I can’t,” He whispered.
“You’ve got to,” She replied, firmly but encouragingly.
“Lift up your arms,” she ordered. He continued to stare at her.
“Do you want me to put you on that train?” He shook his head vigorously.
“Then lift up your arms.” Slowly he did as he was told and his mother slipped the dress over his head. She knelt down in front of him and did up the little buttons down the front of the bodice. She stood up and looked at him, nodding her head with satisfaction. The dress fitted him perfectly. With his full head of now blonde hair nobody would associate him with Roger, she decided.
“Sit down,” she said kindly, handing him the white ankle socks to put on. As he pulled them on his mother produced a flat heeled pair of white court shoes. They fitted perfectly.
“Come over to the dressing table,” she said.
He went over and sat down in front of the mirror staring in horror at the little girl that was him.
“It’s lucky we managed to stop your father having all you hair cut off,” his mother said. It was, in fact, almost shoulder length – not at all uncommon in the early seventies.
“No!” Roger protested as he saw his mother produce two wide pink ribbons.
“Don’t be silly, Roger,” she sighed, “It’s all part of the disguise.”
Roger sat silent and miserable as he watched his mother tie two large bows in his blonde hair – one each side of his head.
“There,” she said triumphantly, “Nobody would ever guess that you were a boy now. You really do look very convincing,” she smiled.
“It’s so embarrassing,” muttered Roger.
“You’ll soon get used to it,” his mother assured him brightly.
He stood up, his beribboned head downcast, his hands automatically searching for non-existent pockets. Eventually he simply clasped them in front of his skirts.
“Rita – that’s what we’ll call you. From now on you’re Rita. Alright?”
“How long” How long do I have to be a girl? he asked.
“Until we’re safe, darling. As soon as we’re safe you can be Roger again,” his mother assured him.
“But how long will that be?” Roger persisted.
“Don’t be silly Roger – Rita, how do I know? We’ll just have to see how things go. Come on now, help me get packed up. We’ve got to get away from here as soon as possible.”
Roger helped his mother pack. She insisted on packing all his clothes in one suitcase this time which took a bit of re-organising. She did not tell him but the lot would be dropped off at the nearest Oxfam shop. She wanted no incriminating evidence left around.
She gave Roger a little white cardigan to wear before they left the room, her carrying two suitcases and Roger carrying one. As they entered the car park Roger felt the breeze explore his skirts and unaccustomedly bare legs.
“My legs are cold,” He complained. His Mother laughed as she heaved the cases into the boot.
“You’ll soon get used to it. I suppose I could buy you a pair of tights if you like.”
“NO! It’s alright,” He assured her hurriedly.
They both sat in the car as his mother put on a head scarf – she did not want the hotel receptionist to notice that she’d dyed her hair blonde when she went to settle the bill.
By mid-afternoon they were in the Didsbury area of Manchester looking for a furnished flat to rent. By six o’clock they were unpacking their suitcases in an attractive little two bedroomed flat on the second floor of a large Victorian house on a broad tree lined road.
Roger’s mother had rented the flat in her maiden name – Brown, a name so common that her husband would find it virtually impossible to trace her.The next day she opened a new bank account in her new name. Roger had pleaded to remain in the flat but she insisted on taking him with her. He had to get used to wearing girl’s clothes in public and the sooner the better, she assured him.
Three time that morning complete strangers had told his mother what a pretty girl she had. Roger had squirmed with embarrassment, but his mother was delighted – obviously the disguise was excellent.
It took only ten days for his mother to find herself a job in a large firm of architects in Manchester. During those ten days she had dragged Roger round most of the stores in Manchester buying him a whole wardrobe full of girl’s clothes from dresses to skirts to blouses to underwear to nightdresses. All his male clothes had disappeared and so he was now totally committed to wearing girl’s clothes all the time, whether he liked it or not.
By the time his mother had permed his blonde hair into little curls – a process he only agreed to when she promised that he would not have to wear ribbons anymore, and he had gradually got more accustomed to wearing skirts and being introduced to everyone as Rita, the problem of his schooling arose.
“We’ll have no problem getting you into a school next term,” his mother assured him.
“But I can’t go to a girl’s school!” Roger protested, “I’d never get away with it. What about games – showers and things?”
“My closest friend at University is now a headmistress at one of the best girl’s schools in Manchester. I’m going to see her tomorrow. I’m shall tell her the whole story. I’m sure she will be able to help – she’s always been a very resourceful lady.”
The next day Roger was left in the flat on his own while his mother went to see her old friend. He was wearing a little blue skirt and a white frilly blouse that had taken his mother’s fancy in Debenham’s earlier in the week.
Indeed, she hardly ever went out these days without coming back with some pieces of female clothing for Roger to wear. She seemed to be enjoying having a daughter!
Roger was sitting in the bay window watching the traffic going by when he heard the door bell ring. His heart started thumping – should he answer? He waited. Again it rung. Reluctantly, his knees almost knocking, he went into the hall and slowly opened the door a little. Outside was a girl of a similar age. She was dressed up in jeans and a t-shirt.
“Hi,” she smiled.
“I live in the flat underneath. My name’s Polly and I wondered if you would like to come down ad play. What’s your name?”
“Roger, Rita,” he corrected quickly.
“That’s a nice name,” she smiled. “Do you want to come and play?”
“”I can’t. My mother’s out and she said I wasn’t to leave the flat while she was away.”
“Oh, well, never mind – perhaps tomorrow,” she suggested.
“Yes, perhaps tomorrow,” Roger agreed. “Goodbye”
“Goodbye,” she grinned as Roger closed the door again. This was something he’d never though about – he would be expected to play with other little girls as if he was a real one!
His mother was full of herself when she got back. Roger was careful to say nothing about Polly’s visit – he did not want to be made to play with her.
His mother’s friend Miss Jacobs had been delighted to see her again and had been extremely sympathetic about her broken marriage and predicament with Roger. She wanted to meet Roger and, provided that she felt that he was really convincing as a girl, she would enrol him in the school as a girl. Roger would be officially excused all games and P.E. on the basis of some obscure medical condition.
The following day Roger was taken to meet Miss Jacobs at the school. His mother had dressed him in the pink gingham dress that she had bought for him in Birmingham, explaining that it looked a bit like a school uniform and anyone who saw him at the school would simply think he went to another school… To be continued…