The church brogues were a little too big, the leather stretched and shapeless with ample feet that had forced their way in and out of them every week. The tweed skirt had to be held up and cinched tight with a belt. The double string of pearls hung almost to the waistband of the skirt.
‘It’s so difficult getting clothes to fit these days,’ said the false, cultured tone.
Makeup lay strewn across the glass top of the kidney-shaped dressing table. ‘Now then, which lipstick shall I wear today? Something subtle, I think. Oh Dear, I don’t have anything subtle. Cherry Bomb Explosion number sixteen, yes that sounds about right. It’ll just have to do.’
The evening meal was ready. The boys assembled at the table and stood to attention behind their chairs until grace had been said and they were given the instruction to sit. Violet pursed her lips in irritation; she was always tense on a Wednesday evening. What made her mood blacker this week was the fact that Donald had refused to come in to eat again. This was the third meal he’d missed that week. Violet was a staunch believer in the adage, ‘A family that eats together, stays together,’ and she had no intention of letting any of her family escape. She glared, first at her husband’s setting, and then, at the only other chair that didn’t have a boy standing behind it. Where was he? He was her most sensitive son, the one with an artistic personality, prone to tantrums and flares of temperament. He was also the one who would go off quietly by himself somewhere to read. He liked to be alone.
‘Oh, for goodness sake, go and get him,’ she said irritably and to nobody in particular.
The child nearest the door replied with a courteous, ‘Yes, Mummy,’ and left the room, remembering not to run like a hooligan in his mother’s presence. The boy who would one day become a master forger knew that his brother would be for it because he was late for a meal. Violet didn’t hold with people being late to her table, she didn’t hold with anything on a Wednesday of all days. He wanted to find his older brother and bring him to the dining room quickly. Once he knew he was out of his mother’s earshot he began calling his name and running down the corridor, his slippers flapping time on the cool Mediterranean tiles.
The foundation was messy and took awhile to rub in. It stuck to his hands and he had nothing to wipe them on. If he left handprints on any of his mother’s fine bathroom linen she’d know somebody had been in her room. That would be crime enough, but Lord forbid she ever discovered what he did on a Wednesday afternoon when he knew she was out for hours. It didn’t bear thinking about. He went into the en suite bathroom and washed his hands carefully in the basin. He covered the top of the soap in Autumn Glow foundation and then had to wash the soap as well as his hands. That got soap all over his hands again so he had to wash and rinse several times until he’d got rid of all the suds. He could see that it wasn’t all glamour being a girl. He sat back down at his mother’s vanity unit and carefully applied a layer of pressed powder. He chose pale blue eye shadow; it brought out the lilac of his eyes. He kohl’ed his inner eyelid with black liner, rouged his cheeks with pink blush, reddened his lips with Cherry Bomb Explosion and finished the look with a thick application of black mascara. The end result looked astonishingly sultry and feminine. He didn’t look like a boy playing with makeup, but a girl with a practised hand. His high cheekbones and full lips made the perfect canvas for his art. Anybody seeing him for the first time might have queried why she was wearing her mum’s clothes, but they would have thought she looked beautiful.
He lamented his mother’s lack of fashionable clothing. Serviceable tweeds and polyester slacks were the norm for Violet Woods. She had a large selection of special eveningwear for socialising with the Lakeland elite, kept in polythene from the dry-cleaners. How he longed to get hold of those dresses with the black lace and sequins.
He had been doing this for months now. It was more than just an urge, it was a compulsion. He twirled in the full length mirror, satisfied with his look. Now that he had finished with the intense concentration of putting the makeup on, another part of his mind was taking over. Mother had just one fine item, one piece of feminine clothing that he adored.
Donald, hoping to rekindle their love life, had brought home a pair of delicate French knickers one Valentine’s Day. Violet was appalled. It just wasn’t a man’s place to buy underwear. It wasn’t seemly. They had a terrible row. After forcing him to tell her where he’d bought them from, Violet said that she wouldn’t be able to shop in Kendal ever again. Donald argued that a large place like Debenhams in Kendal was hardly likely to remember one nondescript man buying a pair of knickers for his wife.
‘Donald!’ Violet had admonished. ‘Please don’t use that word; it’s vulgar and most unchristian for a gentleman to be talking about a lady’s under garments in such terms.’
Violet had been shocked by her husband’s behaviour. Valentine’s Day—what piffle, she thought as she hastily stuffed the baby pink knickers to the back of her drawer and out of sight. She was perfectly happy with her Marks & Spencer underwear in a hundred percent cotton with breathable gusset. Anything else just wasn’t hygienic.
The cross-dressing boy had no idea where the knickers had come from but he was delighted that they had. He wore them now under the frumpy old skirt. They felt decadent and the heavy silk lining under the tweed was forcing the smooth satin of the panties against his young body. His penis, right on the cusp of puberty, was rock hard, his heart racing as he posed this way and that. He felt the cold material moving against his turgid penis and it felt wonderful.
He lay on his mother’s bed and pulled the skirt high on his slim thighs so that he could see himself grown under the sheer material of the French knickers. They were just like boxer shorts really, but without the fly. But boxers had never felt this sumptuous. He fantasised about wearing the satin under his school uniform. The thought was dangerous and exciting. He could only do it on days when he wouldn’t have to change for PE. It would be his special secret. He would never have the courage do actually do it, but just the thought of it was enough to make him want to touch himself. He did, tentatively at first. But instinct overtook him and had taught him how to manipulate his penis within a fistful of baby pink satin. And that’s when the new fantasy was born. It was an idea so wrong and so sinful that it put interfering with oneself into the baby-sin bucket. It was wrong. It was dirty and wrong, but it drove him mad with the thought of doing it. His whole body tensed as his hand flew. He felt a strange tightening in his stomach and, seconds later, he experienced a sensation that was new, a little bit scary and all encompassing. He had his first ever ejaculation and it left him shocked and quivering.
His mind was in turmoil. He’d made a mess in his mother’s panties. Surely he would go to hell for such a sin. His penis was flaccid now, but his mind was still turgid. The idea that had formulated as he interfered with himself wouldn’t leave. He cleaned the mess and washed the underwear under the tap. What was he going to do with it now? He couldn’t put them back in her drawer, soaking wet. He couldn’t put them on the radiator to dry.
In desperation, he flushed them down the toilet. Imagining them getting stuck in the piping and flooding out the entire hotel. He was scared as he desperately tried to cover his tracks. What if Mother found out? He felt guilty and dirty but he lamented the loss of the satin knickers. He put his own pants back on. He was shaking and hadn’t had time to replay and think about what had just happened. He intended to take the makeup off but he needed to sit down for a moment. He lay back on the pillows of his mother’s bed, still in her blouse, wearing her pearls and her makeup. He closed his eyes to think and seconds later he drifted into sleep. He dreamed of hotel rooms filled with sensual female clothing and in his sleep his body reacted again.
He heard someone calling his name. He was dressed in lace underwear, a sable fur coat and high heels. The voice was pulling him out of the soft fur; he didn’t want to come out of the dream. It was nice. He heard his name again and opened his eyes. He was awake. The bedroom door was opening. He panicked. He mustn’t be caught like this.
The bothers stared at each other. Neither of them spoke. The cross-dresser with the painted face and pearls dangling in his lap was the first to drop his eyes. He looked at the erection pushing through the skirt, alerting his brother so that his eyes, too, focussed there.
The forger tugged at his hair defensively, the way he always did when something upset him. He was shocked and disgusted. He didn’t feel the slightest desire to mock or tease his brother; it went too deep for that.
‘Get out! Get out!’ the cross-dresser hissed as though the intruder was the one in the wrong. He was angry, the rouge on his cheeks standing out alarmingly on his suddenly pale face, his bright red lips pursed in uncontrolled temper. His blue, lidded eyes flared in anger.
‘I’ll cover for you,’ the forger said quietly. ‘Hurry up and come down, you’re late for dinner and Mother’s furious.’ He closed the door behind him and walked slowly back to the dining room, buying himself as much time as possible to make up an excuse for his brother’s absence. He could have stayed a few moments to help tidy up the room so that his mother wouldn’t know anybody had been in, but he didn’t want to see his brother taking off the painted face. It was obscene and seeing it come off would have been too reminiscent of it going on, and he wanted no part of that.
The Cross-dresser arrived at the table, grey with fear and apprehension. Was his dirty secret out in the open, exposed for them all to make of it what they would? Or was his brother as good as his word? His pallor served their purpose well and backed up the story that he had been sick. Mother showed maternal concern for half a minute, asking if he was all right before firing a barrage of questions at him to find out what he’d been eating while she was out. Had he been at the fruit trees in the orchard? Had he taken sweets from one of the guests? Had he been associating with dirty children from the estate who might have countless untold and horrendous viruses and illness? She was hungry and impatient to eat and finished her inquisition by telling him how disappointed she’d be with him if he vomited at the dining table. The matter, as far as she was concerned, was closed. He was well enough to walk, therefore he was well enough to eat the meal the good Lord—and the kitchen staff—had provided for him.
When Mother turned her attention to the tureen of roasted parsnips, two pairs of eyes met over the table. The forger dropped his gaze suddenly. And the secret that was now shared between them remained just that, a secret. A third pair of youthful eyes caught the look. The eavesdropper realised something had happened and he made a mental note to find out what it was from his brothers later, but a game of cricket was organised for the evening and the vibes he had seen crossing the table were forgotten by the time the meal was finished.
Over the following week the cross-dresser’s mind was congested with the fantasy of going into the guests’ rooms to steal clothes and makeup, maybe some nice jewellery, too. It was the middle of the summer holidays, the hotel was booked solid, the weather was hot and the women were walking round in flimsy dresses and shorts that showed all their thighs. He took to sitting in one of the Chesterfield armchairs in reception. He watched the women passing through the foyer, his penis pushing hard against the material of his shorts. He wasn’t very interested in the women and girls, mainly how they dressed and carried themselves. He studied their styles, the way they moved. The way he wanted to look and move. He made notes about which guest occupied which room, and the fantasy of sneaking through those rooms, stealing their pretty things became a burning desire.
The following Wednesday took an age to come. He sat at breakfast that morning with two spots of high colour to his cheeks and an uncomfortable erection hidden under the table. It was still a dream. He had no intention of actually doing anything. For another hour and a half it was still just a fantasy borne in the mind of a young pubescent discovering himself.
His brother’s were cycling to Fell Foot Park for the day. It was perfect; they’d be gone for hours. That left him alone to trawl the corridors of the vast hotel undetected. He’d learned that young boys have an uncanny knack of passing unnoticed among adults. He could check in the register to see which guests had left their keys, and had gone off for the day. It would be easy to take his mother’s master key from the hook in her private office, nobody would notice. But it was just a dream. The others tried to get him to go with them, but he said he wanted to finish the book he was reading. The forger looked at him accusingly and he slopped orange juice from his glass. His mother was too preoccupied with her own Wednesday thoughts to notice.
He waited for a long time after the other boys had gone. His mother left before them and he checked that his father was still taking some fresh produce to the local market that day. He just walked around the upper storeys of the hotel for the first hour, talking to the chambermaids and mentally marking their progress along the corridors. He saw a couple leaving room 506. They were full of chatter about sailing on The Swan across Lake Windermere. He watched them go round the corner, listened to the lady’s clicking heels descending the stairs, and his heartbeat quickened in his chest. He walked passed their room and surreptitiously tried the door. It was locked. This was the defining moment. The one second that turned his fantasy into a reality. He was going to do it.
Getting his mother’s key was as easy as he had expected it to be. Checking the hotel keyboard proved a little more difficult, but he bided his time until the receptionist was called away. He slipped behind the desk and into the general office where an enormous keyboard dominated one back wall. Guests were encouraged to leave their room keys at reception when they left the hotel in case of loss. The pegs were two thirds occupied with room keys and a volt of sheer adrenaline shot through his body.
He contemplated cycling into town to have a copy of the master key made, but he had no money. He had lots of time, but didn’t want to waste a precious second of it by going into town. He had far more exciting things to do with his day. And anyway, he promised himself this was a one off thing. It would be too risky to do it again, just today, just once. Only today. He’d just have to make sure he found lots of the right things first time.
It would have served his purpose well to be able to jot down the hopefully vacant room numbers but that would have been too dangerous. If he was observed, difficult questions would have to be answered; he contented himself with writing to memory the first five numbers under the pegs with keys hanging from them.
Making sure the chambermaids were nowhere in sight and that the corridor was clear of guests, he rapped lightly on the first door. He hadn’t the faintest idea what he would say if anybody answered and was ready to run at the slightest noise from within. He was terrified. His mouth was dry and tasted metallic and he could feel his heartbeat through the artery in his throat.
There was no answer to his knock; with trembling hands he let himself quietly into the room. It was empty. The bed was neatly made and the room was neat and tidy, despite the chambermaids not having got that far on their cleaning rounds yet. The only sign of habitation was the towelling dressing gown, hanging on the back of the door and the neatly folded Observer newspaper, beside the bed.
He was disappointed, a quick search of the drawers showed that, despite it being a double room, it seemed only one person inhabited it, a man. He rifled through the guests’ belongings, making as little disturbance as possible. In the shallow bedside cabinet drawer, he found some lose money, about two pounds in all. He almost took it. He picked it up and felt the weight of the coins in his hand. There might be enough to pay for a duplicate key but it would be stealing. He was going to steal, he had every intention of stealing, that’s what he’d come for, but he wanted to keep his sins down to a low number, and taking actual money seemed somehow worse and more sinful than taking somebody’s old clothes and stuff. He put the money back, checked to see that nothing was out of place and after peeping around the door to see that the corridor was empty, he slipped back out of the room, locking the door behind him.
The second room was better. The bed was made but the place wasn’t as tidy as the last room had been. Damp towels had been thrown causally on the end of the bed. Mother wouldn’t approve of that. He automatically picked them up, folded them and placed them neatly side by side on the towel rail in the en suite bathroom. He stepped over a pair of tiny black panties; they were scrunched up and had obviously been worn. He felt a little jolt at the thought that if there was one pair, then there would surely be more. He didn’t like the thought of touching underwear that had actually been used. What kind of a lady left her dirty linen on the bathroom floor? He crossed the room, but the thought of those tiny panties on the floor drew him back. He did pick them up. He rubbed them through his hands, exulting in the soft feel of them. His fingers found the double layer of the gusset. His penis jerked and rose instantly in his pants as his thumb was the first digit to find the stuff. It had stiffened in the crotch of the panties and it cracked slightly as he bent the material. He saw the white staining on the cloth, and a tiny flake of something that had once been wet but had recently dried, fell onto his hand. He pulled the underwear up to his nose and rubbed the stained part across his nostrils. The smell wasn’t strong, almost undetectable. He had no idea whether it was female stuff or male stuff that had leaked from the woman, but he knew that it was the smell of sex. He’d pulled on himself everyday since that first time. He wanted to do it now. He had to squirt his own stuff on top of the stain that was already there. The need to do it was unbearable but he might be caught. He stuffed the panties into his pocket, forced his mind back to the real job in hand, and breathed heavily as he waited for his boyhood to shrink back into itself.
The room was an Aladdin’s cave of treasures. Bottles of exotic creams and lotions, shampoos and bubble bath filled the shelves in the bathroom. The vanity unit had perfume in fancy bottles and makeup left out. Bracelets and necklaces were casually strewn amidst the lipstick and blusher. The people in this room appeared to have left in a hurry. The wardrobe was hung with shimmering dresses and elegant trouser suits. And, joy of joys, the top drawer of the dresser was filled with nylon stockings and delightfully sinful lingerie.
That first day he only took a few small things. He took a necklace with pretty blue stones set in a crescent shaped pendant, a chiffon scarf that smelled strongly of a sophisticated perfume, two pairs of sexy panties and a pair of stockings. It was only later, in his own room, that he discovered that you had to have something to hold the stockings up and he had no idea what that something was.
From another room, he took more panties and a black lacy bra. And from a third, he took a broach in the shape of a heart and a pink underskirt. He was tempted by a bottle of perfume; it looked expensive and had a French name. The bottle was so pretty he wanted it, but when could he wear it? Somebody would notice that he had ladies perfume on. He didn’t have to wear it though, did he? Just having it, owning it, knowing that it belonged to him would be enough. It would be there. It would be his. He could smell it and imagine what it would be like to dab some on the pressure points of his neck. He felt the stirrings of sexual arousal again and hovered with the perfume bottle in his hand. The things he had taken might not be noticed immediately if he was lucky. He reasoned that the jewellery might be expensive; he had no way of knowing at that point what was good and what wasn’t. But jewellery was so small that somebody might not notice that a piece was missing until they actually came to want it. He knew that his mother wore the same perfume every day. J’ Taime by Estee Lauder. His mother would surely notice if a bottle was stolen, but then his mother would probably notice if a hairgrip was out of place. He badly wanted the perfume. It was so pretty, so feminine…so risky. He left it, taking instead some lose change that had been thrown into an otherwise empty trinket dish on the vanity unit and a pale pink lipstick. He didn’t take all of the money that was there, and hoped that fifty-three pence would be enough to have the key replicated.
That was the year that The Halcyon Woods Hotel experienced a spate of thefts. The proprietor, Mrs Violet Woods, made several statements to the police and to the local press, saying that she would not rest until this despicable thief had been caught and taken to book. It had to be a member of staff. The police were ruling nothing out, and at that stage, they had to assume by the nature of articles stolen, that it was a female member of staff, probably one of the chambermaids. The staff were all fingerprinted and released without charge. It was a terrible business and not good for the hotel’s reputation.
The day the police came to take statements and fingerprint all the staff, he was ill. He vomited several times, guilt rising with the gorge from his stomach. He waited in his room, expecting the police to come for him at any moment, but they didn’t come at all.
They returned several times over the following months. He assumed that the police hadn’t worked out that the spate of thefts coincided with the school holiday but they had. The focus of the investigation shifted slightly to the casual staff that Violet employed in the holidays to help out with the seasonal rush. They tracked the school holidays for several terms and then, when the Windermere secondary school let out for their summer break, there were no thefts. It blew the police theory out of the water. There were a few small incidents two weeks later when Guildmarten Head public boy’s school had their term end. These rose to another full on assault of guests missing property as the long summer months unfolded. The case was never solved.
He felt invincible. The stupid police were too dumb to catch him. He became purposefully sloppy, leaving little clues for them to pick up on, but they never associated the thefts to the son of the proprietor. He was beyond reproach and the Woods boys were never even formally questioned.
He was caught once. That had been hairy. There he was, not only in someone’s room, but actually rifling through the woman’s knicker drawer. Her stupid husband came back unexpectedly.
He had been marvellous. All the guests knew the children of Mrs Woods. The man recognised him. While the man demanded to know what was going on, he stood up and stammered, pretending to be confused. He wasn’t frightened. This was the first time he’d ever been caught since his brother found him in his mother’s clothes, and yet he was calm and composed. He fed the man a line about his mother asking him to come up to Mrs Burton-Graham’s room for her spectacles. He said he was very sorry and could see that he had mistaken room 432 for 423 in his haste. The man clapped him on the back and said what a fine boy he was, how he was a credit to his mother. And that was the end of it. He was a bit concerned that the tale would get back to Mother, but it didn’t.
He was untouchable.
It was after that incident that he started using the facilities. He would shower in the rooms, take long bubble-baths and use the guest’s cosmetics in-situ. He dressed in their clothes, ate whatever edibles were left in their rooms and made himself tea with the tea-making facilities.
He had his secret room. The attics in the hotel were immense. Room after dingy room sat at the very top of the house, most of them empty and unopened in years. The boys had been forbidden from going up to the attic years ago when they were young and played hide and seek up there. Mother considered it a dangerous place for them to be. And then they grew up and although some of the rooms were used for storage, most of them were empty. He had taken one of those. During the police investigations only the staff were suspected. None of the workforce lived in, so the hotel was never searched. He had fixed external and internal locks to the door in case it was ever found. He had the only keys. It was risky and he knew that one day his room would be discovered, but nobody would ever link it back to him.
One day he found his greatest treasure. He entered a guest’s room and almost hit the ceiling with shock. There was somebody in the room, sitting at the dressing table. It was only when the shock faded that he saw that it wasn’t a person at all. It was a polystyrene head with a long auburn wig attached. It was beautiful. He had to have it. He had become selective over the months. He no longer took indiscriminately. Clothes had to be designer. Perfume had to be the best. He never used it, but had a collection of fine fragrances that he knew would be his to wear one day. His tastes in jewellery had refined, he took only gold and precious stones. He would gladly have traded his entire collection for that one wig.
He put it on and felt the long curls cascade down his back. He masturbated on the woman’s bed that day, naked apart from the fabulous wig. In that wig he felt like a woman.
His need for danger and excitement had become more enhanced too. He had stolen progressively more recklessly for over three years. He was fifteen now and his mother didn’t terrify him the way she used to. Part of him actually wanted to be caught, but another part still craved his mother’s love and pride. He hated the fact that he still yearned for her approval.
Two weeks before he went away to begin his chef training, he decided to go out with a bang. He would surely be caught, but he needed the excitement. Just as he had played with his ideas that first week before he actually committed a crime, he fantasised about the way his coming out as a cross-dresser would go.
They had a talent contest scheduled for that night. The entire hotel was to be there. His mother in her finery, his father in a suit, all his brothers, the ones with stubble shaved, the ones without, their faces gleaming. It was a charity bash and Mother was so good at charity.
He dressed with care. He wore stilettos and walked on them with more grace than many women that he’d seen. He wore stockings and a short skirt, a bat-winged top that was currently popular and a wide belt, almost as broad as the skirt beneath it. He spent more time than usual putting on his makeup and when he donned the wig, he truly felt like a natural born woman.
When he walked through the hotel that night, heads turned. Everybody looked at the stunning woman; it was that kind of look. He walked past his mother’s table. Looked right into her eyes. She glared her disapproval. She didn’t hold with hussies flaunting their bodies for men to be tempted. She certainly didn’t like strumpet in her hotel. Two of his brothers were talking to girls at another table; they both looked up as the stunner passed by. The other two brothers were standing at the bar. They stared as he walked between them with a polite, ‘Excuse me, please.’ It was a buzz. Nobody recognised him. He was a butterfly in the light, a chameleon, he was untouchable.