Harriet was never the most attractive girl. Even as a youngster only her father would ever call her beautiful. She was thin to the point of being skinny, her almost jet black hair was naturally greasy so had to be cut and kept short, and washed daily. Her nose was narrow and pointed, her chin likewise, and her dark eyes looked too large on her already small face. Her bra size never increased beyond an AA, and even her nipples were tiny and dark. Despite looking somewhat unhealthy, she was in fact fit and very healthy, though not physically strong. She had two things that grew well, too well even: her acne, and her pubic bush.
On the other hand though, she was smart. Not just street smart, but genuinely intelligent. This all combined to make her not only unpopular with the girls, but with the boys as well, which in turn made her incredibly shy which just made things worse. Had she been a tomboy, she'd have probably got on well with the boys, but unfortunately she wasn't. She was female, she knew she was female, and she liked being female; as a young child she'd played with dolls, not foot balls or train sets.
She had two brothers, one two years younger, one ten years older. Her younger brother Tony adored his sister, and for many years he thought she was the cleverest person he knew. Harriet in her turn loved her playful and mischievous younger brother. They teased and played little tricks on each other all the time. Nothing nasty or sinister, just funny and cheeky, until one day Tony went a little bit too far for his sister's taste, and upset her badly.
Tony was not long thirteen when, one day, he sneaked into his sisters bedroom and, having mulled it over for a while, decided to just hide all her underwear. None of it was particularly sexy or attractive to the opposite sex. Harriet still had all the normal female urges of a typical fifteen year old, masturbating most days, but knowing that she would never be attractive to the opposite sex, did not bother with expensive, feminine, lingerie.
Tony, not really worrying about any of that, simply gathered up all her bras and briefs, put them in a black plastic bin-bag, and dumped them in the corner of her closet, buried under a couple of old coats and things she hadn't worn in years.
By the time Harriet found out, the following morning as she was getting ready for school, it was too late for her to do anything about it. Tony had already left for school a bit earlier than normal as he had band practice that morning. Although school uniform allowed girls to wear certain types of trousers, Harriet always wore skirts. She didn't like trousers and had none at all. Not even jeans for a weekend. Harriet had to go to school that day wearing nothing under her skirt, which fortunately was quite new and therefore relatively long. She was absolutely terrified all day that someone would somehow discover that she had no knickers on, and scuttled from place to place, almost signalling to anybody who looked that something was wrong.
She was lucky, and by the time she got home, almost crying from a days sheer terror, she was ready to pulverise her brother.
"Where are they?" she demanded coldly of him when he walked into the house nearly an hour and a half after her.
"What?" he asked her puzzled for a moment.
Harriet saw the genuine confusion on her brothers face, and initially thought she'd got it wrong, but then she saw the look of smug realisation dawning on his face, and knew she was right after all.
"You little shit," she told him. "What have you done with them?" She grabbed the front of his jacket, and even though Tony was now quite a lot bigger than she was, he knew she was angry enough to do anything, and probably hurt him
"In your closet. At the bottom. In a bin bag." he gasped, actually quite terrified.
She shoved him backwards, hard. "Don't you ever do anything like that again. And you stay the hell out of my room you little turd." She stormed off and Tony just looked after her in shock and surprise. He'd never seen his sister this angry before.
Although the two eventually patched up their relationship, it was a number of years before it did happen, and during that time Harriet just felt even more alone than ever.
Her elder brother Chris was always more aloof towards her, and in fact towards Tony as well. It wasn't that he disliked her, them, nor that he found her ugly or unattractive, it was simply that she had arrived on the scene at a time when he was happily ensconced as the only child, and had felt very jealous towards her initially.
He grew out of the jealousy fairly quickly, but the age difference meant that he simply tuned her out, he just didn't move in the same circles she did except at home at meal times. He didn't dislike her, and by the time he left for college, had grown to be gently fond of his gawky baby sister.
Chris had his own problems. A cycling accident when he was nine, around about the time that his mother discovered she was pregnant with Harriet, had meant the loss of one testicle. He became intensely self conscious about this, and although he wasn't shy in the way that Harriet was, he simply didn't want a girl friend as he was embarrassed about what she might say when she found out.
He went out on casual dates that never went anywhere, and generally lived the life of a dilettante, when he wasn't working.
Quite by chance both Chris and Harriet gravitated into IT, though in completely different disciplines. Chris worked in hardware design and manufacture, building 'SX and 'SY' 'OCP's' - Order Code Processors. To him even an Intel pentium 4 CPU was primitive in comparison to an basic SX OCP.
"I build the processor for a machine that can host sixty four thousand, simultaneous, directly connected sessions." Chris once told his sister. "The first gulf war was fought using these machines. IBM's processors just melted in the heat, and Intel's stuff, well, I'm sure you've heard the saying 'What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away'?"
Harriet had just laughed and shaken her head. She worked in software design, writing code for systems using more obscure processors like the ARM chips. Obscure, that is, in desk top machines, but incredibly common in embedded applications like mobile phones, hard disc controllers, printers, even dish washers and washing machines.
Harriet had been working for four years, and had not long had her twenty fifth birthday, when she suddenly collapsed at work with massive abdominal pains, and by the time anyone had thought to dial 999 and call an ambulance, she was virtually unconscious.
She was diagnosed with a huge tumour on one of her fallopian tubes, and though fortunately it turned out to be benign in terms of any cancer, it was still life threatening because of exactly where it was and what it was pressing against. The operation to remove the tumour was a success, but one of her ovaries was damaged beyond repair, and signs of a tumour on her other ovary, and on her womb, meant that all had to be removed. When she awoke, and was told what had happened, she felt absolute despair. She no longer felt like a woman. Even if no other male had ever seen her as a woman, until now she had at least known she was a woman, now that was not the case. The fact that she would never again menstruate, was, for her, suddenly a calamity. Previously her menses had not been the irritant that many women found them, but had instead been a source of quiet pride that no matter what else, she was a women, and a fertile one at that.
Once out of hospital she was not permitted to go back to work as she was on powerful drugs to kill off the last of the tumour cells. Those had weakened her immune system, and she was too weak to go back to her own flat, so Chris invited her to live with him.
Their mother put her gently to bed in Chris' spare room, and then left her to rest. For four weeks she cried a lot, and rarely got out of bed, but she did physically recover, and went back to work, paler and more wan than anyone had ever seen her. Her already quiet demeanour became even more withdrawn, and she rarely went out on any of the social gatherings from work. Her mind, when she wasn't thinking specifically about her work, was a mess.
She was still living with Chris, and he had quietly suggested that she move in permanently. She shook her head no, explaining that she was determined to leave and get back into her old routine, but somehow she just couldn't seem to manage it. Chris didn't mind. He was a typical bachelor, not very tidy, and a bit haphazard with his meals, whereas Harriet was tidy and organised, and almost organised him. She was also mouse quiet, and often went for long walks, or to the cinema, when he had friends, especially girlfriends, back to his flat.
One Friday Harriet had come home from work a little earlier than normal. She knew that her brother was bringing his latest girlfriend home, and she wanted to be out and away before then. It wasn't that she hated the woman, or was jealous of her; she was depressed about her own state of barrenness, and couldn't bear to see a woman in 'full breeding mode', her current term for any woman that was dating or in an active sexual relationship.
She showered and then hopped out, striding naked across the living room to her bedroom. When Chris came out of the kitchen and almost bumped into her, she gave a little screech of surprise.
"What are you doing home?" She asked, one hand moving to cover her crotch, the other arm coming up to cover her chest.
"Kelly's had to cry off. I've just left her at the hospital where her dad is. He had a stroke this afternoon."
.... There is more of this story ...