I was only seventeen – this was back in the seventies. My first job after leaving school was in the menswear department at The D.I.C. on Lambton Quay. A bit of a stereotype, I know.
I had straight, blonde hair which I wore to my shoulders, with a fringe. Like Brian Connolly of The Sweet. My lashes were blonde too, but mascara sorted that out. I looked pretty good when I dressed up as a woman.
This one Saturday night I got all dolled up and walked to Quinn’s Post, the closest pub to home. It was a clear night and already dark. A few cars tooted as they drove past. I felt good.
Quinn’s Post was on the corner of Fergusson Drive and Ward Street. It had a bar called The Flying Quinn which featured a huge model of a plane hanging from the ceiling – a bit like Snoopy’s or the Red Baron’s. It was pretty fancy for Upper Hutt. That night, Mother Goose was playing. I could hear ‘Baked Beans’ even before I got to the door.
It was about nine-thirty and the bouncers were letting all the girls in for free. The dance floor was jam-packed. A disco ball spun overhead and one of those psychedelic oil wheels cast stripes of coloured light over the bodies jostling together. People were standing at tables around the edges of the room, or forging their way through the mass on the dance floor, carrying drinks from the bar. The air was a haze of cigarette smoke.
I pushed my way to the edge of the room, positioning myself so that I was in full view, while casually watching the band. I couldn’t risk going to the bar and being asked my age. Anyway, I was hoping someone would buy me a drink.
Then I noticed this guy checking me out. He was well-built and okay looking, a bit rough, maybe. He would’ve been in his mid-twenties, although it was hard to tell, what with the dim light and all the smoke in the air. But he was older than me. Anyway, he finally came over. Plucked up the courage, I guess. Told me his name was Mike. He shoved me a couple of Bacardi and Cokes and we flirted a bit. I could tell he’d had a few.
The drinks went straight to my head and I felt carefree and a bit reckless. Then I was in his car and we were driving along Fergusson drive and down Moonshine Road. Before we reached the bridge he took a sharp left along the gravel road that runs parallel to the river, towards Trentham Memorial Park. My heart was pounding in my chest.
Part of me thought that he knew I wasn’t a real woman. Some of the things he’d said back in the bar and my voice wasn’t that feminine. Up close my skin wasn’t the best, either. But I thought I’d go along with him for the fun, and if he did know, then I figured he liked it that way.
He parked the car near one of the picnic areas. Then pulled me close and started kissing me. Really kissing me, with his tongue pushing down my throat. I could smell the booze on his breath.
My top lip might’ve been a bit prickly, or maybe I didn’t smell like a woman. Whatever it was, he suddenly pulled back and really looked at me. Then he grabbed at my blouse where the buttons do up down the front – tentative, at first, then rough. A few buttons popped off. Then he went ballistic and shoved me against the passenger door. The back of my head hit the window. He was swearing and shouting. I tried to open the door but because he’d pushed me against it, I couldn’t reach the handle. He started really laying into me, punching me around the face and chest.
I finally got the door open and fell head first onto the icy ground. My legs were stuck and I had to squirm to get them free. Then he started up the engine. I thought he was going to run me over, he was so mad. But he drove off. My handbag was still in the car, with my wallet and stuff.
At first I just lay there, on my back on the gravel, gazing up into the sky. It was black with hundreds of stars and I could hear the river. I could taste blood and my breath sent swirling clouds upwards. I felt lonely and… stunned, I suppose. But it was bloody cold. So I picked myself up and walked the couple of miles home.
Mum and Dad were watching TV in the living room so I poked my head around the door to say goodnight. They didn’t even look up. I knew they wouldn’t but part of me hoped that they would – that they’d see me for once. I suppose they were just glad that I wasn’t out too late.
I went straight to my room and looked in the mirror. I just remember feeling empty. That’s all.
Jane Percival lives on the Kaipara Harbour, north of Auckland, New Zealand. She has always enjoyed writing and has recently taken time out from full-time paid employment to pursue this activity. Lately she has been focusing on speculative fiction.