Mrs Spencer is wiping the windowsill of a back bedroom window when she notices two schoolgirls walking down the alley at the back of the house. She doesn't recognise either of them so they certainly don't live on this terrace, and it's not an alley that leads to anywhere so they can't be taking a short cut. She thinks they're acting suspiciously; the girl with the French braids appears nervous and keeps looking over her shoulder. Mrs Jackson steps back from the window and keeps a covert eye on them. “What are they up to?” she asked herself as they drew to a halt by the back gate. When the gate began to open, she darted down the stairs to find the two intruders sneaking in through the back door “What are you doing in here?!” Mrs Spencer barks. “Get out of my house now or I'll call the police!”
“Mum it's me.” the girl with the French plaits says, looking up at his mother and gulping.
“James!” his mother realises. “What are you doing? Why are you dressed like that?” she gasped, looking him up and down. A pair of black leather ballet shoes are on his feet. His thin legs are clad in thick back tights and a short pleated skirt hangs from his waist. The girl who stands sheepishly beside him is dressed almost identically, although she wears a lilac winter coat whilst he wears a school blazer; and a girls one at that. “You've got make-up on too!” his mother states as she peers into his timid eyes.
“I can explain.” James says.
“Well it'd better be good!” his mother barked. “Come on!” she said, before herding them both into the parlour.
“Can I get changed first?”
“No. I want an explanation!” his mother retorted. “And who are you?” she asked, turning her stern eyes on the girl. “Did you do this?” The girl timidly stated her name and mumbled a 'yes'. “Sit down Sally. You too Jamie.” His mother sat herself opposite and watched with bemusement as her son scooped his skirt and perched on the sofa. His opaque tights stretch over his knees, revealing a hint of the pale flesh beneath. He locks his knees together and smooths his skirt on his lap, before nervously fumbling his fingers. His elevated ankles are turned out and his toes pointed inwards. Sally perches beside him and wears the same worried expression as James. Both wear pale pink lipstick and a touch of eye-liner. “Well?” his mother said.
James gulped. “Er...” he croaked before his nerves got the better of him.
“What about you Sally?” his mother said, casting her eyes on his acquaintance. “Can you explain why my son is dressed like a schoolgirl?” she asked. “You said you did it didn't you?”
Sally gulped and nodded. “I was only trying to help.” she replied. “Otherwise 'Basher' Basham would have got him.”
“Matthew Basham.” Sally reiterated. “The school bully.” she added. “Well... one of them.”
“He was after me at break and I hid in the girl's changing rooms...” James explained. “He waited outside for ages... then Sally came in and...”
“And?” his mother prompted.
“Well...” Sally began. “...I was playing hockey but got a stitch so the teacher told me to take a break in the changing rooms. I found Jamie cowering behind a locker... at first I thought he was a thief or a pervert and almost called the teacher... but he looked like a frightened rabbit, so I figured I’d let him explain himself first.”
I'd been trying to avoid Basher Basham all day long. It began in registration when he said he wanted my dinner money, and would collect it at morning break... so I made sure I avoided him at least until lunchtime. He can't take what I've already spent and eaten. I managed to avoid him at morning break by hiding out in the library. Of course he soon found me in there, but couldn't approach me because I kept the librarian talking about the books I’d need for an imaginary project. Basham and his two lackys loitered and intimidated me from a distance. The librarian eventually told them to leave, and summoned a prefect to escort them back the yard. Even Basher Basham won't mess with a prefect.
At lunch time I legged it to the canteen to ensure that I was as close to the front of the queue as possible. Apart from being in class, the refectory is one of the few safe places since the dinner ladies and hall monitors (wanna be prefects) keep a watchful eye on everyone to ensure order is maintained. It's out in the corridors, school yard and sports field where it's a free for all and the bullies can act out their purile power-trips. I try to ignore the taunts and jeers coming from Basher Basham who's about thirty kids behind me in the queue for the canteen. There's no way I'm going to give him my dinner money and there's no way he'll come this far down the queue to get it. I'd rather face the consequences, or spend the next few days avoiding them until he sets his sights on another unfortunate kid. He picks on anyone who's different; the spectacled, the gingers, the fatties, the short, the spotty, the swotty and the skinny He picks on me because I'm relatively short and skinny, have longish blond hair and according to some, a girl's name.
I didn't enjoy my lunch as much as I should have. A hoard of butterflies bustled in my tummy as I tried to work out how I could avoid Basher Basham for the rest of the day. I took my time and ate my food slowly. Loitering isn't permitted in the refectory so when my plate is clean, one of the monitors will move me on. Thankfully Basher Basham didn't have my forethought. He ate quickly and was soon ejected into the school yard. I knew he'd be waiting for me and knew he'd be angry that I'd spent my dinner money on my lunch rather than surrender it to him. For some unknown reason he was nowhere to be seen when I eventually exited the refectory. I felt constantly on edge, frequently looking over my shoulder, jumping at every shove or shout and fully expecting to be pushed, punched or kicked at any moment. I spent a nervous thirty minutes until the school bell rang and I'd once again be in the relative safety of the classroom.
Basher had been otherwise occupied at lunchtime but he wasn't in the form room. He shot me looks that could kill, threatened to catch up with me and warned me to watch my back at break time. I ignored him as best I could but that's easier said then done. I knew he would catch up with me; if not today, tomorrow. If not this week, then next. After registration we went in opposite directions; him to chemistry class and me to metalwork, but that didn't stop him from threatening me before our paths parted. I had to avoid him throughout the afternoon break but didn't know how. I doubt the librarian would tolerate me twice in one day. The refectory is closed. The toilets are an obvious and futile hideout, as are the boy's changing rooms.
I ended up giving him the run-around for the duration of break. I initially hid out by the bike sheds, but knew he'd find me. I darted to the concealed yard where the wheelie bins are kept but doubled back behind the caretaker's shed, earning me precious moments whilst the notorious bully checked behind and inside the bins. He yelled when he saw me dash toward the kitchen block at the rear of the refectory and gave chase. I threw myself through the double doors and hurtled down the corridor, past the boy's toilets and pushing the door open before disappearing around the corner towards the music room. Whilst he predictably searched the toilets, I got myself as far away as possible, heading back into the yard, through the staff car park and tennis courts to the sports field on the other side of the main building. I was confident that he had no idea where I was, but I had no idea where he was either. Should I hide somewhere or keep moving until the bell rings? I doubt he'll keep up his search after that... and I could turn up for class a few minutes late claiming I’d eaten something dodgy at lunchtime.
Eventually the bell did ring, signalling the end of afternoon break... but much to my annoyance it didn't stop Basher from looking for me. “I know you're here somewhere Jamie... you fag!” he'd say as he searched for me around the outbuildings and storage sheds. I snook away, but my only escape took me further from the main building and the sanctuary of class. All I could do was keep hiding and hope he'd give up looking. I know he hasn't seen me so is following a hunch... and a pretty good hunch to be fair. I found myself a little hideout on some steps at the back of the sports pavilion with a decent vantage point. Basher Basham was searching the outbuildings some twenty yards away, when all of a sudden the door by which I hid burst open! Basher darted behind a shed as I ducked my head. The door pinned me to the wall. I've never felt such fear as a hoard of girls passed within inches of my face, completely unaware of my presence. The PE teacher barked instructions and I sneaked a peek before quickly ducking and hiding. Thirty girls armed with hockey sticks or one school bully? Could this day get any worse? Once I was confident that all the girls had left the building I snook in through the door and let it slowly close behind me. I hoped it'd lead to a corridor but no. I'm in the girl's locker room and it's strictly out of bounds for boys. I decided to stay... confident that the bully wouldn't enter. I covertly spied from a window, looking at the shed he'd hid behind and checking none of the girls were returning. I saw him stealthily dart towards some bushes, then behind a big roller, presumably keeping the shed between him and the hockey pitch. I checked the girls again, then back to Basher whose creeping through the bleachers and gradually working his way towards me. Shit, I think. Then I sigh with relief as he suddenly darts in the opposite direction. Shit! I check on the girls and one is heading back. I look for somewhere to hide and the best I could find in so little time was behind a locker.
Crouching besides the lockers might have been the best hiding place that I could find but that doesn't mean it was a good hiding place. “What the heck are you doing?!” the girl growled when she saw me. “Thieving or perving?”
I was trembling so much I could barely reply. “B.” I began. I tried again and said “Ba.” on the third attepmt I uttered “Basher.” Then I found the nerve to claim that Basher Basham is after me and I'm hiding from him. “He was by the bleachers when you came in.” I said. I sighed in relief when she said she'd seen him. She said he wouldn't come in here, stating that it's an instant suspension if a boy is found in the girl's changing rooms. “Please don't tell anyone.” I begged. “I need to sneak out but he'll catch me and bash me... I've been avoiding him all day.”
“Is he still after your dinner money?” she asked.
“Not since I spent it on my dinner.” I humbly replied. “He's just after bashing me now.”
“Well... I've been excused from the game, and since I believe you, you can hide out in here for a bit.” she suggested.
“Thanks.” I replied, “But I really need to leave... I'm missing class and if I’m found in here I'll get suspended and if he doesn't get me now, he'll get me after school, or tomorrow, or the day after that.”
“Well there's no point worrying about tomorrow when you've got today to deal with.” she said, claiming her grandmother used to say that. “And good for you for not giving him your dinner money. Boys like him are all bark and no bite.”
“You reckon?” I replied. “how come you're not playing hockey anyway?” I asked as my eyes dropped to the menacing hockey stick she wielded.
“I got a stitch.” she said, grabbing her hip before sitting next to me. We chatted for a while about being bullied or belittled. I stated why I felt I was a victim and she claimed that Jamie isn't a girl's name. “I know... he's just being a dick and the others are all sheep... but he really isn't all bark and no bite... he's a proper thug.”
“What you gonna do to get home?”
“Can you outrun him?”
“Hmmm.” she said.
“What's your name?” I asked.
“I'm Jamie... James.”
“I know who you are... we're in the same class... der!”
“I know but I don't know everyone's name.” I replied. “Thanks for not grassing me up.”
“That's OK.” Sally replied. “I've no idea how we're going to get you out of here though... and you're already late for class.”
“I know.” I said. “I could skip class and say I had something dodgy at lunchtime.”
“And stay in here?”
“Well... was thinking of making a run for it and going straight home.”
“But, what if a truant officer caught you, or a copper?” she quizzed. “You can't be out of school in uniform without a good reason.”
“I know.” I said as my head dropped into my hands. I'm in such a big hole and it's only getting bigger. “I should have gone to class at the end of break when I had the chance.”
“Well... there's no point looking back when there's things to do ahead.” she said. I figured she was quoting her grandmother again. “Hey... I've got an idea!” she exclaimed.
“You won't like it... but it could mean we can get you out of here unseen by both the teachers and Basher Basham.”
“How?” I asked. Sally explained and she was right, I didn't like it.
“It'll totally work!” she claimed. “There's loads of stuff in lost property, you can hide in the broom cupboard... no one goes in there ...I can put your hair in bunches and I've got some make-up in my bag and I'll sneak you out at home time.”
“It'll never work.” I reckoned. “I can't spend an hour in the broom cupboard.”
Sally stood up and peered out of the window. “He's still hiding under the bleachers.” she informed me. “If you leave as you are he'll see you and get you... but if you leave as one of us he won't even notice you.”
“Course he would.”
“Not if you're in a group of thirty girls.” she said as she hopped off the bench. “He'll be looking for someone in trousers and a blue ski-jacket with a shabby mop of hair...”
“My hair's not shabby!” I claimed as I swept it off my face. Maybe it is but... “What's that?” I asked as she pulled a big box from beneath one of the corner benches.
“The lost property box.” she said. “There's skirts, tights, shoes, blouses, socks, bras, PE skirts, polo shirts... everything.” she gleefully listed. “You've already got the hair... all I need to do is make it look girlie.”
I didn't like her plan but it was the only plan we had, so with great reluctance, swapped my trousers for skirt, my shirt for a blouse, my socks for a pair of tights and my lace up shoes for a pair of tiny little slip on shoes. Sally put my hair in bunches but they really stood out and looked really stupid, so instead she tied them in two French braids and finished them off with two white ribbons. That looked better, but I still looked like a boy.
James' mother listened in absolute silence. She not at all happy that he's skipped a class, nor is she impressed that bullying seems so rife in the school. She's horrified that her son has gone to such measures to avoid one of them, and is worried what will happen tomorrow when their paths will inevitably meet once more. All the time he and sally explained how James came to be dressed as he is, she couldn't help but look at his dainty black shoes and opaque black tights. The nylon is stretched over his knees which have been nervously knocking together from the moment he sat. Sally described applying his make-up before hiding him in the broom cupboard. “And you hid in there until the end of class?” she asked. James nodded. “And you were still in there when the girls were getting changed?” she quizzed.
James gulped and nodded. “I couldn't see anything though... the door was shut and even if it wasn't it's in a corridor, not the actual changing room.” he claimed.
“I see.” his mother replied. “What would you have done if someone found you?” she asked. “I can't imagine how you'd explain being in the girl's changing room, hiding in a cupboard wearing the girl's uniform.” she said.
“Well...” James began. He had imagined that very thing and explained to his mother that he'd yelp and jump out, claiming he'd been locked in for ages and instantly run off. “...trying to sound as girlie as possible.” he added in a dire high-pitched 'girl' voice.
“Well you'd have to try much harder than that.” his mother said, chuckling. “You might look the part but you certainly can't talk the part.” she said. Both James and Sally looked as sheepish as hell as they sat side by side on the sofa. “So after sneaking out of the cupboard, you got yourselves back here without incident?” she quizzed.
“Yes.” Sally replied. She described how, when the school bell rang, she snook Jamie out of the cupboard and they simply mingled in with the exiting crowd and no one batted an eyelid. “We were just two girls in a big group of girls.” she said. “And Basher Basham was still waiting for Jamie to emerge... I wouldn't be surprised if he's still there now.” she smiled.
“I must admit it all sounds too fantastic to believe.”
“It's true Mum... honest.” James insisted.
“Oh I'm sure it is.” his mother replied. “And I must say Sally... you've made him look very convincing.” she complimented. “Did the blazer come from the lost property box too?”
“No... that's mine.” Sally replied. “Basher would have spotted him instantly if he'd worn his ski-jacket.”
“And where is your ski jacket?” his mother quizzed. “And the rest of your uniform for that matter?”
“His jacket's in my hockey bag.” Sally replied, putting her hand on the sizeable bag beside her.
“And my uniform's in my bag.” James added.
“And where's your bag?” his mother asked.
“Inside this one.” he said, grabbing the lilac polka-dot backpack that sat by his feet. He unzipped it to reveal his own messenger style bag.
“Did that come from lost property too?” his mother asked. James and Sally nodded in unison. “And nobody asked who you were?” his mother enquired. “No one said who's the new girl? as you filtered out of the school gates?”
James looked at Sally and Sally shook her head. “We just scuttled off in the opposite direction to what Basher would expect Jamie to go.” she said.
“So which way did you go?” James' mother asked. Between them they described the route which was about three times longer than the direct route home. “You walked all that way, dressed like that?”
James gulped and nodded. “I don't think anyone recognised me... and we snook down the back alley instead of using the front door.” he explained.
“And almost gave me a heart attack in the process!” his mother exclaimed.
“Yeah... sorry bout that.” Jamie shyly replied.
“Well... all's well that ends well I suppose.” his mother said. “Stand up, let's have a proper look at you.”
“Oh Mu-um!” James moaned as he sheepishly stood.
He became increasingly bashful as his mother looked him up and down, commented on how nice his legs look and that she likes his shoes. “They're not mine... they're lost property.” he reminded her.
“And you're going to return them tomorrow?” she asked. James hung his head, he hadn't thought about that. His mother suggested a scenario in which he returns the items to the lost property box and has to explain to a teacher why he'd borrowed a skirt, some tights and a pair of girl's shoes from it. “...and a blouse by the looks of it.” she added, before suggesting he remove the blazer.
He did and handed it to Sally, since it belongs to her. “Oh mu-um.” he bashfully moaned when his mother told Sally how nice his hair looks; tied in two very neat braids.
“That lipstick's nice too. It suits you.” she said.
“He moaned and moaned when I told him that he'd have to wear make-up too.” Sally claimed. “But he looked like a proper plain Jane without it.”
“Oh mu-um... you're embarrassing me.” James whined when his mother said that he looks quite pretty with it.
“Yeah but you do look pretty Jamie.” Sally said.
“I am going to have to contact the school tomorrow.” his mother stated. James pleaded with her not too, claiming that he'd get suspended if they knew he'd hidden in the girl's locker room. “I very much doubt it under the circumstances.” his mother replied. “Now I see no reason to even mention the girl's locker room or how you managed to get out unnoticed... but if as you say, this 'Basher' Basham is always taking dinner money off boys smaller than he is, then something needs to be done about it.”
“I know but... the teachers or prefects can't be everywhere... he'd catch up with me eventually.”
“Well you need to stand up to him.”
“I can't Mum... I'm not a fighter. Give me the choice of running away or standing my ground and I’ll run away every time.” James replied. “That's how I ended up in this.” he added, grabbing his little pleated shirt and lifting it a little.
His mother emitted a nervous chortle. “Well... I suppose it's better than getting beaten up.”
“Exactly.” James retorted. “Can I get changed now?” he asked.
“Well I suppose. And I expect you'll have to be getting yourself home too Sally.” she replied. “Your parents will be worried if you're late.”
“I'll be OK for a while yet.” Sally replied. “I often go to an after school club or saunter around town on my way home.”
“Well at least give them a ring, let them know where you are?” James' mother insisted, before enquiring where she lived. “Well... I'll give you a lift home.” she offered. “You've saved my son from a bully so it's the least I can do.”
“No... honestly Mrs Spencer, it's OK.” Sally bashfully replied. “It was nothing, really.”
“Well... how about staying for supper?”
“Erm...” Sally looked to James who didn't appear to be objecting to the idea. “...if that's OK?” she said. Both James and his mother said it was. “Thanks.” Sally smiled. “I'd better ring my folks though.”
During the time it had taken for James and Sally to walk from the pavilion to the main gates, Matthew 'basher' Basham was watching the pavilion from his viewpoint by the bleachers. Matthew would have seen Jamie if he'd snook out from either the front or back entrance... and having just watched all the girls and the PE teacher exit the pavilion and no sign of James, Matthew figured that Jamie must still be inside and covertly entered the building. There's a veranda facing the cricket pitch with patio doors leading to a corridor running the width of the pavilion. One half of the rectangular building is a small hall, and the other is a changing room and showers which the girl's exclusively use unless there's a cricket match, and between the two is a toilet block. Matthew searched every nook and cranny, including the broom cupboard which James had actually hidden in and exited no more than five minutes previously. Matthew checked the hall, the toilets and finally the girl's changing room and showers. He knew a boy of James' age would never fit inside one of the many lockers, but that didn't stop him from checking every last one of them. The door that leads from the back of the pavilion is locked so there's no way James could have exited through that, and Matthew is certain that James must have entered through it. After all he saw him hiding on the steps before the girls came out and the entire pavilion has been in his sights until he himself entered.
It didn't cross Matthew's mind that James might have snook out amongst the girls, wearing a girl's uniform gathered from the items in the lost property box. After searching the whole building twice, he figured that James must be long gone. He could have snook off when Matthew was darting from the shed to the trees, then hiding behind the big roller before sneaking under the bleachers... but it's from there that he;s sure he saw James hiding on the steps. Baffled and annoyed, Matthew gave up and decided to head home. He'd deal with Jamie Spencer the following day... or so he thought.
He would have exited the changing rooms had a group of girls not blocked the entrance. “What are doing in here!” a little girl at the front snapped.
“Shut up shrimp and shift!” Matthew barked and he marched toward them, fully expecting them to step aside.
“No!” the girl spat. “You're not supposed to be in here and when the teacher arrives, you're in big trouble!”
“Not if I can help it.” Matthew said as he tried to barge through them. They didn't budge. If anything, they bulked together and made it even harder for him to pass.
“Grab 'im!” the girl instructed and all her friends did just that. Before he knew it, Matthew was on the floor curled in a ball as around twenty first year girls pummelled him, pulled his hair and tugged his clothes.
On seeing the squealing crowd in the entrance to the changing room, the teacher fully expected to find two girls fighting. The last thing she expected to find was a third year boy being beaten up by a gang of first year girls. “What's going on here?” she barked.
“He was in the changing rooms miss... waiting for us... he tried to escape so we grabbed him until you came.”
Matthew couldn't explain himself. He'd been caught red handed in the girl's changing rooms and with twenty witnesses and no excuses, Matthew knew he was in big trouble. He tried and failed to lie his way out of it but he wasn't a very good liar. The truth would also land him in deep deep trouble so he couldn't revert to that.
Whilst Mrs Spencer was jumping out of her skin discovering two schoolgirls in her kitchen, Matthew 'basher' Basham was being marched to the headmaster's office by a very annoyed PE teacher with twenty triumphant girls in tow.
The following day I was worried sick about facing Basher Basham. Thanks to Sally, I'd given the bully a complete run-around yesterday but I don't think I'll be quite so lucky today. Mum said she'd call the school about him but I pleaded with her not to. Instead, I said I talk to one of the teachers about his behaviour towards some of us 'weaklings'. “Well make sure you do... and if he does try to steal your dinner money again, don't give it to him.” Mum advised.
“I won't.” I replied.
“Are you going to return the uniform?” Mum asked.
“I'd rather not.” I said. “It'd be too tricky trying to explain why I'd borrowed it.”
“True.” Mum agreed. “And the class you skipped?”
“Well... I could say I felt sick and came home, but that'd be lying.”
“Well... under the circumstances, I think a white lie is better than the truth.” Mum replied, before saying she'd back up my story should anyone from school contact her.
“Thanks Mum.” I replied.
After breakfast, I grabbed my bag and headed off to school. The morning sun hangs low in the sky. Every breath condenses in a big plume of vapour. I adopt a winter hunch and plunged my hands deep inside my pockets. It felt good to be back in long trousers again after yesterday's long walk home. I always imagined that the girls must be freezing at this time of year, but having experienced their uniform, I'm not convinced that my long trousers are any warmer than their thick tights.
The direct route to school takes me through a local park, and I'm surprised to find Sally waiting on a bench. “Hi Sally... what you doing here?” I asked.
“Waitin' for you.” she replied. “How was your Mum after I left?” she asked.
“Fine.” I replied. “I'm gonna tell 'em that I went home early yesterday and Mum's gonna back me up.” I informed her. “She said a white lie is better than the truth.”
“Yeah... I think she's right.” Sally agreed. “You worried about Basher?”
“Yeah.” I glumly replied, before telling her what else was worrying me.
“I won't tell anyone.” she said. “That'd defeat the whole point of me helping you out.”
“You promise?” I asked. “It's pretty juicy gossip you've got.”
“What? I dressed Jamie Spencer as a girl to help him evade Basher Basham?”
“Something like that.” I glumly replied.
“Well I won't.” she told me. “No one would believe me anyway... no one noticed you.” she claimed, reminding me that even my own mother didn't recognise me at first.
“I've never crapped myself so much in my life.”
“Well she saw the funny side of it.”
“Was there a funny side?”
“You know what I mean.” Sally replied. “She thought you looked cute as a girl.”
“Tell me about it... after you'd gone I wanted to change but Mum said I had to do my homework first, so I ended up wearing it most of the evening... she even took a photo!”
“Is it a good one?”
“I dunno... doesn't really look much like me so, I guess.” I replied.
“You did look like you... just a pretty you.” she said. “Was your hair all wavy when you took your plaits out?”
“Yeah... and mum kept fussing over it.” I confessed. Sally grinned and asked if I wanted to sit with her in class today. “Can I?” I eagerly asked.
“Cool.” I smiled. But then I had a little think and figured it might be best of we don't. “If Basher Basham sees us being all friendly all of a sudden, he might put two and two together... I'm pretty sure he saw me enter the pavilion and he certainly saw you return.”
“And from that he'll work out that I'd disguised you as a girl and snook you out with the others?”
“Well... maybe not in such detail... but he might suss something.” I said. “...or think that I'm hiding behind a girl.” I added.
“Fair enough... maybe tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I smiled.
We separated as we neared the school gates and entered our form room seperately. I sat in my usual seat and Sally sat in hers, but we shared a few smiles across the classroom. I glanced around expecting Basher Basham to be staring menacingly at me, but there was no sign of him... not yet anyway. There's ten minutes to go. “Where were you yesterday?” one of the lads asked.
“Er... I went home with a dicky stomach.” I replied, before warning against the fish dish at lunchtime.
Eventually the teacher entered and took the register, but there was still no sign of Basher. After registration, the class was dismissed and I was asked to stay behind. “Why weren't you in History class yesterday afternoon?” my form teacher asked. I repeated the 'sick stomach' story. “Didn't you tell a teacher or go the the school nurse first?” he quizzed.
“No sir.” I replied. “It came on all of a sudden at break. I kept throwing up in the toilets and then went straight home... I was really ill.”
“Really?” he asked, clearly not believing me. “Well I’ll be contacting your parents... were they at home when you returned?”
“My mum was.” I told him.
“Well if your story doesn't check out, you're in big trouble young man.” he said before sending me to my first class of the day.
I became increasingly nervous as morning break approached. Basher could have simply turned up late and may well be looking for me. But there was still no sign of him. Sally approached and asked what the form teacher wanted. “Asking where I was yesterday afternoon.”
“Thought so... did he believe you?” she asked.
“I doubt it, but he's gonna check with my mum so...” I shrugged. Mum had corroborated my excuse and I knew she'd back me up, but the fact I was lying and knowing my teacher suspected that was the case didn't sit easy with me.
“You'll never guess what I just heard?”
“Basher's been suspended!”
“Apparently he was caught in the girl's changing rooms after school.”
“He must have gone in after we left!”
“I guess so.”
“Well... that gets him of my back few a few days.” I said, before asking how long he'd been suspended for.
“Dunno.” Sally replied. “Good news though eh?!” she said.
“It's excellent news... 'till he gets back... then I'm probably dead meat.” I glumly replied
Rumours were rife about Basher that morning. Some were clearly made up or extremely exaggerated, but it appears that a group of girls restrained him until the teacher turned up. At afternoon registration the form teacher held me back again and told me that he'd contacted my mother and that my story checked out, before telling me to notify a teacher before leaving the school grounds in future. “Yes sir... sorry sir.” I said.
“Well I hope so. Your mother said you looked like death warmed up when you got home.”
“I felt awful sir.” I dramatically replied.
“Well, so long as you're better now.” he said. “On your way boy.”
“Yes sir.” I said. “Sir?”
“Is it true that Matthew Basham got beaten up by some first year girls?” I asked.
A wry smile swept his face as he tried to answer me seriously. He told me that Matthew had been found somewhere he shouldn't have been and got his comeuppance. “Lucky for him a teacher arrived before they did him any real harm.” the form teacher added. The grin he bore spoke volumes. “Now run along.” he said.
“Yes sir.” I said before turning and leaving. I giggled all the way to my next class. The notorious bully has been toppled by some eleven year old girls... he'll never live that one down!
I couldn't wait to tell Mum the news when I got home, but she wasn't as impressed with the outcome as I was. “If it wasn't for you skipping class, he'd have never ended up in the changing room and wouldn't have been suspended.”
“And if he'd never threatened to steal my dinner money and bash me... I wouldn't have been running away from him in the first place.”
“Well I suppose... but don't be too happy with someone else's downfall. Hopefully he'll learn from this.”
“I doubt it. I'm off the hook for the rest of the week but he'll be back on Monday.”
“Did you speak to your teacher about him?”
“Not about him being a bully... I guess I forgot with all the rumours going around.”
“Well make sure you do.” Mum said. “Your from teacher rang today... I told him you looked like death warmed up when you got home.”
“Yeah he told me.” I said. “Good job you didn’t' tell him what I really looked like.”
Mum smiled a beaming smile. “I think that's something best kept between us.” Mum suggested.
Later after completing my homework and changing out of my uniform, I asked my mother why the skirt and blouse was hanging in my wardrobe. “Weren't you sending it to charity?” I asked.
“Well... I was going to but...”
“I figured it would be a nice keepsake.”
“Yesterday was an eventful day.”
It certainly was... and not one I’ll forget in a hurry. “I'm not sure that I want to keep it though.” I said. “It's not like I’ll ever wear it again.”
“Hmm.” Mum replied. “You wore it well though... and you didn't exactly look 'uncomfortable' dressed as a girl.” she said.
“It certainly felt uncomfortable.” I replied, describing how petrified I was when we were walking out with all the other girls and how fearful I was that I'd be recognised. “Every time the wind blew I thought it'd lift my skirt, and god knows how those tiny little shoes stayed on my feet... I was in a constant state of worry 'til we got back here.”
“That's what I mean... once you'd got home and once we'd spoken, you seemed to just relax... as if wearing a skirt was no big deal.”
“Well it wasn't really.” I replied. “It was at first when we were walking home from school but after a while it felt quite normal.” I said, before telling her that I always figured it'd be really cold for the girls, wearing only a skirt and tights in the winter. “...but this morning I discovered that my school trousers aren't any warmer.” I said. “I kinda wish I had those tights on underneath.”
“Well they're in your drawer.” Mum said. “It's going to be just as cold tomorrow.” she added.
“Have you washed them?” I quizzed.
“Yes.” Mum replied. “...and the training bra.” she added.
I blushed. I didn't think Mum knew about that and when I did finally get changed last night I stuffed it under my pillow hoping she wouldn't find it. She asked why I’d worn a training bra and I reluctantly told the truth. “Sally found it in the lost property box and said it'd help me get into character.” I replied. “Doesn't make much sense but...” I tailed off, not really knowing how to explain.
“Well it makes sense to me... if you were going to pass as a girl you needed to feel like one.”
“Yeah I guess.” I replied. “Not that I did... I just felt like me in a skirt.” I added. Mum went on to unnerve me. She told me that the training bra is in my underwear drawer, the tights are in my sock drawer, the shoes are under my bed and the skirt & blouse are in my wardrobe... just in case I wanted to feel like me in a skirt again.
Sally wasn't waiting for me in the park the next morning. I didn't think she would be but I kinda hoped she was... if only to tell her that I felt cosy and warm in the chilly winter air thanks to the thick black tights I'm wearing beneath my trousers. I'd pulled a pair of socks over them so they'd remain unseen, plus my shoes felt a bit big without socks. I entered the form room and panned the class. Sally smiled at me and pulled out the vacant chair besides her. I gulped and made my way over. “Hiya.” I smiled.
“Hi.” Sally smiled. “Well it's official... Basher's been suspended for the rest of the week and a first year girl gave him a black eye, and burst his lip!”
I sniggered. “He's probably claiming he was beaten up by an ex-marine... six foot tall and built like a...”
The teacher silenced the class and informed us of what I'd just been told, but with the additional detail of cracked ribs. “...when Matthew returns next Monday, he'll still be battered and bruised, so I want you all to go easy on him. We all know he was a bully but I don't want him to become a victim... he's suffered enough so...” He finished his lecture with a pursed yet empathetic smile before calling out the register.
“Blimey... those girls must have really laid into him!” I covertly said to Sally. “If you hadn't helped me out it'd have been me!”
“I hadn't thought of that!” she gasped. “Good job I did.” she said.
“It is.” I replied. “...even if my Mum does keep dropping hints about me wearing those clothes again.”
“Does she?” Sally asked. I nodded. “Well that's not so bad... maybe seeing you dressed as a schoolgirl has made her pander for a daughter.” she suggested.