I thought she was Spanish when I first saw her. She was dark. She had a satin scarf tied tightly around her neck and wore a long skirt that danced on the floor as she walked. She didn’t look anyone in the eye. I’d felt her presence for a few days now.
She wore a heavy layer of foundation and her eyes were caked in black. Her features were sharp. I wanted to see her whole face, see her eyes – and say hello.
I saw her with a pint of lager clasped in her hand, one cold afternoon. She was cowering in the darkness of the bar, her head down, her long black fringe covering her eyes.
I sat down next to her. “Hello,” I said. She looked up. Her eyes were the blackest that I had ever seen.
He voice was deep. “Hello,” she replied.
And we talked. She fascinated me. She was mysterious and aloof. She told me she was a vegan. I told her I liked my steak rare. We laughed.
I noticed her hands first, masculine and knobbly. I clicked slowly. Some days were bad and she would sometimes feel too low to shave. She plastered on her makeup and stopped her shoulders when she walked when she was feeling really bad.
The first operation was on her throat. The pills were working and she was growing breasts. Things were changing.
Some people would call her a freak. Sometimes, when the pills hurt her, she became aggressive. Most times she just ignored them.
The final operation was to completely change her. I sat with her for days and winced when she showed me the plastic contraption which kept her new shape.
I went shopping with her and we bought the girliest outfit we could. I saw her smile. A happy smile. Now Emma was beautiful on the outside too.
Claire Bolden McGill is a British expat who lived in Maryland for three years and moved back to the UK in August 2015. Claire wrote about her life as a British expat on the East Coast and now works in travel and hospitality PR in the UK. She still finds time to blog about her repatriation and the reverse culture shock that ensued – and she still hasn’t finished that novel, but she’s working on it. You can contact Claire via twitter on @clairebmcgill or via her blog From America to England.