Two lads, Wayne and Alan are playing truant from school. They spent the morning lurking around the railway sidings until a workman told them to clear off. They loitered around the town centre, avoiding policemen and panda cars. They pooled what little money they had and shared a bacon bap from one of those cheap cafés that caters mostly for taxi drivers, claiming they had a dental appointment when quizzed about not being in school. Later in the morning, they loiter at a bus stop and wonder what to do for the rest of the day.
A lady who lives nearby notices them from an upstairs window. Twenty minutes later they're still there and after half an hour, she's deduced that they're not waiting for a bus since three have gone past now. Knowing that they probably should be somewhere else, she dons her overcoat, exits her home and approaches them. She loiters as if waiting for a bus for a few moments before breaking the ice. “No school today boys?”
“Er... it's lunchtime.” Wayne claims.
“It's barely eleven a.m.” she retorts.
“Er... the boiler broke, we all got sent home.” Alan lies.
“I see... so why aren't you both at home?” she asked.
Between them, the two boys delivered a string of excuses, each contradicting the last. They knew that she knew that they were playing truant from school and eventually, admitted it, claiming the school's boring and they'd rather knock about doing nothing instead. “Well that doesn't sound like much fun.” she says.
“S'all right.” Alan shrugged. “Schools not much fun either.” he added.
“Aren't you worried that a truant officer or policeman might see you?” she asked. “You are both in school uniform after all.”
“How's about using your time more wisely?” she says. “I've got a couple of jobs that need doing in my garden and if you two did them for me, you'd be off the streets and out of trouble for the rest of the day.”
“How much you gonna pay us missus?”
“Well... if you do a good job, a pound each.” she said. Their eyes lit up. “And I'll make you some sandwiches for lunch.”
“What kind of jobs?” Wayne cautiously asked.
“There's an old gazebo that needs breaking up and burning.” she tells them. “...and the autumn leaves need raking from the lawn and burning too, and my garden pond needs clearing.” she added. The boys agree. They get to smash up a gazebo, light a fire and get paid for it. “This way.” she says.
“Aren't you waiting for a bus?” they asked.
“No... I live just over here.” she said, heading towards a detached Victorian house.
“Why were you waiting at the bus stop then?”
“I noticed you loitering, knew you were skipping school and decided to offer you something better to do with your spare time.” she replied, opening the gate and leading them around the side of her house.
The wonky old gazebo stood precariously by a small muddy pond. An area beyond it has been used for fires in the past, and the boys waste no time kicking the flimsy structure to pieces. The lady fetches them a can of pop each and asks how they're getting on. They're clearly enjoying themselves. She lights a small fire and begins piling the former gazebo on it. She advises the boys to feed the fire gradually, and that all the fallen leaves from the lawn need piling on, but not so many to smother the fire. She gives them rakes and tells them that the pond needs clearing too, which is littered with rotten twigs, mulch and half dead weeds. So far as garden ponds go, it's not a very good one. It's little more than big muddy puddle, but if you look closely enough, there is a small brick wall surrounding it.
With a belly full of fizzy pop, an exciting fire to tend, a lawn to rake and a pond to dredge, the boys approached their tasks with a giddy enthusiasm. They didn't care if their school uniforms took on the scent of the wood smoke or got spattered with mud or slime as they pulled the broken bits of branches from its shallow stagnant murk. In fact they deliberately splashed one another and as only boys do, they turned a simple task into a silly competitive and overtly boisterous display. Unbeknown to them, the lady watched from the window. It was only a matter of time before one of them slipped or tripped.
“Having fun boys?” she asked when she fetched them a second can of pop each, along with a tray of sandwiches and some crisps.
“Yeah!” they replied in unison.
“Ah ah!” she said as they reached to grab a sandwich. “Go and wash your hands first... the kitchen's just there.” she added, pointing out the open back door to her home. She set the try down on a cast iron garden table and followed them inside. For one, she wanted to make sure they used soap rather than just rinsing their muddy hands with tap water. And aside from that, she wanted to make sure they ventured no further inside her home than the kitchen. She feels no sense of threat from these two truants but that's not the same as trusting them. With their hands washed, she sends them back outside before sighing at the muddy footprints on the lino. “I should have known.” she grumbles, blaming herself more than anyone else.
The boys tuck into the sandwiches and slurp their pop. “She's OK that woman.”
“Yeah.... she better pay us though.”
“My mum's gonna go bonkers when she sees the state of my uniform.”
“Mine too.” Alan said. “I stink of wood smoke too.” he added, sniffing his collar.
After gobbling their sandwiches, munching their crisps and draining the cans of every last drop of sweet fizzy pop, the boys continued feeding the fire with leaves, bits of the old gazebo and stinky sodden bits of wood and gunk from the pond. The smoke was thick and steamy. The fire reduced to a smoulder and when the lady came to collect their empty tray and cans, they suggested pouring some petrol or paraffin on the fire to get it going again. “Oh my word no... that's far too dangerous.” she says, before complimenting their hard work so far.
Since the fire's all but done for, she suggests they clear the rest of the debris from the pond, dump it by the fire-pit where it'll eventually dry out, then after getting cleaned up, it would be more or less 'hometime' and therefore a good time to go. “You're still gonna pay us aren't you missus?” Wayne asked.
“Of course... you've done well... keep up the good work, and try not to get too muddy.” she said, looking them up and down. Their shoes are covered in the stuff. Spatters and splats pepper their trousers. There's pond gunk on their sleeves and even in their hair.
“Bit too late for that.” Alan retorts. “My mum's gonna go bananas.”
“Well I’ll try to get you both cleaned up as best I can.” she replied.
An hour or so passed. The boys had cleared the remaining debris from the pond, the gazebo was all but burnt and the lawn is clear of leaves. Having finished their task, the boys approached the house and knocked on the back door. “Have you finished boys?” the lady said.
“Yeah.” they replied in unison. After checking, she pushed two fifty pence pieces into their hands. “Now put that in your pockets and we'll get you cleaned up.” she said. “Shoes off before you come inside!” she insisted. “I'm not going to make that mistake again.”
“Yeah... sorry 'bout that.” Wayne said as he untied his laces. He knew full well that he'd muddied her floor when he washed his hands but wasn't really bothered enough to do anything to prevent it.
“What's your name missus?” Alan asked as he kicked off his shoes.
“It's Mrs Arkwright.” she replied.
“Don't you 'ave a first name?” Alan retorted. Just like Wayne, every word that Alan uttered lacked any hint of respect or politeness. A series of stubborn statements was all they were capable of.
“Not as far as you're concerned young man.” the lady smiled. She let them into the kitchen where she took their jackets from them. “Oh boys.” she gasped. “You've got it on your shirts and jumpers too!”
“Well it won't exactly a clean job.” Alan replied, almost as if in protest.
“Well, I’ll run you both a bath... come on... upstairs!”
“I only need to wash my hands and face.” Wayne stated.
“And what about your clothes?” Mrs Arkwright asked. “You did say your mother wouldn't be happy.” she told the boys that whilst they're in the bath, she'll quickly clean the mud and gunk from their trousers, jumpers and blazers. “They'll take an hour to dry, and you can tell your mothers that you were at an after school club if you're late home.” she suggested.
Wearing only their underpants and vests, the two boys went up to her bathroom where a tub full of warm water, topped with foamy white bubbles waited for them. Mrs Arkwright followed. “Me first!” Alan blurted as he bounded into the bathroom, pushing the door shut behind him. “Oi!” he yelped as the door opened whilst he was stepping out of his underpants.
“You've got nothing we haven't seen before.” Mrs Arkwright replied as she marched Wayne into the bathroom. “In you get.” she said. Alan quickly sunk himself under the bubbles. “You too Wayne.”
“I'm not getting in with him!” Wayne retorted.
“There's plenty of room for two... now come on... it'll be a lot easier for me to clean you up if you're both in the bath.” she said.
Everyone’s got a teacher or an aunt, a family friend or neighbour maybe who has a strong presence about her. The sort you know not to cross. The sort who commands respect simply by the way she stands; proud and confident, and they way the speak with authority and determination. Mrs Arkwright is just this sort of woman, and much against his better judgement, Wayne removes his underwear and sheepishly steps into the bath alongside his friend for fear of experiencing her wrath.
Both boys are embarrassed beyond belief when the forthright woman begins to scrub and sponge their hands, arms, shoulders and faces. Both protest that they can wash themselves but she wants it done properly... reminding them that they stink of both wood smoke and pond gunk. “That smells like perfume!” Wayne whined as she upended a bottle of something into the bath before proceeding to rinse and wash their hair.
“Oh stop whining boy... it is perfume. You can't go home stinking of wood smoke can you?” Mrs Arkwright retorted. “Your mothers would know you'd skipped school.”
The boys figure that she has a point and after being scrubbed and rinsed, she gives them a hand towel each with which to dry themselves. She scoops up their underwear before leaving them. “I'll be in the bedroom opposite... come in when you've dried yourselves off.”
The boys dry their body's and hair. Alan sniffs his forearm and inhales the sweet fragrance. “I think I preferred smelling of wood smoke.” he moaned. Wayne, having just dried his hair, puts his face into the towel and also grumbles at the scent he detects. “Surely she didn't have to pour the whole bottle in.” Alan frowned as he wrapped the small hand towel around his waist. “You done?” he asked Wayne.
“Yeah.” Wayne nodded. “These towels could be a bit bigger.” he said, holding it around his waist before they headed to the bedroom opposite.
“All dry boys?” she asked as they entered. They nodded in unison. “I've found you both something to wear whilst your clothes are being washed.” she says, gesturing toward the bed.
“They're girls clothes.” Alan gulped.
“Well... I’m afraid I'm a bit short of boys clothes.” she replied. “I have a niece about your age who visits occasionally... so you'll have to make do with hers.”
“I'm not wearing a dress!” Wayne stated. He's clearly exasperated that she even suggesting such as thing. Alan was in much the same frame of mind.
“It's only for an hour.” she told them. “No one will see you and no one need know... and I can't have you waiting in the nude whilst I deal with your muddy clothes can I?”
With great reluctance, the boys dress in the clothes she'd chosen for them. “You better not say anything to anyone about this!” Alan threatened as he stepped into a pair of very frilly knickers.
“I won't!” Wayne stated, as if that should have been obvious. “As if I would!?” he added after pulling on a lace trimmed vest and looking down at himself.
“I think the buttons go up the back.” Alan advised as Wayne sheepishly stepped into his dress.
“How are you supposed to fasten them if they go at the back?” Wayne quizzed.
Alan's dress is of a similar style. “We'll have to do each others.” he mournfully suggested. Wayne hung his head in shame as he experienced the humiliation of being buttoned into a dress, by none other than his best friend. Once done, Alan turned so Wayne could fasten the buttons on his dress.
Mrs Arkwright returned. “I was just coming to see if you needed any help with the buttons.” she said before looking them up and down and saying “They don't look too bad.”
“They look awful!” Alan protested as he continued fastening Wayne's buttons. “Only girls wear dresses.” he claimed in a most whiny voice.
“Not until your clothes have washed and dried.” Mrs Arkwright said in a chirpy tone. Once they'd buttoned each other into their frocks and donned a pair of girl's knee socks, they returned downstairs and sat sheepishly in her lounge. “What's that noise?” Wayne asked as something began to loudly rumble.
“It's the washing machine.” Mrs Arkwright proudly replied, before telling them that it's fully automatic, lots easier and far quicker than a twin-tub. “You just throw dirty clothes in and clean ones come out.” she said. “It's a godsend!”
Being boys, they've no idea what toil and turmoil cleaning clothes can be and thus, are unimpressed by the so called 'godsend' that is a fully automatic washing machine. “Does it dry them too?” Alan asked.
“No... but I've put the heating on... they'll dry over the radiators in no time.” she told them. “Now, would you like some cake whilst we wait?”
Shyly, the boys said yes... each added a please. She left them alone whilst she fetched it. “This is weird.” Wayne whispered, biting his lip.
“I know.” Alan gulped. “Surely her niece has got some boyish clothes.”
“What's that?” Mrs Arkwright asked as she returned carrying a tray. Alan reiterated his comment and after setting the tray on the coffee table, Mrs Arkwright told him that she doesn't like 'boyish' clothes for girls. “I'm rather old fashioned in that respect... I don't think boys your age should be in long trousers either. When I was a girl, boys only wore long pants once they'd left school.”
“I hate short pants.” Wayne grumbled.
“Well it's a good job I chose dresses isn't it.” Mrs Arkwright replied as she plunged a knife into a Victoria sponge cake.
“I'd rather wear shorts than this.” Alan sneered, looking down at the prissy frock he wears. The only good thing he can say about it is that it isn't pink and that it doesn't have any lacy trim or bows attached. But it's still a dress and it does have frills so in that sense, there's nothing at all good about it.
Mrs Arkwright hands them both a plate on which a thin slice of cake is placed. “Thank you.” they meekly say in unison. The lady advises them to try not to get any crumbs on their dresses.
She watches with a wry smile as they sit quietly in their prissy dresses, plates perched carefully on their laps as they cautiously and slowly eat their cake. “Do you boys play truant from school often?” she asked.
“Er... sometimes.” Wayne meekly replied.
“And how often is sometimes?” she asked, adding that today isn't the first time she's noticed them loitering on the side streets when they should be at school.
“Once or twice a week, I guess.” Wayne says.
“And don't the teachers wonder where you've been?”
Wayne shrugged and after a little prompting, admitted to turning up for registration, then leaving the school grounds. “If they ask I just tell 'em I was ill or summit.”
“You do realise that they probably know that you're lying.” she said. Again Wayne shrugged. “What if they refer you both to the education welfare services?” she asked. “If you're skipping school a couple of times a week, it's only a matter of time.”
“Dunno.” Wayne replied.
Throughout this exchange, both boys hung their heads like guilty five year olds. “Have you anything to say Alan?” she asked. He gulped and shook his head. “Well I hope you'll both have a good long think about things... you only get one chance to go to school... if you waste your education now, you'll regret it in the future.”
This is something they've been told a million times, but as far as they're concerned, they live in the hear and now. School's boring so why bother going? Homework's boring so why bother doing it? The only consequence is lines, a detention or a telling off... and such punishments are soon forgotten about. Mrs Arkwright lectured them in the importance of a good education, but didn't lay the blame on the boys themselves. “...its the education system that's failing you.” she said. The boys agreed. Mrs Arkwright would have continued further, but just then, the telephone rang. She excused herself to answer the telephone.
“Do you reckon she's a retired teacher or summit?” Wayne asked.
“Maybe.” Alan replied. She certainly has that air about her.
They sheepishly and briefly discussed how weird it was, being put in the bath together and washed like little kids... then she returned. “I've got a couple of phone calls to make boys...” she said. “Would you like another slice of cake cutting?” she offered.
“Yes please Mrs Arkwright.” Alan replied.
“Yes please.” Wayne said.
She smiled and cut the cake, placing a slice on each of their plates. They thanked her. “Well I must say, you've finally found your manners boys... a please and thank you costs nothing yet means so very much.” she said before leaving them alone whilst she made the phone calls.
“Being put in the bath wasn't anywhere as weird as being given dresses to wear.” Wayne said. “How long do you reckon it'll take for our clothes to dry?”
“Dunno.” Alan replied. “They're not out of the wash yet so... I reckon it'll be ages.”
“Hmmm.” Wayne groaned. “I reckon her niece will have jeans and stuff... I reckon she put us in dresses deliberately.” he supposed. “We should've put our foot down and refused to wear them.”
“Well it's too late now... and we can't exactly go anywhere until we get our own clothes back.”
“Mum's gonna go bonkers when I get home... even if my clothes are clean and dry, it'll still be too late to claim I went to the art club or chess club or something.”
“Yeah I was thinking that.” Alan replied. He checked the time and it's a quarter to three. The school bell will be ringing in about fifteen minutes and he should be home not long after that. But a rough estimate of at least an hour before their clothes will be washed and dry enough to wear means he'll have some explaining to do. When Mrs Arkwright returns, Alan asks if she's sure that her niece doesn't have any boyish clothes they could wear instead of their dresses. Mrs Arkwright replies, telling them that she hasn't, and adding that they should be getting used to their dresses by now. “That's what I’m afraid of.” Alan grumbled.
“Have you finished with those plates?” she asked. The boys handed them to her and she suggested they stand to sweep any crumbs from their frocks onto the floor. “It's easier to Hoover the carpet than it is to launder and iron a dress.” she says as she gathers the plates and picks up the tray. The boys stand and sheepishly sweep their skirts. Mrs Arkwright hovers with the tray in hand and reminds them to sit how she'd shown them, sweeping their skirts beneath them first. “Good boys.” she smiled.
“Have you ever worn a dress before?” Alan asked.
“No!” Wayne retorted. “Why?”
“Just wondered.” Alan replied, before admitting that his big sister used to dress him in girl's clothes when she had to stay in and babysit.
“Why?” Wayne asked.
“Well... because Mum and Dad had gone out and I couldn't stay on my own.”
“No I mean... why did your big sister dress you as a girl?”
“Oh... I dunno. She always did though... and she always told me not to tell anyone.” Alan replied. “...not that I ever would.”
“Well... I trust you won't tell anyone.”
“Did you like it?” Wayne asked.
“No!” Alan retorted. “But I did sort of get used to it.”
“What are you boys talking about?” Mrs Arkwright asked when she returned.
“Nothing.” Alan replied. “Are our clothes still in the wash?”
Mrs Arkwright told them that the automatic washing machine is on its final spin, so it won't be long. “Oh I wonder who that could be?” she said when the doorbell rang. “Would you mind answering the door Wayne?”
“Er... I can't.” Wayne gulped. “Not like this.”
“Typical boy... either too shy or too lazy to do the simplest of tasks.” she said, before answering the door herself. Wayne and Alan looked at one another and gulped. They couldn't quite hear who was at the door, but knew they were coming in when they heard Mrs Arkwright say “They're through here.”
The boy's jaws hit the floor when their form teacher walked in. “Miss Coulton!” they gasped.
“Alan and Wayne.” she retorted, echoing their tone. “We've been wondering where you two got to today.”
The boys gulped and hung their heads. They glared at their knees, poking out from their prissy frocks. “Well they didn't get very far.” Mrs Arkwright replied. “I've been keeping them busy and out of trouble.”
“I can see!” Miss Coulton said. “Have they been any bother?”
“None whatsoever!” Mrs Arkwright chirped.
Eventually, Wayne plucked up the courage to ask “What's she doing here?”
“Well...” Mrs Arkwright began. “When you two were in the bath, I rang your school and spoke to your form teacher and explained that I’d found two truants. Miss Coulton kindly gave me your parents phone numbers, and they're on their way.”
“But...!” Alan gulped. The name of the school is emblazoned on their blazers and their full names are written in their name tags... so it wouldn't have taken much detective work to find out who to speak to. “You lied to us!” he said.
“Sometimes a white lie is necessary.” Mrs Arkwright replied. “Especially when it's for the greater good.” she said. “The truth is... I don't have a niece. Those dresses you're wearing are for boys like you two... boys in need of guidance and correction. Boys for whom regular forms of discipline don't seem to work.”
“You tricked us!”
“You should have been at school.” Mrs Arkwright countered, before reminding them that everything they've done today, they've done so willingly. “...and that includes stepping into your dresses.”
“And very nice they look too.” Miss Coulton grinned as she perched on a chair facing the two boys. They hung their heads. An aura of utter embarrassment surrounded them. Alan's dress is cream with subtle stripes running down it's fabric. A round Peter Pan collar encircles his neck and short pin-tucked sleeves cover his shoulders. The skirt is trimmed with a two inch ruffled hem, from which his knees appear. They look pink and flushed next to his white ribbed knee socks. Wayne's dress is in a pale spearmint green shade with white trim. It has fake buttons running up the front, through a broad white yoke up to a small pointed collar. Unlike Alan's pin-tucked sleeves, Wayne's are puffed and gathered and far more girlier. He wouldn't admit it but given the choice, he'd have preferred Alan's marginally plainer dress to his... not that that would have made wearing a dress any better.
Mrs Arkwright fetched a tea tray through and set it down on the coffee table. There's a big tea pot, a small jug of milk, four cups & saucers and a sugar bowl. She turned the pot and asked Miss Coulton if she took milk and sugar. “Just milk please.” their form teacher replied.
Mrs Arkwright poured the tea and handed it to her, just as the doorbell rang. “Perfect timing.” she said. She considered sending one of the boys but reckoned it would be easier to answer the door herself. “You must be Alan's mother?” she said, loud enough for the boys to hear. “I can see the family resemblance.” she said as she led the visitor through to the lounge.
Alan couldn't look his mother in the eye. He hung his head whilst she looked him up and down. Mrs Arkwright told him to stand so his mother could sit. “You too Wayne.” she added. The boys sheepishly stood and hovered nervously by the fireplace. To their left sits Mrs Arkwright. To their right, their form teacher and sat facing them on the sofa is Alan's mother who wears the wryest of smiles. “They're lovely dresses Mrs Arkwright.” she says. “How longs it been since you last wore one Alan?”
Alan gulped and ever so slightly shrugged his shoulders. “He's been petticoated previously?” Mrs Arkwright quizzed.
“Oh yes, but not recently.” his mother replied. She told the women a tale about a boisterous six year old boy who was forever playing up whenever his big sister babysat for him. Every Thursday, she and Alan's father went dancing at the pier but Alan would never do as his big sister told him. He'd refuse to go to bed on time, refuse to tidy up his toys and dispute his sister's authority over him. “...then I read an article in Good Housekeeping which advocated petticoating as a means of controlling unruly boys... so from that day forth, whenever his father and I were out, Alan's sister would make him wear her old dresses and he was much easier to control.”
Alan's jaw dropped. So far as he knew it was all his sister's doing. He had no idea that his mother knew all along that she dressed him up like a girl whenever she had to babysit. This happened at least every fortnight from the age of six until he was about nine when his big sister left school and left home... leaving no one to babysit. “He didn't need petticoating when I or his father were in charge... it was only his sister he'd play-up with.” his mother added.
“I thought it was all her idea.” Alan grumbled. His mother smiled and shook her head. Alan gulped. “Did dad know too?” he asked. His mother smiled and nodded. Alan's mind flashed back to those evenings when his parents were going dancing. They'd leave the house, dressed to the nines; Dad in a tuxedo or dinner suit, Mum in a ghastly ball gown and no sooner they gone, he'd be summoned to his sister's room where a dress would be waiting for him. He was too young to fully recall the first time she put him in a dress or how she managed it, but he recalls the fear of anyone knowing and how that was always used as leverage. He doesn't recall ever putting up much of a fight, just wearing what he was given and feeling safe in the knowledge that it would remain a secret... and as he confessed to Wayne earlier, he just got used to it. Now he's thirteen and before today, wearing a dress was a dim memory.
“Have you ever worn a dress before today Wayne?” Alan's mother asked. Wayne shook his head. “Oh well... there's a first time for everything I suppose.” she said in a passive aggressive tone.
“Can I pour you a cup of tea?” Mrs Arkwright offered.
“Oh yes, one sugar please.” Alan's mother replied. “Thank you.” she chirped.
Being stood by the fireplace, all eyes were on the boys. Mrs Arkwright told how she'd noticed them loitering by the bus stop and approached them, knowing full well they were skipping school. “First they claimed it was lunch time, but it was barely eleven a.m.” she said. “Then they claimed the school's boiler had broke and they'd been sent home for the day.” she added. “It's such a shame when they so quickly resort to telling lies when the truth never hurts anyone...” Just then, the doorbell rang. “That'll be your mother I expect.” Mrs Arkwright said to Wayne as she got up.
Wayne was in a mad panic as his mother entered the lounge. He was physically trembling as she looked him up and down. “Look at what you've got yourself into.” his mother sighed.
“Please, take a seat.” Mrs Arkwright said, before offering her a cup of tea. She tells Wayne's mother the series of events, approaching the boys, asking if they were concerned that a truant officer or policeman might spot them and their apathetic and arrogant response. She explained how she cunningly managed to get the boys out of their clothes and into the bath, “...and after that, putting them in dresses is easy.” she proudly stated. She looked the boys up and down and said, “Better a dress than your birthday suit, eh, boys?”
They didn't reply. They couldn't. Their sense of shame was far too great. “So...” Wayne's mother asked. “What now?”
“Well...” their form teacher began. “...we're not sure just how often they've been skipping school but I know it's got to the point to warrant a suspension.” Miss Coulton explained. Both Alan and Wayne's mothers expressed that they'd rather the boys weren't suspended. “Truancy aside...” Miss Coulton continued, “...they seldom complete their homework assignments and on the rare occasion they do attend class, they're disobedient and disruptive.” she explained. “They've been given lines, detention, a good talking to but nothing sinks in... I'm sorry to be the one to inform you but the headmaster is determined to suspend them for a fortnight... I did all I could to stop him from excluding them altogether.”
Both of the boy's parents were livid with the news, but the boys felt slightly more optimistic. “You mean... we don't have to go to school for two weeks?” Wayne asked.
“You won't be attending Cromwell Road for the next two weeks...” Miss Coulton informed them. “...but you will be attending school.”
“What school?” Alan asked.
“A special school.” Miss Coulton replied. “The sort of school that'll have you longing to return to Cromwell Road... think yourselves lucky that you'll only be attending for a fortnight.”
“Not Summer View!” Wayne blurted, that being the local school for children with learning difficulties, special needs and disabilities. Miss Coulton shakes her head and tells him no. “Where then?” Wayne asked.
“It's in the town centre and it's called St Felicity's.” their teacher informed them.
“That's a girls school!” Alan blurted.
“Not entirely.” Mrs Arkwright said. “They do accommodate a handful of boys, not that one would notice.” she added.
“Are you a teacher there or summit?” Wayne asked.
“I think the word you meant to use is 'something' Wayne.” Mrs Arkwright retorted in a most patronising tone. “A 'summit' is the top of a mountain.” she added, before informing the boys that she's not a teacher any more, but an education welfare officer, “...or truant officer if you prefer.”
The boys gulped in unison. They recalled when she asked if they were worried about being spotted by a truant officer or policeman and figured should that happen, they'd simply leg it. Little did they realise that they were talking to a truant officer.
“Knowing which school you should have been at was easy, since its written on your blazers... and your full names are written on your name tags... all it needed was a quick call to your school, and notifying St Felicity's that I'd have two new pupils for them.” she explained. “Now all we need to do is to fill out some parental consent forms and your temporary transfer will be finalised.” she said, removing some forms from a folder and handing them out to their parents and teacher. “I think two weeks at St Felicity's will do you both the world of good.” she smiled.
Their parents perused the forms, filled in the relevant details and finally, sighed their consent. “So... where do we go from here?” Alan's mother asked.
“Home.” Mrs Arkwright replied. “They'll attend St Felicity's at 8am tomorrow morning. A mini-bus will collect them, and if you could note down their clothing and shoe sizes, then they'll be given a uniform first thing.”
Wayne's mother had a face like thunder as she picked up her handbag. “Are our clothes dry yet?” Wayne asked.
Mrs Arkwright, who sat closest to Alan put he fingers on the hem of his skirt and said “They're quite dry.”
“Not these!” Wayne blurted. “Our clothes... in the wash.”
“Oh your school uniforms?” Mrs Arkwright retorted. “You won't be needing those for a couple of weeks boys.” she said, looking them up and down. “But you will need some footwear. Do you know your sizes?”
“I've got shoes.” Alan bluntly stated. Wayne said much the same. Mrs Arkwright patronised them and said that their shoes wouldn't 'go' with their dresses. “I'm not going home in this!” Alan claimed.
“That is not your decision to make young man.” Mrs Arkwright retorted. She turned to his mother, raised an eyebrow and put the ball in her court.
“Well.” his mother tutted. “Shameful as it is, and since your own clothes won't be dry for hours yet, we don't have much choice.” she said, before informing Mrs Arkwright of his shoe size.
“Wayne's a five-and-a-half.” Wayne's mother added.
Mrs Arkwright left the room. Both of the boys audibly followed her footsteps, up the stairs and into the bedroom in which they'd innocently donned their frocks. They gulped as they heard her descend the stairs and were practically crapping themselves when she returned. They were slightly relieved to be given a pair of slip-on PE pumps, just like they used to wear in junior school, only white rather than black. Given the rest of their attire, they feared something far far girlier.
Their mother's stood up, the boys sheepishly sat and pushed their feet into the shoes. They remained seated whilst Mrs Arkwright informed their mothers of tomorrow's proceedings. The minibus should arrive between seven-thirty and seven-forty-five. It doesn't matter what they wear since a uniform will be issued on arrival, but Mrs Arkwright suggests they wear their dresses. The boys glance at one another. In the most subtle way imaginable, Wayne mouths the words 'I'm not going'. Alan gulps. Both cast their eyes up to the adults. Their mothers are being reminded to jot down their sizes; chest, waist and foot, before being advised to get them up early and to give them a bath before breakfast. All the time, Wayne is trying to work out if he can get up and leave his home long before that minibus comes, whilst Alan is worrying that he'll have to wear a girl's school uniform.
Finally, the boys are led out of the house and down the path. Their mothers' cars are parked outside, as is Miss Coulton's. The three women chat for a moment, expressing their shame and optimism. “Mum will you open the door!” Wayne barks.
“In a moment!” his mother retorted.
Alan just loitered, hanging his head and hoping to God that no one else will see them in their girlie knee socks and prissy frocks. Eventually the women bid each other farewell. “I'll see you in a couple of weeks boys.” Miss Coulton smiled. The boys didn't reply. They were finally allowed to climb in to their respective cars and did so in silence.
“What the bloody 'ell's going on!” Wayne's dad barked when he returned home. Wayne burst in to tears and darted into his room where he threw himself upon his bed and cried his heart out. His mother gave him ten minutes before going up, by which time he'd removed his socks and dress, knickers and vest and had donned his own clothes. She wasn't surprised. “You could have hung it up.” she said as she did just that. “Actually... I’ll hang it elsewhere, for safe keeping.” she said, before ordering the boy downstairs where his father wanted to talk to him.
Sheepishly, he descended the stairs where he was given the third degree. Then he explained what had happened and how he and Alan ended up being tricked into wearing dresses. He played the victim all the way, calling Mrs Arkwright a lying bitch and other names.
Meanwhile, Alan is going through more or less the same at his home. His dad is going bonkers, his Mum is disappointed and Alan's been forbidden to remove his dress. “We only thought you needed petticoating so you'd be a good boy for your sister.” he's told. “How wrong we were! If only we'd kept it up, you wouldn't be in this mess.”
Both were sent to bed early. And both were out of bed early too. Alan's mother had a bath full of pungent bubbles waiting for him, and just as Mrs Arkwright had done the day before, she scrubbed his skin and washed his hair as if bathing a toddler. He whined when his mother gave him the very same clothes that Mrs Arkwright had given him, reminding her that she'd said it doesn't matter what they wear. “And how do you think Wayne will feel if he gets on the bus wearing his dress and you're not wearing yours?” his mother asked. Alan claimed that Wayne won't be wearing a dress but he couldn't be sure.
At seven-thirty sharp, a mini bus pulled up outside Alan's house bearing the St Felicity's school crest on its doors. He wanted the world to open up and swallow him whole as he approached it. A handful of kids are on board, staring through the windows at him. It's bad enough having to wear a dress but his mother has added to his sense of shame by tying his hair into two high bunches that bounce around his ears. The door slides open and he climbs inside, briefly glancing at the faces before taking a vacant seat. One of the girls smiled at him and asked “First day?” Alan gulped and nodded, but on hearing her speak, he realised that she wasn't a girl at all!
The van pulled away. His mother waved but he didn't wave back. He kept his head down as best he could whilst the handful of other kids chatted. Alan felt completely out of place in his white pumps, knee socks and dress whilst the others wear black Mary Jane style shoes, burgundy tights, blue plaid pinafore dresses over a white shirt & tie with a burgundy school blazer. Initially he presumed the minibus was full of girls, then he quickly realised some boys were on board too... but soon enough he discovers that they're all boys! Those with hair long enough for plaits, ponytails or bunches wear them tied with white or burgundy ribbons. Those with short hair wear clips bearing either white or burgundy bows. The minibus draws to a halt. A boy wearing the same uniform trots toward it. The door slides open and he climbs inside, greeting his classmates before looking at Alan and saying “Another new boy?”
Alan gulps and nods. The boy asked if he's been excluded or suspended. “Suspended.” Alan meekly replied.
“How long for?”
“That's not so bad.” the boy says. “By the time you've got used to it you'll be back at your old school.” he claimed, before asking which school he normally goes to.
“Cromwell Road.” Alan replied. He's asked why he got suspended. “Nicking off.” he replied. “Me and my mate Wayne.”
“Oh.” the boy replied. “Is he coming to St Flick's too?”
“Yeah.” Alan replied.
The minibus trundled trough the residential streets and eventually drew up outside Wayne's house. But rather than Wayne walking towards the minibus, it was his mother. She spoke to the driver before opening the sliding door. “Do you know where he's got to Alan?” she asked.
“No.” Alan replied.
“You sure? You didn't arrange to leave early and meet up somewhere?”
“No, honestly Mrs Dowson.”
“Well if you can think of where he might have gone, please say something.”
“I will.” Alan said. Although he wasn't sure he'd grass on his pal.
“OK.” Wayne's mother replied. “Your hair looks cute.” she said, before sliding the door shut.
It's hard to imagine but Alan had almost forgotten what his mother had done with his hair. He hung his head and his bunches flopped forwards, brushing his ears. The minibus continued it's journey, picking up a few more boys and before long, drove through the gates of St Felicity's School for Girls. The kids alighted and since Alan is the only one not in uniform, the awaiting teacher knew he was one of the new boys.
The driver spoke to the teacher and the teacher grilled Alan as to where Wayne may have gone. “Anywhere really.” Alan claimed, listing the town centre, the arcade, the canal tow path, the copse on Hunter's Hill.
A few minutes later, the minibus driver exited the school building with a group of around eight or ten schoolgirls. “Right girls... the boy we're looking for is called Wayne Dowson, 13 years of age of 73 Routledge Avenue. His mother said he'll most likely be wearing a green parka jacket, blue jeans and brown monkey boots with yellow laces... and this boy will describe his face.”
The girls, all of whom must be fourteen or fifteen years old surrounded Alan. They towered over him as he sheepishly described Wayne's hair colour, style and facial features. “Is he taller or shorter than you?” they asked.
“Err... a bit taller.” Alan replied.
“Thin or stocky?”
“Errr... neither. About the same as me.” Alan told them.
The girls climbed in the back of the minibus whilst two teachers sat in the front. As the door slid shut, Alan was certain one of them said something like 'I love going on a boy hunt'. The one remaining teacher looked Alan up and down before assuring him they'd find his friend. “Come on, lets get you settled in.” she said. “Have you got your sizes?”
“Er... yes miss.” Alan humbly replied before following the teacher inside. He glanced back towards the minibus as it pulled out onto the street.
First, the minibus drove up to the estate on which Wayne lives with his parents. All inside kept their eyes peeled for someone fitting the description they'd been given. Three of the girls got out to explore the alleys and snickets whilst the minibus drove slowly around the neighbouring streets. “I love it when the boys don't turn up!” one of the girls said. “It's so much fun.”
“Remember that one last year who we found hidden in a wheelie bin... he stunk to high heaven!”
“Oh god yes!” another replied. “It was December and we had to have all the windows in the minibus open when we took him back to school.”
The minibus picked the girls up and drove them to the other places that Wayne might be hanging out. There was no sign of him on Hunters Hill, nor in the arcade or town centre. But hopeful that his friend Alan would have also absconded early, Wayne hung out in their usual haunts on the off chance they'd meet up. He bought a packet of cigarettes from a kiosk and lifted a packet of Opal Fruits whilst the cashier's back was turned. He blagged a light of an old man who said he was too young to smoke, but gave him a light none the less. “Shut up granddad!” was Wayne's reply before walking away, sucking on a Regal king size.
The girls drove all round town several times with no joy. By now it was nine thirty, but they weren't disheartened. They'd much rather be out and about, hunting boys than stuck in class. The minibus was parked and everyone got out. They separated into four groups of three and went in opposite directions, sweeping a quadrant of the inner city each.
Meanwhile, Wayne was holed up in a run down cricket pavilion... but boredom and a desire to smoke another cigarette (which meant getting a light of someone) forced him to vacate the secluded hideout. He decided to saunter along the canal for two reasons; one: not many people apart from those enjoying the futility of fishing and two: a fisherman would likely have some matches. He was right on both counts and soon found a light for his cigarette. The kindly man even gave him the remainder of his box of matches, which although almost empty, contained plenty for his remaining cigarettes. “You skipping school son?” the man asked.
“None of your business mister!” Wayne spat before walking off.
“No need to be like that.” the man said.
A short while later, three of the girls from St Flick's were searching the tow-path and passed the very same man. “Aren't you girls supposed to be in school.” he said as they neared him.
“Yes, but one of our boys has gone missing and we're trying to find him.”
“There was a boy about your age not ten minutes ago... cheeky little sod.”
“What did he look like?”
“A cheeky little sod.” the man replied, before describing a green parka jacket, blue jeans and long hair. “...you know how boys have it these days... hangin' on their shoulders.”
“Sounds like him. Which way did he go?”
“That way, about ten minutes since.”
“Great, thanks mister.” the girls said before briskly walking in the same direction. They got as far as the next bridge and didn't know whether to continue on the tow path or take the bridge and follow the road, but which way? Towards or away from town? “We might be able to see more from the bridge.” one suggested. “Can you see anything?”
“Not really.” she said, scanning the landscape. “What about the old cricket ground?” she said as the others joined her on the bridge. “It's gonna be a housing estate soon.”
“Worth a try, but we'd better meet up with the others first.” The three girls headed back to the minibus where the others were waiting.
“Any luck?” one of the teachers asked. They told him about the man fishing who'd sem a boy fitting the description, and suggested checking the old cricket ground. “We may as well.” the teacher replied as they all climbed inside. The cricket ground has two main entrances; one on Hinckley Street and the other from the park. He dropped five of the girls off at the park whilst the rest drove round to the other entrance.
Meanwhile, Wayne is feeling very smug. He's relatively cosy in the crumbling old pavilion, enjoying another cigarette and munching on Opal Fruits. He knows he's going to be in big trouble when he does go home but for now, he feels as free as a bird. His only disappointment is that Alan isn't with him. He peers out of the dusty window but can't see much. He spits on it and wipes it with his sleeve, but most of the grime is on the outside. He peers through it anyway, looking this way and that. There's nothing but the old cricket field, strewn with fallen leaves, dead weeds and a rotten old sight screen on either side. Then, the sound of voices grabs his attention. They're not close and could be coming from the nearby park. He selects a different window, one that gives him a better view of the park entrance. He spies two girls, climbing through the broken fence. Schoolgirls judging by their clothing, but it's a uniform he doesn't recognise. “They'll just be passing through.” Wayne says to himself before slowly drawing on his cigarette and feeling like a character from a movie or TV drama. He feels relaxed, smug even. He has no idea that the girls from St Felicity's are looking for him, and a combination of cheek, ego and ignorance prompts him to open the door to the pavilion and greet the approaching girls. He stands casually in the doorway, looking at them whilst toking on his cigarette.
The girls are close but out of earshot. “Well that's gotta be him.” one says to the other. “What do you reckon? Fight or flirt?”
“Flirt.” the other replied. “Hiya!” she hollers to Wayne. “D'ya live here?”
“Nah... just hangin' out.” he replied, taking a final long drag on his cigarette and flicking it away.
“You got any more fags?”
“Maybe.” Wayne replied. “Whatcha gonna do to get one?” he asked, descending the few wooden steps and removing the pack from his pocket.
“Dunno... whatcha gonna do to stop us from just taking them?” they replied as they drew to a halt.
“You wouldn't do that girls.” Wayne replied. He's beginning to feel nervous since the two girls are a good few inches taller than him and they're more than a little intimidating.
“Well you don't look old enough to smoke... and we're concerned for your health.”
“Hey don't do that!” Wayne said as one of the girls plucked the entire pack from his hand. “Gis 'em back!” he demanded. The girl held the pack high above her head. Wayne reached for it but wasn't quite tall enough.
“Not as big as you think you are are you... little boy.” she said. “Shouldn't you be in school?”
“None of your business!” Wayne spat as he jumped and still failed to grab his pack of fags.
Unbeknown to Wayne, three other girls had crept around the back of the pavilion and were approaching from behind. “Actually Wayne... it is Wayne, isn't it?” she asked. “It is our business.” she said. “We're missing class because you're skipping school, and it's our job to find you and take you in.”
“Not on your nellie!” Wayne retorted before turning to run, only to discover three more girls wearing identical uniforms stood with arms folded and a serious expression on their faces. “Fuck!” Wayne yelps, before darting across the old cricket ground towards Hinckley Street.
The girls give chase and are gaining ground. Wayne vaults over the gate but not very well and ends up tumbling to the ground on the other side. He leaps to his feet, glancing behind to the five girls giving chase. They climb the gate more cautiously than he and he gains some distance. “Ha ha!” he laughs, running backwards and still gaining ground. “You gotta do better than that!” he hollers, before turning forwards again and running straight into another group of girls. “Jesus where did you...!” They stop him in his tracks, grabbing his arms. “Get off!” he yells as he struggles to free himself. “Fuckin' bitches!” he says as they put him on his knees.
One of the two teachers steps forward. “Wayne Dowson, I presume?”
“Who wants to know?” Wayne angrily retorted. “Get these bitches off me!”
“That's no way to address your new schoolmates Wayne.” the teachers says as the girls giving chase catch up. “You all OK?” he asked.
“Oh yes... we love a good boyhunt Sir.” one of the girls replied.
“He was smoking Sir.” another said, handing the packet of cigarettes to the teacher.
“You know these things are bad for you?” the teacher said as he put the pack in his pocket.
“Fuck you!” Wayne spat.
“Put him in the bus.” the teacher said. “...and keep hold of him.” he added.
Wayne shouted a string of obscenities as the girls bundled him into the minibus. “Arghhhh Jesus!” he yelped when one punched him in the balls. “Fucking jeeez....”
The punch calmed his struggle as he instinctively curled himself. “Can we debag him Sir?” one of the girls asked.
“What do you reckon?” the male teacher asked his female colleague. She turned to the girls and looked down on the boy, pressed against the floor, flailing as best he could. “Yeah... strip him, but don't hit him unless you have to.” she said.
“Thanks Miss.” the girls giggled before beginning to unceremoniously remove the boy's clothes. First his monkey boots, then his socks. He'd managed to struggle himself out of his parka jacket on his way into the van. By the time they'd peeled his jumper from him, his jeans were around his knees. He could do nothing but shout obscenities as his clothes were ripped from him, and it was only when he was completely naked that he finally quietened down. The girls bundled him up from the floor onto a bench seat and put him between two of them, his hands cupped his private parts and his face bore an expression of utter terror.
Meanwhile at St Felicity's School for Girls, it's morning break and the pupils filter from their classrooms into the enclosed school yard. Alan's had an hour or two to get used his uniform and whilst everyone else wears the same, he feels completely out of place being one of seemingly a handful of boys in the whole school. He walks awkwardly in his black T-bar sandals with their two inch heels; heels that strike the parquet flooring noisily with every step. Burgundy tights cover his legs up to his mid thigh where his tartan pinafore dress takes over. His bunches bounce awkwardly around his ears as he's bustled along with the rest of the kids and eventually out into the yard. “You!” an adult voice hollers. “New boy!”
Alan turns to see one of the teachers looking at him and beckoning him toward her. Sheepishly, Alan saunters over, scraping the occasional heel against the undulating surface. “Yes Miss.” he humbly says.
“Take this and play over there.” she says, handing him a skipping rope and pointing to a corner of the yard.
“Err...” Alan croaks as he hesitantly takes hold of the skipping rope. “I can't... I don't know how to.”
“You'll learn.” she sternly says. “Just follow the others.”
With his head hung low, Alan does as he's told and goes to the corner of the school yard where a handful of other kids are skipping. Some were on the minibus and like him, are boys in a girl's school. A trio of busty prefects watch over them. “Don't just stand there boy!” one says to Alan, prompting him to join in.
“I can't do it.” he claimed.
“Try!” she barked. Alan observed the others and followed suit. He held the wooden grips in each hand and hung the rope at the back of his ankles, before trying and failing numerous times to skip over the rope. His continued failure was almost as embarrassing as having the prefects snigger at his ineptitude, but neither of these are as embarrassing and the girl's school uniform he was given soon after arrival.
The sound of a car horn is quickly followed by a loud whistle. Everyone stops what they're doing and a handful of teachers tell the children to move to one side of the school yard. The big iron gates are opened and the school's minibus slowly drives into the yard. Its sliding side door is opened and two girls get out... then in full view of the entire school, a very timid and totally naked Wayne is helped out. His hands cup and conceal his genitals and a host of cheers and jeers greet him. “Looks like they've found your friend.” one of the kids says to Alan. He's escorted into the building and the minibus is reversed out of the yard. The gates are shut and one of the teachers yells “Carry on!”
Alan is dumbfounded with what he'd just witnessed. “Carry on!” one of the prefects prompts. “You're not allowed to just stand around.”
“Er...” Alan replied, before continuing trying and failing to skip. “I can't do it in these shoes.” he claims.
“Everyone else can.” the prefect retorts, drawing his attention to the other boys who are skipping in the same style of footwear.
“They've had more practice than me.” Alan claimed.
“Well practise.” the prefect barked. “Don't just stand there looking gormless.”
Alan hung his head before swinging the rope over and attempting to skip over it... but being unaccustomed to wearing shoes with heels, he daren't jump more than an inch or two. Within a couple of minutes, the school bell rings and brings great relief to Alan. Everyone filters back inside. The boys who'd been skipping hand their ropes back to the teacher. “I was the same on my first day.” one of the boys said to Alan as they walked two by two back to class. “Didn't have a clue how to skip.” he added. “You'll soon get the hang of it.”
“Not in these shoes.” Alan replied. “Do we have to do that every break?”
“Yeah... if it's not skipping it's hop-scotch.” the boy replied. “I presume that was your mate they brought in?”
“Yeah... Wayne.” Alan said. “I can't believe they dragged him in naked.”
“That's what happens if you try to skip a day at St Flick's.”
Meanwhile, a tearful Wayne is being confronted with his new school uniform. Having flat refused to don the knickers and training bra, four prefects, under the watchful eye of two teachers and the school nurse have bundled him onto a big vinyl covered bench and hold his limbs steady. “If you don't wear your knickers Wayne, I'll have to put you in this for the day.” the nurse tells him, holding up a big terry nappy. “And you'll be put I one everyday until you change your mind... so what's it going to be?” she asked.
Wayne told her to get fucked so the nurse very casually began to fold the flat nappy and as she began to shuffle it under him, he began to have second thoughts. “OK... OK... I'll wear them.” he said.
“Are you sure?” the nurse asked. “Because one more cross word from you young man and I will put you in a nappy... and believe me, you will use it.”
The nurse gave the girls a nod and the released him from their grip, but remained poised to grab him if need be. Wayne sat up on the bench and placed his bare feet on the cold tiled floor. The underwear he was so ken to refuse doesn't seem so bad when the alternative is a nappy. He steps into the knickers and pulls them all the way up. He gulps and looks down at them. White cotton with a narrow band of baby pink elastic around the waist and leg-holes. One of the prefects instructs him in the art of fastening a bra and once it's one, she patronisingly says “That wasn't so hard was it?”
He perches nervously on a plastic chair as he prepares to don the tights. He's instructed how to do it the easy way, but it's fiddly, shuffling them up his legs bit by bit. Next comes his blouse; plain white with plastic flower shaped buttons up the front and short puffed sleeves. An occasional tear finds its way to his cheek which he quickly wipes away with the back of his hand. The pinafore is an awkward garment. He steps into it and buttons the skirt at his waist, then fastens the bib to the back with four buttons on the front. An elasticated tie goes around his neck before he pushes his burgundy feet into a pair of black heeled shoes. Everything is awkward and fiddly, from the buttons on his blouse to the buckles on his shoes. Once they're on he begins to stand, but is told to remain seated. He felt that his sense of total and utter humiliation couldn't get any worse, but it does as one of the prefects tends to his hair, tying it in two high bunches and securing it with lengths of burgundy ribbon. Finally, he dons a burgundy blazer and is given a small leather shoulder bag before being taken to the school's head.
“Glad you finally decided to join us Wayne.” the stern looking lady says as he stands sheepishly in front of her desk. He's flanked by two prefects. “It seems you gave us quite the run-around this morning.” she added. “We do not tolerate truancy at St Felicity's and if you do go AWOL, you can rest assured that you will be found and you will be brought back. Since today is your first day, I'll let this one pass. But should you try the same trick tomorrow or any other day, your suspension from Cromwell Road will be extended by one week, thus extending your stay here.” she told him. “Any other misdemeanours, such as spitting or swearing, being rude, obnoxious or disobedient will result in a one day extension for each and every violation. Do you understand?”
Wayne gulped. “Yes Miss.”
“Now, as you've probably noticed, this is a girl's school and whilst you're here, you'll be treated as such.”
Wayne gulped again.
“We do the utmost to help our boys fit in, so whilst you're here, you'll answer to the name Wendy.”
“Wendy.” the headmistress repeated. “It's vaguely similar to your real name so you can remember it, but a little more suitable for a pupil in a girl's school.”
Wayne gulped. He nervously thumbed the strap of the bag that hangs from his shoulder. Inside is a spare pair of tights, a clean pair of knickers and a handkerchief. The prefects carry similar bags with their names neatly written behind a transparent plastic panel. The headmistress slides a rectangular slip of paper across her desk and prompts Wayne to take it. He steps forward and picks it up. 'Wendy Dowson: 3C' is written in ink. 3C is his class, the name is also his. He reluctantly slips it into the slot on his little shoulder bag before letting it hang dankly on his hip.
“Janice.” the headmistress says to one of the prefects.
“Thank you for your time. You may return to class.”
“Yes miss. Thank you miss.” Janice says before dropping a quick curtsey and leaving.
“Amanda.” the headmistress says to the remaining prefect.
“Yes miss?” she enthusiastically replied.
“Will you escort Wendy to class, and chaperone her for the remainder of the day.” the headmistress asked. Wayne grimaced as he was not only referred to as 'Wendy', but also as 'her'. Amanda wasn't quite so enthusiastic the second time she said 'yes miss'. “You may go.” the headmistress said.
“Thank you miss.” Amanda said before dropping a quick curtsey. Wayne gulped. Amanda glared at him. The headmistress stared at him.
Wayne gulped again before muttering “Yes miss.” and carefully and cautiously curtseying. At the moment, his humiliation was so great that he swore to himself that there's no way he's coming back here tomorrow. He'll run as far as London if he has to.
He follows Amanda awkwardly along the corridor. Their two pairs of heels clack a syncopated rhythm on the hardwood floor. “This place is worse than I thought.” he grumbled.
“It's actually a very good school. The best in town.” Amanda replied.
“Maybe if you're a girl.” he groaned.
“So far as everyone's concerned, you are a girl... Wendy.” she replied.
“I'm not... and my name's Wayne!” he retorted, adding 'stupid cow' under his breath.
Amanda drew him to a halt and looked him in the eye. “Look. Wendy.” she said. “I don't want to chaperone you all day when I should be attending my own classes, but since I am, I'm the one who's keeping count of your misdemeanours... so don't piss me off, Wendy. I alone could keep you here for twice as long as you should be.”
Wayne gulped and hung his head. “Sorry.” he muttered.
“Since you're new I'll let you off... but don't expect to get off scot free if you call anyone else a stupid cow, especially a prefect.” Amanda advised. She continued walking and Wayne sheepishly followed. Amanda drew him to a halt outside a classroom and knocked on the door. “Enter!” a voice said.
Amanda and Wayne entered the class. “This is the new boy sir; Wendy Dowson.” Amanda said as Wayne hesitantly glanced at the faces that glared at him.
“About time Wendy.” the teacher said. “Take a seat.”
He sat at a vacant double desk alongside Amanda, but struggled to concentrate on what was being said. All Wayne can do is imagine just how ridiculous he must look, especially with his hair in a pair of cute girlie bunches. The teacher prattled on about Edwardian Britain, throwing out occasional questions to his class. Half a dozen hands would go up and the teacher would select one to reply. She (or he, it's hard to tell) would stand before offering their answer, and before seating themselves, they'd always curtsey first. Some wore their hair in bunches, much like his own. Others had plaits or a high pony tail. A few had neither, but all wore either white or burgundy ribbons in their hair. “Who can name a British Prime minister from the Edwardian era?” the teacher asked. “You, Charlotte.” he said after a number of hands went up.
Charlotte stood up as the remaining hands went down. “David Lloyd-George sir.” she said, but it was clear to Wayne that Charlotte is really a boy, probably called Charles.
“Wrong!” the teacher bellowed. Charlotte curtseyed awkwardly and sat. “Any one else?” he asked. No one put their hand up. “What about our new boy?” he said, turning his gaze toward Wayne. “Any idea Wendy?”
“No sir.” Wayne meekly replied.
“Stand when you speak!”
Wayne hesitated, then stood. “No sir.” he repeated.
“Can you name a political party that held office during the Edwardian era?”
“Er...” Wayne gulped and guessed. “Conservative... sir.”
“Very good.” the teacher replied. Wayne began to sit but stopped himself, offering a quick yet clumsy curtsey first. “The conservative party held office until 1905...” the teacher continued.
Meanwhile, Alan is in a different class but it's being run in much the same way. The pupils are attentive and obedient. They stand before they speak and curtsey before they sit, and just like Wayne, Alan is uncomfortable with the name he's been given. “Alice, can you explain to the class what an equilateral triangle is?”
The name is doubly uncomfortable for Alan, since it harks back to his dim and distant past when his big sister used to put him in a dress when babysitting him... she also used to call him Alice whenever he was dressed as a girl. “Alan's far too plain for such a pretty dress.” she used to tell him when he protested. His sister is seven years his elder and is almost twenty years old now. She moved away after leaving school to go to college and study one of the 'ologys. He can't help but wonder what she say if she could see him now.
The lunch bell rings at twelve noon and class is dismissed. Wayne is escorted to the refectory by Amanda and it's here that he first sees Alan. “What happened this morning?” Alan asked.
With his head hung low, Wayne told his friend that he'd got up early; around 6am and snook out the house before his mum or dad were up and just hung out, trying to avoid people in general. “I saw them bring you back at break time.” Alan informed him.
Wayne hung his head and blushed. “So, what did you do?” he asked. “I half expected to meet up somewhere.”
“Well I couldn't sneak out... mum was already up.” Alan replied. “I had to wait for the minibus.” he said, before claiming that he would have made a run for it “...but Mum made me wear that dress again so...” he shrugged and sighed.
“What's your name?” Amanda asked Alan.
“Err... Alan... er... Alice.” Alan humbly replied.
“And have you and Wendy been friends for long?” she asked, adding “Alice.”
Alan gulped and nodded. “Since junior school.”
“Who are you?” Alan asked.
“My name's Amanda... I've got the unfortunate task of chaperoning Wendy today.” she replied, sneering at the boy beside her.
“Don't you have one?” Wayne asked.
Alan shook his head. “I don't really know what one is.”
Amanda explained, adding “...clearly you've been obedient and compliant so far Alice, and don't need a chaperone.”
Alan gulped. He has been obedient and compliant. He'll do anything to ensure that his time in this dreadful school is as short as possible, but in doing so, he can't help but feel guilty. Wayne shoots a dagger like stare at Alan. He's equally unimpressed with Alan's obedience. After lunch, they're sent into the yard and as before, Alan is given a skipping rope and sent to play with it. Wayne is sent to a different area of the yard where he's told to partake in a game of hopscotch. “I'm not playing hopscotch!” he yelped. He was astonished that they'd even suggest such a thing.
“It's not optional Wendy!” the prefect that supervises the activity retorted.
Amanda reminds him that disobedience can result in a one day extension to his stay here. Wayne points out that loads of other kids aren't playing hopscotch or skipping. “They're girls... you're a boy which means you have to do an activity when it's playtime.” Amanda explained. “Is it really worth an additional day for every time you don't play?” she asked.
Amanda had a point and Wayne shyly joined in with the boys. He didn't really know how to play since it's always been a girl's game, but his biggest worry is trying to skip and hop in shoes he can barely walk in.
Alan's afternoon classes are history and geography, followed by another break in which he sort of gets the hang of skipping with a rope. Wayne has maths and English and is sent to play hopscotch at break. The next time he and Alan get change to speak is on the minibus home, but the other boys wanted to know all about the events this morning, when the prefects went on a boyhunt. Wayne added spice and colour to his version of events, making his evasion and eventual capture much more dramatic than it actually was. “Are you gonna do the same tomorrow?” Alan asked.
“Dunno... I'm tempted.” Wayne said. “I don't wanna wear this again, that's for sure.”
“Me neither, but I reckon it's better to just go along with it than risk being suspended for three or fours weeks instead of just two.” Alan wisely replied. “I hope I don't have to wear this again though.” he said, referring to the dress slung over his forearm. The same dress that Mrs Arkwright had given him the previous day, and the dress he'd worn this morning when he boarded the school minibus.
“Amanda said we've got to keep our uniforms on when we're doing out homework.” Wayne told Alan.
“Are you gonna?”
“Nah.” Wayne replied. “Not if I can help it anyway.”
One by one, they boys are dropped of outside their houses and eventually it's Wayne’s turn. Alan watches through the minibus window as Wayne walks toward his front door; wide open and occupied by his parents. Each wears a most disgruntled expression. When Alan's dropped off, his mother aslo waits at the door. “How was it?” she asked.
“Horrible.” he grumbled.
“Your uniform's nice... very smart.” his mother says as he enters.
Meanwhile, Wayne is arguing against having to keep his uniform on whilst he does his homework. “You're not in a position to argue Wayne...” his mother tells him. Apparently, she has a daily feedback form which will be handed back to the education welfare services. Every misdemeanour or disobedient act needs to be noted and they may result in his period of suspension being extended. “It's up to you Wayne... you can either wear your uniform for a couple of hours after school each evening, or wear it for god knows how many extra days in two weeks time.”
Wayne concedes and remains in his uniform until his homework is complete. When Alan's mother tells him that he must remain in uniform, he doesn't put up a fight because he knows it's in his own interests not to put up a fight. He wants to spend as little time as possible attending St Felicity's School for Girls. But when he tells him mother that he's going to his room, he can't help but argue his mother's reply. “I've decided to move you into your sister's old room.”
“But why?!” Alan whined.
“Because under the circumstances, it's more appropriate.” she tells him.
“It's bad enough being a girl at school, I don't want to be one at home too!”
“You're not a girl Alan, you're a petticoated boy, and whilst you are a petticoated boy, you'll spend your time living, and learning to act more like a girl.”
“But nothing Alan. If you'd tried harder to be a good boy rather than becoming a juvenile delinquent, we wouldn't have had to resort to this.” his mother tells him. “Now go to your room if you must, and make sure you hang your dress up... I don't want to find it screwed up on the floor.”
Alan stamped up to his sister's room and gulps at it's overall pinkness. It could be argued that his sister moved out because her room hadn't been redecorated since she was about seven or eight years old.
The wallpaper intrigued him when he was about five or six years old but the more Alan grew, the more it sickened him; all those cute bunnies, pixies and princesses... they really don't appeal to any growing boy.
It wouldn't be so bad if it was just the wallpaper. It's pretty much everything else too. There's pink butterflies on the lamp shade and curtains and pink flower shaped door and drawer knobs, even fluffy pink rug in the shape of a love heart.
He opens the wardrobe and is faced with yet more pink, although many other colours make up the resplendent display of skirts, blouses, frocks and dresses. He finds a vacant hanger and put his dress on it, before hanging it away and quickly shutting the doors.
Being a girl's bedroom, there's a big mirror on the back of the door and a smaller one on the dressing table. Whilst frowning at his reflection, Alan tugs at his bunches and pulls the ribbons out, but his hair doesn't look much better. Since it's been tied up all day there's a big kink in it which he tries to brush out with his sister's pink hair brush... and it's whilst he's doing this that his mother checks on him. “Settling in I see.” she grinned.
Alan blushes and stops what he's doing. He must have looked like such a girl when she walked in. she asks him if he'd hung his dress away and he nodded. She asked if he'd started his homework yet. “I'm just about to.” he replied. “I was just trying to brush these kinks out of my hair.” he said.
“Tell you what.” his mother said. “Why don't we put your bunches back in and we'll wash the kinks out later in the bath?” she said. She'd pretty much tied one bunch by the time she’d finished the sentence, so there was little point protesting.
“I might do my homework downstairs.” Alan suggested. “It's too pink in here.”
Alan took his books down stairs and laid them out on the dining table. “What do you look like?!” his dad said, chuckling.
“Don't tease him George.” Alan's mother said. “And take no notice of your father Alan.”
“I'm not teasing him.” Alan's father claimed. “I was about to say how nice he looks. I've always said if his hair gets any longer it'll have to be put in bunches.”
“Did Wayne have his hair in bunches too?” Alan's mother asked.
“Eventually.” Alan replied, before telling his parents that Wayne didn't get on the bus this morning having vacated his home before his parents were up and that about ten prefects spent two hours looking for him.
“Silly boy.” Alan's mother sighed. “I honestly don't know why you hang around with him.”
“He's my friend.” Alan replied.
“He's a bad influence.”
After completing his homework, Alan is told he can change out of his school uniform, and told to make sure he hangs it up properly. “Mu-um!” he hollers from the landing. “My bedroom door's locked.”
“No it isn't.” his mother shouts back.
“I mean, my old bedroom.”
His mother appears in the hallway. “Your old room's out of bounds for the time being.” she tells him. “As well you know.”
“But... my clothes are in there.”
“There's plenty in your room.”
“But they're all girl's clothes.” he frowned.
“I know.” his mother replied. She gave him the option of finding himself something to wear, or her finding something for him. Alan rummaged through the drawers and the best he could find was a pair of pale blue pants with white heart shaped pockets on both front and back and a pale blue ribbed jumper. Other choices included a pair of dusty pink bell bottom jeans, turquoise pedal pushers, some purple paisley pants and several pairs of girls shorts... plus all the skirts and frocks in the wardrobe, of course.
Sheepishly, Alan made his way downstairs. “I had a feeling you'd choose pants.” his mother said. “At least you kept you bunches in.” she added. “Turn around. Let's have a proper look?” she asked. “Haven't you got a training bra on?” she quizzed
“No.” Alan meekly replied.
“Well go and put one on please... there's plenty in your underwear drawer.”
“It's not 'my' underwear drawer.” he muttered as he tramped back up the stairs.
“It is for the time being.” his mother stated.
Meanwhile, Wayne is glad to be back in boy's clothes... but he's still in his parents' bad books for absconding this morning. “Alan was on the minibus... but I guess his mother had the good sense to get him up and get him dressed before he had chance to do anything rash.” Wayne's mother said, before assuring that he won't have the same opportunity tomorrow morning. Wayne hung his head, since the thought had crossed his mind several times. “How did you get on those shoes anyway?” his mother asked. “You won't be used to heels will you?”
“They were horrible... and at dinner time and break, they made me play hopscotch. It's bad enough trying to walk in them, let alone hop and skip!” he whined. “I'm surprised I didn't twist my ankle.”
“Well I suppose playing a game like hopscotch will get you accustomed to them rather quickly.” his mother replied. “Did Alan play hopscotch too?” she asked.
Wayne shook his head and said that Alan had to play skipping, with a rope. “It's not fair that we have to play girlie games when the actual girls can just do what they want.”
“Well you are boys in a girl's school remember. They're just making sure you fit in.” she said. “Did Alan get a girl's name too?”
“Yeah... Alice.” Wayne almost growled.
“Ooh I bet he loves that!” Wayne's mother sniggered.
“It's better than Wendy.” Wayne whined.
“It'll help you fit in.” his mother said. “What classes have you got tomorrow?”
Wayne shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Haven't you got a timetable?”
“Er... it's in that bag.”
Wayne gulped and nodded. His mother stood up and got it from the back of the chair where he'd hung it on his arrival home. “Does everyone have one?” she asked as she rested the small leather bag on her lap. Wayne nodded. His mother opened it and he began to blush when she listed the items inside; spare tights, clean knickers and a hanky. “...ah, here we are.” she said, perusing the postcard sized chart. “You've got a dance class tomorrow.” she said, before listing the other classes; English, drama, history, maths, geography, domestic science and French.
“What's domestic science?” he humbly asked.
“Cooking and cleaning and stuff like that.”
“That's not science!”
“Well it's good to know... it's about time you started lifting a finger and helping around the house.”
Wayne skewed his chin. His mother put the timetable back in his handbag and closed it. A wry smile swept her face as she read the name tag; Wendy Dowson; 3C. “I might put your hair in plaits tomorrow.” she suggested, pushing her fingers through his locks.
“Please don't Mum.”
“I thought you might prefer it to bunches... but if you want bunches again, that's fine.”
“I don't want either.” Wayne whined.
The following morning, Alan is collected by the school minibus soon after 7.30am. It winds through the residential side streets, collecting various boys and eventually, it heads towards Wayne's estate. Alan wondered if Wayne might have absconded again, but as the minibus pulls to a halt outside his house, the front door opens and Wayne sheepishly steps out wearing black Mary Jane style shoes and burgundy tights, a tartan pinafore dress and a burgundy blazer. His head is hung low and his hair is tied in a pair of French plaits tied with burgundy ribbons in bows on his shoulders. “You the kid who tried to nick off yesterday?” one of the boys asked as Wayne climbed into the minibus.
“Err.... yeah.” Wayne said as the door slid shut behind him. “Who are you?”
“Sandra.” the boy replied. “It's really Alexander but...” he shrugged. Other boys on the bus were called Stephanie (Stephen), Penelope (Peter), Andrea (Andrew), Carla (Carl), Emily (Lee), Christina (Christopher), Jennifer (Jonathan), Jane (James), Tiffany (Timothy), Michelle (Michael) and Mary (Mark). Several of them claimed to have done much the same as Wayne when they were first sent to St Felicity's. Jennifer managed three days since he'd fled to his father's house in Rutland, whilst Tiffany's attempt lasted a mere ten minutes.
The boys were told to be silent. Wayne peered out of the window. Alan sat beside him and looked at Wayne's hair, tied in two plaits running from behind his fringe to his neck where two burgundy ribbons are tied in bows. “Did your mum do your hair?” Alan asked.
“Well I didn't do it myself.” Wayne sarcastically retorted.
“It's better than my bunches.” Alan frowned. “Mum made me wear them all evening.” he moaned. “She's even moved me into my sister's old room and I’ve got to wear her old clothes.”
“All the time?!”
“Well... for the next two weeks.” Alan frowned.
“That's a bit harsh.” Wayne said. Alan nodded. “I had to wear my uniform until my homework was done, but at least I could wear my own clothes after that.” Wayne explained. This didn't seem fair to Alan. He didn't try to skip school like Wayne did, but he's the one who's got to spend the next couple of weeks going to a girl's school, sleeping in a girl's bedroom and wearing nothing but girl's clothes.
The minibus pulled into the school yard and the boys alighted. They'd been put into separate classes so went their separate ways after entering the building. Yet again at playtime, Alan was given a skipping rope and Wayne was sent to play hopscotch. He wasn't quite so bashful today since he actually enjoyed playing the game, not that he'd admit that to many people. Alan on the other hand was still struggling with the skipping rope. He could achieve three or four consecutive skips but no more than that. His problem is that no sooner he gets into the rhythm, he can't help but think what he looks like; heels clacking, skirt swishing and bunches bouncing... then it all goes to pot. He'd like to try a different playtime activity but the prefects in charge tell him that he's got to master the skipping rope first. “All girls should be able to skip Alice.” they tell him, before suggesting he practice at home too.
Alan and Wayne sit opposite one another at lunchtime. Alan moans about his 'difficult' playground activity and claims that he'd rather play hopscotch than skipping. “Hopscotch is OK.” Wayne sheepishly confessed. “At least there's a bit more to it than just jumping about a bit.”
“I wouldn't know.” Alan frowned. “The prefects said I've got to stay with the skipping group 'til I can do it properly.” After eating their lunch, they filter out into the school yard where Alan is sent to skip whilst Wayne plays hopscotch.
In the afternoon they have a PE class and play netball for the first time ever. At their old school only the girls played netball but here the boys play too. They wear really short knife pleated PE skirts, gym knickers, a polo shirt and thick knee socks; all in burgundy. For Alan and Wayne, it's a humbling kit to wear but everyone else wears the same so they don't feel too out of place. It is a bit chilly though, not having tights to give them some protection against the chilly October air.
Their PE kits were embarrassing to wear but come Thursday and the hour long dance class, they discovered a whole new level of embarrassing attire; baby pink dance tights and a burgundy camisole leotard. Baby pink ballet shoes and short burgundy skirt that's almost completely see through. Their hair is scraped back into a tight bun and their fringes held off their face with numerous hair slides. They also have a little pink wrap cardigan and some woolly leg warmers to wear until they've warmed up. The class began with the five positions of classical ballet which involved standing with their arms and feet and various specific positions, over and over again. It was slow and tiresome. The teacher plonked on the piano, calling out the positions, reminding the children to concentrate and to move on the beat. This yawn-fest was followed by something that resembled actual dancing. Simple routines that involved steps, turns and little jumps. It was marginally more interesting than the five positions but the classical piano music they had to dance along to was dire. Toward the end of the class, the teacher said it was time to 'have some fun'. She opened the lid of a Dansette record player and placed a disc on the turntable. Half of the kids cheered when the opening bars of The Sweet's Blockbuster blasted out and everyone began jumping about. This was followed by another cracking tune; Can the Can by Suzi Quatro. Afterwards, the dance teacher approached the new boys and asked if they'd enjoyed themselves. They were non-committal but did admit to enjoying dancing to The Sweet and Suzi Quatro at the end of the class. “Good.” the teacher smiled, handing each of them a small pamphlet. “Learning and understanding the basics of ballet means dancing to pop music is much more fun.” she told them, before suggesting they practice the basic positions at home.
After school, Alan's mother excitedly asked how his dance class went. “Really boring.” he whined.
“Is that your kit?” his mother asked, referring to the drawstring bag hanging from his shoulder. Alan gulped and nodded. His mother took it from him and had a look. “Oh lovely.” she grinned. “I can't wait to see it on.”
“I brought it home to wash, not to wear.” Alan muttered as his mother opened the pamphlet he'd been given.
“It says you should practice for twenty to thirty minutes each day here.” his mother informed him.
“Yeah but it doesn't say I have to wear that.” Alan claimed as his mother folded the leotard and tights.
“It doesn't say you shouldn't either.” his mother replied. “You can practice on the landing, using the banister as a bar.” she added. Of course Alan protests but his mother tells him that whilst he's attending St Felicity's, he'll do what's expected whether he likes it or not. “...otherwise you'll find yourself there for much longer than a fortnight.”
Alan hung his head and stuck out his lip. “It's not fair.” he grumbled.
“Oh it's entirely fair Alan. You brought this on yourself remember. If you hadn't been skipping school you would have ended up at St Felicity's.” she reminded him. “Have you got much homework to do?” she asked.
“A bit.” he replied.
“Well I suggest you get on with it.” his mother replied. “I'll go and chose you a dress for when you've finished.” she added.
“Can't I choose for myself?” he asked.
“You wore what you wanted last night... tonight it's my turn.” she retorted.
“Wayne doesn't have to wear girl's clothes all the time.” Alan whined.
“Well that's up to his parents.” Alan's mother retorted. “I'd guess if Wayne had a sister he'd be in much the same boat as you are.” she reckoned. “Now let me retie your bunches.” she said. “They're lopsided.”
Meanwhile, Wayne's mother is asking how his school day was. “OK I guess.” he hesitantly replied. “I'll never get used to having to answer to Wendy though.” he sighed.
His mother smiled. “It's a not a name I'd have chosen for you.” she said as she ran her fingers through his wavy hair. “I'd have called you Emily or Claire or something.”
“There is a boy called Emily... his real name's Lee.” Wayne told her.
“And how's Alan getting on being Alice?” she asked.
“He hates it... but he has to wear girl's clothes all the time... even a night he has to wear a nightie.”
“Well he's not the only boy at St Flick's who's petticoated all the time.” his mother replied. “You should think yourself lucky that you're only being petticoated during school time.”
“...and after school.” he stated. His mother informed him that school time isn't over until he's completed his homework. “Hmm.” he moaned, before telling his mother that even the dance teacher gave them some homework.
“Really?” his mother quizzed. “What?” she asked. Wayne removed the pamphlet from his handbag and handed it to her. “I see.” she said as she perused it. “Half an hour every day you don't have a dance class... I wonder if that includes weekends too?”
“I hope not.” Wayne gulped. His mother asked which days he does have a dance class. “Monday and Thursday.” he replied.
“Well I suppose Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday should be enough.” she replied.
“I won't have to wear my dance kit will I?” he sheepishly asked.
“Its says here that you should.” his mother replied, handing the pamphlet back to him.
The next morning, Wayne climbed into the minibus and sat next to Alan. He said that he couldn't wait for tomorrow since that means two whole days of not having to dress like a girl. “It's all right for some.” Alan glumly replied. “The next time I’ll be allowed to wear boy's clothes is a week on Monday when we're allowed to go back to Cromwell Road.”
“Yeah.... it's only another week and a bit.” Wayne replied. After a brief pause, he added. “It's weird though...”
Wayne dropped his eyes to his skirted lap and stockinged legs. “I've kinda got used to wearing this.” he confessed.
“Me too.” Alan admitted. “But compared to some of the things my mum makes me wear... this is the best of a bad bunch.” he said as he smoothed his skirt over his lap. “The tights can get a bit itchy though.” he added. Wayne agreed.
The only classes Alan and Wayne shared were their PE and dance classes. The rest of the time, they were separated and only really saw one another during lunch time. Having endured four days at St Felicity's School for Girls, Alan has finally mastered skipping with a rope. During his morning break, the prefects who supervise the playtime activities tell Alan that he'll be playing hopscotch the following week. Alan tells Wayne this over lunch and is looking forward to being able to spend more time with his friend... however Wayne has been told that he'll be skipping the following week.
Their final class of the week was PE and once again they donned their burgundy knee socks, short pleated PE skirts, big burgundy gym knickers and matching polo shorts. “God it's freezing.” Alan whined as they filtered out in the yard. A brisk autumn breeze whipped around their exposed legs.
“At least we're playing netball and not rugby.” Wayne commented, that being the sport they'd be participating in at Cromwell Road. Rugby is something they both detest with a passion; the thuggery, the muddy pitch, the unpredictable ball and the dreaded scrum. Netball may not be ideal but it's the better of the two, he feels.
After PE, both Alan and Wayne are summoned to the head teacher's office. “How have you both got on this week?” she asked.
“OK Miss.” they replied in unison, although this was a long way from the truth. They've both endured possibly the worst week of their life, having to attend a girls school, wear the girl's uniform and answer to girl's names. The head teacher informs them that their reports have come back mostly positive, and adds that she hopes their parent's reports will be much the same. “I trust you've both been doing your homework in uniform?”
“Yes Miss.” they replied.
“Good.” she said. “Apart from an early hiccup... Wendy... you both seem to have buckled down and tried your best to fit in with the rest of our girls... keep that up for the remainder of your suspension from Cromwell Road and you'll be back there soon enough.” she explained, adding “If that's what you want?”
“Yes Miss.” they replied.
“Good.” she replied. “you may go.”
“Thank you Miss.” they reply, dropping a well rehearsed curtsey before exiting her office.
As they walk the halls, their heels clack noisily on the parquet floor. Alan curses himself for not being more honest and telling the head teacher that it's been an awful week. “It's horrible wearing heels and itchy tights... having to wear bunches and answer to Alice.”
“I think she knows that already.” Wayne replied. “The point of sending us here is that we'll hate it.”
“Yeah I know.” Alan said. “The annoying thing is... hang on...” he said, stopping to hitch up his tights. “...I've only been here a week and I’m getting used to it.”
“Yeah me too.” Wayne gulped. “...and I don't have the excuse of having to wear girl's clothes at home.” he said. “You doing owt tomorrow?”
“Dressing as a girl I guess.” Alan grumbled. “Which means I won't be going anywhere.” he added.
“I might come round if that's OK.” Wayne suggested.
“I'd rather you didn't.” Alan replied, stating his reasoning. Wayne pointed out the obvious flaw in his logic; that being he dresses as a girl at school anyway so it'll be no surprise to see him dressed as a girl at home. “Yeah but... mum makes me wear really girlie dresses... and make-up too.”
“I don't mind.” Wayne replied. “...and I won't tell anyone if that's what you're worried about.”
They boarded the minibus and were soon delivered to their respective homes. Wayne's mother asked if he'd enjoyed his day at school. Wayne dryly claimed that he'd merely 'endured' it. “Have you any plans for the weekend?” his mother asked.
“Well... I was gonna go round to Alan's tomorrow, but he didn't seem very keen.” Wayne replied.
“Why not?” his mother quizzed. “You haven't fallen out have you?”
“No.” Wayne replied, before explaining about Alan having to wear girl's clothes all the time at home too. “I dunno why he's embarrassed... we both dress as girls all day at St Flick's.”
“You'd think he'd be used to it by now.” his mother replied. “Have you got much homework?”
“A bit.” Wayne replied. “It shouldn't take me long.”
“Don't forget you've got to practice your ballet too.” his mother reminded him.
“Hmmm.” Wayne groaned. He had forgotten about that.
Early on Saturday afternoon, Wayne rides round to Alan's house and knocks on the door. “Hello Mrs Smith. Is Alan in?”
“He is Wayne, come in.” Alan's mother says. “Alan!” she hollers. “Wayne's here to see you.” she shouts. She looks Wayne up and down; monkey boots, jeans, jumper and a parka jacket. “Your hair's developed a nice wave.” she says.
“Yeah.” Wayne bashfully replied, shyly thumbing the ends of his hair. “Mum puts it in plaits for school.”
“Yes, Alan said... I think he'd rather have plaits too but I like him in bunches.” she replied. “Wayne!” she hollered again. “I think he's being a bit shy because I put his hair in rags last night.” she told him. Wayne adopted a rather perplexed expression, clearly not knowing what hair rags are or do. “They make it nice and curly.” Alan's mother added. “Alan!” she hollered again.
“Ooh.” Wayne replied as Alan finally emerged at the top of the stairs. “Blimey it really is curly innit!” Wayne gasped as Alan descended the stairs.
Alan was more worried about the dress his mother had made him wear today than how she'd styled his hair. A deep purple prairie style dress with a white bib, bounded by a broad frilly trim and it's hem and cuffs are trimmed with white lace. On his feet is a pair of brown leather heeled shoes and his legs are clad in a pair of white knitted tights. “It's weird you being taller than me.” Wayne said when Alan reached the hallway. His shoes have a two inch heel and his incredibly curly hair adds an additional inch or two to his overall height. His lips are painted in a pale pink shade of lipstick and his eyelashes are coated in thick black mascara.
“Doesn't he look nice?” Alan's mother gushed.
“Er, yeah.” Wayne replied.
“Why don't you boys sit in the parlour?” Alan's mother suggested. “I'll fetch some refreshments.”
Wayne followed Alan to the parlour; a room filled with posh furniture, tacky ornaments and vases filled with dried flowers. Unlike the sitting room, the parlour is seldom used. Wayne perches on the sofa whilst Alan sits on an armchair. He gulps before telling Wayne in no uncertain terms that his dress was his mother's choice, not his. “Yeah I gathered that.” Wayne replied. “She doesn't make you go out does she?”
“No... thank God.” Alan replied. “I do have some boyish stuff that I could go out in but... even that's a bit too girlie.” he frowned.
Alan's mother entered with a tray in hand. She set it on the coffee table and placed a glass of cordial in front of Wayne, and another in front of Alan. A plate bearing four chocolate digestives sat between them. “Thanks Mrs Smith” Wayne said.
“You're welcome Wayne.” Alan's mother replied. “How are you enjoying your new school?”
“Errr....” Wayne cautiously began. “...apart from the uniform, it's OK I guess.”
“So long as the uniform keeps you inside the school gates, where you belong... it's doing it's job don't you think?” Alan's mother replied.
“Yeah I guess.” Wayne humbly replied.
Alan's mother left them alone. Wayne cast his eyes around the uninspiring parlour and asked Alan what his 'new' bedroom is like. “Horrid.” Alan frowned. “..and it's my sister's room, not mine.”
“Can I see it?”
“I'd rather not.” Alan hesitantly replied.
“It can't be as bad as you described.” Wayne claimed. Alan assured him it was, and to prove it, he took his friend up to his new room. “Blimey!” Wayne gasped. “Your sister's what... twenty?” he asked. Alan nodded. “This is like a little girl's room.” Wayne exclaimed.
“It hasn't been decorated since she was about seven.” Alan stated. “No wonder she moved out as soon as she left school.” he added.
“You've got loads of shoes.” Wayne noted, seeing about twelve pairs all lined up by the skirting board.
“My sister has, or had.” Alan replied. “Why mum didn't get rid as she grew out of them I'll never know.” he said. “Same with all her old clothes.” he added, opening the wardrobe to reveal a resplendent display of skirts, frocks and blouses.
“Blimey Alan... how do you cope?”
Alan sighed and said “By staying indoors. It's only for another week I hope.”
“Yeah I guess.” Wayne replied. He tore his eyes from the clothes in the wardrobe and looked Alan up and down again. “I guess looking at half of those... that one's not so bad after all.” he said. “I like the colour.”
Alan looked down at his frock and screwed his nose up. “I'd rather listen to Deep Purple than wear it.” he dryly retorted.
Wayne chuckled and cast his eyes around the ultra-girlie bedroom. Framed pictures of cute bears and Edwardian ladies hung from the walls. Posters of David Cassidy, David Essex and David Bowie are blu-tacked above the bed. The shelves are filled with Sindy dolls, teddy bears, books, games and various toys... all of which once belonged to is sister. Wayne rummaged through a pile of comics; Bunty, Jinty, Mandy and Twinkle. “Do you read these?” he asked.
“No!” Wayne spat. “They're my sisters.” his stated. “Shall we go back down?” he said as Wayne sat on the bed and picked up a floppy rag doll that lay on his pillow. “I hate it in here.”
“Yeah I guess.” Wayne said as he put the rag doll back where it belonged. He tried to imagine what it must be like; going to sleep and waking up in such girlie surroundings, day in, day out. They returned to the parlour and listened to the radio for a while. Suzi Quatro's Devil Gate Drive was played which reminded them of Thursday's dance class. Both agreed that it would have been better if they'd danced to pop music for the whole class rather than just at the end. “Did you have to practice the ballet positions last night?” Wayne asked. Alan nodded and moaned about having to wear the pink tights and burgundy leotard whilst he did it. “Yeah so did I.” Wayne replied.
“What are you boys talking about?” Alan's mother asked as she entered.
“Nothing.” they replied in unison.
“Will you be staying for supper Wayne?” she asked him.
“Err... no thanks. My mum's expecting me back.” Wayne replied. He took this as a hint that it was approaching the time he should leave and he did just that. “See you on Monday.” he said, before saying goodbye to Alan's mother and thanking her for the biscuits.
“It's not like Wayne to say thank you without being prompted.” Alan's mother commented as he rode away. “Seems he's not the only one who's finally found some manners.” she added.
When Wayne returned home, he wasted no time describing Alan's hair and dress to his mother. “Did he look nice?” she asked.
“I don't know!” Wayne retorted. “I guess.” he added.
“Was he embarrassed?”
“Yeah.” Wayne replied. “At first anyway.” he said. “I'm glad I don't have to wear dresses at home.”
“You'll be wearing your Sunday dress tomorrow.” his mother causally informed him.
“What Sunday dress?!” Wayne yelped.
“The one Mrs Arkwright gave you on Monday.”
“Why?!” he whined.
“Because it's Sunday... all the boys at St Felicity's wear dresses on Sunday.” his mother told him. “Surely you knew that.”
“I thought it was just the boys like Alan.” Wayne gulped. His mother shook his head and smiled. “But... aren't we going to Nana and Granddad's tomorrow?” he asked.
“Of course.” his mother told him. “Why wouldn't we?”
On Monday morning, Wayne boarded the school minibus and told Alan all about his deeply embarrassing Sunday. “It wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't gone to my grandparents.” he moaned. “And mum spent half the morning shaving my legs.” he said.
“Your mum shaved your legs?” Alan gasped. Wayne gulped and nodded and said it was weird wearing a dress without a pair of tights on. Instead, he wore a pair of white ankle socks and his school shoes. “What did your grandparents say?” Alan asked.
“Well, Nana kept saying how nice I looked and my granddad kept teasing me until Nana told him off.” Wayne replied. “I was glad when we finally left and came home.”
“And you could finally take it off.”
“Nah... I had to wear it all day.” It was big deal to Wayne but not to any other boys on the minibus. They're more than accustomed to their regular 'Sunday' dresses.
Monday began with a big school assembly. The head teacher addressed the school, a few pupils were awarded commendations. One read a self penned poem aloud. The entire school sang a hymn and after the lord's prayer, they went to their classes. Starting at 8.00am and finishing at 4.00pm is a much longer day than both Wayne and Alan were used to, but their various classes are ordered, engaging, involved and informative... time flew and they were seldom bored. There was no getting out of the playground activities but Alan preferred playing hopscotch to skipping and Wayne mastered the rope much quicker than his friend had. Other activities included elastics, duck-duck-goose, tiggy and leapfrog... but these would be permitted only after they'd learned to hop, skip, jump and most importantly, play nicely with the others. After lunch they had their second dance class which meant donning their pink tights, burgundy leotards, see-through mini-skirts, ballet shoes and having their hair scraped back into a tight bun. As before, it began with the basic positions over and over again, followed by some simple steps at the barre, and ended with dancing to some modern pop records; this time it was ABBA's SOS followed by Mud's The Cat Crept In. After wards, Alan was mesmerised as he watched Wayne put his hair into two perfect French braids. “Is it easy doing that?” Alan asked.
“Not as easy as bunches.” Wayne replied. “Mum got sick of doing them for me so showed me how to do it myself.” he said.
On the way home in the minibus, Alan moaned about how boring the dance class is but Wayne surprised his friend by admitting that he enjoyed it; especially the 'freestyle' dancing at the end. “Yeah but it's the boring ballet stuff I hate.” Alan replied.
Wayne said it felt silly at first but after a while he 'got into it'. “You won't tell anyone will you?”
“What... that you enjoy ballet?” Alan snorted.
“Well we have to do it... may as well try to enjoy it.” Wayne retorted.
“We're only here for one more week remember.” Alan said. “All I’m doing is keeping my head down, doing as I’m told so I can get back to normality sooner rather than later.”
“Yeah I know.” Wayne agreed.
Alan was dropped off outside his home and trotted up the path toward his front door. It opened as the minibus departed. “Oh!” his mother said. “You've got plaits.”
“Er yeah... Wendy did them.” Alan replied. “I mean... Wayne.” he corrected. “I hope I don't make that mistake when we go back to Cromwell Road.” His mother grinned and asked if they always use each other's girl names. “Only at school.” Alan replied. “Can I keep them in for a bit?” he asked.
“Course... they look nice.” she said.
After completing his homework, Alan asked if he could change and his mother said he could. “I've put something out for you.” she added as he headed to his room. On his bed lay a beige drop waist pinafore dress, a mustard yellow blouse with long pointed collars and bishop style sleeves, and a pair of mustard yellow tights. He sighed at the ensemble and mumbled “one more week” before donning it.
Meanwhile, Wayne is packing up his homework and his mother tells him to change out of his school uniform. “In a bit.” Wayne replied. “Can I watch some telly first?”
“If you want.” his mother replied, before telling him to make sure he's changed before supper time. Wayne caught the last few minutes of Blue Peter, followed by Newsround, Inch High Private Eye and The Wombles... then he changed out of his school uniform and into his own clothes. He spared a thought for his friend Alan and wondered what he'd be wearing this evening. He opened his wardrobe and hung his school pinafore and blouse away, putting it next the the 'Sunday' dress he'd worn yesterday. He cast his mind back to last Monday when he and Alan skipped school and ended up in Mrs Arkwright's garden, knocking down the old gazebo, sweeping leaves and clearing the debris from her stagnant pond. Neither had any idea that she was in fact a truant officer, not did they have any idea of the consequences. Compared to Alan, Wayne's got it easy and he can't help but feel more than a little guilty.
When Wayne boarded the minibus on Tuesday morning, he was in for a huge surprise since there, sat next to Alan is Ronald Hunter... a notorious thug from Cromwell Road and said to be the hardest boy in the year. “Well well well... Wayne Dowson.” Ronald said. “Don't you look nice.”
“Quiet Ronald.” the teacher who drove the minibus said. “Ignore him Wendy.” she added as Wayne sheepishly found a vacant seat.
Ronald sniggered. “Just wait 'til I tell the guys about this!” he blurted. Alan frowned.
It was tense and silent journey to school. A group of five prefects and two teachers awaited the minibus and surrounded Ronald as he alighted, before escorting him inside. The next time he was seen was during morning break. Ronald's head hung low. The cocky bravado he display in the minibus is nowhere to bee seen. Wearing the St Felicity's uniform, Ronald is sent to join the skipping group where the prefects introduce him as Veronica. Wayne asked how he'd ended up at St Flick's and Ronald said he'd attacked one of the teachers who'd intervened in a fight that had broken out. “How long you here for?” Wayne asked.
“As little time as possible.” Ronald growled. “This place is full of faggots!” he spat.
“Language Veronica!” Anne, his chaperone snapped. “Additional days are easy to earn and you're going the right way about getting them.”
“My name's NOT Veronica!” Ronald barked. “It's Ronnie!”
“Well is says Veronica on your handbag, and it's Veronica in the register... so for as long as you're here, your name's Veronica.” Anne stated. “Isn't that right Wendy?”
Wayne gulped and said “Yes.”
Ronald was put into the class class as Wayne. Throughout the day he refused to answer to Veronica and refused to curtsey. He initially refused to take part in his playground activity at lunchtime, but he was no match for the dominant prefects and eventually and reluctantly, he skipped.
Ronald was one of the first to be dropped off from the minibus after school. “I can't believe he's been sent to St Flick's.” Wayne gasped as the minibus departed.
“By the look on his face, he can't believe it either.” Alan replied. Some of the other boys asked who he was and both Wayne and Alan described his various misdemeanours at Cromwell Road; fighting, bullying, misconduct, vandalism, etc.
“He sounds as bad as you were Emily.” Jonathan said.
“Well you were hardly a goodie-two-shoes before you came Jennifer!” Lee retorted.
“Stop bickering boys.” the driver said. “I'm sure Veronica will learn the error of his ways, just as you did.”
Alan wasted no time telling his mother that none other than Ronald Hunter had been sent to St Felicity's today. “That brute!” his mother said. “It was only a matter of time I guess.” she added, before asking if he'd settled in.
“I dunno.” Alan replied. “He's in Wendy's class... I mean, Wayne's.”
“I know who Wendy is dear.” his mother replied, before retying his bunches so they were taught and even. “Don't forget you've got to practise your ballet after your homework tonight.” she reminded him.
“I know.” Alan moaned.
“Your tights and leotard are on your radiator. They should be dry.”
“Do I really have to wear those?” Alan whined. His mother raised an eyebrow. Alan knew the answer.
Over at Wayne's house, he's telling his mother about the new boy at school. “Oh dear.” his mother said. “I'm sure he'll settle in, just as you have.” she said.
Wayne wasn't so sure that Ronald would settle in. He flat refused to take part in the playground activities, and refused to curtsey in class. “Has my dance kit been washed?” he asked. “I've got to practice my ballet steps tonight.”
“It has.” his mother smiled.
“Did you play netball again today?” she asked.
“No... it was raining so we did gymnastics instead.”
“I was going to say it's been drizzly all day.” his mother replied, before asking if he enjoyed it. Wayne described the floor exercises as boring, but liked the vaulting horse and the balance beam was really hard.
The next morning there was no sign of Ronald on the minibus. He was due to be picked up before Wayne and Alan told him what had happened. “His Dad said he went out last night and didn't come home... the police have been informed and they're supposed to be looking for him.”
“I suppose the prefects will join in the search too?” Wayne replied. And he was absolutely right. As they exited the minibus and entered the school, a group of prefects were on their way out... thoroughly looking forward to going on another 'boyhunt' as they called it. They stopped Wendy and Alice, knowing they went to the same school and questioned them as to where Veronica might have absconded to, but neither knew since they weren't friends with him. They did list a number of potential hangouts though, including the old pavilion where they'd found Wendy hiding. “I wish they'd never sent Ronnie here.” Wayne said once the prefects had gone. “When he gets back to Cromwell Road, everyone will know we were here too.”
“It's not something I'd boast about.” Alan replied. “When I get back I'm saying nothing to no one.”
At morning break, there's still no sign of Ronald or the prefects who'd joined in the search, but by lunchtime he's back, sporting a black eye and wearing the St Felicity's uniform, flanked by two chaperones who accompany him everywhere. Wayne and Alan learned that Ronald had initially been suspended from Cromwell Road for a month, but after two days at St Felicity's, he's already accrued an additional eight days and is likely to earn himself more. “If we're lucky he'll be stuck here... then we'd be able to keep it a secret.”
“You reckon?” Wayne retorted. “Miss Coulton knows... and I wouldn't put it past her to use us as a threat to the rest of the boys.”
“I hope not!” Alan replied. “She did say something about keeping it under wraps on Monday at Mrs Arkwright's.” he added, casting his mind back. He couldn't recall her exact words, but she said something about private shame being better than public humiliation.
“Yeah but she also said we'd be shining examples of what happens to persistent truants.” Wayne reminded him.
On Thursday morning, Ronald, or Veronica was on the minibus once more. His black eye had been badly concealed with foundation and one could almost taste his sense of shame. Having short hair, he wears a pair of hair slides with white satin bows attached. The other boys question him about absconding the previous day; seeking all the gory details of when the prefects found him, but he didn't want to share. He must have put up a fight, hence his black eye... but everything else is guesswork.
Class, break, class, lunch...
When they donned their tights and leotards for their twice weekly dance class, the expression on Ronald's face was priceless. He looked utterly petrified as he sheepishly followed the others to the gymnasium, under the watchful eye of the prefects who've been charged with chaperoning him. After a brief warm up session, the rancid piano music began and the teach called out the positions; first, two three four, second three four, third two three, on the beat, three four and on and on she went. “Remember your posture Alice.” she called. “Excellent Wayne.” she complimented. “Very good Veronica.” she said
After the dance class, the teacher approaches Alan and Wayne and says they've both done well in such a short space of time. “...especially you Wendy.” Wayne bashfully thanks her. “Now you're only here for two weeks which means today is probably your final class with me...” she says, “..unless you accrue additional days between now and tomorrow afternoon.” she adds. “However we do hold a Saturday dance class from 10am 'til noon which you'd both be welcome to join.” she suggested. She turns to Ronald. “Hello Ronnie”
One of the prefects who's watching from the sidelines says “His name's Veronica Miss.”
“I'm aware of that Judith... Veronica and I are already acquainted.” she relpied before turning back to Ronald. “Now, in light of your change of circumstances, will you be attending Saturday afternoon's tap dancing class as usual?”
Both Alan and Wayne's jaws drop as they slowly turn their gaze toward Ronald. “I don't know Miss... I’ll have to ask my Mum.” he says.
On the way home in the minibus, Wayne says to Ronald, “I didn't know you went to tap dancing classes.”
“No one knows.” Ronald replied.
“With my reputation?” Ronald sarcastically spat before glaring out of the window. “Idiot!” he added under his breath.
“Veronica! We don't use words like that.” the driver stated.
Ronald muttered an apology. “We won't tell anyone of that's what you're worried about... will we Alice?” Wayne said. Alan shook his head. His bunches bounced around his ears. “Do you enjoy it?” Wayne asked Ronald.
“I wouldn't go if I didn't wouldn't I?” Ronald retorted. “I just don't want people knowing... that's all.”
“...and we don't want anyone knowing we've spent two weeks at St Flick's.” Alan stated. “You won't tell anyone will you?”
“Prob'ly not.” Ronald replied. “Depends.”
“You two keeping your traps shut.” Ronnie stated as the minibus drew to a halt outside his house. The sliding door opened and Ronald alighted. Wayne and Alan watched as he trotted up his garden path, his pleated skirt swishing this way and that. The front door opened and his mother appeared, grinning from ear to ear as he approached. The minibus departed as he stepped inside.
“I reckon our secret's safe with him.” Alan said.
“It's not him I’m worried about.” Wayne replied. “It's Miss Coulton and Mrs Arkwright.”
“How was school today?” Alan's mother asked when he returned home.
“OK.” Alan replied as he unslung his dance bag and handbag, hanging them from the back of a chair. He was tempted to tell him mother abut Ronnie's secret tap dancing class, but knowing how gossip spreads, from the bus stop to the bingo hall, across the dining table and into the school yard, he decides not to. He can't help but imagine the scene though; the notorious bully, tapping his way through a routine wearing a huge beaming grin.
Meanwhile, Wayne sits at the kitchen table quietly doing his homework. “I hope you won't return to your usual ways next week.” his mother said.
“What usual ways?” Wayne defensively asked.
“Having to constantly pester you to do your homework.” his mother replied. Wayne claimed that the assignments he was given at Cromwell Road were boring. “Boring or not, they need doing.”
“I know.” Wayne groaned
“Are you looking forward to going back to Cromwell Road?” she asked.
“Sort of.” he hesitantly replied. “I'm worried that everyone will know I've spent two weeks in a girl's school.”
“You've spent two weeks learning the error of your ways and getting your education back on track.”
“I know but... they won't see it that way.”
“You need to worry less about what other people think and concentrate on doing the right thing.” his mother replied. “I know it's not been easy attending St Felicity's, but it's done you the world of good.”
Wayne frowned and focused on his homework assignment, but couldn't help but think about the prospect of everyone teasing him and calling him Wendy.
All being well, Friday should be their final day at St Felicity's School for Girls. It all depends on the reports from their teachers, the formidable prefects who supervise their playtime activities, and feedback on their behaviour at home too. Wayne wakes and washes before donning his knickers and training bra, followed by the blouse, tights and plaid pinafore dress. He goes down to the kitchen for breakfast and whilst his mother tends the toaster, he swiftly plaits his hair. Meanwhile, Alan sits huffing and puffing whilst his mother pulls his hair into two high bunches. “They're too tight.” he whines.
“Nonsense.” his mother retorts as she pulls a brush through them and makes sure his ribbons are perfect. “You want to look nice... it should be your last day all being well.” she tells him. “Stand up, let's have a look at you.”
“Oh mu-um... stop fussing.” he moans as she faffs with his collar and straightens his tie.
She steps back and admires him, from his bouncy bunches to his shiny black shoes. “Have you got everything?” she asked. “The minibus should be here soon.”
“Err... I think so.” Alan replied as he pushed his arms into his fitted burgundy blazer. His mother opens his handbag and checks that there's a clean pair of knickers, a spar pair of tights and some tissues inside. “Thanks.” he meekly says as she hands it to him.
Ten minutes pass before the minibus pulls up outside. His mother watches as he trots down the drive and climbs inside. The sliding door shuts behind him. “Is it your last day today Alice?” Timothy asked.
“I hope so.” Alan replied. “When's yours?” he asked.
“It was weeks ago.” Timothy said. “I decided to stay at St Flick's.” he added.
“What... permanently?!” Alan quizzed. Timothy nodded and explained that his mother was keen on continuing his petticoat regime after his suspension had ended, which meant he'd still have to wear the girl's uniform at his old school. “I didn't think they were allowed to do that.” Alan said.
“Depends on the school.” Timothy replied, before stating that he'd rather go to a school where all the boys are petticoated rather than being the only one.
Ronald boarded the bus and sat beside Alan. “Hiya Ronnie.” Alan said.
“Girl names only boys.” the driver sternly said. “You know the rules Alice.”
“Sorry Sir.” Alan replied before humbly repeating his greeting to Ronald, this time using his girl name. The minibus trundled through the side streets, picking up boys here and there as it circumnavigated the town. Alan looked forward to everything to go back to normal; wearing his own clothes, waking up in his own room, no more bunches, no more tights, no more heels, no more supervised play, no more dance classes and no more answering to Alice.
“Can't say I'm gonna miss this place.” Alan said to Wayne as they entered the building. Their heels clacked noisily on the parquet floor.
“I can't say I’m really looking forward to going to back to Cromwell Road either.” Wayne replied. Their pleated knee length pinafore dresses swished with every step.
“Still worried everyone will know?” Alan asked. His bunches bounced around his ears. Wayne nodded. Alan is a bit more optimistic and figures that since they'd never heard anything about boys being sent to a girl's school when suspended, until it happened to them, then the teachers and truant officers must be keeping it quiet. “Maybe the threat of exposure is what'll keep us on the straight and narrow when we go back?” Alan suggested.
“Yeah maybe.” Wayne replied. “I'll see you at lunch?” he asked.
“Sure.” Alan replied. They went to their respective classes and waited for the register to be called. “Here Miss.” Alan said as his name 'Alice' Smith was called. He hates being called Alice, but has little choice but to answer to it since refusal would only mean having to spend even longer at St Felicity's... and that's something he really doesn't want, especially now his two week suspension is almost over.
Having refused to answer to his 'girl' name during previous registrations (amongst other things), Ronald has already accrued almost two additional weeks on top of his four week suspension. Today however, he swallows his pride and answers as expected when his name, Veronica Hunter, is called. He gulps and glances at Wayne who offers a pursed yet reassuring smile. At lunchtime, Alan, Wayne and Ronald share a table, along with Ronald's chaperones. “I can't wait for tomorrow!” Alan says. “My own clothes, my own room... it's gonna be bliss!”
Ronald is unaware of Alan's predicament, who humbly explains that's he's been moved into his sister's bedroom and has only her hand-me-downs to wear. “I even have to sleep in a nightie!”
“Blimey!” Ronald exclaimed.
“Well you're not alone Alice.” one of the prefects sneered, claiming that half the boys at St Felicity's were in the same boat. “I don't know why you boys are so afraid of girl's clothes any way... after all they're just clothes.
“You wouldn't understand.” Wayne said. “...and it's not the clothes I'm afraid of.” he stated. “It's other people knowing.” he gulped, glancing at both Alan and Ronald. They gulped too.
“We've got PE this afternoon.” Alan said, changing the conversation.
“I hope it's gymnastics again.” Wayne enthused. “It's freezing playing netball in the yard.”
Sod's Law kicked in and they played netball in the yard. “Brrrrrr.” Ronald shivered as the chilly October breeze bit into his bare legs. “You'd think they'd let us wear tights!”
“Yeah.” Wayne agreed. “It's weird wearing a skirt without them.” he said. He cast his mind back to Sunday when he refused to wear a pair of his mother's thin tights with his Sunday dress... so instead she shaved his legs from ankle to hip. The cotton fabric felt silky and smooth as it slid over his lap or swished against the backs of his knees. Without a pair of tights he felt half naked then, but not as much as he does now.
The PE skirt is far far shorter than either his Sunday dress or their pinafore dresses. Its knife pleated hem is high on their thighs, leaving them completely exposed to below the knee. Goose pimples pepper their legs as they're selected into teams and don their bibs. But they soon warm up when the game begins. Ronald is reluctant to begin with. He's never played netball before so he's no idea what to do or where to be. He's also concerned that his skirt will swish a little too much and expose his burgundy gym knickers. That's exactly what's happening to all the others as they run and catch, stop or block, turn then leap. The ball is hurled in his direction. His name is called and he swiftly catches it. “Over here!” Charlotte shouts and Ronald quickly lobs it into his hands. Two passes later and Ronald's side have scored. They cheer. The captain congratulates Ronald's 'excellent' pass and a couple of team mates pat him on the back. He begins to relax and by the end of the hour long class, he gives his little bouncy skirt little thought.
Afterwards, the PE teacher compliments Ronald, telling him that he's very good for a beginner and fills him with pride. She turns to Alan and Wayne and tells them to report to the head teacher after they've got changed. Both were half expecting this since it's the end of their final day... and whilst they're confident that they haven't accrued any additional days, they can't help but worry that they may have been. They approach the door. Their heels clack loudly on the hardwood floor. The door opens before either of them have a chance to knock. “You first Alice.” the head teacher says. “Take a seat Wendy.”
Wayne scoops his skirt and sits as Alan steps inside. The door closes. He can hear muffled voices but is unable to hear what's being said. After ten long minutes, the sound of footsteps in the corridor draw his attention away from the muffled voices. “Mum.” he gulps as she comes into view. She smiles and sits beside him, asks about his day which he describes as OK. They sit in relative silence for a further five minutes. Wayne is bolt upright with his ankles and knees clamped together, his handbag rests on his lap. His mother is far more relaxed. The head teacher's door opens and Alan steps out accompanied by his mother and father. Wayne and his mother stand. She introduces herself to Alan's parents before the head teacher asks she and 'Wendy' inside.
“I'll see you tomorrow?” Alan says. Wayne nods before entering the office and the door closes behind him.
“Come on... let's get you home.” Alan's father says.
“Can I get changed?” Alan enthusiastically asked as he stepped inside his home.
“You've got your homework to do first.” his mother said.
“Not really.” Alan retorted. Although he'd been given several homework assignments today, there's no point doing them since he won't be handing it on Monday, he figured.
His parents tell him that it's still a school day and rules are rules. Alan tuts and sighs as he sits himself at the table. “Here.” his mother says, grabbing a hairbrush. “Let me redo your bunches.”
“Oh mu-um.” he whined. “I don't have to do my dance practice too do I?”
“You know you do Alan.” his mother replied, reiterating that it's still a school day and school rules apply. “...and talking of dance classes... you didn't mention that you'd been invited to join the Saturday dance class.” she added.
“Because I don't want to join the Saturday class.” Alan replied. “I just want everything to go back to normal... my own clothes, my own room, blah blah blah.”
“Well your father and I want to talk to you about that.” his mother replied. She made him wait until he'd completed his homework before she and his father had a talk with him. “...you can't deny that this last two weeks has done you the world of good.” his mother said.
“I doubt you'll be skipping class when you go back to Cromwell Road.” his dad added.
“I won't.” Alan replied. His parents believed him. “Can I move back into my room tonight?” he asked.
“Well...” his father began by explaining how he's been no trouble at home since he was suspended from school. “You've been doing your homework without moaning about it. You've been helping your mother with the washing up. You've been tidying up after yourself, going to bed on time...”
His mother eventually took over. “We're concerned that if everything goes back to normal, then you'll go back to normal.” she told him. “So we've decided that it's best if you continue being petticoated at home...” she stated as Alan's jaw dropped. “...and you will be attending the Saturday dance class at St Felicity's.”
“Oh mu-um... that's not fair.” Alan whined, before saying that he wanted to visit Wayne tomorrow.
“You can visit him after your dance class.” his mother said. “And you never know, Wayne might also be there.”
“I doubt it.” Alan muttered. “Can't I at least have some of my own clothes?” he asked.
“You're better behaved when you're wearing your sister's clothes.” his father replied.
“Your dad's right Alan... but if you're good, and I mean exceptionally good ...we might let you wear some of your own clothes when you're playing out with your friends.” his mother said.
Poor Alan felt incredibly glum when he sauntered up to his bedroom. He can't believe that he has to continue wearing his sister's hand-me-downs for the foreseeable future. Feeling hard done by, Alan grumbles and mumbles to himself as he changes out of his uniform and dons his dance kit. He pulls the chair out from his dressing table, laid the worksheet on its seat and opened his bedroom door before working his way through the various positions and routines, using the back of his chair to steady himself when needed. After ten minutes, he sensed a presence and turned to see his mother watching from the landing. “You do look ever so graceful.” she says as he practises his 'rond de jambe'. “Oh don't stop on my account.”
Alan says he feels silly with her watching and can feel himself blushing as he moves onto the next step; the développé. “Do you have to watch?” he whined.
“No but I like to.” his mother replied. “Plus I need to make sure you're actually practising and not just prancing about.” she added, that being the reason he has to practice with the door wide open.
He'd been so looking forward to waking up in his own bedroom on Saturday morning and spending the day wearing his own clothes.. but he didn't. He woke in his sister's room, wearing a frilly nylon nightie and resigned himself to the fact that this is the new normal. He don's his sister's old dressing gown and goes for breakfast. On the kitchen table is a number of pamphlets that the head teacher had given his parents; Petticoating at Home, Petticoating for Schoolboys, St Felicity's Holiday Club and on top, Saturday Dance at St Felicity's. “Do I really have to go to that dance class today?” he frowned.
“Well...” his mother began. “...having flicked through the pamphlet, it turns out you'll need a new leotard and tights.” she said. “So we'll leave it 'til next week.” she added. This came as a huge relief to Alan, but since he already has a leotard and tights, he quizzed why. “Because beginners wear a white leotard and tights and yours are burgundy and pink.” she replied. “So we'll go shopping for those this morning, then you can visit Wayne and you can enrol next week.”
A one week delay was better then nothing, and thankfully he was allowed to wear boyish clothes for their trip into town. Afterwards, Alan's mother dropped him off outside Wayne's house and told him to be home before dark. “I will.” Alan replied. His mother waited until he knocked on the door. “Hello Mrs Dowson. Is Wayne in?” he asked.
“Hello Alan... yes, come in.” she said, acknowledging the boy's mother with a smile and a wave. “Wayne! Alan's here to see you.” she hollers, before looking Alan up and down. “I like that coat.”
“Er... it's my sister's.” Alan meekly replied.
“Of course.” she smiled as Wayne leans over the balustrade and invites Alan upstairs. Alan enters Wayne's bedroom and casts his eyes around. It's typical boy's room with a poster of Slade on one wall and the Six Million Dollar Man on another. Do it anyway you wanna do it blasts out of a crackly transistor radio. Wayne looks Alan up and down as he begins sheepishly unfastening a double breasted dress coat that covered him from neck to knee He dropped it from his shoulders and revealed a pair of sky blue dungarees with a butterfly embroidered on the bib pocket. Beneath this he wears a pale blue long sleeved blouse. “How come that shirt's got buttons on the front and the back?” Wayne asked.
“Because it's a girl's shirt.” Alan replied, pointing out that the buttons on the front are only for show. After a brief uncomfortable silence, Alan confessed that his parents have decided to continue petticoating him at home. “And she's gonna make me go to the Saturday dance class.” he grumbled.
“So... are you staying at St Flick's?” Wayne asked as he took Alan's jacket and hung from the back of the door.
“No... I'm going back to Cromwell Road... I wouldn't mind so much if I did have to stay at St Flick's but I don't and I still have to wear her clothes.” he moaned.
“Didn't they offer you a place?” Wayne asked. “...at St Felicity's?” he added.
“Yeah but there's no way I’d take it.” Alan retorted. Wayne said they'd offered him a place too. “They probably say that to everyone.” Alan figured.
“I took it.” Wayne confessed.
Wayne gulped. “I'm staying at St Flick's.” he said.
“You're kidding!” Alan gulped. Wayne shook his head. “Why?” Alan gasped.
“Because it'll be unbearable if I go back to Cromwell Road and everyone knows we've spent two weeks attending a girl's school.” Wayne explained. “Doesn't it bother you?”
“Course... but Miss Coulton said blah blah blah.” was Alan's lengthy reply. Both Miss Coulton and Mrs Arkwright were at the meeting with the head teacher on Friday afternoon, and between them, they assured Alan that the details of his suspension are held in the strictest confidence.
“Yeah they said that to me too... but anyone might have seen us on the bus, or passed the school gates during break.” Wayne reckoned. “They can't guarantee that word won't get out.”
“No but we can just deny it... and Miss Coulton did say she'd back us if we say we'd been suspended and grounded at home.” Alan stated.
“I'm not gonna risk it... anyway, it's not just about having people laughing at me and taking the piss... uniform aside, St Flick's is a much better school.”
“It'd be better if it wasn't a girl's school.” Alan said, before expressing his utter shock and surprise that Wayne has decided to stay at St Felicity's. “...that's the last thing I expected.”
“Soz.” Wayne frowned. “I'd been thinking about it all week... I just didn't say owt...”
“I wish you had. Then I could have talked you out of it. This is crazy!”
“Not really.” Wayne replied. “It's a better school and I've discovered that I like learning stuff. There's fat chance of that happening at Cromwell Road. It's just crowd control. No wonder we kept nicking off.” he shrugged.
“Yeah but... at least we don't have to dress like girls and answer to girl's names, skip around the playground or attend dance classes.”
“Well apart from skipping around the playground... you still have to do all that.” Wayne reminded him.
“Don't remind me.” Alan sighed, before asking if Wayne would be joining the Saturday dance class too. Wayne wasn't sure and said he hadn't really thought about it. “Oh go on... I’d hate it if it was just me.” Alan said.
“I've already got two dance classes a week... and Saturday's the only day I’ve really got to myself.” Wayne replied. “The downside of staying at St Flick's is that I'm supposed to wear my Sunday dress every Sunday.”
“Yeah, that and about a million others.” Alan grunted.
“I know.” Wayne agreed. “I've just got used to all the other downsides... and I’d much rather play netball than rugby at this time of year.”
“There is that.” Alan replied. “Is that your Mum shouting?”
Wayne turned the radio down. “Wayne!” his mother shouts again.
“Yeah?” he replied, opening the door and leaning over the balustrade.
“WE need to go into town soon... does Alan want to come?” she asked.
“Er... Mum's asking if you wanna come into town with us.”
“Nah... I've already been once.” Alan replied, but he refrained from telling Wayne what for. “I'd better get home.” he said.
The boy's descended the stairs. Alan pushed his arms into the sleeves of his sister's dress coat. What are we going to town for Mum?” Wayne asked.
“Well... now you're staying at St Felicity's, I thought I’d treat you to a new Sunday dress... I saw a lovely one in Debenham's window.”
“Do I need another one?” Wayne gulped.
“Well you can't wear the same one every week... that'd be boring.” his mother said.
Wayne gulped and bit his lip. He glanced at his friend. “Errr... I'd better get home.” Alan said. “I'll see you soon?”
“Sure... I'll come round one night after school if you want.”
“OK.” Alan replied. He walked home feeling a little glum. It's not going to be the same at Cromwell Road without his best mate. He wondered for a moment if he too should have accepted a permanent place at St Felicity's but quickly decided he'd made the right decision. It's OK for Wayne, he can dress like a boy at home. For Alan, the only place he can dress like a boy is when he goes back to Cromwell Road... the rest of the time it's going to be girl's clothes and a girl's room.
He arrived home and told his mother that Wayne had decided to stay at St Felicity's. “Now that surprises me.” his mother retorted. “Still it is a much better school than Cromwell Road.” she added. “And talking of Cromwell Road... look what I dug out.”
Alan gorped at the familiar box pleated skirt and gulped. “I don't have to wear that do I?” he feared.
“Of course.” his mother replied. Alan bit his lip and spent the remainder of the weekend dreading going back to Cromwell Road. On Monday morning his mother put out some clean underwear; knickers, training bra and white pelerine knee socks. She tells him to get dressed before coming down for breakfast...
“If I’d known I had to wear this I’d have stayed at St Flick's with Wayne.” Alan moaned as he sauntered into the kitchen wearing the grey box pleated skirt with white pelerine knee socks and his Mary Jane shoes.
“Oh Alan!” his mother giggled. “I didn't mean you had to wear that skirt at school... it's for after school, when you're doing your homework.”
“Seriously?” Alan asked. His mother grinned and nodded. “Oh thank god for that.” he exclaimed.
“You wouldn't be allowed to wear the girl's uniform at Cromwell Road even if you wanted to.” his mother told him, before suggesting he return to his room and put his trousers and normal school shoes on
Alan bounced out of the kitchen before stopping and turning. “But... why did you put out my girlie undies when I'm wearing the boy's uniform?” he quizzed.
“You always wear girlie undies.” she replied.
“Only when I’m wearing girl's clothes.” he claimed. His mother shook her head and told him that now he's allowed to wear boy's clothes for school, he still has to wear his girlie underwear beneath them.
“Even my bra?”
“Yes... especially your training bra.” his mother replied. “Now go and get changed, you don't want to be late on your first day back.” she smiled.