Life on a small island

I was mostly brought up in in a small town a few miles outside of Bath. I lived with both parents and my big brother. He was fifteen and I was eleven when my parents dropped the bombshell that we were moving to the channel islands. And when they showed us which one, we weren't impressed. My parents had bought a house on Alderney, one of the smallest islands in the archipelago, and thus begun the most tedious and boring years of my life! Our parents are very successful IT freelancers and mostly worked from home. This meant they can easily carry on their normal working lives, retain their earnings and live on a remote island away from the hustle and bustle.

My brother and I hated the idea, but nothing we could say would deter them from their selfish dream. They wanted a big house, a sea view, tax breaks and plenty of time relaxing. They hated having to socialise with friends and acquaintances every weekend, having to visit their respective relatives every month or so and figured island life would stop all that. They could work and relax and do little else. My brother was much more vocal in his opposition to the move than I, but our parents made it perfectly clear that it was not our decision to make. So as soon as I finished Junior school in July, we packed up and left. I was looking forward to going to high school in Bath with my friends from junior school. It was far more appealing then going to a high school in a small town on a tiny island where I’d have to make new friends from scratch.



Unlike life back in Blighty, life on Alderney was confined and boring. The island is three miles long, a mile and a half wide and hosts a population of some 2,500 people. Everybody seemed to knew each other and they were very cliquey towards newcomers. Alderney also had a few remnants of archaic law left which set it aside from the rest of the UK. For example, they still have the birch and technically the stocks can also be used for corporal punishment. Children can leave school two years early with their parents' consent and providing that they would be in full time employment. This was usually in the case of farming families where helping out and learning to run the farm took president over passing exams they'd never need.

Employment was scarce and many school leavers would leave the island as soon as they could, in search of opportunities on the mainland. This led to an ageing population which only added to the tedium of life on Alderney. It had been suggested that in two or three decades time, there'll be a massive labour shortage on the island as more and more of the island's youngsters leave as soon as they reach working age. The statistics are quite revealing; the numbers of islanders age under 30 have been in decline since the 1960s, and as a result, the over 65s now outnumber the under 30s by almost 2:1.

In order to curb the ageing population, there was talk of upping the age limit where a child could leave their parental home from 16 to 18 years, and possibly to 21 years by some hard liners on the island's Council. This is one of many reasons my brother left the island sooner rather than later. And I swore to myself that I too would leave as soon as I turned sixteen. Unfortunately for me, the proposed legislation proved popular amongst the islanders and as such, it stood a good chance of being passed. My brother had no intention of sticking around, only to risk being lawfully obliged to stay longer.

The teenagers of the island had nothing to do but loiter, get moved on by the local bobbies, loiter somewhere else, get moved on again and eventually go home. The nearest thing to a youth club on Alderney is a weekly church group... oh an a monthly disco run by the church group. I remains to this day the single most boring thing I've ever attended. Apart from that there's very little for a teenager to do, so it's no wonder that they tend to head for the mainland as soon as they can.

I didn't enjoy school either. Being an outsider meant I didn't make any friends so I pestered my parents to allow me to leave at 14 instead of 16. They flat refused as we we're not a farming family and what would I do instead? I just shrugged. All I wanted was to leave school early, hide my head for 2 years and get the fuck off this rock. I could always go into further education on the mainland and take my exams in more favourable surroundings.

My brother had been gone for 2 years. He'd write occasionally, saying he was getting by and loved living in London, although he never provided an address. By this time I was thirteen years old. I'd given up on being allowed to leave school early and bided my time looking forward to leaving to join my big brother as soon as I turned sixteen.

Then the bombshell dropped. The law was passed and the minimum age one could leave their parental home was upped to 21! “They can't do that!” I protested as the news was aired. I begged my folks to move us back to the mainland, but they had no intention of leaving their idyllic island life. So that was it, I'd be stuck on this rock for another 7 or 8 years, and not the 3 I'd anticipated.

I hatched a plan to leave as soon as possible. Fuck school, fuck my parents and fuck this island! I decided to stow away on the ferry to Portsmouth, then make my way to London and find my brother. This wasn't going to be easy, especially the stowing away bit, so my plan had to be flawless. I spent a lot of time hanging around by the ferry port. I always hung out alone so this didn't seem unusual to my folks.
I decided that the best way aboard the ferry would be to hide in the back of a lorry, so I staked out the few hauliers on the island and worked out their patterns. I figured getting in would be easy, and the coast guard didn't appear to check the backs of most lorries, so in theory, it'd be a cinch.

Obviously I'd have to get off the boat or the truck at the other end without being caught and that was something I'd have to take my chances on. I'd need money too, so I stopped spending my pocket money on sweets, pop and comics and saved it up for a few months. I had a rucksack packed with clothes and a sleeping bag under my bed, I had about £30 cash and I could go when the opportunity arrived.

I sneaked out in the dead of night on numerous occasions. Firstly to make sure I could make an exit without disturbing my parents, and secondly to stake out the haulage depots between dusk and dawn. Before long I knew the movements on the island better than most and I’d worked out exactly which lorry I'd stow myself in. The depot opened at 5am, drivers arrive between 5.30 and 6am and that particular truck left the island daily on the 7am ferry. I knew how to get into the yard unseen and where to hide inside the lorry. All I needed was to leave home at around 4am without my folks knowing.


His golden opportunity comes when he notices a bundle of notes hanging out of his dad's wallet. £250! He takes the opportunity and makes sure he's off the island before his dad noticed the missing cash. He stows away, gets to London, doesn't find his brother, ends up on the streets for 10 months.

Life is rough and having to beg or steal and sleep in a variety of squats or homeless hangouts put him in the company of some very unsavoury characters. He did meet a few people he could call friends as he was far from the only young runaway living in London's less desirable areas. Two of these 'friends' were a young couple called Patrick & Lisa, aged seventeen and fifteen respectively. Patrick and had an obvious drug problem and Lisa was obviously besotted with him despite his obvious flaws. She'd beg everyday in order to buy their food and support his habit.

I met them on the street and Lisa invited me back to their squat. After three months with no roof and no friends, I felt like I’d really landed on my feet. In reality I was staying in a derelict boarded up house with a caring funny girl and her abusive and needy boyfriend. I spent most of my days out begging alone,spending what I got on food and (presumably) having Patrick steal the change whilst I slept.

One day Lisa took me begging with her because she said it was better begging in pairs. “Why don't you take Pat?” I quizzed, him being her boyfriend and the benefactor of most of her 'earnings'.

She said he owed a few dealers so couldn't risk being seen on the streets. She also added that people tend to take more pity on girls. I pointed out that like her boyfriend, I wasn't a girl either, but she told me that unlike her boyfriend, I was short, skinny and with my overgrown head of hair, would 'pass'. Obviously this made me get a bit shirty, as no boy likes being told he looks 'girlie'. However her plan for relieving the great British public from their hard earned cash involved two young girls who needed to 'borrow' their train fare home. I said it would work just as well if we were brother and sister, but she pulled rank as a more seasoned beggar and insisted it needed two sisters. “We'll make far more than simply begging... and it's not like I'm asking you to wear a dress or anything, but if you don't like it, you can always go off on your own.” she suggested, “How much do you normally make a day anyway?” she asked.

“About a fiver.” I replied and Lisa said if I stuck with her we'd make ten times that.

We hung out at Euston station day after day. I didn't really have to do anything, just sit and look miserable whilst Lisa approached people, telling them that she and her 'sister' (me) came on a coach trip, missed the coach back and needed to get home to Bristol. Most people didn't fall for it but those who did gave her anything between ten pounds and sixty pounds to put towards two single train tickets. We kept this up for a few days before being moved on by security. I thought the game was up as we shuffled away, but Lisa said we'd just do the same thing at Paddington. She also said that a few people that morning saw through the scam because they realised I wasn't a girl and therefore not her sister.

“Well just tell them I'm your brother instead.” I suggested. Again Lisa said it wouldn't work as well because people take much more pity on girl's in distress, before suggesting that if I wore a little eye make up and put 'something' in my hair, I’d be much more passable. I wasn't keen on the idea but Lisa insisted, reminding me that if it wasn't for her I’d be on my arse. She was right. Since we started begging together I’ve not gone hungry in spite of the fact the most or our 'earnings' fed her boyfriends drug habit. So reluctantly I let her apply a little eye-liner and mascara, and wore a pair of 'daisy' clips in my hair. According to Lisa it worked a treat.

We pulled the same scam at Piccadilly station for over a week before security got wind of it and moved us on. We tried other stations but word had got around, so we had to resort to asking strangers if they had any spare change. Each day Lisa and I went out together. She'd apply a little eye-liner for me and put a couple of clips in my hair before we loitered by our individual cash machines. This was far less fruitful than the train fare scam as coins were given instead of notes, but by begging as a 'girl',it was significantly more profitable than when I begged as a boy. I could get well over a tenner a day with my girlie voice and hair clips, but nothing near what we earned as 'sisters' in need of a ticket home.

Things got much worse for Lisa. Her boyfriend was beaten up by some people he owed money to and he blamed her for not begging enough. I was used to him stealing the spare change out of my pockets as I slept, but he decided that beating it out of me was less of a hassle. But that's nothing compared to what Lisa went through; when the heavies came to the squat to get money off Pat, they decided that since he couldn't pay then his girlfriend should. Lisa became quieter and more insular after that.

Within a few months she rarely came begging with me. Instead she stayed at the squat wearing full make-up and minimal clothing, taking a variety of men to her room. From the noises it was clear what was going on, and from her general mindset, she clearly wasn't happy. I reverted to begging as a boy as Lisa was no longer there to do my eyes or put my 'ears' on; my 'ears' being the two plastic daisy hair clips she used to lend me. My takings were beyond meagre and two meals a day were a thing of the past.

One evening Lisa came into my room. She was clearly upset and told me that it would be best if I left. She tearfully told me that I would soon be at risk from the dealers if I stuck around. I suggested that she get out too, but she said she couldn't. I questioned why she's so willingly giving her body away to support Patrick's heroin addiction when she'd be so much better off on her own. She hung her head and told me that she too was addicted. At first I didn't believe her as she wanted nothing more than Patrick to kick his habit and hated heroin with a passion. She told me that 'they' had forced the addiction on her and showed me the needle marks. “Why would they do that?” I ignorantly asked.

“Because if I don't do what they want I don't get my fix... and believe me Marty, that is far worse then giving some filthy old bloke a blow job.” she replied. I almost wanted to puke at the thought of it, but having witnessed Patrick at his worst, I had half an idea what going without a fix was like. “They've already used you to threaten me.” she admitted, “So you need to go.”

“What do you mean 'used me'?” I asked.

“I won't go into details but...” she paused. “...they said if I didn't do a certain thing, they'd get my little girlfriend to do it.” She looked at me making it clear that I was the 'little girlfriend'. “I told them you were a boy hoping...” she paused and sighed a guilty sigh. “But they said that makes it even better.”

I left that very night and headed to the arches, a well known homeless hangout and never saw or heard of Lisa or her boyfriend again. I met another 'friend'. A boy call Justin who had run away from his abusive father in Harrogate. We hung out for a couple of weeks as we begged in similar areas. I was proudly telling him about the scam Lisa and I used to run at the train stations, although I left out the fact that I was posing as Lisa's little sister but made a big deal of the times we'd make fifty or sixty pounds within an hour. He said he could earn that in five minutes. I asked him how and wished I hadn’t.

I distanced myself from Justin after this revelation and kept myself to myself, getting by with begging and occasionally shop lifting. The first time is always the scariest. My heart was pounding so loudly I thought the staff would hear it as I left the shop with my jacket stuffed with sausage rolls, a pasty and a carton of milk. After that it just got easier and easier. On a few occasions I’d be clocked and had to drop the stock and make a run for it, and half the time they'd shout “stop that girl!” instead of 'boy'. When begging I tried to ask for spare change in a softer more feminine voice which Lisa encouraged me to use, hoping I’d get more pity should the odd kindly soul mistake me for a girl. But without Lisa to apply a little eye make-up and put her clips in my hear, my ploy wasn't that successful. I did consider either buying or stealing some mascara and eye-liner... but could never pluck up the courage to do either. I’d probably make a mess putting it on anyway.

I managed a few more weeks before getting collared by a security guard. I rolled my eyes when he radioed through saying “I've got her.” I said nothing as he led me to a holding room where I waited in solitude for the police to arrive. A stern looking WPC came to take me to the station. She asked me my name and address. The former I gave her, the latter I didn't have. I figured the less I told them the better the chance of me getting out. Why I thought that I have no idea. And from my name alone they managed to find my address and contact my parents. My heart sank as the WPC returned to my cell and told me exactly who I was and exactly where I came from.

“You'll remain here until your parents arrive to take you back to Alderney.” the WPC told me, before assuming how nice it must be to live on one of the channel islands.

I told her how much I hated it and exactly why I left. “You know we're not even allowed to leave home until twenty-one!” I added.

She told me it's the law and I should have abided by it. “You can't possibly tell me that you're better off begging and stealing a living on the streets than being 'a bit bored' at home?” she asked patronisingly.

I spent the night in a cell and the following day my parents arrived. Dad berated me whilst mum signed the release forms. Ten minutes later my mother joined in the berating before telling my father we could go back to Alderney. “That was quick!” Dad replied. “I thought he'd at least have to see a magistrate first.” he added.

“It's all going to be dealt with on Alderney.” Mum replied. “There'll be a court hearing as soon as we return.” she said. “Maybe the birch will knock some sense into you.”

I’d been caned at school and from all reports, the birch is far more painful. However from all reports it's use was also very rare, especially since the Alderney courts generally deal with nothing more serious than vandalism, littering, drunk & disorderly and the odd parking ticket.

We took a train from London to Portsmouth and from there we'd take the overnight ferry to Alderney. My mother asked me why I’d left. I shrugged, said I hated the island, said I hated school, said I missed my brother and went to find him. “I couldn't bare being stuck there till I'm 21!” I added.

“Well there's nothing we can do about that.” my dad interjected. “It's the law of the island and we simply have to abide by it.”

“But I...”

“But you're a minor and you don't have a choice!” Dad interrupted. “You're 14 for God's sake! And look at you!” he spat.

Mum looked at me disparagingly. Having spent the last 10 months as runaway, living in squats and shop doorways I was smelly and scruffy. My hair hadn't been cut in all that time and it wasn't that short when I left. “What happened to my son?” she asked. “Your clothes are in tatters, you're filthy and you desperately need a hair cut!” she ranted, picking up a strand of my long hair and dropping it as if contaminated. “I'd think you were a girl if you weren't so scruffy.”

“The security guard thought he was a girl.” Dad chirped up.

“What security guard?” Mum asked.

“The one who caught him shoplifting.” Dad replied. “The desk officer was telling me when you went to his cell... he said, “The security guard rang in saying he'd caught a young girl shop lifting.” Dad chuckled. “So they sent a WPC instead of a bloke to arrest 'her'.”

“Well if he was a girl we'd probably not be here now!” Mum retorted before tuning her attention back to me and screwing up her nose as she did so. “...and what we're going to do about your clothes I've no idea!”

I looked at my hands, thumbing each other nervously through the curtains of my long fringe. My blackened knees were fully visible through the holes in my jeans, a sight I was long used to. When I left I took almost all of my clothes with me as I knew I'd not have chance to launder them until I traced my brother, so having as many changes as possible was necessary. As the days, weeks and months passed, and having no money except for what I could beg meant my clothes wore out quick, and before long I had only one pair of jeans, one jumper and my jacket. I wasn't looking forward to going back to the island but was relieved that my homeless experience was finally over. “I'll just have to get some new ones.” I said as I played with the frayed edge of one of my knee holes.

“And have you got any money?” Mum asked. I shook my head. “So you think you can steal your father's money, disappear for almost a year, then have us trail all the way to London just to bring you home... at considerable expense... and you expect us to buy new clothes for you?” she barked.

I gulped and shook my head.

“Your mother has a point young man.” Dad added. “You chose to turn your back on us and now you're expecting us to put everything right again... you're as bad as your bloody brother!” he spat. “Some son he turned out to be...” He turned in his seat and looked me straight in the eye. “And some son you're turning out to be! I'm not surprised your mother cleared your room once we realised you probably weren't coming home.. just like he did!”

My mind raced to my bedroom, or my bedroom as I remember it. All my old things, my posters and model aeroplanes hanging from the ceiling. “You threw it all out?”

There was pause before Mum replied. “Well what did you expect?” she asked, “You'd been gone 6 months and we knew you had no intention of coming back.” she paused for my non existent reaction. “Did you think we'd keep it exactly as it was? Like a bloody shrine!” she spat.

Hearing this launched me in to a tirade of how selfish they were, how it's always been about them, how they shipped us off to Alderney and I don't blame Brian for leaving as soon as he could. Both my parents stood by each other, hitting back at my every complaint. They bring in the money, they pay the mortgage, they put food on the table, clothes on my back, shoes on my feet, and how do I repay them?

Our argument faded and eventually we fell in to a long uncomfortable silence. I gave my attention once again the rolling countryside and within a couple of hours we were boarding the ferry. I say ferry, it's more like a big fishing boat. The crossing took us through the night and with the constant engine noise the rocking back and forth, it was difficult to sleep. As dawn broke, I saw the island of Alderney for the first time since I’d escaped almost a year earlier.

As we walked from the harbour into the island's only town, St Anne’s, people stopped and stared at me. It's the kind of place where everybody knows everybody else and each and every shameful stare I received made me want to leave more than ever. I was marched directly to the courthouse where a judge and three jurors were waiting for me. The chief of police was also present, as was the headmistress from the only high school on the island; the school I hated more than the island itself. My mother volunteered to defend me rather than pay for a lawyer.

I hung my head as the charges were read out; unauthorised absconding, breaking and entering, unauthorised passage, the shoplifting charge in London and the theft of £250 cash from my father! I knew it would be futile pleading anything other than guilty, so that is what I did. After the thirty minute hearing, I was fined £200 for breaking and entering the small haulage firm, £150 for unauthorised passage, £80 for shoplifting plus £120 court costs. I was also ordered to repay my father the £250 and given 300 hours of unpaid work/community service for absconding. My head was spinning as I tried and failed to add it all up. How long is 300 hours? I wondered as the headmistress from the high school began talking down to me. Being told that due to my new criminal record, I would not be permitted to return to school. This was the best thing I’d heard that day. “Now all I have to do is get off this fecking island.” I pondered.

Hardly anybody drove on the island. The only vehicles were a few delivery lorries and tractors, the odd quad bike and a handful of motorbikes. Many people cycled but most walked. My parents gave me the third degree throughout the twenty minute walk to their house. I’d brought shame on them and now I’ve been thrown out of school I’d need to find a job. “Don't think for one minute we're going to pay your way!” my dad spat. “You will pay rent and board and any money we spend you will repay!”

“And who's going to employ you with your record I have no idea.” mum added.

They were both right. I was well and truly fucked. When we arrived home I went straight to my old bedroom. With all the drama of the day I’d almost forgotten that Mum said she'd thrown everything out. And she meant everything. “What are you looking for!?” Mum spat as I opened the fourth empty drawer in a row.

I turned to her stood sternly in the doorway. “I was going to have a shower and change out of these.” I replied, looking down at my tattered jeans and filthy jumper. “But you've thrown everything out.”

“Well I wasn't planning on you coming back.” she replied as she pushed past me and slammed the open drawer shut. She leant back on the chest of drawers, folded her arms, exhaled slowly through her nostrils and she looked me up and down. “I suppose we could find you something cheap from the charity shop to tide you over.” she said in the most relaxed voice I’d heard since I returned. “But you will repay me from your wages... when you find a job that is.”

I timidly looked up at her and forced a pursed smile. “Thanks mum.” I gulped.

“And in the mean time you'll just have to borrow something of mine.”

This may sound odd, but my mother is rather slim and petite and my father is tall and rotund. Even one of dad's t-shirts would reach the floor on me.

Having a hot shower was heaven. I’d not been clean for weeks, months probably. Grey water ran from the ends of my hair which looked longer than ever being wet, hanging several inches over my shoulders. I was enjoying the warm torrent of clean water a bit too much. My mother opened the bathroom door and hollered at me. “Are going to spend all day in there!” she said as she pulled the power cord, making the flow of water turn instantly cold.

I jumped out of the stream before turning off the flow. I apologised to my mum as she tossed a bathrobe on the chair. After drying myself I pulled on the robe and went to my bedroom. I grabbed and squeezed the collar of my robe as I looked around the empty room. Even the bed was bare. Mum appeared behind me with a garment on a clothes hanger. “This will do for now.” she said.

“What's that?” I asked knowingly.

“Clothing.” she replied dryly. The garment was, on the bottom a pair of short navy blue shorts and on the top a white shirt, both stitched together.

“I was hoping for a pair of joggers and a t-shirt.” I said. My disappointment was obvious.

“Well I don't have any 'joggers'.” she replied as she turned the garment around and began to unfasten the zip which ran down the back.

“But!” I retorted. “I can't wear that!”

“Well you don't have much choice.” she replied, “And you'll have to wear these too.” she added, passing me a pair of white cotton knickers.

I felt my face physically drop. “Are you sure you haven't got anything else?” I asked as I perched on the edge of the bed to pull on the knickers.

“There's plenty of skirts and dresses which would fit you...” Mum replied. “Would you like me to get you one instead of this?” she asked, holding the ghastly yet vaguely boyish outfit squarely in front of me.

I recoiled looking more closely at it. Six brass buttons were stitched in two vertical rows on the shorts and the top 'shirt' section had short puffed sleeves and a Peter Pan collar, both with blue piping. Reluctantly I stepped into the garment before pulling it up to my waist. For a boy, getting into a garment from behind is very strange. I pushed my hands and arms through the sleeves and shuffled the shirt onto my shoulders. Mum helped me with the zip and I quizzed her on how women or girls get into things like this on their own.

“With great difficulty...” Mum replied. “...which is why I never wear it.” she added as she turned me around, straightened the collar and looked me up and down. “It'll do for you though.” she half smiled. “For now.”

“I guess.” I replied, before looking down at myself. I knew the bottom half was in fact a pair of shorts, with two legs and everything, but they hung in a kind of A-line, not a stones throw away from a skirt. The top half wasn't much better with short gathered sleeves and the round collar. A row of faux-buttons ran down the front. I didn't realise just how ridiculous I looked until my mother showed me my reflection in the large mirrors in her and dad's bedroom. It may as well be a dress looking at the way the shorts hung from the high waistline. Mum then slid the large mirrored door to the left revealing a rack full of her skirts, dresses and other outfits. She dropped to her knees and began pulling out a variety of footwear. “Mum I can't wear any of those...” I said in a squeaky pleading voice, “I'll look a right...” I stopped my self from saying 'girl' as my mother cast me a look of disdain. If looks could kill and all that.

“Well your father's won't fit you will they?” she said impatiently before grabbing three or four pairs of flat summer shoes and telling me to try them for size. None would quite fit and she was adamant that I wasn't going to stretch any. Mum routed deeper in her wardrobe. "These have always been too big for me." she said revealing a pair of black heeled shoes with a round toe and a single strap. I questioned why I need shoes at all. “Because you can hardly walk around barefoot can you?”

Knowing my own tattered plimsolls were already in the bin left me no other option. “But surely you've got a pair of trainers?” I asked pleadingly.

“They'll be too small, and I'm not going to let you stretch them.” Mum replied. “These'll do you for now.” she said, plonking the shoes unceremoniously at my feet.

Wearing girl's shoes with a clumpy heel and no socks was beyond weird. When mum closed her wardrobe door I got a full view of myself in the large mirror. I pleaded with my mother not to make me wear these clothes, but she insisted it's all she has to offer me at the moment, adding that the shame would do me good.

My dad looked me up and down disdainfully when I entered the sitting room. Then he burst out laughing. “What do you look like?!” he scoffed.

“It'll do him for the time being.” my mother replied on my behalf. “I'll take him to the charity shop later to get him something more appropriate.” she added, glancing at me. I frowned at the prospect of going outdoors wearing a woman's sailor style play suit.

“Oh I think that's entirely appropriate!” Dad bellowed as Mum went up stairs. He turned back to me. “No doubt you're thinking of stowing away again... but I doubt you'll try it dressed like that.”

I hung my head. Dad was right, there's no way I want to be seen by anybody in this. The sooner I get my own clothes the better and until then, I'll have to play my cards right.

Mum passed through with a basket full of laundry and went into the utility room. After few few seconds banging and clattering, she returned empty handed. “Right, you can start earning your keep.” she said sternly before telling that I’d be doing all the chores from now on.

My high heels clacked noisily on the terracotta floor tiles as I followed her to the utility room. No sooner had I taken a big handful of laundry from the basket and began forcing it into the washing machine she stopped me. “Separate the whites from the colours, the lights from the darks and put the delicates in a laundry bag.” she instructed impatiently. I apologised and began doing as told. “Why are you putting those there?” she yelled as I put a pair of her bright green knickers in the coloured pile.

“Because they're coloured?” I muttered, knowing it was the wrong answer.

“They're delicates... obviously.” she replied as she removed them and held the lacy satin garment in front of me. I recoiled slightly before she placed them in a separate pile. She told me that her underwear is delicates and dads isn't. She said her slips, nighties and tights go in the delicates too, and all need to be washed in a laundry bag. I didn't feel comfortable handling her smalls and mum knew it. “They wont bite you!” she snapped as I separated a pale pink pair of knickers from a pair of black tights. “You are wearing some too in case you'd forgotten!”

I felt myself blush as I continued sorting the washing under my mother's watchful eye. Once it had all been separated, Mum showed me how to set the washing machine. She then drew my attention to a pile of bedding and said it all needed ironing. “You don't iron bedsheets do you?” I asked, knowing the bedding never used to be ironed.

A wry smile swept her face. “I don't but you do.” she replied before giving me brief instructions on the use of an iron. "And if you burn them, you pay for them." she sternly informed me.

Ironing the bedding took me well over an hour and by the time that had finished so had the first load of laundry. Mum stood over me as I removed one load and put the second on. She told me which setting was needed before telling me to hang out the laundry on the washing line. I was thankful we had no neighbours overlooking our garden as I hung out the laundry wearing heeled shoes and this... I glanced down at my clothing... thing. Having my pale thin legs almost fully exposed felt more humbling than the play suit itself. I never liked wearing shorts for PE and these are far too short for me!

Mum made a round of sandwiches for dinner. She watched her son as he hung out the washing and after a few minutes called her husband over. “He's actually quite handy all of a sudden.” she said as they both looked out the window.

“He looks like a girl!” her husband said disdainfully. “And he's going to have to get that hair cut if he's going to find a job.”

“He's going to need some proper clothes too.” she added. “Much as I like your idea.”

“Which idea?”

“Keeping him dressed like that to keep him from running off again.”

“Well to be honest it was more an observation.” he replied, gazing out of the window towards their troublesome son.

“Either way... a dose of petticoating might be just what the doctor ordered.”

“Petticoating?”

“Google it.” she advised him. “But avoid the image search... that's just full of weirdo's who like it.” she added as she turned to watch her son trotting down the garden path with the empty basket. From this short distance his 'shorts' look more like a very short skirt. “There's a sandwich here.” she bellowed through to the utility room as soon as she heard the door open.

“Excellent!” I thought as I put the empty basket on top of the washer and entered the kitchen. “Thanks mum.” I said as I tucked into the meagre meal before me. I was starving and knew this would not touch the sides. I would have asked for more but the best thing I can do is put up and shut up. I also made sure I said 'thank you' once I’d finished, hoping she ask if I’d had enough, but no such offer came. Instead she had me ironing more things I knew she never ironed until the next load of washing was done. Most of this went in the tumble dryer as the washing line was full. Having nothing to do for a while, I sauntered back into the open plan lounge. Mum looked me up and down several times before asking if I’d finished the laundry or not. I told her the last load was in and she told me I’d need to empty the dryer and bring the washing in before long. I asked her when she was going to the charity shop.

“I'm not sure... I’ve got work to do and so have you.” she replied. “These tiles need a good scrub for a start.” she said, looking at the floor tiles around her feet.

I glanced at the clock. It was nearing three-thirty. I suggested it would only take half an hour, and I’d have half the floor done by the time she gets back. “I've made it perfectly clear that I am not going for you, I'm going with you.” she spat. “Now the sooner you realise you don't have any options and just do as you're told, the better!”

“But I'm going to need my own clothes at some point mum... and I can't possibly go out like this.” I replied, hoping she'd see reason in my plea.

“Well they fit don't they.” she dryly replied. “What more do you want?”

Not wanting to push her back into the realms of anger, I chose my words very carefully. “Boy's clothes.” I suggested timidly.

Mum went into 'brick wall' mode and refused to discuss the matter any further. I spent the next hour or so on my hands and knees scrubbing the tiled floor which stretched from the front door, through the hallway and kitchen and into the utility room. I thought I’d finished but Mum made me go over a few areas again which she felt I’d not done properly. I wouldn't mind if I’d seen her on her hands and knees with a scrubbing brush. She always mopped!

Once she declared the tiles clean, I could finally arise from my knees. Mum told me the washing needed bringing in from the line. Scrubbing the floor was hard work and I’d worked up a bit of a sweat. The sea breeze whipping around my legs, arms and neck was most welcome as I walked up the garden path with the empty laundry basket.

As he unpegged the washing, his mother couldn't help but frequently glance outside to 'check on him'. His hair was blowing all over as the breeze had picked up considerably. She visualised him in bunches and smiled to herself. A thought she justified with the blustery wind. When he returned she suggested a bobble, “to stop your hair blowing all over your face.”

“Why can't I just have it tied back?” I moaned as my mother tied my hair into two low pig-tails.

“Because it looks better like this.” Mum replied as I thought about Lisa, the other woman who feminised me. “Think yourself lucky I didn't give you proper bunches with pink ribbons.” she threatened.

“But mum I look a right...” I paused, or more, stopped myself.

“Girl?” Mum said on my behalf. “Yes you do a bit.” she admitted, before informing me that the third load of washing needed hanging out, and once that was done, I could help her with supper.

I thought about all the times people had mistaken me for a girl and using that to my advantage with a little help from Lisa. I began pulling the damp laundry from the machine into a basket. I hoped things had got better for Lisa as I hung out the washing, and reminisced about the good times we had scamming people at the train stations with our 'sister' act. “If only she could see me now.” I smiled to myself. This was instantly followed by an uneasy feeling as I wondered how she was getting on; forced into prostitution with a drug habit to ensure her compliance. I counted the few blessings I had.

Once the washing was hung, I returned and mum told me to peel the potatoes and carrots and chop an onion. Whatever I chopped she dropped into a large pan of water. “By rights you should really be wearing an apron.” my mother said as she looked at my outfit.

“Why?” I moaned.

“To stop your outfit from getting dirty.” she replied, “And as I understand it, a nice frilly apron is an essential aspect of petticoating.”

“What's petticoating?” I quizzed, not really wanting to know the answer.

“Putting boys in girl's clothes to make them behave themselves.” she replied. “...or to stop them running away.” she added.

I gulped and looked down at myself. “So you're deliberately dressing me like this?”

“Well, it's more a case of necessity for the time being... you don't exactly have any of your own clothes do you.”

Mum did have a point. “Not until you go to the charity shop and get me some.” I replied.

“Well you're going to have to earn them first young man!” she replied sharply. “...and in the mean time you will wear what you're given... do you understand?”

“But...” I looked down at myself.

“But what?” my mother spat. I snarled and she squared up to me. “Think yourself lucky you're not in the young offenders prison on Guernsey.” she said.

“I think I’d rather be there than here if you're going to make me wear stuff like this all the time.” I moaned.

“Oh you think so do you?” Mum said before explaining a few facts about prison. “Now if you still think you'd be better off inside, I can easily arrange it for you.” she finished. “You are on very thin ice remember!”

I inhaled deeply. Given a choice of being forced to wear my mother's cast off's or being bullied, beaten and possibly raped on a daily basis... well it's a no brainer. I decided to put up and shut up... for the time being anyway. Mum made me loiter by the cooker whilst she sat watching TV. Apparently I had to keep and eye on the potatoes and carrots as they boiled. I’d much rather take the weight off my feet as these shoes don't have any of the cushioning my own footwear has... had. Eventually mum chopped a full tin of corned beef into the potato, carrot & onion stew and served supper. Disappointingly she gave me a small portion on a side plate whilst her and dad ate from dinner plates. I reluctantly said I’d need more, seeing as I haven't had a proper meal for weeks... months even.

“Well you've only got yourself to blame for that... and what did you expect, a fanfare welcome home?” my dad replied. “You should think yourself lucky your mother is putting clothes on your back and food in your stomach instead of complaining all the time.” he said before stuffing a fork full of food into his fat face.

“Yeah, her clothes and barely enough food for a hamster!” I thought as I tried to make my meagre portion last as long as possible.

His mother glanced at him intermittently as he sat at the breakfast bar eating his supper. Part of her did feel a little guilt for giving him a small portion... but the last thing she wants is him to think that now he's back, everything will go on as normal. She looked at the play suit she bought on a whim years ago. It never suited her but it seemed perfect for him. She looked down at his feet. The heels of his shoes hooked over the stretcher of the stool and all he was lacking was a pair of white knee or ankle socks. His short pig tails hung down his back. She smiled inwardly at his appearance as he placed a small portion of food in his mouth and chewed it slowly. “It's a good job he's a runt.” she thought, knowing how ridiculous any other boy his age would look dressed so effeminately.

After supper I washed, dried and put away all the dishes before bringing in the final load of washing in from the line. This meant yet more ironing which meant yet more time on my feet. I'm almost missing scrubbing the floor. Almost.

Finally everything appeared to be done... at least for today. It was almost eight thirty and I asked my mother if I could watch TV. She said I could go to my room instead. It was not an ideal alternative seeing as my room consisted of a bare bed, empty shelves, empty wardrobe and empty drawers. I didn't even have a book to read or a radio to listen to, but at least I could take the weight off my feet. I sat on my bed and began to unfasten my shoes. “They look far worse off than on.” I thought as I placed them side by side before arching my feet and wiggling my toes. I rolled onto my side and supported my head on my fist just as my mother walked in. Once upon a time she'd knock first, but not now. She placed a folded duvet on the end of my bed and tossed a long white nightie over it. She told me that my new curfew is eight o'clock, that my father had chocked the sash window so I wouldn't be able to climb out and that I’d be locked in my room until morning. “But what if I need the toilet?” I asked. Mum told me there was a chamber pot beneath the bed. “But what of there's a fire?” I asked.

Mum glanced around the empty room and said, “Well unless you have a box of matches stashed, there's little chance of that.”

She was right I guess. There's not even a table lamp. She unfastened the zip on the back on my sailor suit and had me hang it in my wardrobe. Like the shoes, it looked far worse off than on. Asking my mother if I 'had' to wear the nightie was futile. Of course I did, and she stressed that I was to wear 'my' knickers beneath it, adding that she'd give me a clean pair in the morning. With that she closed the door and I heard the key turn and mortise lock a second later. I checked the window and dad had in fact stopped it opening more than a couple of inches. I slumped myself on my bed, cursing myself. I recalled Lisa's words all those months ago when she first suggested the 'sisters' scam, “You don't have to wear a dress or anything”. I wondered what would have happened if she said I did have to wear a dress... or worse... that sailor suit!

The next morning I woke early. What the time was I have no idea. Five maybe six am. My mother unlocked my door at about seven, asked me if I’d used the chamber pot, before telling that it needed cleaning out first and foremost. I then sat and ate a small bowl of porridge which mum had microwaved for me. I was never keen on porridge but it's better than nothing. I asked my mother if we'd be going to the charity shop today, as she had promised. I reminded her of this promise when she said no. She reminded me that I’d brought everything on myself. “...and stewing in my cast off's for a few days wont do you any harm.” she added before telling me to go and shower whilst she found me something to wear.

Mum was in my room when I exited the bathroom. On my bed lay my biggest fear... a dress. “Mum please don't make me wear that.” I begged. I imagined wearing the black and white plaid pinafore dress as I stared at it and felt increasingly uncomfortable.

“Well I can find you something much prettier if you'd like? But I figured you'd prefer something like this instead.” she replied threateningly, “I also found these which I’ve never worn.” she added, passing me a plastic package; a brand new multi pack of white knickers. The photo on the front showed the style; the front of the 'high waist panties' was all lace. I gulped and mumbled a thanks, before looking back at my bed. Alongside the pinafore dress lay a white blouse with a small round collar. It's trimmed with lace, as is the cuffs of its long sleeves. with my mother staring directly at me and smiling smugly, I pulled on a pair of knickers. The lace panel left my bits almost fully exposed as I buttoned myself into the feminine blouse. Having the pinafore drop over my shoulders came as a relief since my panties and bits are now out of sight. The dress however was pretty horrendous itself. It hung drably from my shoulders like a sack. It's short skirt section was pleated all the way around and connected to the pinafore at a low hung dropped waist. I wore the same shoes as the previous day and as if doing me a favour, mum taught me how to put my own hair in pig tails.

“Why can't I just have it tied back?” I moaned as I sat trying to separate my hair in to two equal halves with a perfectly straight parting in the centre.

“Because I want you to squirm for a while.” she said as she took over and did my hair for me. “You're going to have to learn how to do this before long though... I can't be expected to do it everyday.” she said as she tied it into two low pigtails again.

“Well if you'd let me just tie it back you wouldn't have to.” I growled. “Or just get it cut short.”

Mum let out a long slow sigh. “One day you might realise that speaking to me like that won't do you any favours.” she said. “And for that you can have ribbons in too.” she said. She left me alone and returned a minute later. A handful of different coloured strips of ribbon dangled from her fingers.

I looked in horror at the selection; white, pale blue, pink, lilac, red. “Please mum... I'm sorry.” I said.

“I'm sure you are.” she replied as she laid out the different colours in front of me.

"Please don't make me wear those." I pleaded as I felt my lip begin to quiver.

"You'll wear exactly what i tell you to wear young man." my mother snapped. "You're already wearing a dress so a couple of ribbons won't make much difference." she added, before letting me choose the colour as if it was a huge consolation. Needless to say I chose the white ones. “Now I don't want you taking these out as soon as my back's turned.” Mum said as she tied the ribbons around my bobbles, “...and before you even think of complaining... don't bother or I’ll put the pink ones in instead... right before they take you to Guernsey.”

My jaw dropped with this threat. I looked at my reflection. My pig tails tied with two white ribbons. The lace trimmed round collar of my blouse over the round neck of my plaid pinafore. I looked down at the pleated skirt, my pale bare legs and my heeled black leather shoes. The thought of walking into a youth detention centre dressed like this sent shivers down my spine. Mum told me to polish and dust the entire house from top to bottom, so armed with a small step-stool, a duster and can of Pledge, I reluctantly, yet willingly did exactly as asked.

It took me all morning to dust and polish the upstairs of the house. Dad emerged from his study at lunch time. He took one look at me, sniggered and said, “You look like a prep school girl in that” before disappearing again with his lunch. I had no idea what a prep school was, but I doubt he was wrong. Mum called my name and told me there was some lunch for me, so I put down the duster and polish and trotted down the stairs. The single sandwich was barely adequate but greatly received. The advice that I should always smooth my skirt beneath me when I sit wasn't.

An hour or so later I was polishing the banister when I heard the door bell ring. “Will you answer that?” Mum shouted from her study. I looked down at my dress and shoes before gulping and looking towards the door. The bell rang again. “Do I have to do everything!” Mum hollered as she stormed through the hallway. I just stood frozen in horror halfway up the stairs as mum answered the door. “Martin... can you come into the sitting room... your probation officer is here.” she shouted in my direction.

“Shit!” I thought... wondering how quickly I could change.

“Well come on... I'm sure he hasn't got all day.” said my mother as she appeared at the bottom of the stairs.

Slowly, shyly and surely I made my way down the steps. One at a time.

“I must apologise for his clothes...” my mother said, putting on her posh tone of voice as I revealed myself.

“Oh er...” said the stern looking man as he looked me up and down.

“The ones he came home in were literally dropping of his back and he had nothing else... so he's making do with a few of my cast off's.” she explained. “But I’ve read that petticoating can be very effective.” she added.

“Hmm.” the probation officer grumbled before introducing himself as Mr Halsall. Mum offered him a cup of tea as she seated us both in the lounge. My dress felt very short as I sat on the low slung sofa, and wearing heeled shoes didn't help either. I concentrated on keeping my knees together and my skirt covering as much of my lap as possible as he confirmed my name, age and humiliatingly, my gender. He then confirmed my charges and subsequent punishments which were explained to me at the courthouse the day I returned. He explained that I was on a 12 month suspended sentence and any breach of the conditions could land me in the YDC on Guernsey. “Do you have any male clothes?” he asked.

I gulped and shook my head, hoping he'd insist my mother get me some.

“Well in that case my advice is that you do everything you can to stay out of the YDC...” he said over his glasses, “...as all the inmates wear their own clothes.” he added defeating my tiniest glimmer of hope. “You'll be expected to report to my office at the town hall every Thursday at 3pm, and your community service hours will be arranged in the coming weeks.”

I looked at him, then to my mother, then to my pale knees and the pleated edge of my pinafore.

“And what would this community service involve?” my mother asked.

“Anything from clearing dog muck from the school playing fields, parks and other public spaces... to litter picking on the beaches and coastal paths... nothing taxing nor interesting.” he replied, before making it perfectly clear that a breach of the conditions would land me in Guernsey's youth detention centre. “That means you are to arrive on time all of the time, you do what you are told when you are told and you will treat your elders and betters with the utmost respect. ” he said.

I nodded and looked at my knees.

“Now if you'll excuse us for a moment I’d like a private word with your mother.” Mr Halsall said.

Mum told me to wait in my room so I got up and left. Mum followed and locked me in.

She returned to the sitting room where her son's probation officer shuffled notes and sorted forms. “I know this all must seem very unusual..” she said as she perched herself opposite Mr Halsall. “Martin dressed as he is...” she added for clarity.

“Well of you deem this er... petticoating as being appropriate then the probation service will abide by your wishes.” he interjected.

“I can get him some more suitable clothes to wear if need be.” she suggested. "I just haven't had chance yet."

“Well I'll leave that decision up to you and his father... our only concern is that he stays out of trouble.” he replied. “It is intriguing though...” he quizzed.

She explained that she and her husband had given up on his return months ago so cleared out his room. “We thought about opening a small B&B.” she smiled wistfully, “But then we got the call from the metropolitan police in London and here he is.” she added with a frown. She reiterated that his clothes were tattered and torn and stunk to high heaven when they brought him back, and seeing as they were only fit for the bin she had no option but to give him some of her own clothes to wear. She also explained that she'd heard of the concept of petticoating for boys many years ago. "It's something I'd have never considered because it seemed really quite cruel..." she said, "...but on reflection, it's only clothing and he took all his own clothes with him when he ran away." she paused for a moment. "In a way he's brought it on himself." she added before offering Mr Halsall a second cup of tea.

“No thank you.” he said, before thanking her for her time. As he was leaving, he paused in the doorway and said, "I must say this petticoating could be a wonderful example to other boys his age...we can't have them all trying to leave without seeing what the consequences could be first."

“Oh I entirely agree." she said, almost licking his arse. "And he's very obedient all of a sudden.” she smiled before shaking Mr Halsall's hand and closing the door.

I heard footsteps and the sound of my door being unlocked. I looked at mother expectantly when she swung the door wide open. “Mr Halsall has gone so you can continue with your chores.” she said.

“What did he say.” I asked.

“That you have to report to the probation office every Thursday at 3pm and that your hours of unpaid work will be arranged within the next few weeks.”

“I mean about...” I looked down at the drab plaid dress I wore.

“Oh he was happy to go along with my wishes.” she replied in a matter of fact tone. “So you may as well get used to it.”

My head dropped just as quickly as my heart sank. Surely there's some law against this. Surely it's child abuse. It's one thing dressing like this indoors, but if I have to dress like a girl outside too... surely I’d get killed. OK, maybe a slight over exaggeration, especially since I let Lisa pass me off as a girl whilst begging in London. Every time I thought about her my heart hung heavy. She was in a dire situation and got me out of experiencing something similar or possibly worse. I wondered if like me, she was back in her parental home and getting off the drugs. All these thoughts ran through my mind as I dusted and polished the extensive book shelves which encompassed the large sitting room.

It was mid afternoon when I’d finished dusting and polishing the entire house. Mum had me vacuum all the carpets before mopping the floor tiles I’d spent hours scrubbing the previous day. I pointed this fact out to my mother who replied with, “They need mopping daily and scrubbing weekly.”

My head slumped into my collar bones when she said this, but I did as instructed all the same. Mopping was far easier than scrubbing, but I worked up a sweat none the less. The next few days were much the same. Mum dug out a few more of her old frocks for me to wear, none of which were very appealing. She found me plenty of chores to do including weeding the garden, sweeping and scrubbing the path and patio, more laundry & ironing, mopping, helping prepare food and washing up. And each evening I was locked in my room from 8pm 'til around 7am, which was thee most boring part of my daily routine. My walls used to be covered in posters. My desk was home to an old PC. My shelves were full of books,comics and old toys. A squadron of model planes hung from my ceiling. There's nothing to do or look at except for the the sea view from my window... and the small selection of mum's old dresses which now hung in my wardrobe, but they weren't what I’d call eye-candy.

I decided to ask my mum if I she'd let me take some books into my room. Initially she flat refused, reminding me that 'entertainment' is a privilege I am yet to earn. I told her how boring it is being locked in my room with nothing to do, suggesting that even prisoners would at least be able to read a book. That evening she handed me a small bundle of books. “Thanks mum!” I said gleefully before she closed and locked my door behind her. My excitement ebbed a little as I read the titles; Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Mallory Towers, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess and Black Beauty. “All girl's books.” I sighed before reading the synopsis of each one. A little girl is sent to live with her grumpy grandfather... A little girl is sent to boarding school in London... a little girl this... a little girl that... the story of a horse. At least Black Beauty sounded like it wasn't all about a little girl, so I began reading until my eyes became too tired.

Today is the day I was to report to the probation officer. After my chores, mum said she wanted me to change before we left. “What in to?” I asked, hoping she'd produce a pair of jeans and a jumper. But no such offer came.

My mother very kindly gave me the choice out of the cast off's she'd 'given' me. These include a green gingham frock, a burgundy dress with white trim, the plaid pinafore & white blouse combo, a pale blue striped dress or the only item which wasn't a dress; the sailor style play suit. In spite of it having shorts rather than a skirt, it was by far the worst of a bad bunch. I couldn't decide so mum decided on the plaid pinafore & white blouse. Mum asked me if I wanted to borrow a pair of tights too, but I refused. It's bad enough having to go into St Anne’s wearing a dress. I'm not going to wear tights too!

It took about fifteen minutes to walk to the courthouse. My parents gave up their car years ago when we first moved to the island as it simply wasn't big enough to justify driving. There is a however a single taxi, but this was only ever used when the weather dictated. Today was a sunny blustery day; normal weather for Alderney. By the time I’d passed a number of bizarre stares from the islanders I was eager to get inside the courthouse. The walk of shame wearing one of my mother's old dresses was humiliating enough. The fear of the wind blowing up my short dress and exposing my knickers was petrifying. As we sat inside Mr Halsall's small office I could hear the distinct high pitched voices getting ever louder, signifying that school was out. He asked me how I was filling my time before asking my mother to confirm my reply. “I'm very impressed with how much effort he's putting in actually... I'm struggling to find things for him to do.” she commented. From my point of view she's finding me things to do with great ease.

Fifteen minutes later and the meeting was over. Mr Halsall told me he'd see me at the same time the following week and wished me well in my search for employment, before uncomfortably glancing at my bare legs & footwear. On the way home my mother frequently reminded me to 'take no notice' as many of the school kids recognised me, then ridiculed me for dressing like a girl. As we neared the edge of the small town we passed a group of schoolgirls who burst out laughing, first at the style of my dress and the ribbons in my hair, and then at my pale hairy legs. “Better get some fake tan on those Martin!” one shouted, “...and some Immac!” another added. I felt my chin begin to go tense and could feel my tear ducts welling up. I tried to hold back my tears for as long as possible. The giggles and taunts from the girls faded into the distance. “You've made me into a laughing stock.” I said to my mother before bursting into tears. She didn't give me a hug when we were reunited last week, but today she did. This only made me cry harder, but did little to ease my discomfort. One minute I'm being teased for wearing a dress, the next I'm being comforted by my mother whilst I cry like girl... for all and sundry to see. “Why do I have to dress like this?” I asked as I snivelled the last of my tears. “Can't you see what it's doing to me?”

Mum reminded me of my attitude when she and dad came to collect me from the police station in London. I showed little remorse for the months of worry I’d put them through and the only regret I showed for the shoplifting was the fact I’d been caught. She asked me if at any point since I arrived home if I’d forgotten I was being punished for my own selfish behaviour. I shook my head. This, she told me is exactly why I would remain in dresses until she and my father decide otherwise. She also added that I’d get used to it in time, as would the rest of the islanders, and that I was fortunate not to be well built like most other boys my age.

I knew I was on the small side and could pass as a girl, something I used to my advantage whilst begging with Lisa in London. However with everybody on the island knowing I'm a boy and that my dressing as a girl is part of my punishment, the fact that I'm small and skinny with hair long enough to tie in bunches and ribbons is hardly fortunate.

Before long we arrived home. Dad emerged from his study and asked how it went.“OK. I think they were just making sure he's not absconded again” mum replied. “He did get teased on the way home which upset him a bit.” she added, casting me a sympathetic glance. Dad said he wasn't surprised and shuffled himself back to his study. I asked my mother what she wanted me to do next. To my surprise she suggested we sit out in the garden. “Maybe get some sun on those legs of yours.” she added. “Why don't you put your play suit on?”

Although I was perfectly capable of unfastening my paid pinafore myself, mum followed me to my room and helped with the back zip. I stripped down to my knickers whilst Mum got the play suit out of the wardrobe for me. “Thanks.” I said as she passed it to me with the back zip already unfastened. I stepped into it and pushed my arms through the short gathered sleeves. Mum turned me around and fastened the zip. “Thanks.” I said once more, turning towards her and shyly looking down at myself.

Mum looked me up and down and smiled at me, before glancing at the small selection of books on my shelf. She asked me if I’d started reading any of them so I told her I was reading Black Beauty. She said she loved that book when she was a girl. I wanted to question why she'd given me a stack of girl's books, but in light of the clothes she was forcing me to wear, I figured I knew the answer. We went out to the garden and sat. Mum took in the panoramic sea view whilst I hung my head and gazed at my pale hairy legs. “I must say you're really very lady like.” Mum said.

What do you mean?” I asked.

Well... you always sit with your knees together... even with shorts on.” she said with a smile.

“It just seems right.” I replied, separating them a little.

“Oh it's absolutely right.” Mum informed me. She placed her hand on my knee and pushed my legs together again. “I think we should get rid of this hair.” she suggested. Her thumb gently stroked my hairy knee.

I gulped at the prospect of shaving my legs. “How long will I have to do this for?” I asked.

“For as long as is necessary.” Mum replied. “If you're thinking it's only going to be a week or two, then think again.” she added. “The probation officer wants to make an example of you and is 100% behind you being petticoated... so it'll be at least until you've worked off your community service and paid all of your fines.”

“That could be months.” I pessimistically whined.

“It could.” my mother optimistically replied. I gulped and looked at her with unfavourable eyes. “Oh it's not that bad.” she said. “They're only clothes after all, and at least they're clean and not in tatters.”

“But they are girl's clothes.” I reminded her.

“Well it wouldn't be petticoating if they were boy's clothes would it?”

“I guess.” I frowned. “What is all this petticoating anyway?” I asked. “Apart from the obvious.” I added, looking down at myself.

“I've told you... dressing boys in girl's clothing to help them behave themselves.” she replied. “...and as far as I can tell, it's certainly working.” she said. “I wish I'd done it years ago.” she added. I managed to stop myself from blurting 'why?' as the answer is obvious. “You must see that it's better to be petticoated here than living rough in London with no friends or family to help you.”

“I had some friends.” I stated. “...but I know what you mean.” I sighed. “I never wanted to steal but... I didn't know what else I could do.” I said. I told her about sleeping rough, staying in squats or kipping down in The Arches, having to move on every few days to avoid the more unsavoury characters. I told her about having beg and steal when my money ran out. She reminded me it was my father's money. I hung my head in shame. I told her about all the times I'd been robbed from other, tougher street urchins. However I didn't tell her about Patrick the abusive smack head, or Justin the rent boy, or Lisa being forced into prostitution. Every time I thought of her a shudder went down my spine.

Well I think the day you got caught shoplifting was a blessing in disguise.” Mum said.

I guess.” I replied, casting her an uneasy smile.

That evening as I lay on my bed reading, I couldn't help thinking back to the heart-to-heart mum and I had. It was only when I told her about my experience being homeless that I realised just how dire the situation was. At the time I felt I was getting by OK on my own, albeit by hook or by crook. I took each day as it came and took what I needed. Like a modern day Oliver Twist, with all the skills of the Artful Dodger but with no Fagin and no gang.

I closed my book and sat upright on my bed, pulling my white nightdress over my knees. Its lace trimmed frilled hem turned my stomach and I wondered why girls liked such things. I don't know why, but I stepped over to my wardrobe and opened it. I fanned through my dresses and wondered if I'd ever grow to like their frills, flowers and bows. Each one felt like a prison, especially those with the back zip fastening that I still struggle with.

It could be worse I figured, casting my mind back to my time in London and the endless possibilities had I not been brought back to Alderney. Given more time, maybe I would have found my brother and lived happily ever after with him. Maybe I didn't get caught shoplifting and my Artful dodger lifestyle continued. Maybe I didn't leave Lisa and the squat and... I dread to think. In spite of being imprisoned in dresses by day, locked in a my room by night and bound by law to remain on this tiny island, faced with hundred's of pounds' worth of fines and a suspended sentence, at least I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach and a family again.

5 comments:

  1. Great story so far. I'm liking it alot. Hop to see another chapter or two soon. Thanks

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  2. would love another chapter or two yes! this is a good one! keep it up! :)X

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    1. Glad you like it. I did have a sequel in mind but it never really got anywhere. It's nice to be reminded of an oldie and correct all the errors though... and make a few subtle changes :)

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  3. I like this story thanks

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