AWOL


From the first moment I saw a picture of our new house I knew exactly which bedroom I wanted. It's the one with three windows overlooking the porch roof. I always thought it was cool in movies and TV shows when kids could sneak out of their bedroom window, clamber over the roof then climb down a trellis after curfew... and this room would allow me to do exactly that.





When we went to view the house it wasn't exactly as depicted in the original artist's impression. The neighbouring houses are very close and a neighbour's tree overhangs the porch roof which made the idea of being able to sneak out all the more appealing. Obviously, Mum and Dad claimed the largest bedroom and my sister really wanted bedroom number 2, as did I. It's got plenty of floor space but being in the eaves of the house means the head space quickly disappears. Fortunately I managed to convince my sister that she'd be better off in the smaller of the three bedrooms because that has a much larger closet and being out of the eaves, is far roomier. My reasoning made perfect sense to my parents and my sister and I ended up with my ideal bedroom. That was four year's ago and we even got to choose our own wallpaper. Mine has white and silver stars printed on a blue background and my sister, being a girl chose pink wallpaper with pictures of ballet dancers printed all over it.

I've been routinely sneaking out after curfew for months and my parents knew nothing about it. From my bedroom window, I can climb out onto the roof over the porch where I swing onto the limb of an overhanging tree and drop down in the neighbour's garden. I enjoyed many late nights hanging out with friends and although we didn't get up to no good or get in any trouble, I was in big trouble when my parents found out that I’d been going AWOL. I'd gotten away with it for months and months until Mrs Mason, our elderly next door neighbour had casually mentioned that she's always seeing me dropping out of her tree and into her garden at around 8.30pm on most evenings and returning an hour or two later when she sees me clamber up its trunk and into the branches with cat-like agility.

All we did was hang out down by the river skimming stones and watching the bats doing their twilight dance, or climb up to the trig point on Hunter's Hill where we could watch the sunsets and see the stars and planets emerge as day day becomes night. We talked about all sorts of things; school, TV, life, hopes and dreams. I can spot Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. I've seen spectacular sunsets and even shooting stars. I've been mesmerised by starlings, seen migrating geese... all sorts of things I’ve have otherwise missed. My mum said that if we had been causing trouble, committing acts of vandalism or generally being a nuisance, I'd have been in even more trouble. “What if there'd been a fire and we thought you were in your room?” she suggested. “What if you'd fallen off the roof? Or out of the tree? You could be laying out there all night with a broken back and we'd be none the wiser!” The fact that nothing bad had happened and our behaviour was harmless and inoffensive doesn't deter from the fact the that I'd frequently broke curfew, and that's what I’m in trouble for.

“It goes without saying that you're grounded for the foreseeable future.” my dad said. “I'll have to ask Mrs Mason about getting that branch removed.” he added. “And I’ll have to get the roof checked for dislodged slates.”

“The roof's fine.” I claimed. “I'd have known if I'd dislodged any slates.”

“It wasn't constructed to be walked on.” Dad stated. “Even if the slates are intact, you could have caused unseen damage to the rafters.” I claimed that if the rafters can take the weight of all the hundreds of roof slates, it'll easily take my weight too, but Dad reminded me that I’m not a construction expert and that he'd have to find one to get it checked. “...and that itself could cost us a fortune.” he claimed.

My sister's been after my room for months. It's under the eaves and has little alcoves and a small walk in closet. Her room has more storage, less floorspace but it's just a box really with mirrored wardrobes filling one entire wall. My room has interesting angles and sloped ceilings, it's more appealing and has that all important exit over the porch roof. Her room overlooks the back garden whilst mine looks out onto the street and the cherry blossoms that line the road. ...and as my sister very smugly pointed out, I wouldn't be able to sneak out via the porch roof if she moved into my room and I moved into hers. “Your sister makes a very good point!” my mother said.

She certainly does. Even I couldn't think of anything to argue against it. “OK, but it needs decorating first.” I insisted. “I'm not gonna swap 'til that's been done.”

“And in the meantime you can continue going AWOL, coming and going as you please?”

“Your father's right Peter, dealing with you needs to be done now. Decorating can be done later.” my mother said.

“Yay!” my sister yelped. She leapt into the air. In a last ditch attempt to hang on to my own bedroom, I promised them I wouldn't sneak out ever again but they'd made their mind up. I suggested they nail the window shut, chock the runners so it doesn't open too far, put bars on it or whatever but they'd made their mind up. It's not so much because I can't sneak out of my sister's bedroom window that's putting me off moving into her room. It's because one wall is filled with four huge mirrored wardrobe doors and the other three walls have pink ballerina wallpaper.

We began emptying our drawers and wardrobes, swapping our clothes and stuff from one room to the other. We passed each other frequently and the smugness on her face was enough to make anyone... grrrrr! Each time I bundled another handful of stuff into her room, I glanced around the walls, sneered then gulped. Pink ballerina wall paper, a white carpet, a bed with a lilac duvet cover, a desk and a big built in wardrobe. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't a humongous mirror too. All it does is reflect the wallpaper so there's no escaping the room's overall pinkness. It's not girlie girlie, it's teen girlie and the sooner it's decorated the better. “There's no way all my clothes are going to fit in there!” my sister said as she and Mum returned for another bundle.

“Take what you need and we'll just have to leave the rest in here for the time being.” Mum replied.

“I don't want her leaving all her stuff in here!” I grumbled.

Mum told that me what I already knew. There's not enough storage in my room and some of it will have to stay. I suggested getting some clothes rails. “That's a good idea.” she said. “But until we do, they're staying.”

“You should make him wear them Mum... then he daren't sneak out, even if he could,” my sister jovially suggested.

“Ha ha!” I sarcastically sneered.

“Peter, stop whining and fetch the rest of your things.” Mum insisted

When I returned with the next bundle, I overheard my mother saying “Don't be silly, of course he can't!”

“Sure he could!”

“No Julie. And that's the last I want to hear of it.” Mum said in her 'I mean it' voice.

We ferried bundle after box full in and out of each others rooms until I had all my stuff and she had all of hers, and half of her clothes.

It's no surprise that I'm confined to my new bedroom for the evening. I slide open the wardrobe door and shut it again before sneering at the mirror that reflects the overall pinkness of my room. “What do girls like about this stuff?” I think as I stare at the walls and all the sketched ballerinas in their funny flat tutus. I stay up late and stealthily potter, sorting out my piles of magazines and associated junk. I don't know why but I keep finding myself glancing at the mirror, as if I'm checking it still works or making sure I still have a reflection. It's slightly annoying, especially whilst reading because I’m constantly distracting myself by having a quick glance in the mirror to see what I look like when I’m reading. Knowing my sister who's incredibly vain, she'll be missing this big mirror already and chances are shell want to swap back tomorrow morning.

I arrange some magazines on the desk and place my stationery set neatly on one side. A pencil sharpener falls to the floor and whilst retrieving it I find what I presume is a cigarette lighter. It turns out to be a lipstick and I remove it's lid. I don't know why but I’m tempted to apply it. Footsteps on the stairs distract me. I freeze as the footsteps pass. That'd look weird if mum or dad burst in and I'm stood there with an erect lipstick in my hand. I replace the lid and put it on the desk. I'll give it to my sister in the morning. I slump on my bed and read a little more but can't help but glance at my reflection. I quickly scan the walls and the floor before returning to my magazine. Then I glance at the upright silver cylinder on the edge of the desk, then my reflection and back to the magazine.

The jumbled routine goes on until I finally put myself in bed, and even then as I try to sleep, I can't help but intermittently open my eyes. I can't see much because it's dark, but that doesn't stop me. I shut my eyes and think of the lipstick. Does it taste of anything? I think as I briefly open my eyes and annoy myself. I felt as if I was just about to drop off to sleep when another thought entered my head. That mirror, that big annoying mirror isn't just a mirror... it's a door. I think of the lipstick and think of the door and wonder what it's like, wearing stuff like that. I try not to think too much for the next few minutes but it's easier said than done. I guess I must've fallen asleep because I woke up the next morning and wondered where the feck I was. Then it quickly came flooding back. I'm in my sister's room and it desperately needs decorating.

I pull on my robe go to the bathroom. I return and open the wrong wardrobe, revealing the remainder of my sister's clothes instead of my own. I slide it shut and open the next. “That's better.”

My bedroom door opens and Mum says. “You're up.”

“Yeah.” I reply, trying to sound guilty. She asked me to go downstairs and mentioned breakfast. “I'll just get dressed first.” I said.

“Now!” she spat.

“OK.” I impatiently retorted as I walked past her.

I had a feeling there was something more going on downstairs than just breakfast because Dad was sat at the table wearing his stern face. Mum joined him and put on hers. “Sit down Peter.” she said. “We want to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“What do you think?”

“Errr.... sneaking out?”

They nodded. I sat for half an hour as they berated me for all the times I'd sneaked out after curfew. I tried and failed to claim that I’d only done it once or twice, but they knew a lot more than I expected. Unbeknown to me, they'd called my friend's parents and spoke to my friends and found out just how frequently I'd snook out of the house and most of those nights were school nights. “I'd already gathered that.” I said when I was told that I’d been grounded indefinitely.

“Don't come that tone with me young man.” my mother said. “Now that you're in Julie's room we know that you won't be able to sneak out of the window. What we can't be sure of is that you won't sneak out of the front door whilst we're not looking.”

She continued talking and I continued listening... well, half listening. I was also thinking that I could easily sneak out through the front door, the back door or the side door, or through my old bedroom whilst my sister's in the bathroom, or through any number of ground floor windows. “Wha... what?!” I said as I half heard something significant.

“I said, the only way we feel we can ensure you won't sneak out whilst you're grounded is by giving you some of Julie's old clothes to wear whilst you are grounded.”

“I'm not going to wear her clothes!” I spat.

“You might think you can pick and choose which rules apply to you Peter but that's going to end. Whilst you're under this roof, you're going to do what you're told, be where you're told and wear what you're told!” my dad barked.

My sister entered with her laundry hamper. “Is that everything?” Mum asked her. Julie nodded and took it to the utility room.

Mum and dad turned their gaze on me once more. “I'm going to my room.” I barked before standing up and stomping out. I sat on the bed and sulked. “Idiots!” I grumbled.

After a couple of minutes my Mum came up and sat beside me. “I know it sounds harsh Peter but you've pushed us into this. I can't think of any other way to ensure you stay grounded.” she said.

“But I will.” I promised.

“I hope so.” she said. She stood up and opened the wardrobe, revealing the remainder of my sister's clothing. It hung from hangers and sat on shelving. Mum opened a drawer. “These are new.” she said, tossing a cellophane wrapped package onto the bed beside me.

“I'm not wearing those!” I yelped seeing that it was a pack of 'school' knickers. A pair of white tights joined them a moment later. “Or those!” I spat. Mum removed a dress and admired it. “I'm not wearing that either!”

Mum isn't so sure about her first choice either. She looks at another, then another. I take the matter into my own hands and opened the section of the huge wardrobe in which my own clothes are stored, only to find the rail and shelving empty. I open the drawers and they're empty too. “Where's all my stuff gone?”

“It's gone.” Mum retorted. “...for the time being anyway.” she added. “If you want it back, you need to demonstrate that you can do as you're told, and that means wearing your sister's clothes for a while.”

“But that's not fair!” I whined as she continued looking through the skirts, dresses and blouses.

“It's entirely fair Peter.” she replied. “I think this one.” she said, pulling out a blue frock with a floral pattern and a white lace collar. “Will you wear this?”

“No!” I spat.

“I think you might.” she said, turning back to the wardrobe and delving deep into it. She removed what I assumed was a pop-up tent, being a circular vinyl bag with zipper running around its perimeter. “Because this...” she said as she unfastened the zip and revealed its contents. “...is what I want you to wear today.” Inside is Julie's old ballet leotard. It's baby pink with a proper pancake tutu. I gulped and glanced at the blue dress. Mum followed my glance. “Having second thoughts?” she asked.

“No.” I said, but this time it lacked any hint of assertion.

Mum smiled wryly as she laid the leotard & tutu on the bed, told me I needed 'my' knickers on, and suggested I'd need help with 'my' tights. “You won't have worn tights before.” she casually added.

The very thought of having to wear a pink leotard and tutu sent shivers through me, as did wearing the tights. I gulped so hard it was audible. “OK I'll wear that but not the tights.” I grumbled, nodding toward the blue dress.

My mother grinned. “I had a feeling you might.”

“I don't want to wear those either.” I added, sneering at the unopened pack of white lace trimmed knickers. “Or those.” I said, shoving the tights away from me.

“Your knickers are not optional Peter.”

“They're not mine, they're Julie's.”

“They're unopened... so you're having them.” Mum said, “And right now young man, these are the only undies you've got.” she added, before saying that I didn't have to wear the tights.

“I'll stay as I am.” I said, clutching my bathrobe tightly around me. I guess mum knows as well as I do that I'm wearing nothing beneath it. I guess that's why she wouldn't let me get dressed before taking me downstairs for a talk. I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place, or more accurately, between a pale pink tutu and a blue flowery dress. I bolt for the door and open it, only to find my Dad stood guard.

“And where do you think you're going young man?” he said in stern, parental tones. I pleaded for compassion but he wasn't swayed. He gave me a choice. I could get dressed with both he and Mum watching over me, or he could wait outside whilst I get dressed. I weighed up the options, hung by head and turned around. Facing this bedroom was bad enough yesterday. It's ballerina wallpaper and mirrored wardrobe doors that reflected and somehow doubled the girlie aesthetic was terrifying. Now, knowing what I’m expected to wear leaves me petrified. The door closes behind me. Mum's already opened the pack of brand new knickers and hands me a pair. She claims that they're just the same as underpants, only nicer.

As I reluctantly step into them, I know that they're nothing like boy's undies. I pull them up and close my robe, hiding them from view. “You're supposed to take that off, not fasten it.” Mum says as I tie its belt. I raise my head to see her holding a white lace trimmed vest. I tell her that I don't want to wear it. “Well I think she's got some old training bras somewhere. Would you prefer one of those?” she asked. I shook my head.

I've never felt so self conscious as I stood wearing a pair of white knickers and a matching vest. Mum faffed with the adjustable shoulder straps, telling me they needed shortening a little. I hang my head and look at myself. A little satin bow is stitched at the centre of the vest's low neckline. A similar one adorns my knickers. I'm eager to put the dress on if only to hide my underwear, but I have to wait. Mum removed some socks from a drawer and tells me to put them on. I whine and moan because they're white knee socks. “Would you prefer tights?” Mum asked.

I shook my head and conceded. But maybe a pair of tights would have been preferable since the socks have frilly lace around the tops. “Do I have to put that on now.” I asked, trying my best to sound as unenthusiastic as possible.

“You need this first.” Mum said.

“What's that?” I gulped. She holds a thin white dress with spaghetti straps and a full skirt. It's so thin that it's almost see through.

“It's called a petti-slip.” she informed me as she gathered it ready to drop over my head.

“It's not fair.” I grumbled as it tumbled around me.

Mum said nothing as she removed the dress from its hanger. I watched in silence as she unfastened the buttons that run down the back. She held it aloft and I pushed my trembling hands into its sleeves. “This used to be one of Julie’s favourite dresses.” she said as she turned me around.

I was dumbstruck as she fastened me into it. I hang my head to avoid seeing my reflection in the mirror filled wall I face, but I can't help but glance. “It's horrible.” I grumble.

“Well you can always wear the tutu if you don't like this one.” Mum replied.

It's like I’m in the middle of a bad dream. Last night as I lay in bed, having been shafted out of my own bedroom and into my sister's, I couldn't help but think about things like lipstick and dresses... things that are so alien and abhorrent to boys but completely normal for girls. And all of a sudden, here I am being buttoned into a dress. This is too unreal to be true. “Now what?” I mumble after she fastens the final button.

“We'll find you some shoes.” Mum said in a chirpy, matter-of-fact tone as she returned to the wardrobe.

Julie is fourteen and I'm twelve, which means we're about the same size and unfortunately for me, many of her things will fit me. I sit on the bed and watch as my mother rummages on her hands and knees. “I never realised she had so many.” Mum said as she removed pair after pair. To be honest, they didn't look as bad as I’d expected. Deck shoes, plimsolls, sporty sandals, lace up shoes, some hiking boots, running shoes... “Oh, look!” Mum said as she turned and tossed something in my general direction. I looked in horror as a pair of ballet shoes landed on the tutu; pale pink to match and with long lengths of pink satin ribbon attached. I said nothing. “George!” Mum hollered.

Dad opened the door and took one look at me, then looked at my mother. “Can you fetch Julie please?” she asked.

“Please don't bring her in!” I pined. “I don't want her to see me like this!” I whined.

“She'll see you sooner or later Peter. It may as well be sooner.” Mum replied.

I heard my sister's footsteps first, bounding up the stairs. She entered and smirked at me. “You actually got him to wear one?!” she asked, clearly surprised.

“Given a choice between a dress and your tutu, he chose the dress.” Mum replied. My sister grinned and knowingly asked if I was wearing her petti-slip. “Of course.” Mum replied, before asking if she still wears any of the shoes she'd rooted out. “Well in that case, can you take them to your room please?”

My sister bundled as many as she could into her arms. She asked me to fetch the rest but I declined. Thankfully mum didn't insist that I should. Julie returned for the rest and left us alone, but the door remained wide open. Mum asked me to close it. I did but couldn't help but glance at my reflection... all the way there, and all the way back. I look so stupid in a dress. “Let's see if these fit.” Mum said.

“Oh not heels Mum... please!” I whined. “I'll twist my ankle!” I claimed.

“No you won't.” Mum insisted. “And if you did I'd be triply sure that you wont sneak out.”

“They're too tight.” I claimed as she strapped one to my foot.

“Nonsense.” Mum replied. “It's just snug, that's all.” she claimed before strapping on the other one. She stood and looked me up and down. “That'll do for now.” she said as she slid the wardrobe door shut, giving me a full view of myself and my bedroom. “Do you want some breakfast?”

“No.” I sulked.

Mum insisted that I go downstairs anyway. I didn't want to but she insisted so I did. The fact that my Dad and sister mentioned nothing about my attire made the experience all the more humbling. We sat in relative silence around the breakfast table. Mum and Dad making the occasional small talk about work, the weather or whatever. My sister, along with my parents casts me frequent sideways glances. A wry triumphant smile adorns her face. A pair of rosy red cheeks adorn mine. I managed a couple of slices of toast and a glass of milk, but nothing more. For some unknown reason, my clothing has curbed my appetite. “Can I go back upstairs now?” I moan in a sulky tone. “Please.” I add.

“You may.” my father says. I get up to leave. “And I hope we need not remind you that you are to remain dressed as you are until your mother says otherwise?”

I gulp and nod my head, before taking my plate and glass to the sink, then taking my sorry ass up to my room. “God I hate this place.” I grumble as I shut the door and fix my eyes on the wallpaper. I try mot to but my eyes flick toward the mirror and there I am, in my ballet themed room wearing a flowery dress, frilly knee socks and shoes with heels and a strap. My things fill the shelves and it's my duvet and pillows on the bed, but in their new pale pink surroundings, they all look out of place. I look in the mirror and stare at my face. It too looks out of place yet my dress, my socks and my shoes are exactly where they belong. I slump on the bed and wonder how long they're going to keep this up for. All day at least I guess... but that's just the dress. The room I fear is mine for keeps and the sooner it gets decorated the better. The dreaded leotard and tutu lays beside me. I don't know what to do with it. Leave it out or put it away. I daren't even touch it, let alone pick it up. I'm scared I might hold it against me and imagine wearing it. I presume it would be a horrible experience. That disc like skirt leaving one's bum exposed for all and sundry to see. I wouldn't even be able to put my hands by my sides if I had to wear that. I'd have no choice but to either fold my arms or stand like a ballerina. It must be truly awful. I kick out my feet and look at my shoes. They're ever so girlie and coupled with my socks, doubly so.

I have to think of something else so I grab one of my books and flick through it. Sci-fi movies from the last fifty years always captures my imagination and for the most part it does, but I can't help but glance at my lap and glance toward the mirror. I decide to sit at the desk and thus put my back to the mirrored wardrobe and hide my lap from of view. I glance at the lipstick I found. Stood on end as if waiting to be worn. I fully intended to give it back but with all the excitement it never entered my head, until now. I wonder if it tastes of anything. I force myself to stop thinking and flick through the book. Silent Running, Close Encounters, Alien, Bladerunner, Battle Beyond the Stars, Forbidden Planet... most of them I haven't seen but many I’d like to. I grab another book which focuses on the spaceships from the science fiction. I've always loved the idea of the generation starship on which people are born and grow old on journeys set to take hundreds of years. I don't imagine the destination, just the life aboard a spaceship, and the view from its windows of stars, galaxies and nebulae. Then I unwillingly insert my current predicament into the scenario and I'm wearing a dress, but possibly a silver one or something like Princess Leia's, or the women's Federation uniforms in Star Trek. This leads me on to wonder if, at some point in the future, boys will wear girl's clothes just as readily as girls wear boy's clothes these days.

I'd learned in history class that once-upon-a-time, girls didn't wear pants at all and that boy's only wore short pants until they'd left school. I remember how we laughed when the teacher was quizzed about what they wore in winter and she said “Stockings, just like the girls.” she even had pictures to prove it. I've often wondered what that would be like and always presumed that long pants would be preferable.

Then, thinking of school, a very worrying though enters my skull. If my folks do make me wear my sister's clothes for as long as I'm grounded, what will I wear for school? Julie's bound to have more than one skirt, more than one blouse and more than one blazer, and the girl's blazers are very different to the boys, being short and fitted. Their skirts are short too, and plaid and pleated. I imagine wearing black tights or white socks and wonder which would be worst. The thought of wearing tights is repellent, but socks can't be any better with all that leg on display.

There's a knock on the door and Mum walks in. she tells me she's checking up on me, making sure I'm not doing anything I shouldn't be. “Where did you get this?” she asked, picking up the lipstick.

“It was under the desk.” I said. “I was going to give it back.”

“Well she's got plenty. I doubt she'd notice.” Mum said as she put it back. “What are you reading?” she asked, leaning over me. She approved, told me to be good and left. I glanced at the lipstick and wondered why she didn't take it away, before returning my attention to my book.

I read for a while and tried my best not to think any girlie thoughts. It's easier said than done with the folds of a petti-slip hanging between my knees and my heels perched on two inch heels. I rearrange my skirts and put my knees together. It feels a bit better like that. More natural. The phrase 'sitting like a girl' enters my head and I figure that girls only sit like that when they're wearing a skirt or dress. It makes sense. I glance at the lipstick and wonder if it tastes of anything.

Some thirty minutes pass before my sister marches in. “Can't you knock?” I ask.

“Don't have to.” she smugly replied. “Half my stuff's in here so it's still partially my room.”

“You could still knock though.” I said as she cast her eyes around her bedroom before finally landing them on me, sitting reading at her desk. They focused on something. The lipstick. “I found this on the floor.” I said, handing it too her.

She took it from me, removed the lid and wound it up. “I'd forgotten about this one.” she said. “I was never quite sure if it was 'my' colour though.” she added. “Why don't you keep it?”

“Because I don't want it.” I replied. “I don't wear lipstick.”

“Well you could. I don't think Mum or Dad would mind.”

I can't argue with that. They seem more than happy to make me wear girl's clothes so a little bit of lipstick won't bother them. “What do you want anyway?” I asked.

“I'm looking for a top.” she replied as she marched toward the wardrobe, opened it and began rummaging. I just watched as she treat my room as her own. She found what she was looking for, held it up and said “Cute huh?”

“It's just a top.” I said. There's nothing at all cute about it, being an incredibly plain olive green long sleeved tee.

“It's a cute one though.” she said, holding against herself.

“How? It's not pink. There's nothing printed on it. It's just a top.”

“You're just a boy Peter. You wouldn't understand.” she said.

I scrunched my jaw. She right about that. I looked at her and gulped. “Do you know how long they're gonna keep me like this?” I asked.

“In my room or in my dresses?”

I hung my head. I know full well that I’m in her room for the foreseeable future. “In your clothes.” I replied.

“I don't know.” she said. She glanced around the walls. “I'm gonna miss this room.” she said. “I only got this wallpaper last year.” she added.

“You can have it back.” I said.

She smiled at me. “Thanks but... I think I prefer yours.” she said. “It's got the eaves, the evening sun, the cherry blossom. I'm already looking at new wallpaper, and Mum and I are gonna give your old furniture a shabby chic make-over...” she went on and on. “Only down side is not much storage space. But you've got loads so we may as well share.”

“I don't want your stuff in here.” I moaned. “And Mum said I could decorate too.”

“Why would you want to decorate?”

“Because it's a girl's room.”

“Exactly.” she grinned as she cast me a very telling glance. I had no comeback. She's always outsmarted me like that. She left with her top. I sighed the deepest of sighs and returned to my book. But it failed to reignite my imagination. I thumbed through other books and magazines, paying more attention to the pictures than the words but I guess I’d had my fill for the day.

I sit on my bed and face my reflection. God this is weird, I think as I arrange my skirt over my lap. What do girls see in this stuff? I think. What's to like about frilly lace or floral fabric? I wonder. If I was a girl I’d definitely be a tom-boy. I'd shun my pretty clothes in favour of a more boyish aesthetic, only wearing dresses when absolutely necessary such as a family occasion or some such, and even then I wouldn't be happy about it. Everyone would be saying things like “Oh don't you look lovely” or “I say what a pretty dress” or “I don't know why you dress so boyish all the time when you've got so many nice clothes.”

I tire of my reflection so I approach the windowsill and leant on it. I peered through the glass, over the yard and those that adjoin it. Being grounded is really boring. Being stuck indoors is really boring... but under the circumstances, I’d rather be in here than out there. I imagine my parents being really mean and making me go out like this, taking me to visit our grandparents or maybe a trip to the mall. A scene pops into my head in which my mother has become fed up with my constant whining about having to wear my sister's clothes all the time. “If you don't like wearing Julie’s dresses, then we'll buy you one of your own.” she says. “It's your birthday next week.... how's about a really pretty one for your party?”

It's not my birthday next week. That's ages away. My sister always gets dressed up on her birthday whereas I, along with most other boys just wear whatever. I imagine sitting at the head of the table feeling ever so self conscious. My friends and family all smile and coo as a cake with thirteen candles is placed in front of me. They sing happy birthday and I blow the candles out and make a wish. Everyone claps and sings for he's a jolly good fellow. For that brief moment I forget that I'm wearing a party dress, but then I look down at see the the lace, the frills, the ribbons and bows that adorn me. Everyone's being ever so nice but only because it's my birthday. But I sense that they're all really thinking, What on earth is he wearing? Most girls wouldn't be seen dead in a dress like that, let alone a boy.

I sigh and gulp and groan about my woes. I watch the neighbours cat stroll slowly, cautiously and effortlessly along the top of the fence. I wish I was a cat. I'd have total freedom, no curfew, no rules to abide by or break. I turn toward the sound of a knock on my door. Mum walks in with a glass of juice. “Thought you might be thirsty.” she said.

“I'm OK.” I frown.

“You know you don't have to stay cooped up in here all day.” she said. “You are allowed out of your room.” she added. “You can sit in the garden if you like. It's a lovely day.”

“I'm not going out like this!” I blurted. “The neighbours would see me.”

Mum smiled wryly. She reiterated that I am allowed to use the rest of the house. Maybe I'd like to watch TV or something, she suggested. I wasn't inspired. I asked her how long I was going to be grounded for. She didn't answer immediately. She chose her words first. “On the rare occasion that I’d got into trouble and was grounded, the worst part was not knowing how long I’d been grounded for. Sometimes it was just a day, sometimes a weekend and once I recall, an entire week.”

OK, she's not going to tell me. I sighed. “Will have to wear dresses for the whole time?”

“We'll see.” Mum replied. She stepped toward my bed. “Are you just going to leave this here?” she asked, referring to the leotard and tutu that she'd threatened me with. I shrugged and said I didn't know what to do with it. “Let's hang it up.” Mum said. She opened my wardrobe and removed a hanger. The leotard has a pair of thin shoulder straps which she places over the hanger. The broad flat tutu is absolutely horizontal with not an inch of sag. She glances around the room. “Ah... perfect.” she says as she hangs it from a vacant picture hook with the tutu in a vertical position, like a big pink sun, beaming out its girlie rays.

“I don't want it there!” I blurt. “Put it in the wardrobe!” I insist.

“I want it where you can see it Peter.” she said.

“But....” I sulked. She picked up the shoes and tied their ribbons together to form a loose floppy bow. “Oh not the shoes too.” I whined as she hung those from another vacant hook on the wall.

“Shoes too.” Mm grinned as she turned to me. “Now, are you going to sit in your room sulking all afternoon, or are you going to come downstairs?”

On the one hand, I didn't want to sit I 'my' room at all. But on the other, the last place I want to be is downstairs when I’m wearing a stupid dress. “Can I play a video game?” I asked.

“You know your console is out of bounds.” Mum said. “You can watch TV, or read, or help me.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“When I've finished doing the dusting I’m going to weed the garden.”

Dusting or gardening. Err... no. “I'll stay in here.” I grumbled.

“OK. But you can't stay in here forever.”

“I can if I have to wear dresses.”

Mum smiled and said it was up to me. She left and I sulked. I know I've brought it all on myself but I can't help but feel hard-done-by. I gulp as I look at the tutu and leotard. It hangs like a piece of wall art alongside the ballet shoes. Against the pink ballet themed wallpaper, it looks like it belongs there. I look down at myself. A floral print on a blue background. A full floaty skirt and a petti-slip beneath. Girl's knee socks with frilly cuffs and black Mary Jane's with a single strap. The only thing that doesn't belong is me, but dressed as I am there's nowhere I’d rather be than cooped up here. I slump on my bed and look at myself. I stand briefly, but only to sit properly... scooping my dress beneath me, sitting and arranging its skirt neatly over my lap. No wonder girls are always so prim, I think. But just as quickly as that thought enters my skull, I realise that it's nonsense. Maybe it's only when they're wearing dresses like this that they are, or tend to be. What's the point of sleeves that puff up at the shoulder? Why do the short sleeves need to be elasticated? Must the collar be lacy? Surely a plain cotton one would do. And what's the point of having some pretend buttons on the front when the actual buttons run all the way up the back? Girl's clothes are weird. Maybe that's why girls are weird?

After what feels like an age, milling around in my bedroom doing nothing in particular, I hesitantly saunter downstairs. As I step off the bottom step, my heel clacks loudly on the parquet hallway floor. Clack clack clack, every step of the way. “That sounds like him now.” Mum says as I approach the lounge. “Finally decided to join us?” she asked as I entered. I gulped and nodded and sat myself down. “You do know that you're supposed to smooth your skirt before you sit?” she said. I stood, smoothed it and sat. “That's better.” she smiled.

I glanced nervously at my dad who sat reading the Sunday papers. Mum's having a coffee and has obviously been cleaning since she's wearing her pinny. The TV is on showing some trashy old American show; an orphan turns up at her new foster parent's house but they don't seem to want her. It's set around the turn of the century, maybe earlier. Horses and carriages, steam trains, boys wear knickerbockers and the girls wear bonnets. Mum eventually continued with the housework, leaving me and dad alone. After a few uncomfortable minutes he said. “How you getting on son?”

“It's horrible.” I grumbled.

“When I was about you age, my grandmother used to threaten to put me in dresses if I didn't behave.” he told me. “I never believed she would but I was sensible enough to never let it get that far.” he said. “She used to call it 'petticoating'.”

“How long do I have to wear them for?” I muttered.

“Until your mother and I are satisfied that you can be trusted.”

“How long will that be?”

“That's entirely up to you young man.”

I gulped and stared at my knees. My skirt cascades over them like a floral waterfall. I turn my attention to the telly. The kids of the small town are all headed for school carrying books bound with string. “What about school?” I meekly ask.

“Why don't you ask your mother?” he replied.

“Where is she?”

“Out in the garden I think.”

“Oh.” I replied before focussing fully on the TV... well, almost. I'm imagining walking out in to the garden and my skirts blowing in the breeze. Glancing nervously up at the neighbouring windows to check the coast is clear before crossing the lawn. I decide not to ask my mother just yet. I focus on the TV and imagined life in the olden days. No cars, no TV, no radio. Just books and school and church and Sunday school. It must have been so boring.

I remember watching the Water Babies and wishing I could have adventures like Tom the chimney sweep. Climbing through all those hidden shafts, getting mucky, sitting on roof tops and running away from some brutal master or corrupt landowner. The bit at the end of that film always baffled me when Tom's life of adventure comes to an end. He's adopted into Ellie's family where he'll live a privileged life, but he's dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy in velvet shorts, a frilly shirt and his former shabby hair all brushed and neat. His happy ending is tarnished with horrible clothes and he doesn't even realise just how stupid he looks! I nervously re-imagine that final scene but instead of a Fauntleroy suit, he's wearing a dress just like Ellie's; all prissy and frilly and far too fussy.

I must stop thinking about stuff because my imagination is always running away with me. I wonder if my dad was making it up about being threatened with dresses. I wonder, had they specifically told me that I'd end up wearing dresses if I broke curfew, would I have still risked it? I guess I wouldn't have believed they actually would even if they did threaten me. “Hey Pete.” my sister said as she entered. “What you watchin'” she asked.

“I dunno it's just on.” I muttered.

She's obviously spent ages preparing herself to leave her (my) bedroom. Since she came to find that olive green top she's painted her face and plaited her hair loosely across her forehead and down one side. It's secured with a green bobble that matches her top. She's wearing stonewashed denim shorts with green converse plimsolls on her feet, and for some bizarre reason she's swapped the laces for pink satin ribbons. “What?” she asks.

“Nothing.” I reply as I quickly return my gaze to the TV. Whatever the TV show is, it ends with the girl running away and catching the last ferry of the day off the island. The next part is on next Sunday and I might just have to watch it. Next on is Countryfile and Dad puts down his paper. It's a tiresome show for a twelve year old but essential viewing for my dad. He's not even a farmer but we've learned to not bother requesting an alternative channel. Julie goes to the garden and asks if I'm coming out. “Not a chance!” I retort.

I sit in front of the tiresome TV show and lose myself in my imagination once again. The girl in the TV show was shunned by her new foster family because they were expecting a boy to help work on their farm. She pleads with them to keep her and runs away to avoid being returned to the orphanage. I can't help but imagine the reverse scenario. A boy turns up but they were expecting a girl to help around the house. I plead with them to let me stay but they have no use for a boy. Thankfully my mother enters and pulls me out of my thoughts. She asks if I want to come outside to help her weed and tidy the garden. “Not if I have to wear this.” I reply.

“It's not exactly gardening attire.” she smiled. “Come on, lets see if we can find something a bit more suitable.”

She rummages through my wardrobe, sliding skirts and dresses along the rail. I visualise my sister's outfit. “Can I wear shorts?” I ask.

“That's exactly what I was thinking.” Mum says. “I just can't seem to find the ones I had in mind.”

“They're not really girlie are they?” I asked, knowing what some of my sister's clothes can be like. Mum doesn't reply, but she does turn me around to unbutton my dress for me. “I'll see if they're in Julie’s room.” she says, leaving me alone for a moment.

With my dress hanging off me, I step out of it and lay it on my bed. I considered leaving it screwed up on the floor, I even imagined stomping on it, but knew that would only get me in even more trouble. I kept the petti-slip on to cover my knickers. It's like a dress in itself that hangs from a pair of thin shoulder straps, but the more I look, the more I realise that it's ever so slightly see through. Mum returns with the shorts she was looking for. “Mum they're really girlie!” I whined. Pale blue with a high waist and short legs. There's a band of frilly fabric around the front pockets, and the pockets on the back are shaped like love hearts, and for some bizarre reason, they fasten at the side.

“Was you expecting something else?” Mum asked. “Would you prefer your tutu?” she threatened.

I shook my head. Mum told me to take my socks off as well as my slip and tells there's a pair of blue jelly shoes in the wardrobe. “Will you find them when you've hung your dress away.” she said. I put the dress on a hanger and fastened the top button to keep it there, then rooted through the selection of shoes and sneered at the blue jelly shoes as I removed them, not that I saw anything better in the bottom of the wardrobe. Meanwhile, Mum is rooting through the drawers. “Here we are.” she says as she removes a white T shirt with little puffed sleeves and the distinctive Disney castle printed on the front.

“Do I have to wear that?” I whined.

Mum nodded. “Come on, slip off, shorts on.” she commanded. I pulled on the shorts before lifting off my petti-slip. I pull on the prissy Disney T shirt and look in the mirror. I may not be wearing a dress but I certainly look and feel just as girlie. I run my fingers under the elasticated cuffs of the short puffed sleeves and complained that they were uncomfortable. “Maybe so, but they look ever so pretty.” Mum replied. She rummaged through a drawer and found me some socks. They're white with frilly cuffs only this time they're ankle socks.

“Can't I wear normal socks?” I asked. “...without any frilly bits?”

“Not today.” she told me.

On went the socks and then the pale blue jelly shoes. I pleaded with my mother to let me wear something less girlie and suggested something like my sister's wearing. “They're still girls clothes.” I said.

“Maybe so but they're too boyish.” Mum replied. “I want you in something that you won't sneak off wearing, so the girlier the better for you young man.” she informed me. “Come on... before I change my mind and put you in your tutu.”

She led me out of my room, but rather than going down the stairs, we crossed the hall to my old bedroom. It was horrible seeing it with all my sister's things here and there. “What are we in here for?” I whined.

“Because it's really sunny and you need a hat.” Mum said, lifting a broad straw hat from its perch. I couldn't help but whine about it, but Mum explained her logic. The neighbours can only see into our garden from the upstairs windows, and with the broad hat on, they won't see my face should they happen to look out. “They'll think you're one of Julia’s friends.”

“OK.” I conceded. “But can you take that ribbon off?” I asked.

“No.” Mum grinned as she plonked it on my head.

My sister said I looked cute in her little blue shorts and pretty white top. I couldn't argue. Unlike her top that she says is cute, this is undeniably is 'cute'. Far too cute for the likes of me.

Mum gives me some gardening gloves and a kneeling mat. She tells me what needs weeding and what needs saving and between us, we weed the entire top bed. “Is this better than sitting in your room?” she asked.

“I guess.” I mournfully replied. “At least there's not a huge mirror out here.”

Mum chuckled. I suspect she's feeling really proud of the punishment she's concocted for me and I can't deny its ingenuity. Even if I hadn't been put in my sister's room, there's no way I’d try sneaking out across the roof wearing the clothes I’ve been given. And with that thought, I imagine myself doing exactly that; crawling over the tiles trying to manage a voluminous frock. Clambering through the branches and getting my skirt snagged. Trying to climb the trunk in heels. I can't imagine it's easy.

Mum drags me out of my thoughts by suggesting we have a break. “You'll need some suntan lotion on those legs before they burn.” she adds.

My sister sits on the patio, tanning herself on a lounger. Mum tells her to give me the lotion whilst she fetches some refreshments. I smear the milky liquid onto my legs and arms before sitting sheepishly in the sun. I feel like such a dork wearing such a girlie hat but it serves a purpose. It could do without the ribbon around the brim and the boy hanging off the back mind. That serves no purpose at all. I sense my sister's eyes frequently glancing at me. “Stop looking at me.” I moaned.

“I can't help it.” she replied. “I can barely believe that you're actually wearing girl's clothes.” she grinned.

“It's not funny.”

“And I'm not laughing.” she claimed. “I'm smiling.” she insisted. “Boys should be able to wear girls clothes if they want to.” she said. “We wear plenty of boys clothes and no one bats an eyelid.”

“I didn't ask for this.” I reminded her. “...and it was you who moved all my clothes while Mum and Dad were taking to me.”

“Only because they asked me to.” she claimed.

“After you said they should make me wear them.” I reminded her. “This is all your fault.”

“What's all Julie's fault?” Mum asked as she appeared with a tray of drinks.

I know that Mum and Dad and my sister will all tell me that I've brought this upon myself. And they're right. But that doesn't change the fact that it was my sister who suggested that we swap bedrooms, and it was she suggested that I should wear her clothes to stop me from sneaking out via a more conventional route. “I’d have just been grounded if she didn't want my room.” I said.

“And you'd have probably carried on as normal, coming and going as you please.” Mum replied. “We put boundaries in place for a reason and you need to learn to respect them.”

“I will.” I moaned.

“I hope so.” she said, handing me a glass of icy lemonade.

We sat and sipped our drinks for a while but my mind was full of questions. “I won't have to dress like a girl at school will I?” I eventually asked.

“Well the thought has crossed my mind.” Mum replied.

“And?”

“I haven't decided yet.” she said. There's no point pressing her for a straight answer. She's being deliberately vague about how long this punishment might last and just what it entails... and now I’m left worrying that I might be sent to school wearing one of my sister’s old skirts. I suspect that she won't put me through so much humiliation. In fact I suspect she wouldn't be allowed to send a boy to school dressed like a girl, but I can't help but wonder if I'd wear tights, knee socks or ankle socks. My eye focus on my feet. The pale blue jelly shoes are bad enough but the frilly ankle socks are an abomination. Even on girls older than about six years of age they're a frightful sight, but so many girls wear them. Maybe it's me that's got it all wrong and they are actually nice, or cute, or pretty. What do I know? I'm just a boy after all.

“Penny for them.” my sister said.

“Huh?”

“Your thoughts.” she replied. “You've been starring at your feet for ages.”

“Just thinking how horrible these socks are.”

“Don't you think they're cute?” she asked.

“Too cute.” I moaned. My sister grinned at me so I sent her a sneer in return, before telling her that I just don't get what girls like about all this stuff. “Wearing stuff like that's OK I guess.” I said, referring to her short denim shorts and plain long sleeved T shirt. “But this sort of stuff...” I said, gently placing my fingers on my little translucent puffed sleeve, “...is just plain weird.”

“Only because you're boy.” she replied. “You just don't know what's nice and what's not.”

“Is this 'nice'?” I asked. “I mean... I hardly ever see you wearing a top like this.”

“It is nice, but it's very girlie.” she replied. “I don't really wear stuff like that these days.” she said, adding that she prefers 'cute & casual' clothes. “...and I wouldn't be seen dead wearing a hat like that.”

“Why have you got it then?” I asked. She said that it looks nice hanging on her wall but it's not the sort of hat she'd wear. I told her that I'm only wearing it so the neighbour's wont recognise me whilst I’m in the garden. “...and I'm only wearing these...” I refer to my girlie shorts and prissy T shirt. “...because Mum said I’ll have to wear your tutu if I put up a fuss.” I reluctantly admit.

“So that's how she got you to wear that dress?!” she realised. I gulped and nodded. “I bet you'd look delightful in a tutu.” she grinned.

“Well it's not going to happen.” I said. “There's no way I’m going to wear it.”

“So no matter what outfit Mum gives you, you'd rather wear it than my tutu?” she asked. I nod. Slowly but surely. Having had a good look at all the clothes in my wardrobe, none of them look anywhere near as horrendous as the pink tutu. Some come close mind, but all appear preferable. “So if mum gave you the choice between going to school in my uniform or wearing my tutu... you'd go to school in my uniform?”

“I sounds better than going to school in your tutu.” I grumbled. Julie chuckled. I grinned. I guess we both imagined the scene; a boy wearing a pink tutu in a sea of school uniforms. “You don't think Mum would send me to school dressed as a girl do you?” I asked.

“Nah.” Julie replied. “I doubt the school would allow it.” she said. “Plus, she's only making you wear girl's clothes to stop you from going AWOL.”

“Yeah I guess.” I said. Her opinion made me feel a little bit better about things. It's no so bad so long as I can avoid public humiliation, I figured. “You won't tell anyone will you?”

“Well Mum and Dad made me promise I wouldn't.” she told me.

It wasn't a definite 'no' but as was better than nothing. Mum had returned to the weeding and after a while, asked me if I was going to help her or sit tanning myself. I donned the gloves and grabbed the kneeling mat and joined my mother by the long flower bed. “What have you two been talking about?” she asked.

“Just stuff.” I shrugged.

“I overheard you talking about school.” she told me, before informing me that Julie's probably right that the school wouldn't allow me to go dressed as a girl. “Not unless you wanted to anyway.” she added.

“I don't!”

“I know you don't.” Mum replied. “And if it makes you feel better, you won't.” she said, before adding that she 'might' put me in one of Julie’s uniforms whilst I’m doing my homework.

“OK.” I reluctantly replied. Anything to avoid wearing the dreaded tutu.

We weed in silence for a while until Dad comes out and suggests having a barbecue. I think it's a terrible idea but I'm outvoted and as a result I spend half the day outside in the sun with only my hat to hide me. I guess the fact that I’m not wearing a dress is a small consolation. As the sun begins to slowly sink toward the horizon, a chill enters the air. Julie goes inside and returns wearing a pair of tights. Mum suggests I do the same if I'm cold. “Can I just go in?” I asked.

“So long as you stay in.” Mum replied. “No sneaking out to meet your friends.”

I look down at myself; a super-cute Disney T shirt with powder blue shorts featuring heart shaped back pockets. Frilly white ankle socks and baby-blue jelly sandals. “I'm not going anywhere dressed like this.” I state in an exasperated tone.

“I'm glad to hear it.” my mother retorts with more than a little hint of triumph.

I catch my girlie reflection in the hallway mirror as I pass. I try not to look but I can't help it. Once in my room I can't really avoid my reflection. I choose a book to flick through and slump on the bed with it. I try my best not to glance toward the mirror but every so often I do. Its like I'm looking at a girl reflected but with my head expertly photoshopped on. It wouldn't be so bad if I still had my own bedroom. Even if my closet and drawers were full of frocks and skirts and prissy T shirts, it doesn't have a huge mirror that I can't escape or pink ballerina wallpaper.

After a while of reading and day dreaming, Mum checks on me and asks if I’m going to have a shower before bed. “I suppose.” I replied. It is a school night after all. “Where are my own clothes?” I asked.

“Never you mind.” Mum replied. “You can make do with what you've got for the time being.”

“I know but... I'll need my trousers for school tomorrow.” I gulp. “And my shoes and a shirt.”

“And you'll have them.” Mum replied, adding “In the morning and not before.”

I went for a shower and noticed that my pale thin legs are blushed red from ankle to thigh. I returned wrapped in my bathrobe only to find one of my sister's nighties laid neatly on my bed, along with a clean pair of knickers. I sighed and donned them before pulling my robe on and sheepishly sauntering down the stairs. The nightie is longer than my robe so Mum knew I had it on. My dad and sister did too. They looked but said nothing. How can they act so normal when I feel anything but normal?

I wonder if I’ll be wearing knickers under my school uniform? I hope she doesn't make me wear socks with frilly cuffs or that pelerine knit... or worse still, pop-socks! I know my friends are going to be wondering where I’ve been this weekend. I can tell them I’ve been grounded but I can't tell them how. I hope I don't let anything slip.

The next morning, my mother is as good as her word and gives me my school trousers, shoes and a shirt to wear. But I wear them over a pair of white frilly knickers and plain white knee socks. She tells that I’m to come straight home after school, no loitering or wondering off with my friends. I assure her that I won't. She tells me to remove a school skirt and blouse from my wardrobe to put on my bed ready to change into when I return. “And I want you doing your homework in the parlour where I can keep an eye on you.” she added.

“Erm...” I peeped. The parlour is the first point of entry from the hallway and anyone entering would pass through it and see me. “...but what if someone calls?”

Mum wasn't bothered by the prospect but I certainly was. The chances of Mrs Mason popping round looking for her cat are quite high, as is any one of our other neighbours wanting to borrow a cup of sugar or have a natter.

I spent all day at school thinking about the girl's uniform that lay waiting for me. I also spent much of my time imagining that my mother had made me wear it for school and how my classmates and teachers might react. My friends did ask me why I wasn't about on Saturday or Sunday evening and I told them the truth... well, a bit of it. I told them that my folks had completely over reacted when they were told that I’d been sneaking out of my bedroom window and have grounded me indefinitely. But I didn't tell them about having to swap rooms with my sister, or having to share her wardrobe.

I walked home knowing what I faced and upon arrival, changed my trousers for the skirt and my shirt for the blouse. Mum told me to put the black Mary Jane's on. “What are those?” I asked.

“The shoes you wore yesterday, with your dress.” Mum replied. I would have protested that it's not 'my' dress, but what's the point? I did point out that shoes with heels aren't allowed at school. “I know but you're not at school... and I want to be able to keep an ear on you as well as keep an eye on you.” she said.

“Do I still have to do my homework in the parlour?” I asked. Mum nodded.

“Can't I do it in my room? Pleeeaaaase?” I pleaded.

“No.” she replied. “I want you where I can see you.”

I conceded and studied in the parlour. When my sister arrived hom from whatever after-school club she'd been to, the first thing she saw was me. “Ooh look at you!” she cooed. “Very cute.” she grinned.

When Dad arrived home he mentioned nothing of my attire but enquired into the subjects of my homework. Once I’d finished, I asked my parents what I should do now. “I've put a dress out for you.” Mum replied, and like a condemned man, I sloped off to my room and changed into it.

The routine went on all week. I'd wake up wearing either a nightie or girlie pyjamas, go to school wearing my boy's uniform over girl's underwear, come home, change into the girls uniform for an hour or so, then wear whatever Mum had laid out for me until bedtime. The outfits she chose were all horrendous; frilly frocks or flouncy blouses and floaty skirts. I dreaded wearing them all, but the prospect of wearing them seemed better than the prospect of wearing the pink tutu.

The girl's school uniform is by far the most wearable outfit my mother puts me in, not including my boy's uniform mind. The plain pleated skirt is easy to wear and the blouse is just a shirt really but with a rounded collar and gathered sleeves. I sit in the parlour doing my homework where I can see the neighbourhood kids playing or just hanging out on the street. Thankfully they can't see me or what I'm wearing, but I'm constantly fearful that someone might call round and see me wearing my girl's school uniform.

Some of the other skirts and tops have been OK too I guess... but it's the dresses I really hate wearing. There's frocks in my wardrobe with buttons on the front or no buttons at all, but Mum always puts me in something that fastens at the back. I asked her why and she said. “Because they're harder for you to take off.”

I sighed and said, “It wouldn't be so bad if I could choose what to wear.”

“You'd only choose something boyish.” she replied. “Anyway I like dressing you.” she added. “Julie hardly ever wears clothes that I like these days.”

“Meanwhile...” I sarcastically added. “...I'm not allowed to wear anything I like.”

“And for good reason.” Mum replied and she rummaged through the wardrobe, choosing me yet another hideous outfit. “This one's nice.” she said, removing a minty green tea dress from the rail. “Or shall we save it for tomorrow?”

“What's tomorrow?”

“Saturday.” Mum replied.

“We're not going anywhere are we?” I hesitantly asked.

“You're not.” Mum replied. “You're grounded, remember.”

“How could I forget.” I murmured.

Thankfully, Mum chose me a plainer frock to wear on Friday evening and on Saturday morning I was put into the prissy mint green dress, but worse than that, Mum made me wear a pair of tights instead of socks. They're really thin and really pale; almost white with little spots stitched into the sheer nylon fabric. To complete my outfit, I was given a pair of pale green ballet style shoes to match my frock. It was late morning when Mum picked up her handbag and shouted up to my sister. “Are you ready Julie?” she asked.

My sister skipped down the stairs wearing cropped pants, a nice top and plimsolls. Although her clothes are clearly girlie, I’d much rather dress like that than this. “Is Peter coming?” my sister asked.

“No.” Mum replied. “We're just waiting for Mrs Mason.”

“Mrs Mason?!” I quizzed.

“She's going to baby-sit you whilst we're out.”

“Mum I don't need a baby sitter!” I claimed.

“Well... child-minder then.” Mum replied. I screwed my face up. “Would you prefer to come with us?” Mum asked. I shook my head then hung it. “I thought not.”

I couldn't believe that the old lady from next door would be coming round to watch over me whilst my parents and sister go shopping, but that's exactly what happened. Mrs Mason is a charming old lady; a widow who's husband died long before we moved into the area. She didn't mention my attire when she turned up, but once my parents and sister had gone, she said that she liked my dress. “It's my sisters.” I humbly replied. “I'm only wearing it because I'm grounded.”

“Yes, your mother did explain.” she replied. “...and I can't help but feel partly responsible.” she added.

I knew it was she who'd noticed me sneaking out in the evenings and told my mother, but I don't blame her. “It's not your fault.” I meekly stated. “It was my sister.” I claimed. “I wouldn't mind if I was going out and getting into trouble but...” I told her that I used to meet my friends who had much later curfews and we'd go down to the river, skim stones and watch the bats. Or climb hunter's hill to watch sunsets and gaze at the stars and planets. “We weren't doing anything wrong...” I claimed. “...well, apart from me breaking my curfew.” I admitted.

Mrs Mason told me that she never once suspected that I was up to no good. “You have an honest face.” she said. “...and when you get to my age you'll be able to spot a wrong-un.” she smiled. She described how she used to watch me dropping out of her tree and climbing back up it and hour or so later. “You have the agility of a cat.” she said in a complimentary tone.

“I used to have.” I frowned. “I can't imagine climbing trees in this.” I said, lifting my skirt and dropping it.

“No.” she smiled. “When I was your age we didn't have the luxury of pants... but that didn't stop us from climbing trees.” she said. She described how she and her friends used to enjoy the long summer nights, doing much the same stuff as I was doing with my friends. She described how much things have changed since then and how youngster's don't have the same freedoms she used to enjoy. “My mother used to kick me out after breakfast and say 'don't come back until tea time'. We didn't have the video games and hundreds of TV channels. We used to make our own fun.”

I told her that I’m not much into video games and prefer the great outdoors. “Video games are for rainy days and winter... and even then I’d rather be out doing something.” I told her. “It'll be a while being I’m allowed out again.” I moaned.

“Well it won't be for ever.” she replied. “And you can go out in the garden.” she added.

“Like this?” I replied, sneering at my frock. Mrs Mason told me that she'd noticed me helping my mother with the weeding last weekend, then having a barbecue. She told me that I was wearing a 'lovely big hat' and that she first presumed I was one of Julie's friends. “I was hoping no one would recognise me... hence the hat.” I said.

She suggested that we could sit out if I preferred. I declined, stating that I didn't want any of our other neighbours to notice me. “It's a shame to waste such a lovely afternoon being cooped up indoors.” she said. “...and the only house that overlooks my garden if yours.” she added.

“I'm not allowed out of the house.” I replied. “That's why I have to wear dresses, to make sure I don't.” I frowned.

“I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you sat out in my back garden.” she replied. “I could show you my fish pond. It's got coy carp and frogs.” she suggested. “Plus I've got home made ginger beer and I made some fudge this morning.” she added.

“You sure Mum wouldn't mind?” I gulped. “I don't want to get into any more trouble.”

“I'm certain you won't.” she replied. “...and you can bring that big hat if you're worried about being recognised.”

Apart from going to school, I've been stuck indoors all week and am completely bored of the walls. I glanced at the time. It's 12.45pm and Mum & Dad said they'd be back at teatime. “OK.” I said. I trotted up to my old bedroom and removed the broad straw hat from its hook on the wall and returned downstairs. “I guess I'd better leave a note, in case they come back early.” I suggested as I found a pad of paper and a pen and quickly scrawled a message: Gone next door, love Peter.

“You've got lovely handwriting.” Mrs Mason said as she read what I'd written.

I thanked her. “Do you think the back door will be OK on the latch?” I asked, adding that I don't have a key.

“I think so.” she said. I put the hat on my head and she smiled at me. “I used to have a similar hat when I was a girl.”

“It's my sisters.” I replied.

“I'd gathered that.” she grinned.

I was nervous as we passed in front of our garage, in full view of the street, but was confident that if anyone saw us they'd see and old lady and a young a girl since my hat obscures much of my head. She led me down her drive and into her back garden. Unlike ours, hers if rimmed with well established trees and bushes. The beds are resplendent with flowering plants and at the far end, a small patio and a large pond. “They're huge!” I said as I peered into it. Five or seven orange and white fish meandered around. “How deep is it?” I asked.

“Oh only two or three feet.” she replied as she unfolded a couple of wooden chairs. I scooped my skirt and sat, before timidly raising my eyes to see if I'm being overlooked. The only window I can see, apart from those of Mrs Mason' house is my own bedroom window so I felt relatively safe from prying eyes. She pointed out the frogs at the far end of the pond and told that they keep the slugs and snails at bay. I told her that I used to go to find frog spawn with my friends in the spring and put it in a bucket of water along with a rock. We'd watch the tadpoles hatch but Mum and Dad always got rid of them before they grew into frogs because they didn't want any frogs in the garden.

“A garden needs frogs.” she replied as she unfolded a wooden table and put it between the chairs. “Now, would you like some ginger beer and a piece of fudge?” she asked.

“Yes please.” I replied.

She went inside and I cast my eyes around her garden. A stone path winds its way across the lawn. There's a small shed behind me and so many different plants and flowers. Our back garden is regimented and organised whilst hers is unkempt yet well kept. We have five maybe six different flowers. I can't count all the different ones in this garden. There's bees and butterflies dancing in the dappled sunlight that streams down through the trees. I had to have a closer look. I noticed how odd it felt as my skirt brushed against my nylon clad legs as I slowly strolled around her garden. I've always liked looking at nature but haven't really looked at flowers before. Being a boy, I've always been on the look out for a climbable tree to conquer rather than a pretty flower to admire. I imagined I was a real girl and focused on the beauty of the flora for a few minutes until Mrs Mason returned.

Mrs Mason returned with a tray and set it down on the table. I return to the patio and sat. I was immediately suspicious of the ginger beer. It's cloudy and there's bits floating around in it. “That's the ginger.” she informed me.

“They don't have bits in the stuff from the shops.” I said.

“That's because the shops don't sell proper ginger beer.” she replied before offering me some fudge.

The fudge was soft and sweet. The ginger beer was refreshing a spicy. Both were well received. A butterfly fluttered by and she told me it was called a 'cabbage white'. I asked what some of the plants were called and she gave me a guided tour of her garden. There's lavender, chrysanthemums, petunias, a fuchsia, hydrangeas, foxgloves, geraniums and one she says is known as lady's petticoats because its flower looks like one. I was reminded of the petticoat I wore last weekend and the term 'petticoating' that my grandmother apparently used. She points out a tree that was planted when she and her husband moved in. It must have been thirty feet tall. My hat fell off the back of my head as I peered up into its branches. I picked it up but didn't put it on since it serves no real purpose in her private garden. Mrs Mason smiled at me. She looked at my dress, then my feet and back to my face again. “So how long's your mother going to keep you in dresses for?” she asked.

I shrugged and said I didn't know. “It's not so bad so long as no one sees me... and I can dress as a boy for school, thankfully.” I said. “Hopefully it'll only be until we break up for the holidays.” I supposed. “I'd hate to be stuck indoors all summer.”

“And when do you break up?” she asked. “Mid July?” she added. I nodded. “Well I suppose there's worse punishments.” she said. “In my day...” she began, listing how they used to be beaten or smacked or sent to bed with no supper, how caning was common at school and I didn't matter if it was on the hand or across the buttocks, it hurt either way. “...thankfully those days are gone.” she smiled.

I couldn't imagine a world in which parents and teachers routinely hit children for the slightest misdemeanour. I told her what my dad had told me, about his grandmother threatening to petticoat him. “I guess if I’d known that I’d be petticoated and have thought twice about sneaking out at night.” I mournfully said.

“Maybe so. But like I say, there's worse punishments.”

“Yeah I guess.” I visualised the contents of my wardrobe. “There's worse dresses too.” I added.

She smiled and we returned to her small patio by the pond. I watched the fish and asked what they ate. She popped indoors and returned with some sweetcorn. I couldn't believe that they'd eat it but they did with gusto. I perched on the side of her pool for ages feeding them. I wondered if they were called koi carp due to they way they casually appear to bypass the food before coyly swimming back and swallowing it whole. I felt the breeze on my calf and my skirt wafting against it. I could feel the sun's heat through the thin fabric of my frock. It felt kind of nice. One by one, I tossed the last few pieces of corn into the pond and one by one, the fish devoured them. “Will they eat fudge?” I asked.

Mrs Mason chuckled and said they would. “But it won't be very good for them.” She refilled our glasses and asked if enjoyed school. I told her about my classmates and teachers, my favourite lessons and which I struggled at. She told me about her school days and her favourite lessons and how she hated having to do homework. “As I understand it, we didn't get half as much as you do these days.”

“It's not so bad.” I replied, telling her that I spend between one and two hours each night doing it. “Only downside now is having to wear one of my sister's uniforms when I’m doing it.” I added.

“Oh dear.” she empathised.

I admitted to actually preferring the girl's school uniform to most of the frocks I have to wear. “This one's OK I guess.” I said. “I don't like the colour but it feels nice and summery.”

“It is very summery.” she smiled. “You look very comfortable in it.” she said.

I smiled back and returned my attention to the carp. They casually swam in meandering circles, coyly expecting more food. I returned to the chair, picked up my hat and sat, resting it on my lap. “How do you make ginger beer?” I asked after taking a sip of the refreshing spicy beverage.

“I'll show you.” she said.

Her house is just as I'd imagined. Loads of old fashioned stuff from the eighties and maybe older. Family photographs and watercolour paintings hung on the walls, porcelain figurines and other assorted trinkets sat on shelves and sideboards. She took me up to the landing and opened the airing cupboard and inside is a big plastic demijohn containing a murky liquid on top of which floats an unsightly layer of scum. She tells me it's alive, but I don't really believe her. Then she explains that the ginger, yeast and sugars are fermenting and in a few days time it'll be read for drinking. I was expecting something a little more technical than a bottle in a cupboard and I was a little bit underwhelmed. We returned downstairs and I noticed the time on her cuckoo clock in the hallway. “I supposed I’d best go back home.” I said. “Mum and Dad'll be back soon.”

We returned home and sat in the lounge. I turned on the TV and asked if there was anything that she wanted to watch. She gave me free choice so I put on a channel that I figured we'd both enjoy; Vintage TV. It shows old dramas and documentaries, Pathé news reels and all sorts of stuff that's mostly in black and white. There's an old programme about Sputnik showing and features a very young Patrick Moore. “Do you remember Sputnik?” I asked.

“Vaguely.” she replied. “I was just a girl at the time. A little younger than you. I didn't know what all the fuss was about. To me it was just a beep on the radio.” she told me. “I remember the moon landing very well though... now that was something special.”

“Some people think it was faked.” I said.

“And those people are fools.” she replied, adding that such people are more interested in science fiction than science fact. I tell her that I like science fiction, but add that I also enjoy my science lessons at school. “And I'm sure and bright and intelligent boy like you is able to separate the fiction from the facts.” she said in a complimentary tone.

We focussed on the TV for a while until my parents and sister returned and the house was filled with noise which came mostly from my sister. She popped her head into the lounge and said hello to Mrs Mason before heading to her room (my room!). Mum came in and sat, asking if I'd been good or not.

“He's been delightful company.” Mrs Mason replied. She told them that we'd sat in her garden and I told them about her fish. She told them we've been watching TV and I told them about the ginger plant which is kept in her airing cupboard and makes ginger beer. I told her that he garden has loads of different plants and tried my best to recall their names. “Well... I suppose I'd best be off.” Mrs Mason said as she stood and grabbed her handbag.

“Thank you for looking after him Mrs Mason.” Mum said.

“It's been a pleasure.” Mrs Mason replied. “Any time.” she said.

“Thanks for the ginger beer and fudge Mrs Mason.” I said.

“You're welcome Peter.” she smiled

“We'll you seem quite chirpy.” Mum said after our neighbour had left.

“I've had a nice afternoon.” I replied. “What did you go shopping for?” I asked since they were clearly on a mission for something other than the usual grocery shop when they left at lunch time.

“Wallpaper.” Mum replied.

“For my room?” I enthused.

“For your old room.” she replied. “Your room can stay exactly as it is for the time being.”

“Oooh.” I murmured. “It will be decorated eventually though?”

“Maybe.” Mum replied.

I skulked up to my room and rested my elbows on the windowsill and peered into Mrs Mason garden. I couldn't really see much through the limbs and branches of her well established trees, just a patch of lawn and a corner of her pond and her colourful packed borders. It felt so nice just sitting there; soaked in dappled sunlight, surrounded by colourful flowers and lush foliage, listening to the gentle trickle of water, the buzzing of the bees and the breeze in the trees.

Our garden is empty in comparison. The lawn is too small, the patio is too big. The borders and bedding plants are ordered and boring and are backed with a series of bland wooden fence panels. I peer back into Mrs Mason's garden and see Mrs Mason looking up at me. She's waving, smiling and holding my hat. I'd forgotten all about it!

I trotted down the stairs, out of the back door, past our garage and down her drive. She stood smiling with my hat in hand. “Thank you.” I said as she handed it to me. “I'd forgotten all about it.”

“So had I until I came out to pack up the chairs.” she replied. “Now, if you ever want to sit outside and not be overlooked, you're more than welcome to sit out here Peter.” she said. I smiled and thanked her. “Just make sure your mother or father knows where you are... and please don't feed my fish without asking me first.” she told me. “They'll eat anything but not everything is good for them.” she added.

“OK Mrs Mason.” I replied. “And thank you.” I smiled.

I returned home and to my room, pausing to knock on my old bedroom door. “I borrowed this again.” I said as I gave my sister her hat back. “Hope you don't mind.”

“Mum might buy you one if you ask her.” Julie said as she put it back in its position on the wall. I cast my eyes around my room. My old desk in now a dressing table, littered with cosmetics and hair clips. My bookshelves are filled with her books and her stuff; old dolls and ceramic figurines. “Hey look at this!” she said, showing me a sample sheet of wallpaper that features ballerinas, music notation and some barely legible text.

“If you’re so keen on ballet wallpaper, you can always have your old room back.” I sarcastically suggested.

“No thanks.” she retorted. “Yours is far too childish.”

“It's far too girlie too.” I moaned. “...and I don't think Mum's going to let me decorate for ages.”

“Well she can't keep you in dresses forever.” Julie replied.

“I know.” I whined. “At this rate I’m going to forget what it's like to be a normal boy.” I said. “It's only been a week and this feels normal already.” I added, grabbing my skirt. Julie grinned at me and asked if I'd tried that lipstick yet. “No!” I insisted. I was telling the truth but I didn't tell her that I'm tempted every time I notice it. “Does it taste of anything?” I asked.

“Why don't you try it and find out?”

I frowned and cast my eyes around my old room before returning to my new one. I gulp at the leotard and tutu that hangs on my wall before scowling at my pink ballerina wallpaper. I sat on my bed and stared at myself, from my dainty pastel green shoes, my pale spotty tights and my mint green dress. I glanced at the lipstick on my desk. I might try it one day, but not today. I sigh and slip my feet out of my shoes. It's weird wearing something so thin that my toes are clearly visible through the fabric. I lay on my back and stare at the ceiling. Apart from the carpet, it's the only surface that isn't pink. I daydream for a while but as I think about the things I’ve done and the stuff I might do, I can't help but imagine myself doing them in girl's clothes as well as in boys. Sometimes I imagine that people are laughing at the boy in the dress, sometimes they're acting as if it's normal. Maybe they think I’m a girl, or maybe they're so accustomed to seeing me in dresses. I know they're only daydreams and I shouldn't get to engrossed in them, but I also know that I am becoming accustomed to sharing my sister's wardrobe and wearing whatever my mother tells me to wear. Even these tights, a garment that I dreaded wearing, aren't as bad as I thought they'd be. They actually feel quite comfortable.

I sit myself up and swing my feet off my bed and slip them into my shoes. With so little leather covering my foot it's a wonder they stay on, but they do... and having no laces, Velcro or buckled straps, they're really easy, really light and really comfy. I trotted downstairs and planted myself in front of the TV. “You all right son?” my dad casually asked.

“Yeah I guess.” I replied. “Just bored.”

“Well you are grounded.” he replied. “It's supposed to be boring.” he told me. “We're going to start stripping your sister's room tomorrow if you want to help... that'll be fun.” he suggested.

I twisted my jaw and replied with a non-committal grunt. The idea of turning my bedroom into a girl's bedroom doesn't sound like fun at all. “When can we decorate my room?” I asked.

“When your mother says so.” he replied. “She wants you to squirm until you've learnt your lesson.”

“I have learnt my lesson.” I claimed. “At this rate I’ll forget what it's like to be a boy and I'll start thinking I'm a girl.”

“I very much doubt it son.” he reckoned.

With nothing better to do, I did help clear out my old bedroom and strip the wallpaper. I would have been fun if it didn't mean my old room was gone for good. Mum dressed me in an old T shirt, an old pair of stonewashed denim dungaree-shorts and black opaque tights with a hole in the back of the knee and on my feet, my old worn out trainers. It was actually quite fun. I kept forgetting that I was wearing girl's clothes and kept forgetting that it was my old room we were transforming. “I can't wait to do this to my room.” I said as I removed the biggest strip of wallpaper so far.

“Well don't get your hopes up Peter.” Mum said. “Wallpaper's expensive so you'll have to wait until we can afford it.”

“It's not that expensive, surely?” I asked.

“It is when you add all the cost up... it takes about ten rolls of paper costing between five and ten pounds each, plus paint for the woodwork and emulsion for the ceiling...” she explained. I frowned and sighed. I hope it's a matter of weeks rather than months.

Neither Julie not myself were involved in the papering and painting process. That was done by Mum whilst we were at school and by Thursday, my old bedroom had been transformed into something that's almost as girlie as my new room.

My friends, those that I used to meet up with in the evenings couldn't believe that I was still grounded. “Surely you're allowed friends around even if you're not allowed out?” one suggested.

My parents hadn't actually specified that particular ruling, but I replied saying that no one's allowed in and I’m not allowed out. “The worst thing is they won't tell me how long I'm grounded for.” I claimed. I've been grounded before but never for more than a weekend.

“Why don't you just sneak out like you used to do?” another asked.

“Well I could... but there's no easy route out of my bedroom window any more because I've been moved into the back bedroom.” I told them. “Plus, if I get caught I’ll be grounded for even longer.” I moaned. There's no way I'm going to tell them what the real deterrent is. It's bad enough worrying that someone might notice the lacy waistband of my knickers, or that I'm wearing girl's knee socks beneath my long trousers.

As usual, I returned home mid afternoon and changed out of my boy's uniform and into the girl's one. I've been doing this for almost two weeks now and the skirt, blouse, shoes and socks feel just as much mine as my own uniform does. In some ways I actually prefer the skirt to my trousers, which are always clammy in warm weather. There's an ongoing debate as to whether boys should be allowed to wear shorts for school in the summer and some of the girls say we could wear skirts since the uniform guidelines don't actually specify a separate boys and girls uniform. Whilst my school skirt might be more comfortable at home, I can't imagine feeling very comfortable wearing it at school. Mum checks on my progress and I tell her that I've almost finished. She tells me that she's laid something out for me. “Mum?” I asked.

“Yes dear?”

“Can I start choosing myself something to wear?”

“Well I suppose, but it depends what you choose.” she replied, adding that she doesn't want me wearing anything too boyish.

“I don't think any of it is 'boyish'.” I replied, before saying that I'd like to wear the minty green tea dress again. Mum was surprised and reminded me that I didn't like the colour. “I know but... you like it, Julie said it looked nice and Mrs Mason said it suited me... and it is nice and light when it's this warm.”

“Well... OK then.” she smiled. “I must admit I didn't plan on you actually liking any of your dresses.”

“Well... apart from this...” I looked down at my pleated school skirt and my pale pinky knees. “...it's the best of a bad bunch.” I told her. “...and I guess the colour's not so bad.”

“OK then.” Mum smiled. “But can you ask Julie if she'll button you in? I'm about to make pastry.”

I finished my homework and went to my room. Laid on the bed is a prissy ivory dress with big pink flowers printed on it. It's sleeveless with flouncy shoulder straps and definitely ticks the 'summery' box. I put it away and remove the green tea dress, and for reason, I hold it against myself and look in the mirror before laying on my bed. I dig out the shoes that match it and find some suitable socks before changing out of my uniform and donning the dress. Then I timidly knock on my sister's bedroom door. “Er... Mum's making pastry so can you button me in? Please?” I shyly ask.

She grins and invites me in. I cast my eyes around my old bedroom. Even with the new ballerina wallpaper it's much better than my new room. It's still girlie but at least it's grown-up girlie. “Don't you think you should be wearing a training bra or something?” Julie asked as she fastened the buttons on the back of my dress. “There should be some in the drawer with my old vests.”

“I don't think I need a training bra.” I replied.

“Well you're wearing knickers aren't you?”

I gulped and shyly said “err... yeah.”

“Well at your age, you should at least be wearing a training bra too.” she reckoned, adding “Not a proper one because you're just a boy.” as she fastened the last few buttons. “There.” she said. I turned to face her and meekly thanked her. “Can I do something with your hair?” she asked.

“Like what?” I hesitantly asked.

“Well... nothing much because you haven't got much.” she replied before suggesting a simple clip or a slide or two. Against my better judgement, I agreed. I'm wearing a dress so something in my hair won't make much difference. She showed me the slides before putting them in, claiming she always wore them whenever she wore this dress. They're a similar shade of green and are shaped like big wooden buttons and since they're not flowers or bows, I agreed. She combed my hair and for some reason I closed my eyes as she put them in place. When I opened them, my sister was poised with a lipstick, unlidded, erect and ready to be applied. “You may as well.” she said. I didn't accept it but nor did I decline. She applied it anyway, before stepping back and smiling. “Very cute.” she grinned.

“I look like a girl.” I said as I looked at my reflection. My sister suggested that looking like a girl is better than looking like a boy in a dress. I suppose she's right. My tongue instinctively reached for my lips. “Don't lick it off.” she told me.

“I'm not.” I claimed. “I'm just seeing if it tastes of anything.” I said. It didn't and I was a little disappointed.

My sister promptly kicked me out of her room and I returned to my own where I sat on my bed and stared at my reflection. A couple of buttons is a strange thing to put in your hair, I figured. But what do I know? I know nothing about this stuff. I couldn't really tell you what my natural lip colour is since I’ve never paid much attention to them. I don't know why but the lipstick looks like it belongs on me. It's pale pink and looks undeniably pretty. In fact I look undeniably pretty, from my dainty leather slip on shoes to the button shaped slides on my hair. I casually saunter into the kitchen and asked Mum what time supper will be ready. “When your father's home from work.” she replied, adding “You're wearing lipstick.”

“Julie put it on me.” I said as I turned my head so she could see the two button shaped slides.

“Those look nice.” she said. “Did Julie put those in to?”

I forced a smile and nodded. Mum smiled back before continuing preparing the evening meal. I loitered nervously. “Mum?” I asked.

“Yes?” she replied.

“You know when I’m not grounded and I won't have to dress like this?”

“Yes?” she replied.

“Well... would I still be allowed to wear some of Julie's clothes?” I asked, adding “I mean, if I wanted to?”

“Erm... I suppose.” my mother cautiously replied. “Is that what you want?”

“Not all the time... just occasionally. Boy's clothes don't really feel the same.”

“I see.” my mother optimistically replied. “Well it's fine by me.” she smiled. I smiled back. “...but rest assured you'll be grounded for at least another week or two.” she added. "I not sure if I can trust you not to go AWOL just yet."

“That's OK.” I optimistically replied.





3 comments:

  1. Awesome again every time I read one of ur stories I would love to see a sequel to this but also what is to come next from u

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  2. Terrific ending!

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  3. Thanks for another good one PJ. I really like the interaction with Mrs. Mason and her garden. This story and "Tapped" are the two most "realistic" of your stories. I can imagine them happening in real life.

    Now, I have an urge to learn how to make ginger beer. It's not common here in the states. We have something called ginger ale, which is far more sweet than spicy.

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