Bike 51–100

Easy As

Falling Off A Bike

Parts 51–100

by Angharad

If you wish to make a comment please go to the original part by part posting on BigCloset TopShelf.


Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part LI (51)

The violence begins, how will our heroine cope?
Read on and see if she does or not… Oh dear!

The ride did me the world of good, as it always did, helping me to put things into perspective. I resolved that I would meet up with my father. Despite his bullying I still had some affection for him and I would give him an opportunity to change. Obviously, this would begin with him accepting me as his daughter. Beyond that I hadn’t really thought too much, and as far as the sexual abuse was concerned, maybe it was just a dream, symbolism for something else. I didn’t know and would have to think about it.

I mean, how do you ask someone if they sexually abused you? How are you Dad, oh by the way, did you…? Yeah sure, no, if I was to enquire it would take some subtlety and at the moment that felt beyond me. It would wait.

I turned back into my road and emerging from the communal front door were my graffiti friends, ‘Big Mac and Fries.’ “Look out, iceberg warning,” called Big Mac as I dismounted.

“I hope you’re going to clean your handiwork off my door?” I said as I removed my helmet.

“What handiwork is that then?” said Mac, as if, ‘and what are you gonna do about it?’ was implied by his body language.

“I’ve already done it Mac,” I bluffed, “the person at the housing trust said that vandalism of any sort wasn’t to be tolerated, and they were more than happy to accept the CCTV I have of you two doing it.”

It was a total lie but they didn’t know that. I hated myself for it, because I was getting so good at it, it was almost becoming an art form.

“What CCTV is that then?” asked ‘Fries.’

“Oh, didn’t you know, Charlie installed it a few months ago in the hallway because he used to get hassled by people banging on his door, he had a few DVDs of the perpetrators. Apparently, it was usually the same ones, you know playing football in the hall and using his door as the goal. That sort of thing. I handed them all over.”

Suddenly their body language changed to that of uncertainty and apprehension; gone was the cockiness and the arrogance which I despised.

“I don’t believe you.” Big Mac stood towering over me.

“Don’t take my word for it, wait for the trust to write to you. Anyway, I have things to do.” I said trying to walk with the bike around him. He moved to block me.

“People who mess with me usually regret it.” He stood up to his full height.

“Bullies are invariably cowards,” I spat, and then as he moved to block me again, I stepped hard on the pedal my side of the bike and the opposite one hit him quite hard on the leg.

Surprised he stepped back rubbing his shin, “Bitch! You’ll live to regret that.”

“Don’t forget to smile for the camera,” I said with a sweetness that verged on saccharin.

“If I was you, I’d be very afraid,” he called after me.

“You going to add threatening behaviour to your other sins. I deal with rats for a living, most of them end up dead, good day gentlemen.” I wheeled the bike at him and he got out of the way. “Charlie was afraid of you, I’m not.”

I carried the bike up to my room and shut the door, putting up my safety bar very quickly. My heart was hammering and I was close to shitting myself with fright. What had I just done? Did I have some sort of death wish? I began to wonder, firstly thinking of meeting my father and then the two monkeys from my floor. What was I thinking of? Very little by the look of it.

I made a cup of tea and drank it with shaking hands; this was becoming a habit. I decided that any more aggro and I would speak with the professor and see if he could help me find some other accommodation. I would have to be careful going out at night, but then that would only be with Simon, and probably on a one-off for his barn dance, so I’d just keep out of their way.

Why was life so unnecessarily complicated? I mean I didn’t want to cause anyone any harm or hindrance, but it seemed to seek me out. As a boy I ran away, as a girl I seemed more prepared to fight back. I pondered on that for a few minutes; did I have it the wrong way round? Shouldn’t I be more confident and courageous as a boy? Maybe I should, but I wasn’t but being a girl didn’t mean I needed to accept being pushed around either, especially by a couple of brainless dickheads! I was getting angry and ready for a fight; dammit, if they wanted one, they could have one.

I showered and changed into jeans and a tee shirt, put on some mascara and lipstick, and taking the MTB went to see student health. The ride was uneventful; the session with the health nurse was a bit more worrying: although she accepted what I said, she clearly didn’t believe me.

“So let me get this straight, you’ve had gender reassignment surgery?”

“No, I’m on the waiting list for it.”

“Oh!” she said, “Are you sure, I mean you look female.”

“I think I would have noticed in the shower,” I said trying to keep my patience.

“I suppose you would,” she muttered shaking her head.

“I do know the difference between male and female, I sex dormice for a living.” I beamed a smile at her, although my statement went over her head. In fact, she gave me a very strange look. “I’m a biologist,” I offered smiling again.

“Oh,” was all she said. “I’ve altered your health records to female, because that is what we usually do and I’ve put a block on anyone accessing them without your permission. We do the same with those who have embarrassing infections, like Hepatitis or HIV.”

“Embarrassing?” I queried, “Surely tragic would be a better description?”

“Sometimes,” she said blushing a little. Then she said, “Thank you for notifying us Miss Watts.” The interview was ended.

While I was at it, I made an appointment to see my doctor: my GP not psychiatrist, thought I’d get it over in one hit. It was going to be one of those days.

“Can I make an appointment to see Dr Smith?”

“Is it urgent?”

“Not especially.”

“He’s actually got a cancellation in ten minutes.”

“Yeah, I’ll take it, thank you.”

“What name?”

“Cathy, erm, Charlie Watts.”

“Which is it Miss?” She typed away on the computer, “Oh, we don’t have a Cathy Watts.”

“You will when I come out. Stick in Charles and see what happens.”

She did and oohed quite loudly, “I’ll sort it out, so he doesn’t call the wrong name.”

“You’re very kind,” I said smiling.

I sat and tried to ignore the obvious attention I was attracting from the other reception staff, burying my head in ‘Country Life’ magazine, and one that was only six years old. I heard the odd gasp from a female in reception and a stifled titter, then someone said, “You’re joking, that’s never a bloke.” Nothing changes!

“Cathy Watts?” called Dr Smith and I went into his surgery with him. He’d been prescribing the hormones through Dr Thomas’ instructions for several months, so he was completely unfazed by my change in appearance. “Wow, you look really good,” he gushed, “changing names and things, no problem. So how’s it going?”

I told him what had happened in the last week including my loss. He simply nodded and made encouraging noises. I declined to talk about meeting my father or the problem with my neighbours.

“I think you’ve made the right decision,” he said offering his hand, “I can’t get over how good you look. Just keep taking the tablets,” he smiled and gave me another prescription for the magic pills.

I rode home and couldn’t believe it, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were outside again. I stopped some yards from them. “Right you bitch, you’re gonna get what’s due to you,” spat the larger of the lowlifes. He stepped towards me.

I pedalled away from him, “Come back you bitch and face the music,” he shouted after me.

So I did. I rode straight back at him and bunny hopped hitting him in the chest with the front wheel, twice, the second time as he hit the ground I landed on top of him, riding off over his face. I heard his nose go and I suspect a few ribs. Somehow, I managed to stay on the bike and circled around as his dumbstruck friend was bending over trying to help his beleaguered mate; I attempted to park the front wheel between his bum cheeks. He went flying landing on top of his injured pal. I then retired to my room and blocked up the door.

I awaited a visit from the local constabulary for assault and spent a worried night, expecting a bang on the door. However, nothing happened. The next day, I went to see Dr Thomas and wheeling my bike out of my room, Mac poked his head out of the door and dipped back in very quickly. I smiled although I suspected the war wasn’t over, just the first battle. I don’t support violence, but occasionally it seems to be the only language some people understand.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part LII (52)

More intrigue, shopping and a mystery letter.
What will Cathy do?
Read on and find out—assuming she ever decides!

Dr Thomas was very supportive as usual: she understood my reluctance to go to my mother’s funeral, especially given the likely reaction of her friends. She asked if I had plans for seeing my father again: I told her that I was simply thinking about it. Given my previous experience, she urged caution.

I told her about the escapade with Mork and Mindy outside my room and she offered to write to the housing trust. I declined her offer, but asked her to be prepared to stand bail for me should the two injured parties make a complaint to the police. She thought that was very funny, but I wasn’t laughing—it could still happen.

I should have been attending lectures, but had effectively been excused them by my professor. I should therefore have been writing my dissertation, or really just tidying it up because most of it was already written. Guilt or responsibility got the better of me because I thought I’d better do some more work on it so I went home, getting some fresh milk and one or two items of shopping on the way.

“How is your brother?” asked the shopkeeper who seemed to have bought the fib I told the last time I saw him.

“Slight improvement, but my mother has died since I was here last.” I watched his eyes open wide and I’m sure he thought I was telling lies.

“I am very sorry,” he offered.

“Thank you, she died suddenly in hospital in Bristol.”

“I am sorry,” he repeated, “when is the funeral?”

“I’m not sure, I don’t get on with my father, so I might not go.”

“Oh dear, that is very sad, but surely you must mend bridges and go for the sake of your mother.”

I hadn’t really thought of it as a duty before, perhaps I wanted to avoid getting involved with my own grief and so had possibly used my differences with my father as an excuse not to go. I hadn’t thought, I must go, rather that I mustn’t. Geez, isn’t life so bloody complicated?

“You must bury the hatchet with your father and go to say cheerio to your mother. It is your mother after all.”

A day or two ago, I’d have buried the hatchet in my father or he in me. Now this man I hardly knew was explaining the facts of life as he saw them, and maybe he was right. I didn’t know any more.

I thanked him and paid for my purchases. My entry back home was very pensive and had nothing to do with Wordsworth or his bloody daffodils. I rarely had any mail, so what made me check my post box, goodness only knows. There was a letter with a typed envelope addressed to, ‘Miss Catherine Watts.’ The postmark was blurred so I couldn’t read it. I put it in my shopping bag and went up to my room. I stored my bike, put the shopping on the table and using some nail varnish remover I had just bought, wiped off the graffiti from my door. It had made a statement, my removal of it made another.

I settled down with a cuppa and a biscuit, essentially trying to work up some enthusiasm for my dissertation. It seemed a losing battle. I was about to make a second cup of tea, when I remembered the letter. I took it from the otherwise empty bag. I still didn’t recognise it nor was expecting anything, so who knew about me? Not many. Then I assumed it must be from the Dean or student health, except they usually use envelopes with a return address: this one had no such addition it was a plain white envelope.

I nearly didn’t open it, because it was unlikely to be important, but at the last minute I did, curiosity got the better of me. Inside was a typed letter and a cheque.

‘Dear Catherine,

No matter what you think of me, I do think of you often and with affection. I’m sorry you didn’t have a chance to talk things through with your mother, whom I’m sure you miss as much as I do. I hope you will be able to attend her funeral at St Clements Church on Friday at 2.00pm.

I am trying to understand your position although you will understand how difficult that is for me, being outside my experience. However, I hope you succeed in all you try, including your new life style. I’m aware that will mean some outlay for new clothes and things, so please find the attached to help with that expense.

Please do come to the funeral, I’m sure your mother would have wanted us to make peace.

with love,

Dad.’

I examined the cheque—it was for a thousand pounds! I nearly dropped it in my tea with shock. Can leopards change their spots? No matter, he had plenty of money and I didn’t, so I would take his blood money and use it to expand my wardrobe as I needed to.

An hour later, I was at the bank and then the shops! I bought a black pinstripe skirt suit and a pair of glossy black court shoes with three-inch heels. Next was a white blouse in pure silk with a vee neck. I bought more bras and pants, adding to my Sloggi collection, and went home. I was now equipped to go to the funeral—all I needed was to make the decision.

I’d bought some notelets and used one to write a very brief thank you to my father for the cheque. Courtesy costs little and at least I knew I had acted properly. I made no mention of the funeral or my attendance. I posted it in the pillar-box across the road; he would get it the next day.

Returning to my dissertation was a waste of time; I just couldn’t think—my mind kept returning to my father’s note and the advice of the shopkeeper. I felt morally blackmailed into going to the funeral and also a nagging feeling that by avoiding it, I would regret it once the stress of the past week was over and normality returned.

I tried calling Stella but she was out, probably in work. So I did the only thing that was left open to me in such situations, got my bike out and went for a ride.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part LIII (53)

by Angharad & M Indurain

The day had become cooler and I was wearing a university sweatshirt over my cycling shirt. I felt completely upside down in deciding what to do. I’d taken his money but I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend the funeral; I needed to talk to Stella and had no idea when she’d be home, she was the only one who appreciated my situation, I don’t think even Dr Thomas really understood me entirely. But then they saw different aspects of my life; the good doctor only saw me in her consulting room whilst Stella had seen me out and interacting, sort of.

It was bugging me and I found one way to release the tension was to do a hard training run on the bike—just head down and go for it. I was doing just that when I passed two other women out on road bikes. I flew past them and they only caught me because I got stuck at traffic lights on road works.

“Yes it is a girl,” I heard one declare to the other. Then she drew level with me and asked, “Are you at the university?”

I admit I wasn’t in much mood for idle chatter but politeness kept me from ignoring them. “Yes, why?”

“Do you do much riding?”

“A bit, why?”

“We’re trying to get together a scratch team to race against Southampton.”

“When and what sort of distance?” I answered, although I knew I wasn’t up to much as a racing cyclist.

“One hundred K.”

That was about the edge of my range: I could do sixty miles, it was just boring to do on my own and I’d never tried racing anything like that distance. “I dunno,” I replied sounding super intelligent. “When is it?”

“Sunday morning.” She beamed a smile at me and I found it difficult to be grumpy with her.

“I dunno, I’m out at a dance on Saturday evening so may not feel like an early rise on Sunday. Besides, I’m probably not good enough.”

“What sort of distance do you cycle, regularly?”

“It varies, around an hour or two a couple or three times a week.”

“Between twenty and forty miles?”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” I shrugged.

“How far have you done today?”

“About ten, why?”

“Ten miles,” she asked.

“Yes.”

“How about we do another ten, the three of us?” Put on the spot I could only agree; she outlined a route which I knew. We agreed where possible to keep up a reasonable pace, which meant above fifteen miles per hour and preferably twenty. I knew that was a minimum standard for official races.

The lights changed and Jill led off followed by Amy. I brought up the rear. We tootled along at fifteen miles an hour for about ten minutes, but it was hardly race training. I moved up to second and suggested we up the pace. Jill waved me through, as if to put my money where my mouth was.

I took them gently up to twenty over the next mile, then up to twenty-five on a nice flat stage. Jill was pretty well keeping up but Amy was struggling. I waved Jill through and asked if she wanted me to cool it? She shook her head vigorously, so I upped it a little more. By the next rise, we were doing nearly thirty miles an hour and my little legs were beginning to know it.

We stopped to wait for Amy, so perhaps Jill was feeling the pace too. I had actually been riding faster than I usually did by nearly fifty per cent.

“That was good Cathy, I needed a work out. Amy, bless her tries hard but is a bit slow.”

“I couldn’t keep that up for long,” I said still breathing hard and sweating profusely.

“Neither can most cyclists. You up for Sunday then?”

“How many have you got?” I asked.

“Four ossible, plus two ossible. I’d prefer to have someone like yourself who can ride a bit.”

“That might have been a flash in the pan,” I said knowing that it wasn’t really, I was capable of that sort of performance most of the time.

“We need a minimum of six, over that it doesn’t count.”

“I don’t know.”

“Go on Cathy, your university needs you, or are you going to let Southampton win by default?”

“I can’t say I care too much either way.”

“Please, I need you to help us show we can at least get a team, last year we had three riders.”

“I’m out on Saturday night.”

“It isn’t until eleven o’clock, just don’t have too much sex or you’ll be sore.”

“I beg your pardon,” I said in astonishment.

“I speak from experience.”

“What!” I nearly fell off my bike.

“I had this really heavy session the night before a club race; we were at it like bunnies. Gawd, the next day I could hardly walk, let alone do sixty five miles.” She began to laugh and it was infectious. “Learnt my lesson that day, I was sore for a week after the bike ride. I mean it’s up to you what you do, but bonking and bikes are not good bed mates.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I said smiling in a knowing way, which was a total lie because I didn’t know.

At this point Amy caught up with us and we let her get her breath back before we set off again. It appeared that she was one of the extras for Sunday if we needed her. I knew Southampton had a good men’s team but knew nothing about their women’s riders. Apparently, Jill considered they were good too.

“I don’t have a racing licence or anything,” I mentioned as we reached Portsmouth again.

“It’s only a friendly, so you won’t need anything, although I would suggest you join the club; training with others is better than on your own.”

“Yeah, I know. I occasionally bump into Ann, someone who does triathlons.”

“What, Ann Sommers?”

“I thought she owned a series of questionable shops? This woman is a nurse.”

“Yes Ann Sommers, you know she’s an amateur international.”

“I didn’t, but it would explain why I struggle more on hills than she does.”

“Her cycling is her best sport, but she runs quite well and her swimming is good too.”

“I suppose it would have to be, to be a triathlete.” My logic was faultless, at times!

“Look we’re going down the Union later, wanna come?”

“No thanks, I’m still trying to finish my dissertation.”

“What, a bit early isn’t it?”

“I’m doing an MSc, with a view to going on to do a Doc Phil.”

“In what?”

“Mammals in general, dormice in particular.” I wasn’t at all sure how happy I was to reveal too much about myself; maybe I should have told a few porkies.

“Oh those sweet furry things, I’m doing boring old history.”

“So am I,” called Amy from behind.

“I liked history, but you don’t get to chop up so many rats doing that.” As soon as I said it, I thought it sounded like something a boy would say.

“Each to her own; personally, I couldn’t chop up a dormouse if you asked me,” offered Jill.

“They’re protected, so you can’t anyway. I was only joking, I hate doing experimental work that involves killing or dissection. I’m better at population studies.”

“Just remember what I said about the night before the race, population studies indeed!” Jill kept a straight face as she delivered this killer line. I laughed so hard, I had to stop and was in danger of falling off again.

Back at my room, I finally managed to catch up with Stella. “Anyway, I don’t know about going, but he sent me some money and I’ve bought a blouse and a suit,” I described them to her.

“If you were working in a bank, that would be fine. Look I’ll be over in an hour, I have just the thing for you to wear and I’ll take you, Friday is my rest day.”

“Only if I pay for the petrol then,” I insisted.

“Simon does, save your money, if you like the outfit I have in mind, you can buy it off me.”

“I can’t afford the sort of clothes you buy,” I protested whilst thinking, ‘which Simon also pays for.’

“Don’t worry, I don’t want too much for it, and we have to see if it will fit you yet. See you in an hour.”

“Thanks Stella, you’re a life saver.”

“No lifesavers are paramedics, I mop fevered brows,” she giggled and said, “see ya in an hour.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part hanner cant pedwar (54)

by Angharad & T. Hardy

“In the navy…”

By the time Stella arrived, I had showered and dried my hair, and popped on a little makeup. She hugged me as she came through the door having deposited her dress bag and holdall on the threshold.

I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt, which was my first mistake. “Right get those off! Put the enhancer padding in your bra! Come along, we haven’t got all night.” I wasn’t so much shepherded as frogmarched into the room and disrobed.

While I did her bidding, she proceeded to unzip the dress bag which was now occupying most of my bed. “You could do with a dolly or teddy or something on your bed,” she fished about in the holdall, “here, courtesy of Simon.”

“Does he know about this?” I asked accepting the soft toy. It was pink lion, which turned out to be a nightdress case.

“Of course he does, I told him you needed one, he asked me to get it.”

“Usual commission?”

“But of course, he’ll think I’m going soft otherwise.”

“You’re awfully mean to him sometimes,” I said pouting and cuddling my new little friend.

“Sometimes, my God, what am I doing wrong? It’s supposed to be all the time. Damn, if he notices, I’m lost.” She draped her forearm over her face and pretended to cry. I couldn’t help but giggle; she did a moment later after berating me for lack of sympathy.

The giggle fit lasted a few moments and I wondered which of us was the more crazy. Officially, it should be me because I’m the one seeing the shrink, however, I’m told the sign of true madness is not being aware of it, so I’ll leave you make up your own minds.

“You have quite a reasonable shape for a new woman,” offered Stella looking me up and down.

“Only because I just put pads in the bra,” I said defensively.

“Okay, your boobs could do with being bigger, but I meant your waist hip ratio is not too bad, all that cycling I suppose.”

“I dunno,” I said shrugging my shoulders, “I’ve always had a fairly small waist, getting trousers was a nightmare when I went to school. I finally managed to get Mum to let me buy my own; I bought some unisex, girl’s ones. They were slightly too big in the bum, but fitted better than the boy’s ones.”

“I’ll bet the female ones fit better now,” Stella made me turn around.

“Yeah, a bit.” I twirled.

“Small but perfectly formed,” she smiled at me.

“There’s no need to get personal,” I blushed, my hand dropping to hide my relatively flat crotch.

“I meant your arse, deary.”

“Oh, I erm…” I blushed very red, I was sure of it.

“Goodness, no I wouldn’t make remarks about that, your little deformity, that’s a medical condition.”

“It is?” I gasped.

“Yes, vagina—inverticus.”

“What?”

“It sticks out when it should go in.”

“You are crazy!”

“And proud of it. Now, put this on.” She handed me a navy skirt in a very fine woollen material. It was cut on the bias and deflected attention away from my small hips. Next was a matching camisole in silk, which after I had pulled on she offered me the jacket.

I slipped my arms into the sleeves and did up the two buttons on its waist. The jacket was flared over the hips and quite shaped at the waist. There were no lapels, the neck and front were embroidered navy lace. It was beautiful. I stood before the mirror and was transfixed by it.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” I said almost in a trance.

“It is on you sweetie, a bit softer than the pin stripe?”

“Absolutely.” I think I mumbled something along those lines, I was still astonished by her exquisite taste in clothing.

“So, will it do?”

“Absolutely,” I muttered. Why change a winning line?

“Okay, what shoes are you going to wear?”

“I have some black ones.” I snapped out of my trance and showed her my new shoes.

“No, it has to be navy or a complete contrast. If we were going to a happy occasion, I’d have said red and suggested a red cami, but it’s a sad occasion so we need navy.”

“Not too much navy is it?” I dared to question my fashion consultant.

“Not for a sad occasion; the object is to look smart without drawing too much attention to yourself. As a close relative, there will be attention anyway, depending upon how your father wants to play it. If they were expecting a son, there will be quite a lot of attention, so you need to look smart but confident, hence navy rather than black. You’re bending the rules in all sorts of ways without being disrespectful to your mother’s memory.”

“That’s amazing Stella, I’d never have thought of that.”

“I only just did, can you get some shoes tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I suppose so. Any suggestions?”

“A court shoe, it is a formal occasion. Don’t go for too high a heel in case we have to literally cut and run.”

“What do you mean?”

“What happens if the natives or your father for that matter cuts up rough at your new appearance?”

“Ah, erm… I don’t know, what happens?”

“We get the hell out of there at the double. Get yourself a small navy bag too, enough for a small purse, hankies and a lipstick. You won’t need a shopping bag, this is a dressy occasion, so small bag. Got it?”

“I think so.”

“Makeup needs to be enough to make you look different from Charlie but not enough to look obvious. I’ll do it before we go: get yourself a waterproof brown mascara while you’re out tomorrow and a blonde eyebrow pencil.”

“Blonde?”

“Yes it’s actually light brown, so we could use it as an eyeliner.”

“Gosh, I’d never have thought of that,” I was in awe of my friend.

“I’ve been doing this a bit longer than you, that’s all. I also have extremely good taste and such modesty.” She sniggered and I chuckled.

“How can I thank you?” I said shaking my head.

“Well you can give me fifty quid for the suit and camisole, is that all right?”

“Yes, is that enough?”

“Not if you were buying it new, but it is second hand.”

“I hardly looks as if it’s been worn,” I remarked taking it off carefully.

“It hasn’t, I bought it then went off it. Good job Simon paid for it.”

“Isn’t that extravagant?”

“What, to spend three hundred on a dress?” She saw my mouth gape open, “This wasn’t that dear.” My mouth closed in relief. “It was only two hundred and ninety nine pounds ninety nine pence.”

“What?”

“It’s a year old, for goodness sake, stop being so precious about it, it’s only pile of cloth. If you wear it at least it’s getting some use for that money. If you don’t I’ll either sell it to a dress agency or give it to Oxfam. You choose.”

“I should give you more than fifty,” I protested.

“Look Cathy, you have still to buy a bag and some shoes. Do they wear hats in your church?”

“It isn’t my church; I’ve had nothing to do with them for years. Some people do, others don’t.”

“I brought this navy scarf, just in case: keep it in your bag.”

“You’ve thought of everything, thank you so much.” I hugged her and felt a tear drip down my face.

“Hey, why are you crying?”

“I’m overwhelmed by your kindness.”

“I always wanted a younger sister, not a big brother. I didn’t get one, so you are my little sister substitute. The big brother has, I have to admit, proved to be very useful, so I’m not complaining.”

“And I needed a big sister or a mentor,” I said smiling at her.

“Exactly, so we’re all satisfied.”

“Except Simon,” I said blushing.

“Oh he’s okay, he’s such a romantic; unrequited love suits him perfectly and is useful for me.”

I shook my head in disbelief. I knew she was making light of her affection for him: she’d probably kill to protect him and he for her. I was glad to know them, not for their largesse, but their kindness. They were two of the nicest people on the planet and apart from Stella’s driving, wonderful role models.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part LV (55)

by Angharad & N. Cooke

I was in town; the bag I was carrying contained a pair of navy shoes with three-inch stiletto heels and a small leather handbag in a very close match of colour. I was feeling rather smug that both had been purchased from sale stock, so I’d saved quite a few pennies. Then I saw it.

I was walking past a charity shop. In the past, I had frequented them for books, then finally clothes in starting my new wardrobe. I was very choosy and bought very little, but I saw something that I had to have. Well to be correct, I had to try on and if it fitted, I would buy no matter how much it cost. Stella would probably kill me, but I’d live with that.

I entered the shop feeling very self-conscious; I don’t think I had been in there since my changeover. I nodded at the woman behind the counter and she nodded back. The item I wanted was part of their window display; I hoped I could try it.

I reached into the window and looked at the price tag. I gasped—it was four pounds. At that price, it was certainly a bargain. “Could I try something on from your window display?” I asked the woman behind the counter.

“Depends upon what it is, I can’t lift the mannequin out on my own.” She walked over to the window with me. I told her what I wanted and she reached for the object, handing it to me. “There’s a mirror in the changing cubicle,” she said and went back to the counter.

I went to the cubicle and looked at myself. I had done my hair slightly differently that morning and didn’t know if I liked it or not. Putting down my bag and shoes, I lifted the new item and examined it carefully before placing it upon my head.

The hat, for that is what it was, was a navy felt one, with a broad brim and a rounded crown. There was a ribbon about an inch wide around the base of the crown, on the left side of which, was a flower made from some silky material about two inches in diameter.

I pulled it on and with a degree of uncertainty looked in the mirror—my mother was looking back! I stepped back in astonishment. People had told me I took after my mother and very occasionally, I could see her in certain expressions or gestures I used. Now and again, I had seen bits of her in my eyes or nose or even my colouring. But this was something else.

You see my mother liked hats and being a churchgoer, she wore them frequently. When I was a kid, I used to love to ‘borrow’ them and parade around the house until my father caught me. That was another hiding I got.

“Oh yes,” said a voice from behind me and I nearly jumped out of my skin, squeaking with surprise.

“Oh, you made me jump,” I said my heart thumping hard enough to damage my ribs.

“It suits you dear, I thought it might.”

“I don’t know, I think I look like my mother.”

“Oh no, it makes you look sophisticated rather than older. It only came in last week and the policy is to sell them off cheaply because hats are difficult. I think it’s only been worn once by the looks of things.”

“I don’t know, do you think it’s suitable for a funeral?” I asked still very unsure after the shock in the mirror.

“I should think it’s perfect—is it at a church or a crematorium?”

“A church, my mother didn’t believe in being burnt, Second Coming and all that stuff.”

“In which case it’s perfect, what are you wearing it with?”

“A navy suit, a skirt suit.”

“I should think it will be very smart. You say it’s your mother’s funeral?”

“Yes,” I answered, still not sure about the hat.

“I’m sorry, was she very old?”

“No, fifty.”

“Not old by today’s standards.”

I nodded my agreement, then hoped she wouldn’t ask me any more questions like, ‘what did she die from?’ Because I had no more answers.

“Will I need a hat pin?” I asked trying to change the subject.

“Probably best, especially if the wind gets up. We have some nice ones over here; one or two are practically antiques.”

The one I chose cost more than the bloody hat, but it was very nice, gold and lapis lazuli—probably all fake, but so was I! I chuckled as I thought of myself as the ersatz daughter; I still couldn’t feel close to my father and remembering the hats episode, didn’t endear him to me one bit. I had a nasty thought, which was pure evil. If I looked like my mother, what effect would that have on him, and how was he going to explain me away to his friends. ‘Oh this is my son Catherine, he’s just waiting for his sex-change, the little pervert!’

As I walked to the bus stop carrying my purchases, I ran so many scenarios through my mind about what could happen that I nearly set my brain on fire. It was still buzzing around my head when I got off the bus, nearly forgetting my bags.

When I got back to my room, instead of going off on the bike as I usually did when something bothered me, I went to the bathroom and began to fiddle with my hair. I put it in a ponytail and pinned it up, then put the hat on again. This time I looked like my grandmother, we had a photo of her at a wedding years ago, I looked like her sister.

I spent the next hour or more playing with my hair and the hat. Mostly I looked like me, but with traces of my mother or grandmother. Having dealt with the shock, I actually quite liked the resemblance, and I decided I would wear my hair as I did when I tried it on first, and see what my father said.

I practised pinning it on—it was harder than it looked and I nearly speared my brains at one point. Then I went off into flights of fancy about a woman who murdered somebody on a plane by jabbing them in the spine with a hatpin. I reckoned it would have to have been poisoned to work and I couldn’t remember if it was real or some film I’d seen. It put even more bizarre ideas in my mind on how to deal with my father as I fingered the pin nearly sticking it in the skin.

All I had to do now was convince Stella to let me wear it. I tried it on with the suit and it looked fine to me—very formal, very churchy, very unlike the wearer. A she in wolf’s clothing, that was me.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 56

Despite my attempts to deny it, Friday morning had to come. It arrived and I stayed in bed later than usual. I couldn’t sleep worrying about what would happen when we got to the church. Then Pinky and Perky came in at about half past two and banged on my door as they passed, they were also singing at the tops of their voices.

I did think about revenge but I suspect my head was pounding as much as theirs would be, so drum practice would be out, not that I had any drums, but banging doors and pots and pans could generate a few decibels. However, defection being the better part of valour, my courage left me and I turned over and went back to sleep.

I woke up at gone ten o’clock, and then had to rush to be ready for Stella. She was coming for eleven to do my makeup and hair and then we were off. Yuck!

I showered and wrapped my head in a towel to stop it drying too quickly. I was in my undies when she arrived so I threw on a robe.

“Have you only just got up?” she asked suspiciously.

“Who me, no I’ve been up for hours, done twenty miles on the bike.”

“Why aren’t the wheels wet then?”

“Wet?”

“Yes, it’s been raining.”

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed. Okay, I overslept,” and held out my wrist to be slapped.

Stella was busy pulling out different little pots and tubes from her bag. She whipped off the towel and shoved mousse on my hair, then out came her powerful hairdryer. Before she went too far, I thought I’d better mention my hat.

“Stella, I bought a hat.”

“What a cycling one?”

“No a navy one, I thought I might wear it to the funeral.”

“Oh,” she sounded more surprised than anything, “Can I see it?”

I went to my wardrobe and pulled out the plastic bag it was in, and handed it to her. She looked at it and then at me, then back at it and back at me for several moments. “It could work,” she mumbled to herself. “Yes, it’s okay, I think I can do your hair to work with it.”

“When I tried it on yesterday, I felt I looked like my mother.”

“Is that wise?”

“I thought it might stop him wanting to hit me, and it might prove my point that I take after my mother.”

“What if he sees you as defiling his memory of your mum?”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” I felt rather deflated, my enthusiasm getting less by the second.

“It’s up to you, what do you want to do?”

“Stay here.”

“You can’t do that, you’ve already promised to go.”

“I know, but I’m dreading it.”

“That is quite understandable, it is your mother’s funeral so it’s hardly going to be a fun time.”

“I’d like to wear it; if he hits me he hits me.”

“If he hits you I shall call the police, after I’ve hit him.”

“If he hits me, just get out of there, he can cut up rough.”

“So can I, and I do kick-boxing.”

“I didn’t know that.” I shook my head in amazement, but then I’d only known her and Simon a week, so why should I know all about her?

“Come on missy, let’s get this barnett finished.” So saying, she picked up the hairdryer and began blow-drying my hair. It relaxed the tension which had been building for the past few days, and I could have happily gone to sleep.

Next, she began my makeup, shaping my eyebrows again, pencilling them a little darker, and then making my eyes look darker yet not heavily painted. The mascara was applied a couple of times as was the eyebrow pencil again, along the edges of my eyelids. My lipstick was the frosted pink of earlier days and she brushed a little blusher to my cheeks, highlighting my cheekbones. When I looked in the mirror, the similarity to my mother was even greater.

I dressed carefully to avoid getting makeup on my clothes and smudging it. At almost dead on eleven thirty, I gingerly placed the hat on my head and my mother was back. This time my stomach churned—what was Dad going to say or do?

“Yeah, it quite suits you,” came from my critic.

“Do you like it then?”

“Yes, it’s fine. Come on we have to get going.”

Once in the car, I tried to think about other things. Stella’s driving was quite a distraction and I did wonder if we would get there at all. I was very quiet and so she put on the radio and we half-listened to a magazine programme on Radio Four, followed by a comedy which neither of us found the slightest bit funny.

I sent my father a text, ‘Remember I’m Cathy UR daughter. Where do U want us to meet U? C.

Eventually the phone peeped indicating a response. I checked it, half expecting it to be from my telecom company telling me the price of calls had been reduced on the Moon. I would have been wrong, it was Dad.

OK, hadn’t 4gotten, @ the church. Come 2 vestry. Dad

“He wants me to meet him in the vestry.”

“Us, he wants us to meet him. Remember we come as a set.”

“Yeah, thanks Stella, dunno what I’d do without you.”

“You’d survive, things would be different, that’s all.”

“I’d have a very meagre wardrobe.”

“Compared to me, most women do. I certainly wouldn’t worry about it not as long as we are the same size.”

I smiled, more from politeness than anything, I was already playing scenarios with my dad. Once we got to Bristol, I had to navigate her to the church. We parked as near as possible in case we needed to get away quickly. It was quarter to two.

Linking arms with me Stella almost dragged me into the church and down towards the vestry. My legs were shaky and I felt very sick. There were people about but no one challenged us. Stella banged on the door and it opened. The vicar poked his head out.

“Is Mr. Watts there with you Reverend?” she asked.

“Yes, yes he is. This is Cathy, I take it?”

I nodded.

“You resemble your mother quite a bit, come in.”

Stella led me into the room and the priest continued with his robing in a small dressing room off the main vestry. My father stood up as we entered. He looked at me in a very nervous manner—this was so unlike my father. He seemed to have aged since we’d last seen him.

“You look like your mother,” he said almost prowling around us, for Stella was still standing with me.

“I know,” I said wanting to collapse or be sick.

“I can’t understand why you want to do this to yourself, seems daft to me.”

“It’s something I have to do; I can’t explain it and I don’t feel I have to justify it.”

“I’m not asking you to.” He turned around and picking up a large carrier bag, he passed it to me. “This is yours I think.”

I looked inside and gasped, tears were so close now I had to work really hard to stop them. I pulled out the doll, “Josephine!” I squeaked. He had taken it from me when I was about seven or eight. I swapped a football for her with a girl in school who was far more butch than I was. Dad caught me playing with her and that was the last I saw of her.

“You told me you’d smashed her and thrown her out.”

“I wanted to, but your mother stopped me. It’s been up in the attic ever since.”

I felt my eyes growing moist, “Why did you bring her today?”

“I hoped maybe we could start again.”

“I don’t know Dad, you did some awful things to me.”

“I know so… girl, I was trying to stop you doing what you’ve done. I wanted you to be a man and be happy as one. Looks like I got it wrong—your mother was worried but she did what I wanted. I’m sorry, we got it wrong.” He began to cry and I felt this awful pain inside my chest: it was his hurt I could feel and I wanted to scream. Instead, I held out my arms and he picked me up and crushed me with his embrace. We both cried.

Stella and the priest eventually prised us apart, “Come on girl, let’s touch up your eyes, they’re not too bad.”

“I don’t care,” I said almost starting the waterworks again. In a few moments, we had touched years of anger and hurt and changed it into something else. I didn’t know what, but it was better than I had hoped. Sadly it took my mother’s death to reunite us and for my father to accept me, if he actually had. I was trying not to read too much into this meeting—it was a time of strange feelings and new situations for both of us. He could still revert to type and I was still frightened of his power, but not as much as I had been.

I looked at him; the priest was calming him down, talking so quietly that I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He looked at his watch, “It is time to go,” he said and held the door open for us.

Stella and I stood with my father in the first row of the congregation. They brought in the coffin, bedecked in flowers and I began to cry. I don’t remember anything else except my father holding his arm around me as we both wept openly.

At the graveside, I pulled out the rose that I had brought with me, a single red one, and dropped it on the coffin. Stella led me away and we went back inside the church. No one came to speak with me, or if they did, I didn’t notice. Maybe Stella kept them away or maybe they thought they’d catch something. I couldn’t face the tea and sandwiches afterwards, so we left after another hug from my dad and a promise to speak again.

We stopped at a pub outside Bristol. Stella had a whisky, and I knocked back a brandy and soda. I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so it went straight to my head and I fell asleep once we were back in the car. I woke up back at Stella and Simon’s house, my head aching and my eyes sore.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Heinz 57

by Angharad & A. Christie

The car had stopped, which was just as well because it would have run into Simon’s Volvo, if it hadn’t. I glanced at Stella, “Can’t I just go home?”

“Certainly not, I spoke to Simon while you were snoozing and he agreed that I should bring you here.”

“Look I’m not really into company at the moment, so I’d be better off at home.”

“You’ve had a very difficult day and I think you need to have people near, should you feel upset.”

“Does that mean I have to talk to Simon?”

“Only if you want to. He’ll understand because he’s so used to being ignored by pretty women.”

“Why? He’s such a lovely man.”

“If you don’t stay I shall tell him you said that and he’ll never leave you alone.”

“I’ll tell him you lied to him.”

“Damn, he’d probably believe that,” she looked pensive for a moment, “Shall we call a truce?”

“Fine with me. He doesn’t deserve the treatment you give him, you know.”

“I know, but he is my only brother, so I have to keep his confidence up.”

I nearly choked, was she joking or not? It didn’t actually sound like it but I’m sure it was a quip made to make me think, which considering my mental processes at this minute, could be seen as unkind.

“Come on, let’s get a cuppa,” she said slipping out of the car. I sighed and with reluctant effort followed her.

“Hello Cathy, how did the funeral go?” asked Simon holding up a bottle of wine and shrugging.

“I’d prefer a cuppa, thanks. It went, I was in a sort of trance so I can’t really say much; Stella may know more.”

“She was a big, brave girl who helped her father through a difficult afternoon.”

I wondered if Stella had been at the same funeral, because my recollection was a bit different—well okay very different. However, I felt too fragile to challenge it and she may have been exaggerating for Simon’s sake; after all, he didn’t know as much about me as she did.

I had a couple of mugs of tea and perhaps it rehydrated me or did something similar because I began to recover my energy and emotional balance. There were loads of thoughts buzzing around my brain like an angry swarm of bees, but I seemed able to let them tire themselves, whilst I enjoyed the company of my hosts.

Enjoyed was the right description, because I really did feel comfortable in the company of these siblings. At times, it was funny and I’d laugh out loud; at others, I winced at the razor sharp comments they’d make at each other. Yet I knew they genuinely loved each other, as much as any other brother and sister I’d ever known.

Simon was so long suffering. He’d got the dinner on by the time we got there and she criticized him for forgetting to take something out of the freezer. I withdrew to a safe distance, not wishing to get involved. Simon just let it fly over his head, ignoring it.

A little later he asked her how many traffic offences she’d committed going to Bristol. I’d lost count after twenty, but I kept it to myself. She simply accused him of being the one responsible—he’d apparently taught her to drive.

“No I didn’t, I went out with you a few times to give you some practice,” he protested, “but it was the Kamikaze School of Motoring who got you through your test. Personally, I think they only passed you because you frightened the examiner so much he thought if he failed you, he might have to repeat the test and might not survive it twice.”

“You mean toad, I passed it first time,” she complained.

“I rest my case,” he said winking at me.

“Sounds convincing to me,” I said winking back at Simon.

“You pair of rats,” she accused, “you can do the dishes, I’m off to watch telly.”

“Goodness, I won an argument with Stella, you must come more often.”

“I keep telling her to marry you,” sniped Stella as she wandered through the dining room to get the paper. I blushed and I suspect Simon did as well. “Has he proposed yet?” she fired at us on her way back waving the Radio Times.

“No he has not, nor would I expect him to!” I glared at Stella, but she merely poked her tongue out at me.

“I think I’d like to get to know you better first,” remarked Simon, which almost caused me a fit of apoplexy.

“I don’t know if I’m the marrying kind, Simon.” I tried to pour cold water on this discussion.

“Oh I think the right proposal, coached with the right words and at the right time…”

“How did your day go?” I asked him and with great subtlety switched the conversation.

“Much the same as most others. I made my bank about ten million before lunch and lost half of it by teatime. They were still five mil up so they won’t complain.”

“Oh,” I said looking at him until he noticed and I looked away. Well how was I supposed to know it meant I found him attractive—I know more about dormice than men.

“How is the dissertation coming on?” he asked me.

“It isn’t, I’ve been too busy with other things.”

“Would having a car help?”

“Not unless it can type,” I replied dryly.

“Ha ha, that’s quite good,” he laughed far more than the pun was worth but I ignored him; he was probably just being polite.

“It’s just that I have the chance of a little runabout for a song.”

“It wouldn’t really help, my bike is fine for around town and there’s always the buses. Besides I could never repay you nor afford the running costs.”

“Who said you’d have to?” he looked puzzled.

“What? I couldn’t accept that.” I felt myself get very hot.

“Why not? It would mean you could come and see Stella and me as often as you wanted, besides you could also nip up to Bristol to see your dad.”

“No I couldn’t, it wouldn’t be fair.”

“Fair to whom?”

“To you,” I was blushing like a heat lamp. “I’m going to need to go home tomorrow to change for the dance.”

“See, if you had a car, that wouldn’t have been an issue.”

“If Stella had taken me home in the first place it wouldn’t have been a problem either; instead she kidnapped me and brought me here.”

“Yes we do a good line in white slavery, but now you know about it we may have to kill you.”

“Can I get my bike back first?”

“Oh all right then.” He smiled at me and my stomach flipped—at the same time I felt sick because once he found out the truth, he’d drop me like a stone. Part of me felt I should be used to it by now; it had happened all my life.

“Don’t get too close to me Simon, I’m bad news,” I said quietly before I got up and ran up to my bedroom and locked the door.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 58

“What did you do?” asked Stella emerging from the lounge.

“I didn’t do anything?” Simon felt guilty even though he knew his conscience was clear.

“If you didn’t do anything, then how come she’s gone screaming up to her room?”

“She didn’t go screaming,” declared Simon firmly.

“What did you do, offer to show her your etchings?”

“Very funny Stella, how come I’m not laughing?”

“I don’t know, but you’re usually a few minutes after the punch line.” Stella put down the Radio Times and asked, “She’s had a very trying day, do you want me to go and talk with her or are you expecting to waste those dance tickets for tomorrow?”

“We pay on the door,” Simon shook his head.

“However you get in, do you want me to go and see if I can repair the damage you’ve done?”

“I didn’t do anything, she just told me I was very kind and that she was bad news.”

“Bad news?” Stella looked puzzled, “She wasn’t going to use you in one of her experiments was she?”

“Stop being frivolous Stella; is there anything about her I should know?”

“You mean apart from the mass murder and the sex change?” Stella threw back at him.

“Very funny, now is there?”

“She’s supposed to be doing a bike race on Sunday, apart from that, how am I supposed to know? I only met her a couple of hours before you did, and I’ve been trying to get her to date you ever since.”

“Your efforts are appreciated Stella, but I can’t understand why she said that about being bad news.”

“Maybe she’s just upset about losing her mum, she went to her funeral today after all.”

“I know all that, I just can’t figure her out.”

“Maybe it’s her period?”

“I suppose, you’re strange enough when you’re having one, maybe she is too.”

“I’m not strange, how dare you?”

“Stella, you are crazy at the best of times; at the worst you are positively barmy.”

“I prefer deranged, as in flower deranging.”

“Members of the jury I rest my case.”

“What?” asked Stella looking around.

“Well it was getting heavy.”

“What was?”

“My case.”

“What the hell are you on about?”

“Who?”

“You, you B.O.B!”

“B.O.B! What’s a B.O.B?”

“Brother of a bitch, why?”

“Did you just invent that?”

“Yes, why?”

“It’s good, yes I like that, BOB, he he.”

“I thought you might; tell me do you fancy Cathy?”

“As I’m neither blind nor celibate, yes of course I do, but then I suspect half the male population of Portsmouth does, the ones who aren’t dead.”

“Do you want a relationship with her?”

“If she wants one too.”

“You know she is very shy?”

“Yes, but that makes her slightly vulnerable and adds to her attractiveness.”

“She is very vulnerable; she is as green as grass when it comes to boys and I don’t want to see her hurt. I suspect she may have a history of abuse.”

“Oh, I see.” Simon shook his head, “Well that could certainly cause her to think she was bad news.”

“I think she mentioned she sees a therapist.”

“Poor kid.”

“Exactly, look you’re going to have to face it, but she may not be interested in sex for a long time if at all.”

“Oh, pity.”

“So does that mean you’re not interested in her anymore?”

“Don’t be stupid Stella, even I’m not that shallow!” Simon tried to sound indignant.

“No you’re at least a metre at the deep end.”

“Very funny, I don’t think.”

“Look, I’ll speak with her in the morning and tell her you’re prepared to wait for her to feel ready, how does that sound?”

“I suppose.”

“Well is it okay or not?”

“Yeah, it’s okay.”

Instead of saying anything, Stella hugged her brother. “Thank you, I’m sure she’ll be worth the investment.”

“I do the financial stuff around here,” Simon hugged his sister, “but on this occasion, I agree with you.”

“You’ve got a real soft spot for her haven’t you?” said Stella quietly as they continued the embrace.

“So have you, why?”

“She’s a bit like a kitten, cuddly and defenceless. I’m just trying to help her grow.”

“What into a cat like you?” Simon felt pleased with his remark having got one back on his sister.

“You bastard,” she said and hit him on the shoulder.

“Ouch! That hurt.”

“It was meant to.”

Oblivious to all this, I was lying asleep on my bed exhausted from the day’s trauma; I hadn’t even undressed or removed my makeup. In my haste to feel safe and escape Simon’s generosity of which I felt unworthy, I had slammed and locked the door and thrown myself on the bed. Then I had howled to myself for a while until fatigue overwhelmed me and I fell asleep.

The first I knew of the morning was that I was still curled up on the bed in my navy suit, it was creased to hell. My neck hurt and I had red wrinkle lines on the one side of my face where the skin had been held against the sleeve of my suit and taken an imprint of the creases.

I looked in the mirror. I had dark rings around my rather bloodshot eyes and my skin looked pasty. My tongue was grey and looked more revolting than usual and my head ached. Despite a full night’s sleep I felt like going back to bed and never waking up again—just sleeping forever. However, I knew that I had to get up and go home and somehow make myself look alive enough to keep my promise to Simon for his dance tonight. I felt more like death than dancing. A fleeting thought of Ravel’s Bolero went through my mind—a dance of death—however, the nearest volcano to Portsmouth would be either Iceland or Italy. Both were a bit too far away to dance to and I wasn’t sure Simon would be too interested in throwing himself into the fire. Come to think of it, neither was I—much too painful. I wondered if there was a Bolero for wimps?

The bedside clock showed it was nearly nine; I had slept about twelve hours, so how could I feel tired? I stripped off and donning the robe on the back of the door, slipped into the bathroom for a pee and a shower.

The warm water refreshed me a little and I cleaned off the makeup as well as my mood. There was a sadness, of course there was—no one would ever fill the void left by my mother’s death—but it felt a little more bearable today. The funeral had provided an element of closure.

I recalled my departure from Simon last night. I wondered what he had made of it. In part, I hoped I had put him off, while the other part of me was feeling more and more for him. Had he offered me the use of a car or had I dreamed it? I was so out of it last night, I could have imagined it.

Walking back to my room, I realised I had no other clothes except the suit, but when I opened the bedroom door, I saw Stella had been clearing out more of her wardrobe and a denim skirt and white top were left on the bed, along with some white panties. I silently offered a prayer to my fairy godmother friend, and got dressed, slipping on the navy courts after combing my hair back off my face.

Downstairs, Stella was eating some toast and reading the paper. “Hi,” she greeted me and I replied in a similar manner. I poured myself some coffee and drank it, allowing the caffeine boost to kick-start my system.

“Where’s Simon?” I asked noticing his absence.

“He’s gone out somewhere.”

“I think I shall either have to tell him or end it with him.” I felt sick saying it but felt it was the only choice open to me.

“Don’t do anything hasty.” Stella gave me a firm but supportive look, “I’ve told him you’re emotionally fragile at the moment and had some difficulties with sex.”

“You did what?” I gasped, horrified at her boldness.

“I told him you’d had a bad experience sexually and it might take some time for you to be able to have a full relationship.”

“What did he say to that?” I was incredulous with Stella’s scheming.

“He’d be sympathetic and supportive.”

“Stella, I can’t lead him on like this, it’s dishonest.”

“No, you have a medical problem, but we can get that sorted eventually.”

“No, I need to tell him.”

“Don’t do it yet. What happens if the relationship falls apart anyway? Do you want to hurt him by letting him know he was dating a boy? He doesn’t need to know yet; let’s find out how it develops and if he falls for you. Obviously you’ll need to tell him then.”

“I don’t know Stella, I don’t like deception.”

“Neither do I, but honestly, I think it’s for the better to leave things as they are and if it falls apart, what his eye didn’t see his heart won’t grieve over.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 59

“I still think I ought to tell him.” I dreaded the idea and was hoping Stella could convince me not to.

“Fine okay, you tell him and maybe we’ll meet sometime, maybe we won’t; you certainly won’t see Simon again, and what will it have proved? That you are honest but stupid.”

I looked at the floor, “But I’m deceiving him.”

“How are you deceiving him?”

“I’m not a proper woman.”

“What’s a proper woman? You look pretty female to me.”

“You know what I mean, down below.”

“Jeez -us, how much longer are you going to go on about that? Look, I just put a freeze on his libido by saying you had problems. He accepted that, because he’s that sort of guy. He’s prepared to wait which means you have a chance to see if the relationship is going to work. If it doesn’t you both remain intact and have a chance to have another; if you tell him he’s going to be devastated and it’s going to hit him hard in the confidence stakes. He may act as if he’s confident, but he isn’t—it’s all bravado. One wrong word from you and he’d collapse like a pack of cards.”

I felt like I was being lectured by a school ma’am, which maybe was what I needed. I certainly didn’t want to hurt Simon nor did I want to lose him—I actually quite liked him. He was gentle and kind, what more could I want? Then my doubts weren’t about him, they were about me.

“All right, you’ve made your point, I’ll keep quiet for a bit longer.”

“You don’t want this relationship to work do you?” Stella just ran straight through my defences.

“I don’t know.”

“You like him too much, don’t you?” Had she just read my mind?

“Maybe,” I tried to act nonchalantly.

“There aren’t any maybes about it, are there?”

“There might be,” I said defensively knowing she had destroyed my side of the argument.

“Look Cathy, I like you and I don’t want to see either of you hurt. What began as almost a prank on my part changed very quickly when I saw the chemistry changing and realised that I liked you. But Simon is my brother and he doesn’t get hurt if I can help it. Is that clear?”

“Yes loud and clear, so before that happens maybe I should just go and not come back.”

“Is that what you want to do?”

“I don’t know what I want to do, except I don’t want to hurt him, all right? I’ve said it; yes I do like him very much.”

“I knew it.”

“Whoopee! So you bloody knew it, can I go now?”

“Go where?”

“Back under the stone from which I crawled.”

“If you do that, what will it achieve?”

“A return to normality for me.”

“What, back to dissertations and no social life?”

“Probably, I don’t care.”

“I don’t believe you. In the past week you have done things you could only have dreamt of before.”

“Only because you pushed me.”

“No, you pushed yourself; I just helped to preserve the momentum. You spoke to your professor, you went to the funeral and faced down your father, you agreed to go out with Simon and it was you who agreed to ride in the bike race thingy tomorrow. You as Cathy, not the invisible Charlie. Do you want to give up all that? If you do then you are more stupid than I thought.”

“I can’t go back can I?”

“Go back to what? To being a misfit boy? No certainly not, nor can you easily go back to being a wallflower. You happen to be one of the prettiest girls in the area—it would be criminal not to share that beauty with others.”

“What do you mean share?”

“Have fun, date boys, be out with girl friends, shine in your department. You said Prof Agnew wanted you to improve the aesthetics of his team, so get out there and get a life.”

“Date boys—wouldn’t that annoy Simon?”

“Not if he’s the boy, but he’s got to do his side of things too, make you want to go out with him rather than other boys.”

“At the moment he seems to think he can buy me.”

“No he doesn’t; if he did, I’d quickly disabuse him of that idea. He is showing you he cares, because he isn’t very good with words or understanding his own emotions, he thinks actions speak louder than words, so he does things he thinks you will either like or get benefit from. I keep trying to tell him, perhaps if we both tell him, he might eventually understand. If he did, that would be a big step forward for him.”

“But if he likes me, why can’t he simply say so?” I felt a bit out of my depth.

“Because he can’t for some reason, so he does things, buys you things, takes you places, gives you flowers. It’s all very adolescent but that is how he is. Have you told him how you feel?”

I found the carpet very interesting at that moment, “Erm no.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m scared of where it could lead.”

“I think he may have a similar feeling.”

“Oh no, this is just going around in circles.”

“Yes, relationships do until someone takes control and gives the other party the opportunity to feel safe enough to take risks as well.”

“Why have I got to take control?”

“It’s usually the woman who takes emotional responsibility.”

“Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned?”

“Not necessarily, it’s usually because men are emotionally constipated, so they need someone to show them it’s safe to let go—which is what women are for.”

“Sounds a bit stereotyped to me.”

“So what, just get on and bloody well do it.”

“How do I start?”

“Cathy, if I have to spell that out to you, you are not ready to do it which means you are more emotionally retarded than our anally retentive Simon.”

“Now hang on a minute, a week ago I was still wearing trousers and calling myself Charlie…”

“Were you? You told me you called yourself Cathy and saw yourself as a female, just waiting to emerge, or was that untrue?”

“No, it’s true.” I blushed and examined the carpet some more.

“I know this is quite new for you and getting the gesture and fine adjustments sorted isn’t easy, but much of what I’m saying comes from inside you anyway—it’s part of being female. Are you trying to tell me you don’t understand any of this?”

I felt a strong sense of doom arising in me. Was Stella telling me that she didn’t think I was female, just playing at it? If she was right, what did that make me? What did it do for the sense of rightness that I had felt for the past week—a feeling that I’d never experienced before. Was it all some ghastly self-delusion? Was I some sort of cross dresser who’d never make the grade?

“I don’t know what I think or feel and all this stuff you’ve raised has made my mind reel. I need to go home and think some of this through. I don’t know what I am anymore; I thought I was female now I just don’t know anymore.” I felt tears run down my face and Stella noticed. She came to me and embraced me.

“Come on girl, you’re as female as I am except in one little place and that can be sorted, and you’re prettier than I am. I don’t mean to lecture you, I want you both to be happy. You’re both important to me.”

“How can I be important to you—surely it’s only Simon you care about?”

“In the past it’s been that way, but with you it feels very different, almost as if you were a younger sister. You haven’t learnt the guile of most women, which is both worrying and refreshing but it makes you vulnerable.” She paused and we hugged each other for a few moments.

“Come on, have something to eat and I’ll take you home.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 60 (that’s like 5 dozen!)

Something finally happens, I think, you’d better see for yourself.

I was sat in my room, Stella had dropped me off with another bag load of her cast offs. By the time I’d hung them all in my wardrobe, I realised that I probably had as good a set of togs as most girls or women of my age. I needed a few more bras and pants, maybe even another pair of shoes but on the whole I had plenty of stuff. I told this to Stella, who shrugged and said, “You can’t have too many clothes, but if you get fed up with them send them to the charity shop.”

I had been planning on her helping me with my makeup and hair for this evening, but it transpired she was going out herself, so I would be left to my own devices. “You’re very lucky you can get away without any and still look good, so don’t overdo it. Bear in mind that it is a dance and if you get into the spirit of it, you’ll get all hot and sweaty and your makeup will get the same. So less is more and besides Simon thinks you’re beautiful anyway. Have a good time.”

“I don’t know if I can do this on my own,” I whimpered.

“Which bit?” she asked looking at her watch.

“All of it, can’t you come too?”

“Don’t be silly, it’s a date, you don’t want me there acting like a gooseberry.”

“Yes I do,” I said nodding for emphasis.

“Tough little sister, I have a life too and have a date of my own.”

“Who is he?” I asked trying to prolong her stay.

“Nobody you know, so further interrogation is pointless, besides I have to go.” With that, she left.

I got out the skirt and top I was going to wear and the boots. Not exactly my choice of clothing but it would have to do and I suppose I was showing willing. I pondered my makeup and my hair. I’d never been to anything like this before and if I had my way, wouldn’t again.

What do women wear to these stupid things? I mean cowgirl types, what do they wear? Probably smelly old jeans and checked shirts with hats and gloves. They’d also smell like their mounts—horsey and horrible.

At least bicycles didn’t smell much except for the lubricants, and those were used sparingly or you get oily legs and have to wipe the excess from all sorts of inaccessible places on your bike. You learn quickly when it causes you extra work.

I did think about getting some ribbons and going with my hair in pigtails, but I’d probably look like some sort of ageing schoolgirl. Not quite the image I wanted to project. In the end I jumped on the mountain bike and went into town and bought a cowgirl hat and scarf. I declined the offer of a six-gun unless it was real and loaded to shoot anyone who thought I looked as daft as I felt.

Country music wasn’t my scene at all; some rock or jazz, even some classical but country, yuck. Okay, I know some people like it, but I’m not responsible for them. I had a snack in town and cycled home.

It’s funny but since I ran them over, Mork and Mindy haven’t been around when I was cycling. Coincidence or what? I felt empowered by that thought although I knew they were still being arseholes in knocking my door at night and things, so I’d merely won the first round, there would likely be subsequent ones. I patted my MTB as I carried her up the stairs—she was my warhorse.

I placed her alongside the Litespeed, the thoroughbred and the carthorse side by side. “Horses for courses,” I said out loud, then blushed hoping no one could hear me talking to my bikes.

I took a leisurely shower and cleaned up the few hairs on my legs and armpits. My nipples were standing proud as I towelled myself dry and I marvelled at how taking regular doses of pregnant horse pee had caused them to grow from boy breasts. It had also caused the small appendage I wished wasn’t there, to shrivel up to nearly nothing. One day I hoped things would be rectified, but for now, a good pair of pants held the inert piece of flesh out of the way.

I had thought about gluing it out of the way—a place on the internet showed you what to do, but with my luck I’d end up weeing up my own backside or something, or sticking my legs together. So I didn’t bother. Going out on the date, I perhaps wished I’d got some super glue, then I shuddered at the thought.

I dressed and used the pads in my bra. So I was a bit small, but they were otherwise perfect and if Simon got randy, I’d maybe let him have a play with my tits. Then I shuddered again—that could be asking for trouble—give ’em an inch and they take a mile. I could almost hear my mother saying it. She was referring to a girl who lived down the road and who was developing a certain reputation, much to Mum’s disapproval.

I did a light makeup: mascara and eyeliner with lipstick. My hair I did with heated rollers to give it a bit of a curl and it looked okay under the stupid hat. Finally, I gave several squirts of perfume in all my interesting places and some boring ones for good measure. I’d smell okay even if I got a bit sweaty, although I couldn’t see that happening. Two left feet, that’s me. I would warn Simon and if he knew what was good for him, he’d let me sit most of it out.

He arrived spot on time. I was going to say dead on time but then you’d think I’d shot him. All I can say in my defence is that he was alive when we left my room for this barn dance.

He made a fuss of me, gave me a bunch of flowers and a peck on the cheek and we were off. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt; there was a Stetson hat in the car. He wasn’t wearing cowboy boots and I grumbled at him.

“Look Cathy, it’s okay for you girls, you’re used to wearing heels, I’m not and besides I did try on a pair and they are so damned uncomfortable they make riding a horse seem a positive boon. No wonder Clint Eastwood goes around shooting people; his feet are probably killing him.”

I had to admit I was more used to wearing heels than he was; I’d worn them for pretty well a whole week now! Goodness how time flies when you’re shitting yourself!

We chatted on the drive to the barn, which was actually very well presented. It had been decorated with sheaves of corn and straw bales; corn dollies and flowers were placed here and there and the lighting was sufficient to see without being intrusive. There was a bar at one end and a makeshift stage at the other upon which an assortment of musicians were seated or stood. The music was far more pleasant than I had imagined and no one was insisting that I, “Stand by my man.” So far so good.

I opted for a glass of lager and waited while Simon queued to get it. Some things were certainly better as a woman. While I was waiting, I sussed out the toilets: they seemed okay—I was half expecting portaloos, the sort of things you get at pop festivals. Satisfied with my recce, I got us a table and Simon brought the drinks over.

Much of the music was quite fast in tempo and the fiddler earned his money. We watched the dancing and I was fascinated at how the caller managed to keep his mind on all the steps of the different dances. Everyone dancing seemed to be having fun, so when Simon suggested we have a go, I succumbed.

Normally, I have difficulty remembering which is right and left, especially with directions. Getting lost is a speciality of mine, so I was fearful as we approached the dance floor. Thankfully, we began with a simple set of steps and the caller gave me some confidence. Much to my disgust, I was beginning to have fun. So was Simon and he kept me on the dance floor for nearly an hour. We returned to our seats breathless and sweaty but giggling like two school kids.

“Glad you came?” asked Simon after taking a long draught of his beer.

“Not sure, but I think I’m glad you brought me.” I leant over and kissed him on the cheek, “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he said looking so pleased with himself that I thought he would explode with delight.

We danced for another session of about an hour and rested some more. My feet were feeling the effect of dancing in heels: it wasn’t very comfortable. But after a drink, we were back on the floor again until the caller told us it was all over. I felt a genuine regret even if the soles of my feet were so sore I could hardly walk on them. Simon spotted me limping and practically carried me back to our table. I finished my drink and hobbled to the toilets whereupon Simon did carry me back to the car.

I pulled off the boots in the car expecting them to be blistered. They weren’t, they were just red. From somewhere, probably the car’s first aid kit, Simon produced a tube of antiseptic and gave me a foot massage. A week ago, I’d have been horrified at the thought. Now it was so relaxing, I could have gone to sleep except I was so awake and excited that I was thinking impure thoughts!

I managed to get him to stop on the pretext that I had to get home to rest before the bike race. Reluctantly, he accepted my plea and took me home.

“Thank you for a lovely evening and super foot massage.” I kissed him on the cheek, then when he turned his face to me, on his lips. He kissed me back and I kissed him back, and he kissed me and I kissed him and the car got quite steamed up. But all we did was kiss.

Eventually, I decided I needed to go to bed. The euphoria of the endorphins or whatever was wearing off and I felt quite tired. I kissed him goodnight and promising to call him, I let myself in through the communal front door. My mind was on other things so I didn’t see the hand slam the door shut nor the other one that grabbed me and spun me around.

“Well, well, judging by the way those windows steamed up, you are one hot little pussy.”

“Fuck off, Mac.” My insults are always inventive.

“I intend to with some help from you sweetie.”

He grabbed my wrist and twisted it, pulling me towards him, his intention being to kiss me. Instead, I pulled my head back and head butted him on the bridge of his newly healed nose. He screamed and blood appeared running down his face. His sidekick I grabbed by his hair, and swung him into his injured friend. I pulled open the door and ran into the street, my heart beating as I raced along the pavement, the two attackers now in pursuit and calling abuse at me.

I rounded the corner and gasped. Simon was wiping the windows of his car: he saw me running and dropped the cloth he had and raced towards me. I flung my hands around his neck and he hugged me, asking what the problem was and then he saw for himself. He pushed me behind him and told me to sit in the car.

Then he went towards the two. Big Mac is big, mind you Simon isn’t small. They clashed like two wrestlers, Simon flew at Mac and was doing all right until Mac’s little buddy intervened and hit Simon from behind. That was it; I saw red and jumped on his back, my fingers scratching his face as I grabbed him. He went down with me on top of him and I remember bashing his head against the pavement a few times until someone pulled me off. I was crying and angry at the same time.

It was Simon. Big Mac now had a black eye to go with his broken nose and was retreating, picking up his little buddy who was having difficulty standing—his face was bleeding and he had a massive bruise on his forehead.

“If ever you go near Cathy again, I shall really hurt you,” spat Simon and put his arm around me. We watched them withdraw and he hugged me. “Are you okay?”

I nodded, “I am now. My hero,” I sighed then began to bawl.

“Me, I reckon if I hadn’t pulled you off that other guy, you’d be doing time for manslaughter.”

“He hit you,” I sobbed, “an’ I saw red. Two ’gainst one isn’t fair!”

“Remind me not to upset you girl, you’re the best backup I’ve ever had in a scrap.”

“Does this happen often, then?” I said sobbing and hiccupping.

“Last time I was in junior school, why?”

“Oh great,” I said and we both laughed.

“Come back to the cottage tonight.”

“I can’t, I have a bike race in the morning,” I glanced at my watch: it was one o’clock.

He saw me up to my room, “I’ll come and get you in time for your race.”

“You don’t have too,” I said, secretly hoping he’d ignore me.

“I know, but I want to see you ride anyway.”

“Okay, but don’t expect anything too much, I’m like a wounded slug.”

He laughed and then he kissed me again and again…

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 61

No animals or cyclists were killed or injured
in the writing of this story.

My sleep following the attack was poor to say the least, or it was to start with. I awoke about nine thirty, suddenly remembering that Simon was due in half an hour. I switched on the kettle and jumped in the shower, then threw on the racing skins plus my uni sweatshirt.

I noticed that my knuckles were grazed and I had broken a couple of nails. I worked out that my back up to Simon had been the principal cause, and I’d obviously caught my hands on the pavement when trying to beat Big Mac’s sidekick to death. I would have to watch my temper in future. Just thinking about it got my heart racing, so I made some tea and ate my cornflakes.

Simon arrived just after ten; he had a bruise on his cheek, which I kissed better for him. It made him smile anyway. He carried my bike down and shoved it on a bike rack on his Volvo.

“I didn’t know you had a bike rack,” I said in surprise.

“I don’t, but a good friend does. I borrowed it.” He loaded the bike and we drove out to the start area, which was near the university sports centre.

“You didn’t bring a change of clothes then?” he asked.

“Nah, I was going to ride home to sort of unwind.” I hadn’t thought of a change of clothes, I could hardly use the showers anyway. “I prefer to shower at home, I got athletes foot in communal showers, so I avoid them.”

“Oh, okay,” he seemed to accept my reasoning then asked, “How about coming for some lunch after?”

“I erm, erm, okay.” I couldn’t think of a valid reason for saying no.

“Good, I made a booking just in case.” He smiled and I poked my tongue out at him.

We arrived and much to my surprise Stella was waiting with some weedy looking bloke. “Who’s the bloke with Stella?” I asked Simon as we unloaded the Litespeed.

“John somebody or other, he’s a doctor at her hospital. He works under her.” I giggled at the double entendre. “No he reports to her.”

“I thought she was a nurse?” I said looking incredulous.

“She is but a special one.”

“Well yes I know she’s special,” I smiled.

“She’s a nurse specialist in urology, didn’t you know?”

“What?”

“Urology, you know she plays about with prostates and bladders and things.”

“Wow, I knew she was clever, but…”

“Yeah, she takes the piss professionally.” He smirked as he said it and I nearly wet myself.

Stella spotted us and came over to give me a hug, “I heard about last night, are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Pity I wasn’t there, I could have done with a workout.”

“Kicking them to death might be construed as criminal,” I offered.

She threw a kick at me which she pulled inches from my face. I stepped back shocked at the speed of it. “Maybe you’re right,” she said and hugged me again. “So where is the best place to watch my ‘little sister’ win a bike race?”

“What me? You’re joking, I’ll be lucky to stay with the fitter riders for half the race, let alone win it.”

“You are so modest, anyway come and meet John.” She introduced me to him and after talking with him for a few minutes, he didn’t seem to be so wet. Simon arrived with the bike and I mounted it and rode it around for a few minutes. I felt stiff and sore almost everywhere from the dancing and fighting—I hope the ride would reduce some of that, but I wasn’t at all confident.

Jill emerged with Amy and three other women. “We’re still one short and may have to use Amy.” At this, Amy winced, but she was aware of her limitations. Not that I had anything to brag about.

About ten minutes later Ann Sommers arrived. She waved at Jill who sighed with relief, “Now we have a chance of redeeming some pride.”

“Isn’t that cheating?” I asked.

“Not at all, she teaches on the nursing courses. All’s fair in love and bike racing.”

“Hi Cathy, so you’ve got dragged into this as well?” said Ann arriving at our group.

“Looks like,” I answered smiling back at her.

“Hi Stella, John,” she waved, “Hi Simon.” She looked at me and said, “It was that Simon then,” she winked at me.

“I didn’t say it wasn’t, and he saved my life last night.” I related the story of the attack, only in my account he drove them both off.

“Wow, maybe you’ve managed to pull him out of his banker’s shell.”

“I don’t think I did anything,” I replied as we did some warm up sprints.

“Can’t think of anyone who went out twice with him, so you’re special to start with.” Before I could reply, she shot off at twice my speed and then we were called to the start.

It was an unofficial race, a sort of team time trial, where the first six members of each team counted. So in other words, the first team with six riders home, won.

We had the route outlined and we were assured there were marshals at any controversial points who would direct us. As we were riding on roads, we had to obey the traffic laws and safety was the priority, so not to take any risks.

Then we were off. It was all new to me so I got left a bit at the start and had to ride harder than I’d wanted to get up the field a little. I didn’t want to be last at any rate.

After a few miles and two steepish hills, the field was beginning to spread out and sadly I was towards the rear. I hadn’t realised how good some of these women were. Amy was way behind me, as were a few from Southampton, but they had about twelve riding for them as opposed to our eight—another had turned up just as we started.

I had tried to count where I was with regard to placings, but breathing and counting were too hard. The race was sixty kilometres and my computer told me we were about halfway through; we were also looping back towards Portsmouth.

Then I saw Stella and Simon standing with John, “Come on girl, you’re lying thirteenth,” Simon’s voice carried over my grunting and puffing.

Thirteenth? Bugger, that’s no good, I need to make up two more places to count towards the race. At least the stiffness had gone and my movement was easier. I upped my pace a bit and after about ten minutes spotted three of the enemy in front of me. Two more minutes and they were within attacking distance.

I actually passed them on a roundabout; not the wisest thing to do, but there was a copper stopping the traffic as we came up to it. They had slowed, I didn’t. If my maths was correct, I was now in ninth position and still going well. My effort was going to help the cause although I suspected there were more of them ahead of me than our lot.

With ten kilometres to go, I caught and passed one of ours although I tried to encourage her to keep up she was fading. I was in eighth place if my count was right.

I could see two more of the enemy ahead, but no matter how hard I tried the distance stayed the same. Or it seemed that way. The last two kilometres included a bit of hill, a long drag of about half a kilometre. I knew it well. I also knew of the downhill the other side and the sharp bend at the bottom. I redoubled my efforts.

I don’t know if I was stronger from my training or they were weakening but I began to catch them. I was watching my cadence—it was about ninety. I was almost level when we crested the hill; they hadn’t seen me at all and I passed them on the downhill, pedalling like fury down the middle of the road touching speeds of about fifty miles an hour.

I knew there was likely to be a parked car on the bend and I wasn’t disappointed—there it was and having the better position, I carried on—they had to brake and pull out. I was now in sixth place or thereabouts. I considered we’d still lose but at least we’d given them a fight.

In the last kilometre, I caught another one and I knew I had her. Some long time ago, I remembered talking with an experienced racer, who had told me that when they get tired they up their gears because they don’t have to pedal so fast. As I came up behind this opponent, she clicked up and tried to pull away, I kept up my spinning and forced her to sprint harder, then a couple of hundred metres out, I also clicked up and stood on my pedals. I won the sprint by about a couple of metres.

When I managed to stop gasping for breath, Jill and Ann came to congratulate me. I had made fifth place, beating two regional riders in the process.

We did lose, but only by a handful of points. We had first, third and fifth then ninth, eleventh and twelfth. It seemed everyone was happy—Southampton because they won and Portsmouth, because they came a closer second than last year.

“If you don’t join the bike club, I’m going to shoot you,” said Jill. “You’re pretty good but you could be better.”

“I doubt it, that was the fastest ride I have ever done and I suspect it was a one-off.”

“Nonsense, there’s always room for improvement.”

“You did better than you have on our rides Cathy; maybe Simon is good for you,” Ann winked as she said it.

“Our rides?” I gasped, “we’ve met a couple or three times and we weren’t training as far as I knew.”

“We will be in future,” smiled back Ann.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 62

by Angharad & Bonzi Cat

It’s all in the timing and Cathy’s watch is slow!

Simon, Stella and John arrived back at the sports centre. Simon wanted to run me home but I felt I needed some time to myself. The idea of the car ride was so tempting as my legs began to ache and stiffen from their recent effort, it was like doing two training runs at the same time. I don’t think I’d ever ridden so fast for so far, but it was quite enjoyable to think I’d beaten a couple of riders who would normally be regarded as better than I was.

I drank my isotonic drink and agreeing that Simon could collect me in an hour, trundled home to warm down. I noticed the Volvo was around as I got home, so I reckoned he was keeping an eye out for either of the two morons who jumped me last night. Fortunately, they didn’t show up. The shower was bliss but knowing how limited the time was, I aborted it and dried myself and then my hair.

As the weather was turning cooler, I opted for the denim skirt with my boots, a white long sleeved top and my denim jacket. If I’d put on the cowboy hat, I could have gone to another barn dance. Some minimal makeup and a squirt of smellies and I was ready. I checked my watch and I had exactly one minute to wait before Simon knocked on the door.

“Hi, Supergirl,” he said smiling at me.

“Erm,” was my intelligent response, followed by more excellent dialogue, “erm, why did you call me that?” I blushed for good measure as I said it.

“Someone who could jump eight places between us seeing them and finishing the race must have superhuman powers.”

“Yeah, I decided to fly over the top of them until I got stuck in a telephone wire and by the time I freed myself, four of them had already finished.”

“Gosh, Supergirl, I’d have thought you’d have melted the cable with your infrared vision.”

“Nah, my sunglasses stopped it working.”

“You certainly flew onto that chap’s back last night.”

“You didn’t do so bad yourself Batman.”

“Holy chronometers Supergirl, we need to get to the Batmobile quickly or we’ll be too late to eat the batfeast.”

“Bat feast,” I repeated, “that means one of two things, either it’s a plate of luscious insects or a meal made of bats. Either way, yuck!”

“Go on, don’t knock until you’ve tried it.” Simon smirked, then looped his arm through mine and half carried me down the stairs; I barely had time to grab my bag and keys before we were out of the building and in the Volvo.

Waiting for us at the pub was Stella; John was apparently on call and had been bleeped to go to the hospital. She looked a bit fed up so I tried to cheer her up with a few jokes. I was never too good at telling jokes, and today I was worse than ever. However, both she and Simon were laughing uproariously, not because the jokes were funny, but my technique was so bad they were laughing at that.

“You know, only a real comedienne can make weak jokes so funny, like Tommy Cooper was an expert magician, he needed to be to make his tricks work with all the fooling around and Les Dawson was quite a good pianist to be able to play off key like he did. So I suggest Cathy is probably a superb joke teller and raconteur.”

“Me?” I squeaked, my voice shrivelled by embarrassment. I tried to explain that this wasn’t rehearsed, it was real. I really was that bad, forgetting punch lines and half the characters: was it a Scotsman, an Irishman and an Englishman, or was he Welsh or French? I couldn’t remember and sadly it did make a difference to the story. So, then I’d have to make corrections and Simon would practically be rolling on the floor. I still didn’t know what was so funny.

“Did you hear about the English kamikaze pilot?” I asked then remembered that was wrong. “Hang on, I think it might have an Irish one. Yes, that’s it, did you hear about the Irish kamikaze pilot?” With tears in their eyes they shook their heads for no. “He flew a hundred missionaries, no, I mean trips, you know missions.” At this point Simon collapsed on the floor and I wondered if I might have to do CPR. I had to admit the idea was more attractive than a week ago. He recovered and roared with laughter again.

By now of course, I had a half the pub listening to me, with some hushing new comers who arrived talking. I hadn’t realised how many were listening and thought I’d better shut up. So I did.

“Come on tell us another,” someone called from behind me. “Baz, have you thought of hiring her as a regular comedy spot?” called another. I began to wonder what I had started. It certainly wasn’t what I had intended.

“Come on, one more,” the voice sounded insistent and almost familiar. I thought about turning around to see, but then that would be even more daunting.

“There was a girl who went back to the shop to complain about her scarf. I think she may have been fair-haired, no she was blonde. Yeah, she was blonde right, and the woman in the shop asked what was wrong with it, so she said it didn’t fit or something.” I paused, unable to think what the punch line was. “Oh yeah, she said it was too tight, that’s right she took it back because it didn’t, no it was too tight.”

“Did they give you your money back?” called some wag from the back and Simon nearly choked on his beer.

Despite my first and last attempt as a stand-up comedian, I enjoyed my lunch. The bike race had primed my appetite and I was quite happily able to see off a roast lamb dinner with all the trimmings. All I needed then was somewhere warm and dark to curl up and go to sleep.

“I’m off to do some ironing,” declared Stella. Simon looked surprised and I must admit, I assumed she threw things out when they got to that stage, or gave them to me. She hugged us both and departed.

“I can’t remember the last time Stella ironed anything—I think it was the budgie and she was about five years old.”

“Not like the bloke who broke his window, no he broke his arm. That’s right, he broke his arm ironing his window ’cos the curtains were open. No, he broke his arm ironing his curtains, he fell out the window.” The bloke on the next table laughed more loudly than Simon and I felt myself go bright red. I never seemed to learn to stop when I was ahead.

“What would you like to do now?” asked Simon his eyes boring through my body.

“I don’t know,” I replied yawning.

“Am I keeping you up?”

“Nooooooooooooooooooo,” I yawned again. “Sorry,” I said yawning a third time.

“How about a nice walk?” and that was how we ended up walking around the old harbour not far from HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship.

We strolled arm-in-arm and chatting about all sorts of things, none of them important, then Simon said, “You know, I’ve never known a girl like you before.”

‘I’ll bet,’ I thought to myself. “Why do you say that?” I asked instead.

“You’re the first one who has actually agreed to come out more than once with me.”

“So, what does that prove?”

“I’m not sure, maybe we’re more compatible than the others?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said without thinking at all.

“Oh?” he said, “So what did you think then?”

“I was simply going to say, that the others may have been the losers. If they had tried a bit longer, they might have seen what a nice guy you are.”

I blushed and looked at him: he was blushing too. I stopped him, and putting my arms around him whispered, “Kiss me.” He didn’t need to be asked twice.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 63

by Bonzi Cat & Angharad

More kisses and self-exploration with a little help from Abba.

Simon took me home and after escorting me up to my room and kissing me goodbye, left. I shut my door and leant against it, I was walking on air and my head felt somewhere else. It was wonderful, an amazing warm feeling that I had never experienced before.

Convention had led me to believe that I would fall in love with a girl, marry her and raise a family. It looked as if I would be decidedly unconventional, or was I? When I looked at things, they were actually very conventional, except that I was the girl, or would be when I could organise it.

I closed my eyes and could feel Simon’s lips on mine, a sensation I never wanted to end, it was so lovely. I thought about the kiss from the lad from the garage, and although something physiological had happened—I’d ejaculated—nothing like that happened with Simon.

I made a cuppa and sat down, trying to work things out. I was falling for Simon big time—that I could recognise—but did I fancy him sexually? I didn’t know.

I tried to imagine being in bed with him; him playing with my body and then taking me—there was no enthusiasm, why? Surely if you love someone you fancy them, or did you? I had no idea, this was the first time I had been in love and it felt wonderful but rather scary.

I wondered who I could ask; really there was no one except perhaps Dr Thomas, and I wasn’t sure I wanted her to know I was seeing a bloke. It would probably be all right, but I wasn’t sure—maybe she’d say I was gay or the opposite, that the reason I didn’t fancy him was because I wasn’t gay. That would imply I was still a boy myself, which I would refute. I may have male genitals but that’s as far as it goes.

So what did that make me? I didn’t know. Did I fancy Stella? No way, she frightened me to death and although I liked her, it wasn’t in the biblical sense. Oh boy, was I reverting to my asexual norm? If so Simon could be in for a long wait, even if I had surgery.

I wondered what Garage Boy had that Simon didn’t, and I recollected the way he’d stolen the kiss and I’d had an orgasm. My body was buzzing again and suddenly, it happened again, I came in my pants. I felt myself blush and this wasn’t some sort of post-orgasmic suffusion, it was embarrassment. How could Garage Boy excite me and Simon didn’t? I was obviously a basket case.

I looked at the clock and realised it was nearly one in the morning; I had sat nursing an empty mug for over three hours and was still none the wiser. I needed to see Dr Thomas, but then I’d have to tell her and I wasn’t at all sure about it, but before that, I thought I’d better have a little wash and change my pants.

The night was a torment of strange dreams which I presumed were linked to my current dilemma. In lots of ways, it seemed bizarre that I had only spent a week in my female role and was already being torn over questions about boys.

In one of the stranger dreams I was in a club dancing with Simon to something by Abba, ‘Dancing Queen’ I think. We seemed to be happy enough and I was shaking it all about for him, then Garage Boy cut in and began to smooch with me. His kisses were addictive and he began to almost make love to me on the dance floor. I shut my eyes and kissed him back, suddenly I had the most intense orgasm and my whole body shuddered and I screamed in ecstasy. It woke me up and when I went to the bathroom, I found a little wet patch in my pants again. It was three in the morning and I was sat on the toilet crying my eyes out.

I made myself some more tea when I managed to pull myself together and to feel less lonely I switched the radio on, the song ‘Name of the game’ by Abba was on. I knew it well from my earlier student days, Abba was a favourite with the disco DJs and good for dancing to, it also had a timeless quality about it. I knew the song roughly but had never really listened to the words before. Now as I sipped my tea I seemed more receptive than usual.

‘I’ve seen you twice
in a short time
only a week since we started
it seems to me
for every time
I’m getting more open hearted.’

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as the first verse seemed to sum up my situation. The second verse seemed apposite too as I had considered myself ‘an impossible case no one could ever reach me.’ Then, ‘I’m a bashful child beginning to grow.’

‘I have no friends
no one to see me
and I am never invited
now I am here
talking to you
no wonder I get excited.’

I could see myself walking around the harbour with Simon and burst into tears again.

My first priority tomorrow was to get whatever CD the Abba track was on. I needed to explore these feelings that somehow the music and the dilemma seemed to be unlocking inside me. After so many years of being a shadow of myself, I seemed to be beginning to live and while it frightened me, it also excited me and that was an entirely new sensation.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 64

When I went back about four, I slept solidly until about ten. The radio was still on and the music was much more contemporary and not to my liking, so I switched it off. I showered and made some tea.

Dressed in jeans and flat shoes, denim jacket and tee shirt I set off in pursuit of the Abba album that had the song I’d heard last night. I hadn’t remembered the name of it, so I would have to research it. These days I bought CDs over the internet: they were usually cheaper but today I had to have this album if I could find it. I went to the HMV shop and found they had several Abba albums. I glanced at the names of the tracks and it could have been any one of several.

One or two I could recall because they were so well known, Waterloo, Money Money Money, Fernando and several others. To some extent they all sounded similar, you can tell an Abba track even if you have never heard it before.

I opened the case of ‘Abba—number ones’ and found the list of songs with the lyrics. I felt that I might just find it. Then after the third page of words, I wasn’t so sure. By page five I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever find them. Then on page eight, there they were and the title of the song, ‘The Name Of The Game.’

Half an hour later I was standing in my room and slotting the disc into my CD player even before I shut the door of my room. Most of the day I sat about playing with my dissertation and listening to the CD. After a little while I began to know which song was coming next but I couldn’t stop listening to it.

I didn’t hear my phone ring so when I happened to pick it up I was surprised to have a voicemail from Prof Agnew, asking me to let him see the draft of my dissertation by Friday. Bugger! Now I had to get some work done. I turned down Abba and began to read the existing draft on the computer. I found a couple of typos, including ‘doormice’ and ‘mammels’ so I was obviously concentrating to some extent.

I added a paragraph to the conclusions mainly of my concerns about the continued existence of a number of small mammals, especially harvest mice and dormice due to the increasing mechanisation of farming and destruction of habitat. The effects of global warming were inconclusive but could prove to be a factor if temperatures rose and crops changed.

I rose to make a well-earned cuppa only to realise it was nearly dark and I had been at my task for about six hours. My tummy rumbled and I recognised its need for some food. I drank my tea and checked out the fridge: I had some remnants of a salad. I needed to pop across to the shop.

In the shop I bought a couple of big potatoes and a tin of tuna. I decided I’d have a favourite, tuna jacket potato. I handed my purchases to the owner.

“Did you go to the funeral?” he asked.

“Yes, I did, you were right. I’m now talking to Daddy again.” Where did that come from, I haven’t called him that since I was about eight.

“I am so glad,” he beamed back at me, “and how is your brother?”

“Erm,” I had almost forgotten about the yarn I’d spun the first time he met Cathy. “He’s getting there, I suppose.”

“Did he also attend your mother’s funeral?”

“Oh yeah, just a bit disabled.” I couldn’t remember if I’d said he’d broken an arm or a leg or both so I kept quiet about anything further that could give me away.

“Do you need more milk? You don’t seem to have bought any for several days.”

“Oh that’s a point, I probably do, thanks for that,” for changing the topic I added silently.

I was walking back to my room when I encountered Big Mac on the stairs. I don’t know which of us was the more frightened as we both froze. He was standing a step above me and with his extra height he towered over me. I swallowed and glaring at him I pushed past him and to my door. My hand was shaking so much I couldn’t get my key into the door but I felt a wave of relief as his rapid footsteps down the stairs faded as he got further from me.

I got in and after dumping my purchases on the table, I sat on my bed and wept, my body shaking with emotion. I think I must have dozed off because I heard my phone ringing in the distance. By the time I found it, the caller had rung off and I had to call my voicemail. It was Simon, I nearly cried with relief.

“Hi Cathy, how are you my sweet? Well, I hope. Look I have some bad news.” My stomach churned. “I have to stay in town for a couple or three days, visiting VIPs from Europe and the States, so I have to earn my brownie points and entertain them. It is so boring, eating too much, drinking far too much, going to the theatre or other events. I wish I was taking you to a concert or even to the cinema. Stella is about some of the time, when she isn’t piss taking; if you get lonely give her a bell. I’ll give you a ring as soon as I get back. Take care sweetie-pie.”

I felt sad; my week was going to be empty. It was true that I had to finish the draft of my dissertation but that was nearly complete and I could conclude that by tomorrow evening. I wanted to get some more rides in before the weather turned too cold or wet. I was by inclination a fair weather cyclist, not one of these real enthusiasts who turn out in all weathers. It probably explained why they were fitter and faster than I was. Some bike rides would be in order I had the time for the next couple of days, although it would depend upon the weather.

It was too late to make myself much to eat, so I chucked all the food in the fridge and made some toast and another cuppa. I went to bed and tried to read. Even Dan Brown couldn’t get my attention and I called it a night at about midnight. I was tired and twitchy but not sleepy and I tossed and turned until nearly three o’clock when I must have drifted off.

I dreamed I was in London with Simon. He helped me out of the cab and I stepped onto the pavement, my long dress needing to be held off the ground until we got onto the carpet. Simon looked so attractive in his dinner suit; we were so lucky to get invited to the premiere of this film and meet one or two of the stars involved in it.

The cameras flashed and I smiled politely as I held onto his arm in near terror and as a help to walking in the heels I was wearing, which were quite ridiculous. We climbed the steps into the cinema and were introduced to others waiting in the foyer.

While we were waiting to be shown to our seats, I felt someone’s eyes boring into the back of me and someone just to the side of me saying, “Yes, she’s quite convincing until you get up close then you can see she used to be a man.”

I woke up feeling sick and sweating. Would I never be free of my past? Are we ever free of it? Even if others don’t know, we do, so do we delude ourselves?

I got up and made myself some tea then after drinking it I felt sick and had to rush to the toilet. I brought up my cuppa and my toast and after a drink of water went back to bed, feeling cold and shivery. Was it wind in my stomach; had I caught some sort of bug or what? I went back to bed and was soon asleep.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 65

by Angharad (series editor Bonzi Cat)

More vomit and tears! (That’ll teach you to ask!)

I spent most of the night either asleep or shivering—that was when the stomach cramps weren’t too active, and I was sick again. It was a memorable night; I hadn’t been ill like this since… I don’t know when. It was like I was drunk—my head spun faster than a CD in a player and I felt so ill. I awoke at about ten and crawled to the bathroom. It was just as well I sat on the loo these days, because I’d have fallen over trying to stand up. I grabbed a glass of water and my phone and went back to bed.

I sent a text to Stella, advising her that I was ill but as I didn’t know what it was, to keep away in case she caught it. After that and drinking the water, I felt exhausted and drifted off to sleep. Sometime later, I awoke to the sound of my phone ringing. It was Stella.

“How are you doing?”

“Terrible.”

“What’s the problem?”

“Dunno, sick and shivery earlier, now I feel hot and sweaty.”

“Got any paracetamol?”

“Can’t take them after…” I didn’t know if she knew of my suicide attempt, so I kept quiet.

“After what?”

“I had a liver problem, they told me not to take them.”

“Oh,” it sounded as if she was questioning what I’d said, which I suppose as a nurse she might. “So you can’t take them at all?”

“Nah, I’m allergic or something,” I lied and blushed making myself feel even hotter.

“That’s very unusual,” she didn’t sound convinced.

“That’s me.” I wished I had kept completely quiet.

“Egomaniac,” she chirped, she was probably right.

“Can I get you anything?”

“A new body, this one feels shot.”

“Ha ha, do you need any food or drink?”

“Not really, I got everything last night.”

“Flat Coke is good for dehydration, it’s pretty well isotonic.”

“Yeah, it’s bad enough to drink when it’s fizzy. When it’s flat it’s ’orrible.”

“Suit yourself. Just make sure you drink plenty.”

“I will, water seems to be staying down for the moment.”

“Oh good. Look I have to go and do a clinic; I’ll ring a bit later.”

“Thanks.” I felt glad that someone knew I was at death’s door, at least that way they would find the body before the flies got too numerous.

I slept some more and awoke about five feeling very thirsty and my stomach was rumbling like a thunderstorm. I made a milky coffee in the microwave and drank it. It wasn’t my favourite drink but it would give me some nourishment and enable me to see how sensitive my tummy was to the idea of food.

My temperature seemed to be near normal and I was sitting about in my nightdress, a tee shirt thing with a picture of a panda on the front. I had just sipped the first mouthful of my coffee when the door was knocked. I nearly dropped the cup in my lap.

The knock was repeated, rat-tat-tat. I put the cup down and edged towards the door. If it was Big Mac and friends, I was in no position to do anything but try and survive the siege. It couldn’t be Simon, he was in London and I’d told Stella to keep away, so who could it be?

I was now stood behind the door and I didn’t know which was pounding the hardest, my heart or my head. I felt awful. The door was knocked again and I nearly jumped out of my body.

“Come on Cathy, open up!” followed by another rat-tat-tat. The voice was female and had to be Stella’s.

I drew open the door, “Keep away, I don’t know if it’s contagious,” I sort of half-spoke and half-croaked.

“Good, I could do with a few days off, maybe they’d miss me then,” Stella declared as she breezed into my room with a huge bunch of flowers and large bottle of the leading brand of cola. “I’d have brought you some fruit but I didn’t know if it would make you sick. How are you?”

“Better than I was,” I sat down before I fell over. Picking up my coffee, I took a small sip.

“Good, now make sure you drink plenty and this is the stuff.”

“Yeah okay,” I groaned.

She felt my head, “You don’t have a temperature. So what is it, food poisoning?”

“I don’t know.”

“God, you don’t like Abba do you?”

“Yeah, what’s wrong with that?”

“Oh my giddy aunt, did you know that Simon is a closet Abba fan.”

“No I didn’t.” I was surprised at this revelation.

“This CD looks pretty new. You sure you didn’t know?”

“No I didn’t. I bought that yesterday; I heard one of the tracks on the radio and couldn’t get it out of my head.”

“So saturation therapy, eh?”

“Something like that.”

“I’m willing to bet he’s managed to swing one of the theatre trips to go and see Mamma Mia.”

“Oh has he?” I was mildly interested but didn’t really care—all I wanted to do was finish my coffee and go back to bed. “Sorry, would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”

“Nah, thanks anyway, gotta go, things to do, people to shag etcetera.”

“Yeah okay,” I replied, barely noticing her provocative statement.

“If you need anything, let me know.” She blew me a kiss and left.

I finished my coffee and crawled back to bed. Around ten my phone told me I had a text. I struggled awake and looked it up.

‘Hi S tells me UR ill.
Hope U feel betr soon.
Been 2 c S o Music! OK not
my choice. Will call 2moro.
Get well soon. Si’

No, I thought, you’d rather see Mamma Mia, so probably would I.

I crawled to the bathroom, made another drink and went back to bed.

The next morning I felt a bit better but not right. It was Thursday and I needed to get my dissertation finished enough to print off a copy. After the usual ablutions, I sat eating some cereal while the kettle boiled and my hair dried. Throwing on some clothes, namely a pair of jeans and jumper, I sat at the computer and reread my draft.

“God, this is so boring,” I confided to myself, but I emailed a copy to the good professor and printed off a hard copy and did a back up disc. I made a drink and sat down in my easy chair. I woke up at about five when the door was knocked. It had to be Stella, I opened it and was about to say something cheeky to her when I realised it was a complete stranger. She was carrying a huge bouquet of flowers.

“Miss Watts?”

“Yes,” I croaked.

“These are for you.” She shoved the flowers into my hands and left. I opened the card attached and they were from Simon, wishing me better. I shut the door, put them on the table and burst into tears.

An hour later, I had composed myself enough to send him a thank you text. I went for a little walk to the street and back and found a letter in my mail box.

‘Dear Cathy,

Thank you for your support at your mother’s funeral. I didn’t have time to tell you, but you looked very much like her when she was younger, which is a roundabout way of saying you looked lovely.

I was too upset to notice too much of anything, for which I hope you will forgive me. Friends tell me that they could see you were my daughter, but they didn’t speak to you because you seemed rather distressed and your friend was very protective, keeping everyone away from you.

I hope we can begin again and progress beyond the mistakes we made. I know you are busy, but see if you can find some time to come and see me. I sent the heart people a cheque for research in her memory, maybe it will help save some other family grieving.

love,

Dad.
xx’

So my mother had died of a heart attack—it made sense in terms of the suddenness of it all, not that I was any sort of expert. I felt overcome by her loss, went to my bed and cried myself to sleep.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 666 (he he!)

I awoke the next morning feeling exhausted. My head was clearer and I felt better but my energy was zilch. I felt very down, and even looking at the beautiful flowers that Simon had sent me, didn’t raise my spirits.

I slumped in the chair waiting for the kettle to boil, looking at Dad’s letter and missing my mother. It was Friday and I’d sent off my dissertation the day before, but the virus or whatever that had hit me had drained my reserves and my depression from the loss of my mother was keeping my tanks empty. The fact that a few days before I had held my own in a bike race, seemed a lifetime away. Now I’d be lucky to hold my own in a sleeping competition.

Simon would be back tonight or tomorrow, Stella could be doing anything with John or whatever his name was. She might even be working. The flowers were lovely and it was sweet of Simon to send them. I couldn’t even recall if I’d thanked him for them. I sent him a quick text.

‘Thx 4 the flwers,
they R luvly.
So R U.
C. xxx’

Now I had and I felt a little better for doing so, in fact for doing something. I made some toast and then had a little cereal. I stood for ages in the shower letting the warm water attempt to wash away my blues. It didn’t, but I certainly didn’t feel any the worse for it.

By the time I’d dried my hair and dressed myself, I felt a little more alive but still nowhere near normal. I sat looking at my father’s letter. Although we had changed things quite a lot, I still wasn’t sure how I felt about him.

The thousand pounds he’d sent me was very helpful but I wasn’t going to be bought. There was an awful lot to be talked through with him and I wanted some apologies for his abuse and violence. I also wanted some more detail regarding my mother’s death. He’d hinted at the cause as being heart problems, but I’d like to know more. There were too many questions and few answers. He would be the main source of the answers. I did wonder about getting a train and going to see him, but I couldn’t be bothered. It was just too much effort in my weakened state.

As I read the letter again, there was a knock at the door. I put the letter away and answered the door. I was expecting Stella if it was anyone; instead there was some bloke stood there in a suit and a smarmy smile.

“Miss Watts?”

“Yes.” I wondered what was going to happen next.

“Simon asked me to give you this.” He held out his hand concealing something in it.

“You know Simon?” I said, asking the obvious.

“Oh yes, I’ve looked after his motoring needs for several years.”

Still the penny didn’t drop and I lifted my hand to accept whatever was in this man’s hand. He pressed a key into it. I looked at it—it had the Mercedes logo on it.

“What’s this for?” I asked completely confused.

“Come on down to the street and I’ll show you,” smiled smarmy face.

I followed him trancelike into the road and there before my very eyes stood an A class Mercedes, in a deep blue. It was a couple of years old by the number plate but in very good condition.

“Why are you showing me this?” I asked.

“Simon asked me to bring it to you.”

“What for?”

“Presumably to drive round in.”

“But I told him I didn’t need a car, I can’t afford one.”

“I think that’s why he’s sent this one. If you fill it at our garage, the fuel goes on his account, same as Stella.”

“But I can’t accept it.”

“Why ever not? It’s in lovely nick, low mileage, very economical.”

“That’s not the point.”

“What is then?”

“I don’t need a car; I have a bicycle which is fine for around town and to and from the university. Besides it’s ecologically more friendly.”

“Well Miss Watts, that’s between you and Simon. Can you please sign the form to say I delivered it?”

“I don’t want it.”

“I’m sure you can sort that out with Simon. Just please sign the form so I can get back to work, I have a mountain of paperwork to do.”

“But I can’t sign it, because I can’t accept it.”

“Miss Watts, the form says I brought it out to you. It doesn’t say you have to keep it. That’s between you and Simon later—please I need to get back.”

“But I don’t want it.”

“Look darling, that isn’t my problem, just sign the piece of paper, okay?”

“Can’t you just take it back?”

“No I can’t, it doesn’t belong to my garage anymore.”

“Who does it belong to then?”

“Simon, I suppose.”

“Well take it to his house then, I’m sure Stella would enjoy it.”

“Can’t do that, I’m instructed to bring it here and give you the key. I’ve done that, now please sign the form so I can go.”

“But I don’t want it.”

“That isn’t my problem, just sign the friggin’ form.”

Against my better judgement, I signed his stupid piece of paper and he snatched it from my hand and ran over to a car where his colleague was smirking. They drove off seconds later, presumably before I changed my mind. I could see an envelope inside the car addressed to me. I opened the car and reached in and took it from the dashboard. It began to rain and I jumped in the car out of the weather.

Opening the note which was from Simon, I read it while listening to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.

‘Dear Cathy,
I know you don’t like the idea of ‘being bought’, so let me make this plain from the beginning, you are not being bought. This little car was going for a song and I thought you’d like the use of it. Perhaps you’d like to go and see your father or friends in Bristol. Now you can and no excuses about not being able to afford to run it—I’ve taken care of that too. Please enjoy it.

love,

Simon.

PS. I won’t be back until Saturday sometime—be ready for dinner at 7.30. I’ll collect you, so wear something tidy. S xxx’

I looked at the interior of the car; it was immaculate and had only done twenty thousand miles. It was beautiful, so why did I feel so bad about it?

I tried to understand what was going on inside me. People were being very nice to me, but they weren’t listening to what I wanted—they were running their own agendas. It was as if I had no voice or was a child, because no one was listening. I felt totally powerless.

I’m sure they thought they were doing things for me, but I was capable of doing things for myself. I didn’t know what to do—part of me wanted to shove the car as far as I could up Simon’s arse—another part wanted to kiss him to death. It would be a lovely surprise if it was something I wanted. Instead he and I would have words tomorrow and they might not be nice ones.

Clutching the letter, I went back indoors. As I did so, my phone was ringing. Thinking it was Simon, I picked it up ready to give him the big heave ho.

“Yes?” I snapped into my mobile.

“Is that Catherine Watts?” asked a voice I didn’t recognise.

“Yes, who wants her?”

“Do you mind if I call you Catherine?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Margaret Soames, a friend of your parents. I’m ringing because your father has been taken into hospital…”

My mind went blank and my ears stopped working as all sorts of scenarios went through my mind. In short, I panicked.

“Catherine, did you hear me?”

“Erm can you repeat it?” I asked.

“He’s in Southmead Hospital; we think he might have had a stroke. He’s asking for you. Do you still have some keys for the house?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think so.”

“Can you get yourself up here sometime today? If you need money I can loan you some until you can sort things out with your dad.”

“Yes, I can borrow a car. Let me pack a few things and I’ll be up sometime this afternoon.”

“That’s great; he really wants to see you. I’ll meet you at the house sometime after three.” She gave me her number if I was early and also the number for the hospital.

I called it immediately. The switchboard there is designed to make them money and you frustrated. I took at least five minutes to get through and another few to get hold of the appropriate department. I explained to the ward sister who I was and she gave me a very brief and guarded report. He was there on ward S2; he might have had a cerebrovascular accident. He would be there for several days while they assessed him and organised the appropriate treatment.

“Can I see him?”

“Of course you can, but he’s likely to be at the scanner until four pm.”

“That’s fine, I’ve got to come from Portsmouth. Can he talk?” I knew that strokes sometimes affected people’s ability to speak.

“Sort of, he’s been asking for you.”

It confirmed what his friend had said. It surprised me that he had remembered my new name and status, but somehow he had. “Do I need to bring in anything for him, pyjamas or anything?”

“Some PJs and toiletries would be good—usually helps them feel more comfortable.”

“Okay, I’ll sort that. Thanks, maybe I’ll see you later?”

“Doubt it. I’m off at half two, but the staff nurse in charge will be able to answer any questions you have.”

“Thank you, I’ll be there about four.”

Stunned for the second time that day, I took a few seconds to process what was happening. What a phenomenal coincidence that just as I needed a car, one becomes available. Was it providence or simply good luck? I didn’t have time to think. I shoved some clothes in a bag and after sending Stella a text explaining where I was going, I got into my new car. I checked the gas and set off for Bristol.

Easy As Falling Over The Cat Part 67

Cathy meets a neighbour… read on, if you dare!

I had stowed my weekend bag in the boot and was busy familiarising myself with the controls. It took a little while but I got there, including flashing my windscreen wipers at some bloke who cut me off. By the time I’d got the lights’ switch, he was long gone.

After getting out of Portsmouth, I felt a bit easier and the clutch and gearbox felt more comfortable. I had stalled it twice, but then I wasn’t a regular driver; if I’d stalled my bike I would be cross!

It was a lovely little car, remarkably quiet and responsive. I remembered my father joking with me that Herr Benz had called his car after his daughter Mercedes, because it was quiet and responsive like a woman should be. He laughed at his joke. I didn’t, but I now understood one more dimension of it.

The boot was definitely on the other foot and I wasn’t at all sure how I was going to play it. As I drove I thought through several ways things could go, but the one firm conclusion was, for the first time I was coming from a position of strength. In his hands, that had led to abuse. In mine I was determined for that not to happen whatever the outcome. At worst, I would just pick up my bed and walk. That was no problem; it was if the best thing happened that frightened me so I stopped thinking about it.

I’d elected to ditch the motorway as soon as I could. As primarily a cyclist, they were verboten, a sort of forbidden world and I was glad to get off and take the much more scenic route up the A36 from Southampton. It touches on Salisbury and Wilton, Warminster and Bath before it leads into Bristol. A row of historic towns and cities and en route, a pile of historic traffic jams and slow progress. Any advantage I thought I had was now being lost behind slow moving lorries and trucks, or the odd even slower tractor.

I was expected between two and three o’clock. I was approaching Bristol before one, so I had an hour to kill. I drove up onto the downs near Brunel’s suspension bridge over the Clifton Gorge—the sight still thrilled me. Isambard Kingdom Brunel might not have been a very likeable character, but as an engineer, he was a genius. I wondered if I spent any time here if I’d manage to visit the SS Great Britain, one of the world’s first steam ships and the first to be driven by a screw propeller. It was years since I’d been there and I was curious to see how much more restoration had taken place.

Now I had a car, I could do these things. I stopped myself and corrected my illusion—I didn’t have a car, it was Simon’s and he was generous enough to allow me the use of it. I must not abuse that generosity, nor must I forget that I didn’t really need the car.

Then I had another more depressing thought: if my father was badly affected by this stroke, I might be up and down this road quite often, assuming he wanted me to come and see him.

Then the idea of staying at the house I used to call home depressed me. If my mother had still been alive and living there, it would have been different, but she wasn’t and the ghosts it held weren’t very nice ones, especially in recent years.

“Bugger,” I heard myself call out in frustration, “Why did this have to happen now? Is this their fucking god punishing me, or testing me? Well you can fuck off now, because I’m going to do what I want for once!” I yelled at the sky. Historically, I believed the god of the Judeo-Christian religion was a sky god.

I threw the remains of my sandwich to a group of pigeons, only to have a herring gull sneak in and pinch most of it. It was typical of my life, I plod along like a pigeon and some sodding gull comes along and everything changes. I suppose in that analogy, I had to be wary of any peregrines that might be around, or I would be an ex-pigeon very quickly.

My mind somehow switched to a Monty Python sketch—the dead parrot one—and I began to laugh and laugh, almost hysterically. Anyone watching me would perhaps assume I was psychotic, screaming at the sky and then laughing hysterically. Maybe I was—if it was the case then whose fault was that? I sneered at the sky again knowing the message had been received. Anyway, a lightning bolt would have been useless—in cars, the Faraday cage effect happens. Knowing I was safe, I poked my tongue out at the sky as well. Well small things please small minds, so I was quite happy.

I calmed down and checked my makeup in the vanity mirror on the back of the sun visor. It was okay. I finished up the drink I had and deposited the bottle back in the plastic bag I had looped around the gear lever. I freshened my lipstick and checked the time. It was nearly a quarter to two. I started the car and remembered it had a CD player. I would do a copy of the Abba album I’d bought and keep it in the car—for now I shoved the original in the player and its bouncy music lifted my spirits as I headed for my father’s house.

“Knowing me knowing you, aha,
there is nothing we can do.”

I sang along to the disc and suddenly I had parked outside the building that had once been my home. It felt very strange. I killed the engine and collecting my handbag walked on nervous legs to the front door. It opened before I had a chance to ring the bell.

“You must be Catherine? Come on in, I’m Margaret Soames.” She held out her hand and I shook it weakly; all the strength I thought I had acquired had disappeared and I was once more powerless and helpless in my father’s fortress.

“Would you like a cuppa?” She asked and it felt odd to be entertained in my old home by a woman I’d never met before.

“Did I meet you at my mother’s funeral?” I asked trying to figure out where she fitted in the scheme of things.

“No sadly, I was on holiday visiting my son in Australia. I only got back a few days ago, still a bit jet lagged to be honest. I didn’t know your mother for very long, we only moved in to the area about six months ago and we met in the local Asda can you believe?”

Well she hadn’t mentioned church or god yet, nor decried me as an abomination, so things are looking up. “In Asda, the supermarket?”

“Well, the café place it has. It was a busy day and we shared a table and got talking. She invited me around and my husband got on with Derek—they both support Gloucester in the cricket and like the rugger, so we all got on very well.

I had to know what was coming, so I had to pry. “So you’re not from the same church as them, then?”

“No, neither of us has much time for religion although I believe it’s important to your pare… your father.”

I sighed a huge breath of relief. “Thank God for that,” I said quietly, but not quietly enough.

“I take it you have problems with your father’s church?”

“It was one of the reasons we didn’t get on too well.”

“Oh I see, enough said then. Milk and sugar?”

“No just milk, thanks. Shouldn’t I be serving you?” I asked still unsure about my status.

“I suppose technically this used to be your home, but I’ve been popping in to help Derek cope with things since your mum died, so I suppose I know my way around quite well.”

I don’t know if she sensed my unease or if I registered some sort facial expression, because she suddenly changed her position. “Of course now you’re back home, I’ll only come when you need me or if Derek asks me to come back and help. Two women in one kitchen, and that sort of thing.” She smiled but it wasn’t a friendly one, I was challenging her status quite deliberately.

Now it was time to show my graciousness. “No please do feel free to come and go as you please, I don’t know how long I shall be staying.”

She smiled again, a little more friendly this time, but if she got under my feet, I’d ask for the key back. Suddenly I didn’t feel so helpless, I was for the moment the woman of this house, something I had never felt before. Maybe my stay was going to be easier than I at first thought. Whatever happened, I felt stronger than I had ever been before in that house and it felt good. It wasn’t my home anymore but it was my territory and I was becoming proprietorial.

We had tea and chatted. “I didn’t know Derek had a daughter until I came back from my holiday and he said you’d come to the funeral. He said there’d been a schism between you both, and you didn’t see each other too often.”

“Yes that’s right, we had a difference of opinion about religion and things got rather heated. I left and didn’t come back until now.”

“Gosh, and what about your brother? I remember them talking about him but not you. I find that strange.”

“Yes it is.” I wondered how she would receive the truth or if she actually already knew it and was playing games.

“What did they tell you about Charlie?”

“That he’d become apostate and left after a row, a bit like yourself.”

“Yes, just like me.” If this were a spy film or a thriller, I’d let her ramble on then kill her. It was so tempting, but then she did do dad’s vacuuming, so I’d spare her life for the moment.

“He lives in Portsmouth too, do you see him often.”

Only when I look in the mirror, “Occasionally.”

“You both do biology at the university?”

“Yes.”

“Are you twins or something?”

“They didn’t tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“I killed him.”

She went white and her teacup began to rattle in its saucer. “Oh!” she squeaked.

“Only metaphorically,” I added. I could really get into this power stuff.

She gave me a perplexed looked.

“I am Charlie, or I was.”

“What?” She shook her head in disbelief.

“I’m transsexual.”

“Goodness,” she sighed, “I’d never have guessed.”

“Sorry if I shocked you, I needed to know what you knew before I said anything.”

“You didn’t need to say anything.”

“Daddy would probably have said something eventually and I thought I’d give you my perspective first.”

“I see, so it wasn’t the religious stuff that you fell out over?”

“Oh that as well, but when he beat me up for telling him what I was, I vowed never to speak to him again.”

“He hit you?”

“He did it regularly; I didn’t match up with his standards of masculinity and asked awkward questions about religion. I’m a scientist, I need to verify facts as best I can, religion doesn’t do that for me. The night I told him I was transsexual he beat me quite badly. I tried to finish the job with paracetamol back in Portsmouth and only by accident was discovered. I see a wonderful woman doctor who is helping me realise my true self.”

“Goodness that is amazing, I’d never have guessed. You make a very pretty woman.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry if I scared you earlier.” I felt rather ashamed of the earlier power play.

“Oh that’s all right. Look why don’t you come around for dinner when you finish at the hospital? Come and meet my husband Greg.”

“Does he have to know?”

“I suppose not, but he’ll flirt with you mercilessly if he doesn’t.”

“Is that a problem?” I asked not sure how I had taken her last comment.

“I don’t know.” She looked as if she had said something that revealed something she didn’t want to say. “It shouldn’t worry me should it?”

“I can assure you that I won’t steal him away from you. If I did my boyfriend would want his car back.” I smiled as if I’d just cracked a joke but I was testing her reaction and she wasn’t doing too well in hiding them.

“You have a boyfriend then?”

“Yes, didn’t you at my age?”

What she wanted to say was, ‘Yes but I’m a real woman, you’re not,’ but she didn’t, instead came, “I suppose I did. I’m sorry Catherine, you’ve caught me on the hop a little.”

“If you want to cancel the invite, it’s okay.”

“No certainly not, the more I know about you the more I like you.” She was lying, but what the hell?

Soon after she left, I found my father’s set of keys, and collected his PJs plus other stuff I thought he might need. In doing so, I went up to my old room. I would have to make up my bed but otherwise it was much as before—it was me who was different.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 68

Difficult as visiting someone in hospital…

The drive from home to the hospital wasn’t very far. Southmead is a large hospital in which it is very easy to get lost as I discovered. It took me longer to find the ward from the car park, than it did to drive from the house to the hospital.

Eventually after a few false starts, I did manage to locate ward S2 and when I got there found he had been moved to ward P3 for stroke rehabilitation. I kept my cool and wandered about for another quarter of an hour. Sadly, wards P and S were not in the same block.

I was aware of my heels clattering up and down the corridors and also that my feet were not entirely appreciating the fact that I was wearing those boots again.

Eventually, I happened on ward P3 and discovered he was actually on P1. I let the nurse know that I was PO’d: she apologised and pointed me in the general direction of the new ward. If I’d walked over much more of the place I could lead tours.

Finally, with tired and aching feet I entered ward P1 and didn’t need to ask if he was there, I could see him. He looked so small and my stomach flipped. “Can I help you?” I jumped at the voice which came unsighted from my left side.

I spun around and a young nurse was stood by the side of me. “Yes, I’ve come to see my father, Derek Watts.”

“He’s along there, third bed on the left.”

“Yes I can see him, can he speak?”

“Oh yes, but he gets a bit confused and frustrated.”

“Nothing new there then.”

“I beg pardon,” she gave me a strange look.

“I was joking.” I blushed getting even hotter than I was feeling already.

“Oh, okay.”

I nodded to her and went to my father’s bedside. He was sleeping but I could see the right side of his face was drooping and he dribbled a little—the characteristic Bell’s palsy of a stroke—it made me feel pity. Here before me lay a man who was still taller than I was, but he looked somehow diminished, lying helplessly. His right hand was clenched into a fist and I suspect he wouldn’t be able to move the fingers if he wanted to.

I sat alongside him on his left side and gently grasped his left hand. “Hello Daddy.”

His eyes opened and he took a moment to register where I was, let alone who I was. “It’s me, Cathy.”

“Affy,” he mumbled and smiled. “Affy.”

I rubbed his hand against my face, “How are you?”

“Bad,” he said more loudly and shook his head.

“It’s early days yet, you may feel better tomorrow.” I squeezed his hand, he smiled and squeezed back. “I brought you some pyjamas and some toiletries.”

He nodded, and seemed to be thinking. “’ike vou uvver.”

I had to stop and think what he said, “I’m like my mother?”

“’es.” He nodded to confirm what I’d said as right.

“You said that to me before, which I take as a compliment.” I smiled at him and squeezed his hand. He looked so pathetic like some lion that had been deposed by a younger one and had just blundered into a pack of hyenas.

I tidied up his bedside locker and wiped the dribble from his face. I also combed his hair and made him feel a little tidier in himself. He thanked me for my help and I felt a lump in my throat.

Not that long ago this man was the biggest threat to my safety I had ever faced, now he could barely stand up let alone threaten me. How were the mighty fallen. It was very sad and I had difficulty not crying in front of him.

“I’m staying at the house for the moment, but I don’t know how long I can get off my course,” I lied. I didn’t want to commit to anything and I couldn’t bring myself to suggest I would help him in the long term. Why should I? Because he’s your father and he needs you, came back the answer.

“Monday,” I thought he said.

“Monday?” I repeated.

“No, no.” He shook his head violently.

“Monday,” he shook his head, “Monday,” he thrashed about in his bed. Then he unclasped his hand from mine and rubbed his thumb over his fingers.

“Money, are you trying to say money?”

“’es, Monday,” he shook his head in frustration.

“What, you need some money?”

“No, no, vou do.” He pointed at me to emphasise the point.

“I’m okay for the moment.”

“No, no. Vou do.”

“Okay so I need money, but how are we going to get it—you can hardly write a cheque for it can you?”

“Vou ’ank.”

“Me, go to the bank?”

“’es.”

“All right I’ll go and speak to the bank, but it won’t be easy for them to believe me. To start with I don’t have much in the way of ID with me.”

“Vou do.”

“Okay, I’ll go and see them on Monday. What about work, do they know?”

“’es.”

“Anyone else you want me to tell? Auntie Doreen?”

“No, no.”

Okay so he didn’t want to let his sister know he was ill. I felt relieved; she wasn’t my favourite relative, although my cousin David was a nice kid despite his parents. He was going to study law at Oxford, the last I’d heard, even more of a bookworm than I was.

“So there’s no one else you want me to notify?”

“No, no.”

“Okay. Is there anything else you need? I brought you some tissues, some deodorant, your flannel and two pairs of jarmies, oh and your slippers. I’ve got some change for you too,” and put a fiver’s worth of coin in a money bag, into his drawer. “Do you want any books or magazines?”

“No, no,” he shook his head.

“I met Margaret Soames, she was kind enough to let me know what had happened.”

He nodded, “’ice ’ady.”

“Yes she seemed quite nice. She invited me to dinner tonight and to meet her husband, George?” I deliberately got the name wrong to see if he understood what I was saying.

“’eg,” he said shaking his head.

“Egg?” I said quizzically.

“’arget add ’eg,” he struggled to say.

“Greg?”

“’es.”

“Of course his name is Greg, I called him George. Silly me, maybe I should be blonde?”

He nodded and smiled.

“Gee thanks Daddy,” I looked at him reproachfully.

He laughed at this then coughed.

We carried on in this vein for another hour during which time I fed him his tea—a cottage pie and some jelly and ice cream. It felt strangely comfortable that I was mothering my own father, although I suppose tending the sick isn’t really gender specific. Was it just me exerting my dominance while he was weakened? Sort of the king is dead, long live the queen! I didn’t know.

When I left the ward it was with regret. He needed me for the first time in his life, for the first time in mine, I was wanted. I wasn’t sure how to process all this new emotional stuff. So wrapped in my own internal thoughts, I didn’t realise that I was completely lost with regard to geography, having wandered without being aware of where I was going.

My feet were burning by the time I found my way to the car park and sat in the car. Fortunately getting home was relatively easy. It was dark by the time I pulled into the drive. I presumed my father’s car was in the garage, but I’d check that in the morning.

I let myself into the house which now felt a little eerie in the shadows from the street lights. I half expected my mother to ask how he was. She didn’t of course, how could she? But in my head she did, and in the same place I answered her.

I went and showered, changing into a skirt and top that was neither too sexy nor too covered up. With the booster pads, I had a bit of a cleavage if you were stood close enough. Then I made up my bed, the duvet and sheets were ones I’d used when I’d lived there. I also hung up my clothes on the front of the wardrobe. My old clothes were still hanging inside and I didn’t want to revisit those.

At eight o’clock, I knocked on the door of my neighbours, a house about fifty yards up the road from ours. I had a small bunch of flowers and some wine.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 69

Dinner is served. For Greg, Cathy looks like the main course…

I stood waiting at the door, the coolness of the night was beginning to pervade the thin top I was wearing and I became aware of my nipples standing out.

The door opened and behind it stood a middle-aged man. “Well hello, you must be Catherine?” He sounded like Leslie Phillips and my heart dived into my boots, I just hoped this wasn’t going to end up like some ‘Carry On’ film. “Do come in,” I could feel his eyes burning through me as I entered the house.

Margaret arrived and saved the day, “Hello Catherine, how is your father?”

I handed her the flowers, “I’m not sure, I hope to speak with the sister or a doctor tomorrow. I don’t know if they should be mobilising him or if he should rest.”

“He looked very rough when we saw him yesterday and he was very confused too.”

“I think he knows which way is up, but his speech difficulty is causing great frustration. Daddy never was very patient; this must be driving him crazy.”

“Thank you for the flowers, I’ll just pop them in some water. Greg stop staring at Catherine and get her a drink.”

He scuttled off into the dining room and called, “Red or white?”

I’d brought a bottle of Beaujolais. “Red please,” I replied. I hoped it would be a decent one.

“Here my dear, oh I’m Greg by the way.”

“I gathered that much, I’m Cathy.”

“Pleased to meet you Cathy,” we shook hands and he had a quick peep at my cleavage. I know I was going to have to get used to being objectified, as all women are by some men, but I didn’t have to like it. At the same time part of me felt a little frisson of excitement. It was so easy to get men all hot and bothered.

Greg led me into the lounge and offered me a seat. I sat awaiting instruction from Margaret as to when dinner would be ready. If he was supposed to be entertaining me, he wasn’t doing much of job. I decided to engage his conscious mind rather than his fanciful one.

“Margaret tells me you’ve not known my father very long.”

“Haven’t counted, a few months or so. Yeah, he’s a good bloke, must be he supports Gloucester.”

“Yes Margaret said you were a cricket buff.”

“Well I like to watch the game although all this short version stuff is killing the county game. The problem is the young oiks can’t keep their attention span for longer than twenty overs. Do you watch it?”

“Not really, watched some of the Ashes, but I prefer cycling.”

“What all that drugs and shaved legs brigade?”

“They don’t all do drugs, and the fact that the offenders are being caught, shows that the sport is trying to do something about it.”

“Maybe, I’m not convinced. What about the drugs they haven’t got tests for yet?”

“Wherever you have lots of money or prestige, there will always be those to try to get them by any means possible. There will always be cheats; the answer is not to let them.”

“Do you cycle then?”

“Yes, a bit.”

“What a racer?”

“I’ve got a road bike and a mountain bike.”

“Do you race?”

“I took part in a bike race on Sunday, albeit an unofficial one for the university against Southampton.”

“How did you do?”

“I didn’t win, but I did okay.”

“You have to do much training for that?”

“I do a couple of hours twice a week when I can.”

“What sort of distance is that, a couple of hours?”

“Between thirty and forty miles, depending upon terrain.”

“Thirty and forty miles in two hours, I’m impressed.”

“Serious riders do more than that.”

“Serious, so what are you then?”

“I’m on the fringes, I may do more if the time or fancy take me.”

“Right, well from where I’m standing it certainly keeps you looking trim.”

“Yes, that and the karate.” I was lying but I wanted to see his reaction.

“Karate? Hardly ladylike my dear.”

“No but it helps keep me fit and also helps keep some of the dross at bay. No one has pinched my bum and lived to tell the tale.”

“I can well believe that,” he replied rising to get another glass of wine, “Top up?” he asked brandishing the bottle.

“Oh, this is towards dinner,” I offered up my bottle of wine.

“Thanks,” he said taking the bottle out of the bag, “New Season eh? Jolly good, I’ll open it and let it breathe.” As he was doing so Margaret called us to eat.

Greg helped me to my chair and slid it in behind me. I nodded my thanks. “Cathy here is a black-belt at karate and cycling,” he reported to his wife.

“I’m not a black-belt, nor is there such a thing in cycling,” I tried to make it sound as if he’d made a joke, which he might have done.

“She’s an expert in both.”

“Really, so did you go to watch the Tour of France thingamy when it was over here? Can’t think how they can call it that when it goes into other countries.” Margaret tried to sound interested.

“Oh yes, I helped to marshal it on the Sunday from London to Canterbury.”

“So what did that involve?”

“Getting up very early, standing around for hours and when the race came through, trying to stop the spectators from standing in the way.”

“Did you wear your black-belt?” asked Greg.

“No, I wore jeans with a red belt, and a high viz waistcoat.”

“Do help yourself to vegetables Catherine. What’s a high viz waistcoat?”

“Thank you Margaret, it’s one of those reflective orange or yellow things to help motorists and other road users see you. It also made it obvious who was helping and who was simply spectating.”

“I see, one of those fluorescent things?”

“Exactly.” I helped myself to some potatoes and carrots while Greg held the serving dish, then to some cabbage.

“So that was the Tour de France, what about the Milk race or whatever they call it these days?” asked Greg as he passed the gravy boat.

“The Tour of Britain, is what they call it these days. It’s good but much smaller than the TdF, and run on a shoestring.”

“So did you help with that as well?”

“I did, but they ask for their vests back.”

“Oh the French give ’em away, do they?”

“Yes. These chops are lovely Margaret.” The pork was succulent and the veg and gravy delicious.

“Thank you Catherine, I’m glad you’re enjoying it.”

“Very much.”

“Do you cook much?”

Although I seemed to be talking primarily to Margaret, I was aware of Greg’s eyes on me the whole time—it was quite uncomfortable. “A bit, but cooking for one isn’t much fun and my facilities are pretty basic.”

“Don’t you cook for your boyfriend?” I felt almost as if Margaret was asserting her dominance in her territory as I had done earlier.

“Not really, maybe when I get the chance to I might, but not where I’m living now. Not enough room.” I felt defensive and I suspect she knew it.

“What does he do?” asked Greg.

“Who, Simon?”

“If that’s his name?”

“He works in a bank.”

“What a clerk or assistant manager?”

There was no way I was going to say what he did, so I lied again. “I think he’s in management, but he isn’t allowed to talk about it and I’m not too keen on the idea myself. I mean he never asks me about my mammal studies.”

“You study mammals?” asked Greg.

“Yes, dormice and harvest mice.”

“What, they give you a degree for that?” he pooh-poohed the very idea.

“Yes, I’m hoping a doctoral one in three years; I’ve just been told my master’s is accepted.”

“What, a master’s degree in dormice?”

“Yes, they are an endangered species. Have you ever seen one?”

“No, I can’t say I have.”

“They are very secretive and shy creatures—very difficult to find. I spend much of my time out mapping their numbers and territories.”

“You don’t say.” Greg was obviously bored with mammals, but I wasn’t.

“Yes, I’m hoping to get a government grant to do my doctoral degree on studying their populations with regard to climate change.”

“Is that really good use of public funds, counting dormice?” asked Greg in a distinctly off hand manner.

“Yes, I think it is. If we don’t study our environment how are we going to know how much we are destroying?”

“Yes but for a few dormice, I mean who cares?”

“I do for one.” I was beginning to get a little cross with the old tosser.

“Fair enough old girl, keep your hair on.”

“Without earthworms and bees, this planet would be almost dead. There are epidemics affecting each species; without research we’ll never be able to save them and ourselves into the bargain.”

“What? I never eat honey, so it won’t affect me.” Greg was dismissive again.

“The potatoes, carrots and cabbage you ate, did you enjoy them?”

“Yes of course I did, what’s that got to do with bees?”

“Not as much as it does with earthworms. They aerate the soil. If they didn’t, within ten or so years it wouldn’t grow very much, so you could say goodbye to your veg. Your meat too, there’d be less grass.”

“Nah, science would sort it.”

“Not necessarily. I’m a scientist and it’s far better to try and preserve the status quo—it works better than anything we could devise. After all it’s had millions of years for evolution to make it efficient.”

“That’s another thing, evolution. It’s only a theory.”

“It has loads of evidence to show it’s more than a theory.”

“If you say so my dear, you know more about these things than I do.” Greg patronised me and I felt like kicking his shins under the table. “What’s for pudding dear?” he asked his wife.

“Profiteroles.”

“My favourite,” said Greg smirking.

The evening wore on and he got more boorish and boring. Once or twice, I felt like slapping him, but then I wondered if they deserved each other. Superficially, they were nice like my parents, but when you got a bit deeper, they showed they were full of all sorts of prejudice and bias. Maybe it was the age difference, but they seemed old fashioned and bigoted to me.

I was extremely glad to help Margaret in the kitchen to clear up, while Greg finished the bottle of wine and fell asleep. “Look at him, when he’s asleep he’s like an angel; when he’s awake he’s a pain in the neck.”

“I think lots of men are like that,” I offered giving her benefit of my vast inexperience on the subject, “and I suppose they say the same about us.”

She gave me a strange look for a moment as if I had no right to say that, then shook her head and made us some coffee. It was a very tasty meal and well-cooked but I would not be accepting their hospitality again.

Easy As Falling Asleep! Part 70!!!!!!!

by Angharad & J. Austen

It was quite cold as I took my goodbyes from Greg and Margaret Soames, the hosts from hell. I walked as quickly as the high heels of my shoes would allow as they clicked along the road. I was very glad to get home and into the warm.

I went to make myself a cuppa to warm up and noticed a text message on my phone—it was from Simon. I put the kettle on and read the text.

‘Sry 2 hear UR Pa is ill.
Let us no wot’s hapnin.
LOL Si.’

As I drank my tea I wondered about the use of LOL. To me that had two possible meanings, laugh out loud, or lots of love. It couldn’t mean the first, so unless there was another meaning of which I was unaware, it had to be the second. Was it a Freudian slip on the part of Simon, or just an expression which meant nothing? Now I was in a quandary.

I checked the time—it was after ten—was it too late to call? I felt like talking to someone I liked or at least with whom I felt comfortable. I also felt Daddy could pay the cost of the call. I was about to dial it when I had another thought. He would know their number then. Instead, I sent a text.

Call me when convenient. C’ I included my home number.

Ten minutes later, the phone rang. I picked it up in some hesitation, “Hello?”

“Hi Cathy, it’s me, Simon. How’s your dad?”

“He’s had a stroke.”

“Oh I am sorry. Is there anything we can do to help?”

“Not really, he’s in the best place for the moment, but it’s kind of you to ask.”

“How long are you likely to be up there?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t seen the doctor yet so I don’t know very much. I’ll try and find out tomorrow.”

“Okay, well don’t forget to let me know.”

“I will.”

“So when will I see you?”

“I don’t know, but I feel I can’t leave here for a day or two.”

“So do you want me to come up?”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You didn’t, I offered.”

“It’s a long way to come for a date.”

“Maybe I’ll ask your dad for his daughter’s hand.”

“What?” I almost fell over.

“Yeah, I’ll come and have a chat with your dad.”

“You can’t, he’s had a stroke.”

“I can sit and talk to him, bring him a bag of fruit and bunch of flowers.”

“He’ll think you’re gay if you bring him flowers.”

“Okay, forget the flowers. I’ll bring him a bottle of Scotch.”

“He’s a regular churchgoer!”

“So? Most of the ones I know drink like fishes.”

“He doesn’t.”

“Don’t believe a word he’s saying Cathy, he’s winding you up. How’s your dad poppet?” It was good to hear Stella butting in.

“Not sure, still waiting to see the doctor or ward sister.”

“Anything you need?”

“Only some nice company. I went to dinner with some neighbours tonight, he couldn’t stop ogling me and she was jealous.”

“Good time then?”

“Oh yeah, next time they ask I’ll slash my wrists, it’ll be more fun.”

“Well do it in the bath, ’cos otherwise it makes an awful mess.”

“Yeah okay.” How come whenever I talked with Stella it went onto matters crazy, like a script from a poor comedy show? Was it because I was comfortable with her, honest with her or just we were as crazy as each other? She knew about my darkest secret, Simon didn’t and I didn’t feel strong enough to tell him yet. I was getting fonder of him but I wasn’t completely sure how he felt about me. That made it easier and harder to tell him—oh bugger, how do I get myself into these situations?

“Here’s Simon again, bye poppet.”

She handed the phone to Simon, “So what time do you want me to come tomorrow?”

“It’s an awfully long way to come Simon.”

“It’s worth it to sleep with my girlfriend.”

“I erm, erm…” Jesus, did he say what I thought he said? “That’s not possible.”

“Don’t you have a spare bedroom in your parent’s house?”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I think so. I’m not asking you to take off your chastity belt just yet.”

“I erm…” I got all flustered again.

“I’m only joking, because I know how lovely you look when you blush.”

“You pig!”

“Oink oink!” he replied.

“You sound more like a guinea pig!” I laughed.

“That’s better. What time will you be free tomorrow?”

“I have to go to the hospital tomorrow afternoon.”

“Okay, I’ll come up tomorrow morning; I can always go ’round a museum or something while you’re with your dad.”

“I could be with him for some time.”

“Don’t you want to see me?”

“Of course I do.”

“I’ve missed you this week babe.”

“I’ve missed you too.”

“Right see you tomorrow, where are you staying?”

I reluctantly gave him my home address and went to bed thinking that my home seemed rather ordinary compared to his. In short, I was almost ashamed of it and was he serious about staying? Oh geez, I wouldn’t sleep all night now!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 71

Don’t try this at home—Cathy’s night of gymnastics!

An hour after putting the phone down my mind was still twittering to itself. He was joking wasn’t he, about staying? He can’t stay here, what will the neighbours think? Who gives a shit? I’m over twenty-one. What if he gets randy and I can’t dissuade him? Oh my god! He’ll find out. If only there was some way of hiding my you-know-what?

There was, I had seen something on the net about it, in fact, there were various things you could buy or you could do to yourself. I stood naked in the bathroom; I could barely see the tiny organ which was the manifestation of my imperfection. I felt like cutting it off, there and then. However, I knew that would hurt, even with the freezing spray we had in the cupboard.

I started playing around with my little gonads and their dangling companion. With some effort and discomfort, I could just about push my testes back up into my body, probably because they were smaller than they used to be. I then pushed my willie back inside itself. It was so small now that I felt if I pushed it too hard it would disappear inside me, which would make weeing something of a problem. As it was, the mirror showed it was just protruding outside my body. When I scooped what was left of my scrotal skin around it, it disappeared and I was left with what looked like labia.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t walk around like this with one hand down my knickers, however realistic it looked. I needed something to hold it there—superglue would do nicely. It could also do nastily, and I remembered the occasion I was trying to repair a broken bike light and stuck it to my hand. It took me all evening to free it. The thought of sticking my hand to my genitals was terrifying as well as absurd.

I decided I would let the matter rest in the lap of the gods. I threw on a nightie and went to look in the kitchen cupboard where such things would be. If there was glue in the house or garage, I would try to temporarily alter my anatomy. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t. Seemed fair enough to me.

I searched high and low—there was none. I pulled on a cardi and went into the garage: there was none there either. Finally, with a torch, I went to the garden shed and looked there amongst the cobwebs and their active occupants.

I had so worked myself up into doing this, that I felt disappointed verging on disgusted. “Call yourself gods?” I said loudly at one point. Then I raised the bargaining a little.

“If they don’t have any at the all-night garage, I’ll know it isn’t meant to be.” Five minutes later, I was dressed in jeans and jumper and starting the car. Not much later, I was at the garage, which is attached to a superstore.

I walked into the garage and looked on the shelves—my perusal drew a blank. “Need some help?” asked the young woman behind the checkout cubicle.

“I was looking for superglue.”

“What the instant stuff?”

“Yeah, I broke the photo frame my boyfriend gave me and he’s arriving tomorrow. He’ll kill me.” I now seemed to be able to lie at will; my mother would be turning in her grave if she could hear me. She despised liars, although she worshipped through them for many years.

“I don’t think we sell it, they do in the store.”

“Yeah, but the store is closed.”

“’Fraid so.”

“Damn, anywhere that is likely to be open who sells it?”

“Tesco, but that’s miles away. Hang on; let me see what I can do.”

I waited while she served a couple of customers, then she seemed to be muttering to herself. Finally I heard her say, “Thanks.”

Some more petrol customers took her attention and I pretended to look at the magazines in the garage shop. She was dealing with the last fuel purchaser, when young man came into the shop wearing the supermarket uniform; he went to the check out and after a brief exchange, left.

“Here we are,” she called from behind her armour-plated post.

I looked around to see to whom she was talking. She waved at me to come to her. “Me?” I mouthed pointing at myself.

“You still want the glue?”

“Yes.”

“That’ll be three ninety nine then.”

“You got some?”

“I had some sent over from the store.”

“That is awfully kind of you,” I purred handing her a five-pound note.

“Well I didn’t want your boyfriend to kill you.”

“Hopefully now he won’t be any the wiser,” I said smiling wickedly. She thought I was talking about photo frames, I was meaning something else, but what the hell.

Half an hour later I had showered and dried myself, and had trimmed my pubic hair so it wouldn’t get glued. My heart was beating like mad and I had an extra light on the floor, running from an electric point in the hallway. I also had a mirror placed at a strategic angle to see more clearly what I was doing. For the first time in my life, my breasts were getting in my way.

With trembling hands, I repositioned myself to hide everything and create the effect of a pudenda. I didn’t believe I could do it in one stage without risking sticking something somewhere it shouldn’t be. The risk was in blocking my urethra. It could cause me loads of pain and even lead to kidney damage if it prevented urine flow. Having committed myself to doing this however, I was sweating and beginning to think the gods were punishing me for my hubris.

After practising with the folding of the skin a couple more times, I decided I could do it in one stage, but with my willie held downwards inside it, which would also enable me to pass urine downwards, not spraying out the front.

Convinced I could do it, I took the top off the little bottle of glue and was promptly sick. I was terrified I was going to get this wrong and end up looking a right lemon at Accident and Emergency.

I cleaned up the mess and myself, took a shot of my father’s brandy and went back to my task. It occurred to me that if I didn’t push up my willie into my body cavity a little, then sitting on a bike saddle was going to be very attention grabbing. I experimented with positioning a few more times and was sure I could accommodate the need for comfortable riding.

I opened the glue again, and carefully spread it around my various bits, then before it dried, carefully but quickly moved them into position. I held it all for ten minutes, my back was aching and sweat was dripping off my forehead.

I pulled my hand away, breathing a sigh of relief that I hadn’t actually stuck it to my groin. My arm was shaking having held it in one position for so long. I slowly stood up straight, my back was sore. As I stood, I could feel a pulling on skin in my new pubes. Oh no, I can’t stand up straight or I’ll rip something off!

I kept straightening my back, the pulling was like a burning sensation, then it stopped. I was upright and not destined to act as a model for Quasimodo—I nearly wept with joy. In the mirror, it looked as if I had a fanny. I actually looked like a woman for the first time in my life. I wanted to jump up and down, but thought better of it. It was stinging a bit, but it was worth it.

Now came the sixty-four dollar question: could I pee? I sat on the loo and tried. I could, but it squirted everywhere and after wiping I discovered that the glue was coming unstuck. Bugger!

I was now nearly in tears. It took me an hour to readjust and re-stick everything. This time the flow was clearer and it all stayed as it should. I looked at the time: it was three in the morning. I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. I slipped on my nightdress again, and fell asleep in minutes, praying that it would all hold for a couple of days.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 72 (that’s like six dozen!)

by Angharad & Bonzi (the bored) Cat

More emotional trauma for our heroine… read on, I dare you!

I awoke, it was still dark and I had a pain in the superglue. Rolling out of bed, I stood up very gently and carefully walked to the bathroom. It was all burning or stinging, but at least I could pee and that bit wasn’t hurting, thank goodness. I wiped and examined it all with a hand mirror. Apart from the discomfort, it looked pretty good. I didn’t somehow think I’d be riding a bike for a few days, however, so on a trade off, maybe that wasn’t too bad.

I checked the time; it was four in the morning. I’d barely had an hour’s sleep. I minced back to bed—well I took small steps ’cos it didn’t pull so much. Back under the covers I started to snooze until I had a horrible thought: what would happen if it stuck like this for any length of time, would it make it difficult for the surgeon to rebuild?

I decided it would, so this would be for special occasions only and once it became unstuck, I’d stretch it all and hope that it was okay. But then, the thought struck me, what happens if it doesn’t unstick, maybe the skin will fuse? Oh shit!

I worried about this for some time knowing that there were solvents and I knew from previous experience that nail varnish remover would loosen it. Then I saw myself dancing around and squealing as the remover solution stung like mad. If I hadn’t needed to sleep, I’d have laughed at myself.

I drifted uneasily into sleep and woke an hour or so later needing to pee again. Gee whizz, what is it with my bladder, I mean it’s not as if I’d had surgery and everything got displaced?

I lurched into the bathroom; I was so tired that I stubbed my toe against the door. God it hurt and I danced around my eyes watering; I was in too much pain even to swear. I also wet myself and added insult to injury.

Back in bed and now wide-awake, I turned my thoughts to Simon. I could now be semi- intimate with him. I imagined him kissing me and touching my breasts—suddenly I had a pain in the you know where! Gee bloody whizz, I was now seriously beginning to wonder if I had done the right thing. I went to the toilet again, but only dripped a few drops. So what was all that about? I didn’t get erections anymore, but something must have happened when I was having my dirty thoughts. What a pain, quite literally. It could well be that in sticking myself up, I had inadvertently made difficult and possibly painful, the whole reason for sticking it all up in the first place! I felt like crying.

At about six o’clock I finally fell into a deep sleep, after another visit to the toilet of course. The next thing I knew was a ringing sound. I jumped out of bed, hobbling on my painful toe and uncomfortable groin. I was half way down the stairs thinking it was the doorbell, when the ringing was obviously coming from the phone. I continued down the stairs and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

“Hi sweetie-pie. Houston we have a problem!”

“What’s the matter?” I asked, trying to focus my bleary eyes on the clock.

“My bloody car won’t start. I’m waiting for the garage to come.”

“Oh dear, does that mean you’re cancelling?”

“No way, if necessary I’ll borrow Stella’s car. It just means I’m going to be later than I planned.”

I yawned and my eyes watered impairing my vision, so I still couldn’t see the sodding clock. “So when do you think you’ll be here?”

“About two hours after they get this bloody thing started. I’ve packed my bag and done a route on the Internet, plus I’ve got my sat nav.”

“You drive carefully!” I exhorted.

“I always do babe, you know that.”

Compared to Stella so did most people! “Well I’m just making sure you do.”

“Okay, okay I’ll go carefully, is that okay?”

“All right, I suppose, but you make sure you do.”

“I will. So how did you get on with the Merc?”

I blushed—I hadn’t said a thank you to Simon. “Gosh, I haven’t said thank you. It’s wonderful, goes like a dream. Thank you so much Simon.”

“That’s okay, you can show your gratitude later.”

My stomach flipped as he said it—exactly what did he mean by that? I hoped it wasn’t what I thought it meant. I got a twitch from down below and realised I needed a pee. “Sorry Simon, I have to go to the loo,” I said hopping from one leg to the other. I put the phone down and scrambled to the toilet, just making it in time. I realised that it felt comfortable and wondered if it had all come undone. I went to wipe it with some toilet roll and discovered it was all as I’d left it. Phew!

Rushing back to the phone, I discovered Simon had rung off and I felt a little pang of guilt. I hoped that he believed me because I didn’t want him to think I had deceived him. Then I thought about something else and felt myself getting very warm.

While I drank my tea, I decided I needed to tell him about me and live with the consequences. The question was when and how? Did I do it while we were at a posh restaurant, “Oh by the way Simon darling, I’m really a boy.”

Or perhaps when we’re lying in bed together and he’s pleading to shag me, “You can’t I’m afraid my love, I don’t have a fanny ’cos I’m a boy!”

Maybe I’d do it while we were driving, “Simon, I have something to tell you about a little personal problem I have. I’m a man, watch out for that truck Simon!”

Oh hell, why did he have to like me? Or worse, why did I have to like him? It would really hurt to end it now and we haven’t really got things going yet, but it would be even harder if I wait until we are really attached to each other. Then it would really, really hurt. I hated what I was going to do to my Simon. Hark at me, my Simon! He won’t be when he finds out. I felt salt water trickle down my cheek, and moments later, I was bawling.

I was in deep self-pity, accompanied by red eyes and fluid loss when the phone rang again. I felt really miffed to be disturbed while having an emotional release. I stamped out to the hall and picked up the receiver, “Yes?” I said and sobbed.

“Hi flower, it’s me again, I’m ready to roll, hey are you crying?”

“Yes,” I squeaked.

“What’s the matter, your dad’s okay isn’t he?”

“It isn’t him,” I sobbed and sniffed.

“What is it then?”

“I can’t tell you, ask Stella, she knows. Don’t come, I can’t see you ever again, I’m sorry.” I put the phone down and went up to my bed. I heard the phone ring but I refused to answer it. I fell upon my bed and howled.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 73

I lay on my bed weeping for some time, my little flirtation with happiness had run its course and I was back to being alone. I cursed my body, why did it have to be born male, while me inside it was so female?

Why couldn’t I have met Simon in a year or two? I might then have been in a position to enter into a full relationship, from which I would have been able to tell him of my past, assuming the relationship lasted.

Eventually I fell asleep, waking only to go to the loo again. It was midday and I felt dead. I showered after and dressed, drying my hair and using a tiny amount of makeup. I had to go and see Dad, so I had to look tidy for that and I didn’t want to worry him with any of my problems.

I wore a skirt, the denim one with a tee shirt and my boots. I don’t know why I didn’t put on jeans—probably I felt a need to reinforce my femininity to my father. I know he said he accepted me but I wasn’t going to give him any chance to change his mind. A skirt gave me confidence to challenge any dissent.

I moped around the house, finding little jobs to do, that Margaret hadn’t done. I found more than I expected, tidying this polishing that and finally washing up after my breakfast and lunch—I forced down a sandwich for the latter. I also made a shopping list of things needed like bread and milk. It kept me from crying, keeping my hands busy and trying to occupy my mind when it switched on again. Most of the time it felt dead.

At last, two o’clock came and I could go and see my dad. I pulled on the denim jacket and stepped out of the front door. Parked across the drive was a large Volvo.

My immediate reaction was elation; it looked like Simon’s car, followed by the realisation that he wasn’t in it and then deflation. That was followed by the memory of what had been and was no more. I sank into deeper gloom and seemed unable to sort out what I felt or thought—my mind just stopped.

I don’t know how long I stood there, it could have been seconds or minutes. I couldn’t go anywhere until his car was moved and he wasn’t there. Was he playing tricks with me? I wasn’t much in the mood for them if he was. I felt far too frail and would capitulate almost instantly.

Why had he come, to rub salt in the wound? I hoped he hadn’t because it wouldn’t have been in character. Leastways, not the character I knew and loved. Yes, there’s that word, I love him which is why I can’t deceive him any longer, however tempting that might be.

Where is he? Why doesn’t he show himself and put me out of my misery? I slowly turned to go back into the house and realised I’d left my handbag inside with my keys in it. Even if he hadn’t parked and blocked me in, I couldn’t have gone anywhere. My car keys were in the house along with my house keys. So I couldn’t get into the house or the car. I had no money nor my mobile—I had fucked up big time.

Normally, I would have thrown a tantrum and threatened to kill myself for being so stupid, then after the initial exhaustion had passed, I would work out how to sort things out then do it. Now, here, today, I collapsed into tears and slumped onto the front doorstep feeling so down that even the bottom of a mineshaft would be a long climb for me.

I sat sobbing when I saw a pair of legs standing before me. “You okay?” It was a familiar voice.

“No, I’ve locked myself out and…”

“Hang on, I’ll go and get Margaret’s key.” I watched as Greg trotted back to his house. He was probably the last person I needed to meet and I had to be careful not to give away any hints that I’d finished with Simon.

Two minutes later, he was back and helping me open the door. “There, are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes, I’ll be fine now, thanks so much.”

“There seem to be an awful lot of tears for just locking yourself out, are you sure you don’t want to come back to our place and I’ll make you a cuppa or something stronger?”

That was the last thing I wanted and I played the only trump card I had. I lied, “It’s you know, women’s troubles.” I rubbed my stomach and grimaced. I hoped he would be too polite to offer any sort of advice.

“Oh poor you, ’fraid I can’t help much there. Shall I get Margaret to call you when she gets back?”

“No,” I said almost too decisively, “I’ve got some pills inside. I’ll take one and it will ease off presently.”

“Can I make you some tea, or anything?” he asked helping me into my own home.

“No, thank you for your help so far. Please don’t say anything to Margaret; I don’t want her to think I’m a wimp.”

“No, okay, although she has suffered in the past. But don’t hesitate to call us if you still feel rough.”

“I won’t, I think I’ll go and lie down for a bit. Thank you so much.” Against my better judgement, I pecked him on the cheek and he went off feeling satisfied with himself. As soon as he was gone, I shut and locked the door and fell into a heap again.

Where was Simon? It seemed bizarre that his car was there and he wasn’t. Why was he preventing me from leaving my house? Or was he going to repossess his car? If so, then I could use my dad’s but I’d have to check the insurance and his Mondeo wasn’t as nice as ‘my little Merc.’

I think I must have dozed because I awoke to the doorbell ringing. I jumped up and nearly fell over, unaccustomed to the heels in my sleepiness. If that was Simon what should I do? My face must look a mess, because I could feel my eyelashes sticking together.

I couldn’t go near the door, because the glass panel would show I was there as I approached it. I needed another viewpoint. I sneaked as stealthily as one can in high-heeled boots up the stairs. Then from my parent’s bedroom I stole a glance outside. Simon’s car was gone—my heart sank. All I could see was a white van of some sort parked in the road.

Could it be someone from Simon wanting to collect the car, or worse could it be Margaret or the dreaded Greg? The doorbell rang again and again. I felt almost a pain go through me with each ring. I didn’t want to open the door but I couldn’t go on ignoring it.

I carefully descended the stairs and walked to the door. I couldn’t make out who was at the other side—all I could see was a vague outline through the frosted glass. Almost in a trance, my hand reached out and turned the handle, and the door opened.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 74

As the door drew open I was met by a young woman holding a gigantic bouquet of flowers. “Are you Cathy Watts?”

I nodded an affirmative, concerned that she should see me in such disarray and with makeup probably all over my face.

“These are for you, are you all right?” She passed me the flowers.

“Yes, I had a bit of an upset with my boyfriend, and I’m on.” Lying was becoming so easy.

She gave me a knowing look and offered, “Looks like he’s sorry,” she nodded at the flowers which threatened to overwhelm me.

“Yeah, maybe,” I wasn’t going to be drawn any more, “thanks.” I closed the door and struggled with the bunch of vegetation to the kitchen table. Attached to the outer wrapper was a card. I opened it and read the following:

‘I hope we can work through this as I’m getting rather fond of you.
Missing you,
S. xxx’

I puzzled over the note. It could mean he’d spoken to Stella and she may or may not have told him. I didn’t know, nor would I until I spoke to one of them. Was it his car I saw? I didn’t know that either.

The white van had gone; presumably it belonged to the florist. I needed to go and see my father before it got any later. I cleaned myself up as best I could and making sure I had my car and house keys, set off for the hospital.

Of course it was too late to catch either the sister or a doctor to discover his prognosis, and the staff nurse nabbed me as I entered the ward. “He was getting quite upset, he thought you weren’t coming.”

“I’m sorry, I got a bit caught up in things. Is there anything he needs?”

“Don’t think so; does he drink at all?”

“He likes an odd glass of beer or wine and even the occasional brandy, but he isn’t much of a drinker. Why, did you want me to bring him in something?”

“It might help him a little. He doesn’t like hospitals, but then who does?”

“Okay, I’ll ask him which he’d prefer.” She nodded at me and I went off to sit with my father.

“Gaffy, Gaffy!” he said loudly, his eyes brightening up as I approached his bed.

“Hi Daddy,” I kissed him on the cheek. I gave him the two magazines I’d bought for him. He thanked me and put them on the bed.

We chatted as best we could. His frustration at trying to speak was painful to behold and I felt very concerned. He was going to take a lot of looking after and I didn’t have either the time or the resources to do it. I felt guilty as well as worried for him.

He told me as best he could, that he was frightened I’d left him; abandoned him might be a better description, although he wasn’t capable of saying it. I didn’t deny it—my father was one person to whom I would not lie, especially now. So I answered in questions and half statements, “Does it look like it? Why did you think that? I got waylaid, I’m here now.” I refused to give any statement about the future.

Half my mind was on Simon, wondering what he knew and his response if he did. Had he sent those flowers knowing my situation or did he assume it was the past abuse? I wish I knew.

Once or twice, Dad caught me not paying attention and it was needed to understand what he was saying. Eventually, he managed to tell me that they had organized an assessment by a speech therapist for Monday. He was hoping she could help him speak more clearly. They had also put him down for physiotherapy. Perhaps he could become self-sufficient again; I sincerely hoped so for entirely selfish reasons.

At about seven, having helped him with his supper, I left promising to bring in a bottle of brandy the next day. I confirmed I would go and see the bank as well and arrange a temporary power of attorney to manage his affairs until he was well enough to take them back. It was something I wasn’t too happy about because I didn’t want to know about his financial affairs or anything else. I was an expert on dormice, not a financial manager.

I drove home and popped into a supermarket en route, getting most of the things I needed—I’d got my keys but left my list behind. I hoped it was stress, not dementia.

My funds were looking a bit low, so it was going to be necessary to see the bank anyway. I’d chat with Daddy tomorrow and get his agreement to borrow some.

I got home about half eight and there was a message on the ansafone from Simon, asking me how my dad was and to call him back.

I ummed and aahed for ages before I picked up the phone and dialled the cottage. To my surprise Stella answered. “What are you playing at?”

“What do you mean?” I asked feeling completely thrown by her attack.

“Telling Si to ask me about you. I told him nothing, it isn’t my place to. If you want him to know you can do your own dirty work. Don’t ask me. You know what I thought a few days ago, I haven’t changed my mind.”

“Yes but I don’t want to hurt him,” I whined in my defence.

“That is the only thing we seem to have in common,” she blasted at me.

“No it isn’t, we both love him.”

“What?”

I repeated my previous statement.

“If you love him then how can you put him through all this?”

“Because we both believe in honesty to each other.”

“Has he told you all about himself: all his failed romances, his fights, his drinking?”

“No, he hasn’t.”

“Well until he does, I’d keep quiet about your little problem.”

“It’s a bit more fundamental than that Stella. The relationship is founded on the premise that he’s a man and I’m a woman.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’m not a woman am I?”

“Only in the biblical sense. Look, I know what you’re on about but until things get a lot more committed, I’d keep quiet about it. Tell him when he starts talking about marriage.”

“What?”

“You know what I mean. Look it’s good that he has someone as nice as you to play with. His relationships usually don’t last very long. Given his record, I’d wait a bit and let him either show his intentions or see if he screws up again.”

“You don’t sound too hopeful?”

“Maybe this time things will be different but I doubt it. He usually screws it up within a month or two. The only time it lasted longer was when the girl he was seeing was seconded to Africa for a couple of months and the note she sent him took two months to get to him.”

“Oh dear, poor Simon,” I remarked.

“No, poor Stella; Simon is the wealthy one.”

“You know what I meant.”

“Well I’m afraid you can’t speak to him, he’s up in Town again today, had to take the train, his car went phutt after the garage managed to start it.”

“Has he been in London all day?”

“Far as I know, why?”

“I thought I saw his car outside the house this afternoon.”

“Nah it’s up at the garage, he’s using a Saab.”

“Oh, must have been someone else then.”

“Must have been. How is your dad?”

“About the same, he got upset ’cos I didn’t get in to the hospital as early as I’d like and certainly not as early as he’d like.”

“If he’s feeling weak and watery, he would. Just think about it for a moment: he’s lost his independence and needs you for the first time in his life. So he’s in a bereavement situation again, very soon after the other. It’s not a nice place to be.”

“I appreciate that, but have my own life to lead and with a chance of a government grant to do what I love doing. His dependency frightens me as much as it does him. I may never get a second chance to do this.”

“Well just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your career, not these days.”

“No but it sure lays a whole mass of guilt on me.”

“Don’t let him do that, you don’t owe him anything.”

“My head tells me that, but my heart somehow disagrees with it.”

“The advice of your Auntie Stella is, do what makes you most happy because you don’t get second chances in this life. Look I’ve got to go, talk soon.” She rang off leaving me with my thoughts and a pile of dirty dishes.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 75

(that’s like three quarters of a hundred! Gulp!)

I was so wrapped in my thoughts that I didn’t notice that I had washed everything twice. Oh well I suppose it was cleaner than ever. My conversation with Stella had really got me confused. I had set my mind on coming as clean as the dishes, but now she made me think again. Then there was my father, what was I going to do about him?

A million years ago, if I’d known he was going to accept me as I really was, I might have been prepared to play housekeeper for him. Instead, it took circumstances to force him to do it, like my mother’s death. If that hadn’t happened there might still have been radio silence from Bristol.

I poured myself a glass of wine and sat in the dark in my parent’s lounge, my head spinning with all the possibilities and all the conflict of what I wanted to do versus what others wanted me to do.

I drank the wine and decided I’d have another. I rose to go to the kitchen when I saw my mobile phone. I remembered I’d not thanked Simon for the flowers. I poured some more wine and picked up the mobile.

‘Sry 2 hear re car.
Thx 4 flwrs—luvly.
Luv. C xxx.’

I pressed send and the little sign came up to show it had gone. I sat down with my wine and sipped it slowly. It wasn’t helping me decide what to do, but it might help me sleep.

I was jerked from my reverie by the phone ringing. I picked up my mobile but the ringing continued. “Silly cow!” I said to myself as I trotted to the hall and the landline phone.

“Hello?”

“Hiya Gorgeous, glad you like the flowers.”

“Yes thanks, they are beautiful.” I felt my heart rate quicken when I heard Simon’s voice. It was pounding in my ears, worse than if I’d ridden up onto the Downs.

“Sorry I didn’t make it, they needed me to go into the office, someone had boobed and I had to sort it out. Stella tell you my car died again?”

“Yes, do you need this one back?”

“What? Be seen in that thing, no way!”

“She is lovely, Simon, how can you say that?”

“It’s a girly car. I was going to give it to Stella but it may survive longer with you.”

“She’s a Mercedes.”

“So what, they break down as well you know.”

“Don’t say that Simon, I haven’t got a clue about cars.” I almost felt as if he was jinxing me.

“Oh it’s AA or RAC covered for breakdown, it’s all in the glove box somewhere.”

“I’ll check tomorrow.” I would too. I was terrified of cars breaking down because I was helpless. Bikes I could fix, cars were alien territory.

“I’ve got a Saab at the minute, goes like a train, may decide to keep it and ditch the Volvo.”

“You seem to like Scandinavian cars, this one should go faster. Isn’t it made by jet aircraft manufacturers?”

“Not anymore, it’s General Motors, nothing to do with Saab aircraft, hasn’t been for years. But then Volvo is Ford, so I’m not too worried.” He paused for a moment and I heard him swallow.

“What are you drinking?” I asked him.

“A bottle of beer, you’re not supposed to hear that.”

“Why? I was drinking a glass of wine before you rang.”

“Had you finished?”

“No, I hadn’t.”

“Well go and get it, I won’t ring off.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“No it isn’t, go and get it, and make sure it’s a full glass.”

“You trying to get me drunk or something?”

“Probably or something, go on, go and get it!”

Reluctantly I put down the phone and took my nearly empty glass to the kitchen where I filled it with more wine. At this rate I would be tipsy. I tottered back to the phone in the hall, I should have taken off my boots but I’d got so used to them.

“Hi, I’m back and feeling a little woozy.”

“Good, serves you right.”

“Why, what have I done?” It seemed wine gave me amnesia as well.

“Nearly gave me heart failure, that’s what! Remember?”

I felt myself blushing so hot there seemed to be a real danger of me melting the phone which was against my head. I felt a tear well up in my eyes and a moment later it rolled down my cheek, I sniffed.

“What’s the matter, have you got a cold?”

I shook my head, which is really useful on the phone.

“You still there Cathy?”

“Mmm,” I sniffed.

“Are you crying?”

“Nnn nnn,” I lied sniffing again.

“Yes you are, there’s salt water coming from the phone, nearly went in my beer.”

I snorted at this and laughed.

“That’s better. I like to hear you laugh.”

“I don’t deserve to,” I replied sniffing some more. I wiped my eyes with my fingers and rubbed mascara over half my face.

“Why ever not? This sounds serious Cathy. Look Stella told me a bit about your past, you have nothing to feel guilty about.”

I shook my head again, how could I go on deceiving him like this? At the same time how could I know for sure that we were going to get serious enough to warrant me telling him? Stella’s argument made some sense, I just didn’t like lying to him. He was becoming too important to me. Shit! Why did I let this happen? More importantly, how did I let this happen? In two weeks or so my life hadn’t just changed, my whole universe had changed completely, my Milky Way had gone from skimmed to full cream, homogenised!

“You there, Cathy?”

“Yes,” I answered very weakly.

“Stella mentioned she thought you couldn’t have children, is that what all this is about?”

Geez Stella, why didn’t you just tell him the whole truth? “Some of it.” I was aware that I was speaking in a cross between a whine and a whimper.

“It’s okay, honestly. I mean I don’t know if I wanted kids or not anyway, so it’s okay, besides we could always adopt or whatever.”

I know he was trying to cheer me up, but it was having the reverse effect, I was feeling worse. “I have to go.”

“Cathy wait, how is your dad?”

“Much the same.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

“I don’t think so, but thanks.”

“I’m getting really fond of you girl…”

“I have to go, night,” I interrupted and put the phone down. I drank the wine down quickly and went to bed. I tossed and turned for an hour or so before the alcohol took effect and I zonked.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 76

Hangovers and Mummy’s wardrobe—
is it just a bike that Cathy is falling from?

I awoke needing the loo; it was just getting light. I staggered to the toilet. My head was pounding and I felt a bit dizzy. As I sat on the ‘throne,’ I recalled the previous evening. Three large glasses of wine were more than I usually drank. My headache was deserved.

I was tempted to go back to bed, but instead got up and after drinking a large glass of water, I put the kettle on and got in the shower. Most of my makeup was still smeared around my face and I felt better under the warm water as it cascaded over and around me. I stayed under its sensual influence longer than I needed to, to get clean. It simply felt nice and my fragility needed a little self-indulgence.

Once dressed, I made some tea and forced down a couple of slices of toast, then dried my hair. I was getting better at styling it myself, although I was a long way from doing it as competently as I wanted. If I’d had a bike here, I would have gone for a ride to work off the aldehydes, the breakdown products of alcohol that cause hangovers. But I didn’t have one and besides I’d need to shower again after riding it.

It was a Sunday morning and not quite nine o’clock; I had all day to do nothing and nothing to do all day. The house was clean and tidy, I’d done the laundry and the ironing, I was looking for jobs to do and there were none to be done. I even looked around the garden, but apart from picking some late runner beans, there was little if anything there either. Dad must have tidied it all up just before his stroke.

I had a car, so I could have gone for a drive, except I didn’t want to use up its precious fuel: I didn’t have the money to replace it. I know I still had some of the dosh my dad had sent me, but that was all I had and there would be need for more clothes and stuff, like changing my name. So I had to hang on to it. When I’d sorted something out with the bank, I could at least borrow some cash from Daddy to see me through my stay. I would ask him first, but I couldn’t see him refusing. Assuming I could get the bank to hand some over in the first place. I wasn’t looking forward to that experience. I suddenly thought—the hole in the wall or ATM—if he could tell me his pin number, I could draw some out before I saw the manager and at least I could put some more juice in the car.

I had found his cash card and also his credit card. I put them somewhere safe just in case anyone broke in. Poking about in his belongings felt very strange; poking about in my mother’s felt even stranger. He hadn’t parted with much at all. I saw some of her jewellery and a handbag or two that would be nice to have, so I’d need to speak to him about those as well. After all, he now owned all her stuff, at least on a technical basis. It felt so strange knowing that this was like old times looking at her clothes, only she wasn’t coming home to disturb me or catch me red lipped and in her underwear.

I was completely absorbed in looking though her things that I didn’t hear a car pull up. When the doorbell rang, I jumped so much that I actually fell into her wardrobe. The shock that ran through me was that of, ‘Oh my God, she’s caught me playing with her things!’

The doorbell rang again as I was trying to disentangle myself from the clothes I’d inadvertently pulled off their hangers when I fell into the wardrobe.

Trying to tidy myself as I trotted down the stairs, the doorbell rang again. I now felt a bit irritated by whoever it was. “All right, I’m coming,” I called as I approached the door.

I pulled it open expecting it to be the neighbours from hell, asking if I felt better and did I want to go to Sunday lunch? I was shocked: there before me was Simon. “Oh!” was all I could say and that was in the form of a gasp.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

“Mmmm,” I mumbled and stood back, my heart beating like a super-charged metronome, my jelly legs trembling as if I had recently finished a cycle sprint.

“Good morning,” he said and engulfed me with a hug simultaneously closing the front door. Then his lips found mine and I melted with his kiss. Time seemed to stand still as he held me. My legs seemed so inadequate to carry my weight, that if he hadn’t held me up, I’d have fallen like a stone.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and held my head against his chest, his powerful arms around me. I wanted this moment to last forever, knowing that it wouldn’t or couldn’t, but it was so lovely I couldn’t bear to cause it to end.

“Happy Sunday,” said Simon, hugging me tightly.

“Mmmm,” I said almost purring—if I’d had a tail, I’d be wrapping it around his legs right now.

“Is that all you can say, after I’ve driven all this way?” He released his grip to try and prise me away from his body.

“Nnn nnn,” I replied. My vocabulary was enormous on occasions; this just wasn’t one of them.

“Is that it?”

“Nnn nnn,” I responded, then added, “Kiss me again.”

“That’s more like it old girl,” he said with enthusiasm and once again his lips found mine. I held my body against his as tightly as I could and felt his hand reach for my breast. A shiver ran through me and I felt a small wetness in my pants. I had come in my pants—Simon had turned me on! Oh my God!

I held onto him for several more minutes, occasionally kissing him, and I began to kiss his hairy chest, unbuttoning his shirt a little. I knew I had to be careful because I couldn’t give him what he’d be wanting. Instead, I just rubbed against his crotch as I kissed his chest and found one of his nipples, which I licked. I felt him stiffen for a moment and knew that he had just messed his pants.

“Oh, God, Cathy!” he exclaimed and I wanted to laugh. I had a panty pad in my knickers, so I was okay. He would be making a mess in his trousers. “I’erm need to go to the bathroom, quickly.” I pointed to the cloakroom under the stairs and he disappeared. I giggled all the way up to my parent’s bedroom where I found him a pair of underpants that my dad had never worn.

I knew I had crossed a line with him and would need to lay down some guidelines very quickly. I needed to take control of this at the same time I recognised I had just fallen in the deep end or did I dive? This was now getting serious and had been exactly what I had been telling myself to avoid.

I knocked on the cloakroom door and left the pants for him to find while I went to fill the kettle with a big smirk on my face.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 77 (Sunset Strip?)

by Angharad & V Pendleton

Does Simon stumble across the truth and will Cathy come clean, and I don’t mean in the shower?

I stood waiting for the kettle to boil while Simon changed his undies. I still had a smile on my face but the realisation was dawning upon me that perhaps I had been a trifle impulsive. Now I was blushing—had I done something stupid? It seemed to be a habit these days—I mean who else would lock herself out of the car and the house at the same time? Herself! I just described myself as herself! It slightly shocked me—it was about the first time I had used the term while talking to myself in my head. I blushed some more.

“Can you get your dad to buy Calvin Klein’s next time?” Simon put his arms around me from behind.

“If his don’t suit, you can always borrow some of mine,” I offered as the kettle switched itself off.

“No, these will do.”

“They are brand new.”

“Yes, I appreciate that.”

“And Marks and Sparks make good underwear.”

“Do you buy yours there?”

“Erm, no.” I felt myself blushing again.

“Well then.”

“If you had controlled yourself, you wouldn’t have had to change.”

“Hah, I’d like to see you stop yourself from coming when you are being kissed and touched up by a beautiful girl.”

“I think I could manage it.”

“Oh yeah, what about if it was beautiful young man?”

“That’s two questions, that’s not fair.” I took the moral high ground in a facetious way, but it showed that I could make decisions, or I hoped it did. “Anyway, if you bring me the dirty ones, I’ll wash them for you.”

“Ah, that’s okay.” Now it was his turn to blush. I nearly shot myself in the foot by misquoting an old joke, ‘Underpants, not the best thing in the world but close to it!’ I was glad I had refrained. I’d indulged myself already.

“Are you going to see your dad today?” asked Simon as I made the tea.

“I have to I’m afraid.”

“Don’t apologise, I’d like to meet him.”

I nearly dropped the teapot. “Why?” I asked, instead of asking him to repeat his shocking statement. Scenarios of Daddy somehow managing to say, ‘She wasn’t always Cathy, until two weeks ago she was Charlie.’

“I’d simply like to meet your father.”

“He’s had a stroke; he can hardly talk, let alone converse with you. He’s quite poorly,” I lied, but how was he to know any better.

“Stella said he’d abused you,” he hesitated while saying this as if he wasn’t sure if he should be mentioning it.

“He beat me a number of times—he won’t do it again.” I felt my stomach flip over and I almost wanted to be sick.

“He won’t if I have a word with him.”

“No Simon, if I need your help I’ll ask for it. Please let me do this my own way.” Please Simon, God knows what he’d tell you if you threatened him. “Besides, since my mother died, he needs me more than I need him.” And that puts me in the driving seat for the moment anyway.

“If ever he lays so much as a finger on you, I’ll rip it off and shove it so far up his arse it will give him a sore throat.” There was coldness in the statement; I believed he really meant it.

“You’re frightening me Simon; you can’t bash Daddy just because you don’t like his underpants.” It was an attempt to change his mood.

“No one hits women and gets away with it while I’m around—I can’t abide it.”

I nearly told him I wasn’t a woman when I last got hit, and even had a punch line: I was only a child. Well, I couldn’t say little girl, could I? But then, the idea of beating up a child is even worse that hitting a woman. “I can handle it Simon, he’s no longer the monster he was and I can now hold my own if necessary.”

“When did he last hit you?”

“I can’t remember,” I lied. I could almost tell him to the minute when it was.

“Stella tells me you ended up in hospital.”

“Not for that.”

“Oh, what else was it then?”

“Nothing important.” I felt quite angry that Stella had told him bits and that he was assuming he was my protector. I wasn’t even sure if I could describe him as my boyfriend, because we had hardly been out on dates and hadn’t had sex—unless you consider the little flirt in the hallway half an hour ago, sex.

I think my irritation showed, because he looked sheepish and said, “Sorry, I mean it’s not as if you were having a sex change or something.”

“Would it be important if I had been?” I glared at him.

“Erm, I was only joking love.”

“Answer the question, please.”

“This is a nice cuppa,” he blushed as he changed the subject.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so assertive? I didn’t feel encouraged by his embarrassment, and I really did wonder if he could cope with the truth. Maybe Stella was right after all: this might just fold before we get to the stage where it becomes essential. So I’m living a lie and deceiving him, so what?

It’s quite bizarre how I’ve spent most of my life trying to prevent others discovering my inner femaleness; now I’m trying to stop them uncovering my outer maleness. How time changes things.

“When are you going to see your dad?”

“Anytime after two, why?”

“I wondered if we could find somewhere to have lunch.”

“I’ll cook something if you want,” I offered, albeit weakly.

“If we had more time, I might just have let you do that, but there’ll be plenty of time for that, won’t there? In the future I mean.”

“Will there, how should I know? You might get fed up with me.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Maybe I’ll get fed up with you,” I could have cut my tongue out the instant that was out of my mouth. Simon went from looking self-assured and confident to suddenly looking very unsure of himself. Sometimes I was a real bitch! “I know a nice little pub, but we might have to book,” I said brightly trying to change his mood and the subject.

“Yeah, maybe you will, just like all the others.”

“What, book a pub lunch?” I asked looking puzzled even though I knew exactly what he meant.

“No, dump me after a short time.” He looked like a little boy lost.

“Simon how can I dump you, we’re hardly a couple yet are we?” I tried to keep it real.

“There see, I thought we were. I just don’t understand women. Maybe I’d better go.”

“Simon!” I said loudly and he stopped in his tracks. “Please stay,” I said more quietly. “We hardly know each other, so how can we say we’re a couple? What I see of you and the more I know, the more I like you, but there are things you don’t know about me and I suppose there will be things I don’t know about you.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” he looked sheepish again. “My trouble is I’m in too much of a hurry. I think I like you a lot.” He blushed and looked at the floor—I was glad I’d washed it yesterday.

I was also glad he didn’t look at me because I was blushing as much as he was. “I think I like you too.” I placed my hand under his chin and lifted up his head, and then I kissed him gently on the lips.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 78

by Angharad & Bonzi Cat

The emotional roller coaster continues, read on…

My experience of men and I suppose boys, was mostly negative. They either jeered at me or beat me up. Standing here with Simon, I began to realise that he might have similar experiences with women, albeit, with less physical violence.

“You are so different from all the other women I’ve dated, Cathy.”

At this sort of statement the warning lights flashed a little, “What do you mean different? Is it my two heads that give it away?” I tried not to probe too deeply in case he starts thinking. After all, he wasn’t entirely stupid, even if he was a man.

Simon chuckled, “Nah, I like the two heads except when they give me three opinions.” I smiled at this, which for Simon was almost funny. “No it’s more about your attitude.”

Oops! Am I doing things more like a boy then? “What do you mean?”

“You’re about the only one I’ve met who seems to be honest and not take me for a ride.”

I blushed at honesty and felt a guilty need to cover it up, “No, I’m just a better class of liar.” I smiled a false smile clicking my front teeth together.

“Nearly all the women with whom I’ve been out, seemed to delight in messing me up in some way. Until you came into my life, I’d almost taken a vow of solitary celibacy, especially when Stella took up with that doctor fellow.”

“What do you mean messing you about?”

“Belittling me or trying to question my masculinity. You know the sort of things you girls can do to a bloke.”

I didn’t but I nodded anyway, “Why do you think they did that to you?” I sounded like a student counsellor.

“Because they could? I don’t know. I would shower them in gifts because I liked them and then, they’d either become gold-diggers and I’d ditch them, or they put me down and move on. One of them stuck all the stuff I’d given her on eBay under the title of, ‘Presents from a dickhead’.”

“I don’t understand why anyone would do that to you.” I still had my hands on his shoulders.

“They all do it; I half expect you will too eventually.” He looked at the floor and I think I saw a tear drip on to it.

“I think I can say that I won’t. I have issues about men, but I don’t go trying to revenge myself. It would show that I have the problem, not them.”

“Yeah, but maybe I do have the problem, as they all did it to me. They can’t all be wrong can they?”

“Simon, I can’t answer for any or all of the others, but I can speak for myself. I think you are a gentleman in all senses of that word and have been a great support and help to me, for which I am truly grateful. Without the car you loaned me, coming up to see my dad would have been much more difficult.”

I pulled him to me and hugged him tightly, feeling his arms encircle me and hold me. Then he bent and rested his head on my shoulder, whispering, “See you are different.”

In more ways than you think mate! “No I’m not, or if I am maybe it’s because I know similar sorts of abuse from others, myself. Yes, maybe I am different, but then so are you. When I said I didn’t want a sexual relationship, you agreed to it. Not many men of our age would, unless they were hoping to change my mind later. I feel safe with you Simon, so you must be different.” Shit! Why didn’t I say I didn’t want sex even if he is different?

“Thank you, I won’t betray that trust. When you are ready maybe we can have a full relationship, but only when you are ready.” I felt a wetness on my shoulder: he was crying.

So was I, jeez, why do I bother with makeup? I don’t need waterproof mascara, I need one approved for deep sea divers!

I snuggled against him holding him tightly. His body shook very gently as he cried on my shoulder, and I rubbed his back making a cooing sounds.

“I’m sorry,” he blubbed, “maybe they are right and I’m not much of a man. Look at me weeping like a girl.”

Whilst I suppose I could have worked an opportunity to tell him about myself, I felt it would be even more traumatic for him—he was already upset. I needed to do it when he was more calm and collected, preferably after a good meal.

“There is nothing wrong with crying, it isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of deep emotion.” Thank you Dr Freud!

“I’d better go, before I make a fool of myself.” He went to break away from me.

“I thought you trusted me?” I asked reluctantly letting him go.

“I do,” he replied looking hurt.

“So how are you going make a fool of yourself?”

“I usually do.”

“So?”

“Well do I need to say more?”

“Yes you do, because nothing you have said or done makes you appear anything like a fool in my eyes.”

He sneaked a look at me, but I couldn’t hold his gaze and his eyes went back to staring at the floor.

“Don’t you feel safe with me?”

“Of course I do.”

“So do you think I’m going to let you make a fool of yourself or profit from it?”

“I suppose not.”

“So why do you need to go?”

“Erm, I don’t know, I just wanted to run away in case I couldn’t cope. Your opinion is important to me and I didn’t want you to think I was such a prat.”

“Simon, please look at me.” The words were forming in my mouth by themselves, I had no control over what I was saying, it was pure emotion and I could feel his pain so deeply. At the same time, I didn’t feel it was my job to stop his pain only to facilitate his dealing with it. We may never be an item, but I could help him do better with his next effort.

His eyes slowly moved up from the floor and it seemed with some difficulty gazed into mine. “Simon, I think I am falling for you in a big way. I am never going to hurt you.”

Oh my God, what have I said? My treacherous mouth seemed to be on autopilot. He took a moment to process what I had said, thank goodness I didn’t use the ‘L’ word, but it was pretty well implicit in what I’d said.

He stared at me for a moment, then he dragged me to him and hugged me so tight that I could hardly breathe, and then he really burst into tears, sobbing, his whole body heaving. I lightly patted his back and tried to comfort him.

We stood like that for several minutes; my shoulder was quite wet when we finished. I handed him a piece of kitchen roll to wipe his face. “Come on sit down and I’ll make us a nice cuppa.”

He nodded his assent and sat at the kitchen table. He looked exhausted and I didn’t feel much better myself, but I had to be strong for him. This was his crisis and he needed me to help him through it. When I did eventually tell him, he’d probably have another but that would be different, now he needed me to be there and to concentrate on his troubles.

I watched him staring into space, a faraway look in his eyes. I suspected he was remembering something or perhaps projecting into the future. Whatever it was, he wasn’t here with me for those few minutes. I made some tea and passed him a mug. He made some grunting noise which I suppose was a thanks but he didn’t really recognise what was happening.

I sat opposite and held his hands; he looked at me smiled and went back to his reverie. Finally, he looked hard at me and said very quietly, “Thank you Cathy.”

I looked deeply into his eyes and asked, “Was it always that difficult with your mother?”

He nodded and squeezed my hands, “How do you know?”

“I didn’t, a guess or maybe some feminine intuition, I don’t know.” Shit I’m a scientist, intuition shouldn’t come into it. I’m a trained observer, okay of small furry things, but I always know how to find them, even when others can’t. Is that intuition, or just experience and learned skill?

This was getting way too deep for me but I couldn’t pull out now.

“Thank you,” he said and slumped exhausted in the chair.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 79

by Angharad & The Killer Kitten

If life is so easy, where is Cathy going wrong?

I sat and watched Simon; he looked as tired as I felt. We had been talking maybe an hour, yet it felt like a month. I hoped it was still Sunday, but if it wasn’t I thought I might just about understand.

“Why don’t we go and sit in the lounge, the chairs are more comfortable?” I stood up and he took hold of the hand I proffered; he rose and followed me into the lounge. We sat on the sofa, not saying much at all and not too many minutes later, he was lying with his head in my lap, fast asleep as I stroked his hair.

I was too tired to think we were acting like a couple, I just wanted him to be comfortable and could see he needed a nap, so I sat and guarded him while he slept little knowing what was under the trousers I was wearing.

I suspect I nodded a bit at times too, I was so tired. Why was emotional stuff always so tiring? I would have been less knackered riding a bike up and down the Ridgeway. I puzzled over my question about his mother.

I knew nothing about their parents, not even if they were still alive. So where did the question come from? I have heard that in psychotherapy, a good therapist can almost climb into the head of the client and see what they are thinking—the empathy in the relationship is so good. I was no therapist—perhaps in need of one—but I got the picture of a little boy and his aloof mother.

I tried to look at the clock but I couldn’t quite see it, bloody thing! I’d left my watch in the bathroom when I’d washed my hands earlier, so I had to move Simon’s arm to see his wrist and eventually his watch.

He was dreaming, I could see his eyes moving under the closed lids, which meant he was either going into deeper sleep or coming out of it. I hoped it was the latter because I was getting very stiff, his head was heavy and I needed to pee.

As I pulled up his arm so his eyes opened, “Wassup?” his sleepy eyes looked straight through me and then seemed to focus on me. He smiled.

“Hello sleepyhead, feel better?”

“Hi gorgeous,” he said back.

After I explained a need to micturate, he sat up and on stiff legs, I managed to waddle out to the loo. I still hadn’t noticed the time.

“What time is it Si?” I called as I walked back to the lounge.

“Half twelve, are we doing lunch or what?”

“I doubt we’ll have time now. I’ll have to make us something.”

“Sorry, I said I’d take you to lunch. Cocked up again!” He looked downcast.

“You do enjoy beating yourself up don’t you?”

“I don’t enjoy it, but I seem to be pretty good at it.”

“I had noticed. Look if you don’t trust my cooking, we could try ordering a pizza.”

“Can’t say I enjoy them that much, and it isn’t that I don’t trust you it’s more that I don’t want you to have to bother.”

“Maybe I want to bother, I don’t get the opportunity to play the little wifey very often.” Shit! What a stupid thing to say, what am I saying here—unconscious messages that I want him to propose to me? Geez, I must watch that stupid mouth of mine.

“Okay, if you want to pretend to be a hausfrau, you carry on.”

I scuttled out to the kitchen and checked out the fridge. I had enough to make some omelettes and a salad garnish. I chopped and fried some onion and potato, then made an omelette mix… ten minutes later I was carrying two Spanish omelettes into the dining room. I called him but no one came.

Thinking he’d gone off to sleep again I went into the lounge, he was nowhere to be seen. I checked the cloakroom and the bathroom, he’d gone. I ran to the front door, his car had gone. I sat at the table with my head in my hands and began to cry. What had I done wrong? Surely he hadn’t guessed about me had he? Where the hell was he? If he’d nipped out for a paper or a bottle of wine, wouldn’t he have said?

I waited my eyes watery, watching the steam rising from the plates decreasing. I don’t know how long I waited, long enough to know the food was cold and that he wasn’t coming back. I scraped the plates into the bin and on heavy legs went up to get ready to go and see my father. I hadn’t felt much like it before, now all I wanted to do was curl up and cry myself to sleep.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 80

On the drive to the hospital, I kept a look out for the Saab, but there was no sign of it. I parked up at the hospital car park and checked my mobile: there was nothing. Why he left was a total mystery to me. I so badly wanted to call Stella, but if I did he might take it the wrong way when he found out. Nothing seemed to be going right for me today and I’d just as soon have gone home to sleep as be in a hospital where everyone but me seemed to be in bed.

The time I spent with Daddy was a strain for both of us. I was distracted thinking about Simon, so I didn’t catch half of what he was trying to say. Since his stroke, his speech had been difficult to understand. Actually, it was better today since his session with the speech therapist, but he was tired and kept falling asleep. He even fell asleep when I was helping him to eat his tea, which reminded me of seeing a baby fall asleep with a spoonful of food in his mouth.

He didn’t ask me what was distracting me, thank goodness. If he had, I would probably have lied and told him it was tiredness. I did remember to bring in his brandy, which brought a smile to his face and I told the nurse I had brought it in. He was to be allowed a small glass each night to help him sleep.

The time for visiting was finally over and I was absolutely knackered as I wandered back to the car park. It was dark and all I wanted was to go home and sleep, possibly with a hot bath in between them. The drive home was uneventful.

After parking, I opened the front door and there was an envelope on the doormat. There is no delivery on a Sunday, so this was by hand. It was addressed simply to, ‘Cathy.’ I had a feeling I knew who its author was, so I made myself a cuppa and took it up to the bathroom.

After settling myself in a nice hot bath with my tea close to hand, I opened the envelope.

‘Dearest Cathy,

Forgive my running off this afternoon but I had to get away to think. I am truly sorry that I did so without any notice to you and that I let you cook a meal for nothing. I’m sure it would have been delicious.

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am so scared of spoiling it. You know of my difficulties with relationships as I know of yours, and I am so scared of losing you that being with you is almost painful because it lets me know what I would be missing if I blew it again.

You told me you were “falling for me,” it’s an experience I can mirror because I fell for you the moment I saw you. Why can’t I say these things to you? Cowardice? Fear of losing you in case I’m wanting to move too quickly for you? I don’t know.

As you correctly guessed, I had a difficult relationship with my mother, who sent me off to boarding school because I complicated her life. I’m not sure I have forgiven her, even though she has been dead for several years. The memories of the pain I felt at being sent away from home at the age of eight are still with me. I’m sorry, I’m rambling, please give me some time to get my head straight and then we can talk.

If, on the other hand, you don’t want anything more to do with me, and I would understand, just let Stella know. The car is yours, although you would have to tax and insure it in a year’s time.

Thank you for the time we have had together, I hope we might still have a future, but that is up to you.

Love,

Simon. XXXX’

I read the letter so many times I thought it would fade the ink. I felt a total confusion and a maelstrom of emotions, including slashing my wrists while in the hot water. I also felt like killing him, the twit!

What was going on? How can someone who purports to like me, perhaps love me, run away because it was too painful? I almost laughed at the idea that someone fell in love with me after I’d been a woman for about an hour, it was ludicrous, or it was to me. But who was I to judge others?

Simon obviously was coming with loads of baggage, so was I. The problem was, could we actually cope with that of the other as well as our own? Seeing as we weren’t coping with our own too well, it might be too much. On the other hand, maybe we could help each other too.

I puzzled over his note until the water got cold and so did I. In the end, I had to take a warm shower to ward off the hypothermia. When I walked into the bedroom in a borrowed dressing gown of my mothers, I saw it was nearly midnight—no wonder I felt so tired.

The one meaningful conversation I had had with my dad was about my mother’s belongings. He didn’t want to make a shrine to her at the same time he couldn’t bring himself to throw her stuff away, especially as he now had a ‘daughter’ who might want some of it. Effectively, he told me to take what I wanted and dispose of the rest. There were a few bits and pieces he wanted like her wedding ring, but he was happy for me to have her engagement ring, which amazingly fitted me.

Washing out her clothes and packing them up for the charity shop would also give me something to do. He agreed to my using his cash card and gave me the pin number. He asked me to keep a note of all I took out of his account and offered me twenty pounds a week pocket money as well as meeting the costs of my food and fuel. I thought he was being pretty generous and accepted. At the same time, I tried to give no long-term commitment to anything.

I took a cup of drinking chocolate to bed with me. It wasn’t a favourite of mine, but I hoped it would help me sleep, especially with the generous sloosh of brandy I had included. After reading the letter another hundred times, I eventually fell asleep.

I dreamed that Simon and I were dormice living in different colonies on either side of a busy road. The humans for some reason had a soft spot for us, and had built a bridge over the road, so we could get together. I climbed up on to the bridge only to see Simon scarper in the opposite direction. I woke up crying.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 81

by Angharad & Mercedes Bonz

Cathy encounters the red tape brigade… read on!

The next day was Monday and I tried to phone the bank but could only speak with a call centre, who were not prepared to deal with anyone but the account holder. I decided to go and see them, which I should have done in the first place and saved myself half an hour of hair tearing.

I dressed sedately, so it wasn’t my David Millar outfit. Actually I wore a denim skirt and jacket that Stella had donated; they were from Oasis, so looked pretty tidy. Under that I wore a plain vee-necked tee shirt which hinted that I had a bit of cleavage (but only with the booster pads).

It felt strange looking through my mother’s jewellery, and while she didn’t have anything very valuable, she had some nice pieces. I hoped she would approve of me wearing them. I chose a matching sapphire and gold necklace and drop earrings and a gold bracelet. I also pinched some of her Chanel No. 5. My makeup was simple, a bit of lippy and some mascara with a little eyeliner. I didn’t need blusher—my cycling had given me enough facial colouring. Pulling on my boots—what would I have done without them?—and picking up my bag and keys I set off for central Bristol.

Parking in any large city is a nightmare; Bristol is no exception and it was difficult, but I eventually managed to pop it in a car park up near the University, near Hotwells Road.

I tottered down the hill to the commercial area and the bank. I thought it better to withdraw some money before I spoke with them, just in case they got funny. I took out a couple of hundred and carefully stashed it in my purse.

Inside the bank, I felt quite nervous as I walked up to the enquiry desk. “Can I help you Miss?” asked a nice young woman behind it.

“I hope so. My father has an account here and he has a slight problem. He has had a stroke and is in Southmead Hospital; he’s asked me to look after his affairs for the moment.”

“And you are?”

“His daughter,” I said thinking what else would I be if he was my father?

“Yes, I know that, what’s your name?”

‘Yes,’ I suddenly thought I’ve been here before. “Watts, Cathy Watts, my dad is Derek Watts.”

“You’ll need to talk with one of the under-managers, there are certain protocols we need to follow to protect your father’s account, I’m sure you understand.”

“Of course.” I was expecting this and was not disappointed.

I waited strolling round looking at all the free leaflets. It’s amazing what banks can do these days, insurance, legal services, overdrafts, mortgages and so on. It’s nearly as comprehensive as Tesco and I could have got a sandwich there while I waited.

I had pretty well exhausted my interest in the leaflets when some young bloke came out to me. “Miss Watts?”

As I was bent over looking at the lowest level, I jumped up and nearly knocked myself out on the display, “Ouch!” I said rubbing my head, not sure whether to laugh or cry, or even crawl away with embarrassment.

“Oh dear, I hope you haven’t hurt yourself?” The voice came from some distance away. I looked up and realised he must have been about six foot six. He was tall, taller than Simon and he’s quite tall.

“Would you like to come into the office?” he asked having ascertained that I wasn’t mortally wounded, simply terminally embarrassed. I noticed he was wearing a wedding ring—pity he was very good looking. Goodness, I’m turning into such a tart!

He went through the process and we agreed it would cut the red tape if they sent someone from the bank to see my dad and then I’d come in and sign for power of attorney. Seemed straightforward enough, until…

“According to our records, your parents have only one child.”

The pit of my stomach had Hamilton rev up and shoot off in his MacLaren. I knew what was coming, but decided to play stupid, maybe he wasn’t so cute. “Yes that’s right, me.”

“I’m afraid not Miss Watts, it says here a son named Charles.”

“Ah, not any more I’m afraid.”

“Why has something happened to him?”

“Sort of,” I said biting my lip and blushing somewhat.

“What happened to him?”

“The good fairy visited and turned him into me.” I thought I’d play it for laughs, it was a mistake, it usually is.

“Are you trying to tell me you are Charles Watts?” he looked horrified.

“Was, I think is the operative word, no pun intended.” I groaned at my own joke, silently of course. His face was a picture and after making some excuse he left the room. I half expected several more staff to have to call in to view the freak. I then realised it was probably all being recorded on CCTV. Oh well, I hadn’t done anything illegal or immoral.

He came back with an older woman. “Hello Miss Watts, we have a slight difficulty due to your change of status, but I’m sure we can sort it.” She gave a smile but it was very superficial and only involved her mouth, her eyes said more, ‘why did you have to drag me away from what I was doing to deal with this ditz?’

“Have you dealt with this sort of thing before?”

“The attorney or gender change?”

“The gender change,” I smiled at her.

“Oh yes, that’s nothing new these days and with the new legal status possible, it’s relatively straightforward. Do you have proof of identity?”

“Only my student union card and library pass.” I pulled them out of my purse.

“You don’t have a legal change of name, statutory declaration, that sort of thing?”

“No, not yet, it hasn’t been necessary until now. The university usually accepts my body as proof of my existence.” I smiled again.

“I’m sure it does Miss Watts, but they only give out degrees, we have responsibility for your money.”

“Not mine, I bank with someone else.” I smiled cattily at her and she returned it with a look of, ‘We have a right one here!’

“That’s your prerogative,” she said looking at my ID card. “Nice photo, usually they look awful. Department of Zoology, what are you studying?”

“Dormice.”

“You weren’t involved with this thing in the news recently, about dormice?”

“No, thank goodness, I wish they had contacted me, I think I could have helped.”

“So you’re an expert on dormice?”

“My prof seems to think so, he’s invited me to spend government money watching them, along with some colleagues from Bristol. I’m going to lead the dormouse element.”

“Sounds more interesting than banking,” she said wistfully.

“Not when it’s pissing down at three in the morning.” I could be so direct.

“You’re out at that time of night?”

“Yes, they’re largely nocturnal critters.”

“I hope you have someone with you young lady.”

“Not usually, I think I’m safer out in the woods than I would be in town. Remember Portsmouth is a naval base, hello sailor and all that!”

“Yes quite!”

“Well, I think if you are there when we speak with your father, he can give us proof of your identity in lieu of formal paperwork. I would urge you to sort that out, it may make things easier for you later. I take it you’ve not had surgery yet?”

“No, on the list,” I offered ambiguously, I didn’t allude to which list.

“Well good luck, I think you made the right decision and I’d never have known without your disclosure. Mr Martin, here, will be seeing your father tomorrow afternoon at half past two, could you attend?”

“I think so. I’m only clearing out the stuff my mother left.”

“She left?”

“She had to, her body would have smelled after a while, so they burned it.”

“Your mother is dead?”

“Yes, didn’t you know?” Obviously they didn’t.

“Does she have an account here?”

“I don’t know.”

“We’ll make some enquiries, if she did we’ll need to have a death certificate to close the account. We’ll freeze it immediately.”

“Okay, I’ll look at home and see if he sorted it out. I doubt it, he was pretty shell shocked when Jesus wanted her for a sunbeam.”

“Shouldn’t you be more respectful of your mother?”

“Probably. Yes I’m sorry, I should be but we weren’t very close for a few years.”

“I see. Well goodbye Miss Watts, Mr Martin will meet you and your father at Southmead Hospital tomorrow at two thirty.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be there.”

I left feeling that my flippancy had been misplaced, she was quite right, I should respect my mother. I did, it was the bank’s formalness that pissed me off. I wandered around the shops for a bit, got a copy of Cycling Weekly and went to Tesco to get some food and fuel.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 82

Cathy bakes a cake and goes cookie? See for yourself…

Carrying my shopping back to the house, I had to make two trips—all right, I confess if I hadn’t bought some clothes in Tesco, I probably could have made one journey and would have avoided my yucky neighbours.

I have already described Greg as being as flesh crawling as scabies, so I think you’ll get the picture. If they made a short video of him for use in convents, there would be no difficulty with celibacy amongst nuns.

Anyway, he was standing alongside my car so I could hardly say I didn’t see him, because closing the hatchback could have endangered his life. Thinking about it maybe I should have closed it, at least I wouldn’t have had to make excuses.

“Hello Cathy,” said the creepy one, “I see you’ve been to Tesco.”

Well yes, it’s like written all over the bags, duh! “Yes I needed a few things, thought I’d bake my dad a cake and take it in this afternoon.”

“What a lovely idea, better than hospital food, eh?” All that was missing was ‘nudge nudge, wink wink,’ as in the Monty Python character.

Not learning of course, I perpetuated the conversation. “Oh I don’t know, you haven’t seen my cooking. It carries a public health warning.” I nearly added, my omelettes can empty a house faster than the fire brigade, but then I felt sad, so switched back to dealing with the worm in human form who stood before me. I shut the hatchback, the draught from which caused his hair to flap a little. He stepped further away from the car. “Oops, sorry I didn’t realise you were standing quite so close,” I lied of course.

“Margaret and I wondered if you wanted to come over for dinner again this evening?”

“That’s awfully kind but I’ve arranged to go out with a friend tonight, going to the cinema.”

His face looked less than pleased, here he was taking pity on a virtual orphan, and she’d declined his manly offer. “Oh well, another night then.”

“If that’s okay, I’m going to have to go back down to the university at some point and let them know what’s happening, so I’m really not sure exactly what my movements are going to be for the next few days.” I was getting so good at lying; it would have my mother spinning in her grave, except we cremated her—next time I saw a dust devil, one of those whirling wind things they have in cowboy films, I’d think of her.

“Oh, all right then, anyway the offer is there if you want to come.”

“If my friend cancels, I’ll let you know.” I stepped towards the house hoping he’d get the hint. After all, I needed to get a move on if I was going to bake a cake (that bit was real), and organise some lunch. The cafeteria in Tesco was tempting, but I decided that it was not a good policy to eat out all the time and my culinary skills could do with improvement. Hence, I was doing my own lunch.

Thanks to my fibs, I’d also have to make something I could take off with me to eat later as I’d have to stay away for a couple of hours this evening or be seen as a liar. Why was life so complicated? I wondered what was showing at the local fleapit.

Thankfully, Greg took the hint when I kept looking at my watch, and I was finally free to mess about in the kitchen. I switched on the oven and then the kettle, a cuppa was the first priority.

I bunged a lasagne in the oven—I hadn’t thought particularly to eat it today, but while the oven was on, it seemed sensible. As I sipped my tea I checked the recipe for a sponge. I knew how to make one, I’d done it loads of times—okay, it was twice unless you count the one which caught fire, so that’s three. I mean how was I to know they were going to show a Harry Potter film that night? It was meant as a surprise for my parents and it certainly proved that all right. The kitchen needed repainting anyway…

I mixed up the flour and eggs and fat with a fork. Apparently, it aerates the mixture better than a spoon and you fold it rather than stir. Hark at me, I sound like Delia Smith—what a laugh, she’s a practicing Catholic who supports football, and I’m a cycling agnostic who can’t cook. I’ve read all her books, well the ones Mum had, the plot’s quite meaty in places! That’s a joke, oh never mind.

I shoved the mixture into the greased tins and popped them in the oven, the lasagne smelled nice. I did a green salad to go with it. I wanted oven chips but due to an absence of cycling thought restraint may be safer on the weight front. I also set the timer, deciding that the kitchen was in fairly good decorative order.

I made some cheese and salad rolls for my evening snack and put some fruit and chocolate in the bag as well. I’d found a cooler bag in a cupboard and shoved in one of those ice block thingies designed to induce frostbite in lettuce. A bottle of mineral water made up the rest of my evening meal.

While the cake cooled, I ate my lunch. It tasted better than I thought and although it was a smaller portion than the uni cafeteria, it tasted as good if not better. I think they use road kill for their meat source. I sat looking at it, the sponge that is, and felt amazingly proud of myself. I could really get into baking cakes and things; I could make one for Simon… oops! He said he wanted space not Salmonella, maybe not just yet.

I wondered how much space he wanted. Did he mean as in light years or just the few cubic feet my body occupied? I suspect it might have been the latter and I sniffed under my armpit just in case that had been a factor. I couldn’t actually smell anything but cake.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t think of him until he contacted me again and got on with making a butter cream filling to put in my sponge; we even had some jam in the fridge which didn’t have mould on the top! My Mum was brilliant—stand the jar upside down and it creates a vacuum, so bugs can’t develop. She used to tell me these things, dunno why, I never listened properly. But then I open the fridge looking for jam, and see the jar upside down and it brings back memories. I miss her more than I like to admit.

I could just hear her saying, “Don’t forget to wash your hands before you start, Catherine.” She always used my full name. I spun around, it was as if she were there. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I felt all cold.

“Mum, Mum are you there?” I called walking from the kitchen into the hall. I checked all the rooms. Of course she wasn’t there, she was dead and here was I her son, walking around in a skirt and one of her pinnies making cakes for her husband. Was I going nuts or had I already got there?

I went back to the kitchen and spread the jam on the sponge and then the cream; it looked quite nice. I popped it in a Tupperware box and did the dishes, musing on what I thought I had heard. It was crazy and obviously my imagination, it had to be. What else could it have been, a ghost? The hair on the back of my neck stood up again.

Dammit, I was hardened field worker, used to walking around woods late at night with nothing more than a torch and a walking stick, but the thought of coming back into the house after dark was frightening. Why? It didn’t make any sense to me, then I thought, ‘but that was all done as a man.’ Okay, a man who thought he should have been a woman and was taking hormones, but still a man. Now I was a woman, did that make a difference? I supposed it could, it would make me a potential victim to a different sort of predator.

Now my head was awash with all sorts of scenarios, from sex hungry spooks from horror films, to stalkers in the woods. Gee whizz, what was happening to me? I had a quick flash back to the bank and the woman telling me to be careful. I’d never worried before, why should I now?

Common sense and statistics tell me that young men are more likely to be attacked and killed than young women. They get involved in fights and drunken brawls and so on. However, as a man I felt a little more empowered to fight back if I was attacked. Actually, I had never done so as a boy, well only once. And more recently, I had got stuck in when those two morons got funny and Simon intervened. Then I was so angry and they were hitting my Simon. I do miss him, oh why can’t I phone him?

I made another cuppa; I was close to tears. Was I unstable, I mean having auditory hallucinations? Since when had my mother ever called me Catherine? Except it was so real.

I chucked the tea and grabbed my stuff, including the cake and set off into the afternoon sunshine to Southmead Hospital.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 83

Cathy heads back to Portsmouth and a meeting with Stella.

Somehow I caught the ‘back from lunch’ traffic and it took ages to get to the hospital. I missed my bike; once Simon resurfaced, I needed to organise getting it back.

I eventually parked up and got to my father’s ward; he was with the speech therapist. Wonderful, I could have spent another hour at home, then I recalled how it had spooked me and it was somewhere I didn’t feel anything like as happy to be.

About an hour later, a porter wheeled my father back to his bedside; he smiled when he saw me, and with a huge effort said, “C-ath-y,” I smiled at him and kissed him on the cheek.

“Well done,” I said and kissed him again. Then, seeing he was tired, I got straight to business. I gave him his cake, which he smiled at, especially when I reassured him he didn’t need a new kitchen. I also told him that the man from the bank was coming tomorrow to see him and that I had to be there as well. I explained that I’d drawn out two hundred pounds; he seemed okay with it and nodded.

I explained that I needed to go back to Portsmouth and that I would be back for the meeting tomorrow. I wasn’t enjoying the idea of the long drive each way, but it felt like I should do it and it was a way of avoiding the house at night.

After another fifteen or twenty minutes, he was yawning and drifting off to sleep. I’d fed him a cup of tea, hospital variety, and had one myself. He’d also had a slice of cake and enjoyed it. I had a taste too, it was pretty good. Maybe I would bake one for Simon, then my heart sank again. How much space did he want and for how long?

I pecked him goodbye and left him to sleep in his chair. Then I rushed back to the house and packed a few things, then off to Portsmouth. During the drive, I sorted out a few things in my mind and during one spell of stop go driving, sent a text to Stella, telling her I would be back at my flat that night. I also organised an appointment with Prof Agnew for the next morning.

By the time I got back, it was too late to speak to the bike shop and I didn’t think I was likely to have time tomorrow morning, especially as I wanted to see my prof. I grabbed a pint of milk at the local shop and the Indian shopkeeper told me he thought I was looking lovelier each day. I blushed and left, hoping I had something in the fridge for my tea, then remembered I had made the rolls.

It was a struggle to carry everything back to my room and took me two trips. On the second, I collected my mail, which included the registration documents for the car. Simon really had given it to me, it was two years old and worth at least ten thousand. I felt my hand tremble as I read the document. That was too much money; even if I baked him a cake every night for a hundred years, I couldn’t pay him back that sort of money. He was generous to a fault and I felt enormously guilty.

Another envelope contained insurance details and a copy of the cover note in Simon’s name with me as the named driver of the car. The insurance form suggested the insured amount was eleven thousand pounds.

I checked the rest of the stuff and one was a letter from the uni telling me my dissertation was accepted and I should attend for the viva the following week. I made a mental note of the day and time, but the prof had already told me my work was good enough for the MSc, so I wasn’t too worried. Then I remembered, apart from the prof and the dean and student health, no one else knew about me. Oh shit, that was going to be fun. Oh well, too late now, should have backed out when I could, except Stella had locked the door.

After eating my tea, I went on the net and down loaded a pro forma for a change of name statutory declaration. I did the bits necessary to personalise it and printed it off. I would pop into a solicitors near the uni tomorrow and see if they could witness it for me.

My mobile rang and I jumped. I looked at the number calling—it was Simon and Stella’s house. My heart fluttered as I answered it.

“Hello?”

“Hi Cathy,” it was Stella.

“How’s your dad?”

“Daddy’s fine, well he was until he ate the cake I baked for him.”

“You bake cakes?”

“Sort of… why?” I wondered why she asked me such a question, I mean I’d already confessed to doing so, did she need it in writing?

“Did you know Simon loves cakes?”

“Simon, erm, isn’t speaking to me at the moment,” I said hesitantly.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure I should talk about it.”

“Yes you bloody well should, as my protégé, I have a vested interest in your love life.”

I felt myself get hotter. Part of me wanted to tell her it was none of her business, but the rest knew she’d only get on to Simon if I didn’t and besides, if we were to become an item, her help would be essential.

“I erm, don’t know how to start…”

“Right girl, get your arse in your new car and meet me at…” she gave me directions to a country pub and to be there in one hour. That would be eight o’clock. I just about had time to change and get there.

Pulling into the pub car park of ‘The Barking Duck,’—where do they get these names from?—I saw Stella’s car, and parked alongside. She was sat there making a call on her mobile; she waved and I waited for her to finish.

“That was John, I’m seeing him tomorrow and he had to let me know if he’d got the tickets.”

“Did he?”

“Dare he fail?” she said with mock sternness.

“Not if he knows what’s good for him.”

“Exactly.”

“So where are you going?”

“To Southampton to see ‘Lord of the Dance’.”

“Is that still going? Crikey, my parents saw it two or three years ago.”

“It is, and this will be my third time. You should get Simon to take you, you’d enjoy it.”

“Right now, I’d settle for a ten minute cuddle with your brother.”

“Ooh, you sound as if you have it bad girl.” She smiled at me and I blushed profusely. “So tell Auntie Stella what’s happened.”

“Hasn’t Simon said anything?”

“No, he’s back up in Town, so I haven’t really seen much of him. But last seen he was still gushing about you.”

“He ran off and left me on Sunday.” I said quite quickly, and then began to feel myself tear up.

“What do you mean he ran off?” Stella looked puzzled, “Simon hasn’t run for a couple of years.”

I explained as best I could in between sobbing fits, when she rubbed my hand. “He doesn’t know does he?” I finally managed to ask.

“Not from me he doesn’t and as our worlds hardly clash, I doubt from anyone else. Not the way he was talking on Monday before he went to work.”

“It’s only Monday now, Stella.”

“So it is. Well this morning you were still flavour of the month. So it sounds like cold feet. I’ll give him space, the lily-livered chicken shit; when I’m finished he’ll be seeing stars!”

“Please Stella, just let him come around by himself. If it isn’t going to work, then it isn’t going to work. I’ve got plenty to worry about as it is, what with Daddy and the university.”

“I’d still like to slap him,” said Stella through her teeth. “My shithead brother. You are perfect for him, and you’re also the first girlfriend he’s had that I actually like.”

“A somewhat imperfect girlfriend,” I added.

“Don’t worry about that; that can be sorted. Simon is another matter.”

“What does that mean?”

“He needs to tell you himself.” She took a sip of her wine.

“Now you have me worried, he’s not some psycho is he?”

“Nah, it’s nothing like that. Look, you don’t think I’d let you near him if he was dangerous or anything like that. No he’s not a sex fiend or a criminal; he’s a bit boring at times but as for the rest he needs to tell you himself.”

“Does he have a drink problem or something?”

“Look, let’s talk about something else. Bought any new clothes?”

“Only this, I got it in Monsoon on Saturday.” I showed her the top I was wearing.

“Is that a skirt I gave you, ’cos I don’t recognise it?”

“No, it’s one my mother had but had never worn. It’s probably twenty years old.”

“Stand up girl, let’s have a proper look.” I did as she asked and she gasped, “Hey it’s lovely, goes really well with the top; you’re really getting a sense of your own style.”

I felt quite chuffed, maybe I was. I had seen the skirt while I was going through my mother’s things and put it to one side. There might have been one or two other things, but most of it was destined for Oxfam. There was a plain black wool coat which looked pretty timeless and I thought I could use a bag or two.

“You know, you’re a natural at this girly stuff, most of us take years to get where you have in what, three weeks?”

“Something like that,” I blushed. I didn’t know how much I actually believed Stella. Was she just saying that to build me up or did she mean it? I suppose it didn’t really matter, but I did feel I was getting better at becoming me, the me I felt I wanted to be.

Part of me thought that I’d like to get a proper job and earn some money, the rest enjoyed what I did and wanted desperately to keep it that way. I wanted to be the best dormouse woman I could be, that is an expert on mammalian behaviour and ecology related to dormice. If I got the PhD the prof was on about, I could also look for a teaching post at a uni or perhaps some research abroad. Somewhere like Menorca, they have dormice there too and it was an island I’d quite like to go to, anyway. But all that was for the future, right now I had to organise myself, my father and perhaps Simon as well as my career. It was probably enough to keep me busy for a few days!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 84 (That’s like 7 dozen!)

Stella and I sat and talked a little longer, although much of it was about my family. Stella wanted to know all sorts of things about my parents and I could only answer so much of it because I didn’t know the answers.

“Why all the interest in my family?” I asked.

“Well if you’re in the running to become my new sister-in-law, I like to know these things.”

I was on the hard stuff, chewing the ice cube that came in my still water. I nearly swallowed it whole. “Christ Stella, you nearly killed me then!” I was red faced and coughing. She simply laughed with a twinkle in her eye. “I think you might also be jumping the gun a little.”

“Merely preparing myself, should the eventuality occur.”

“You sound like ‘Linda’ in ‘The Archers’ (a radio soap which has been running for about fifty years, nearly as long as this story! Linda is a character who is a frightful snob and verbose).”

“Who, moi?” she said aping the character and we both laughed. “I haven’t listened to it for ages.”

“Nor have I, until I got the mean machine; caught it on the way to the hospital and again this evening.”

“Anything happened?”

“Don’t be silly, it’s ‘The Archers’—apart from murder, robbery, rape, horse-slashing, drug taking and visits by the Royal Family, nothing ever happens in Ambridge.” This led to another round of laughter which attracted the attention of two young men I hadn’t noticed before.

“Look out, we have company, play it straight and see what happens.”

“What do you mean Stella?”

“Just follow my lead, okay?”

“I’ll try.”

“Good evening ladies, mind if we join you?” Before we could answer, the two men sat themselves at our table.

“Can we get you a drink?” asked the second man.

“Oh thanks, I’ll have a spritsa and my friend is drinking diet water.” I could have murdered Stella.

“Diet water, you on the wagon or something?”

“She’s in training, British Olympic Team and it’s low calorie water.” Stella took the smirk off his face.

In between worrying about what she was going to say next, I also tried not to laugh at her joke about the water. Plain water has zero calories, but I thought I must remember that one and ask for it again.

“Really? I’m impressed, what discipline?”

“Cycling, she’s in the road race team. That’s right isn’t it Rachel?”

Who the hell is Rachel, unless she means Rachel Heal? I do not like where this is going. I decline to answer.

“So you’ll know Nicole Cooke?”

I knew Nicole Cooke, in like I read about her in Cycling Weekly on a regular basis. Knowing her as an acquaintance, that was something else. “Stop teasing them Stella. I cycle but not well enough to be in that league.”

“Pity, I was going to ask you to get her autograph for me. So you cycle do you?”

“A bit.”

“What sort?”

“Road, why?”

“I do off-roading, got an FS Marin.”

“I’ve got a Scott.”

“Carbon?”

“Yes, it’s in getting the wheels sorted, had a bit of a prang.”

“Shame, I could have borrowed a bike and come out with you sometime.”

“Not unless you’re willing to ride it to Bristol,” Stella seemed to enjoy stirring things up.

“Well I have been known to travel a few miles to get a ride,” he winked to his companion.

“I’ll bet you have,” remarked my companion, “and it wasn’t on a bike.”

“Oh it was once, what was her name Dan, the office bike?”

“Rosalind or Rosamund, something like that.”

I was fast going off these two predators, although Stella seemed in no hurry to withdraw from the jousting.

He went to the bar and came back with a glass of water for me and a white wine and soda for Stella; the two men had a pint of lager each.

“They didn’t have any diet water, only Perrier, will that do?” I nodded and thanked him and Stella tapped my ankle under the table as she coughed. “So what do you lovelies do for a living?”

“As little as possible,” offered Stella, which I knew to be a lie.

“I can’t believe that,” said our questioner.

“Okay, you win, we work in the GUM clinic, treating STDs, don’t we Sally?”

It took me a moment to work out what she was talking about—Genito-Urinary Medicine and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. I nodded, it was better than giving away any real info.

“You nurses then?”

“Yep, I hold ’em down while Sally shoots ’em full of penicillin.”

“Do they still use penicillin?”

“Yeah, for Syph ’n clap, why do you want us to put you down for a couple of shots?”

“I don’t think so, but thanks for the offer.”

“Sally also does a nice line in freezing off genital warts, don’t yer gal?”

I nodded, moved my hand and went, “Pssssssssst,” and smiled. They both winced.

“Ah good old liquid nitrogen,” said Stella beaming.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” asked one of our would-be suitors.

“I haven’t felt a thing yet,” I said smirking and Stella nearly cracked up.

“What’s that other one that seems to be rampant at the moment?”

“Chlamydia?” offered Stella.

“That’s the one, can that affect men?” asked one of the boys.

“Sure can, can cause urethritis and affect fertility according to the latest research.”

I had seen something about that in New Scientist or something similar proving I do read more than the Dormouse Times, so I felt able to contribute to the conversation. “It can and it can also affect any baby you might father, they can go blind.”

“I wasn’t thinking that far ahead,” said the boy winking at me.

“I was, that’s why I’m leaving,” I said and stood up, “You coming Sam?” I threw at Stella or shall I see you at work tomorrow?”

She took a swig of her drink and stood up, “No, I’m coming with you.”

The men shrugged and made way for us. “Shall we reserve some penicillin for you?” asked Stella as we walked past them.

“Where do you inject it?”

“Where it makes your eyes water,” she smiled and we left.

“You don’t inject it there, do you?” I asked as we got out to the cars.

“What, in the buttock?”

“I thought you meant, in the you-know-where?”

“Some of them probably deserve it, but not usually.”

I don’t know why I felt happier with that reassurance, being a virgin it didn’t really matter anyway.

“Come back for a coffee if you want.”

“I don’t think I’d better,” I replied. I felt quite tired and if Simon was there, it would be awkward.

“He won’t be there, leastways I’m not expecting him.”

“No, I have a few things to do, so I’d better go and do them. I have an exam to prepare for.”

“I thought you’d finished.”

“They do an interview on your dissertation, checking any mistakes you made and looking for depth of understanding, possibly your grading as well.”

“I thought master’s degrees were pass or fail?”

“Or distinction.”

“Oh, bright spark are we?”

“Not expecting one.”

“What did you get for your bachelor’s?”

“A pass.”

“Oh you silly girl, I know that! I’ll bet you got a first.”

“Does it matter, what I got?” I blushed.

“You did, didn’t you?”

“I’m not going to tell you,” I blushed profusely.

“You don’t need to, I know. Did you know Simon got one as well?”

“No I didn’t.” I was genuinely pleased for him.

“Yeah, he did PPE at UCL.”

“A first from London eh, clever clogs eh?”

“I’m quite proud of my big brother.”

“So he’s pretty clued up in Politics and Philosophy is he?”

“I don’t know, but the Economics came in handy in his line of work.”

“I’ll bet they did. I have to go.” I said prompting a hug and a kiss from Stella.

“Keep in touch and let me know how the interview goes.”

“Okay, I will.” I drove back to my room, knowing a little more about Simon, but nothing very much that answered the mystery about him. Was he gay or something? Did he have some horrible disease, or was he impotent? Did he go trainspotting? Or take drugs or gamble? …the list was endless and it was making my head ache. I would just have to wait until I found out, assuming he came back to me with more than the cold shoulder.

I put the security bar on my room when I got home, and after a cuppa went to bed. I had all sorts of weird dreams, from hauntings to giving injections to the two men who’d tried to chat us up.

I awoke early the next morning and thought about a quick bike ride. The thought of what it would feel like with my glued gonads and a racing saddle came to naught when I discovered it was raining heavily. However, I also discovered that if I took the wheels off, the bike would just about fit in the boot of my car. I wondered if mine would do the same, then recalled that my dad had a bike rack at one time—I wondered if he still had it. I would search when I went back.

I showered and breakfasted, not at the same time as it tends to make the toast soggy. Then dressed wearing the outfit I’d worn to the bank the day before. Near the biology department is quite a big firm of solicitors. I called in there before going to see Prof Agnew.

“Can I help?” asked the girl on reception.

“I need someone to witness a statutory declaration,” I informed her.

“Take a seat, I’ll see who I can find for you.”

Some five or ten minutes later, a dumpy but attractive young woman appeared and was pointed at me. “You have a stat dec to do?”

“Yes,” I said standing and blushing at the same time—I knew I’d master multi-tasking eventually. She led me into small interview room and not more than ten minutes later and five pounds poorer, I left with a piece of paper declaring my name was now officially Cathy and I renounced my previous name of Charles. I could now start the ball rolling in officially changing my identity.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 85

Awkward questions are asked… but by whom?

Clutching the envelope with the name change in it, I walked to the biology department and to Professor Agnew’s office. I had spoken briefly with his secretary yesterday who gave me a knowing smile, told me how nice I looked and waved me in. I knocked on his door and entered.

“Ah Catherine, how nice to see you again.” He shook my hand warmly and smiled, his whole face lighting up. “You look better than ever my dear.”

“Thank you Professor, you look pretty good yourself.”

“Me, I’m a fat old git, who drinks too much, eats too much, farts too much and exercises too little, apart from that I’m fine.”

“Well I’m glad I know you.”

He blushed at me and smiled a thank you. “So what brings you into my lair, and how is your father?”

“He makes slow progress but is at least improving a little. I have to dash back this morning for a meeting with his bank.”

“Is this going to compromise your further research?”

“I hope not. The fact that some of it will involve Bristol might be an advantage, if I can organise borrowing some facilities there.”

“I’ll have a word with them, it shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand if you want to take time off to look after your father, I’ll understand although once the project gets underway, I won’t be able to keep a place open indefinitely without risking losing our funding.”

“I know that Professor, which is why I hesitate a little, but feel that my first loyalty lies with you and the department.”

“What, over that to your family?”

“Until he had no one else, my father had practically disowned me. When I told him I was transgendered his response was violence. I feel guilty because he has no one else, but I’ll have to try and cope with it. This is a great chance to protect dormice as well as learn a great deal more about them. It’s also a Godsend, with the government funding it.”

“Not to mention a potential doctorate,” added my mentor.

“That seems way down the pile.”

“Catherine, don’t become too self-effacing just because you’re female. As your future career may depend upon it, I’d put it somewhere near the top just after coming to dinner with me the next time you’re in Portsmouth.”

“Professor, you are too kind. I’d be delighted to come to dinner but I’ll have to come back to you on dates.”

“Okay, talking of dates you got the one for the interview on your dissertation?”

“Yes sir, it’s next week.”

“Everything okay for then?”

“I think so. I’m hoping I can also show how I want to develop the work I’ve done to incorporate the sort of stuff I suspect you’re going to want me to do.”

“Sounds good, if you can give me a broad outline of that, I can see how we might incorporate it in our business plan for the Minister.”

“When do you need it?”

“By Friday, I’m afraid. I have a meeting in Bristol on Tuesday and we’re putting together the proposal and then meet with the Minister the following week. This could be up and running after Christmas for the feasibility studies and then officially after April, when the money becomes available. I’m already using some stuff from your dissertation in my appendices. I hope that is okay with you?”

“I’m pleased to be of help.” Crikey, my name appearing in the bibliography of a research proposal, I felt a warm glow inside me.

“I have a copy of my statutory declaration of my change of name, do you mind if I do some photocopies of it.”

“I think the budget will stand it; don’t forget to leave one with us, will you?”

“I won’t.”

“When are you going to show your face in the department and squash all the rumours?”

“What rumours?”

“About your ‘sister’.”

“What are they saying?”

“Exactly what has happened, that you’ve had a sex change.”

“That’s a work in progress, sir.”

“I know that Catherine, but the sooner they see you and realise how beautiful you are, the gossip will hopefully end.”

“Beautiful, me?”

“Yes you silly girl, take my word as an experienced and expert judge of totty, you are a beautiful girl. So go down the labs, reintroduce yourself and make them all randy or jealous. I’d take you myself but I have a meeting in ten minutes.”

“I don’t know, I erm…”

“That was an instruction, now go woman.” He stood up and pointed at the door, which was also the direction of the laboratories. There was a photocopier down there, so I shrugged, thanked him and left.

The labs are at the other end of the block from the admin area, three floors of them. The one I used was on the ground floor, just as well, my legs were like jelly. I glanced at my watch, it was nearly ten o’clock. I had a maximum of an hour before I needed to drive back to Bristol.

Boy, that corridor seemed much longer in heels, and I clicked my way towards my next ordeal. Why do I have to explain anything? It’s only the wrapping that’s different and the way I will act and respond and think and speak! Oh shit! Forget it.

Eventually, some two hundred years after setting off from the prof’s office I walked through the first door of the labs. They require a code on the lock and I had to think for a moment before inserting it. Thankfully, the door opened and I walked in.

I got a ‘who are you?’ look from one of the technicians, “Can I help you love?”

“Not really Neal.”

“Do I know you?”

“Sort of, I’m Cathy Watts.”

“Cathy Watts?” He paused for a moment. “Any relation to Charlie?”

“Neal, I was Charlie, I thought the grapevine had told you that much?”

“Jeez-us-aitch-Kerr-ist!” He walked towards me and then around me, “F’kin ’ell,” he said under his breath. “Nah you’re not Charlie, no bloke even one as small as ’im could turn into a babe like you. It’s a joke like, innit?”

“I have a statutory declaration about my change of name here,” I said waving the envelope, “I was Charlie but now I’m Cathy, okay?”

“It’s okay with me love, want me to introduce you to the rest?”

“I don’t have long, I have to dash back to Bristol, my dad’s had a stroke.”

“Didn’t you lose your mother not so long back?”

“Yes, hence having to get back to Dad.”

“Wait ’ere, I’ll round up some of the troops.” He went off to bring in one or two technicians and whichever students were around.

While I waited I did twenty copies of the stat dec and remembering to take the original out of the machine, put them all in the envelope and that into my shoulder bag.

“Right boys ’n’ girls, Cathy ’ere has somethin’ to share with us.” Neal gave a minimal intro to the seven bodies who stood around.

“Hi, I erm…” nervously began, I felt quite sick and was as hot as hell, “I might look familiar to some of you, if I do, it’s because I am. I was Charlie Watts, the dormouse man, I’m now Cathy Watts, dormouse woman. I hope you’ll respect my privacy and not broadcast this all over the uni or the town. The university are supportive of my changeover and I hope you will be too. If you have any questions, urgent ones, because I have to dash back to Bristol in a few minutes, I’ll answer them. Otherwise I’ll be happy to talk to you when I’m back in the department.”

One of the boys at the back put up his hand, “You free for a date sometime?” This was accompanied by laughter, which I shared although I blushed profusely.

“Have you had surgery yet, I um mean while you’ve been away?” asked a young woman who I think was called Jo; she wasn’t in any of my classes.

“Do you need to know that?” I asked feeling a little irritated.

“I was thinking about toilets, not sure I want someone with boy bits in the ladies.”

“I can assure you, you won’t see any boy bits.”

“’Ere Jo, don’t your muvver n’ favver use the same bog at ’ome?”

“That’s not the point,” she snapped back blushing, “I’m happy for Cathy to use the toilets once she’s a proper woman.”

“She looks pretty okay to me, I don’t have a problem,” offered Louise a student a year below me.

“There is a disabled toilet,” Someone else suggested.

“I’m not disabled,” I returned smiling although my internal dialogue was wanting to separate their head and body.

This went on for another few minutes before I withdrew and Neal accompanied me back to the admin end. “Don’t take too much notice of the dissenters, they’ll come round in time. I think you make a cracking woman.”

I thanked him and left Portsmouth to head back to Bristol.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 86

The toilet humour continues—there’s a surprise!

Driving out of Portsmouth I was very lucky I didn’t have a crash. My temper was up to my eyeballs and I was ready to trade punch for punch with anyone who wanted to try it on.

I mean, that supercilious cow Jo, and her precious fucking bogs. What is she frightened she might see or that I might see? I suppose the argument is that girls use them for changing. So what? Don’t they appreciate I’m not interested in them anyway? I suppose that would make me gay in their reasoning! Fuck them! I shall use whatever toilet I bloody well want to. Don’t they realise how difficult this is without such petty mindedness? I don’t suppose they do or care.

It was with great effort that I managed not only to avoid giving in to self-pity or suicidal anger, but also started to calm down enough to drive. I actually stopped after a while to get a coffee and cool off. My head was still spinning with all the things going on in my life, but I had little option except to keep going.

Part of me knew the university would support me as much as it could; they had pretty well made that clear. However, I was aware that there was a core of feminists who were really hardcore in their protection of their view of femaleness, and I didn’t meet it.

Some time ago, I came across a diatribe called the ‘Transsexual Empire’ or some such title, by a Janice Raymond if I recalled correctly. It was an ultra-feminist propaganda on how men were trying to infiltrate the women’s movement by making pseudo-women out of men. Their object was to continue controlling women. It was the biggest load of crap going, a view I still hold, written by a paranoid academic with a mind as closed as some of the racists or homophobes who seem to live on pure hatred of something they fear.

Yes, I was seeking to join women, but as for infiltrating them or influencing them, duh? I want to be at peace with myself, in becoming Cathy—I have largely achieved that so far. Yes, I want to integrate as a female and have friends and relationships, earn a living and so on. I accept I will be competing with biological females for partners and jobs and things, but so will other females, so what difference will another make? Besides, I have some disadvantages especially if a potential mate wants children. So the threat I pose is nil, except apparently in using the women’s toilets. Oh boy, some of them need to get a life.

I sat watching the cars coming and going at the motorway service area and sipped my coffee. I was going to use the toilet, the ladies’ toilet and now felt very self-conscious about it. Grrr, I felt really cross with that stupid cow, not least because she’s only with us on a placement. She’s a fucking wild flower picker, sorry botanist, who is studying with one of our bug hunters, okay an entomologist, on pollination. I hope he pollinates her, bloody flower arranger!

Now I was being as irrational as she was, and also sensing that that reaction was a male one. Oh shit! Let’s face it, they have us by the short and bloody curlies. If they complain loud enough the press will get involved and have a field day, at my expense. In which case, Simon, assuming he hasn’t run a mile by then, will drop me like a stone. I can see him meeting his friends in the bank, and assuming they still talk to him, saying things like, “Hi Simon, still going out with that girly-boy?” or, “Has it had its operation yet?”

Why did I feel so negative about it all? Why did the prof make me tell them? Did they have a right to know, if so, why? I rose from the table and walked with some trepidation to the toilets. I tried to breathe slowly and deeply, but it was difficult.

I walked in through the double set of doors and had to wait for a cubicle: some were out of order. Shit and double shit! I nearly turned around and walked out. Instead the woman in front of me, a thirty something who was wearing a nice dark grey suit and carried one of those handbags cum attaché case thingies, spoke to me.

“Bloody typical isn’t it, I’ve got an appointment with a client in half a bloody hour and I’m going to spend half that waiting to use the bloody toilet. If this was the men’s one, there’d be hell to pay.”

I looked at my watch; it was after twelve, time was getting tight. “Yeah, I’ve got to be in Bristol for a meeting and time is getting tight.”

“You know, I’ve got a bloody good mind to use the men’s loos. Any of you coming with me?” My new acquaintance addressed the five or six women who had come in after me.

“I dunno,” said one quietly, “We could get arrested,” said another. I nearly laughed at the prospect of me, a biological male being arrested for using a men’s toilet. It would give everything a new sense of the absurd, except part of me was terrified not to get any publicity if I could help it.

The conversation was getting increasingly militant and two minutes later, a group of seven women, six others and me linked arm-in-arm, singing, ‘We shall overcome’ walked into the gents and used the cubicles. Thankfully, there were enough and by the time the management arrived, we’d gone.

I think I hadn’t felt as frightened in a toilet since I went as Cathy for the first time, and Stella was with me then. If I remember, it was her that frightened me. Now, I peed and ran for it. Not even bothering to wash my hands, although I could have gone back to the ladies’ for that. I was completely and utterly terrified and ran to my car and drove off as quickly as I could. I couldn’t even smile at the bemused faces of the men as we went through the door. I’m also surprised I didn’t do more than pee, I was frightened enough!

Ten miles up the motorway, and driving so carefully it was untrue, I began to relax and laugh. It was funny really. I mean I’d spent most of my life trying to legitimately use the women’s toilets which I think it’s now appropriate to do, ending up back in the men’s which I thought I’d eschewed! It had a stupid sort of logic to it, or at least it hit my funny bone, once the heat was off.

It was the sort of luck which would happen to someone who had fought for the right to wear skirts and dresses, only to end up in a job where the women all wore trousers. I know, it’s not about clothes, but they do influence how others see us. I know, these days, I could wear Charlie’s clothes with my hair combed nicely and a bit of makeup and no one would think I was a boy anymore. I pretty well did that with my cycling kit, no one seemed to think I was David Millar in drag. Mind you, he is about a foot taller than I am.

Then I got to thinking about what could happen if the news got out? It wasn’t nice and could spread to Bristol and worry my dad. That wouldn’t be fair on him, even as nasty as he’s been to me in the past, he’s isn’t well enough to cope with it and it could also make it difficult for him with his fair-weather churchy friends, none of whom seemed to visit him in hospital.

I wondered if all this had happened because everything had happened so quickly, without me controlling it as I had intended. But then how much could I control? Possibly more than I chose to, possibly less. I hadn’t been forced to walk into the men’s toilets earlier, except when they grabbed me and linked arms, I didn’t like to opt out for umpteen reasons, including a degree of solidarity as a ‘new woman’ with the others. The queues in ladies’ loos are legend, but why are they? Is it simply because no one ever builds enough of them? I suppose there’s a PhD in it for some bright spark, one day.

I noted the time and began to put my foot down a bit harder. This little car could go a bit and I made it do so. For the next hour, my mind was occupied with avoiding speed traps and looking out for possible police cars, usually big BMWs but not always: some were Jags or Mercs, the undercover ones I meant. More than once, I slowed because a white car or van seemed to be like a cop car, but they weren’t.

At exactly two fifteen, I parked my car in the hospital car park and walked quickly towards my father’s ward.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 87

Cathy blows her top at a right little banker!

It’s interesting that when you can’t do something how badly you want to do it. Then when you get to do it, the experience is very different to how you had imagined it. While living as a boy, I always wanted to be able to wear high heels and hear them clicking as I walked. I sometimes even slipped on my mother’s when I was younger and tottered up and down the patio, listening to the noise they made.

Now, I suppose I could wear them whenever I wanted, and I did still want to wear them. I mean a couple of weeks is hardly enough to compensate for years of yearning. However, clattering my way along the hospital corridor was so noisy and being a self-conscious soul began to grate a little. Outdoors it was okay, just about. Indoors and in an echo chamber like a hospital corridor, it sounded so loud. I almost walked on my toes to make it quieter, instead of the crash, crash, crash of my heels.

I suppose this took my mind off the business to which I was heading like a ship in full sail. I entered the ward, and my father was walking up and down with a physio helper. I stopped and watched as he tried so hard to get mobile and independent again. I was nearly in tears watching him, and I felt so proud of his efforts, a bit like watching a toddler master walking.

I was aware of someone behind me; it was that bloke from the bank. “Shouldn’t we, get on with this?” he said waving a sheaf of papers at me.

“That man struggling to walk is my father. If your bank can’t wait for two minutes while he tries to regain his independence, then I shall get him to close his account first thing tomorrow morning.”

“There’s no need to be so combative, Mister um Miss erm.”

“I have spent the whole morning dealing with piddling, petty bureaucrats, so my tolerance is low. I am Miss Watts, that is my father Mister Watts. If you haven’t grasped that much, then I would prefer to deal with someone who can.”

He flushed with anger but controlled himself. Good, I thought, serve you right you bastard! I’ve taken it all day, now it’s my turn to dish it out.

My talking in a loud voice made my father recognise me and it gave him the excuse he needed to stop his exercises. He slumped in his chair absolutely knackered and I wondered how much participation he would have in this business.

It turned out as I predicted, he managed to stay awake just long enough for it all to be legal enough to allow the bank to grant me power to deal with his affairs, like paying his bills and writing cheques.

He identified me and brought a tear to my eye when asked who I was, he replied. “C-ath-y, m-y dor-or.” He couldn’t sign, so the sister on the ward was asked to witness this problem, which she was happy to do.

A little later, my dad was dead-oh and snoring, and the sister was asking if I could bake him another cake, because that was all he was eating.

“Why isn’t he eating hospital meals, they’re not that bad are they?”

“I don’t know, but he insists on eating your sponge.”

“Why for God’s sake?”

“Because you made it for him.”

It was a good job we were in her office, because I said, “What?” very loudly, “but we hardly spoke for the past year, except to insult each other. The only thing we had in common was our mutual contempt.”

“Life threatening illness changes people’s perspectives. The stroke probably gave him quite a fright, especially so soon after your mother’s death. You are all he has; you have suddenly become important and precious to him.”

“Oh hell, I don’t need this. I’m just about to start a PhD, I haven’t got time to look after him. So I hope that isn’t what he’s hoping for.”

“I don’t honestly know. The opinion is that he is making very good progress and may soon be able to go to rehabilitation centre. It would be their assessment which determined what happened next together with his progress. I don’t honestly know if he will become independent again.”

I shook my head; I could not give into the blackmail that was afflicting my conscience. Why should I? Because he needs me, came back the answer. How about what I need? That doesn’t count, daughters often sacrifice their careers to look after elderly or infirm parents.

Tough, this one ain’t!

I sat and watched him sleep. I did love him but I wasn’t sure if it was enough to risk my future. Was there some way I could compromise by doing half my stuff at Bristol Uni and linking with Portsmouth? I didn’t know and was half afraid to think too much about it, the amount of work the whole thing would generate was enormous and I doubted I could cope. Why does this always happen to me? I stood up and went off to the hospital cafeteria and had a cuppa and a bun. When I clattered back to the ward, he was still asleep so I pecked him on the cheek and walked out, tears almost obliterating my vision.

As I walked, I looked up at the sky and cursed it, “Having fun are you, you bastard, fucking up my life again just when I think it’s working out. Well I’m not gonna let you, so you can stick that exactly where you like!” In response, the skies opened and I was soaked before I got back to the car. I laughed, “I suppose I asked for that, but I still think you’re a bastard.”

The rest of the week was spent baking cakes with a variety of fillings and flavours, taking them into the hospital and writing my plan for the government study. The latter took me longer than I’d hoped, but I had managed to email it to Prof Agnew by the Thursday evening.

Of course, I daydreamed about Simon, and dreamed about him at night several times. There was no sign or sound from him. I began to worry that he’d heard about me and done a runner. I felt that I couldn’t contact Stella either, because he would hear of it and feel I was pressuring him. The future began to look far less rosy and I must admit, I began to feel a bit depressed. Even the joy of laying in bed worrying over what delicious bit of clothing I should wear today, got boring. I was becoming an ordinary woman, cooking, cleaning and visiting my dad, with some of my own work thrown in when I could find time. It was as far from glamorous as I was from those dreadful TG stories I used to read on the ’net, which suggested women must always be just so, with perfect clothes and makeup. Yeah that was me, scruffy jeans covered in flour, waiting for the machine to finish the washing so I could hang it out. Yeah, very glamorous!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 88

A dinner invitation but who is the mystery caller?

On Friday, I took in a cake and some cheese scones I’d baked that morning. My father devoured one eagerly, and I was gratified that they had been successful. I explained that I needed to go to Portsmouth for the weekend and sent Stella a text message asking Simon to sort out the repairs to my bike. In other words, I wanted them paid for. I phoned the shop and was told the price; I promised to return the borrowed bike on Saturday.

After I got home, I received a text telling me they had been paid and my bike was ready for collection. Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to drive down and get it that evening. I collected my stuff together, and set off to wade my way through the commuter traffic that clogs everything for hours on a Friday night. When sat in a very slow moving queue on the motorway I did wonder if I’d have been better waiting for the traffic to clear but that meant driving in the dark and I did not like that if I could help it.

I’d had a driving licence for four years, but didn’t do much driving until recently. My experience of night driving was limited and my confidence was low. Cycling at night was okay, provided your bike was lit up like a Christmas tree, but even that was dangerous.

My mobile rang and I was able to take the call through my hands-free kit. It is one of those crazy things, to use a mobile in the hand while driving is an offence in the UK; to use a hands-free, is legal. I doubt it’s much safer, but in answering it, I was at least legit.

“Hello?”

“Where are you?”

“On the M27, why?”

“Can you make dinner tonight?”

“What time?”

“8.30 okay?”

“I think I could make it, where?”

“My house.”

“I think I can find it.”

“I’m having some friends to dinner; I need some glamour to brighten things up.”

“So why are you inviting me?”

“Because I want you to meet some people. I want you to charm them and to dazzle them.”

“Some more notice would have been helpful.”

“Sadly, that was not possible. I will explain when I see you.”

“How formal is this dinner?”

“Smart casual is fine.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Good girl.”

Shit! There I was looking forward to an easy night, change my bed and stuff and now I’ve got to rush and change into something tidy. Men! For them, it’s easy: clean shirt and pair of casual trousers and they’re away. I now have to wash my hair and dry it, sort out what I’m going to wear and dress, makeup oh bugger! I’d left my makeup at Dad’s house.

Oh shit, and double shit! It took me another hour to get to Portsmouth and another twenty minutes to get near home. I managed to find a late night pharmacy at Morrison’s supermarket and grabbed some mascara, eyeliner and lipstick. I was pretty sure I had some perfume either with me or at home. I also bought a bottle of decent wine.

I flew up the stairs to my room and into the shower. In fifteen minutes, I had washed my hair and dried myself, walking around in a towel while I sorted out what to wear.

It had to be a skirt or dress, and I found the latter to be suitable, a vee necked, capped sleeve dress which Stella had given me. It was in a silky material and I later realised it was also hand painted, poppies on a beige background. I tried it on and it fitted quite well. I’d put on a little weight since I’d stopped cycling and thankfully it had gone on my hips and bust. With my booster bra, I had a definite cleavage. I smirked at myself, I was developing a reasonable figure and while I’d never be a supermodel, I wouldn’t be easily recognisable as a man either.

My black strappy sandals and little bag, together with my shawl and that was the clothes sorted. I dried my hair and styled it. Stella’s cut was so good, it pretty well fell into place. My makeup wasn’t as nice as the stuff I’d left behind, but it did the job and I cleaned my teeth before I popped on my lippy.

My mother’s sapphires were in use once again and so was the silver bracelet and her engagement ring. A squirt of No. 5 and I was as ready as I was going to be. It was twenty to eight; I grabbed the wine and set off for the dinner party.

I was there at dead on eight o’clock. “Ah Cathy, thank goodness you could make it. Let me look at you—my goodness you get lovelier every day. I didn’t like to say it earlier, but I’d like you to act as hostess, if you don’t mind, make a bit of fuss and flirt with the guests, just a little.”

“What!” I felt myself get very hot. “I’ve only been doing this a couple of weeks!” I hissed.

“But you are so beautiful, no one will notice anything else.”

“Professor Agnew, I am going to scream in a minute!” I said in exasperation.

He looked so calm and relaxed and just grabbed me in a hug and pecked me on the cheek, “I knew you’d understand, just be your charming self but smile at the Under-Secretary every now and again, he holds the purse strings.”

“What!” I gasped, “What if he finds out about me?”

“What if he does, I only want you to smile at him, not sleep with him unless you want to of course.” He gave me a wicked grin and I began to wish I’d stayed in Bristol.

He quickly showed me around his house, which was a large detached one. Five bedrooms, two with ensuite, three reception, huge kitchen and of course his den, which was as big as my room plus kitchen. It was a lovely house with Chinese or Persian rugs on polished block floors. His spaniel was shut out in the garden because he tended to jump all over guests and spread his hairs about. The caterers were busy in the kitchen and dining room.

“The guests will be here any minute, if you could help me get them into the lounge and settle them with a drink, it would help enormously.”

“How many are we expecting?”

“The U-S, two from Bristol, one from the E. U. and someone from a commercial sponsor, the government have managed to con into putting some money into little furry things.”

“Am I the only woman?” I asked blushing.

“Yep, token variety,” he laughed, “only joking,” he said as I scowled at him. “Well who else could I invite to compare with our own talent?” I scowled again. “You’ll get wrinkles, my dear. Seriously, as you helped to put together the proposal, it will be good to have you sit in on it all.”

“But Professor, I wish you had let me know sooner, this is all so rushed.”

“I only knew myself this morning; we had to switch this from Bristol because they have some sickness there.”

I was just about to protest, when the doorbell rang. “Be an angel and get that will you, I want to check the caterers.”

On shaky legs I went to the door and opened it. “Sir Alan, do come in.” Thankfully I recognised the Under Secretary of State for the Environment.

“Thank you my dear, how nice to meet you. Agnew, you old fox, where did you manage to find such a lovely hostess for this nosh?”

“Alan, you old weasel, this is Cathy Watts, one of my post grad researchers and contributor to the proposal.”

“My goodness, intellect in such a lovely wrapping, delighted to meet you.” He took my hand and kissed it. I blushed all the way to my scalp. If ever he finds out, I am dead big time!

Next in were the two ‘readers’ from Bristol, a status which is sometimes termed Assistant Professor in the States, then the rather handsome Antonio Banderas look-alike from the E. U. who was Spanish and then… I nearly fell over.

What the fuck was he doing here? “Hello Simon.”

“Cathy, what a lovely surprise,” came from his mouth but his eyes were in shock and I’m sure he went pale for a moment.

“You two know each other?” asked Sir Alan.

“Yes,” I said with a smile that was as false as my booster bra.

“Come along in and have a drink, Cathy, if you’d do the honours,” said the Professor. I nipped ahead of them and stood by the drinks table dispensing Martini and sherry and whatever else they wanted. I felt like a stiff brandy, but restricted myself to an extra dry Martini.

Simon kept out of the way for the pre-dinner drink, and my attention was seized by Sir Alan, who had a reputation for being a bit of a flirt. “So what are you researching my dear?”

“Dormice.”

“We have few of them in Westminster and even more in Whitehall.”

“Really, I didn’t realise there were any suitable habitats in central London.”

“Oh for this type of dormouse, there is. They spend long hours sleeping, usually in their offices after big lunches, frequently paid for by the taxpayer or commercial interests.”

“I see,” I smiled, “I don’t think they could be categorised as endangered.”

“Oh but they are, my dear. When we push through the reforms in the White Paper (the government’s proposed legislation), I’m hoping they will become extinct once and for all.”

“I think I prefer my little furry ones.”

“Well I’m sure they’re in good hands my dear, with you looking out for them.”

“I do my best. Excuse me Sir Alan,” I went to help the Euroman with the film star looks. “Can I help, Mr Bartello?”

“You are too kind, Miss…?”

“Watts, Cathy Watts. Please call me Cathy.”

“Yes, but of course, Cathy. Do we have time to see the garden?”

Duh! “I’ll ask the professor,” I rushed off and back. “He says we have five minutes and be careful of his dog.”

“He is dangerous?”

“No, just boisterous.”

My Spanish companion looked puzzled, “Boys teros?”

“No, boisterous, he’ll jump all over you and get you dirty.”

“Ah, boisterous, now I comprehend. What sort of dog is it?”

“A springer spaniel.”

“Ah, a gun dog?”

“Not in this household, the only thing the Professor shoots is pool.”

“Ah, the American billiards?”

“Yes.” I led him to the garden and managed to keep the dog off him by throwing a ball for it. He examined umpteen flowers and shrubs and picked off several cuttings for himself.

“I am a keen gardener, and look for new plants all the time.”

“Would you like to put them in water until you go?”

“No, I am well equipped.” He produced a plastic bag from his suit pocket and after dropping in his cuttings, sealed it.

“I think we’d better go back inside Mr Bartello.”

“But of course.”

The meal was delicious, melon starter, with Duck a l’orange, and Pavlova to finish. There was also a cheese board and port, then coffee.

Once the dishes were cleared away, the talk was pure business and Sir Alan introduced Simon as the representative of his bank and how they were prepared to contribute half a million pounds over three years. They wanted publicity in return, with the emphasis on how they were helping the environment.

Simon’s mini presentation was actually very good although I was aware the bank wasn’t always so green in its policy. In fact, they had been involved as a backer in some oil disaster in Alaska two years before. So this was blood money, or perhaps oil money would be more accurate.

The bank wanted something to show for its investment and much to my horror, Sir Alan proposed a set of posters and leaflets with a picture of me on it and one of a dormouse.

“That’s brilliant Alan,” commented Prof Agnew, “Cathy is the most photogenic member of the team and so are her little furry dormice. Well young man, would your bank be happy with that, plus a description of the work we are doing and planning?”

Simon blushed. How could he be seen to be going out with someone from a project his bank was funding? If they found out, we’d both be in trouble. “I’ll speak to my superiors and get back to you as soon as we can, but it sounds very good.”

My heart sank. My little romance was over. I looked at Simon and saw the sadness in his eyes. I had always dreamt of being a beautiful woman, now people were saying I was. I didn’t necessarily agree, and suddenly it was proving a hindrance rather than a help. Oh shit!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 89

The path of true love does not run smoothly… for Cathy it goes like a switchback! If you don’t believe me, see for yourself…

The discussion went on and the drinks went around again and again. I was on water to stay within the limit for driving, when Prof Agnew suddenly insisted I have a drink.

“But I can’t,” I protested, “I’ll be over the limit.”

“Stay here then, plenty of beds.” With that, he poured me a large brandy. “Drink it woman, you’ve earned it.”

I’d have preferred to stay in my own bed, but in order to keep the peace, I did as I was told and fell into the stereotypical compliant female again! One of these days, I was going to shock them by saying ‘no,’ but not tonight.

Eventually the business was finished and the copious notes I’d taken of amendments and suggestions, yes, as the only woman I was obviously the secretary! I wanted to scream, but more than that, I wanted to get as much as I could for my research project. Prof Agnew knew this and managed to screw twenty thousand out of the Under-Secretary for my participation, and I didn’t have to sleep with either of them. Least I hoped not.

At nearly one in the morning the party broke up and there were just glasses and coffee cups to clear away which I started to do as the men shook hands and cracked jokes.

“Here,” said Simon, handing me a tray he’d found in the kitchen, then he helped me collect up all the glasses. “We need to talk.”

“I thought you were needing space; make your mind up will you?” I said brushing past him towards the kitchen.

He followed me and as soon as I put the tray down, he grabbed me by the wrist, spun me around and kissed me, holding me tightly to him. He smelt wonderful and I enjoyed his aroma as his tongue probed my mouth and I sucked it.

“You both staying?” asked the Professor bringing out a handful of cups.

“Erm, I erm.”

“If that’s all right?”

“Fine with me, use the one in the back with the ensuite. I’m off to my bed.” He farted, apologised and went back out of the kitchen.

Simon and I looked at each other and sniggered. We’d be old and farting ourselves one day, but until then, it was a school kid source of humour and we were giggling like two schoolgirls.

“I noticed your eyes widen when I asked the prof if I could stay, is that okay with you?”

“Bit late, aren’t you? Fait accompli and all that.”

“No, I’ll go now if you want me to,” he shrugged his shoulders, “It’s your call?”

“Oh hell, why is it the women who always have to decide?”

“Because in a civilised society, they decide who they want to sleep with.”

“I had a choice? Wow, well that Spanish chap was rather dishy, I mean he looked very much like Antonio Banderas, very yummy.”

“Do you want me to get him back?” asked Simon calling my bluff.

“Nah, he’d spend all night telling me about his greenhouse or rose bushes.”

“Eh?”

“He asked me to take him out into the garden so he could do some ravishing.”

“What?”

“Not me unfortunately, he spent a few minutes picking cuttings off plants in the garden. Even brought his own plastic bag for them. I’d say he was a serial cutting snaffler.”

“Gosh, should we report him for petty larceny?”

“What is larceny exactly?”

“Theft, why?”

“I thought it was, but you working in a bank should know, I mean you do it to your customers all the time, don’t you?”

I loaded the cups and glasses into the dishwasher, and switched it on. Simon came up behind me and put his hands around me and gently rubbed my breasts. “Still guilty of the Misrepresentation of Goods Act then?” he said feeling the booster bra.

“Nah, Trade Descriptions Act. That is so nice.” I relaxed back against his body while he continued to gently massage me.

“Good, just enjoy.”

“I will but you’re still not sleeping with me.”

“Couch?”

“’Fraid so, that is so good, kiss me.” Funnily enough he did as I asked. I was getting a bit uncomfortable in a place which wanted expansion but couldn’t. I hoped the glue would hold even though it felt as if I’d caught something very tender in a zip fastener.

“Let’s go upstairs,” I said, “we need to do some talking.”

“Yes Miss.”

Switching off lights as we went, we ascended the stairs holding hands. I just wished I could have slept with him. Then the thought occurred to me, I could but he would have to behave. I felt it was a calculated risk.

I stripped to my underwear, and threw on a large tee shirt I found in a wardrobe. It was designed for someone about eight times my size but it covered everything up well enough. There were some disposable toothbrushes in a glass in the bathroom, so I used one and jumped into bed.

There was no couch and my dress was spread over the only chair. Simon looked around and shrugged.

“If you promise me you won’t try anything on, you can sleep in the bed,” I said looking him in the eye.

“Guides’ honour,” he said putting three fingers up to his head.

“I don’t mind a cuddle, but I don’t want sex. Okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” he said almost running towards the bed.

“I mean it Simon. No means no and I will not say yes however much you try to change my mind. Is that clear?”

“Yes, I said I would wait until you were ready. I’m still waiting.”

“Thank you.” I tapped the bed beside me.

“Now, tell me the real reason why you were frightened of my cooking.”

He laughed, “Yeah, sorry about that. Okay, I panicked. I knew the bank was interested in playing ball with the Environment people, but it was all so hush hush, and wasn’t certain. They wanted to screw concessions out of the Chancellor and felt the Environment Secretary would help them.”

“Did she?”

“Nah, I could have told them that, but they had to find out.”

“Did you know I was involved in the project?”

“Not entirely. We had an outline plan and little furry things were seen as good emotional linking for selling, especially after the oil disaster in Alaska. We might be a merchant bank, but we’re about to buy into a major high street name, and it will all help with our new image of caring for the environment.”

“But you don’t, I mean your bank doesn’t, does it?”

“As long as it doesn’t cost them any money, they couldn’t give a shit what happens to little furry things.”

“So how did you change their minds?”

“I didn’t by myself, I just pointed out our record and that we needed to be seen to be greening up. I knew of this project which the government wanted to find a partner to sponsor, and they went for it.”

“Just like that?”

“Okay, I had to push it for a few days. The chairman will likely get a knighthood for services to the environment.”

I laughed sarcastically. “You are kidding me, right?”

“No, he actually did a few things years ago, saved some rare newt or other when they wanted to put a road near his house.”

“Sounds more selfish than green, a real nimby.”

“He’s sponsored a local environment group for a few years, donated land for a nature reserve, got his golf club to allow more rough land for wildlife.”

“He goes shooting little feathered things for God’s sake!”

“I know you don’t approve of shooting, but it helps to conserve habitats.”

“That is true, but for what? They covertly kill and poison predators, red kite and a white tailed eagle, a golden eagle, Christ knows how many peregrines, buzzards, goshawks, sparrow hawks and kestrels get killed. Just for a few fucking grouse or pheasants.”

“It protects jobs in the rural community.”

“No it protects privilege, for the favoured few.”

“This is pointless.”

“What is?”

“Talking to you about this.”

“Simon, I study the environment. I’m a field scientist, remember. I go out in the various habitats, I have for umpteen years. It’s all interconnected. The predators, the prey and the habitat, alter any one and the others are affected. I have research material to prove it: some of it is my own. I haven’t published because it is so sensitive and no government has the bottle to stop shooting.”

“They stopped hunting with dogs.”

“Yeah what a farce that is, if one of those wankers on horseback has a bird of prey on his arm, they can use dogs to flush game for it.”

“Yeah, so?”

“What prey are they flushing with foxhounds?”

“Ah.”

“Yeah, like squirrels and mice or small birds! Like hell they are, it’s bloody foxes which of course get chewed up by the dogs who know no better. It’s a racket, they should shoot the bloody dogs and the horses and then the fucking riders.”

“I didn’t realise you felt so strongly about hunting.”

“I don’t when it’s stoats and weasels or foxes catching bunnies or rats or even bloody dormice, because they need to, to live. Men don’t, they do it for fun and I think it’s barbaric.”

“Oh.”

“You’ve been hunting haven’t you?”

“A few times, until I fell off the horse and hurt my shoulder, haven’t ridden since.”

“Don’t tell me it also stopped you shooting?”

“It did actually, you are so perceptive…”

“Oh fuck!” I wailed and turned my back to him, I was sobbing.

“I don’t do it now.” He gently rubbed my back.

“Don’t touch me,” I snapped.

“I’m sorry. Do you want me to go?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” I felt him get off the bed and start to put his clothes back on.

I heard him put his shoes on and my heart felt torn in two yet again. Why did he have to be a hunter? Why did I have to fall for him, why did his job have to compromise things? Wouldn’t it be better if I just let him go?

He walked to the door and I heard his hand on the doorknob, “Don’t go yet,” I said.

“I think I’d better, I’ve upset you.”

“I want you to hold me.”

“You told me not to touch you,” I could see him shaking his head.

“That was a few minutes ago.”

“So what has changed?”

“I have, I want you to hold me.”

“For Chrissake! Make up your bloody mind, woman!” He sounded exasperated.

“I have,” I said, “an’ I want you to hold me.”

“No more talk about hunting?” he said with an edge to his voice.

“’Kay.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” I said weakly. I was still upset but I still wanted him near me. Why was life so difficult all the time? Or was it just for me? Was this a punishment, the sort of burn in hell stuff, but come early because I was such an abomination?

I felt his body lie alongside mine and his arm draped around me. I could feel his body warmth and smell his musky odour. I felt safe and protected and fell asleep in moments.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 90

(How the hell has it got to be this long?)

by Angharad & Bonzi (The Killer) Cat

I awoke hearing someone snoring—for a moment it startled me. I felt a moment of panic, wondering where the hell I was and more importantly whose body was draped around mine, snoring? Then as my mind began to function a little more, I remembered last night.

Moving my head a little I could see the time on my watch: it was after seven and getting light. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about everything that had happened and I took a few moments to think about how I might respond to those events.

How on earth did I allow Simon to sleep with me, and more importantly, why? That was suicidal and very stupid. He’s going to be thinking that before too long my celibacy will waver and then… and then, it will really hit the fan!

Did I really go off on one about hunting? Probably, it’s my bête noire, I despise it with a capital D. He said he used to do it, the operative word being used rather than does. Maybe I could live with that. Did I really suggest shooting everything? Okay so I’m a closet fascist, a socialist one, yeah I know so were the Nazis. I felt myself blushing, how can I expect tolerance if I don’t show any? ’Cos the little furry things don’t have much say in the matter. It still annoyed me faster than anything short of abuse of humans. I listed paedophiles as predators like hunters, they simply had a different prey item in mind. Maybe I had a problem with predators or just predatory men? Maybe just men? Oh this was messing with my head and I needed a cuppa. Simon might be Mr Lovely, but I needed a cuppa away from his rendition of Rule Britannia.

I slipped out of bed; he snorted a couple of times but then back to his recital. I closed the door quietly and hurried down the stairs.

In the kitchen I bumped into Professor Agnew. “Good morning young lady, I trust you slept well?”

“Fine thank you, but I’m gasping for a cuppa.” I wasn’t going to give him any more information than that, but the smirk on his face meant he was already guessing at possible scenarios.

He switched on the kettle and showed me where he kept the tea, teapot and cups. The fridge was self evident, making its whirring noises every so often. A short while later I was sat opposite him at the kitchen table sipping my tea—it is a truly sensual experience, that first cup. I followed it with a second.

“Not taking your lover any?” asked the professor.

“He was still shattered when I left him,” I commented and let him make what he wanted from it.

“You were very quiet,” he mused, his eyes dancing.

“Well Simon is a real gentleman and I was always told it’s rude to speak with your mouth full.” Where did that come from? I felt myself getting very red.

Prof Agnew nearly choked on his toast. When he could speak again, he laughed and said, “That is a very old joke Cathy.”

“So, I’m a woman, they aren’t as good at telling jokes as men.”

“If the stereotype is anything to go by, personally I don’t think it is. Thank you for your impromptu hostessing last night, you made quite a hit with the boys.”

“All blind are they?” I said dismissively, “and as for the posters and leaflet thingy, that was preposterous. I’m a scientist not a model.”

“It would be better if the poster reflected a real person working with the project.”

“So why can’t you appear on it instead of me?”

“Because I’m old and ugly and you’re young and beautiful.”

“That is very sexist.” I offered huffily, not believing I was pretty enough for his posters nor that they should be selling sex, if I was.

“The world is sexist, controlled by men using and abusing women. It’s a fact of life. However, we need to compromise in order to get what we want. I’m not here to save mankind, that’s for the priests and the philosophers. I’m here to supervise a scientific project which I hope might just protect some of our native species being destroyed to the point of extinction. I thought that was your priority too, and while we do it, getting you a PhD.”

“The dormice come first,” I protested.

“Look you silly girl, it’s inclusive not exclusive, they should both happen. What happened last night, did he shag all your brains out?”

“I beg your pardon?” I said in high dudgeon, “he did no such thing. We might have slept together, but that is all we did!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, it’s just you don’t seem to be very with it this morning.”

“Oh,” I said glaring at him, “that wasn’t how I received it.”

“So I see. Has he worked it out yet?”

“What?”

“Your little imperfection?”

“I don’t know, would you?” I stood up and lifted the tee shirt showing the little cleft in the front of my knickers.

“I don’t think I would,” he said shaking his head.

“I think we’re in danger of crossing some boundaries here Prof, so can we get back to me student you teacher?”

“Yes you’re right Cathy, it’s just you are so damn pretty, every one of those buggers went off with a lump in his pants thinking about you last night.”

“What!” I nearly died of shame. “That is ridiculous.” If I had blushed any redder, it would have stopped the traffic.

“You haven’t had much experience yet Cathy, nor been able to accept what you have become. Once you do, no man will be safe from your glance, they will die just to get a smile from you.”

“Professor Agnew, stop this immediately, it is stuff and nonsense, and is embarrassing me.”

“Okay, but when we do some mock ups for the posters, you will understand why I want you and one of those furry vermin you love so much, on the cover. You are both photogenic.”

“But it’s such nonsense.”

“Of course it is, but we need the funding and our sponsors need to get what they want out of it.”

“That’s prostitution!”

“Welcome to the real world Cathy.”

“How dare you call my dormice vermin!”

“Only joking girl, God but you’re beautiful when you’re angry.”

“Look here you dirty old man, I thought we’d moved beyond that and were discussing the project?”

“You remind me so much of my wife.”

“Professor Agnew, please get a grip on yourself!” I suddenly saw a double entendre there and blushed again. “I’d better take Simon some coffee,” I said as I poured him a cup and went back up to the bedroom.

“I’ve brought you some coffee,” I said to an empty bed. Then I heard the shower running. I walked into the bathroom and repeated my statement.

“Thanks!” Came back from the shadow in the shower.

I sat on the bed thinking how I could wear a smart dress home mid morning and if only I’d known I could have packed a few things to change into. I spied Simon’s clothes on the end of the bed. I picked up his shirt and was busy sniffing it when he walked into the bedroom.

“I erm… it fell off the bed and I was just picking it up.”

“Really?” he said smiling. I felt a sudden attack of shame.

“Nice deodorant, must get some for my dad,” I lied and blushed. This multi-tasking was getting easier.

“I’ll get you some,” he winked back at me.

I sat there clutching his shirt while he stood wrapped in a towel watching me. Part of me wanted to rush over and pull off the towel but another was terrified of where that could lead, ultimately I felt to rejection. Part of me wanted him so badly, why couldn’t this have happened a year from now, when I might have been as female as I could get? I felt sick.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 91

Things hot up for Simon and Cathy, you have been warned!

“You like my shirt, do you?”

“S’alright,” I replied blushing like a warning light.

“Mind if I sit down?” he sat alongside me on the bed. Then he took the shirt out of my paralysed hands, put his arm on my shoulder and gently pressed me down on to the bed, whereupon he began kissing me.

I tried to push him off and protest but he kissed away my resistance, and his hands found my breasts and in minutes I was bucking and squirming underneath him.

“Is that nice?” he asked sucking my nipple through the tee shirt. Nice! I was practically in orbit. I rubbed my hand on his hairy chest and liked the feeling on my fingers.

“Is that nice?” he asked pulling up the tee shirt and licking my chest and stomach. I groaned loudly and came, a wet patch forming in my knickers. “I take it you enjoyed that?” he said casually.

I had to rest for a moment; my whole body felt on fire, glowing white-hot and I couldn’t breathe. Then I calmed and he kissed me again. I kissed him back and my hand wriggled into the towel he had around him finding something a little harder than the towelling. I gently massaged until I watched him breathing very deeply, then for a moment he seemed to hold his breath before saying, “Oh boy!” and I felt his sticky juices flow over my hand. He fell back on the bed beside me, I pulled out my hand and sniffed it, in the mood I was in, and it smelt good. I licked a little, sneaking a look at Simon who was pole-axed on the bed. It tasted salty, but okay. I wiped my hand in his towel.

“That was beautiful,” he said sounding a little spacey.

“Have you been sniffing something?” I joked.

“No that was you, remember, my shirt?”

“Nah, I was wiping my nose in it really.”

“What!” he said loudly and I fell back on the bed, then he started tickling me and I had a fit of the giggles. He kept on tickling me, despite my mock protests and I disgraced myself. I wet myself, I just couldn’t help it. I was so disabled by the tickling and giggling that I had no control over anything else. I pushed him away and pulled the towel under me, exposing him. He went to take it back until he could see my distress and understood.

I bolted into the bathroom and stripping off stepped into the shower, then washed everything, my knickers and the towel in the bath. I was now going to have to go home without any pants. It was going to feel very cool around my nether regions, and the entrapped piece of nearly redundant flesh throbbed a little disliking its imprisonment, but the superglue held.

I emerged from the shower with the towel wrapped around my chest and a smaller one around my head.

“Did you just do what I think you did? Before the shower, I mean?” asked a contrite Simon.

“You mean touching you up, or peeing myself?” Without waiting for his response I nodded, “Yes on both counts, but I’m only ashamed of one of them.”

He gave me a beaming smile and standing up—he was now dressed—pulled me to him and kissed me, deeply. I held onto him like a limpet and let the emotion ripple through me like an earthquake. There were aftershocks too.

“I’m going to have to give up on you.” The words hit me like a hammer, one by one smashing into my head and then my heart.

I stepped back, “What do you mean?” I demanded tears stinging my eyes as they flowed copiously down my face.

“What I said, I have to declare my conflict of interests. One of them will have to go.”

“So that’s it, is it? Work calls and you go off like a puppy dog to your masters.”

“They pay my salary; they have a right to know.”

“I see, so as you couldn’t get your leg over, I get dropped. Is that it?”

“That has nothing to do with it. I have to tell them that…”

His mouth was moving but I was having my own internal dialogue and voices were screaming in my head. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, just my own voice telling me it was over and perhaps it was for the better.

“… so they’ll have to find someone else, because I can’t give you up.”

“Well thanks for the memory, it was nice while it lasted.” I said, the tears now flowing like a spring tide in the Bristol Channel.

I stopped; my brain had just processed what he had said. “What did you say?”

“What all of it?” he looked at me in astonishment, weren’t you listening?”

“No, just the last bit,” I pleaded.

“I’m going to tell them they need someone else to manage this account because I won’t give you up.”

“You… won’t… give… me… up,” I repeated in slow motion, tears still pouring down my face like a monsoon storm. Suddenly my brain understood, “So you’re not leaving me?” I gasped.

“No, of course not, I love you.” He said it as if he thought I knew it already and it was almost embarrassing to confirm it, again!

“Simon,” I screamed, launching myself at him, “kiss me, hold me, don’t ever leave me.” He caught me in mid-leap, and we both toppled over onto the bed. His arms crushed me into his body and he kissed me with lips which tasted sweeter than honey.

“I’ll have to leave you when I go to work, you know.”

“I know,” I sobbed.

“I love you,” he cooed.

“I love you too.” Suddenly I realised that I could no longer maintain this deception. I really did love this man and I was betraying his affection for me. “Simon, I have to tell you something.”

“What’s that sweetheart?”

“It’s something you need to know about me.” I began crying again, what would happen if he rejected me? I should die of a broken heart if I didn’t kill myself first.

“Shush now, there’s plenty of time to swap secrets later.”

“But,” I sobbed, “I (sob) need you (sob) to know.” I then bawled incoherently for several minutes.

“Have you committed a serious crime?” he asked.

“Nnnnn (sob) no,” I shuddered.

“Are you already married?”

“(Sob) Nnnno,” I managed to answer.

“Do you have some awful disease?”

“Nnnnno,” I hiccupped.

“It can wait then.”

“Nnnnnoo, it can’t.”

“Yes it can,” he said firmly and placed his lips over mine and kissed me into a trance, after which I fell asleep.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 92

I awoke feeling cold; the towel had slipped off my body leaving me displaying my wares for all to see. I felt stiff and my head pounded. With a little difficulty I rose from the bed, my hair was all standing up on end, I would need to wet it again, and my eyes were still red from crying. I felt exhausted.

According to my watch, it was two in the afternoon. I needed to collect my bike amongst other things. I had no idea where Simon had gone, probably to his home. I had no idea either, how I was going to tell him about my horrible secret. Part of me almost wanted to pull myself away from the superglue and cut the dangly bits off, but where would that get me, except Casualty? It still wouldn’t make me female—only a skillful surgeon could do that, in a physical sense. In an emotional sense, I’d been there all my life.

I wetted my hair and combed it into a simple style. Then I pulled on my fancy frock and sandals, grabbed my jacket and bag and went downstairs. My stomach was rumbling and I realised I’d had nothing to eat all morning. There was no sign of the professor or Simon, I called and went through all the downstairs rooms, but they had obviously gone out. I quickly ran back up to the bedroom and brought down the dirty towels and bed linen and shoved them in the washing machine. The professor had the same type we had at home, so after finding the necessary detergent and softener, I started them on a wash cycle. My own wet knickers I put in a plastic bag I found in a kitchen cupboard.

At the front door, I found a post-it from the professor:

‘Cathy, help yourself to any food and drink you can find. Had to go into the department. Please pull the door firmly closed when you leave.
Regards,
Prof.  A.’

That told me a lot about Simon and his whereabouts. Was this disappearing a regular trick of his? Is that his guilty secret, he keeps slipping through into a different dimension? Bit more interesting than mine, I thought, I’m only a boy masquerading as a girl, nothing really if you say it quickly enough.

I added to the professor’s note, thanking him for his hospitality and saying where his linen was. Then I made sure I had my keys and everything else I’d brought, before walking to my car.

I had actually sat in it before I noticed a small note under the windscreen wiper. I got out and reached for it. It was from Simon, well that was a surprise.

‘You were so fast asleep, I had to leave you there and get Stella to come and collect me. I needed to talk with the bank as soon as possible. Sorry, yes I am their lackey, but it pays well, better than dormice! Miss you already, will see you as soon as I can.
Love,
Simon.’

I missed him too, nearly as much as my knickers—goodness my bottom was cold. I drove home as fast as I could, the car’s heater blowing warm air in all my frozen nooks and crannies. I was just getting nicely warm when I reached the house. Dashing in, I changed into some cycling clothes, grabbed my bag and the bike and left for the bike shop.

It was nearly four when I got there. The man who owned it checked over the Litespeed and nodded to me that it was okay. I had hoped so, I’d only ridden it a few times and none of those had any sort of mishap. I was pleased to get my Scott back, I checked things over as he described what he’d done to it, and the rebuilt wheel looked as good as new. He’d put on a new tyre when he’d rebuilt the wheel, but he said that the bill had been paid in full, when I asked him how much I owed him.

I was glad to get my bike back and hopped on it as soon as I got out of the shop. It felt quite different to the other one and it took me an hour to feel as relaxed on it as I had before it was damaged. I got back to my room about six.

I wasn’t sure what to do: should I go home and see my dad tomorrow or stay here and hope Simon calls me? Why is my life so beset with difficult choices? Why do I keep asking myself these stupid questions?

While I was making up my mind, I went to check my post box. There were a few items, mostly junk mail, but also a typed envelope. I opened it with a knife in the kitchen. The contents were not nice.

‘So you think wearing a dress constitutes becoming a woman, do you? We’ll see won’t we? Why don’t you just come clean, you’re a stinking homo who doesn’t have the guts to say so, aren’t you! Fucking arse bandit, you queers make me sick.

An illwisher.’

I dropped it on the table and burst into tears. Was I just a gay man who didn’t have the courage of his convictions and was hiding behind a sort of medical legitimacy?

The typed envelope was addressed to ‘Miss C Watts’ and my address, so it was someone who knew me enough to know my address. A fellow student? Probably, maybe one of those I’d met yesterday who found me hard to take, or the change I was demonstrating.

I had a think, and despite the row over the toilets, I didn’t honestly think it was a big enough issue to cause someone to write this horrible note.

Well one thing was certain, I couldn’t talk it over with Simon. That in itself made me feel lonely. I was on the verge of having my first meaningful relationship and I couldn’t share this with him. It reminded me that I’d been extraordinarily lucky so far and that there would be those who found my life change unacceptable. In one sense I felt sorry for them because they were probably more screwed up than I was. On another, I was just irritated. I would discuss it with Prof Agnew when I next saw him, or with Dr Thomas. I should ring her too, because we hadn’t spoken for over a week.

I started tidying up my room, as much for something to do as anything else. I’d finished and the world hadn’t beaten a path to my door, nor had Simon, which was more important.

I still had to tell him, oh hell! I don’t know if I can. Why couldn’t he just have listened to me earlier when I had the courage or commitment to do it?

Then I sat thinking about his kisses and felt something wet happen in my knickers. I had it bad.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 93

by Angharad & Bonzi

More problems for Cathy.

Despite being asleep much of the morning, I was in bed early. The note had spooked me a little and I used my improvised door bar to help make me feel secure. I kept reminding myself that it was okay to feel a bit girly now, but to remember that dealing with a gender change also required me to be tough enough to survive it.

I was relatively lucky, I actually looked and sounded the part and the hormones were changing my body shape enough to get away with things even in skimpy clothes. Maybe I was very lucky; I used that positive feeling to help me get off to sleep, rather than dwelling on how I was going to tell Simon.

I woke up in a sweat—the dream I’d had was horrible and the memory was still vivid. I’d been at a wedding, actually my wedding. I was wearing a beautiful white dress and Simon looked really good in his suit. My dad was there to give me away looking pleased with himself, when the proceedings were interrupted by someone calling from the back of the church.

The voice was indeterminate of sex, and I couldn’t identify who it was. But they shouted that they, “Had just cause to stop the ceremony. The priest was marrying two men, one of whom was a queer who dressed in women’s clothes.” Uproar occurred amongst the congregation, and I looked at Simon who had an expression of horror on his face.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he shouted to me.

“I tried,” I called back breaking down into tears.

“Not hard enough, sorry it’s over.” He began to walk away and I collapsed on the floor sobbing. Everyone seemed to be walking away in disgust or shock, even my father. I was left a weeping ball of expensive white lace and silk.

I was whimpering to myself when I awoke and my pillow and nightdress were wet with my tears. It showed me I had to tell Simon at the first opportunity. I needed to deal with this secret and then the consequences.

I got up and made myself a cup of tea to calm me down. It was nearly three in the morning. I tried to identify the voice in my dream, but it felt like it was a combination of many or even my own trying to make me face up to the problem.

I had wondered if it was the same miscreant who written the note—that certainly wasn’t my imagination, it was there on the table in front of me. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know who wrote it, because I didn’t want any nasty scenes with them, they would only draw attention to myself.

If there were any more, I decided I would put a hidden camera in the hallway to record anyone putting stuff in my letterbox. I could borrow one from the lab, in fact I possibly had one. We use them to record activity of dormice, owls and various other species, with a motion sensor like you get on alarms and those irritating high intensity lights, outside houses, the ones that get set off by foxes and cats but not humans because they’re set too low.

I went to my rucksack, the one I used for my fieldwork. Sure enough, there was one in the bottom. These things are so small it’s amazing and because they transmit rather than record themselves, the batteries are small too. Just tune in the receiver, in this case my spare lappie, and off you go.

I decided I would set it up anyway, but only play the recording if anything else was left in my box. I threw on some jeans and a jumper and nipped down to the hallway. Looking around I realised it wouldn’t be easy to suspend it without something showing. Then I saw the perfect place.

There are nine boxes, in three ranks of three. The top rank were for the floor above mine, the bottom for the ground floor rooms. I knew the box above mine was unused. It had been forced some time before and the current occupier of that room had his mail sent elsewhere.

The bend in the edge of the door was just enough for me to position the camera transmitter in the box and close the door on it. I could see it because I knew it was there, it was unlikely anyone else would.

The batteries would last about three days on motion stimulated—at least they did in the field. They were rechargeables and I had plenty of them. I’d also become very good at setting them up quickly and accurately. Working with nervous, little, furry things encourages that sort of skill, or you would never see anything.

I went back to my room and set up the receiver—it took about twenty minutes, plugged into a USB socket. I made some more tea and after consuming it went back to bed. I awoke at eight, showered and dressed and got ready for going back to Bristol. If Simon was expecting to see me, he should have phoned or texted. Besides, if I scarpered, I wouldn’t have to tell him for another day. At nine in the morning without much sleep or any breakfast except more tea, it made some sense. So I went for it.

On the way into Portsmouth, I passed a car boot sale. Having nothing better to do, I stopped and to my delight bought a bike rack for a tenner. The guy I bought it from actually came and fitted it to my car while his wife or girlfriend watched his stall. I just acted all girly and he was putty. It meant I could take my bike with me. I rushed back to my room.

I checked the mailbox, don’t ask me why because on a Sunday there isn’t a delivery anyway, and I suspected I was probably the only thing stirring in student accommodation. It was empty, as I’d expected.

Half an hour later I was on my way, my cycle kit stowed on the floor of the car behind my seat, and my bike held on the rack with various bungee cords. I looked forward to being able to ride at home, although I wasn’t going to use the Saunier Duval kit, I’d use my second outfit, of Team GB, a red, white and blue design partly in the form of the Union flag. I’d never be good enough to ride for them officially and my gender state would cause a few problems if I did, but it was good enough for zipping around the highways and byways of the Bristol area or ‘ariel’ as the locals said, they add an ‘L’ to the end of any words ending in a vowel sound, Bristol coming from the Bridge over the River Stowe.

The extra tea I’d drunk meant I needed to make a pit stop which I did at the motorway services. While I was at it, I decided to have a late breakfast, just some eggs on toast but they were actually quite good for a M’way service meal. I walked back towards my car feeling happier and refreshed until I recognised something was wrong.

I began to run and it was true, my bike wasn’t to be seen. The rack was still there and some of the bungees, but the bike, my pride and joy had gone. I ran up and down but there was nothing to be seen anywhere. I asked one or two people I could see in their cars or vans and no one had seen anything. In tears, I called the police.

The two officers who came were actually very nice but they didn’t offer much hope of finding it or catching the thieves. I wandered around feeling sick and as if it was a dream and I’d wake up any moment. But it wasn’t, it was real and I would have to contact my insurance company tomorrow. It was insured for theft but whether that covered on a carrack was another matter. It was locked and I had the serial number on the frame—back in my room, in Portsmouth.

I drove home in a state of semi-shock; I don’t actually recall anything after the police went off. I did manage to get an incident report number, but other than that, I was in some sort of trance.

It was three in the afternoon and I made myself some tea and changed into something tidy to see my dad. I bought him some buns from the bakery at Asda but I knew he’d know I didn’t make them. I didn’t bother with makeup I was too fed up.

I sat down by my dad after kissing his cheek. I gave him one of the buns and he ate it but told me I’d bought it. I promised to bake him some more tomorrow.

“Wha…s’wron’.. C.a.ff.y?”

“Nothing Daddy, I’m just tired.”

“Yyyes vere is.”

“Okay, there is. My bike got stolen off the back of my car while I stopped at the motorway services.”

We talked about the incident and I explained he’d never seen this bike, which I’d bought with my student loan money. He couldn’t believe that any bike could cost over three thousand pounds, nor could he believe that I wasn’t a bad rider. I told him about the inter-college race I’d taken part in. His eyes actually sparkled when I told him I’d beaten some regular team riders. For the first time in my life, my old man was proud of me. I felt tears in my eyes and we held hands, nothing was said but we each understood the other for perhaps the first time ever.

I could never meet his expectations at football or rugby or any of the team sports he wanted me to try. I was either too small or feeble for their needs. Okay, I’d ridden a bike since I was a kid and was fairly nippy on it, once or twice my speed had saved me from a hiding by bigger boys. My dad had shown me how to maintain it, about the only thing we’d bonded over, but it was short-lived. I didn’t want to do sports, even cycling. At that time it was means of transport I could take on a train. Racing came later when I was in uni, the first time. I didn’t race then, but I began to watch those who did and I wanted to have a go.

I was still seen as a wimp even at Sussex, but I bought a cheap road-style bike from another student, an old Peugeot and I began trying to train to possibly have a go myself. I was rubbish and the bike wasn’t much better, but it gave me a certain level of fitness which I needed to make a new bike a viable idea. I bought a new Trek but didn’t like it. Lancey boy might but I didn’t. I sold that and went for the Scott when I got my student loan through. It was a sacrifice and it meant that I didn’t have many new clothes or eat too well for a term. It was also a reason why Cathy didn’t have much in the wardrobe, I didn’t have the cash.

When it was time to go, I told my dad I’d talk to the insurance company and see what happened but they might get funny. He, bless him, offered to give me a thousand towards a new one. That choked me up and I was in tears when I kissed him goodbye and went off to my car.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 94!

When you’re in the depths of despair, how can things get worse? They do!

As I drove home, I felt bereft and I suppose I should have pulled over and had my crying fit, instead I drove with tear filled eyes and less than normal concentration. It was probably why I didn’t see the police car shadowing me, including when he put on the blue lights. It was only when he played the siren that I realised he was there and I was required to stop. If I’d felt bad before, I now felt as if the world had ended and my heart was somewhere below my big toe.

I was so lethargic that they approached the car on foot before I could get out; I’d always heard it was an advantage to do get out and walk towards them. One of the coppers tapped on the window and I opened it. The sense of dread I had was so huge that I couldn’t begin to describe it. I had driven so carefully to avoid being stopped and thus avoid all the awkward explanations. Now I’d have to give them.

“Are you alright Miss?” asked the copper.

“Yes,” I sobbed.

“Why are you crying then?”

“I’m (sob) upset because some(sob)one stole my bike.”

“Where was that?”

“Coming up from Portsmouth, this morning.”

“Have you reported it?”

“Yes, I had two police come to the motorway services and take my statement.” By breathing deeply I was managing not to sob or whimper. At times, I despised myself for being so girly.

“So where have you come from now?”

“Southmead Hospital, I’ve been to see my father, he’s had a stroke.”

“What, today?”

“No a week or so ago. He’s quite disabled but bless him he wanted to help buy a replacement bike for me, and I just burst in to tears thinking about it.” With that, I gave an encore for the young policemen.

He took my name and address, which obviously matched the info they’d been given from the police computer.

“So is your mother with your dad then?”

“No she died about three weeks ago, which is probably what caused his stroke.”

“You’re not having a lot of luck are you?”

“Not at the moment, no.” I sort of sniffed and snorted at him.

“Have you got your driver’s licence?”

“No, I sent it to Swansea (DVLA) for changes to my details.”

“Might I ask what details you were changing?”

“My name and address.” My heart began to sink below the horizon faster than the sun does on a cloudy day. This was the bit I was dreading.

“We don’t have you down as holding a licence.”

“No you won’t, I’ve just changed my name by statutory declaration.”

“What was it previously?”

“Do you absolutely need to know?”

“I’m afraid so Miss.”

I paused and wept some more. “It was Charles Watts. I’m transsexual.” He spoke to his friend and I burst into more tears.

“Okay, we have a positive for that. Normally I’d issue you with an order to produce your documents at a police station within five days. I’m letting you off with a warning, because you weren’t actually committing an offence unless it was driving without due care and attention. You should have seen us following you five minutes before you did. I think you’ve got enough on your plate for the moment, but please go straight home and don’t drive until you feel more up to it. Go on get off home, and I hope you get your bike back, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

“Thanks officer, thank you very much.”

“Go on get off. Oh Miss…”

“Yes officer?” I thought he was going to tell me my wheels had fallen off or something.

“Keep an eye on eBay, this sort of thing sometimes turns up there. If it does, let us know.”

“I will, thank you.”

He waved me off stopping a boy racer who came flying around the corner almost into them. My heart had stopped some moments after seeing the blue lights and hearing the noise. Now it was fluttering, and it seemed the Avon and Somerset Constabulary had risen several notches in my esteem. I could almost breathe again by the time I got home.

I had only started drinking a cup of tea when the phone rang. I reluctantly rose to answer it, taking my tea with me.

“Hello Sweetheart, how are you?”

I lost it once again and Simon had to wait until I could control myself once more.

“Oh sweetie, that’s dreadful. Let me know what the insurance people say, won’t you.”

“I will Si, it was locked on the rack, but I don’t know if that will count.”

“Have you got the serial number?”

“Not with me. It’s back in my room in Portsmouth.”

“Can I get it for you?”

“You won’t be able to get in, will you? I have the key with me.”

“Isn’t there a caretaker or somebody I can ask?”

“I dunno, never needed one. I’ll talk to the bike shop that just fixed it; he may have the frame number.”

“Good thinking, Batwoman.”

“Well let me know what happens won’t you?”

“Of course I will.”

“I’m going to try and get a day off in the week; they had me in harness much of today plus loads of time last week. I’ve handed over my interest in your project to a colleague with the blessing of my boss. He likes the idea of my beautiful girlfriend holding a dormouse for the leaflets and posters.”

“I don’t.”

“Why not, let me bring my camera over and we’ll do a mock up on your computer.”

“Only if I can wear a paper bag over my head.”

“Cathy, you are so beautiful it’s almost painful for me to think about you without you being beside me.”

“Flattery won’t get you anywhere with me.”

“It isn’t flattery sweetheart, it’s absolutely true. Look if you don’t believe me, speak with Stella.” He handed the phone to his sister.

“Hi blossom,” piped her cheerful voice.

“Hi Stella.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked and I related the story of my bike theft and the subsequent interlude with the police. “Oh! A mixed bag then.”

“Yeah, it could have been worse, but the police were nice, and they were sympathetic about my transition too.”

“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting about that.”

“Don’t be daft, how can you forget? You’re going to have to stop Simon from killing me when I manage to tell him?”

“Nah, it’ll be easier than you think.”

“How can you say that?”

“Trust me, okay?” When I didn’t answer, she asked again more forcefully, “Okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed more from fatigue than conviction.

“I need to tell him soon.”

I heard her moving about with the cordless phone and a door closing. “Why?”

“Because I’m falling in love and he deserves to know. He needs to know.”

“Why not wait a little longer?”

“I can’t Stella, it’s screwing me up. I need to be honest with him.”

“Has he told you all his little secrets?”

“No, that’s irrelevant to how I feel.”

“Are you sure?”

“What do you mean, what can he possibly have to hide that’s worse than my secret? At least he’s a man.”

“It isn’t for me to tell you Cathy, he has to do it.”

“What is this big secret? Don’t tell me he once had a ten pence fine for overdue library books?”

“Something like that.”

“Is it something that could affect our relationship?”

“Perhaps.”

“Oh jeez Stella, what the hell is it? Now you are really screwing me up.”

“Sorry Cathy, I can’t tell you no, that’s not true, I won’t tell you. He has to.”

“Arrrrrrrrrrrgh!” I squealed down the phone.

“I’ll hand you back to Simon.” I heard her moving again and him saying something and her answering, “Oh it was girl stuff.” I presumed she was making an excuse for sneaking off where he couldn’t hear her.

“You okay now?” he asked.

“Yeah except I won’t be able to cycle for a while.”

“I thought you had work to do for the project?”

“I do, I cycle after I’ve done that.”

“What about baking all these cakes for your dad and going to visit him?”

“Yeah okay, okay you’ve convinced me.” I conceded, then suddenly thought about his generosity. “Simon, just in case you are thinking about turning up here with a bike, if you do, I shall wrap it neatly around your head and send you home. Is that clear?”

“Excuse me,” he said asserting himself, “I am over twenty-one and as far as I know an independent and autonomous adult. So I shall do as I like.”

“So am I Simon, and I meant what I said.”

“It hadn’t even crossed my mind,” he lied. I knew he was lying.

“No, so you haven’t been looking on the Internet while I was talking to Stella?”

“Who me?” I could feel him blushing from where I was standing.

“Yes you, you lying toad.”

“Did Stella tell you?”

“No.”

“So how did you know?”

“Female intuition.”

“Well I’ll be buggered!” he exclaimed.

“Can’t help you there,” I said quickly.

“Did you tell her I was on the Internet?” I heard him asking Stella.

“No, why?” I heard her call back.

“She does the same as you, reads my fucking mind!”

“Doesn’t take long!” I heard her quip back.

“Thanks a bunch.”

“I have to go Simon, I need a wee.” I also needed a meal, my stomach was rumbling like a thunderstorm in the mountains.

“Okay, Sweetheart. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Thank you for cheering me up, I almost feel as if life is worth living again.”

“Oh c’mon sweetie pie, of course it is. Look at all the things you have planned, your project, getting a new bike, marrying me, sorting out your father, having my babies, getting a PhD and so on.”

“What did you say?”

“Sorting out your dad and getting a PhD, why?”

“You said something else.”

“Who me? Nah, you’re having audio-hallucinations.”

“No I’m not, you said about…” I paused, then smirked, “getting a new bike.”

He paused and I could almost hear him smile at the other end, “Yeah okay, you caught me out that time.”

“Oh shit, I have to go and quickly, bye.” I put the phone down and ran off to the toilet knowing I was a nanosecond or two, too late!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 9 to 5

by Angharad & Bonzi Kiddle

Yet more police and a flying pig!

The police had surrounded the house and were calling me through megaphones to come out with my hands up or they’d have to come and get me. I knew that would mean tear gas and dogs being sent in. I shouted back that if they did, I would rip pages out of the book. They were after me because my library book was overdue and I’d avoided paying my bus fare coming back from the library.

While they deciding what to do, I was busy looking for a toilet. It wasn’t my house or my parents, it was one with loads of rooms and none of them seemed to be bathrooms or toilets. I was getting desperate and even a kitchen would do—I could pee in the sink. Then I looked down and someone had stolen my penis. I looked again. I was a girl. Damn, I couldn’t do it in a sink. I started running through the house, all the while hearing the sound of an approaching helicopter getting louder. I was getting more and more desperate to pee…

… Then I woke up. I could hear sound of a helicopter overhead and for a moment wondered what day it was, then the urge to micturate took precedence and I ran or stumbled to the toilet.

Once safely seated, I tried to make out what all that dream was about, the detail was already fading fast. I remembered that it involved the police, a helicopter and a toilet. All of those were easy enough to link to recent events. The helicopter being an involvement of a real thing in my dream, as was the need to pee.

It was about three in the morning. I gazed out the window and saw the police helicopter hovering over something about half a mile away. Probably a stolen car or joy riders. I rushed to the front of the house and checked mine was still there, it was. Then I started thinking about my bike and having to deal with the insurance company and felt wide-awake. Time for a cuppa.

The copper chopper, aka ‘The Flying Pig’ was still buzzing around and at one point seemed to be directly overhead. That spooked me a bit. If they were chasing someone on foot, I hoped he wouldn’t come near me. I quickly checked all the windows and doors. By that time, the kettle had boiled and I could have a cup of tea, after which everything would feel better! Ha ha!

I’d just sat down with my tea when I heard dogs barking and the helicopter was still very close. The hairs on the back of my neck were now on end. What if the miscreant they were chasing got into our shed? Or was hiding around the back of the house? I could feel my stomach churning as if it worked for a butter company, and I was becoming increasingly anxious.

Why? I was safely locked in my castle and the power of the state was out there searching for the offender. So why was I so nervous? I was getting so girly, it was ridiculous. Then I thought of the bastard or bastards who took my bike and the fear turned to anger. I rose from the table and at first went to the knife block and pulled out a great blade. Then thinking about it, put it back and went to the kitchen cupboard and picked up a piece of hickory, which was designed as a pick-axe handle, but my dad was using for something else. It was only about two feet long, but made an ideal club. I swung it around a few times and felt happy with its weight and grip. Bring it on, I thought to myself.

I drank my tea and bearing my club went upstairs. I was probably about as dangerous as a rice pudding, but I felt more confident with my deadly blunt instrument. I watched out of the front bedroom window as the chopper circled around seeking its prey with image intensifiers and infrared equipment. I knew a bit about those, because I used them finding my ‘prey,’ my beautiful dormice. Zoology is increasingly high tech, but because it is, we get results now about things which previous generations could only guess at. We’ve come a long way since the Rev. Gilbert White wrote a treatise on Selborne and his suspicions that swallows hibernated in the mud under ponds. His ‘Natural History and Antiquities Of Selborne’ is still worth a read as a classic of a then scientific study—it was 1789 after all.

I think it must have been after five before I went back to sleep. I might have been better staying up because I awoke with a start. Then I realised it wasn’t the sound of someone breaking in, but the sound of a phone ringing.

I staggered down the stairs nearly slipping, and picked up the offending instrument. “Hello?” I said half yawning.

“Hello Sweetheart, how are you this fine morning?”

“Simon, you woke me up,” I yawned at him.

“Sorry love, I just thought you might be interested in the serial number of your bike.”

I yawned again, then said,” How did you manage that?”

“I have spoken with our friendly bike shop man.”

“What time is it?” I asked yawning again.

“Nine thirty, why?”

“Crikey, I overslept courtesy of the local plod and their helicopter.”

“Woke you up did it?”

“Didn’t it just, then proceeded to keep me in a state of alertness for a further two hours.”

“Joy riders I expect.”

“Round here, I doubt it. This is blue rinse territory.”

“So when do you go for yours?”

“You cheeky bugger,” I chided him.

We chatted for a few minutes more before he gave me the required number, and once more I needed to go to the toilet. Thankfully, he’d rung off before I made it known or he would really be wondering about me.

After showering and dressing, I had breakfast and called the insurance. I quoted as much as I could. I didn’t have my policy number but explained why and the woman I spoke to got it from the computer.

“Was it locked?”

“Yes it was locked to the bike rack.”

“Did you find the remains of the broken lock or chain?”

“No, I don’t know how they got the bike off because the rack was still there, on the car.” We talked a bit longer, and I was able to give them the police incident report number. That seemed to make it all much easier. She would send me a claim form and upon receipt, things would take a month or so. It seemed reasonable given they would check a few details. I was asking for a claim of over three grand, not fifty quid for an old clunker.

“Keep an eye on eBay, they sometimes turn up there.”

“Yes, the police said the same.”

“It’s too good for a car boot and bona fide bike shops would do checks with the police unless they knew the seller.”

“So what chance do you think I have of getting it back?” I asked hoping there was a chance.

“About zero.” My heart sank.

It was still in my boots when I made some cakes for my dad. I was going to do him some fairy cakes, then thought better of it. Instead, I did some rock cakes and I also made some vegetable soup and put some of that in a container for him. There was a slight chance he would eat it.

By the time I’d made the soup it was lunchtime so I ate a portion myself with a roll and set off for the hospital. The sister on the ward microwaved it for him and I’d taken a soup dish just in case, so I was able to get him to eat some. He was disgusted that I hadn’t made the roll as well.

“I haven’t got time Daddy, besides I’d need one of those bread making machines.”

“Vvvv..et un.”

“Get one?” I checked and he nodded, “What a bread maker?”

“’…Es, vvvet un.”

“All right, I’ll see if I have enough money to get one,” whereupon he told me to take more from the bank.

That wasn’t the entire problem—telling him I wasn’t his cook and housekeeper was, which I didn’t have the courage to broach. It was also made harder by him reminding me to take the thousand towards a new bike. I was in a real turmoil then.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 96

Just how many more problems can Cathy cope with?

On the way home I managed to find a bread maker machine for thirty pounds. I looked at the instruction book and bought the ingredients necessary to make some bread. I was intrigued to see it could do cakes and things as well.

I quite looked forward to having a play later on. At the same time I was aware that I was increasing the risk of tying myself to my father. Not a future I anticipated with pleasure. I also wondered how much of his acceptance of me was based on his growing dependence, because there hadn’t been much before it, except at my mother’s funeral and that was an exceptional event as well.

I suppose her death had reminded him of his increasing risk of illness or mortality, which had then been ramped up by his hemiplegia. While I deeply desired a new relationship of accord with my father, it wasn’t at the price of sacrificing my career.

Even if I was able to transfer to Bristol Uni full time, I wouldn’t have time to do a PhD and look after him if he was discharged home. That I was debating this, showed my weakness. If things were reversed, I doubted that he would do it for me, but that doesn’t mean it would be right. No wonder kids are so screwed up by their parents—the conflicts can be so enormous—he was already exerting pressure on me to feed him while he was in hospital. Why, the hospital food wasn’t that bad? I know I’ve eaten there. If he thought that was bad he should try some Uni refectories: there it was inedible.

I got home and was in the middle of washing the bread machine before using it when the phone rang. I cursed and went and answered it, promising I wouldn’t if it rang again.

It transpired that it was one of those annoying cold caller messages, to which I said, “No thanks,” and put the receiver down. I had not got back to the kitchen more than two minutes and it rang again. Muttering abuse under my breath I picked it up again.

“What?” I snapped down the phone.

“That’s a nice way to talk to your nearly sister-in-law,” said a perky voice.

“Oh hi Stella, sorry I’ve had some stupid calls wanting to sell me double glazed, cavity wall, broad band or some such thing.”

“Hey, sounds good, don’t tell Simon he’ll want one.”

“Okay, I won’t.”

“Anyway, how ya doin’?”

“Well I got stopped by the police yesterday for being in control of a vehicle while crying. Then their bloody chopper kept me awake half the sodding night, and now my father has practically insisted I bake him bread and make him soup each day.”

“So you’re having a good time then?”

“Sure. I have some work to do for the university which hasn’t been touched yet. I’m hoping to try and get some done tonight.”

“What happened with the bike?”

“It got stolen remember.”

“I know that, what about the insurance?”

“I spoke to them this morning; they are sending me a claim form. Then it will take about a month for them to decide how much I get.”

“A month, doesn’t the bike have a value then?”

“It does new, but mine is about a year old.”

“Not like cars then?”

“Dunno, never made a claim for a car.”

“Would you like to come out in a foursome next weekend?”

“Which day?”

“Saturday evening.”

“As long as it isn’t something like dog racing or speedway, yes.”

“It’s a dinner dance.”

“I can’t dance to save my life, Stella, you know that.”

“Simon didn’t appear to notice.”

“No, but everyone else was getting out of my way as if I was on my bike or something.”

“It’ll be fine, just wear your glad rags—Simon said he liked what you had on the other night.”

“One of your cast offs I think.”

“Yeah, which one?”

“I don’t know, big poppy things.”

“Not the hand painted silk one?”

“Could be, why?”

“That would be splendid, cost me fifteen hundred quid, never got around to wearing it.”

“How much?”

“Fifteen hundred,” I could almost hear her shrug her shoulders at the other end of the phone.

“Jesus Stella, what is it a Chanel or something.”

“No, I can’t remember the designer, could be one of these little ones that you get in little boutiques in Bath and places like that. I may have got it in Brighton. Can’t remember now, it was a year ago.”

“I don’t think I’ve spent that much on clothes in my entire life, including shoes.”

“Having Simon around helps, he’s so generous.”

“So I noticed, however I have threatened him that if he turns up here with a new bike for me, I shall beat him to death with it. I need to sort this myself, so can you help him understand?”

“I’ll try but normally he doesn’t take any notice of me unless he wants something, hence my mercenary ruthlessness.” I wasn’t sure that the end justified the means but I wasn’t going to argue. I knew my time with Simon was limited, as soon as he knew about my history, he’d be off faster than a rocket.

“I’ve decided I need to tell him.” I waited for her to object.

“If you do you do, it’s not up to me, you know how I feel.”

“I know Stella, but I need to be honest. In the three weeks since I’ve lived as Cathy, I’ve told more lies than in my previous twenty years.”

“Sometimes women need to be economical with the actuality.”

“This one doesn’t like it one bit.”

“Oh well. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”

“Exactly. Unfortunately, I still think he’s going to dump me faster than a rancid chicken.”

“Nah, I think the chicken would have the edge there, definitely.”

“We’ll see.”

“Has he tried to shag you yet?”

“No, he’s been very good.”

“Ooh, see you are a good influence on him.”

“Me, I don’t think so. Aren’t you confusing me with Florence Nightingale?”

“I think it’s me who gets confused with her. I’m the nurse remember, you play with little furry things, gremlins or whatever they’re called.”

“Wrong fantasy, mine are more Alice in Wonderland.”

“Of course, the White Rabbit.”

“Go away Stella, or I’ll set the dormice on you.”

“Be ready for seven thirty on Saturday, we’ll pick you up at your room.”

“Okay,” I thought, tell Simon to enjoy it because it will probably be the last time, once I tell him.

I went back to my bread maker, “Now what?” I shouted as the phone rang again.

I felt like picking it up and saying, “Fuck off I’m out.” Instead, I got half way there and it stopped. Arghhh! I shouted and walked back to the kitchen. It rang again and I ignored it.

I had managed to get the machine ready, put all the ingredients in and switched it on when the phone rang again. I trudged down the hall and picked up the phone. “What?” I said sharply.

“Miss Watts?”

“Yes, who wants her?”

“This is Southmead Hospital, you are advised to come quickly, we think your father has had another stroke.”

“Oh no,” I gasped and felt myself go cold. “I’ll be there as soon as I can, thank you for calling and I’m sorry if I was abrupt, I’ve had stupid calls all evening.”

“That’s okay, drive safely.”

“I will.” I almost dropped the phone and rushed up to the bathroom, washed and peed and grabbing my coat and bag, slammed shut the door and jumped in the car.”

The traffic was light and I got to the hospital in about twelve minutes, whereupon I parked, got my ticket and ran to the ward. I clattered into the ward, “How is he?”

“Not good, the doctor’s in with him a minute, come and sit down and get your breath back.” The nurse led me into the ward office. “The next twenty four to forty eight hours are critical. Until then we won’t actually know where the stroke has occurred.”

“Can’t you scan him or something?”

“Moving him may well finish him off.”

“Oh Jesus!” I sat and felt my recent life events fall into some sort of perspective. It was all irrelevant compared to this, this was life and death stuff. How could I have thought anything other than looking after him?” Tears began to well up in my eyes and I felt a hot drip run down my cheek.

“Here, I’ll get you a cup of tea.” The nurse steered me to a chair and bade me sit. I did as I was told because there wasn’t much else I could do. Even breathing seemed difficult. Oh bugger!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 97

Cathy uses her loaf… read on.

I sipped the tea the nurse had brought for me, it wasn’t the nicest cup I’d tasted, it had the tang of ‘institution’ where they bulk buy catering packs. I suppose the NHS is a volume consumer and so on. I drank it anyway; the doctor was still with my dad, so I couldn’t do anything.

I just wanted to see him to tell him how much I loved him, in case it was the last opportunity I had. I’d nearly missed out with my mother, seeing her moments before she died. I hoped I would have more time with my dad.

I felt very alone. When I looked at things I had very few friends, none really. I knew people in uni, like my prof and the techies but none of the students were really friends of mine. I’d kept the world at arm’s length because I didn’t want them to know what I was. I’m not sure if that was shame or fear, probably both.

Now I had Simon and Stella, sort of as friends. I didn’t know how long that would last once Simon got to know what a freak I was. He’d probably be gone before I finished the sentence.

Stella was a little better because she knew me for what I was, a crazy mixed up tranny, a boy-girl, a nothing! I felt the world was such a cruel place. It had created me as a freak, taken away my mother before I could really talk with her and was threatening to do the same with my father. How much more could I take? If it took Simon, which the law of averages seemed to suggest it would, I would be on my own completely. Transsexuals it seems walk a lonely path, yet it’s one we are compelled by our own psyches to wander.

“Are you okay?” asked a woman’s voice.

“Yeah, I’m okay, thank you.”

“You seemed far away.”

“I was, my mother died here a few weeks ago, looks like history might be repeating itself.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“You’re not.” I tried to smile, it was difficult. How much longer was the doctor going to be?

“Your mother died here, on this ward?”

“No, in coronary care, I think.”

“Ah, I thought I would have recognised you.”

“Why?”

“I have a good memory for faces.”

For one horrible moment I thought she had rumbled me, or was going to come on to me. Thankfully she didn’t, so my blood pressure returned to normal.

“Miss Watts, the doctor is just coming out, do you want to speak with him?”

“Oh please.”

“I’ll get him.” She dashed out and spoke with him as I put my cup down on the desk. He followed her back to the sister’s office.

“Hello,” he said in a deep baritone, a wonderful voice like plain chocolate.

“Hello doctor, how is my dad?”

He shook his head, “Not good I’m afraid. I suspect he has a clot somewhere in the vessels supplying the brain stem. I’ve got him on heparin, but as it’s the second episode in two weeks, it doesn’t look good. Depending on how well he is tomorrow or the next day, I’ll try and get him scanned so we have a better idea of the damage. He’s unconscious and I’ve sedated him anyway to keep down his blood pressure. You can go and see him, but I don’t know if he can hear you.”

“How soon will you know how bad things are?”

“Two or three days will give us a better idea, plus if we can organise a scan, it will give a much clearer picture.”

“Do I have to prepare myself for bad news?”

“I don’t know, possibly. Sometimes they make amazing recoveries, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you, it doesn’t happen very often.”

“I’m supposed to be starting a PhD in Portsmouth…”

“Oh!” he shrugged, “You have to decide your own priorities. He may be as good as he was before, he may die, he may be in a coma for weeks. I can’t say. Depends upon how much brain death has occurred. What are you studying?”

“I’m a zoologist, doing studies on dormice.”

“Lovely little animals.”

“I think so.”

He looked at his watch, “Sorry, I have to see another patient yet, then I am going for a well-earned pint. If you want to have a chat, I shall be in the ‘Southmead’ for an hour or so.”

“Thank you, I might well take you up on that.”

“Go and see your dad, but I honestly wouldn’t think of staying here for hours, he won’t wake up for ages, the sedative will ensure that and it will also reduce the risk of a huge headache I suspect he will have when and if he comes to. They’ll call you if there’s any change.”

“Thanks.”

He winked and nodded, “My pleasure,” then he left.

The nurse came up to me and said, “Look it’s none of my business, but if he invited you out for a drink be careful, he has a reputation as a womaniser.”

“Oh does he?” My hopes for some company faded. Was I so naive that I walked into it all the time, couldn’t see the trees let alone the wolves hiding behind everyone of them? I walked over to my father’s bed and pulled back the curtain.

He looked so small, with drips in both arms and his face drooping on one side, I barely recognised him as the man who had thrown me about so easily and beaten me so badly. Now he’d have difficulty standing, if he survived the next couple of days.

I leaned across the bed and kissed him on the cheek and thought he responded slightly. It was probably my imagination, I stroked his face and spoke to him.

“Hello Daddy, it’s me Cathy. I got the bread machine, so as soon as you feel up to it I’ll make you some fresh bread and bring it in while it’s still warm. How’s that for an offer? And if you’re good, I might make you some onion soup as well.” I held his hand, it felt cold compared to my warm skin and my tears dripped onto the bed linen.

I sat eventually, feeling exhausted and depressed. I was talking absolute rubbish to him, telling him about recipes for cakes, about my bike and the race, about the car and finally about Simon and Stella. I didn’t say what my relationship was with them other than good friends. If he could hear me and process what I was saying, then telling him I had slept with my boyfriend might give him another stroke.

I could live with the fact that my cooking had hastened his demise but not that my very existence had. He might believe more in Deuteronomy than equal rights, but he was still my dad and I had to respect him. More than that, I wanted to respect him.

I woke up with my head resting on the bed, I was still holding his hand and the nurse was looking through the curtain, “Why don’t you go home Miss Watts, he’s going to sleep for quite a while. If there’s any change, we’ll let you know.”

I yawned and nodded, “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’ll go and get some sleep.” I gave her my mobile number and walked slowly out to my car. I felt sick with tiredness and trauma. I looked back at the hospital; I hated the place but was tied to it for the moment.

As I opened the front door, the aroma of fresh bread assailed my senses. Suddenly I felt hungry and after putting on the kettle took the new loaf out of the machine. I felt a bit like a midwife delivering a new life, except this was a new loaf and it looked very eatable.

In not many minutes later, I was tucking into warm bread and a hunk of cheese washed down with cups of tea. The bread was delicious.

I glanced at my watch and as it was only ten o’clock, I called Simon.

“Hi Simon, Dad’s had another stroke.”

“Damn, how is he?”

“Dunno if he’s asleep or unconscious.”

“When was this?”

“A few hours ago, I haven’t long got home.”

“Do you want to cancel Saturday?”

“I think I’d better.”

“Okay. Do you want me to come up?”

“I don’t know. I’d love to see you but who knows what will happen.”

“Okay, I’ll drive up on Friday night.”

“If you want to, I can’t promise what sort of company I’ll be.”

“I don’t care, but it sounds like you could do with someone to look after you.”

“The chance would be a fine thing.”

“Well, that’s a challenge I can’t dismiss.”

“What is?”

“Never you mind.”

“Look Simon, we still need to talk, there is something I need to tell you.”

“It’s kept this long, so a bit longer won’t make any difference will it? Let’s see how your father is first, then how you are and how I am, and take it from there.”

“Are you always this sensible?”

“Who me, not generally why?”

“Why now?”

“Because I care about you.”

“What if I don’t deserve your care?”

“Isn’t that for me to decide?”

“Maybe?”

“Look my little blossom, I cannot for the life of me imagine what this dreadful secret is which seems to hold so much power over your life. But once things have calmed down a bit, we’ll have it out and hopefully then I can show you it doesn’t matter one single iota.”

“If I had a single wish, that is what I would ask for.” I felt tears in my eyes again.

“Well, you have and I just made it come true. Do you feel any different?”

“Simon, you are such a fool,” I felt myself sniffing, “but I can’t help love you.”

“See it worked, you are different.”

“You fool,” I laughed and cried at the same time.

“That’s me the stupidest sage in Christendom.”

I stopped for a moment, wondering what he was on about. It didn’t compute. “What are you on about?”

“Well one of my ancestors was described as the ‘Wisest fool in Christendom,’ so I thought maybe I was the opposite.”

“Who was that?”

“Who was what?”

“Your ancestor?”

“Oh it was a long time ago.”

“What was?”

“Exactly.” He was obfuscating now and I didn’t know why.

“Didn’t they say something like that about King James, as in Authorised Version.”

“I do believe they did, my ancestor was also a James Stuart.”

“Oh I do apologise your highness,” I mocked.

“What for?”

“I should have curtsied when I picked up the phone.”

“You mean you didn’t?”

“Sorry, I completely forgot without seeing your regalia.”

“My regalia are in fine fettle, but thanks for asking.”

“You are silly,” I smiled down the phone at him.

“I’m in love, dear girl,” he said sounding like Noel Coward.

“I’d better go, I baked some bread this evening and I have to wash the machine thingy.”

“You have a bread maker?”

“Yes, why?”

“Can you do me some bread on Friday?”

“I should think so, what time will you be here?”

“About eight I expect.”

“Assuming nothing untoward has happened I’d be finishing at the hospital about then anyway.”

“Sounds good to me. How are you for money?”

“I’m okay, I’ve got access to Dad’s at the moment.”

“It might be an idea to get some more out in case anything happens, because they’ll just close the account.”

“Oh hell, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Get some tomorrow, and the next day if he has enough to stand it, withdraw the maximum.”

“Yes, I’ll try and sort it out.”

“Okay, goodnight then. If you need me, I’m only a phone call away.”

“Thank you, that means a lot to me.”

“You mean a lot to me sweetheart. Kiss kiss.”

I replaced the receiver and felt a mixture of emotions. Here I was talking to one of the most wonderful men on the planet, with whom I was desperately in love although I felt unworthy of it. I was terrified about what was going to happen when I revealed my secret, and worried sick about my father, who could quite easily die in the next few days. I cleaned my teeth and went to my bed and as tired as I was I couldn’t sleep. I kept seeing images of the two men in my life, who it seemed were destined to leave me. I cried at one point and eventually exhaustion caused my eyes to shut and my mind to switch off.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 98

I woke up and stumbled to the bathroom. It was nearly ten in the morning. I got myself dressed and after a brief breakfast of toast and tea, I went to the bank and withdrew two hundred and fifty pounds from the hole in the wall. I would do the same again tomorrow if I could.

Dad’s mortgage was paid off, but the running costs of the house and my food were not. I wasn’t going to eat that much, but I also needed to take my twenty quid pocket money. I needed some new cleansing wipes which I got in the Wilkinson’s store.

I purchased a few more bits and bobs and called the hospital on my mobile once I got back to the car. There was no change. I would go after lunch and sit talking to him for an hour or so, then come home and worry. It was now Thursday and Simon was due tomorrow evening. I called into Tesco on the way home and bought some more baking stuff, flour and so on. At least I could make him some nice bread. I also bought some cheeses, some fruit and a bottle of nice wine.

At home, I ran around with the vacuum cleaner while the kettle was boiling, then had the last of my bread and soup, plus some fruit and lunch was over. I was at the hospital by half two.

I sat and talked to him about anything and nothing. “I’m still making the bread Daddy, it’s just waiting for you to feel well enough to have some. So there’s a challenge for you, get well again and I’ll become your personal baker.” He didn’t stir, maybe he didn’t want a baker.

“It’s a pity Mummy didn’t have one of these bread machines, they are so good, except at the rate I’m eating it, I shall get as fat as a pig. It’s so tempting Daddy.” No response.

After about ninety minutes, I felt so washed out, I went home after kissing him on the cheek. The nurses shrugged when I asked about him, and they waved when I left. They agreed that I had done my duty and needed a rest. Despite my tiredness, I began drafting the plans for my environmental study. I nodded off at my father’s desk and nearly jumped from my skin when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I said sleepily.

“Hi flower, how ya doin’?”

“I am okay.”

“You sound as if you’ve just woken up.”

“I have, I nodded off doing some work for uni.”

“That interesting?”

“It is actually, I didn’t sleep too well.”

“Okay, I’ll let you off.”

“I’m not a firework, you know.”

“Yes you are, my little cracker.”

“You watch I don’t give you a rocket!” I cautioned.

“What unless I give you some sparklers.”

“Ha ha, very bloody funny.”

“What are you having for dinner?” he enquired. I hadn’t even thought about it.

“Pasta and something.”

“Not stewed dormouse?”

“There is no need to get personal.”

“The Romans used to eat them.”

“Well I’m not; I’ll have some tuna or something, if I can find the tin opener.”

“Don’t you have an electric one?”

“No, nor do I want one. If I can’t open a tin by dint of my own strength with a manual tin opener, then I shall go back to frozen food.” I had visions of him producing one when he arrived tomorrow and again it wouldn’t please me. He now knew that.

“Anything you want me to bring?”

“The names of the bastards who took my bike. I want to ritually sacrifice them to the gods of cycling.”

“What all of them?”

“No just their genitalia.”

“Ouch! You women seem fixated on removing our genitals.”

“Probably because you are equally fixated on keeping them.”

“Wouldn’t you?” he shot back at me, the answer was of course no, but then I didn’t count as a man any more.

“It doesn’t apply to me,” I lied trying to sidestep the question.

“No I suppose not, what about your breasts?”

“I’m beginning to develop an inferiority complex about my boobs.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“You are always complaining about my small breasts.”

“I have never complained about them, I think they are lovely, but how would you feel if you lost them?”

The answer would be devastated, but I wasn’t going to say that. “Lots of women get by with prosthetics.”

“That wasn’t the question.”

“I’m too tired to play power games Simon, if you want to be in control, I don’t care. You stay in control, I’m going to bed.”

“I’m sorry Cathy, it’s only tea time, a bit early for bed isn’t it?”

“Not for me. Goodnight, I’ll see you tomorrow.” I put the phone down and regretted it immediately. He’d now have me down as a moody cow, an estimation with which I might not disagree.

I checked with the hospital: there was no change. I didn’t know if that was good or bad news.

Deciding that I ought to eat something, I did make myself a pasta meal with tuna and tomatoes. It tasted good and I fell asleep with a full stomach.

I awoke in the wee small hours and after a cuppa, went on the Internet. I looked on eBay, but no one was selling a Scott bike of any description. Maybe it was too soon and what if it had been stolen to order? That made my eyes hurt.

I read some stories on the ’net, none of them anything like real life. I know I’m fast becoming an authority on it.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 99

by Wassername?

I awoke with a start; I was stiff and everything hurt for a minute. I had fallen asleep at the computer, leaning on the desk. I probably had a straight line down the side of my face, or the indentation of the back of my hand on my cheek. I bent down with difficulty and retrieved the mouse from the floor—its fall had probably woken me up.

The clock said seven thirty. Actually that was a lie, the clock said, “tick tick tick” ad nauseum, but its hands were pointing to seven and six, which I read as seven thirty. I made some tea and ate some cereal, noting I needed more cornflakes and milk.

Simon would be here in twelve hours. “What? Oh shit!” I began to tidy up in a frenzy. I switched on the washing machine, changing my bedding then vacuumed as it churned the dirt out of the clothes. I polished the dining room suite and sideboard. Now there was that clean smell of lavender everywhere.

At eleven I stopped and making myself a coffee, I rang the hospital. Apparently, he had been restless in the night but was sleeping peacefully now. I suspect they whacked him full of sedatives. I would go to see him after lunch and chatter away to him, then come home and bake some bread for Simon as well as make a meal. I fancied some fresh trout, and there was a good fish counter in Morrison’s supermarket.

I went and showered, after checking the washing on the line: some of it was nearly dry in the breeze and sunshine. It was a lovely day for October. Coming down, I had a quick lunch and ironed what was dry of the stuff which needed to be ironed. I’m lazy, only doing what absolutely needs to be done.

At the hospital, I sat next to Daddy and talked his ears off. I kissed him and he smiled but without opening his eyes. Several times, I stroked his cheek or squeezed his hand, and thought I got some response. Maybe I was imagining it, I didn’t know. Running out of things to talk about, I read him an article from one of the magazines I had bought him previously. He lay quietly. I needed to go to the loo and went off to the visitors’ one near the cafeteria. It took me probably ten minutes to return to the ward. I was horrified to see two nurses at his bedside apparently trying to subdue him—he was threshing about like mad.

“What’s happening?” I called rushing to his bed.

“He got agitated when you left.”

“Okay, let me speak to him,” I saw him relax and move his head about as if trying to locate me from the sound of my voice. “It’s okay Daddy, I’m here now, I only went off to the toilet.” He sighed and relaxed completely. I kissed him and sat back down chattering again for half an hour or so, by which time I think he was fast asleep.

I kissed him again and told him I would be back the next day, that I wouldn’t abandon him, but had things to do myself. He seemed to sleep peacefully. I spoke with the nurses who confirmed that he had been agitated or restless in the night but had relaxed a little when they said I would come to see him. I asked what they had said, and they replied they had used my name, which seemed to have done the trick.

“Have they diagnosed anything else about the stroke?” I asked.

“Not yet, he’s making a little progress and the physios have been in to try and keep his arms and legs working,” offered the sister.

“What about a scan?”

“That’s for the doctor to decide.”

“Who do I speak to?”

“Dr Mitchell is the one in charge of the Stroke Unit.”

“Do you have an email address for him?”

The sister called the office who supplied her with one, which she gave to me. I thanked her and set off for Morrison’s and the trout. It was obviously the right choice because they were playing some of the music of the Schubert quintet, ‘The Trout’ on the car radio as I drove from the hospital.

Friday in the traffic and then the long queues at the checkouts of supermarkets, does little for my temper, which was fraying by the time I got home.

I opened the wine to let it breathe; the bread machine was making lovely aromas as I sat in the kitchen and drank my tea. Then I descaled the fish under water, a tip my mother taught me, run a knife against the scales but hold the fish under water in the sink or you get covered in the scales. I popped the two trout into the oven with butter and mushrooms and a sprinkling of tarragon and garlic. Then I scrubbed the new potatoes and baby carrots and prepared the broccoli florets.

For the sweet, I bought some Greek yoghurt and fresh raspberries and after crushing the raspberries mixed them into the yoghurt, then left the ensuing pink mess in the fridge. It tasted okay and if he didn’t like it, I’d finish it for brekkies tomorrow. He’d have to make do with cereal or toast.

I assumed we would sleep together, but again with a promise of no hanky-panky. If we did, then it would be in the spare room, which had a double bed—my bedroom was only a single and I couldn’t contemplate sleeping with someone in my parent’s room. That would be gross to me, neither did I fancy sharing a single bed with someone of Simon’s size.

The dinner was nearly cooked when I saw the Saab draw into the drive. I’d pulled my car over enough for him to be able to get in as well. I checked my hair and makeup in the hall mirror, having given myself a quick squirt of Opium, a few minutes before. I looked reasonably tidy.

The doorbell rang and my heart rate doubled. I opened the door and stood before me was a suitcase! Talk about anticlimax!

“Oh hi sweetie pie,” he said walking back from the car. He hugged and kissed me on the doorstep. For a moment, I thought we were making a spectacle of ourselves, then I thought, ‘what the hell!’ and got into the welcoming ritual, well and truly.

He sniffed my neck and said, “Cor that bread smells good.”

“What!” I exclaimed almost speechless.

“That bread, it smells wonderful. Something else smells good too. I am positively famished.”

“I hope you like trout,” I said holding his hand after getting him and his bag inside the door.

“Are we talking fish or is this some revelation you are about to make?”

“What?” the puzzled look on my face was self-explanatory.

“Well, it could mean one of three things. One, we have fish for dinner, two, you like the Schubert thingy and three, you were talking about yourself in a self-deprecating way.”

“What?” I goldfished. I processed what he said and then hit him.

After all that, we had a super dinner, which turned out quite well. Even the ‘haemorrhage special’ dessert was enjoyed, so I’d have to have cereal for breakfast. We drank all my bottle of wine and half of his, then fell asleep together on the couch in the lounge watching the flames of the ‘log effect’ gas fire. Life just doesn’t get any better I thought as I drifted off into my alcohol assisted slumber.

We woke up laughing when I fell off the couch some hour and a half later. I only just made it to the toilet I was giggling so much. Then Simon had to go and I made some coffee. We sat down and he ate some of my fresh baked bread with different cheeses. He had a smile on his face like the cat who got the cream. The warm feeling I got from simply watching him enjoy himself was indescribable, except to say it began with a tingling in my tummy and spread up through my abdomen to include my chest and head, the hairs on my neck finally standing up.

“Well are we sleeping together, or do I wear my Harry Potter pyjamas?”

“You have pjs with Harry Potter on them?” I asked aghast.

“Yep, courtesy of Stella.”

Who else? I thought but said nothing. “Same rules as before. You can look but not touch!”

“Hang on, last time it was I could touch but not…”

“Below the belt,” I added.

“Okay,” he sighed and I led him up the stairs to the spare room.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 100.000000000000000000000

by Bonzi’s Mum

This is the big one, does she tell him?
You’ll have to read it to find out!
An extra long episode to mark the ton!

Although my body was increasingly feminine and curvy, and my dangly bits ensconced in my body with glue, I was shy of Simon seeing me. So I undressed in the bathroom and after donning the sexiest nightdress I had, a pink thing with lace around the edges and shoelace straps, went back into the bedroom. The lighting was low, deliberately. I didn’t want him spotting any signs of my former self that I’d somehow not hidden sufficiently. It was also more romantic.

Sometimes I wondered what I was up to, setting myself up for a fall by creating an atmosphere of seduction and then failing to deliver. Actually I so wanted to make love to Simon, that I’d have given almost anything to have been able to do it. I had this longing in my loins for him, but I knew that it may all be a delusion, even after surgery, I might not feel anything much at all. However, that wouldn’t stop me yearning for it. I can’t ever have babies, but it won’t stop me wanting them.

I’d mysteriously left the bottle of Opium in the bathroom and some got squirted on me when I was changing, so Simon was happy with what he could see and what he could smell.

“Hmm,” he said, “you look nice,” and he smiled warmly at me. He’d got into bed in a tee shirt and his underpants. I was dreading that he might wear his Harry Potter PJs as he had threatened.

I got into bed alongside him and allowed him to put his arm around me and kiss me. I know it was asking for trouble, but I had every confidence in Simon keeping to his word.

“You will never know how hard this is,” he said and I fell about laughing at the double entendre. “What are you laughing at? Oh, well that as well,” he sniggered and we were soon helpless with laughter.

“One day, I hope you’ll think it was all worth the wait.” I kissed him and pushed him gently onto his back running my hands over his chest hair and down towards his waist. It made his tummy muscles jump and after I’d done it a few times he moved my hand back up his body.

“I think so, or is this part of this dreadful secret you have, which dominates your life. I know, you’re already married to an Arab prince who is likely to come charging up the stairs on his white stallion to collect you and take you back to his harem.”

“Oh yeah,” I rolled my eyes heavenwards and shook my head, “it’s not an Arab, it’s a white Russian and his band of Cossacks.”

“Oh,” he said thoughtfully, “not Ivan Hood and his merry men?”

“No it’s Ivan Edake, otherwise known as the Avoider.”

I watched him process what I’d just said, then he smiled followed by a chuckle, “I’ve an headache, ha ha, yes very good. You should do stand up.”

“I’d much rather lie down sometimes, if the company is suitable,” I purred at him and snuggled up against him. This was how I imagined a proper relationship, just cuddling and snuggling much of the time rather than going at it like bunnies on Viagra.

“But you don’t know where I’ve been,” said Simon.

“Well your tee shirt says ‘Isle of Wight,’ so I can make a reasonable guess.”

“My underpants say made in China, but I haven’t been there at all.”

“Now you’re making it difficult,” I grumbled, “remember I’m just a simple girl whose best friends are dormice.”

“Yes, that isn’t what the secret is about is it, a dormouse fetish?”

“There are probably worse ones.”

“That is undoubtedly true,” he said nodding his head, “so are you ever going to tell me, what this awful secret is?”

“I’d like to tell you some time,” I blushed, “but I feel it would spoil the moment, and this is special to me. I have waited all week to feel you hold me.”

He knew I was stalling, my confidence evaporating under my need to be physically with him. I wanted to savour this for a long time, because it might be the one and only time it happened. Once he knew, he’d drop me faster than a hot coal.

“Okay, we have a whole weekend to talk.” He wrapped his arms around me and I spooned into him feeling how ‘hard it was for him’ against my back.

“Don’t you have some secrets too?” I said as he gently rubbed my breasts with his thumbs, it was so erotic I could have jumped him there and then.

“Who me, nah, except trade ones of course.”

“Stella seemed to think you hadn’t told me a few things.” I hinted and then felt rather stupid.

“Stella has mouth bigger than her brain by a factor of ten.” His tone was cold, rather than angry.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything, but I thought you had discussed it.”

“Just what did she say to you?”

“Nothing, it was a hint of an inference I made. I obviously got it wrong.”

“Maybe,” he mumbled quietly and held me tight. I could feel him smelling the back of my neck. “Mmmmmmmm, you smell nice,” he said kissing me on the nape of my neck.

“That’s nice, v-e-r-y n-i-c-e,” I purred. I shuddered almost to an orgasm but my body held me in that not quite there yet mode, and I drifted into a world of pure sensuality. I reached back and rubbed gently a hard object that had been in danger of impaling my spine and I heard his breathing deepen. Then he started groaning gently.

“Oh, does that hurt?” I asked with feigned innocence.

“Only when you stop,” he added breathing very heavily.

“I’d better not then,” I offered mischievously and continued.

“I hope you have some tissues handy, then.” He grunted, “Because you are gonna need them NOW! Oh God.”

I grabbed them with my other hand and passed them behind me. I was still glowing and happy to bathe in this feeling for a while longer. I could hear and feel the bed moving as he made himself more comfortable, but I was almost asleep in my happiness, safe and secure and for the moment loved.

I woke up in the night, aware of the warmth of the body next to me and the arm draped casually over me in ownership? I was happy to be his property in one sense, although I had this sense on impending catastrophe, which would hardly make me seem to have psychic powers or forecasting the future.

I lay wondering what Stella had meant about him, because he almost denied having any secrets. The law of Common Sense suggested that as we didn’t know each other that well, we’d both have secrets from the other. Some would be deliberate, others would be just a matter of time before they revealed themselves, assuming that we stayed together long enough to see them. I thought that unlikely and decided I would enjoy the night and tell him tomorrow as soon as I could pluck up the courage.

I snuggled and dozed all night, not really sleeping properly, more shallow catnaps. I was therefore still dozy when he woke up the next morning and after slipping out to the loo grabbed me and began kissing me. I tried to push him off and it became a sort of pillow fight come wrestling match. Then I had to run to the loo, and jumped on him when I came back and the rough house started again. He was so strong compared to me, probably weighing half as much again and making me feel very feeble by comparison.

“So what’s this dreadful secret? You don’t like sex do you?”

“I don’t know, it’s more that I can’t have sex.”

“What, you can’t have sex? Why not, don’t you have a fanny?”

He accidentally hit the nail on the head first go. I burst into tears and turned away from him.

“Hey, c’mon, don’t cry. Let’s talk this through.” He held me as I continued to sob.

“I have something terrible to say.” I managed to stop crying for a moment and this sense of calm seemed to come over me. I’d heard that just before execution, some people resign themselves to the inevitable and become at peace with the world. I was approaching that place.

“Well don’t say it.” He held me tighter. “If it’s going to stop me loving you, don’t say it. I don’t want to hear it.”

“It won’t stop me loving you,” I said, “because I think I shall always do that, but it may affect the way you feel about me.”

“Well don’t tell me, I don’t want to hear it.”

“I have to,” I said, “I can’t keep this to myself any longer.”

“No,” he said and I felt him get off the bed and go out of the room.

He knows, I thought to myself, he bloody well knows. I lay there sobbing to myself feeling my sense of peace had gone as well as my chance of happiness. I knew he would come back and get his stuff and leave, so what was the point of getting up. If I was going to die of a broken heart, I might just as well stay in bed.

I must have fallen asleep because I woke up. I was alone and I assumed Simon had gone. I needed to wee, so I got up and walked to the bathroom. I could hear the radio or telly downstairs, so after doing the necessary I slipped on my matching pink and lace dressing gown and went downstairs.

He was stood with his back to me staring down the garden. I walked up behind him and said, “I’m sorry.”

He flinched and stepped away from me. I knew then for sure that he knew.

“I didn’t mean to deceive you. Stella encouraged me and it developed a momentum of its own.” I felt tears running down my face, yet I wasn’t sobbing, just bereft. I couldn’t feel anything, except a gaping void where my heart used to be. The tears continued to flood down my face.

“I hope you enjoyed your little joke.” His voice was cold and distant.

“It wasn’t a joke to me Simon, I did fall in love with you. I’m still in love with you and I’m so sorry. I did try not to get into a relationship, but it was you who kept pushing me for one.”

“Yeah, that’s right blame me for it all. It’s always my fault, every bloody woman I’ve dated has done that to me. Even you, a sort of pseudo-woman.”

“It isn’t my fault that I don’t have the body I’ve always wanted, or that this one isn’t as perfect as I’d like it to be, for you. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than allowing you to make love to me, but I can’t. I tried to tell you the other day, but you wouldn’t let me. I am so sorry.”

That was it, the dam broke and I ran upstairs and threw myself on the bed and cried myself silly. Once again, I fell into an exhausted sleep. I awoke when I heard the door close.

“I’ve brought you a cup of tea, I guessed you could do with one.”

“Thank you, I thought you’d have left me ages ago.”

“Yeah, well, so did I.” He sat on the edge of the bed. I sat up and sipped the tea.

“Tell me,” he asked, “are you intending to become a woman, I mean a full one?”

“You mean am I transsexual and planning on having a sex change operation?”

“Not quite, I mean what I can see of you is a lovely young woman, so are you going to get a you know…?”

“A vaginoplasty etcetera.”

“Whatever they call it, yes.”

“Yes, as soon as I can, but that could be a year away yet.” He seemed to have got over his shock and I explained how Stella had discovered my secret and encouraged me to play along.

“I shall kill my sister, stupid bitch.”

“Please don’t, she meant well and she didn’t control what happened between us.”

“No I suppose not.”

“Anyway, I didn’t mean to deceive you, I wouldn’t hurt you for all the world.” I began to tear up again and this time he put his arm around me.

“It’s going to take me some time to deal with this, and I can’t guarantee that I will in the way I’d like to. But I’d like to stay friends and see what happens.”

“I’d like that too,” I was clinging onto any straw he offered me.

“I’d like to meet your father.”

“But he’s uncon… well yesterday he was in a sort of coma.”

“I’d still like to see him.”

“If you want, but it’s not a pretty sight.”

“Come one, get yourself sorted and we’ll go and see him.”

“I wasn’t lying about him you know.”

“I know, come on, get dressed.”

I showered and dressed in a denim skirt and jacket with a light blue silky vest top. I kept my makeup to a minimum and put on my boots. He ushered me out to his car and with me directing him we went to Southmead. We parked up and I after buying the car park ticket, I led him along to the ward my father was on.

“Oh hi Cathy,” said the ward sister, “I was hoping you’d call so we could share the good news.”

“Why what has happened?” I was completely puzzled.

“His eyes are open, he’s pretty well awake and he’s looking for you.”

“Oh my goodness, can I see him?”

“Yeah, course you can. Who’s this?”

“Oh this is a friend of mine, Simon.”

“Hello Simon,” she said earthily.

“Sorry, I’m spoken for,” he replied which confused me even more.

I puzzled as I walked towards my father’s cubicle, the curtains were around him still and I poked my head between them before stepping through. “Hi Daddy,” I said quietly and his head turned slowly towards me he beamed a huge smile at me and I stepped through and kissed him on the cheek.

“’Aaa-feee,” he struggled to say and I began to cry again, this time with a sense of joy. He might just get over this.

It was a few moments before I even remembered Simon was there I was so rapt with my dad. I heard him cough politely behind me. “Oh gosh, Daddy, this is a friend of mine, Simon.”

Simon stepped through and squeezed my dad’s hand, “Pleased to meet you Mr Watts, Cathy has told me lots about you.” I was desperately trying to think what I had told him. I felt sure it was all bad stuff and I shuddered at the thought of what he might say.

If he started on at my dad for being a pig to me earlier, it could set him off on another stroke, as could suddenly saying, he was my boyfriend, although he wasn’t at the moment, if I’d understood what he’d been saying to me. But then I was so mixed up, he could have said anything and I’d have confused it.

“I haven’t made any bread today, but I shall bring you some in tomorrow and some soup, if you’d like?”

He indicated he did, so I glanced at Simon for his agreement. “I’ll make sure she does, don’t you worry,” then he winked at my dad, who smiled back. There was some unwritten language going on here, man-talk and I wasn’t quite sure what they were saying, although I could have made a guess at it. We stayed for about another half an hour and seeing he was tiring we left. I kissed him on the cheek as we went and he smiled before nodding off to sleep.

Nothing was said until we got back into the car. “He seems to have accepted his daughter very easily, doesn’t he?”

“I didn’t give him a choice and his dependency means he hasn’t the strength to reject me. He might also feel it easier to blackmail a daughter into looking after him.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” He paused as if in deep thought.

“I didn’t think I would take to him given how he treated you before, but it’s difficult to kick a man when he’s down.”

“I’m glad you didn’t, although it would have surprised me if you had.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re a gentle man, a nice guy and the rough stuff isn’t your style, far too sophisticated for that.”

“I don’t know, you got me into a scrap the other week. In fact you joined in as well if I recall correctly.”

“Well I couldn’t let them hurt someone I loved now, could I?”

“I suppose not. Now I’ve met your dad, you’ll have to come and meet mine.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t even know your dad was still alive—your mum isn’t is she?”

“No she’s gone, but I have a stepmother.”

“Is she the proverbial dragon?”

“No, she’s rather nice actually.”

“So where do they live?”

“They have a place in Hampstead.”

“Oh, London.”

“Is there another? Yes, Dad’s a businessman.”

“Not into banking, is he?”

He suddenly looked rather coy, “Yes actually.”

“What in your bank?”

He nodded.

“Presumably higher up the food chain if he can afford to live in Hampstead.”

“A bit,” he didn’t look me in the eye and I felt a bit suspicious.

“So what is he, a director or something?”

“Sort of.” He was blushing, what was he hiding?

“What do you mean sort of? What is he?”

“You spoke about him the other day.”

“Oh my God, no wonder you were defending him and his ‘conservation measures.’ My God, but he’s…”

“Yeah, exactly…”

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