Colourful People – The beginning…
Gina has fled her parents’ house because, not only do they refuse to accept the ‘he’ she really is, but they repeatedly resort to violent conversion therapy to get their way.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Gina shaved the last of the hair from her head, tossing the blond curl to the floor. She squeezed a generous dose of baby oil into the palm of her hand and massaged it into her scalp, delighting in the smoothness of her skin. Reaching for the tiny mirror that lay on the table, she turned it this way and that, admiring the strong lines of her head. Yes. She’d been right to risk it. Her parents would give her hell if ever they found out. But since she’d runaway, there was little chance of that. As for the police, they were searching for a smartly-dressed, blond-haired girl who’d been kidnapped, not an abandoned boy with a bald head and shabby clothes.
She shivered and pulled up the collar to her jacket. It was cold in the shed that served as their makeshift hideaway, the bitter north wind whistling under the door and between the ill-fitting boards that formed the walls. The ‘kiss’ locals called the wind. It cut through you like a kiss of death. Above the sheets of corrugated iron groaned in their battle with the elements. There were no windows to reveal the sky, but she knew it would be leaden, promising snow, although it wouldn’t fall as long as the wind kept up. She extracted a red beret from her jacket pocket and pulled it firmly over her shorn head, slanting it to cover only the crown of her head.
Relegating the remaining curls from the table with a swipe of her hand, she ran an angry finger over the page of the tattered book. It taunted her. She’d spent days pawing over the list of instructions, but the meaning of many words still eluded her even with an age-old dictionary to help. Damn it! Dialect or no, the language was complicated and confusing. She let out a huff of frustration and swore. She was so close. If only she could get the potion right, all else would fall into place.
A bark of laughter outside announced the arrival of the others. They’d been due back for a while. Sure enough, the door burst open and Freya, a tall, broad-shouldered girl with exaggeratedly frilly skirts pulled up around her knees in defiance of the cold, stepped into the shed, a grin plastered on her lips. “So you did it,” she said spotting Gina, her voice balancing in the no-man’s-land between boy and girl. “Show us.”
A delicate-framed girl pushed past into the shed, her glasses fogged over with condensation. Horn-rimmed, they were so generously round compared to her tiny face, she resembled a startled owl. Pulling the spectacles from her nose, she fumbled, trying unsuccessfully to wipe the glass on her skirt. “Show what?” she asked in a delicate falsetto, squinting at Gina.
“Give me that,” Freya said, extracting the glasses from her fingers. Hiking up her skirts, exposing even more of her thighs to the wind, she wiped the lenses on her petticoats. “If you wore petticoats, Sis, cleaning your glasses would be so much easier. You won’t get far with those pleated skirts you insist on wearing. It’s all schoolgirl starch.”
“Your petticoats are starched too,” Sis shot back.
Freya kissed Sis on the forehead, crooning, “Love you too!” and returned the glasses squarely to her nose, before turning to Gina. “Off with the hat. Let’s have a squint.”
Gina pulled the beret from her head, let her hands fall to her sides and turned on the spot, submitting to the inspection. She felt both proud and shy at their approving stares. Freya, who looked as if the sight of her friend’s shaven head made her mouth water, treated Gina to a bear hug that had her struggling not to be crushed. The tall girl had a bad habit of forgetting how strong she was.
Sis was more circonspect. “Can I touch?” she asked, extending a timid hand. When Sis still didn’t dare, despite Gina’s nod of agreement, Gina took the girl’s hand and placed it on her scalp. “Ohhhhh,” Sis purred, her warm fingers roaming the cool, oily surface. “Lovely.” When she surreptitiously sniffed her fingers, a moan escaped her lips.
Frey burst out laughing. “I wouldn’t let her go any further,” she said, tugging at Sis’s shoulder. “The next thing you know, she’ll be eating you alive.”
Talk of the kettle calling the pot black. It was exactly what Freya had looked on the verge of doing. Gina was about to remark on the fact, when she sneezed violently. Several coughs followed in rapid succession, sending a searing pain through her lungs. Bent over double, she struggled to catch her breath.
“Are you alright?” Sis asked, her face creased with worry. “We can’t have you falling ill.”
“It’s nothing,” Gina insisted.
Sis took her hands just as a shiver rippled through Gina and her teeth began to chatter. “You’re freezing,” the girl exclaimed. Grabbing a blanket from the makeshift bed, she slung it round Gina’s shoulders. “This hut is no good for you. We need to find a better hiding place.” (…)