Other rumours blew around the playground. If you were a girl, you were destined to get dreadful stomach cramps, severe enough to lead to bleeding between your legs and you’d have to go around with a mini-nappy in your knickers. If you were a boy, you were fated to get odd sensations in your cock, twitching and swelling till it forced its way out of your underpants. You’d start to dream of women’s breasts and a liquid, thick like sour milk, would leave a smelly white patch on the sheets that told your mother you’d been thinking dirty. Boy or girl, the indignity was unavoidable, as sure as the school bus and black woollen blazers with an embroidered badge on the breast pocket.
The female way seemed marginally preferable. All that blood and pain could be a secret wound, like a saint’s stigmata. I found where Patricia hid her Dr Whites in the airing cupboard and made my plan.
It was a Sunday afternoon. My dad was out hiking, Patricia doing her homework at her boyfriend’s, Trevor playing at being guerrillas with his mates, and my mother downstairs watching an Ealing comedy with her feet up on the pouffé. I took the bread knife from the kitchen and crept upstairs. In the bathroom, I bolted the door and changed into clean pyjamas, the closest I had to a surgical gown. I tore open a fresh packet of Dr Whites and laid them beside the knife. I removed my pyjama bottoms and draped them over the side of the bath.
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