if you've missed the prologue, read it here
if you've missed part one, read it here
The first week at Ashford was mainly 'getting to know you' and drawing up their time table for each day's classes. Once in school Michael didn't feel too self conscious about the uniform. However walking to and from school, he was subject to the occasional tease from the kid's who attended the 'normal' schools. He was keen to change out of his uniform as soon as he returned home, however come the second week at Ashford, Michael’s mother had a different idea.
“Oh Mu-um!” He moaned as he stood in the kitchen, “Do I have too?”
“Yes Michael, you do.” She replied, making him space to work at the dining table. “If you've got homework I want you to get on with as soon as you arrive.”
“I will... after I've changed... it'll only take a minute.” He pleaded.
His mother glanced down at his short culottes, his pale legs, his white socks and Mary Jane's. “School isn't over until your homework is complete.” She stated, pulling a chair out for him. “Plus, I like seeing you in your uniform.” She smiled.
From this moment on, Michael began his homework the moment he got home. Some nights he'd be working way beyond tea time and if he still had work to complete beyond Friday, his mother would insist he wore his uniform whilst he did it on Saturday or Sunday too. Michael protested that this wasn't fair, but his mother insisted. “You concentrate far better in your uniform dear.”
An hour or so later as Michael was packing up his books, his mother asked if she could see what he'd been doing. Michael gave her the text books in question and she thoroughly perused his homework. “Well this looks very good.” she smiled as she passed him his books. “See I told you you work better with your uniform on.” She stated with a 'mum knows best' tone of voice.
Michael smiled to himself as he put the books back in his bag. His mother asked him what classed he had the following day, so he got out his time table and listed each class. “Maths, then Geography, then domestic science, whatever that is...”
“Well domestic means...” She replied, half waiting for an answer, “of the home. So that's cooking, cleaning, needlework, ironing and so on.” She explained.
“Cooking and cleaning isn't science!” He replied.
“No it isn't love.” She smiled. “But it is worth knowing.”
“It sounds boring.” He said.
The following day was their first DS class. The teacher was chirpy, enthusiastic and likeable. “Seeing as this is your first domestic science class, we're going get the really boring stuff out of the way first. It does get better I promise.” She smiled, before asking. “Hand's up who knows how to use a washing machine.”
After the ten minute presentation on the automatic washing machine, the class was introduced to ironing, and practised on items from lost property. At the end of the class, each pupil was given an envelope to give to their parent or guardian. “This just explains that you're all expected to wash and iron your own uniforms as part of your Domestic Science homework...” She paused as a huge sigh swept the room. “...now I don't want any of you using an iron without adult supervision, so your parent or guardian needs to sign your letter and you must return it.”
Michael’s mother gladly signed the form as Michael claimed it wasn't proper homework.
“You'd be surprised how many men leave home not knowing how to cook or clean, wash or iron...” She explained. “...and your uncle Tony nearly burnt his flat down the first time he tried to cook something.” She grinned.
In the coming weeks, Domestic Science did get better, if only marginally so. Michael much preferred 'proper' science like physics and chemistry.
Michael always enjoyed playing football and cricket, but had never played with girls before as they weren't 'girls' games. He was taken aback that some of the girls were far better than some of the boys. He was equally surprised how much he enjoyed playing netball too, traditionally being a 'girls' game.
He discovered that hockey was a particularly vicious sport and throughout the winter hockey season, his shins bore the evidence of playing the brutal game in spite of wearing shin pads. Rugby was another of the winter sports, equally brutal but without the weaponry of hockey.
Michael was nervous of his first swimming class, not because of his swimming, he was a strong swimmer and had already earned his bronze and silver awards, but because of the one piece swimming costume the boys had to wear. All the boys in his swimming class were embarrassed and took a little teasing from the girls due to their effeminate swimsuits, but after a while they all got used to it.
One evening Michael arrived home to find his aunt Sandra and mother chatting. “You seem to be settling in at Ashford.” His aunt said, looking him up and down as he unfastened his overcoat and removed it. His shiny black Mary Jane's and his white knee socks looked nice. His short culottes looked very cute and he appeared quite comfortable in his uniform.
“Yeah I like it.” Michael replied with a smile, before unpacking his homework on the table. He scooped up his culottes beneath him and sat down. He then pulled up his knee socks a little and straightened them before getting on with his homework.
“You got your socks mixed up again I see.” His mother said, noting he wasn't wearing the plain white socks he'd left for school wearing.
Michael looked down at his socks which had a diamond pattern running up the sides. “Yeah it always happens.” He replied. “I think Mary Collins ended up with mine.”
“How on Earth do you get your socks mixed up?” His aunt asked.
Michael told her they all hung their socks to dry on the radiators when it's been raining, and that retrieving them after class is a bit of a smash and grab. “I always seem to end up with girls ones.”
His aunt smiled at him as he returned his attention to his work. She always liked the Ashford uniform for boys, and seeing her nephew in his short pleated culottes, his black Mary Jane's and his diamond patterned knee socks, he looked positively lovely.
She noticed that his hair was getting longer and pictured him with it tied up in bunches, but instantly felt guilty. She shook the image from her mind and struck up some small talk with her sister. “I say Michael's hair's getting quite long.” She said. “I expect a trip to the barber is due?”
“Oh I don't know.” His mother replied as Michael swept his fringe to one side. “I quite like it a little longer.”
“Oh it looks nice.” Sandra agreed, “I'm just used to seeing it cropped.”
“Well it's been a good few months since you've seen him.” Karen added. “But you're right, if it gets too much longer he'll need a headband.” She smiled.
Michael listened to their conversation but said nothing. Before long he began packing up his books. “Have you finished already?” His mother asked.
“Well I've still got my uniform to do.” He replied, glancing up at the Sheila maid which hung from the ceiling, fully laden with clothes. “Do you mind if I do it now?” He asked, “I'd rather get it all done before supper.”
“Not at all.” His mother replied.
Michael plugged in the iron and put up the ironing board, before lowering the Sheila maid to a more convenient height. He removed the first pair of culottes and carefully laid then on the ironing board. He began meticulously making sure all the pleats were straight before talking hold of the iron. “Well I must say he's very domesticated.” His aunt smiled as he began carefully ironing his school shorts.
“Yes he is...” His mother smiled proudly. “...they're expected to launder and iron their own uniforms as their domestic science homework.”
“Wow!” Sandra exclaimed. “That is new!”
“It's great, he puts them on to wash every Tuesday morning, I put them out to dry and he irons them.” His mother explained. “I've never been a fan of ironing so obviously I approve.” She grinned.
“Me neither” Sandra agreed, smiling as Michael inspected the freshly ironed shorts, before clipping them onto a skirt hanger. “If you want to earn some extra pocket money Michael I can always bring you my ironing?” She teased.
“Mrs. Baxter's a bit obsessive about our ironing...” Michael states as he places the second pair of box pleated culottes on the ironing board. “She detests seeing tramlines!” He adds as he carefully lines up the pleats.
“Those shorts don't look easy to iron.” His aunt observed.
“They're not too bad.” He replied as he gave each crease a good blast of steam. “I've got the hang of it now.” He says as he double checks them, before turning them over and ironing the reverse.
“You certainly have.” She replies, impressed at his effort.
Michael receives the complement well and clips the box pleated culottes to a second hanger. “This is the worst though.” He smiles as he places his burgundy PE skort on the ironing board. “Apparently the PE skirts are much easier.”
“Well I'm sure they are.” His mother replied. “You wouldn't have to work around the legs on a skirt.”
Next Michael ironed three blouses and finally his PE top. From the Sheila maid hung two pairs of culottes, three blouses, his PE skort and one PE top, all hung neatly on clothes hangers. He took them all in one hand before raising the Sheila maid back up to the ceiling and headed to his bedroom. Sandra watched him leave. His high waisted culottes swung from side to side and his hair bounced up and down as he walked down the hallway. The heels of his Mary Jane's clacked noisily on the parquet flooring. Sandra smiled to herself as she watched him leave, before turning to her sister. “He does suit having his hair a bit longer.”
“Yes he does.” Karen replied. “But I think I should send him to at least get it trimmed.” She reluctantly added.
“Well it's either that or bunches.” Sandra suggests with her tongue in her cheek.
“I have considered getting him a band.” His mother replied.
“But maybe too girlie?” Sandra asks.
Karen nods with a guilty smile. “Thing is I just can't see him with short back and sides any more.
“Oh I agree.” Sandra replies. “I was joking about the bunches by the way.”
A few moments later Michael returned wearing his casual clothes. “I bet it's good to be back in your own clothes?” His aunt asked, a little disappointed that he now wore a pair of baggy jeans and a plain sweatshirt instead of his blouse, culottes and knitted white knee socks.
“Well I don't have to smooth these under me every time I sit down.” Michael replied with a smile as he sat. “But I don't mind my uniform so much.” He added. “I thought it would be really cold wearing shorts in October, but it's not so bad.” He explained. “I just walk faster if it's really cold.” He added with a knowing smile.
“Well you can always wear something other than your knee socks.” His mother hinted.
“I don't wanna ware those mum.” Michael moaned, knowing exactly what she was getting at.
“Want to.” His mother corrected him. “You said yourself 'loads of boys wear tights'... they're much warmer you know.”
“Do you have some tights?” His aunt asked.
Michael nodded. “I just don't like the idea of wearing them.”
Before long, October became November and the climate grew ever colder as bonfire night approached. Karen had suggested that her son tried his tights or at least his over knee socks when he complained his legs were freezing, but each time he refused. “I just walk quicker when it's cold.” He'd say. “It's only ten minutes.”
His mum picked him up from school the night of the big firework display before driving to his grandmother's house. Her back garden is a prime location for watching the fire works whilst avoiding the crowds in the town centre.
It was a bitterly cold evening and Karen thought she should bring a pair of jeans for him to change into. However she had second thoughts and took his yet unworn woolly tights instead.
When they arrived at his granny's house his grandmother gushed at how much he'd grown and how nice it was to see him and how nice he looked in his school uniform. She served the hot pot supper before they made their out in to the garden ready for the big event.
Michael loved watching the fireworks but this being the first really cold evening of the year, he stood with his bare legs as close together as possible in a vain attempt to retain some body heat. His mother noticed his posture ans asked if he was warm enough.
“I'm a bit chilly.” He replied. “But I'll forget about it once the fireworks start” He added bravely.
“Well I did bring your woolly tights if you want them.” Karen said with a smile as she drew them from her handbag.
Michael’s eyes almost popped out of his head as his granny said, “Oh they look nice and warm Micheal.”
Michael's gut feeling was to decline the offer, but having spent ten minutes in the chilly back garden wearing a pair of short culottes and knee socks, he reluctantly accepted.
Karen took him indoors and knowing he'd never worn tights before, gave him a few tips as he pulled them on. His legs looked weird clad in the thick black fabric as he pulled his culottes on before fastening his feet back into his Mary Jane's. However once he returned to the garden, their benefit was obvious.
From that day forth, Michael wore his woolly tights to school everyday until spring. He missed them once he was back in knee socks and his mother commented how hairy his legs had grown over winter. Michael said he wasn't too keen on them and at least wearing tights would cover them up. “Well I could buy you some thinner tights if you'd like?” His mother suggested, “Or I've got some special cream which will remove them if you prefer?”
“I'm not removing my legs!” Michael replied.
“I meant just the hairs.” His mother chuckled. “I bet they were itchy under your tights?”
“Yeah they were a bit.” Michael replied.
Later that evening Karen gave Michael the tube of Immac as he went for a shower. She told him how to use it and stressed that he needs to wait fifteen minutes before rinsing it off, no sooner.
The following morning Michael bounded down the stairs with his knee socks on for the first time since november. His legs looked much nicer now all the hair had gone and his mother told him so. He blushed as he looked down at his legs and said thanks. “I'll pick you up some thinner tights this afternoon.” She said. “It's nice today but it will get chilly again before spring is properly here.”
“OK.” He replied as he packed his bag.
He was fully aware how different his legs felt as soon as he stepped outside. Somehow cooler and fresher, but not cold. He sat next to a girl called Tina in his first lesson. He noticed her glance at his legs and saw the puzzlement on her face. “Maybe shaving them is a bit too girlie.” He thought.
“Are you in the swimming club?” Tina asked.
Michael nodded. “er... yeah.”
“Thought so.” She smiled. “All the swimmers have nice legs.” She added.
“Er... it's just to make us swim faster.” Michael shyly replied.
“I know that.” Tina retorted, “But you must admit, your legs do look nicer without any hair on them.”
Michael looked down and ran his thumb gently over his lap. “Yeah I guess.” He replied. Tina's comment elated Michael, but he felt a little guilty for not being altogether honest with her. Shaving his lags was pure vanity and he knew it.