3. He She

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Long after he left, I stayed curled up on the ground. My shoulder screamed and the raindrops stung the exposed midriff where my hoodie had ridden up, but still I didn't move until I felt safe to do so.

I wanted to cry all my fears away into the tarmac, but shock silenced me, and it's not like I could face being that much of a baby about a bit of pushing and shoving in public anyway. Boys don't cry, they say. Boys suck it up. Boys show no fear, or pain, or anxiety.

So I didn't.

A little before 10pm I took the winding fire exit up to the top of C Block rather than face Darren again in the quad where the front doors were. None of the fire doors in this shithole were alarmed anyway.

I locked myself in the bathroom. Mum still wasn't back from Carl's, but that didn't surprise me. I was older now, so she didn't seem to have any qualms about missing important stuff like feeding me and healthy amounts of human interaction. I poured myself a bath – lukewarm, no surprise, since the gas meter was probably out of juice – and dabbed at the grazes on my hands and face with some Radox. It stung for ages after, but I wasn't sure what else I could do to make the wounds look less angry, and we never had handwash.

I soaked myself until all the bath bubbles popped and my fingers turned white and wrinkly. I stared at my bony knees, taking in the sight of my ugly, skinny legs. I didn't even wash myself down; just sat in silence with the door locked, watching the goosebumps spread.

They weren't from the cold.

My beating would come. I didn't know when, or how, and I couldn't tell anybody about it. I could be jumped tomorrow, the next day, or even a week from now. Staying where Darren couldn't reach me was my best option, especially the bathroom, because there Mum couldn't see me being upset about it either.

I hated being stuck indoors, but I hated being beaten up even more. The pain and humiliation of the ordeal I could deal with in my own way. I could hide the bruises, cover the grazes. The part I could never deal with was Mum trying to "handle" it for me. It made me look like a grasser when I wasn't, and it always made things worse. If she learnt I'd been threatened and tried to make it all go away, I'd only get beaten up worse for telling. Maybe even multiple times. It was just the way these things worked.

Still home alone, I tucked up into bed early that night and slept in my day clothes just in case I needed to run away in the middle of the night. You just never know. And the night has a habit of amplifying your fears like that.

Over the next few weeks confined to the flat, I near enough lost my appetite for anything substantial and instead pigged out on Twix bars and custard creams even though I wasn't that hungry. I was sick a lot afterwards and my cheekbones started to show. I stopped enjoying those crappy chat magazines. Even dressing up in Mum's clothes and living in my pretend world with my pretend friends and our pretend happiness stopped cheering me up.

But I still tried.

I looked back at myself in her bedroom mirror. Her clothes fit me badly. I was developing a boy shape and they were made for a woman, and the entire outfit was tight and baggy in all the wrong places. The make-up was the only thing that made me look like a girl. A weird little he-she, they'd say.

Memme always told me I was too pretty to be a boy, but I didn't really thank her for the comment. I'd read about people who dressed up in girl's clothes like I did, and sometimes they got laughed at by society, because people in the 90's still didn't get it. Some were entertainers; some liked to live like that full-time; most don't know the difference. But this wasn't that. I didn't want to be a girl. I had never really thought about it like that. I don't know what it was about it that made me happy, but I couldn't deny that it was there and it was a part of who I was.

Perhaps...

Perhaps it was because for half a day every now and then, I didn't have to be Rainer Breese. It was like that feeling at Hallowe'en when you dress up as something else, and for the night you are the monster of your choice. This was the monster of my choice and it wasn't even October yet.

The main thing was that I wasn't Rainer Breese in these moments. I wasn't the Welsh-Estonian kid of an addict. I wasn't that friendless kid with the father who never called. I wasn't the kid at school everyone grassed on or lied about, who everyone called weird, or stupid, or queer.

But if Darren Worter ever saw me like this, I might as well go and stand in traffic.

The make-up ran as I cried. I tore off Mum's clothes and threw them down on her bed. I flung her shoes across the room and they hit the door with two sad thuds. I caught my naked reflection, seeing the stupid red lipstick on my face and my ugly fat lips curled downwards as I sobbed. I smeared the whole lot off up my arm, rubbing my mouth clean until my cold sore bled.

I wanted to hit that brat in my reflection. He looked like Rainer Breese; an ugly, trampy weirdo who deserved to be beaten up.

He deserved it.

I deserved it.

I slumped back on the bed and cried my heart out into my hands. Mascara stung my eyes, leaving black tracks down my wrists. Boys don't cry, they say. But was it okay to cry while I was dressed up as a girl? I guessed so. I needed it. And it was good to let myself get it all out for a change without making excuses.

I wanted comfort; just a warm, woollen arm around my bare shoulders. I needed that gentle hand to guide my head into their chest and let me sob there for a while, but it never came. I wanted a cooked dinner. I wanted a new magazine. I wanted Dad not to keep missing my birthdays. I wanted him to be real. I wanted to stop lying about who he was. I wanted a friend who I didn't have to say anything to, but they'd know on the inside exactly how I was feeling. But I didn't have friends. I didn't have a mother who wanted to be around me for some reason, or a dad who I suspected even knew I existed, or friends, because I always stole their stuff, or pinched them too hard, and I was the only one in Miss Marten's class Jonty didn't invite to his swimming party because I can't even swim and I don't have the fancy stitch-on badges like they do. And all I do is get in trouble and say stupid things and I can't even spell properly at school anyway, and I got told I'm only going to get level 3's in my SATs next year, and so I should stay at home and dress up like a stupid girl because it's the only way I can like my stupid self...

 And all I do is get in trouble and say stupid things and I can't even spell properly at school anyway, and I got told I'm only going to get level 3's in my SATs next year, and so I should stay at home and dress up like a stupid girl because it's ...

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Maybe I didn't need Darren to beat me up.

I was able to do a damn good job at it myself.

I was able to do a damn good job at it myself

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To be continued.

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