. Their cheeks are pink, their hair is damp but the body heat generated from the highly active sport means they're all toasty and warm in spite of the frosty February air. Keith complains that they had to play hockey in the rain. “I'd rather play hockey in the rain than do Gym.” Alan states.

Peter agrees. “Gym wouldn't be so bad if we could wear tights or leggings.” he stated. “But it'd still be mind numbingly boring.” he added.

“Yeah.” another of their groups says. “Given the choice I'd rather do dance than gymnastics.”

“No way!” Alan retorted. “Dance is duller than dull.” he mimicked their dance teacher's twee middle class tone; first two three four, second three four, third two three four ...over and over. The simple truth of the matter is, there's a fine line between dance and gym classes. At least gymnastics is isn't regular like their twice weekly dance class. It's only undertaken when rain stops play and since they can't predict the weather, they always pack their gym kit, just in case. Unlike their dance leotards which have thin shoulder straps, the leotards they wear for gymnastics have long sleeves and a slightly scooped back so they can get into it. They wear the same 'flattening and flattering' control knickers that they wear for dance, but they don't wear tights for gymnastics.

“They’re both dull if you're stuck the beginner's groups.” it's claimed. “Anyhow, when you going down south Jacko?”

“Tuesday.” Peter replied. “Back on Thursday I think.”

“Where is it again?”

“Slough.”

“What's it like?”

“It's OK... a lot bigger than Butterworth.”

“Do you miss it?”

“Sort of... I miss some of my mates, and I miss having a local cinema, going bowling, karting, stuff like that.” Peter replied. “And wearing long pants for school.” he added.

“Yeah.” Alan agreed.

“You miss long pants full-stop Jonesey!” one of the others blurted.

“Or does he?” another jovially quizzed.

Jonesey, aka Alan Jones used to attend the academy and whilst the high school boys were desperate to transfer to the academy, Alan's parents were busy transferring him to the high school. He and Peter were both new boys back in September so ended up hanging out together. It's rumoured that school isn't the only time that Alan has to dress in girl's clothing, but that same rumour goes for plenty of other boys.

The simple fact of the matter is, many of the high school boys do wear girl's clothes outside of school because the school recommends that they should remain in uniform whilst doing their homework assignments. The school also recommends that the regulation underwear is worn on a daily basis and this includes weekends and school holidays too. Some parents are more lenient than others so not all follow the school's advice regarding 'extra-curricular petticoating'.

Peter's parents are more than happy to swallow anything that the school recommends which means he hasn't worn 'normal' boy's underwear since that day in early September when he first attended Butterworth High School. Back then he thought he'd never get used to it, especially the training bra but now, after six months... it's just a little 'top' that he always wears beneath his clothes. He used to wear briefs or trunk style underpants but these days all he ever wears are his high waisted, low legged 'pants'. They could do without the narrow bands of elasticated lace around the waist and leg holes or the little satin bow on the front of the waistband, but he's got used to those little details too. Back in September, his needlework homework was having to stitch a name tag in every item of his school uniform including his underwear. The only things he wears for school that doesn't have his name tag on are his tights, socks and shoes, and presumably the same goes for the rest of his classmates.

“You've got loads of dresses ain't you Keith?” one of the boys claims.

“I've not got 'loads'.” Keith replied. It's no secret that Keith often has to wear girl's clothing outside of school, and not just his uniform. Not all the time mind, just occasionally. He's been seen in and around town wearing a skirt or girl's jeans often enough. A clip or slide often adorns his short boyish hair but the same goes for plenty of other boys who attend Butterworth High School, Peter included.

Keith filters off down Sunnyside Close after loosely arranging to meet up at some point in the mid-term break. Two others soon cross the main road and head off towards their estate, leaving just Peter and Alan. Normally Peter would head up the high street before winding his way home, but today he decides to walk with Alan to his bus stop and wait 'til it comes. “So... what you doing next week?” Peter asked. “We could meet up if you want.”

Alan lives in a tiny hamlet between the villages of Walton and Kilburn where his parents run a riding stables. When he's not at school he does a lot of work; mucking out, feeding, grooming and such so suggests it'd be better if Peter visited him. “You could ride over.” Alan suggested. “It's only four miles.” he added.

“Cool.” Peter replied. “It'd have to be Monday or Friday though... I'll check the weather and let you know.”

Alan's bus soon came into view. Peter said he'd be in touch before crossing the road and winding his way home alone. Wearing a short skirt and thick tights in mid-winter is OK so long as one keeps moving. A couple of stationary minutes and the cold February air really begins to bite, so Peter walks briskly along the side streets and through the ginnels, his heels clacking noisily as only girl's shoes do. “That you Peter?” his mother's voice hollered as he entered his home.

“Yeah.” he replied as he removed his overcoat and hung it in the hallway. “It's freezing out there.” he said as he entered the kitchen and headed directly to the Aga and the warmth it emits.

“How was school today?” she asked. “Do you want a hot drink?”

“OK.” he replied, adding “Yeah please.” followed by “I'll make it.” He slid the kettle onto the hotplate and told his mother that he's got a stack of homework to complete before the end of the mid-term break. “I might ride over to Alan Jones' house on Monday or Friday... if that's OK?”

“Which one's Alan?” his mother asked. “The one on Sunnyside Close?”

“No that's Keith... Alan lives out near Kilburn... his parents have a stable.”

“Oh yes of course.” his mother replied. “Isn't that a bit far to cycle?”

“It's only four miles.”

“But it might be icy.”

“Maybe... if it is can I get a lift over?” Peter asked. “...if that's OK?”

“We'll see.” his mother replied.

“Cool.” Peter replied since 'we'll see' usually means yes. He made a cup of tea for himself and a coffee for his mother. She thanked him before suggesting he get on with his homework, since he's got so much to complete. “I've got more than I'll finish tonight.” he claimed.

“Well you can finish it off tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Peter replied. He'd rather not complete his homework on the weekend or during his mid-term break because the school recommends that their students should complete their homework assignments in uniform. According to the blurb, it helps them to concentrate and not get distracted from the task at hand. But Peter suspects that that's not really the reason why his mother always insists on him wearing his uniform whilst doing his homework. She's always popping her head round the door to check on him and saying things like “There's no point changing now” should his studies take him within an hour or two of bedtime.

Peter spent about four hours on Friday evening churning through his assignments before putting it away and changing into something more casual. On Sunday, soon after lunchtime, Peter changed out of his civvies and into his school uniform before having a second bash at his huge pile of homework. As usual, he sits in front of his laptop at the dining table with his books and paperwork spread out on either side. One of the reasons he's got a dressing table in his room is so he can use it as a desk, but it's not big enough for anything more than his laptop and a mouse.

As is the norm, Peter's mother periodically pops her head around the door to check on him. She asks if he's getting on OK, offers him a drink or a snack and checks that he's not watching YouTube videos instead of studying. “Those tights are laddered.” she notices.

“Yeah... all my others are in the wash.” Peter replied.

“And those should be in the bin.” his mother retorted. “Couldn't you have worn socks instead?”

“I prefer tights.” Peter replied. “Anyway its winter.” he added. His mother sighed and exited, only to return a moment later with a pair of knee socks. “Oh mu-um.” he whined when she made him remove his tights and don the socks. He made sure the tops were level and the patterns weren't twisted before looking to his mother for approval.

“Much better.” she smiled. “I do like you in white knee socks.”

“I'd prefer plain ones.” Peter moaned as he slipped his shoes on. An electronic noise emanated from his laptop, alerting him to a message. It popped up in the corner of the screen and reads; Have you seen Rogue One yet? It's from Noel. “Can I reply?” Peter asked his mother.

“Yes I suppose... no more than five minutes though... then it's back to your studies.” she replied. “You sure you don't want a drink?” she asked.

Peter nodded before typing “Yeah, saw it before Xmas... it's ace!”

“Bugger!” Noel typed. “Me and Mark are gonna go next week, if you fancy watching it again?”

“Er... maybe... it's really good.”

“Carol says you could hang out with her instead.” Noel replied.

“Is she there?”

“Yeah.”

“Might do.” Peter said before stating that next Wednesday is the best day for him to visit. “I could come over a couple of hours before you go, then hang out with Carol for a bit.” he suggested.

“Just a ti...” Noel managed to type before he sister barged him out of the way and took over her brother's laptop. “It's me Peter... Noel's been kicked out :) .” Carol typed.

“Hi Carol.”

“Hi.” she typed. “Wanna video chat?” she asked.

“Nah.”

“ :( .” she typed. “Why not?”

“Got my uniform on and Noel might come back.”

“It's Sunday!”

“Yeah I know... got a stack of homework and I have to wear my uniform whilst doing it.” he informed her. “One of the rules :( .” he added.

“Oh well.” she typed. “It's nice knowing you look nice, even if I can't see how nice.” she said, adding a smiley.

“You are going to delete this chat before Noel sees it?” Peter asked.

“Will do.” she replied. “I think they're going to an afternoon viewing, so if you come over say one-ish... you'll have a couple of hours with him and a couple of hours with me.” she typed, adding another smiley for good measure.

“Cool.” Peter replied. He added a smiley too.

“See you Wednesday.” she typed. “Over and out!” she added a septet of Xs.

“Yeah see ya.” Peter added before the chat window disappeared. She didn't even give him chance to add one 'x' before closing their chat. “I hope she deletes that.” he grumbled before quickly checking tomorrow's weather forecast. Wind and rain, all day long. He sends Alan a quick message suggesting that Friday might be a better day to visit.

“Five minutes I said..” his mother says as she appears behind him.

“Yeah... just tellin' Alan that it'll be too windy to ride over tomorrow.”

“Well I'll drive you.” his mother says.

“I'd rather ride.” Peter said. He's not had chance to use really use his new bike yet, and he's up for the challenge... weather permitting. “If it's bad on Friday you can drive me.” he tells her.

~o0o~

Two days later they're driving down the M1 and heading for Slough for the first time since summer. To avoid the oft congested M25, they exit the M1 near Milton Keynes and drive through Aylesbury, Wycombe and Maidenhead and eventually into Slough. Neither of their parents are from the area meaning there's no family to stay with, so they head for the Travelodge in the city centre. After booking in, they go into town to have a strolled and get some food. “So what's it like being home again kids?” their Dad asked. Kate joked that it has electricity and running water and everything. Peter said it was busier than he recalls, adding that it's maybe a bit too busy after becoming accustomed to small town life.

“It is half term.” his mother says. “The schools are out so it's bound to be busier. You might bump into some old friends.” she optimistically says.

“That's what I'm afraid of.” Peter pessimistically retorts. “Apart from Noel, Carol and Mark... I don't know who knows that I go to an EP school.”

“You worry too much.” his mother says. “You might not like the uniform but it's a much better school than anything Slough can offer.”

“Yeah I know.” Peter replied.

They strolled around the shops before settling in Nando's where they ate some much needed and much missed grub. His mother and sister planned to spend tomorrow shopping. Kate has arranged to meet with a couple of her old friends and asked if Peter's looking forward to meeting up with his old mates. “Yeah.” he replied, adding that he's a bit worried since they know about his school. Kate suggested that he's got nothing to worry about. “It's just little things like... my pants and tops.” he said.

“No one's going to know what you're wearing underneath.” his sister states.

“I know... it's just gonna be weird, hanging with my old mates whilst wearing girl's undies.” he replied. “They might not know but I will.”

“They're not girl's undies Peter.” his mother states, and not for the first time. Yes, his training bras and big knickers may well have 'boys' clearly printed on the packaging, but as far a Peter and most of the other boys at Butterworth High School are concerned, they are girl's undies.

“What are your plans for tomorrow?” his mother asked. He told her that he's going to go to Noel's house at lunch time or soon after and that Mark's going too. Then they're going to watch Rogue One at some point... “You seen that haven't you?” his mother interjected.

“Yeah, in December.” Peter replied. “They're going and I'm gonna hang out with Carol for a bit.”

“I see.” his mother replied as his sister began to coo.

“Better wear some aftershave.” Kate grinned. “From what I've heard she's quite keen on you.”

“What have you heard?” Peter defensively asked.

“Only what you've told me.” Kate grinned.

“Isn't she a bit old for you son?” his dad asked.

“Only a year.” Peter replied. His dad had assumed that Noel's big sister was a year above Kate and seemed genuinely surprised to discover that she's a year below his own daughter. “Anyway it doesn't really matter... we live miles apart so nothing's gonna happen between us.”

“Well if it's meant to be, the distance doesn't matter.” his Dad told him. “Just remember... you're only thirteen so no touchy feely.” he added, causing his son to blush.

“There won't be.” Peter sheepishly replied. “I don't think she'd be very interested if she discovers I wear a bra anyway.” he added under his breath.

“It's a training bra Peter.” his mother corrected. “Anyway, she did say you looked cute in your uniform... I don't think she'd worry about your training bra... if she learns that you wear one that is.”

“I might not wear it tomorrow.” Peter suggested. “If that's OK?”

“Absolutely not.” his mother replied. Peter glanced expectantly at his Dad who sided with his wife. “You wear it for a reason remember.”

“I know.” Peter sheepishly replied. “It was just an idea.”

They finish their meal and stroll back along the high street, looking in the wide variety of shops that their former home town has to offer. They don't really buy much but they do browse. Kate is planning on doing some 'proper' shopping tomorrow so today is a something of a scouting mission for her. They eventually make their way back to the Travelodge and decide what to spend the rest of the evening doing. The options are cinema, ice skating, bowling or just more strolling. Since they can't agree on a film they all want to watch, they go bowling and enjoy an Indian meal afterwards before going back to their budget hotel.

Kate and Peter are sharing a twin room whilst their parents have an adjoining double room. The twin room consists of two single beds, a broad dresser above which is a wall mounted TV and a tiny en suite WC and shower. Kate sits at the dresser and removes her make-up whilst Peter sits on his bed, half watching TV and half watching his sister. “What's it like wearing make-up?” he asked.

“I like it.” Kate says. “I feel plain when I take it off.”

“Hmm.” Peter grunted. “I'm not looking forward to Year 10.” he said. “It's bad enough having to wear a skirt for school but make-up...”

“You don't mind your skirt... you've had plenty of time to get used to it.”

“Yeah but... I'd still rather wear trousers.”

“You'll get used to the make-up too... it's just a routine; wake up, wash up, dress, make-up.” she shrugged. “You used to hate wearing a training bra but you don't mind those these days.” she said.

“Yeah. I'd rather not have to wear one tomorrow though... Noel and Mark would proper take the piss out of me if they knew.”

“Well they won't know unless you show them.” Kate stated. “But I know what you mean... it is pretty weird putting boys in training bras.” she added.

“And making them wear make-up for school.” Peter said as his sister discarded yet another make-up wipe. “You'll get used to it.” she reiterated. “You might even enjoy it.”

“I doubt it.” Peter frowned as Kate squeezed a tiny dollop of moisturiser onto her fingers and began applying it to her face. “It looks like an unnecessary chore.”

“Sometimes it is... but I quite like waking up with a blank canvas and colouring it in, and it's not like school make-up has to be dramatic or glamorous... quite the opposite in fact.”

“Yeah.” Peter sighed. At Butterworth High School, all the kids in year's 10 and 11 wear make-up but it's got to be 'neutral' or 'natural'. Some wear the bare minimum and some push the boundaries. Some care about how they look and some don't. Some of them wear it better than others.

“You should let me teach you.” Kate suggested.

“Well someone's going to have to when I have to start wearing it.” Peter gulped. “I wouldn't know where to start.”

“It's pretty straightforward.” Kate said. “Foundation goes on first, just a light dusting. Eye-liner lines the eyes, a bit of eye-shadow on the lids and lippy on your lips.” she explained, picking up each item in turn. “The school palette is quite limited so you can't go far wrong.”

“Hmm.” Peter groaned. That maybe so, but he's he's still not looking forward to it. It's not just the fact that they have to wear make-up when he starts Year 10, it's the compulsory little handbag that all Year 10 and 11 students carry their make-up in. “Sometimes I wonder why they don't go the whole hog and give us girls names too.” Peter grumbled.

“What would yours be?” his sister grinned.

“I dread to think.” Peter fearfully retorted. “Do you think it works?” he asked. “Educational Petticoating?” he added.

“It keeps the class sizes down.” she quipped. “But seriously... I dunno... I guess so... it's weird, you know; supervised play, compulsory dance classes, twice as many girls as boys and the boys all dressed as girls...”

“Tell me about it.” Peter dryly interjected.

“...but it's no big deal really.” Kate claimed. Her brother's eyes widened. Kate continued. “If it was a 'big deal' you wouldn't do it, no one would. Half the boys in my class wear girl's clothes at home.” she claimed. “Not all the time but often enough... Sunday dresses, that sort of thing.” she casually added.

Peter mentioned a handful of boys in his class who reportedly wear girl's clothes outside of school, including Keith, possibly Alan and Robert. “Is he the one with the bob?” Kate asked. Peter nodded. “He's cute.” his sister claimed.

Peter didn't immediately respond, but he did thank his lucky stars that so far, his mother hasn't suggested he grow his hair long or get his ears pierced like Robert. At least Robert's hairstyle keeps his gold heart shaped studs mostly hidden. “He doesn't want to be though. He can't stand his hair and never wanted his ears pierced... but his mum made him.” Peter replied. “I told him to just cut it but he daren't.” he added. “It's really mean.” he claimed.

“Well... I'm sure Mum wouldn't be too happy if I cut my hair off.” Kate shrugged. “...and I never really wanted my ears piercing but I got them done.” she added.

“Yeah but you're a girl.”

“Yeah but.. when you go to Butterworth High... it doesn't make any difference.” Kate stated. “I think you should get yours done, and I reckon you should grow your hair... not long long, but long enough to play with.”

Peter sneered. “Nah... it'd just be one more thing to worry about.” he said, tousling his hair. “At least this is easy.”

“Yeah but... besides putting a couple of clips or a slide in it, you can't do much with it.” Kate said.

“I like it like this.”

“Fair enough.” Kate replied. “I suits you.” she said. “But it's good to try different things... which is one reason why I think EP works.” She explained that by taking boys out of their comfort zone and putting them in what is essentially a girl's environment, they're less inclined to bully, be boisterous or brutish...”

“Because we're too busy feeling embarrassed.” Peter quickly replied. He'd phrased it like a wisecrack but, from the moment he puts his training bra on to the moment he takes it off, he knows he's a petticoatee. Maybe Kate's right about the comfort zone, he wonders. “Why else do you think it works?” he asked.

“I dunno... lots of reasons I guess; there's virtually no truancy, hardly any bullying... well, not amongst the boys anyway. They take as much pride in their appearance as us girls do... mostly anyway.” Peter's sister supposed. “Do you think it works?” she asked. “...and if not, why not?”

Peter pondered for moment. “I don't so much think that it doesn't work.” Peter replied. “It's more that I don't get how it works.” he said. “As as a school it's hardly failing... it's just not easy when you're a boy because the last thing we want to do is dress like girls.”

“Yet you do it everyday without complaint.” Kate interjected. “I know it wasn't easy when you started but you've said loads of time that you've pretty much got used to it... and I bet your grades have improved.” his sister knowingly added.

“Yeah but... is that because it's a better school or because I have to dress like a girl?”

“It's a better school because the boys are petticoated, so the obvious answer is 'both'.” Kate replied. “Girl's schools outperform boy's schools and petticoating schools are outperforming all the rest.”

“Yeah... so they say.” Peter sighed. “I can't help but keep thinking about it because I’m going to have to justify it to Noel and Mark tomorrow.” he informed his sister. “Carol's cool with it but she's a girl.”

“And you're worried that Noel and Mark with think you're a sissy or something?”

“Pretty much.” Peter grumbled. “I think Noel will be OK but Mark... he can be such a prannock at times.”

“Well... it's just a school uniform. You don't get a choice about yours in the same way they don't get a choice about theirs... but at the end of the day, you'll come out with a much better education than they will. After sixth form you'll be probably be off to uni and by then everything will be back to normal. No more uniform, no more educational petticoating...”

“They don't wear uniforms in sixth form.” Peter stated.

“No but there's still a dress code.” Kate reminded him. The sixth formers all have to dress in 'business' or 'office' attire, so it's tailored frocks, buttoned blouses or shirts, pencil skirts, two piece trouser suits and smart shoes. “...and from this September, they won't be allowed to wear trousers.”

“Really?!” Peter exclaimed. Kate nodded. “That means...” he gasped and gulped. “That means I’ll be petticoated 'til I'm eighteen!”

“If you go to sixth form.” his sister stated. “You could go to college to do your A levels.” she told him. “I know a couple of lads in my class are applying to colleges in Rugby and Leicester.”

“That's going to be a fair trek every day.” Peter retorted.

“I know... and at the end of the day, the sixth form at Butterworth High is still going to be better even if they do have to wear a skirt suit and heels.”

“...and tights and make-up and big knickers and a training bra.”

“I don't think they regulate your underwear in sixth form.”

“No but Mum would.” Peter grumbled. “She won't even let me out of my bra for one day whilst I'm visiting my friends...”

“And your girlfriend.”

“She's not my girlfriend.”

“Well... she's a girl, and she's your friend.” Kate stated. “Does she know your wear a training bra?”

“Not that I know of.” Peter glumly replied. “But if she's read the Cyber'pedia page on EP I'm sure she'll ask.” he reckoned.

The Cyber'pedia (or the Cyber-clyclopedia as it's properly known) is an online encyclopedia with information about anything and everything and including educational petticoating, domestic petticoating, mixed girl's schools, petticoating schools and just about everything else under the sun.

“She'll be OK I reckon... if she approves of your uniform then she'll approve of petticoating in general.”

“Yeah.” Peter replied on a half-hearted tone. “It's not Carol I'm bothered about... it's Noel and Mark.” he said. “It's one thing admitting to having to wear a skirt for school but a training bra? Everyday? Including weekends and holidays?”

“I wouldn't worry about it. It's not like you want to wear one, it's just part of the discipline.” Kate reminded her brother. “...and petticoating is all about discipline. Think yourself lucky that you don't have to wear girl's clothes all the time... there's a couple of lads in my year who do you know.”

“Mine too.” Peter added.

~o0o~

Wednesday. Noon. Peter's Dad is spending the day at his old workplace. His mother and sister are going to go shopping and Peter gets the bus out to Langley and alights at his old bus stop. His old school and former home are a few streets away, but he heads in the opposite direction towards Noel's house. “Pete!” a familiar voice hollers. He turns and sees Mark jogging towards him.

“You going to Noel's?”

“Yeah. You coming to watch Rogue One with us?”

“Nah I've seen it.” Peter replied. “How you doing any way?” he asked as they high-fived one another.

“Good ta.” Mark replied. “Heard about your school.” he said.

“Yeah I know. Wish I'd known before we moved up there.” he said as they walked to Noel's house.

“You only found out at the last minute?” he exclaimed.

“Day after we got there... so I had a couple of weeks to prepare myself.”

“What did that involve?”

“Nothing apart from crapping myself and panicking.” Peter replied. “Anyway, I've got better things to talk about than fecking Educational Petticoating.” he added as Mark opened the gate that leads to Noel's front door. He rang the bell and they waited.

That initial admission went better than Peter expected. No sneering, no snide comments... not yet anyway. He did wish his parents had told him before they moved away from Slough though... or did he? He wished they hadn't kept if from him, which isn't quite the same thing. It was the day after they'd moved into their new home when Peter’s parents sat him down to tell him. At first he thought they were winding him up, baiting him and waiting for him to believe them, then going 'gotcha!' before rolling out the anecdote on a regular basis for years to come. He'd checked the school's shoddy old website and there was no mention of it being an EP school, so they must be jesting, he figured. It's only when they showed him the school's current prospectus did the penny drop. The cover photograph shows a busy school playground; some children stand and chat, some are playing, some are just passing by and some are sitting on benches. At first glance of the prospectus, one wouldn't even realise that Butterworth High School is a coeducational establishment... it's only when you flick through and look at the numerous pictures depicting everyday school life that you notice an awful lot of short 'pixie' haircuts. Only then do you realise that there's a good number of boys in amongst all those girls... only they're not dressed as boys. The uniform page is headed by the words 'our unisex uniform policy' and a brief explanation of the benefits of EP. Peter glumly pointed out that the uniform is far from 'unisex'. “That's just a girl's uniform.” he whined.

There were no tears from Peter, but there was a lot of fear. They assured him that if they could have enrolled him into the Academy, they would have. He told them that they should have found another school, in nearby Rugby maybe, but they claimed that the next nearest school is far too far and reiterate the the local high school is a very good school. “Not if you're a boy.” he barked. Having heard the commotion, his concerned sister Kate entered and asked what was going on. “Did you know?” Peter asked his sister. He hands her the prospectus, open at the uniform page and her jaw dropped.

“Oh Mum why have you enrolled him in one of those?!” Kate exclaimed. Their parents give Kate the very same reasons as they'd given Peter and she was just as surprised as her brother to discover that she'd be attending an EP school too. She's not happy to discover that ballet classes are compulsory, but likes the idea of street dance classes. So does Peter but that's a small consolation. Being around 18 months older than Peter, Kate realised that since they'd both be wearing the same uniform, he'd be growing into the things she's just grown out of. “Great.” Peter groaned after his mother said that'd save them a 'fortune' on the already expensive uniform. Peter pleaded for days and days with his dad not to send him, but there really was no choice. He pleaded with his mother too but she took the position that the 'girl-time' will do me him the 'world of good'. His dad admits that EP is a bit weird and empathised with Peter's plight, but spouts the usual blurb and excuses to justify their decision.

Peter wanted to know why he wasn't told or even consulted beforehand and was told that they didn't want to worry him. But between finally being told and his first day at Butterworth High School, Peter was nothing but worried. No matter how supportive and encouraging his family were being, his first day at Butterworth High School was a panic ridden experience. But that was then, and this is now. Peter feels a similar sense of panic welling up as they rang Noel's door bell a second time.

“Whayyy!” Noel exclaimed as he opened the door. “Good to see you Pete... Mark.”

They stepped inside and removed their coats before settling in the sitting room. A games console and a handful of games were splayed out in front of the TV. “You've got an X Box One!” Peter excitedly stated.

“Got it for Christmas.” Noel replied, adding that it's half Carol's.

“What games 'ave you got?” Peter asked, crouching and reading the titles.

“Loads...” Noel replied. “But I was thinking Battlefront... to get us in the mood for Rogue One.”

Noel's mother brings in a tray of pop and asks after their welfare. She knowingly asks Peter how 'things' are up in Rugby. “Fine thanks.” Peter sheepishly replied. He knows she knows more than he'd want her to know and all he can do is hope she doesn't broach the subject. The boys boot up the X Box and play various Battlefront missions, stages and multiplayer battles. They chat about old times, old friends, TV shows, music and eventually, the subject of Peter's new friends and new school comes up. It turns out that EP is a tricky subject in Mark's house because Castleview Primary are going to give EP a trial run, and that's where his eight year old brother goes. “Blimey!” Peter says. Speaking from experience, he wouldn't wish it on anyone. “When's that start?” he asked. “September?” he presumed.

“After Easter.” Mark replied.

“Who fancies a three way snow speeder battle?” Noel suggested. “Sorry guys... but all this talk of EP schools is giving me the willies.” he said, gesturing with his controller. Mark and Peter got the message and got themselves involved in gaming.

“This is loads easier than those forest bike things.” Peter said, having just taken out Noel for the second time.

“You're actually quite good at this.” Mark said. “You got it?” he asked.

“Nah... still got the old 360. Hardly play it though.”

“Really?” Noel said. “You used to be terrible at this and now I can't...” Pete shot at him, again and again. “...shake...” Noel steered the controller from left to right. “...you...” he jabbed the airbrake, hoping to take advantage of their phenomenal speed. “..off.”

“You must've set me to easy mode.” Peter supposed as he finished Noel off for the third time. They assured him they hadn't. Peter assumed that the game must be easier than the others they used to play. They assured him it wasn't. “Must just be my lucky day then.” he guessed.

“Either that or you've gone jedi.” Mark grinned. “Is it good? Rogue One?” he asked.

“I liked it.” Peter replied. “I really wanna see it again now!” he said. Playing a video game set in the same fictional universe has really got him in the mood. Mark suggested he come and Peter considered it for a fraction of a second. “Nah. I've no money.” he said.

Noel glanced at Peter. Peter glanced back. “That and the fact that Carol'll chop his balls off if he does.” Noel said as he burst out laughing.

“What?!” Mark exclaimed. Noel explained to him that Carol fancies Peter and Peter's gonna hang out with Carol whilst they're at the cinema and blah blah blah. “Blimey.” Mark said. He cast an envious glance to Peter before picking up a controller. “Right... Light sabres, Endor.” he suggested as he scrolled through the on-screen menus and selected that game mode. “Have we got time?” he asked.

Noel checked the time and they did, plenty, in fact. They drank juice, ate crisps, played games, laughed, joked and talked until around a quarter-to-three when Noel and Mark prepared to catch a bus into town. After a round of 'good to see you', Noel asked if Peter would still be here when they get back. “Er... I dunno... my Dad's picking me up about sixish.” Peter replied.

“Ah maybe not then.” Noel frowned. “Good to see you mate.” he said before asking when he'd be down next.

“Er... I dunno. We're only down this time 'coz Dad's got to do some stuff at the old depot.” Peter replied.

“Well maybe we could come and see you... in the summer?” he optimistically suggested. “You've got four bedrooms?” he said, glancing at Mark and imagining an idyllic summer in the country.

“That'd be ace.” he added, before reminding them of the road bike he received at Christmas. “You could bring your bikes up on the train. It's only an hour or two.” he enthused.

Mark has a really cool mountain bike and Noel has a more versatile yet slightly boring tourer, but it's a Dawes so that makes it OK, just.

They agree that it would be 'cool' to visit Pete the 'sticks'. They also say that they'd have to get parental permission, but stress that that they'll press for it. “If that's OK?” Noel asked. He had a serious look in his eye and Peter knew exactly what it meant.

“Yeah it's fine.” Peter assured. “School holls innit.” he shrugged. This means no school, no uniform and no need to be anyone else but the Peter they both know. With a bus to catch and a movie to watch, Noel and Mark make haste and Peter is left alone in the hallway. Knowing that carol is waiting, hopefully... anyway. He bites his lip. Should he find Carol or Mrs Scott, her mother. “Er.. hi Mrs Scott.” Peter said as she appeared, seemingly out of nowhere and completely silently. Almost ninja like, he realised as he glanced at her feet. Stiletto heels on a parquet floor and he didn't hear her coming!

“Carol said to give her a knock.” Mrs Scott told him. “Second on the left.” she said with a finger pointed at an unhelpful angle. Maybe the fact that she also cocked her head gave the gesture some perspective, but Peter couldn't see it. He smiled and began to climb the stairs. Second on the left, he thought. Second on the left.

~o0o~

“So how's Noel?” Peter's Dad asked as his son climbed into the car soon after 6.00pm.

“Good.” Peter replied as he pulled on his seatbelt. He told his dad about Noel and Mark going to watch the movie and playing the video game and the possibility of them coming up for a few days in the summer and deliberately left out the bit about Castleview Primary School becoming an EP school before boasting about how good he was at playing Battlefront and hinting at maybe upgrading the old X Box 360 and getting a new X Box One so he could play more battlefront and...

“But you're terrible at video games.” his dad interrupted.

“I know!” Peter replied. “but... I thought they'd put me on kiddie mode 'coz I kept blasting Noel but they hadn't... I was just, all of a sudden really good at it.”

“Good for you.” he said. “I'll think about it.”

A short silence ensued. Peter imagined having an X Box One and relishing in the glory of whooping everyone's ass at whatever game they played. He also considered the prospect that it was just a fluke, or series of flukes... or even that Noel and Mark had simply let him win. Who knows? Maybe his ballet classes and the supervised play sessions are improving his concentration and coordination, he wondered.

“So how's Carol.” his dad asked after a short silence.

“Er... OK. Yeah. Good. Fine.” Peter said. Another silence ensued.

Eventually, after several sets of traffic lights, Peter's dad cautiously asked, “So... what did you do? You and Carol? When Noel and Mark went to the pictures?”

Knowingly, Peter glared and said “Nothing Dad!” before claiming they “...just talked and listened to music and... talked and stuff.”

~o0o~

Peter cast his mind back to the moment that Carol opened her bedroom door, leapt out of it and threw her arms around Peter. Before he knew it she'd planted her lips on his and as soon as he was able, said “Hi Carol.” as he gasped for breath.

“Hiya!” she grinned as she dragged him inside. She looked him up and down and said “You could have worn those shoes for me!”

“I'm enjoying a whole week wearing nothing but flat shoes.” Peter replied.

“Ooh.” she cooed. “We'd have been about the same height.” she grinned as he looked up into her eyes which are coincidentally, approximately two-and-three-quarter inches above his. Exactly as Peter had told his dad, they sat and talked and listened to music. Carol wore a pair of black knee high Converse with thick black tights, short denim shorts and a sloppy off-the-shoulder top over a racer back vest. A single bra strap was also visible. Peter gulped and glanced around her room. “Sit.” she said, patting her bed. Lilac butterflies decorate its duvet and pillow.

Peter sits and his eyes scan the walls and furnishings. “This is a nice room.” he says.

“Thanks.” she smiled. “I tidied it specially.” she said. “Are you looking at my legs or my boots?” she asked as Peter's eyes wondered up and down her legs.

“Your boots.” he replied. “They're well cool.”

“Thanks.” she replied, before telling him she got them for Christmas.

“I've got normal Converse but haven't seen 'em that high before.” he told her. “Good job they've got a zip... they'd take forever to lace.”

“Yeah.” she smiled as she got up and stepped over to her wardrobe. “I got this too.” she said, removing a black patterned dress.

Peter was unimpressed until she brought it a little closer and he realised that the pattern is a myriad of human skulls. “That's pretty cool... for a dress.” he said.

“Yeah.” she replied as she held it against herself before putting it back on the rail. “So, what else did you get?” she asked. “...for Christmas.” she specified.

“My road bike.” he said, although he knew he'd previously told her about that.

“...and those gorgeous shoes.” she added.

“Yeah those too.” Peter replied, blushing a little. He listed books, CDs, DVDs, socks, gloves, a jumper, a scarf... the usual. He didn't mention the new underwear or thick woolly tights though.

Carol sat herself beside him again and cast her eyes around her room. “You know when we video chatted the other day?” she said.

“Yeah.” Peter replied.

“Was you in your room?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“I thought so.” she said before adding. “You've got a dressing table.”

Peter hung his head a little. “Yeah.”

“Do you use it?” she asked. “...I mean... for make-up and stuff?”

Peter gulped and shook his head. “Not make-up.” he said. “Not yet anyway.” he added before confessing to 'occasionally' wearing a slide or a couple of clips in his hair. “I'd rather not but we're encouraged to try to look nice and Mum & Kate are both quite encouraging.” he said before hesitantly informing her that since it's an EP school, they're expected to wear make-up in Year 10.

“Really?” she asked, clearly surprised.

“Yeah.” he groaned. “I'm not looking forward to that but that's why I’ve got a dressing table.”

“Have you got any?”

“Make-up?” he clarified. She nodded. “No... we're not allowed it in Year 9.”

“It's the same at my school... no make-up in years seven to nine, minimal in ten and eleven.”

“Not for the boys though... and it'll be optional at your school?”

“Yeah but... my school isn't an EP school.”

“I wish mine wasn't.” Peter groaned. “Can we talk about something else?” he requested.

“I'm interested.” she replied. “I've been reading up on EP lately, it's fascinating.” she said. “Did you know that truancy is virtually nil in all EP schools?”

“Yeah.” Peter replied. “It's not surprising though...” he added. “...the only place the uniform feels anywhere near normal is in the classroom.”

“You looked comfortable enough in it the other night.” she said, recalling their brief video chat. “It's kinda like a Korean uniform.” she suggested, citing the satin bow tie in particular.

“That tie's the single worst part of it.” Peter claimed. “Especially when you forget you're wearing it and a mate sends a video chat request.”

They shared a smile. “Good job it was me and not someone else.” she grinned.

“There is that.” Peter said as he glumly leant forwards and put his elbows on his knees, propping his chin on his hands. “My biggest worry was all my mates finding out and now they have.”

She put her hand on his back and stroked it reassuringly. Her fingers soon found the strap of his training bra and began to trace its course. Peter shunned away. “It's OK.” she assured. “I know why you wear it.” she said.

“I've been told so many times but even I don't know why I wear it!” Peter replied.

“You wear it though.” she said.

“Only 'coz I have to.” he claimed.

“Same here.” she smiled. “I didn't like it at first but... you just kinda get used to it.”

“At least you wear one for a reason though.”

“So do you.” she casually replied. “It's just a different reason.” she added.

“It wouldn't be so bad if it was just for school but I have to wear it all the time! That took some getting my head around.”

“But you're used to it now?”

“After six months, who wouldn't be?”

“True.” Carol claimed.

“It still feels weird though.” he said as he flexed his shoulders. “...like it doesn't belong or like I don't belong in it.”

Carol placed her hand on his back once more, resting her fingers on the fastening of his training bra. This time he didn't shy away. They shared a smile as she stroked his back a little before removing her hand. “Do you want a drink?” she asked, offering juice or a brew. She left him alone for a short while. He glanced around her room; a dressing table is littered with cosmetics and hair accessories. Ornaments and trinkets adorn her chests of drawers and shelves. There's a row of books and CDs, the occasional doll which he presumes are childhood leftovers. In the corner by her wardrobe is a full length mirror and next to this, a row of maybe ten or twelve pairs of shoes. Carol returns with a mug of tea in each hand. Peter's looking through her CD collection. “Anything you like?” she said as he perused the titles.

“I've not heard of half of these.” he replied before listing a few that he knew; Bring Me The Horizon, Busted and McFly.

“I don't really listen to that stuff any more.” Carol claimed. She removed a CD and asked if he'd heard it.

He read the title. “Standing On A Beach... no.” he replied. “Is it good?”

“You tell me.” she said as she put the disc in her player and pressed play. They returned to their perches on her bed. “So what are your friends up in Butterworth like?”

“OK.” Peter replied, describing a handful. “I'm gonna ride out to Alan's house on Friday if the weather's OK... he's in the proper sticks, his parents have stables.”

“Horses?”

“Yeah.” Peter said as he routed his phone out of his pocket and told her that he's going to have to swear her to secrecy again. “This is Alan, that's John, that's Keith...” he said, showing her a group photo.

“Who's she?” Carol asked.

“That's Robert.”

“He's got a bob!”

“Yeah... a few of 'em have girlie hair.” he said as he scrolled through a few more photographs and zoomed into one. “Me with clips in.”

“He he.” Carol grinned. Peter has typical boyish hair; short around the back and sides with a full fringe, only in this picture his fringe is swept off his forehead and held in place with two silver barrettes. “That looks OK.” she said. “You look nice with your hair off your face.”

“Yeah.” he half-heartedly sighed. “Not sure I like it myself but...”

“But what?”

“Well... I dunno... just new to this concept of looking 'nice'.” he replied. “I can put a slide or band in my hair and to me it looks stupid but my mum, Kate and the girls at school, and now you... all say I look nice.” he said, finding another photograph and showing it to Carol. “You can't tell me that looks nice?”

The picture shows Peter, Alan and a couple of other classmates sat on some stone steps and all four are wearing a green satin Alice band. The inch wide bands do look out of place on their very boyish heads. “You're wearing knee socks.” Carol comments.

“Yeah... that was back in September, soon after I started. We thought the Alice bands were compulsory but thankfully they weren't so I only wore it for a week or two.”

“It looks OK.” Carol claimed.

“It looks better on girls with long hair... at least it serves a purpose.” Peter said. “On boys with short hair it looks so out of place.”

“A narrower band would look better... or a couple of clips... show me that one again.” she asked, prompting him to scroll back to it. He did and she spent a few seconds just looking. “Are you going to grow your hair?” she asked. “You could.” she said, passing his phone back to him.

“I dunno... I look girlie enough as it is in my uniform... doubly so when I wear barrettes.”

“Do you wear them often?”

“Not really... once or twice a week when Mum wants me to make an effort.” he replied. “It'd be every day if she had her way.”

What about the other boys, do they make an effort?”

“Some of 'em do, some of 'em don't and some of 'em, like Robert don't have a choice.”

“Is he the one with the bob?” Carol asked.

Yeah... Rob the bob.” Peter replied. “Some of the first years have bunches or plaits and some of 'em have to wear girl's clothes even when they're not at school.” he claimed.

“You all do don't you?” Carol quizzed. “At least so far as your undies go.”

Peter explained that the underwear thing is more of a recommendation than a rule and plenty of boys don't have to wear them outside of school. “I guess some parents are less enthusiastic about EP than others.”

“And yours are?”

“Well my Mum is... Dad's not quite so 'taken' with it but tends to side with Mum so...” Peter replied. “What I don't understand is why treating us like girls is supposedly so good for us.”

“Well... everyone knows that girls are better than boys.” Carol shrugged before mischievously grinning. “We can do anything and boy can do, and on top of that... we get better grades, pass more exams, we're less likely to get in to fights, less likely to turn to crime...” she paused before challenging Peter to look at the statistics of he doesn't believe her. “Plus we can wear anything a boy can wear, we can be girlie or tom-boy depending on our mood, glamorous, grungy, plain, pretty, punky... we can do anything!”

“Yeah I get it.” Peter limply replied. “Girl power.” he groaned whilst doing a half-assed V sign.

“Yeah but... it's not about 'girl' power these days... we've proved time after time that we're just as good as the boys.” she claimed. Peter cited male vs female athletes as an example where males are clearly better than the females. Carol accepted his point, but countered it. “Yeah males are bigger and faster and stronger... but that doesn't mean that women can't run or jump or lift weights.” she said. “These days we can be astronauts, soldiers, firemen, builders, plumbers. We've broken free from our traditional gender roles and I reckon EP is to help the boys break free from theirs.” she claimed. “The best thing a boy can do these days is be more like a girl!”

“At Butterworth High we don't have much choice.” Peter glumly retorted.

“I think that's the point.” Carol suggests. “Castleview Primary's becoming EP.” she added.

“Yeah Mark said.” Peter replied. “His little brother's not too happy about it.”

“I'm sure he'll get used to it... just like you have.” Carol supposed.

Peter didn't reply. Instinctively he wanted to deny getting used to it but in all honesty, he can't. He may not like it but he has got used to it. “Yeah I guess.” he eventually replied. “Still not easy though.” he sighed.

“Yeah I get that.” Carol agreed. “But EP schools are outperforming 'normal' coed schools in the league tables.” she said. “...and petticoatees are more likely to go to university and get a good degree than non-petticoated boys...”

“How do you know all this?”

“CyberCyclopedia.” she replied. “There's over a hundred EP high schools in England and Wales and the number is growing every year.” she informed him.

“What about junior schools?”

“Not sure, but I guess they're seeing a similar trend.”

They sat in silence for a few moments. Peter thought about everything that's wrong with going to an EP school whilst Carol's thoughts were more positive. He reluctantly tells her about his swimming costume, which is just like a girl's one. “Well at least it won't come off when you dive in... that can happen with swimming trunks.” Carol knowingly stated.

“True.” Peter glumly agreed. “I'd rather wear trunks though... but I don't have any any more so if I want to go swimming, it's a swimsuit.”

“What colour is it?”

“My school one's green and my own is blue.” he tells her. “They are made for boys but...” he tailed off.

“But?”

“Well... they look like a girl's swimsuit.”

“That doesn't matter... I guess androgynous is a more appropriate term.” Carol wisely stated before asking if she can see his legs. “Have you shaved them recently?” she asked.

“Last week.” he said as he pulled up the leg of his jeans. “They're a bit bristly.” he added as he pulled his fingertips up his shin.

“Uh... I thought you'd have shaved them specially for me.” a slightly disappointed Carol replied.

“Nah, it's mid-term which means a week of flat shoes, no tights and no need to shave... well... not my legs anyway. ” he said. “I shaved my chin specially.” he grinned.

“I noticed.” she smiled as she stroked his cheek and chin. “I love shaving my legs and feeling all smooth afterwards. Do you shave your pits too?” she asked. Peter nodded. “Cool.” she smiled.

“I prefer shaving in the bath than the shower.” he said, “But running a bath and cleaning it out afterwards takes ages.”

“I never do my legs in the shower... gotta be a bath with loads of bubbles and rinsing it out doesn't take that long, plus by that point I'm swishing about in silky jim-jams, they feel gorgeous next to freshly shaved legs.”

“I like sliding into bed after shaving them... and pulling my tights up the morning after's nice too.”

“Try sliding into bed with silky pyjamas and freshly shaved legs... it's heaven!”

“I ain't got any.” Peter replied. “Not silky ones anyway.”

“You should get some... I might get you some... when's your birthday?”

“June 16th.” he informed her.

“That's ages away.” she sighed. “Tell you what else feels really nice next to freshly shaved legs...”

“What?”

“A really nice dress.” she said as she bounced off her bed and bounded towards the wardrobe. “Something like this.” she said removing a knee length floaty frock and holding it against herself.

“I couldn't imagine wearing something like that.” Peter said as he imagined wearing the dainty floral print frock. “If I was gonna wear girl's clothes... proper ones, not my uniform...” he said. “I'd rather something like you're wearing.”

“You like these?” she asked, looking down at her short denim shorts.

“Yeah they're cool.” he said. “Kate dresses like that half the time too.”

“It's a very standard look these days.” Carol replied. “It's easy, comfy, casual.” she said. “This, on the other hand...” she said, holding the dress against herself again. “...is pretty, floaty, feminine...”

“That's the bit that worries me.”

“Feeling feminine?”

“Yeah.”

“Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.” she smiled.

“I have.” Peter dryly replied.

“Only to an extent though.” Carol said. “All you have is your school skirt and wearing that feels nothing at all like wearing something like this.” she said, swishing the frock left and right. “Wanna try it?”

“Er... nah... thanks.”

“Don't you like it?”

“I'm sure you'd look nice in it... I can't imagine it on me though.”

“So you keep saying... which is why you should try it.” she replied. “You may not like how it looks but I guarantee you'll like how it feels.”

“But... yer Mum might walk in.”

“She'd knock first... she won't just barge in.” Carol claimed. “Or don't you want me to see your undies?” she asked.

“Well there is that.”

“Right... well...” she glanced around her room. “I'll hide under my bed whilst you change.” she suggested.

Peter chuckled. “Under the bed?”

“Yeah. All I'll be able to see is your feet.” she informed him before getting on the floor and shuffling herself under the bed. She giggled, he giggled, she began counting down from a hundred and he laughed out loud. “93, 92, 90, 89, 86, 84, 78...”

“Oi you're cheating!”

“62, 59, 56, 48...” down and down she counted, skipping a couple of numbers here and handful there. “28, 27, 26, 23, 20, 15, 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8,7 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Coming ready or not!” she giggled and began shuffling out. “You are decent aren't you?”

“Ish.” Peter replied.

She popped her head out, looked at him and bit her lip. She pulled herself out fully and stood. “I think it looks better on you than it does me.”

“I don't believe that for minute.” Peter said as he stood, motionless and shy wearing his very first dress. “It does feel kinda nice though.” he confessed. “Even if my legs are a bit stubbly.”

A broad grin swept Carol's face. “Do you like it?” she asked.

“Kind of...” he looked down at the full floaty skirt, decorated with blooms and foliage. “It's maybe a bit flowery for me.”

“Can I put some lipstick on you?”

“Really?” Peter gulped. Clearly he wasn't keen.

“Well... really I'd love to give you the works but... I think at very least you need a bit of lippy.”

“My dad's picking me up.”

“I know... that's why I’m only gonna insist on a little bit of lipstick.” she said. “And maybe some mascara too.”

“I don't even know what that is.”

Carol stepped closer to Peter. She pointed to and fluttered her eyelids. “It makes your lashes look longer... see.” she said. She explained the rest of her make-up; eye liner, eye shadow, eyebrow pencil, foundation and finally, lipstick. “Have you worn lipstick before?” she asked as she routed through the selection on her dressing table.

“Does Lypsyl count?”

“Maybe... is it a stick or do you smear it on with your finger?”

“It's a stick.”

“Well this is just the same.” she said, removing the lid from a rouge lipstick.

“That looks very red.” Peter nervously said.

“Hmm.. it goes with the flowers on your frock.” Carol replied before asking if he'd prefer something a little less red and a bit more pink.

“Er... I dunno. What do you think?” he replied. Carol selected another couple of shades and gave him a choice between crimson, pink and something in between. “Er... that one I guess.” he gulped, choosing the middle shade of pinky red.

She placed one hand on his shoulder whilst she applied the lipstick with the other. “This one's actually quite close to your natural colour.” she said.

“Is that good?” Peter asked.

“It's a good place to start.” she told him. “There, now...” Peter rolled his lips together. “Good.” she smiled. “Suits you.”

He bent down and had a look in the mirror on her dresser. She suggested he step back and use her big mirror. He expected to see a girl reflected but instead he saw a boy in a dress, a flowery one at that. She enquired after his thoughts. “Not bad.” he said as he looked at himself from this way and that. “When would you wear a dress like this?” he asked. Carol is generally quite 'grungy' or 'alternative' in her style but this dress is very pretty and very feminine.

“Any time you want to look nice.” she replied. “I got it for a christening last summer.” she said. “I wore it at the school prom, and again when I went to see the Nutcracker before Christmas.”

“You went to see the Nutcracker?!” he asked, somewhat surprised that she'd been to the ballet.

“Yeah. Is that OK?” she asked.

“I guess.” he replied. He was in two minds whether or not to tell her about the school trip to watch Swan Lake at the Coventry Opera House, also in December. He swallowed what little boyish pride he had left and confessed.

“Did you enjoy it?”

“It was OK.” he half-heartedly replied. “It was a school trip so we had to go in uniform.” he told her as he looked down at himself. Would he have rather worn something like this instead, he wondered. “Did you enjoy the Nutcracker?” he asked.

“Bits of it.” she replied, adding that the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy goes on a bit too long. “I guess ballet is another example where the girls totally outperform the boys.”

“Yeah.” Peter agreed. That's certainly true in his dance classes at school where the advanced group is exclusively girls. Having snooped at the school's curriculum via that clunky old website, Carol asks Peter if their dance classes are optional or not. “Nah... we have to do it.”

“So... what is it?” she asked. “It said ballet, tap and jazz on the website.”

“Er... ballet.” he guiltily admitted. “Basic... very.” he gulped.

“Can you do it?” she asked. Peter shook his head and told her that he's still in the beginner's group which is really really boring because it's just the five positions and not much else. “I've never done ballet.” she said.

“Lucky you.”

“Do you wear tutus?” she grinned. Peter sighed and said he knew she was going to ask that. “It's the obvious question.” she replied. “Can you touch your toes?”

Peter said he could and demonstrated. “I can't do the splits though.” he told her.

“Well you're just a beginner.” she smiled.

He perched on her bed and she enjoyed how he instinctively scooped his skirt and arranged it over his lap. “It's weird wearing something this long.” he said. It's hem hangs beyond his knees by a good few inches. “My school skirt only comes to about here.” he added, placing his hand mid-thigh.

“You wear it well.” she said. “If it was Noel he'd be like...” She demonstrated how she'd expect a boy to sit.

“He hasn't ... has he?”

“Noooo!” Carol replied. “Not that I know of anyhow.” she added. “I'd just expect most boys to be like...” her legs went akimbo once again.

“Nah... in my experience, the knees instinctively go together right from day one.” Peter replied as he visualised his first days at Butterworth High. He didn't have the luxury of tights back then and was so worried that people would see up his skirt that he didn't dare part them.

“Do you want to try some of my shoes?” she asked.

“Nah.” Peter replied. “I want to chat and listen to the music.” he replied, focusing on the pair of speakers that flanked her little hi-fi.

“You like?” she asked.

“Yeah its cool. Is it new?”

“New to me.” she said, before informing him that the music's from the eighties. Finally, and somewhat thankfully for Peter, the conversation steered away from school and dresses and headed towards their tastes in music. Peter's sister Kate is still into Beiber and One Direction, which is a travesty. Peter is more into rock and metal whilst Carol is currently into what she calls 'alternative eighties' music. Her CD collection which has as many as forty titles is quite eclectic, featuring pop, rock, R&B, grime and plenty of old stuff that Peter's barely heard of, let alone heard.

After a while, Carol goes to make them another brew and Peter is alone in her room, and her dress. One song stops and another one starts. “I know this!” he says to no one but himself as a distinctive intro meows through the speakers. “Badada ba ba ba bada...” He sings along and is tempted to stand and swish around to the familiar music. He doesn't though. What would Carol think if she returned to find him dancing around in a dress? He recalled her offer of trying some shoes and looked toward her collection. There's nothing really high like his Mum has, and there's plenty of flats including the ubiquitous ballet pumps in various colours. There's a pair of baby pink Converse plimsolls which he thinks look cool. Next the these is a purple pair as well as a green pair. Carol returns with a mug of steaming tea in each hand. Peter looks her up and down from her knee high Converse baseball boots to her subtle make-up. “You've got loads of pairs of Converse.” he said.

“Yeah.” she replied before admitting that the purple and green ones aren't genuine.

“Doesn't matter.” Peter replied. “They're still cool.” he said. “I know this song... who is it?” he asked. They chatted about music for a while. Carol put another CD on, again from the 80s and after a couple of tracks, she asked what time his dad's supposed to collect him. “Er... sixish.” Peter replied. He checked the time and noticing it was almost twenty-to-six, he said. “I guess I’d better give you this back.”

“I wish you could stay longer.” Carol frowned.

“Me too.” Peter replied with a sigh. “Don't let me forget to wipe my lippy off.” he requested as he noticed the pinky print on the rim of his mug. Carol grabbed a pack of make-up wipes from her dressing table. Peter pushed his bare feet into his jeans and pulled them up under the frock. He hesitated before beginning to pull the dress over his head. Carol told him not to worry and said she'd avert her eyes. “Nah it's OK.” he said as she turned her back and he pulled the dress off. “I know you want to see it.” he nervously gulped.

Peter took a deep breath as Carol turned to face him. A wry smile crept onto her face. She blinked a couple of times before taking the dress from him. “I was expecting something more like a crop top.” she said. “That's like a proper bra!”


“I know.” he gulped. “Apart from it being flat.” he said as he placed a nervous hand on his chest.

“Is it comfy?” she asked before stating that it looks comfy.

“It's OK I guess.” he replied. “I always know it's there.” he said as his fingers traced one of the shoulder straps. “...even with a top on.”

“I see your knickers match.” she smiled. All of Peter's 'pants' are the same style; high waist and low leg and their high waist clears that of his jeans by a good few inches.

“Yeah.” he shyly replied as he felt himself begin to blush. Like his training bra, his knickers have a narrow band of elasticated baby-pink lace around the waist, and a little pink bow on the front.

“Here.” she said, handing him his T shirt.

“Thanks.” he said before pulling it on. “Oh, thanks!” he said again as she held the pack of make-up wipes so he could take one.

“Can I kiss you?” she asked once he'd removed his lipstick.

Peter gulped and coyly said, “You didn't ask last time.” He smiled. They embraced and kissed. It wasn't a full on snog, nor was it a quick peck. It was a proper kiss, just the right length. “I wish we didn't live so far apart.” he said as their gaze lingered.

“Me too.” she said. “We can chat online and I dunno, maybe I could come and visit sometime.”

“Yeah.” Peter replied. “Noel and Mark wanna come in the summer.” he informed her. “We've got a spare room.”

“Maybe I could come at Easter.”

“I'll run it by my folks.”

“Me too.”

They both glanced at the clock. It's 5.55pm and Peter's dad is due imminently. Their eyes met once more and Peter sought assurance that there was no trace of the lipstick he'd worn. She assured him there wasn't before kissing him again, this time it was just a peck. She removed her arms from around his waist, promoting him to do the same. He sat on her bed and pulled on his socks, then donned his pullover. “Is this song on Donnie Darko?” he asked as the music grabbed his attention.

“Yes.” Carol replied. “Here.” she said. “Something to remember me by.”

“Oh er no I er...” he hesitated as she held out the lipstick he'd worn.

“Go on.” she smiled. “I've got loads and this shade suits you.” she said.

“Thanks.” Peter said as he took it from her. He could feel himself blushing as he pushed it into his pocket. He glanced at the frock he'd worn and smiled. “And thanks for letting me try that... it did feel nice.”

“Told you it would.” she proudly replied just as a car horn peep-peeped outside. Presuming it's Peter's dad, Carol looked out of the window. “White BMW.” she said.

“Yeah that's him.” Peter frowned. “I guess this is it then.”

“For now.” she said.

They went downstairs where Peter thanked and said goodbye to her mother, before pushing his arms into his overcoat and saying his final goodbye to Carol. She kissed him on the doorstep and watched him walk away. Both of their hearts were pounding.

~o0o~

They drove though Slough's numerous sets of traffic lights and one way system that would eventually take them back to the Travelodge. His dad made small talk and asked after Noel and Mark before asking how Carol was. “OK. Yeah. Good. Fine.” Peter said. Another silence ensued.

Eventually, after several sets of traffic lights, Peter's dad cautiously asked, “So... what did you do? You and Carol? When Noel and Mark went to the pictures?”

Knowingly, Peter glared and said “Nothing Dad!” before claiming they “...just talked and listened to music and... talked and stuff.”

“What music did you listen to?” his dad asked.

“Er... the Cure and...”

“Really?!” his dad replied. “I saw them live in '89.”

“Cool... never heard 'em before.” Peter replied before naming the other CD Carol had played him.

“Echo & The Bunnymen!” his dad exclaimed. “I'm impressed... I thought you kids only listened to grime these days.”

“Not all the time.” Peter replied. Although he does listen to a lot of grime most of the time. “Have you got any?”

“What?” his Dad asked.

“Echo & the Bunnymen or The Cure?”

“Not any more... I sold my vinyl years ago.” he replied. “Not that it would be much use... kids these days wouldn't know what to do with a proper record.”

“Without a record player it's useless anyway.” Peter replied.

They finally arrived back at the Travelodge and just like his Dad, Peter didn't miss the traffic or all the traffic lights either. It took longer to get from Langley to central Slough than it'd take to get from Butterworth to Rugby, a journey a good three times longer. They took the elevator up to their room where his mother and sister were waiting. “Have you eaten Peter?” his mother asked. “Oh thank goodness!” she exclaimed when he said he hadn't. “We're starving.” she said and they promptly headed out to eat.

“So how was Carol?” Kate asked.

“She's good.” Peter replied.

“So what did you get up to?” his sister quizzed.

“Not much, just talking.” he said.

“When are you going to see her next?” Kate asked.

“I dunno... she mentioned maybe coming up at Easter.”

“Really?!” Kate grinned. “Did you hear that Mum... Peter's girlfriend might be visiting at Easter.”

“She's not my girlfriend!” Peter insisted.

“She did give him a big kiss when he left though.” his Dad informed them, grinning and winking at his son.

“Ah she is! I knew it!!” Kate grinned.

Peter didn't deny it but he could feel himself blushing as they waited for the lift. All the time his fingers are playing with the lipstick in his pocket. “What do you fancy?” his mother asked his dad. “Pub grub, fast food or Chinese?”

“Er... pub grub I reckon.” their Dad replied. They went to a nearby pub and ordered. Peter's dad chatted with their mother about work. Kate tried to prize some more details out of her brother, but he was being coy. The details he revealed included the music they listened to and her interest in Educational Petticoating. The details he kept to himself were the fact he'd worn one of her dresses and some lippy and that the lipstick he'd worn is currently in his pocket. He knows he's going to have to mention it at some point, but not now. They talked about the possibility of his friends visiting in the school holidays but his parents could neither approve nor confirm the idea without contacting their parents first.

~o0o~

The next morning, they booked out of the Travelodge and headed back up the M1. They were back in Butterworth by lunchtime and the light covering of snow had all but disappeared. Peter checked tomorrow's forecast which said it would be sunny yet chilly. He contacted Alan to check that it's still OK to visit and it is. Alan has some work to do in the morning but that should be done by around 11.00am, so lunchtime would be good. The arrangement was made and Peter would either cycle over or be driven by his mother. He's keen to cycle but his mother feels it might be a bit too cold and doesn't want him riding back after dark. “I've got gloves and I can wear some trackie bottoms over my shorts.” he says. His sister Kate is within earshot and suggests a pair of leggings would be better than baggy tracksuit bottoms. “I haven't got any though.” Peter replied.

“I'll give you some of mine.” Kate offered. Peter wasn't keen but she convinced him, since it's not out of the ordinary for a cyclist to wear figure hugging attire. “Haven't you got some black dance tights?” she quizzed. “Those would do too.” she suggested.

Peter shook his head and Kate seemed perplexed. “I've only got pink ones 'coz I'm still in the beginner's group.” he reminded her. Kate offered to loan him some of hers but Peter declined. “I think leggings would be better.” he assumed.

“How about tights under your shorts and leggings on top?” his sister suggested. It sounded like as good an idea as any to Peter and a while later, Kate knocked on his bedroom door with a pair of thick black dance tights and some black leggings. “Are they OK?” she asked.

The leggings are Adidas ones with three white stripes running down each leg and feature the distinctive Adidas logo above one ankle. “Yeah they're cool.” Peter replied. “Thanks Kate.”

“You're welcome.” she said, before stating that they're one of her 'good' pairs of leggings and she definitely wants them back. “You can keep the tights... I’ve got loads of pairs.”

“Cheers, thanks sis.” Peter says. “I've never had black tights before.”

Throughout this brief moment in her brother's room, Kate eyes have been panning and scanning and nosin' around. His pink satin ballet shoes hang from his wardrobe door knob. His green school blazer hangs from the back of his door. Books and films fill a shelf whilst model tanks and aeroplanes adorn another. On the foot of his bed is a neat pile of fresh laundry; knickers and training bras in both bottle green and white plus several pairs of bottle green tights. His dressing table, unlike hers is mostly free from clutter, save for a small selection of hair slides, barrettes and hair-bands. “Is that a lipstick?!” she asked, noticing a small yet distinctive cylinder on his dressing table.

“Er... yeah.” her brother said as she briskly crossed his room. “Carol gave it to me.”

Being a nosey big sister, Kate picked it up, removed the lid and twisted it. “Hmm.” she said. “Have you tried it?” she asked. Peter reluctantly admitted to wearing it for a short while the previous day. “Is it nice?”

“I dunno... Carol said it was close to my natural shade so...” he shrugged.

“Can I see?” she asked, offering it too him.

“Maybe another time.” Peter said.

Kate persisted and again Peter declined, claiming he wasn't 'dressed' for it. Kate said his clothes didn't matter. “I'll maybe wear it when I'm doing my homework, with my uniform on.” Peter said, suggesting it'd maybe help prepare him for Year 10. “Can I have the lid please?” he asked.

Kate smiled and handed him the lid. “Sweet that... your first gift from your girlfriend.” she said as Peter put it back on his dresser.

“We only kissed... she's not necessarily my girlfriend.” Peter meekly replied.

“Well even if you're just good friends... it's still a sweet gift.”

“Yeah.” Peter agreed. He could feel himself blushing again.

“So...” Kate began as she nudged his hair-slides with the tip of her finger. “...apart from wearing lipstick... what else did you and Carol get up to?” she cheekily asked.

“We just talked and listened to music and stuff.”

“And stuff?” she parroted, raising her eyebrows.

Peter bashfully insisted that they didn't get up to anything and reminded her that he's only thirteen. He admits to them kissing a couple of times, but insists that there's nothing more to it. “Did you show her your bra?” Kate teases. Peter grimaces and the answer is clear. “Did she show you hers?”

“No.” Peter replied. In that instant he cursed himself for missing the opportunity. 'Now show me yours' is what he should have said when he'd shown Carol his. Hindsight... it always comes too late!

Later that evening, Carol sends Peter a video chat request and he accepts. “Hiyaaa!” she cooed when his face filled the screen.

“Hi Carol.” he bashfully replied.

“What are you wearing?”

“Er... jeans, hoodie.” he said as he briefly stepped back from the camera.

“Lipstick?” she asked.

“Er... do you want me to?” he gulped. She didn't, particularly. “What you up to?” he asked.

“Not much... just thought I'd check in and make sure you got back OK.”

“Yeah.” Peter replied. “Gonna ride out to my friend's house tomorrow. It's a good six miles away.” he proudly exaggerated.

“Cool.” Carol typed. “Not a girl I hope!”

“Nah... Alan.” he typed before telling her that he and Alan were both newbies back in September, so had something in common. He tells her his parents have a stable and lives out in the sticks. “Fields all around.” he added.

“Sounds great.” Carol replied. “ Can't believe half term's almost over... a week just isn't long enough.”

“Yeah... mid-term should be longer.” Peter said. “A fortnight at least.”

“Yeah.” Carol replied. “Why do you keep saying mid-term?” she asked. “Is that what they call it up there?”

“Nah it half term up here too.” Peter replied.

“So why do you keep saying mid-term then?”

Peter didn't instantly reply. He chose his words cautiously and delivered them quickly. “Because there's another story called half term so I have to say mid-term in this one.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Weirdo.” she grinned. “Hey you didn't answer my question yesterday!” she said.

“What question?”

Carol smiled and said “Do you wear a tutu for ballet class?”

She grinned as Peter grimaced. “Sometimes... not always.”

“What do you you wear?”

“A leotard and dance tights.” he humbly replied, wondering if he should tell her about the control knickers that the boys also wear under their leotards. This constricting garment is designed to flatten their boyish bulge as much as possible and is the single most uncomfortable thing he's ever worn. Saying that, one does become accustomed to its presence after ten minutes or so, but possibly though numbness more than anything else. Carol asked a question. “The leotard or tights?” he replied.

“Both.” she smiled, knowing full well he was delaying.

“Black leotard and pink tights.” he glumly informed her before standing and walking away from his laptop's camera. “...and these.” he said, returning with his pink satin ballet shoes.

“Cute.” she grinned.

“I don't have to ask you not tell Noel about these do I?”

“Course not.” she assured. “I can't imagine you doing ballet.”

“Neither can I. I'm terrible at it... still in the novice group after six months.”

“Oh... well you'll just have to stick at it.” she said. “Maybe one day I'll be watching you perform the dance of the sugar plum fairy.” she chuckled.

Peter chuckled too, but markedly more nervously. “That's not going to happen.”

“I know... it's just a nice thought.” she said as she cast him a coy grin. Peter gulped and smiled back. “So... you do ballet...”

“Yeah.”

“...and play hockey and netball.”

“Yeah.”

“Any other classes like that?” she asked.

“Not really.” Peter replied. But he knew what she was getting at so added, “We do needlework.”

“Sewing and stuff?” she asked. Peter pursed his lips and nodded. “What kind of stuff?” she asked. “Dresses?”

“Nooo.” he replied. “Just basic stuff.” he replied, listing a pencil case and a drawstring bag. Peter cast his mind back to his first needlework class back in September. He learned to thread a needle and replace a shirt button, then for his first homework assignment, he stitched the ribbons onto his ballet shoes. He also had to stitch all the name tags into every item of his uniform, including all his underwear, but thankfully this was done at home rather than in class. He's made a pencil case and a drawstring 'dance' bag, both of which have his initials embroidered on, a traditional cross-stitch sampler which he gifted to his grandmother at Christmas, and an apron too, which was one of his mother's Christmas gifts. This term he's made a cross-stitch tablet case, a shaggy rag rug and is currently learning how to knit a scarf.

Peter's about as keen on his needlework classes as he is his ballet class. He can see why it's important to know how to replace a button on one of his blouses or repair a ripped seam or loose hem, but what's the point of knitting a scarf if it takes weeks when one can be purchased for peanuts? His dad suggested that when the zombie apocalypse comes there'll no more factories and no more shops, so he'll be glad that he learned needlework otherwise he'd be fighting zombies in the nude. His dad also suggested that a well executed pirouette could take out a few zombies too, making ballet an essential skill, and that a pair of knitting needles would also be a handy weapon.

“Sewing and knitting are handy skills.” Carol said.

“Yeah I guess.” Peter replied. “According to my dad they'll be essential when the zombie apocalypse comes.” he chuckled. “If only to stab the zombies in the face with my knitting needles.”

“You'd be like a knitting ninja.” she grinned. “In a leotard.” she added. They chatted and chuckled for a while longer before Carol said, “Right... I'm gonna go... just wanted to make sure you hadn't died in a car crash.” she grinned.

“Nope... I'm home, safe and sound.” Peter replied.

“Cool.” she said. “Catch up next week?” she suggested.

“Yeah sure.” Peter enthused.

“Great. Speak soon hon.” Carol replied. “Thinking of you.”

“You too.” Peter replied before her image quickly disappeared. He bit his lip, grinned and repeatedly thought 'she called me hon', 'she called me hon', 'she called me hon'. That night, before climbing into bed, Peter carefully applied some of the lipstick that Carol had gifted him and went to sleep with a smile on his face.

~o0o~

The next day, Peter wakes early and on visiting the bathroom, he notices that there's barely a trace of his lipstick left. He washes up and makes sure there's absolutely no trace of it before going for breakfast. His mother asks if he's still going to cycle to his friend's house and Peter says he is. “Well make sure you wrap up warm... and I want you back before dark.”

“I've got lights.” Peter reminds her.

“Yes but they're not very bright... they're only good for being seen with.” his mother tells him. “On those unlit roads they'll be next to useless.”

“Yeah I suppose.” he replied. His mother asked what time he's going. “Lunchtime.”

“Well... back by five... that gives you plenty of time.”

“OK.”

After having a long hot bath, Peter pulls the thick black dance tights over his freshly shaved legs. He's always enjoyed pulling his tights over super smooth skin and the fact that his tights aren't bottle green makes it all the more enjoyable today. Next he pulls on his cycling shorts and matching jersey before pulling the black Adidas leggings on over his shorts and tights. He eats a couple of tuna sandwiches followed by a couple of slices of malt loaf to give him a decent energy store for what feels like an epic journey. He knows it's not that far to Alan’s house but it's the furthest he's ridden on his own so. “Those leggings suit you.” his mother says as he chomps his sandwiches.

“Kate loaned me them.” Peter replied. “I've got dance tights underneath so I should be warm enough.”

“Hopefully.” his mother replied.

“I'll just have to pedal faster if I'm not.” Peter said. His mother smiled before telling him not to go too fast because it could be icy. “I won't.” he replied. Peter set off at twelve noon sharp. His mother told him to be extra careful at the motorway junction since the cars are usually going faster then expected and they're often accelerating too. “I will.” he said.

“And put some Lypsyl on or they'll get chapped.” his mother advises. Even before they moved up from Slough, Peter regularly applied Lypsyl in the winter months. It's not glossy and he never considered it a 'girl' thing... but now he's got some actual lipstick, he does take a little more care when applying his Lypsyl.

Peter cut through some snickets and ginnels to get to the edge of town, past the Whittle roundabout and the busy main road. A cycle track runs alongside this and takes him over the M1 motorway and he's soon riding through the village of Walton, after which he turns right heading down the long lane that leads to Alan's house. This long flat straight road gives him the opportunity to change up a few gears and see just how fast his road bike will go. It's fast! Maybe the 'go faster' stripes on his leggings are helping. Who knows? The next village comes into view and Peter quickly realises that he's ridden right past Alan's house. He slows and turns, riding back up the lane, this time keeping an eye out for his destination rather than just trying to ride really really fast.

Alan's mother answers the door to a boy with very red cheeks. “You must be Peter?” she says. Peter is directed around the back of house where there's a garage that he can put his bike in. “You'll find Alan in one of the stables... just give him a shout.”

“OK.” Peter replied. “Thanks.” He makes his way around the back of their sizeable house and parks his bike in the garage alongside a couple of other bikes, old ones, rusty and dusty and clearly unused. He crosses the yard toward the stables and hollers “Alan! ...you about?”

“Hiya.” Alan says as he emerges from one of the stables. He's wearing some tatty navy blue overalls and wellies. “Did you ride over?” he asked.

“Yeah.. only took fifteen minutes.” he said as he checked the time on his phone.

“Cool. Fast bike then?” Alan asked.

Peter nodded proudly. “Just gonna text my mum and let her know I’ve not been crushed under a truck.” he said as his thumb quickly tapped out a message.

“Okeydoke.. I've just gotta finish bringin' the bails out... come in.” Alan replied.

Peter followed his friend into the stable. “Where are the horses?” Peter asked.

Alan's sister has taken a group of kids pony trekking so most of the horses are out. “I'll show you Viking.” he says as he fills a hay rack. Alan leads Peter past a row of vacant stables to one which is home to huge white and brown horse called Viking. Peter's bit overwhelmed by its size and keeps his distance whilst Alan feeds it a couple of carrots. With a little prompting, Peter pats its head.

Next to Viking's stable is a small barn half filled with bails of hay. He helps Alan carry one into a stable and watches whilst Alan fills the hay rack and spreads the rest of the bail on the floor. “Just a few more then we can go in.” Alan says. “Are you warm enough?” he asked.

“Yeah I'm boiling after my ride.” Peter claims as he unzips his fleece and tells Alan about riding his bike so fast that he completely missed the house and almost ended up in Kilburn.

“Is it a road bike?” Alan asked.

“Yeah. A Giant!” Peter proudly stated. “I'll show you when you've done.” he suggested as they returned to the barn and grabbed another bail of hay. “Do you do this everyday?” Peter asks as he helps Alan manhandle one into each of the vacant stables.

“When I’m not at school.” Alan replied.

“On your own?”

“Usually.” Alan said. First he mucks out, which means shovelling the horse shit and piss ridden hay out of each stable. That takes an hour or so, then they're hosed and scrubbed before fresh hay is put in. His final chore it to make sure the water trough is filled with water and tops it up using a huge long muddy hose. Peter keeps clear as he wants to avoid getting any muck or mud his sister's Adidas leggings. “Can I see this bike then?” Alan asks as he turns off the hose.

Peter details the spec; twenty-seven gears, fully indexed, triple compact with a nine speed cassette, Shimano groupset, aluminium alloy frame and forks. “Is one of these yours?” he asks looking at the two rusty and dusty BSOs behind his own 'machine'.

“Err... I use that one.” he said, pointing to some more bikes on the other side of the large double garage-come-workshop. “It used to be my sisters.” Of those three bikes, only one looks like it'll fit Alan and only one looks like it used to be his sisters. “I only use it for popping to the shop in Kilburn.” he sighed.

Peter was uninspired by the glittery lilac 'shopper' with a plastic basket on the front. “It's better than no bike.” Peter said.

“It gets me to the shop and back.” Alan shrugged before saying he was getting cold and suggested they go inside.

Alan and Peter enter the house via the boot room where Alan gets rid of his wellies and overalls. Beneath he's wearing a wintry woolly jumper and much to Peter's surprise, a pair of thick black tights and short denim shorts! He doesn't say anything. He wouldn't know what to say if prompted. Best bet, he thinks, is to carry on as normal. Alan asks Peter to remove his footwear before taking him into the house where he formally introduces Peter to his mum. “You're the boy who started school the same day as Alan?” his mother asked.

“Yes.” Peter replied. That was a scary day and Alan was the only one in his class who was also new to EP, so they naturally stuck together. Alan's mother asked if he enjoys going to Butterworth High before asking where he's from originally. “We moved up from Slough.” Peter tells her, before saying that he and his sister were born in Hampshire, moved to Slough when he was seven. “My dad's from Bristol and my mum's Scottish.” he added.

“I see... so you'll have a good range of accents at home?”

“Yeah.” Peter smiled. He recalled when Keith and Paul (friends from school) first came to his house and they couldn't get their heads around a family with different accents. Dad speaks in a thick west country accent, Mum speaks soft Scottish, Kate has retained her Hampshire accent and Peter's is a distinct south east accent.

“Those leggings are nice.” Alan's mum says.

“Thanks. They're my sisters.” Peter replied. Alan's mother quizzes if they're warm enough on a day like today. Peter tells her that he's got a pair of tights on beneath them. “...and cycling shorts.” he adds. “If anything I'm a bit too warm.”

“Well take that fleece off.” Alan's mother suggests. “Why don't you show Peter your room and I'll bring a hot drink up?” she says the her son.

“Er... OK.” Alan replied.

“Oh...” his mother says, grabbing a pile of clean laundry. “...and take these up whilst you're at it.”

Alan takes the bundle of laundry and Peter follows him up the stairs. “I like those shorts Al.” Peter says.

“Er... they're my sisters.” he claimed as they reached the landing. “Well, they were.” he drew Peter's attention to the bundle of laundry and said, “I've ended up with a lot of my sister's hand-me-downs since I started at Butterworth High.”

Peter glanced at the neatly folded items and amongst the blacks, blues, greys, whites and browns, he spotted some pink, lilac, a bit of lace and a conspicuous strap hanging out. “Yeah you said last week.” Peter said, recalling their walk home from school last Friday.

Alan paused. “Yeah... just wanted to remind you before you see my room.” he cautiously replied.

Peter expected the worst and prepared himself for a pink palace. “This is OK.” he said as he stepped inside. The walls are clad in a pale green stripy wallpaper and a forest green carpet covers the floor. Spearmint green curtains hang at the windows and a matching bedspread covers his wrought iron bed. There's a bit of flounce on the curtains and the bed has a lacy valance, but it's not that bad. Peter's eyes pan around the four walls and the furniture. Pictures hang depicting countryside scenes, horses and farm life; cheap prints of vintage paintings, the sort one's grandmother might have. The furniture is ornate and possibly antique; painted to match the room in white and pale greens. On one wall is a wardrobe and besides this, a clothes rail. That's why Alan reminded him about his sister's hand-me-downs, Peter realised as he scanned the items on the clothes rail. Almost everything looks like its either a skirt or a dress, although there are some jeans, jumpers and jackets too. From one end of the shiny steel rack hangs a small selection of bags; handbags to be precise. A four foot wide row of shoes fills the void beneath the rail. “Are they all yours?” Peter gasped.

“Unfortunately.” Alan replied. “They're my 'Sunday' dresses.” he glumly added. “Here.” he said, drawing his friend's attention to something far cooler. “I've been building it for ages.”


“You made that?!” Peter exclaimed.

“Still am.” Alan replied, before delivering a very long list of what still needs to be done.

“That's well cool!” Peter says as he has a good close look at the model sailing ship. He daren't touch it though. “I've built model kits but nothing like this.. just plastic Airfix stuff.”

“This is the same really... it's just balsa instead of plastic.” Alan claims before showing off a balsa wood bi-plane that he'd previously made. “I should paint it really but...”

“Nah... it's looks good seeing the wood.” Peter replied.

Alan agreed. “How was Slough anyway?” he asked. “Did you see your old mates?”

“Yeah it was cool.” Peter replied. He described the Travelodge and how the town centre felt far too full now he's got used to small town life, playing Battlefront on the X Box and actually doing well for a change before sheepishly moving on to Carol.

“Is she your girlfriend?”

Peter nodded before saying, “I dunno... she lives ninety miles away and she didn't actually say 'will you be my boyfriend' ...but we did kiss a few times.” Peter replied. “I've never had one before so...” He paused before asking Alan if he's had a girlfriend before.

“Sort of.” he replied, explaining that he had a friend called Sally and they used to hang out all the time. “...and now we don't.”

“How come?” Peter asked. Alan told him a woeful tale of friendship and betrayal that would have been worthy of writing if he hadn't used the words 'bitch' and 'cow' quite so frequently. “She sounds horrible.” Peter said.

“She never used to be.” Alan glumly claimed. “Or maybe she was and I never noticed.” he shrugged as he glanced at the rail containing his skirts and frocks. “She made sure that everyone knew about those.”

“Bitch.”

“Yeah.” he moaned as someone knocked on his door. “Yeah?” he said.

Alan's mother entered carrying a tray with two mugs of hot chocolate and a plate full of biscuits. She placed it on his dresser. “Have you shown Peter your Galleon?” she asked. Alan said he had and Peter enthused over it. “Don't forget to put your clothes away Alan.” his mother said.

“Yeah I'll do it later.”

“You'll do it now.” she replied before leaving.

Alan got off his bed and passed Peter a mug and the plate of biscuits. He began sorting his pile of fresh laundry, separating the T shirts and tops from the underwear, tights and socks. “God I hate these.” he said as he put his pink ballet tights to one side.

“Me too.” Peter agreed. “I hope we get out of the beginners group soon.”

“So we can learn tap! and jazz!! ??” he enthusiastically, dramatically and possibly sarcastically asked.

“It's gotta be better than basic ballet.” Peter sighed. “It's so boring.”

“Yeah.” Alan sighed as he bundled a pile of underwear into a drawer. “I'd prefer it if we didn't have to do any dance classes.”

“Yeah.” Peter replied. “Do you think it helps though... with coordination and stuff?” he asked before telling his friend about how he was all-of-a-sudden really good playing Battlefront when he was previously terrible at video games. Alan presumed that their ballet classes are unlikely to affect his hand/eye coordination and thus improve his gaming skills. “Maybe it was just my lucky day.” Peter presumed as a wry smile swept his face. He recalled the moment that Carol planted her lips on his.

“Clapping games might.” Alan added as he put a small pile of T shirts and tops away before picking up his mug and slurping it. “Still hot.” he said. “Mum makes the best hot chocolate.”

“Mmmm.” Peter agreed, having another slurp. “It's like proper coffee shop stuff.”

“She does put a bit of coffee in it.” Alan said as he put a hoody on a hanger. “..so it's more of a mocca.” he added as he put the hanger on his rail. “Hey look at this.” he said, removing a brown furry jacket.

At first glance it looked like cheap brown fake fur jacket, the sort that only a girl would wear. “That's well cool!” Peter exclaimed when he realised it was a Chewbacca jacket.

“Thought you'd like it.” Alan said. “It's a bit girlie but...”

“Was it your sisters?”

“Yeah.” Alan replied as he put it back alongside the skirts, tops and frocks. “They all were.”

“So... how often do you have to wear the dresses?” Peter asked. “Every Sunday or...?”

“Nah... they're just called 'Sunday' dresses because they're nice... supposedly.” Alan said.

“When do you wear them then?”

“Whenever they want me to look nice.” Alan replied. “If Mum had her way I'd have been wearing one today.”

“Why?”

Alan mimicked his mother's voice and said, “Because you should always make an effort when you've got visitors.” in his own voice he added, “She seems to think that all the boys at Butterworth High wear dresses at home.”

“I wouldn't have minded.”

“What?”

“If your mum'd made you wear a dress.” Peter said. “I wore one of Carol's on Wednesday.” he informed his friend. “I quite liked it.” he admitted. “Is that weird?” he asked.

“Not really.” Alan replied. “I like some of mine... well... some are better than others.” he added. “Given the choice I'd never wear any of them out of the house though.”

“Yeah. I guess it felt OK because it was just me and Carol. It'd have been totally weird if anyone else were there.” Peter replied, before cautiously asking if Alan wears his out of the house.

Alan slowly nodded. “It shouldn't matter because I wear my school uniform often enough.” he said, returning to his rail. “But there's a big difference between that...” he removed a frock. “...and this.”

Peter bit his lip as Alan showed him a garish lime green dress with bright flowers and short bulbous sleeves. Alan sneered as he replaced it. “This one's far worse though.”

“Eugh.” Peter grimaced as Alan withdrew another frock. “It wouldn't be too bad if it didn't have those swans on.”

“Or the see-through sleeves.” Alan sighed.

“I think its better than the green one... marginally. But I think I'd refuse to wear either of them.” Peter claimed.

“Yeah.” Alan agreed. “Easier said than done when you've got your sister or mum going... oh go on... it's nice... oh go on ...then they choose something much worse and you go... oh OK then.” he said. “Sometimes it's just easier to wear what I'm told in the first place.” he sighed.

Yeah.” Peter agreed. “I guess I'm just lucky that my Mum hasn't looked at my sister's old clothes and thought... some of these might fit Peter!” he said. mimicking her soft Scots accent. “Saying that... I will be wearing her old school skirts and blouses when they fit me.” Peter added.

Alan didn't reply save for a bit of a grunt, but that's pretty much what happened to him. It was the end of summer and his sister was having a clear out. A huge pile of cast-offs accumulated on her bed and he recalled how she and his mother bickered over what to keep and what to throw. Mum's idea of nice differed from her seventeen year old daughters, and Alan's mother's logic was one of there's plenty of wear in it, it's too good for charity, it still fits so we'll keep it. Alan recalls his sister's retort exactly; Well there's no point keeping them unless you're keeping them for Alan... because there's no way I'm wearing any of those. Alan also recalled his mother's reply which unfortunately for him was an enlightened 'oooh I hadn't thought about Alan'... so her old and unwanted clothes became his new clothes, whether he wanted them or not. “Sounds like my sister's back.” Alan said as the sound of hooves on tarmac grew increasingly louder.

The boys looked out of the bedroom window and waited for the pony trekking group to come into view. “Can you ride?” Peter asked as one after another crossed the yard and entered the paddock.

“Yeah course.” Alan replied.

“Is it easy?”

“When you know how... bit like riding a bike, but all horses are different.” Alan said. He pointed out one horse which is a bit feisty, another which is lazy, one which is his favourite and one that he refuses to ride. They chatted about this and that as they watched the riders hand back their steeds. One by one Alan's sister leads the horses back to the stable and the riders loitered and chatted.

“Is that Ben Johnson?” Peter asked as one removed his riding helmet.

“Yeah... and his sister Beth.” Alan said, pointing out a girl with long curly blonde locks. “She's gorgeous!”

“Does she go to our school?” Peter asked. He doesn't recognise her and she is undoubtedly gorgeous, so he should have noticed her by now.

“Nah, the academy.”

“Oh.” Peter replied. “How come they don't go to the same school?”

“Dunno... maybe his folks transferred him the better of the two schools, just like mine did.”

Peter also cast his mind back the end of summer when his mother seemed to be enjoying the process of getting his new school uniform a little too much. Everything he needed was purchased in the last week of the summer holidays; uniform, shoes, PE kit, school bag, etc. He would have preferred bottle green knee socks but his mother insisted on buying white ones with a pelerine knit which he felt were too girlie for a boy. Her logic was 'it doesn't matter if you're boy, you want to look nice'. When he said he didn't want to look 'nice', his mother's reply was 'I want you to look nice'. Same with his underwear; she could have got him the regulation 'big' pants without the narrow bands of lacy trim but his mother bought the ones with the lacy trim because 'they're much nicer and no one's going to see them'. She was wrong about that. The girls have a habit of flicking the boy's skirts up and yelling 'he's wearing frillies!' if their underwear has lacy trim. If not they declare them 'boring!'. It's a small consolation that seemingly many of the boys wear 'frillies' and that the girls generally approve, as does his mother. “I sometimes wonder if my parents really tried to get me into the academy or if they're just saying they did.” Peter mournfully wondered.

“Well Butterworth High is a better school.” Alan shrugged. “...even if we hate the uniform.”

“Yeah.” Peter replied. “I actually don't mind the uniform these days.” he said. “It's just green tights and white knee socks I hate... it'd be better if we could wear black tights.”

“It'd be better if we didn't have to do dance classes.”

“And supervised play!” Peter grinned. “Even the girls hate that!”

“Double dutch is good.” Alan stated.

“I can hardly do one rope, let alone two.” Peter said. “It's good to watch though.”

EP schools differ from mainstream schools in many ways. The boy's uniform is the most obvious difference, and a closer look at their PE curriculum reveals netball, hockey and tennis rather than football, rugby and cricket. Then there's the dance aspect of PE; classical ballet is the core subject and after reaching Grade 2, students may also study tap and jazz (and occasionally line dancing, street dance, ballroom or country dancing). One subtle difference is how the teachers tend to use the noun 'child' rather than 'boy' or 'girl'. At Peter's old school the teachers would say 'good morning boys and girls' but at Butterworth High it's always 'good morning children'. It took Peter a good month or two to notice that one.

One not-so-subtle difference between EP schools and mainstream schools is the idea of 'supervised play'. Rather than loitering, lurking or sitting around chatting with their friends, children are encouraged to be active during their break times. Fortunately, not every break time is supervised play time at Butterworth High. Out of their fifteen breaks each week (three each day), around five are supervised. It's a seemingly random process which sends a wave of sighs around the classroom during morning registration when the names of the children who'll be partaking in supervised play are read out. It's usually around seven to ten children from each class and they're allotted either the morning, lunch or afternoon slot. Lunch is the worst one because it's forty minutes of supervised play rather than fifteen, and a 'double-dose' isn't unheard of (where a child is given both a morning and afternoon slot on the same day).

When break time begins and the children filter out into the school yard, those on supervised play go directly to the playground supervisors (a couple of teachers and a handful of Prefects). The group of twenty to thirty children are separated into smaller groups and spend their break time playing hopscotch, skipping (with and without a rope), duck duck goose (and other tag type games) and even clapping & rhyming games. An active child is a healthy child, is one mantra that justifies this practice. An active body means an active brain, is another. Supervised play is as unpopular with the girls as it is the boys, but at least the girls know the games, rhymes and routines. The main problem for the boys is that all the activities are traditional girl's games and they're all novices. It's not easy hopping and skipping in heels and with their little pleated skirts bouncing about it's more than a little embarrassing too... but thankfully the yard at Butterworth High is enclosed within the buildings so it's only teachers and pupils who are witness to this idyllic vision of an English school yard. Supervised play is a good incentive to be well behaved though, since bad behaviour can result in every break time being a supervised play time. Both Peter and Alan agreed that supervised play is one of the worst aspects of Educational Petticoating. “Tell you that'd make things at the high school infinitely better.” Peter said.

“What?” Alan asked.

“If the academy was an EP school too.” Peter said. Barely a day goes by when one or more kids from the Academy don't taunt or tease the high school boys. From the safety of their long pants and flat shoes the academy boys will happily jeer and sneer at the high school boys, even those much older and bigger than themselves... and should a high school boy give chase, they can't give chase very quickly thanks to their footwear.

“Ahhh that'd be poetic.” Alan gasped. “All the kids who gave me grief when I was transferred... I'd love to see the looks on their faces.” he imagined the prospect... in fact he wallowed in it. “I wonder if...” he began.

“What?”

“Nah nothing.” Alan grinned.

“Go on... what?” Peter prompted. “You wonder if...”

“OK... it'd never work but... I wonder if the headmaster of the academy started getting loads of letters from 'concerned' parents... Dear Headmaster...” Alan began, mimicking a parental voice, “...in light of the fact that the Ofsted rating for the academy is 'average' and that of the high school is 'excellent', isn't it about time you considered introducing Educational Petticoating to Butterworth Academy?” He stopped and grinned before continuing, “As a concerned parent, my child's education is of paramount importance... far more important than his uniform and...

Alan ran out of ideas. Peter took over and adopted a similar 'grown-up' voice. “It's a well known fact that truancy rates in EP schools are virtually nil and regular ballet classes are essential for growing boys, since they're ever so clumsy...” he says in a faux-female middle class accent “It's also a well known fact that bullying is a major issue at Butterworth Academy and education experts all agree that educational petticoating is a proven method of discouraging bullying, especially amongst the boys.

Alan laughed and asked if it was true. “I dunno.” Peter replied. “The truancy bit is, according to Carol.”

“Your girlfriend!” Alan grinned.

Peter became bashful and peered into the yard. The gabble of pony trekkers had long gone. “One of the junior schools in Slough's going to trial EP after Easter.” Peter eventually said.

“Really?”

“Apparently.” Peter replied. “My mate Mark's little brother goes... he's eight and crapping himself.”

“I bet he is.” Alan said. He explained that when the high school switched to EP three years ago, his parents were considering sending him then. “In a way I wish they had. It wasn't much fun being at the Academy when everyone knew I was being transferred to the 'girls' school.” he mournfully recalled.

All the kids at the academy refer to Butterworth High as the girl's school and in a way, its mere existence works as an excellent deterrent for really bad behaviour. Plenty of academy boys get themselves suspended but they all know that expulsion means one thing and one thing only. To Alan's knowledge, no boy has been expelled from Butterworth Academy since the high school adopted EP. A few though, like himself have been transferred. In Alan's case it was a simple case of his parents wanting him to go to a better school. One boy in the previous academic year was getting bullied at the academy and was transferred to the high school. Peter suggested the bullies should have been transferred instead. “That'd have been pretty much the whole class.” Alan replied. “Can't be much fun getting so badly bullied at one school, only to go to another where you have to dress like a girl.”

“Can't be much fun for Mark's brother either... our uniforms aren't too bad... tights aside.” Peter said. “At Castleview the girls wear those red gingham dresses in the summer and grey pinafore dresses in the winter.”

Alan bit his lip. “We didn't have a uniform at my old junior school.” he said.

“Where was that?”

“Just down the lane in Kilburn.” Alan informed him, cocking his head in its general direction. Peter begins to respond but a knock on the door draws their attention. They turn as Alan's mother enters. “You boys OK?” she asked, before asking if Peter was planning on joining them for supper this evening.

“Er... I've gotta be home before dark so...”

“Okeydoke.” his mother said. “You'd be most welcome and I could have driven you back...” she says.

“Oh er...”

“Yeah stay.” Alan prompted. “What we having?” he asked his mother.

“Well... thing is...” his mother began, “Your sister's just told me that we've been invited up to Burrowbeck Farm for supper with the Proctors'...” she said before apologising to Peter.

“Shall I go?” he meekly asked.

“No no!” Alan's mother chirped. “We're not going 'til six or seven.” she checked her watch. “You've got a good hour or two.” she smiled.

“Oh, cool.” Peter smiled.

Alan and glanced at Peter and smiled nervously as his mother perused his dress rail. “Have you been showing Peter your dresses?” she asked as she rehung two of the frocks so they wouldn't crease.

Alan grimaced as his mother opened his wardrobe and had a bit of a rummage. “Mum what are you doing?” Alan asked as she removed a couple of frocks.

“Finding you something to wear tonight.” she replied. Both dresses are similar in style, only one is a Burberry check and the other, a red plaid. Both have white collars and cuffs.

“Well... can't you do that later?” he asked. “I've got company.”

“Oh I'm sure Peter doesn't mind.” Alan's mother said as she quickly decided which she liked the best. She smiled at Peter as she put one back and laid the other on Alan's bed before removing a white slip from a drawer. “All the boy's from Butterworth High...” she crouched to grab a pair of shoes. “...wear dresses.” she claimed.

“Not all of them.” Alan insisted as he glanced and frowned at Peter. “Do I have to wear that again?” he asked.

“Hmm-hmm.” his mother replied as she crouched, opened a drawer and removed a pair of thick white tights. “Or black tights?” she asked.

“I'd have rather chosen something later Mum... you know... when...” Alan gulped and glanced at his friend and wondered what he must be thinking.

“If I let you choose we'd be here all night.” his mother replied as she tossed the white tights onto the frock. “Do you chose your own dresses Peter?” Alan's mother asked.

“Errr, not really.” Peter sheepishly replied. “I don't actually...”

“Oh hello!” Alan's sister interrupted as she appeared at the wide open bedroom door. “I didn't realise you had company.”

Alan sheepishly introduced his big sister to Peter, and Peter to his sister. She briefly said hello before glancing at Alan's bed. “Oh not that one Mum!” she says before rummaging in his wardrobe. “This one's much nicer.” she says, removing a leaf green frock with a frilly white yoke.

“It doesn't really matter Bronte.” Alan's mother said. “It's only the Proctors.” she claimed. “Anyway I think this one's nicer.” his mother stated, defending her original choice.

“Nah, it's too plain.” his sister retorted. “And he's always wearing it.” she added. “Definitely this one...with those lacy ivory tights.”

“He'll want thicker tights than those.” his mother claimed. “It's February.”

Peter and Alan were both speechless as his mother and sister bickered over his outfit. “Are they always like this?” Peter discreetly asked. Alan nodded and rolled his eyes.

“It's only twenty minutes away... he's hardly going to die of exposure.” his sister replied. “He hasn't worn this for ages.” she stated as she held it against herself.

Alan's mother and sister squabbled in the background whilst Peter asked Alan where they're going. “Burrowbeck Farm... by the golf course.”

“In Butterworth?”

“No, Kilburn.” Alan replied. “Can't walk to Butterworth in twenty minutes.”

“If I had to wear one of those I'd be insisting they drive me.” Peter claimed.

“The only blessing is I'll be wearing an overcoat.” Alan replied. “...and wellies.” he added. Peter raised an eyebrow and Alan explained that the farm is at the end of a track that's always muddy in the winter. “So I'll be taking the shoes in a bag.” he added, nodding at the heels his mother had chosen.

A couple of moments later, his mother and sister had finally made their minds up and informed him that he'd be wearing the green dress. “You'll need a shower too... you smell like the stable.” his sister said.

“So do you.” Alan retorted.

“Which is why I’m going to have one first.” Bronte smugly stated. “Are you going to do your own make-up or do you want me to do it for you?”

Alan began to blush. “Can you do it?” he asked.

“You'll never learn unless you do it yourself.” his mother said as she put the plaid dress back and dug out his lacy tights.

“I know but...” Alan humbly replied. He glanced at his friend and rolled his eyes. Peter responded with a slightly bemused yet supportive smile, before casting his eyes over the ensemble on the duvet. “Sorry 'bout that.” Alan said once his mother and sister had gone.

“I didn't know you wore make-up.” Peter said.

“Bronte says I need to learn how to do it properly ready for Year 10.”

“That's ages away.” Peter retorted, adding up the months. “Is it hard?”

“It's not easy.” Alan retorted. “See what I mean about my Mum though... assuming we all wear dresses.”

“Yeah... I didn't get chance to try to explain before your sister came in.”

“...and the whirlwind started.”

“Yeah.” Peter chuckled nervously. “That was quite mental.”

“It's also quite normal.” Alan dryly replied.

Peter cast his eyes over the leaf green frock. It's knee length with a frilly hem and long sleeves. The shoulder and chest section is white broderie anglaise with frilly trim around the yoke. “I think I'd have preferred the other one.” Peter said.

“Yeah but I do wear it loads. It's Mum's current favourite.” Alan informed him as he hung it from his wardrobe and stuffed the tights and slip under his pillow. He sat on his bed and kicked the shoes beneath it before asking “What were we talking about before they barged in?”

“Errr....” Peter replied. They both thought for a moment until Peter raised a finger. “Sending fake letters to the Academy from 'concerned parents'.”

“Of course!” Alan replied. “Apparently it was pressure from parents that got the high school to try it.” he said. “Maybe there's some parents pressuring the academy already.” he wondered, before adding. “A few more wouldn't hurt.”

“If we could get hold of some addresses we could send fake letters from the Academy to parents.” he suggested. “Dear Parent...” he began. “In order to provide the very best educational environment for our students, we're considering Educational Petticoating on a trial basis. Please read the enclosed leaflet...” he paused and grinned. “We could grab some of those 'Petticoating for Schoolboys' leaflets from reception and enclose them.”

“We could say something like... Although Educational Petticoating is not currently compulsory at Butterworth Academy... blah blah blah ...parents may give EP a try on a voluntary basis. Please contact us for more information, or simply send your son to school wearing the girl's uniform.” Alan grinned. Peter laughed out loud. Alan did too. “We could make our own pamphlets and put the Academy crest on them... make it look official.”

“We could... but it'd never work.” Peter said. “They'd suss out it was a scam in a jiffy.”

“It's a good idea though... and you never know... a few extra letters to the headmaster could be enough to swing the balance.”

“Hmm... maybe.” Peter mused. He told Alan about the grammar school in Slough that voted on it last year and the outcome was something like 48% for and 52% against. He did a quick mental calculation and figured that if all the parents and teachers voted, it probably wouldn't be more than a thousand votes. “...so... 480, 520 difference of 40 votes... it wouldn't take much to swing it.”

Alan thought intently. “It wouldn’t would it.” he agreed, although he presumed the numbers would be bigger at the Academy. “It's only a 3% swing whichever way you look at it.”

“It'd be less than that... more like 1.5.” Peter reckoned before explaining the calculation.

“You're going to have to start coming over to help with my maths homework.” Alan suggested.

“Yeah... I can imagine what I'd look like cycling over here in my uniform.” Peter chuckled. “I'd have to borrow your sister's bike.”

“At least it's got a basket to put your books in.” Alan grinned. “I'll ask my dad if we can fix up one of the other bikes ready for summer.” he suggested. “We could ride up to the airfield or along the canal.”

“Is there a canal near here?” Peter asked.

“Yeah... t'other side of Kilburn... past the reservoir.”

“What's it called?” Peter asked. “You're joking?” he exclaimed when Alan replied. “That goes through Slough!”

“It goes all the way to London.”

“Wow... I had no idea.” Peter seemed enlightened. It's on that very canal that Carol told him that she had a crush on him. He enjoyed a little romantic vision in which he takes her there... if she ever comes to visit.

It wasn't too much later when Peter decided he'd best set off home. It's four-thirty, sundown is less than an hour away and he doesn't want to ride in the dusk any more than he wants to ride in the dark. Alan escorted him to the garage where they had a brief look at the bike he's considering fixing up, before sheepishly asking Peter if he wouldn't mention anything about his sister's cast-offs at school. Peter assured him he wouldn't as he straddled his bike and prepared to leave. "See you Monday mate." Peter said.

"Yeah, see ya... and thanks for coming over." Alan replied.

Peter was home by five and his mother was glad that he'd had a nice time and even gladder to have him home in one piece. “I do worry about you on those country lanes.” she said.

“They're safer than the roads around Slough and I always cycled those.” Peter reminded her as he warmed his hands on the Aga.

“And I worried then too.” his mother said as she put the kettle on the hotplate. “I found a lipstick on your dressing table.” she added, asking if it was one of his sisters.

“Er... no... Carol gave it me.” Peter humbly replied.

“I see.” his mother replied. “Does it look nice?” she asked.

“Errr.... I dunno.” Peter replied. “Carol said it did.” he added.

“Well you know you're not allowed make-up at school until Year 10.” she said.

“Yeah I know.” he sheepishly replied. “Then I'll have to wear it every day.” he moaned.

“And so will all your classmates.” his mother reminded him. “So what's Alan's house like?” she asked. “Is it big?” she asked.

Peter described the paddock and stables, the huge garage, the kitchen and Alan's bedroom, although he spared her the details. “He's making a model galleon out of wood... it's not finished but it's well impressive.” he enthused.

“Is Alan the one who wears dresses, or am I thinking of Keith?” he mother asked. “Keith's got that nice bob hasn't he?”

Peter's mother was always getting his friends mixed up. “No Mum... Robert's got the bob, the clues in his name.”

“Oh yes, very good.” she chuckled. “So is it Keith or Alan that wears dresses?”

“I think you're thinking of Keith on Sunnyside Close.” Peter replied. “Although Alan does have a few dresses.” he confessed.

“Oh I see.”

“Well, they're his sister's really.”

“Hand-me-downs?” his mother asked. Peter nodded and told her that Alan ends up with 'all' his sister's cast offs. “Well it makes economic sense.” his mother claimed. “...and I must admit I have been toying with the idea of giving you some of Kate's old clothes.”

“You mean...” Peter gulped. “...dresses?

“Mm-hmm.” his mother replied. “...and jeans and tops and things.” she added. “It seems a shame to throw them out.”

“I'm not sure I want to wear girl's clothes when I'm not at school.” Peter grumbled.

“When you say you're not sure...” his mother said, “...does that mean you're willing to give them a try?” she asked. “It'd be a nice change from your uniform.” she added.

“I doubt it.” Peter claimed. “Any way, my own clothes are a nice change from my uniform.” he added.

“And nice clothes will be a nice change from those.” his mother retorted

An hour or so later, Kate knocked on Peter's bedroom door. She wanted to reclaim her leggings before he got too attached to them. “Thanks sis.” he said as he folded them and handed them back. She smiled and glanced down at his legs. Her glance lingered. “What?” he asked, looking down at himself.

“Nothing... I’ve only seen you in either green or pink tights before.” she said. “Those look much nicer.”

“Yeah... maybe not the best choice of shorts.” he said.

“Oh I dunno... cyclists do wear tights.”

“Not tights like this though.” he said. The tights he's wearing are about 50 denier and he'd guess that cycling tights would be double or triple that.

“True. A little pair of denim shorts would look better.”

“Yeah... not got any though.”

“I could lend you a pair?” she suggested. Peter became momentarily hopeful. “Then again.”

“What?”

“Well...” she placed her hands on her hips. “...my bum's a bit bigger than yours so they might not be quite so little on you.”

“Oh.”

“Tell you what though... there's loads of my old stuff in the spare room, there's bound to be some in there.” she suggested. “I'll have a root.”

“Have you been talking to Mum?”

“What about?”

“Your old stuff in the spare room.”

“No. Why?” Kate asked.

“She mentioned it before... I think she's figured out that your cast off's might fit me and since I dress like a girl half the time anyway...”

“Well it makes sense when you think about it.” she claimed. “It can't be much fun when the only nice clothes you've got is your school uniform.”

“I've got other nice clothes.” Peter claimed.

“Yeah but...”

“You mean girl's clothes.”

“Yeah.” his sister replied.

~o0o~

It's Sunday evening and Peter gets out of the bath, dries himself off, dons his bathrobe as goes to his bedroom. There's an alert flashing in the corner of his laptop's screen: 'Carol S. has sent a message' and the message reads 'Hi there' followed by 'Hello!' followed by 'Peter... you there?' followed by 'Hey boyfriend... you better reply soon or you're dumped!'

Peter chuckled at her last message, sent seven minutes previously and typed “Here now.”

“Finally!” Carol replied. “What you been avoiding me for?”

“I haven't... I was in the bath and forgot to log-out.”

“Bin doing your legs?” she knowingly asked.

“Yeah. Back to school tomorrow.” he typed, adding a frowning smiley.

“Nice.”

“I'd rather have another week off. Mid-term went far too quickly.”

“Yeah... but I’m gonna enjoy knowing you're back at school and looking cute in your uniform.” she said.

Peter sent a bashful smiley, before typing “Does Noel know... about us?”

“Course.” she replied.

“Is he there?”

“In my room? No.”

“Wanna video chat?” he typed. “Wanna show you something.”

“Thought you'd never ask!”

Peter clicked the video icon and sent her a request. Her image quickly filled the screen. “Hiya!” she giggled.

“Sorry! I should have given you a minute!” Peter exclaimed as he averted his eyes. Carol is topless save for a lacy white bra.

“It's OK... you showed me yours, now I'm showing you mine.” she saucily said as she wiggled and giggled in front of the camera. “Have you got yours on?” she asked as she sat back so he could see her face again.

“Just got out the bath... other than this...” he said, grabbing the collar of his bathrobe. “...I'm in my birthday suit.”

“Well put some undies on!” she said. A sassy grin swept her face as she spoke.

“Er... OK.” he said. He briefly disappeared from view then returned.

She could tell by the way his knees went up one by one that he was putting some 'pants' on. He popped out of view once more, presumably to pull them all the way up. “Have you got a 'top' too?” she asked when he sat, knowing that's what he tends to call his training bras.

“Yeah.” he bashfully replied.

“Can I watch you put it on? I wanna see how you do it?” she grinned. Since she's sat in her room, in only her undies, there's no chance that her brother is present, so Peter slipped his arms out of his bathrobe and slung the straps of his training bra onto his shoulders. “I'm impressed.” she smiled as he effortlessly fastened it behind his back. “Stand up, can I see?”

“OK... but just for a moment.” he said before stepping back from the screen, giving her a view from knee to neck.

“Those knickers are big aren't they!” she exclaimed; their waist goes all the way up to his waist and the legs are so low they're almost horizontal. “Like granny panties.” she chuckled. “Or gym knickers.”

“That's what my sister calls them.” Peter said as he sat back in front of his laptop

Carol has a good look at his bra and just like the one he wore on Wednesday, it's white with baby pink trim and a little pink bow in the middle. “Do they all have pink trim or...?”

“No...” Peter said, glancing down at his 'top'. Some have pale blue, lilac, yellow, green, white....”

“One for every day of the week.”

“That's the idea.” he grumbled before sheepishly telling her that they also have bottle green 'pants' too. “...which we have to wear when we're not wearing tights... they don't show quite so much as white ones when we're skipping about or climbing the stairs but I tend to wear tights so...” he said. Carol giggled. “What?” he bashfully asked.

“Nothing... just the thought of you 'skipping about' in your little skirt.” she replied. Thankfully she didn't prise an explanation out of him bit she did giggle and jiggle a little. “So what did you want to show me?” she asked as his eyes focused on her blossoming bosom and the spotty white demi-cup bra that holds them aloft.

“Oh yeah...” he replied, having almost forgotten. “Just a tick... gotta unplug this...” he said as he faffed about and picked up the laptop. “Your eyes only.” he said as he carried the laptop across the room. “Don't really want Noel knowing about this.” he said as he opened his wardrobe and held the laptop so Carol could see inside it. “Can you see OK?” he asked.

“Yeah.... what am I looking at?” she asked since all she can see on her screen is dark, murk and blur.

He moved the laptop further way. “Can you see now?”

“I might if you hold it still.” she replied. “Are they yours?” she asked once the imaged focused, stabilised and white balanced.

“Yeah... well... Kate's cast offs.” he said as he took the laptop back to the dressing table. “Mum suggested I try some and... after wearing your dress I kinda said... yeah.” he paused. “Is that weird?” he asked.

“Not in my book.” Carol replied before telling him that she couldn't really see them properly and asking if they're nice.

“To be honest I don't know... we sorted through her old things and I've got pretty much everything that fits... not just frocks either... got some shorts like yours, and Kate gave me some black tights.”

“Didn't you have any already?”

“No... just green and pink ones for school.”

“Pink?”

“Err... yeah... for dance class. Didn't I tell you?”

“Yes, of course... I remember. I had a vision for a moment of you wearing pink tights with your school skirt.”

“I can't imagine that looking good.”

“No.” she chuckled. “White might... I like white tights sometimes.”

“Never tried 'em.”

“Well you should... you can wear what you want now.” she said. “Looks like you've got plenty to chose from.”

“Yeah... problem is... I've no idea what's nice and what isn't, what’d suit me and what wouldn't ...some of it's a bit pink and flowery.” he grimaced. “I don't mind trying plain stuff but I'm not really interested in the really girlie stuff.” he moaned.

“You wore my flowery dress, you liked that.”

“Yeah, but more because of the way it felt than how it looked.”

“Well if it feels nice, there's a good chance it looks nice too.” she replied.

“Maybe.” Peter groaned. He clearly wasn't so sure.

“I think you need to forget there's a boy inside you...”

“I am a boy.”

“I know... you're my boyfriend!” she said with grin. “...but what I'm saying is, there's a boy inside you going 'arrggghh it's a dress! I can't wear that!' and you need to put that to one side.” she suggested. “Forget about him.”

“And pretend I’m a girl?”

“Sort of... just stop reminding yourself that you're a boy or that boy's can't wear nice things because you can.”

“Yeah I guess.” he replied. “It'll make a change from my school uniform.”

“Exactly.” she smiled.

After a short silence, Peter said. “My mum found the lippy you gave me.”

“And?”

“She told me not to wear it at school.” he nervously chuckled. “Not that I was planning on that.” he added.

“After school we agreed.” Carol said. “When you're doing your homework.” she added.

“Yeah.” Peter half-heartedly gulped. “Dunno what my dad's going to say when he sees me wearing lipstick.”

“Well you'll have to wear it in Year 10 wont you?” she asked. “I was reading that that's the norm in a lot of EP schools.”

“Yeah.” he frowned.

“Well just tell your Dad that you're preparing yourself for that.” Carol suggested. A short silence ensued. “Have you tried many of your new clothes on?”

“A few.” Peter replied as he glanced over his shoulder. “I was only expecting one or two but all of a sudden I’ve got a wardrobe full.”

“And not before time.” she smiled. Peter smiled back and blushed a little. “Can we chat tomorrow?” Carol asked. “Got a stack of homework to finish.”

“Course.” he replied, glancing at the time. “Cutting it fine aren't you?”

“Yeah, as usual... I'll be doing it over breakfast at this rate.”

“Okeydoke.” he said. “And put a top on, it's February and it's freezing.”

“I know! My boobs are covered in goose pimples.” she grinned as she stroked one. “Right... gonna go, speak tomorrow, and wear something nice for me.”

“You mean...?” he knowingly asked. Carol smiled and nodded. “OK.” Peter replied. She blew him a kiss and disappeared from his screen. Peter spent a moment just sitting, revelling in a deep sense of bliss. He couldn't quite believe that they'd just had a video chat in their undies, but he was glad that they had. In fact he couldn't quite believe the week he'd just had, but he was glad that he'd had it. 





13 comments:

  1. Awesome as always PJ I really cant wait to see what is next I even went back and reread all your other stories

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  2. What a great story! Very nicely developed plot. Can't wait to follow Peter's further adventures with Carol. Thanks so much for writing it and posting it.

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    1. Thank you. I'm not sure if there will be a second part to this story... but you never know :)

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    2. Still a great story and concept! Would like to read more about Peter when he gets in year 10 and has to wear makeup, nail polish, perfume, mid-thigh length pencil skirts and stilt heels. By then, his mother and sister should have him in girl's clothes full time like his friends.

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    3. In year ten he'll be wearing the same uniform that he's currently wearing; modest heels, green tights or socks, short pleated skirt, blouse, tank top and blazer... sixth form, on the other hand. :)

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  3. The concept of EP schools is very innovative. Love to read more stories about them. I especially like to read about the girl's undies the boys have to wear and the boys who have to dress as girls full time.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. There's a few EP stories on my blog. Check out the Asford Academy stories, Half Term and My First Mixed Girl's School, plus you might enjoy Grounded, A suitable Punishment and Growing up is Hard to Do... all found via the A-Z index. :)

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  4. Thanks to the reader who pointed out a continuity error :)

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  5. Peter's mother said he was wearing a training bra for a purpose. What was that purpose?

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    1. Petticoat training :)

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    2. Hi Alice... thanks for getting in touch. I can't lay claim to the idea of petticoating schools, although i may have coined the phrase Educational Petticoating. Feel free to use any ideas you want... I don't mind. I've borrowed the 'genderquake' concept from another author several times.

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