Thursday, 1 May 2014

"Finding Lauren" Chapter 26

Here is another chapter to tease you. Lauren x

"Finding Lauren"

Chapter 26

A few weeks after I returned  home from London  my health improved and I started healing, mentally and physically. My mother knew that my stay in London had been traumatic, she had seen how gaunt I looked on the television programmes I had been on. I was only seven stone and I looked gangly. My breasts had started to grow after the operation, which my doctor said was impossible.  So with fillets stuffed in my brassiere I had the makings of a pair of breasts. Netherless I yearned for the breast implants that dad had promised to pay for; “When  the money comes in”, that was dad’s mantra.

It was mum’s habit to visit the Llanishen Leisure centre each week, she loved to swim as did I and the pool had a water slide and a  wave machine. I always loved going with mum before my operation when I was a kid, a skinny boy.  On one occasion the wave machine had taken me over  because I was so light and I nearly drowned.  I was rescued by the female lifeguard who happened to be  pregnant. I gave her a piece of my collection of jumble sale jewellery to thank her.

It was nice when mum suggested I  join her at the leisure centre one morning in late April,  I was beginning to feeling housebound. I applied some waterproof mascara and lipstick and as It was a dark rainy day  I dressed in my long grey Kate Moss Woolen dress under my long black velvet coat. To keep the line I wore long black leather boots. My hair was still an unruly mass of blonde curls which I hoped wouldn’t get too wet. Mum and I were happy bunnies as we approached the leisure centre, it was like old times.

Unlike me mum was  dressed  casually in  a pair of black leather trousers and a white angora short sleeved sweater. She topped this with a black Ralph Lauren blazer.  Her only jewellery was her gold wedding ring. I had gone completely overboard as usual, rings on four fingers, a large amethyst pendant around my neck and a bracelet on each wrist. It had taken  a long time for  me to be allowed to dress as a woman and I was getting a bit carried away.

As we checked in, the receptionists stared at us, but we were used to this and took no notice. It was nice that I could go to the ladies changing room with mum. In the past I had used the men’s room and had always felt very uncomfortable seeing naked male bodies.  I was still shy at showing my new body so I went into the disabled private cubicle to change. I removed my clothes and donned my pink one piece swimming costume with a nice padded brassiere top.I kept my jewellery on.   I felt a bit embarrassed leaving the cubicle to mix with the other ladies and to find a locker but mum came up to me right away. “You look nice” she said, “ My lockers by here why don’t you use the one next door”?  

We both showered  before entering the swimming pool area. I cautiously entered the water, I didn’t want to get my hair wet but when the wave machine started I couldn’t resist swimming into it. I loved the excitement. Then I went down the water shoot that landed me at the bottom of the pool. I was exhilarated,  exercise always had that effect on me.
Mum was swimming her usual fifty lengths  in the pool and paid little attention to me.

I was swimming in the middle of the pool on my back looking up at the ceiling when I heard a male voice shout “Heh you, come here” I looked around to see who he was referring to and was surprised when I realised it was me. He did a kind of charade to indicate he wanted me to get out of the pool to come to get out of the pool. Puzzled I swam over to him and climbed out;  there was no sign of  mum. The man  was dressed in a red tee-shirt and white trousers and had muscles coming out of his eyeballs.I felt vulnerable and freezing cold as I stood at the side of the pool with dripping wet hair and dressed only in a bathing suit.  I prayed  the floor to open  and swallow me as he said ”I need you to move your clothes from the ladies room to the men’s changing room, you shouldn’t be in the ladies” . In shock I went to the ladies, I had to get out of here. A female in a grey official looking suit approached us, she  wearing a nametag that said ‘assistant manageress’.  “Would you come with me love?, I’ll stay with you while you change locker rooms”.

I was speechless, all the bullying, verbal and mental abuse I had experienced over the years came flooding over me as I timidly followed the woman. As we reached the ladies locker room, I went to enter but the lady blocked my way. “Give  me your locker key love” she said and I’ll get your things” Something took me over and I forced my way past the woman. I could see a crowd of women and children as I entered the locker room, I couldn’t look at them. The women was still at my side “Leave now please?, don’t make the matter worse” she said. I ignored her  as  I unpinned my key  from my suit and searched for my locker, I always forgot  things like locker numbers and it didn’t occur to me to look at the key. 

In a fog I heard the manageress say “does anyone mind if this person dresses in here”? Nobody said a word  they just stared at me distastefully, one  began  to cover her children with towels so I couldn’t look at them.

The lady asked me what my number was but I was so confused and upset I had to show her the key, but I held tightly on to it so she couldn’t take it. She escorted me to my locker and I opened it. My badly packed clothes came tumbling out,  could see bra, knickers, everything that was private to me in she went into the disabled cubicle and locked myself in, I was trembling, I put my underwear in my gym bag and donned my dress without drying myself, I didn’t want to stay  to dry myself, I had to get out of here. The manageress was waiting outside the cubicle as I pushed open the squeaky door. The women were still looking at me with hostility and the poor children were confused. I gripped my velvet coat and my  gym bag to my breast  tightly and walked quickly, blindly past reception and into the car park.  The manageress tried to keep up with me as if it were her job to evict me from the premises.  I reached the car park and leaned on a wall, I was still shaking both with cold and shock.  I found mum’s car but it was locked so I leant on it, hoping no-one would see me.
I was afraid to go back in the gym, I had no phone with me, I didn’t know what to do.

It seemed a lifetime until my mum appeared in the car park, she was still in her bathing costume with a towel around her. “Lauren what’s wrong, they told me you had left, are you alright”?   “Can we go mum, I have to go”. “But what is wrong” mum said. “Just get your car keys mum, I want to wait in the car”   Mum had begun to shiver, “I’ll get the car keys sweetheart, then I will get dressed. Mum re-entered the gym and came back minutes later with the keys of her car. “Get in the car and I will go back in and get dressed” she said. She put her arms around me, “Whatever’s happened, we will sort it out.

I shrunk into the passenger seat of the car sobbing quietly, desperately, what was the point I thought, what was the point?
Mum was back in ten minutes, “What happened”?  she asked. I explained to mum trying not to cry, I didn’t like mum seeing me cry. Mum was shaking with fury, she said “just wait here sweetheart, I’m going to see the manager, I will leave the car heater on for you”.

My mother re-entered the gym and walked through to the office at the rear of reception, ignoring the receptionists except to say, Is the manager in?  One of the two men in the office stood up as mum entered and asked her what she wanted. “Unless you are the manager”, she said” I wont waste my breath, where is the manager”?  The man who had remained sitting down said he was the manager and  gym users weren’t allowed  into his office, accept by appointment” You had better get used to it” mum said, “Until I  know who is responsible for abusing my daughter, I won’t leave.”   Mum was in the toilet when the incident had happened and she was blaming herself for abandoning me,

The manager said, “One of our lifeguards noticed that your erm companion was in the ladies changing room, now we know your companion is a male and the council  do not consider it appropriate that a male should be using  the ladies  facilities, especially as there are young children in there”  “You stupid stupid man” mum said, you stupid stupid man, how dare you, how dare you” “Do you realise what my child has been through physically and legally to become a woman”? “Yes you idiot my daughter  a WOMAN, legally and you have broken the law, you are guilty of sexual discrimination  in a big way lad, you are finished as a manager of this place,I will see to it”. I want the names of everyone involved and I will sue this place for sexual discrimination, your staff are spiteful unaware fools and I am going to make them suffer for it”.  Mum read the managers name tag was Steve Jones and she asked for a pen and paper. “So you Steve agree with what your staff have done, do you? mum asked. “Well yes I do, this is council procedure” “Council procedure my arse, mum replied, “have you no idea what a mistake you have made”?  “If you continue to be confrontational, I shall have to ask you to leave the office” Steve said.
I’ll leave when I’m ready” mum said but I need the name of the guard and the female who humiliated my daughter before I leave.  Thinking anything to get rid of mum Steve wrote down the name of the people concerned and mum said “I will leave now Steve, my daughter needs me, but be aware that I am going to sue the council and you for sexual discrimination, look it up Steve, you might need to start preparing your defense”

I was glad to see mum approach the car, I was shaking with shock and cold, My woolen dress had soaked up the water from my body and was now damp.
 Mum’s face was white when she entered the car. “How are you sweetheart”?   “Just cold mum” I said, can’t wait for the car heating to be on.
Our journey back home was quiet, I was laying in the back with my eyes clothes, I was not ready to talk and mum knew it.

When we returned home dad and the boys were still at our office in town.  Mum made us a pot of tea as I changed into a warm fleecy cotton dressing gown and slippers.  The tea warmed me and I was slowly coming round. I was so glad to be out of that place, I was trying hard to remember the way I felt as the lifeguard spoke to me on the edge of the pool with the bored swimmers watching the show. Then the ladies in the dressing room, how could they?, why didn’t just one of them say something to help me? Why did  they just to have stare at me as if I had just drowned a basket of kittens. Why was there so much animosity in people?.

Then the inevitable came from mum, “we will sue them Lauren, and we will win, no-one can treat a transgender like you have been treated today, I am so sorry sweetheart” mum said for the tenth time, I know you are not ready to talk about it. No I didn’t want to talk about it, I was still in shock, Although I had been  insulted about my sexuality many times it was taking me a long time to get over this incident.

Mum went upstairs and I heard her talking on the telephone, mum like me was in shock and she needed to tell the story to some-one. She was speaking to my cousin Caroline, she had tried ringing dad but he was with clients and she didn’t want to tell the boys yet. Mum didn’t have friends and Caroline was one of the two people  mum spoke to in her large family. I knew Caroline wouldn’t care less, I knew that Caroline thought I was weird too but I didn’t say anything to mum. Mum had learn’t what shites the rest of her family were and she was yet to find out about Caroline’s falseness, family love is blind...

Friday, 2 November 2012

"The Affair" Part One - by Lauren Harries

I did not intend to send out a part of my ongoing autobiography until the book was finished. However because of recent events I decided to show this preview. This preview is a very small part of my autobiography which records my life from the age of 16. I remember that age and older for many traumatic, dramatic and I hope interesting reasons.

This is un-edited and not proof written, it might show my poor grammar and occasional colloquialisms. No criticisms of any of the above please. Any mistakes will be rectified before publication.

                                                             “THE AFFAIR”
                                                             Lauren Harries

As I wheeled my suitcase out of Paddington station I looked around to see where my mother was. She had two broken hips and was tottering a bit on her high heels. I took one of the  heavy bags from her shoulder. My mother was perspiring under the weight of the bags. The bags contained two sets of heated rollers, a large box of my jewellery and a large picnic. My father always made us food to take on our trips as we seldom ate in hotel restaurants.  

I saw a man holding a large board with my name on it coming toward me. Ms. Harries? He asked politely. I acknowledged and was glad when he took my luggage from me and led mum and I to the exit.

We gratefully entered the air conditioned limo, and grabbed the two bottles of the water he offered us. Not exactly a cocktail bar, but air-conditioning, a polite, silent driver, fabulous.

We were being taken to Elstree studio the 10 mile journey could take from one hour to ninety minutes, depending on the traffic. On this hot August day, the traffic seemed quiet so we were hoping for a quick arrival.

I was booked to appear on the TV programme 'Big Brother's Big Mouth', an offshoot of Big Brother. The show aired live at 6.30pm and I was expected at 4.00pm. TV producers like to have their guests at the studio at least 21/2 hours before the programme aired.

Mum and I, as always marvelled at the fabulous London architecture as we sped through the streets. The driver cleverly avoided a group of Japanese photographers standing near the zebra crossing on Abbey Road. They were photographing the beatles studio. I wondered at the enthusiasm of fans. Being a fan of no-one, I couldn't understand it.

A large Bentley with tinted windows stopped beside us at some traffic lights. "I'll get one of those for dad when I get my own show, he still regrets losing his Rolls Royce,” I said. My mother answered with her beautiful wistful blue eyes, "I know you will love, and it won't be long now".

I had noticed my mother eating one of her homemade 'herbal' cakes as the train approached London. She was now pleasantly stoned. I guess she needed that feeling to be pleasant to the television people, whom she often found false and egotistical.

My mother also had bad memories of London where she had lived for many years. She had made a fortune with a business she had opened in Mayfair but during that time a man had broken her heart. I couldn't help seeing the sadness in her eyes when we drove through parts of London she had lived with this creature.

We reached the studio at 4.30 pm, I was met by two runners, male and female, I thrust my luggage at them and they led us to a dressing room. It was as big as my ensuite bathroom at home, and also shabby. I had never used such a bad room in a studio. It was pointless saying anything, as they had already indicated that this was the largest dressing room, accept Russell's of course. I told the female runner that I needed to go to make-up as soon as possible, although I managed my own sparse make-up, I needed the facility of a good mirror. I hoped someone could do something with my hair. The runner looked amused, "I'm sorry she said, it’s only small and Russell is having his make-up done at present.” She added that there was one make-up girl, and the room was small. I asked her to let me know when Russell had finished with the room. The other runner asked if we would like a drink and we ordered two teas and some water.

My mother had removed her black suit jacket and high heels. Mum had been preparing me for shows for many years, she knew that time was of the essence. T.V. crews don't wait for anyone, especially on a live show. She had plugged my two sets of electric rollers into the one available power point. My make-up bag had been placed on the shelf of the room. I looked in the miniscule dressing room mirror and thought my hair looked like shit.

My mother was on her knees sifting through my small overflowing suitcase to find the outfit I would wear that night. Although I was spending one night in London, as usual I had packed for a week.  I imagined after a live show, I would get calls the next day from agents, or be asked to do other TV work.  When I was James, it happened often and I would go from one show to another.

I had been wearing women's clothes for only a few years since my gender reassignment operation, and I was trying to find the right look. After my operation I would wear bodices and skirts up to my arse. Now I went for a more understated look. This was one of the reasons my mother accompanied me to shows. She had been a model in the sixties. She had good taste. In fact I often wore her size 10 vintage sixties pieces from Biba and other good fashion houses.

My mother hung up a black mini skirt and a black cashmere sequined short sleeved jumper. We had agreed this would look good for an early show. Thank god the outfit was not badly creased; there was no wardrobe lady here to iron artiste’s clothes. Mum brought out a pair of sheer tights and the black high heeled shoes that would accompany the outfit. The room was stuffy and smelt of body odour from previous occupants. The one window was open but the room was airless. When the rollers were heated I sat on the floor whilst my mother manipulated the rollers through my wild frizzy curls.
I had removed the clothes I had travelled in and was dressed in my bra and pants under a long black silk dressing gown.

The male runner returned with our drinks. I noted the time and asked if Russell was finished with make-up yet?
He shook his head with fear and embarrassment; I knew I would have to handle Russell vacating make-up myself.

It was 5.15pm and I knew I would be called on set at 5.45 at the latest. I knew the time it took to get miked up etc., and I had to appear at the beginning and throughout the show.

I took my tea and walked down the corridor to the room allocated for make-up. The room had a large mirror stretching across a small room. The table under it was cluttered with dirty drink containers and make-up. Russell was sitting on the chair closest to the door. A pretty blonde girl was fiddling with his hair as he flirted outrageously with her. I was really pissed off. I passed Russell and sat on the only other chair which was next to him. He looked shocked. I ignored him and spoke to the make-up girl. I asked her if she should do something with my hair. She was quite annoyed and said she would do something when she had finished with Russell. “You're the lovely Lauren" Russell Brand said, as I was cleaning my face with baby lotion. Always wanting to get on with a show host I said "Yes Russell, lovely to meet you", Always putting my career first I said charmingly "Give me some time to talk Russell" I had watched the show once, for research. I was aware that Russell took over the show and had verbal dihorea when before a camera. He didn't reply, and I said, "Come on Russell, you have a show, give me some air time". I was pissed at talk show hosts giving me the usual two to three minutes, because of ego or because producers think that this is the average person's concentration level limit.
Russell was taken aback and said "I'll give you all the time I can you lovely Lauren.” I didn't want to talk any more, my appearance was too important. I rubbed my Dior foundation all over my face & neck as Russell rudely continued to take up the time of the make-up girl. I had applied waterproof mascara that morning and fortunately it was almost as good as it should be. I put baby oil on some cotton wool and removed the pale make-up. This would show my pink cheeks. I always aimed to get an English rose look. I was about to apply my pink lipstick when Russell rose and pulled me gently from the chair. This had never happened to me before and I was completely taken aback. He pulled me to him and gave me a hug. His body was skeletal; I liked someone I could hold on to. "Goodbye the beautiful Lauren" he said and left. As a few of the Television hosts I had worked with here and abroad weren't averse to having a snort of something before a show, so I thought it might be the case with Russell. Most heterosexual men who know who I am wouldn't dream of hugging me so closely they acted as though they would catch something or they would be guilty by association.

I asked the make-up girl to remove my heated rollers. Appearing down at Russell's departure, she half-heartedly removed the rollers. In those days I liked my shoulder length bob to look a bit wild. As my hair is very heavy practically each strand needs to be back brushed. This girl didn't have a clue. I patiently asked her to bring my mother to the room. My mother understood my hair perfectly. The male runner called into the room that I was due onstage in 10 minutes; my mother rushed past him with my black jumper in her hand. "You had better put this on now sweetheart, it will spoil your hair otherwise“. I removed my dressing gown and pulled the jumper over my head covered my black bra. My mother grabbed a hairdresser robe over my shoulders and began to back brush my hair as if my life depended on it. I never panicked before shows, but my mother has O.C.D., time limits always panicked her a bit. When my hair was back brushed to the limit my mother teased it back into springy curls. My hair is naturally very curly, which can be a curse or a blessing.

I was pleased with the finished effect and even the make-up girl complimented me, which was a rarity for me, I seldom received compliments from any one accept my close family. I agreed when the girl asked to apply my lipstick for me, I wasn't that good at that.

Wearing my jumper and a pair of panties I ran back to my dressing room. By the time my mother returned from collecting my rollers, dressing gown etc. I had donned my black tights and skirt. The runner called thro the open door "are you ready Lauren?”. I said I would be ready when my mother returned, she was picking up my rollers, dressing gown etc. I decided to wear simple jewellery with this outfit, small pearl earrings and a cocktail watch. I then went to the bathroom. I had a habit of going to the loo whilst runners waited. I started doing it when I was ten. I didn't necessarily need to use the toilet, but I used to get a kick out of hearing the runners looking for me, thinking I had maybe disappeared. I would appear just at the nick of time as everyone was about to have a panic attack.

My mother was back when I returned. She said she would remain behind and clear up the dressing room as she usually did. She said I looked beautiful, which is all I needed to hear. She kissed my cheek and said "Go for it Girl" She gave me my ‘channel No. 5’ perfume so I could have a spray before I left with the now impatient runner.

As I walked outside toward the BBBM studio, I saw the big brother house on the other side of the road. I could hear the noise of the hundreds of excited BB fans who would wait hours to see Davina McCall evict some poor sod.

I had to wait outside the studio whilst the BBBM audience were seated. Besides the man who was applying my mike, there were a quite a few crew members waiting with me. A young man with glasses introduced himself to me, he said he was the producer, and he was also a big fan, that was nice. I realised he was the reason I was on the show, thank god for fans I thought.

I was introduced to Shabaz, my fellow guest. He was a young asian man who had been evicted previously from the show. Like all big brother housemates he was on the usual contract to appear on this show with no fee, just a night in a hotel, and the hope of becoming famous. I then was seated on an uncomfortable high chair, which swivelled. I hoped I wouldn't fall off.

The studio audience were seated; some were staring at Shabaz and me whilst others were chatting loudly. I watched the television monitor as it ticked its way to show time. Three two, one, Russell Brand appears ahead of us and behind the audience. Can't remember if there was a warm-up man, there usually is, but Russell would have got this warm audience response anyway. He was a natural before a camera, he shone; I liked his regency style of clothes and his diction which varied from medieval to Dicksonian.

After introducing me to the audience, briefly, Russell began his show.  I wasn't really appreciative of his humour, nor his interaction with the audience. I had things to say, how was I to get a job like Brand, if no-one gave ME a chance to speak.

I can see people’s auras and looking at Shabaz I saw he was quite dark. Being in close proximity to dark people wasn't pleasant for me as I literally feel their negative energy. However the show is all to me, so I completely concentrated on Russell. His aura was red, and like any ambitious presenter he adored to be in front of the camera.

My mother was in the hospitality or ‘hostility’ room as she called it. She was accompanied by the partner/agent of Shabaz. He was so keyed up for Shabaz; his brown face looked a shade of white. I think he thought he and Shabaz had it made. He was already visualizing a regular suite at the London Dorchester.

I appreciated the cup of tea my mother gave me; she had been watching the show in the hospitality room. "You were great!" she said, “you looked really good on screen“. “Shame Russell didn't give me a word in edgewise” I said. She said, "You came over very well, I'm sure you will get other work from this". I am aware now that my mother was sick and tired of me wasting my talent on this type of show. She knew my ability, and couldn't understand why more producers couldn't see it.

Unexpectedly, Russell appeared with his entourage of young men. He's gay I thought. He left his followers and sat next to me and mum. "I remember you young Harries", he said. I thought you were a stuck up opinionated spoilt kid on Wogan, I saw you with Jonathon Ross as well, and I loved it when he called you ‘Damian‘. "Yes well he had to invite me on his show to apologise after that" I replied.

My mother went to the buffet table to get some more tea and left us talking, she had little interest of what she called the ramblings of most television folk. My mother always cuts to the chase, she doesn't talk trivia.

"Are you and mum staying at the Holiday Inn"? Russell asked somewhat sarcastically. "No" I said she is taking a train back tonight, she has to be home tonight. "So the beautiful Lauren is on her own tonight" he said, "Fancy a drink at the hotel?” My usual routine after a show was to go to my hotel room, eat the picnic my father had prepared and watch television.

But I suppose this would be a change. He looked at his band of followers and said, I'll have a drink with them and call your room, okay? You mean your apostles I said. He laughed and said "Not quite yet Lauren, not quite yet” and he kissed my hand.

As he left my side I already felt apprehensive, "What was his game?” I was picking up sparks as he sat next to me. As he kissed my hand I felt a surge of electricity. Jesus,
he certainly wasn't gay I thought. I was glad when at that time the runner said our car had arrived. Mum had packed my travelling clothes etc. and was handing them to the runner. Russell looked at me as we left. "Goodbye, the beautiful Lauren" he said, "Goodbye the beautiful Lauren's mum“.
My mother, as usual couldn't wait to leave yet another studio, I know she hated the places.

I was glad the journey to the holiday inn was short. My mother could read me like a book and I know she sensed something. Instead of stopping off at the hotel, she said she would use this car to take her to the station. I kissed my mother goodbye and tipped the driver. He was the same driver who had picked us up from the station and he had done a good job. I only tip when it is earned.

I told the driver to leave the bag with my rollers and jewellery which my mother would have usually taken back. But I had a feeling that I would need to redo my hair on this trip.

Thank god my hotel room had a window that opened as I had requested. Air-conditioning was never enough for me, I needed an open window. It was 8.15pm, usually my time for changing into a negligee and cuddling up with my picnic, but tonight was different. Tonight I had a date. I had little experience of dating men in Britain, as soon as they knew who I was, they were frightened off, not because of my small fame, but because I used to be a man. Is this too much for as man to accept? I knew it would take a man with real awareness and strength to take me on.

Had I been gay I would have other gay men queuing up, but I had never been gay, simply born in the wrong body, I was a woman. A woman who likes heterosexual tall dark well built men. I had travelled through Europe alone shortly after my operation. I had met men who didn't know who I was. But those experiences so soon after the physical and mental ordeal of changing my biological sex were a big mistake.

I had dates when I returned to the UK and I foolishly thought they wouldn't know who I was. Give me time to break it slowly I thought. But they always found out. One night I was with a man in a quiet hotel/restaurant on top of the Brecon Beacons. I had chosen the venue because I thought there were more sheep than people in that area. However after a great start to the night, no the man didn't know me fabulous; he was talking to me as a woman. A drunken resident approached our table and said "Aren't you a fella, aren't you that James Harries who was on the tele". I have blocked the rest of that evening out.

And now Russell Brand was calling me any moment.

My outfit was becoming hot so I stripped and had a bath, listening for the phone. He would have to wait if he rings now I thought. I donned another pair of bra & panties and sheer black tights. I chose a short black figure hugging silk dress from my suitcase. This dress was fabulous because it never creased. I wiped away all make-up except my mascara. I only wore facial make-up for television. I am lucky as I have peaches and cream skin. I added some more pink lipstick. As the dress had quite low cleavage I wore a choker necklace. It was a butler piece, a black ribbon with a medium sized red enamelled and diamante rose threaded through the centre. I clipped on the matching earrings. I chose my favourite white gold and diamond small cocktail watch. For a bit of goth I wore a huge red crystal skeleton ring on my right hand. On my left hand finger I wore a butler ring with large red lips. If that was over the top, so what; I love jewellery, why not show it.

That was it, a splash of my Chanel and I was ready, but ready for what?...