Ashley was a boy, of that much he was damn certain. He'd always been a boy (despite the time his older sisters put him in a dress, painted his nails, and forced him to parade in front of their parents as a three-year-old transvestite), nor did he have any intentions of becoming a girl in the near future. Ashley liked being a boy. He liked football and fast cars and girls in short skirts as much as the next heterosexual male, sometimes more. But Ashley had two problems:
The first problem was his grandmother. In life, she was an avid fan of Gone With the Wind, the character Ashley Wilkes in particular. In death, her Will stipulated that the first born son should bear that name. It could have been worse, Ashley supposed, they could have named him Delores after the old bat herself.
The second problem was his grandmother's daughter-in-law, otherwise known as his mother. Why was she a problem to Ashley? Simple. He looked like her. That is to say, he had lovely, high cheekbones and a full, rosy pout, along with soft, feminine skin. And he was built willowy and graceful, which, handy as it would have been if Ashley was remotely interested in ballet, didn't really do him a whole lot of good on the football field.
Bearing the above in mind, one would assume Ashley had spent all fourteen years of his life warding off the notion that he was a girl. This wasn't the case. In fact, no one had ever accused Ashley of such a thing.
At least, until he began his schooling at Bruton's Boarding Academy for Adolescent Boys.
Bruton's was notorious for its grey uniform and matching grey outlook on education. It had consistently turned out some of the most boring politicians and public figures in the country, so Ashley didn't particularly understand when his parents shipped him off with nothing more than a suitcase and a promise to come get him for the holidays. He had no desire to work in the public sector, and frankly, had been perfectly content at his old school.
But before he knew it he was standing at the front gate of Bruton's, suitcase in hand.
Ashley's old school had been single-sex, so although he was prepared for a boys-only education, he'd been warned that boarding schools were an infinitely different environment. He expected that as the new kid, his first week would be filled with hazing, that he would spend more time in the toilet than on it. However, this didn't happen. For most of his first week, Ashley was simply ignored by the other boys. There were the occasional titters in class when Ashley's name was read on the roll, of course, but apart from that, they left him alone.
He sat by himself in class and at lunch and even felt alone in his room since his roommate - a ginger kid named Paul, built like a bull suffering a chronic case of acne - had threatened to pound him into the floor if he touched any of his stuff. By the weekend, Paul's offer of beating Ashley to a pulp didn't seem so unappealing; at least someone would be paying attention to him, even if the attention was of a disturbingly violent nature.
Solitude was beginning to drive Ashley insane.
Fortunately, everything changed in the second week.
No doubt, in the first week of school, everyone had been too preoccupied with settling in to pay much mind to the new boy. However, with everyone now perfectly settled in their routines, there was plenty of time for Ashley to be noticed, and boy was he noticed! Even Ashley began to notice himself being noticed.
It started with glances in the hallways, and whispers which ceased abruptly when he entered a classroom. Understandably, he became slightly paranoid, thinking that maybe the other boys were laughing at him. His fears proved unfounded on Friday when Ethan Coventry seated himself beside Ashley in English.
"Hey, what's up?" Ethan said. He was a tall boy, muscular for fifteen. He could also grow a beard already, a feat which earned him godlike status amongst the other year nines.
"Not much," Ashley answered, as per acceptable guy-etiquette. Unacceptable guy-etiquette would have meant answering with something along the lines of: "What's up? I'll tell you what's up! My roommate is a bully whom I'm pretty sure I saw shoving a pair of granny panties in his drawers yesterday; no one here will talk to me, but they'll very happily talk about me; and I'm so lonely that I've cried in the shower everyday for the past week!"
In other words, unacceptable guy-etiquette meant answering honestly.
"That's cool," Ethan responded nonchalantly and scratched his chin, drawing attention to the blond bum fluff cultivated there. "You wanna sit with me at lunch, babe?"
Ashley knew the word 'babe' should have sent alarm bells ringing in his head. Unfortunately, he was blinded by the fact that someone - and not just any someone, Ethan Coventry, beard-grower and alpha male of year nine - was inviting him to eat lunch with him and his friends. "Sure, whatever," Ashley accepted while maintaining his cool-guy façade.
Ethan nodded, a slight smirk on his face, and the boys drifted into silence as the lesson began. When it ended, they both rose and headed out of the room towards the cafeteria.
"Here, I'll take those for you," Ethan offered and before Ashley could figure out what he was talking about, the other boy had taken his books from him and proceeded to carry them for him. "Wouldn't want you hurting yourself, sweetheart." Ethan winked and Ashley laughed a high, uncertain laugh. He wanted to protest that he wasn't a weakling, he was actually pretty strong for someone so skinny, and could definitely handle his books, but something gave him the feeling Ethan wouldn't give them back regardless. He hoped he wasn't being led into some sort of trap.
Lunch with Ethan's friends, as it turned out, wasn't a trap. It was actually alright, even though the table was extra crowded with him there, which meant Ethan was squished right up against him, their thighs crushed together. There was so little room that once or twice Ethan had to resort to resting his hand on Ashley's knee.
Ashley didn't mind as long as he was finally making friends.
Over the following month Ashley continued to hang out with Ethan, who was becoming a constant presence in his life, always winking at him and insisting on carrying his books or pulling him into his lap at the lunch table. Ashley tried not to pay it much mind but he was honestly starting to get the sneaking suspicion that Ethan was, well, gay. The only thing which had stopped him from confronting the other boy about it was that, as far as Ashley could tell, he was the only person Ethan gave pet names or flirted with. Where everyone else was concerned, Ethan was the epitome of a masturbating, porno-viewing, hunk-of-hetero, teenage boy.
It confused Ashley to no end and he simply couldn't keep it to himself. So, against common sense, he decided to casually mention it to his psycho, granny-panties-coveting roommate, Paul.
"Well, do you think he is?" Ashley persisted against the expression of incredulity on his roommate's face. "I mean, he doesn't exactly dress like a… you know… gay person, or talk like one, but he keeps hitting on me-"
"HE HITS ON YOU?!"
"I think he does. Actually, no, I'm sure he does."
"HE DOES NOT! AND HE'S NOT GAY!"
Ashley raised his eyebrow at the astonishing puce colour which had overtaken Paul's face. His roommate looked about ready to burst. "Okay, you're probably right. Sorry. Didn't mean to offend you by insulting your idol or whatever."
If it was possible, Paul seemed to become even more flustered. Ashley worried that if he didn't calm down and breathe normally, he was going to cark it. Then again, the extra space would be quite nice given how cramped their living quarters were, not to mention it would remove the fear of being smothered in his sleep with a pair of old women's underwear.
"I DO NOT IDOLISE THAT SMELLY JERKFACE! HE IS A MISOGYNIST!"
"He's a what?" Ashley asked, dumbfounded.
"Never mind," Paul squeaked suddenly, glancing around embarrassedly before punching Ashley in the arm so hard he lost the feeling in his fingers.
Things began to get progressively more uncomfortable with Ethan. Ashley hadn't mentioned his theory that the other boy was a flaming fairy to anyone other than Paul, afraid that doing so might lose him all the friends he'd made, since they were Ethan's friends as well. So he kept his mouth shut and let Ethan hold his hand under the desk.
On Wednesday he was walking to dinner when he heard Ethan and another boy, Charlie, speaking in hushed tones from inside a classroom.
"-a girl's name! You can't deny that!" Ethan argued.
"Yeah, but, come on, E. It all seems a bit farfetched to me," Charlie countered, adding in a lowered tone, "Not to mention it's pretty faggy."
"It's not faggy! I'm telling you, it's all over the internet: they disguise themselves and go to boarding schools like this one - it's fucking legit! Besides, look at this-"
Ashley probably would have eavesdropped some more, and maybe even found out what Ethan was showing Charlie at that very moment, if it weren't for the fact that another boy in his class decided to stop and talk to him about the upcoming dance with Bruton's sister school, Brutette's. Apparently the Brutette's girls were as ugly as their school's name and most boys would swallow their own tongue rather than snog one.
"Are you going with anyone?" the other boy, Jason, asked.
"Nah. Don't know anyone to ask."
"That's not true," a third voice interjected.
Ashley and Jason both turned to see Ethan and Charlie exiting the classroom. Charlie's eyes flickered to Ashley for a moment before he frowned and rushed off to dinner. Jason did the same after Ethan sent a look in his direction which Ashley would have associated with someone mentally deranged, someone like Paul.
"Are you going to the dance with anyone?" Ashley asked once they were alone, trying to make small talk and simultaneously taking a step back to put enough distance between the two of them so that Ethan couldn't invade his personal space.
"I was thinking of asking someone," he said, biting his lip and making the tuft of hair under it wiggle like a rabid caterpillar.
"Yeah? She fit?"
Ethan chuckled. "You don't have to play hard to get with me, Ash."
"Uh… okay, I won't…?" Ashley wasn't sure he liked where this was going, and he wasn't even sure where this was going!
Thankfully, one of the professors - Mr. Hurst, a known hardarse - walked past and ordered them to either get to dinner or go to bed. Ashley chose the latter, claiming he wasn't hungry, but really just wanting to escape from Ethan. He was lying awake when Paul came into the room, fuming, and ripped the covers from him.
"What the-" Ashley was silenced by a fist to the teeth. His head snapped to the side and he fell back on the bed, dazed.
"Do you know what they're saying?!" Paul screamed, lunatic that he was. Ashley wasn't sure if he was supposed to answer and was feeling too concussed to do so anyway. "They're saying you're a fucking girl! A GIRL!"
Ashley tried to locate his teeth with his tongue, hoping none of them had been knocked out by the ginger psychopath. "…Huh?"
"WELL?! ARE YOU, EH?! ARE YOU A GIRL, ASHLEY?!"
Finding no gaps in his mouth, just a hell of a lot of blood, Ashley managed to answer with impressive coherency for someone who'd just had his mouth hit by a human-monster truck hybrid. "What are you talking about? Who's saying I'm a girl?"
Paul didn't seem to be listening, continuing to rant. "YOU CAN'T BE A GIRL, GOT IT?! I'M THE ONLY GIRL ALLOWED IN THIS BOARDING SCHOOL! ETHAN HAS TO ASK ME TO THE FORMAL, NOT YOU!"
"… You're a… girl?" Ashley gulped and cocked an eyebrow, wondering if he'd been hit so hard he was hallucinating.
"OF COURSE I'M A GIRL, YOU FUCKING TWAT! PAUL - SHORT FOR PAULA, DUH! I EVEN HAVE BOOBS! FEEL!"
"No - it's okay, I believe you!" he protested frantically, really not wanting fondle the boy/girl in front of him. As a male, Paul had been unfortunate-looking, but as a female, Paula was downright beastly. Unfortunately, in his significantly dazed and weakened state, Ashley was unable to defend himself when Paul/Paula grabbed his hands and placed them on his/her chest. He felt something squidgy beneath his palms but he wasn't sure it was a pair of breasts.
After all, he didn't think breasts were supposed to feel like his father's love handles.
It was official in Ashley's mind: Bruton's was an insane asylum. His parents had shipped him off to the loony bin and they were never coming back for him. He was stuck here, and worst of all, he was beginning to lose his mind, just like the rest of them.
To keep his last dregs of sanity, he avoided everyone, but especially Ethan and Paul - Paula? - he still wasn't sure and didn't think he ever wanted to be. He made sure he was late enough to class to grab a seat between two people who weren't Ethan or Paul/Paula, skipped meals, and pretended to be asleep whenever he was in his room.
It worked quite well. For a while.
Until it was the night of the dance with Brutette's and Ashley had no intentions of going.
"I've got homework, Sir," he told Mr. Hurst since the dance was supposed to be compulsory otherwise not a single Bruton's boy would willingly turn up.
"No you don't."
"Try harder, boy."
"… Washing my hair?"
"Is that what you call harder?"
"… Feeding my pet guinea pig?"
"Still not hard enough, I'm afraid."
Ashley was beginning to grow frustrated now, and as a result, yelled the first thing that came into his head, which just so happened to be: "MASTURBATING, SIR! I WILL BE MASTURBATING!"
"Well," Mr. Hurst paused contemplatively. "At least you're honest."
Ashley's face lit up. "Does that mean I don't have to go?"
An hour later, he was crouched in a shadowy corner of the dance hall, praying to God that he could remain unnoticed.
Unfortunately, God didn't believe Ashley when he said he'd stop touching himself to pictures of the Virgin Mary as long as he kept Ethan and Paul/Paula away from him. The former found him not long after and managed to drag him into the middle of the dance floor, right under the shimmer ball.
"You don't have to hide anymore, babe," Ethan told him, putting his hands on Ashley's hips while Ashley looked frantically for an escape route.
"I haven't been," he lied; he'd been trying to camouflage himself with the wall only a few moments ago.
"It's okay to be who you are, I already know," Ethan persisted.
"No, really, I have no idea what you're talking about - please don't touch my arse!"
Ethan grinned devilishly. "You like it, don't you, you dirty girl?"
"I'm not a-"
Before he could finish his sentence, Ethan had grabbed his hips and was pushing his mouth against Ashley's.
In future times, when people would ask what finally sent Ashley careening over the proverbial edge, this was it. He'd been flirted with, beaten up, and forced to fondle a person of questionable gender. When he felt Ethan's slimy tongue against his own, Ashley had finally had enough.
He shoved Ethan away from him with all the strength he could muster, which, in his current state, was a fair amount. Ethan staggered back and Ashley took the opportunity to wipe his mouth on his sleeve.
"WHAT THE FUCK?!"
Ethan had the gall to look pleased with himself. "It's okay," he said calmly, licking some stray saliva from his beard instead of keeping it for later. "I know you're a girl, you don't have to pretend anymore."
"I AM NOT A GIRL YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER! FUCK!"
"Yes, you are, Ashley. You've been disguised as a boy this whole time to drive us guys wild! I've heard of it happening before-"
"WHERE?! WHERE HAVE YOU HEARD OF THIS SHIT HAPPENING BEFORE?!"
Ethan scratched the back of his head. "The internet…?"
"THE FUCKING INTERNET?! ARE YOU RETARDED?!"
"But - but-" Ethan was beginning to falter. "Your name is Ashley!"
"IT CAN BE A GUY'S NAME!" Ashley roared. His head was starting to ache from so much yelling and he knew his fists were shaking, too. He couldn't keep up the same level of anger anymore. People around them had stopped dancing in order to stare, even though the DJ was still playing Vanilla Ice.
"Okay, well explain this!" Ethan was getting desperate, clutching at straws as he flung a piece of paper at Ashley. It was a printout of a photograph, a photograph of Ashley, three-years-old, wearing a dress and makeup and parading around in front of his parents, sisters laughing in the background. He knew that would come back to bite him in the arse one day.
"Where did you get this?"
"Bloody hell, Ethan. I was a toddler, my sisters dressed me up."
Ethan smiled condescendingly at him. "I told you: you don't have to lie to me, sweetie."
"I'm not lying!" he bit out, getting frustrated again. "You want me to prove it, huh? Want me to prove in front of all these people that I'm not a girl?!"
So Ashley did.
There was complete silence in the dance hall. Every single pair of eyes was focused on Ashley, trousers pooled around his ankles, defiant expression on his face, willy dangling freely to the beat of Ice Ice Baby.
Finally, someone broke the silence. It was Charlie. "Mate, I told you he was a dude. You kissed a dude."
Ethan seemed to realise this and began spitting all over the place, disgusted with himself. Meanwhile, Ashley was beginning to realise that the entirety of Bruton's and Brutette's had just witnessed his bait and tackle, and decided to pull his trousers up.
"You're dead meat!" Ethan yelled at him, then attempted to scrape his tongue clean with his sleeves.
School was going to be even more of a nightmare from now on, Ashley knew. On the bright side, judging by the look Mr. Hurst was giving him, he'd never have to attend another dance.
A/N: Thought of this ages ago because I can't fucking stand those stories where a girl pretends to be a boy in an all-boy's boarding school, so I thought I'd turn it on its head a bit. Tell me if it sucks like a monkey prostitute.