“Let me introduce you to my lovely great-niece, Paige,” Margaret said as I cautiously stepped into the room. “For us old souls it is important to be reminded of youthful beauty.” It surprised me to see guests in the old house. For the several months that I’ve been living with Margaret, I got a feeling that she was a woman who appreciated her own solitude. To see this much life in the old house was surprising, especially as each one of the guests seemed especially pleased to see me. They all smiled wide, and it did feel a little eerie. I wasn’t accustomed to being treated as someone special.Oh, you are quite the lovely young woman,” one of the guests, an older gentleman, said. “How old are you, dear? felt a Margaret pinch my back and push me forwards into the crowd. I know what Margaret wants me to say. I could tell him my true age, but standing in this black and white dress, I had to admit that this was not the right moment to rebel. Sure, pleasing Margaret is not what I want, but I’d rather spare myself the humiliation of revealing my true identity. I will act the part Margaret has made for me.
“Seventeen, Sir,” I said, disturbed at how effortlessly girly I now make my voice sound, even without thinking. Oh, I do remember being seventeen, once,” one of the other guests, a plump older lady, said. “It was the summer Napoleon lost at the Battle of Waterloo. The crowd laughed at the quip. It was honestly quite overwhelming to see so many people not realising that I just lied. They were all older, but I cannot assume that they are all senile. I must genuinely look like some seventeen-year-old girl. But I am a man! And I am about to turn twenty-seven! I try so hard to cling onto my old identity, but Margaret makes it rough. She even manages to make me doubt. But I know who I am! I will never forget that all of this is a lie. Now scurry along, dear friends, and we will meet later in the garden. Just let me have a few words with my great-niece in private,” Margaret said as she directed the group of guests out of the room. Once, when I still got to dress like a man, I dated a woman named Eliza. She was over ten years older than me, and frankly she always made me feel very inadequate. But I did love her, and I wanted to be enough for her. I tried my best, but I failed each time.
I’m afraid that wore her out. Eliza could never manage being with me. She did still love me, but not as a partner and, as it would turn out, not even as a man. She sent me to live with her aunt Margaret, and from that first day I have been forced, through soul-crushing humiliation and strict training, into becoming Margaret’s great-niece Paige. It makes me shudder to realise that I am intended to be Eliza’s daughter.You are behaving, Paige. That is good,”Margaret said. “Do you still insist that no-one could believe that you are seventeen? I did not tell me friends about you, and they all believed it. Old people cannot easily be fooled.” ..No,” I muttered. “I cannot be twenty-six, they would have said something. “Your mother will be so proud once I return you to her,” Margaret said. “Now, return to your room and finish reading your novel. I will let you sit with us later as we eat supper, but only if you behave. And if you won’t behave, then I might have to tell our guests that you were lying. You are actually only fifteen.”