Even with women now acknowledged as the dominant sex, it was occasionally still necessary for girls to remind boys who’s the boss.
This picture is in the same spirit as Trouble With Girls, but not intended as an illustration to it.
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Sunday, 22 April 2012
Limping home, he had run to Gabby’s room, not his own, and cried on the bed for a long time. At least it was the weekend now.
By the morning, a layer of snow had fallen, wiping the view from his window clean. His balls still ached a little.
“I’m off shopping today,” declared his sister at breakfast. “You want to come along, help carry stuff?”
Here we go, he thought. “Yeah, OK.”
They took Mum’s car – Gabby had got her provisional licence the moment she turned 17, and was already an assured driver – and hit the Oaklands shopping centre. They had a merry time filling bags and fooling around in Sainsburys, a gift shop and Waterstones.
Suddenly Gabby halted in front of M&H and smirked as she drew his attention to the window display. Excited by the possibilities of a new market, mainstream shops that once sold skirts and dresses exclusively to girls now displayed boy mannikins in their windows wearing the latest fashions in skirts and dresses. The only girl mannikin in this shop window was wearing trousers, three boys crowding about her in short dresses.
“Meet the future, eh, Marty-mouse?”
“I guess,” he muttered. This was the future all right. He’d seen it, at the gates of Ladywell Grove.
“God, things move fast,” said Gabby, staring at some boys’ occasional wear by the entrance. The dresses were tied at the waist with satin bands and filled out with net petticoats. “Boys’ stuff is getting really… bouffant.”
“No it isn’t,” said Marty. “It’s just that sissy GuyCandy brand.”
She suddenly put a hand to her mouth, and gasped in delight. “Oh my! You know what that means. You can wear sweet bridesmaids’ dresses! It’s too gorgeous for words! Or is that bridesboys? Pageboys? I’ve no idea. Come in with me, Marty-mouse, maybe I’ll buy you a dress.”
“Oh come on, you know I’ve always wanted to get you a nice dress instead of those boring trackies you wear all the time.”
Marty sighed the heaviest sigh heard from any boy in town that day. “Well, I don’t know about that, but there’s one thing you could do.”
Alas, the shame of that shopping trip. Leading his sister to the school suppliers, observing her surprise as he flicked through a railing full of boys’ skirts. The shame as he picked a couple out and took them past the smug trousered woman at the fitting rooms. The shame of standing alone in the cubicle in his underpants, Gabby expectant outside, the skirt waiting for him on the hanger with its pleats in a neat fan. Gabby calling out to ask what was taking so long. The shame of finally stepping into the thing, pulling it to his waist, and buttoning it up. His first time in a skirt. The shame of having to step out into the shop, dressed like a girl – yes, like a girl, dammit – and seeing the patronising satisfaction that Gabby couldn’t quite keep off her face.
To her credit, Gabby didn’t crow. She knew it was hard for him, though she didn’t really know what had caused this sudden change of style. She did however grow impatient as her brother turned, examined himself, sighed, tried on a slightly different skirt, and shied from the final, fatal step of buying. “Come on, Marty! You brought me here, remember? Look, it’s not even ten quid, let’s just get it and if you never wear it then it’s no real loss, huh?”
“I guess I’ll take this one, sis,” he mumbled.
“We’ll take two,” she retorted, taking out her wallet, “for when one’s in the wash. And it’s January, we’ll get you some tights as well. They need to be black ones, right?”
He watched as Gabby paid up and handed him a carrier bag containing his new clothes. His skirts, his tights.
They gathered all their shopping and walked towards the car park. A woman in a trouser suit and tie was sitting on a bench in the shopping precinct, talking curtly into a mobile phone. Two small children were playing happily at her feet. They wore flouncy paisley dresses with rustly white petticoats and puff sleeves, their feet, clad in white tights, slipping neatly into little white shoes. Each child had a ribbon in its hair. They crouched, giggling, flounces heaping up almost to their chins, at a carefully fenced-in bed of flowers.
“Don’t get your dresses dirty, boys,” said the woman. She stood up and took one little gloved hand in each of hers, leading them down the street.
At home Marty pulled on his skirt and tights and wore them for the rest of the day, figuring he’d need to get used to it. He felt such a dork dressed like that while his sister lolled around in jeans. But if this was what modern boys were meant to do, fine, he’d do it. There was no point fighting against the unstoppable tide of history, a.k.a. Emma Lamb. If his Dad had taught him one thing, it was the importance of adjusting to reality: he’d seen the anguish that followed when you didn’t.
Mum saw her son walking around in his skirt and tights and actually beamed. She looked at Gabby as if to say, ‘Did you do this?’ And Gabby shook her head, equally baffled.
On Monday morning he assembled his complete new uniform for the first time. It occurred to him that his shoes were a bit too heavy-looking. Never mind, he would sort it. He looked in the mirror, tugged his skirt down, and sighed. Time to face the world.
He stepped outside feeling rather frightened and began walking down the street. Three girls came chasing loudly up behind him and he swallowed, but they didn’t even glance at him as they romped past. All three of them in trousers, the lucky cows. A couple of boys across the road, Ladywell Grovers, in skirts. He kept watching for more: the more boys he saw in skirts, the less exposed he felt, the more normal it all seemed. Christ, you really noticed how no girls were wearing them these days. The more boys wore them, the less girls wanted to. Through the school gates. Watching for how people reacted, and no one seemed to care. A loud wolf-whistle: Alice Dempsey from his class. “Whoa, Marty, looking good,” she thrilled. “Walk you to registration?”
“Yeah,” he blushed.
“Come on, darling.” And she held out her arm. Gratefully he took it, heart fluttering, feeling exhilarated. Fine, she was patronising him, mocking him a little maybe, but now he felt stronger.
Alice chatted with him on the way to class so he almost forgot what he was wearing. Look how many boys were wearing skirts, dammit, they were for boys now, so how could it be wrong? He was just acting like everyone else.
The real test came in the break when he went to the Fifth Form common room. Marty hadn’t dared set foot in there for several weeks, ever since the quarrel with Emma in the youth club. Today he felt he had nothing to fear. Kerry and Asha were hanging around by a table and there was no choice but to walk past and let them see him. He was almost disappointed when they didn’t react, but, glancing back, he caught them peering at him and catching each other’s eye.
Emma swept through the common room like she owned it, wearing a black winter coat with a fur trim, which contrasted crisply with her white school shirt. She dropped onto one of the sofas and put her foot up on the table. Then she saw him, and she smiled. How different that was to what he was used to! He swam with a beautiful feeling of relief, gratitude and adoration.
“A proper boy at last, Marty? Saves me beating you to a pulp. Oi!” she called to a boy standing by the radio. “Turn it up a bit, squirt.”
They were allowed to have tunes on if the volume level didn’t go over 5. “It’s at 5, Emma,” said the boy apologetically.
“I said turn it up.”
He turned it up.
Marty stood in the middle of the room, wondering what he should do. She patted the sofa beside her. “Well, come and sit next to me, then, my lovely.”
A dream come true! He could hardly believe it. The music was thumping, bodies were swaying and flickering as people came in for break. The girls were loud, striding around, laughing and chatting at the tops of their voices. Some boys drifted to one wall, hanging around, sneaking looks at the girls, staring at Emma. She was beautiful, raven-haired, blue-eyed, with a figure to die for. Marty couldn’t believe it was him who got to sit beside her. Take that, suckers!
“Whoa, Marty!” said Peter Hancock, weaving over to them through the bodies. “I never thought you’d come… like that.”
“He looks smashing, doesn’t he, babe?” said Emma. She put her hand on Marty’s leg, gave it the slightest rub through the pleats of his skirt, and the thrill passed through his entire body. This could not be happening.
‘I Want To Be Her Sweetheart’ by the Sugarboys came on, and a groan rippled through the room – the trad boys hated it, and it was too sissy for the girls. Someone flipped the channel. Emma’s gang commandeered the rest of the sofa. Kerry, Asha, and a couple of other girls spread themselves across the padded upholstery, looking cool in their slim-cut trousers.
The girls talked about their future careers – law, business, engineering – and were confident, articulate and ambitious. If there was a group of young people that would go out into life and kick arse, this was it. Marty couldn’t possibly compete with these magnificent creatures. They gushed at him, grinning at him with big, white-toothed smiles and saying what a pretty thing he was. He tried to look demure, the way one could not help when wearing a skirt amongst girls.
This was the new male role: smiling, nodding, admiring the female. Power wasn’t male any more and there was no way to keep hold of it. And maybe it was because they had him where they wanted him that the girls were attentive and friendly. Normally he would have been stricken with terror surrounded by Emma and her mates, but he felt OK, as if he had finally found his place. These girls were the toughest clique in the school, and suddenly he was accepted by them as part of their orbit. A second-rate member, because he was only a boy, but he felt protected, as if nothing could hurt him now.
“Marty’s going to make someone a lovely househusband, aren’t you, babe?” said Emma.
“Probably,” he sighed. It was true – he hadn’t much else to look forward to when he left school. But he didn’t care.
“Boys shouldn’t worry their pretty heads with work and stuff,” said Kerry complacently.
“And he’s going to chuck out all his trousers and ask his mummy to buy him lots of dresses, aren’t you?” said Emma. “Just like a modern boy. He wants to make himself nice and pretty for the girls. Don’t you, Marty?” She put her hand on his shoulder, and when he didn’t reply straight away, pushed her thumb painfully into his neck.
“Yes, of course,” he winced.
‘Blue Monday’ came on, and the common room became a forest of necks and arms. Kerry and Asha immediately got up to dance. He saw Sunday Abuja there too. Lucy Forrester was actually snogging Mark Bradbury and – yes, Kerry was swaying voluptuously in front of poor gormless Peter, who looked terrified.
“I’d’ve thought he’d be pleased,” Marty said to Emma. “He quite fancies her.”
“Oh, we know. Beware of what you wish for,” said Emma in his ear, “in case you get it. That’s what my grandmother told me.”
“Peter might be taking on more than he can handle,” Marty grinned.
“She’ll rape the poor squirt.” The warmth of her hand on his leg spread through him like a dizzying drug. His cock stiffened under his skirt. Emma’s other hand crept along his shoulders, resting on the back of the sofa. Oh my, he felt safe, and happy.
“Uh…” A teacher’s voice at the door. “Turn that music down, please! It’s getting far too rowdy in here!”
The world was a headmistress who worked on your faults. Not in a mystical way. More how you’d keep tripping over a hidden step, over and over, until you finally understood: watch out for that step! Everything that was wrong with how you fitted into the world, that was a hidden step. Either you suffered on and on from not noticing, or one day, you did notice, and fixed it.
Overjoyed, but a little afraid, he turned to Emma, gazed into her stunning blue eyes. “Gotta go to the bog.”
“Don’t be too long, my pretty.”
He carried his bag low and in front to hide his straining erection. Making his way to the bogs he saw that both of the boys in there were skirt-wearers, exchanging secrets and checking their hair in the mirrors. It was reassuring. He edged past into a cubicle, pulled up his skirt, pulled down his tights, and took hold of his prick.
Emma! His Emma! Her image caused a surge of inexpressible excitement as he rubbed his shaft. Starting to ejaculate eagerly, he shifted back, catching the emission in some loo roll. It was dizzying. He wanted to prolong the pleasure for ever.
He mustn’t be slow. Don’t be too long, she’d said.
Noel was shaking himself off at the urinal. He was wearing his school uniform without the tie. His hair was gelled into spikes.
“Well, ain’t you pretty,” he sneered nastily. “Peter told me about it.” He tugged at Marty’s skirt. “So much for standing up to Emma, eh, you chicken?”
Marty, a little scared, shook him off. “I’m sorry, Noel, I just had enough, mate.” He adjusted himself in his tights.
“What’s up – can’t find your dick? Look at yourself, Welling – a right poofter those tarts’ve made of you.” He raised his voice for the benefit of the two other boys. “Got you running about like a sissy, licking their fannies.”
The other boys gave their pretty bobs a last preen and cleared out.
“You keep going on at me,” said Marty, “but what do you ever do? Always pushing someone else onto the front line ‘cos you haven’t got the bottle to do it. You poser.”
“Shut up, Welling, just shut up. You’ve given up, you have. Given – fucking – up. I should smash your face in.”
Marty wished he’d go away. He walked out into the common room, Noel champing at his heels.
“They may have turned you into a sissy, but they won’t push around the rest of us. We’re boys, bloody BOYS, and we’re in charge, and always will be!”
His voice was shrill but they were in sight of where Emma was sitting, and Marty felt safe. Emma started up.
“Piss off, Walsh,” she ordered. “He’s with me.”
Noel sneered into her face. “Created a little nancy-boy for yourself, then, Emma?”
“Aww, poor Noelsie: a latent sissy if ever I saw one. Mummy won’t buy you a pretty dress, then?”
“Marty was right, you are a bitch.”
Emma put out her hands and Noel caught them and for a moment they assessed each other, fingers entwined. Then Emma pulled him towards her, jerking him off-balance, and in that second her knee snapped up between his legs. Noel howled. Hugging his testicles, he collapsed and writhed in agony on the floor. Everyone in the common room stopped what they were doing and stared.
“Like I said, piss off. I like my little nancy-boy.” She stroked Marty under the chin with affection. She was so much in control that Marty couldn’t help himself: his cock began to stiffen again. How fabulous girls were! How he adored his Emma Lamb!
“He’s just what I like,” she went on. “A prettyboy who’s learnt his place. Girls are the dominant sex now – you understand, darlings?”
And without waiting for a reply, she gave Marty a long, wet kiss.
Thursday, 19 April 2012
After Biology, French. A class he shared with Kerry. There was a dark patch on Kerry’s school jumper, a damp splotch, starting to dry out. Oh yes, Marty the watermeister! He kept his eye on her but she paid him no attention. Nope, she had no idea. She reached into her bag and surreptitiously checked her phone. Naughty Kerry, using phones in class.
She studied her phone for a second then turned round and stared at him very hard.
Marty didn’t like this and he liked it even less when Kerry fell in behind him after class and hissed in his ear. “Emma Lamb’s looking for you, scrote. She says she wants a word.” She pretended to look thoughtful. “Or was it your bollocks on a plate?”
“I ain’t done nothing,” he muttered, feeling hot on the back of his neck.
“Oh, no. We were standing right under the library windows. And who was library monitor today? And who left very quickly?” He felt her finger jab him in the arm. “After school.”
After last period, Marty raced out of class and headed for the school gates. Emma would be coming for him but if he was quick he could dodge mischief for now. Schoolkids kept getting in the way; they were such a nuisance. He got to the entrance yard and was halfway to the gates when he spotted a small group by the wall. Shit: Emma was there, waiting. They might have seen him already but he didn’t care if they thought he was chicken.
Back, back into the school corridors. The library was no good, there was no member of staff there outside of school hours. Keep to the corridors so you can see anyone coming from a long way off. He could leave the back way, down the path to the estate. Yes, that was best. Slip home to fight another day. Down the stairs, through the big doors, along the path under the library, dodging kids heading home.
Roaming the playground like panthers ready to strike were Kerry and Asha, phones in hand. Shit, shit. He couldn’t get by that way without being seen. They’d come after him, text Emma, and then he might as well be dead. Back, back through the big doors, back into the school corridors.
The school became rather sinister after the pupils had left. Those noisy spaces were already nearly silent, as if a neutron bomb had vaporised all the people. Muffled voices from after-school clubs or detentions echoed from behind classroom doors. There was always the sports field. There wasn’t really a path but loads of kids scrambled over the wall at one place to get home. The shortest route there was by the cafeteria, but he took the longer way, via the gym. He wanted to spin the time out, let his hunters give up. Through the long oblong windows the afternoon had turned to heavy grey. Pigeons huddled on the roof of the Science block, twitching their heads. They had no problems, pigeons, just the same old routine every day. They weren’t afraid of Emma. A fucking easy life, the bastards.
Past the clock where bad kids had to stand when waiting to be seen by the headteacher, past the secretary’s office where form captains fetch the registers, past the long corridor leading to the staffroom.
“Marty, isn’t it?” a girl’s voice said, and he nearly leaped into the air. “Library monitor?” It was big, cheery Sunday Abuja, one of the Fifth Form prefects.
Sunday wore her tie in a fat knot, her legs comfortable in black trousers and spread apart in boredom as she sat on a plastic chair. She was pretty fit. Not as mean as Emma but still, you wouldn’t argue with her.
“What’re you creeping around for? School’s over, kiddo. Go home.”
“Uh, the thing is, I’m worried about –”
Sunday sighed. “Not Emma bloody Lamb? Yes, don’t look so surprised, you simpleton, everyone knows she’s got it in for you. Eh eh, that girl’s out of control.”
Warmth swept from Sunday Abuja’s lovely presence into Marty’s shaking knees, a vision of Sunday the prefect protecting him, standing up to Emma, bashing her, bashing Kerry, bashing Asha, then pulling him to the floor for a victorious snog. Because I always fancied you, Marty, I’m desperate for you.
“Oh my days!” she exclaimed. “Just do as she says and wear skirts, it’s no big deal. Boys belong in skirts anyway. Now go home!”
Thanks a lot. My fucking hero!
Perhaps the school gate would be clear now. Emma wouldn’t waste the whole afternoon hanging around to catch him leaving school. Well, OK, he’d tipped a load of water on her head and humiliated her, but the proudest, toughest girl in school wouldn’t be upset about that, would she?
He dropped the sports field plan and tried again for the main entrance, peering at the school gate. It was fine, no one sitting there. He’d led them a merry dance with his knowledge of the territory. He’d split their forces so Kerry and Asha were on the other side of school. He played a mean tactical game, he’d stamped his mastery on those silly lasses right enough. Walking purposefully, hands in pockets, schoolbag on his shoulder, just another kid going home from school. He chewed a bit of gum he found in his pocket, and here and there penalty-shot a stone, to look cool.
Oh fuck, fuck. He didn’t know why, but a few paces after the gates, tight by the wall where they were not easily seen, stood Emma, Kerry and Asha.
“Here he comes,” said Emma.
His heart broke out into a thump. He could still turn and run but it was somehow as if forces beyond his power were compelling him. If it wasn’t now then it would be tomorrow or the day after. This was the moment, whatever the terms.
The girls weren’t uneasy at all. Fuck you, bitches, Marty thought. Fucking bitches. Emma smoothed her hair. She wore that dark and serene beauty that turned his insides a-quiver. Without her blazer and schoolbag, she might have been a goddess. There was no evidence of the water strike. She stared straight at him. He swallowed in dread.
He found some courage from somewhere. “Fuckin’ leave off me, will you?”
“Don’t speak to your betters that way, smeg dick,” said Emma.
“Classic!” said Kerry. “Smeg dick.”
“You going to pay him back, Emma?” said Asha.
“I didn’t do anything,” muttered Marty. Her face said she wasn’t messing around and he was telling himself, what am I doing, this is not the time or the place, I should get out of here.
“Uh, Kerry,” said Emma, “could you call an ambulance? And better call Search and Rescue too, ‘cos this little sod’s going to be hunting for his bollocks for a week.” The girls hooted.
“Fucking squash ‘em, Emma,” Kerry spat. Marty flinched, lowered his bag to crotch height.
“He’s scared,” Emma taunted. “Aww, is the poor boysie scared that the big scary girl’s going to hurt his poor goolies, then?”
“Ah fuck off, you nasty cow!” said a voice: Noel’s voice, from Marty’s mouth.
“Scrap!” yelled Kerry and Asha. “Scrap scrap SCRAP SCRAP SCRAP!”
School scraps were normally great fun. Everyone would race to form a ring, and eventually some teacher would wade in, tossing children aside. Everyone gabbed about it for hours afterwards. But when you were one of the scrappers it wasn’t so funny. There weren’t that many kids left around, but even so, about a dozen seemed to rush up from nowhere and gather round to watch. The fighters sized each other up in front of the gates. Marty had an inch or two over Emma at best, and of course Emma was dead hard. Nobody would put their money on a boy to beat a girl in a fight and when the girl was Emma Lamb, the odds looked even more hopeless. Marty’s entire body was trembling with fear.
“Nothing below the belt or it’s not fair,” he cried.
“What, says you? And who gives a fuck?” Emma lunged forward, slapping at his face. “Bitch!”
He ducked back and flailed out an arm. “Well you’re a… a psychopathic donkey!”
“Shut your…” – Emma punched the side of his head – “fucking mouth!” Fuck. That hurt. As his hand shot up to rub the spot she got him in a headlock. Marty was swung one way, swung the other, but Emma couldn’t quite get him to fall over so she smacked his head with her free hand. Marty roared in frustration and hurt.
“In his fucking balls, Emma!” shouted a girl.
He was slightly stronger and prised her arm away, shoving her off and backing towards the school. He unexpectedly bumped into the wall and came to an abrupt stop. In the delay, Emma seized his school tie, yanked it downwards into a tiny knot, and squared up to him; he flapped at her arm, gangling and ridiculous; taking a deliberate step back, she swung her black leather shoe with uncompromising force into his testicles.
He tried to yell but his throat choked up. It was excruciating, humiliating and utterly defeating. His knees buckled and his hands leapt to grasp his tortured balls.
Emma stood back, shrugging slightly as if this was the feeblest fight she’d ever had. The girls did high-fives.
Shit, he thought. It was horrible. He shrank down against the wall, desperately nursing his balls to make the agony go away.
“Aww,” mocked Emma. “Had enough, have we? Thought you could fight a girl, could you?”
“My nuts,” Marty gasped. There was no way he was letting go of them. He didn’t try to stand up.
“Goodbye, my pretty. See you next week in your cute boysie skirt.”
“I’ve not bleeding lost, you cow, you cheated, it’s a bleeding draw.”
Emma didn’t seem to even notice the ‘cow’. She smiled at Kerry, Asha and the fascinated crowd. “Marty Smeg-Dick Welling calls this a ‘draw’! Well, let’s have round two, shall we? Smash his balls a bit more?”
Oh, shit, it hurt. “No. It’s not fair.” Emma standing up there, sneering at him, that too was agony.
“The superiority of girls isn’t fair,” she remarked. Then in a mock pout: “But I’m afraid it’s real, darling.”
Hands under his armpits. Kerry and Asha helped him to stand up and leaned him the school gate-post. This almost drew tears of gratitude, until they dragged his arms aside, dragging his hands from his balls.
Emma put her arm around his throat, squashing his adam’s apple painfully, and her other hand slid between his legs to where his testicles dangled in the gusset of his trousers, enclosing them in her pretty fingers. Marty panicked when he felt that hand. It was groping into a dark recess of his mind, evoking a primal fear. His throat was as parched as dust. He struggled to free his arms but the girls held on ferociously.
“So I’ll see you next week,” Emma insisted. “In a skirt?”
She tightened her fingers, and he squealed, he couldn’t help it – it was awful, as if his balls were being roasted over a fire. Nothing mattered but to free his boyhood from her grip. He nodded. “Yes – YES!”
Emma released him. It was over now, he thought, wincing in distress. He doubled up against the gate-post, clutching his balls. He felt that he had conceded defeat not only for himself, but for his sex. Sorry, Dad… Emma pulled his hair, forcing him to straighten up. “Look at me.” He obeyed, his legs bent at the knee. Her expression spoke volumes, a sneering assumption of superiority. Her gorgeous face was close to his and her eyes were glittering. Her lips parted slightly. Spellbound, he felt her breath on his face.
“Who rules, bitch?” she whispered.
“Girls! Girls rule!” He could hardly stand with the pain in his testicles, and started to cry.
Emma said, “Bag,” and clicked her fingers. Someone immediately produced a little make-up bag and held it out. Emma opened it and took out a lipstick. Holding Marty’s face firmly with one hand, she slowly, with obvious enjoyment, applied the glistening pink to his lips.
“I’ll see you in school,” she said.
(To be continued...)
Monday, 16 April 2012
That week Marty used his turn in the library to pull out books with a fresh interest. He wanted to try and figure a few things out.
They’d discussed in Social Studies how men had worn skirts in lots of cultures and periods of history. Everyone knew about the Romans and kilts and all that. Even so, men had always scorned women’s clothes with a passion, so why were things different now?
The way Marty figured it, it was hardly about the clothes themselves at all. He stared at a boy in a skirt and tights standing at the shelves nearby, his weight on one leg. His skirt formed an A-silhouette, its pleats brushing one thigh. Though Marty was a bit ashamed to think it, tights looked like they’d feel rather nice, and the skirt? It was just some cloth around his middle. It was harmless enough, and that boy probably forgot he was wearing it after a while. It didn’t seem much different to shorts. They had an extra bit of cloth dividing the legs: big deal! So why was Marty so afraid? Why was there so much fuss and agitation about this stuff?
A paragraph in one of the ‘genderquake’ books immediately had him nodding: Yup, that was it. The thing that mattered was power.
Women had had to wear jewels and dresses and makeup and worry about looking beautiful because that was part of putting them in their place. The moment women had started to liberate themselves, they had started wearing shirts and trousers and acting more like men. It flowed from their empowerment. Women were saying, “Take us seriously, we’re not your pretty dolls any more.” But nowadays, when men had started wearing dresses and acting like women, it was the opposite of that. In the media people liked to say it was happening because men and women were equal now so they could wear the same things. What did that mean? It was because men had lost so much power, and status, that it was becoming acceptable for them to adopt behaviours they’d formerly thought degrading. If boys could wear skirts more or less without embarrassment, it meant they had suffered a crushing loss of power in relation to girls. Every time a boy put on a skirt, he was admitting that girls had kicked his ass.
Everyone instinctively knew this. But not everyone thought it out.
After school Marty trudged down the road with his schoolbag over his shoulder, still mulling things over. It wasn’t that women had raised themselves to the level of men and that both sexes now did equally well – no, boys were doing terribly at school, they weren’t going to university, men couldn’t get jobs, and women were starting to dominate everything. Boys were losing, and they were losing more and more badly. If blokes didn’t watch out, they would end up like Emma was boasting: doing housework and living off their wives. Wasn’t that exactly what had finished his Dad? Stuck at home, unable to find work; Mum expecting him to take on the domestic role; Dad thinking he was better than that; the relationship cracking; Mum always snapping; Mum kicking Dad out of their marriage.
Marty crossed the road to cut through the Marshwater estate. The sun had come out, throwing bright light on the puddles. Gyno-something, wasn’t that the word? He had looked it up. Yes: gynocracy. It’s a woman’s world now. We fucking rule. And are fucking up Dad’s and Marty’s life. That was why he had to draw a line.
Footsteps behind him.
“Where d’you think you’re going, squirt?” Emma again, with Kerry and Asha. Jesus, he’d let his guard down. He could outrun them but mustn’t give them the satisfaction of fleeing in panic. Planet Earth shrank to a bubble five paces wide.
“Home,” he said, picking up speed. Draw the line, Marty!
“I told you some time ago, Welling, to come to school in a skirt and you’re still walking about in trousers.”
“Guess so.” Draw the line! What was the Walsh Plan again? Oh yes, beat them all up... Was there a Plan B?
Emma took out her mobile phone, thrust it in his face so intrusively he had to pull away, and snapped a picture of him. “Well you ain’t going home to Mummy yet, you dick.”
Someone seized him, pinning his arm and bundling him off the path. Dark hands, so Kerry and Asha. His schoolbag was ripped out of his hand. No point in shouting, “that’s my bag!” The crucial thing was not to show fear – not to cry. He had to keep his cool. Kerry and Asha were strong girls. He had to stay focused. Suddenly all three girls were around him. Fuck! Watch your balls, for fuck’s sake!
“There’s this joke going round, Welling,” said Emma. She moved forward, inspected him imperiously as he struggled in Kerry and Asha’s grip. She had a cigarette in her hand and drew casually upon it. “Have you heard it? ‘Do you know Marty Welling?’ ‘No, but I trod in some once!’”
“You need to show girls more respect,” shouted Asha in his ear.
“Why aren’t you wearing a fucking skirt, prettyboy?” shouted Kerry. “Like you’ve been told? Eh?”
“This – scummy – little – bitch –” Emma jabbed his chest with each word – “needs – a – GRUNDY!”
A grundy was when someone yanked hard at the crotch of your trousers and pants, forcing the material up between your legs and squashing your balls. It was a weapon girls liked to use against boys.
Kerry and Asha spun him against the wall and a grundy was exactly what Marty got.
There was nothing he could do – if he prevented them from doing it, they’d probably just kick him in the balls instead, which was worse. It was horrible to feel Emma’s hand searching under his bum cheeks for material to grasp. He sort of rode it out, managing to rise on his tiptoes and push his bottom out so that the force of Emma’s yank went off target. Kerry filmed the whole attack on her mobile phone, zooming in on his straining face. “Stick it down his pants, Kerry!” Asha shouted. “Photograph his dick!” Fortunately Kerry didn’t, miming disgust. He was released, and sank wincing to the pavement, humilated, clutching his groin. It hadn’t quite come off but his balls still hurt like fuck. Perhaps they’d go away.
“Where’s the little shit’s bag?”
Emma grabbed it and strode towards the road. Marty hobbled to his feet and pursued her. Laughing out loud, Emma swung Marty’s bag in a perfectly–timed arc and onto the roof of a passing van.
The van swerved a little but didn’t stop straight away.
“Go on – run!” laughed the girls. “Run and buy a skirt!”
Marty didn’t care what they thought – he sprinted down the road to where the furious driver had come to a stop.
That evening Mum went to bed early because of work and Gabby was out with a boy she had met at college. Quietly he went onto the landing and put his head round Gabby’s bedroom door. Yes, it was empty. He went gingerly in, sat on her bed and turned on the reading lamp, giving the room a soft, warm light. It was decorated from wall to wall with posters, postcards, certificates, photographs. A couple of bras hung on the radiator. Several pairs of shoes lay near his foot. He eased off one trainer and slipped his toe into one of her shoes, then he pushed in the foot. He liked Gabby’s room: in this hideaway, in the comforting half-light, he felt safer. She had always looked out for her little brother. Remember a few years ago when he’d been picked on by Rich Curtis, and Gabby had marched round to his house and given the guy a grundy? Or how she’d looked after him when Mum and Dad were splitting up? What a relief it had been to have a strong girl there protecting him from the out-of-control shit.
Emma, too, should be protecting him from the world’s dangers, not adding to them. Why did they pick on him, anyway? He wasn’t even one of the dinosaurs like Noel Walsh, who sometimes really did seem to hate girls. Why couldn’t they pick on Noel Walsh? It was so unfair. He curled up on Gabby’s bed and softly began to cry. The idea of him physically fighting Emma seemed as improbable as a fairy story. He wished he could ask Gabby to go round to her house and beat her up.
“It would be nice to see a smile on your face for a change,” Gabby commented at breakfast. “You’ve been so miserable lately.”
Marty stirred his tea despondently. “It’s school, I hate it.”
“That’s a shame. The sixth form college is fantastic. I’ve met so many people and the facilities are incredible. What’s wrong with school?”
“I can’t get on with the kids there.”
“Maybe it’s not so surprising, grumpy.” She shuffled through the post, paused, then held one up. “This looks like a letter from Dad. A letter! He’s so last century. You want it?”
Dad didn’t have a computer, so when he had more to say than suited an SMS, he wrote a letter. “’Course I want it. You got one too?”
“Uh huh.” She studied the envelope a while, then dropped it in the kitchen bin. “He can forget trying to wheedle sympathy out of me.”
Marty knew his sister blamed Dad for the breakup. Mum had confided in her a lot, as the oldest, and it made him angry because she only credited one point of view. However, there was no point starting a fight. He opened his letter carefully. “He’s invited us to meet up, if Mum’ll allow it. Saturday week, in the park.”
“He can dream,” said Gabby heatedly. “Mum won’t hear of it.”
“It’s unfair, Gabs…”
“His problem is, he’s a dinosaur. Why should Mum mess up her career over some useless bloke? I know I wouldn’t. When the woman’s working it’s a man’s job to do the housework. But oh no, the Big Man can’t do housework, can’t pull his weight. So – sod him.” She picked up her bag. “That’s the trouble with you men – you can’t handle reality. It’s all angst and ‘oh, I don’t know what I want... it’s such a confusing time…’” She rolled her eyes. “And then what happens to us, the children?”
“Well, yeah, what about me?”
Marty walked out. Throwing himself onto his bed he read the letter slowly, and then read it again.
Like a lot of men, Dad had been let down by the traditional belief that a man’s self-respect came through his work. Married to a woman with a fat salary, too poorly skilled to find work, the natural role left for him was to let his wife earn the money and make the decisions while he kept house. He saw this as a humiliation, and the tensions had wrecked the marriage.
His father’s writing style was stiff – they had no language with which to speak to each other. The platitudes were there as always:
“I hope you’re not one of these lads who never study. I want you to get a decent job.”
“You’re perfectly capable of studying and holding down a good job if you’ll just apply yourself.”
He sounds like a teacher, thought Marty. If they could only meet in person, they’d be at ease right away, like always, but Dad had left town to (unsuccessfully) chase a job and now he was miles away with train tickets at a hundred quid per trip.
“You should go on to college, Martin, like Gabby. It’s getting hard for men to get a job nowadays. I was raised to think I had to earn, to be the breadwinner, and if I hadn’t got that, I’d failed as a man. That old idea of maleness has gone out the window. At my last interview the waiting room was full of these young women, and you know, I can’t compete with them. They’re confident, well-prepared, full of ideas. They make you feel like a child. I don’t want that to happen to you.”
Marty felt increasingly angry. It was no wonder that Gabby had such chances in life: in Mum she had had a role model for success. How could Marty develop the same way when deprived of his father? It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t their fault.
This articulate, affectionate man had fallen victim to circumstances that his son could easily sympathise with. There seemed nothing for Marty to look forward to. He missed his father in a way that Gabby and Mum accepted but didn’t quite understand. A vital part of him had been gouged out, leaving him without purpose. With every new schoolday he would risk Emma’s persecution again and his craving for her made everything even more difficult. When the tears began welling up he let them flow.
He managed to avoid Emma and her gang for a few days. At one point he saw her coming down the school corridor but ducked down a staircase before she saw him. The first safety measure was to keep out of the Fifth Form common room, because she liked to hang around there. The second was to keep to the library, because there was always a member of staff present and that made it harder for her.
At the end of his shift as library monitor on Friday he was finishing up. Some fool had opened a window, and in January too. As he reached up for the rod to close it, he heard familiar voices below and realised with a shiver that it was Emma, her voice loud and clear above the raucous noise from the playground. Poking his head out, he saw her leaning on the wall with a couple of girls. Evil cow, he should drop a book on her head.
A dark idea formed instantly in his mind. Oh, Marty, you evil man! Without pausing to reflect he grabbed his schoolbag from behind the library counter and dashed to the toilet, where he filled his drinks bottle with water from the tap, heart beating, hands quivering with excitement. Back to the library. Please let her still be there. Yes, chatting like before.
He reckoned he needed the third window from the left. Lift the rod and push it out. Nobody looking; pupils all leaving; the teacher out of sight. Lean out of the window, bottle uncapped. Tip up the bottle.
Oh yes! Marty, you legend!
Close the fucking window fast. She’ll never even know where the attack came from. This one is for you, Dad! There you go, Noel, there’s your cowardly wuss in action – one in the eye for the great Emma Lamb. You want to wet me in the toilets? You want to wet me? Watch me wet you – huh, are you wetted, bitch? Not a scary ballbuster now, just a shrieking girl with wet tits. Huh, bitch?
Marty got out of the library fast, his heart singing. Triumph was a dazzling emotion. He raced to Biology and sat down next to Noel Walsh.
“You sorted out Emma yet?” Noel wanted to know.
Marty resented this pressure: it was easy to play the big man when it was someone else’s goolies at risk. “What, punched her lights out? No.”
“Ain’t no time like today.”
“Why not? Are you fucking scared of a girl?”
“Well...” He was enjoying this.
“You’re terrified. Pissing your pants.”
“We don’t need to, mate.” He couldn’t hold back any longer. With a nervous laugh, Marty explained his stunt through the library window.
Noel was impressed. “She doesn’t know it was you?”
“Nah, don’t suppose so.”
“That’s not great. Better if she knew.”
“Noel – who’s bottling it now? Get it – bottling it?”
Noel sniggered and gave him a playful punch on the arm. For the first time he could remember, Marty felt that he and Noel were equals. He even said something cheeky to Ms Baxter the Biology teacher. This was confidence and it was thrilling. At last, this was living!
(To be continued...)
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Noel joined Marty on the way out and the boys walked down the road until they came to Bhaskar’s, a small newsagent whose owners’ daughter was the same Asha Bhaskar who was in Emma’s gang. A notice on the door warned: “Only three school children at a time.”
Hands in pockets, Noel strolled in.
Ms Bhaskar’s shop windows were filled with stationery, greetings cards, and lottery posters. Notices stuck to the inside with blu-tack offered second-hand bikes, kittens, washing-machines, dodgy jobs and rooms to rent. There was a post office booth in one corner. A smell of rain-soaked bodies and muddy shoes hit them the moment they were inside.
While Noel waited at the counter, Marty looked at the rack of greetings cards but there weren’t any rude or funny ones.
“All right, missus?” Noel nodded to Ms Bhaskar. “That’s not batteries on the top shelf is it? My bike lights’ve gone dead.”
“What sort do you want, my dear?”
“Three triple-As’ll do it.”
The diminutive Ms Bhaskar dragged a footstool over, climbed on and reached for the batteries. Noel looked quickly around. He eeled forwards on his chest and over the counter, reached just a foot or two from Ms Bhaskar’s waist, and took a box of cigarettes, with impressive aplomb.
“Duracell?” said Ms Bhaskar, turning round. “Or the cheaper ones?”
“Cheap’ll do me, thanks.”
Noel stuffed the cigarettes into his pocket.
“Just one pack, yes?” said Ms Bhaskar. And as she eased herself off the ladder, Noel snatched two Cadbury’s Creme Eggs from their tray and dropped them down Marty’s coat pocket. Marty was horrified. If he tried to put them back, Ms Bhaskar would catch him for sure.
Ms Bhaskar wiped some dust off the batteries. “That’s five pounds, love.”
Noel patted his pockets. “Aw, you know what, missus, I haven’t got that much. I’m going to have to come back. Sorry about the trouble – I made you climb all the way up there!”
“Oh, don’t worry, dear.”
“I’ll be back in later, yeah?” Noel called reassuringly, as he walked out.
Marty wanted to scarper from the crime scene as quick as possible, but Noel walked infuriatingly slowly. It had gently begun to rain. Noel was one of the those boys who scorned overcoats and the raindrops spotted his school shirt.
“Noel! Why’d you pinch those fags?”
“I told you, I’m educating you. It ain’t pinching, I liberated them from the oppression of a commercialised environment. Anyway I’ve gotta smoke, ain’t I?”
“What, you haven’t got five quid?”
“I ain’t got fuck all, mate.” Noel grinned and spread his hands, as if to say: what else can a guy do? “Give us a Creme Egg. They was my insurance policy, by the way.”
“Oi, I’m not a grass.” Marty unpeeled the remaining egg and took a bite.
“Maybe, but you are definitely well soft. Had your balls busted too many times by that sister of yours, and you totally bottled it with Emma back there. You need a bit of pluck, mate. Boys do dares. It’s what we do. Like footie and scrapping and nicking lead drainpipes.” He guffawed. “I suppose you’re turning into one of them sissy-boys who doesn’t want to get his dresses dirty.” He danced ahead, preening imaginary ringlets.
“Fuck off,” said Marty.
“How is your schoolwork coming on?” asked Mum at dinner.
Marty remembered he had Chemistry and French homework in his schoolbag, calling him urgently from upstairs. He shrugged. “’S all right.”
“What did your father have to say? I understand he texted you both today?”
“Yeah… good luck for the new term, you know.”
“Two weeks late,” observed Mum curtly.
“He’ll be OK.”
“He’s got to find a new flat,” said Gabby, “and he hasn’t found a job yet.”
Marty jabbed her with his foot. Why did she have to expose Dad like that?
“No, I don’t suppose he has,” said Mum. “He refused to do the housework despite being home the entire day and now he’s out on his arse he’s probably just as hopeless.”
Marty sulked into his fish fingers. There was no point discussing Dad with his mother, and they ate in silence.
Gabby gave him a nudge. “I’m sorry I was rude earlier, Marty-mouse. I didn’t mean to call you names, it just came out wrong. I do appreciate you ironing and stuff.”
Marty loved his sister, and he wished he found it easier to tell her so. “Don’t worry,” he said.
Marty appreciated the occasional book. But he was always disappointed when he scanned the library shelves for something that resembled life as he knew it. Teen fiction discussed romance in a weirdly sexless way, seemingly ignorant of the hothouse in which an adolescent really lives. None of the boys in books ever felt the queer organ between their legs stiffen with excitement: they never had to hold a bag or coat in front of them when they left a class, were never enflamed by sultry sex fantasies, and never ever masturbated. These visceral obsessions preoccupied Marty daily, and he was sure it wasn’t only him. Yet there was never a word in the meek, prudish books intended to help him ‘grow up’. The more he thought about it, the more astonishing the omission became. Presumably the problem was parents who wouldn’t tolerate frankness in the books written for their children – so, thanks guys, what do I read?
A girl brushed past, peering at book titles over her spectacles. School shirts and jumpers weren’t always the most flattering, but Marty gazed achingly at the voluptuous curve of her behind in her black trousers. Yes, girls were a great mystery for him. They had the power to bestow unthinkable bliss, yet never offered him a taste of it.
Now of course he had other girl problems. He had lain awake into the early hours, occasionally breaking into tremors, wondering what on earth had made him provoke Emma like that. Coming into school the next morning had never been so nerve-wracking as he tried to spot Emma or members of her gang in the crowd, like a hunted mouse who knows it’s been scented by a cat. Somehow the whole world looked darker and more threatening. Anxiety lurked everywhere. Even badly-done French homework felt like part of a conspiracy against him, a universe going wrong.
Fine, he had been pissed off. By a sister who insulted him and a society that treated his father like a turd. But he certainly knew how to pick his fights. In the blue corner, Emma Lamb, one of the coolest, hardest girls in the Fifth Form, who had probably cracked more nuts than KP. And, in the yellow corner: Marty-mouse, who did his sister’s ironing and didn’t dare nick a Creme Egg. Yes, he was a bit bigger and stronger than Emma, thanks to biology. But what good was that when the toecap of her school shoe was trained on his testicles?
Like most boys, Marty had experienced the odd mishap where it hurts – miskicked footballs, knees flailing during a playfight – but he’d never been kicked there in anger. Now his poor chaps had been directly threatened and he wondered how literally she’d meant it. The thought of Emma going for his goolies without restraint or pity made him squirm in horror.
“Nice knowing you, guys,” he muttered.
How about a book on that, eh, library, if you’re so clever? How to roll back time so that a few sentences spoken in anger were never said? That was admittedly a big ask, so failing that – how to appease the most dangerous bully in his year, if not the school? Chocolates, perhaps? Get on one’s knees and beg? What do you say, clever books?
For four or five days Marty crept into school, clung to the library, kept out of the playground, and scurried home the moment the bell rang. Billy, Peter and Alistair joshed him about his ‘new girlfriend’ who ‘obviously had the hots for him’. They were very impressed by the guts he’d shown standing up to the toughest girl in school. To Marty’s immense relief the ‘girlfriend’ didn’t come looking for him, so it seemed she wasn’t going to bother taking it further.
When his next library duty came up he vanished into the toilets halfway through for a spot of masturbation, which had become something of a routine – he even brought in a hanky especially. He would concentrate on whichever attractive girls had lately aroused him the most. Since the quarrel, Emma’s image, despite everything, shouldered aside the others. Dark and luscious, she stepped into the cubicle, sat astride him, unravelled her tie, unbuttoned her shirt; her rounded limbs were young and strong as she wrapped herself around him. Oh God!
He heard the door to the toilets swing open. He inspected the hanky’s contents then stuffed it in his bag as he opened the cubicle door.
Emma was standing in the boys’ loo as if she owned it. Kerry leaned a couple of yards behind her covering the door.
Marty had no chance to try and articulate some words before Emma surged towards him, seizing his collar. “Just the boy I want to see.” Frightened, he retreated as far as he was able, a few feet back into the cubicle. “So this bitch thinks girls are getting above themselves.”
Marty scarcely realised what was happening. He tried to pull free, but she shoved him against the cubicle wall. “Thought I’d forget about it, did you, bitch?”
He stammered out an apology, mesmerised by her glacial eyes.
“Oh, so you’re sorry, bitch? I seem to remember promising to bust your balls. Well, a promise is a promise.”
She jerked her knee up between his legs. Marty flinched in terror, instinctively lunging to protect himself, and managing with his split second’s warning to twist enough to escape the blow. She kicked again mercilessly at his testicles. It was all Marty could do to protect his boyhood with both hands, drawing his leg up at the knee and across his body for protection. It wasn’t fair!
“Emma!” Kerry had been busy at the sinks and she slapped something into her friend’s hand.
“Open your mouth,” Emma commanded, grabbing Marty’s jaw, “and clean it out, bitch.” Before Marty had understood what she said, she was stuffing a sopping pulp of hand-towels into his mouth. Marty’s hands were shielding his balls and he couldn’t push her away without exposing himself. Water splashed down his trouser legs. Losing his balance, he slid down the wall, gagging in disgust.
Emma took out her phone and contemptuously snapped a photo of him coughing the pulp out of his mouth.
“Now crush his fucking balls, Em,” said Kerry.
Emma put her phone back in her pocket and her face filled with grim purpose. Oh God! Oh shit!
A boy walked into the toilets, reaching under his skirt to scratch his thigh. He stopped abruptly when he saw two girls in there. “Get out of here, scrote,” snapped Kerry.
The boy took one look at Emma and Kerry, judged the balance of forces, and fumbled backwards out the door.
“You know, Kerry,” said Emma, with a look of luminous insight, “I’ve had the most wonderful idea. He’ll learn his place all right.” She turned back to Marty and, almost smiling, stabbed her finger at him. “I want you to come to school wearing a skirt, Welling.”
“That’s fucking excellent, Emma!” roared Kerry.
“Eh?” he cringed. “I haven’t got one.”
“Then get one, bitch! That way I’ll leave you alone. But every time I see you in trousers I’m going to crack your nuts, you understand? I’m not fucking joking. From now on you’re going to wear a skirt! Capeesh?”
Vindictive laughter. And then, mercifully, they were gone. Marty lay panting in shock on the cold tiles. After a minute he grabbed some toilet paper to mop up his tears.
Once he’d recovered his breath, he scrambled up before someone discovered him, and slipped out of the loo like a wary rabbit. He trod gingerly in his wet trousers to the library, said he’d had an accident at the sink, and leaned on a radiator. He felt such a fool. The worst thing was having a girl go for his tender parts like that, taking advantage of his male weakness. Boys were supposed to be the tough ones, yet girls could down them with a kick. That pendulous sack between his legs was an embarrassment.
He knew about girl gangs cornering boys, making them pull down their pants, and photographing their privates with camera-phones. Everyone remembered two years ago when Anna Makarski stuck print-outs of Andy Nash’s bits on the walls of both the girls’ and boys’ changing rooms. It was sexual power play, naked and simple. He hoped Emma’s humiliating photo of him wouldn’t end up on LifeBook or some other site where the whole school would see it. The worst of course was the fad of ‘happy busting’, when girls would knee a random boy in the balls without provocation, for kicks, and film it on their phones.
Fortunately Emma hadn’t actually busted his balls. But her ultimatum was somehow worse. If she’d busted him, their feud would be resolved. Instead, that idiot boy had to come in and give her ideas. Marty had no intention of coming into school wearing a skirt just to placate Emma – which meant she would be on his back for the entire fucking term.
When he got in, Mum was watching television in the front room. The short space between them felt like a mile. It was a relief to close his bedroom door behind him and slump on his bed in a funk.
Good grief, what was he to do? If he didn’t start wearing a skirt to school, Emma would pursue him, and he knew what she was capable of by reputation and now by experience. But he did not want to wear skirts. He didn’t even have a skirt. Or rather, he did, of course, the one Gabby gave him, but it wasn’t a school skirt. He’d have to ask his mother to buy him one, which would be too humiliating. He swung to his feet and opened his wardrobe, where Gabby’s – his – skirt lay folded on a side shelf. There it was, it belonged to him. He could put it on now, go downstairs, endure a bit of teasing from Gabby. Easy.
From now on you’re going to wear a skirt!
No, it was outrageous. What was happening to boys, for Christ’s sake? Gabby never wore skirts. He couldn’t sit at home in a skirt while his sister wore trousers, like it was normal that way round. Where would it end? No, he was proud that he’d stood up to Emma in the youth club. You had to draw a line.
Sitting at his computer, he tracked down Emma’s LifeBook page and scanned it anxiously. No image of him, not yet anyway. Of course not, because he was a worm, hardly worth mentioning. He looked through her profile photos and saved half a dozen of the prettiest to his hard disk. After a while, inevitably, he took his cock in his hand. Marty was no stranger to internet porn, but who needed a computer? Emma haunted his imagination like a succubus. Even though she had attacked him, it was exciting to have had her standing so close, dark and gorgeous, directing her entire attention at him. He rubbed his prick, enjoying the swelling excitement, till it stood eagerly upright, and he lay on his bed. Emma was sitting beside him on the bed in her school uniform, pressing her strong thigh against his. Her hand strayed slyly towards his leg, stroking it with one finger, teasing the hem of his underpants. Her explorations grew bolder, until she swung her leg over and sat astride him, sultry and provocative, exciting the tip of his overheating prick with rhythmic movements of her warm crotch. Her clothes disappeared. His hands ran trembling over her superb young body as she pushed down onto him and rode him commandingly. Her breasts swung up and down, and her black hair fell about her sweating face.
After a minute or two of frantic rubbing, there was a giddy thrill, a gush of fluid. He inspected his wet underpants in fascination before pulling them off.
He was a little ashamed of this fantasy, given how she’d treated him today. In real life he didn’t, of course, remotely enjoy being bullied. How to explain? As a diffident, confused boy, he found that the dream of lying passively back while the girl took control was satisfying, stirring and erotic. Let the female exercise power – how much simpler life became, provided he could resign himself to it! As for masturbation, well, it was the only sex available, and he bitterly wished he could have the real thing.
Ah, real life? The real thing? The reality was that Emma wasn’t some kind of sex demon who only existed to engorge him with giddy ecstasy. She lived in a house, brushed her teeth, chatted to friends, caught colds, plucked stones from her trainers. Yet he couldn’t think of her in this way. Trying to imagine her at home, he saw her lying sleepily in bed, a slight twist in her body, soft under thin cotton pyjamas, and the bed so warm and cosy and welcoming, and he was desperate to be there in that room so he might slip under the duvet and snuggle up close to her and yes, his erection rubbed up against her side or belly and his hands were once again shifting downwards to try and relieve the frustrating allure of it all.
Marty couldn’t understand why boys must be made to run across slippery grass chasing a bag of air. He took a minor interest in football because it seemed almost obligatory, but he was ambivalent about playing it – not least because you were forced to change alongside thirty other boys in changing rooms that smelled of armpits.
Some boys strolled nonchalantly around the changing rooms with their parts lolling, their bushy pubes a virile boast. Marty preferred to strip facing the wall and hold his PE shirt in front of his privates till his shorts were on.
“Come on, boys, you think England take this long?”
Mr Cope puffed around them in his black-and-orange Wolves tracksuit like a squat, hyperactive sergeant-major. He was really a social studies teacher, and everyone knew he was a social studies teacher, and no amount of personal enthusiasm would compensate.
“Reckon you’ve got the guts to play for Man U, for Arsenal? Reckon you’ve got the grit? Want to know what Nottingham Poly taught me about sport? Well I’m going to tell you anyway! Success in sport – and in life, lads, yes, in life – equals SWEAT! So when you get out on that pitch today, lads, I want you to show me some commitment. I don’t want sissy lads, tottering about in short skirts!” He minced up and down and won a laugh. About a third of the boys had in fact entered the changing room wearing skirts, but Mr Cope was a one-man campaign against the genderquake and wouldn’t allow boys to wear them for PE. “We’re going to throw ourselves in and show one hundred per cent sweat. ‘Cos real lads they need to get out, they need to run, they need to struggle, and they need to…?”
“Sweat!” yelled a few of the boys with grins.
“Yes, sweat. Move it!”
His piercing whistle shrilled, and soon the football studs were clopping like racehorses’ hooves along the paving slabs to the muddy sports field. On the other pitch, the girls’ football had already started, and their shouts floated over through the damp air.
The boys lined up along the edge of the pitch and teams were picked. Marty remained in the dwindling pool of the unchosen, alongside the overweight, the lame, and the fey. As his name was called, his team responded with a mock cheer.
“Oh, shush!” growled Mr Cope. “Where’s your honour? Decide your positions and let’s get on with it.”
Noel wandered over from the other team and offered consoling words. “Look at the jugs on those girls, mate.” He put on a throaty voice, rippling his fingers: “Let me feel those plump thighs.”
They snorted merrily, watching the girls race and dart around the field, their faces determined. In play as in class, they were in training for life at the top.
“Just imagine that lot in the changing room with no clothes on,” Marty said.
“Pulling off their knickers, showing their bushes,” said Noel.
The stout figure of the Games teacher was gesticulating crossly at them.
“Yeah, yeah,” scowled Noel. “Can’t-Cope, no-hope.”
Marty was sent into goal, which he didn’t like as it meant balls were kicked directly at him. He knew he was supposed to be obsessed with football and desperate to play in the Premier League. But it was no fun being the last person picked for a team, or letting in goals, or never receiving a pass. He didn’t know whether he genuinely wanted to do well, or if that was down to pressure from everyone else and really, he hated it.
He thought the hardcore footballers were hiding behind their dreams. They took it very seriously, getting heated and treating mistakes with frustrated anger. None of them would make it as a professional player, for all their animated discussions of positions and tactics, and would end up as househusbands like all the rest. Anyway, the women’s Premier League was nearly worth as much as the men’s now and was going to take over some day.
“Welling!” someone yelled.
The ball was approaching, at the dextrous feet of Gary Sumner. A defender failed to stop him. Marty leaned forward, legs apart, hands on knees. Sumner darted to the left. Marty leaped rather theatrically in the same direction.
“Goal!” cried Gary Sumner, leaping in the air in triumph.
They can’t accuse me of not trying, Marty thought, fumbling in the back of the net. He was baffled by the way Gary could run in one direction and at the same time flip the ball the opposite way. When he tried that he invariably trod on it.
“Well done, David Seaman!” shouted his captain. “Seaman, get it – ‘cos you’re a dick!”
After another hour of this sort of thing, Marty was a little muddier and a little more fed up, and the other side won 6-2.
“Come on lads!” cried Mr Cope. “Scared of laddering your tights? It’s not over yet. Knees up and run to the changing rooms. Chins up – let’s see you run!”
Bedraggled, Marty let the others run ahead. Clattering to the sports hall, he saw a thin trail of girls returning from a hockey game. Amongst them was Emma Lamb, wearing her PE kit of white T-shirt and shorts, and swinging a very solid-looking hockey stick. Marty hadn’t encountered her for a week. He looked around. Noel was coming up behind him, but he was still a way off.
“Well, look who it is,” said the lovely girl, planting her hockey stick on the ground between him and the sports hall entrance. “I have to say, I’m really not a fan of boys wearing shorts instead of skirts. It’s just not very attractive.”
Marty didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t run away because she’d gloat at him for being weedy and scared, and he’d be ashamed of himself. So he approached in an arc, leaving a wide margin between them in case she turned aggressive.
To his intense relief, she didn’t come for him. “You’re such a cute boy, Welling,” she called after him mockingly. “I’d really fancy you if you weren’t so horribly trad.”
He distinctly heard the smack of her taunting kiss.
Marty was worried as he got changed, not because Emma had done anything very terrifying, but because she was Emma, and was still directing her attention at him.
Emma was proud to be a girl, and he had insulted this pride. Of course boys got picked on by girls sometimes, for talking back or wearing trousers or doing well in class, but it had always been some other poor bugger. Now, it was happening to him.
Though he tended to drag his heels when changing, Marty made a point of keeping up so there were plenty of boys around when he emerged from the changing rooms and made for the cafeteria. He poked his head into the corridor, stepped into the sports hall foyer, and immediately saw Emma and her mates Kerry and Asha, waiting. The other boys proved no defence – she simply walked through them and came straight for him. There was no room to run. She put out one hand and forced him to a standstill.
“Hello, shrimp,” she said. “Been insulting girls in there, I suppose? Leading your little scrote revolution?”
“Leave off, Emma,” he murmured, trying to manoeuvre round her.
“I look down and I don’t see a skirt, Welling,” she snarled. “What are these?” She plucked impatiently at his trousers.
“I ain’t got one, Emma,” he pleaded.
“You got that right.” Laughter at the innuendo. “Well, talk to Mummy and sort it out.” She let him scurry past, slapping him brutally on the back. “You picked the wrong century to mess with girls, Welling.”
“Well played, Welling!” said Kerry.
“Top hole!” said Asha.
They both gave him a great slap on the back too. Marty ducked and scampered out of the hall, cursing under his breath.
When you queued for school dinner, the reek of vinegar and frying oil hit you in the corridor already. Under a sign reading GROVE CAFETERIA, a smiley pig in a chef’s hat brandished a platter of sausages. The main meal today was chicken burgers or chicken salad.
As Marty queued up, people kept glancing at him. A pair of second-years was tittering. Even the bloke on the till winked at him. Something was going on. He didn’t know what until he sat down with his tray next to Noel Walsh at a table.
“Uh, someone’s put stickers on yer, Welling.”
As he took off his blazer laughter rocked the tables around him. Three sticky labels had been stuck on his back, each written on by a different hand:
I AM AN ARSEHOLE.
DRESSES MAKETH THE MAN.
please bust my nuts.
Marty flushed scarlet. He peeled the stickers off and tore them into bits under the table, realising that not only had Emma planned the little stunt, she’d prepared the stickers with her mates, and then lain in wait for him. It all showed a rather frightening level of commitment.
“What’s going on, Welling?” Noel demanded. “This is Emma’s work, I suppose?”
It was a relief to have an ally. “Some crazy thing. She’s pissed off at me arguing with her in the youth club and now she’s picking on me. She told me to wear a skirt to school.”
Noel’s eyes narrowed. “Huh? Fuck her.”
Marty explained that disobedience had worrying consequences.
“Emma ain’t the problem,” said Noel in disgust, scratching his wretched moustache.
“She is to me,” Marty replied, hanging his head. The pressure suddenly overwhelmed him.
“You had Emma on the ropes, down the youth club, and you bottled it. And I know why you bottled it – it’s ‘cos you knew I was there to sort her out if it came to a scrap.”
Marty was pretty sure he hadn’t had Emma on any ropes. “At least I spoke up. You didn’t do fuck all, sitting there not saying a word!”
“’Cos I ain’t got anything to prove, have I?” said Noel a little angrily. “I stand up for myself and I’ve given Emma some lip in my time. I left you your chance to man up, and if you didn’t take it don’t go blaming me. You have to fight your own battles, or do you think I’m going to go around holding your bloody hand? It’s you that’s the problem.” Noel pointed his finger accusingly. “Emma’s going to push you around as she likes, and you’re meant to shut up about it like a good little boy ‘cos she’s got you by the balls. She doesn’t take you seriously. No girl takes boys seriously any more.”
“Either you obey her, or you make her take you seriously.”
Chewing his chicken burger, Marty played these words around his head. “So what do I do?”
“Teach the cow to take you seriously. Teach her a fucking lesson. Teach her a bit of respect.”
“But... I mean.” Marty said, shrugging his shoulders.
“What?” Noel spat angrily. “Scared? It’s all a matter of confidence. She’s only a girl, Welling – even you’re bigger than her... just about. She’s a pretty babe with smashing jugs who ought to be batting her eyelids at us, and the only reason she thinks she rules the school is because lads like you have handed her the power on a plate. You should turn up to school in trousers, like a fucking bloke, and if she doesn’t like it, what’s she going to do? They want equality, they can have it: a straight scrap with no punches pulled, then we’ll see who’s hard.”
“It’s all very well for you.” Noel had a fair reputation as a scrapper.
“Yeah, I can take care of myself, and so should you. I’m telling you, if you let the side down and go over to the sissies, I’ll bloody beat you up myself.”
Marty wished now that he hadn’t confided in Noel. He felt that everyone was wading in and taking his fate out of his control. Surely he just had to hope Emma got bored of the whole thing. What did Noel think he was going to do: shout abuse? Hit her? He could well imagine the consequences of assaulting Emma, consequences which would pursue him and his testicles through the rest of his school life.
Either way he couldn’t win. If he didn’t go with the Walsh Plan, Noel would sneer at him and tell the other lads, and the last thing Marty needed was being laughed at by his male peers as well. If he did go with the Walsh Plan, Emma and her mates would pulverise him.
Hearing no objections, Noel clapped his mate on the shoulder. “I knew you had the bottle.”
(To be continued...)