Karen's Café: part three

 New to this story?

You'll probably want to read parts one and two first.

~o0o~


The first thing I thought of when I woke was the weather. I checked the forecast before bed which stated that Wednesday was going to be 18ºC, but checking the forecast again, it's saying it's gonna be 19º now. “What if it reaches twenty?” I thought, knowing that the forecasts aren't always entirely accurate. Mum noticed that something was on my mind over breakfast, but I assured her I was OK. “Having second thoughts about joining in with the protest?” she asked.

“Kind of.” I said. “But it's stupid that we can't wear shorts when the girls can choose.”

“Boys can choose too.” Mum said.

“Yeah but...”

“And they all wear shorts under their skirts so it's not like you'd just be wearing a skirt.”

“Yeah I know.” I frowned. I tried to imagine what it would be like as I walked to school. I envisaged everyone giving me a second glance, and giggling at my legs, and wondered (worried) how I’d justify the fact that there's no hair on my legs. I considered mentioning the summer shorts protests to my friends, but thought better of it. They'd only think I was weird, or worse, so I kept it to myself all day.

The girl approached me after school and showed me a weather app on her phone. “You're sailing close to the wind, Simon.” she smugly told me.

The forecast said 18 last night.” I glumly replied. “I know.” she said. “It's supposed to be nineteen tomorrow.”

“And what if it turns out to be twenty?” I grimly asked.

“Well it wouldn't be fair if the forecast is wrong would it now.” she smugly replied. “I'll play by the rules if you will.” she said, telling me that whatever temp the weather forecast states the day before determines whether or not I wear a skirt the next day.

“But... what if it says twenty and it turns out only be eighteen?” I gulped.

“Then I hope you'll be wearing a skirt.” she told me. “It wouldn't be fair if the forecast is wrong.” she reiterated.

“But... what if we're looking at different forecasts?” I asked. “The weather on the BBC isn't always the same as ITV.”

“Tell you what... give me your number so I can text you the forecast from my weather app.”

“I'm not giving you my number!” I retorted.

“Just so you know I'm not cheating.” she replied.

“Huh... cheating?!” I sneered. “You're blackmailing me!” I snarled.

“It's hardly blackmail... there's no money involved.” she replied.

“What is it then?” I growled.

“Encouragement.” she answered. “We love it when the boys wear skirts and I think there should be more of it.” she told me.


“Why though?” I sighed.

“Why not?” she asked. “You're clearly not averse to wearing skirts... and for the record, I think you look cool dressed as a waitress.”

“Thanks.” I dryly retorted. “It should be my choice if I wear one for school though.”

“Well if you don't want to play then don't.” she snarked. “You choice is entirely yours.” she told me. “Now are you going to give me your number or not?” she asked.

I sighed the longest of sighs. “07555...” I began.

She keyed my number into her phone and said she'd send me a text. It arrived within seconds. “Got it?” she asked.

“Hannah Bannanna?”

“At your service” she confidently replied. “See you tomorrow.” she grinned as she began to walk away. I almost jumped out of my skin when a car behind beeped its horn. I turned to see my sister, smiling and waving at me. I climbed inside.

“Who's that you were talking to?” she asked, presumably having witnessed us exchanging numbers.

“Just some girl.” I shrugged as I put my phone away.

“She looks nice.” Karen commented.

“Hmm.” was my non-committal reply. If only she knew! I thought as she drove me to the uniform supplier on the edge of town.

“I wish the boys did this when I was still at school.” my sister commented as she pulled up outside.

“Why didn't they?” I replied.

“Dunno?” she quizzed. “I guess because we didn't have gender neutrality.” she said. “These days wearing a skirt isn't breaking the rules.”

The store assistant greeted us with a cheery hello before asking if she could help. “We're looking for a skirt for Broadoak High.” my sister replied. “...for my brother.” she added.

The assistant didn't seem at all phased but I could feel myself blushing. Karen informed her that I'll be taking part in the protest against the shorts ban this year. “I see.” the assistant replied. “We'll have to get you measured up.” she said, grabbing a tape measure from behind the counter. I stated my waist size as she unrolled the tape. She smiled and told me that my actual waist isn't the same as my trouser waist, before asking me to put my arms up so she could measure me. The tape sat a good few inches higher than my trousers, and the size she declared was a couple of inches smaller than that I'd stated. “Can you put you hands flat on your lap.” she asked. “Arms dead straight.” she said. “That's right.” she smiled, before measuring from my waist down to just beyond my fingertips. “Twenty-seven, twenty-four should be a nice fit for you.” she smiled, before heading to a rail which held numerous skirts in several styles; the girls grammar school, the City Academy, Headington High, Northfield, St Andrew's and Broadoak. I gulped as she selected a skirt in the distinctive grey plaid. “The changing room's just here.” she said, opening a curtain. Bashfully, I suggested that I needn't try it on, but my sister insisted I should. The assistant agreed.

This is soo embarrassing, I thought as I shut the curtain behind me and kicked off my shoes, followed by my trousers. I was as nervous as hell as I opened the curtain. “It's too short.” I claimed.

“It's the perfect length for Broadoak.” the assistant told me. “Their skirts are thigh length rather than knee length.”

“She's right Simon.” Karen told me.

“Put you hands flat on your lap again.” the assistant asked. I did. “Two inches beyond your fingertips is a good rule of thumb and that's absolutely perfect.”

“I think so to.” Karen smiled. “He'll take it.” she said, before asking the price.

“Two for thirty pounds.” the assistant replied.

“I don't need two.” I stated.

“We tend to sell them in pairs so you've got one to wash and one to wear.” the assistant replied, adding that they're twenty pounds each.

“Oh well in that case we'll take two.” my sister replied, turning her eyes on my skirt and legs. “Your shoes look really clumpy.” she told me, screwing her nose at my boyish footwear. I looked down at my shoes they do clumpy... but I didn't think I'd need new shoes too. “We may as well have a look whilst we're here.” she said, adding that she's not going to suggest ballet shoes. “These look nice.” she said, removing a pair of black lace-up shoes in the brogue style from the girls' display.

“But they're girls.” I replied. The assistant said it was definitely a unisex style and after a bit of toing and froing, I ended up trying a pair in my size. My own shoes have a thick padded collar and tongue, plus a chunky raised seam around the toe whereas these are much more slender in style and feel both light and comfortable, so I hesitantly decide to buy them too.

“How about some of these.” my sister grinned, gesturing to some white knee high school socks.

“Err... no.” I bluntly replied, knowing full well she was teasing me.

“Or these.” she chuckled, removing a pair of those horrendous ankle socks with the frilly lace cuffs.

Mum is a little overwhelmed that I've not only bought two skirts, but new shoes too. Having to try them so Mum could see how I looked was inevitable. “Trainer liners would look better than ankle socks.” Mum commented.

“Yeah.” I hesitantly agreed. “I'm beginning to regret shaving my legs.” I added.

“You'd look ridiculous with hairy legs.” Mum replied.

“I know but I think that's the whole point of these protests.”

“Well you can always stop shaving if you want to look silly... nothing wrong with protesting in style.” my mother smiled. “How much did you spend?” she asked. “That's quite a lot!” she exclaimed.

“Well I've still got plenty of money in the back after working for Karen over Easter.” I replied. “...and I can't exactly expect you to pay for this.” I added.

“At least I don't have to buy you new school shoes for next term.” Mum smiled, adding that my brogues look very smart.

“They don't look too girlie do they?” I queried.

“Not at all... why?”

“Because they are girls.” I said. “They've got floral insoles.” I stated. I went to my room and removed the skirt and shoes. I never imagined that accepting a job in my sister's café would have led to this, I thought as I hung the two skirts in my wardrobe, alongside my black waitress skirts which are actually a couple of inches shorter.

The prospect of actually going to school wearing a skirt sends me into a mild panic every time I think about it. That girl has got me over a barrel and I don't half know it. I grab my phone as I never had chance to read the text she'd sent me before Karen picked me up. I suspect Bannanna isn't her surname, but at least I know her first name. The text she sent me wasn't just any text... she sent me the video she'd taken through the café window. I wonder when she shot it. Over Easter or more recently? It's been a good three weeks since I covered a shift at the café. I watched the video several times, partly cursing the fact that it exists and partly just observing myself at work. The little white apron really stands out against my all black outfit, especially the perfect bow on the back as I walk back towards the counter.

An hour or so later I receive another text from Hannah. It's a screen shot from her weather app showing that tomorrow's forecast is a predicted high of 17ºC with a low of 9ºC. I texted back with the message “I presume it's the high we're going by?” she replied with “Of course.”

“Are you going to wear your skirt tomorrow?” Mum asked over supper.

“No.” I told her, stating that the temperature is only seventeen degrees.

“Aren't you worried about what your friends will say?” Mum quizzed.

“A bit.” I replied. “But I've been worried about what they'd say if they ever found out I've been working as a waitress.” I added.

“Are you going to tell them about that?”

“Not if I can help it.” I said. “My waitress uniform is far more incendiary than a school skirt... and at least I can justify my school skirt because of the shorts ban.”

“Yes but we all know it's got nothing to with the shorts ban and everything to do with the fact that you enjoy dressing as a girl.” Mum stated.

I wanted to come clean about being blackmailed there and then... but my pride got in the way. I didn't know what to say and thankfully, my sister said something. “Are you going to tie your hair up?” she asked.

“Err.... probably not.” I replied. “I think the other kids would read too much into it if I wore a ponytail as well.”

“Or bunches.” Mum grinned. I frowned at her. “After school.” she added. “When you're doing your homework.” she smiled, probably imagining me with my hair in bunches.

I didn't see Hannah at school the next day, but I received a text from her in the evening. A screen-shot of her weather app accompanied with a sad emoticon. The predicted high is a mere 14ºC. “Phew!” I replied.

I did see her on Friday and the first thing she said was “Shame about the weather.”

“It can stay like this all summer for me.” I retorted, before asking which class she was in.

“9C.” she replied. “Why?”

“You're in year nine?!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah.”

“So I'm not only being blackmailed by a girl, but one in the year below me!”

“It's not blackmail Simon.” she replied. I raised a quizzical eyebrow. “I see it as more of an agreement.” she told me. “Between friends.” she said.

“We're hardly friends!” I retorted. “I didn't even know you before Tuesday.” I stated.

“And we're texting each other already.” she grinned. One the one hand I despised this girl but on the other, I was in awe of just how brash she was being with me. “Have you err...” she began. “...actually got a school skirt?”

“None of your business.” I grumbled.

“Well it's supposed to brighten up next week, so I suggest you ask your Mum to get you one.” she told me as she began to slope away. “See you Monday.” she chirped, adding that she'd text me on Sunday.

I turned and began to walk, only to see a group of my classmates watching from a short distance. “That your girlfriend?” one asked.

“No.” I bluntly stated. Typically, they jeered and sneered at my denial. Initially I walked past them, but backtracked and said, “Hey... any of you gonna join in with the shorts protest this year?”

“The what?”

“The protest against the ban on short trousers.” I said.

“Err.... nah.” they replied, seeming a bit bemused.

“Apparently they're taking place whenever the temperature is forecast for twenty degrees or more.” I told them. “Spread the word.” I suggested, before wondering off.

Sometimes, a really great idea pops into one's head and out of their mouth at the very same moment, and that, I think is what just happened. If I can spread a rumour about when this years protest will go ahead, then it won't seem so weird if/when I turn up to school wearing a skirt... even if I'm the only one, others would have heard the rumours. “Genius!” I said to myself. Or not... I thought as I focused on a couple of girls walking ahead of me. My legs are as hairless as theirs! How am I supposed to justify that? I tried not to think about it.

As usual, Mum asked how school was when I got home. “OK.” I replied. Predictably, she asked if I had much homework and as usual I replied, “A bit.”

“Are you going to put your school skirt on?”

“Err... I wasn't planning on it.” I said. “Why?”

“No reason.” Mum replied, adding that she figured I would wear it after school, to get used to it if nothing else. “How are your new shoes?” she asked, looking me up and down.

“OK.” I replied. “I've been half expecting someone to point out that they're girl's shoes but...” I shrugged.

“They don't look like girl's shoes.” Mum replied.

“I know.” I humbly agreed. “I guess I'm just worrying about nothing.”

I didn't wear my skirt whilst doing my homework, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about how I could spread the rumour about the shorts protest. I very much doubt the three lads I told at school will do it for me. Spreading it via FaceBank is the key, I figured... but I don't want to be seen as the primary source. I cast my mind back to previous years. The protests were featured on several national news websites and those articles got thousands of shares and retweets in the days following. I decided that I could open up a Twitter account under a pseudonym, and sign up to The Student Room forum and post my tweet on that, from which I could get retweeted or shared on FaceBank. I began thinking about what to put on Twitter. Fight for the right to wear shorts for school! ...followed by info on which days the protests would be held. The hard part is saying everything I need to say whilst keeping it under 280 characters.

I put my school books away and changed into a T shirt and some cargo shorts before going down for dinner. Afterwards, I returned to my room, booted up my laptop and typed in a few google searches to see if there were any planned school protests but found nothing. I did find numerous reports from previous years' protests on both local and national news websites, and as far as I could tell, not one school had given in and permitted short trousers to be worn. Several, it seems had done precisely what my school had done and stated that boys are welcome to wear skirts if their trousers are too warm, effectively calling their bluff. Some schools, I discovered, don't permit long trousers and the boys wear shorts all year round. I wonder how they cope in the middle of winter?

I got so engrossed in my online search for information that I almost convinced myself that I was joining the fight to lift the ban on short trousers, but then it dawned on me why I'm really putting so much thought into this. I picked up my phone and watched the video Hannah had sent me... the video of me working as a waitress. I gulped at the thought of that being posted on FaceBank. My little black skirt and bright white apron, long thin stockinged legs and my hair tied in a high pony tail. It's not obvious that I'm wearing make-up but it is obvious that it's me. I sat back and sighed.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the video did get out. At least I wouldn't have to lie to my friends any more... not that I really done since Easter as the evenings I cover are few and far between. But I can imagine them flocking to my sister's café to point and jeer at me... or do as Hannah did and take covert pictures of me. I'd like to think that my friends wouldn't be so mean but I can imagine other kids from my class or year doing just that. I know it's best that that video doesn't get out and I return to thinking about how I can start a rumour to justify me wearing a skirt to school. I check next weeks weather forecast and it seems likely that it might reach at least twenty degrees later in the week, which gives me less than a week to think of something.

I have a look in FaceBank just to check that Hannah hasn't broken her word and posted the video. She hasn't, thankfully. I scroll through my timeline; the messages, photos, rants, ramblings, music videos and memes... clicking 'like' and posting smilies here and there as one does. Then it dawned on me! Instead of a text tweet, I should make a poster instead. They say an image travels far quicker than text, so I boot up photoshop and get to work.

Under the banner of Fight for the Right to Wear Shorts at School, I position a cartoon image of a boy and a girl in school uniform; her in a skirt and him in shorts and ask the question Why are her legs accepted but his are banned? I feel incredibly proud of myself as I add the statement Stop skirtnig the issue! followed by What's the difference? I loose track of time as try different fonts, sizes, positions and colours until I'm happy with the layout. Beneath the image I put We DEMAND the right to wear shorts for school! Join the Protest, Wear a Skirt! ...and in small letters at the very bottom, I put when the temprature is 20º or more. I've chuffed with what I've done but am slightly shocked that I've spent over three hours doing it.

I head downstairs and make myself a drink and a snack. Mum asks what I've been doing. “Just playing on my laptop.” I casually reply.

“You boys and your video games.” she sighed, rolling her eyes and smiling.

I decided to let Mum believe that's what I'd been up to all evening, but part of me wanted to show her the poster I'd spent all evening doing. I stayed up for another hour or so watching TV with my mother. Karen returned home as I was preparing to go to bed. She looked shattered and being the friendly brother, I offered to make her a cup of tea. She graciously declined, went straight to the fridge and poured herself a glass of wine. “How was work?” I asked.

“Typical Friday.” she replied. “Run off our feet from start to finish.” she told me. “We probably could have done with you tonight.”

“Was someone off?” I asked.

“No but the weekends are getting busier and busier.” she said.

“You need a bigger café.” I replied. “More than three waitresses would mean we'd be bumping into each other.”

“True.” she replied. “You still up for coming back next month?”

“Is it next month?” I quizzed, adding that the summer holidays are two months away.

“Universities break up in June.” she told me. “In four weeks time.”

“Really? I didn't think it'd be that soon.” I said. Karen nodded and said she needs to know, otherwise she'll have to start advertising. “No I'm up for it... I like having a healthy bank account.”

“Cool.” she smiled.

Karen took the weight off her feet and sat with Mum. I took myself upstairs and had another look at the poster I'd designed and corrected a few glaring spelling and grammatical errors before putting myself to bed. I imagined the poster going viral on FaceBank. I imagined people printing it to paper and fastening it around lamp posts on the streets around school... not just my school but up and down the country! I knew it wouldn't happen but one can dream can't they?

The next day, I looked at my design with a fresh pair of eyes and didn't like the fact that it stated 'the right to wear shorts for school' twice. I'd also used four different fonts which didn't look as good as I'd initially thought. I did a bit of tweaking here and there and came up with a genius headline to replace Fight for the right to wear shorts in school. I sat back and felt very very proud of myself. Now all I have to do is try to get it to go viral on social media, so I signed up to Twitter with an obscure username and watched a few online videos which explained all about the hashtags, trends and how to get people to follow me.

I returned to twitter and had two followers already! I haven't even tweeted anything yet. I typed #schooluniform into the search box and was presented with loads of pictures of Japanese school girls, anime and manga school girls and some pictures that I wouldn't want my Mum to see. I added #uk to the search and got fewer dodgy pictures but not what I was looking for. I tried #shortsban and really wasn't expecting much but... bingo!




All the tweets were from two years ago but what I was looking for was the hashtags that would hopefully get my poster seen and retweeted... #shortsban #school #uk #schooluniform #dresscode #protesting #skirts #british #schoolboys #skirtingtheissue #heatwave #ukweather ...I added a few of my own hashtags to fill up the 240 character limit, then hesitated before attaching my image to my very first tweet. I double checked the grammar one last time and took a deep breath.



...and there it was, up in the Twittersphere or whatever they call it. Next I created an account at the student room using a completely different pseudonym and made my first post on that forum.

Hi guys... new here. Does anyone know anything about the shorts protests this year? Just seen a tweet about them. Looks like a national thing.

The first reply came within seconds. “What you on about dude?”

High school boys protesting because they can't wear shorts in the summer. It won't let me post an image, but look on twitter for #shortsban or #shortsprotest.

I logged out of The Student Room and returned to Twitter. Lo and behold, my post had been retweeted six times. “Is that good?” I muttered to myself. It's better than nothing, I figured.

I turned off my laptop and went downstairs. Mum was pottering as usual, both in the house as well as out in the garden and asked if I'd mow the lawn. “Sure.” I replied. She glanced down at my legs and suggested I put a pair of my sister's shorts on instead of the cargo shorts I wore. “Why?” I cautiously asked.

“To get some sun on your legs.” she replied. “Plus you don't seem to have worn anything nice for a while.” she smiled.

“I don't want to go rooting in Karen's room without her permission.” I said.

“I'll find you some.” my mother suggested. She returned with a pair of fitted black denim shorts and a more relaxed pair in cornflower blue, along with a grey capped sleeve T shirt. I questioned the T shirt. “Well if you're going to wear nice shorts you may as well wear a nice top too.” she replied, adding that it's not overtly girlie. “Which shorts do you want?”

“Err... the blue ones I guess.” I replied. She handed them to me and said she'd get the mower out. “Thanks.” I bashfully replied and went to change.

“That's better.” Mum smiled when I returned. “Seems a pity to shave your legs if you're not going to get them out once in a while.”

“Yeah.” I shyly agreed. Mum didn't mention the fact that I'd tied my hair up in a pony tail, and applied just a little bit of make-up, but if I'm going to wear nice clothes, I may as well put a little bit of extra effort in. I looked down at my long hairless legs. “I'm not sure what my mates will say when they see my legs.” I mused.

“Surely they've noticed during PE?” Mum quizzed.

“I always wear my trackies.” I told her.

“Well they're going to see them when you wear your skirt for school.” she retorted, adding “If...”

“I know.” I gulped.

“Are you having second thoughts?”

“Yeah.” I mournfully replied. “...but I'm not going to back out.” I confidently stated. “It's ridiculous that boys can't wear short trousers.”

“The headmaster made it perfectly clear a couple of years ago that boys are welcome to wear skirts if they prefer.”

“He's just trying to call our bluff.”

“I don't recall you getting involved in these protests before.” Mum replied.

“Only because I hadn't put much thought into it, but the more I think about it, the more unfair it is.” I told her. “Girl's legs are perfectly acceptable but boys legs are banned.” I stated. “It's not right and it's not fair.”

“Yes, I suppose it's not when you put it like that.” Mum agreed. I suspected, however, that Mum felt the real reason I was joining the protest had nothing to do with shorts... and she'd be absolutely right. Only Mum probably thinks I'm going to wear a skirt because since working for my sister over Easter, I've developed a liking for skirts. I wish I could tell her the truth but I'm too proud to admit that a girl in Year 9 is coercing me.

Mum said something but I was miles away. “Sorry what?” I said.

“I said, be careful what you wish for.” she repeated. I asked why. “I seem to remember reading about a school a couple of years ago where the boys did win the right to wear short trousers... but they had to wear them all year round, summer and winter, rain or shine.”

“Really?” I grimaced. Mum nodded and said that the story is probably on the internet somewhere, before reminding me that the lawn mower's waiting for me.

I wondered out into the sunshine and immediately realised that the temperature wasn't as warm as it appeared. My thighs erupted in goose-pimples and my sister's shorts felt very short indeed. Being the 'man' of the house, mowing the lawn is one of my jobs, although Mum or Karen do do it on occasion. The lawn is long and narrow with a few fruit tree to navigate around. It's far easier with the new cordless lawnmower but after ten minutes and barely a third of the lawn mowed, the battery conked out, meaning whoever last mowed the lawn hadn't put it on to charge. “Oh never mind.” Mum said. “We can sit out whilst it charges.” she suggested.

“It's not that warm.” I replied.

“It's plenty warm enough.” Mum insisted, adding that it's too nice to sit inside. She made a jug full of fruit juice, soda and ice and fetched it out. She smiled at me as she set it down on the patio table. “Are you going to tie your hair up when you wear your skirt for school?” she asked me.

“No.” I replied with jovial abruptness. “A boy in a skirt is definitely the look I'm aiming for when that day comes.” I stated.

“And when is that day?”

“Whenever the temperature is twenty degrees or more, apparently.” I informed her.

“That could be most days in July.” Mum replied.

“I know.” I grimaced. “I think the idea this time is rather than just protesting for a day or two, it's going to be more prolonged.” I said. “If the Headmaster sees boys wearing skirts day in day out for several weeks, he'll realise how ridiculous it is and will have to reconsider his position.”

“When you worked in Karen's café three nights a week over Easter... that proved to me that there's nothing ridiculous about a boy wearing a skirt.” my mother replied. “...or a bit of make-up for that matter.” she added.

I could feel myself begin to blush as my mother looked lovingly at me, or more specifically, the little make-up I wore. “I won't be wearing any make-up at school.” I mumbled.

“It's nice that you're wearing some today though.” she said. “It's a pity it didn't really catch on in the eighties.”

“What?”

“Men wearing make-up.” she replied. “It was all the rage for a few years when the new romantic scene was big.” She told me about Duran Duran, The Human League and Depeche Mode, adding that one of the members used to wear skirts and lace tops. “...and not forgetting Boy George who everyone thought was a girl.”

“Seems it's more acceptable if you're a celebrity.” I said. “I can't see it going down well for the average guy on the street.”

“Well that's the thing, back in the early eighties when I was your age, the average guy on the street would wear make-up.” Mum told me, adding “Certainly not all of them. Nowhere near. Only the ones in the new romantic scene... but the pubs and clubs were full of them on a Friday and Saturday night.”

“You didn't go to pubs and clubs when you were my age though.”

Somewhat bashfully, Mum told me that she did go to pubs and clubs when she was still at school. “It was different back then... we didn't have to show ID because there wasn't any ID. Barmen just had to guess and we could easily dress to look a few years older than we were.” she explained. “I'm not condoning under age drinking mind... I'd be livid if you started pubbing it before you're eighteenth.” she told me.

It was fascinating listening to my mother talk about her youth and had no idea the new romantic thing had filtered down to street style, if only for a short while. I tried to imagine a world in which guys routinely wore feminine garments and make-up and on the one hand I imagined it would be really weird, but on the other, knew it would be entirely normal... especially after the best part of forty years.

Karen came home from work mid afternoon and pretty much the first thing she said to me was “Are those my shorts?”

I timidly admitted they were and Mum told her it was her idea, so I could get some sun on my legs. “You don't mind do you?” I asked.

My sister didn't mind and said that she liked seeing me wearing something nice for a change. “...it's been a while.” she added.

“Can't have too much of a good thing eh?” I bashfully replied. “Hey do you do Twitter?” I asked.

“Sure. Why?”

“Can you have a look at hashtag shorts ban?”

Karen pulled her phone from her handbag and began swiping. “What are looking for?”

“Just wondering if there's anything about the school protests.” I replied. “Someone mentioned on The Student Room that there's something going 'round on Twitter.”

She tapped in the search and smiled at the results, swiping down through them. “This what you're looking for?” she asked, showing me the screen.



“I think so... is it from this year?” I asked, playing ignorant.

“Well looking at the Comic Sans font it could be from twenty years ago.” she grumbled. “But looking at the date... it's very recent.” she told me, before reading the last bit aloud. “Join the protest. Wear a skirt... whenever the temperature is twenty degrees Celsius or higher.”

“Can you retweet it?” I asked.

“Why?” she cautiously replied.

“Because I don't want to be the only boy who turns up wearing a skirt on the first day the temperature is high enough.” I told her.

“I don't think any boys from your school will see any of my retweets.” she dryly informed me. “Why don't you do it?”

“I'm not on Twitter.” I lied. “...and if was I wouldn't have a clue how to share things locally.”

“That's easy.... just use hashtag and the name of the town or city.” my sister casually said, tapping at her screen and adding the relevant hashtags. “There... town, county and school.” she said.

“Can you share it on FaceBank too?” I asked.

“Shall I say my brother's joining the protest?” she asked as a wry smile swept her face.

“Erm... I don't know.” I shyly replied. Karen told me she was joking and only shared the image, adding no further information.

“Thanks.” I coyly said.

“So... what do you do? Just keep an eye on the next day's forecast?” she asked.

“Pretty much.” I replied.

“I think you should wear white knee socks.” she grinned. “And bunches.” she giggled.

“I'm fifteen Karen... not eleven.” I groaned. “It's gonna be embarrassing enough being the only boy with shaved legs.” I gulped.

“Have you thought about how you're going to explain that?”

“Well... I thought about buying myself a road bike after Easter.” I replied, adding that cyclists shave their legs. “...but a decent one costs more than I've got and I didn't want to spend all my earnings at once.” I told her. “So...” I sighed. “...I guess I'll just say that hairy legs looked ridiculous with a skirt so I shaved them.”

“Makes perfect sense to me.” Karen said, eyeing my legs.

“It's not you I have to convince.” I frowned.

“I wouldn't worry too much if I were you.” she said. “I've read that around forty percent of men shave their legs these days.” she told me.

“Really?” I quizzed.

Karen nodded and said that most just trim them down to around a centimetre, and quoting from memory, said that fifteen percent of men admitted to shaving them completely, like me. “I'll see if I can find the article... it's in one of my magazines.” she said.

That made me feel a little bit better. I imagined a group of ten or twenty boys, all turning up to school wearing skirts and considered how nerve racking it's going to be because I'm the only one with shaved legs. Who am I trying to kid?! I thought. I'll be the only boy who turns up at school wearing a skirt on the first day the temperature hits 20ºC and everyone's going to think I've turned trans! The true meaning of stuck between a rock and a hard place dawns on me. If I don't dress as a girl at school, everyone will find out that I dressed as a girl at work... and all the while I'm worrying about this, I'm dressed as a girl in my back garden.

I gulp at my little fitted T shirt and cute blue shorts. I know my legs look good but that's the problem... boys aren't supposed to have good looking legs. Part of me wishes I was a girl. Working at my sister's café wouldn't have been such a big deal and Hannah would never have shot that video of me. I could be cute one day, sassy the next, a plain-jane at school and a tom-boy at play. I saunter indoors and ask my mother what we're having for dinner. Karen had brought home a tray of lasagne that was left over from lunch, and we had that with a side salad.

Afterwards, Karen headed back to the café to work the evening shift and I went up to my room to see how my tweet was doing. On my bed lay a magazine which my sister must have left, titled Boutique. The model on the cover has short frizzy hair, deep sultry eyes and glittery pink lipstick and wears a short vibrant pink satin dress. She smiles confidently at the camera and is surrounded by numerous headlines; spring style, bohemian chic, festival fashion, easy up-do's, gossip girls, discover the true you, etc. I notice the Karen has bookmarked a page with a metal hair slide, decorated with a sparkly heart. I open it to that page and the article is titled The Guys That Groom and halfway down the page is the sub-headline; 40% of men admit to shaving their legs. It's slightly misleading, and just as Karen had told me, 40% of men admit to trimming their leg hair whilst 15% shave them smooth. That's more than one in ten, I tell myself as I begin to read the various opinions on whether or not men should shave or trim their leg hair. The article also discussed chest, belly and back hair (not applicable to me), armpit hair and eyebrow shaping. My eyebrows haven't been touched since Karen tidied them when she first gave me a make-over and no one seemed to notice that they'd been shaped. No one mentioned them anyway. I only shave my pits if I'm covering a shift at the café, which hasn't been for a few weeks now, but my legs I tend to when the stubble annoys me, which is every four or five days. According to the article, most women approve of men tending to their body hair so maybe I've got nothing to worry about... but I’m not a man (just a boy) and I a can't help but worry about people knowing that I regularly shave my legs.

I become engrossed in the magazine and flick through the fashion and style guides and peruse the make-up tips. The so-called easy up do's don't look that easy and my hair isn't long enough for most of them. There's features on sandals, handbags and accessorising, plus music and movie news. I briefly turn back to the cover and note that the magazine is over a year old, and wonder if I could carry off a bright pink dress. I snort at this thought, knowing that I can't.

A knock on the door draws my attention. It's Mum. She pops her head round the door and tells me that there's a film about to start. “I thought you'd be on your laptop.” she said, seeing me slumped on my bed reading a magazine.

“That was my intention but I got sidetracked with this.” I replied.

“I see you've caught the sun on your legs.” she said, smiling.

My legs look blushed but nowhere near burnt. I suggest getting changed and giving Karen her clothes back. Mum suggests I keep them on 'til bedtime. “I just feel a bit under-dressed.” I replied.

“Put some tights on. That'd look nice.” Mum replied. “You've still got some haven't you?”

“Yeah a couple of pairs I think.” I said. “Do you like me more when I'm dressed as a girl?”

“I like you regardless of how you're dressed Simon.” she smiled. “I also like that you seem to like not dressing as a boy all the time... even if you do need a little prompting.” she told me. Her eyes flitted from my legs to my top, my hair and the magazine in front of me. “Is that a hair slide?” she knowingly asked, noticing the small glistening object on my duvet.

“Yeah... Karen used it a bookmark for an article in this.” I replied.

“Oh I see.” she smiled. “Have you tried it?”

“Nah... sparkly hearts aren't really my thing.”

“Ooh.” Mum frowned. “You liked those sparkly butterflies I put in your hair.” she reminded me.

“Yeah.” I cautiously admitted. To cut a short story shorter, Mum put the slide in my hair, using it to hold my fringe in a high side parting. It looked quite cute and I kept it in for the rest of the evening. We watched the movie which we'd both seen before and both enjoyed.

I didn't don any tights in the end. Instead I figured I'd get accustomed to feeling under-dressed and seeing my entire legs on display rather than just half of them. I'd forgotten all about the hair slide until Karen mentioned it when she arrived home soon after 10pm. She also mentioned that my legs had caught the sun. “Can I dress you tomorrow?” she asked.

“Well you could...” I cautiously replied. “...but I'm going bowling with Jack and Ben and Tom at one.” I told her. “Maybe afterwards?” I suggested. “We'll only be a couple of hours.”

“OK.” she grinned. “Did you read that article?”

“Yes.” I said. “Do you want the magazine back?”

“No you keep it if you want.” she said. “I've got loads.”

“Thanks.” I said. “Should I put these shorts and top back in your room?”

“I'll get them tomorrow.” Karen replied. “You off to bed?”

“Yeah.” I replied.

I went to my room but didn't go directly to bed. I booted up my lap-top and checked The Student Room to see if anyone had replied to my post. There were six replies:

  • Not this again! It's just attention seeking. Sad little boys trying to get their picture in the paper. Try doing something original for a chagne!

“Try spelling 'change' properly.” I muttered in response.

  • I agree that it's attention seeking, but that's what protesting is. Why is it such a big deal in the UK? Here in Australia most boys wear shorts for school. I'd prefer that to the daggy dresses us girls have to wear.

One vote of approval from down under, I thought as I visualised the high school uniforms the girls wear on Australian TV shows. A style only worn by junior school girls here in England.

  • Was that poster going round on Twitter designed by a seven year old?

This comment prompted me to look at Twitter. Maybe my tweet has gone viral! Maybe not. It's been retweeted twenty three times which as I understand it, is next to nothing.

  • This is sooo two years ago! Any boy who wears a skirt for school is a fag. Get a life!

The reply to that trolling comment made me smile.

  • You're so last century! If anyone needs to get a life it's you, you pathetic troll. I agree with AuzzieGrl. Boys should be allowed to wear short trousers. And that poster raises a good point... why are girls legs acceptable but boys legs are banned?

The final reply could have been posted by my school's headmaster.

  • Boys legs aren't banned. They can wear skirts just like the girls. It's called gender equality. Girls can't wear short trousers either!

I replied to the last comment stating that giving boys permission to wear skirts is an attempt to stop the protests by calling their bluff. I explain that we don't want to wear cargo shorts or cut off jeans, but smart short trousers similar in style to the long trousers we have to wear. I also ask if someone can post the poster from Twitter, as I'm a new member to the forum and can't post any images yet.

I log out of The Student room and check FaceBank. I scroll down through the usual drivel; rants about refuse collection, noisy neighbours and cyclists, the same old memes and people who feel the need to tell everyone what flavour crisps they're eating today. A smile sweeps my face when I see my poster, shared by my sister to the local town group. There's an awful lot of comments and a lot of them are awful. I decide not to spend the next hour reading them and shut down my laptop.

I only wore a bit of eye-liner and mascara today, and lipstick of course, but it still needs removing before going to bed. This is one chore I expect can be tiresome for girls when they have to do it every night before bed. I position my make-up mirror and remove a handful of wipes from the pack and stare at my reflection as I clean my face, wiping away the girlie me and revealing the boy I'm supposed to be. I pull out my pony tail and kirby-grips and finally the glittery heart hairslide, putting them neatly to one side, before brushing my hair and undressing and finally getting into bed.

Mum mentioned the heated debate about the protests on FaceBank over breakfast. I casually mention that I'd seen it last night, but keep quiet about the fact that it was me who'd created the poster that's getting everyone so flustered. I don a pair of skinny jeans and a baggy T shirt when I go to meet my friends. We chat about this and that as we head to the bowling alley. Tom asked what I did on Saturday and I said I mowed the lawn, but left out the fact that I'd dressed as girl beforehand. I wondered if I should mention the discussion about the school protests on FaceBank, or the poster that's on Twitter, but decided to wait in case any of them mention it first.

I enjoy bowling but it always makes me cringe when I put on the bowling shoes. How many pairs of minging feet have been inside them recently? None of us are great at the game. Any strikes we get are more through chance than skill but we're good enough to stay out of the gutter. A mobile phone eventually comes out when one of us is waiting for our turn and I'm delighted when Tom exclaims “Hey look at this!” and shows my poster to us all. “What's that?” Ben asked. Tom replied saying it's a campaign getting us to protest against not being allowed to wear shorts in the summer. “...there's no way I'm gonna wear a skirt though.”

“I might.” I replied, quickly and confidently. Although deep down I was crapping myself, anticipating their reaction. “It's ridiculous that we can't wear shorts.” I added.

“Wearing a skirt is even more ridiculous!” Tom sneered

“Yeah, and last time the Head made it perfectly clear that shorts will never be allowed.” Ben stated.

“I know but... if loads of us turn up wearing skirts, day after day after day, he'll have to reconsider.”

Jack's turn ended and he joined us on the bench. “You're up Tom.” he said, before asking what we were talking about. “That was all over FaceBank last night.” he stated.

“My sister said she'd seen it on Twitter.” I fibbed.

“Simon said he's gonna take part.” Ben stated, snorting somewhat.

“I said I might.” I replied.

“My mum was telling me to get involved too.” Jack replied. “Not that I'm gonna.” he stated. “I'd look a right prat in a skirt.”

“I think that's the point.” I replied.

The sound of Tom cheering himself drew our attention. He'd scored a strike but was annoyed because none of us saw it. My turn was next and my performance was average at best. I returned to the bench and they were debating whether the poster was designed by a kid or an actual graphic designer. Tom claimed that no professional would use Comic Sans, whilst Jack and Ben reckoned that it's definitely the work of a pro and its childlike design makes it more eye-catching to school kids. “Your turn Ben.” I said, before falsely claiming that when I saw it on Twitter, it had been tweeted by some equality in education group.

“You don't use Twitter.” Jack stated.

“No but my sister does and she showed it to me.” I replied, bending the truth, of course.

The school protests weren't mentioned again until we headed home. Tom and Jack went in one direction, Ben and I in the other. “Are you really gonna wear a skirt for those protests?” he asked.

“Well you don't get anything unless you fight for it.” I replied. “...and polyester trousers are horrible when it's twenty-five degrees.”

“I thought it was twenty-degrees?” Ben recalled.

“That's when the protests are supposed to happen.” I said. “...which doesn't seem particularly hot to me.” I added.

“Have you actually got a school skirt?”

“No but my sister has.” I lied.

“It's gonna be well weird if you do wear one.”

“I know. Funny though... and all for a good cause.”

“If you say so... I'm not bothered either way... I hardly ever wear shorts.” he shrugged. We soon went our separate ways and I continued home alone. I was pleased with myself because now I have a viable excuse fro when I do inevitably turn up at school wearing a skirt. Since Saturday I've been putting so much thought into the school protests that I have to keep reminding myself what's really going on. I check my phone for a text from Hannah but there's nothing yet. I wonder if she's got wind of the campaign I've started?

“How was bowling?” Mum asked when I returned.

“Good thanks.” I replied. “I didn't win though.”

“Well it's the taking part that counts.”

“Yeah I know.”

“Karen said to send you up the moment you get home.” Mum informed me.

I gulped. My sister's proposition that she wants to dress me today had completely slipped my mind. I climb the stairs wondering what she's got in store for me and knock on her door. She gleefully greeted me me with an elongated 'hiyyyaaaaa', before asking if I'd enjoyed myself at the bowling alley. “Yeah it was cool.” I said. “They've all seen that poster about the school protests.”

“Are they joining in?” she asked.

“I doubt it.” I replied. “Knowing my luck it's just going to be me.”

“So... is it because you want to wear shorts or because you want to wear a skirt?” Karen proposed.

“It's a bit more complicated than that.” I told her. “Bit of both I guess.” I added.

“Fair enough.” she smiled. “Right...” she said, grabbing a lipstick from her dresser. “...you'll need this.”

I took it and pulled off the lid. “It's a bit dark.” I hesitantly stated, seeing a deep, dark burgundy shade.

“Mmm hmm.” Karen agreed. “You're an Emo right?”

“Kind of.” I replied. No true Emo actually admits to it.

“So today, I thought it would be fun to be yourself.” she said. “There's an outfit on your bed. When you're dressed, come back and I'll do something with your hair.”

“What about make-up?”

“Just do what you normally do... but use the darker eye-shadows.” she told me. “And put this on first.” she said, handing me a small tube of something labelled The eyes have it! Base Coat. I asked what it was and predictably she told me it was a base coat for my eye-shadow. “Oh, and black plimsolls.” she added as I left.

On my bed is a variety of mostly black garments; a black denim mini skirt with a distressed hem, footless black tights, a pair of black fishnet ankle socks, a dark purple lace bra-top and a black racer back vest with with a gloomy gothic print on the front. The footless black tights come to just below my knees and my calves and shins look pale in comparison. The skirt is short and sultry, with its frayed unkempt hem. The purple lace bra top looks far too feminine but with the vest, only its thin lace straps are visible, so it's not too bad. I pull on the fishnet anklets and slip my feet in to my black lowtop plimsolls. I look more Goth than Emo but I guess if I was me and a girl, I might dress like this on occasion. I spend ages applying my make-up; a full face of foundation, plus the base coat on my eyelids which, according to the blurb on the tube, stops the powder from sinking into the pores, thus enabling it to be completely removed. Usually I wear the lighter shades of eye-shadow. The darker shades give me that black-eye look which looks a bit too deep and heavy. I apply eye-liner and mascara and finally the darkest shade of lipstick I've ever worn. I'm more used to seeing myself wearing pale pinks so this deep burgundy is a complete change. But it does compliment the the weight of my eye make-up and does look quite good, I think.

Karen says I look 'ace' when I return to her room. She places bangles around my wrists that jangle with every movement. A silver chain and a dark red velvet choker goes around my neck, and a thin studded belt hangs loosely around my waist. She sit me at her dresser and asked if I brush my hair before bed. “Yeah. Why?” I reply.

“Because you're going to hate me for this.” she replied as she proceeded to back-comb my hair. It looks big and punky and I'm not sure if I like what I see, but the addition of a dark purple scarf tied in my hair softens what she's done. “Let's show Mum.” she grins.

“Oh Karen... I was expecting a pretty Sunday dress.” Mum moaned when I was presented to her.

“I think he looks ace.” Karen replied.

“You've turned him into a goth.” Mum stated. “All he's lacking is some black nail varnish.”

“I'd forgotten about his nails.” Karen said, sounding disappointed.

I declined that offer as I'd only have to remove it for school tomorrow. Karen's phone rang which left Mum and I alone. I sat myself down in the arm chair. “So you don't approve of this?” I asked, gesturing to myself.

“No I was only teasing... you look great.” my mother replied. “If you were a girl your age you'd be experimenting with all sorts of different looks.” she said, smiling.

“Yeah I guess.” I replied, gulping. “I do feel a bit ashamed of myself... it's not normal for a boy to like dressing up.”

“I think if more boys had the opportunity, they'd enjoy it just as much as you do.” Mum replied.

“Yeah maybe.” I said. “We were talking about the school protests at the bowling alley.” I told her, adding that I'd told my friends that I 'might' be taking part.

“And what did they say?”

“Not much really... apart from stating that they'd never wear a skirt.” I said. “I'm not sure of they believed me.” I added. “...and Jack said that his Mum was telling him to get involved, but he seemed adamant that he wasn't going to.”

Mum smiled to herself. “He is a very pretty boy.” she said.

“Am I pretty?”

“No you're handsome.” she told me. “...but nicely applied make-up can make anyone look pretty.” she said, adding “Jack's naturally very pretty.”

“Hmm.” I replied. I've never really considered it myself. My phone, which lay on the coffee table alerted me to an incoming text message. I grabbed it and my bangles all jangled as they slid down my forearm. It's from Hannah, sending me a screen shot of her weather app, accompanied with the message. 'oh drats... only 19 :( hope it hots up by Tuesday! :)'

I smiled to myself as I sarcastically replied, 'My heart bleeds for you'. “Who's that?” Mum asked.

“Oh no one.” I said as I put the phone down. My bangles jangled again as they slid back to my wrist. “These are really noisy.” I commented.

Mum just smiled at me and turned her eyes back to the TV and the episode of Antiques Roadshow. She cracks the same joke every time they come to value an item. “It's worth a million pounds.”

Throughout the evening, I kept forgetting how freaky my hair looked until I caught my reflection in a picture frame or mirror. My skirt is narrower than those I’ve worn previously. It digs into my thighs as I stride or climb the stairs, which feels kind of nice in a weird sort of way. I frequently fiddle with my bangles, or twist the chain that hangs around my neck, and occasionally thumb the ends of the scarf tied in my hair. I reapply my lipstick after our Sunday roast dinner and Mum says I suit that shade. “You always say that.” I noted, adding that I think it's too dark for me.

“You prefer your pinky ones?” she asked.

“They're just a bit more natural looking.” I said as I tidied my lipstick with my little finger.

“You do have a knack for make-up... it's a pity boys can't routinely wear it.” she told me.

I felt proud, and bashful. “Yeah... I wish this was as normal for us as it is for girls.” I said as I pushed the lipstick back into my skirt pocket.

“Well it's normal in this house Simon.” Mum replied. “You can dress up when you want or dress down if you like... so long as you're happy, I'm happy.”

“Thanks.” I said, hiding a gulp with a smile.

Later, as I was getting prepared for bed, I recalled my sister's words just before she began playing with my hair. It's never felt so knotty and brushing it actually hurt, so much so that I googled 'brushing out back combed hair' ...and one of the top results was a thread on The Student room forum. Following the advice, I stopped brushing, got under the shower and used plenty of conditioner to tease out the knots. Being a girl is such high maintenance, I realised. Life is so much easier when I can just have a quick wash & brush and slip under my duvet, without going through the rigmarole of removing my make-up and de-styling my hair. Is de-styling even a word? I wondered as I stood under the hot torrent of water. “You were ages in there.” my sister said when I emerged from the bathroom. I replied telling her that it took ages to get all the knots out of my hair. “Yeah...” she said, biting her lip. “...I did warn you you'd hate me.”

“Can I use your hair dryer?” I asked, thumbing the damp ends of hair.

“It's best to let it dry naturally.” Karen told me.

“That'll take ages though.”

“Not if you use a hair towel.” she told me, grabbing my wrist and pulling me into her room. I told her that I've already used a towel, but she had a special towel, specifically for drying hair. She demonstrated how to wrap it on herself, before handing it to me. “It's super-absorbant micro-fibre and should dry your hair about half an hour.” she told me.

“It's also pink.” I frowned.

“It is.” she replied, glancing at my navy blue bathrobe. “Which means you'll also need this.” she grinned, handing me her fluffy pale-pink bathrobe. “Do you want to borrow a nightie as well?”

“I get the feeling that if I say no you'll only talk me into it.” I frowned as she put the super-soft robe into my hands.

“I take it that means yes.” my sister smiled, opening a drawer and rummaging. “There you go.” she said, putting a pale pink tie-dyed item in my hands

“No fluffy slippers?” I dryly asked. She offered me some fluffy socks. “I was being sarcastic.” I told her. She claimed she was too.

“You're going to have to start buying your own clothes at this rate.” Mum said when I appeared wearing my sister's fluffy pink bathrobe and her pink hair-towel wrapped around my head.

“All I asked for was a hairdryer and I ended up with this lot.” I replied, opening my robe to reveal the pink tie-dye Tinker Bell nightie. Mum chuckled and said I looked nice in pink. I felt nice. Karen's robe is not only super soft and fluffy, but fragrant too.

The following morning, Mum commented on how nice my hair looked. “I had to use loads of conditioner to get the knots out last night.” I replied. A group of girls in my class also commented on my hair. Some of my class were also talking about the potential protests which were being discussed on FaceBank over the weekend. Hannah approached me at lunch time and told me that it's highly likely that the temperature will be exceeding 20ºC towards the end of the week, and that she hopes I've got my skirt ready. “The way things are looking, I won't be the only one.” I told her. “Have you seen the campaign on Twitter?”

“I've seen it on FaceBank.” she replied. “It's gonna be ace if loads of boys wear skirts.” she grinned.

“Fabulous.” I dryly retorted. “Can I still trust that you won't show anyone that video of me?”

“So long as you stick to your part of the bargain.” she replied. “And it's not just this week remember... the deal stands 'til the end of term.”

“It's not a deal Hannah... it's blackmail.” I reminded her.

“It's an agreement.” she insisted.

“Yeah whatever... I guess it won't be so bad if it's not just me.” I sighed. She fluttered her lashes, smiled and said she'd text me tonight before walking away. I gulped as I watched her swishing skirt and slender tanned legs. That's gonna be me soon enough, I thought.

Hannah did text me that evening with the screenshot of her weather app and the message: 'Looking very promising for Wednesday but no fun tomorrow :('.

School assembly is held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and on Tuesday morning, the headmaster himself mentioned the potential imminent protests. He claimed that the idea of a national protest that's going around on social media is a prank. “Don't fall for fake news boys.” he warned. “I've made it perfectly clear in recent years that we shall not be changing the school uniform rules and that still stands, and anyone who partakes in this pointless protest will end up with egg on their face.”

I was really nervous as he spoke about something on social media that I myself had initiated. Part of me expected him to state my name and instruct me to stay behind after assembly. But he didn't. “You still gonna join the protest Simon?” Jack asked as we headed to our first class.

“Well I've always been in two minds about it.” I claimed. “Still am I guess.”

“After that I think we should.” Jack replied. “He sounded like Donald Trump... dismissing it as fake news.” he stated.

“You've changed your tune since Sunday.”

“Well I've had more time to think about it and you're right... it's not fair that boy's legs are banned.” he replied. “Plus I've got my mum twisting my arm... but she loves a good protest.” he said.

“You got a week's worth of detentions for the climate change strike.” I reminded him.

“Yeah but that's not gonna happen this time... wearing a skirt isn't breaking the school rules.”

“No but it does break the unwritten rule that boys don't wear skirts.” I replied.

“It would be quite funny if loads of us did though.” Jack replied.

“Yeah... but what if you were the only one?” I asked, chuckling nervously at the prospect.

“Hmmm.” Jack mused as we entered our class.

That evening I got a text off Hannah. The screenshot of her weather app predicted a high of 21ºC. Her message was nothing but a sunshine emoticon. I replied with a sad face :(

I quickly sent Jack a text asking if he was 'on for tomorrow'. He replied with a triple question mark. 'The protest'... I replied. ...'it's supposed to be 21 degrees and they're supposed to take place when its 20 or higher.'

Jack didn't immediately reply. For the next few hours I kept checking my phone every five minutes. “You seem anxious.” Mum commented. “Is everything OK?”

“Yeah... the protests start tomorrow.” I gulped.

“I see.” Mum replied. “I'm sure it'll be fine once you've got over your stage fright.” she said, adding that she thinks I'm being very brave.

I didn't feel at all brave as I got myself ready for bed that night. I removed the skirt from my wardrobe and hung it from the door knob, ready and waiting for the morning. So far as I'm aware (and hope!), only two people know the real reason why I'm doing this and if anyone else knew that a girl in Year 9 is calling all the shots, no one would describe me as brave. Weak and gullible is how I feel as I pull my duvet over me and shut my eyes.

The first thing I saw when I woke was the school skirt waiting for me. My heart sank. A big part of me wanted to leave it until the very last minute before getting dressed for school but I figured the sooner I wear it, the sooner I'll come to terms with it. I place the skirt on my bed before washing and brushing my teeth. I emit a long mournful sigh when I return to my room.



“Well it's either this or everyone see me dressed as a waitress.” I mumble to myself, before dressing.

“I still can't believe you're doing this.” Mum said as I poured a bowl of cereal.

“Me neither.” I said. “I've put some PE shorts on too... just in case.” I added as I sat myself at the table.

“Good idea... it's inevitable that someone's going to flick it up.” Mum replied, just as my sister strolled into the kitchen.

“Have you got it on? Let's have a look!”

“I only just sat down.” I sighed as I stood and stepped away from the table so she could see me.

Karen smiled approvingly. “So what's the plan... you wear it everyday the temperature's over twenty?” she asked. I nodded. “You do know it's going to be this warm for the rest of the week don't you?”

“Yeah.... I've seen the forecast.” I mournfully replied.

“You'll probably spend more days wearing that than trousers between now and the end of term.” Mum claimed. “It's only going to get warmer after mid-summer.”

“Yeah... I hadn't really considered that before committing myself... but we'll never get the headmaster to change his mind if we don't stick with it.” I replied.

“Well I hope it doesn't back fire and they ban skirts altogether.” my sister replied. “Some schools have done that.” she told me.

Mum mentioned the school that banned long trousers after the boys protested for the right to wear shorts. “...they certainly got more than they bargained for.”

“So they have to wear shorts all year round?” my sister quizzed.

“I bet all the boys who didn't protest despise the boys who did.” I mused.

“And those who did are kicking themselves.” Karen said.

“Yeah... but if girls can cope in short skirts all year then surely the boys can cope in shorts.”

“You'd think so... but boys are the weaker sex.” my sister chuckled.

“None of his is helping my confidence you know.” I said. “It's scary enough wondering if I'm going to be the only boy wearing a skirt... now I’m worried that the whole protest might backfire.”

“I'm sure it won't love.” my mother replied. “Do you want a lift to school?”

“No.” I sighed. “I'd best brave it out.” I said.

“Good for you.” Mum said. “Now are you sure you don't want bunches?”

“Nooo!”

“I've got a nice Alice band you can borrow.” Karen jested. I responded with a look. She grinned.

After rinsing my breakfast bowl, I made sure I had everything I needed in my rucksack and prepared to leave. I paused before the hallway mirror and gulped at my reflection. “Wish me luck!” I nervously said before opening the door and shyly stepping outside.

The sun shone brightly and the sky was clear blue. The breeze was practically non-existent but it certainly didn't feel like it was twenty-one degrees. My legs were covered in goose pimples for the first few minutes and it dawned on me that the predicted high temperature is most likely in the afternoon, not at half past eight in the morning. I couldn't help but hang my head and watch my legs. “Brrr.” At least my shirt has long sleeves but I wish my skirt had pockets. My hands feel awkward as they swing by my sides, brushing my pleats. I exit the side streets and see other kids heading to school. Short skirts and long pants. I suppose with my longish hair I look like one of the girls at first glance, but it's only a matter of time before someone recognises me.

“Hey look at him!” I hear some girls giggle and glance across the street. They point and laugh at me. I wave back and smile and hope to god that I’m not alone. The school gates come into a view and there's a relatively large group of kids assembled. They laugh and jeer and point their phones towards me. Maybe Hannah has told everyone that I'll be turning up to school in a skirt and they're ready and waiting to ridicule me. I can feel myself blushing.

“Hey nice legs Simon!” a girl from my class hollered. “Fuckin' faggot!” a boy bellowed. I disguised my embarrassment with a broad grin as I strode by. No sign of Hannah, I noted as I passed through the gates. As I approached the building, I realised to some relief that I'm not the only boy wearing a skirt today. I spotted three at least, all getting full attention from the kids nearby. I entered the corridors and was met with more whooping and hollering. “At least someone's had the sense to shave his legs!” one of my classmates exclaimed as I joined the queue outside my form room. “You've shaved your legs?!” Jack's familiar voice called out as he stepped from the line. He too is wearing a skirt.

“Yeah.” I bashfully admitted. “They looked stupid.” I gulped. With some fifteen people all glaring at me, sniggering, grinning, commenting and laughing, I said “You could have texted me back last night.” to Jack.

“Yeah soz... I meant to.” he replied.

“So I guess it's just us?” I said, glancing down the line and seeing no other boys wearing a skirt.

“So far.” Jack replied. “There's a few outside.”

“Yeah I saw them. Did you come through the front gate?”

“Yeah... we're gonna be all over FaceBank.” he frowned as he looked me up and down. “I can't believe you shaved your legs.”

“Oi!” I yelped as I felt my skirt get flicked up.

“Cheat! You're wearing shorts.” the girl who'd lifted it giggled as I put my hands firmly on the back of my skirt, then my back firmly against the wall. I glanced down at Jack's legs, clearly hairy with a pair of white socks scrunched down to his ankles and his usual school shoes on.

I gulped at my own feet. No one noticed last week that I had new shoes on and I'm more worried than ever that someone might recognise them as a pair of girl's shoes. “Why did you shave your legs?” Jack sneered.

“Because they looked stupid.” I said. Since it was Friday that I last shaved them, I claimed that I hadn't actually shaved them, but went over them with a pair of hair clippers last night just to remove the bulk of my unsightly leg hair.

“At least you've made an effort.” one of the girls said.

“Thanks Alice.” I smiled, just as Ben and Tom joined us. Both, predictably wore trousers. They just shook their heads at Jack and I, suggesting that we should become Jacqueline and Simone for the day. The form teacher wasn't far behind them. He shook his head as me and sighed in disbelief. “I'm in uniform Sir.” I stated.

“Yes Simon. I can see that.” he replied as he unlocked the door. He instructed us all to take our seats and told everyone to ignore the 'class clowns'. “I don't know what you're hoping to achieve.” she said as he opened the register.

“The right to wear short trousers in the summer Sir.” I stated. The class burst into gasps and giggles, but not at me. Two more boys entered the class, both wearing skirts. Four of us... that's good, I thought.

“Take your seats boys.” the teacher groaned.

“Yes Sir.” Sam and Oliver replied. “I just need to put this up.” Sam stated as he unrolled a sheet of A4 and pinned it to the class notice board. I smiled proudly to myself as he stepped aside to reveal my poster. The class laughed out loud as he dropped a curtsey before heading to his seat. The teacher spent a moment looking at the poster before removing it. “Oh Sir!” Sam moaned. “We're allowed to protest peacefully.” he stated.

“That maybe true Samuel... but I decide what goes on the notice board.” the form teacher replied as he rolled up the poster and returned to his desk. Jack, myself, Sam and Oliver all grinned at one another in solidarity. I wondered how many more of us there were.

The corridors were more boisterous than usual as we filtered from our form room to our respective classes. Double history was first for us and much like the form teacher, our history teacher just rolled her eyes as we entered. “Pull your socks up Jack.” she said. “You know we don't allow scrunched socks.” she told him.

“Erm...” Jack gulped. “Do I have to Miss?”

“If you're wearing knee socks then they need to be pulled up to the knee.” she informed him. “It's written quite clearly in the school handbook.” she said, before telling him that if he wants to dress like the girls then he needs to read and follow the rules laid out for them.

Jack gulped and frowned and pulled his socks up. They're clearly girl's knee socks, with a vague yet noticeable patterned knit. The class sniggered when they noticed. Jack looked mortified. I presumed they weren't his preferred choice of hosiery today.

Halfway through the class, a prefect entered and gave the teacher a message. This wasn't unusual as prefects often run errands between classes, but at the end of the lesson when the break-time bell rang, Jack, myself, Sam and Oliver were told to report to the deputy head in the assembly hall. “We can't get into trouble.” Oliver said as we made our way there. “We're not breaking any rules.” We all agreed but were worried that we had to report to the deputy head.

My jaw dropped when I entered the hall... there must be at least thirty boys all wearing skirts. This is far better than I ever expected. We were instructed to join the queue. “What are they doing?” Jack asked.

“Measuring our skirts by the looks of it.” I noticed. Most boys wore skirts that were closer to knee length than mid thigh which left me feeling that my skirt is a little bit on the short side. And most wore their usual clumpy school shoes and black or grey ankle socks. However a significant number were wearing white knee socks just like Jack. I noticed that Jack had pushed his down to his ankles again. “Why didn't you wear ankle socks?” I asked.

“I would have but I haven't got any white ones and Mum got me these.” he frowned.

The queue moved quickly and at the front, the deputy head is measuring each boy's skirt length in turn. I notice that some boys are given a letter and would later learn from Sam and Oliver, whose skirts were deemed too long, that the letter is for their parents stating that their attire is in breach of the school uniform regulations and that if they do not have a skirt that falls within the acceptable length, then trousers must be worn. The letter also states that the rule for girls is either white socks or black or navy tights, and that all boys who chose to attend school wearing a skirt must also adhere to this rule.

Both mine and Jack's skirts are considered acceptable, but Jack is told to pull his socks up and keep them that way, otherwise he could face a detention. Sam and Oliver loiter by the door and we all leave the assembly hall together. “I bet they're not telling any of the girls that their skirts are too long.” I said once we were dismissed.

“They only get these letters when they're too short.” Oliver replied. “My sister was threatened with suspension last term.” he added as we headed to the yard for the remainder of our morning break.

I heard a wolf-whistle from behind me and turned around to see Hannah grinning from ear to ear. “You didn't have to shave your legs.” she said. “But I’m glad you did.” she smiled.

“Happy now?” I grumped.

“I'm delighted.” she grinned. “I never thought there'd be so many.”

“Well there is that social media campaign.” I replied. I noticed my friends loitering. “I'll catch you up.” I told them. “So... you gonna delete that video?” I asked once they'd gone.

“There's the rest of term to go yet.” she said. “This is just day one.” she reminded me. I gulped. “Don't worry... I'll stick to my half of the bargain if you will.” she said.

“What choice do I have?” I frowned.

“Well at least it's not just you.” she said. “And well done for getting your friends involved.”

“I honestly thought it was going to be just me.” I told her. “They read about it on FaceBank or Twitter.”

“Odd that the social media campaign states the very same rule that I laid down for you.”

“Huh?”

“The temperature being twenty degrees or more.” she stated

“Just a coincidence I guess.” I replied.

“Maybe.” she said. I get the sneaky feeling that she's already worked out that I'm behind the online campaign. Hannah broke the awkward silence saying, “Well... I'll text you later.”

“There's probably no need... it's supposed to be even warmer tomorrow.” I replied.

“Well I will anyway.” she said. “I like our little chats.”

“They're hardly chats.” I said as she turned away.

“Who's that girl?” Jack asked when I rejoined him

“Oh err... just some girl, she knows my sister... sort of.” I evasively replied.

Not surprisingly, we were all the centre of attention between classes and during break times. In our lessons, the teachers played the protest down, advising the class to focus on the lesson, rather than Simon's legs... which are very nice, according to Miss McGuire the geography teacher. When the school bell rang to signal the end of the day, loads of kids hung around at the school gates to laugh, jeer and in some cases, cheer us on as we left the school grounds. Jack walked with me part of the way. “Well that could have been worse.” I said. “Thanks for joining in.” I added.

“My Mum decided that I'd be joining in the moment she heard about it.” he replied, adding that whilst we were bowling on Sunday, his mother was shopping for his skirt.

“I reckon there won't be as many tomorrow.” I glumly said.

“Yeah... it was only one day last time.” Jack recalled. “But it's a lot more organised this time, so who knows?”

“I was thinking about all the boys who got given a letter.”

“Yeah there is that. I can't believe how petty they were being.”

“I can.” I said. “They'll have seen it on FaceBank and got scared.”

We soon went our separate ways and I walked the rest of the way home alone. It's certainly a lot warmer now than it was this morning, I thought as the warm sun shone on my legs. “How did it go love?” Mum asked when I returned.

“Great... there' must have been fifty of us!” I claimed, exaggerating a little. I told her that we all had to go to the assembly hall at morning break to have our skirts measured and that the boys who's skirts were too long were given a letter to take home.

“What about?”

“Saying that if they don't have a skirt that falls within the regulation then they have to wear trousers.” I replied. “..and Jack got threatened with detention for scrunching his socks.”

“Jack joined in too?” Mum exclaimed.

“Yeah... and he had knee socks on!”

“You could do with some too... it didn't seem that warm this morning when you set off.”

“It wasn't!” I replied. “But I can't see knee socks doing much.”

“You'll be surprised.” Mum replied. “Have you got much homework?”

“Yeah loads.” I said.

“Good.” she said. “Why don't you go and put a bit of make-up on... I'll clear a space on the kitchen table, and you can do it down here.”

“Why?” I asked. Normally I have to do it in my room where I'm not in the way.

“Because I want to see you looking all sweet in your uniform.” she said.

“Oh Mu-um.”

“Oh Simon.” she parroted. “Indulge me won't you?”

“OK.” I mournfully replied.

As I sat applying a little eye liner and mascara, I thought of all the girls who start putting their make-up on from the moment they're leaving the school grounds. I also though about jack and Sam and Oliver and all the other boys who'd work a skirt today. I expect they're eagerly changing into boy's clothes whilst I'm making myself look even more like a girl. I apply my palest pink lipstick and take it downstairs with me.

Mum smiles as I return and start unpacking my bag, laying my books on the table. I sit myself down and my mother steps behind me. “Can I just do something before you start?” she said, taking to my hair with a brush.

“Oh Mu-um... you're not going to give me bunches are you?” I moaned. She complimented my posers of perception and put my hair in bunches, wrapping a length of white ribbon around each one and tying them in bows. “Aren't I bit old for ribbons?”

“No.” she smiled.

“Can I go and have a look?”

“No you've got your homework to do.” she grinned. “But take it from me, you look very cute.”

It felt very weird having two bunches bouncing around my ears. And the ribbon rustled too, somewhat annoyingly at first but I soon filtered it out. I imagined what Hannah would say if she could see now, or any of my classmates.. then wondered how many boys would turn up wearing skirts tomorrow. More? Less? Or 'fewer' as my English teacher would correct.

Half an hour later my sister returned home. “What have we got here?” she asked, seeing me from the back. I must have been blushing when I turned around. I could feel the heat in my cheeks. She asked how the protest went and I told her that loads of boys wore skirts. Then Mum asked if she still had any white knee socks. “Yeah I think so, why?”

“Because it wasn't that warm at half eight this morning and you brother could do with some.” Mum replied.

“Knee socks won't make any difference.” I stated.

“You'd be surprised.” my sister replied. A few minutes later she came down from her room and presented me with a pair.

“I'm not wearing those at school!” I said, noticing a distinct pelerine knit.

“Why not?” Mum asked. “You said Jack wore knee socks.”

“I know but they're too girlie.”

“Says the boy with pink lips and his hair in bunches.”

“But I'm not at school now.” I defensively replied. “The whole point of the protest is we're wearing skirts because we're banned from wearing shorts... it's not about dressing as a girl.”

“But the reason you're getting involved this year Simon is because you do like dressing as a girl.” my mother informed me.

“It's not just that.” I claimed, considering Hannah and her video. But if I didn't like dressing as a girl I would never have accepted a job as a waitress in the first place, and Hannah would never had shot that video... so for all the wrong reasons, Mum's absolutely right. I reiterated that the right for boys to wear shorts is something worth fighting for. “...and the fact that I like girl's clothes is a bonus.” I said. “I can wear a skirt in public without actually going public.”

“Yes I understand that love.” Mum replied. “But I'd still like to see you in knee socks.” she said, reminding me that I let her put my hair in bunches.

I untied my shoes laces and removed my trainer liners, before pulling on my sister's girlie white knee socks. The pelerine pattern stretched over my legs, revealing stripes and diamond shapes. I made sure they weren't twisted and the tops were level, before glumly looking up at my mother and sister. “I don't think I've got the guts to wear these at school.” I said.

“You had the guts to wear a skirt.” my sister stated.

“And if Jack's wearing knee socks...” Mum added, before asking what his were like.

“A bit like these.”

“Not plain then?” she asked. I shook my head. “Well there you go... if Jack's got the guts.” she proposed as I pulled my shoes back on.

“They were the only white socks he had though... his mum got him them when she bought his skirt.” I informed them. “I'm sure he'd have preferred normal socks if he had the choice.”

“Those are normal socks.”

“You know what I mean though... plain ones, like those.” I said, pointing to the white trainer liners I'd been wearing.

“We're any other boys wearing knee socks?” Mum asked. “Or just Jack?”

I recalled the queue in the assembly hall and guessed maybe ten or fifteen out of around forty skirted boys. “Forty! That's loads!” my sister exclaimed.

“Yeah it was a good turnout.”

“What were you queueing for?” she quizzed. I explained that we were having our skirt lengths measured and some boys were given a letter to take home. “That's ridiculous! I could understand it if they were too short but too long?!” Karen growled.

“Well you did say they're quite strict when we were getting my skirts.” I reminded her. “Mid thigh and not knee length.” I added.

“Yes... but I don't recall any girls ever being pulled up for wearing one a bit too long.”

“That's what I said... I reckon the headmaster's doing what he can to dissuade us from wearing skirts.” I replied. “Jack got threatened with detention for scrunching his socks down to his ankles.”

“Yeah... they were very strict on socks when I was there.” Karen told me, before grumbling about the letters again.

“Yes it does seem a bit much Karen.” Mum agreed. “But Simon's got lots of homework to do.”

I returned to my homework assignments but couldn't help but intermittently kick out my foot and look down at my socks. They're so overtly girlie that I'd get teased so much of I did wear them at school... but thinking about it, Jack only got teased to begin with and he wasn't the only boy wearing girl's knee socks.

By the time I’d finished my homework, I decided that I did quite like how my girlie knee socks looked, but figured that they're far too girlie for school. I packed up my books and went through to the lounge. “Have you seen the pictures on FaceBank?” Mum asked. She handed me her iPad and I looked at some twenty pictures taken of us at the school gates that had been posted on the local group. “There's none of me are there?” I asked.

“No... unfortunately.” Mum replied. “But I'd quite like to take one.”

“Oh no Mum!” I whined. “...not with my hair like this.”

“But you look cute.” she grinned.

“Can I take them out?” I asked. “I've finished my homework.”

“I suppose... spoilsport.” she frowned.

I'd got so used to them dangling around my ears that I'd forgotten to have a look in a mirror. I paused in front of the hallway mirror on the way to my room and looked more like a school girl than most girls in my year... even those who do wear bunches don't wear white ribbons tied in perfect bows. I stepped back so my socks came into view. With their patterned knit they look as girlie as my hair, but being bright brilliant white, my legs look nicely tanned. I went to my room and removed my ribbons, bunches and make up. I brushed my hair about fifty time until the kink was barely visible, before removing my school uniform and dressing as the boy I am. Part of me couldn't believe that I'd actually worn a skirt at school as I clipped it to its hanger... and I can't quite believe that I'll be wearing it again tomorrow. But I was proud of what I'd achieved. I never imagined that so many other boys would also wear a skirt today. Making that poster and getting it circulated on FaceBank was a stroke of genius.

Come morning, I didn't have the guts to wear the knee socks. I felt just as nervous when I stepped outside as I had yesterday. It took a while for my legs to become accustomed to the mere fourteen degrees that it was at half past eight.

Once again I was teased and cheered at the school gates, and today being Thursday, the school assembly was held. The headmaster claimed that some of us had fallen for a prank that was going around on social media and stated that any attempts to get the school's uniform policy changed, were futile. “Boy's who opt to wear a skirt must abide by the same rules as the girls regarding length and hosiery. Socks must be white and tights must be plain charcoal grey.” A few sniggers were heard at the thought of boys wearing tights. He went on to say that anyone breaching the school's uniform rules will first be warned and continued breaches will result in detention and potentially, suspension

Jack and I were the only boys who wore skirts in our form room and as such, were the centre of attention again. Sam and Oliver were back in their long trousers and were both annoyed that they couldn't continue the protest. “You could have just hitched up your skirts.” Jack suggested, but like slouched knee socks, rolling the top of a skirt isn't allowed and is stated quite clearly in the school rules. One of the girls suggested we should have to play netball instead of cricket in our PE classes. The form teacher said it was a very good idea, but I guess he was teasing us rather than being serious.

Once again we were instructed to go to the assembly hall at break time, and the number of skirted buys was around half that it was yesterday. “Are you going to do this everyday Miss.” I asked as the deputy head measured my skirt.

“We need to make sure that your uniform complies with the regulations Simon.” she replied.

“I don't see any girls in the queue Miss.” I sneered.

The deputy head scowled at me, before casting her eyes down the line. “I see only girls in the queue... miss.” she hissed before dismissing me.

I waited whilst Jack had his skirt measured and like mine it fell within the accepted length. The deputy head did insist that he straightened his socks and put the tops of them level. “She's certainly got a bee in her bonnet.” I grumbled as Jack and I exited the assembly hall.

“I think they're just trying to embarrass us into compliance.” he replied. “That's what Mum reckoned when I told her they were measuring our skirts.” he added.

“It's a bit annoying that there's not so many today.” I moaned. “But I suppose that was to be expected... even if they didn't hand out all those letters.”

“Oh I dunno... I wish I’d got one.” Jack nervously chuckled. “This is more my mum's idea than mine.” he said. “She even made me keep it on whilst I did my homework.” he sighed.

“I always have to keep my uniform on 'til my homework's done.” I told him, but I didn't mention the make-up or bunches or knee socks.

There was much debate throughout the lunch break as to whether the social media campaign was a prank or not. I figured the less I said about it the better, and when asked I replied with certainty that it's not a prank. “If I thought it was I wouldn't be wearing this.” I stated.

Ben wanted proof that it wasn't a prank, I suggested he prove that it was. “I might do that... it's far too warm out here.” he replied. I stated that I wasn't too warm and asked Jack if he was too warm. Jack shrugged and shook his head. I asked Tom if he was too warm. “A bit.” Tom replied.

“Well you'll know who to thank if we're allowed to wear shorts next summer.” I smugly told them. Tom and Ben reckoned it would never happen and whilst they're probably right, I remained hopeful. Jack told us that when his Mum was at school, the girls all campaigned for the right to wear trousers and won. That shut Tom and Ben up, but they maintained that there's no way they're going to join us.

Mum didn't put my hair in bunches after school and didn't have me doing my homework at the kitchen table. I did keep my uniform on 'til it was finished though... as that is the norm. I got a text off Hannah with the screenshot of her weather app. Her message read; '20ºC tomorrow. Three in a row! :D'. I texted her back saying; 'Thought you'd have checked up on me today', as I hadn't seen her at school. She replied with 'Don't worry... I saw you! :)x'.

After supper we sat in front of the early evening news which was followed by the weather. The presenter stated that things are beginning to cool down for the bank holiday weekend and reported a potential high of only twenty degrees tomorrow, and bank holiday Monday will be a mere fifteen degrees. With all the excitement over the last two days, I'd forgotten that it was half term and felt relieved that my clothing wouldn't be dictated by a manipulative girl in Year 9 for the whole of next week... but Mum suggested I wore my knee socks tomorrow since it's going to be a couple of degrees cooler. I wasn't keen and reiterated that they probably wouldn't make much difference. “But that's what I want you to find out... knee socks do make a difference.” Mum replied.

“I'd try them if they were plain.” I replied.

“Jack's are knitted aren't they?”

“Yeah but...”

“...and looking at those photos on FaceBank, plenty of other boys were wearing pelerine socks.”

“Not that many.” I claimed.

It turns out that Hannah isn't the only person with an influence on what I wear for school. Mum managed to persuade me to wear my knee socks on Friday and whilst my legs felt significantly warmer as I walked to school, I was teased by my classmates for wearing girl's knee socks. It didn't help that Jack wore trousers and I was the only boy in my class dressed like a girl. Jack claimed that the forecast was only nineteen degrees and seemed surprised that I was wearing a skirt today. Yet again I had to go to the assembly hall at break where some fifteen or twenty boys stood in line, waiting to have their skirts measured by the stern deputy head. I counted seven other boys wearing knee socks and all but two were patterned like mine.

“Knee socks today! Nice!!” Hannah grinned as she approached me at lunch time.

I made the same lame excuse that I’d made during registration. “It's not that warm today.”

“It's warm enough.” she smiled.

“Now maybe... but not at half past eight in the morning.”

“Us girls seem to manage OK... I'm sure a big boy like you can.” she retorted in a both sarcastic and patronising tone. I replied with a sigh. “I'll text you next Sunday with the forecast.” she told me. “Hopefully it'll be scorching.”

“You don't have to keep texting me... I've pretty much signed up to the Be Cool In School campaign.” I told her.

Stay cool in school.” she replied, correcting me. “But all that aside... we still have an agreement.”

“I know.” I gulped.

Hannah looked me up and down and smiled approvingly as she began to turn away. “See you in a week I guess.” she chirped

“See ya.” I muttered.

I made my way over to Ben and Tom. I knew they'd been watching me talking with Hannah. “She fancies you.” Tom claimed.

“Nah she doesn't.” I said, explaining the her sister and my sister are friends. I made damn sure that I mentioned nothing of the café, but Tom still reckoned that Hannah has a crush on me, and could tell by the way she was looking at me. “She was probably just thinking 'what the heck?' at this get up.” I replied. “I wish I'd never let my mum talk me into wearing these socks.” I claimed as I sat myself beside.

“Just like you wish she hadn't talked you into shaving your legs.” Ben sneered, looking at my knees.

“That was my sister... and I didn't shave them, I trimmed them with hair clippers.” I replied, bending the truth significantly. “You guys got any plans for half term?” I asked.

“Going to Darlington to stay with family.” Tom replied.

“Not much.” Ben said. “You?” he asked.

“Apart from not wearing this for a week... not really.” I told him.

“You gonna wear that when we come back?!” he exclaimed.

“Depends on the weather.” I shrugged. “If I backed down the headmaster and deputy head would think they’ve won... which means the last three days would have been pointless.” I gulped.

“Do you like wearing a skirt?” Ben asked.

“Erm... not really. But it's not that bad. I've got shorts underneath so it's not like I'm 'just' wearing a skirt.” I sheepishly replied.

“You sit like a girl.” he told me, glancing disapprovingly at my knees, which I kept together.

“It is quite short.” I retorted.

“But you've got shorts on... and you always smooth it under you when you sit.” he said.

“Just so it doesn't get creased.” I impatiently stated. “If you've got a problem just say so... and if you had the guts to join the protest you'd probably do the same.” I told him.

“To be fair I have noticed that Ben... Jack was doing it yesterday, and Sam and Ollie the day before.” Tom said. Ben wound his neck in, but I guess it was only a matter of time before one of them asked me if I liked it.

After school, Jack and I left the school grounds together. “Sorry I didn't join the protest today.” he said. “It must be weird being the only one in class.”

“Ah it's OK... it was pretty weird when there were a few of us.” I replied. “At least I wasn't the only one in school.”

“Yeah... how many were in the assembly hall this morning?”

“About twenty... maybe a few more.” I told him. “You got any plans for half term?”

“Visiting relatives in Winchester.”

“Seems like everyone's visiting relatives... Tom's going up to Darlington.”

“What about Ben?”

“Dunno... he was getting really shirty with me earlier.” I grumpily replied, mentioning Ben's judgemental assumptions and criticisms.

“Take no notice.” Jack replied. “He's probably jealous.”

“Jealous?” I quizzed.

“You've been getting an awful lot of attention from the girls recently.” Jack stated.

“Not just me... and it's not the right sort of attention.” I frowned.

“Jennifer Eccles fancies you.” Jack claimed. “...and who's that cute year nine girl?”

“Hannah doesn't fancy me!” I blurted, before claiming the same about Jennifer.

“I overheard her saying you looked cute in knee socks.” Jack stated.

“That doesn't mean she fancies me.”

“She thinks you look cute though.” Jack said, adding that my legs look better than his because I shaved them.

Jack and I soon parted company and I made my way home alone. I was bit disgruntled when I got home and told Mum that I was the only boy in my class who took part in the protest. “Well I suppose it's a novelty for most.” Mum replied. “They only lasted a day or two last time.”

“Yeah but this time it's supposed to be 'til the end of term... every time the temp hits twenty.” I sighed. Mum asked if anyone mentioned my knee socks. “Yeah... course they did.” I replied, recalling the snorts and sniggers from the boys and the sarcastic compliments from the girls.

“And how were they this morning? Make much difference?” she asked.

“Yeah.” I admitted.

“See I told you.”

“Yeah.” I conceded. “Don't think I'll wear them at school again though.” I said, looking down at the knitted patterns that stretch around my shins. “Socks like this belong in Year 7, not Year 10.”

“Yes I know what you mean... but sometimes girls like dressing a little on the young side.” Mum replied. “Remember those ankle socks with the frilly lace they were all wearing a couple of years ago?”

“They were horrendous!”

“Very cute though.”

“Too cute.” I replied, looking down at my feet. “These don't seem so bad now you've mentioned those.”

“There's nothing wrong with them.” Mum insisted. “Do you want to get changed before you do your homework?”

“Nah I'll just get on with it.” I said. “What happened to school's not over 'til my homework's done?” I quizzed, that being one of Mum's rules.

“Well it's half term and Karen's chosen an outfit for you.”

“Oh.” I replied, somewhat surprised. “Is she in?”

“No she's at the café... she said she'd put it on your bed.”

“What's it like?”

“I haven't seen it... not another Goth outfit I hope.” Mum grinned.

I went to my room and found a dusty pink dungaree dress in corduroy, along with a stripy T shirt and a pack of tights. They're not black like I’m used to but 'bamboo' like Mum would wear, and they're only seven denier. I keep my school uniform on whilst I do my homework, and apply a little make-up first, then tie my hair in a high bouncy ponytail. I work through my assignments but can't help but recall Ben asking if I liked wearing a skirt, and pointing out that I sit like a girl. Would it have been so bad if I was honest and said yes, and went on to say that I sometimes wear a dress, and know how to apply make-up and do simple hairstyles? I'd only have explain why and that would mean telling them that I accepted a job in my sister's café and agreed to work as a waitress... which is how it all started. Then I considered Tom's claim that Hannah fancies me... I don't believe that for a minute! All she does is tease me and she's been nothing but manipulative and mean... if she wasn't such a bitch she might be quite pretty... I suppose, before putting that whole string of thought out of my mind.

I complete my homework and pack up my books, then picked up the dusty pink dungee-dress my sister left for me. Dungaree dresses are one of those items of clothing that I've never really warmed to, and given the choice I'd have preferred a denim one. I pick up the T shirt which is off white with thin horizontal burgundy stripes, and to my surprise, beneath it is another lacy crop top. This time in cream with inch wide lace shoulder straps. Like the purple crop-top my sister loaned me, this looks a bit too much like a bra for my liking, but I wear it anyway. The T shirt has a broad neck but still hides the lacy straps beneath it. It has short sleeves, gathered at the shoulder seam and one of those wobbly, girlie hems. I pull on the dungee-dress and fasten the short zip to the side and try to see how it looks in my small make-up mirror. I'm not so sure. I perch on my bed and carefully pull on the thin skin coloured tights, before coyly going downstairs. “Oh that looks nice.” Mum smiles when I present myself. “I'd forgotten Karen had that dress.” she said.

Mum asked if I liked it and I said it was OK. “...maybe a bit plain.” I added as I looked down at myself. “The sort of thing I imagine wearing to a museum.” I supposed. Mum grinned and agreed. “These tights are weird... it's like I've got Barbie's legs.” I commented.

Mum chuckled and again, agreed. “I've got some shoes that might look nice.” she said.

“Erm... OK.” I replied, and swiftly followed Mum up to her room. She had two pairs in mind; one in a muted pink suede that matched my dress, and another in burgundy velvet to bring out the stripes on my T shirt. Both are flat ballet style shoes and both fit my feet snugly. Mum lets me choose and I opt for the suede pair since the velvet ones look more like slippers than shoes. “Can I suggest a different lipstick?” she asked. “...and can we paint your nails?”

“Sure.” I shrugged.

The lipstick looked very dark in comparison to the pink I wore, but Mum assured me that it wasn't too dark, explaining that it will go nicely with the stripes on my top. The nail varnish is also burgundy. “...and if we were going to visit a museum, I'd suggest a burgundy handbag as well.” she said as she painted my nails.

“I always wondered why you and Karen needed so many bags.” I said. “Now I understand why.”

“Would you like to go out somewhere dressed up?” she asked.

“What, you mean like... school.”

um grinned. “I was thinking more of a day out... to a museum maybe.” she replied.

“Kind of... at school I've got my excuse. When I work for Karen I've got an excuse... but dressing as a girl to just go somewhere like a museum would make me feel like I'd have to pretend I was a girl, which I’m not.”

“That was going to be my next question.” Mum said. “About possibly pretending to be a girl.” she clarified. “You'd need a name and... some boobs.” she said. I gulped and grimaced. “...and a bra of course.”

“Couldn't I just be a boy who wears girl's clothes?” I supposed. “I can imagine someone asking my name and I said... say... Hannah or something, and they turn 'round and go you're not a girl!

“Yes. That would be awkward.” Mum replied, adding “Hannah's a nice name though.” she said. “That's the girl who keeps texting you.”

I gulped. “Err.... yeah.” I replied. “She's not my girlfriend!” I stated, before quickly making up a cock and bull story about her being a kind of co-ordinator for the protests. “She sends out texts with tomorrow's forecast so we know whether it's on or not.”

“It sounds all very organised.”

“Yeah... it is this year.”

“Do you honestly believe the headmaster will change his mind and let the boys wear shorts?”

“I dunno... probably not.” I honestly replied. “It's not just the boys though. I reckon a lot of girls would like to be allowed to choose shorts instead of a skirt.”

“Well whatever happens... I think the best thing is that it's allowed you to chose a skirt instead of trousers.”

“Yeah I guess.” I smiled.

I wore the outfit all evening. Mum and I watched TV and chatted and generally had a nice evening. Karen came home from work soon after 10pm and was delighted that I'd worn the outfit she'd chosen. “You're giving all my old clothes a new lease of life.” she said, before asking if my shoes were Mum's. “You've painted you nails too.” she noticed. “That colour's perfect.”

“Mum chose it.” I bashfully confessed. “To match the stripes on my top.”

“Yes I noticed.” Karen smiled. “Did you wear the little bra-top too?” she asked. I blushed and nodded.

“I didn't know you were wearing a bra.” Mum said.

“It's not really a bra.” Karen stated. “It's from one of those little lacy crop top sets I've got.” she said.

“Oh I see.” Mum replied. “Didn't they have matching pants?” Mum quizzed.

“Yes but I didn't think Simon would want to wear my knickers.” Karen replied.

“They'll be clean.” Mum retorted. I bit my lip. “Sorry I'm embarrassing you love.” Mum said to me.

“Just a bit.” I said, feeling myself blushing. “I'm not a girl so I don't need knickers.” I bashfully stated.

“I know.” Mum conceded.

“It depends what you're wearing though.” Karen began. She reminded me of the spotty pedal pushers I wore a while back and whilst I looked nice, she said I was suffering from VPL. “Boys undies tend to have quite thick hems around the leg holes whereas girls are a lot flatter.” she explained.

“Yeah I guess.” I hesitantly replied.

Eventually I took myself up to bed and went through the rigmarole of removing my make-up before undressing. I put my sister's dungee-dress back on its hanger and folded the T shirt. I carefully removed my tights and hung them over the back of my chair. Ben's comments about me sitting like a girl sprang into my mind and I wondered what he'd have to say if he could see my room right now... my school skirt hangs from one wardrobe door knob, the pale pink dungaree dress from the other. A pair of skin coloured tights are slung next to the pelerine knee socks I'd worn for school today. My desk is littered with lipstick, eye-liner, foundation, mascara and eye-shadow, plus bobbles, kirby-grips and a sparkly heart hairslide. A pile of folded laundry sits on my chair and on the top is the tie-dye pink nightie with a playful sketch of Tinker Bell printed on it. I wonder how I'd explain it all, before putting my worries out of my mind and climbing into bed.

The half term break came and went and with Jack and Tom both visiting family that week, and Ben in my bad books, I was actually pleased to receive a text from Hannah on the Sunday evening before school. 'Only 19ºC tomorrow', she wrote, adding a sad face smiley. I replied with a one word; 'Phew!'

“Ooh he's wearing trousers today!” one of the girls cooed when I arrived at school on Monday morning. “Why the change of heart?”

“Today's not a protest day.” I casually replied.

“I trust you're not thinking of continuing with this pathetic protest are you Simon.” a passing teacher asked. “You and your comrades have wasted enough of our time already.” he sneered.

“All due respect Sir but the protest isn't for your convenience.” I retorted.

“All due respect Boy but you're fighting a lost cause.” the teacher countered. “Short trousers will never be permitted.”

“We'll just have to carry on wearing skirts when the weather dictates then.” I confidently replied.

“Well if you want to look ridiculous that's up to you.” the teacher sighed.

“We didn't think he looked ridiculous did we?” one of the girls announced.

“We did.” Ben sneered. I just gave him a look.

“At least he shaved his legs.” another girl snorted as I joined the end of the line.

“Can you make that a rule Sir... all boys who do wear a skirt must shave their legs.” the girl next to me suggested. The teacher rolled his ayes and went on his way. “So how come you're not wearing your skirt today?” she asked me.

“We only protest when it's hot... when the temperature's twenty or more.” I replied. “Surely you've seen the campaign online?”

“Yeah, course.” she replied. “I just didn't know the rules. I was trying to talk my mum into making my brother join in.”

“It's gotta be up to him surely.” I claimed.

“He doesn't want to but I think he should.” she replied. “Fight for your rights and all that... plus... boys act different when they're dress like girls.” she added.

“How?” I quizzed.

“I dunno... less boisterous I guess.” she said.

The bell rang and we filtered into the form room. The teacher also commented on my trousers, before adding that it's supposed to warm up again by the end of the week. “So make sure you shave your legs again!” one of the girls blurted, causing a wave of sniggers and giggles to erupt.

The form teacher jovially calmed the class before calling the register. All day long, I was frequently reminded that I wasn't wearing a skirt and each and every time, I simply said “It's not warm enough.” If I had a pound for every time someone suggested that I could have worn tights, I'd have earned at least a tenner that day.

Hanna approached me and asked if I'd had a 'pleasant' half term break, before saying she missed our nightly text exchanges. “It was a welcome break for me.” I dryly replied, pretending I'd enjoyed the whole week in boy's clothing whilst recalling the skirts and frocks I had worn. “I hope this weather holds out.” I said. “Warm but not too warm.” I smugly added

“Hmm.” Hannah sighed. “According to the forecast it's gonna be highs of eighteen or nineteen all week.” she frowned.

“Good.” I grinned.

“But the moment the forecast says twenty... you're back in your skirt.” she stated. “Unless of course you want everyone to know you're a waitress.”

“I'm not.” I stated. “That was just over Easter.”

“Plus the occasional evening when someone's sick.” she knowingly replied. I skewed my jaw. “I'll text you later.” Hannah said before turning and leaving.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Hannah texted me every night before school with a screen grab of her weather app. 19º, 18º, 19º, 17º, then 13º, 13º, 14º, 14º, 18º. Every sub-twenty forecast was accompanied with a sad face smiley and comments such as 'so close but so far', 'this is turning out to be a shit summer', and 'I bet your legs are well hairy again'. “If she only knew.” I thought, having just shaved my legs when that message came through.

My sister asked if I was looking forward to working in her café again. “Yeah I guess... not for another month though is it?” I asked.

“No it's next week.” Karen informed me. “The uni's broken up and the students are heading home.”

“I thought that was July.”

“No, June.” she told me. “I've already done your rotas. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday... same as last time.” she said. “If that's OK with you.”

“Yeah... sure... it's just sooner than I expected.”

On Sunday evening I got the text off Hannah with another 19º forecast, along with the message “This is getting infuriating now!”

“Sorry 'bout that.” I smugly texted back.

On Monday evening, the forecast for Tuesday was only 18º and Hannah's accompanying message to the screenshot of the weather app was a simple 'grrrr'. I replied with a grinning smiley.

On Tuesday evening I was busy working the tables at my sister's café again, wearing the same black plimsolls, thin tights, little skirt & apron and scoop neck vest that all her waitresses wear. It was nerve racking to begin with but I soon got over my stage fright and the café soon got so busy I didn't have time to worry about anything but taking the orders and delivering the meals. The punters didn't seem bothered and some of the regulars remembered me from Easter. “Oh we wondered what happened to you.” one lady smiled as he took their order.

“I just provide cover when the students are away.” I replied. “Plus the occasional day that someone's off sick... it's my sister's café so I'm a handy replacement.” I told them. Nothing changes much. The first half hour is quiet, then it's packed out, then quiet again and before I knew it, we were clearing up and stacking the chairs. Karen divvied up the tips and gave us each an equal share, and as usual, Karen and myself are the last to leave. “I thought it might be dark by this time.” I said as I stepped outside.

“It's the middle of summer.” Karen replied. “You feeling shy?” she asked, looking down at my legs.

“Yeah a little bit.” I bashfully replied. “I should have put my jeans back on.”

She smiled at me as she pulled down the shutter and set the alarm. I felt very exposed as the warm evening breeze whipped around my legs and made my pleats flutter. I slung my handbag over my shoulder and glanced at my reflection in the shuttered window; my hair is tied in a high pony tail, my make-up is subtle yet obviously there. A casual hoodie covers my top half and half of my pleated skirt. My nylon clad legs look long and slender and it's only when Karen says “You look fine!” do I realise that I'm glaring at myself.

“I certainly look better in this than I do in a school skirt and knee socks.” I told her.

“You rocked those knee socks!” she said, grinning, before asking if and when I was going to wear it again.

“Whenever the temperatures twenty degrees or more.” I replied. “That's the rule.” I said. “Which reminds me...” I added, opening my handbag and removing my phone. There's four texts all from Hannah; the first is a short 'Getting warmer... 19º tomorrow. Grrr!'. The second reads 'Did you get that?'. The third and fourth say 'Are you there?' and 'Why aren't you talking to me?'. I reply with 'Calm down H! ...been at work all evening.'

“Who's that you're texting?” my sister asked.

“Just a girl from school.” I replied. “She sends out the weather forecast so we know whether to wear a skirt or not.” I lied, implying that Hannah contacts everyone and not just me.

“So it's girl who's behind the protests?” Karen quizzed. “Maybe she just wants to see the boys all wearing skirts.”

“I think there is a bit of that.” I honestly replied as I put my phone back in my handbag.

“So what's the forecast?”

“Eighteen degrees.” I replied. “Thankfully.”

“What do you mean... thankfully? You love it.” Karen teased.

“Not when half the class is going oooh Simon’s wearing a skirt... is he a girl?!” I replied. “No... I’m just a guy wearing a skirt.” I added, as if replying to the kids in class. “At least in the café everyone treats me like one of the waitresses.”

“You are one of the waitresses.” my sister replied as she unlocked her car.

I climbed into the passenger seat, smoothed my pleats and laid my handbag on my lap. My phone 'knocked', alerting me to an incoming text. I sighed as I opened my handbag and removed it. Predictably, it's from Hannah and reads 'Waitressing? ;)'. I didn't reply, but I did reapply my lipstick.

“I like that shade.” Karen said. “It suits you.”

“Thanks.” I bashfully replied. “I dunno why I’m reapplying now though... I'll be taking it all off in half an hour.” I added.

“A girl's gotta look her best.” Karen grinned.

“This would be so much easier if I was a girl.” I grumbled as I dropped the lipstick back in my handbag. Karen said that I make it look easy, which felt like a compliment. “Thanks.” I coyly said as she started the engine.

The next day at school, Hannah approached me in the corridor looking very smug. “Hey Simon, guess what?” she asked.

“What?” I dryly retorted.

“Set to be twenty tomorrow!” she grinned.

“Oh great.” I groaned.

“Make sure you shave your legs.” she said. “Oh but... you probably already have done.” she winked. “You working again tonight?” she asked.

“Why?”

“Because yesterday I thought you were ignoring me.” she replied, before apologising for the string of 'shirty' texts she'd sent me. “You're still game aren't you?” she asked. “I know it's been a few weeks.”

“Yeah I'm still game.” I half-heartedly replied. “I only hope it's not just me.” I added.

After school, I got straight on social media. I logged into the Student Room and found the thread about the shorts ban. No one had commented on it for weeks, but now I've been a member for a while, I posted the poster and typed 'temperatures set to soar in the UK tomorrow... join the protest!'. I added a load of hashtags, then logged out and logged into my secret Twitter account, then tweeted my post from the Student Room, then logged into FaceBank and waited... and waited. I changed out of my school uniform and had a quick wash, checked FaceBank, then got a clean pair of tights and a vest, checked FaceBank again, got myself dressed for work, checked FaceBank again, put my make-up on, got out my homework, checked Facebank, tied my hair up, got on with my homework and intermittently kept checking FaceBank to see if my post from the Student Room had worked its way around Twitter and ended up on the local social media group where parents, pupils and teachers would see it. “Oh... you're changed already.” Mum said as she popped her head around my door. “You usually wear jeans until you get there.” she noted.

“Yeah but I don't know why.” I glumly replied. “My hair's tied up and I'm wearing make-up and a pair of jeans won't magically detract from how girlie I look.” I said. “...and all the neighbours will have seen me walking to and from school on protest days.”

“Very true.” Mum smiled. “Is that a new lipstick?” she asked.

“Not new but I've got a few.” I replied, glancing at them. Nine lipsticks in their distinct cylinders, neatly lined up beneath my make-up mirror. “I just try a different one each night.” I casually added. Mum asked which it was and bashfully I confessed “Dusty blossom.”

“It suits you.” she smiled. She always says that, I thought. “It's just popped up on FaceBank that your protest is on again tomorrow.” she told me. “So I'll iron your skirt shall I?” she said, opening my wardrobe.

“Oh erm... yeah I guess.” I replied, activating my phone, tapping the FaceBank icon and immediately seeing the post...



“What are the comments like?” I asked.

“Some positive, some negative, but mostly just idiots ranting about PC gone mad.” Mum replied. “Have you got clean knee socks?” she asked.

“I prefer ankle socks.” I said as she pulled open my sock drawer.

“I like you in knee socks.” she said, removing a pair.

“If anything I’d rather wear tights.” I added. “But they kind of defeat the object.”

“That depends what the object is.” Mum replied. “If you're demonstrating that it's too hot for long trousers, then yes, I suppose they do.” she said. “If you're embarrassing them into submission, it doesn't matter if you wear socks or tights.” she explained. “You could keep this going all through the winter if you wanted to.”

“I don't fancy wearing a skirt in the winter Mum.” I gasped. “It'd be freezing.”

“Well the girls seem to cope.” she added, before asking if I had much homework.

“Nah it's nearly done now.” I replied, just as my phone 'knocked', alerting me of an incoming text. It's from Hannah and is accompanied with the screen-shot of her weather app showing tomorrow's predicted high is twenty degrees. The message reads 'Finally!!! can't wait to see your legs again :) x'. I finished my homework before replying with 'lucky me' and added a suitable emoticon.

I went downstairs where Mum was ironing my school skirt and my sister complained that she always had to iron her own. “Yes but you weren't working as a waitress when you were at school.” Mum reminded her.

I reflected on that as Karen drove me to the cafe. “He should be ironing his own school skirt … But he works as a waitress.” I paraphrased, mimicking their exchange. “It sounded so normal but it's anything but normal... a teenage boy wearing a skirt for school by day and working as a waitress at night.” I noted.

“Well it's normal for us.” Karen replied. “I can't help but think my brother would look great in that when I’m shopping for clothes.” she told me. “And if it's OK with you... I might by you something nice when your birthday comes around.” She emphasised the 'might'.

“You mean a dress or something?” I hesitantly asked. She nodded. I gulped but I don't know why. I've become so accustomed to Karen choosing outfits for me to wear around the house and garden that I feel just as comfortable in her clothes as I do my own. I suppose it's the prospect of actually having my own dress that worries me.. but my school skirt is my own, even bought with my own money.

“You've gone quiet all of a sudden.” Karen said. “Would you rather I didn't buy you a dress for your birthday?”

“Ooh I don't know... it's months away anyway.” I replied.

“Well have a think.” she said. “I'd rather buy you something you liked, so if you see anything...”

She parked the car at the back of the café and we walked around to the front. I felt brave yet fearful wearing my skirt so early in the evening. What if someone from school sees me? I knew that was unlikely because a different high school serves this side of town... but someone could happen to be passing. With their shutters still open, I checked my reflection in each shop window we passed. I like my outfit, although it does look a bit top heavy, being a baggy black hoody from which the pleats of my my skirt emerge, and those long slender legs of mine. “You like your legs don't you.” Karen noticed. I played ignorant. “You're always looking at them.” she told me.

“I guess I am.” I bashfully admitted as she unlocked the shuttered door, giving me another perfect reflection of myself. “The girls at school keep gushing over them.” I told her. “When I’m wearing a skirt.” I added, gulping.

“How does that feel?” she asked.

“I'd rather they didn't.” I replied. “Some of them have really great legs but I don't tell them that.” I told her. “I'd only get accused of leching.”

“They're probably only doing it because plenty of boys do lech.” she suggested as the alarm beeped impatiently. Silencing it, she added “You just have to ignore it... but if it goes too far, report it.”

“Oh yeah I can imagine that... Sir! Jennifer Eccles keeps staring at my legs!!Well don't wear such a short skirt, Simon!” I said, mimicking myself and a random teacher.

Once inside I hung up my handbag and hoodie, checked my reflection as I donned my little white apron, and reapplied my lipstick. The rest of her staff soon arrived and we busied ourselves for the imminent opening. In many ways, working in a café is like groundhog day; the first half hour is easy going, then gets stupidly busy for an hour or so, then quietens off and we close. We wipe the tables, stack the chairs and sweep the floors, chatting about this and that; pop music, films, soap operas, boyfriends. “Have you got a girlfriend Simon?” they asked, adding 'or boyfriend'.

“No.” I bashfully replied.

“There's a girl from school who keeps texting him.” Karen told them.

“Hannah's not my girlfriend!” I exclaimed, which was met with a series of coos from Olivia and Trish. “she's really not.” I insisted. “She's a girl at school who sends out a text every evening, letting us know if the protest is on tomorrow.” I explained.

“Protest?” Olivia quizzed.

“About boys not being allowed shorts.” Trish stated. “It's all over social media.” she said, listing Twitter, FaceBank, Instagram, Watsapp. “...surely you've seen it?” she asked. Trish got her phone, logged into Twitter and showed the tweet to Olivia.

“I've seen that!” Olivia exclaimed. “That's sooo last month!” she stated.

“It was doing the rounds again last night.” Trish replied. She looked at me and knowingly asked if I was involved.

“I err.... wear a skirt but don't have anything to do with the campaign.” I said. “I think it's a national thing.”

“Derr... yeah... I didn't think you were the mastermind behind it.” Trish said to me, belittling me somewhat. “Only a woman could be so devious.” she added to no but herself, seemingly.

“How so?” Olivia asked.

“Because no male would concoct a campaign that essentially gets schoolboys all over the country going to school dressed like girls.” Karen replied.

How wrong she was, I thought. I wondered if they'd be impressed if I told them that it was I, a male who created the poster that's all over social media. But I can't take any credit for the concept. Boy have been protesting in skirts for a few years now, and Hannah came up with the 'twenty degrees or more' threshold. In fact if it wasn't for Hannah, I'd have never made that poster and if it wasn't for Karen, Hannah would have never blackmailed me. “Do you think you'll ever be allowed to wear short trousers?” Olivia asked. “Or is it just because you like wearing girl's clothes?” she added.

“Erm... I don't know. The headmaster says he won't budge but if say... half the boys in school turned up wearing skirts, day in, day out... he'd have to reconsider. If only to keep the press away from the school gates.”

“I read about one school a couple of years ago where the boys did a similar thing.” Trish said. “They eventually won the right to wear shorts.” she announced, before dropping the bomb. “...but lost the right to wear long trousers and have to wear shorts all year round!”

“Even in winter?!” I quizzed.

“Yep.” Trish said. “...and they're short shorts which means the boys have no choice but to wear tights in the middle winter.”

“Don't tell me!” Karen said. “It was a headmistress at that school?”

“Yeah I think it was.” Trish recalled.

“See!” Karen exclaimed. “It's women... they love dressing boys like girls.”

“You're including yourself in that, I presume.” Olivia said, somewhat cuttingly.

“Err.... yeah I guess I am.” she admitted, looking me up and down and smiling. “And whilst reluctant at first... they soon come round, don't they Simon?”

“Yeah I guess.” I glumly admitted, quickly recalling my journey. If I'd known that agreeing to cover some shifts in Karen's café would lead to me having to dress like a girl at school, I'd never have agreed to it, I mused. But then I’d have never got to try all sorts of different outfits and looks. I'd have never learned to do my hair and make-up... or experienced high heeled shoes. Of course I didn't share any of that with the others. I apathetically told them that working in the café and taking part in the protest at school means I'll spend the whole day wearing a skirt tomorrow.

“Well you wear it well.” Olivia replied. “What's you school skirt like?” I described the knife pleated plaid skirt and placed my fingers midway down my thigh to demonstrate its length. “With white knee socks I hope.” she teased.

“I'd prefer just liners but Mum prefers knee socks.” I glumly replied.

“You're kidding! White ones?”

“Pelerine.” Karen added. Olivia and Trish were a little blown away by the fact that I've worn a skirt and white pelerine knee socks to school on several occasions. “Mum was the same when I was at school.” Karen said. “She kept making me wear white pelerine knee socks right up to to year eleven.” my sister confessed. “Not everyday, but often enough.” she added.

“Didn't you like them?” I asked.

“Not at the time because I was a teenage girl and wanted to be fashionable... and white pelerine knee socks when you're fifteen aren't.” she told me. “But looking back I can see where Mum was coming from.” she said. “They are quite cute.”

“That's what worries me.” I replied. “Girls clothes are OK but I don't do cute.”

“He says, wearing a little frilly apron.”

“And pink lipstick.”

I was no match for their quick comebacks so didn't bother trying to explain myself. Olivia asked what shade my lipstick was. I chuckled and said Dusty Blossom, before wondering aloud what names they'd give lipstick shades if they were aimed at teenage boys “Martian Dust” I suggested. They giggled and Trish said 'Vader's Sabre' for a bright red, which made us all belly laugh. “It'd probably be really boring with like... Arsenal Red, Man U Red, Liverpool Red.” I mused.

“Do you follow football?” Trish asked.

I don't. She does. And it was a really short conversation.

My sister divided the tips and gave us all an equal share. I stacked the last of the chairs whilst Trish straightened the place mats and Olivia rattled through the cutlery. I'd tied my hair in a ponytail on the back of my head which kept coming loose, and discovering the my bobble has broke, I let my hair down completely. I thought nothing of it until Trish and Olivia claimed they'd never seen me with my hair down. “I only tie it up when I'm here.” I told them, although that wasn't strictly true... I always do something with my hair when Karen chooses a nice outfit for me to wear at home.

“You should wear an Alice band or something if you're wearing a skirt for school tomorrow.” Olivia suggested.

“Bunches.” my sister said.

“No!” I jovially protested. “I'll get enough flack as it is from the other kids for shaving my legs.”

“I bet the girls love you for that.” Olivia cooed.

“They like that I make an effort but that's about it.” I shrugged.

It wasn't long before the cook, Trish and Olivia were getting their things together and leaving. I loitered whilst Karen sorted some paperwork and killed a few seconds reapplying my lipstick, which was just the moment she emerged. I did that 'rabbit in the headlights' and froze for a second. Karen grinned. “I think I've created a monster.” she said.

“Well I'm certainly not taking any responsibility.” I said as I recapped my lipstick and dropped it in my handbag. I raised my eyes to the big mirror behind the counter. “I'm not sure this shade suits me.” I said.

“It's OK.” Karen replied. “You've got nicer ones.” she added. “You ready?” she asked.

“Yeah.” I said, slinging my handbag over my shoulder.

“You feeling a bit braver tonight?” she asked as she secured the shutter.

“A bit.” I said, glancing up and down the broad pavement, then down at my legs. “It's always a little bit nerve racking when I first step outside.” I confessed. “I'm worried that it's only a matter of time before I step outside and bump straight into someone from school... or a teacher comes in to eat.” I grimaced.

“I've ironed your school skirt and out some socks out.” Mum told me when we returned home.

“Thanks Mum.” I apathetically replied. She asked how my shift had been and I said it was fine. She asked Karen if was working hard and she said I was, before asking if it was busy... all the stock questions we get upon our return.

Despite informing me earlier today, Hannah texted me the screen shot of her weather app with the message 'hope it's a good turn out' and a grinning smiley. “Better had be!” I replied. I checked FaceBank and Twitter before getting into bed; shares and retweets were in the hundreds, which was excellent... but having not worn a skirt at school for some four weeks, the prospect is just as nerve racking as it was the very first time.

Mum smiled approvingly when I emerged the next morning. “I do like you in those knee socks.” she said. “But you'd look even nicer if you put a band in your hair.” she added.

“I'm not trying to look nice Mum.” I glumly replied.

“I know you're not Love.” she smiled. “But I like you looking nice.” she said. “Here.”

She handed me a white plastic headband and told me to put it on. “Oh Mu-um.” I moaned as I slipped it over my head and pushed it into position.

“That looks so much better.” she said. “Go and have a look.”

I strode to the hallway mirror and... blimey that does look so much better! Who'd have thought that an inch wide plastic band would make so much difference? “I look like a girl Mum.” I mournfully exclaimed as I returned. “Everyone'll take the mick out of me if I wear this.”

“I think the teachers will be even more outraged if the boys protesting actually dressed like girls rather than just wore a skirt.” Mum replied. “I think you need to up the ante if you're going to win this battle.”

“I think you just like seeing me dressed as a girl.”

“And I also know that you like dressing as a girl.” Mum replied. “This protest is the perfect cover for you being who you want to be and all being well, the teachers won't budge and you can do it all again next year.” she said.

“I'll be too busy with my exams next year.” I said. “Do I have to wear this?” I asked, turning my eyes upwards.

“You'll probably take it off the moment you're round the corner.” Mum replied. And that's exactly what I did.

It was a huge relief to see other boys wearing skirts as I approached the gates. The girls were being boisterous, cooing and complimenting our legs. A teacher accompanied by a PCSO is talking to a photographer, telling him that he cannot take photographs of children. The children however have all got their phones out and gleefully film and photograph the scene seemingly unchallenged. “Shaved your legs again I see Simon.” one of the girls from my class commented.

“Gotta try my best.” I shrugged. Hannah caught my eye, turned her phone towards me for a moment, before lowering it as I approached. “Satisfied?” I asked.

“I think this might be a better turn out than the first time.” she grinned. “You don't mind do you?” she asked, gesturing with her phone.

“You've got a worse video of me.” I quietly grumbled.

“I deleted that weeks ago.” she said.

“Really?” I asked, not actually believing her. “Why?”

“Because I promised you no one would see it and the only way I could guarantee that was by deleting it.” she told me. “The only copy left is the one I sent you.” she told me.

“Really!” I said, believing her. “Wow... thanks.” I said, glancing coyly at my skirt, legs and knee socks. “Guess you got what you wanted.” I said.

“And more!” she gloated. “Whoever's behind that Twitter campaign is a mastermind.”

“Do you reckon it's like this at other schools?” I wondered.

“Must be... it's all over social media.” she told me. “And guess what?”

“What?”

“The long term forecast predicts a heatwave 'til the end of term... the lows are gonna be in the twenties!” Hannah excitedly informed me. “This could go on for weeks.” she sniggered.

“Great.” I apathetically replied as the school bell rang.

The six of us in skirts entered the form room to a cheer, only for the teacher to quieten the class before sending us directly to the assembly hall. “Blimey!” I gasped, seeing around fifty boys all wearing skirts and a significant few wearing knee socks too. They stood in line waiting for the deputy head to measure their skirts but at a glance, they all look within regulation. I notice a few boys being given a letter, presumably about breaching the uniform regulations but their skirts look the right length, their socks are white and shoes are black so what rule they've broken I’ve no idea. Eventually I got to the front of the queue and huffed impatiently as the deputy head stretched a tape measure from the hem of my skirt down to my knee. “Have you got something to hold your hair off your face?” the deputy head asked. “It states quite clearly that where a fringe is longer tha...”

I dipped my hand into my bag and removed the plastic Alice band. “You mean like this Miss?” I smugly interrupted.

“Yes... exactly like that... miss.” she snarled. “Long hair must be held off the face during class.” she stated, presumably quoting the school rules verbatim.

“Yes Miss.” I replied. She jolted her head, signalling me to go. “Thanks Miss.” I cheerfully said, slipping the band onto my head and waiting for Jack and the others to have their skirts measured. They all have short hair so weren't asked of they had a band or a bobble, but they asked me why I had a headband. “I had a feeling they'd be even more finicky over the rules this time so I read them.” I claimed, wondering if Mum knew or if it was just chance that I had a headband in my bag.

Of course my Alice band got a lot of attention but since it's one of the rules, I have the perfect excuse to wear it. There are another long haired boys in my classes, but only those involved in the protests have been asked to produce and band or bobble, and the girls aren't being asked either. “Miss?” I asked the geography teacher, Miss McGuire. “How come it's only those of us protesting have to wear a hair band?”

“I think it's an attempt to ridicule you into submission.” she replied. “Well done for thinking ahead.” she said. “But as you know I’m not allowed to condone your actions, but I’m not going to condemn them either.”

“Thanks Miss.” I bashfully replied. “You won't get into trouble if I take it off will you?” I asked.

“No Simon.” she smiled.

I removed the Alice band and only wore it when one of the more disapproving teachers cited the rule about long fringes, at which point I'd proudly produce my Alice band and shut them up in an instant. I had my skirt flicked up a few times but had shorts on beneath it, which disappointed the flickers because they wanted to find us wearing knickers. As if that was ever going to happen! There were rumours though... such and such from Year 8 was and a few in Year 7. Jack and I walked part way home together and yet again he was moaning about his Mother making such a fuss about him taking part in the protest. “It's got nothing to do with the shorts ban for her...” he whined. “...she just wants to see me dressed like a girl.”

“Mine's similar.” I confessed. “She knows it's all for a cause and she supports me, but when I get home it's like oooh, don't get changed, I like seeing you... straighten your socks.” I mimicked as Jack took advantage of a secluded park bench. “What are you doing?” I asked as he sat.

“Takin' my shorts off.” he said. “Mum made me wear knickers and I just know she's going to check when I get home.” he told me as my jaw dropped open. I turned my back and kept lookout as he rummaged under his skirt. “You won't tell anyone will you?” he asked. I shook my head. “Thanks.” he frowned. “Mum's seeing this protest as a chance to pretend she has a daughter.” he told me.

“That might be happening quite a lot.” I said. “I reckon all of us in knee socks were pestered into it by our doting mothers... or sisters.” I added. Jack agreed. “And apparently there's supposed to be heatwave so it's gonna be above twenty more often than not between now and the end of term.”

Do you reckon the headmaster will ever budge?” Jack asked.

“I dunno. I hope so... otherwise we'll have to do it all over again next summer.” I replied. “But apparently a school up north won the right for boys to wear shorts but lost the right to wear long pants.” I told him. Predictably, Jack asked what they did in the winter. “They wear tights I guess.”


“Blimey!” Jack gasped. “Well... I'll see you tomorrow I guess.” he said as we approached the end of his road.

“Yeah see you tomorrow.” I said.

Part of me felt a little guilty for not confessing to my secret evening job as a waitress. I almost did after he confessed to being sent to school wearing knickers. I can't believe that his mother would do such a thing, but I guess my sister was right when she said that women love seeing boys dressed as girls. “How did it go?!” Mum chirped when I returned home. “It's been all over the news again.” she told me. “And all over FaceBank too.” she added.

“Did you know they were going to enforce the rule about long fringes?” I asked, before explaining what happened in the assembly hall this morning. She said it was a good job I had my headband and asked if I wore it, before presuming I removed it the moment I was around the corner. “Course I did.” I admitted. “But then when the deputy head started spouting the school rules, I just put it on and shut her right up.” I proudly stated. “Miss McGuire reckons they're trying to shame us into submission.” I said.

“Oh I'm sure they are.” Mum concurred, before urging me to stick to my guns.

The national news that evening reported that schools 'up and down the country' saw 'hundreds' of boys turning up wearing skirts today after a social media campaign urged them to protest against the shorts ban. It was also the main topic of discussion when we had time to chatter at the café too. I described how the head teachers are issuing warning letters for the slightest breach of the uniform guidelines such as skirts being an inch too long, socks not being white and today's exorcise in pettiness; not having a headband or bobble if we have a long fringe. “...but it's only those of us protesting that are being targeted. Not one of the metal heads were told to tie their hair back.” I explained. “...or girls!” I added.

“Well you stick to your guns Simon.” Trish said.

“That's what Mum said.” I replied. “At this rate the only days I’ll be dressed as a boy are Saturdays and Sundays.”

“Oh yeah... there's a heatwave forecast isn't there!” Olivia exclaimed. “You may as well pack away your school pants 'til September.” she grinned.

“Hopefully the long term forecast isn't that accurate.”

“But it is midsummer... high twenties is normal from here on.” Trish reminded me.

“Yeah... I hadn't really considered that when I got myself involved. I thought it'd just be a few days at most.” I glumly confessed as we stacked the chairs and swept the floor.

“...and now you've committed yourself.” Olivia stated. I glumly nodded. “Well at least you've got decent legs and longish hair... I bet most of the boys look ridiculous.”

“Some of 'em do.” I said. “But after the first wave before half term... it seemed almost normal today... about as normal as seeing a girl wearing long trousers anyway.”

“That'd be an interesting outcome.” Trish mused. “The normalisation of skirts for men.. it'll be dresses next.”

“Have you ever worn a dress Simon?” Olivia asked.

“Erm...” I replied, glancing nervously at my sister. “Yeah.” I replied.

“He looked great.” Karen told them. “I did his hair and make-up and he wore high heels.”

“You should wear a prom dress!” Olivia suggested.

“My prom's not 'til next year.” I dryly replied.

“I haven't tried you in my prom dress yet have I?” my sister said.

“You say it like he's tried loads of your dresses.” Trish observed.

“Only a few.” Karen claimed, somewhat falsely. “...and always begrudgingly.” she added.

“...and I don't even get paid.” I added.

“You only get paid when you're wearing an apron.” Karen told me, winking and grinning.

“So... are you wearing a skirt for school tomorrow?” Trish asked.

“Prob'ly.” I replied. I checked my phone as Karen drove us home. She asked if I was texting my girlfriend to which I bluntly replied. “No!”

“Is it the girl who tells the boys what to wear tomorrow?” she knowingly asked.

“Yeah.” I glumly replied. “I seem to be surrounded by women who insist I have to dress like a girl.” I sighed.

“It's a good job you like it.” she teased.

“Yeah I suppose.” I replied, considering my classmate Jack and explaining his predicament. “He reckons his mum's treating him like the daughter she doesn't have.”

“Whereas I treat you like the sister I don't have.” Karen confessed, grinning.

“I don't mind being your sister... so long as it's not too often.”

“I know you don't.” she said.

The next day was the same rigmarole at school... all of us boys in skirts were sent to the assembly hall for inspection and most of us passed muster, much to the annoyance of the deputy head. “How long are you boys planning on keeping this up for?” she asked.

“For as long as it takes Miss.” I replied.

“You do realise that some schools have banned skirts, and one I know of banned long trousers as a result of action like this.” she told us.

“Some schools let the kids wear their PE kit when it's hot Miss.” one boy claimed

“Sports wear is for sports.” she bluntly replied. “You'll get no such concessions here.”

She expressed her hope that she'll see fewer of us tomorrow before sending us to class. My history teacher told me to remove 'that stupid band from my hair'. Which I did, whilst informing him that the deputy head told me that I have to wear it due to the length of my fringe. He sighed and shook his head as I put the plastic Alice band back on. I felt empowered as my classmates giggled and sniggered. “I think you're enjoying playing the schoolgirl a little too much young man.” the teacher said.

“Just obeying the rules Sir.” I replied.

“Love the Alice band.” Hannah said as she approached me at lunchtime.

“Regulations apparently.” I shrugged.

“It suits you.” she told me.

“Thanks.” I dryly replied.

“I am a little surprised that you're still wearing a skirt.” she said. “Don't you believe that I deleted the video?”

“I'm kinda committed to the cause now.” I told her, before asking if she really has deleted the video.

“I wouldn't lie to you Simon.” she told me. “...but I guess I did blackmail you so...” she added, somewhat bashfully.

“Ah don't threat about it.” I said. “Once the protest got going I'd pretty much forgotten about that.”

“You doing anything tomorrow?” she asked.

“Erm... no. Why?” I asked.

“I thought we might meet up... go for a burger or something?” she suggested.

“Like a date?” I queried, somewhat sneeringly.

“Yeah.” she replied, smiling coyly.

“Erm... OK.” I said.

“Cool.” she smiled. “I'll text you later.” she told me, before turning on her heel and leaving

I immediately began having regrets. Not so long ago Hannah was the bane of my life; threatening to expose me as a waitress unless I went to school dressed like a girl. Clearly she's quite devious in her nature, but had she not blackmailed me I'd have never created my poster and got so many other boys to wear skirts... not just in my school, but at plenty of others too. I suppose I have a devious streak too, I mused as I pushed the door open to the yard. There's small groups of boys wearing skirts dotted here and there. We're a definite minority but a significant one and I can't help but feel proud of myself.

I joined Tom and Jack and Ben who were loitering around a bench and enthusiastically discussing last night's footy match. I hadn't watched it so had little to contribute, not that football is my thing anyway. They asked what I was doing whilst 'half the country' was watching Everton's 3-0 defeat. I lied and said I was watching episodes of South Park back to back. Why I don't just tell them I don't really know. ...in fact, scrub that... I know exactly why I don't want to tell them that I've got a job as a waitress. I guess it's only a matter of time before someone finds out and eagerly spreads the word, but I suppose I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. “You doing owt tomorrow?” Jack asked.

“Nah.” I replied. “Oh... err... yes.” I said, recalling my 'date'. I'd only get teased if they knew I was meeting up with a girl from Year 9, so I lied again and said we were visiting my grandmother. “Why?” I asked.

“I told my Mum I was going fishing but now I can't find anyone to go fishing with.” he replied.

“Why did you tell your Mum you were going fishing?” I quizzed.

“I'll tell you later.” he said.

On the way home, Jack told me why he'd lied to his mother about a fishing trip on Saturday. “Mum said she wanted to take me shopping, to Shrewsbury of all places and I just know she's going to buy me a dress.” he told me.

“Did she say that?”

“No but she keeps dropping hints and... why Shrewsbury?”

“Do you know any one in Shrewsbury?”

“No... and that's the point.” Jack replied. “Can't you not go to your gran's tomorrow and come fishing instead?”

“Just go fishing on your own... tell her you're meeting a group of guys from school. You can always say they didn't turn up. That's not much of a lie.” I shrugged.

“Yeah I suppose. I hate lying to my mum though. She always knows.” Jack frowned.

“Maybe you've got the wrong and of the stick. Maybe there's another reason to go to Shrewsbury?”

“Such as?”

“I don't know... You like history so maybe she's taking you to see the castle... or maybe there's a heritage railway or something there?”

“Maybe.” Jack apathetically mused. “But whenever we're watching TV she's like ooh isn't that a nice outfit or I doo like those old fashioned tea dresses.” he said. “And when she's flicking through magazines she'll show me a page and say these look nice and it's always an advert for Teen Scene or Poppie or some other girl's shop.” he frowned.

“My mum does stuff like that too.” I told him. Part of me wanted to come clean about the café. Part of me wanted to tell him about Hannah. “I guess this is my fault... I encouraged you to join in the protest in the first place.” I said.

“Nah... Mum got wind of it from FaceBank.” Jack replied. “Stay Cool in School.” he sighed, quoting the slogan from my poster. “I should've flat refused from the outset.” he grumbled.

“Yeah.” I concurred. I felt pretty bad but what could I do? There's no way I'm going to tell him that I got the ball rolling on FaceBank too!

Eventually we went our separate ways. Mum asked how my day was. “Yeah... Good... Thanks.” I replied.

She asked if I'd worn my Alice band all day long. “...or did you put it on round the corner for my benefit?” she presumed. I'd gotten so used it being there that I'd forgotten about it. I found my reflection and said it made me look like Alice in Wonderland. “Well that is why they call it an Alice band.” Mum told me.

“Oh yeah.” I realised as I removed it.

“Surely you knew that?”

“I'd never thought about it before.” I said as I refitted the band. “I am just a boy.” I added as I slid it into position. “Kind of.” I smiled.

“Was it a good turn out today?” Mum asked.

“About fifty.” I replied.

“That's loads.” Mum said.

“Yeah... but it averages to ten in each year group, and only two or three in each class... so we're still a minority.” I said. “I'm not sure if that's enough to make the head teachers back down.”

“Thank nationally though... fifty boys in a hundred high schools is thousands.”

“Five thousand.” I stated. “Yeah I guess it is a lot.” I mused.

“Ooh!” Mum said. “I got you something.” she said, handing me a small paper bag.

“What is it?”

“Open it.” Mum said, adding that it's nothing much.

I slipped my hand in the bag and removed... “Tights.” I read.

“I got you navy ones because... well... I think they're a bit more academic than black.” Mum said.

“They look black.” I said, thumbing the nylon bundle at the bottom of the pack.

“It's a very dark blue but they're definitely blue.” Mum said. “Are you going to try them?”

“Now?” I asked. Mum nodded.

“OK.” I said. “I guess I'll be doing my homework down here where you can see me.” I knowingly added. Mum smiled and nodded and said I could wear a bit of make too if I wanted to.

I wonder if Jack's mother encourages him to wear make-up? I thought as I went to my room. I wonder what Jack would say if he saw my room? I thought as I looked at my desk, complete with vanity mirror, a selection of lipsticks, eye shadow, mascara, etc. My black pleated mini skirt hangs from the wardrobe door handle. Yesterdays baggy black tights hang over the back of my chair with my black vest. I imagine casually telling him that it's what I wear at work, pretending it's completely normal for a teenage boy to work as a waitress.

“They are blue.” I mutter as I stretch the so called 'school' tights up my legs. I'd have preferred black ones because like white knee socks, navy blue tights aren't exactly fashionable or trendy. Like mum said, they're 'academic', I think as I slip my navy blue nylon clad feet in the my black leather school shoes. The tights do feel nice and soft and velvety. I imagine them feeling nice and cosy in the winter. Coyly I return downstairs, knowing that my mother will be looking at me approvingly.

“They look nice.” she said. “I like that lipstick too.” she smiled. “I've made you a coffee.”

“Thanks.” I bashfully replied as her eyes hovered around me skirt and legs. “You don't have to stare Mum.” I said a few moments later.

“Sorry.” she replied. “You just look nice... I wish boys could wear skirts.”

“This one can.” I replied as I got out my homework.

“Yes but you know what I mean... routinely.” Mum replied. “I wish it was as normal as a girl wearing jeans and a T shirt.”

“Yeah... at least then I wouldn't feel like I have to keep my job a secret.” I replied.

“Do none of your friends still not know?” Mum asked. I shook my head. “Only Hannah.”

“The one who keeps texting you?” Mum quizzed. I nodded. “Who is this Hannah?”

“She's in Year 9... her sister had a Saturday job at the café over Easter.” I replied. “She's also the girl who co-ordinates the protests at school.” I added.

“Girlfriend?” Mum enquired.

“Nooo!” I insisted. “But we are meeting up in town tomorrow.” I said. “Just for a burger.” I shrugged.

“Ooooh.” Mum cooed. “Is she pretty?”

“Yeah... but she's also pretty annoying.”

“But you're going on a date with her.”

“It's not a date... well, it kind of is... she asked me and I said yeah.” I replied.

“Oh. What are you going to wear?”

“Well... I thought about borrowing one of Karen's dresses. But then I thought about those really cute denim shorts, or my pink dungee-dress and those burgundy tights.” I enthused, falsely.

“Really?!” Mum seemed surprised.

“No mum. I'm dressing as a boy.” I told her.

“So where you going?”

“I dunno, she said she'd text me.” I told her.

“So how come Hannah knows you're a waitress but no one else?”

“Coz her sister worked at the café.” I replied. “She says she won't tell anyone.” I added.

“Well it's only a matter of time before other people find out. I'm surprised you've kept it from your friends for this long.”

“Yeah. So am I.” I replied, nervously chuckling.

I got on with my homework and Mum pottered around, sorting laundry, tidying and making preparations for the evening meal. Karen returned home and said she loved my tights. “Very academic.” she said, before asking if I wore them for school.

“No.” I replied. “It'd defeat the object of wearing skirts when it's hot.” I said.

“That's a shame. They look nice.” Karen said.

“You used to hate navy tights when you were at school.” Mum interjected.

“I know but I was too busy trying be trendy.” Karen said. “I didn't appreciate the preppy look back then. I wash I had embraced my white knee socks and navy tights.”

“So Mum was right all along?” Mum said.

“Isn't she always.” my sister replied. “Anyway... Simon, I've thought of the perfect outfit for you tomorrow.” she enthused. “I found a really nice tea-dress in a charity shop...”

Mum let her go so far before finally getting a word in. “It sounds lovely Karen but your brother's got a date tomorrow.”

“It's not a date.” I insisted. “What's a tea-dress?”

“You've got a date! Who with? Is it Hannah?” Karen quizzed.

“Yeah.” I nodded, before claiming that it's not really a date and that we're just meeting up for a burger.

“She's the girl who co-ordinates the protests at school?”

“Yeah.” I replied.

“So you could wear a tea dress then.”

“Noo!” I insisted. “What is a tea dress anyway?”

Karen removed an uninspiring fabric from a carrier bag and unfolded it. “That's horrible!” I said at the exact same time as my mother saying how nice it is.

“Looks like Laura Ashley.” Mum commented.

“It is Laura Ashley!” my sister exclaimed. “Bit small for me but perfect for Simon so I snapped it up... it was only a fiver.” she enthused. I expressed my opinion once more. “Laura Ashley dresses usually go for forty or fifty quid second hand.” my sister excitedly told me. “Oh thanks.” she chirped as Mum passed her a hanger.

“I can't see why.” I sneered as she hung it from the pantry door.

“It'll look much nicer on.” Mum said.

“It'll look much nicer in the last century too.” I sighed. “No offence Mum but it looks like something my mother would wear.”

“None taken.” Mum smiled. “You can wear it on Sunday.” she said.

“But I won't be here on Sunday.” Karen said. “But I guess it is more of a Sunday dress.”

“Oh it's definitely a Sunday dress.” Mum insisted.

“Don't I get a say in this?” I asked.

“Of course you do.” Mum replied. “But I think you'll like it when it's on.” she reckoned, turning her eyes to the floral frock. “Dresses like that have a timeless style and it's not everyday you get to try on an actual Laura Ashley dress.”

“Well... I’ve no idea who Laura Ashley is but I’ll take your word for it.” I replied.

“So what'cha wearing for your date tomorrow?” Karen asked.

“Boy's clothes.” I bluntly stated. “And it's not a date.” I coyly insisted.

It being a Friday, I don't have to work tonight but being the owner/manager of a café, my sister does. Before long Mum and I were on our own and having completed my homework, I'd changed into my own clothes. I quite like it when I revert to dressing as boy after dressing as a girl. I didn't bother cleaning off my mascara and even topped up my lippy when I changed out of my school uniform into some casual clothes; a pair of cargo shorts and a baggy tee. I feel like a boy who's a girl who's a tom-boy... if that makes sense? Straddling genders rather than crossing them. Playing the girl and taking a step back to boyhood. I can't help but wonder if I was a girl, would I be a girlie girl or a tom-boy? And I can't help but wish that I lived in a world where being a girlie-boy was just as normal as being a tom-boy.

I imagine a variety of outfits that I 'could' wear tomorrow; the satin cowl neck dress, the floral ditsy summer dress with angel sleeves, those spotty pedal pushers and that thin white blouse, or those casual cornflower blue shorts and a capped sleeved T shirt, or the powder pink corduroy dungaree dress and stripy T shirt? Too daggy, I think. And the satin dress is too Saturday night rather than Saturday afternoon... which leaves the summer dress or the pedal pushers. I had no intention of wearing any of those outfits, but enjoyed pretending I could. I wondered what Hannah might wear. I've never seen her out of school so I've never seen her in anything but her school uniform. “What if she's a goth?” I wonder as I recall Mum's expression when Karen gave me a gothic make-over.

Later that evening I received a text from Hannah suggesting we meet at eleven thirty by the bus stops on High Road, opposite the park. I reply with 'OK c u then :)', but immediately begin to worry that she might have something up her sleeve. After all the first time she approached me was to blackmail me into going to school dressed as a girl. Maybe she's got a video of Karen and I locking up the café; midsummer, still daylight, me with my thin tights, slim legs, short skirt, baggy hoodie and handbag, with my hair in plaits or a high pony tail... and plenty of make-up. Maybe she'll have an outfit of her own for me? Wear this or everyone sees the video! she might threaten. I imagine a really humiliating dress; some super-cute kawaii or Lolita style thing. “I'm not wearing that!” I might reply. “At least I look cool in your video... so show everyone!” I might bravely add.

As it happened, Hannah didn't have devious intentions. After spending ages trying to decide what to wear, I chose a pair of denim knee length shorts, an old pair of powder purple baseball boots procured from my sister's wardrobe, and an airy sleeveless T shirt with a graffiti print on the front. Cool yet casual, I figured as I checked my reflection. It's been warm all week but today, the sun screams from the sky. I put some sun-block on my shoulders and calves and rub the excess into my face.

I set off early and walk into town, arriving opposite the park with ten minutes to spare. It being a Saturday, the bus stops are bustling with people coming and going. A bus comes and goes, but no sign of Hannah. I check the time as another bus arrives and watch the passengers alight. No sign of Hannah. I glance around and frown. Check my watch and begin to feel anxious, hoping she'll be on the next bus. I check my phone. Maybe she's sent a text? It's only one minute past. No text. I frown and glance around. “Hey.” a voice chirps from my left.

“Hannah!” I yelped. “I didn't recognise you.” I said, looking her up and down. I'd noticed the 'woman' in the striped dress alighting the bus but didn't consider for a second that she might be Hannah so didn't really give her a second look. “You look older.”

“Oh thanks.” she dryly, yet jovially replied. “Cool sneakers.” she said as I glared at her heeled shoes; a rusty reddy brown to match her dress. Her handbag, nails and lipstick all seem to match too.

“Thanks.” I replied. “I feel a bit too casual.” I confessed. “I knew I should've worn something smarter.”

“You look fine.” she told me, before asking if I'd like to sit in the park or stroll around the shops.

I looked up at the clear blue sky and felt the sun on my shoulders. “It's definitely a park day.” I said. “...unless you'd...?”

“No... the park's good for me.” Hannah smiled.

“Cool.” I said. “I can't believe how different you look.” I told her, observing her hair and make-up, her stylish yet rather conservative dress, her handbag and kitten heels. I commented on the fact that her nail varnish matches her shoes, handbag and dress.

“Most boys wouldn't even notice little things like that.” she said, splaying out her fingers. We settled on a bench by the lake and chatted about music, discussed some of our favourite films and TV shows. I fetched us a couple of cheeseburgers from the stall, plus a portion of fries to share and as we ate, we gossiped about school. “Do you reckon they'll ever back down on the shorts ban?” I asked.

“I doubt it. That FaceBank campaign that's doing the rounds is quite powerful... and a lot of the teachers agree that it's stupid that us girls can wear short skirts but the boys can't wear short pants.” she said.

“Hmm.” I pondered. “So you reckon it's all a waste of time?”

“Not at all!” Hannah exclaimed. “I love seeing boys in skirts.” she said. “If it was up to me I'd make them compulsory.”

“Good job it's not up to you then!” I grinned, before admitting that wearing a skirt to school hasn't been anywhere near as bad as I'd imagined.

“You wear one at work.” she shrugged.

“Yeah but that's different... they're mostly grown-ups at work. At school it's just puerile point scoring... but oddly, not as much as I expected.” I said. “Even when I turned up wearing knee socks.” I added. “Which were my mum's idea, by the way... I didn't choose to wear them.”

“I was a little surprised!” she grinned. “Pelerine ones too.”

“Yeah.” I cringed. “Mum made Karen wear them when she was my age and she's using that as an excuse to make me wear them... it wouldn't be so bad if they were plain white, but pelerine!”

“I think they look cute.” she said. “Quite a lot of the first and second year boys have been wearing them.”

“Probably not through choice either.” I mused, considering Jack's predicament as I popped a couple of fries in my mouth.

We soon finished eating and I watched Hannah as she wiped her lips, then reapplied her lipstick. “Wanna try some?” she asked.

“Nah.” I replied. I imagined adding I've got my own and removing it from my pocket, applying a more subtle, natural shade to my lips. I imagined Hannah asking to try it and handing it over. I heard Hannah ask if she could kiss me. “Erm.” I croaked, before she planted her lips squarely on mine and held them there, just for a second.

She pulled away and smiled sweetly at me. “There's no shame if you got it from kissing a girl.” she grinned.

“Got what.” I asked, feeling myself blushing.

“My lipstick.” she replied. “It suits you.”

I resisted the urge to wipe my lips with the back of my wrist. I was dying to see my reflection and I felt myself blushing like crazy. “Did you do that so you could put some lippy on me, or because you wanted to kiss me?” I bashfully asked.

“Bit of both.” she smiled as her fingers curled around mine. “Shall we stroll?” she suggested.

“Yeah, sure... I'll just...” I began packing up our polystyrene trays and tissues. I kept glancing at Hannah, trying to imagine what her lipstick looks like on me and reliving the blissful moment she kissed me and held my hand, over and over. It wasn't the last time we kissed that day but we did nothing more than kiss, and hold hands, and talk and laugh. Hours pass. Time Flies. Inevitably we part company. Mum appears to know something happened when I returned home, basking in the blissful glow of a new found crush. I spent the entire remainder of the weekend thinking about Hannah. I tried to pinpoint the moment when I stopped despising her and began to fancy her. I know I tried to fight my feelings and had many valid reasons to not like her. She blackmailed me for a start... I really should hate her for that, but I can't.

We exchanged texts that evening, and the next. Each of us now adding xx to the end of every text. Monday was an absolute scorcher and a record turn out for the protest... it seemed like half the boys had turned up wearing skirts, although I’m sure the reality is nowhere near that. The deputy head was clearly overwhelmed and dismissed us all from the assembly hall without measuring one single skirt. That in itself felt like a victory. I sought Hannah out during break. She asked if I'd told anyone about Saturday and I told her I hadn't, adding that I didn't want to presume. “Have you told anyone?” I asked. She shook her head. “I'd like to meet up again, the cinema maybe, or shopping?”

“That'd be cool.” she said. “I'll dress like a goth instead of a librarian...” she grinned. “...to see if you still like me.”

“I like you no matter what you're dressed as.” I told her.

She looked me up and down and said “You too.” There's a strict 'no petting' policy at school and the teachers, hall monitors and support staff come down quite hard, even when hands are held. Such displays of affection have no place on school grounds, is the mantra... so we obediently keep our distance. “Forecast for rain tomorrow.” she told me.

“Yeah... temp's still twenty though.” I said. She asked if I was going to wear a skirt. “Course.” I replied. She said I didn't have to, to which I replied “I've never worn one in the rain before... it'll be an experience.”

“Knee or ankle socks?”

“Up to you.” I shrugged.

“Well... much as I love seeing you in knee socks...”

“You're as bad as my Mum.” I interrupted.

“...but skin dries quicker than socks when it's wet.” she told me, advising on shoe liners or ankle socks.

“Ooh.” I said, sounding enlightened. “Thanks for the tip.”

“You're welcome.” she chirped. “Can I come and sit with you at lunch?”

“Yeah course.” I casually replied. “You might have to put up with my mates though... and they'll probably be dicks.” I said. “Might be better if I come and sit with you.”

“And risk my friends flirting with you?” she retorted. “No chance!” she exclaimed. We agreed to meet each other in the middle and let our respective friends gossip from afar.

The three day heatwave did indeed come to a crashing end on Tuesday when it rained all day long. I was in a definite minority that day, but I didn't care and used the 20º rule, as stated on 'that' poster as my excuse. It was drizzle more than rain but it lasted the whole day long and damp legs weren't so bad... worse if they were hairy, I figured. I texted Hannah when I get home, reminding her that I'll be at work tonight so won't be able to reply until after my shift has ended. Hannah quickly replied with the forecast: a mere 19º for Wednesday. I replied with jovial sarcasm: Baltic... better put some tights on! xx. I quickly followed this with another text: joke! xx. Hannah responded with a sad face emoticon, punctuated, of course, with a couple of Xs.

That Wednesday, it turned out, was the only sub-twenty degree forecast for the next three weeks and the only day I wore trousers for school for the rest of term. The numbers of fellow protesters were at an all time low after the hot Monday and wet Tuesday, but I got Jack and Hannah and my sister and the other waitresses to tweet and share the be cool in school poster, urging everyone to give it one final push to the end of term... and it worked!

The numbers grew, steadily yet not astronomically. The poster I'd anonymously designed was doing the rounds on most social media platforms and sparked many heated debates. Come the last week of term, I figured about one out of every four boys at my school wore skirts which apparently made the deputy head's blood boil. In the final assembly, she reflected on the summer of disobedience (as she put it) and claimed that those involved only made fools of themselves, and seemed to glare directly at me. “You're more than welcome to make fools of yourselves again next summer!” she announced, to which seemingly all of the girls responded with a cheer. The deputy head glared at them. A good handful of boys sniggered, which annoyed her all the more. She stepped aside and Mr Greene, our head of year took the podium. He recalled a couple of 'silly' protests from his own school days, such as a student picket line at the gates and another at the refectory because the school meals were so bad. He told us that sometimes opinions differ, but rules are rules. He told us that his opinion regarding the protests differs from that of the deputy head, and commended us on conducting a peaceful and non disruptive protest and that we should all be proud of ourselves... which to be honest, came as a complete shock. The deputy head must've been spitting feathers by this point. Ultimately, we didn't win the right to wear short trousers in the summer, but I did get the girl... and so far as I can tell, none of my friends know that I work a waitress. Two out of three ain't bad.



The End.


10 comments:

  1. An amazing sequel. I love Simons slow acceptance of what he likes and his expanding wardrobe. The three women in his life coercing but are sweet. Very happy his relationship with Hannah worked out and boys can continue to wear skirts to school. It’s great some of his friends and the juniors are experiencing nice things too, whether they like it or not. Hopefully males in skirts and dresses and makeup and other nice things becomes acceptable.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Merry Christmas to all! I have been fascinated by this last part of the story, especially the common thread in the story of the girl's blackmail of the boy. One phrase in particular has stuck with me: "I had my skirt flicked up a few times but had shorts on beneath it, which disappointed the flickers because they wanted to find us wearing knickers. As if that was ever going to happen!" . It seems like a great prophecy to me about the future of boys and girls in school. Thanks for your stories, PJ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the most comprehensive story I have ever read, and it may be one of my favorites. It may be that in the end, the boys end up wearing skirts 24/7, and the girls shorts. It would be funny

      Delete
  3. Wow - what a cool one!! No wonder it took so long, you wrote a whole novel this time. My favorite parts are where Simon, Karen, and mum are talking about how they all accept the fact that Simon enjoys dressing up. Especially the part where he is thinking about the different types of clothes he could wear if he really were a girl. I also think it's great that he and Hannah hooked up and enjoyed reading their dialog.

    I think this is one of your best, PJ, and I think I've read all of them by now. A very Merry Christmas (or choose the holiday of your choice) to PJ and all of your fans.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just recently discovered your site, and I’ve really enjoyed every story. This has to be about one of your best. I do hope you will continue Simon’s story. It would be really exciting to see Hannah becoming that extra waitress and her getting to actually work with Simon. Then maybe seeing her getting our hero to go on a ladies night out.
    Again, really great story.....Chuck

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you :) ...but there's not going to be a fourth part to this story.

      Delete
  5. PJ in this very difficult time we are all going through with this bloody Corona, it makes the sun shine reading this story, If all families were like Simons, the world would be a much greater place to live with or without Corona. What we all need is to learn how to care for and love each other, just like Simon, Karen and their Mum.

    I have one addition to you comment to Chuck Savage when he asked for a new chapter and you said: "but there's not going to be a fourth part to this story." I am old enough to remember when Ian Connnery, as James Bond said: "Never say never again." So if you should change your mind, you will not be the first.

    I wish you and all your readers a Happy and normal 2021.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Corinne, Happy New Year to you :)

      Delete
  6. bonne année a tous
    j'adore cette histoire, je pense que c'est ma préférée du fait de sa possibilité.en effet les protest ont était bien réel tant en France Québec et Angleterre et les garçons portant des jupes plissées sont très élégants et plaisent surement aux filles. J'aime spécialement le fait que sa copine aime les garçons en jupes et veuille rendre cette dernière, d'ailleurs très jolie obligatoire pour tout le monde.j'ai personnellement la chance de travailler dans le spectacle et de pouvoir en porter tous les jours, aujourd’hui plissée écossaise très confortable .Prenez soin de vous

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Rabelais. Happy New Year to you too :)

      Delete