Bike 101–150

Easy As

Falling Off A Bike

Parts 101–150

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 101

by Exhausted of Dorset

The gravy thickens, or do I mean plot? What plot? There isn’t one!

I sat back in the car in stunned silence. No wonder Simon was a gentleman, he was from a titled family and not one of your life peers, his probably went back to Magna Carta or beyond, while mine were still emerging from the primordial swamp.

This was what Stella had been on about; this was his secret that put off his girlfriends, or was it? Some might be encouraged by it, especially the gold diggers. How did I feel? Stunned, completely shocked. If he had said he was a reformed drunk it would have shocked me less. We come from different worlds, I’d known that for some time, now I realised we were from different galaxies as well.

I thought Simon said something but I wasn’t listening, I was consumed by my own thoughts. It was over, his parents would never stand for him dating someone who used to be a boy, besides they’d want heirs and I can’t give them one.

“I said, where do you want to go for lunch?”

“I don’t know, I’m not very hungry.”

“It worries you, doesn’t it?”

“What does?” I couldn’t really cope with his games at the moment.

“Going out with a chinless wonder.”

“What? What are you on about?”

“It’s how they used to describe boys from upper class families who went to public school.”

“Did they?” I wanted to brood upon my own thoughts.

He switched off the engine of the car and I barely noticed. He grabbed hold of my hand and pulled me towards him. The action caught me by surprise, as did the kiss he planted on my mouth. I responded on autopilot for a moment before I realised what was happening and kissed him back.

“I needed to get your attention.”

“You got it,” I said breathing heavily.

“Good, now I want us to go somewhere for lunch and discuss when you can come with me to meet my parents.”

“I can’t meet your parents.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t.”

“Why ever not?”

“Because, that’s why.”

“Because of what?” he sounded a little impatient with me.

“Because I’m a pseudo-woman, remember?” I was close to tears.

“Oh God, did I say that?”

“Yes you did.”

“Oops! I’m sorry, I withdraw it immediately and apologise unconditionally.”

“Simon, you can’t just un-say something. It hurt.”

“I’m so sorry, I guess I was upset.”

“Yeah, well so am I.”

“You have to admit that learning that your gorgeous girlfriend used to be a man, is a bit to take on board.”

“I accept that and I accept that you were upset when you made that remark. I realise that we are probably finished as a relationship because of my deception, so why are you asking me to meet your parents? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Because I still love you, or at least I think I do.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to make sure before you go embarrassing everyone with my presence?”

“What do you mean?”

“Introducing me to your parents—this is Cathy, she used to be a boy.”

“As if I’d do that to you or them?”

“I don’t know, isn’t your dad likely to have me checked out by a private detective?”

“Why?”

“In case he thought I was a gold digger.”

“The biggest gold digger is Stella.”

“So is she Lady whatever?”

“Yeah, but we don’t use any titles because they get in the way.”

“I thought they were supposed to be good for getting tables in crowded restaurants.”

“Wouldn’t know, try to avoid them, prefer quiet ones myself,” he gave me one of his captivating smiles and it did just that, captivated me. “So what about lunch?”

“Yeah, okay?”

“Where, you’re the local?”

“Oh I don’t know, just drive until we see a pub or something.”

“Right, that’s what we’ll do then.” He started up the Saab and we drove for about twenty minutes before we came across a pub that looked half-decent. “This do?”

We were in the village of Aust, in the shadow of the Severn Bridge, the original one, with views across the river. “I haven’t been down here for years.” It had changed more than a little in that time.

Inside, it was busy enough for us to be able to find a table near a window overlooking the river, yet far enough away from other patrons to be able to talk in private.

“So will you come with me to meet my parents?”

“What for?”

“I want them to meet you.”

“But why? I’m not trying to be awkward, but don’t people usually do that sort of thing when they plan on getting married or something?”

“They want to meet you.”

“What for?”

“Okay, Stella has been shooting off that cavernous gob of hers, about ‘this girl that Simon is dating,’ and they want to meet you.”

“What, like to have lunch together, somewhere?”

“Yeah, and breakfast, dinner and tea. We’re invited up for the weekend, when we can give them some dates.”

“Gee whizz Simon, I can’t do that. I’d be well out of my depth—I don’t know my fish knife from my cummerbund. I’d be so embarrassing to be with. Hampstead would be talking about it for years to come.”

“It wasn’t Hampstead we’re invited to.”

“What?”

“They have a little place in Scotland.”

“What ten thousand acres of grouse moor?”

“Twenty actually.”

“There is no way I am going to a country house where they shoot things.”

“We don’t shoot things in the house, you clot.”

“Don’t patronise me Simon, you know perfectly well what I mean.”

“So are you refusing?”

“Declining their very generous offer.”

“Would you meet them in London?”

“For a meal, yes. Can’t you say I’m too busy to give up the time for anything longer. It’s true if I have to keep an eye on my dad.”

“Okay, when can you do it?”

“I haven’t thought about it, so I don’t know.”

“Next weekend?” He pulled out his mobile and began to call someone. “Hi Dad, we can do lunch next Saturday, at your club? Can’t we go somewhere a bit more lively? The Savoy, yeah that’d be fine. One pm, gotcha, we’ll be there. She hasn’t yet but I think she will. Okay, see you on Saturday.”

“I haven’t what but I will, what?” I demanded.

“Marry me what else?”

I sat and felt my mouth gape open.

“Only joking, the dormouse campaign, the pictures for the posters and fliers.”

“Simon, I am going to kill you when we go somewhere private.” The relief I felt was almost palpable. Then he sniggered and so did I, then he chuckled and so did I. Then he roared and I giggled. By the time they brought our food, they probably thought they had a couple of escaped loonies in their pub.

We were about to eat when his phone rang. He picked it up and after a few words to the caller said, “There’s a Scott for sale on eBay.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 102

The plot thickens… oh, I’ve done that bit before.
Oh just read it for yourselves!

“How do you know?” I was astonished at this news and the thought that I might be reunited with my bike was wonderful.

“I have a friend monitoring it, and who will act as a buyer if we think it’s yours—if so then we set up a sting with the local police.”

“Wow, you are so clever!” I was full of admiration for this wonderful hunk sat opposite me.

“Nah not really, but I know a man who is.” He smirked at me and we giggled like schoolgirls again. I suspect the older couple who had come to sit on the next table were not impressed with our antics from the disdainful looks they were giving us.

Simon noticed as well and shrugged his shoulders. I winked and said in a loud voice, “Well, Lord Stanebury, do I get the job as your concubine, or not?”

The old man was sipping his beer as I said it and I suspect a bit went down the wrong way. He began coughing and went rather red in the face. As we left, his wife was still slapping him on the back and I deliberately minced out, wiggling my bum like a call girl. Simon was trying to stifle a laugh and having some difficulty. Once we got outside, we almost fell about laughing.

“Did you see that old fellow’s face? I thought he was going to burst a blood vessel. Come here concubine and give me a kiss.”

“It’ll cost ya.”

“I beg your pardon, I just paid for your lunch.”

“So? We only ate because you were hungry.”

“True, but you ate as well.”

“I was always taught that it’s not nice to have friends eat and drink on their own.”

“What about lovers?”

“Mum didn’t tell me about them, so I don’t know if it counts, ummph!”

He grabbed me and kissed me again. I was still trying to talk, then gave up and surrendered to his kisses—I’d forgotten what I was going to say anyhow.

“Come on, let’s go and find a computer and have a look at this bike.” We drove back to my parents’ house and while I made some tea, Simon sat and fidgeted, waiting impatiently as my laptop booted up.

“Goodness this is slow,” he complained.

“It’s old, like its owner,” I called back, then thought, ‘if he buys me a new one, I’ll bash him on the head with it.’

“What’s it run on, Windows 3.1?”

“Ha ha, no XP, why?”

“Ah, I think we have liftoff. Here we go, eBay coming up. Cathy, come and see if this is your bike.”

I almost ran in, carrying two mugs of tea. “It’s the same model, so it could be. What size?”

Simon fiddled about, “It doesn’t say.”

“Oh. I suppose there are a few of them around, it might be a genuine one.”

“Yeah, that’s true, but we go for it anyway if it is the right size. If it’s your old one we do the sting; if it isn’t you have a new one. Either way you win.”

“I have to pay for it, Simon.”

“We’ll sort that out after the wedding.”

“What wedding?” I felt my heart flutter again.

“My cousin is getting married, silly bugger. We’re invited.”

“What? When did you know this?”

“A couple of days ago.”

“Why didn’t you say so before?”

“We had other things to deal with, it’s no big deal.”

“What, I’m seen on the arm of Viscount Stanebury at a society wedding, and it’s no big deal?”

“Okay, so it is a big deal, we’re up to the challenge.”

“When is it?”

“Next month.”

“Where?”

“Erm, Scotland.”

“Scotland!”

“What about my dormice?”

“They’re not invited.”

“You fool,” I said slapping his shoulder, “I mean when am I supposed to get back down to Portsmouth to get out and check my nesting sites?”

“Come down one night midweek and I’ll try and get a few hours off and help you.”

“I don’t usually have help.”

“Have you been going around your sites as Cathy?”

“Sometimes,” I admitted blushing. “But it was after dark, so no one saw me.”

“You could have been attacked or sexually assaulted. You don’t know who’s lurking in the woods.”

“I probably do: I have image intensifiers and infrared viewers.”

“You do? Gosh, I’m coming then, I’ve never played with those before.”

“They’re not toys Simon, it’s expensive equipment owned by the university.”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never played with them?” he challenged.

“I’m usually too busy to play. I can walk eight or nine miles checking out all my sites.”

“What!”

“So if you’re coming with me, be prepared for an energetic night.” As the words left my lips I knew I had said the wrong thing.

“You are so good to me Cathy,” he smirked.

“You know what I mean, you twisted aristocrat!” I sneered at him in mock disgust.

“You have cut me to the core of my blue blood,” he simpered, “I am mortally wounded.”

“I’ve a got a Band-Aid somewhere.”

“You heartless hussy.”

“That’s me.” I walked back out to the kitchen swinging my bum like I had a hula-hoop on the go.

“Hey up, we have a frame size, 52.”

“Oh my God, that’s the same as mine.” I rushed back from the kitchen.

Simon dialled on his mobile, “We could have a goer, frame size matches.” There was a pause as he listened to his friend, “Okay, let me know what happens, how much? A thousand.” He looked at me and I nodded, “Okay, if it’s kosher and in good nick, get it. If it’s the one we are looking for, set off the sting.”

I stood with my heart beating nineteen to the dozen and I felt quite sick. Simon was listening again. “Okay, you’ll let me know. Whereabouts do you think they are? Gotcha, the Midlands. Could be our bike, it was taken on the M5, just a hop skip and a jump away.”

He finished his call and saw my anxiety. He stood up and hugged me. “It’ll be okay, either way you win and you’ll soon be cycling again.”

“I hope so.” I didn’t know if I wanted it to be my bike or not. Part of me did and wanted the rats who took it to be punished; another part of me felt scared, even with Simon here. Maybe having him accompany me around my dormouse survey would be a good idea.

“Here, you’re shaking.” He held me tighter and I dissolved into tears in his arms. “You don’t cry at weddings too, do you?”

“Probably,” I snorted and sniffed.

“Oh bugger!”

He played on my computer while I made us some dinner, simple fish and chips with a side salad and a bottle of wine. Then we went to bed. I was still shy about undressing in front of him, and did so in the bathroom once again, slipping under the covers before he could see me. We cuddled and kissed and he let his hand casually slip across my groin. I didn’t protest, I knew what he was doing. A few minutes later, it happened again.

He sat up on bed, pulled down the clothes and lifted up my nightdress. I lay there mortified, unable to move.

He didn’t touch me, but saw the outline in my pants. “Is that real?” he asked staring at my crotch.

“It’s all me, but looks can be deceiving.”

“How the hell did you do that? I mean it’s not one of those things you see advertised on the Internet is it?”

“No, it’s all me and you don’t want to know how it’s done.”

“You’re probably right there,” he shook his head, “It looks quite convincing.”

“It will one day.” I pulled my nightie back down.

“Yeah, of course, I’m sorry.”

“Are you still having problems with me?” I asked almost waiting for the second shoe to drop.

“No, I was just curious that I hadn’t been aware of anything untoward except your attitude, which puzzled me a bit. Although if you had been abused, it could figure I suppose.”

“I had a good friend at Sussex who was abused by her uncle when she was about ten. She was terrified of men, except me. She thought I was gay and one night we got a bit tipsy together and she told me all about it.”

“Was he prosecuted for it?”

“No he died with cancer a year later—she seemed to think it was a Divine intervention.”

“Does she know about you?”

“I tried to explain, and she wanted to see what I looked like as a girl, but I didn’t have the courage to do it and she didn’t offer again.”

“Pity, you might have been sorted by now.”

“Yeah, in some ways. She was tiny, so her stuff wouldn’t fit me anyway and I didn’t have the money to buy it.”

“What, your parents kept you short?”

“We had this problem with their religion: the more I railed against it, the less help they gave me. I worked in a supermarket three nights a week when I did my first degree.”

“And still got a first. I’m impressed.”

“I was just lucky and had some good tutors.”

“Do you always find it difficult to take compliments?”

I blushed and looked away, pulling the bed clothes over me.

“I asked you a question,” he insisted and pulled the bedclothes away from my face.

“Yes, I do. As a kid, I was told it was conceited to be too proud, so I never was. Pride was a sin.”

“I’m proud of you. I think you’ve come through some awful times and despite them you have triumphed. In your personal life, I see you like cygnet waiting to change into a beautiful swan, not that you aren’t beautiful now.” He ran his finger up my cheek. “Hey, don’t cry.”

Of course, saying that had the opposite effect and I burst into tears, which meant he then had to cuddle me to calm me down. “I’m going to ask Stella to come up on Friday and take you shopping to Bath, to look for an outfit for the wedding and if you see something you like, for meeting my parents, get it as well. I think you deserve a day out, so it’s my treat.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 103

More soup than sex and I’ll bet the bread is half-baked!

It was a Saturday night and I was with my own Prince Charming. Okay, he discovered that Cinderella used to be Buttons in a previous life, but the slipper fitted and now before he turned back into a frog, he wanted… I didn’t actually care what he wanted, I was well into a good cry because he’d pushed another of my buttons, no not the pantomime character, one of my emotional buttons.

I am useless at taking compliments, I’d rather not have them—they embarrass me. I’ve never had them in the past, so I don’t need them now. When I got my degree, my parents told me they expected nothing less than 100% effort from me and they got what they expected. So when someone said I was beautiful, I could ignore that too. When they kept saying it and questioned my acceptance of it, they had pushed through my barriers and I didn’t know how to cope with it. So when in doubt: cry. If in big doubt: cry buckets. I was doing just this!

Then when Prince Charming offers me a day out expenses paid with Princess Charming, to buy a ball gown to meet the king and queen, I found it even harder to cope. My insides were all mushy and they felt harder than my brain which had turned to liquid and was seeping out of my eyes.

How do people cope with compliments? I didn’t know, so I did what I know how to do: feel sad. That gives me the excuse to cry a lot, a skill I am improving through practice. If this is self-indulgence, then that is sinful too, so I have every reason to be sad—I am truly wicked and my parent’s god seems intent on pissing all over me for being so.

I felt a warm hand pull me backwards on the bed as it wrapped around my waist, and I found myself spooned into Simon’s body again. I could feel his warmth and I shivered a little.

“It’s okay, everything is okay my baby. You are safe and sound with me, nothing can hurt you when I am here, so just relax and calm down and enjoy us just snuggling up together. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am,” his hand moved to gently stroke my breast and I felt my nipple grow and harden, a fact which could hardly have passed him by. He proved it, when a few moments later he stroked the other one.

I had stopped crying, listening to his sweet talk and enjoying his fingers stroking my boobs. I gently held his hand against my breast, indicating that it was okay to touch them, and he kissed the top of my head, then my neck. I wiped my eyes on the bedclothes. A little later, he asked me roll over onto my back and he kissed me.

If CPR was like this, I’d fake a heart attack at least three times a day. He was so loving and gentle, carefully kissing me and chewing my lips. I put my arms around his neck and pulled him closer and kissed him back. I felt so horny, so sexed up that I’d have done almost anything for him to screw me there and then. I did contemplate alternatives to the approved orifice, but they didn’t seem appropriate. I wanted to be seen as a woman, not an effeminate gay man, because I was a woman in all but one vital area and that would be fixed one day.

“I love you my own ‘ugly duckling’,” he said and kissed me again.

“I love you too,” I said and tears formed again.

“What’s wrong now?” he asked, masking his irritation almost entirely.

“I’m so happy, I can’t believe it.”

“You’re so happy, you’re crying?” he said smiling in the way men do when women say something that makes perfect sense to a female psyche, but not to a male one. “Okay,” he said, not meaning that at all, “I’m glad that you’re happy.” I’m sure he was thinking, ‘I just hope I never see you in a blissful state, it could shrink the carpets.’

He kissed me again and I smiled at him. I wiped my eyes and pushed him down on the bed, and lying across his chest, I snuggled down and listened to his heartbeat. I was so comfortable I dozed a little, waking when he coughed.

“You’ll have to move over some, lover,” he said, “my arm’s gone to sleep.” I sat up and sleepily smiled at him as he shook his arm and clapped his arm to get rid of the pins and needles.

“Want me to kiss it better?” I asked coyly.

“If you want,” he replied holding his hand out to me.

I sat alongside him facing him bringing my legs around behind me. I took his hand and kissed the palm. “Is that better?” I asked.

“A bit,” he said smiling.

I kissed it again, “How is that?”

“Yeah, a little bit better,” he was nearly chuckling because I started licking his palm, “that tickles,” he said before he began to laugh.

“This little piggy went to market,” I kissed his finger, then sucked on it. He laughed some more. “This little piggy stayed at home,” I was about to kiss his second finger when he cupped my jaw with his hand and pulled me up to his face and kissed me deeply, drinking my love and imbuing me with his own.

Eventually, we stopped sucking each other’s faces off and settled down to cuddle and sleep. Again, I slept like a log, safe in the certainty that I was loved. It was like having all my birthdays and Christmases together. If I dreamt, I don’t remember any of it, only this feeling of being loved, which I prayed would never end.

It was wonderful waking to feel his sleepy body beside me. I turned over and lay there just drinking him with my eyes, watching him sleep in the pale light of an October morning. I recalled the day before and what had happened then: things were so different now. I still didn’t know if any of this would last, it seemed too good to be true and I thought that Simon would drop me like a hot coal when he found a real female to replace me.

I barely managed to shut the sluice gates in time, but somehow I did and avoided crying for a change. I probably didn’t deserve to be happy anyway, so I had to try and get as much of it as I could while it lasted.

I lay on my side, my head resting on my hand, my elbow stuck on my pillow, simply watching his hairy chest rise and fall with each breath. I tried to will my love into his body with each inspiration he made and absorb his love from each exhalation. It stopped me thinking negative thoughts for a short time and I didn’t want to get out of bed in case it woke him. He looked so peaceful and beautiful. I desperately wanted to kiss him, but dared not.

My arm was becoming numb from lying in one position when he opened his eyes, focused on me and smiled. “Hi,” was all he needed to say before I practically devoured him with a kiss. It was a good way to start a Sunday morning.

He eventually pushed me off and hopped into the bathroom, with me sniggering knowing he would have some difficulty in peeing for a few moments. I slipped out of bed and went to start the breakfast.

The rest of the morning seemed to fly by as Simon reminded me of my promise to my dad to make him soup and bread. It took the rest of the morning, although we also had some for our lunch.

“What soup is this?” asked Simon, eating half the loaf.

“Vegetable, why?”

“It never tastes this good in restaurants.”

“I don’t know why, it isn’t that special.”

“I don’t know how you can turn a pile of boring garden waste into such a tasty meal, and this bread is to die for.”

“It will be if you eat any more of it, the rest is for my dad.”

“Oh,” he blushed, “yeah, nearly forgot. Will you make me soup when you marry me?”

“Simon, it is very unlikely that you will marry me, especially when your father finds out about my past. Remember April Ashley and all the fuss that caused.

I wasn’t actually born when that happened, but because she married a minor aristo, the full weight of the establishment descended upon her and the laws tightened up against transsexuals, only being revised in their favour in about 2005. I’d read about the case years ago and also read her biography, which was astonishing to me. It seemed she had lived about ten lifetimes and screwed half the leading movie stars of the day. She was a model and very beautiful—compared to her I was rather plain looking, or so I thought anyway.

While I washed up, Simon fiddled on my computer. “What was that woman’s name?”

“What woman?” I called back from the kitchen.

“The one you were on about, April someone.”

“April Ashley, why?”

“Just wondered, that’s all.” He did a trawl through various newspaper archives and read up about her story. When I came back with the soup and bread to take to the hospital, he showed me what he’d found.

“Now she was really beautiful,” I said blushing.

“The makeup is a bit overdone,”

“It was the nineteen sixties, Si. They wore it like that then.”

“She’s not as pretty as you.”

“I think she’s more so, except she had a deep voice.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw her on telly once, my dad was very critical of her and her ilk.”

“Looks like he got paid back in spades then, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, looks like,” I agreed and sat on his lap.

“Serves him right, the old bigot.”

“Well, I have to go and see the old bigot now, are you coming or staying or what?”

He glanced at his watch, “How long are you going to be?”

“Why, what did you have in mind?”

“I need to head back by early evening, and it would be nice to go for a walk or something if we have time. How about I run you to the hospital and pick you up an hour or so later?”

“Yeah, okay. I’ll explain to Daddy that I have to see you off and I’m sure he’ll understand. He was always hot on courtesy to guests.”

“If he thinks I’m staying with you, won’t he blow another fuse?”

“If he does he does, I’m not ashamed of it.”

“Okay, let’s go for it then.” With that, I picked up the food and my bag, grabbed a jacket from behind the front door and followed my lord and master out to his car.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 104

I had poured the soup into a thermos flask, one I’d used when I was a kid going off for the day with the local RSPB* group of young ornithologists. My mum would give me a flask of hot soup to keep me warm on cold days. I’m sure going out with the group led to my interest in things wildlife, for which I am truly grateful.

These thoughts helped me plod my way down the corridor towards the ward Daddy was in. I entered, waving to the nurses, who waved back. As usual, he had refused the hospital food so was glad I’d come early.

Pouring the soup into the dish I’d also taken, I warned my father that I had to leave early as well in order to see my friend off.

He nodded his understanding then said, “’E vor goyvren?” I stood looking at him for a moment trying to work out what he had said. The penny dropped at last.

“Is he my boyfriend? Is that what you just said?” I asked thinking I would deny it. He nodded slowly but very definitely.

“Sort of, he’s a friend of mine and well…” I saw him glare at my deliberate vagueness. “All right yes he’s my boyfriend, why is that a problem?”

He shook his head and I saw his eyes fill with tears. I had bullied him, assuming he would be hostile but it was me who doing the hostility bit. If he had been well I’d have expected the whole Deuteronomy bit, but weakened by his stroke he didn’t seem to have the stomach to fight me now. I couldn’t believe he approved of what I was doing in any shape or form and a boyfriend would have driven him to kill me a while before.

“’E’s nuh-ice,” he struggled to say and my heart melted. I couldn’t believe he was playing some game with me, although the power had shifted since a blood vessel in his brain had got choked, probably with all the shit his religion had pumped into him over the years.

“I think so,” I replied blushing a little, my little secret was out.

I tried to feed him his soup and bread but he wanted to talk. I of course couldn’t deny him freedom, but I did bargain with him to eat first then we could talk. He grumbled until I pointed out his soup would be cold. He had a spoonful and it won the argument. We talked after he’d eaten a whole bowl and most of the bread. Then he disappeared to the toilet helped by a nurse.

I cleared up the mess and waited for him to return. I helped him back into his chair and he gave a resounding burp at which we both smiled. Before his stroke, that would not have happened, it was common.

“ZZZzz-i-mmmonn.” He declared himself ready for me to tell him about my friend.

“He works in a bank and shares a cottage with his sister, she’s a nurse and it was through her that I met him. You met her at Mum’s funeral.”

He nodded and after a moment’s thought asked, “’E gg-ay?”

I shook my head vigorously, “No he isn’t gay, neither am I. Is that clear?”

He shook his head and rolled his eyes and I wasn’t sure what that meant. For a moment, I thought he was sick. Then he shrugged his shoulders, “V-oor dwenty one.”

“Twenty two actually, so yes I’m an adult and able to make my own life choices. Remember we discussed that my only stipulation to maintaining some form of relationship was that you accepted me as a female. So far you have honoured that agreement, for which I am grateful.”

“V-oo mmm-y d-or-or.”

“I so want to be so Daddy, I really do.” I kissed him and soon after went off to my rendezvous with Simon.

“Hi sweetheart,” he said as I got in his car, “how’s papa?”

“Okay, he wanted to know all about you.”

“Mmmmmmeeeeeeee?” he said exaggeratedly.

“Yes you sweet lips.”

“What did you tell him?”

“That I’d adopted you and you were now his grandson.”

He slammed on the brakes and said,” What did you tell him?”

“I told him you worked in a bank and your sister was a nurse and that was it.”

“Did you tell him we were dating?”

“Sort of.”

“Did he ask if I was gay?”

“Of course, so I bent over and let him examine my arse to prove we weren’t.”

“That isn’t all gay men do, apparently.”

“If I was gay, it would make me a lesbian,” I said looking out of the windscreen, “The lights have changed Si.”

“Oh yeah,” he said accelerating away, “I was trying to get my head around what you just said. I decided I couldn’t, so I hope you’re not.”

“Not what?”

“Not lesbian.”

“Of course I’m not otherwise I wouldn’t be here with you, would I?”

“Unless you were in denial.”

“What!”

“This is making my brain hurt Cathy.”

“Well stop it then. I am not lesbian period, okay?”

“Okay, and I’m not gay.”

“I know that Simon, so why do you keep telling me this?” I watched his face grow redder. I knew damn well he wasn’t gay, but this was too good to resist. “Why are you going red Simon?” Of course, this made him worse.

He pulled over to a bus stop and was explaining how awful I was to him when a bus came up behind us and tooted loudly at us to move.

Realising that he was sensitive about my teasing, I decided I would apologise but also talk to Stella when I could. Was he hiding something from me? I mean he was ex-public school, all flogging and buggery if the stories are to be believed.

I did apologise for teasing him and he calmed down. Eventually we drove up to the old Severn Bridge and walked across it, arm-in-arm. I was rather glad because it was very windy but the views were magnificent and looking down to the new bridge was spectacular. Both bridges are architectural masterpieces and form the main road route between England and Wales, ‘Lloegr and Cymru’ according to the signs.

We stopped to admire the view once again as we walked back and I suddenly thought of the people who had jumped off the bridge, the saddest being a woman who threw her children off first and was stopped from jumping by a passerby. Her kids drowned she lived. Her reason? She wanted to spare them from this evil world. Sad or what? I decided I wouldn’t tell Simon that tale, it was too sad and we were having a nice walk, although I was getting cold.

He noticed and shepherded me to the services where we had a cuppa and a cake at horrendous cost. Back at the car, he told me he had to go home shortly. I felt sad but knew that I would see him soon, like Wednesday night and my dormouse survey. I reminded him and once back at the house he wrote it on his Blackberry.

“You don’t have one of these then?”

“No, I’m not a geek.”

“You have an I-pod?”

“I have an MP3, yes.”

“Well then. I’d better pack up my stuff.”

While he did so, I made him some sandwiches with my own baked bread—I’d saved some for this eventuality. It also helped me to focus on something other than the loss of his company.

I heard him run up and down stairs a couple of times. I wondered what he was doing, but I was knee deep in bread, so waited until I’d finished.

I presented him with his bundle of food, sandwiches, crisps, chocolate and a drink.

“Goodness, a complete picnic, what a pity you won’t be there to share it.”

“I know,” I said feeling a sniffle coming on.

“I’d better go.”

“Yes m’lord.”

“Oh shut up. Play your cards right, you could end up as Lady Stanebury.”

“I’d have thought that was your stepmother.”

“No, she’s the Countess.”

“Stella?”

“Okay, she’s Lady Stella, you’d be Lady Catherine.”

“I don’t think the powers that be would accept that.”

“These days they don’t have a choice, anti-discrimination laws are pretty tough.”

“I’m not holding my breath, Simon. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I am enjoying every minute of this heavenly dream I’m having, it almost feels real. I don’t need a title to be happy, just you.”

He swept me off my feet and kissed me and squeezed me so tightly that I thought I was going to suffocate.

“It isn’t a dream, it’s rea…” At this moment his mobile rang and he was almost going to ignore it but decided not to. He listened and nodded to me, “Looks like the sting is going down. You might get your bike back eventually.”

“Oh Simon, that is brilliant,” I squealed, yes squealed with delight and hugged and kissed him.

* RSPB: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 105

Living the dream?
Is that what we do, or do we sleep our way through life?
Revelations for Cathy.

I watched the lights of the Saab disappear around the corner of the road and returned to the house. It felt lonely and so did I. The temptation to fall into a blue funk and feel sorry for myself was strong, however, I realised that if I did such a thing I would regret it. It seems easier to become depressed than it does to climb out of it.

The alternative was to get stuck in to something, preferably physical, and not too demanding on brain time—I cleaned up the kitchen. Although I’d made Simon his supper, I didn’t fancy any food myself, feeling too down to eat. Instead, I put in the next batch of bread constituents and turned the machine on. If nothing else, it would produce some for breakfast if I wanted it and for my dad. I also had to think about the soup I would make for him.

Checking in the freezer produced some chicken portions, so that was solved. I left them to defrost overnight after making sure I had enough vegetables to make up the rest of my brew. This playing housewife stuff was a bit more demanding than I’d ever considered before. I knew that when one person runs after a whole family it can be demanding, but just looking after myself and my dad, plus the odd visitor was taking much more time than I expected. Hospital visiting was a pain—it eats into the day, but not many others were queuing up to do the honours and he is my dad.

I crawled up the stairs, recalling that less than twenty four hours ago I was climbing them with someone who gave my heart a reason to beat—now he was gone and it would be two or three days before I saw him again.

Reality reminded me that I had oodles to do before that, including some more of my university project. I went into the guest bedroom to strip the bedding. The forecast for the next day was good, so I could dry it on the line because it always smells so much nicer than dried indoors. Crikey, I was becoming real little wifey!

I switched on the light and didn’t know what to do first: scream with anger or pleasure. On the bed was a large bouquet of flowers, one of those that comes with its own reservoir of water; next to it was a box of chocolates and beyond that another box.

I picked up the flowers. They were just so beautiful: lilies and roses and chrysanthemums. I began to tear up. The chocolates were Terry’s All Gold, a selection of plain chocolate covered sweets; I wouldn’t need any tea tonight after all. No wonder I was getting fat!

The final box was a bit secretive and gift-wrapped. I carefully opened the paper and inside was a Blackberry. My initial thought was, ‘I don’t need one of these, so he can have it back on Wednesday.’ Then I calmed down when I began to read through its functions, and certainly sending emails from it would be easier than trying to do them on my mobile.

Last but not least, he’d left the tee shirt he’d worn for the past two nights and I knew it wasn’t for the washing. I smiled, then buried my face in it and inhaled deeply.

I did finally pull myself together and get the washing done; it was folded and ready to hang out the next morning. The bread was rising nicely, or at least the dough was, and the Blackberry was on charge. I had nothing more to do than sit around and look at the flowers which I’d taken into the lounge and placed in the fire place.

I tried to think about my project, but all that came was my yearning to see Simon again. I hoped he felt the same as I did. I reread the note he’d left under the packages: it was rather small so I nearly missed it and it could have ended up in the washing machine.

It was a very small card with a dormouse on the front. Where he’d found it I had no idea, but it would be going in my treasure box when I got tired of kissing it. The message was very short and simple.

‘Dearest Cathy,
Please forgive my dreadful behaviour the other morning. Except for a few short hours that morning, I have never thought of you as anything other than a beautiful young woman, and someone whom I seem to love and need in my life. I sincerely hope it is mutual, because I am going to be around for a very long time and without you, life is going to be empty of the sparkle you have given it.
Love,
Simon.
xxx’

I sniffed the tee shirt again and wiped away the tears. We had come a very long way this weekend and the roller coaster that was my life of recent months had climbed and dived higher and deeper than ever before. At its nadir, I wondered how I could go on living; at its zenith, I was so alive I could feel immortality a mere whisker away. In between, I’d undulated a little with my dad and doing ordinary things with Simon.

Maybe that was the most special event of them all: I was doing ordinary things with Simon and my dad as girlfriend or daughter, without a second thought of who or what I was. I was also accepted in those roles by others who didn’t know and saw nothing extra-ordinary. Effectively, I was actually living most of my dream, something that many would-be women never get to do and for which they have my unconditional sympathy.

I felt a warmth surround me as if by making this realisation I had passed some marker, some rite of passage. I had effectively arrived as an ordinary woman and I felt really strange, almost overwhelmed by it. I had dreamed of this for so long and it nearly passed me by.

I know I have some hoops to jump through to get the surgery which will confirm what I already know and the paperwork to make it legally official, but that is secondary. In some ways, even my relationship with Simon is, compared with this. It’s true that it helps to define me as being worthy of being loved by a very handsome and generous man and for which I am eternally grateful. But this sense of being right in myself which has settled upon me, is primal stuff. This is my core, the very heart of me like the DNA which makes me who I am genetically.

This was an epiphany and there could never be any doubt in my own mind now as to who I really was. I was Catherine Watts, I am Catherine Watts and I will be Catherine Watts until the end of my life and perhaps for eternity. If that was the case, I didn’t feel so in awe of the concept of endlessness which had always made my mind boggle, because everything in us was so finite. In this moment of self-revelation, I had perhaps glimpsed something infinite and connected with it.

I was aware of my mother for some strange reason, maybe feeling something shared with her, which previously had been tentative or even a feeling of unworthiness, as if I was some sort freak who emulated her and wanted to be like her but because I couldn’t, I was soiled or unclean. Now I knew that wasn’t the case and that she would have understood had she lived to know the real me. The house no longer felt hostile or scary, and although I couldn’t relate to it as my home any more, it was my father’s home and I felt comfortable there.

It’s difficult to describe how I felt at this moment because that was all it was, a moment, when I knew that I deserved to be who I was and that it was okay with the rest of the universe. Was I religious, I would have described it as knowing that God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. Instead, I blundered through my own inadequate descriptions of deep feelings.

The phone rang and it was Simon. “Hi Babes, I’m home and will collect you from your room on Wednesday evening. Is that okay?”

Still wrapped in my thoughts of the infinite, I seemed resentful to come back down to earth, “Yeah, that’s okay.”

“Did you find anything?”

“Yes I did,” I paused drifting aloft again.

“And?”

“I saw the infinite.”

“Cathy, have you been sniffing my shirt again?”

“No, yes I have, but this just happened. I can’t describe it to you but I saw or felt something wonderful.”

“Not making much sense unless you mean it was made by Blackberry.”

“No this was something unworldly, Simon, a glimpse into time and space beyond the imaginations of us mortals.”

“Okay Babes, I’ll leave you with your philosophy and talk tomorrow. Love ya.”

“Yes, okay,” and I put the phone down.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 106

I went to bed still feeling rather spaced out, tired but so wide awake I felt as if I was on some drug or other, except I’d never used them. I have to stay in control of myself in case someone gets to spot my little secret, especially now. Before it was in case I said something or reacted to something inappropriately, now, well I think you get the picture.

Eventually sleep did happen and I woke up feeling good, Simon’s tee shirt was handy and I snuggled and sniffed for half an hour before getting up. The rest of the day was chores and visiting Dad—that didn’t seem to get any easier.

On Monday evening I did manage some writing, and almost ignored a phone call. It was nearly ten at night—most people don’t call that late so it had to be either Simon or the hospital. I hoped it was the former.

“Hello?”

“Hi is that Cathy Watts?”

“Yes, who wants her?”

“Hi I’m Mike Cadbury, a friend of Simon.”

“Hello Mike, what can I do for you?”

“Come up to Gloucester tomorrow and collect something because it’s taking up too much space in my kitchen.”

“Sorry, I don’t understand,” this guy seemed a bit strange.

“It’s made by the Scott Corporation of America, or something similar.”

“You have my bike?” I shrieked down the phone probably damaging his hearing for life.

“I do, when can you collect it?”

“How did you manage to get it back?”

“With the help of the West Midlands Police, who were happy to arrest the thief. We had a letter from the bike shop to state he’d carried out repairs on the wheels and gave the serial numbers, we had the serial number of the bike frame and the copy of the incident report from the Avon and Somerset Police. We could prove ownership, the guy trying to sell it couldn’t. He also had a criminal record for handling stolen goods on several previous occasions.”

“Wow, that is brilliant. Are you about tomorrow?” It seemed he was and gave me his address and directions to find him. I was going to get my bike back at long last. I felt great.

Once back, I could inform the insurance company and they could then return my excess and so on. I decided to call Simon.

“Hi Cathy,” answered Stella, “he’s not around, or at least I haven’t seen him. Yeah that’s great news about your bike, you haven’t met Chocolate Mike? He’s a nice chap, was up at uni with Simon, been friends ever since. I’ll tell him you called. What about Friday? We have some serious spending to do.”

“How did your parents know about me, because Simon tells me he hadn’t said anything to them?”

“I think someone saw you together and they called me for more info. I could hardly tell them lies, now could I?” I hoped that was a rhetorical question because the answer I’d give may not please her.

“How come Simon seems to have so much, and you have so little with the parents you have? Sorry, I’m thinking out loud here, you don’t have to tell me.”

“All Simon has he earns, but he earns fabulous money and his bonuses are unbelievable.”

“So don’t your parents sub you?”

“Do yours?”

“Sort of, but only as a way of keeping me here. He didn’t before.”

“Mine are the same, make your own way and so on.”

“But your dad is a multi-millionaire?”

“Yeah, so, Simon is doing quite well in that direction too.”

“Crikey, I didn’t realise that.”

“Until you came along he hadn’t spent any significant amount for months. I mean he has houses all over the place, including one on Menorca.”

“They have dormice there.”

“They have lots of things sweetie, some are bronzed and have hairy chests too.”

“Would John like hearing you talk like that?”

“He does as he’s told, just like Simon.”

“You boss Simon around?” I let slip a thought as it entered my brain.

“Of course, so do you, don’t you?”

“No I don’t.”

“More fool you then.”

“Did he tell you he knows my little secret?”

“No he didn’t, so it was no big deal then?”

“Yes and no, it surprised him.”

“Yeah, I can believe that. You look as much like the real thing as any other woman I’ve ever met and better than most. Did he tell you about his previous experience?”

“No he didn’t, what happened?” I was all ears.

“It was a bit different, because he knew the guy before he changed over. A very feminine sort of boy, even a bit camp, certainly had had sex with men before. Anyhow, it came out that he was going to live as a woman and have the operation and someone attacked him.”

“Oh my goodness, was she hurt?” I had recollections of my own father’s assault on me.

“Very badly, so badly beaten he nearly died.”

“Oh goodness, why do people do that?”

“They thought it was a previous lover who didn’t want their association to end or change. No one was ever charged though.”

“How did Simon figure in all this?” I hoped he hadn’t been one of her lovers.

“Oh only on the fringes, they shared a few classes and he was appalled by the attack. The boy was brain damaged from head injuries, and was taken off to some institution up north. Didn’t hear any more, until Simon and Chocolate Mike arranged a rugby game to help pay for the boy’s care. They raised about fifty thousand altogether.”

“Who did they play?” I wondered, at the amount.

“The Wallabies I think, is that what they call the Australians?”

“I think so, how did he manage that?”

“Remember our dad is well connected, they were touring and well they did it as a training game. They won by loads, Simon scored a try but it was disallowed, he knocked on or something.”

“I’m better at bikes,” I offered; I had a basic idea of what rugby was about but not a clear one, and unless I played women’s rugger, I didn’t think it would prove of much interest now. Somehow, I couldn’t see myself doing that, no matter how much Simon would enjoy it.

“Yeah, well it’s nearly back with you, so keep a better watch on it next time.”

“I’m taking it to bed from now on.”

She laughed in response, “Not sure Simon would be too pleased with that as a concept.”

“A bike is the only thing he’s going to get his leg over until I have had surgery.”

“I think he knows that.”

“Is that person he helped, still alive?”

“Yes, I think so, Simon is a trustee of the charity they formed to care for people with severe head injuries.”

“He’s a regular boy scout, isn’t he?”

“Yeah he is, a real Good Samaritan, always has been. Didn’t always go down well with Dad.”

“Why?”

“Well that one, he didn’t know what had happened to the lad concerned, if he had, he may not have helped.”

“Why not?”

“In Dad’s time, there were some real predatory gays around at his school, it kinda put him off.”

“But you said the one Simon helped was transsexual?” I wondered if I would like Simon’s dad.

“I’m not sure if they really were or not, personally from what Simon told me, more of a homosexual transvestite, but I could be wrong. Even so, it’s no reason for nearly killing someone.”

“Exactly.” I remembered the hate mail I’d received; I hope the two incidents weren’t related, then recalled Simon was an London graduate.

“I’ve got to go flower, I have to be up at six. I’ll be on the ten o’clock train, meet me at Temple Meads Station on Friday.”

“Okay Stella, I’m looking forward to it.” I was lying but she didn’t care either way.

I went to get my Blackberry and was going to send Simon an email, when I discovered he’d sent me one first.

“Hi Babes, just checking it’s working and that you are too.”

I replied, “Of course, this machine will change my life—I’m gonna sell it and buy some Jimmy Choos. Love Cathy xxx PS Only joking!”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 107

The return of the bike, will she fall off again?

I was excited as I drove to Gloucester to collect my bike. I was going to put it inside the car, even if I had to take both wheels off, bike wheels that is. Taking wheels off the car would be rather unhelpful. Following Chocolate Mike’s directions, I made it there in just over an hour once I got clear of Bristol, and the ubiquitous road works. At one point, I listened to three tracks of Abba without the traffic moving at all.

For a change, I was in jeans and a Portsmouth Uni sweatshirt; I thought it better to be prepared for messing about with bikes and cars. I’d also found an old curtain I could cover the bike with to keep oil from the carpet or seats in the car, and it would disguise what was in the car.

Mike lived in an old rectory, or part of one. The house was divided in half with the original huge garden split into two large ones. He was busy digging potatoes when I arrived and his wife or girlfriend called him from the garden.

“You must be Cathy?” he extended a huge hand which dwarfed mine; his hands were like the proverbial shovels.

“Yes I am, thanks so much for helping me recover my bike.”

“That’s okay,” he smiled, a set of white teeth beaming through a grizzled beard. He was as tall as Simon and even broader. “Anything to help a friend of Simon’s.”

He led me into the house where Gina, his wife, as I learned a few minutes later, was busy brewing coffee. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, it makes me want to wee even quicker than tea, but it smelt absolutely gorgeous.

We sat in the lounge and he regaled me with the story of how he had monitored eBay and made the sting. It turned out he was a retired copper—he’d been shot and it damaged his leg, so rather than face a desk job he went freelance as a private investigator. Judging by the size of his house, it obviously paid quite well.

I was aware that I’d left the bread maker on and that I had soup to sort out for my dad. I explained I had to get back and he took me to see my bicycle. It was mine okay, there was a tiny scratch I’d patched with nail varnish which was exactly where I knew it would be. He helped me load it into my car and we only needed to remove the front wheel after I put the back seats down.

I thanked him again and left for home. The drive back became extra boring once the rain started and I was once more left singing along to Abba as I almost swam my way back through the road works. It sure did rain, reminding me of the day that started all of this adventure and my chance encounter with Stella. Little did I realise how much it would change my life. I said to my bike, “Look Scottie, I have enough adventure in my life just now, so although I have you back and will be riding you again as soon as I can, I don’t need any more excitement other than whizzing along on you. Got it?”

Anyone listening would have thought me crazy, but I wasn’t taking any chances with the bike this time. I’d wondered about the police needing the bike as evidence, but apparently they knew Mike and he got them to agree to a series of photos and his statement, plus that of Lord Stanebury, which tipped the balance. I knew his title would come in handy some time, having said that it didn’t impress me one bit. I loved Simon for who he was not for bits of silver spoons in his gob or up his backside for all I cared. I’m not a forelock tugger, but the prospect of meeting one of the wealthiest men in the UK did make me feel uneasy.

What would Earl of Stanebury do when he found out what I was or had been? Have me murdered? I shuddered at the thought. I would have to work hard to be my charming self and make him like me, then he might think I was gold digging. Oh bugger, I couldn’t win, so I’d just be myself—if he caught me on an off day, too bad. I could give as good an impression of PMS as any woman I knew.

Home and my bike safely ensconced in the garage, and locked to a wall unit, I locked the garage and went inside. The bread was done and I set about knocking up a quick potato and leek soup for my dad. I was finding my way around the kitchen too easily—at this rate I was going to end up as a hausfrau, and even for Simon that wasn’t what I wanted to do. For my dad, no way! I felt a twinge of guilt but a Paracetamol would deal with that if necessary!

I did my duty and saw my father. He was brighter today and more chatty. I told him I’d got my bike back and would deal with the insurance company afterwards. He was pleased and told me to take the money he’d offered me anyway, as an early Christmas present. I refused and he got irritated and began to mix up his words. He tried to tell me that he had neglected me all these years and wanted to make it up to me.

I decided I wasn’t playing. “Daddy, I love you but I won’t be bought by you or Simon or anyone else. I’m an independent soul and I’m going to finish my PhD before I worry about anything else. As you couldn’t be bothered to give me the money when I really needed it, you can keep it now.” I kissed him on the cheek and left, warning him I would call tomorrow but was going back down to Portsmouth afterwards and couldn’t guarantee I’d be in on Thursday. I was busy on Friday and Saturday, so didn’t expect to be in.

I saw him shrink back in his chair and the tears flowed down his cheeks. It cut me to the quick, but I smiled and left.

I was in combative mood that afternoon and fell out with the woman at the insurance company too. She tried to tell me that my excess, that is the money I had to pay to activate my insurance claim, was non-refundable. I actually swore at her and she put the phone down.

Next, I decided to check out if my mother’s bank account had been closed down. It had and I found a will she had left. I didn’t realise she had so much money: according to that she left everything to my dad other than ten grand which she left to me. Wow, no wonder he’s been so generous, I wondered if that was the most recent will.

I phoned her solicitor; the conversation was surreal and I won’t relate it to you here, but they asked me attend their office. It was four o’clock, but they told me they could wait for me until five.

I grabbed my ID stuff, including my change of name form, changed quickly into a skirt and top, the denim one again, popped on the jacket and my boots and rushed off.

“Hi, Cathy Watts to see Mr Potter,” I smiled at the receptionist.

She smirked at me, obviously aware of my secret and showed me through to her boss. I flashed him a smile and he held out his hand to me, “How do you do mist… um, Miss Watts.”

I sat at the side of his desk as opened the files and showed me the will, exactly the same as the one I’d seen at home. I showed my proof of identity including the form Dr Thomas had given me.

“The will is straightforward enough, and we don’t anticipate any difficulties with it. Her share of the house goes to your father as does all the rest of her property with the exception of ten thousand pounds which she bequeathed to Charles her son.”

“Now Cathy.”

“Exactly,” he pulled at his collar. He was about fifty something and wore a grey suit, probably from Marks and Spencers, as were his white shirts and perhaps even his shoes and socks. His silk tie bearing a picture of Bugs Bunny, was most likely a Christmas present from one of his kids. I suspected his wife bought all his clothes for him; he was wearing a wedding ring.

“The reason I asked you to attend is that you have attorney for your father at the moment, so you could sign these release forms for us.”

“Not without speaking to him first, and I’m not his favourite daughter at the moment, I upset him this afternoon.”

“Oh, you said not his favourite daughter, is there someone else we don’t know about?”

“No, it was a figure of speech. The old buzzard is trying to get me to stay home and look after him when he’s well enough to leave hospital or a rehab place. I told him that I was going to continue my doctorate.”

“Oh I see, what are you studying?” he suddenly became more friendly as if I’d become more valuable because I was doing a degree.

“Dormice.”

“Dormice, how lovely, where are you doing it?”

“Portsmouth.”

“Not with Agnew?”

“Yes, do you know him?”

“My own daughter is there doing her BSc.”

“Oh yes,” I smiled at him, “What’s her name?”

“Harriet, but ever since those blessed books came out, she’s called herself by her second name, Judy.”

“Sorry, what books?” he’d lost me.

“Those Harry Potter books, we used to call her Harry.”

“Oh yes those books,” I smiled. I didn’t mention the ribbing I got about the Rolling Stones with my old name. Then I thought maybe I would as it would show a good reason to change it, then I saw that could be a mistake, so I didn’t.

“So are you involved in this new government survey thing?”

“The mammal survey, absolutely, I’m leading the rodent aspect of it, Bristol are doing Mustelidae.” His look of uncertainty caused me to explain, “Badgers, otters and things like weasels and stoats. They’re also doing foxes. Inverness are doing squirrels and wildcats. York are doing deer, and Prof Agnew is coordinating it all.”

“So you’ll be doing rats and mice and assorted other vermin?”

“Yep, although some mice are protected.”

“They are?”

“Harvest mice.”

“Oh, of course.”

“I shall be setting up a team of researchers, as the dormice keep me busy by themselves.”

“Yes probably the cutest of the rodents, eh?”

“Probably and one of the hardest to locate, which was the original attraction.”

“Are you doing hares and bunnies?”

“No, they’re lagamorphs not rodents. I think someone from London might be looking after them, can’t remember.”

“Right Miss Watts, good luck with your research, keep an eye out for Judy, she may be able to help.”

“I shall. Now what about these releases?”

He showed me the documents and it was only to pay off some bills and close up my mother’s account.

“I thought you had to wait for six months in case any other creditors appear.”

“Oh we will, but we can have everything ready to wind up before then.”

“Are you sure I have the authority to do this?”

He looked over my letter of attorney as accepted by the bank, and asked me to sign. I did but with misgivings.

We shook hands and as I left, he wished me success with my research and my voyage of self-discovery and if he could help, you know the stuff. I decided that I wouldn’t use him if he was the last solicitor on earth, didn’t like his patronising attitude until he discovered I was cleverer than he was. As for his daughter, she could go take a running jump if she was as creepy as him, Harry Potter, ha bloody ha!

It was nearly dark when I got home and I just wanted to go in and do a bit more work on my project before I set off to Portsmouth tomorrow. If I had time I would pop in and see my prof, I sent him an email.

He replied, ‘Hi Cathy, glad you’re managing some work as well as looking after your dad. I look forward to seeing your proposals for the survey. I’m still waiting for you to come to dinner with me, I could do with a pretty face to cheer me up and laugh at my jokes. I hope you have someone accompanying you on your survey work? It’s different for girls, you know!’

Suddenly, everyone was an expert on being female, especially men who usually saw women primarily as sex objects. Maybe that was why they were warning me, in case people like them were about. At dead of night and in deep woodland, a bit unlikely. However, I was glad Simon was going with me tomorrow night.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 108

(That’s like 9 Dozen!)

I awoke in a sweat, it was about two in the morning. Dashing downstairs, I caught my toe on a doorframe and hobbled about, eyes watering and my mouth cussing the stupid frame for being there—if it wasn’t the door would fall off, but that’s not relevant to your entertainment.

A few minutes later when I could touch said toe, I decided it wasn’t fractured and that I might live a bit longer. I limped carefully downstairs and after a frantic search which saw more oaths and bits being thrown all over the place, I located what I needed to see, my diary.

I dropped it in my rush and of course, it hit the sore toe, so more cursing. Good job it was a detached house, otherwise the neighbours would be complaining about the nocturnal emissions! Mostly my swearing.

I had clean forgotten about my exam viva. Sure, they were going to give me my masters, but I needed to show them it was my own work and also the possibility of grades could be discussed. I didn’t think I was worth a distinction, but God this toe was throbbing.

I had remembered just in time, it was Thursday morning. What planning that was, up half the night checking my dormouse boxes and then a viva exam at eleven the next day. Then a dash back to Bristol to see Dad. Good job I wasn’t busy.

I made some tea as I was now wide-awake and I took a painkiller. I was sat with an ice bag on my foot and a mug of tea in my hand. Somewhere in the middle of me was probably very confused.

I did get back to bed and set the alarm: I needed an early start if I was going to make bread and get down to Portsmouth. I actually set up the machine before I went back to bed, it would be ready during the morning. Then I went to bed and slept until the alarm disturbed me at seven.

Showered and dressed, I made breakfast and checked the bread machine—it would need another hour. I made Daddy some celery soup while I waited, and during the preparation, I also skimmed through my dissertation. I would need to have my copy with me to quote figures and percentages. I was hopeless at remembering them; in fact I avoided them as much as I could and got one of my colleagues to check them for me. He was a maths graduate who defected to zoology for his PhD. He’d have a surprise when he next saw me as we hadn’t spoken for months.

The soup was ready, the bread was out of the machine and I was almost tempted to start picking bits off it. Instead, I wrapped it in foil and popped it in my bag along with the flask of soup. I was at the hospital by eleven, too early to give my dad his lunch, but I needed to get away early. I explained to him that I had an exam to prepare for and he said he understood, or his mouth did, his eyes showed great disappointment and I nearly cried. I had to stop him getting to me like this. The sister agreed she would feed him his meal if she could have a piece of his bread. He nodded and she smiled. I muttered something about bribery and corruption and then we all laughed.

In twenty minutes, I was heading towards Portsmouth and the university. I arrived at about three, parking was a nightmare, I’d need some sort of pass or it was going to cost me a fortune. I asked the office to sort it out for me, as I’d be working there on this mammal survey.

“Who did you say you were?” asked the bimbo in reception.

“Cathy Watts,” I felt like drumming my fingers on her counter, she was taking so long.

“I’m sorry, the only Watts I have here is Mister C Watts.”

“They were supposed to have sorted that, it’s a typo and I’ve been on at them for ages.” I didn’t feel I needed to explain things to her. “I mean, do I look like a man?” If she’d said ‘yes’ I’d have strangled her slowly, very slowly.

“Erm, of course not,” she blushed, “I’ll adjust the computer now.”

“I’d be very grateful if you could, I’ve even spoken to the Dean about it.”

“Have you?” She looked rather concerned, “I must apologise if it was our mistake.”

“That’s okay, so can you organise a car parking ticket?”

“It’ll take a few days, is that all right?”

“I’m sure it will do. Thanks, I’ll collect it next week?”

She nodded and smiled. I rushed off to the zoo labs. “Hi Neal, how’s it going?”

“Oh hi Cathy, you look gorgeous today.”

Wow, what’s he after? “Thank you, just something I stole from Christian Dior on the way here. What’s the grapevine saying?”

“They were buzzing with your appearance last week; that Jo woman has left now, her placement ended. So it’s calmed down this week, most of the feedback I heard was positive.”

“So if she’s left, why all that fuss about toilets?”

“God knows, the others don’t seem to talking about it now, although I suppose when you are back it will be a five minute wonder.”

“I suppose it will, anyway if they’re criticising me they’re leaving some other poor bugger alone.”

“Very true girl, now what are you in for today?”

“Can I borrow a spare image intensifier? I’ve got some help with my nest box survey tonight.”

“Oh I suppose so, you’ll need to sign in blood in triplicate and give me your credit card number and life savings.”

“That all?”

“Yeah usual terms.”

He handed me the item and I signed once for it in the equipment book. This should make Simon’s evening. Great, I’m out with the man of my dreams, and what are we doing? Looking for bloody dormice! Wonderful, just bloody wonderful.

I checked the equipment was working, there’s a dark room in the labs upstairs and kit which has been checked can save a lot of wasted time in the field. The techies are good but I check everything myself, I do with my bikes too.

Then it was up to the exams office and checking where and when I needed to be tomorrow. I knew the room and most of the panel, the external was from Bristol, should be interesting.

I went to exit the building when I bumped into my professor, quite literally, nearly dropping the equipment I was carrying. “What’s this?” demanded the prof pointing at the carry bag for the intensifier, “You haven’t broken another one have you?”

“I haven’t broken any,” I said indignantly.

“That’s not what I have heard.”

“I haven’t,” I protested.

“You know what the penalty for lying is Cathy Watts?”

“No, but I haven’t lied.”

“It’s dinner with an old fart.”

“Tomorrow night, seven sharp at Runcorn’s.”

“I can’t, I have to get back to Bristol.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Does it matter?”

Just then my mobile went off. I excused myself and answered it. “Hello?”

“Cathy Watts?”

“Yes, who’s that?”

“Sister Hansard at Southmead.”

My stomach flipped, “Dad is okay, isn’t he?”

“Yes, but we’ve got a D and V bug here at the moment, so we’ve suspended visiting, just thought I’d warn you.”

“Am I likely to have caught it?”

“No it’s not on our ward yet, but they’re stopping all visitors for a few days.”

“Fine, thanks for letting me know.”

“I’ve explained to your dad, he seems to understand.”

“Thanks.”

I looked at Prof Agnew, “Is this black tie, tomorrow?”

“The only black tie I have I wear to funerals of students who refuse to dine with me.”

“Oh, in which case, I’d better come then.”

“Good girl. I knew you’d see reason.”

“Blackmail and threats work every time, prof.”

He laughed and walked back towards his office. I trotted back towards my car hoping they hadn’t clamped me.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part Lost Count (109)

by Wassername

If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for big surprise…!

I drove back to my room remembering the camera I’d set up. Then the horrid letter that caused it. I wondered if I’d be any the wiser after I watched the record on the computer.

I got home, parked up and took my bags and equipment up to my room. Then I went back down to my mailbox. The camera was still there and there were a few letters, some addressed to the old me and one or two for my current incarnation. The computer only showed the top of the postman’s head, so someone or something had moved it. At one point a white something or other flashed across but other than that there was nothing.

I opened the post and there was another note from the tormentor.

‘Think you’re clever do you, bloody fairy. Do you know what happens to naughty fairies? They get their wings pulled off. See you around Tinkerbell.

An Illwisher.’

I watched the tape again, it had to be the white flash, they somehow saw the camera and avoided it with a piece of card or something. I put the first note with the second. Maybe I should tell the police? I had no immediate suspects—the two clowns I’d fought off with Simon perhaps? I doubted they had enough brain cells to notice a camera, let alone avoid it. No, they’d have attacked me directly or put more crayon on my door. So who could it be?

My notoriety would be spreading, perhaps beyond the department, I hoped not as far as the press. I wasn’t besieged by them yet, so maybe they weren’t interested or they hadn’t heard yet. Not much I could do about it anyway, so I got on with sorting out what I’d wear.

Over the past few months, I’d been wearing the few women’s things I had to the woods. It was dark and it was the only chance I had to be me, until Stella hit me off the bike and changed everything. The jeans were women’s, as were the shirt and sweater. The boots and waxed jacket were unisex. However, the knitted hat and gloves and my socks—all new purchases—were very girly and I smiled when I saw them.

I walked down to the shop and chatted with my Asian shopkeeper, buying some fresh milk and some bread rolls. I looked for something to put in the rolls and opted for a tin of tuna. I hoped Simon liked it because it was what he’d be eating while we were out, and drinking my instant coffee. It can get quite cold at night, even in the woods and a snack and a drink are helpful in dealing with it. I grabbed some potato crisps as well; we’d dine like lords tonight, I joked to myself as I walked back.

My tea was a can of Oxtail soup and the spare bread roll, which I washed down with a cuppa. Then I prepared the picnic, four tuna rolls, crisps, chocolate and a flask of coffee. I packed them in the rucksack along with the hardback book I used to record all my data. It weighed a bit, being two hundred pages thick but the data was invaluable. I’d taken everything off the book and onto the computer but I kept up with the pen and paper records, because I could read them in the dark with my red headlight and not be blinded by it. Also, the red light didn’t seem to worry the wildlife.

I checked I had spare batteries for everything and collected the kit together. I washed and changed into my field clothes, pulling on the jeans and the blouse. It reminded me of times before Stella and I smiled. Things were so good now, and Mister Wonderful was coming to collect me in fifteen minutes. I smiled and thought how lucky I was.

I pulled on the ladies’ trekking shirt I’d got in a German supermarket which had opened in the town, for a few pounds. It fit perfectly, even better now my boobs were slightly bigger with the recent weight gain. Then the sweater, a wool-nylon blend in green with a crew neck. I tied a silky scarf around my neck and hoped that Simon would be adequately dressed.

Finally, I refreshed my lipstick, something I only used to do once I’d cycled to the woods. Goodness, life was brilliant, this living the dream stuff was great. Jacket on, I bent down to pick up the rucksack—gee whizz, it was heavy with a capital aitch. I opened it again but there was nothing I could remove. Then I realised, once we were actually walking we’d have the image intensifiers in our hands not on my back, and once we drank the coffee, the bag would be a bit lighter. Maybe we could take turns to carry it?

I struggled down to the street after locking my door. Simon drew up as I plonked the bag down. He jumped out of the car and hugged me then kissed me—life just couldn’t get any better! Then he picked up the bag like it was full of air and placed it in his car boot.

“I hope you’ll be warm enough, it gets quite cold out in the woods.”

“Don’t worry about me, I’ve got my love to keep me warm,” he joked.

“A good coat may be more reliable,” I joked back.

“In the boot, young lady, just in case you fail to live up to expectations.”

I blushed—was that simply innuendo or did he think we’d be having a naked romp under the stars? If he did he was going to be disappointed. I needed to get this done as quickly as possible tonight, so no gazing at the moon. I had an exam tomorrow which would be easier if I wasn’t yawning.

We drove to the woodland and along a forestry track to which I had a key. This was magic compared to using a bike, especially with the jazz CD he was playing. Using an MP3 on a bike isn’t too brilliant, the wind noise spoils most of it. This was pure luxury and I could have gone off to sleep instead of doing fieldwork. Simon pulled up where I indicated.

“We have a half a mile walk to my first nesting site. Can we keep the conversation quiet? It makes all the little furry things run away.”

He nodded and pretended to zip up his mouth. I opened the rucksack and pulled out the two image intensifiers and showed him how they worked. I also explained where the spare batteries were, although we should have been back before they ran out.

I explained what we were going to do: examine and count the residents of the various nesting boxes, then write up the data as we went along. I explained about the red light and so on. He understood everything, which wasn’t hard even for an aristocrat with a degree.

We set off and he took the rucksack off me and pulled it on his shoulders. Wow, better still. I’d carry it back after we drank the coffee and ate the rolls, hee hee. The first site was the smallest and most easy to record. It only took an hour and Simon sat on a log and watched me working, climbing up trees and examining the boxes.

I had a small ladder which I stashed in a green camouflage bag and hid in a Cupressa leylandii tree. The forestry people knew all about it and had even spared the tree until I finished my study. Now it could run another three years, they might not be so happy. Maybe there’d be enough money to either fund a store of some sort—one of those steel thingies which could be set in concrete—or a 4×4 and then I could carry it all with me.

Simon was impressed with my agility in the dark, although with the image intensifier he could see me quite clearly. I used the red headlight mostly for the near stuff and the handling of the dormice, when I could catch them. I would come around one day time and look for remains of what they’d been eating.

We ate our rolls and drank some coffee, and moved on to the next site. Again, he carried the rucksack and I toted the ladder—I knew when I was well off—usually I carried the lot. The second site was about a quarter of a mile away, or four hundred metres. Too far for the colonies to interbreed, or that was the perceived wisdom. I hoped DNA from faecal samples may prove otherwise.

I also had plans to introduce a new colony between two of the existing ones, using laboratory-bred animals. We had permission to do it, but not until the spring. I’d identified the place I thought was most suitable with plenty of food for them and places to nest. I’d also put up nest boxes for them, which made keeping tabs on the little buggers slightly easier.

We tend to think of them as dozy, hibernating away the winter or being stuck in teapots à la Alice in Wonderland. When they are active, they can move quite quickly and through the top of the tree and bush canopy, scrambling and jumping from twig to twig, like miniature squirrels. Well maybe not as fast as squirrels, who are slower than pine martens, but faster than field scientists can keep up with them! It’s all relative, and once you’ve got caught up in brambles because you didn’t look where you were going, and fallen over tree roots and down holes hidden by leaf mould, you exercise caution—sometimes.

We had just got to site two when my red light failed. I asked Simon for the new batteries as I knelt down to take it apart to fit them. I should have carried them in my pocket, but they were all in plastic boxes in the bag. It was very dark, there being little moon, and I sort of saw him lift up the bag in one arm and dig about in it with the other when he said, “Here, what’s that over there?”

I heard a twig snap and presumed it was a deer. However, it soon proved it wasn’t. There was a small flash and a bang and Simon flew backwards landing nearly on top of me. I screamed and I heard voices and footsteps running away.

He was groaning as he lay on the ground and my eyes filled with tears as I reached in my pocket for my mini Maglite, my emergency torch.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 110

Enter the cavalry!

I switched on the torch and shone it on Simon’s groaning body. I saw the blood and I screamed and screamed. Then as if someone had slapped me, I came to my senses. Now was not the time for these hysterics, I could do that once he was in hospital.

I pulled out my mobile and called 999. Once my brain was engaged, it began to do things properly. I had grid references for this spot from long use of entering them on computers. I quoted them faultlessly. Once I mentioned gunshot wounds, they asked me to describe Simon’s situation.

“He’s lying on his back, he’s bleeding from his mouth and there’s blood on his chest. He’s got his eyes closed and he’s groaning.”

“Okay, help is on its way and police have been notified; keep talking to him, any change call us again. Keep talking to him: if you can keep him from slipping into unconsciousness, it will help.”

I slumped down on the ground alongside the man I loved. I held his hand and talked to him.

“Simon, Simon come on lover, open those eyes and look at me.”

I wiped the blood from his face, it wasn’t coming so much from his mouth any more. Was that a good sign? He coughed and some more blood came! Oh hell, he’s been hit in the lungs.

I moved around behind him, resting his head on my knees and threw my coat over him; I knew I had to keep him warm. I kept talking to him and felt his breathing slow. Oh shit! The ambulance wouldn’t have the keys to the forest gate. Fucking dormice, why couldn’t I have stayed at home and looked after my dad, then this wouldn’t have happened.

I kept talking to him, in the torchlight I couldn’t really see his colour, nor could I feel his pulse in his neck, but he was still breathing so I assumed he was still alive.

I heard a helicopter circling overhead and for the first time I felt some relief, the searchlight was streaming through the trees and eventually it picked us up. It stayed hovering presumably to assist the rescue party.

Another helicopter arrived overhead and I wondered what was happening, then it circled around and I heard it making approach noises, like it was trying to land. There was a clearing a couple of hundred yards away; he was obviously trying to land there.

There were sirens in the distance growing louder as police 4×4s approached us, and at speed. The helicopter above us just hovered, the light wavering as the pilot tried to hold his exact position.

I looked at the scene: my rucksack was in pieces, bits of paper were everywhere, the image intensifier was in bits, one of Simon’s shoes was lying near the bag, and there was coffee dripping out of the bag. It was a total shambles. I kept talking to Simon as I heard footsteps moving towards us. This time they were the good guys.

A second searchlight helicopter arrived on the scene and began sweeping the woods, looking for the perpetrators I supposed, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know they had two helicopters; maybe they’d got another force helping them?

A paramedic ran into our mess and quickly crouched down, “They still about?”

“No, I heard them run off when I screamed.”

“Okay, let’s have a look.”

While he examined Simon, another ran up with a stretcher followed by three armed police, who took up positions to protect us. They had night sights on their guns.

“Right he’s in shock, let’s get him into the hospital,” said the paramedic to his colleague and they loaded Simon onto the stretcher and strapped him on. Four of them then picked him up and ran to the chopper, the air-ambulance. One of the police asked me to stay; they would take me to the hospital as soon as they knew what had happened.

I explained who I was and what we were doing. That my light had faded and I asked Simon for new batteries and it just happened, bang and he was flying through the air nearly landing on top of me.

I pointed out from where the shot seemed to come, and he went off with a powerful torch to examine it. The helicopter shadowed him.

His colleague who had been listening, said, “What, you come here by yourself?”

“I have to, to collect my data. Usually, I feel quite safe. The first time I have an escort and this happens. It’s all my fault.” With that, I burst into tears.

“Who is your friend?” asked the copper when I’d stopped wailing.

“Viscount Stanebury.”

“Fucking hell! It’s not is it?”

“You think I’d lie to you?”

“A genuine nob eh?”

“I beg your pardon?” I didn’t like his tone even though he was supposedly on my side, protecting me.

“What?”

“He’s a nice man, a real gentleman.”

“Like him then, do you?”

“No, I love him,” I sniffed.

“Oh okay love, I didn’t mean anything.”

I didn’t believe him, but I wasn’t going to make an issue over it. I heard more voices and footsteps approaching and into the scene of the incident. I glanced at the new arrivals, one was obviously an inspector or something, the others were plainclothes.

Once again, we played twenty questions. As soon as I told them who Simon was, their level of interest increased.

“Is there any reason why someone should shoot at either of you?” asked the more important of the two in mufti.

“Not as far as I know, unless they don’t like dormice.”

“I don’t think they shot at the dormice, did they?”

I shook my head. “Can I pick up my stuff?”

“Sorry miss, it’s a scene of crime and a serious one, we need to do a full search in daylight.”

I shrugged my shoulders, “Can somebody take me to the hospital? I’d like to see how Simon is and I need to call his sister.”

“You’re his girlfriend?”

“Yeah, he was taking me to see his parents on Saturday. Oh hell!”

“Something the matter Miss?”

“Yeah, I have an exam at eleven o’clock,” it was now approaching four.

“What, university exam?”

“Yeah, the oral part of my master’s.”

He was about to say something when one of his men spoke into his radio. “We could have a lead on the shooters, sir.”

The detective inspector took out his phone and dialled, “Take her to the hospital, will you?” he instructed one of his uniformed men, with whom I was about to leave when I spotted Simon’s car keys.

“If I take these can I drive myself in his car?”

“Only if someone goes with you.”

“Why?”

“Just do as I ask, please Miss.”

“Okay,” we walked towards the car park, me carrying the surviving image intensifier, and my torch.

“I’ll drive Miss,” said the young PC and I surrendered the keys without any argument.

“Can you use that thing to see how he is?” I asked as we sat in the car.

“Sure,” he said and called his colleague at the hospital. After a short conversation, “he’s in theatre.”

“Oh hell!”

As we drove, I tried to phone Stella but she wasn’t answering. Was everything going to go ‘tits up’ tonight? I left messages on her voice mail and the ansafone at the cottage for her to call me urgently.

As I got to the hospital, I spotted her sitting in a side room off ‘Admissions.’ I rushed in and we hugged.

“I’ve been trying to call you,” I said sobbing.

“Sorry Cathy, they know Simon and called me from A&E. What the hell happened?”

I told her and then about the letters. Her face darkened, “Who the fuck is threatening you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have you told the police?”

“No, I don’t know if it’s related. It’s one thing to send stupid letters, another to shoot someone.”

“You should tell them.”

“The police thought they had a lead on the shooters. Can we wait and see what that is first?”

“If Simon dies, my father won’t rest until he’s paid back the perpetrator of this, this stupid attack.”

“If Simon dies, he won’t need to. I’ll kill them myself.” I surprised myself, the venom in my voice was so acid, it practically stripped the paint off the walls.

Stella gave me a startled look, then relaxed. “You really love him don’t you?”

“Stella, I would willingly have taken the shot for him,” then I burst into tears and she hugged me. “He’s not going to die is he?”

“I don’t know,” she sniffed back at me and we both bawled the place down.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 111

However, a nurse came in and coughed politely, “Sorry to interrupt, but no sex until after I’ve done your blood pressure.”

Stella and I had nodded off to sleep when the nurse came in to tell us that Simon was out of theatre. I jumped out of the chair, for a moment not aware of where I was. Stella lazily opened her eyes and yawned.

“Well ladies, Simon is out of theatre and is asleep.”

“Is he going to be okay?” I asked a split second before Stella could.

“Yes, he’s going to live, the surgeon will be along in a moment to see you, he’ll explain what he’s done.” She left.

“There’s a coffee machine down the corridor, I’ll go and get us a drink.” Stella picked up her purse and went off. I sat yawning and trying to make sense of what had happened. It didn’t make any, no matter how I tried, Simon still got shot and I didn’t know why.

“Here,” Stella handed me a styrene cup full of steaming grey brown liquid, not entirely the most enticing drink I’ve ever had, but it certainly helped me to wake up.

With impeccable timing, a thirty something black man came in wearing scrubs. “Hi, I’m Alex Rogers, I’ve just finished operating on Mr erm Lord Stanebury, is that right, a genuine aristocrat?”

“’Fraid so,” said Stella, “I’m his sister Stella and this is his fiancée Cathy.” She gave me a strange look as she spoke and I said nothing nor reacted in any way other than to shake the surgeon’s huge hands. Hands which had been touching my Simon only minutes before.

“How is he Mr Rogers?”

“He’s okay. I guess something else stopped most of the buckshot; he had several in his arms, the left one is broken by the way. He’d also bitten his tongue and has a concussion.”

“But I saw lots of blood,” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, he was a bit peppered in the chest, half a dozen shots, enough to damage his coat and allow seepage, and one of the veins in his arm was nicked, but it stopped by itself. I’ve tied him all back together and he’s gonna need to stay in hospital for a few days; the shock of the shot cracked his sternum, so he is gonna be mighty sore for some little time and have quite a headache.”

“So he’s going to be all right then?” I gasped.

“Sure is, unless your cooking gets him next time.”

“Who told you about my cooking?” I said laughing, tears streaming down my face, my laughter only a degree below hysterical.

“None of you gentry can cook, we slaves used to do it all for you.” He winked at us as he spoke, and I hoped it was a joke rather than a political crack.

“We’re just poor working girls,” interjected Stella, “I’m a poor nurse and Cathy is a student.”

“What a student nurse?” he asked quizzically.

“No, a zoologist, she’s doing her PhD.”

“Oh!” he seemed impressed, “what on?”

“Dormice,” continued Stella while I cringed, my life being exposed before me.

“Dormice? Like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party?” he said and I felt myself glazing over. Alice in Fucking Wonderland! Why is it always Alice in Wonder Fucking Land?

“That’s the one.” Stella smiled at him flirting gently.

“I think I might prefer White Bunny Girls,” he said sexistly.

“They’re an imaginary species,” I challenged, “only existing in the minds of ageing American Porn Kings.”

“Pity,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

“Still, keep in touch with Stella, she could be useful, she works in the GUM clinic!” I smiled innocently. Two could play nasty.

“Touché,” he said and held his hands up in mock surrender, “One to Lady Dormouse.” He looked at his watch, “Damn, I’ve got a clinic in three hours,” he said and disappeared.

“What was that about me being his fiancée? A bit premature isn’t it?”

“If I’d said you were his girlfriend he wouldn’t have told you anything.”

“Oh! Sorry, I didn’t realise that.”

“I suppose I’d better get home and get ready for work.”

“You’ve been up most of the night!” I exclaimed.

“That’s not my patient’s fault is it? If I don’t turn up, my colleagues all have to do extra. We’re a team believe it or not.”

“Yeah, I believe you, so if they want to send you home at lunchtime you go.”

“I’ll see.”

“Will they let us see him?”

“If he’s asleep, we’d only disturb him, he isn’t going to die, so let’s go and come back tonight.”

I looked at my watch, it was half eight, I needed to get home and wash and change for my exam. Oh hell, I am so tired. “I’ve got his car, what about that?”

“Can you follow me back and I’ll shower and change and run you back to your place? I’m going to be late, but they’ll have to cope for an hour.”

I agreed and went back in the Saab to the cottage. While Stella showered, I made us some tea and some toast, Stella hugged me in thanks.

I was home by nine forty five, and in the shower minutes later. The shower revived me a little and I drank a strong coffee. I was going to cycle in, like I used to do, then decided against it. I wore the denim skirt and jacket with a vee necked white top and the bra boosters. Some makeup and my boots—what would I do without them?—my bag and keys plus my research notes and data, and after a quick squirt of something nicer smelling than a cyclist’s shorts I was off to my ordeal.

I hadn’t said anything about my experience the night before but they all seemed to know about it. “How is Simon?” asked my prof.

“How do you know about that?”

“Was on the radio this morning.”

“What was?”

“A shooting accident in the forest, a dormouse researcher was hurt, he was said to be comfortable in hospital. Couldn’t be you, so it had to be Simon, as you said he was going with you.”

“Oh!” was all I could say.

“It also suggested that the police were questioning two men about it.”

“No one told me about that,” I grumbled.

“So did you get any sleep?”

“I can’t remember.”

“That bad eh?”

“Yes,” I felt myself tear up and it was only by dint of not wanting to look a helpless female at the exam, that I managed to control myself.

“Good luck, they know about last night so they’ll be easy on you. I’ve told them nothing more than thumb screws. Then you can get off to bed for a few hours. I hope you’re still on for tonight?”

“I don’t know Prof, I want to see Simon.”

“Well visiting is over by eight, so see you at the restaurant at eight thirty.”

“I don’t know,” I didn’t really feel like going out to dinner.

“Right that’s settled. Go on over and wait, they’ll call you in when they’re ready.”

I had about half an hour’s wait—I felt in a very strange space, I was light headed yet could feel adrenalin kicking in every now and again. I knew that once it was over and I got home I would zonk into a semi-coma.

My name was called and I picked up my bag and my data, “Here goes…” I said to myself, feeling like a Christian about to face the lions, except I wasn’t. I was a female gladiator going to slay my opponent unless the emperor spared him. “My name is Maxima, Decima Meridia…” I whispered to myself improvising on the Ridley Scott film.

An hour later, three examiners were shaking my hand and saying, “Congratulations Miss Watts, an excellent piece of research.” I walked out in a daze; the silly buggers had given me a distinction for counting bloody dormice! Oh well, home and sleep.

I drove home with a mantra of, “Stay awake until you get to bed.” I think I managed it, because I awoke at three in the afternoon when the alarm went off. I’d agreed that Stella could go first to see Simon, then she could go home. I would go at four and stay until they threw me out about eight. Then dinner with the nutty professor, oh boy what it is to be a glamorous scientist! Ha ha!

I did dress up a bit; I wore a nice patterned skirt and matching blouse in a blue and pink pattern. No it wasn’t one I bought to show a balance of sexuality, it was a Stella cast off and one from another Stella, the Beatle’s kid dress designer. I didn’t even think what it must have cost. I wondered if the estate was mortgaged to pay for her spending habits, then recalled that they each earned their own money. Simon was obviously good at his job, not just the boss’s kid.

My denim jacket did again, and grabbing my bag I went off to the hospital, managing to get a Financial Times and a fishing magazine for Simon. I didn’t know if he’d want to read or not, but they were less clichéd than a bunch of grapes. Inside the bag, was a small bottle of Johnny Walker Black label. Well if my dad could have brandy, why couldn’t Si have a nip of something too?

I found out the ward he was on without too much difficulty, and listened embarrassedly as my heels clattered down the corridors. Finally, I found the ward and his bed was in a side room on his own. Was that preferential treatment or for his protection or what? But it would make his having a nip, a little easier.

I entered the room and he was asleep, his left arm in plaster and bruising about his face. I felt my eyes water, it was so painful watching this man I loved so much, injured because of me. I still felt guilty and needed his forgiveness more than anything else.

I sat at the foot of his bed and rested my head on my arm waiting for him to wake. He did, and before I did!

“Hi Sweetheart,” I heard said from afar. “Wakey wakey!” Someone was talking to me, aargh!

I sat bolt upright and nearly fell out of the plastic chair. “Erm, hi,” I managed to utter, I think, my way with words was overpowering some days.

“You look lovely when you’re asleep,” he said and I blushed, I also yawned and had to apologise. “Don’t I get a kiss then?”

I apologised and pecked his cheek; he gave me a forlorn look and I kissed his lips, gently, he looked too frail for anything much and I did remember he’d hurt his tongue.

I put my arms around him and hugged him as tenderly as I would a newborn, “I love you,” I said before nearly drowning him in tears.

“Hey what’s up, why the weeping, I am gonna live aren’t I?”

“Of course,” I said laughing.

“Oh good, I wondered if there was something I didn’t know for a minute.”

“No, you’ll live,” I confirmed.

“So why the tears?”

“I am so sorry,” I said and began crying again.

“Why, what have you done?” he paused, “No not the Saab?”

“The car is okay,” I said but was unable to stop the flood running down my cheeks.

“What have you done then?”

“It’s my fault, you’re in here, I am so sorry.”

“Don’t be so silly, I didn’t get food-poisoning from the roll, I got shot remember?”

“I know,” I said laughing at his joke, but still crying.

“Give me another hug you silly goose,” he said, and I complied with his wishes, “Now, gi’s a kiss and I absolve you of all blame.” My lips caressed his, and despite my wet face, I felt wonderful and would have gladly held the moment forever.

However, a nurse came in and coughed politely, “Sorry to interrupt, but no sex until after I’ve done your blood pressure.”

We both laughed embarrassedly, then Simon retorted, “You didn’t give me sex the last time you took it, can I complain?”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part One Hundred and a Dozen (112)

I seemed to be spending more time in hospitals than Stella, who was paid for the privilege. Whilst the time spent with my father was a drag, no pun intended, staying with Simon was nearly over before it began.

I hugged him and kissed him and we talked, he nodded off, I nodded off and we hugged some more. They did blood pressures and temperatures; they checked dressings and gave him medication. They even gave him a meal while I was there, and me a cuppa.

I helped him feed himself; cutting up his food was difficult with one arm in plaster and the other bandaged, where the shot had penetrated his Barbour coat. It was quite a recommendation for the coat that so little had damaged him.

He couldn’t remember much about it, except he was digging for batteries in my bag when everything went black. I began to realise that my Lowe bag was probably rubbish and the paper which had been floating about was bits of my data book. It had saved his life by protecting his chest; I could be at an undertakers now, paying my respects rather than sitting and joking with this man.

While I was there a policeman called by to take his statement. I left them for a few minutes, then he did mine as well. Afterwards, I asked him about the two men they were questioning.

“Are they the ones who shot at us?”

“Could be, they had shotguns. Forensics will tell us for certain.”

“Do you know why they shot at us?”

“They said they shot at a deer.”

“In which case, why didn’t they come over to check?”

“They said they heard voices and ran off.”

“Poachers?”

“Yes, they didn’t have permission to shoot there.”

“I should hope not, it’s a nature reserve.”

“Is it? I didn’t know that.”

“It actually says so although it isn’t widely publicised otherwise we would have more visitors which can be a pain, especially when you have kids climbing up to see what’s in the nest boxes.”

“And what’s in them?”

“Birds, bats, dormice, occasionally other things.”

“Like what?”

“I found a grass snake in one once?”

“What? A grass snake?”

“Yeah, frightened the proverbial out of me until I realised what it was.”

“I know they can swim, didn’t think they could climb.”

“Neither did I. Made a nice anecdotal report in the Mammal Society’s annual report.”

The copper smiled. “I can’t believe that a pretty girl like you goes out there on her own at night.”

“Seems the only time I have trouble is when I have an escort.” That was a conversation killer and we all reflected on it for a moment. Then I had a thought, “The shooters said they thought they shot at a deer?”

“So they said,” he shook his head.

“If they saw the reflection of Simon’s image intensifier, which can look greenish, they might consider they had a deer or other animal in their sights.”

“Why do deer have green eyes then?”

“I don’t know, but badgers do when you shine a light on them.”

“Right, I’ll try and speak to the officer in charge. See if that was mentioned.”

“I mean if they meant to shoot us, why didn’t they come and finish us off?”

“Yeah, we wondered that, maybe they just chickened when they recognised the enormity of what they were doing.”

“I think they should ban all guns, except for police and military.”

“What about farmers and vets?” offered Simon.

“Maybe. But long sentences for anyone else caught in possession of one,” I said showing my prejudice.

“I don’t think they’re that easy to ban. We’ve had a handgun ban for several years now and there are as many if not more around than ever.”

“Can’t think why anyone needs a gun, plus in the States research shows that if you carry a gun you are much more likely to be shot, than if you are unarmed.” I was now on my hobbyhorse.

“Same goes for knives, kids who carry ’em are more likely to be stabbed.” My police friend was definitely on my side, but then he’d probably had to deal with guns and knives—he was wearing one of those anti-knife waistcoat thingies.

The three of us chatted a bit longer until his radio went off and he took his leave rather rapidly.

“So you think they thought I was a deer, eh?” Simon said to me, his eyes sparkling.

“I think you’re a dear,” I said and kissed him, “Let’s face it, you’re far too big to be a pheasant.”

“Me a peasant! Huh! I’ve never been so insulted in my life,” his tone of mock indignation made me giggle.

“Stick around Simon, I’m sure I can top that some day.”

“You horrible woman, I can’t think what I see in you.”

“No neither can I, anyway lover, it’s nearly eight and I have to run off to be unfaithful to you.”

“With whom, anyone I know?”

“I can’t comment on that, then you’d have grounds to divorce me.”

“Okay, I’ll have my butler follow you and take photos.”

“Compromising ones?” I asked.

“No, Polaroid.” He tried to keep a straight face but the pressure told and he laughed then groaned as it hurt his damaged chest and ribs.

I gave him a sexy kiss, and presented him with his paper, then the magazine and finally with a flourish, the bottle.

“Wow Cathy, beats Stella’s grapes.”

I kissed him again and said goodnight.

“Give my love to Professor Agnew,” he called after me.

“Arggh, my secret is out,” I said in mock horror.

“What, that you offered sex for a distinction?” he joked.

“Hush, don’t tell everyone, they’ll all want one.”

A little later, I related this conversation to Prof Agnew, who replied, “For a distinction? If I were you, I’d hold out for a doctorate. Someone as pretty as you would probably get one.”

I blushed as red as the stuffed tomato I was eating, “Why does everyone think I’m pretty, I mean how can I be?”

“Why can’t you be?” he asked quietly.

“Because I used to be a boy.”

“Only on paper Cathy, you were a pretty boy with delicate features. Now you are a very striking young woman, who many would describe, and I include myself in that number, as beautiful.”

“Somebody doesn’t think so.”

“What do you mean?” he asked looking puzzled.

I told him about the letters and my attempt to photograph the writer. His face changed to one of anger.

“Have you told the police about this?”

“Not yet.”

“Why not, poison pen letters are a criminal offence?”

“I hoped it would die a death.”

“But who would do such a thing?”

“I don’t know. I’d almost prefer them to voice their disagreement, at least then I know who I have to convince they are wrong. Besides, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if it is wrong.”

“Have you met much dissent?”

“A little.”

“Let me know who they are, I’ll point out the university’s policy on diversity and difference, and its response to harassment or bullying.”

“I haven’t found it a problem yet, if it becomes one, I’ll let you know. On the whole I’m prepared for the odd dissenter, provided they keep it verbal.”

“No one has to suffer verbal abuse, it’s a criminal offence.”

“I haven’t so far, just a disagreement over toilets.”

“Oh jeez, who was that?”

“It doesn’t matter, it’s resolved itself.”

“If you have a problem, let me know. I think the only time it was an issue before, the University Council decided that anyone changing their role full time, should be enabled to use the toilets of their new gender. If anyone found that a problem, the complainer was advised to use another toilet.”

“Bit of a double whammy,” I said in astonishment.

“Serves them right. After all, what can you see from a cubicle?”

I nodded at his observation.

“Right, what are you having for a main course?”

“I’m quite full already Professor, can I just wait until the dessert and I’ll have something then?”

“Watching that lovely figure?”

“Not especially, I’m just not very hungry.” In reality, while I enjoyed his company, all I wanted to do was to go home and sleep for a whole day.

“You look tired,” he said as if picking up on my thoughts.

“Bit too much excitement, I guess.”

“I didn’t think my dinners were that exciting,” he said winking at me. I knew then it was going to be a long evening.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part One Hundred and unlucky for some,

Thirteen (113)

by Angharad & Bonzi Cat

Life doesn’t come easy to Cathy, and when it does she doesn’t believe it.

My evening with the professor was a long one. Essentially its purpose was to persuade me to do the pictures they required for the posters and leaflets.

I argued that it could backfire on them. If my background were to become known, the press would have a field day. He didn’t seem to think so. I stuck with my original view and agreed to nothing. As I was driving back to my room, I couldn’t drink, so all in all it wasn’t the best night out I’d ever had.

“Why can’t you ask Bristol or York if they have someone photogenic they could use?”

“The bank appears to want you.”

“Is that because I’m having a relationship with the Chairman’s son?”

“Are you? I didn’t know Simon was Lord Stanebury’s son.”

“Yes he is, so what would the tabloids make of that?”

“I have always agreed with the Duke of Wellington on one thing,” he sipped his coffee.

“I’ll bet it has nothing to do with Waterloo, “being a close run thing,” I offered.

“You’d have won your bet, young woman, “it doesn’t.”

“Publish and be damned,” I said feeling my stomach flip over.

“Give that lady a coconut,” he said pointing at me.

“I think his social standing may have given him the edge on me, plus having had affairs with several high status females, especially ones with whom Bonaparte also had affairs, may have actually enhanced his reputation. Being labelled as transsexual in the local rag is unlikely to do much for mine, let alone Simon’s.”

“It was he who wanted you and your furry vermin on the poster.”

“My furries aren’t vermin, they’re a protected species.”

“Okay, protected vermin.” He was deliberately winding me up and as usual, I was falling for it. Why did I never see it coming until I had become annoyed? It was real blind spot, just like hunting, I got angry very quickly. I found the arrogance of humans towards other creatures to be insufferable, especially as it was based on religious grounds at one time and had progressed from there. To me ‘owning’ a fellow living creature was like having slaves, morally abhorrent. We could be responsible for other creatures because they didn’t appear to have our levels of sophistication. But ownership is something I do with inanimate objects only. I can own a bike but not a dog or cat; they could be my pets or companions but my chattels—no!

I was a little lost in my own world of subjective values when the professor nudged me under the table. “Oh!” I jumped.

“I began to wonder if you were doing some self-hypnosis in order to stay in my company? Am I that poor a dinner host?”

I blushed. “Of course not, you’re a lovely companion; I’m just tired after last night and then the exam today.”

“Of course you are, my dear. How selfish of me to keep you from your bed, although I’m envious that I won’t be getting into it with you.” He winked, implying that it was simply his joke, except that I suspected it was true. It astonished me that anyone could find me sexually attractive, especially when they knew the truth.

It worried me a little about Simon, although he had supposedly fancied me before he knew, which had amused Stella so much. The professor had no such an alibi, he knew from the beginning, so was he bisexual? It was of course, none of my business, but that didn’t stop me from wondering.

I got home at midnight and after hanging up the dress, dived into bed and fell asleep in moments. I would still have been there if the doorbell hadn’t been ringing so loudly.

I had combined it into a dream, I was desperately trying to find which room in this huge building was the toilet, and a ladies’ one. Then I was startled to hear the fire alarm, and was racing around the place trying to find the loo and the fire exit. I needed to go very badly and it would be just my luck to burn to death with a full bladder.

Eventually, consciousness won and I awoke, stumbling to the loo while calling to door to “hang on a second.” The flush was still running as I opened the door. I squinted through bleary eyes at Stella.

“Cathy, why aren’t you dressed?”

“What time is it?”

“Seven thirty, I thought we were going to Bath?”

“What for, as Simon is in hospital, I’m not gonna meet your parents, am I?”

“Yes you are, they’re coming down tomorrow to see him and are taking us to dinner afterwards.”

“Oh bugger!” I said and let her in.

“Come on get yourself showered and dressed, I’ll put the kettle on.”

“I’m not going.” I decided to dig my heels in.

“Yes you are now get yourself into gear.”

“Stella, I know what I am doing and going to Bath, is not one of them.”

“What?”

“I am too fucking tired to go anywhere, besides I don’t want to.”

“But what about tomorrow?”

“What about it?”

“Wouldn’t you like something new to wear to meet my father and stepmother?”

“Not really. If they can’t take me as I am, then I’m afraid they’ll have to leave me. Dressing me up in designer clothes won’t turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.”

“Don’t you want to meet them?”

“I’ll willingly meet them and stay polite and courteous to them because they’re your parents.”

“Okay, what’s wrong with them?” she went on the defensive.

“Nothing as far as I know, I just think I shall be out of my depth with them. They’re sophisticates, I’m not. Until I met you, the only designer label I had was on my cycling shoes.”

She thought that was hilarious and laughed loudly. “Don’t be silly, they’re no more sophisticated than you, just richer.”

“I don’t know one end of a canapé from the other and as for hors d’oeuvres, well I’m a total ignoramus.”

“We won’t be having either of those tomorrow.”

“If we were I wouldn’t know anyway. I don’t operate in those rarefied circles.” I could feel myself getting hotter as I became more embarrassed.

“My father will absolutely love you.” She beamed a very superior smile at me and I wanted to slap her.

“How can you possibly know that?” I challenged.

“How can you say he won’t?” she countered and I knew she had me there.

“I’m a prole who disapproves of capitalist excesses and…”

“He disapproves of it too,” she smiled.

“But he has how many homes?”

“He only lives in one; the others have to pay their way.”

“By slaughtering wildlife,” I said moving away from her gaze to make the tea.

“Not wildlife, but birds bred for shooting. He gets very angry if anyone harms wild birds on the estate.”

“It’s a different world,” I said feeling out-gunned by her, so how was it going to be like with her father.

“What has that got to do with it? He’s only a man, a rather wealthy one, I’ll admit, but a man nonetheless.”

“So what are you trying to tell me?” We both sat at the table and began drinking our tea.

“Look, when he found out that Simon was going out with someone, he contacted me for a report.”

“Oh my God!” I groaned and held my head in my hands, “He’ll have detectives on to me next. Et tu Stella.”

“I didn’t betray you Cathy. All I told him was that I had met you, that you were a very clever and beautiful lady and I liked you. He said he wanted to meet you.”

“Why? It’s arguable that Simon and I are barely dating, we’ve only been out a few times. It’s only a few weeks since you tried to kill me! Why should he want to meet me?”

“I told him you rode racing bikes.”

“Yeah, so?”

“He did in his youth, he still rides occasionally. So anyone who rides a bike has got to be okay.”

I felt as if I was digging myself deeper into my hole, Stella easily countered everything I said.

“Why did you tell him I was clever?”

“You’re doing a PhD for Chrissake, you’re hardly a moron are you?”

“I haven’t got it yet, I might not.”

“Oh come on, Professor Agnew thinks you will. They gave you a distinction for your master’s, you are pretty bright however much you deny it. As for the false modesty about your looks, well,” she rolled her eyes, “it’s all false modesty. You just like to soak up the praise.”

I felt my eyes begin to water and a drop of scalding brine ran down my cheek and dripped onto my lap. Stella spotted the next one and realised she had gone too far. She looked sheepish for a moment.

“I’m sorry Cathy,” she went to put her arm around me and I pushed her away. “I forget you’re rather new to all this, you seem so natural at it.”

Her comments weren’t helping the wound she had inflicted a sentence or two before. I was so happy to be who I felt I was meant to be, but coping with the reactions of others was a new experience. Being found desirable after a lifetime of disappointing others, was baffling to me. It was lovely, I think, but I didn’t trust it, because they could denounce me in a moment too.

I wasn’t into false modesty. My modesty was real and genuine because that was how I was brought up. Do my best but not give way to flattery or conceit. Praise didn’t happen in my world. How could I tell that to someone who had probably spent her whole life being told she was special by someone who had also been told the same and believed it?

I was only special because I was a freak, one of a tiny number of people who thought they were in the wrong body. I wasn’t special, I was weird, so how could anyone find me attractive let alone love me? Not unless they were a bit strange themselves. Add to this, I was damaged by my parents with no self-esteem and probably other flaws and I am bad news to any sort of relationship. I didn’t know what Simon could see in me, so what the hell could his father want with me except to warn me off. I was becoming frightened of him and didn’t want to meet him at all.

“Can you give my apologies to your parents, I can’t do this.”

“Yes you can, I think you’ll actually like my dad.”

“I don’t want to do it.”

“C’mon Cathy, it will be fun, you’ll see.”

“But I don’t want to, why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me? I don’t bloody well want to, is that clear?” I slammed my mug onto the table and ran into the bathroom, slamming the door after me and locking it. I sat on the toilet seat and wept.

“Cathy, please come out,” she called through the door, knocking gently on it.

“Go away,” I shouted back and cried some more.

“If that’s what you want.” I heard her shut my front door.

Now I really was depressed, I had nearly got the man I loved killed in a shooting accident, then driven away his sister, one of the only friends I had and an incredibly jealous one. I didn’t deserve to be happy, I was a total waste of space. Maybe things would have been better if they had shot me instead and finished my misery, instead of my lovely man?

I stepped out of the door and started when I saw Stella sat at my table reading my master’s dissertation. “This is very good you know,” she remarked turning over a page.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part Lost Count (114)

“I thought you’d gone,” I stated feeling very surprised; Stella seemed to outmanoeuvre me at every turn.

“Who me, nah, are you making any more tea?”

“So who shut the front door then?”

“I did, I was going to leave but changed my mind.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted to apologise and talk to you.”

“Apologies accepted, but I’m not sure I want to talk to anyone at the moment.”

“Okay, then you can listen.” Before I could say anything, she added, “and while you’re at it make some more tea.”

“Yes your Majesty,” I said making a curtsey.

Until I was sat back at the table with a steaming mug of tea in front of me, and one in front of Stella, the only conversation was banter.

“Now I don’t want you to interrupt, just pin back your lug-holes and listen.” I nodded and pretended to zip up my mouth. “Do that and you won’t be able to drink your tea, now behave and listen.

“When I first met you, I wasn’t quite sure who or what you were, and you were kind enough to confide in me your true status, which was female. It seemed you were overwhelmed by someone who wasn’t fazed by your revelation, and you opened up to me even more. I still feel very privileged to have been one of the few people who know the full story.

“I’m also privileged to be involved in the emergence of a beautiful butterfly from the caterpillar I first met. I’m not given to complimenting other women unless it is true, you are turning into a very beautiful woman. You are also growing into the role very nicely. So nicely, that at times I forget you aren’t a full female yet, it’s very easy because you are so natural. But you are also inexperienced and that shows at times. However, that will all come with time and practice.

“You have also become a good friend to me in a very short time, who also happens to be more or less the same dress size, which is useful for dumping my old clothes.” She winked at my goldfish impression.

“However, you have become important to Simon, which has another facet to my relationship with you. It is nice for me to have my brother going out with a friend of mine because I get to see you more often and Simon encourages our friendship. So everyone benefits.

“Simon has gone for you in a big way, bigger than anyone else I can think of and whilst that may be a mixed blessing, I believe you feel as deeply for him.”

I found myself beginning to tear up again and nodded at her statement.

“I honestly believe you two are good together, and while it’s early days to be talking about a long-term relationship, it’s possible.”

I shrugged my shoulders, who could say?

“In fact, Simon has been with you longer than most of his other dates. Okay, we can’t read too much into that, but it has to be a positive thing. Of course our father, who isn’t in heaven but Hampstead, it’s like heaven but dearer, has been wanting to see him settled down with someone for ages. So, he wants to meet the woman who is having such a beneficial effect upon his son. He is also intrigued by the descriptions of this lovely, young woman. He may be my dad, but he’s also a man, if you get my drift. I don’t mean you can’t trust him, he’ll flirt given the chance but that’s all. My stepmother has him firmly under control.”

Somehow this pep talk was still making me nervous of meeting her dad, who was an aristocrat and a roué. I don’t want that sort of attention, Simon is enough for me and because he knows, I can relax with him. My female social skills were far from developed yet I felt I was being steamrollered into meeting with Lord and Lady Stanebury. I was very conscious that I was relatively gauche compared to them and worried I might commit a faux pas and have it reflect on Simon.

“So I would like you to meet with them. They are actually very nice, even though I say so myself, once you meet my dad, you’ll see where Simon gets it from, the charm I mean.”

I decided as she paused that I had listened enough, “Look it’s all very well to tell me all this but it doesn’t stop me feeling uncomfortable. I am not at all sure it’s a good idea and I should hate it to reflect upon Simon, just because I prove to be a prat.”

“Simon isn’t going to be there is he? So how can you embarrass him?”

“They might discharge him from hospital,” I said defensively.

“If they did, he would be at home and fast asleep. He won’t be out and about for weeks.”

“Oh!” I deferred to her superior medical experience. Then when I considered his injuries, it was rather obvious. He wouldn’t be able to come out to play for some time. But that could mean I get my proposal finished more quickly, except I shall want to nurse him, damn, I hadn’t thought that through and what about my own father? Would I have time to breathe with all this hospital visiting? I was going to have to organise myself!

“Right Cathy, please go and shower and dress and we can go and grab a bite somewhere then go and see the prodigal son.”

“Is he prodigal?”

“Yeah, sort of, he and my dad fell out when Dad told us he was getting married again. It took them a few years to come back together.”

“Don’t tell me with your mediation?” I offered, impressed with her negotiating skills.

“My step-ma helped too, she wanted us to work as a family.”

“And do you?”

“A dysfunctional one.” She laughed, “We’re like the Simpsons on steroids!”

The concept of anything that awful was so funny that I laughed out loud and then began to giggle, so did she. It was several minutes before we had things back under control.

I showered and dressed, tidily enough for lunch and off we went. Stella insisted on driving, she had the Saab. If Simon knew, he’d be very uneasy, he was when he learned I’d been driving it.

Of course, we ended up at the shops and she practically twisted my arm off to buy a new outfit or three. I bought a rather slinky dark green velvet dress, which with the right sort of accessories could be a smart day dress or even a cocktail one in the evening, except no one I know does cocktails. I hope it stays that way.

I bought a lovely embroidered blouse in Laura Ashley and skirt in Oasis. Then in Wallis, I saw a winter coat I really fell in love with, a rich red greatcoat style coat. Stella was very taken with it.

We had lunch and chatted, then it was off to the hospital and Simon. How was he going to cope with both of us?

On the way to see him, I called Southmead and they were still in isolation with the ‘Noro B’ virus or something like that, a nasty diarrhea and vomiting illness, with projectile vomiting! Yuck. Dad had stayed clear of it so far, but he wasn’t as well not seeing me. I thanked the nurse I spoke to and asked her to tell him I had phoned.

When we got to the ward, we had a meeting with the doctor and ward sister about Simon, who was nagging them about going home. Stella then volunteered to take a fortnight off to have him come home, if I would do the weekends, to give her a break. I could hardly refuse, could I? However, this wouldn’t start until next week as they wanted to observe him a little longer.

Stella handled Simon with great skill; she was a real negotiator and always got her way, running rings around her older sibling. He agreed to keep quiet for a few more days and she would consider applying for some outstanding leave and I would cover for her at weekends, to give her some time off.

Once Simon heard that bit of the deal, he agreed to it immediately asking for it in writing. We stayed for an hour and a half, by which time he was quite tired and began nodding off. We took our leave and Stella dropped me off at my room, dreading the following day and her parents.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 115

(that’s 12×9.58333’ for other dozen fetishists)

Cathy has an encounter on the stairs and a poor night’s sleep.

As I walked up the stairs to my room, rapid footsteps were coming down; they belonged to the two hooligans with whom I shared the building. “Well look who has deigned to come back,” said Big Mac.

I felt a little afraid of him with Simon in hospital.

“And without the boyfriend to protect you,” he laughed and so did his sidekick.

I decided to just try and brazen it out and began to attempt to push past them. The sidekick moved to block my way. Looking at my shopping bags, Big Mac said, “Ooh, Wallis and Laura Ashley, only the best for our little girlfriend here.”

“Excuse me,” I said trying to manoeuvre past sidekick, but he just moved to block me. I was still frightened about what they might do and decided that attack might just be the best form of defence.

I switched my bags to my left hand—if they had any brains they might have seen what was coming, they didn’t do either. “Excuse me,” I said loudly and they both just laughed. With that I grabbed hard at the groin of sidekick pulled and twisted, throwing him into the arms of his larger friend, squealing as he went. “I did try to be nice,” I said and walked on up the stairs.

It was a high-risk strategy but it seemed to work as the smaller one was still whimpering and his friend laughing at him, as I walked up the stairs to my room. It was only when I got there and safely locked the door that I could laugh too. That was twice I had bested him, once when he jumped on Simon and I tried to implant his head in the pavement, and now. Either he would now give me a wide berth or come back harder. I hoped it was the former.

I had a cuppa and despite laughing earlier, I noticed my hand was actually shaking as I tried to drink the tea. I hung up my newest clothes and went to the fridge; it was pretty well bare unless I wanted the remains of a piece of mouldy cheese and some cream crackers. I needed to go to the shop.

I had a cloth bag which was quite substantially made, and I put my purse in it. I also put in a paperweight, a piece of polished Portland stone: it made a suitable defensive weapon if needed. Then very warily, I stepped out of my door and down the steps.

My defence wasn’t needed and I spent a few minutes chatting to my shopkeeper about all sorts of things. I bought some mushrooms and eggs plus a few potatoes, more milk and some chocolate. Then back to my room, planning on an omelette for my meal. I absentmindedly checked my mailbox and found a couple of things.

The stairs were clear this time: they’d presumably gone down the union or some pub. I put away my shopping and looked at my post, my stomach flipped as I recognised the writing on one of them. I put it down and picking up my rubber gloves from the sink donned them before opening it.

‘Some girls never learn, but then you’re not a girl are you?

An ill-wisher.’

I put it with the others and placed them in a clean plastic bag I have to put sandwiches in. This time I kept the envelope as well, although it had been sent by Royal Mail. “Much more of these and I shall visit the police,” I told myself. In reality, I had no idea who it was and while I accepted they didn’t like what I was doing in transitioning, and they had a right to that view, sending nasty mail is illegal. I shuddered when I wondered what sort of mind would bother with such a hate-mail campaign. I was pretty sure it wasn’t my two fellow residents. It seemed they still didn’t know my past, and it was too sophisticated for them. No this looked like the work of another woman, but who?

I checked my webcam in the mailboxes: it continued doing its job and I had another flash of the postman’s bald head as he placed my mail in its receptacle.

I made my meal and ate it. I was washing up when my mobile rang. I half dreaded it ringing in case it was bad news about my dad or Simon. It was Stella—you’d have thought that after she spent all day with me, she’d have been talked out, but apparently not. She yacked on endlessly about nothing in particular and I wondered about telling her of the latest poison pen letter. In the end I didn’t, and when I cautioned her that my battery was going to run flat, she said, “Oh yes, I’ll pop around about eleven and do your hair for you.”

Before I could answer my phone went dead. I looked for the charger, but it wasn’t where I normally kept it. That in itself annoyed me, because I usually put things in their place. In a small dwelling like mine, it was essential to keep things tidy or there was no space.

I searched high and low and could not locate it. I therefore assumed I’d taken it up to Bristol. I did have a kit I could charge from the cigarette lighter in the car, in the glove box of the car, so I pulled on a jacket and nipped down to the car. It only took a few moments to set up, and I hid it under the seat while it charged up.

Normally, something like this wouldn’t worry me, but tonight I felt spooked. I almost got in the car and drove over to Stella’s to be with someone, but she’d told me she was going out. I had little alternative but to go back to my room and lock it up. I used my security device, the scaffolding pole against the door, and waited for the morning to come.

I had things I could do but they were essentially distractions: washing out my underwear, doing a few emails that sort of thing. I even went into an online chat room and spent an hour talking to other transgender people.

I used the nickname of ‘Minnie Mouse’ which was close to my little furry friends without being too close to link back to me. I discussed how others coped with difficult people, not those who rejected us, that was their right but those who attacked us, verbally or otherwise.

After listening to the experiences of others, I thought myself quite fortunate. In reality, the only difficulties I’d had were from the poison pen writer and a couple of remarks in college. Most others seemed to accept what they saw. I suppose I was lucky really, I passed reasonably well while some of the other conversants didn’t, apparently. One showed a picture of herself—to me it looked like a man in makeup and a wig. Although I couldn’t bring myself to comment, I could see how they might have problems with youths.

I mentioned my nasty letters and they all said I should go to the police. I admitted that I was fortunate in being quite passable, but declined from showing a picture. I didn’t actually have one and if I had I wouldn’t have shown it. When they badgered me some more, I managed to find one of the Walt Disney character and posted that. Thankfully they all found it funny. Then I signed off.

I was going to the bathroom when I first heard it, a small scratching sound. Thinking it was mice, I stopped to listen—it wasn’t and it was coming from my front door!

I shuddered, it was coming from my door. It sounded like someone was trying to undo the screws in the lock on the door. I listened, and it was certainly coming from that place.

I quietly checked the pole, it was solid and without some form of axe or battering ram, they wouldn’t get in. However, I was going to have an uncomfortable night by the sound of it. I grabbed the large screwdriver and after changing into my tee shirt and jeans, went and lay on the bed.

I did manage some sleep, but it didn’t feel like it. I woke at about ten and after showering and slipping on some fresh jeans and tee shirt waited for Stella to arrive. I was nodding off as the doorbell rang and it jolted me awake.

“Stella?” I called.

“Yes, who else are you expecting?”

I moved the bar and opened the door; she motioned me out and pointed at my door. Hanging there was a large bra with a message scrawled on the door in felt pen, ‘Santa please fill these for me, cos mine won’t.’

It was swinging freely on the door from a draught caused by an open window. That was the scratching I could hear. It was probably the retaliation I had half-expected from the boys along my corridor. I removed it and cleaned off the graffito.

Stella wasn’t impressed with their idea of a joke and it was as much as I could do to stop her protesting to them. I then told her what happened on my way up the stairs and she laughed.

“Come on girl, we’ve got to get you looking beautiful for your prospective in-laws.”

“Stella, until I am legally reassigned as female, I can’t marry anyone, especially Simon. That is a long way off, and many gallons of water will flow under the bridge before then. So don’t hold your breath.”

“It’s all just technicalities,” was her response.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 116.00000000000000000000000000

Cathy meets the in-laws?

If Stella was half as good at nursing as she was with hair, she would make Florence Nightingale look a total amateur. She trimmed my hair and styled it, much as before but with a little of a wave in it. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to restore this after I next washed it.

“Next weekend you’re down to look after Simon, so I’ll put some new highlights in your hair.”

“If you’ve got time,” I agreed.

“Yeah, I’ll make time for my Sis-’n-law,” she giggled and I tried not to respond because it would only encourage her. But try as I might, her laugh was infectious and soon I was cackling too.

“What are you going to wear?” she asked having finished my hair and sipping the tea I’d made.

“I thought jeans and a sweatshirt, I mean it isn’t formal is it?” It was an attempt at a wind-up, which I suspected would fail miserably.

“If they are by Armani or Dior, that’s fine,” she countered.

“So British Home Stores best and Top Shop won’t do then?”

“Sadly not,” she said her arms folded and her foot tapping in mock irritation.

“I have some designer gear your dad would like,” the snigger I made gave the game away.

“I suppose this has ‘Saunier Duval’ on the front of it?”

“No, ‘Nike’ but you were close. It’s a little black number.” I continued to tease her.

“It’s a cycling shirt?”

“Awwwww you guessed,” I threw up my hands in pretend disappointment.

“Follow me,” she said marching into my bedroom.

“This with black shoes and bag, and hurry about it,” she glanced at her watch, “Yes get a move on girl or we’re going to be late.”

It still gave me a buzz to be called a ‘girl’, even by Stella who knew my origins. I picked up the green velvet dress and pulled it on; she stepped behind me and did up the zipper. “You look really nice in that,” she said stepping back to admire the view.

I slipped on a silver neck chain and matching bracelet, that were originally my mother’s. It felt good to have something of hers with me at times; I still missed her but tried not to dwell on it. I still didn’t know if she would have understood or not. I knew damn well my father didn’t, he tolerated me because he needed me. I tolerated him because I loved him, he was my dad.

I did my makeup quite quickly, and Stella nodded her approval. “You’re getting the hang of makeup pretty quickly.”

“I had a good teacher,” I smarmed back and she poked her tongue out at me. A quick spray of smellies—this time Anais Anais—I grabbed my bag and my black jacket and we left.

I got my phone from the car en route to the Saab, of which Stella seemed to have claimed ownership. Simon won’t be too happy if he knew, I thought, but at least I didn’t have to drive.

It seems incongruous to think I was introduced to Lord and Lady Stanebury over a hospital bed. They were already there when we arrived; Stella had noticed his large black Audi in the car park and pointed it out to me.

“Wot no Roller?” I huffed in feigned surprise.

“Do you know how expensive those things are to run? A few miles to the gallon! He’s got an even larger Mercedes as well, but it’s expensive to run, so he potters about in the Audi; she has one of the little ones, the TT or whatever they call them.”

I knew what she meant, a car beloved of old men who are trying to rekindle some flagging libido or women who need to announce their importance to the world. I was more than content with my little A class Mercedes and my Scott.

We chatted idly as we wove our way to the ward where Simon was already talking with his parents. We walked in, our heels clicking in unison upon the linoleum floors. Stella saw her father look around and called, “Daddy, Monica,” then upped her pace to give her father a huge hug, then a smaller one to her stepmother. I trailed behind, feeling like a condom in a fertility clinic.

Simon saw me, and held out his hand and I rushed to hold it. “Dad, Monica, this is Miss Cathy Watts, dormouse connoisseur extraordinaire. Cathy, this is my father and stepmother.”

Holding on to his hand with my left hand, I shook hands with my right first with his lordship and her ladyship. “Henry Cameron, at your service,” he bowed and kissed my hand. I blushed as deep as the crimson top his wife was wearing. “You are every bit as beautiful as your description.”

If it was possible to blush more than I already was, I was doing it. I was giving off enough heat to start a nuclear fusion experiment. While squeezing Simon’s hand almost until the bones cracked, I had just enough brain cells functioning to think, that he was every bit as much a charmer as his reputation suggested.

“I wouldn’t believe all you hear, Lord Stanebury,” I said still blushing.

“Normally I would agree with you one hundred per cent, but not in this case; if anything you exceed your description.” At this point Stella coughed loudly, “As do you my lovely daughter.”

“Father, late as ever,” she said rolling her eyes.

He shrugged his shoulders and his eyes twinkled at his daughter and something magical passed between them, something unsaid but implicit to both of them. I felt jealous; this was unlikely ever to  happen between my father and me.

“I do like your top, Lady Stanebury.” I tried to bring her into the conversation.

“Thank you Cathy, and do call me Monica.” She looked a little more happy after being included.

“Oh God yes, I’m Henry and she’s Monica and this little dumpling is Stella and that useless lump, lying on his backside, is my son wotsisname?” They all laughed at this but I felt it was a little cruel.

“I’m afraid that’s my fault.”

“Why you didn’t shoot him did you?” asked Henry.

“No, no of course not.” I blushed again.

“Good, you’ll need to get in the queue my lovely, and I’m first. Eh laddie?” he said to Simon. Then they all roared again, so much so that one of the nurses came over to see what the noise was all about. She politely chided us and went back up the ward.

“Right, I believe we have a luncheon appointment with these two lovely ladies. So my boy, get better soon or I’ll sack you.” The twinkle was in his eye again as he spoke to Simon.

“You couldn’t afford to do that Dad, I make you too much money.” Simon squeezed my hand.

“Perhaps,” muttered the peer, “I’ll keep you on a bit longer then.” Then he patted his son on the head, Monica kissed Simon on the cheek and they went off with Stella leaving Simon and me alone.

“Come back and see me this evening if you can escape my awful family.”

“I’ll do what I can,” I said and kissed him longingly.

“Better still, stay here and do that, I’ll get better a lot quicker,” he said breathlessly.

I reluctantly took my hand from his and blowing him a kiss almost ran down the ward back towards the car.

“He needed the kiss of life and no one else would volunteer,” I said jumping into the car.

“I don’t blame them, I certainly wouldn’t,” Stella replied, “Did the patient make it?”

“I think so, but his position is critical.”

“Yeah, that’s his problem.”

“What is?” I asked.

“Being over critical.” She snorted and started up the car.

“Where are your parents?”

“What call me Henry, etcetera?”

“Is there something wrong?”

“Oh no, you are well in there, either the old fart has mellowed beyond description or he likes you.”

“Oh!” was all I could say.

“Oh he’s a charmer, so take no notice of him, he loves to flirt but Monica will stop him getting too boisterous. He’s a bit like a randy Labrador and she keeps him on a short lead. So you’re in no danger. But at the same time I wouldn’t encourage him, or you’ll make an enemy of Monica for life. Not a good plan: she resembles an elephant in more than just looks.”

“She resembles an elephant? I thought she was quite an elegant lady.”

“Yes but didn’t you notice the proboscis, her trunk. Simon and I always smile about it.”

“No I didn’t think her nose was that big.”

“It isn’t now, she had it made smaller, plastic surgery. Still, she gave you a good once over.”

“Did she, I didn’t notice.”

“Oh yes, it seems you passed muster and bringing her into the conversation was definitely worth a few brownie points. She won’t forget that, so you have a good standing in the stakes for Simon’s paw in holy deadlock.”

“You keep marrying me off; we hardly know each other yet!” I protested.

“No but I do know Simon.”

“I should hope so being his sister.”

“And I also know the pair of harpies you just met: everyone they meet is viewed as suitable matrimonial material.”

“I hope not, maybe I should put them straight on that.”

“What are you going to say, ‘Sorry I can’t marry him until I finish my gender transition’? Somehow I don’t think it would go down too well.”

“No just say my career comes first and I’m a bit busy for the next two or three years.”

Stella just giggled, “We’re here,” she noted as we drew into the car park of the biggest hotel in Southsea.

“I’ve never been in here before,” I said as we got out of the car.

“Cheapskate,” offered Stella.

“Eh?” I looked very confused at her.

“The bank owns this chain of hotels; he gets a significant discount when he uses it.”

“Oh!” I goldfished, I had a lot to learn about big business.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 117

by Bonzi with sex scenes by Tiddles

the porno kitten

Cathy gets to know the family!

“You mean he owns this place?” I gasped.

“Not quite, the bank does, he’s just the majority shareholder of the bank.”

“So he owns it?” I repeated.

“About half of it; come on or we’ll miss the peasants touching their forelocks.”

“What?”

“The staff arse kissing,” she sniggered.

“I don’t know if I want to see that Stella.”

“Come on, they’ll give us a good meal.”

“I think I may have lost my appetite.”

“You can’t go all precious on me now girl.”

I still buzzed when she called me that; I suppose one day I might just get used to it. “I really don’t know about this Stella.”

“Come on, you can do it,” she grabbed me above the elbow and practically dragged me into the hotel lobby.

“Good afternoon Lady Stella,” said the hotel manager. I knew he was the hotel manager because his badge said so. He also looked slimy and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck bristle. He had such shiny shoes that he could almost see your face in them, and he could certainly see up your skirts with them. I shivered a little.

“Good afternoon Miss Watts,” he knew my name, damn!

“Good afternoon, Mr Pringle,” I read off his badge. If he appeared in my mammal count, I think it would have to be under rat, but that might be doing a disservice to Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus (black and brown rats respectively)—they only carry plague and hepatitis—he was far more dangerous. More like a viper in the graminae. [More like a snake in the grass!]

“Lord and Lady Stanebury are in the green room, please follow me.”

I followed his wobbling buttocks as he minced his way along the corridor. He was as bent as a four pound…! What was I thinking? Who was I to cast aspersions? He might be quee… gay, so what, that wasn’t why he was creepy, it was something else I couldn’t put my finger on, well not without wearing rubber gloves!

We followed into the green room, which was perhaps the top dining room. It was covered in ankle deep carpets, the walls were covered in paintings above the dado rail; below the Hessian wall cover must have cost a packet. It was green, and the gently subdued lighting made one feel relaxed almost immediately.

Although subdued, there was plenty of light to see across the restaurant and to where Simon’s parents were seated. They waved to us and Stella upped the pace of her step. Even in ridiculous heels, she could motor, whereas I, the tyro, limped along behind her. I bet I could beat her on a bike ride though, but not in this dress!

The manager eased the chairs behind us and Henry declared he’d already ordered for everyone, including the wine. That irritated me. I like to browse a menu to tickle my imagination, then look for the things I can afford. Even with Simon, I didn’t rob him, just because I could.

“What are we having?” I asked, feeling less hungry than I was anxious.

“Please wait and see dear lady, I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Henry laid on the charm but I suspect my eyes still registered some irritation or fear. “I also promise not to eat you, so do relax dear girl, you look so tense.”

“I’m not very good with surprises,” I said diffidently.

“But I beg to differ, you surprised Monica and me. We had been told you were attractive, but you aren’t, you are sublime.”

For a moment, I thought he was deriding me. I suspect my mouth dropped open. I hoped I wasn’t dribbling on my dress.

“I told you she was extremely pretty Daddy,” protested Stella.

“You did my darling daughter; you didn’t say she was absolutely stunning.”

I felt that in terms of colour, I was probably a shade brighter than Monica’s ruffled silk top. I glanced at her and she was smiling benignly at me.

“I do hope you are going to front the posters and leaflets for this project. We are investing quite a lot of money in it and it would mean so much to me, to know that we had authenticity as well as beauty on the cover.”

If I hadn’t been so stunned, I would probably have laughed. Authenticity? Me? Ha bloody ha! I’m a fake, ersatz, what a laugh! I glanced again at Monica and at her nose, I gazed at her nose—Oh God what was I doing?

I managed to cough and it broke the spell. I was still blushing and embarrassed but had missed Henry and Stella’s last few comments.

“The poor girl is embarrassed Henry, leave her in peace,” my ally was Monica of all people. Perhaps she hadn’t seen me mesmerised by her nose.

“Very well darling, but only if she agrees to model for me, I mean for us, I mean for the posters.”

“I really don’t feel comfortable about it.” I said blushing even brighter than before. I was beginning to wonder if they would have to rename it the pink room with all the heat I was giving off. I felt incredibly hot. A little dribble of sweat ran down my back and I knew my bra was sticking to my breasts. I prayed my perfume would keep me smelling sweet.

“Cathy also rides a bike Daddy,” Stella offered changing the subject but not far enough away from the previous one, me!

“Well lots of students do dear; I did as a student at Cambridge.”

“No I mean she rides a real bike.”

“What do you mean darling? Just what sort of bike do you ride Cathy?”

“I have a Scott.”

“Oh an American thing?”

“Yes,” I agreed, why couldn’t they talk about someone else?

“Go on tell him, it’s one of those plastic things, light as a feather, drop handlebars and loads a gears.”

Henry’s eyes lit up again, “You ride a race bike?”

I nodded.

“Do you race?”

“I’m not very good.” I blushed again, why couldn’t I have left my door locked this morning?

“She is Daddy, you should have seen her in the inter-varsity race, she beat loads.”

“My my, what an interesting young lady you are, full of surprises. Beauty, brains and a sense of competition. How interesting.” Nothing he said made me feel more relaxed or more fond of him, if anything I felt more frightened and wished that I was somewhere else. Maybe I could choke to death on a fishbone or something?

Waiters arrived as if by a busload and suddenly our empty table became burdened with food, almost enough to make it groan under the weight of it. Plates were placed before each of us and Henry invited us to ‘dig in.’

It looked like he’d ordered the whole à la carte menu. The food was magnificent but my appetite was absent and I only grazed, finding most enthusiasm for the sorbet, which was heavenly.

I tried to engage Monica in conversation, “Are you involved in the bank as well?”

“Only in trying to empty my account,” laughed Henry. She blushed and shook her head.

I went back to my sorbet. I tried again, “Stella tells me you have a TT.”

“Yes,” she smiled and her husband interrupted with chapter and verse on its engine size and performance and how many dead flies were on its front bumper. How was it that with the exception of Simon, most other male dining companions were total bores? If Simon got his charm from his dad, I was giving him the elbow tonight. Somehow, I didn’t think that was likely.

What is it about middle-aged men that they feel compelled to impress younger women? Greg had done it and now Henry was at it. I almost felt my eyes glaze over and it wasn’t from the wine—I hadn’t drunk any.

I drifted while Stella and her father jousted at the table; Monica laughed politely on occasion, it drew me back to conscious awareness of where I was. Monica was gazing at me; no she was staring at me. I wondered if she had noticed something, did she spot the counterfeit? I felt myself colouring up again.

“Phew it’s warm in here,” I said fanning myself with a place mat, “I think I shall get some air, excuse me.” I rose from the table and Henry stood, his manners were impeccable.

I walked a little uneasily back across the room, clutching my little bag. I walked towards a sign which said, ‘toilets and fire exit.’ I assumed there would be an exit there somewhere and I could get some cool fresh air.

I found a French window which opened out onto balcony. I slipped through it and stood watching the sea in the distance, the fresh breeze cooling my sweaty body and I hoped restoring my energy.

I drifted down memory lane, well a sort of projected memory. I wondered how my parents would really feel about me, would they see me as a pretty woman or an abomination?

“Are you okay Cathy?” The voice made me start, I was so wrapped in my daydream. “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you jump.” I spun around and Monica was standing behind me.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come out,” I apologised, blushing yet again and feeling my heart thumping in my chest, I was sure my left boob was jumping from the pressure.

“We were a little worried about you, you went a bit pale.”

“I’ll be okay, it was just so warm in there.”

“Henry and Stella were so absorbed in their conversation, I thought I’d come and check on you.”

While that statement in my usual paranoid state could mean any number of things, I took it at face value.

“You like Stella don’t you?”

“Well,” I began, “she nearly killed me, she is incredibly bossy and devious and drops me in it all the time… How am I doing?”

Monica laughed, “She does tend to overwhelm one somewhat, but that is the Camerons. All or nothing.”

I almost felt like challenging her as to why she was really standing with me. I knew in my water that she was holding back on something.

“You really are a very pretty girl,” she said staring again.

Oh shit! Now I knew why she was there.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 118?

by Bonzi’s Mum

Monica was smiling at me and I tried to avoid eye contact, perhaps not the best thing to do.

“Yes, very pretty,” she repeated and I could almost sense her licking her lips.

“I’m feeling a bit cold, I think I’d like to go back in now,” I said but she stood in the way.

“We could always go up to our suite if you need to freshen up, you looked awfully pale in there, is it wise to go back there?”

“Yes I think so, I didn’t sleep too well last night, a bad dream woke me up.” And a nightmare is stood in front of me now, I thought to myself.

“You could always come up and have a little nap, yes why don’t you? Stella and Henry will chat for hours, they always do.”

“I’m fine thank you Monica, besides if I sleep now, I won’t tonight.”

“You don’t need to sleep, I could give you little massage, you feel so tense,” she squeezed my shoulder, “you need to relax a little, massage is great for that, ask Stella.”

I felt my insides knot and I wanted to cringe. I have nothing against other people and what pops their buttons, but Monica did nothing for me, even with a nose job. I looked at my watch, “Goodness is that the time, I’ve got to call the hospital to see how my father is.”

“I see,” Monica frowned at me, “So pretty,” she sighed and I stepped around her and walked back into the hotel.

I called Southmead Hospital and was told that my father had the virus. My stomach churned, “Is there anything I can do?” I asked the nurse.

“Keep away for a week or so, we’ll let you know if anything happens.”

“What! Is anything likely to happen?” I felt quite anxious now.

“No of course not, but people who have had strokes can be susceptible to other things and these D and V bugs, can make them quite poorly.”

“But he’s hardly elderly, he’s only in his fifties, surely that makes a difference.”

“Yes of course, look Miss Watts, I’m not trying to alarm you I’m only trying to let you know that things can happen sometimes.”

“Yeah, okay, thanks I suppose. You have my mob…” I realised she’d rung off before I’d finished.

“Troubles Cathy?” asked the predatory Monica, “Anything I can do to help?”

“Not really, my dad’s caught a sickness bug at the hospital, Noro virus or something.”

“Oh dear, I am sorry. Is he very poorly?”

“A bit, he had a stroke about a month ago, so he needed this like bang on the head.”

“Indeed,” she put her arm around mine and pulled me gently back towards the restaurant, “come and have a drink and relax, worrying won’t make him feel any better and it will only put lines on that flawless face.”

“Eh?” I asked not having listened to a word she said.

We entered the dining area and Henry and Stella were still in animated conversation, so much so they didn’t hear or see us arrive. Monica grabbed a bottle of red wine and poured the two of us a glass each. I sipped a couple of mouthfuls and allowed the precious fluid to frolic on my taste buds before it vanished down my throat.

“Nice wine,” I said quietly.

“Yes we like nice things, Cathy.” She beamed a smile at me and I felt like saying, ‘that I wasn’t on offer, I was spoken for.’ Of course, I didn’t because, maybe Henry didn’t know about his wife, I wouldn’t like to be the one who broke the news. Besides, who am I to throw stones? However, it didn’t encourage me to want to make my relationship with Simon long-term, unless he could somehow warn her off? How do you say that to your boyfriend? I spent the next ten minutes winding that around my mind while savouring the delicious red wine.

“Oh you’re back!” exclaimed Stella noticing me at last.

“I have been back here drinking this delicious wine for the past twenty minutes.”

“You like the wine?” asked Henry.

“It’s gorgeous,” I said now on my second, or was it third, glass?

He gestured to a waiter and said something quietly to him; the waiter nodded and disappeared. Then he looked at his watch and said, “Get your stuff Monica, we need to head back to town.”

She did as she was told and then he stood up and hugged and kissed his daughter, and then I got the same treatment. I was a little tiddly by this time and giggled as he kissed my cheek. Then when Monica embraced and kissed Stella, I giggled some more, stopping abruptly when she grabbed me and kissed me on the cheek, whispering, “Next time perhaps?” I nearly fell over.

On the drive back, I asked Stella if I could ask a personal question.

“Oh do, they’re often the best sort.”

“Is your stepmother, you know, erm?” I blushed embarrassed even thinking about it.

“Is she gay?” sighed Stella, “She didn’t try it on did she?”

“Not in so many words,” I blushed to the roots of my hair.

“You’d have been such a disappointment to her,” she said dismissively and then threw me a smirk. That did it, I giggled so much I got hiccups.

Back at my room, she told me to collect up my stuff and come back to the cottage.

“I can’t do that, I’m over the limit.”

“I’ll drive,” she said.

“How will I get back?”

“I’ll drop you off tomorrow when I go into work.”

“What about Simon?”

“Nah, he’s still in hospital,” she piped and began throwing my clothes into a bag.

“I’m supposed to go back to see him.”

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“You’re joking?”

“No, I promised him I’d stop by and see him again tonight.”

“That means I have to take you to the hospital and then bring you on to the cottage?”

“No, I’ll get a taxi back here.”

“You are not staying here another night.”

“Why? I know who it was and what the noise was, so it doesn’t worry me now.”

“You don’t know who wrote these fucking things though do you, Miss Clever Dick?” She picked up the bag of anonymous letters.

“I’m sure they’ll get fed up when they see I’m ignoring them.”

“What if they don’t and decide to step up their campaign?”

“What, go to the papers?”

“I erm, hadn’t actually thought of that Cathy, but yes, what if they do go to the papers?”

“What were you thinking of Stella?” My mind felt a little muddled from the alcohol.

“It doesn’t matter,” she continued shovelling my stuff into a bag.

“Yes it does,” the room was feeling a bit unsteady.

“Why have you gone green Cat…? Oh shit, quickly the toilet.” She grabbed me and practically pushed me down the toilet, “Not on the dress, oh bugger!”

It was over an hour later that I appeared at Simon’s bedside probably feeling more sick than he did. “What happened to you?” he asked looking me up and down.

“Your stepmother,” I said pinching his water to pop another aspirin.

“Monica?”

“Yes, she got me tiddly and I was sick.” I blushed and the room began to move a bit. I sat down quickly but that jolted my head. I held it in my hands.

“Did she, erm do anything else?” he asked and was blushing when I finally looked up.

“Why didn’t you warn me?” I would have slapped him if he hadn’t been injured and I hadn’t felt so sick.

“I hoped she’d have got the point by realising that we’re an item. Did she embarrass you horribly?”

“A bit, why?”

“She is bonkers.”

“Since when is being gay, bonkers?” I felt even more muddled now.

“She is bisexual and sort of nympho, she’ll sleep with anything.”

“What even a tranny like me?” I was surprised.

He grabbed hold of my hand and looking me in the eye said, “Cathy, you’re a woman, period. It ain’t up for discussion, got that?”

“Is that because it could embarrass you?” I don’t know why I said that. It sort of fell out of my mouth.

“No it wouldn’t actually, because I love you.”

“What as I am? A freak?”

“You are no freak, you are the woman I love and while we can’t consummate that love just yet, we will one day.”

I stared deep into his eyes and almost fell into them. I don’t know if time stopped or just my heart because his eyes were the only thing in my consciousness, I felt him drawing my mind out of my head and into his heart, filling it with this special warmth and love and sending it back to me. It made my head feel very strange, light yet full of this warmth.

“Kiss me,” I managed to say, and he pulled me down to his lips.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 119

(Unlike the psalm of the same number

it won’t be the longest episode)

by Bonzi & Tiddles

Games and yet more games!

For the best part of the hour remaining, Simon and I talked and talked, with occasional kisses in between when we thought no one was watching.

“When I get out of here, you are coming to live with Stella and me.”

“I can’t,” I protested.

“Why can’t you?”

“It’s too far to cycle to college every day.”

“This is being said by a woman who cycled out past us just for a bit of a spin, when Stella tried to kill you?”

“I don’t ride that far every day and in the dark and wet it can be dangerous. Remember Stella knocked me off when it was raining.”

“You have the use of a car.”

“I know that, but I try not to use it any more than I need to.”

“Why?”

“I just don’t, global warming and all that, I don’t know. I’m a cyclist first and foremost and while it’s a lovely little car, I like to ride when I can. It also means the car will last longer, if I don’t use it too much.”

Simon looked at me and shook his head, groaning because something hurt when he moved.

“Are you all right?” I asked almost panicking.

“No, some bastard shot me, remember?”

“Oh yeah,” I blushed and tried to ease his pain, giving him a kiss. I don’t know if it helped but it shut him up for a few seconds.

“I turn my back for a few moments and this happens!” We broke apart and without looking, we both recognised the voice.

“They’ve been at it like bunnies whenever they think no one is looking,” called a nurse as she passed.

“Bloody nurses, they’re all liars,” I said for the benefit of present company.

“I’d withdraw that remark unless you want me to get one of my colleagues to murder your boyfriend.”

“You could get struck off for that!” I gasped, although I knew it was all in jest, it still horrified me.

“Nah, they only do that if you sleep with underage patients.”

“Don’t worry sweetie pie,” said Simon reassuringly, “she’s been trying to kill me ever since we were nippers. You got closer to it at a first attempt.”

I stood blushing and feeling awful and Stella nearly collapsed laughing; Simon started to laugh then realised it hurt his sternum. He moaned and groaned and I simply stared at him and said, “Serves you jolly well right.”

“And you want me to move in with you pair of psychopaths?”

“Who does?” said a surprised Stella.

“I do, I think she’d be far safer living with us.”

“Yeah, there’s room,” agreed Stella.

“Can I think about it?” I pleaded.

“You’ve had hours to think about it.”

“Hours! I’ve only been here an hour.”

“Well I was close, just one letter out,” said Simon who chuckled and then groaned. I poked my tongue out at him.

“Right girl,” said Stella, the g word still making the hair on my neck stand up on end. “Give him a last kiss and then let’s go home.”

“Erm, okay,” I accepted reluctantly. I kissed Simon again and with a subdued passion, being supervised by his sister. I think he felt the same.

“Come back without the witch next time,” he whispered but loud enough for its intended target to hear it.

“I can’t,” I loudly hissed back, “it’s her broomstick we’re using.”

“Remember it’s a long walk to Portsmouth from the cottage,” she smiled at me, “S’long bruv,” she said to Simon and pecked his cheek. “Come on urchin,” she said to me.

“I’m not an urchin,” I protested as we walked back to the car.

“Have you seen your hair?”

“No, why…? Oh my God,” I said as I saw myself in a dark window, my makeup was all smeared and my hair was mostly standing on end.

“You look like you just finished a wrestling match with Monica.”

“Ouch!” We walked on a little further when I added, “Is there any way we could get a restraining order on her?”

“I don’t think so, what for?”

“Attempted cannibalism,” I replied.

Stella stopped in her tracks, “What are you on about girl?”

“The way she was licking her lips, I wondered if she was going to eat me. It was like watching a female Hannibal Lecter, or whatever his name was.”

“Didn’t I mention she’s as randy as bull on Sildenafil?”

“On what? And no you didn’t.”

“Sorry about that, oh that’s Viagra.” She smirked at me and we continued out to the car.

“You set me up, you rat!”

“I did not, you went off on your own, and she went a few moments later. I wondered if you were trying something new.”

“You WHAT?”

“Well, play the field a little while the cat’s away, you know.”

I exploded. “How dare you even think that, I love Simon and I certainly don’t want anything to do with that over-sexed old cow!”

She stood there grinning and I realised I’d reacted exactly as planned, she’d got me again.

“You…, you…, bitch!” I managed before she roared with laughter and I laughed as well. I wanted to hit her, but it’s not very ladylike.

“You are so predictable,” she sniggered, “I can’t resist it.”

“One of these days…” I hissed shaking my head.

“Come on Lancie girl, let’s go home.”

“Who?”

“Well isn’t that the name of that cyclist bloke?”

“Lancie? Oh you mean ‘Never failed a drugs test’ Armstrong?”

“Is that meant to be sarcasm? Did he fail a test or something?”

“No he didn’t, but some of his exploits seemed suspiciously as if he should have been wearing blue tights with red knickers over the top and an ‘S’ on his shirt.”

“What do you mean?” she looked completely confused.

“Look, he was so good at times it almost meant he was Superman.”

“Maybe he was just that good.”

“Perhaps, anyway he never tested positive, so if he wasn’t Superman, he was as clever as Lex Luthor.”

“I assumed he was just very good, not that I know anything about cycling. I mean you looked good at it to me.”

“Gee thanks,” I huffed and looked out the window for a few minutes. Then something struck me as different. “How come we’re not using the Saab?”

“It’s out of fuel.”

“Phew! For a moment I thought you’d crashed it or something.”

“I did.”

“What? What is Simon going to say?”

“He’ll kill me.”

“How bad is it?”

“I think it’s a write off.”

“Jeez Stella, what happened?”

“I tried to overtake a tractor and there was one coming the other way.”

“Oh my goodness, you’re not hurt are you?”

“Not till Simon finds out. You won’t tell him will you?”

“But he’s supposed to be coming out in a couple of days, you promised to take time off.” I was shocked. I was also a little more uneasy than I’d been a few moments before.

“Could you do me a tremendous favour?” She asked me in as seductive a voice as she could.

“Do what?” I asked suspiciously.

“Could you tell him, you did it?”

“WHAT!” I screamed.

“Well, he’ll be really cross this time.”

“This time?” I repeated.

“Yes, he eventually forgave me for the Mercedes, and he was really nice about the Porsche, said he never liked it.”

“You’ve crashed three of his cars?”

“Four if you include the Jaguar, but it wasn’t really my fault. It really wasn’t.”

“FOUR! Fucking hell Stella, let me out will ya? I’ll be safer walking.”

“Will you tell him it was you?”

“I can’t Stella, much as I like you, I couldn’t lie to Simon, not ever again.”

“I knew you’d take that line, bloody ‘Goody two shoes’.” she huffed and we turned into the driveway. We passed the Saab, which didn’t have a scratch on it. As soon as we stopped, I jumped out and checked it, it was perfectly all right.

“You lying cow!” I shouted, there’s nothing wrong with his car, is there?”

She stood and doubled up laughing. “Your face was a picture,” she said and guffawed again.

“You’re a bloody psycho,” I said shaking my head.

She nodded and continued laughing. “Your face!” and laughed some more.

I stormed into the house when she opened up the door, taking my bag up to my room. I sat on my bed fuming and wondering if she was crazy.

A short while later she came up and knocking on the door entered my room, I ignored her. “Sorry Cathy, I didn’t mean to upset you. I haven’t actually crashed any of his cars, he usually does his own.”

“I don’t care, I thought you wanted me to lie to Simon,” and a tear came to my eyes.

“I didn’t really and I’m proud that you resisted me.”

“Please don’t play your silly games with me ever again, or our friendship is over. You understand?”

“Oh Cathy, I am sorry, I really am,” she said bursting into tears and trying to hug me, except I moved away from her.

“I think I’d like to go to bed now Stella, so can you leave?”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 120

by Bonzi & Tiddles

It took me some time to get to sleep; Stella had really annoyed me with her silly mind games. I know we all play them to some extent, but she was a veteran gamer. I suppose as well, I was naive and very trusting. If she told me black was white, I would probably believe her.

I’m tempted to say that I don’t go around deceiving folks myself, but that wouldn’t be quite true, until I have the surgery required to complete the transformation, am I not deceiving all those who don’t know about me? I didn’t know, because it was this side of me which felt more real than the earlier manifestation, but that could be a self-deception. Why is life so difficult? It all seems to be based on paradoxes, I think I may be feeling a bit like Schrödinger’s cat.

I must have slept at some point because I woke up. I was in a sweat and had been dreaming that Monica had managed to get me to stay at their house or suite at the hotel, and after I’d gone to bed and fallen asleep, she had entered my room and got into bed with me!

It took me a few moments to remember where I was, sleepy and very disoriented. Finally, the cottage came to my memory and I calmed down. I went for a wee and returned to my bed and sleep. Stella woke me about seven, telling me she had to go to work soon. I dressed in record time deciding that I could shower and breakfast back at my room. I also thought I should touch base with Dr Thomas.

At three that afternoon, I was waiting outside her room for the rushed appointment I managed to make. I dressed up for the event, wearing a dress and jacket, some makeup and my boots. Using the car meant I could arrive looking moderately tidy.

“Cathy Watts,” was called from her door, and I jumped up putting down my three-year-old copy of ‘Country Life’ and walked towards her office.

“Well Cathy, how’s it going?” she greeted me, shaking my hand warmly.

I brought her up to the present leaving out no detail I thought she needed to know about. I even mentioned the nasty letters.

“So how is this young man, Simon, you said?”

“Yes Simon, he’s going to be okay it’s just going to take a few weeks for the arm and his sternum to heal.”

“So was it deliberate?”

“I don’t think so, they arrested and charged two poachers with firearms offences, including unlawful wounding, but I don’t know how serious that is.”

“So tell me about him,” she instructed.

“Like I already mentioned, he’s a nice gentle sort of chap. He’s got a very well paid job, says he loves me, he does know the truth now, and he spoils me rotten.”

“So what does he do?”

“He works for a merchant bank or some such thing; he buys and sells commodities I think. He makes them a great deal of money and consequently earns quite a bit himself. I suppose it helps when Daddy owns the bank.”

“What?”

“Yeah, his father is majority shareholder in the bank.”

“This isn’t some fabrication on his part is it?”

“No, he’s no Walter Mitty. I’ve met his father and stepmother.”

“And this is a real bank?”

“Yes. Did I mention his dad is a viscount?”

“Oh my God, Cathy, is this a good idea?”

“Don’t you think I haven’t asked myself this same question a million times?”

“You seem to have come a very long way in such a short time. I mean losing your mother, then your father having the stroke and then this strange, titled family who seem to embrace you into its bosom so wholeheartedly. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“Yes, I know. I mean it’s only Simon and Stella who know about me, his parents don’t. His step-mum is strange anyway, she’s bisexual and very predatory.”

“How do you know?”

“I was on her menu, but managed to skip tables.”

“Ouch!” offered the doctor.

“They’re all barmy, so I fit in quite well.”

Dr Thomas laughed and asked, “What do you intend to do about the poison-pen letters?

“I don’t know; I’d like to resolve it without police involvement.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want them involved because it could mean more publicity.”

“Any idea who is writing them?”

“Absolutely none.”

“Or why?”

“Dunno, I can only think it’s someone who isn’t comfortable with my changeover.”

“It sounds like it, but they obviously are clever enough to get around the camera you rigged up, so they’re not stupid.”

“No, then the last one came through the ordinary mail. So it looks as if that may have rattled them a bit.”

“Yes, it could have done. I think you should inform the police, but I accept your reasons for not doing so.”

“I don’t want any publicity, which is why I don’t want to model for the posters they want to do.”

“I can see your point there Cathy, that could be asking for trouble. At the same time, I understand why they want you to do it.”

“Why, because I can’t?”

“Because you are an expert who is involved in the study and you happen to be a very attractive young woman, the sort they use for modelling such posters.”

“Why don’t they use men for the same thing?”

“The convention is to use women because they are primarily selling things to men. This is especially true of things like cars or sports equipment where they want the stuff to be seen as sexy or attracting beautiful women. Since then, it has become the norm almost. You can’t even buy a woman’s magazine without some bimbo staring off the cover with perfect teeth and hair. So men’s magazines tend to be even more direct, with breasts or more on show.”

“Seems silly to me.”

“Me too Cathy, but that’s the way of the world. I don’t make the rules, I only try to help people integrate with them a little more easily.”

I took my leave and headed back to my room, stopping at the corner shop to chat with my favourite Asian shopkeeper and find something for tea.

I checked with Southmead: Dad was still poorly but slightly better, he’d stopped being sick and they were trying to boost his fluid intake.

I went to see Simon, taking him a selection of choc bars and fizzy drinks. He was feeling in pain and not very communicative. I sat holding his hand and kissing him every so often. I wanted him back at the cottage, but I wasn’t sure how I could care for him—I was no nurse. As I went to leave, he mentioned coming home, and I eventually managed to flannel my way through it by saying Stella was organising it all.

It was dark as I found my way back to the car park. I was tired and concerned. Simon had been doing so well but today had looked worse than yesterday. I decided he was possibly tired after all the visitors yesterday.

I sat in the car and saw something attached to the windscreen. My first reaction was I’d overrun my parking ticket or parked out of the designated space. My heart sank, then I thought they would clamp it rather than post a message on the car. At least that was what the signs said. I looked at the ticket: I still had about five minutes on it to run.

There was only one way to sort this out, I got out of the car and picked up the envelope. The familiar shape and colour, then the same handwriting took me by surprise. I shook as I tore it open.

‘We are watching you, nice car, very girly for a boy don’t you think? Oh, we forgot, you like to pretend you’re a girl don’t you? The day of reckoning approacheth!

An ill-wisher.

I sat and read the message several times, each one making me feel more frightened. I pressed the internal locking mechanism and sat feeling very frightened in my little car. What if ‘they’ were watching me? I needed to get away from the car park and quickly.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part Ten Dozen and One (121)

by Angharad Sore-Back

I drove like a demon back to my room, rushed up the stairs, grabbed the other letters and dashed back to the car, then off to the cop shop. They were polite, but how helpful I wouldn’t like to say.

“So why do you think they are sending you these letters?”

“I don’t know. I can only assume they don’t like me changing my gender or something, because they all mention that.”

The officer, a detective constable, flicked through them again. “Yeah they do. So have you upset anyone?”

“No, not to my knowledge.”

“No boyfriends who found out you used to be…”

“I have one friend who knows, so does his sister. They appear not to have any problem with it. Besides he’s in hospital, so it couldn’t be him. He knows nothing about them; anyway, if he did he’d be cross with me for not coming to you earlier.”

“No one at your university jealous of you?”

“Can’t think so, it’s only in the last week or so that it’s come out and the letters started before that.”

“So it was someone who knew from the outset?”

“Yes I suppose so, but I can’t think of anyone I told who would have reacted like that.”

“People can be funny; they don’t always show their feelings.”

“I appreciate that, but I should be very surprised if it was any of the university people, most of them are too rooted in their own little ivory towers to worry what anyone else is doing, unless it affects their research.”

“Right well thank you, Miss erm Watts, I’ll get someone to have a look at these, see if there’s any traces we can identify, or fingerprints.”

“Do you need to take mine?”

“Yeah, I suppose we better had.”

He took me to a small room where he produced a piece of glass and a roller with a blob of ink stuff. He rolled the ink over the glass, then dabbed my fingers in one at a time and then did a print of each on a card, on which he wrote my name and address.

“What do I do if they seem to be heading for a confrontation?” I asked, because the most recent note had spoken of a ‘day of reckoning.’

He passed me a business card, “Give me a ring. If it’s more urgent dial 999. We take these things quite seriously.”

I thanked him and went home, putting my anti-intruder device against the door. I wondered if I should have gone to the cottage, but didn’t want to involve Stella more than I had already. I wondered about personal protection, carrying a stick or some weapon, but decided that it could land me in trouble. Besides, what did the ‘day of reckoning’ mean? Could it just be a scene? Would they attack me? I didn’t know.

I slept very badly that night, hearing every sound. I felt a wreck the next morning when I got up and showered. A small breakfast, I didn’t feel too hungry. Then I went off to the department.

I checked the mailbox, and was relieved to find it empty. I also had a good look around the car and nothing seemed amiss. I drove in and was pleased to discover I had a parking pass. The day was feeling better, albeit by a tiny bit.

I went to see if I could get an appointment with my professor and was told he could see me at two. It was now ten. The police had apparently retrieved all the bits from the woods and the shattered image intensifier and my destroyed notebook were amongst the items.

My results from the fateful night were unusable because they were incomplete and the previous ones were shredded by shotgun pellets. The book had saved Simon’s life but it was now only fit for the bin. My Lowe rucksack was similar, full of holes as was the flask and most of the other stuff. My dread of guns was reinforced when I saw what could have happened—most of Simon’s head and chest would have been destroyed. Realising this I began to shake and cry.

“Are you okay?” asked a female voice.

“Yeah, I’ll be all right in a minute.”

She saw the damaged items on my desk, “Christ, what happened to those?”

“They stopped a shotgun.”

“Jesus! You weren’t carrying them were you?”

“No, my boyfriend was.” Referring to Simon as my boyfriend felt good, it was a new concept to me. Other people referred to us as a couple, but I hadn’t.

“Oh shit, is he like, okay?”

I spotted a small amount of dried blood on the bag. “He’s in hospital but yes he survived.”

“Like wow! Who would do such a thing?”

“Some poachers we think, thought they were shooting deer.”

“I don’t like guns,” she said shaking her head.

“Nor me.”

“Wanna go grab some coffee?” she asked.

As I couldn’t think of a reason to say no, I agreed.

We walked over to the cafeteria, which is in the next building to the zoology department, usefully in the same building as microbiology, so if we get food poisoning, we can identify it very quickly! Very comforting when you’re feeling like death!

“Sorry, I don’t even know your name,” I apologised to my companion.

“Suzy Burrows, I’ve been on a sabbatical, “only just come back to the department.”

“You’ve been over at Yale haven’t you?”

“Harvard,” she corrected gently.

“Well it’s all the same in a small place like America,” I joked, “I mean how would they cope having space the size of Yorkshire?”

She laughed understanding my joke about the largest county in England, being lost in even the smallest state of the US. “Well their buses must be awful slow, is all I can say.” We laughed some more.

“So what are you doing?”

“Dormice.”

“Use plenty of garlic,” she joked as we sipped our coffees.

“Ugh, these are all little friends to me; it would be like eating your pet dog or cat. I mean I have seen many of them grow up from babies, especially the colony we have in the department.”

“I’ve been away longer than I thought; the Prof has allowed you to breed dormice?”

“Yeah, do you want to see them?”

“Oh yeah,” she said, “then the old bugger can explain to me why he couldn’t do the same with harvest mice.”

“Of course, the ‘Harvest Queen’,” I said, “they did a spread on you in the local paper.”

“Oh don’t,” she said, “that was so humiliating. They wanted me to pose in sexy clothes; I mean what’s wrong with a Barbour and jeans?”

“Does this mean I can hand over some of the rodent stuff to you?”

“What do you mean?” she asked and I had to explain all about the survey.

“I’d like to be involved but I’ve got a teaching post lined up at Harvard; tell you what, I’ll certainly correlate any results you get. But I’m going to be busy with Yankee bunnies.”

“Eh?”

“I’m doing some work on hares and possibly prairie dogs.”

“Oh, so you’re not going to be around, then?” As I said this I thought to myself, Duh! she just told you she’s not staying, so no you can’t get her to front the poster campaign.

“So can I use your harvest mouse stuff as a baseline for the new figures?”

“Sure, but check with Geoff Grantham in Surrey, he did quite a big study a couple of years ago.”

“I saw his name on the database; I’ll send him an email.”

“He’s a nice guy, especially helpful to a pretty girl, so once he meets you, he’ll do anything.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to take that. I appraised her again, very pretty woman, about twenty five, dark hair and eyes with a sensual mouth and upturned nose. I suspect she could get most men to do what she wanted, just by smiling at them. Was she implying I could have the same power? It was all so new to me.

“The problem is rats,” said a youngish man, joining us.

“Hi Stan,” said Suzy.

“Hi Suzy, how was the US?”

“Good, and your rats?”

“Yeah, still running rings around me.”

“Do you know Cathy, our dormouse lady?”

“Hi,” he said before throwing some Red Bull down his throat. “I thought, it was a bloke who did dormice.”

“No, I think Cathy is a girl, Stan. You’ve been playing with your rats too long.”

“Could be, anyway ladies, I have to get back or they’ll take over the world.”

“They already have Stan,” said Suzy and giggled. I chuckled politely while thinking that my news hasn’t been widely distributed. That was interesting in itself. So who would know and why were they running this nastiness campaign against me, albeit on a personal level?

I sipped my coffee lost in thought, wondering if Stella could offer any advice; maybe it was someone Simon went out with who was jealous? I really didn’t know, and they gave little hint as to what they were upset about, except my transition.

“I’d better get back, I have to clear out my office and see old Agnew, kiss him goodbye and all that. I expect he’ll want me to go to dinner, dirty old man.”

“Yeah, I ’spect so, but he’s a nice dirty old man,” I agreed and we wandered back to zoology.

Easy As Falling Asleep

Part Fiction Part Rubbish (122)

by Wossername with the bad back

Cathy learns a bit about the professor…
read on and see exactly what.

I showed Suzy the captive breeding programme—she was suitably impressed. I was nominally in charge but the work was done by two of our technicians, Neal and Tina. Eventually she went off to see the professor and I sat at my desk looking at the damaged fieldwork equipment again.

It was astonishing that Simon hadn’t been more injured, I shuddered when I thought about it. If he’d been killed I really don’t know how my sanity would have survived. At times now I thought it was borderline bonkers, a new clinical term possibly not yet recognised by Dr Thomas and her colleagues or the DSM IV. [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. of the American Psychiatric Association.]

I had an appointment to see Prof Agnew myself soon, so I needed to keep my spirits up and not get too maudlin about what could have happened—it didn’t. I also wanted to see Simon and perhaps dash up to Bristol to see Daddy.

I didn’t understand why I was calling him that, it was almost a regression to childhood. He didn’t seem to mind and part of me liked it. My mind drifted back to the funeral and his presentation to me of my doll ‘Josephine.’ He’d taken her from me when I was seven or eight years old and told me he had smashed her and thrown her in the trash.

I could still recall that day, I cried for hours, helped by the fact that he gave me hiding for calling him a ‘cruel man.’ I hated him for weeks after that, I wouldn’t go near him. Giving my doll back mended a few bridges but there were still so many to fix. I took heart from the fact that my mum had stopped him smashing it up, and that he could have done it covertly years later. I wouldn’t have been any the wiser and I suspect Mum wouldn’t have been either.

What puzzled me was why she had stopped him? Nowadays, most parents would be less brutal, but fifteen years ago, I suspect many would have dumped a doll if their son was playing with it, especially if he’d swapped a football for it. He also dominated her so much, so why did she stop him? If it was my son, I’d be watching to see if any other girlish inclinations happened and get some advice. Then it was seen as taboo, he could be gay! Arrgh!

How pathetic, and now macho man was dependent upon his effeminate offspring, tough! Life has ways of equalising things at times, or in this case it did.

“Cath old girl,” called Neal.

I awoke from my reverie, “Erm, yes Neal.”

“Prof is waiting for you,” he was holding a phone which he’d obviously just answered.

“Oh!” I gasped and ran off towards his office.

“Just made it girl,” said Mrs Miller, “I was just about to move next business.”

“Sorry, I was engrossed in something, forgot the time.”

“Go on in.”

I tapped on the door and went through. “Ah Miss Dormouse, what can I do for you?” He glanced at his watch, “Damn it’s lunchtime, can we do this over the pub?”

“It’s a bit personal and involves the police,” I said very quietly and felt myself getting hotter.

“Police, not the fieldwork business? Oh God, your young man isn’t worse is he?”

“No Prof, it’s something different. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting some poison pen letters—remember I mentioned them last week?”

“Bloody cowards!” he almost spat in disgust, “Do we know who is writing them yet?”

“No, but the last one seemed more threatening and I took them to the police.” I explained about the messages and how they had put the last one on my car. I watched him get angrier and angrier, controlling himself until I finished my saga.

“If this proves to have come from anyone associated with this university, then I will do all in my power to see they pay the full penalty, including revoking degrees. We’ll also cooperate in any police investigation, and I am pretty sure that goes for the rest of the university. I shall speak to Dr Andrews at our next meeting.

“I’m sorry always to be the bearer of bad news,” I hung my head in shame.

“Oh Cathy, you aren’t you silly girl, you’re a delight to have a round the place, ask Mary if you don’t believe me.”

“I don’t know Prof, I almost feel like it would be easier if I disappeared.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well left and went to look after my dad.”

“What, and let those cowardly bastards win? That doesn’t sound like the Cathy Watts I heard was brawling in the street the other day because someone attacked her boyfriend. She’s a fighter!”

I went a lovely shade of crimson, “Oh, I didn’t think anyone got to hear about that…”

“Nor dealing with two bumpkins with the aid of a mountain bike.”

“Oh,” the crimson got brighter.

“Maybe you should do a paper on the mountain bike as a weapon of defence?”

I felt tears run down my nose and drip onto the carpet I was so busy trying to outstare. If you looked at the pattern for a few moments, you could see all sorts of shapes in it, including baleful eyes. They were winning the staring game; I was leading in the crying one.

“Good gracious girl, don’t cry, you’ll shrink me carpet!” He walked over and threw his arm around me and hugged me. “Don’t let them win, your future is so bright, keep the light shining. Remember there will be others who come after you, who will benefit from your courage and pioneering spirit.”

“Thanks Professor, you’re always so kind to me, I don’t know how to thank you.”

“There are three things you could do,” I stood with red runny eyes and nodded at him waiting for him to pronounce, “firstly, stand and fight. Secondly, come to dinner with me on Friday,” I snorted at that, I knew that would be a condition, it always was. “Finally, do the pics for the leaflet, show them two fingers. It would be the best way to show them where to stick their silly bits of paper.”

“What if they went to the press?”

“So what, we’d support you all the way to suing them.”

“You can only sue if they libel you, they wouldn’t need to do that to get a strong story, you know like, ‘The girl on the leaflet isn’t a girl’, or some such similar thing.”

“It would be a storm in a teacup and besides the university legal department might even be able to squash it.”

“I doubt it; there is no closed season on transsexuals.”

“I think things are changing, and remember we all scratch each others’ backs these days. So if we get some lead story for them, they are invited to exclusives. If they get some dirt on us, unless it is about something illegal, they talk to us first.”

“That’s the local rag, what about the national tabloids, The Sun or News Of The World, they don’t have arrangements with you?”

“True, but neither do they have the clout for local news. Besides, you could always go on the offensive.”

“What do you mean Professor?”

“Tell ’em first. Secrets are only powerful if they are secret. I mean the rumours are spreading around the campus at a steady rate. If we did an interview with the local rag, we could steal much of their thunder.”

“Oh God,” I gasped and diving across his study, threw up in his wastebasket.

“I take it you don’t fancy that then?”

I vomited again.

“Mary, can you come in for a minute?” I heard him call into his intercom.

She took over, dismissing the professor who fled to the pub. Pushing the offending waste bin outside the door, she sent for one of the cleaners to sort it. She had also sat me in one of the armchairs and held a glass of water to me.

“Okay, I take it you don’t have a bug of some sort?”

I shook my head, weeping with shame.

“And you aren’t pregnant?”

I snorted at that.

“So he’s upset you? Not his new aftershave, ‘Hint of Badger’ or something like that.”

I snorted with laughter this time and shook my head. Wiping the mess off my face, I sighed and sipped the water. Then I explained to her what I had told the professor. Then I told her what he had suggested.

“You know he wants you to do the leaflets, don’t you?”

“Yes, but why?”

“Because you’re very pretty and actually studying at the university. He thinks it will encourage women to take up science courses.”

“But would it, not if they did a story on me, would it?”

“The leaflets would be around for several years, the news story would be a five minute wonder.”

“I’d rather not.”

“I know luvvy, and I understand, but let’s face it the dormice have to be the most photogenic animal we study here, and you are the most photogenic researcher, so they seem to go together.”

“Why don’t they ask Tina? She’s quite pretty and is involved with the dormice.”

“She isn’t leading the project, you are. You’ll be in the media anyway.”

“What!” I shuddered, “Why?”

“Because the project is news, they’ll talk to all the lead researchers and I’m willing to bet you’ll be the one they want to photograph.”

“Why, is my changeover that obvious?” I began to doubt everything I thought I had achieved.

“No you silly girl, because you are the prettiest as well as the cleverest one on the team.”

“Don’t be silly, I’m not very clever.”

“You have a first from Sussex, a master’s with distinction from us and are heading for a doctoral degree with us. Prof Agnew wants you on the staff here so badly, he’s wondering who he can shoot to make space! I didn’t tell you that mind!” she winked at me.

“Why? I’m a liability, everyone around me gets hurt, and trouble seems to follow me, like I’m some sort of magnet.”

“You are the nicest post grad we have; he’s been trying for funding for you to do some teaching here to help with your financial position. You don’t know this because it’s all on the QT, okay? And I didn’t tell you any of this. He has big plans for this department and you feature in them quite significantly, especially as he’s lost Suzy to Harvard.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, tears running down my face, “why is he being so good to me?”

“Because you remind him of his daughter. That’s why he likes the women to go to his dinners. He isn’t a dirty old man; he’s coping with the death of his daughter in the way he feels is best for him.”

“What happened to her?” this was all news to me.

“She was doing a PhD at Oxford, Anglo Saxon or something, and she was killed by a drunk driver on the motorway. Head on crash, killed instantly, he was driving a coach and survived. Died from cirrhosis about five years ago.”

“When did this happen?” I asked, it was all news to me.

“Twenty years ago.”

“Goodness.” I sat dumbfounded by this news.

“One of the reasons he likes you so much is that you remind him of her.”

“In what way?”

“You look quite like her, colouring and build, you’re vivacious, so was she.”

“Goodness, no one has ever described me as vivacious before.”

“Her name was Catherine, too.”

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed and swooned in the chair.

Easy As Falling Out Of Bed Part 1234567890

by Bonzi’s Mum

Cathy has to work for a living and gets a shock!

I opened my eyes and Mary Miller was stood in front of me, wafting a folder to cause a draught on my face. “How do you feel now?”

“Dreadful, I’m still alive.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to be?”

“I had a feeling it would be quieter when I’m dead.”

“What happens if you go you know where? It may be like a call centre.”

“Oh don’t,” I said clutching my head.

“Headache?”

“A bit,” I nodded regretting it almost immediately.

“Don’t move, I’ll get you an aspirin.” She shoved the glass of water in my hand, which I sipped.

I could not believe that not only had I puked into my Professor’s bin, but also I had swooned in front of his secretary, and I’m not wearing a bloody corset.

“Here,” she handed me a white tablet which could have been anything, but I swallowed it and finished the water. “He won’t be back for at least half an hour, have a little snooze and see how you feel.”

I felt too weak to protest and hardly before she’d gone out the door, I had turned sideways in the chair and was slipping into sleep. At one point, I thought I heard voices but I couldn’t be bothered to wake and see. Eventually my bladder woke me up, and I realised where I was. I stretched and looking around saw the professor working away at his computer.

“Ah, the sleeper awaketh! How do you feel?”

I yawned and feeling completely stupid, answered, “Can I tell you in a moment?” And staggered out of the door down the corridor and into the loos. After peeing and freshening myself up with cold water, I realised I had to go back to get my bag. Mary wasn’t at her desk, so I had to knock and then enter his office.

“Sit and drink,” he pointed to the mug of tea on the end of his desk.

“I’m so sorry Professor, I don’t know what came over me.”

“Morpheus, by the look of it.”

“I’m sorry?” I replied.

“God of sleep, you were well locked up in his arms.”

“I was?”

“Yep, even the phone didn’t wake you and I’ve had three meetings in here since then.”

“Oh no, you haven’t have you?” I wailed, just how many had seen me shagged out in his chair.

“No of course not, I’m only joking. So drink your tea before I get Mary in to force feed you.”

“Yessir,” I picked up and sipped at the delicious liquid.

“Now what are we going to do with you?”

“In what way?” I felt a bit apprehensive.

“I want you to start doing some teaching.”

“What!” I gulped, “But I don’t have a teaching qualification,” I protested.

“You have a master’s, which is all that is required for adult courses. There’s a book up there on what is involved: read and inwardly digest.”

“I hate to sound ungrateful, but when will I have time to teach?” I barely had time to do the work I needed to do as it was.

“It will be one hour per week.”

“What?”

“One hour per week. You will do a series on mammalian biology for a set of twenty sessions. The syllabus is there,” he pointed at a back table behind me. “It’s for pre-entry level, and you will do it at the local college. They don’t have a biology teacher capable of this sort of stuff.”

I was completely lost, “You mean these are people taking an entry qualification for uni?”

“Yes a pre-entry course, if they get enough points they can apply to do a degree, it’s for those who missed out on A-levels.”

“Why are you sending me?”

“Don’t you want to do it?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’ll get paid, on top of your research grant.”

“I will?”

“Yes, it means I get your name on the university payroll.”

“But I’m a student?”

“Yes a post grad student, which means you can teach up to degree level. When you get your PhD you can teach master’s students and possibly supervise other doctoral work. I’ve got a student I want you to work with at the moment, she’s struggling and I think would benefit from some tutoring.”

“How am I supposed to fit all this in?” I gasped, “I’m struggling as it is.”

“You train up a junior to do your field work.”

“What?”

“Are you losing your hearing?”

“No sir.”

“Right, well find a first or second year student who thinks those rabid furry things of yours look cute or something, preferably a male student or a male and female. You then supervise them, it’s still your study, you just let some little minion do the spade work.”

I stood and gawped.

“What happened when you were at Sussex?”

“They had projects advertised on the notice board; I applied for the one I fancied.”

“Exactly, and you were supervised by?”

“Yeah, okay. I’d just got used to doing my own stuff.”

“Well now you are moving up the food chain. So you will be doing some straight teaching at the local college, you’ll also be tutoring,” he looked at a note on his desk, “Judy Potter, and supervising whoever applies to do your research project.”

“Judy Potter?”

“Yes, that’s what I said.”

“I know her father.”

“So?”

“He was my mother’s solicitor.”

“So do a good job or he might sue you.”

“I erm…”

“Drink your tea Cathy and get your notice up on the board, ask Mary to sort out your first tutorial with Judy, after that you can arrange them by mutual whatever.”

“I’ll need to show them what to do with my dormice,” I gasped blushing.

“Of course you will, several times if I understand the quality of our intake this year. If A-levels get any easier, they’ll be giving them away for tokens on cornflakes. Still, as long as they can afford six grand a year in tuition fees, we’ll take ’em. It’s what helps fund the proper research we do.”

“Is my research not proper then?” I asked with a hint of indignation.

“Of course it is, but without money, we can’t do anything. The government will fund so much, the EU will give us a bit more and so does your boyfriend’s bank, but we have an awful lot to do with it including getting one or two of these little oiks a bachelor’s degree for helping us grownups do our bit. Let’s face it, to most of them, stuffing a ferret down their trousers and farting is as much research as they’ve ever done, unless you include empirical research into alcohol poisoning.”

“Right, finished your tea?” he asked and I nodded, putting the mug down on his desk. “Well take it out and wash it up or I’ll set Mary on you. Go on, bugger off and do some work!”

I picked up my mug and walked!

An hour later, I was down at my desk in the lower lab when my mobile rang. “Hello?”

“Hi, is that Cathy?”

“It is, how can I help?”

“It’s Judy Potter,” there was an embarrassed giggle.

“Oh yes, we have to set a time for a tutorial.” I kept it matter of fact hoping she wouldn’t speak to her father, although I’m sure she already knew of my notoriety. “Look I’m in lab three at the moment, do you want to come down with your diary.”

“Is that okay?”

“Course, but I’m not going to be here all day.”

“Can my friend come?”

This puzzled me, was it to gawp at the weirdo or did she feel threatened in some way? “Erm, I suppose so, but I’ve only been asked to tutor one of you.”

“’Kay, see you in a minute.”

I switched off my phone and wondered what would happen next. It had been a strange day even by my standards. While I waited I looked at the notice I was going to put on the board.

‘Research Project.

Linked with the UK and EU government survey of endangered mammals, a place or two has become available for a research assistant, studying the common dormouse. Will include nighttime fieldwork, may be unsuitable for lone female workers for safety reasons.

Contact Cathy Watts via Prof. Agnew’s Office.’

“Hi, I’m Judy Potter,” I turned around from my desk and regarded the young woman who had just entered the lab. She was about my height and a bit dumpy with straggly brown hair partly covering a pretty face which was spoilt by a large nose. She wore the regulation jeans and sweatshirt.

“Hello, I’m Cathy Watts.” I uncurled myself from the stool I’d been sat on and stood up to shake hands with her.

“You’re much prettier than I expected,” the words sort of slipped out of her mouth with nerves.

“Am I, does it matter? I’m only trying to get you through your course, not marry you!”

She blushed and giggled, “They said you were a boy.”

“Oh,” I shrugged my shoulders, “Do I look like a boy?”

“No, you’re a beautiful lady.” She blushed even more.

“It’s my brains you’re supposed to be here for. Shall we start again?” I stood up and held out my hand, “I’m Cathy Watts.”

“Judy Potter, pleased to meet you Miss Watts.”

“Cathy, let’s keep it informal,” I suggested.

“Okay, Cathy. Pleased to meet you.” She blushed again and her hand felt clammy with sweat.

“What happened to your bodyguard?”

“Erm?”

“You were coming with a friend, remember?”

“Oh he had to go. Actually, I’m quite glad, ’cos he’d fancy you more than me.”

“Well I think my fiancé would prefer it that way too,” I lied confidently.

We set a date and discussed her difficulties; she was going to be bringing some of her work to show me. I wondered if it was all worth it, especially once she spoke to her father. I did think about imposing some sort of confidentiality clause on her, ‘what we discuss you can’t tell anyone else without my permission and I’ll do the same.’ But I thought that was asking for trouble. If she thinks I’m a girl fine, if she thinks I’m a boy fine, I shall act as I always do—impeccably.

As soon as she was gone, I ran out to my car, shot home, showered, and changed to go and see Simon. When I got there his room was empty and I had a mini-heart attack. I ran out onto the ward accosting a nurse. “Where is Simon Cameron?”

“In the bathroom, I think.” She gave me a very strange look, “Are you all right?”

“I think so, yes I think so.”

Easy Peasy Ha—you try writing them

Part is anybody still counting?

Okay, I only asked.

One Hundred plus Two Dozen (124)

by Arrrrrrrrrrrgharad

When I saw Simon limp out of the toilet, I flew to him and my hug nearly knocked him over. There were tears rolling down my cheeks and I felt so emotional, I just couldn’t help myself.

“Hey what’s wrong Babe?” I loved it when he called me that, even though I knew Pamela Anderson doesn’t; like it I mean.

“I didn’t know where you were,” I sobbed like some demented child.

“I was only taking a pee.” He held me with his good arm.

“I’m sorry,” I sobbed, “I saw the empty bed and I…”

“Put two and two together and made a couple o’dozen.”

“My maths isn’t very good but it isn’t that bad!” I complained.

“Okay already, one dozen, is that better?” he raised his voice and I burst into tears again. “All right, how about half a dozen?”

“It doesn’t matter now, anyway,” I pouted.

“Jeez, bloody women!” he said loudly enough for a nurse to look up and say, ‘Watch it mister or it’s an enema for you tomorrow!’ We heard laughter from down the corridor.

“This is a conspiracy!” he exclaimed and led me back into his room. He lay on the bed and I saw the pain spasm across his face from his sternum. I burst into tears again.

“What is the matter with you tonight?” he said looking more concerned than angry.

“I don’t know,” I wailed like a defective fire tender.

“Come on calm down and take deep breaths, slow deep breaths.” I went to speak and he shushed me and made me breathe slowly and deeply. Before either of us could speak, in popped a nurse and handed us each a cup of tea. She winked at him going out and I glared.

“There is nothing going on, okay!”

“Why did she wink at you, then?”

“I thought she winked at you,” he lied but I savagely counter-attacked.

“Winked at me, she was looking at you. Besides why would she wink at me, I’m not a lesbian even if she is!” My voice got progressively louder.

The door was knocked, and the sister poked her head in. “I’m sorry if you can’t make less noise I shall have to ask you to leave.” She fixed me with an icy stare and I swallowed hard and nodded.

Simon smirked and I felt so angry I almost slapped him. Then he began to laugh and I got angrier still. Then he began to laugh more loudly and I stood up to storm out but instead laughed too. I hate to think how long we giggled but it was several minutes, during which time I wet myself. I had to shove a paper towel in my knickers.

I tried to hide myself from Simon, but he saw enough to ask in total astonishment, “Are you sure that isn’t real and you’ve been having me on all this time?”

“What?” I snapped.

“Well, it looks real to me, your doodah.”

“Tough! I think I’d better go.” I got up and left without even kissing him. I dashed back to the car and once more burst into tears. What the hell was going on inside me to make me like this? It couldn’t have been hormones because I hadn’t taken any for three days, I forgot.

I got my act together enough to drive home, hoping I didn’t have an accident or run someone’s cat over. I managed it, then I ran up to my room and slammed the door and howled for half an hour.

Finally, the rustling in my knickers reminded me that I hadn’t changed them, so I stripped off and went in the shower. Once I had a cuppa in front of me, I decided to call for help.

“Stella, I think I’m going crazy.”

“Going, you must be certifiable to go out with Simon.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I,” she giggled. “So what has led you to make this amazing discovery, realising that everyone is just as crazy or what?”

“No, I keep having crying fits. I screamed at Simon tonight in the hospital, a nurse winked at him and I went berserk.”

“Oh!”

“I puked in the prof’s waste bin, and then fell asleep in his office.”

“Ah.”

“And I’ve got to do a teaching plan for a series of lessons at the local sixth form college. Plus he’s allocated me a student to tutor and I have to recruit someone to do my fieldwork. I don’t think I can cope with all that and my dad.”

“Ahhhhhhhh,” she said, “Now it sounds as if we are coming to the crutch of the matter, to quote John Lennon.”

“Well go on then,” I exhorted.

“Go on what?”

“Quote John Lennon.”

“I just did.”

“You did?”

“Oh all right then, ‘Thur’s a lorra people in Liverpewel’.”

“Sounded more Cilla Black to me,” I replied.

“Probably ’cos I’m female and he was male.”

“Could be, I don’t think I’ll try it,” I offered. If I had sounded like a Scouser, I’d have been surprised and if I’d sounded like a man, I’d have been devastated.

“Yeah okay, what were we talking about?”

“John Lennon.”

“Before that?”

“I dunno.”

“Oh, okay. How do you feel now?”

“Exhausted.”

“How about an early night?”

“Yeah okay,” I yawned back to her. I switched off the phone and was asleep in moments, even with damp hair.

I awoke in the night needing a wee and when I went to the loo, it all fell out. To be precise, something inside me slipped a little and this tiny wormlike thing protruded from my ‘labia.’ It sort of summed up the perfect day, and I sat on the bog and howled for another half an hour.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part Halfway to Two Hundred and Fifty, or

an Eighth of a Thousand (that is frightening!!!)

(125)

by Bonzi & Tiddles

Stella makes Cathy a tempting offer…

I eventually calmed down through exhaustion as much as anything else and got off the toilet. My bum stuck to the seat and when I detached myself, had a nice ring around my bum and my foot had gone to sleep.

What to do in such emergencies? Make a cuppa. As I drank the delicious fluid, I tried to reflect upon the situation I was in. I suspected that my stress levels had overwhelmed my threshold and it was simply stress; either that or I was pregnant! Well I had lain with a man—that cheered me up and I giggled at the absurdity.

See a cuppa does cheer you up; it also makes you want to wee, so back to the loo I went, which reminded me of something that was hanging over me. Well not exactly, it was more hanging out of me and would need some attention.

By now, it was nearly five, and I decided I’d stay up and try and sort these things out. I climbed in the shower and after copious soaking and lubrication with shower gel, pulled everything back to its original configuration, except the ovoid bits, they stayed where I’d shoved ’em. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be worried.

After drying myself, I decided the skin looked okay, which was a pleasant surprise. I did think about allowing them to dangle for a few days but then changed my mind. I preferred to maintain the illusion.

By six thirty, and hot and sweaty again, I had managed to refold and glue into cosmetic and urinary satisfaction my aberrant bits. I needed another cuppa, boy did I need another cuppa and not to make any quick movements!

I decided I should have a word with my GP when I had a chance to make sure I wasn’t doing anything dangerous. I couldn’t see how I was unless I became allergic to the glue, in which case it would all blister and fall off. Not a nice idea, even though it made me giggle; as long as I didn’t sit too upright, things were tight, in a manner of speaking.

It was Wednesday again, goodness how time flies when you are reconfiguring! I made some breakfast and was in the middle of reading the syllabus for the local college when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi Cathy, it’s Stella. I’m having Simon home tomorrow, are you still good for the weekend?”

“Wow, oh yeah, course,” I lied. I had forgotten all about it.

“Oh good, I’ll get some food in. I expect you’ll enjoy cooking for your man, won’t you?”

“Absolutely,” I was becoming such a liar. I didn’t know if he’d even speak to me after I stormed out on him last night.

“Is there anything you want me to get in?”

“Not too worried, I’m quite adaptable as long as you have a tin opener and a microwave.”

“A real Nigella eh?”

“Absolutely, I can open a tin or switch on a microwave while wearing red lipstick, as well as any woman.”

“Spoken like a true feminist.”

Her remark took me a little by surprise. Me a feminist? In a broader context, I supposed I was, except I tended to imagine shorthaired, bra burning, hairy-legged, peace-niks camping outside an American Airbase. But if feminist meant supporting the rights of women, count me in.

“I think I ought to tell you that Simon and I parted on less than happy terms last night.”

“You haven’t dumped him have you?”

“No, why?”

“Well I just bought this new hat and…”

“Stella, what are you on about? Women only buy hats for weddings and… oh!” I blushed. “It’s bad luck to buy things like that prematurely, the way we’re going we might kill each other before then.”

“It’s okay, it’s black, I could wear it to the funerals.”

“You are such a comfort.” My psychic strangling techniques were obviously not working: she was still talking!

“Oh I try to be hon, but sometimes with Simon it is difficult.”

“What should I do about…, I mean after…, well you know, last night?”

“Oh just go and see him, he’s like a pet dog, he’s usually forgotten about ten minutes later. So if he does anything to make you mad, hit him there and then or he won’t know what it’s all about.”

“I think I need to think about that Stella.” I was still processing it, the idea of treating him like a puppy or kitten was not actually interacting with my own recollections of him. ‘Bad boy, down!’ Nah, that didn’t resonate at all. Now like a large child, maybe. ‘Be a good boy for mummy,’ yeah that could work.

“I’ll pop and see him this afternoon, though I’d best go and see my dad as it’s about a week since I was last there.”

“Yeah okay, when will you be back down?”

“How about if I come Saturday morning?”

“Yeah, fine. Couldn’t bring your bread machine, could you?”

“Course I can.”

“Oh luvverly, only Simon mentioned how nice your bread was and I thought I’d like to try some.”

“I’ll do some over the weekend.”

“If you do, make sure to save me some because he’ll eat the bloody lot.”

“I will either save you some or make some fresh for you, how’s that?”

“You are the best sister-in-law a girl could wish for.”

“You keep tempting providence Stella.”

“Well shall we say, virtual sis-in-law?”

“Why not just Cathy, a good friend?”

“Are you telling me the wedding is off?”

“There is no wedding, Stella.”

“But there will be as soon as you’re sorted?”

“I don’t know, that could be years away.”

“What? Why is that?”

“Well to start with, I have to do a full year before they’ll refer me for reassignment surgery. I was lucky to get the hormones so easily; some have to do that before they get them.”

“Well don’t worry about surgery, I know just the man.”

“What?”

“An experienced urologist. Admittedly he hasn’t done one for a year or two, but I’m sure he’d do it for you and he owes me a few favours.”

“Stella, much as I’d love to have it done this afternoon, I think we’re supposed to follow certain protocols.”

“That’s only to protect the quacks, in case you complain afterwards that it was all a big mistake. Apparently one or two do.”

Having been caught up on a roller coaster myself, I could understand that it could happen. I didn’t think it applied to me, but who was I to gainsay the experts? Besides, Dr Thomas had been so supportive of me, I wouldn’t like to put her in an invidious position, nor alienate her. I liked her too much.

“Okay, I’ll keep it in mind when we get around to referral time.”

“How about during the Christmas vacs?”

“What?” Had I misheard her in some way?

“Well, things are quiet and Michael, the surgeon is working. His daughter’s getting married so he can’t go skiing. He was pissed off by it all. Ha ha.” She laughed at her own joke.

“I’ll have only done about three months by then Stella; it hardly qualifies me does it? Besides I need the referral confirmed by another shrink.”

“I can probably arrange that too, I have a tame semi-retired psychiatrist, I look after his prostate. When you have that in your hands, they tend to be putty.”

“Stella, this is cutting corners. I don’t want to upset my own doctor.”

“It won’t I’m sure.”

“I’m not.”

“Well suss her out the next time you see her. The offer is there if you want it.”

“Thanks, I do appreciate it.”

“Well I did see a dress to go with the hat and…”

“I have to go Stella, see you Saturday.”

“Oh okay.”

I made some more tea, having abandoned my thoughts of teaching for the moment. As I sat dunking a digestive biscuit, I wondered if she wasn’t perhaps right. I knew I wasn’t going to change my mind, not for all the tea in China. So what was the point of waiting? Especially after the struggle in the early hours, which was now throbbing gently.

I had no doubts about the surgery and who I was, but as for marriage, well I had plenty. I mean could I cope with such a pushy and bossy sister-in-law? Could I cope with Simon on a long-term basis and the rest of his loony family? Would I be Lady Catherine, or was that just going to invite the spleen of the tabloids and invites from glossy mags to photograph my bidet?

Why was life so complicated? The ideas of early surgery were now buzzing around my head like flies around a midden. It was so tempting, it really was.

Easy As Falling Down A Hole Part 126

by Sir Isaac Newton & Bonzi

Cathy plays a googley and promises to love, honour
and bake cakes… read on.

I was getting myself packed to pop in and hopefully kiss and make up with Simon and then dash up to Bristol. The throb down below had practically eased off but I wondered if I needed to find something more comfortable.

I went onto the Internet, most of the gaff type thingies look horrendous, mind you, you can even get one with pretend menses blood, how gross! That would have blown Simon’s mind! Don’t think I’ll bother.

I wondered about a different sort of glue and after a bit of Googling found some silicon glue used for prosthetics, they also had latex adhesives. I looked on their list of suppliers and found one in Bristol near the BBC in Whiteladies Road. I phoned them and asked if they had the product and remover—you need a solvent. They did and the cost together was going to be under twenty five pounds. I would try a different sticker next time. For good measure, I also packed the superglue.

Arriving at Simon’s ward, I could see he was busy with the physio, doing breathing exercises to help his injured sternum, I presumed. Anyway, I didn’t scream at him because some young woman was running her hands all over his body, even though he was obviously enjoying some of it.

I apologised to the Ward Sister for my histrionics the night before saying I had just started my period. She glared at me for a moment then smiled, giving me a knowing nod. I blushed, not only because it was embarrassing but also because I was lying yet again.

The physio finished with lover-boy and I strolled in, and almost before he could look up, I planted a very suggestive kiss on his lips. He stopped struggling very quickly.

“I’m sorry about last night, I don’t know why I was so emotional.”

“Time of the month, I expect.”

“Yeah, probably,” I agreed—it was easier than brainstorming for answers. “So am I forgiven?”

“What for?”

“Last night, shouting at you and storming off.”

“Yeah, why?” He shrugged his shoulders and winced as the movement involved his chest muscles.

I began to wonder if Stella was right and should I commence puppy training? Instead I said, “Thank you, you are the sweetest man I know.” Then proceeded to tongue wrestle with him. Once I won by two falls to a submission, I explained that I was on my way to Bristol.

“How is your dad?”

“I don’t exactly know, I presume because they haven’t called he’s still alive, but otherwise, search me?”

“Okay, take all your clothes off.”

“What?”

“Take all your clothes off.”

“I will not.”

“How am I gonna search you then?”

“Search me, what for?”

“You just asked me to.”

“When?”

“Just now, when I asked about your dad, you said, ‘search me,’ so I’m only doing what you asked me to do.”

“You are as crazy as your sister.”

“No I am not,” he said firmly, “no one is as mad as Stella.”

“I mean she keeps trying to marry me off to you. Only because she bought herself a new hat.”

“I hope she succeeds.”

“In what, finding the outfit to go with the hat?”

“No, in marrying us off, together.”

“Sure you do. What did you say?”

“I hope she succeeds…”

“The bit after that.”

“In marrying us off together.”

“Does that perchance mean, to each other?”

“Yes, precisely that.”

“You are as crazy as her. Wait here, I’m just going to ask them to section you.”

He lay back and roared with laughter.

“I don’t think this is funny. If it’s just a tease it’s rather cruel; if it isn’t, then it’s probably ill-conceived to the point of foolishness.”

“It may be foolish, but it isn’t a joke or game.”

“I hope that wasn’t a proposal.”

“No, would you like one.”

“No I do not. Please Simon, I am going to shout again. Look we agreed we would wait to make this a full relationship and we both know why. I accept my responsibility for that.”

“You’re not responsible for nature’s short-comings.”

“That’s very kind of you Simon, but I’m happy to accept some responsibility for it. But until we have a full relationship and coincidentally, I am legally available too, if you take my meaning…” He understood immediately about my legal status. “… Then, if we are still compatible, or we think we are, then I would consider a proposal from you as serious.”

“You should have been a lawyer, not only would you earn better money than those furry varmints get you, but you’d also be in your element, doing word games.”

“I’m in my element when I’m outdoors in the countryside or on my bike.”

“When is your birthday?” he asked.

“Why?”

“I wondered what star sign you were.”

“I thought it was sun sign.”

“Okay, friggin’ sun sign, bloody Virgo I expect.”

“No, I’m Sagittarius.”

“Remind me not to let you near a bow and arrow.”

“I have fired them, did archery for a bit in school.”

“Any good?”

“I could have made the school team, the girls’ one.”

“Oh!”

“But I could probably hit something the size of a man from thirty or forty metres.” I was exaggerating a bit, couldn’t hit a barn door from that distance but he didn’t know it.

“I think I’ll keep you away from bows and arrows.”

“Yeah, putting a recurve bow together is quite good fun, can take your finger off if you get it wrong.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“You should try it, quieter than guns, just as deadly. If those two poachers had been after us with bows, I suspect we’d both be on cold slabs now.”

“Can we talk about something else?” asked Simon checking out his current injuries.

“Yeah course. Oh, Stella asked me to bring my bread machine when I come down on Saturday.”

“Oh good-o,” he smiled, “at least I won’t starve then, soup and bread at weekends. Will you bake me some cakes as well?”

“If you want me to.” I could see myself spending the whole weekend in the kitchen.

“Oh yeah, brilliant. Can you do an almond slice?”

“I suppose so, it isn’t that difficult if you have the ingredients.”

“Can you bring them with you?”

“I suppose I could.” Suddenly, this twenty something scion of the commodities section of his bank, was like a schoolboy. I felt more like his mother than his girlfriend.

“Doesn’t Stella bake?”

“Not very often, well the odd sponge, and usually when she makes them they are odd.”

“My first attempt cost about a thousand pounds.”

“Wow!” his mouth dropped open.

“It caught fire and they had to redo part of the kitchen.” He looked at me with astonishment, then the sides of his mouth wrinkled slightly and I started to laugh. He joined me, and we roared together. “When I took him the first cake in hospital, I had to reassure him I hadn’t burnt the house down, before he would eat any.” The tears were rolling down my cheeks, but this time with laughter. What a difference in a day.

We kissed and cuddled as best we could for a little while and I told him I had to go.

“You drive carefully.”

“I always do.”

“That’s what Stella says.”

“Compared to her, Lewis Hamilton drives carefully.”

“True, but that doesn’t give you license to go bananas.”

“I shall be a good girl Uncle Simon.”

“Don’t you Uncle Simon me, you minx. Go on, push off before I lose my temper.”

“Not again, I only helped you find it the other day, bloody men. Which drawer do you usually keep it in?”

When he picked up his pee-pot and aimed it at me, I decided it was time to leave. I did.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 127

by Angharad & Lance Groinstrain

Life gets more fraught for our heroine.

I made it out of the City before the traffic got too bad; I also made some progress on the motorway before it all clogged to a standstill. I have seen computer models where they show just volume of traffic can bring things to complete stop. This seemed to be the case in point today. At least when you think that’s the problem, you can curse everyone for being there, rather than feel the cold shiver when you pass an accident site, especially when the ambulance is still there waiting for the fire brigade to cut the victims out.

Half an hour after crawling north on the motorway, I spotted the mess on the other side of the road. Cars and vans all over the place, police and fire tenders with blue lights flashing and the ambulance, just waiting. I didn’t want to look, to gawp and stare. So why did my eye keep focusing on it all?

Somebody tooted a horn behind me somewhere, and I came back to the traffic my side of the barrier. I prayed no one was badly injured but saw enough of the damaged cars to think it was very likely.

Eventually, the speed of the crawl became a trot through canter to gallop; on the other side, it was stationary for about seven miles then I noticed the police had closed the other carriageway at the next junction. I was glad I wasn’t going back south today.

It was rush hour in Bristol and I went straight to the hospital to see Daddy. I did and was horrified to see how much weight he’d lost with the virus. He was skin and bone.

I spoke with the Ward Sister, “If I was to do him a series of soups and freeze them, is there any way they could be stored here for him?”

“Not really, we have a small fridge that’s it.”

“What about the kitchens?”

“You could ask them, but they may refuse if they haven’t cooked it.” She called up the catering manager who told me on the phone it would contravene so many of his food hygiene protocols that I stopped him mid-sentence and gave up. Daddy would just have to cope with what I could get to him when I could.

I’d grabbed a fresh soup and small loaf from Tesco on the way in. After pleading with him for quarter of an hour he agreed to eat some, then grumbled all the time he did.

“Thanks Daddy, I’ll make you some tomorrow, I promise,” I crossed my heart more from childish practise than present belief. He nodded and grumbled some more.

“Voo woo eed or unny?” he said with great difficulty.

“Something about honey?” I guessed, wrongly apparently because he got very cross with himself, and I think, with me.

He moved his good hand, flicking his thumb over his fingers, “Unny,” he repeated several times.

“Money?” I guessed and he sighed as if at last the idiot had got it.

“Voo woo eed or?” he tried again.

I shook my head, “Have I got enough?” it didn’t sound anything like what he’d said.

“Ess,” he clenched his fist and shook it punching a success.

“I suppose I could get some more, I have shopping to get tomorrow,” I said blithely, then a horrible idea came to me. “I hope you don’t think I’m trying to up the ante here?” I almost snapped at him.

“Vie avv voo?” he managed to get out and there was a hard look in his eye.

“If you thought that was the case, I’d have taken the money you offered me for the bike, or do you think that was a con too?” I was getting angrier by the minute, but instead of the red-hot anger I had shown to Simon earlier, this was ice cold, and his eyes began to register some fear.

“You realise I am about this far from walking out of here,” I said holding my thumb and finger about half an inch from each other. “And if I do I won’t ever come back. I don’t need your stinking money and I won’t be bought. If I change my mind, then it will be to Simon or his family, they are billionaires, they make Richard Branson seem impoverished.”

He slumped in his chair and began weeping silently. His only defence against my rapidly increasing fire power.

This time I was inured, detached from emotion, an intellectual disgust with him. I had just bust a gut to get to him and this was all the thanks I got. Well fuck him!

“I’ll call by tomorrow if I can find time.” Having snapped this at him in cold hissing voice, I grabbed my coat and was storming off the ward when one of the nurses intercepted me and pointed to the office.

“Proud of ourselves are we?” she asked.

“What business of yours is it?” I said back coldly.

“He’s a patient of mine whom you have just bullied. I don’t like bullies.”

“Good job you didn’t meet him a year or two ago then.”

“Why?”

“He nearly beat me to death. I don’t owe him anything, and he can’t buy me either.”

“He can’t beat you now, so you enjoyed getting your own back did you?”

“No.”

“So why did you do it?”

“Because he’s playing mind games with me, like he used to when I was a kid. Then he threatened me, now it’s emotional blackmail.”

“He’s very weak at the moment.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t wish him ill. I try not to even think about him.”

“That’s not true.” She stared me in the eye as she spoke and I couldn’t hold her gaze. I looked at the floor and felt a tear drip off my nose. “I’ve seen you with him, I saw you watching when the physio was here, the pride you had when he walked a step or two. It was almost palpable. I’ve also seen the way you made food for him and fed him. His eyes sparkled with pride in you. You couldn’t hurt him if you wanted too, you don’t have it in you.”

I stood shaking my head. The tears were now dripping to form an abstract pattern on the linoleum floor. “I mustn’t let him control me again, I can’t.” I looked at the nurse’s face and said, “He fucked me up before, I can’t let him do it again. This time I will kill myself.”

She held me firmly by the elbows forcing me to look into eyes again, “No you won’t, there is no need for anyone to be hurt. Come and sit down and have a drink of tea and just calm down.”

She pushed me into the chair and I sat trembling, wondering why I was such a bad person. Was it my destiny to be self-destructive, just as I seemed to living my dream? A bit like Moses being stopped from entering the Promised Land. I liked that analogy, same bloody God who it seemed could piss all over me when he felt like it.

Give me someone with whom I am blissfully happy and get them shot. Okay, they didn’t die, probably so they can be used against me again in the future. Then my sense of guilt? Firmly entrenched through childhood indoctrination and played like a fiddle by my dad, one of his fucking disciples! I seethed with impotence.

“Here, drink this,” she placed a mug of steaming fluid in my shaking hands. “Look I know all we women have difficulties juggling jobs, careers and family, not to mention housework and stuff.”

“I work in Portsmouth, my boyfriend is in hospital there, he was accidentally shot.”

“Oh dear, not badly I hope.”

“Not critically no, but he comes out on the weekend and I have to dash back there to nurse him.”

“Oh.”

“My prof has just given me a teaching assignment and I have to recruit and instruct someone to take over my field project, I also have students to tutor.”

“Sounds like a busy time.”

“I don’t think I can do it all and come up here to make him soup.”

“I see your problem. Ours is he won’t eat hospital food.”

“So that gives him carte blanche to blackmail me does it?”

The nurse now looked away from my face and shrugged her shoulders. “You are his daughter, he is your dad.”

“Only because he stopped ignoring me. I left home because he nearly killed me. I swore I would never go back. Then what happens? My mother dies and he has a bloody stroke. If there was any justice it should have been him who died not her. I miss her so much.” I put the cup down and burst into tears; the nurse moved her chair around and hugged me.

“There, there,” she cooed my head on her shoulder and she rubbing my back, “let all the pain out, let it all go.”

I honestly can’t say how long I sobbed on her shoulder but it was minimally several minutes. The pain I felt was like a large knife twisting inside my heart as I wept for my mother. Part of me wished I had taken the shot that hit Simon, and killed me. Then I could join her, except I didn’t know if I believed in any of that afterlife bunk. I just wished I could have spent a few more minutes with her before she died, just to be accepted as her daughter, then I could have died happy myself.

To think, I spent a year away from her with virtually no contact because of him. How I could have used that time had I known I wouldn’t see her ever again. If only I had known. I must be a bad person. I must be a bad person.

“I must be a bad person,” I whispered out loud.

“Why do you say that?” she whispered back to me.

“Because God hates me.”

“Do you really think that?” she continued rubbing my back.

“Some days I do.”

“And today is one of them?”

“Yes.”

“Have you spoken to our hospital chaplain?”

“I don’t want priests near me.” I pulled away from her.

“Okay, okay you don’t have to speak to him, except he’s a nice old boy and might be able to help you through some of these issues.”

“I think I might have told him to fuck off when my mother died.”

“Oh, not good.”

“Well he started off with his Christian claptrap. I wasn’t in the mood for it.”

“I see. He may not remember you.”

“I should think my image is seared onto the back of his eyeballs.”

“Oh, pity.”

“I’ll be all right.” I shuddered and sat up.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, hell is that the time?” I pretended I could see the clock across the way but it was so blurry from my tears I couldn’t read it. “I have to go.”

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, thanks for your help. Don’t tell him, will you?”

“Nah, this was between just you and me.”

I stood up and did up my coat, wiping my eyes on a tissue and suspecting that I had makeup everywhere. “Thank you,” I said proffering my hand.

She took it and squeezed gently, “You’re welcome. Take care now won’t you?”

“Yeah,” I said almost dismissively.

“I mean it.”

I nodded, “Yes okay, so do I.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part “I am not a number I am a free man.”

(The Prisoner) (128)

by Wassername

Cathy gets lost and finds something… read on.

I felt like someone had boiled me and put me through a mangle. I’d seen one in a museum once, big rollers that women used to squeeze the water out of their washing. We saw it at the Welsh National Folk Museum at St Fagans near Cardiff, on a school trip. I wasn’t sorry that I didn’t live in those days and certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be a female in those days—high risk of dying in childbirth.

I managed to find my car, almost on autopilot and I sat for some time before driving off. I might even have dozed for a few minutes. My head was spinning around inside like a top with a nuclear core and my stomach felt cramped and tight.

I had opened the Pandora’s boxes of religion and grief—there was unfinished business with both. But how to resolve it? That was the question which was incarcerating my mind. Until I found some sort of answer, I was lost to the question.

Thankfully, I had filled the car’s fuel tank before going to the hospital, when I’d bought the soup for Daddy. I drove all night, I don’t know where, I just drove.

I wound up in the country, having pulled up in a lay-by and fallen asleep. I had no idea where I was when I woke up and tried to stretch my aching body. I had a drink from the water bottle I always keep with me, then I needed to find somewhere to wee. No one was about, so I nipped into a field and watered some dock leaves.

I always keep a few things in the car with me, some wet wipes, a drink and some emergency food, usually a couple of cereal bars. I ate one now and drank some more water. I gradually came more awake and a quick wipe over with the wet wipes, helped me reinforce that. I had removed all my makeup, it was trashed anyway with my crying, and I didn’t feel a need to replace it. In fact I couldn’t feel anything except tired—my senses were numbed.

I looked at my watch, it was just coming up to eight o’clock, with that I heard a church clock begin to peal. Almost in a trance, I walked towards the noise. I saw the odd pedestrian and was passed by the occasional car, but this had to be one of the quietest villages I’d ever been to.

I saw a sign, ‘To the C16th Church.’ I followed it. It was a quaint looking place and I walked down through the path to the porch. I felt for my handbag, I did have it with me and breathed a sigh of relief when I recalled locking the car and putting the keys inside my bag. I checked and they were there.

I walked into the porch and to my surprise, the door was unlatched; I pushed and it opened, and I walked into the cool musty-smelling building. I could hear someone moving about but I felt it was a place of peace and might help me think. I walked as quietly as I could, my heels clicking on the stone flags, towards the back of the church and sat down.

I looked around but only noticed how ancient everything seemed, but this sense of peace pervaded everything and I decided if there was a God, then this might aptly be a so called, ‘House Of God,’ because certainly there was something here.

I sat drifting in my thoughts but apart from feeling calmer, my head still buzzed. I pulled out the hassock, or little kneeling cushion, from the back of the chair in front and knelt down on it, trying a prayer to something I wasn’t sure if I believed in.

I had difficulty focusing, which was part of the problem. Maybe I just needed Dr Thomas and her skills or a therapist of some sort. I was losing the battle here. I sat back down and thought of my mother, and the tears came. I was so absorbed in my own feelings, and had a tissue up to my eyes when I became aware of someone sat alongside me.

“Hi, it’s so peaceful here isn’t it?” A quick glance showed the speaker was a woman perhaps fortyish, wearing a fleece jacket and jeans.

I nodded rather than spoke; I was too choked to emit any coherent linguistic sounds.

“You’re upset about something,” she said quietly—almost mesmerically I nodded.

“They say a trouble shared is a trouble halved, want to see if it’s true?”

Somehow, this place and this woman felt trustworthy and I needed to talk with someone or go completely mad. “I’d like that,” I said with a croaky voice.

“Good, I’m Marguerite, by the way.”

“Cathy,” I replied taking a deep breath to try and calm myself enough to talk. I was still shaking a little.

“Why are you here?”

“Good question. I don’t know.” I shrugged, some tears came and I took a deep breath to try and suppress them. It almost worked.

“You look tired.”

“I am, I think I drove around in circles most of the night.”

“Why was that?”

“Dunno trying to think.”

“Think about what?”

“Dunno really.”

“Are you sure?”

I began to feel the tears escape my eyes again. I felt her hand on mine and she said calming things. “I’m, (sob) a bad person.” I sobbed heavily and she put her arm around me.

“Why are you a bad person?”

“I’m (sob) an abom(sob)ination.” (sob)

“Wow, that’s a pretty strong indictment. Why do you bring this charge against yourself?”

“I’m unnatural,” I managed a whole phrase without sobbing.

“What do you mean, ‘unnatural’?” It was the gentlest interrogation I had ever received.

“I’m really a man.” I burst into tears again.

“Are you, I wouldn’t have known?”

“I’m waiting for reassignment surgery.”

“I hope it will make you feel more complete,” she squeezed my hand, “although you look pretty good to me.”

“I’ve offended God, I’m an abomination.”

“So is that why you’re here?”

“I suppose so,” I was sobbing again.

“What do you expect God to do?”

“I dunno, kill me.”

“Kill you? What for, for being yourself?”

“Yes,” said a tiny voice from under the tissue.

“My goodness, what God do you believe in? He sounds a real tyrant to me.”

“I don’t know, I don’t know if I believe in anything except I seem cursed.”

“By God?”

“I suppose so.”

“Do you feel threatened here?”

“No,” I blushed, I was being such a baby. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she smiled at me and there was such warmth in her eyes. “This place is a place of sanctuary, protected by the love of God, not the wrath of some ancient, Old Testament deity. I suspect that is what brought you here, so you could see that you are loved for yourself. We are all equal in the eyes of God, none of us are better or worse, none of us are hated or despised. These are all things we do as humans to each other, we don’t need a God to do that, we manage perfectly well by ourselves.”

I almost laughed at the absurd picture she painted of humanity. “Why did he take my mother, before I could make my peace with her?”

“Gosh, another accusation. Did you actually see God come and take her.”

“Now you’re mocking me,” I said and went to stand.

“Please sit down and answer my question.”

I slumped back in the chair. “No I didn’t.”

“Were you there when she died, it sounds as if you were.”

“Yes, she had never seen me as a girl. I was with a woman friend and we were shopping in Southampton when my dad phoned to say she was in hospital and to come straight away. I would have gone back to my room to change, but that was in Portsmouth and my friend thought we didn’t have time. She was right, we got there and she died moments later.”

“I’m sorry, did she say anything?”

I was crying again, “Yeah, she said, ‘I thought I heard my Charlie, but he’s sent two angels in his place.’ She lay back and died.”

“So she saw you and your friend as angels?”

“Dunno, she was dying.”

“I can see why she might make that mistake.”

“I can’t.”

“Two beautiful creatures approaching her.”

“What Stella and me!” I almost laughed at her.

“That’s what she said she saw.”

“It could have been a delirium, various brain chemicals. I’m a biologist; there are lots of explanations for death experiences.”

“So am I, I have doctorate in biochemistry. I’m also open to the chemicals creating this effect as the mechanism, perhaps designed by something to ease our passing.”

“Oh not Intelligent Design, and all that crap.”

“No, that’s just poor scientific reasoning.”

“I agree absolutely.” I looked at her again, “If you’re a scientist, what are you doing here, in a place of superstition?”

“Whoa, another accusation. Answer me this first, you’re a scientist, why are you here?”

“I don’t know, accident?”

“Meaningful coincidence or synchronicity as Jung would have put it?”

“My consultant says Jung was barking,” I chuckled.

“Did he do…”

“She, it’s a woman,” I corrected.

“Sorry, has she done an analytical session with Jung, then?”

“I doubt it she’s far too young,” I sniggered at my accidental pun and so did she.

“Very good, you look better than when I first sat down.”

“I feel better, thank you.” I smiled at her and she smiled back. “So why are you here?” I asked.

“Why d’you think?” she answered back.

“Don’t tell me you’re some angelic being sent by God’s press office?”

“Oh I like that, can I quote you on that?”

“If you want,” I wasn’t sure if she was still mocking me.

“I work here.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“This is my parish.”

“What, you’re a priest?”

“Yes.”

“Why aren’t you wearing a dog collar?”

“Why aren’t you in a lab coat?”

“Okay, I surrender, God got me.”

“You talk in riddles. I don’t usually come into the church this early unless I’m doing a service. I’m not until this evening, but for some reason I found myself here looking for a book I needed for a sermon I was trying to write on St Thomas.”

“I’ve read his Gospel, one of the Gnostic ones.”

“It’s lovely isn’t it.”

“My parents didn’t think so, wasn’t canon, so everything I said they argued against.”

“They gave you hard time then?”

“Yeah, what with my gender thing and my heresy.”

“Heresy, wow, what sort of Christians were they?”

“Born again Evangelicals.”

“Oh dear.” She sighed and shook her head, “It’s so sad that people don’t think about what they believe. It’s good to challenge things until they feel right, not just comfortable.”

“You sound like my old RI teacher, she was a physicist as well. Taught me a lot about acceptance.”

“Acceptance, are you sure? In order for others to accept you, you need to accept yourself and I thought I heard some wavering there.”

“Yeah,” I looked at the floor.

“And that’s easy to blame on God?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Can I give you a picture to think about?”

“Yes, please do.”

“Okay, what if God is everything and nothing, all paradox and yet so simple, we can’t see him or her or it, like wood for trees? What if we create our own destinies, from our genes and our culture and our experiences, our education and our relationships? Some of us will die younger than others, some will be rich, some poor in material terms. Others will be rich in experiential terms, feel loved and so on. The variables are endless. What if God was something inside us as well as wherever else people have put him? How would you feel about him or her or it, then?”

“I don’t know. I need to think about that.”

“Have you had breakfast?”

“No, I erm fell asleep in the car.”

“Come back to the vicarage with me and have a hot drink and a bite of breakfast?”

“I hate to impose.”

“You’re not, besides I want to hear your answer.”

I followed her back to a modern detached house, “There used to be a rector who lived in that old pile over there. It’s an old folks’ home now, I’m happy with double glazing and cavity wall insulation.” I nodded and we chuckled.

We had several cups of coffee and a bowl of porridge, followed by toast and jam. I was touched by her generosity.

“Now, my fee.”

I sat back with a jolt and reached for my bag.

“No, not money, your answer to my hypothesis.”

“It certainly feels more comfortable than my previous model.”

“And?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t blame anyone but myself for my situation.”

“Why have you got to blame anyone? What if it’s just your genes or DNA or rogue mitochondria somewhere in your brain. You can’t help who you are, only what you become, what you do with it. Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

“I don’t believe anyone as pretty as you was ever a boy.”

“I have dangly bits.”

“So, lots of women have all sorts of genital variations.”

“Not quite the same as mine.”

“Don’t be too sure, nature is very experimental and with six or seven billion of us on this poor planet, anything could happen.”

“Well my birth certificate says boy.”

“That’s just a piece of paper which can be corrected.”

“I have to go,” I saw the time it was ten o’clock, “I have taken so much of your precious time.”

“I’ve enjoyed the conversation. I hope all goes well with your surgery and I hope you find someone to love you.”

“I already have, he’s in hospital in Portsmouth, a shooting accident.” I went on to explain about Simon and Stella and looked at the clock it was now eleven.

“Marguerite, can I ask you something?”

“Of course Cathy.”

“If once I get everything sorted, birth certificate, surgery and the rest. If I wanted to get married, would you marry me?”

“Wow! You don’t ask small questions, do you?”

“I’m a scientist, remember.”

“As you don’t live in the parish I might have to ask my bishop, but he’s pretty good. So off the top of my head I don’t know. In my heart, yes I should love to marry you.”

I teared up again and she hugged me. “Thank you, so much. You are an angelic being.”

“Nah, you ask my husband, he’ll put you right.”

“Where is he?”

“He’s away with my son at his mother’s, they’re doing some decorating for her.”

“Oh, I’m sorry I’m asking such personal questions.” I blushed.

“I’ve got one for you?”

“Oh, okay.”

“Do you want to use the loo before you go?” We both laughed at that and she showed me where it was.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 129

You know the rest.

I sat in my little car, which thankfully had over half a tank of fuel left, and pressed the sat nav—it would take about an hour to get home and I could make some soup but bread would be a problem, no time for the dough to rise or prove. Oh well, Daddy would have to compromise, I’d take him some potato instead.

I drove following the directions of the machine, having enough to do with coping in controlling the car and watching traffic, with all that was buzzing around my brain. I had met a woman who was as close to an angel as I was ever likely to meet. I felt truly blessed to have met her and to have her email address too. She insisted I told her I’d got home safe. How sweet of her.

I hadn’t resolved my issues with religion or God, but I had released enough steam to be able to function for months without needing to worry about it. I was no longer angry with the universe, well for a week or two. Hell, that’s all part of having a personalised God, so you can complain every time he lets you down—far better than blaming yourself.

I chuckled to myself as I drove—the idiocy of it all. If we didn’t have emotions we wouldn’t have problems, we have the brain capacity to solve any problem except one, dealing with emotional issues. That is what fucks us up but is also the small element which makes us human otherwise we’d all be like Mr Spock. Presumably, there’d be no gender problems, because that’s all emotional stuff anyway. Maybe things would be better that way.

I drove a few miles exploring this in my mind and then suddenly stopped causing a large van behind me to do an emergency stop and swerve around me, “Stupid bitch,” was the epithet with which he passed. I was glad I didn’t live in a Spockian world because I actually enjoyed being a woman, even a ‘stupid’ one yeah I liked it. No I didn’t, I loved it.

I pulled into a lay-by and got out of the car and stood there and yelled as loud as I could, “I love being a woman.” From a field nearby a cow added something of an addendum, but I don’t understand low English. I then started to giggle uncontrollably at my own joke and wet myself.

It is not a nice aspect of being female—having wet stuff running down ones thighs—I snatched a handful of tissues, locked the car after grabbing my handbag and nipped into a field, returning bare legged and knickerless. I would have to stop thinking funny things or go for a pee first.

I got home, in the shower, then after dressing made some quick soup for Dad: potato and ham. Only took an hour and I had some for my lunch too. Then a quick makeup job and I was off to the hospital. I was a bit late through the traffic and he was sitting hunched up in his chair looking at a magazine upside down.

A cold shiver went through my whole body: did this mean he could no longer read? I would have to check it out, but surreptitiously. How bad could that be to an intelligent man? It would remove about half my life; it would be like a form of blindness. It was too painful to contemplate.

“Hi Daddy, sorry I’m late, the traffic was awful.” That wasn’t the word that had originally sprung to mind but I was trying to moderate my language a little—women don’t usually swear as much as men, or this one wasn’t going to anymore.

His face lit up then immediately closed down again. Was he ill or going to make things difficult? I would try and keep my cool as long as I could, then kill him in cold blood! The b… lessings of the universe be upon you. Shi… ne a light!

“I’ve made you some fresh soup, I hope you like it.” I poured some from the flask into the bowl I’d brought. I tied a napkin around his neck and tucked it under his arms to cover most of his chest. I dipped the spoon in the soup and loaded it, then moved it towards his mouth. He moved his head and nearly got an earful, of soup, that is.

“Do you not want this?” I pointed at the dish and looked at him, he glowered back at me. Oh boy, I counted to ten. “Are you not hungry?”

The reply was a silent glowering.

“Okay,” do want me to read to you or make you a drink?” He glowered some more.

“Excuse me Daddy, I’ll be back in a moment.” I rose and walked to the nurses’ office and found the same nurse I’d spoken with the day before.

“He won’t have his soup.”

“No he wouldn’t take anything today. Usually he has a cuppa for breakfast or a small drink of juice; he wouldn’t even take his medication. He wouldn’t take his epilim.”

“Does he fit?”

“Has done, usually the epilim controls it.”

“Oh sh… oot!”

“How are you today, you look tired but better.”

“Yeah, I’ll tell you about it one day. What’re we going to do with him?”

“I don’t know, I suspect he heard all or part of our conversation.”

“Oh fuck! Shit I am sorry, I’m trying not to swear so much.” I blushed like a Belisha beacon.

The nurse chuckled, “Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who has felt like swearing at him today.”

“So is he just being uncooperative, or is he on hunger strike?”

“We thought the former, nobody thought of the latter. Oh dear, would he?”

“I couldn’t say for sure now, since he is so changed, but before all this happened, yes quite easily. He probably would starve you into submission rather than himself, now I don’t know. There’s barely enough to keep him going as he is. I think he’s decided to kill himself.”

“Gosh, I’ll have to get the psychiatrist in to assess him.”

“That might be difficult if all he does is glower.”

There was the sound of a crash and we both rushed out. The soup and the flask were lying on the floor together with bits of broken china. The nurse immediately went to get something to clear it up, I picked up the flask and shook it, the glass liner was broken.

“Thanks Dad, Mum gave me that when I was in school.” I scowled at him, he didn’t react at all.

“He done it on purpose,” called a man from the other side of the ward, “He kicked it arff.”

“Are you sure?”

“Ohyez, I seen him.”

“Thanks.” I began clearing up the bits of glass while trying to avoid getting my skirt in the mess.

The nurse came back with a cleaner and bin. I left them to sort it out standing with my arms folded scowling at him, the bastard!

As soon as they were gone I spoke very quietly to him, “You miserable old bugger, so you’re going to die are you? Fine that suits me, I’ll go and clear out your bank account now before the bloody church gets all your money, because I doubt you left it to me. But before you do, if you have plans of joining my mother, don’t bother. Suicides go straight to hell, remember.”

A look of alarm spread over his face and his dribbling increased, tears also began to fall slowly from his eyes.

I stood watching him, part of me wanted to slap him or abuse him part of me was crying inside. I had just cruelly taken away his only form of rebellion and I wasn’t entirely sure of my motives. Was it to save him or punish him? I couldn’t honestly tell. I thought I should feel angry but I didn’t. Instead, I felt a void, an emptiness that was even more worrying.

He looked up at me, “Sozzy Affy.”

I looked at him and deciphered what he had said. “Okay, I accept your apology. You spoiled your own treat, all I have is some potato cakes, will you eat some of those with a bit of butter?”

“’Ess.”

I bent over and put my arms around his neck, there was a momentary expression of fear, then I moved my hands and hugged him. “You stupid old fool, you worry me to death, do you know that?”

“’Ess,” he said.

“Please don’t test me again Daddy, I’m not strong enough to pass it again and you’ll lose me forever. It isn’t a threat it’s a promise. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“’Ess,” he began to weep more heavily.

“Sozzy Affy.”

“Okay, I accept your apology, this time.” I walked away to get some butter and a plate.

He ate both the potato cakes which I warmed in the microwave.

“Ov-ee.”

“Lovely?” I asked and he nodded. “Good were they?”

“Ood,” he said and I smiled.

“Okay you old buzzard, I’ll drop some food in tomorrow. I can’t stop I have to go to Portsmouth to look after Simon. He was hurt a week or so ago and has only just come home from hospital.”

His face immediately fell, and tear dripped from his eyes.

“I’m sorry Daddy, but I have two of you to look after plus my course is getting more demanding. I’m only going to be able to get up here a couple of days a week at best. I am sorry but I can’t do everything.”

He looked so helpless. My heart nearly stopped with guilt, yet an hour before I’d have happily strangled him. He was still pulling my strings, even now.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 130 (“Same as her age,” Bonzi).

Gonna kill that cat!

by Birthday Girl & Bonzi

A special extra episode ’cos it’s my birthday and I can’t go out on my bike and I don’t feel like doing housework.

I found myself sitting in the car again—seemed to be becoming a habit, it used to be a bike. I had an idea and shot home.

Twenty minutes later, I clipped my cleats in and was zipping through the side roads towards the downs. I went down through Avonmouth and back up the gorge with a nice hill climb to get into the city, then home. Altogether, I was out about ninety minutes but felt so much better for it. They ought to prescribe cycling on the NHS—cures everything except saddle sores!

I checked the bread maker, the kitchen almost sang with the aroma and my stomach rumbled. It wasn’t quite done, so up to the shower. I dressed in something tidy, a black and gold top with the odd sequin and bead sewn on it, tiny capped sleeves and a deep vee neck. No one would be in any doubt about my sex! To go with this I wore a black velvet skirt, a relatively full skirt, with a gold beaded band of an inch about three inches from the hem. The skirt and top weren’t matching but they were close enough.

Makeup sorted, a bit more than usual and a redder lipstick than I normally wore then a good squirt of Opium. To complete my ensemble, I wore my sapphire necklace and earrings, with a silver bracelet and Mum’s engagement ring.

Downstairs the bread was ready and I unloaded the machine, washed it out and made up the next batch for tomorrow, then set it going again. Maybe I could get a tax break as a new bakery? I smirked at my own joke and then recalled the earlier experience. No, I didn’t need to go.

I made some ham and salad sandwiches, ate a couple of rounds and packed up the rest with a flask of what remained of the soup I’d made earlier. Finally, I pulled on my old red boots, they were comfortable and warm—goodness, a couple of months ago if someone had told me I’d be able to walk about in these all day, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’d have rolled my eyes at the chance let alone the reality. So much had happened in such a short time, but the truth was, if Stella hadn’t set the ball rolling, I’d still be a wannabe dreaming of what I’m doing now. I shook my head and pulled on yet another of her donations: a long thick velvet jacket with a hood and fur trim, all in black. Picking up my bag and the food bag, I set off for the car.

As I was driving back to the hospital, I had a thought. My stalker seems to know my car; I had a plan to get around that. I bounced on to the ward.

“Hello Miss Watts, didn’t expect to see you here again today.”

“Yeah, well there’s nothing on telly and I just love Casualty, so I thought I’d come and watch it live.” Actually that was rubbish, I didn’t watch the show at all, had enough of hospitals recently.

“Oh yes, now why did you come back?”

“Well I found this unbreakable flask and thought I’d road test it.”

The nurse laughed, “He’s been good since you went, what did you say to him?”

“Family secret,” I smirked back.

“Oh! Be like that then,” she patted my arm. “You look and smell nice, going on somewhere after?”

“Sort of, do you think…”

“Hi Daddy,” I effused all over him, took him by surprise and his face lit up like a Christmas tree.”

“Affy,” he beamed back at me.

“I brought you in some more soup and a sandwich, which you are going to eat, every last crumb, godditt?”

He nodded, “Vues piddy,” he managed to emit.

“I’m what?”

“Piddy, ike mmmmm uvver.”

“Pretty like my mother?”

“’Ess,” he smiled and I could feel his genuineness.

“Why thank you Daddy,” and gave him a smacker on his cheek, leaving a red lipstick mark. I decided I wouldn’t wipe it off just yet.

He couldn’t manage all of his soup or quite all of the sandwich, but I could tell he had tried. “Hmm, I suppose I’ll let you off this bit, but you won’t get curly hair if you don’t eat your crusts.”

This was a line my mother used to throw at me when I was a kid—in those days I didn’t want curly hair and refused to eat them. Until I met Jane Eastman, she had luscious locks of vibrant curls in a beautiful golden colour, I was so jealous I stared at her all morning. In nursery, they wondered if I was developing a form of autism. I ate my crusts after that, but still have straight as stair rods hair! My mother lied to me—no wonder I’m an emotional wreck!

As we were finishing up, the nurse arrived with a couple of blankets and proceeded to wrap my dad up like Tutankhamen’s mummy. He looked uncertain about what was happening. “You ready then?”

He looked even more unsure, and his eyes pleaded with me, almost scared. “Don’t worry, we’re only going down the pub and I suppose it’s my round, eh?”

He stared at me in disbelief and I moved to the back of the wheelchair and after pulling on my coat, pushed him out of the ward and along the corridors to freedom.

The walk to the pub was longer than I thought and he’d nodded off by the time we got there, my feet were pleased I could finally sit and give them a break although we had the reverse journey to do. I did wonder about a taxi, then thought it was nice for him to get some fresh air.

I pushed him right up to a table and with a couple of straws linked together, he could manage to suck up his half of ‘Ruptured Ferret’ or whatever the brew was called. I sipped a glass of Chardonnay for a price that would get a whole bottle in Tesco. C’est la vie.

He smiled at me, and savoured his beer. “’Ang goo.”

“S’okay,” I smiled back, “I thought we could both do with a treat.” He nodded in agreement.

“Voos ooti-cal,” he said after staring at me for a minute.

“I’m what?” not quite catching what the second or subsequent words were.

“He said you’re beautiful,” said a voice to my right and I spun around to see who it was.

“Oh,” I blushed, it was the archetypal tall dark stranger.

“And he’s absolutely right, you are.” The ultra bright smile was almost blinding from his perfect teeth, they were encased in the face of an Adonis. Six feet tall, dark curly hair, neatly cut, no designer stubble, well fitting polo-necked sweater and cord jacket and trousers. Wow, I’ll bet he wouldn’t have talked to Charlie at the pub with his dad. Come to think of it, except for a few occasions in the summer, I didn’t ever go to a pub with my parents. The last time must be when I was about twelve and we had lunch in the beer garden.

“Can I get you both a drink?”

My father’s eyes sparkled, he’d finished his half. I was half way through my wine. “I don’t usually let strange men buy me drinks,” I said.

“I’m not strange and I don’t like drinking alone.” He thrust out his hand, “Ben Corton.”

I reluctantly took his hand and shook it, “Cathy.” I deliberately withheld my surname.

“Pleased to meet you,” he shook my hand which was dwarfed in his, goodness his felt warm. “And you, Cathy’s dad?”

“Derek,” I offered, as he took my father’s good hand and squeezed it.

“What’re you having?” He said stepping towards the bar.

“I’ll have a St Clements please and Daddy will have a half of Inebriated Squirrel, or whatever they call it.”

He laughed, “Nothing stronger for you?”

“No, I’m driving.”

“Oh okay.” He went to the bar.

“So how come he can understand you and I can’t?” I asked of my father.

He shrugged his shoulders as best he could, “Voo ’ike ’immm?”

“Dunno, remember I’m spoken for. One man on the go is enough, too much sometimes.”

I switched the engagement ring onto my right hand. Well I wouldn’t want to give him the wrong idea.

He passed me the drinks and I made sure the stones flashed in the light. “Pretty ring,” he said, “You’re engaged?”

“Yes,” said and watched my father make a funny face.

“Lucky guy, still I hope he won’t mind me sharing you for a half an hour or so.”

“Should be okay, I’ve got my chaperone with me.”

“But of course, anyway I have a wife and two kids.”

“So why aren’t you with them now?” I asked, ever the direct Sagittarian.

“I’m running a course at the hospital today and tomorrow.”

“Oh, I see. What sort of course?”

“Would you believe, ‘Speech and language therapy post hemiplegia’?”

“That’s why you can understand him and I can’t?”

“Probably, it just takes a while to train the ear. I’m sure a bright girl like you would get it pretty quick.”

“Me, I’m not very bright,” I blushed, thinking, ‘Or I wouldn’t be blushing over a chat up line like that!’

“Ess seee iss, see at uvi-nersty.”

“See I knew you were, thanks Derek, which one?”

“Not here.” I blushed mouthing ‘traitor’ at my dad, who nearly choked himself laughing.

“Oh right, so where then?”

“Orrs-muff,” betrayed my supposed protector.

“Portsmouth?” asked Adonis, my treacherous dad nodded, pleased with himself.

“What are you doing at Portsmouth?”

“Orrr-mmmm-ice.” Was mumbled from in front of me, and I gasped.

“Dormice?” queried my unwanted benefactor.

“If you give him my phone number I’m gonna strangle you, Daddy!” I hissed well aware that our ‘guest’ could hear. My father giggled again.

“So Miss Dormouse, pleased to meet you.” He stood up and bowed.

I pretended to ignore him and he laughed so did my dad. I began to colour up again.

“Prettiest dormouse I ever seen,” called some illiterate wag from the bar.

“Yeah, come an’ ’ibernate wiv me luv,” called another, showing more knowledge of my favourite rodent than I expected.

I sat blushing enough for them to be able to switch off the heating for at least an hour.

“Sorry, I erm seem to have attracted some unwanted attention.”

“It’s all right, just don’t make it any worse,” I said tersely.

“But of course.”

“So you’re actually studying dormice?”

“Yes have been for about three years.”

“Are you actually able to find any? They’re cute but elusive, I’d always thought.”

“Affy’s a exxx-putt, see cun fine um.”

“I can well believe it, so you’re an expert on finding dormice eh?”

“Sort of.” I blushed again.

“So what level are you studying?”

Before my father could betray yet further, I answered quickly, “PhD.”

“Oh, a real bright spark. Dr Dormouse, I wish you well in your studies,” and he raised his glass to me. I nodded and blushed even more.

“Otter orr-muss,” my father chanted all the way home, giggling when I threatened to push him under the next bus we saw.

I left him at the ward, still chanting.

“What’s he saying?” asked the nurse putting the curtain around before they got him ready for bed.

“Doctor Dormouse,” I said blushing.

“We don’t have any doctor of that name around here.” She shook her head. “He’s tiddly, how much did he drink?”

“A couple or three glasses of beer, just halves.”

“Who’s this Doctor Dormouse, Mr Watts?”

“Affy isss,” he chuckled and pointed at me, “seess Otter Orr-muss.”

“You’re Dr Dormouse?”

“Yes, I’m doing a PhD studying dormice.”

“Oh, more brains than me,” piped the nurse.

“Annn mmmeeeeee,” roared my father, he was ever so slightly pissed.

“I think we’d better get the commode don’t you?” she said to Dad and the curtains went right around. I waited for them to get him in bed and I would go. He’d had a bit of fun and I’d had some exercise plus some practice in repelling unwanted suitors, especially married ones. Although to be honest, he was okay. I mean he didn’t push anything and he kept fingering his wedding ring. When I asked, he showed us a photo of his wife and kids, two girls—Zoe and Beatrice.

He also took my dad to the toilet; all that laughing could have been tempting fate. That was something I couldn’t do now without a designated ‘disabled’ loo. Oh well, that was a small sacrifice.

It had been a better evening than I’d expected, except when I went to the bar, several of the morons propping it up called out, “I’ll ’ave a pint o darmouze,” or, “Fiona, can yer geddus a darmouze curry?”

“I’ll try and save you some fresh dormouse urine, next time I take samples,” I smiled as I collected our drinks.

“That’ll teach youze, Mick Bascombe, called another and there was general uproar for a moment. At least no one pinched my bum, of which I was glad—at nearly six quid for a round I didn’t want to pour one over someone’s head.

“Here he is, tucked in and waiting for his goodnight kiss,” called the nurse breaking my train of thought.

“Wanna st-rry,” he said at me.

“You want a story?”

“Ess,” he giggled.

“Okay, just a quickie.” I sat down and spoke quietly to him. “Once upon a time there were these two crabby old gits, whose lives were being blighted by a horrible priest…” He went to protest but I shushed him.

“… anyway, they fell out with their son because he disagreed with all sorts of things including their ideas of who he was. He went away to seek his fortune and one day while riding his bike the good fairy bumped into him, knocking him off his bike.

“She saw him cry and asked why he was unhappy, and he told her it was because he should be a girl. She smiled and waved her wand and he turned into a reasonably pretty girl…”

“Oot-eeee-vull.”

“Shurrup, who’s telling this story?” I insisted and he sniggered. “Anyway,” I continued, “She was introduced to this very handsome man, who after apparently falling in love with her, let drop he was a prince…”

“Ise-ount.”

“All bloody right, a viscount. Look do you want to tell the story?”

“Ohhhhh!” he said shaking his head.

“Anyway, the girl went back to see her parents, only her mother was very ill unbeknownst to her, and she died as the girl arrived with the good fairy, thinking they were angels…” my mind took me back to that awful moment and I felt my eyes well up.

“Vey wosss ain-jools,” he said, his own eyes wet but smiling.

“Yeah maybe, I think that’s enough of a story for tonight. I have to go.”

I kissed him goodnight, and saw his expression fall, then he smiled again, “I uvvv mmm-yyy orr-or.”

“You loved the story?”

“Nnnnn-oooo,” he shook his head, scattering tears everywhere.

“He said he loves his daughter,” a quiet voice said from behind us, “and I think I can see why.” The nurse bustled away, “Coming, Mr Lewis…”

“’Ess,” smiled my father.

“I love you too, Daddy,” and I hugged him and kissed him again.

Easy As Falling Off To Sleep

Part: The Bit That Comes After

The One Before (131)

by West Dorset District Council

I was so tired when I got back to the car, I had to sit for a few minutes in order to get my head back to the task in hand. I drove home very carefully and parked up. I weed and went straight to bed, barely managing to get my clothes off first. I slept like a log, not even going to the bathroom in the night.
I awoke with the alarm causing the radio to blare. It was ‘Classic FM’ with Vivaldi and his ‘Four Seasons.’ Not one of my favourite groups. It eventually managed to drive the sleep out of me and I dozily made my way downstairs and made some tea. It refreshed me and once I’d breakfasted and showered, I felt pretty good. My acceptance by my father had lifted a huge weight off me, just as I realised my acceptance of myself with the help of Marguerite, had done similarly, earlier. The sun was shining and the sky was blue, however, for me I felt like a blind woman who was only now able to see colours, cured by some miracle of science. How could she relate to them if she had never seen them before?

How would I relate to this climate of acceptance, of me just for being me? No more worries with the people who mattered to me, it’s more than I could have hoped for, so maybe my prayer had been answered by Marguerite’s God, not the one I’d been brought up with—the jealous God of the Old Testament.

Maybe the law of averages would, and I have just equalled things out a bit. I must have been due some good luck by now. Though, I suppose that many would think I actually had had my share of it and just couldn’t see it.

My body wasn’t much masculinised if at all, and the hormones I took seemed to change things quickly and effectively. My hips are an inch or two bigger than they were and my waist is a similar amount smaller. My breast growth is good, with nice nipples and areolar formation.

I stood in front of the mirror applying some makeup. My face was heart-shaped and there was no sign of facial hair except a peach fuzz, nor of a brow ridge. Puberty had passed me by and I was so lucky. I rubbed moisturiser on my neck. There was no thyroid cartilage or Adam’s apple of any sort. Given my situation, I was very lucky, I really did look like a woman, but so I should, I was a woman. I winked at the face in the mirror and she winked back—she wasn’t my type.

My GP Dr Smith had done some tests when I first confided in him. I was androgen insensitive to a large extent, and once the hormones predominating in my body were changed to oestrogens, things changed rapidly. My oestrogen receptors worked even if the testosterone ones didn’t. It also meant I didn’t need an androgen blocker, so my liver might last a bit longer than otherwise.

Why couldn’t I have accepted all this before others pointed it out to me? Probably because I could only see the fear that others would spot some aberration and see me for what I was, or thought I was. They saw me for what I really was, a woman.

I glanced at my watch, it was nine and I needed to sort something out. A single phone call did it, and I started to pack up my stuff for the weekend. Finally, I made up sandwiches and soup for my dad. Then I moved my car and started up the Mondeo. It had been in the garage for a few weeks but it started first time. I pulled it out on to the drive and parked my own car in the garage. I also spotted the bike rack my dad had bought years ago. I might play with that another day, although I had my own anyway.

I dropped off the stuff at the hospital and leaving my father was a real trauma. Both of us were in tears, but I was able to give him a laugh before I went. The postman had brought my new driving licence, the ones with the holder’s photo. I thought it was awful, he thought it was nice.

“I’ve got your car, and I think the run will do it good.”

He nodded but looked a bit worried.

“It’s okay, I’ll drive carefully and it is all insured.” He accepted what I had said more with resignation than enthusiasm. I wasn’t that happy either, his car was too big. Or it was for me, I felt like I was driving a lorry.

As I drove back to Portsmouth, I was glad he’d gone along with my scheme, although he was innocent of it. I had a different car; I wondered who now would recognise me from it. Very few for some time. Just that I could pass anonymously for a while made me feel safer. I wish I knew who these creeps were and I could tell the police.

On the motorway, the Mondeo was even quicker than my little Mercedes. It absolutely ate the miles and I had to be careful of my speed several times, which is more deceptive in a larger car. I was listening to Abba when some idiot in a Porsche went past at about a hundred and something miles an hour. My own speed had crept up to nearly ninety and I felt myself blush as I realised it. The Porsche however, seemed to have no such inhibitions, it was one of those with the aerofoil sticking out the back. He left me for dead, so trying to calculate how fast he was going was impossible.

Half an hour later, he was on the hard shoulder with a big police BMW, all lights flashing parked right behind him. I tried not to feel a sense of schadenfreude, which if my limited German remembered, was a feminine noun meaning a malicious delight. I wondered if German men didn’t experience it? Was being catty a female thing? Not in my experience as some of its best exponents were men.

The traffic slowed and came to a standstill. I didn’t have sat nav in the Mondeo, so I couldn’t do all sorts of detours to avoid it. I called Stella on my handsfree and told her I was stuck in traffic. She philosophised and told me not to forget she was going to do my hair. I had forgotten.

It was an hour and a half later that I got to the cottage. Stella came out to greet me and remarked, “Gosh, your car has grown up. I’ll have a go later, see how it compares to the Saab.”

“Sorry Stella, it’s my dad’s car and he made me promise only I would drive it.”

“Bah! He won’t know.”

“I will.”

“Spoilsport! How is the old sourpuss anyway?”

“I took him down the pub last night; he got pissed on a pint and a half of beer.”

“Cheap date,” she said laughing.

“Where’s Simon?” I asked as we went into the house.

“Up in his bedroom refusing to get up until you gave him a blanket bath.”

“What? I have no idea how to do that.”

“Now is your chance to find out, Nurse Cathy, this is your life. Please follow me to a studio where all your friends have been excluded and only your enemies admitted. It makes for better television.”

“Not in my case, I don’t know enough people to have friends let alone enemies.”

“What about the fan mail?”

“What! Oh those yeah, well except those. Oh I also found a priest who may marry me one day.”

“Thass no good, I want you to marry Simon, not some hard up cleric.”

“To marry me to Simon or whoever takes my fancy then.”

“What!” called a male voice from the bedroom above, “I’ve got first refusal.”

“Too late, she’s wearing an engagement ring.”

“What! She can’t be. I shall just lie here and pine away.”

“It’s my mother’s.”

“I thought it was, I’m just trying to wind him up, lazy bugger!”

“Aw c’mon Stella, he is in quite a lot of pain.”

“So much that he managed to move the portable telly from my room to his. Unless he teleported it.”

“Well he would wouldn’t he, telly-port? Gedditt?” I laughed and so did she, hitting me on the shoulder.

“You brute, that hurt,” I complained.

“Not half as much as your pun.”

“I’m not well,” the groans were emanating from Simon’s room.

“Don’t worry, Nurse Cathy is about to do her first enema,” said Stella sailing through the door.

“No she fucking isn’t!” was the reply.

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Purred Eleven Dozen (132)

by Bonzi & Angharad

(technical advisor on the cycling bits)

Like an old married couple, but exactly what is Cathy
hiding from Simon?

I was so glad I got through the door in time to see Simon’s face when Stella produced the enema bag. If he’d been in critical care, they’d have had to call the crash team by now. I giggled so much I had to run to the bathroom or risk wetting my jeans.

I was still laughing when I returned to the bedroom where Stella and Simon were lying exhausted from laughing. What had I got myself into? These two were completely and utterly barking mad! Part of me hoped it was contagious, because they had so much fun, something which had been missing from my life until recently.

Eventually Stella went off to make some tea and I was left alone with Simon. I jumped on him, which of course made him squeak loudly, “Ouch, that bloody hurts!”

I jumped upright again and blushing furiously, apologised. “I’m so sorry Simon, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“’S okay,” he smiled and made kissing pouts with his lips. I moved very gently to share them.

We were so engrossed in our face sucking competition that we didn’t hear Stella arrive with the mugs of tea. “Ugh, someone get a bucket of cold water, quick. Like two dogs in the street.”

I don’t know why I pulled away as if my father had caught me bonking behind the bike sheds, but I did. Once more I blushed profusely, it seemed the one thing I could really do well, apart from finding dormice.

“Stella,” Simon asserted himself, “We are both over twenty one and consenting adults. What we do in the privacy of our own bedrooms is our business.”

“What!” shrieked Stella, making me jump.

“Sorry,” he whimpered, and then we all started laughing again. They really were crazy.

Simon could wash himself pretty well, except his hair which I did for him. He had lovely thick curly hair and I was getting quite excited just running my fingers through it. I think he was too, because he fell off the chair we had wedged against the bath. At this rate he was going to be back in hospital before the end of the weekend.

I insisted I helped to wash his body and he surrendered. I won’t tell where I lingered with the flannel, but it wasn’t his face, and then I had to wash it again. I was having fun.

I helped him to dress and come downstairs—that was quite scary, he’s quite a bit bigger than me and if he’d fallen, we’d have both been in hospital. However, we got down safe and I made him comfortable in his favourite chair. Moments later, Stella grabbed me and whipped me up to the bathroom and began washing my hair.

I ended up with a trim and more highlights, some ash blonde, some strawberry and one or two actually light pink. She also gave me a demiwave to put some more body into it. When I looked in the mirror as she finished drying it, I had quite a shock.

“Wow!” I said, otherwise speechless.

“So waddya think?”

“It’s certainly different,” I managed to exhale.

“You don’t like it do you?”

“I didn’t say that, it’s just erm, different.”

“Go and see what Lord Stanebury thinks.”

“Yes mam.” I curtseyed and giggling went off to my lord and master.

He was watching Top Gear or some other such inanity. “Out the way Babes, you’re blocking the telly.” He gestured for me to move.

“Well what do you think?”

He glanced at me for about two nanoseconds and went back to Clarkson and his lunatic friends, “Yes, it’s lovely.”

“But it’s bright green,” I wailed.

“Yes dear, it’s lovel… what?” he looked up at me.

“It looks very nice, you’re even more beautiful if that’s possible.” Then his eye fell back on the telly. I was wasting my time.

“Wanna go shopping Stella?” I called to the kitchen.

“We can’t, someone has to stay with Si.”

“It’s okay, Clarkson is babysitting.”

“Who?” she asked, walking into the room and saw me, arms folded and foot tapping while Simon continued watching the telly oblivious to my presence.

She walked over to the set and turned it off, taking the remote with her. His mouth dropped open. “Hey, give that back,” he called after her but she’d gone out through the kitchen and was out on the drive.

“You bring that back,” he said as she returned, breathing heavily after running through the house.

“What, we have a guest and all you can do is watch television? Simon Cameron, I am ashamed at you.”

“But it’s only…” he paused and registered the shock and hurt on my face. “Please Babes, don’t take it like that… aw shit!”

In tears, I dashed past Stella and up to my room, slamming the door behind me.

“You dickhead! Every time she comes here she spends half of it locked in her room because of your big gob! Grrrr!”

I was lying on the bed sobbing: how could I come second to Jeremy Clarkson? Stella knocked gently, and came in. She sat alongside me and gently rubbed my neck. “Hey come on, let’s go shopping. He can wait for his lunch!”

It took me a few more minutes to agree and to wipe my face with cold water. I didn’t bother replacing the small amount of makeup I’d worn, just some lippy and we went downstairs.

“We’re going shopping. Your lunch is on the table,” she announced to Simon. All I could see was a can of baked beans and a saucepan.

“Stella, he won’t be able to open those,” I remarked.

“Good!” she snapped and pulled out the door. I had to go back and get my jacket and bag.

We drove into Portsmouth and spent an hour food shopping; neither of us were in the mood for much else. Spotting some bread, I suddenly realised I hadn’t brought the bread maker.

Stella nodded and ten minutes later we were carrying a new one back to the car, plus a pile of flour and yeast and other ingredients. I sneaked a ready-mix pack of almond slice into my shopping and wondered if Simon would be able to tell the difference.

The rest of the afternoon, I spent making bread or cakes or sorting out the dinner. As the oven was already on for the cakes, I did a coq au vin and set it to cook.

Eventually, I crawled alongside Simon who was fast asleep on the sofa and snuggled up to him and fell asleep. The timer woke me up and I took the cakes out of the oven, the bread was going to be quite a bit longer.

“Cor, something smells good,” remarked the waking Simon.

“Well, you can thank Cathy. She’s slaved all afternoon,” snapped Stella looking for her keys.

“Yeah, thanks Babe,” he said looking at me.

I hoped that his incapacity was only due to his injuries and not habitual. If it was, he had a shock coming.

“Aren’t you staying to eat, Stella?”

“Nah, John is coming by at quarter to. We’re eating out.”

“Okay, shall I freeze any leftovers?”

“Oh yeah, that’d be good. You sure you haven’t been married before?”

“Before what?” I asked, pretending to look goofy.

She laughed, “Well you’re so damned efficient, no wonder your dad wants you to become his housekeeper, and Professor wotsisname wants to marry you or adopt you or whatever.”

“I think the term is enslave,” I offered.

“Whatever, look there’s John gotta go, behave you two or I won’t let you play again.”

We hugged and air kissed, Simon waved and grunted and she ran off.

“What did she do with the remote?” asked Simon lumbering around the room.

“She took it outside,” I said.

“Be a good girl an’ go an’ get it.”

“I can’t.” I shrugged my shoulders.

“Why not?”

“I couldn’t see where she threw it.”

“What? That woman is off her bloody rocker.”

There was another upstairs, but I wasn’t going to suggest it unless I got bored, very bored. “Dinner will be ready soon, where would you like to eat?”

“I’ll come into the dining room. I can’t get over that bloody sister of mine, how could she throw the friggin’ remote down the garden?”

“You’ll have to ask her that,” I said standing a carton of juice in front of the desired object, in the fridge.

“Bloody hell, Leicester and Wasps are playing tonight. Oh shit!”

“Well, in terms of playing, maybe you should just settle for a home match tonight,” I purred.

“Why are Pompey* playing then?”

“Arrrrrgh!” I screamed before I ran out into the garden only to find it was raining. I stood in the back porch, sulking.

* Pompey = A local slang name for Portsmouth City Football Club.

Easy As Falling Off A Horse

Part Who Cares? (133)

by The Lone Ranger & Kimo-Bonzi

I stayed out by the porch until Simon missed me—it took longer than I expected and it was only because he got himself tangled up with the flex of the portable television, that he called me then.

“Just what are you doing?” I asked seeing the cable wrapped around his legs.

“Just taking this downstairs to watch the rugby.”

“As you needed help to get down them this morning, is this a good idea?”

“Of course, I want to see the rugger and this is the only way. Can you bring the remote?”

“Does this not work on the one downstairs?”

“Dunno.”

“Shall we try it?”

“Hey that’s good thinking, Batman!”

I uncoiled the cable from around his legs and he thanked me. I took the TV off him and put it back on the table in his bedroom. He stood waiting for me to discover if it would work.

I dumped it down in the kitchen and got the other out of the fridge. I switched on the big television in the lounge, and clicked on to Sky. The rugby was just starting.

I helped him down to the sofa and poured him some Guinness. “Thanks love, that was a cracking meal. How much do you charge per hour?”

“You couldn’t afford me,” I winked back and went off to the kitchen to clear up.

I finished and felt knackered. I would have loved to have curled up with Simon, but not with the TV on. It did nothing for me at all.

I sat down with a book in the kitchen and fell asleep over it a little while later. I awoke with someone shouting.

“Cathy, C-A-T-H-Y.” I ran into the lounge my head spinning from rising quickly. “Oh there you are, could you get me another Guinness?”

He was lucky I didn’t pour it over his head, he may have difficulties pouring it, but he could at least have come out to ask me to get it for him. I suppressed my irritation and took him in another. He kissed me as a form of thanks. Today, that wasn’t enough.

Is this how he normally was? Stella said, “it wasn’t” and that he was normally helpful. I knew I’d never cope like this. I’d watched my mother spoil my father and swore I’d never do it to anyone I was in a relationship with, yet here I was, doing it. I appeared to be a walking gender stereotype and that really annoyed me.

I was turning the bread out when he called again. I ignored him. He rang a little decorative bell that was near his chair, and I wondered if I could claim provocation if I shoved it up his backside. I certainly do not answer bells at all.

When I ignored his calling and ringing, and also his ringing my mobile, he gave up for a few minutes and he was knocking over ornaments and things. I nearly rushed in, but stayed where I was.

Eventually he came out to the kitchen. “Didn’t you hear me calling?”

“Yes.”

“Did you not consider I might be asking you to come in to me?”

“I knew you were.”

“So why didn’t you come?”

“Two reasons, I’m not the maid service and if it was important you’d come out to me.”

“Gee thanks,” he turned on his heel and limped back towards the lounge.

I wondered if this was the beginning of the end. Were it possible, I would marry him tomorrow, or shall I say, I would have done a few days ago. Today I’m not quite so sure. He can be a total dickhead.

I made a cuppa and took him a mug; he was watching some film or other. “Where did you find the remote?”

“By the back door, why?”

“I thought you were out there scouring the garden for it.”

“No I found it quite quickly.”

“Come and watch this film, it’s good.”

“Simon I am so tired, all I want is to drink this tea and go to my bed.”

“You can’t, you have to help me up the stairs.”

“I know, or I’d have gone an hour ago.”

“Oh, go on then, Stella can watch me up the stairs and help me undress.”

“Why can’t you watch the film upstairs?”

“It’s not such a big picture,” he moaned.

“I don’t know, I think I get the bigger picture all right.” I mused aloud, “You have difficulty with powerful women, or women in power, probably from your childhood. So you have to make a song and dance about it, except with Stella when you go through this elaborate ritual. How am I doing?”

“Not even warm,” he smirked at me.

“I’m sorry but I can’t cope any longer,” I felt tears fill my eyes and I fled upstairs. Once on my bed and doing my world famous impression of a duck with toothache, I felt guilty about not getting him upstairs and undressed. Then realised he’d got up by himself when I caught him with the other television. So he could actually get up them by himself.

I woke up thinking I’d heard someone fall downstairs. I ran out of the room but there was nothing to be seen and Simon was watching the telly in his bedroom. I peeked between the door and the frame and he was in bed watching some programme which seemed inane to me.

I struggled back down the landing and crept back into my room. I fell asleep quite quickly. The next thing I knew Stella was back and washing him down. As a nurse, I was next to useless.

I fell asleep again and awoke the next morning; Stella brought me in mug of steaming tea—pure bliss. “Sorry I didn’t get Baby Bear to bed last night.”

“He said you were tired, eating all those loaves and fishes.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“I had a hunk and bit of cheese last night when I came in, kept me awake much of the time.”

“Serves you right, you just ate your breakfast early. I baked that loaf for breakfast.”

“Wasn’t much left when I had the end crust.”

“Goodness, who is stealing our bread?”

“It isn’t me,” responded Stella.

“I wasn’t accusing you, I told her.

“Glad to hear it,” she went on to describe the meal she had last night. It was an arm and a leg job and it was crap! She was very disappointed as they spent quite some time choosing where they were going to sit. “They were super-nervous about the inspection.”

“What inspection?”

“We heard on the grapevine that one of Egon Ronay’s scouts was about last night.”

“Some secret!” I sighed.

“Yeah, well you know…”

“Yeah, so did the spy turn up?”

“Dunno, we didn’t see him or her if they did.”

“Conjecture I expect. How is lover boy this morning?”

“All right I think, he says he feels guilty for neglecting you.”

“He has a last chance to impress or I’m off big time.”

“Wow, have you told him yet?”

“Not yet, but I shall don’t you worry.”

“I can believe you.” She smiled and went downstairs.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part Whatever (134)

by Angharad the Cyberphobe

I finished my tea, felt more awake and got myself washed and dressed in jeans and long sleeved top. I tied my now brushed hair back into a scrunchy and popped in some small gold hoop earrings. I could smell the body spray I had used, I hoped it wasn’t too overpowering.

“Morning,” said Stella as I appeared in the kitchen. I placed my washed mug on the table. “Refill?”

“In a minute, I suppose one of us has to get grumpy up?”

“Yeah, wanna toss for it?”

I declined the offer. “I think I need to have a few words with your brother, about the hired help.”

“What hired help?” she asked looking confused.

“Exactly, we do this for love, or from love.”

“Good luck Sis,” she smiled at me, then registered my amazed look. “Well, you’re nearly my sister-in-law.” I decided not to argue and shrugged my shoulders. I liked the epithet anyway.

“I am going to raise the dead,” I said and rolling up my sleeves pretended to spit on my palms. She was still laughing as I went up the stairs.

“Right, let’s get this show on the road,” I said breezily as I went into Simon’s room. He was laying in bed, watching some cartoons on the portable television. In two very quick movements, I switched off the idiot box and threw back his continental quilt. He was sporting a tent pole in his pyjama trousers and blushing like a tomato. “Well looks like someone is pleased to see me,” I said loudly enjoying his squirming.

“I think I need to use the loo,” he said in a little-boy voice.

I helped him off the bed and to the bathroom, “Could you pass the bottle, please?” he indicated the pee pot by the loo.

“I thought it was a funny shape for lager,” I quipped handing it too him. “Can you manage?” He nodded and I left him a small amount of dignity, and went to make his bed. When I heard the flush go, I popped back to the bathroom.

I eased his jacket over the plaster on his arm. He had some of those water resistant dressings on the shot marks and as far as I could see, they were healing fine.

“What do you want to do?” I asked with ideas of my own.

“What do I want, or what can we do?” he asked smiling.

“I meant in terms of washing you.”

“Okay, I’d love a shower but…” he pointed to the plaster on his arm, “Cathy…”

I had an idea and raced down the stairs, good job I was in my flats or I’d have broken my neck. I dashed into the kitchen. “Where’s Si…” said Stella to an empty space. I was half way back up the stairs.

“Hold out your arm,” I said to Simon, and proceeded to wrap his hand from the wrist upwards with cling film, finishing up near his shoulder and beyond the plaster. “Okay, pop in the shower wet your hair and I’ll shampoo it.”

“Yes boss,” he said, stepping into the shower cabinet.

“That’s right and don’t you forget it,” I laughed smacking his bare behind as he went past.

He did as I asked and I soaped up a flannel for him and washed his back, handed him the flannel and waited. I was treated to a slightly off key rendering of a medley of Abba songs, which tested my eardrums and self-control.

“Come on Pavarotti,” I called thinking my hair would need cutting again if he took much longer.

The door of the cabinet opened and he stepped out into the towel I held up for him, expecting him to take at least one corner of it, I was caught unawares when he ignored it and instead grabbed me and hugged me to him kissing me.

“Ugh! You’re all we… Mmmm.” I started to say before he engulfed me. I think I must have dropped the towel because I had my arms around him and was… well you don’t need to know the details.

As I was helping him to dry, Stella popped her head around the door and said, “Kettle’s on, ooh, been in a wet tee shirt comp have we?” I suddenly found it very warm.

I did change my top before helping him downstairs, where Stella made tea and toast and I did some scrambled eggs and bacon. It went down well and she and I washed up together after.

Simon had grumbled because I made him wear jeans rather than his jogging bottoms. I also made him slip on a shirt and sleeveless pullover, and put shoes on his feet rather than slippers. The reason for this became clear when we’d cleared up.

“Okay, you and I are going shopping and to grab some lunch. Stella can stay behind and have a soak in the tub or whatever else she wants. There’s some leftovers in the fridge, which you can heat up in the microwave.” Her eyes lit up and she nodded.

Simon grumbled, “But I can’t, I’m injured.”

“If you don’t you’ll be terminal.” My smile was deliberately ‘painted on.’

“You’ll have to drive then,” he said conceding defeat.

“Of course I will, you’re not insured to drive my car.”

“The Mercedes, I am.”

“It’s not my Merc.”

“Oh,” he said, “You’re not driving the Saab, not after what you did to the Volvo.”

“I did nothing to the other car. It was bad engineering, that’s all.”

“Bad engineering, it’s Scandinavian, they are usually regarded as amongst the best.”

“Rubbish. Anyway, get your jacket on. I’ll be back in a sec.”

I shot up stairs threw on some make up and grabbed my bag and coat, then dashed back down again. He was standing by the door, his arm in the sling visible from the gap in his fleece jacket.

“Let’s go,” I ushered him out down the drive to the Mondeo.

“Whose is this?” he asked, “Your dad’s?”

“Yep, thought I’d give it a run.”

“Diesel eh, nice?”

“It’s okay and I thought it would be easier for you to get in.”

“Very considerate of you, seeing as you ignored me yesterday.”

“Get in Simon before I start breaking your other arm,” I snapped and slammed the driver’s door harder than it needed.

“I am not your maid, I’m not even sure I’m your girlfriend at this minute, so don’t come the old soldier with me.”

I started the car and drove off down the lane faster than I would normally. There was an atmosphere you could cut with a knife in the car. Five minutes or so later he said, “Just take me back home.”

“No,” I said locking the doors.

“Please,” he said.

“No, we are going to give Stella a rest for a few hours.”

“Oh. What about how I feel?” he said looking out the side window.

“What about it?” I said dismissively.

“Oh okay, be like that.” He then sulked until we got the shopping centre.

“Come on,” I urged, standing by his open door.

“Nah, I’d rather go out with my girlfriend.”

“You don’t have one at the moment,” I said back with a little spite in it.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

“So you’ll have to make do with me.”

“Dunno, you seem a bit pissed about something.”

“Only in being treated like a serving maid by some dumb aristocrat.”

“Oh, anyone I know?”

“Nah, I doubt it, you look like a nice guy, he was some stuck up twat I met yesterday. I made him a really good meal and all he wanted to do was watch the bloody telly.”

“He did that to you?”

“’Fraid so, all I wanted was a cuddle and a chance to snooze. I was so tired but he didn’t notice, or didn’t seem to.”

“The cad,” Simon blushed.

“So, I’ve dumped him and thought I’d give you a try.”

“Sounds like a good idea, you might be better off without him anyway.”

“Yeah, he was only after my money anyway.” I said this as Simon was getting out of the car. It wasn’t the best time to make him laugh because he lost concentration and banged his head on the top of the doorframe, and fell back into the car.

“Ohmigod!” I gasped, “Are you okay sweetheart?” I leant into the car and he pulled me on top of him and kissed me passionately.

“I think so,” he said seconds later.

“Think what?” I said not being sure what planet I was on. However, there was this little jack underneath me, that seemed to be trying to help lift me out of the car. “Ooh I think someone is pleased to see me,” I squealed.

“I am always pleased to see you, and if you think otherwise, tell me immediately, please. I will never take you for granted again, promise.”

I snuggled onto his chest and sniffed.

We had to move eventually, someone wanted to park alongside us and the door and our feet and legs were in his way. He did however help me get Simon out of the car.

Once he was walking, he seemed to get stronger and admitted he was enjoying getting mobile again. I walked alongside him, his arm draped possessively around my shoulder, but I was happy with that.”

We walked past a jewellers and looked at the shiny objects for sale. “Anything you fancy, in the window?” he asked.

I looked at the window and could see his reflection holding me, “Yeah,” I said enthusiastically.

“What?”

“Well I can see this big hunk,” I almost laughed as I said it.

“Hunk of what? I can’t see anything except watches and rings.”

“He’s in the window not on a shelf, although he thought he’d been left on one.”

He looked at me curiously, “Why do women always talk in riddles?” Then in looking at me, he must have caught sight of his reflection. “You mean the reflections?”

“Yeah, I can see this sexy looking guy with his girl and he must like her because he’s got his arm around her, and she looks quite contented with it.”

“Is he good looking then?”

“Oh an absolute Adonis, except his arm’s in a sling.”

“Is she pretty?”

“Dunno, depends upon taste I suppose, in the eye of the beholder an’ all that.”

“I suspect she’s a beautiful serving maid and he’s a demanding aristocrat.”

“I dunno,” I said, “he looks more like a god and she’s nothing special.”

He pulled me to him and in front of dozens of passersby, kissed me for several seconds almost sucking out my tonsils, “Marry me,” he said, loud enough for a small group of people to clap and cheer. I blushed and nearly collapsed with embarrassment.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 135

Eventually I recovered my senses from the embarrassment. It had to be one of his jokes, but he continued staring in the jeweller’s window. “Do you fancy any of them?” he pointed at several trays of rings.

“I think we need to talk,” I said feeling my colour rising again.

“What about?” he looked puzzled. “I thought you said, you loved me?”

“I do.”

“So what is there to talk about?”

“Lots. If you were serious, and I am not convinced you were, there are all sorts of complications involved.”

“I am not that stupid even though I do work in a bank.”

“Can we go and find somewhere more private and warmer, where we may be able to talk this over a bit more fully?” I asked feeling very uncomfortable talking in a public thoroughfare.

“Okay,” he threw his good arm in the air in a mild protest, but walked on with me, his arm around me again.

We strolled for maybe a couple of hundred yards when we discovered a small Italian coffee shop. “This do?”

I peered through the tinted windows and net curtains, it was busy but there were spaces. I nodded and we went in. We found a relatively private table and ordered two latte coffees and a cake each.

“You didn’t answer my original question.” Simon looked accusingly at me.

“Which one was that?” I was playing for time.

“My proposition to change your surname.”

“Ah! Erm, well that is easy enough, it’s the method which is the problem.”

“I’d have thought it was the easiest,” he said accepting his coffee from the pretty, dark haired waitress.

“If things were ordinary, that might be the case, although with your background it might not be.”

“What’s my background got to do with it, I thought it was yours that was the trouble?” he said almost angrily.

“Don’t go all huffy on me, I’m doing my best here,” I said feeling that wet sensation in my eyes again. “Your family, because of the publicity it’s bound to receive upon your engagement or wedding, will be anxious to make sure it’s all positive stuff.”

“Dunno, there have black sheep in the past, my great uncle Marcus…”

“I’m sure that’s a fascinating tale Si, but can we keep to the present issue? So you could imagine what they would feel if my history came out?”

“Not if we tell them first.”

“If only it were that simple.”

“Of course it is. I’ll give Dad a ring,” he pulled out his mobile.

“Simon, please wait until we’ve finished discussing this before bringing in other parties.”

“He is family.” His expression drooped.

“I know and I liked him very much,” I lied but well! “I’m not so sure about your stepmum.”

“She’s okay once you get to know her. Once she knows, she might leave you alone.” He looked up at my stony glare, “Maybe not.”

“Also look at how much publicity I’ll receive, which I don’t need right now. Besides I don’t know what my dad would think.”

“Of what, the publicity or getting married?”

“Either or both. Besides we can’t, legally anyway.”

“Why not?”

I rolled my eyes, thinking, ‘Simon some days you are so thick it is untrue.’ “I am still legally male,” I said very quietly.

“Oh, until you have your op, you mean?”

“No, even after that, until I go through the process to get things changed, and that takes time. Plus, I have to do the life test which means a year before referral to surgery.”

“I think Stella can help there,” he smirked.

“You’ve been talking to Stella, about me?” I felt betrayed, although given the circumstances, it was more inevitable than anything.

“Yeah, don’t worry, she knows this surgeon and if I slip him some…”

“Simon, it doesn’t work like that, they have protocols to follow.”

“I’m sure we can get round that,” he smiled.

“I don’t know if I want to.” I shook my head in disbelief.

“What? You don’t want this sorted?” He indicated his groin, “Or you don’t want to marry me?”

“Why do we have to decide that now, we hardly know each other?” I pleaded with him.

“I know you’re the woman for me, or will be.”

“That’s very flattering Simon, and I love you for saying it, but I need more time.”

“Well at least have your op, and then we could you know,” he raised his eyebrow a couple of times.

“Have sex,” I said bluntly.

He blushed and nodded.

I blushed too, because while at times it felt like the most important thing on the earth for me to feel my body wrapped around this man, it wasn’t an absolute priority—earning a living came before that. There was no way I was going to parasitise anyone, however much they wanted me to. There were also the opinions of Dr Thomas to be considered—she could be at risk if she referred me too early and things went wrong. A psychiatrist in London had been suspended because of exactly that. I respected her too much to put her at risk, even though I felt impatient at having to wait for a year.

“I need more time Simon and please don’t take that as a reflection upon you. You are a sweet man, most of the time,” he opened his mouth to protest but changed his mind, “And I love you dearly. Were things normal, I’d have made passionate love with you, but they aren’t, so I can’t.”

“I’m sure we could improvise,” he said hopefully.

“I’m sure we could, but I don’t want to. I want it right, to feel right about myself before I offer myself to anyone, and you in particular.”

“Oh,” he said, and his face fell again.

“I’m still new to all this Simon; I have much to learn about myself and just being a woman.”

He nodded, looking rather downcast. “Does that mean you want to play the field a bit?”

“I hadn’t even thought of that,” I confessed.

“I said I was happy to wait, and I am, you know.”

“Yes I know you did and I respect you for that, probably more than you realise.” I felt my eyes well up again. His hand found mine and squeezed it.

“Can we still remain friends, or have I blown it?” he said his eyes looking very worried.

“Of course we can. I know, we can buy each other rings: friendship rings.”

“I want you to wear my wedding ring, or engagement ring, not a friendship ring. That’s something teenagers do.”

“I was going to say, which would be a symbol of our pledge to sort this out when I had overcome the existing obstacles.”

” I don’t know.” With that he stood up and went to pay the bill. I got up and followed, neither of us had eaten our cakes and I hadn’t drunk my coffee either.

As I threaded my way between the tables I felt ill prepared for all this. I wondered if things would have been better if I hadn’t met Simon or Stella and was still chasing my degrees as Charlie. Then I knew that wasn’t true, I was just hadn’t got time to worry about relationships when I had so much to do with work and just learning to live as a woman.

There were many people at the university who I hadn’t dealt with yet, who would need to be brought on board, and although the rumours were whizzing around the grapevine faster than broadband, I needed to make sure they got the picture from the horse’s mouth. I needed to sort out so many things, including having some time for me, but with Dad and Simon, that was impossible.

Some days I wondered just what I had got myself into. I was living the dream, but felt somewhere in the shadows there was this thing lurking which could so easily flip it into a nightmare. The pressure seemed all around me, and then there was the malefactor who was sending me the poison mail. I felt like running away, or better still, cycling off into the sunset.

Hard As Posting These Bloody Things!

Part 100 and Three Dozen (136)

The sun was shining and although cool, it was nice autumn afternoon, or it would have been had I been able to enjoy it. I felt like a wet blanket spoiling Simon’s fun, but I really wasn’t up to being the smiling fiancée. I wasn’t even sure I was marriage material. In fact, there was an awful lot I didn’t seem to know about myself.

Just when I seem to be getting a handle on everything, something else happens and I’m completely flummoxed. I felt like the whole world was pressuring me to do its bidding but no one was asking me what I wanted, which might have been just as well because I didn’t know. Right now, I’d settle for just walking around a nature reserve bird watching or sitting on a beach watching the waves break, but on my own. I was stuck with Simon for the afternoon because I chose to be, it was my own making. I had to cope with it and try and do so cheerfully.

“How ya doing?” I said to him noticing his walking was getting worse.

“A bit tired, is there anywhere to sit?” he asked and I led him over to a bench.

“Do you want me to go and get the car?”

“You haven’t been in many shops,” he said, but tiredness was spreading across his face.

“It doesn’t matter, we should have gone somewhere else, I’ll go and get the car.” I pointed to a road junction about a hundred yards away. “If you make your way there in about ten minutes, I’ll pick you up, okay?”

He nodded looking exhausted. I kissed him and he smiled, then closed his eyes.

“Don’t fall asleep Simon,” I said to myself as I scampered back to the car park. It took me about seven minutes and I knew that it would take me as long to get back through the traffic to the junction I’d asked him to walk towards.

It took another ten minutes and I pulled up on the junction with the hazard lights flashing. He wasn’t there. I locked the car and started running back to the bench: he was fast asleep!

I roused him and finally got him to stand, then led him towards the car, half way there, I spotted a traffic warden booking me for parking. I was so angry I felt like running after her and beating her to death. Instead, I stayed with my charge and got him back to the car, snatching off the ticket before he spotted it.

I got him in the car and belted him in, then took him home, looking for traffic wardens to run down en route. I didn’t see any.

I was so cross, I suppose with myself. If I hadn’t made him walk so far he wouldn’t have fallen asleep and I wouldn’t have got booked. I had no one else to blame, except that bitch and her sticky bloody wrappers. Grrr!

He nodded off in the car and I became a little worried until I got home and Stella enlightened me. “Did he have anything to drink?”

“Yes but only a pint of Guinness.”

“That and his medication, off he goes.”

“Oh shit, I didn’t realise. I’m a lousy nurse, sorry Stella, I wanted to give you some time to yourself.”

“I had a couple of hours, and some nice lunch—that coq au vin was delicious, you must show me your recipe sometime Sis.”

I enjoyed the epithet even though I didn’t deserve it. “They thought he was a war hero in the pub.”

“What? Do tell.”

Simon was fast asleep in the other room while the conspirators were busy drinking cups of tea in the kitchen. “We went into this pub near the shopping centre, you know all plastic panelling and fake beams. Anyway, they saw me struggling with Simon and asked me what his problem was. Without thinking I told them he’d been shot and they assumed it was in Iraq. I tried to stop the barman from taking that idea, but each time he misunderstood me and decided that Simon was SAS and hit while on a covert operation. He wouldn’t let me pay for the drinks. We were going to eat there but I couldn’t stand the mistake any longer. We left as soon as Simon had supped his pint, the barman saluting him as we left. The look on Simon’s face was priceless.”

Stella put her hand over her mouth to stifle the laugh. She shook with laughter and tears ran down her face, “How do you manage it?”

I shook my head and laughed too, I was obviously one of those catalysts around which chaos happens. “I dunno,” I shrugged and she laughed some more.

“He asked me to marry him,” I said blushing.

“Oh how romantic, congratulations.” Stella was jumping up and down.

“I said, ‘No’.” I felt the temperature fall markedly.

“You said what?” her face bore an expression of total confusion.

“I said ‘no’.” I shrugged again and we both sat down.

“Why?”

“For loads of reasons.”

“Well come on girl, it’s not every day someone turns down a Cameron.”

“I can’t marry him until I’ve had surgery and got legal recognition as a female.”

“Well I told you, we can sort out one of those quite quickly.”

“Even if my shrink agreed to it, I would still have to go through the legal process. That could take some time.”

“So why not a long engagement?”

“What happens if we break up before then?”

“You get to keep the ring, you can always pawn it.”

“Stella, I’m trying to be sensible here.”

“So am I girl, so am I.”

“What are your parents going to say?”

“What about?”

“My interim status?”

“What, your transitional state?”

“Yes okay, my transitional state.”

“They know.”

“What?”

“They know, they knew before they met you.”

“You told them?” I accused Stella and felt totally betrayed.

“No I didn’t, nor did Simon. I only found out the other day when I called Daddy about something. He’d done a credit check and it showed up your previous name. It explains why Monica was trying to bed you.”

“He knew, I don’t believe it.” I felt tears running down my face. “Why didn’t he say something?”

“Like what?”

“How the fuck would I know?”

“Catherine, please don’t swear, it is very unbecoming in a pretty girl.”

“You sounded like my mother then,” I said and the tears really started to flow. Stella hugged me and held me and I cried away some of my grief.

“So much in such a short time, little girl,” she cooed as she held me, “No wonder you saw Simon’s proposal as such a huge threat.”

“I feel so pressured, everybody wants me to do things for them, but no one asks me what I want.” I sobbed again onto Stella’s shoulder.

“Okay Sis, what do you want?”

“I don’t know Stella, sometimes I just want to run away and hide.”

“Is that part of the problem, not setting goals? If you don’t, you can’t reach any of them.”

“I suppose getting my degree and being included in the survey project is one. Looking after Daddy is another, being with Simon is a third and doing some bike riding.”

“Where does surgery feature in there?”

“Yeah, that as well.”

“And the legal thing?”

“I suppose so,” I sighed.

“Is this boring you?” she asked brusquely.

“No, I’m just exhausted.”

“We’ll be finished soon. What’s the priority here?” She scribbled just one or two words for each. “Where does Simon and your dad come, before or after surgery?”

“I don’t know, why can’t they all be equal?”

“Because they aren’t. Here’s how I see it. The degree is a long-term one and will take three or more years, yes?” I nodded. “Okay, so that’s a big one but it doesn’t necessarily stop any of the others?” Once more I nodded. “The surgery, where does that come?”

I went blank, “I don’t know because it isn’t in my hands, it involves others.” I felt powerless.

“Right, no wonder you go round in circles. It is your decision and we can organise that in the next few months say.”

“But I can’t without the referrals.”

“We’ll get those, so just assume we get them, where does that put it in terms of priority?”

I shook my head unable to see how it could happen, I couldn’t answer.

“Okay, we make that number one on the short term list.” Stella looked me in the eye as she said it and I just gasped.

“Right Dad and Simon, who comes first?” She stared me down and I dissolved into tears.

“I know who I’d pick, but it’s your choice we’re dealing with.”

I cried again and whimpered, “Simon.”

“I’d have put my dad first but there ya go. Okay so Daddy comes last?”

I cried in shame and nodded.

“What about the bike rides?”

“I dunno?”

“Well unless you plan doing the Tour de France or something outlandish like that, let me know I’ll get you some EPO.” She winked at me.

“I hate you Stella Cameron,” I said and poked out my tongue at her.

“So does most of the planet, but I get things done Little Sis, I get things done. Anyway back to the bike, you can ride that any time in between the others if you have time, might actually be good for you. Mind you I suspect surgery may prove to be the exception, I don’t think you’ll be on it for a week or two after surgery.”

I laughed at her matter of fact manner and threw my arms around her, “I love you Stella, I hope we can be sisters-in-law.” I kissed her on the cheek.

“Yeah so do I, just marry the old fart, it’s easy enough.”

“I’ll make an appointment to see Dr Thomas as soon as I can.”

“Now you’re talking positive. Let’s go see if laughing boy is awake.”

Easy As Falling Down A Well Part Yes (137)

by Wassername & cat

Simon calls for a celebration, see why…

Simon was awake and we had a fresh cuppa and some toast. It was only five, so it was too early to make dinner, not that I was sure who was going to cook what. Tea over, I did up the mixings for the bread maker Stella had bought and set it in motion.

“Are you making us another delicious dinner?” asked Simon limping out to the kitchen.

“Do you want me to?” I asked, and he pulled me to him and kissed me as his answer. “Is that a yes or a no?” I chuckled at him.

“Yes, I want you to make my dinner for the rest of our lives, except you turned me down. I was supposed to get fat and irascible as I got older, now it’s just gonna be irascible.”

“Glad you warned me, I was going to say yes, maybe I won’t now.”

“You were going to say yes to what?”

“Oh, I’ve forgotten the question now, ever since I got blonder, it’s affected my brains. I think Stella must have used too much peroxide or something.” I feigned an affected manner, brushing at my forehead with my wrist.

Simon grabbed me and pulling me closely to him again, said, “I’d go down on one knee if I could but you’d need the fire brigade to get me up again.”

I giggled, partly at his joke and partly in embarrassment. I felt my colour rising.

“Cathy Watts, I love you. Will you marry me?” He looked me in the eye and I felt he was trying to hypnotise me into agreeing.

I looked back into his eyes, “Yes, but with conditions.”

He eyes lit up then extinguished themselves, “What?”

“I obviously have to be eligible for marriage, which means surgery and legal reassignment.”

“Of course, anything else.”

“I somehow have to incorporate my father into a married life. Quite how, I’m not sure.”

“Okay, that’s something we obviously need to think about.”

“I also want to complete my degree and have some sort of career. I don’t want to be some stuffed bodice, having the WI around for drinky-poos.”

Simon laughed, “Stuffed bodice, I like that.”

“Well the female equivalent of a stuffed shirt, you know what I mean.”

“I hope you don’t think me a stuffed shirt, do you?” he looked quite hurt.

“No, course not, but I don’t want any misunderstandings. If you’re not happy for me to finish my degree and this project, then I can’t marry you.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Okay, won’t.”

“Okay, I accept your conditions and surrender immediately.”

“What are you on about?”

“Conditional surrender. I’d put both arms up if I could,” he said raising the good one up.

“You are silly,” I said, my lips brushing his for a moment. He kissed me lightly back, then I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him as passionately as I could, forcing my tongue into his mouth and then nibbling on his as he followed mine back.

“I thought it went very quiet in here,” said Stella’s voice from somewhere near the doorway.

“Get your best frocks on girls, we’re going out to celebrate,” said Simon triumphantly.

“Celebrate what?” asked Stella suspiciously.

“It’s November,” beamed Simon.

“Yeah, so?” retorted Stella.

“And this little minx has agreed to marry me.” Simon had his arm around my waist and squeezed me. “We’re engaged.”

“Oh wow!” shrieked Stella, she bent at the knees and jumped up in the air, “Oh wow bloody wow! She screeched, then threw herself at both of us and nearly crushed us with her hug. She kissed me on the cheek and then Simon. “I am really happy for you both, I really am.”

Both she and I had tears running down our faces and Simon was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Inside my head was spinning, what had I just done, agreed to marry another man? Jesus, what was I doing? I had just become engaged to another man—I had to stop this now, before it got too complicated.

My stomach was spinning nearly as much as my head, I needed a loo. I managed to detach myself with some difficulty, then headed to the cloakroom. Shutting the door, I knelt in front of the toilet and vomited.

I tried to rationalise my situation: I was high after Stella’s pep talk and look what happened. Okay, so I’m living as a female and believe myself to be one, but do I? If I did, would I be so worried about accepting a proposal of marriage?—especially from an aristocrat. I stood up and then sat on the toilet; as I peed, I tried to accept what I had done.

That priest woman had hit the nail on the head: I’d accept an awful lot more if I accepted myself first. Well, that was absolutely true in this case, and probably many others—I was in fact a serial doubter. So what do I do now? What is Dad going to say? Christmas, he’ll have another stroke!

Can I get out of it? I could but not without breaking Simon’s heart, and I couldn’t do that to him. I did love him so much. What about becoming Lady Catherine? I nearly laughed again. It was absurd, yet there was part of me which felt it could be used as a very big stick to hit back at those who sneered at me. Lady Catherine Cameron, the Lady Stanebury. It was an anachronism and well past its sell by date, but I had plenty of time to deal with that, if we got married. There was a lot of water to pass under the bridge yet.

I washed my hands, and went back to the kitchen. “I’ve booked us a table,” beamed Simon.

“I hope it’s not too posh, I don’t have anything that smart with me.”

“Stella said to go on up, she’ll find you something.”

I nodded and went upstairs, pausing to brush my teeth and remove some of the taste of sick. Stella came into the room. “You are okay with this, aren’t you?”

“Why shouldn’t I be?” I bluffed.

“Happy fiancées aren’t usually throwing up after being proposed to.”

“I just like to be different, that’s all.”

She walked up to me and put her arms on my shoulders, “Look Sis, I want you to be happy. If that includes marrying the little boy downstairs, fine. If it doesn’t, don’t let him railroad you into it, nor me. I love you too much for that.”

“I know and thank you, sister,” I mumbled back and her eyes sparkled.

“I’ve waited all my life for another girl to say that to me,” she hugged me. “Even if you don’t marry him, you’ll always be my little sister, okay?”

“Okay, even if I am a man.”

“Cathy, you never were a man, you simply didn’t know you were a woman, or shall we say, didn’t know how to let the world know you were a woman. Don’t get all screwed up about marrying another man, or being engaged to one, because you aren’t one, you’re a woman and a very beautiful one.”

She hugged me tightly and I wept for sadness and for joy. I was going to get married and my mother wasn’t going to be there to see it. The hole, the void got bigger.

Easy As Falling Off A Dyke

Part 100+2+3 dozen = lots (138)

by Ang-thingamy & vicious mog

Cathy has Stella in stitches and also manages to soothe
some ruffled feathers when Stella drops them in it!

When we had both calmed down and wiped our eyes with cold water, I followed Stella into her room. She began sorting through a capacious wardrobe. She pulled out several dresses held them up against me and shook her head, they went back in the closet.

“Ah, this should do,” she said handing me a green dress with a tiny floral pattern and beading here and there.”

“That is beautiful,” I said holding it up to look at it properly.

“Well get ’em off then, and try it on.”

Giggling, I stripped down to my bra and pants; I was unzipping the dress when she stopped me. She bent down and looked at my crotch. “What have you done here?” she said pointing at my apparent cleft.

“Um, erm, nothing why?” I blushed like a light bulb.

“Can I see?” she gave me loads of eye contact, “Purely professional, of course.” She looked again and I nodded, then putting down the dress pulled down my knickers.

“That is amazing, how have you kept it up there, some sort of glue?”

“Superglue,” I said.

She made a funny face and shook her head, “Doesn’t it hurt?”

“Only when I do it at first.”

“Goodness, so you’ve pushed it all up inside you?”

“Sort of then wrap the skin around the erm, and it looks like that.”

“Round your clitoris.”

I blushed even deeper, and nodded.

“Thanks for letting me see, it is astonishingly real cosmetically. I’m not sure how good it is from the point of view of surgery, because the skin could all shrink, and when you get your referral, make sure it’s been down for a few days for the surgeon to see. Can I take a photo for him to see?”

I felt quite nauseous but nodded.

“It really is only for the surgeon to see, when you go for the exam, okay?”

I nodded again, wishing I was somewhere else.

She popped back, took a couple of pictures, checked her camera—they had come out—and I pulled up my knickers. Still feeling hot and bothered, I pulled on the dress while Stella looked for something for herself. She zipped me up and stripped down to her own underwear, “That’s what a real one looks like,” she flashed her fanny at me. I gasped. “See now we’re quits.” She laughed and I blushed again.

She pulled on a blue dress and I zipped it for her, then as she looked at herself in the mirror, she swore. “Bugger, the bloody hem is coming down and I’ve only worn it once.”

“Let me see,” I picked up the end of the dress and examined the hem. “It’s only in a couple of places, you could sort that in half an hour max.”

“Not me sweetie, can’t thread a needle, that’s what nannies were for.”

“You do have a needle and thread?”

“Probably.”

“I’ve got my ‘housewife’ in my case. Take it off I’ll do it for you.”

“Housewife?”

“Yeah, in the services they used to call a sewing kit that, they used them for running repairs. Mine is probably a bit better and does have a few different coloured cottons.”

“You can sew?”

“I can do the basics, like repair a hem or take up trousers, darn socks, sew on a button, why?”

“Who taught you?”

“Did a couple of lessons in school, all the boys had to and the girls did changing a plug and stuff. Then before I went away to uni, my mum insisted I learn enough to be self-sufficient in cooking, cleaning and clothing repairs.”

“Wow, I’m impressed,” Stella took off the dress and handed it to me. I went and got my ‘housewife.’ Actually it was a bit more than that, it was a small workbox, a Tupperware sort, with needles, pins, a dozen different cottons and silks, spare buttons, some Velcro and a tape measure.

“I’ll go and shower then,” said Stella as she went off to the bathroom.

I took off the posh dress I had on, and sat in my undies as I measured and pinned the damaged hem, then threaded my needle and got sewing. I actually enjoyed it, although the light wasn’t brilliant, but there wouldn’t be too many stitch marks.

I was still engrossed when she came back wrapped in a couple of towels. “How goes it?”

“Nearly finished.” I snipped off the cotton and handed her the dress.

“You are so clever, no wonder Simon wants to keep you for himself.”

“It’s not clever, Stella, it’s basic housekeeping.”

“Not these days, I have colleagues who stick the hems of their jeans up with Band-Aids; one girl did hers with a stapler.”

“It’s not rocket science.”

“Can you knit and crochet too?”

“Yeah, a bit but I prefer embroidery, or did. That was what provoked my father to beat me.”

“What, embroidery?”

“Yes, my mother caught me at it and I was cheeky to her. She told my dad and he beat me.”

“Yet she taught you to sew.”

“Emergency repairs, not for pleasure.”

“Oh, there’s a difference?”

“It would seem she thought so. I still miss her though.”

“I’m sure you do Sis.” She hugged me, “And thanks for doing my dress.”

“It’s what sisters are for isn’t it?” I offered quietly.

Her eyes misted, and she nodded, “Yeah,” and she sniffed, “absolutely.” She hugged me again, “I’m so glad we’re sisters.”

“So am I Stella,” and I hugged her back.

“Come on, go shower or we’re going to be late.”

“Yes boss,” I said and grabbing my towels scampered to the bathroom.

She did my hair for me, and I quickly threw on some makeup. I’m tempted to say slap, but I didn’t use any skin makeup, just eyes and lips and a tiny bit of blusher. Then into the green dress and, thankfully, I had a pair of courts with me. I don’t know why, probably left from the last time I used the case, and the matching small handbag.

“Hey you look great,” said Stella, watching me dress.

“You look pretty cool yourself.”

“Do I? Thanks.” She primped in front of my mirror again. I squirted some Opium in various nooks and crannies and misted some and walked into it. “Hey girl, it’s like a chemical alert!” she coughed and waved her hand in front of her face.

“Keeps vampires and aristocrats away,” I joked.

“It’s certainly working with me,” she said, running away squealing.

The meal was delicious and I ate too much. I had melon, lemon sole and roulade. Stella had scallops instead of sole and Simon had steak tartare. He also ordered two bottles of claret, which I discovered were a hundred quid each.

The wine was delicious too, but I can get a quite nice burgundy in Morrison’s or Tesco for a fiver when they’re on offer. I had one glass, drinking water the rest of the evening.

Stella and Simon finished the bottles and ordered brandies—I asked for tea instead. Simon was horrified but I insisted. They were both getting very tipsy and Stella had driven us in the Saab.

“Whoosh gonna drive?” asked Simon, because he couldn’t anyway.

“Me, I sh’poshe,” giggled Stella.

“Why don’t we get a taxi?” I suggested.

“Why?” asked Stella.

“Because you’re just the teeniest bit pissed Sis.”

“How, d’you know mish shmarty pantsh?”

“As you have both had the best part of a bottle of wine and a brandy each, I think it’s a reasonable surmise, don’t you?”

“Here you drive,” she threw the keys towards me, except they went over my head onto the next table, landing in someone’s meal. She nearly became hysterical, giggling. The person on the next table didn’t think it was so funny.

“Just what do you think you are doing?” said a large man who glowered at us—he held up the keys and they were dripping with gravy.

Stella nearly fell off her chair, she was laughing so much. Simon was trying not to look, feigning some sort of headache. So things seemed to fall to me to sort it out.

“I am so sorry, I missed it when she threw it to me. Can I get you a drink and your wife, of course.”

He glared at me and then back at the drunken siblings, “You’re not planning on driving after drinking are you?”

“I’m driving, and I haven’t been drinking. Now can I get you and your wife a drink and convey my sincere apologies. Okay then, how about a bottle of house red?” I took the dripping keys and wiped them in my napkin.

I summoned a waiter and ordered a bottle of wine and asked to put it on our bill. He dashed off and I apologised once more to our neighbours. Simon had managed to stop Stella convulsing by now, although he was more than three sheets to the wind, himself. He did manage to find his credit card and pay the bill. I didn’t like to look, I could have lived on that for a month, food-wise, anyway.

Then I walked them one at a time out to the car, sitting Simon in the front and Stella behind him. I got in the driver’s side and saw it was another automatic. Oh shit! Why can’t Simon get proper cars?

I started it, put it in drive and released the handbrake after turning on the lights. They were both nodding off to sleep as I managed to drive out of the car park and towards the city centre.

I drove more slowly than I would have done in my little Mercedes or even Dad’s Mondeo, but somehow I got us home and in one piece. I was bathed in sweat, and it reminded me of the times I used to go out with my driving instructor. He was a nightmare anyway! ‘When I squeeze your leg, do an emergency stop,’ he used to say, and when I challenged him, he said all driving instructors did it. I found out later, they didn’t, and I was learning as Charlie!

Somehow, I got them both into the house and locked the door, Stella I manhandled up the stairs, took off her dress and laid her in her undies in the bed. Simon was a different challenge. He was totally zonked on the sofa, so I lifted up his legs and covered him with a blanket. He was snoring ‘Rule Britannia’ or something similar when I went out to the kitchen and made myself a cuppa and took it to bed with me.

Until they had got bladdered, it had been a nice evening. Stella had proposed a toast to Simon and me, when the wine arrived. I did one to ‘sisters’ and Simon did one to his ‘angels.’ We ate a fabulous meal and they just over-imbibed. I suspected Stella would be over the limit tomorrow—thank goodness she wasn’t working.

I drank my tea as I undressed—the green confection was another designer label. I felt like a model, getting to wear other people’s clothes. I hung the dress up and changed into my nightdress, cleaned my teeth and went to bed.

I reflected on the day—I still wasn’t sure about anything except that I loved Simon and his crazy sister, now my crazy sister. That felt good: probably the best thing that had ever happened to me. I also resolved to see Dr Thomas at the first opportunity. I would call her office first thing tomorrow.

I drifted in and out of sleep, feeling hot because we’d eaten so late. I dreamt I was getting married and my mother was there holding out something blue—her sapphire necklace and earrings, and smiling. When I woke, I was crying because I knew she would have approved of what I was doing and I promised I would wear her jewellery when I got married.

I would need to talk to my father soon too. That was another problem. Just what was I going to do with him? I slept fitfully after that, waking when I heard Simon shouting for help.

I ran downstairs and he was struggling to disentangle himself from the blanket. “Need a pee,” he said. I pulled off the blanket and pulled him upright. He wasn’t very steady but I steered him into the cloak room and held up the bottle for him—he used it as I looked away. Then after clearing up, I helped him upstairs. He’s a biggish man and I struggled to push him up, but we made it, then I had to help him undress and pull on his pyjamas, and finally he was in bed. He farted and rolled over to sleep on his back. I pecked him goodnight and went back to my own bed. It was four o’clock, with luck I’d manage another three hours.

Easy As—you know the rest

Part Who’s Counting? (139)

by Me again, couldn’t sleep

Encounters with animals!
The monkeys strike back but help comes from
an unexpected source—India! See for yourself…

The next morning, I awoke from my troubled night with tired eyes; however, I wasn’t quite as fragile as my two house mates. It was quite funny banging dishes and doors and seeing the response. Stella’s was the more enjoyable, she actually chased me with a knife at one point, except running made her head ache even more.

At eight thirty I called Dr Thomas and was put through to her in person, much to my surprise. “Hello Dr Thomas.”

“Hello, it’s Cathy Watts, I’d like to make and appointment to see Dr Thomas. As soon as I can, please.”

“Hello Cathy, it’s Dr Thomas.”

“Hi doctor, can I make an appointment to see you, I need your advice.”

“It sounds urgent, is it?”

“Pretty urgent, I suppose.”

“Let me see, I am absolutely solid today, how about tomorrow… can you come in early, say at eight?”

“Gosh, you start early,” I gasped.

“Only when I need to, can you make it or not?”

“I’ll be there doctor.”

“Good, I’ll have some coffee on.”

“Thank you.”

“Tomorrow then.”

I counted myself lucky that such a busy person was prepared to put herself out for me. I decided to take her some flowers or a little thank you gift.

Breakfast was a slice of fresh bread with some jam and copious cups of tea. Stella was muttering and drinking water with soluble aspirins, and Simon was still prone in his bed.

I helped get him up and dressed, and left the two hangover sufferers to go into uni and from there to my room. Simon wanted me to stay with them, but I told them I needed to do some work.

Once at the lab, I discovered I had three students who wanted to take part in my study project, two girls and a boy. I left messages for them to contact me. I cleared out my cupboard of the remains of the last night I did field work.

The book, my records, or what was left of them I dumped in the bin along with the remains of my rucksack and the image intensifier. I had no stomach to go out on my own to the woodland sites, unless it was in daylight and even then, I felt scared.

I’d arranged a tutorial with Judy and we met as scheduled. I found us a small room that was free for a couple of hours. She brought me her work and I realised we had quite a lot to do to help her catch up. Amazingly, she was okay with the maths, the bit that always tripped me up, it was the biology that seemed to overwhelm her—takes all sorts I suppose. She was a mathematician essentially from her A levels, but she hadn’t done any biology since her GCSE levels, and that was pretty scant.

“Why did you want to do zoology? It looks as if mathematics is your bag?” I asked her over a cuppa.

“Dunno, it all got a little too abstract and I wanted to help fight global warming. I saw something about Professor Agnew in the paper and decided I wanted to study under him.”

“Well it’s a good department, and I hope will have an impact on understanding climate change through its effects on habitats and those in turn of the mammals living there.”

“Do you think it’s too late to turn things around?”

“I don’t know, it’s not my job to decide that, only to feed back what I can from my own study. But the bigger the overall picture, the more understanding there will be. So it all helps.”

“Yeah I guess,” she sighed and we went through her difficulties. I felt they weren’t insurmountable, just time-consuming. We set up the next meeting and I set her some preparation to do beforehand, rewriting an essay which had got poor marks. We were going to resubmit each of them after I’d helped her understand the processes each explored.

“I like working with you,” she said, “you take your time to make sure I understand, like having a big sister.”

“Don’t you have any siblings?” I asked.

“No, Mum and Dad decided they only wanted one child and to give me all they could. Unfortunately no one asked me what I wanted, which was a sister, or even a brother.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling.”

“Dad said your mum died recently.”

“Yes, about a month ago.”

“I’m sorry, it must be tough.”

“Well, these things happen but my father having a stroke hasn’t helped.”

“Oh my goodness, that’s awful.”

“Yeah, for him it is, he was quite active before; at present he’s still awaiting full assessment at Southmead.”

“How often do you get to see him?”

“I try and get up weekly, make him some soup and bread. He won’t eat hospital food if he can help it.”

“Do you like cooking?”

“It’s okay, my fiancé seems to enjoy it.”

“You’re engaged?” She looked startled, then blushing said, “Is that like to a man or a woman?”

“I’m a woman okay?” she nodded with open mouth. “So I’m engaged to a lovely man who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“Like wow! Have you got a ring yet?”

“Not yet, he only put the thumbscrews on yesterday. I wanted to wait until I’d got my doctorate, he wanted to go ahead. I weakened.”

“So this like happened yesterday?”

“Yes.”

“Oh wow, congratulations.” She jumped up and hugged me, kissing me on the cheek.

“Yeah, can you keep this under your hat? I have enough to deal with at the moment.”

“Yeah, course I will.”

“Go on clear off, you’ll be late for your lab work,” I gently scolded her.

The rest of the day I spent working on my survey, playing with figures—it looked as if my colonies were increasing in size, albeit slowly. That left me feeling happy as I drove back to my room. The mailbox soon dissipated that feeling: I recognised another poison pen letter.

I’d pinched some latex gloves from the lab and put them on before opening the letter.

‘Hello Sissyboy,
Still prancing about in girly clothes then? Not for much longer though. The day of reckoning is coming, and the countdown has started.
An ill-wisher’

I placed it in a plastic sandwich bag to hand to the police tomorrow.

The other mail was boring bills or junk. I decided to pop to the shop to get some fresh milk and ironically some bread. Simon had consumed all of the loaf I’d baked, helped by Stella and my own couple of slices.

I was wearing jeans, a polo necked jumper and a denim jacket along with my trainers—okay they were girly ones, Reeboks with pink trim. As I walked along my mind on going to the police after seeing Dr Thomas meant I was too self absorbed to notice Big Mac and his sidekick Tiger approaching. Ha Tiger, Tigger would have been more appropriate, he was about as dangerous as Winnie the Pooh’s friend.

“Oh look it’s our own sissy.” The words hit me like a bucket of water. I stopped in my tracks. “That’s right isn’t it Cathy, or is it really Charlie?”

I had nowhere to run, Big Mac was stood to one side and Tiger was at the other with a wall behind me. I had to stand and take their insults and hopefully talk my way out of a beating.

“To think you nearly fooled me Charlie, I even half fancied you. But the uni is full of the rumours of our pretty sissy.”

“Excuse me, I have things to do,” I said trying to push past them.

Big Mac pushed me back against the wall. “I hear sissies like to give blow jobs, is that right?”

“I wouldn’t know, I’m a woman,” I said trying not to shake too much and show how frightened I was.

Big Mac laughed. “I’m a woman,” he repeated in a silly voice. “No you’re not, you’re a sissy, some prissed up little boy, who wants to be a girl. Well maybe we’ll help you!” He grabbed at my crotch, which hurt, but the expression on his face was shock. “He ain’t got none.”

“What!” his friend exclaimed, “what no balls?”

I pushed him away from me, slapping his hand from the crotch of my jeans. “I told you, I’m a woman.”

“Are you having trouble?” said a voice from behind the two thugs—it was the shopkeeper.

“They were just going,” I spat at the two would be assailants.

“Oh good, but I have telephoned the police just in case. They are on their way.”

The two half-wits walked away back towards their rooms and mine. I was still shaking and tears were forming.

“Come into my shop and sit down for a moment,” the shopkeeper assisted me down the road a few yards and into his shop. He took me through and into the backroom, where I plonked myself into a chair. “I will get us some tea, the cup that refreshes.” I sat feeling shocked, yes shocked, and the shaking and the tears began in earnest.

“Here, drink this,” he handed me a mug of hot, strong tea—far stronger than I normally drank, and when I tasted it, it had several sugars. Oh God, I can’t drink this.

He sat with me and watched as I forced it down. Somehow, I managed it, without doing a reprise, all over his room. “Thank you.”

“You don’t have a brother do you?” he asked.

“No, I lied to you, I’m sorry.” The tears flowed again.

“There is no need to apologise, you were protecting yourself. I understand.”

“I’ll stay away from your shop if you want me too,” I offered feeling ashamed of myself.

“Don’t do that, you are one of my favourite customers, I like to see your pretty, smiling face.”

“Thank you.”

“You are most welcome. How is your father?”

“I haven’t seen him for a few days, but he was okay the last time I saw him, except he refuses to eat hospital food when he can get away with it.”

“So what does he eat?”

“When I go home I make him soup and bake him bread.”

“Like a true daughter would.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“Your father is a lucky man, to have such a beautiful and dutiful daughter.”

“Hey that rhymes,” I said laughing, although tears were still flowing.

“My goodness me, so it does. I am a poet, no?” He laughed back at me.

“I’d better go.”

“Where were you going, when they accosted you?”

“I was coming here to get some milk and things.”

“Well come on then. I can’t turn down my favourite customer.” I wiped my face, which thankfully had little or no makeup on and followed him out to the shop.

His wife was serving a customer and smiled at me. “Are you better now?” she asked in a very Indian accent.

“Yes, thank you.”

“It is good, I am glad,” she chirruped.

I got my milk, some more tissues and toilet paper, and some rolls along with a box of six eggs. I was going to do some egg rolls for myself.

“Will you be all right with those boys, or should I walk you back?”

“I think you should walk her back Raj. You do not know what they might try again.”

“I’ll be all right honestly, they only stopped me because I was thinking about other things and didn’t see them until it was too late.”

“They could be waiting in the doorway of your building. Raj you must go with her.”

Despite my protests, he walked me right up to my room. I thanked him and pecked him on the cheek, whereupon he did a little dance and smiled at me. Then he went back to his shop. I went into my room chuckling, he was such a nice man, compared to the two tossers along the corridor. I shut the door and secured it with my patented device. It didn’t make me feel any more secure really and I did wonder about moving elsewhere. I knew I could move in with Simon and Stella, but I didn’t want to do that, not yet anyway, I needed somewhere I could come and think without distraction.

I made myself some tea, as I liked it, not too strong and no sugar. I then reflected on my eventful evening. The nasty letter and its envelope were before me in the plastic bag, and my run in with the clowns along the corridor. They had both used the word ‘sissy’—I suppose it’s a common enough term of derision towards less than masculine men. So I should expect it, except my dangleless crotch had them confused.

I presumed that Big Mac had intended to injure my genitals, to help me achieve womanhood! Only he was surprised to discover no dangly bits. Now he may decide I had them tucked away with a gaff or whatever they call them, or he may just consider I don’t have any. His Crocodile Dundee method of deciding sex was very crude, if not cruel, although I suppose I did grab Tiger there a week or two before, when pulling him out of my way. I giggled at that which meant I needed a wee. I had some bruising starting around my groin, but it was better than it would have been had I really had something to grab hold of.

Later, eating my egg rolls, I did wonder if the letters and the boys were connected and decided they weren’t—they only seemed to realise about me when they learned from uni—the grapevine was working well. Oh well as long as the press didn’t find out, I hoped I would cope with the innuendo or strange looks I was going to get for a few weeks. I knew that all I had to do was stick it out for a few more weeks and it would cease to be news. I just had to hold my nerve, and let’s face it, I didn’t have a choice. This was my bed and I had to lay in it.

Easy As Falling In Love

Part Eleven Dozen and Eight (140)

by Angharaddddddddddddddddddddd!

Doctors and detectives, the plot doesn’t get any better,
in fact it sucks!

Much to my surprise, I awoke, showered, dressed and managed a bite of something and was outside Dr Thomas’ office at five minutes to eight. I’d had an awful night, but I’d survived the dreams and the tears and the hours of wakefulness in between. I had make up on, but I knew I looked as bad as I felt.

“Come on in Cathy, black or white?” she asked pouring a coffee. “What happened to you?” She had spotted the drop in my appearance.

“I had a bad night.”

“How often does that happen?”

“Now and again.”

“What happens?”

“I sometimes have bad dreams; sometimes I can’t sleep or am worried.”

“Worried about what?”

“All sorts of things, getting married, my dad, finishing my degree, the poison letters, you name it.”

“What’s this about letters?”

I had opened it again and placed it in the bag so it could be read without removal. Dr Thomas read it, “This isn’t the first is it?”

“No about five I think, the police have the others.”

“Okay, that’s the correct thing to do. This sounds as if it’s heading for some sort of confrontation, so just be careful that you don’t put yourself at risk. Do whatever it is you have to to get away and call the police. As soon as you know who it is call the police. I know a chief inspector, I’ll have a quiet word with him if you have no objections, he may spur them into doing a bit more than they seem to be doing.”

“Thank you.” I picked up the letter and placed it back in my bag.

“What else kept you awake?”

“Simon has proposed to me and I accepted. I wanted to wait until after I finished my degree, he didn’t.”

“Do you feel pressured into accepting this?”

“A little, but I set some conditions, like finishing my degree and sorting out what to do with my dad, as well as surgery and getting legal status sorted.”

“So it’s going to be a while yet?”

“Yes, he knows that and agreed to it; he wants me to live with him, I’m not too sure just yet.”

“Mightn’t be a bad idea with the ‘ill-wisher’ around.”

“Yeah, but I just like having some space to think. I know when he’s back to work, he’ll be away some of the time so it won’t seem quite so claustrophobic.”

“Are you sure you want to marry him, you sound a bit ambivalent to me?”

“Yeah, I want to be his wife or partner, not sure I want the rest of his family except Stella, who I love like a sister.”

“Like a sister, so you have no sexual feelings for her, or she for you?”

“Good gracious no, we even call each other ‘sister’ now.”

Dr Thomas nodded, “And you still see yourself wanting surgery.”

“I’m glad you brought that up, what’s the minimum I have to wait for that?”

“You are supposed to spend one or more years living in role fulltime before I refer you.”

“So Christmas would be too soon then?”

“What! Good lord yes.”

“Oh, that’s a pity.”

“The waiting list for reassignment surgery on the NHS is a year or two, depending on where you live. Here we refer to London. Don’t tell me boyfriend knows someone in Thailand or the US who can do it at Christmas?”

“No, Stella knows someone in Portsmouth who could do it at Christmas.”

“Portsmouth? I’m not aware of anyone who works in this area who is competent in sex reassignment. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.”

“Stella is a nurse specialist in urology; she said one of her surgeons used to do them in London or somewhere else.”

“Did you get a name?”

“No, I think Michael something, but I’m not sure.”

“If this guy was experienced and I don’t know him, so I have no idea, and he offered to do it at Christmas, would you let him?”

“Only if you agreed to it. I’d have it done this afternoon if I could.”

“What if I said no?”

“I’d be sad about it, but respect your advice.”

“You’d have to find a second psychiatrist or psychologist to agree to the referral.”

“I know.”

“It would be awfully short, what three or four months maximum.”

“Yes I know. I didn’t think you would wear it.”

“Have I said no?”

“Not yet but I suspect you will.”

“Well you may be right, or you could be wrong.”

“What?”

“If I did refer you and you subsequently regretted the surgery, then I could be in a difficult position.”

“I don’t think I would.”

“You’re not certain, then?”

“Oh I am certain I was meant to be female, so in that regard getting shot of some superfluous skin doesn’t worry me. However, if I was left incontinent or in pain after surgery, I could regret it then.”

“I see. Would you like sex with Simon?”

“I would love to have sex with Simon, when he’s recovered.”

“Of course, he was shot.”

“Yes, he’s getting there.”

“Good. So why can’t you have sex now?”

“Because he’s been injured.”

“When he heals?”

“I don’t want sex with him as I am.”

“I’m sure you could improvise.”

“Look, I’ve had a little, heavy petting that sort of thing but not penetrative sex.”

“Why not, you love him and fancy him, don’t you?”

“Because I want him to make love to me as a woman, not just have sex. Besides, I’m not sure I want something shoved up there.”

“Why not, lots of woman do it?”

“Am I not allowed to choose what I want?”

“Of course you are, it’s very important that you do. I’m just surprised you haven’t tried it.”

“I’m not gay.” I blushed.

“You sure?”

“Yes, I don’t fancy women.” I knew that I had stepped outside her line of questioning and it was deliberate. I watched her face: there was the mental slap I gave her, then her eyes crinkled and so did the corners of her mouth, then she roared with laughter.

“Very good,” she said, “I suppose I asked for that.”

I simply shrugged my shoulders.

“Okay, I need to know more about this surgeon, ask Stella to give me a ring. I also need to think who I can refer you too for a second opinion.”

“You mean you might go with Christmas? Wow, what a present that would be!” I almost danced I felt so boosted.

“Don’t get your hopes up too high, we are sailing very close to the wind here and I need some support before I yay or nay it. I also won’t refer you to someone who isn’t going to do the best job possible, I want you to enjoy the rest of your life as a woman, not carry some awful mutilation because you were in a hurry.”

“Thank you doctor, you are absolutely right.”

“Christmas eh? Jesus, you’ll get me struck off at this rate.”

“Well don’t do it then, forget it, I’ll have to wait like everyone else.”

“You would do that to save me any risk?”

“Yes, I would. You’ve been there for me so often, like today. I couldn’t ask you to do anything that puts you at risk or makes you compromise your standards.”

“This isn’t just to make me feel better about things is it?”

“I feel sad you ask that, because I have never lied to you. You saved my life, you keep me alive. Without you, I would be dead or much less happy. You mean a great deal to me Dr Thomas, I wouldn’t endanger that for anything.”

“Not even to feel complete in yourself?”

“Not even that.”

“Okay, that means you have to wait then.”

“Okay, I have to wait. I’ll tell Stella.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Yes, it’s got out at the university and two students who previously made overtures to me, confronted me in the street and it got a bit ugly.”

“Did they threaten you?”

“Not quite although the one made a grab for my balls, except he couldn’t find them, which confused him.”

“Where are they then?”

“Pushed up inside.”

“Is that wise, it can lead to cancer of the testes.”

“Does it matter? A year or so and they’ll be gone anyway and good riddance.”

“I see. Okay Cathy, I want to see you next week, can you make an appointment with reception.”

“Okay Dr Thomas, thanks for coming in early to see me.”

“That’s okay.”

“Can you accept this as a thank you?” I handed her bottle of good red wine.

“Bribery and corruption eh?” she smiled.

“No a small token of my respect for you and what you do for me.”

“Thank you young lady, and congratulations on your engagement, I hope it brings you all the happiness you deserve.”

“Can I hug you doctor?”

“If you want.” I did, and I did.

I made another appointment for the next Monday; I could see her first thing before I went into uni and after seeing Simon. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. I don’t know why she wanted to see me in a week, maybe it was because I looked like shit or about the letters. Even though I had learned I had to wait for a year for surgery, I had to accept her advice, I loved the woman, she was like an informal mother.

I went to see the plod. The DC I’d seen before wasn’t there and instead I saw a young woman—she went and got the file. “We sent them down for examination, it’s copier paper, could have come from anywhere and the print is an inkjet printer. The only fingerprints on it are yours and we suspect another woman.”

“Oh shit, I showed them to Stella, my fiancé’s sister.”

“Well if we had her prints it would confirm or deny that. I see you have another.”

“Yes, I got it yesterday although I haven’t been home for a week.” I handed it to her.

“They seem to be increasingly confrontational.”

“That was what my consultant said.”

“Consultant?”

“Yeah, my shrink. When you transition you have to be supervised by a shrink, to make sure you aren’t crazy.”

“Well I suppose it’s a huge change to make; I think you’re very brave, you’re also very pretty for someone who was supposed to be a man. Looks like you made the right choice. You’re engaged then?”

“Yeah, to a wonderful man.”

“What’s his name?”

“Do you have to have that?”

“Are you ashamed of it?”

“No of course not, he’s Simon Cameron.”

“Not the Simon Cameron?”

“What do you mean, ‘the Simon Cameron’?” I asked.

“The banker’s son, Lord Stanegate or whatever.”

“Stanebury.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I blushed, thinking that I should have refused to tell her.

“Well, well.”

“Do you know him then?”

“No, but I’ve met his dad a couple of times, professionally of course, what a sweet talker he is.”

“Yes, he is a bit of a smoothie.”

She gave me a very knowing look, then smiled. “Okay, these couldn’t be coming from a jealous ex-girlfriend of Simon?”

“I can’t see how, because they started before he knew.”

“So let me get this straight, he went out with you not knowing about your history?”

“He didn’t know I was transsexual, no.”

“That doesn’t exclude someone else knowing, just because he didn’t.”

“No, that’s true, his sister knew.”

“So could she have sent them?”

“I very much doubt it, she is like a sister to me, and I hope I am to her.”

“Sisters can do horrible things to each other too; perhaps she’s jealous of you?”

“I can’t believe that. No not Stella, she’s crazy in a nice sort of way, but not jealous. It was her who set me up with her brother in the first place. She’s also been wanting me to marry him because we get on so well.”

“Okay, well take care, anything suspicious call us. Don’t try to handle it by yourself, this person is mean and has already broken several criminal laws by posting threatening and offensive items through the Royal Mail. He or she is a criminal, and we don’t like criminals walking about annoying people.”

“What, even people like me?”

“I’m not sure what makes you different from any other young woman who’s received threatening letters, except the Cameron’s money could make life difficult for whomever when we catch them.”

“In what way?”

“You could sue them for damages.”

“I think I’d just be happy to know there wouldn’t be any more of them, it’s quite upsetting for me to open my mailbox these days.”

“Well, we shall do our best to help you achieve that end.”

“Thanks,” I said and shook hands with DC Sheila Scott.

Easy As Falling Off A Trike

Part 1+4+1 = Half a Dozen 8) (141)

Cathy shows off her dormouse handling skills and misses the point of the exercise.

I got back to the university by about half ten, I felt exhausted but I had three students to interview about the project. I was just finishing my tea when they arrived. It was obvious they’d heard the rumours because while they approached me they were whispering and exchanging glances. I thought we’d get the sniggering over fast.

“Hi I’m Cathy Watts,” I reached out a hand to the first student a buxom girl, with unruly dark hair. She was taller and wider than I was, and her hand was larger.

“Zoe, Zoe Tripp. She blushed as her hand seemed to engulf mine. I felt quite good about it.

Next was, “Denise,” a redhead about my size with masses of freckles and brown eyes, quite a pretty girl.

Finally, “Nick,” was the young man who brought up the rear, wearing those ridiculous jeans that show the wearer’s underpants, in this case made by ‘Ben Sherman.’

“Okay, I saw the sniggers and funny looks, care to share it with me?”

“They said you were a transvestite,” offered Zoe.

“A transvestite?” I shook my head.

“And what do you think, are they correct?” None of them made any effort to say anything.

“If we’re going to be working together, I think we need to resolve this, okay?”

The three students nodded. “I’m going to ask you in turn what you think, okay?” they all nodded.

I looked at Zoe, “You look like a woman to me, prettier than I am.”

“Yeah, I agree. Those trousers would show if you were a boy,” contributed Denise.

“Doin’ anything tonight?” said Nick, smiling.

“I don’t think you could afford me, Nick, but thanks for the offer. The other thing is that my fiancé may not take it too kindly and he’s quite a bit bigger than you.” I watched him blush.

I then spent half an hour outlaying my project and the data I was collecting. They asked a few questions and I answered them. I explained how important it was and that they had to be committed to it or leave now.

I showed them our captive breeding programme, where Neal was cleaning out some containers. “Hi Neal, how’s it going?”

“Hi gorgeous,” he said, flirting with me enough to make me blush. The three youngsters were laughing at his fooling around. He did manage to steal a kiss though and went off pretending he was drunk.

“See what I have to put up with, Nick you should be okay, I don’t think he’s gay.” That made Nick blush and the girls titter. I explained what we were trying to achieve and how the programme had already cost over twenty thousand pounds a year to run.

We went back to my room at the lab and I explained some more. At the end, they all wanted in, which was good. We agreed to meet on the next evening at the university and I would show them how to do a site check. I gave them a pile of paper about the project results and the two papers I’d published with Prof Agnew. I also gave them a photocopied article on dormouse signs and habitats, plus a couple of gnawed hazelnut shells, showing how they differed from mouse or squirrel gnawed shells. They seemed quite impressed. I hoped they would be responsible and reliable—this thing was my baby.

The nutty professor had insisted I meet him for lunch at a pub about four hundred yards away, I walked there. He waved from the lounge bar when he saw me at the door. “Hi Cathy,” he gave me a peck on the cheek.

He ordered me a St Clements, and asked me how things were going. I explained that I had been to see Dr Thomas, the police and then interviewed three students for my project.

“That all?” he laughed when I went to strangle him. “They any good?”

“I won’t know until I get some results back from them, I just hope they have stickability.”

“Yes, quite a commitment, still they could also get mention in government circles and a mention in some big journal papers. Nature have agreed to do a peer review when we have something to show them and the Journal of the Mammalian Society are also interested. I also told the BBC Natural History magazine that you’d do them a piece with some nice piccies of dormice, about a thousand words. Oh you’ll get a fifty quid fee for that.”

“The money would be nice, but when am I supposed to write it?”

“What about this afternoon, I know you have some amazing pictures of dormice. Email it to this guy at this address.”

“Bristol, that figures.”

“Oh you could have dropped it in on Thursday, never mind.” He laughed at me and once more I made to strangle him. “Never bite the hand that feeds you.” I moved back. “Talking of which, what do you want to eat?” I settled for a jacket potato with tuna in mayonnaise. He had a chicken curry.

“Tomorrow morning I need you to look tidy, I want you to show someone around your captive breeding set up. Have you still got your tame vermin?”

“What, Spike?”

“Spike, what sort of name is that for a bloody dormouse?”

“Well she has a small spike of hair where she got bitten when she was young, it stands up a bit.”

“I’ll bet they’ve all got names haven’t they?”

“So, what’s wrong with that?”

“Geez woman, you’re supposed to be a scientist, not a nursery nurse.”

“These are my babies,” I pouted at him and he nearly choked on his Guinness. When he’d stopped coughing, he shook his head and rolled his eyes at me, “I knew we shouldn’t have had women on this project.”

“You seemed quite pleased to have me at your house the other night, your impromptu dinner party, remember.”

“Oh, all right, I suppose you do have your uses.”

“You’re only jealous because I slept with Simon.”

“Yes I am, damned impertinence, that!”

“Well at least he had the grace to ask me to marry him, you wouldn’t have.” I pouted again.

“I’m your employer, if I married you Mary would kill me after the ceremony.” He laughed drawing his hand across his throat. “Besides, he’s better looking and has more money and probably more staying power,” he winked at me, “if he hasn’t give me a shout,” he winked again.

“You are a dirty old man Agnew,” said a male voice. We both looked up to see Dr Andrews stood beside us. “Well aren’t you going to get me a drink Tom?”

“He does this to me every time,” sighed Prof Agnew, “here, get him a gin and tonic, no ice,” he thrust a fiver in my hand. I sighed and went and got it for him, bloody stereotype again!

“Right, any more nasties in the post?” asked Agnew.

“What’s this?” asked the Dean.

I explained about the letters and that I had been to the police that morning again. They both made reassuring noises of support, but there wasn’t much else they could do. We all walked back to the university and I sat and wrote a simple account of the dormouse recovery programme and gave little other information. I included some rather good photos taken with infrared, some close ups of Spike, who is quite happy to pose in daylight as long as I give her a Brazil nut. I know if ever she gets to South America, she’ll destroy the rainforest in about three weeks. She’ll also do tricks for coconut, but I don’t tell the professor about that, she’s too tame to put into the wild unless it was next door to Waitrose or Sainsbury’s.

I went home feeling a bit anxious in case there was any more trouble with the two morons on my floor or more hate mail. There was neither. I ended up having a quiet night, a couple of rolls and some tea; a quick call to Simon and I went to bed. He wanted me to go back to the cottage, I declined. I needed an early night and had one.

I awoke at about six and decided to get up. I showered, checked my legs for hair and after shaving them decided I’d get them waxed next time, shaving was a drag every week or two. I did under my arms as well. I did my hair in a down style and put on a bit more makeup than I’d usually wear to work. I wore a suit Stella had given me, with a scoop necked top and a push up bra. I showed a bit of cleavage. I ummed and ahhed over it for about quarter of an hour. I wondered who the mysterious visitor was that Agnew had given me instructions to impress. I added my mother’s sapphire necklace and earrings then a silver bracelet and her engagement ring, on my right hand. A squirt of Chanel No. 5 in various places and I was ready.

The suit was a straight skirt which came to above knee, and a fitted jacket which made the most of my bust and smaller waist, making the one look bigger and the other smaller respectively. It was in a cornflower design on a darker blue background and made by some French company in Paris. It fitted me like a glove and with my navy pumps, looked quite smart. Too smart for the office really. I had tea and toast for breakfast not feeling very hungry and concerned I might get jam on my outfit.

I popped in to see Mary Miller, “Wow Cathy, you look great, you going somewhere nice today?”

“No, Grumpy told me to look tidy today,” I nodded at the professor’s door.

“You look like a model.”

“I’m too short and not curvy enough.”

“I don’t think so. I think you look beautiful.”

“Thank you Mrs Miller, I think you look pretty good too.”

“Call me Mary, Cathy, you’re far too polite you know.”

“Thanks Mary, if that’s okay.”

“Course it is pet. Let’s have a cuppa before bighead gets in.”

We had just finished when the Professor came in. I was stood with my back to him when he came in, looking at some photos Mary had of her son’s wedding. “Is that the person from the ministry?” he hissed at Mary.

“No, it’s Lady Stanebury,” hissed Mary back, I’d told her of my engagement while we had our coffee.

“Who? Is she with the Department?”

“Yes, friend of the Secretary of State,” hissed Mary.

“You’d better introduce me,” I heard him say and felt him walking closer.

“Lady Stanebury, can I introduce the nutty professor,” said Mary to my back. On hearing Simon’s name I turned around.

“Jesus, Mar…, bloody hell it’s Cathy, you look amazing, every part the lady of the manor. He took my hand and kissed it.

I stood there blushing and glaring at Mary who was cackling like an old witch.

“Is this the ring?” asked Agnew, looking at my hand which he still held.

“No, it’s my mum’s, we haven’t got one yet, haven’t had time.”

“Get a good one girl, he can afford it,” advised my boss.

“I shall know the one when I see it.”

“Right, has our visitor arrived yet?”

“Not yet, you said ten.” Mary didn’t allow him all his own way.

“Okay, it’s half nine now, you in my office,” he pointed at me, “You make me some coffee,” he nodded at Mary.”

“One grain or two?” she called back.

“What?” he looked puzzled.

“Arsenic, one grain or two?”

“I wondered why it always tasted so foul.” He ushered me into his office. “We have some quite important guests coming, God but you do look fabulous this morning,” he scratched his groin. “One from Natural England, another from the Department of the Environment, and some creep from Brussels.”

“The last one from the EU was a lovely man, looked liked a film star,” I sighed a deliberate deep sigh and pretended to look starry-eyed.

“You silly cow, this one is likely to be bald and fat.”

“Like you?”

“Cheeky bitch, you just watch that pet rat of yours doesn’t jump down that cleavage because I might be tempted to help find him.”

“Spike is female and she’s a dormouse not a rat.”

“All the bloody same, hairy tailed rats!” He loved to wind me up, but today I wasn’t going to play.

“Some zoologist you are, don’t know your arsefoot from your elbow!”

“My what?” he spluttered at me.

“It’s an American grebe, also called a helldiver I believe.”

“The birdwatching I do is usually in pubs and clubs and infinitely more satisfying than those feathered things you like.”

I shook my head in mock disgust, “Still you look tidier than usual,” I said appraising him. He just glowered.

Mary came in without a coffee, “There’s a cab pulling up outside, I think your visitors are early.”

“Oh hell, make them drive around the block, I need my caffeine.”

“Can’t you have one with them?” I asked.

“What? The stuff Mary makes? You’re joking.”

“It hasn’t killed you yet,” I observed.

“It’s only a matter of time,” he said and slumped in his chair. “I had hair till she came to work for me.”

“You’re an old drama queen,” I quipped.

“Taken you a long time to discover that,” he said his eyes twinkling, “Elope with me before they get here,” he said, his eyes pleading.

“Sorry, not today, I left the cooker on.”

“Oh bugger!” he said, and we laughed.

“Where do you want me, with regard to your visitors?” I added quickly.

“Here by my side, no, better still where you are, I can see more of your cleavage.”

The door opened and Mary ushered in, “Dr Hill from Natural England, Dr Smythe from The DoE and Professor O’Malley from the EU.” In walked a middle-aged man, a woman about forty but in good condition, and a tall red haired man with a huge bushy beard. He was as Irish as they came and he had a voice like liquid chocolate, I nearly melted under the table when he introduced himself.

“Tom Agnew, and my post grad colleague, Cathy Watts. I’ve asked her to accompany us because she’s running the rodent element of the survey. She’s also set up a captive breeding programme for dormice, which we’ll go round presently.” I shook hands with all three of our visitors, the mad Irishman kissing my hand. What is it with professors?

Agnew did eventually get his coffee and we talked about the survey and the costs, or at least he did. Then about half an hour later, we went to go down to my lab and the dormouse project, and Dr Smythe asked if we could take some photos to report to the minister. I could hardly refuse, expecting her to produce a small digital camera; instead, she beckoned over a young bloke with a camera bag.

We went down to my lab and I explained my own survey and showed some of my computerised data, then we went to see Spike and her buddies. I had a Brazil nut and she happily sat in my hand feeding from it, storing bits in her cheek pouches.

“Can we get a picture of you holding the dormouse?” asked Dr Smythe. I could hardly refuse when she had agreed to fund some more equipment, night vision stuff and more laboratory equipment. The cages we used were quite expensive, built especially for us in darkened glass. “Just to show the minister.” I stood there like a lemon smiling while Spike tickled my hand.”

“Hold her up just a little higher, let’s get the cages in the shot as well, that’s great. Now one with you as well Professor,” and Agnew stood alongside me, his arm around my waist. Then it was with the mad Celt, and the Natural England bod. Finally one of us all together with me in the middle, still holding Spike, although she was now on a hazelnut.

At last it was over; I think during the visit Spike had eaten half her bodyweight in nuts. Oh well she’s so good, blinking in the daylight. I love her to bits, and she’s had so many babies, and reared them all. I get broody when I see her pregnant again, but I can never have babies of my own. Sigh!

The phone in the lab rang, “Are you coming to lunch with us?” It was Agnew.

“Do I have to?” I wasn’t really hungry.

“But of course.”

“Okay, I’ll be right up.” I nipped in the toilet and freshened up; afterwards I walked up to his office, then accompanied the mob to a nice restaurant about a mile away, ferried there by a large Mercedes.

After lunch, where I was pretty well forced to have some Chablis with my tuna bake, the visitors were collected by the Merc again and Agnew and I got an ordinary cab back to the uni.

“Thanks for doing the photos, they’ll look really good on the poster, there’ll also be one in the local rag tomorrow.”

“What? You are going to use those photos for the poster?”

“Yes, why do you think they took them?”

“She said for the minister.”

“Yes, he’s the one who wanted the pictures for the poster, to keep your boyfriend’s bank happy.”

“If I’d known that was what they were doing I wouldn’t have agreed to it.”

“Who else could hold your tree rat for half an hour?”

“Neal, she’s quite fond of him and Sharon.”

“Sharon is on leave, besides, you looked really dishy today.”

“I hate you!” I pouted, “I just hope there won’t be any negative feedback from them via the tabloids.”

“Can’t think why.”

“The grapevine is on broadband speeds,” I explained.

“Publish and be damned,” he said and put his arm around me, “we could still elope if you’d prefer.”

Easy As They Come

Part Eleven Dozen and Ten (142)

by Angostura Bitters

Cathy fields questions on her fieldwork.
See what her answers were.

Dormouse on a branch

“I can’t believe I let them take photographs without asking what they were for,” I told Simon as soon as I got back to my room.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you looked stunning.”

“What I looked like is the least of my worries; no, let me rephrase that, what they do with it is the most of my worries, how I appeared is a partial worry. If I look like a dog, then I’d prefer they don’t use any of them.”

“I didn’t think you could photograph angels anyway.”

“Well I have one on my driver’s licence.”

“Ah, maybe it’s a likeness of someone similar to you.”

“Nice try Si, I’m not in the least angelic. Try Stella.”

“If Stella didn’t come on photos it’s because she’s a vampire!”

“She’s your sister Simon, have some respect.”

“What, she used to be before she got bitten by the worst sort of vampire.”

“What one’s that?” I enquired knowing I was setting myself up.

“The shopping vampire, feeds on credit cards and charge cards. Sucks ’em dry in minutes.”

“That’s a dreadful thing to say,” I chided him.

“It’s true though, just make sure she doesn’t bite you.”

“Okay Simon, I’ll try and wear a crucifix or some sort of protection.”

“Just keep away from shops and the Internet. That’s the best protection.”

“Okay. I have to go back into the department, so I have to go lover.”

“Oh, that’s unusual.”

“Yeah, gotta show some students the ropes.”

“You’re going out to those woods again aren’t you?”

“Erm…”

“You are, I can smell it.”

“No that’s my deodorant, Eau de Dormouse, Spike tinkled on me.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“I have to go.”

“Call me when you get back, I won’t be asleep.”

“Don’t be silly, it could be two or three o’clock before I get back, depends on how quick this lot are to pick it all up.”

“Ring me.” He put his phone down and I felt myself blushing. My autonomic nervous system was obviously in fine fettle.

I drove the Mondeo into the university and they were sat waiting for me outside the department. I had already loaded the equipment and checked it all. We had torches and two lots of night vision equipment. I held up the new hardback book.

“I’ve made columns and all we have to do is make the measurements and counts and write them in here. Then I’ll stick ’em on the ’puter. When you do them on your own, just follow what I did before, it’s straightforward enough. The hard part is taking the measurements in the dark. You need a red light to see what you’re doing without dazzling yourself or scaring the animals. For some reason, red doesn’t seem to worry them.”

They giggled, “Okay, I know, it’s the red light district. Let’s go play zoologists.”

We chatted as I drove to the woodland. I’d arranged for them to get a spare key for the forestry gate. I showed them how to open the gate and move the pole aside, then we drove through and up the woodland track.

“Gosh isn’t it dark?” said Zoe.

“Yeah, it’s ’cos the sun went down,” quipped Nick.

“Yep, Apollo is driving his chariot somewhere else, okay let’s get started. Keep the noise down, and you’ll be surprised what you see and hear.”

Using only red lights we walked to site one and I showed them what to do. It was slower going than usual as I had to repeat things, but they seemed to be enjoying it.

Sites two and three were equally slow as I let them do the recording and measuring. By site four, they had some idea and two hours later, we’d done the lot. I was shattered and they looked to be quite tired.

“It’s harder work than I thought,” said Denise.

“You used to do this on your own didn’t you?” asked Nick.

“Yes I did, but because of what happened, we won’t allow anyone to go on their own, so it has to be at least two of you. If you want to recruit others, that’s fine as long as I have met them and agreed. It’s a serious bit of work and it could get you a chance to work in survey stuff after you graduate. It’s also about the most prestigious project going on in Europe at the moment, and just to say you were part of it, will look good on your CV.”

“Weren’t you scared out here on your own?”

“No, I knew the area in daylight before I came out here at night. I’ve combed practically every square metre looking for signs, so I think I can say I know it intimately. Sometime in the next month or so, before Christmas, I’m going to be surveying some additional areas in daylight. If you want to come along to see what’s involved, let me know, or anyone else you think might be interested.”

“You enjoy your work, don’t you?” asked Zoe.

“No, I love my work. For me, this is what biology is all about, not chopping up things in labs, although that is necessary to see how things work, but communing with nature out of doors. Seeing it as it is being a part of it.”

“You’re quite a romantic, aren’t you?”

“It shows does it Denise?”

“It’s a bit unusual for a woman.”

“Oh we’re back to that are we? Okay, I used to be a man, end of story, so now you can tell all your friends. But before that think about Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey and tell me women don’t do this sort of stuff!”

“I’m sorry,” said Zoe, “but they told me to check.”

“Check what?”

“That you were female.”

“Why, for God’s sake, what difference does it make?”

“My friend says the most beautiful woman I’ll ever see will probably be a man, a drag artist because they do everything down to the smallest detail.”

“They possibly do, but like most other women, I have neither the time nor the inclination. Do you?”

“Course not.”

“Okay, are you wearing any makeup?”

“Yeah. So what?”

“To come out and walk through a forest in the dark?” I asked her. Denise and Nick seemed very quiet, presumably watching what was going on.

“Have you got any on?” Zoe asked me.

“Nope, just some moisturiser in case it gets cold later, that dries my skin.”

“I think you’re very brave.”

“What coming out here with three bodyguards?”

“No, changing sex.”

“Thank you, as far as I’m concerned I always was female, it’s just my body didn’t know, so I changed my body.”

“Where did you change it, and do you think they’d change mine for me?” asked Zoe, her tongue deeply embedded in her cheek.

I was tempted to say all sorts of nasty things, but didn’t. I needed to learn how to cope with this sort of thing without it blowing up and apart from anyone else, upsetting myself. I was sure it would stand me in good stead.

“Right before I close this topic forever, are there any more questions on my gender identity disorder?”

“You’re engaged. Does your fiancé know about you know?”

“Yes and no he isn’t gay, he sees me as a normal woman who can’t have children. His family are okay with it too, and so is my father. My mother is dead, so I can’t ask her. The university is okay with it and apart from one or two exceptions, it seems so is the whole world. If you’re not, then say so now because we’re going to have to work together quite a bit.”

“Have you had plastic surgery done on your face?”

“No I haven’t,” I felt quite irritated.

“You must have been a very pretty boy, were you gay?”

“Yes I suppose I was, although I didn’t think so at the time. I thought I was a nothing that people ignored, and no I wasn’t gay, I wasn’t anything until I got kissed as a woman and that seemed to unlock the door.”

“Wow, so you were what, celibate?”

“I think asexual, or I thought I was. I changed my mind, maybe the hormones helped, I don’t honestly know. But living as a boy, I had no sexual feelings at all, just a sadness that I couldn’t be who and what I wanted to be.”

“That’s awfully sad, I’ve never thought about it like that before,” offered Denise.

“I wasn’t too worried about being a pretty woman as long as I was acceptable as a woman.”

“You’re not pretty Cathy, you’re beautiful.” Nick hadn’t said much at all.

I was blushing and went all dithery, I still had a problem with compliments. “Erm, that wasn’t a question Nick, but shall we finish it there?”

“Why do you have a problem with compliments Cathy? That was a question.” He was pressing his initiative.

“Do I? Okay, I do. I was brought up in a very strict household. I was expected to always do my best and not expect praise. When my father found out what I was, he beat me badly. He nearly killed me and I then tried to finish the job. You still with me Nick?” He nodded.

“I was saved only because some electrician who was testing appliances came into my room and found me. I can’t use Paracetamol ever again. My consultant psychiatrist then gave me back my life and taught me not to be ashamed for what nature or life had made me. Since then I haven’t looked back, well not too often. Life doesn’t always go smoothly, but I seem to cope.

Three weeks ago, I was out here with my fiancé, doing the survey—he came because he didn’t like the idea of a woman out here on her own. I’d always felt safe, never thinking about danger other than falling over a tree root or in a hole. He got shot by poachers and was very lucky not to have received lethal injuries.”

“And you came out here again?” asked Denise.

“Yeah, my dormice need me, or now us.”

“You said your dad now accepted you, yet he beat you before, what changed?”

“I did, and so did his circumstances, he had a stroke. He now needs me, that meant he had to eat humble pie.”

“Gosh you are brave,” Denise changed the subject.

“No, the risk of getting shot is higher in town than out here at night. It’s a nature reserve, a protected area. The poachers should get long sentences for all sorts of offences. My fiancé’s dad also has some clout, so it should happen. Provided you don’t fall over something or walk into a low branch, hence the hard hats, you are pretty safe. But only in groups of two or more.”

They all agreed. “So now you’ve done a real life test, what do you think, good fun or what?”

“What about bad weather?”

“Do it as soon after as you can, it’s important then because very cold weather can kill those animals with insufficient bodyweight. Strong winds can bring down trees and disturb colonies, they can also kill you, so that’s a no no. Snow, not usually a problem. Rain, you get wet the department has waterproofs you can borrow, they’re horrible, I have my own Gore-Tex stuff. Expensive but excellent. But then, this is my priority, I spent my money on field kit and a bike, not flashy clothes.”

“Wasn’t that you we saw earlier, with the visitors?”

“Yes, why?”

“In the YSL suit?”

“Yes it was.”

“You don’t splash on clothes?”

“No I told you I don’t.”

“That was over a thousand quid’s worth of stuff.” Denise was obviously well up on her fashions.

“Well I was given it. I didn’t actually pay anything for it.”

“What for Yves Saint Laurent?”

“Of course, that’s what YSL stands for. I knew it was rather nice, too nice for work, but it did the job. I’m sure Next or Topshop, would have done just as well.”

“Can I have your friend’s name, Cathy in case she chucks out anything else?”

“Who is KC and DK…?” I was just winding them up, but well they’d asked for it.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 143

(just wait for the next one

all you dozen fetishists!)

by Bonzi’s Mum

How do you tell your father you’re engaged?
What was it that Cathy told Simon she rolled in the grass with?
And what about the photos, and the story in the local paper, or was it Spiked?

I dropped off my charges at the university and came straight home. I showered and called Simon, it was half past three in the morning. How did I used to do this and then turn up for lectures—well I needed the sleep! If they showed any slides, i.e. darkened the room, I was gone, zzuzzing away like a baby.

We spoke very briefly, I dried my hair, had a quick cuppa and bit of toast—crikey that bread was stale, it was like biscuit before I put it in the toaster, but I needed my surviving roll for breakfast.

I fell into bed about four fifteen and died until about nine or half past, when a heavy lorry or something woke me up, the whole building was vibrating and at first I wondered if we were having an earth tremor.

It wasn’t and once awake, I got up and tried to rescue my hair. Of course sleeping on it had made it all stand up one side, so my shower instead of saving time had cost me some. I showered again, ate my brekkies and then dried my hair. It looked okay, but I was getting some dark rings under my eyes. I would sleep tonight at my father’s house if it killed me.

I dressed and threw on some makeup to try and hide the tiredness marks. It didn’t really work, it never does. I packed and set off for Bristol arriving there some three hours later.

I stripped my bed and filled up the machine, got the bread machine loaded and chopped up the vegetables I’d bought on the way in. He could have some soup, but it would be commercial bread until tomorrow, unless I went in again tonight. I yawned and decided I’d make up my mind later.

I vacuumed around and cleaned up the kitchen; the soup was done and eventually so was my washing. It was dry and breezy, and I hung it on the line. I had some stuff to take into Dad, spare jammies and hankies, why he couldn’t use tissues like the rest of the planet, God alone knew. I just cringed at the thought of bogies in my panties!

So I used to soak them in bleach in a bucket and wash them by Marigold, my rubber gloves—well I wasn’t going to do them by hand! Ugh!

I was almost tempted to cycle in and show him the bike that cost me an arm and a leg. I had a small backpack. I shoved all the stuff I had to take, including his clean clothes and the flask of soup and the part of a French stick I’d bought—the rest was mine for tea. It all went in and was quite heavy, but I’d cope, I thought.

I pulled on my team GB strip—Victoria Pendleton, I was not, sigh! Then keys and small handbag with money and so on tied to the back of my backpack, bike out of garage, and off.

I got to the hospital in twenty minutes, without the extra weight, I could have saved maybe three or four, but I wasn’t counting. Well I was actually, it took the average speed down point one of a mile per hour, my average was now 17.8MPH. Go down a nice big hill, that tends to improve things, poor old Cat’s eye, easily fooled, a bit like me.

I rode up to the nearest entrance to my Dad’s ward and clomped along pushing the bike with me. I then had to plead with the ward Sister to allow me to bring the bike in with me. Was my father surprised, his eyes were on stalks at me in something sporting, although I had told him I rode.

He was so busy looking at my bike, then back at me in racing skins, that he didn’t seem to notice the bread was shop bought. In any case, by the time it’s all been broken up and dunked in the soup, I’m not sure many folk could tell the difference. He cleared the bowl and downed a cuppa.

He called me over and tried to whisper in my ear, “V-ulls, voo got none.”

It didn’t make much sense, so I whispered at him to show me. He prodded me in the crotch, thankfully without anyone seeing. “Gone!” he declared.

“Looks like,” I shrugged and he rolled his eyes.

“Voo woss way.”

“I’ve lost weight?”

“Ess.”

“Dunno, I think this makes me look skinnier.”

“Ice bummm.”

“Ice bum? Oh nice bum, gotcha. You’re my father, you’re not supposed to make personal remarks like that.” He giggled like a school kid.

I stayed for the hour and was leaving with my lighter backpack, when the ward Sister stopped me. “He really misses you, you know. When you call in to see him it lifts him like balloon.”

“I’m sorry, but I do have other commitments, including to my employer, the government, my students, the EU and a few dozen dormice.”

“Oh, that’s what he was saying the other day, you are the dormouse lady.”

“That’s me.”

“I don’t know how you find them, like a needle in a haystack, isn’t it? I mean they’re quite rare nowadays, aren’t they?”

“They take a bit of finding, but once you get your eye in, as the birdwatchers say, they can be found. I suppose I’m looking for potential habitats whenever I go out in the countryside, once I spot one I look for any signs, and off you go. It’s almost an obsession these days. But they are increasingly rare, like so many things.

I belong to a Probus group, would you come and talk to us about dormice or wildlife in general?

“I don’t know, it’s about time as much as anything, when do you meet?”

“Usually on a Thursday evening.”

“Get me some dates and I’ll see what I can do, but I won’t promise anything.”

“Does your dad know you’re engaged?”

“How did you know that?”

“Like you with your dormice, I spot the signs.”

“What signs?”

“Well they’re very subtle, a mood thing, a twinkle in the eye, a difference in posture.”

“You’re winding me up,” I grinned.

“No, I’m not it’s all there for the trained eye, oh that and you’re wearing a ring.”

I laughed and so did she. “It’s my mother’s—so there.”

“But you are, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, haven’t had time to get the ring yet, and he’s injured, so it’s going to have to wait.”

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”

“Have you told your dad?”

“No, not yet.”

“Why not, shouldn’t he be told? He is your next of kin.”

“I’m concerned he may see it as a way of avoiding him, long term.”

“What, abandonment?”

“Yes, I don’t intend to and I have made it a condition of marriage that we try and integrate him into our lives. But I’m a scientist not a miracle worker and it might not happen for all sorts of reasons.”

“I can see that, he could also live another twenty years, he’s not sixty yet.”

“You see my dilemma.”

“I do. Oh well, have a safe ride home.”

“Thanks.”

I remember reading some stories of a transgendered kid called Gaby or Drew, who liked to think on his or her bike, and when she had a problem, she went for a ride to resolve it. Well, the rest of the stories were, shall we say you had to suspend belief, to allow to happen, but they were good fun. It was all fiction obviously, but the bit about riding a bike to think, absolutely true. It worked for me each time.

By the time I got home, and had showered and changed again—I was washing myself away—the bread was done and the washing was dry. I dressed smart casual, long cord skirt and thin jumper with my fur trimmed hooded jacket. Some makeup and I finished the French stick with the remains of the soup for my meal. I made Daddy a ham sandwich and wrapped it up. I was just putting the last of the dishes away when the phone rang.

“Hi Babe, you’re gonna love the pic in the local rag, I’ve ordered you a copy.”

“Oh hell, I’d forgotten all about it, thanks for spoiling my day. I was just about to leave to tell Daddy about our engagement.”

I paused trying to remember how many they took. “Which one did they use?”

“I’ll take a copy with my mobile and send it on.”

“Will I actually be able to see anything?”

“Doubt it.”

“Can you get Stella to take a digital photo and email me?”

“Yeah, good thinking, I can see why you’re a scientist.”

“Can you? Oh well you can explain it to me later, because I’m blowed if I know why.”

“You love small furry things.”

“Not all of them, rats do very little for me at all.”

“They got a bad press, that’s all.”

“If you say so, I’ll call you when I’ve seen the email.”

“Okay, byeeeeeeee.”

That was all I needed. I catastrophised as usual, thinking all it needs is someone to write into our local paper and… I tried not to even think about it in case it became manifest. Oh bugger!

I drove to see Dad and took him his sandwich. He managed about two thirds of it, so I let him off the rest.

“I have something to tell you.” I had difficulty holding his gaze. “Simon has asked me to marry him and I said, yes.”

I could see the conflict immediately, the desire to congratulate me and the worry about himself. I waited for him to say something, but he seemed to drift in his thoughts.

“It’s going to be a long engagement, I want to finish my degree first. I also told him I needed to resolve your situation as well. For all our differences, you are still part of my life. I don’t want that to change, unless you do. I still hope and pray that you will one day become more independent, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m sorry that Mummy isn’t here to help me plan a wedding one day, but I dreamt of her the other day and she seemed content with things—she showed me this necklace and earrings, as if she wanted me to wear them, so I will. It will feel as if part of her is there with me.”

He nodded.

“When Simon is better, remember he was shot by those idiot poachers, I’ll bring him up to see you again. Remember you got on well last time.” I saw him looking at the ring, “Nah, this is Mum’s ring, we haven’t had a chance to look for one yet, maybe at the weekend, when I go back down to baby-sit.”

He gave me a questioning look, “I mean look after Simon, like all men he’s a big baby, but he likes my cooking.”

“Voos ood gook.”

“I’m a good cook?” I asked and he nodded. “Thanks Daddy, but I’m nothing special in the cookery department. But I’m better than Simon, so he thinks I’m good, and I suppose you like my food too.”

He nodded and rubbed his belly, “Mmm mmm.”

“Yum yum?” I asked.

“Ess,” he said nodding.

“Any more physio or speech therapy?”

“Ess, is ee o, moggo.”

“Physio, tomorrow?”

“Ess.”

“Okay, I’ll call by lunchtime, if I have time to make you some soup. I have to go to Bristol Uni to see a man about a dog—fox.”

He laughed, “O- ay.”

I kissed him and drove back. Then after switching on the laptop, I went to make some tea while it warmed up. The picture was of the whole group with me in the middle, the rest towering over me, despite my heels, even Dr Smythe was taller.

There was short story with it.

‘Portsmouth University’s zoology department today became the leader in a massive project funded by the EU and British governments, plus some investment from the private sector, to see what damage global warming is having on the wildlife in this country.

The project leader is Professor Tom Agnew, who said that mapping and distribution was essential to understanding the expansion or decline of species. With larger species, it was easier to get some sort of estimate, but with small, nocturnal or rare species, it was much more difficult, such as for species like dormice, which were under threat from habitat destruction by farming, development and other human activities.

He was pleased to say that his team included Cathy Watts, a leading expert on dormice, who would also be coordinating the survey of rodents. Cathy showed the government team around the dormouse breeding project, which she also runs, with her assistant ‘Spike’ who posed with her boss for the camera.

Prof Agnew explained that this was the biggest survey of its sort attempted and is the leading wildlife project in Europe. It is due to last at least three years, by which time Spike will be a grandmother several times over.

They will be looking for volunteers at some point in the spring. Contact them on www.wildlifesurvey/ports… .’

I phoned him. “I suppose it could have been worse.”

“Well if they do one in three years time, you might well be Lady Catherine and Princess Spike.”

“Oh don’t, I don’t think I can cope tonight,” I yawned.

“Well that’ll teach ya to go looking for the teddy bear’s picnic.”

“Yeah, I think you may be right, except we found it, didn’t I tell you, that’s why we were late back, stopped for drinky-poos with the teddies.”

“Damn, I knew there was something you were holding back on.”

“Yeah, had a roll in the grass with a two foot teddy.”

“I didn’t think teddies had, you-know-whats,” he said.

“They don’t.”

“Oh, so what was the point of rolling in the grass with a teddy bear?”

“Na, this wasn’t a teddy bear, it was a teddy boy and the two foot didn’t relate to his height or his bike chain… I have to go to bed now, night.” I switched off the phone and left him up in the air. I’m sure he knows I wouldn’t cheat on him anyway, not that I could, but it doesn’t do him any harm to be teased occasionally.

Easy As Falling Down The Stairs Part

(12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12)

Gross Innit? (144)

by Usual Suspect

Life is sometimes difficult to bear… see why.

I awoke just before John Humphrys began to dissect the leader of the opposition on the radio. Normally I would stop and listen for such an interview to finish, it was about the only blood sport to which I would subscribe—the culling of politicians.

Instead I was in the shower before Humphrys had drawn much of Dave the Chameleon’s blood, getting myself tidied up to go and talk to Bristol Uni. I had to liaise with their rodent people and also get agreement to use their facilities when I needed them, like library—real and online. Although Portsmouth had a reasonable one, Bristol was an older, possibly more prestigious establishment. Even one of Tony Blair’s sons went there.

I dressed in my pinstripe suit—well I might as well get some use out of it before it dated or the moths had it (it’s viscose ha ha), together with a black lacy, long sleeved top. I wore my heels with black stay up stockings. I then quickly made some sandwiches for my father, and put in a new lot of bread mix.

I’d just finished my makeup and was combing my hair when the doorbell rang. It was not quite nine o’clock. Who the hell was that, the postman?

I scrambled down the stairs in my heels and opened the door. It was a delivery from one of those courier vans, you know, white variety, knock cyclists off their bikes, cut up motorists—I’m not being stereotypical here am I? Diddums!

“Lady Catherine Stane something or other?”

“Stain remover, yes that’s me.” I was going to kill Simon one of these days! I know I’ll build my own guillotine!

“Sign here please.” He handed me some sort of handheld device and a stylus. I signed it Minnie Mouse. He handed me a package.

Despite the fact I should be getting my little blue girlymobile out of the garage, I was curious about what was in the package. It could only be from Simon.

I took it into the kitchen and slit the packing tape on the box with the kitchen scissors. Opening it, inside I found a large Paddington bear, it was easily two foot tall. There was a note with it—‘Next time you go for a roll in the grass with a two foot teddy, take me! Love Paddington xxx.

I nearly fell over laughing, and decided he could come out in the car with me. The traffic was abysmal and the parking at the university, worse. Thank goodness I hadn’t taken the larger car, I’d never have managed to get it in. As it was, I had an hour, that was all.

I rushed in and was guided to the people I needed to see. I advised them I was on limited parking, so the coffee and preliminaries were dispensed with and we got down to the nitty-gritty.

I wanted someone to take on board some of the other mammal groups, and finally managed to get them to agree to collate the Sciuridae, that’s squirrels to the uninitiated, he finally agreed. Maybe I should go for the cleavage next time, I mean showing mine, it seems to make men more amenable, although I was desperately trying to avoid sexual clichés. You know, pretty woman = low intelligence = bimbo. Rubbish, tell that to Condominium Rice or whatever she’s called, you know the US secretary of State, or Meryl Streep, even good ol’ Hillary with two LLs. It’s the name of a semester at Oxford, but Bill would know that, remember in his smoking but not inhaling days, or was that Monica?

Anyway, my femme fatale managed to get what I wanted, but I suspect he might have been gay or something, he was just so into Sciurus vulgaris, and he simply hated S. carolinensus. Okay, so I had to agree that red squiggles are cuter then grey imports. But did he have to quote me the history of their introduction?

I managed to sort out the matter of access to their facilities, Agnew had written to someone there I only had to pop in and get a visitor’s card, so that was done. I dashed out to the car, to find Paddington involved in a life and death struggle with a traffic warden, beating her to death with a marmalade sandwich. Actually I was lying, although you nearly believed me, admit it. He was merely chatting her up and about to flash her by opening his duffle coat. He looked so disconsolate when I pointed out he didn’t have any dangly bits, although I did offer to sell him mine. At the rate they were shrinking, they’d probably be about the right size too.

I drove from the university and did a trip to Asda, to the hypermarket at Cribbs Causeway. It’s a very large store with a big food shop and equally large household shop. I topped up on all the things we needed and loads of things we didn’t. But I did get a new printer cartridge and copier paper there. I also bought a pair of shoes for a tenner, and a plain black top.

Then it was off to the hospital and travels with my father. He was with the physio when I got there and when he wanted or she demanded, he could walk with a zimmer frame. Mind you I think the whip sort of encouraged him.

I waited for a half an hour while he had a snooze—he was always tired after the physio-terrorists had been to see him. I chatted with the ward sister and she was suggesting dates for my proposed talk to her Probus group. I looked so efficient writing it in my diary, of course academic ones run from September to August, so I had mine already and wouldn’t have to get a new one from January. I’d have to borrow a digital projector from the uni and do a PowerPoint thingy with my pretty slides. Should send ’em all to sleep, crikey, I hope it doesn’t send me to sleep, that would be embarrassing. I projected the scenario: ‘And this is, (yawn) the great furry thing also called the (yawn) oujamaflip, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!’ That woke me up! Well I laughed out loud, I’m sure they all think I’m totally doolally.

I fed my father his sandwich—he was half-asleep so he ate it before he came to. I then had to explain why it wasn’t soup. I told him that I was going to do cottage pie for my tea. I’d bring him some in which he had to eat, or else! He laughed and shook his head.

If you promise to behave and eat your dinner when I bring it in, I’ll take you out this afternoon.

“Go oo vub?” he almost shouted.

“Go to the pub?”

“Ess,” he sparkled.

“I don’t know about that, I was just going to push you around the hospital grounds as it’s such a nice day.”

His face fell. He looked at me imploringly and said, “Eeze, go oo vub, eeze.”

How could I refuse? Maybe it’s just as well I can’t have children, they’d have me wrapped around their little fingers by the time they were a week old! Maybe I’ll get a kitten or something soft and cuddly, except that kittens grow into cats, and they’d be running me ragged too. Dogs have masters, cats have servants, yeah I can believe it.

He agreed to get in the car, so I drove up to the access point for the ward and managed to get him into it. “Ice gar, is it voor?”

“Nice car, is it for?” I asked not making out the last word.

“Voor,” he said pointing at me.

I began to wonder if he could speak Dutch, because I couldn’t, the only world I knew was ‘drol’ or ‘drole’, which means a turd. It’s amazing what you can learn in school, we had a kid whose dad was Dutch.

“My car?” I suddenly got what he was saying.

“Ess, voor gar.”

“Yes, it’s my car. Simon got it for me at a knockdown price. Apparently, cars which are written off and welded together from half a dozen others are really quite reasonable.”

“Vot, dane-jus.”

“I’m only joking Daddy, I may be a dumb blonde, but I’m not a stupid one. It’s actually pristine for its age.”

I drove him to the same pub we went to before, only this time I didn’t have any alcohol, just a St Clements, and Daddy had a half of Shrew’s Scrotum, or something similar. A friend once brought me a bottle of wine with a label saying, ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’. So who was I to criticise the names of local brews.

He enjoyed himself, which was what I wanted and he was practically asleep in the car when I manhandled him back into the wheelchair. That woke him up but not for long. I left a bottle of Johnny Walker in his bedside cupboard, special offer in Asda.

The beef mince was simmering nicely and the potatoes were boiled and waiting for me to mash and cream them, by adding butter and milk and a little salt and pepper. I cheat, I use low fat spread, but it tastes okay.

After thickening up the gravy, in the mince and onion mix, I poured them into an ovenproof dish and spread the spud on top, then browned it under the grill.

I divided it into two, put one in the freezer when it was cool and plated up the other half, with some cooked mixed veg. This I packed for my dad. I had a jacket potato with tuna and a green salad. I love tuna, well I wouldn’t want to marry one, I prefer Simon, but you get my drift.

Back at the hospital, I nuked his cottage pie in the microwave. He ate it much to the astonishment of the nurses, and he rubbed his tum afterwards, then winked at me, before burping. We both fell about at that, because he wouldn’t do it at home, he was far too anal!

I stayed for another half an hour and he was getting so tired, he was nodding in front of me. I kissed him and left, pointing out the Scotch in his locker to the staff nurse, ‘for purposes of bribery and corruption.’

She laughed and nodded. “You know, he is so much more cooperative and outgoing when he knows you are coming.”

“Only because he hopes I’ll take him up the pub.”

“I don’t know, he was on about your bike yesterday.”

“You weren’t on yesterday?”

“No, day off.”

“I came in on my race bike complete with racing skins.”

“Sister let you bring the bike in?”

“Yes, he hadn’t seen it before and I wanted to show it to him.”

“Crikey, she must have been in a good mood.”

“I did point out it was worth four thousand quid.”

“What! You’re jokin’?”

“Actually, the latest model, is nearly four thousand seven hundred.”

“What are they made of gold leaf?”

“No, too soft, carbon fibre. The other dear ones are titanium. Litespeed, an American company I think, do a titanium frame which is three grand.”

“Well how come Halford’s can do one for ninety quid then?”

“Which would you rather ride, a ninety quid clunker from Halford’s or a carbon fibre thoroughbred? I know which I’d rather have.”

“Yeah but you know what your doin’. I’d rather catch the bus.” She cackled and I left. How can any able-bodied person not want to ride a top class bike? Cor, there were some strange people about.

I drove home and called Simon. “I have an ugly natured Peruvian, illegal immigrant, who is threatening me with a marmalade sandwich. He tells me it’s loaded and cocked.”

“What does he want?”

“I don’t know, I can’t speak Spanish.”

“How do you know about the sandwich, then?”

“I saw him cock it.”

“Do you need a team of negotiators?”

“Dunno, no wait a minute, he wants a new pot of marmalade, thick cut peel, Seville oranges, peptin, sugar…”

“Hey, you’re reading that off the jar!”

“Course I am, I don’t know what’s in marmalade, I don’t like it.”

“Don’t you?”

“No, I prefer jam, so if he stays here, he’ll have to adapt, I’m not putting myself out for an illegal immigrant.”

“You’d better send him back then, at least we eat marmalade here, Keiller don’t ya know.”

“He’s shaking his head, says you’ll make him do cheap labour with a gang master.”

“How did he know that?”

“Hang on, he said Winnie the Pooh told him.”

“Anybody listening to this conversation would think we were completely barmy.”

“We are, I caught it off Stella.”

“Yeah, so did I.”

“When are you coming to baby-sit?”

“Tomorrow morning, after I pop in to see Dad.”

“How is he?”

“Happy, I took him up the pub lunchtime.”

“Miss you,” Simon said to me.

“Only because you’re not working, making millions for the bank.”

“But I am, I’m using a phone and Internet, made them two million this afternoon.”

“Just like that?”

“Slightly more complicated than that, but essentially, yeah, just like that.”

I shook my head in disbelief.

“Talk to me,” he said.

“Sorry, I was shaking my head.”

“’Fraid I missed that bit, watch you don’t get sawdust on your neck.”

“Did I tell you I’d ordered a guillotine?”

“What for cutting paper?”

“No a full sized one, oh and they’re waiting on a new delivery of tumbrels.”

“Socialist dormouse!” he hissed down the phone.

“Capitalist turkey,” I spat back.

“See you tomorrow then, love you.”

“Yeah okay, love you too.”

EAFOAB Part OFF (145)

by AaG

It was Saturday morning already, boy doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself? I looked at my bleary eyes in the mirror, poked out my tongue, then returned it to my mouth; I needed a cup of tea before seeing things like that!

Into the shower, perhaps I was washing too much? Nah, cleanliness is next to Godliness—so when does God get to take a shower, and where? I knew that goddesses did, well okay, one goddess—Aphrodite, ’cause I’ve been to her bathroom. I mean I’ve visited her bathroom. Damn, it all sounds as if I used her bathroom, I haven’t but I have been there. It’s on Cyprus, a relatively dry island in the Mediterranean, and the spring which is attributed by legend as her bath, apparently never dries up. There is supposedly a huge eel which lives there too, but I didn’t see him when I was there, perhaps he went to the bathroom?

Damn, the time was getting on. I towelled my hair, combed it to remove the knots, squealing each time I did—well it hurts. Okay, I’m a wimp, but I admitted that ages ago: I am allowed to be, I’m a girl.

I dressed in a skirt and top, I like to look smart when I see my dad and the skirt reminds him I’m his daughter, just in case the boobs, makeup, long hair and nice smell don’t. Can’t be too careful.

I chopped up some veg, added a little of the mince I kept back from the cottage pie and put it on to cook, then emptied the bread machine, the loaf smelt good enough to eat, which was just as well I suppose, because that was what I was going to do with it.

I made myself a banana sandwich, goodness, I haven’t had one of these since—ooh, erm last week. So, I like black sandwiches, what’s it got to do with you, I’m not making you eat them? Hey isn’t abanana or something one of the rivals to Hillary with two ‘LLs’? See I keep myself up to date on what is happening in the colonies. Ha bloody George the third, “Good night Mrs King,” God I love that film, even so the moron lost us the Americas, that and the French! Fancy blockading us, we should have complained to the United Nations; next time someone from the EU comes to the uni, I shall complain—well better late than never.

I mean how could a bunch of ragamuffins beat one of the best armies in Europe? I mean, they lost to a better-organised group of ragamuffins in Vietnam. See science is based on logic; women are just so much more logical than men think we are. I mean matching nails and lip-gloss, what could be simpler? Not wearing stripes with a swirly pattern next to them, easy eh? So how come my professor comes in wearing a swirly patterned tie with a striped shirt, in colours that clashed? I am sure he is colour blind, not just red-green, but all colours. Hey maybe that’s what it is, he sees everything in black and white or grey or something. Hmmm, see that’s logic, so how come I’m not sure about it? Perhaps he doesn’t see it at all, not switched into colours and patterns? I shall have to ask Mary, she’ll know, although I have heard her groan when he walked in. I didn’t think it was a spontaneous orgasm. Okay, I did once, but then realised he was wearing purple checked trousers with pink socks and Jesus sandals. None of it was helped by his red and white striped shirt. If he cycled, I could understand it, but he doesn’t, he has his ancient Land Rover and his Barbour jacket.

I did a quick makeup, and dried my hair. The veg and small amount of meat were cooked, so into the blender and instant soup. I checked it for taste, it was okay. I poured it into the flask. Theoretically, there was enough for two meals. I also cut a round of bread and popped it into a plastic sandwich bag. I then cut two more rounds and made a chicken sandwich for his tea. That went into a bag too.

I ran upstairs and packed a few things, you know tennis dress, ball gown, wedding dress and bikini. I’m lying again, I left out the bikini. I packed up my dad’s car again, and went off to the hospital.

I had a big sign inside the car which said ‘DIESEL’, just in case my scientific logic distracted me and I put petrol in it. I nearly did, thank goodness, there was a little slopping out when I took the cap off the tank. It felt greasy and thick and of course smells rather strongly. Oh shoot, and I was just about to fill up with petrol.

I’m sure everyone in the filling station forecourt could see my mistake, if I’d felt any smaller, I could have walked under the car to hide. I switched hoses and put a tankful of diesel in, wow, how much? Geez, I only want to pay for my fuel, not buy the garage! No wonder Tesco have profits in the billions, most of it is mine!

At the hospital, I parked in a doctor’s space and zipped into the ward and dropped off my Red Cross parcel for Daddy. I kissed him told him what he had to eat, and that there was enough soup for the next day too, plus the rest of the loaf. Then promising I’d be back on Thursday, I trotted off just before the clamper could get a Denver boot on my car.

He made threatening noises, and I pulled out a hammer from my dad’s car.

“You had better not be threatening me with that,” he said nervously.

“I am not threatening you in any way. I will however promise if you put that thing on my car, you’ll be stuck here for the rest of the day as well.”

“So you’re going to smash my windscreen are you?”

“No, nothing so violent.”

“So what ya gonna do?”

“Remove four valves from your tyres.”

“You wouldn’t dare?”

“Try me!” I said and my eyes bored straight through his and into the small area of his skull which was populated with brain cells.

“You’ll get prosecuted.”

“You’ll get sacked.”

He stood and glared at me and I stepped closer to his van. He glared some more and I took a swing at his wheel.

“NO!” he shouted.

“No what?” I asked pausing in mid-swing.

“Just get the fuck out of here, quick!”

“I just knew we could settle this amicably,” I smiled at him then jumped in the car and shot off with a squealing of tyres. Phew, that was close!

The hammer rattled on the floor beside me; Paddington had slipped slightly off the upright and seemed to be shaking with laughter. I know it was the vibration of the car, but it seemed exactly what I needed to break the tension, and I laughed too.

Thankfully, the remainder of the journey was non-eventful and I made very good time. The incident reminded me that I hadn’t paid for the parking fine from last week, which was thirty quid—robbery, and that was the reduced fee, pay in fourteen days or it gets doubled. I still felt cross about that, which might have been what caused me to stand up to the clamper, total parasite, yuck!

Paddington was still shaking with laughter, and at the next set of traffic lights, I stood him up and put the seat belt around him. The man in the lorry next to me was watching and laughing. I didn’t care, I was responsible for Paddington’s well being, apart from the supply of marmalade, and Simon had promised that. I take my parental responsibilities seriously.

Talking of which, hell! It was my turn to go in and feed the dormice. Oh bugger, I nearly forgot, and again on Christmas and Boxing Day. The burden of authority, as project leader I didn’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. We each did it one weekend in eight.

It was easy enough, just make sure they have nuts and fruit, clean out the mess, we have special pull out drawers for that like a poo sump. Check the water bottles and give Spike a quick cuddle, then off. Max one hour, except it takes me that long to get to and from the uni from Simon’s. So that is two hours. Bugger!

I drove straight to the uni and did the biz, cutting short my cuddle with Spike—she doesn’t mind, just goes back to sleep after eating a nut or two.

Driving like Hakkinnen was trying to pass me, I got to Simon’s at half twelve, not bad at all.

“Where’s Stella?” I asked carrying my bag into the house.

“I told her she could have the rest of the day off.”

“Generous of you?” I sidled up to him and kissed him.

“Well that’s me all over, generous to a fault.”

“So I’d heard.” I kissed him again, sucking his bottom lip. His trousers began to bulge and I giggled. I touched the bulge and ran off, giggling.

“Cock tease!” he shouted after me.

I made a quick lunch, tuna jacket potatoes—I know I eat too much of it, I have so much mercury in me, that when I get warm I grow! Okay, so don’t believe me.

“So what is it we have to do?” I asked washing up the plates. “Do I need to change?” I was wearing the red and black skirt that Stella had given me that first day she tried to kill me, with the new black top I’d bought in Asda.

“No, you look absolutely delicious, I suppose I could cancel my meeting and we could make love all afternoon.”

“Sorry, can’t.”

“Why not?” he pleaded with his eyes.

“I’m on.”

“You’re what?”

“I’m on… to you, I know what you’re after mister. I’m not just a nursemaid, I’m well edjumucated!” I stood with my hands on my hips and rocked my hips once again. Simon stood and laughed so hard he had to grab a chair to steady himself.

“You get more like that loony sister of mine every day,” he said when he caught his breath.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“I, erm, I’m not sure I offered it as one,” his eyes sparkled as he spoke. “Damn, but I feel better when you’re here. Come on chauffeuse, help me get my coat on.

“Where to, Sir?” I asked when I’d started the engine.

“Towards the town centre, I’ll tell you where to go from there.”

We ended up in a small side street near Gun Wharf Quay. “In there.” I looked over to a non-descript shop which looked like an arty-farty place, there were original paintings in the window together with various objets d’art. I held the door for Simon, feeling odd about the role reversal. I’d got used to him doing it for me.

“Hi Simon, how ya doin’ mate?” A tall thin man wearing a tee shirt and patchwork trousers walked over and shook hands vigorously with my fiancé. It still feels a novelty to think that, but it’s a nice one and I get a warm feeling each time I think it.

“So this is Cathy?” said the stranger.

“Yes, Cathy, I’d like you to meet Tim Collins, with whom I was at Millfield.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said proffering my hand.

He took it and pulled me into a hug, “Not half as much as I am to meet you, young lady. If he doesn’t treat you right, gimme a shout, I’ll be straight over.”

“What, to sort me out?” asked Simon jocularly.

“No ya silly sod, to take her away with me.”

“I’d like to get to know you better first,” I said blushing.

“Oh I think that could be arranged.” He looked at me for a moment, then said, “You’re not really going to marry this dickhead are you?”

“I have to now, if only I’d met you first,” I pouted.

“Elope with me now, while he can’t run after us—hey, Si, they didn’t shoot off any erm moving parts did they?” he winked.

“No they bloody well didn’t, everything is in working order, so just watch it, find your own girl.”

“Girl!” He looked at me and I blushed dreading he’d just seen right through me, he knew I was a boy, maybe he was gay? “Girl, this is no girl!” I knew it, his gaydar was on and working, I went very hot and got very bothered. “This is a goddess, a beauty so rare and delicate, her skin like the petal of a spring rose, her hair like corn—except the pink bits—her eyes like emeralds, so what the fuck is she doing with a dickhead like you?”

At this point, my tension was so great that when the punch line came, I giggled hysterically, the tears running down my face. “Is there a loo I can use?” I asked a hint of urgency in my voice.

As I walked back from the toilet, Simon and Tim were stood with something between them. “So that’s it then?” said Simon.

“Yep, okay?”

“This is the real McCoy.”

“Ninety per cent pure.”

I froze, they sounded as if they were talking about drugs, cocaine or something. Shit, was I marrying a drug abuser? My stomach flipped and I felt quite sick. Surely not, please God. I coughed, and Tim turned around as if he was a bit guilty, hiding something with his hand.

I smiled pretending I hadn’t heard any of the conversation, walking towards them trying to make light of things, “I knew I shouldn’t have had that extra cup of tea.”

“Good job it’s me she’s marrying, can’t hold her drink,” Simon said and they both chuckled.

“Makes two of you then,” said Tim as Simon blushed.

Simon held out his hand to me and I walked quickly to him and he pulled me to his side, his arm around my waist in a proprietarily way.

“Go on then show her,” urged Simon.

“It’s okay darling, I don’t need to see it. Shall we go we have some shopping to do?” I said nervously.

“It’s all right you know, just don’t make a habit of it,” he said, and I knew they were going to show me some drugs, I’ll bet the joss sticks were burning to hide the smell of cannabis.

“I’d like her to make a habit of it, more money for me, and you can afford it you jammy sod.”

“I don’t do drugs,” I said trying to pull away from Simon.

“What!” they both said in unified shock.

“Well, that’s what you’re talking about isn’t it?”

“Show her Tim,” said Simon grinning.

Tim, with a smirk, the size of a battle cruiser, pulled something from behind him. It was a small padded box, which he proceeded to open.

“Oh! I gasped and swooned.

Tim caught me and led me over to a chair. He then got me a glass of water. I felt so stupid, how could I have doubted Simon? Was I really worthy of his love?

He was perched on a stool, looking concerned at me, “Feel better?”

“Yes thank you,” I pulled off my coat, “I just got so hot. Sorry about that.” I looked at Simon’s tender eyes and then at Tim and began to cry.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” said Simon grasping my hand and squeezing it.

“I’m sorry, I’ve made such a fool of myself, I overheard your secrecy and thought you were buying drugs or something. I am sorry,” and sobbed. “I suppose you don’t want me to marry you now, trust and so on.”

There was a short pause before he said, “I’m afraid after that I have to withdraw my offer, you leave me no choice.”

“I understand,” I sobbed, my heart now totally broken. Tim handed me a tissue.

“You okay?” Tim asked when the tears started to dry up.

“No, but I’ll live,” I said with a wavering voice.

Then Simon seemed to fall down and I gasped and tried to get up to help him. But he pushed my hand away, “I’m all right.” He struggled to get his one leg up from a kneeling position. Then grabbing my left hand he said, “Catherine Watts, will you marry me?” slipping the ring on my finger as he spoke.

My heart stopped, or felt like it did. What had he just said and done? He was kneeling in front of me, and had proposed… but I thought that was all over. Oh my God.

“But… I… but… you? Yes, yes of course I’ll marry you.” I threw my arms around him and held him tightly. “I love you, Simon Cameron.”

“Oh shit! Here Tim, gi’s a hand up.” He was so romantic.

“This ring is so beautiful, I absolutely love it.” I said, unable to believe the beauty of the jewellery upon my finger. “How did you know my size?”

“Ah that was Stella, when you took your mother’s ring off to shower, she did an impression in some plasticine.”

I shook my head in amazement, it was like a dream.

“I asked Tim if he’d design something for me with sapphires and diamonds. I knew you liked sapphires and I believe it’s also a birthstone for Sagittarians.”

“Depends upon the reference source, but blue stones seem to be. Certainly turquoise is.”

“Not for an engagement ring, surely?” said Tim almost with disdain.

“No, I didn’t mean it like that. I’m sorry, it’s all been something of a shock. But a lovely one,” I added quickly.

“Tim is one of the leading goldsmiths and jewellery designers in Europe, I was lucky he was going to be here for a few days.”

“So this isn’t your shop then?” I asked.

“God no, it’s my sister’s. I have a place in Bond Street, above one of the big jewellery shops. I also have a place in The Hague, which is where I am most of the time.

“How did you know I liked sapphires, Simon?”

“You wear that necklace a lot, I got a photo of it when you were cooking and sent it to Tim, he used it to base his design on it.”

“It’s my mum’s or was, so it’s special to me.”

“I know, and it’s a beautiful necklace and earrings.”

“It is lovely,” said Tim, “so I was delighted to work from it. Never let anything happen to it. It’s a beautiful piece of work.”

The only time I was more conscious of my hands was the first time I wore nail varnish, and I primped about the house while my parents were out. It was my mother’s and a bright red colour. I used half a can of air freshener getting rid of the smell of it and the subsequent remover. But I spent an hour doing things around the house looking at my fingers.

I thanked Tim and pecked his cheek as we left. He seemed really quite nice once I’d got my facts right. How could I have been so stupid?

We drove back to the cottage; Simon had upset his knee and was limping quite badly and I felt exhausted and almost in a trance. Rather than drive, all I wanted to do was sleep with Simon cuddled around me, his arm around my waist, maybe gently stroking my breast and…

“Watch out!” shouted Simon, and I slammed on the brakes; an old lady had wandered out on a zebra crossing. I felt myself go red and a tear formed in my eyes.

He touched my leg and squeezed it, a bit like that driving instructor I had, only this was nice. I got us home in one piece and collapsed in a chair. Simon phoned for a take away—thank God it was Chinese, I hate pizza.

After we cleaned up, and I made up a new bread mix, we went and cuddled together on the sofa, and I fell asleep, feeling like I’d won the lottery, only better.

The next morning after turning out the bread, which Simon pigged out on, I told him I had to go and sort out the dormice cages. He was slightly miffed, but understood. I invited him to come with me, but he declined, his knee was still sore and swollen. I promised that I would get a joint of meat on the way home and do him a traditional roast dinner with all the trimmings. His eyes lit up immediately and he nodded.

I set off for the university. I have key codes for access when it’s closed. Yesterday, there had been one or two students about; Sunday mornings, it is like a grave.

I let myself into the laboratory area and began cleaning the cages and replenishing the food stocks for the dormice. I stopped and held my breath and listened. I shook my head, it was probably one of the rats in another room, running on his wheel. They are worse than hamsters and they seem to have a cadence as fast as Brad Wiggins.

There was no sound, just a fridge coming on. I was letting my imagination run away with itself, just like I did yesterday at the shop, I admired my ring as it sparkled in the daylight outside the cages. It was really beautiful; I wasn’t, I was in jeans and a sweater although they did show my body was changing for the better, the results of the hormones.

I had just cuddled Spike and showed her my ring, put her back and closed the cage, when I definitely heard something. It was neither a fridge nor a caged animal. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I wished Simon were with me. If only he hadn’t done that stupid gesture of kneeling, he could have come with me. I felt afraid.

I picked up my mobile and was about to dial Simon, when the noise got closer…

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 146

Is cleaning cages a dangerous occupation?
It seems likely that Cathy could find stamp collecting dangerous…
see what I mean?

I held my mobile clicking off the lock on the keypad, then switched off the ring tone, opting for vibration only. I slipped it into the pocket of my skirt.

I closed the cage I was working on as quietly as I could, and walked around the cages, which are quite large, towards the source of the noise.

“Ah, there you are,” Mary Miller came walking into the department with a mug of coffee.

To say I sighed with relief was an understatement. “Phew, Mary you frightened the life out of me.”

“Sorry about that Cathy, I knew from the rota it was your weekend to do the cages, so I thought I’d bring you a coffee.”

“That’s very kind of you. You don’t come down here very often, do you?”

“No, I’m usually too busy with Grumpy’s typing to get around very much. In fact, I’m behind at the moment, that’s why I’m in at the moment, while it’s quiet. Well drink your coffee before it gets cold.”

I took a sip of the dark fluid, it was actually much too strong for my taste and I had visions of twitching later on—I do when I have too much coffee, my legs get twitchy. Ugh, it was horrible, but with her watching, I had to drink it.

“Thanks, I’ll just wash the mug.”

“It’s okay, I have to do mine, see you later.”

“Yes okay, thanks.” I went back to my chores and was glad that they were almost finished. The last cage done and dusted, I sat down, I felt really strange. I was dizzy and confused, not even sure how to get out of the room let alone back to my car. Did I have a car? I couldn’t remember.

“Hello Cathy, remember me?”

I looked at the woman, she was familiar, but what was her name, Mary? I felt myself almost falling off the chair. I somehow managed to press a button on my phone when the vibration started, but it all gets hazy after that.

“Come with me Catherine,” she lifted me off the seat, “don’t be alarmed, it was just a little rohypnol I put in your coffee, so you won’t remember who it was who modified you. Ha ha, well I think it’s funny, but then I’m not in your predicament am I?”

I felt someone pulling me and then making me lie down on something hard. “Before I start to modify you, I’ll tell you why I’m doing it. You see, essentially, I’m jealous. Yes jealous of you, with your designer clothes and youth, yes, bloody youth.

“I’ve spent fifteen years slaving for that man, doing his letters and his typing, keeping his diary, making his coffee. He doesn’t even notice me unless I’m off, when he has to get off his big fat arse and do things for himself.

“But then I love him, I do, I actually love the tiresome old prig, but he doesn’t notice me, not one bit, not one fucking bit.

“When you first came here, I recall you had a good rapport with everyone, we all liked Charlie. Nice boy, a bit of a pansy, but we all liked you. The Prof liked you too, he could see potential in you and he wanted the university to develop it. I thought it was a good idea too.

“You rewarded his interest in you by doing one of the best surveys and dissertations he’d ever seen; he was ecstatic with your initial draft because he knew he could use it in his government report. Your potential was being achieved.

“Then you had a long chat with him one day after you were off for a couple of weeks with so called, ‘food poisoning.’ You were in a loony bin, weren’t you, tried to kill yourself after your father called you a fucking poof and beat you up! Well we all knew you were as queer as a four-pound note, my little pansy, we all knew it was common knowledge. Never seen with a girl, so we all knew.

“Then there was the phone call to Dr Thomas. Oh yes, I listened in on that, just in case there was anything going on between my Tom and that shrink woman. There wasn’t, but there was with you wasn’t there?

“He said he called her with your permission, to confirm you were transsexual, ha ha a girly poof! He asked how he could help you when and if you were to changeover—transition they call it, don’t they? Ah but you can’t think of anything now can you my helpless little girlyboy?

“Well I was intrigued, I mean we’d had one of your sort before, not in this department, but in the computer lot, seems it’s epidemic amongst geeks and nerds. Must be all those electromagnetic waves, turns their brains.

“Anyway, my little girlyboy, the professor was very fond of you and wanted to help. Fond of you, the bastard, what had you done for him? Sod all, whereas I slaved for him daily, I loved him, and he gets fond of you, you bloody fairy!

“And then what happens? You seem to be getting girlier by the week and I was sure you were growing breasts and that little bum was waggling all over the place. The only thing that was waggling more were the tongues, they were beginning to think that Tom was gay. My Tom a fucking queer like you? Bah! He’s a red blooded man, unlike you. I watched him sniffing around young, nubile women. Well I could hardly compete with them could I? Too long in the tooth for that.

“But then he comes into the department late from a meeting, they’ve been looking for him all over the place and he tells me to cancel his meetings, he had an important call to make. He calls the Dean. I decide I’d better be appraised of this. So I intercept and listen, the wonders of modern technology, I can do this without the microphone on my handset being active. He didn’t know, in fact he still doesn’t know. Silly old fool.

“It seems he’s only telling the dean that he has just run into one of his students in the town wearing a dress and makeup. Well I wonder who that could be? Ha ha, it was so funny. Or it was until he said, he thought you were going to change over, and that it appeared imminent and that he thought you were quite a convincing girl, quite pretty too.

“So, you were making a play for my man, were you, you disgusting creature? Then the next thing, you come bouncing in here in bloody dresses and he’s taking you out to lunch at any opportunity. When does he take me out to lunch? On my birthday, if he fucking remembers, that’s when!

“So I thought I’d warn you off, but you were too fucking stupid to get the message, weren’t you? You kept coming in here with ever more sexy outfits and he was drooling over you. Do you know how it feels to be ignored by someone you love? And worse, for that love to be shown to some filthy degenerate? Do you know how that feels? No of course you don’t, you’re a man, no a boy, a dirty arse-bandit boy. A shirt-lifting deviant! That’s what you are, masquerading as a woman, you make my flesh creep!

“Then, he says you remind him of his daughter—how can a boy remind someone of their daughter? You must be turning his mind or something. He has the big meeting at his house and he invites you to be the hostess—you, how dare he? Why didn’t he send for me? At least I’m a woman, and have acted as hostess many times at different functions. Oh yes, when I was younger, he’d have asked me.

“Why didn’t he ask one of his other staff members, we have two or three nice women here, and a lovely technician, but no, he asked you, and you spent the night there didn’t you, you bitch! You slept with him didn’t you? I know, I watched the house. You left at lunchtime without any knickers on, you filthy whore! I’ll bet your arse was sore, you filthy pervert. What had you done to him, corrupted him?

“Then he wants to make you the pin-up for the survey project. You, a boy, he wants to have you grinning like a jackass from posters all over the country, showing a bit of tit, which I bet is all bra and padding. There are a thousand proper women in this department of biological sciences, why does he have to pick on a fornicating fairy like you instead of one of them?

“You didn’t heed my warnings, so the time of retribution is at hand. I am going to modify you, so your horrible habits will bring you no more fun. I am also going to feed your genitals to the rats. Let’s see them sew those back on.

“Let’s move your expensive skirt up, just out of the way, wouldn’t want to get blood on it would you, then we pull your pretty little panties down and… ARRRGHH! You are a woman, you little trollop! You are a woman, NO NO NO! It’s not fair! It isn’t fair!”

“MARY! Put that knife down.”

“Oh, come to save your little whore have you? You bastard, you made me think she was a boy, but she isn’t, she’s a girl, a woman. You lied to me.”

“I didn’t want you to think I was interested in anyone but you Mary, and I’m not.”

“You lied to me; I’m going to carve up her pretty face and body.”

“What for Mary? She’s engaged to be married to someone else.”

“A likely tale. She slept with you, I saw her leave the house, without any knickers.”

“She slept with Simon, her fiancé. Look on her finger, she’s wearing a ring.”

“I’ll bet you gave it to her, the whore!”

“Take a look at it Mary, take a good look and tell me if you think I could afford a ring like that.”

“Yeah so, it’s not real stones.”

“They are Mary, she’s engaged to a millionaire, she’s going to become a Viscount’s wife. She doesn’t want me, except as a teacher and guide. I want her as a pupil to develop eventually to lead a department like this, perhaps even this one. But as for love, It’s you I want Mary, so come on put the knife down.”

“What about your dinner party? Why didn’t you ask me? I could have been a perfect hostess, instead of that little trollop.”

“I needed her there for her knowledge of the project. It was all hush hush, the Undersecretary was there, only members of the team or funders were invited. Remember, we had to switch it from Bristol at the last minute, their mammal expert was down with some bug. Cathy was the next best thing.”

“And why are you using her on you posters and not one of the other students, or even a model?”

“Because the bank who are funding the campaign want her on the front, the Undersecretary wants her on the front, and at least she is involved in the scheme, not just some brainless bimbo from an advertising agency.”

“How do I know I can believe you?”

“How about if I ask you to move in with me, Mary?”

“Ha, you’re lying, I know you are, you just want to save this little whore, so you can continue your affair.”

“Mary, if you harm her, I shall send you away from me. I shall banish you; you’ll never see me again. If you harm her, I shall hate you with all my being, is that what you want?”

“No Tom, it isn’t. I want you for myself forever.”

I’m told that the police marksman made one hell of a shot, he hit her in the head as she stabbed at the professor. He got a nasty shoulder wound, but he’s doing okay.

Apparently, he phoned me because he knew I was going to the university to do the cages. He didn’t know I’d actually be there, but he wanted some notes he’d left on Mary’s desk, he needed to modify them. He heard her talking to me, and became aware she was making threats; he called the police and rushed over to the labs.

They decided as he’d heard the conversation about her jealousy of me, he’d try and talk her down. Once she was disarmed, they could take her in and get her checked over by a shrink—they thought she had paranoid delusions. Because there was a weapon involved the Hampshire Constabulary had an armed response team attend, including a marksman. He was in the next door building and could see down into the lab through the window.

The Superintendent in charge issued an instruction to stop her if it looked as if the Professor or I were at risk of a wound. They saw the knife flash and he popped her.

We all attended her funeral. She was a sad and sick woman. I missed out on all the action. I still don’t know why she didn’t try to mutilate me, unless of course she thought she saw something that isn’t there yet. If she looked carefully, she’d have seen what it was, a simulacrum. So my life might have been saved by some superglue. Because I was unconscious, I suppose I’ll never actually know.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 147

Cathy starts to appreciate what happened and how much she is
indebted to Tom Agnew, Professor of Zoology extraordinaire.
She agrees to pay back some of the debt.

The details of my attack were hazy to me, and it was only what the professor was able to tell me later that brought home to me how close I’d been to serious injury or even death. Had she found my genitals and hacked them off, I could have died from blood loss or infection.

Had Professor Agnew not responded so promptly, she could have slashed or stabbed my drugged body or face. His calling me, because he was bogged down with paperwork, saved my life. Sadly, his paperwork had to wait.

I woke up in hospital, sleeping off the effects of the drug, which is one of the benzodiazepines and designed for treating insomnia on a short-term basis. I slept for a full twenty-four hours, awaking to find Simon snoring in the chair alongside me.

“Where am I?” I asked completely confused by my surroundings.

“Um, what, where, erm?” said Simon, looking completely stunned.

“What am I doing in hospital?” I plucked at the hospital gown I wore.

“You don’t remember?” said Simon.

“Don’t remember what?”

“See I knew you wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t what?”

“Remember.” He grinned at me, but my mood was not influenced by it at all.

“For God’s sake Simon, stop messing about and tell me what happened.”

“I can’t, I wasn’t there. All I know is Mary apparently tried to kill you and the Professor tried to stop her and got stabbed.”

“Oh no!” I shrieked, he isn’t dead is he?” I felt tears running down my face.

“No, it was in the shoulder, he’s in hospital, but he should be okay.”

“Mary, why would she want to harm me?”

“I dunno babe, maybe she was jealous you were marrying me, I do have this affect upon women,” he grinned.

“I thought your last three girlfriends took holy orders and went into a monastery.”

“Monastery, don’t you mean nunnery or convent?”

“No a monastery, they’d have more fun fulfilling the orders from the monks there.”

“I’ll bet!” He laughed, “Have I told you you’re crazy?”

“Yes but agreeing to marry you has confirmed the diagnosis, it’s in the DSM IV.”

“What is?”

“It goes something like, ‘All young women agreeing to marry a member of the peerage, want their head examined and should be sectioned immediately, as they are likely to be barking mad’.”

“Absolutely, but I love you, crazy as you are.” He stood up and kissed me.

“How’s the knee?” I asked seeing him walking more or less normally.

“Oh it’s painful,” he said limping.

“You big baby,” I accused.

“Ha, hark who’s talking. I actually get shot and you call me names. You only nearly get stabbed and you’re in bloody hospital.”

“I got poisoned.”

“Drugged.” He corrected me.

“Poisoned, you should have seen the colour of the coffee she gave me, it was like something they dredge from the dockyard.”

“So you do remember it?” he asked.

“Oh God, Spike! She didn’t harm my dormice did she?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t called until after it was all over.”

“Where is she now?” I asked feeling a little apprehensive even though Simon was with me.

“In the mortuary.”

“What?” I felt the colour drain from me, as I fell back on the bed in a faint.

I came around with a nurse patting my hand and calling my name. “What happened?”

“You fainted because I told you Mary Miller was dead.”

“I didn’t kill her did I?” I felt my heart rate rocket.

“As far as I know she was shot by a police marksman as she tried to kill old Agnew.”

“Oh my God, how awful.” I felt sick and only just managed to get the receiver in place in time. Simon turned a pale green and abruptly decamped.

I was eventually checked over by a doctor who discharged me. Once I had my clothes on, I asked Simon if we could go and see Professor Agnew. He made some enquiries and, the sister on our ward called his ward. They said I could go and see him.

Simon forgot about his limp until he saw me watching his gait, then he began to limp badly. I slapped him on the arm and he laughed and walked normally again, claiming that the pain in his arm overrode that in his leg, enabling him to walk normally. I shook my head, I was sure the whole family were mad as hatters.

Once we got to the ward, we were shown to his bed. He was asleep and looked awful, there was a blood drip attached to his arm. I pointed at the drip, “It should be Cabernet Sauvignon,” I said.

“A good choice, please ask them to order it immediately,” said a voice from the bed.

“Sorry Prof, did I wake you up?”

“Oh what a thought that would be?”

“What?” I asked blithely.

“Waking up to you each morning. I feel better already.” He looked over at me and smiled, I blushed like a tomato.

“’Oy watch it,” growled Simon, “She’s mine.”

“Children please,” I said, “no fighting. I am nobody’s. I am a human being not some sort of possession. I am, full stop, there is no owner’s name after it.”

“Just ignore the feminist diatribe, I’ll beat her later,” said Simon.

“Good thinking, since we stopped that they’ve outgrown their station,” agreed the professor.

“I refuse to be involved in this puerile conversation,” I said pouting. Simon sniggered and the professor smirked.

“Right, how are you boss?” I asked.

“I’ve felt better.”

“Would a kiss help?”

“Oh I’m sure it would do immeasurable good,” he winked at me.

“Thank you for saving my life,” I said before pecking him on the cheek.

“That’s okay.”

“I’m sorry you got hurt because of me, and I’m sorry that Mary was killed.”

“Yes so am I. If she’d really wanted to kill me, she could have you know. This was just to pay me back for all the pain I caused her.”

“Rest now,” I instructed, “You can tell me about it another day, when you feel better.” I squeezed his right hand, the wound being to his left shoulder.

I kissed him again, Simon shook his hand gently and muttered, “Thanks.” When I looked at him oddly he said, once we were outside the ward, “I thanked him for saving the life of my future wife,” he put his arm around me.

“That was nice of you.”

“Well I’ll send him a case of his favourite tipple when he gets home, should help kill the pain.”

I had the next day off and cooked Simon and Stella the roast dinner they’d missed the day before. It went down very well. We were just basking in a postprandial glow, when the phone rang.

Stella answered it and called me, “It’s your university.”

I shuddered hoping nothing had happened to Prof Agnew. “Hello, Cathy Watts speaking.”

“Hello Cathy, it’s Dr Andrews.”

“The prof is okay, isn’t he?”

“As far as I know, oh I see. Yes he’s okay, however the department isn’t. Both the stalwarts who run it are missing, if you take my drift.”

“Yes, I understand, how I can I help?”

“Well, until Tom returns, can you take over managing the survey project? You know as much as anyone else does, except the Prof. The other admin stuff, we are sorting. I’ve got a temp coming in tomorrow to help you with the typing, letters and so on.”

“I don’t know?” I felt somewhat overwhelmed at the prospect.

“Can you have a look tomorrow morning and let me know as soon as you do know? This is a priority for the Faculty, we can’t lose the funding now, it’s critical we keep it running until Tom comes back.”

“Okay, I’ll do it; I’ll do it for Prof Agnew.”

“Good lass, I knew you would, give me a report on it sometime midweek okay?”

“Erm, yes okay, I’ll do my best.”

“Thanks Cathy, oh by the way, we’ll come to some sort of agreement on remuneration.”

“That’ll be all right, I owe him big time anyway.”

“If I understand, one of the reasons this happened was lack of recognition of the lady who perished. I won’t allow that to happen again, so we pay you, I’m sure it’ll pay for some cycling gear, not that you’re going to have much time for riding a bike for the foreseeable future.”

“No I suppose not,” I agreed wistfully.

“What did they want?” asked Simon.

“They want me to run the project until Prof Agnew comes back.”

“Whose bright idea was that?”

“The Dean’s.”

“Want me to ring him up and say you can’t?” said Simon looking cross.

“No! Sorry, no thanks, I need to do this for the prof.”

“It’s too much.”

“I’ll have some clerical help, I’m only going to do the minimum to hold it together.”

“Yeah, famous last words, I said something like that in a previous job and cut my hours from fifty a week to sixty five.”

“Simon, I know maths is not my strong point, but that was an increase not a cut.”

“I know, but that is what I said, and what happened after it.”

“Well it isn’t going to happen to me.”

“Bloody right it isn’t!”

I gave him a Paddington hard stare, but he ignored it.

“You are staying here.”

“Simon, I make my own decisions, I’m a big girl now.”

“Are you? Well I’m a bigger than you and I say you stay. Please?”

“Okay, I will for a few nights, but if I need to go back to my room, I decide not you, agreed?”

“Hmm dunno.”

“Okay, I shall go back tonight.”

“No, agreed.”

“You are my fiancé Simon, not my owner, I thought we’d sorted this already. This ring,” I waved my hand, “means I am not available for marriage to someone else. It doesn’t make me a chattel, and if you say ‘pity’ or something similar, you get the jewellery back too.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything. I’m a great believer in the libido, I mean liberation of women.”

“One of these days Simon Cameron…”

“One of these days, what, Catherine Watts?”

“You’ll live longer not knowing,” I said trying to sound mysterious except I didn’t think it had worked.

“Oh, like that is it?” He grabbed me and pulled to his knee and holding me with his bad arm, tickled me with the other. I hate him!

Easy Over Eggs

Part 100 & 4 Dozen (148)

by Angharad Golden Hand & Peredur

I thought I’d better look tidy, dunno why, universities are bastions of non-conformist thinking and Bohemianism. But, was I non-conformist or Bohemian? Not really, if I was I’d have just turned up wearing whatever and telling people to call me, whatever. Instead, I wanted to be accepted as a female, a normal one, and have relationships and do my other things as a normal woman. Which was why I was clattering into the professor’s office at eight in the morning, wearing a suit and smart blouse. I was carrying my laptop, because I might need stuff I had on it.

It felt really strange seeing Mary’s desk deserted, she was always there, I felt really sad. I thought back to her funeral at the crematorium, it was quite moving. Her family were there, although the prof and I sat at the back holding each other up, trying to avoid them. They had heard a sanitised view of the tragic incident. They were told she had somehow flipped and threatened me and the professor with a knife, knocking me out and stabbing the professor, hence the shooting. Apparently, she had a history of bi-polar disorder and wasn’t taking her medication, so the day she ran amok, she was manic.

We tried to slip away from the service, but were asked to wait by her mother, who was pushing ninety. To our astonishment, the old lady apologised to both of us. I gave her a hug and said, “The Mary I had known and worked with was a lovely lady, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. What had happened was an outbreak of her illness and it was so sad that they hadn’t been able to disarm her before someone got hurt and she was killed.”

“Thank you my dear, you are very kind. It was her illness that killed her, not you or the policeman who pulled the trigger, it was her illness.”

I walked her to her car, whilst the rest of her family waited to thank the mourners for attending.

“Do come and see me, I live in Salisbury these days,” I shook hands with her, “and it would be nice to hear how you are getting on. Mary said, you were an up and coming talent, and very beautiful. That was how I recognised you, by your beauty.”

She held my hands and feeling my ring looked down at it. “What a beautiful ring for a beautiful girl, I hope your husband to be appreciates you, it looks like it from that ring.”

“I’m very lucky Mrs Mallory, Simon is a really good man.”

“With a good job by the look of it,” she winked at me.

“Yes he has, he had the ring made to match these,” I showed her the necklace and earrings, “they were my mother’s.”

“Your mother has gone?”

“Yes she died a couple or so months ago.”

“Oh I am sorry, my dear. I’m too old to adopt you now, but if you want an adoptive grandmother, I’d be delighted to assist.”

“That’s really sweet,” I thanked her and we embraced and air kissed.

“That’s a lovely suit,” she said touching the outfit, the same one I had worn to my mother’s funeral.

“Thank you,” I blushed despite the cold breeze.

“Do come and see me,” she said pushing a card into my hand, “Salisbury isn’t that far away unless you’re on a bicycle or something.”

“I ride one of those too,” I grinned back.

“Hence your lovely figure.” She got back into her car and it slowly drove off, with her waving to me as she went.

I went back and rescued the professor and took him home, before I went back to the cottage and the crazy siblings.

I shook myself, and walked away from the empty desk. The office key had been loaned to me from the front office and I went inside Agnew’s office. It felt very strange too, like I was a child playing in my parent’s bedroom and probably doing something naughty. I half-expected him to walk in at any moment and tell me off for sitting in his chair.

So instead, I set up on an empty table, my wi fi being able to access a hot spot and get on the net. I sent him an email asking if there were any priorities I should clear first. Then I went off to make myself a cup of tea.

Coming back, I saw a woman from reception with another woman. The receptionist said, “Ah here she is, the lady you’ll be working with.” I almost looked around to see who she meant. “It is Cathy, isn’t it?” she said to me.

“Yes, that’s me.” I put down my mug of tea, “How can I help?”

“This is Pippa, your temp.”

“Oh okay, welcome to the madhouse, I’m Cathy Watts.”

“Pippa Knight,” she took my extended arm and we shook hands, well fingers really.

“Cuppa?”

“Oh please.” I put mine in the office and took her through to the small room which acted as our kitchenette. It had a sink, and a kettle plus the raw materials for making tea and coffee. She was a tea drinker—I knew we were going to get on fine.

She found a pile of letters to do and started typing them, whilst I explored the list the professor had sent me back. He’d also advised me, ‘Top drawer, green filing cab. chocolate biscuits.’

Well I couldn’t turn down an invitation like that, could I? Chocolate digestives, plain chocolate too, my favourite. There was also a bottle of Scotch, but that was not on my agenda one bit. I don’t even like the smell, let alone taste.

“Ms Watts?” she said knocking and entering.

“Yes Ms Knight,” I replied.

“Oh please call me Pippa,” she said blushing.

“I will when you call me Cathy.”

“Okay, Cathy it is.”

“Right, Pippa, what do you need?”

“I love that suit,” she said, handing me some letters for signature.”

“Yes, my sister-in-law to be, gave it to me. She has wonderful taste, and I have an empty wardrobe.” I smiled and she chuckled. “Am I supposed to sign these?” I flicked through them, “Oh they’re all to do with the project, I suppose I better had. Oh I like that, ‘Acting Project Coordinator.’ I think we’re going to get on fine, how long are you here for?”

“They didn’t give me a date, but it was suggested a month or so. I hope it lasts, it’s handy for me, I can get back and give my kids lunch and tea.”

That surprised me, she didn’t look any older than I was, and she has kids—in the plural. Then I’m supposed to be a career woman, so the fact that I can’t have kids could be a bonus. No it wasn’t, if I thought that, I was deluding myself, but there’s little point in crying over spilt milk, so I pulled myself together to do what I was there for.

I suddenly remembered I had an appointment with Dr Thomas, first thing tomorrow. Another early start, damn! So I needed to get as many things done today as I could.

Pippa left at five, calling ‘bye’ as she went. I’d told her I had a meeting first thing and would get in as soon as I could, but I’d leave her some stuff to do.

The prof had started a report, which was the first priority, he asked me to finish it. I phoned him. “You want me to finish this report?” I said swallowing hard.

“Yes, or I wouldn’t have said so. I know women tend to say anything but what they mean, being a man, I actually say exactly what I mean.”

“But I’ve never done one this important before,” I said weakly.

“Well it’s about bloody time you did. Now stop whining and get on with it, send me an email and I’ll change anything I don’t like.”

That actually felt better, at least he was able to correct it. He should have been resting, but I knew he wasn’t, probably walking his dozy spaniel.

I had a tutorial with the Potter girl; I texted her to come to the prof’s office. Her essay was much better second time around, so we looked briefly at her next assignment. She was beginning to get the idea and she wrote furiously, making notes as we ran through the previously submitted work.

“This is so much easier the way you explain it,” she said, “I’m so glad they assigned me to you for my tutor. When I told Daddy, he wasn’t too impressed until I showed him my reworked essay. He told me he had misjudged you, as I did at our first meeting. I’d listened to the rumours and foolishly believed them. Now I know they were wrong, I don’t believe anyone as natural and beautiful as you was ever a boy. You’re far too nice.”

I said nothing, just smiled.

At seven, I had just finished redoing the report to the prof’s liking, when Simon phoned. “Where the hell are you?”

“I’d have thought that was obvious, or I wouldn’t be talking to you on this phone.” Men—duh!

“That’s what I mean, why are you there?”

“That is a different question, Simon.”

“Don’t get arsey with me Lady Catherine, or I’ll have to smack your lovely buttocks when you get home.”

“With one arm in plaster? You just watch I don’t break the other one!”

“That’s fight’n talk Missus!”

“Yup, I guess it is,” I replied with a pathetic attempt at a John Wayne drawl—why I have no idea, it sounded more like Jerry Hall with a cold!

“You step outside gal and git what’s comin’ to yah.”

“Oh yeah, and what’ll that be?”

“Six inches of something hard.”

“You what?” I squealed, probably damaging his hearing for life.

“I was referring to ma Colt.”

“You haven’t got a horse,” I challenged still sniggering from the previous line.

“It’s ma gun, not my horse.”

“I was going to say, I had a ‘My Little Pony’ and that was taller than six inches.” By now I was becoming helpless with laughing.

“I’m calling you out Missus, ya shouldn’t be laughin’.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s fwightfuwy wude, and hurts my feewings!” he replied in a silly lisping voice.

“Well why didn’t you say? Okay Desperate Dan, I’ll grab a cow pie on the way home.”

“When will that be?”

“I am just about to leave, is Beryl the Peril going to be there?”

“No she’s gone out with John, so it’s just the two of us, romantic eh?”

It was, after we ate the fish and chips I got on the way home, I fell asleep while cuddling with him. Another day in the life of a sex goddess-career woman!

Easy As Turning Out This Drivel

Part 150-1 (149)

by Angharad & Virginia Creeper

(A bit of a social climber)

Cathy has a tough time with her favourite shrink,
upsetting the good doctor in the process.
Still no plot to speak of, but what’s new?

I must have gone to bed the previous night because I woke up in one, my own. I was so tired the night before, I hadn’t remembered climbing the stairs and getting undressed. My mouth felt as if I hadn’t cleaned my teeth, and my tongue seemed to have more fur than the average dormouse.

I showered and started to get the breakfast, aware I had to see Dr Thomas, although I really could have used the time for the project. I was going to have to speak to Bristol uni again, and try to set up a meeting when I was there, theoretically tomorrow or Friday. I had so much to do.

I took Simon his breakfast, Stella was away last night, I suppose she’s earned the odd night off. Simon was still asleep. “Wakey, wakey rise and shine,” I trilled, “Good morning campers!” I said in a very poor Welsh accent which was supposed to be a rendition of Ruth Madoc’s, from a sitcom based in a holiday camp.

I gave him a tray of toast, cereal and coffee. He smiled and we kissed, “I have to go, lover,” I purred.

“I’ll bet that bloody professor of yours doesn’t start this early,” he said looking at his watch.

“I’m not, I’ve got to see Dr Thomas.”

“What for?”

“I told her I was engaged to you, she told me to get my head examined. I am.”

“Bah, shrink wrapped, bloody shrinks. What do they know about madness? Now if they came and lived with Stella for a few days…” he grinned at me.

“You are so ungrateful to that long suffering sister of yours,” I chided him.

“Me ungrateful? Ha! You should see her side of the bargain.”

“Well I think she’s done a super job of nursing you,” I said.

“She ought to, she’s supposed to be a professional. I’ll bet your guinea pigs get better care.”

“Dormice,” I corrected him.

“Whatever.”

“I have to go,” I kissed him and pinched a piece of toast, “Ugh it’s got marmalade on.” His reply was to laugh.

I was wearing my suit again, this time with my boots and a red blouse. I got to the good doctor’s office a few minutes before my appointment and knocked on the door.

“Come,” was called from within, so I opened the door, “Did you smell the coffee?”

“No doc, but I can now.”

“Okay, I did promise you a cup.” She poured me one and I accepted it and sat down in a comfortable chair alongside the small coffee table.

We sat and sipped the coffee for a minute or two. Then she leant forward and grabbed my left hand, “Is that what I think it is?”

I nodded, having taken a sip of coffee. “Yes,” I said after swallowing.

“It’s a lovely ring.”

“Yes, he had it designed and made for me.”

“What, without your prior knowledge?”

“Yes.”

“He took a risk then?”

“A calculated one.” I went to explain about the design and my mother’s jewellery. I also told the story of them conspiring and me thinking they were talking about drugs.

“So you wanted to withdraw as soon as you thought they were doing drugs?”

“Yes, I won’t have anything to do with them.”

“I wish that some of the young people I see with drug-induced psychosis or schizophrenia had done the same.”

“Do you see much of that?”

“Too much I’m afraid, far too much. Anyway enough of that, what sort of week have you had?”

“I told her about the incident in the department and subsequent funeral.”

“Gosh you do lead a busy life, any after affects, nightmares, anxieties?”

I held up the cup, “Only when strange women offer me coffee,” I smirked.

“Somebody nearly kills you and you make a joke out of it, you do realise the threat you were under?”

“I was out of it on rohypnol or whatever they call it. So I wasn’t scared. I’ve been too busy since, covering for the Prof.”

“What? You are doing his job?”

“Only the bit relating to the survey project.”

“The last time I spoke to Tom, he seemed to think that was about two thirds of his current workload. He’d already offloaded much of his day-to-day admin to his assistant. I hope they’re paying you.”

“They said they would.”

“Tom will see you right, he’s a good man.”

“I owe him my life.”

“Oh, yes I see your point; however, I’m sure he doesn’t see it that way.”

“No he doesn’t, in the same way you don’t, Dr Thomas.”

“So how are the mad siblings?”

“Mad.”

“I spoke with Stella a few days ago.”

“Oh!” I gasped and felt myself getting hot. “What about?”

“Her surgeon buddy.”

“Oh!” another gasp, her face looked very serious and I knew it wasn’t good news.

“I spoke with him too.”

“Please just give it to me straight,” the suspense was killing me.

“Anyone would think I was tormenting you Cathy. I am merely explaining why I had to make the decision I did.”

“Look Dr Thomas, we discussed this before and it crossed the guidelines and we agreed it could get you into trouble. So what decision was there to make?”

“I needed to discover if the Surgeon, a Mr O’Rourke, was prepared to accept referrals and how we’d fund it. I have more patients seeking reassignment than you, you know.”

“I’m sorry, I assumed…” I blushed and cringed at the same time, at this rate she would refer me in time for the Olympic Games in 2012.

“We had a very interesting discussion and in fact we ended up meeting for dinner. He’s a lovely man, very cultured and very good looking too.”

I wondered where this was leading, she didn’t normally discuss that sort of thing with me, maybe she’s in love and has to tell everyone, especially as I sort of brought them together. It still seemed very unlikely.

“It seems he had heard of you through Stella, and indeed did suggest to her that he could possibly help you. I pointed out to him that you had only been doing your life test for less than six months and he said he didn’t know.”

I knew it, come back in two years time and so on. My heart dropped even though I knew it was never on in the first place.

“I’m glad he’s a nice man anyway, I hope if he’s available that you see him again,” I said, jumping over her boundaries, but I didn’t care.

“I have to remind you Cathy that we are here to discuss your life not mine. Mine is quite acceptable at the moment.”

“He is available, isn’t he?”

“Would you like me to terminate this appointment? Yes I think I shall, you’ll have to see Dr Winthropp next time.”

“Dr Thomas, please, I am so sorry I was out of order. Please can I continue seeing you, I don’t want to see another doctor, please.”

“No, you will see Dr Winthropp on next Monday.”

“My birthday,” I sobbed. I was really upset that she had dumped me, even if I had deserved it.

“Yes, I know.”

“Some present that is,” I sniffed.

“On the contrary, we need his agreement to refer you for surgery.”

“What?” my head was spinning, did she say referral for surgery? I felt myself getting very giddy and…

“Cathy, Cathy, come on, take deep breaths, that’s good now open your eyes. Good, how do you feel?”

“Phew! Strange.” My head was still reeling. “I’m sorry, I think I must have gone off a bit then, I dreamt you were referring me for surgery, even though it’s not possible.”

“Why is it not possible?”

“Well because a moment ago, you were telling me you wouldn’t see me again.”

“When did I say that?”

“You told me, you were making me see Dr Win somebody instead. I asked for it because I got familiar with you, because I knew you were seeing the surgeon chap.”

“How did you know that?”

“I just did, your eyes sparkled when you talked about him, I dunno, I guess I just knew it. Anyone could.”

“No Cathy, not anyone, any woman might, but the average bloke wouldn’t know until he saw it in writing.”

“What does that mean?”

“You are catching up on your intuitive skills, some of the things which perhaps make women different to men, although there is dispute about whether these differences are societal role-plays rather than sex differences.”

“Is that good?”

“I think so.”

“So can I see you again?”

“Of course you can.”

“So why have I got to see Dr Windbag or whatever he’s called?”

“Winthropp, Dr David Winthropp, because I need his agreement to refer you for surgery.”

“What, in a year’s time?”

“You can wait that long if you prefer, but I was counting on using a space Mr O’Rourke has on New Year’s Day.”

My head went funny again, “I’m dreaming this, aren’t I? You didn’t say that did you?”

“Say what?”

“New Year’s Day, you can’t have said it, ooh…”

“Cathy, please wake up, Cathy, come on wake up.”

My head was buzzing. Shit I had to get to the university, so much work to do. “I have to go Dr Thomas, I have lots of work to do.” I stood up on wobbly legs. “Was I asleep for long? I’m so sorry, it’s very rude of me.”

“Cathy sit down, NOW!” her voice got louder at the end of that instruction. I nearly crapped myself, she had never shouted at me before. “Now I want you to repeat after me, got that?”

I nodded my understanding.

“I am going to see Dr Winthropp on Monday, for my second referral for gender reassignment surgery.”

I repeated what she said and felt tears welling up inside me.

“Wait, no crying. Now repeat after me, ‘Assuming he agrees, I will see Mr O’Rourke for surgery on 1st of January’.”

I repeated the sentence and burst into tears, shaking my head in disbelief.

“You’ll have to see him before that obviously for an exam, but he thinks he can do something for you.”

“I don’t know what to say, thank you, seems inadequate.” I was still sobbing and unable to look her in the face.

“Convince David Winthropp that my haste with you is reasonable and not my impatience to see you complete.”

“I will. Thank you doctor.”

She helped me up, gave me a handful of tissues and a hug, “Better sort your makeup out in the loo, oh and Happy Birthday.”

“Thank you,” was all I could say, my head was still spinning.

Easy Street Part 149+1 (150)

by Angharad & Claude Balls

(he annoyed Bonzi)

Some days there is thick and double thick,
then there is Simon—maybe he’s clotted or just a clot?

I got back to the professor’s office in something of a dither. I had tried to phone Simon and Stella, but they didn’t appear to be answering. I had this wonderful news but couldn’t share with just anyone, it would have to wait. Pippa made me a cuppa as soon as I arrived and showed me some calls that she had taken. I spent the next half an hour returning them.

Then it was a call to Bristol, and I spent an hour on a conference call to them, talking to three of their senior lecturers. It seemed astonishing to me that I was the least qualified and experienced, yet they were happy for me to continue leading, both my own section and the project until the professor came back.

When I saw mounting paperwork, I realised why they’d not volunteered. I called the nutty professor.

“I hope you’re going to be back by New Year’s Day?”

“That depends upon how my shoulder feels, why?”

“I’m not going to be available for several weeks afterwards.”

“Why, where are you going?”

“Hospital.”

“Why? What’s wrong?” he sounded quite worried.

“I have a long standing medical condition which I’m hoping they can finally sort out.”

“Oh dear, sorry to hear that. I’ll have to try and see what I can do about getting back by then.”

“I thought I’d better warn you, I got notice of it this morning.”

“Might I ask what it is?”

“A gynae problem,” I said, wanting to chortle.

“A what?” he said sounding surprised.

Vagina inverticus. I’m getting it sorted.”

He laughed for several moments, “I’m delighted for you.”

“Thanks Professor, mind you I have to convince a second shrink, on my birthday of all days.”

“Oh, I shouldn’t think there’ll be any difficulty with that. So when is your appointment with the shrink?”

“On Monday.”

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you girl, but I can’t believe you’ll have any problems. Now did you speak to Bristol, and they’re happy with the new arrangements?”

“They didn’t seem to be queuing up to take over.”

“I didn’t think they would. Did you write to Sir Alan?”

“I did, told him I wanted a pay rise and a chair of my own.”

“Why, what’s wrong with the three in my room?” He refused to rise to my baiting.

“Nothing, except Spike gnawed through the leather one, and peed on one of the others, and I got tomato soup all over the other.”

“If that bloody tree rat of yours damaged my chair there will be a patch about the same size as her repairing it, a furry patch!” He pretended to sound cross, but I knew he wasn’t.

“It wasn’t her fault, she followed one of the other three that escaped in here, she was only chewing the same as them.”

“I think while you’re away practising how to sit comfortably, I’m going to get some new furry slippers.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” I said horrified.

“Those bloody vermin are eating us out of house and home.”

“What about the award we got for the breeding programme?”

“Will the certificate cover the hole in my chair?”

“Nearly.”

“Don’t forget you have a second appointment on Monday.”

“Not according to my diary.”

“Well write this in now.”

“Okay, who and where, and what is it about?”

“Lunch with me at Grainger’s at twelve thirty, block out two hours.”

“Erm, I may be too busy with all this paperwork, I have three lots from the government.”

“That wasn’t an invitation, it was an instruction, bring your shorthand book—we’ll do some dictation.”

“I can’t do shorthand, I’m a scientist, remember?”

“Oh damn, I thought you could. Bring a voice recorder will you? Give the temp something to do.”

“She has plenty already, and she’s doing really well.”

“What’s her name?”

“Pippa.”

“Sounds like one of your bloody dormice.”

“I’ll tell her, I’m sure she could work more slowly, especially when you come back.”

“Don’t you dare. So she’s doing all right is she?”

“Yeah, we’ll never replace Mary, but she’s doing pretty well.”

“Okay, depending upon how she does for the month, we could look to extend the contract. Sadly, if we took her on ourselves we have to pay the agency a large fee.”

“Yeah I know.”

Lunch was ham roll Pippa got for me, when she popped home to her kids, then the afternoon, we spent sorting out a ream of stuff for her to do for the next two days, while I was away in Bristol.

I checked up on my field project and my understudies were doing okay—they had one lot of data for me, which I showed them how to load on my programme. I simply had no spare time any more.

I got home and discovered that Simon had had his plaster off and was now wearing a bandage on his arm. We had a little kiss, then I set about doing a chicken casserole for tomorrow, in the slow cooker. Once it was on I shoved some pork chops under the grill and did some potatoes and veg. It was nothing special but Stella and he enjoyed it.

“I have a bit of news for you,” I announced.

“You have a dessert?” said Simon.

“You’ll get your just ones, one of these days!” snapped Stella.

“I have to see a second shrink on Monday.”

“What happened to the first one, did she shrink?” Simon was now on a roll, I could tell.

“No, in fact she is alive and well. I have to see a second one…”

“To get your referral. Oh Cathy, that is wonderful news.” Stella leapt up and hugged me. “Are you going to let Michael do it?”

“That’s the plan, can you organise an appointment, to you know…?”

“Sure, as good as done, you’ll like him he is gorgeous, looks a bit like George Clooney.”

“Wow, no wonder Dr Thomas had a sparkle in her eye.” Then it occurred to me, Stella had said he was saving for his daughter’s wedding, so was he married, and how did I ask?

“Oh so that’s who he’s been seeing? John mentioned he was dating someone. It’ll be good for him to get over losing his wife.”

“What happened to her?” I asked.

“She divorced him—he came home from work one day and found a ‘Dear John’ letter. She ran off with a millionaire businessman.”

“What is this second referral business?” said Simon looking puzzled.

“I need to see two shrinks before I can be referred for surgery.”

“What, the erm, erm operation?” he asked blushing furiously.

“Yep, but these days they call it gender reassignment, or adjustment. Effectively, it’s a vaginoplasty and clitoroplasty with penectomy and bilateral orchidectomy.” She looked him in the eye and said, “They chop off the unwanted bits, snip snip.” She made scissor shapes with her fingers to emphasise the point.

“Oh God, that’s awful!” groaned Simon, covering his groin in a very Freudian response.

“Not if you don’t feel they’re part of you. To me it’s like the removal of a small tumour, something I don’t need and would prefer to have transmogrified into something I do want, and I thought you wanted me to have as well.”

“Of course I do, I want you to be happy sweetheart, I just hadn’t thought about it before, it sounds painful to me.”

“We do use an anaesthetic,” quipped Stella.

Simon grimaced, “Won’t it hurt afterwards?”

“I’m told that dilating isn’t much fun to begin with.”

“What’s that?” asked Simon.

“Shoving a plastic dilator into the cavity to maintain it and stretch it.”

“Oh hell, that sounds awful, you don’t have to do that do you?”

“Yes, otherwise, it will close up and your honeymoon will be boring.”

“What, you’re doing this for me?”

“I’m doing it for me,” I smiled to Simon, “So I can be as complete as possible. If I didn’t know you, I would still want it done, but because I do know you and love you, I want it even more. I want to be your wife Simon, in every sense.”

I placed my hand under his chin and pulled his lips to mine. After a sensual kiss, he asked, “When did you say you’re getting it done, Monday was it?”

“No silly, although it would have been a nice birthday present,” I said to no one in particular.

“It’s not your birthday on Monday is it?” said Stella picking up on my unintentional disclosure.

I blushed and nodded.

“It’s December first on, let’s see… Saturday, yeah, Saturday. So it’s…”

“I know which day it is, pass me your plate Simon.” He did and I collected up Stella’s. “Look it’s no big deal, okay, I’ve got to go out with the nutty professor for lunch. I haven’t got time for it. I really haven’t.”

“But we have to celebrate,” said Simon.

“We’ll see, if Dr Winthropp refuses my referral, then I may not feel like celebrating at all.” I sloped off to the kitchen and checked on my casserole.

Simon came out and put his arms around me from behind. “How can he fail to see you’re a woman, even I can, and I’m not the most perceptive of blokes.” He kissed me on the neck.

“I hope you’re right lover,” I said, as I felt tears from in my eyes. “All my life I’ve felt I was I female, now I get the chance to achieve it, and I feel frightened. What if he says, ‘no’? I’ll just die.”

Simon hugged me, kissing the back of my neck again, “If he says no, we’ll find someone who says yes. Surely, your normal shrink will have primed him just by sending you to him?”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” I felt a little reassured from his words and his hug.

“I’d have thought the big problem was believing you weren’t a natural female. I know it surprised the hell out of me.”

I turned in his arms, “I hated doing that to you, but you wouldn’t go away, I did try to stop you.”

“I know, and that just made me love you even more. Why did you stop trying to dump me?”

“Because I fell in love with you silly, why did you think?”

“I just like hearing you tell me,” he said gently.

“Yeah it saved him saying it to himself, coo that casserole smells nice, is that for tomorrow?” Stella had joined us in the kitchen, “Right show me how to do this bread machine.”

“Oh shit, you’re off to Bristol tomorrow?” Simon posed a rhetorical question. “Let’s leave this hag to do the dishes and make mad, passionate love all night.”

“Sounds like the best offer I’ve had all day.” I smiled and kissed him.

“That’s right, leave the gooseberry to clean up as usual,” grumbled Stella.

“I’ll bet you weren’t washing up all night last night were you?” asked Simon rather pointedly.

“Off you go then,” she blushed.

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