A Change Of gender And Beyond
Chapter 17
by F.W. Hinton
          The demand for  '  Spirits  of  Parallel  ' had exceeded all
          expectations.  The  second   reprint   having  been  quickly
          absorbed.  There  was  talk  by  Charlotte  Hunter  and  her
          editorial staff, of a third, possibly a revised edition.

          The past eighteen  months  had  been  breathlessly  busy for
          Shaun and Leah, who were forced to travel extensively.

          Leah now playing  a major roll in the preparation of Shaun's
          lectures and tour  arrangements,  neither  wanting to engage
          the services of a manager.

          Marriage,  although  mentioned   on   occasions   was  never
          seriously  discussed,  everyone   assuming  that  they  were
          husband and wife.

          A few of  their  very close literary friends suggested, that
          in order to  make  their union complete they should consider
          starting a family.

          But most of them argued against it, feeling that it would be
          unfair for Leah to get pregnant while they were on tour.

          In the privacy  of  their  hotel  suite,  Shaun  roared with
          laughter when Leah  related  their friends remarks. Although
          in more serious  mood  they  both  wanted to be as one, they
          realised  that marriage,  in  their  current  situation  was
          impossible.  For the  remainder  of  the  tour  it was never
          spoken of again.

          Shaun received a  letter  from  Gree,  Shorthouse, and Gree,
          solicitors of Westhill-on-Sea.  The  tears  flowed  down his
          cheeks when he learned that Sandy Highfield had passed away,
          and had been  buried  next to his sister, Casey Ann, and his
          mother at the  Westhill cemetery.  The letter asked that the
          office of Mr  Gree  Senior  be contacted within the next few

          The head clerk greeted Leah and Shaun when they attended the
          solicitor's offices a  week  later.   He immediately ushered
          them into the office of the elder Mr Gree, who rose from his
          seat and stood  behind  his desk, hesitant, and stared for a
          moment at Shaun Maclaren in perplexed astonishment. Quickly,
          he regained his posture as integrity, and experience stopped
          him from making any comment.

          But he did  breath  a  sigh  of  relief  when  he remembered
          instructing his clerk  to  address the letter, simply, Shaun

          Mr Gree began  to  read  Sandy  Highield's  last  ' Will and
          Testament' in the sombre surroundings of his office.

          The Will directed  that  the  cottage  at  Westhill,  plus a
          yearly income for  life  be  given  to  Shaun  Maclaren, the
          little girl, who,  Sandy  described in the Will, he had been
          forced,  by a  misinformed  psychiatrist  to  abandon.  That
          against his better  judgement,  he had left her in the hands
          of those cruel  Sister's of Mercy. An act for which he never
          forgave himself. But  hoped  with all his heart, that as the
          pain passed, Shaun would somehow find it possible to forgive

          " The property," Mr Gree continued, without comment, " known
          as 'Luckham Downs'  was  to  be sold to repay the bank loans
          and debts he  had accrued, with the residue, if any be given
          to Shaun in a lump sum."

          There was a  long  silence  as  Leah  and Shaun absorbed the
          contents of Sandy Highfield's Will.

          " Why can't  we  buy the station?" Leah said suddenly.  " We
          could pay out  the  loans.  Make  the  Downs  our home. It's
          something, I know Shaun has always dreamed of."

          " I don't  know  a  thing  about  running a cattle station,"
          Shaun said with a grin.

          " We could learn, or employ someone."

          Mr Gree thought  for  a moment.  " An Overseer, perhaps?" he
          asked, " I have someone in mind."

          The solicitor promised  to  look  at  the loans and debts of
          'Luckham Downs' and  before  Leah  and Shaun left the office
          the documents the clerk had drawn-up were signed.

          They stayed at the Westhill hotel.  Leah thought they should
          visit the cottage,  but  as  soon as Shaun decided to go the
          memories of Casey  Ann,  the  road,  his  mother  and  Sandy
          Highfield came flooding back.

          Leah suggested they  visit the cemetery.  That by tidying up
          the graves and  laying  fresh  flowers  it might help him to
          overcome his pent-up emotions.

          " It might  help you to remember them, not dead, but as they
          really were," she told him.

          He walked along  the  beach  holding Leah's hand, the way he
          held Casey Ann's a long time ago.

          To Shaun, it  seemed  as  if  time had stood still. The rock
          pools  were still  there,  and  the  long,  low  stone  wall
          unchanged. The sea  still  lapped at their feet, washing the
          sand from between their toes. In the distance Shaun was sure
          he could hear the church bell, it's cracked, almost croaking
          rising and falling in the afternoon breeze.

          Shaun forcing himself to cross the road, they arrived at the
          cottage. When he  reached  the porch over the front door, he
          stood as if  rooted  to  the  spot.  He gripped Leah's hand,
          frightened of what  he might find, wondering if anyone lived

          He knew it  would  be filled with dust and cobwebs, in those
          dull  little unused  rooms.  Those  stairs,  those  terrible
          stairs they had  dragged  him  down stair by stair, one at a
          time, when all  he  wanted  was to stay by the side of Casey
          Ann's bed. He wanted to scream. He stared at the outside. It
          hadn't changed. '  We'll  pull it down,' he said to himself,
          destroy the memories.'

          Even at his mother's funeral he had not visited the cottage.
          It was as he had always remembered it.

          While Shaun was  resting at the hotel Leah called on Mr Gree
          Senior. She told  him  about  the  changes  in Shaun. Of the
          Convent, his fears,  his nightmares and dreams.  Of his book
          ' The Spirits of Parallel.'

          The solicitor told  her that the cottage had been renovated.
          That Sandy Highfield  had  borrowed heavily, putting Luckham
          Downs up as  security.  Making  the  cottage the home he had
          always wanted for  Shaun, believing that one day his adopted
          niece would return and forgive him.

          That  he had  ensured  the  cottage  exterior  would  always
          remain, unaltered, in  case  Shaun  would not believe it was
          home. That a  house-keeper,  maid,  and  a gardener had been
          employed. That they  had been with Sandy Highfield for years
          and had expressed their wishes to remain with the new owner.

          Shaun opened the  door.  The house-keeper greeted him with a
          warm friendly smile.   He was amazed at the alterations. The
          stairs, the tiny  bedrooms  had all disappeared. At first he
          felt a sadness, but in his sadness there was a kind of inner

          The table had  been  set  for  the evening meal.  The dinner
          service, Old English  rose,  crystal  glasses  from  Europe,
          ivory-handled  cutlery,  silver   salt   and   pepper  pots,
          carnations in long  vases,  all on a beautifully embroidered
          table cloth. Everything  the  way Leah had asked, and as the
          last rays of  the  setting sun came through the open window,
          making the silver  and  crystal  sparkle, Shaun Maclaren had
          come home.  He knew that the ghosts of Casey Ann, Sandy, and
          his mother were making him, and his Leah welcome.

          The bells of  Westhill  church  were ringing for the evening
          service as Anna  Chapman,  the  house-keeper  descended  the
          hill. She liked  to  be  early. It gave her the chance for a
          chat with her  friends  in  the  village. She knew that this
          Sunday it was going to be different, that they were going to
          ask her about the new owners of Highfield cottage.

          Some of the  locals  had  already made up their minds not to
          like the new couple. That they were different, unusual. That
          they were not  married,  and  had no right living as man and

          " You've done your duty Anna Chapman," the greengrocers wife
          told her. "  You  should  leave before they give you notice.
          It's duty enough  that  you've  looked after Sandy Highfield
          all  those  years.   Couldn't  have  been  easy,  him  being
          crippled and all.  Just  because  he  left  it to this Shaun
          Maclaren, doesn't mean you have a duty towards them. Used to
          be a little  blonde  girl  around  here by that name---years
          ago. Some sort  of  accident. All hushed up. Highfield had a
          hand in it.  Something  about  a lorry. Might have even been
          his kid."

          Shaun and Leah  decided to go to the evening service. It was
          Anna Chapman who  suggested  it.   She felt that by everyone
          attending it would put an end to the gossip.

          Leah had already  asked Anna to stay. Hoping that with Katie
          the maid, and  the  gardener  they  would look after her and
          Shaun as they  had  Sandy  Highfield.  Eventually going with
          them to 'Luckham Downs'.

          The church was  beginning  to  fill.   The peel of bells had
          ceased and a  solitary,  insistent call was ringing as Leah,
          holding Shaun's arm  walked  down  the aisle.  The Verger in
          his black cassock  ushered  them  to  the pew that was Sandy
          Highfield's. The organ swelled out a favourite hymn, and for
          the moment the  congregation forgot all about the strangers.
          The bell stopped ringing. The choir entered, followed by the

          In his reading  desk  the  Reverend Everett Brand was having
          trouble concentrating entirely  on  what  he  was doing. The
          sight of Leah  and  Shaun  sitting  in Sandy Highfield's pew
          came as a  shock. It sent a pang to his heart, which he knew
          it was unworthy  that  he  should  feel,  especially  in his

          He ascended the pulpit during the singing of a hymn, feeling
          an unusual weight  of  responsibility.   He  knew  that  the
          sermon he was  about  to  preach  would  cause a stir in the

          It could hurt  peoples feelings, but he felt it was his duty
          to say what  was  on his mind.  He gave out his text, waited
          for a moment,  then leaned forward in the pulpit as he began
          to preach on duty.

          " Sometimes one  is confused as to what is one's duty. It is
          not always easy  to  decide,  which way, or where one's duty

          The Reverend Brand  paused  as  a  murmur  ran  through  his
          unusually large congregation.

          " People who  know  where  their  duty  lie  should  not  be
          persuaded  by  others   who   lack   understanding   of  the
          responsibility of various  situations," he continued. " They
          should not have  to  listen  to  idle gossip. They should be
          allowed  to  look  at  their  duty  with  common  sense  and

          He spoke of  a  frail  woman he had known in Richmond, whose
          husband  not  only   neglected  her,  but  ill-treated  her.
          Friends, relations, and  others, urged her to leave him. She

          " I don't, I cannot love him," she told them, " but I have a
          responsibility towards him. I will do my duty."

          " Some people  live  differently  to others," the Vicar said
          loudly, " one  has  a  duty  towards them. It may be hard at
          times because of those among us who revel in idle gossip and
          spread unfounded rumours.

          Some of you  have invalids to look after. Sometimes they can
          be querulous and  difficult.  Some  say  they should be sent
          away, placed in  a  nursing  home. No doubt most of you know
          where your responsibility  lie,  know it's your duty to help
          the helpless. And  I  may  add  without  God's helping hand,
          almost impossible.

          You'll get no  reward  this side of heaven! I've often heard
          people say. I  know  they  are  wrong.  The consciousness of
          duty well done is in itself reward enough. The consciousness
          of failure to  fulfil one's responsibilities is more nagging
          than people's tongues."

          Just before the  ascription  the vicar appealed again to the
          congregation to stop  the  idle  gossip to do their duty and
          allow people to get on with their lives.

          After the benediction  Shaun and Leah remained seated in the
          pew, pleased that  they  had come to the service, hoping the
          gossip had been laid to rest now everyone knew they were two
          people trying to find happiness in living together.

          They saw the  Vicar  go down to the door facing the Rectory.
          Shaun  caught  him   up.    asked  if  they  could  make  an
          appointment to see him the following morning.

          The Reverend Everett  Brand  sat  reading  in his study. The
          Verger's wife opened the door and announced that there was a
          Leah and Shaun  Maclaren to see him.  The Vicar smiled as he
          stood up to  greet  them,  and after the usual preliminaries
          Shaun told him they wanted to get married.

          " You know  what,  and who we really are," Leah said as they
          sat opposite him.

          " I know you are, above all else, God's children. Two people
          wanting to marry.  Wanting to become as one with each other,
          one with God.  I  feel  your  union should be blessed by the

          Leah heaved a  sigh  of  relief.  " How will the church, the
          people react?"

          " Will our marriage be legal?" Shaun interrupted.

          The Reverend Brand  steepled  his  hands as he looked at the

          " I am  sure  you both know that I have to obey the law, not
          only of the church, but of the State. I am licensed by both.
          " However," the  Vicar  said  thoughtfully,  "  as  with all
          problems,  there  are   ways  around  it  without  offending
          ecclesiastical or State laws.

          You have told  me  that  you are returning to Europe for few
          weeks. I suggest  that you get married in a registry office.
          A civil marriage,  a  very  brief  ceremony.  For example in
          France the couple  go  through  a form of marriage contract,
          which of course is within the laws of church and State."

          " But I really wanted a church wedding," Leah interrupted.

          " Of course  you  do and I can understand your feelings.  If
          you decide to get married in that country, remember that the
          French bride has no Matron-of-Honor and no bridesmaids. When
          you return we  can, as soon as you are ready hold a ceremony
          in  this church,  at  which  I  shall  be  very  pleased  to
          officiate, and you will have your union blessed."

          " Will I  be allowed to wear a wedding gown in your church?"
          Leah asked.

          " The church is not about dress my dear," the Reverend Brand
          said with a  smile,  "  the church, everywhere, all over the
          world is about bringing people closer to God.

          Dress is in all countries a social commitment. Of course you
          may wear a gown. But remember, weddings are a work of God."

          Shaun and Leah thanked him for his help, promising that when
          they returned and  had  settled down in 'Luckham Downs' they
          would ask him to bless their marriage.

          Shaun had only vague memories of 'Luckham Downs'.  With Leah
          beside him he  turned  the  Mercedes off the dusty track and
          stopped to survey  the  scene.  The  crumbling  wrought-iron
          gates, sagging on  their  hinges  guarded  the entrance to a
          dismal drive choked with weeds and shrubbery.  The tall gums
          that bounded it  were fine specimens, but they increased the
          atmosphere of being shut in, a sinister remoteness.

          Shaun's pulses stirred  as a sharp turn provided them with a
          glimpse of the  house, that seemed to have survived, despite
          the encroachment of  mature.  The  long two storey homestead
          almost  derelict.  The   windows  shuttered,  doors  broken,
          perhaps by vandals.

          As they left  the  car  and  walked towards the house, glass
          scrunched under their  feet.  It was obvious that no one had
          lived in the homestead for a very long time.

          The hall was  depressingly  dark.  Paint peeling everywhere.
          Cobwebs  stretched from  corner  to  corner  and  hung  like
          curtains from the  ceiling.  But  for Shaun and even Leah it
          held a special kind of splendour.

          There were a few pieces of furniture, most of it broken.  In
          a  cupboard  in   the  attic  Leah  found  a  collection  of
          paintings, including one  of Angus Maclaren.  Shaun recalled
          his mother talking  about  the  gold-framed pictures. Of the
          leather armchairs and  rugs  he'd  had  shipped from the old
          country. How proud  his grandfather had been when he sat for
          a local artist.

          For weeks Shaun  and Leah made notes and drawings on how the
          homestead should be  renovated. In the evenings after dinner
          at the cottage  they  spent  hours  poring  over  plans  and
          designs. They sort  Anna's  ideas  on how she would like the
          kitchen arranged.

          Someone  suggested  that   the  homestead  be  pulled  down,
          replacing it with  a  modern  home.  Leah  argued that a new
          house would be just that. It would not have the character or
          history that was Luckham Downs.

          Mr Gree recommended a surveyor.  Shaun found an architect in
          Richmond.  A  building  contractor  moved  in.   There  were
          plumbers, roofing specialists,  bricklayers,  carpenters and
          interior decorators watched over by designers. Leah found it
          difficult to decide  whether  they  were  pulling it down or
          rebuilding it.

          Within a year  the  Luckham  Downs  homestead had been fully
          restored.  Shaun hung the massive painting of Angus Maclaren
          opposite the stairs in the now, magnificent hall. With Leah,
          Shaun stood in  the  doorway admiring the scene, then turned
          and looked at his grandfather's picture. For a moment he was
          certain he saw  a  warm  glow  in the old man's eyes, a glow
          that said welcome Shaun Maclaren. This is your home.

          Under the strong  hand  of  the  Overseer recommended by the
          senior Mr Gree,  Luckham Downs began to show a profit. Shaun
          and Leah had  been  living at the Downs a year and Shaun had
          started a new book.

          Leah looked through  the  open  window  of  the study at the
          living picture that  was  their  home,  at  the tilted slope
          above the valley.  The valley itself, the merest hollow that
          lay in the  swell  of  the  land. She had often teased Shaun
          that she only married him because she loved the homestead.

          " Of course," he answered, as she moved away from the window
          to sit in  the  chair  opposite him, " how could anyone help
          but fall in love with Luckham Downs."

          Leah had accomplished  much  as a transsexual, far more than
          she had ever  achieved as a male.  Now her greatest ambition
          was to have  a  family.   She knew the possibility of an egg
          attaching itself to the intestine, and without telling Shaun
          she wrote to Professor Gaisford.

          After days of  anxious  waiting  a  letter  written  by  the
          Professor arrived, post-marked  Cairo.  Leah ripped open the
          envelope. Her eyes sped over the pages.

          Professor Gaisford agreed that it was possible for an egg to
          attache itself to  the  intestine, but he was of the opinion
          that an embryo  developed  and nourished in the uterus would
          be  more desirable.   He  suggested  the  possibility  of  a
          transplant from a  suitable donor might become available, at
          a time that was difficult to state.

          Eagerly, Leah continued  reading.   The Professor told her a
          better alternative was to take part in the experiment, which
          was now being  conducted  using  the  organs of pigs.  These
          pigs, the letter  continued  were  being  bred  under strict
          scientific farming conditions,  having  been  injected  with
          hormones that would  enable their organs to be acceptable to
          most humans.

          Although the trials were in the early stages, the tests were
          proving very successful,  that  if  she  had a transplant of
          this nature the  cerebrum  could be called upon to help with
          the nourishment, and  it  would of course be a first for his
          team and the hospital. But he added that there was much work
          to be done  and  he  would go into the subject more fully if
          and when she attended the hospital for a consultation.

          In his letter  he  mentioned  in-vitro fertilisation, adding
          that Shaun's eggs  and  her  sperm  which  were taken before
          their sex-reassignment had  been  stored in liquid nitrogen.
          That an embryo could be implanted.

          Leah, thrilled at  the  thought,  and filled with excitement
          ran downstairs to Shaun. Her eyes filled with tears she gave
          him the letter.  He read it over and over again.

          Sometimes when Leah was asleep and he lay awake staring into
          the night, he wondered what it would be like to be a father.
          Of the thrill  of  hearing  their baby say it's first words.
          But he had  always  felt  it  would  not  have  been fair to
          mention his feelings  to Leah in case it might make her feel
          sad, perhaps wanting.  Besides he had achieved his ambition,
          to become a whole man, and live at Luckham Downs.

          Now!---Now it was  possible for Leah to become a mother, and
          him a father.  He wanted to go to the hospital. Now! See the
          Professor make arrangements.  The  book, that could wait. He
          spoke excitedly about travel arrangements.

          It was Leah  who  forced him to slow down. She insisted that
          before they began  to  seriously  talk  about children, that
          their marriage, now  a  year  old  must  be  blessed  by the

          " Oh! that  really  is  splendid  news,"  the Reverend Brand
          exclaimed when Leah and Shaun told him of their intentions.

          He thought about  the  service.  He  wanted  to  bless their
          union, they were,  as  he  had told them before, ' All God's
          children.' They asked  that the service be kept simple, that
          they would like to use their own special words.

          " I know that you are aware of the problems of marriage, and
          that  you have  both  worked  hard  to  create  a  beautiful
          relationship," the Reverend  Brand  told  them after evening
          service the following  Sunday.   "  But I am going to remind
          you, as I  do  all  couples about to enter God's holy state,
          that you Leah and Shaun must never, even in the happy advent
          of a child take one another for granted."

          Sunshine streamed through  the  windows  and  onto  the dark
          wooden pews. The  wide  windowsills  were  decked  with cool
          maidenhair fern.  Vases  of  flowers  were everywhere.  Anna
          Chapman, Katie, and  even the greengrocer's wife helped Leah
          to decorate the  tiny  church.  There  were lilies, tall and
          erect, offset by roses and carnations, with orchids blending
          their colour and  sweetness.  A  sense  of awe and stillness
          seemed to posses  everyone in the church on Leah and Shaun's
          special day.

          Tears welled in Shaun's eyes when he saw Leah, as she walked
          down the aisle  in  his wedding gown.  Softly they exchanged
          their special words  when the Vicar blessed their union, and
          as they knelt  at  the altar, they both heard Shaun's mother
          give them her blessing.