Bike 151–200

Easy As

Falling Off A Bike

Parts 151–200

by Angharad

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Easy Writing This

Part 150+1 (12 Dozen Plus 7)

by Mother Christmas

I cuddled down with Simon, wishing I’d brought some sexier nighties—a long tee shirt with a picture of a yawning mouse on the front is hardly seductive nightwear. Then did I want to seduce him? I wasn’t sure—dammit, I was absolutely sure, yes I did want to seduce him, but not before I’d had God’s cock-up fixed—maybe slip up would sound better, otherwise it could sound like the problem the Virgin Mary had!

Hell I was so randy, but I had to control myself. Another few months and…, what if it hurts? Arrrgh! What if I can’t feel anything except somebody trying to give me a sore throat by another route? Oh hell, more to worry about.

Simon put his arm around my waist and pulled me into him—I could feel something growing, it was almost stabbing me in the buttocks. “I love you Lady Kate,” he said suggestively, and kissed my ear.

“Who? You’re not talking in your sleep I hope?” I pretended to be outraged.

“Wha’, who, what’s going on?” he pretended he was asleep and we both giggled. I like men who can giggle; I don’t feel quite so stupid when I do it then.

“So, what are you going to do tomorrow?” I asked him.

“Oh I think, play, like your dormice, you know, when the cat’s away…” He chuckled to himself and the hard thing in my back wobbled up and down.

“I think there’s a loose spring in this bed,” I said.

“I hope not, it’s less than a year old,” he commented with indignation.

“I’m sure there is, I can feel it sticking in my back, here…” I grabbed behind me and gasped with mock surprise, “Ooh it’s not a spring, you were quite right.”

We laughed as I turned around to lie on my back, still holding on to something. “I think this is the first time, I’ve ever had someone by the short and curlies,” I said almost choking on my laughter.

“I see, and what do you mean by that?” he asked quite assertively.

“A girl I knew in Sussex used to say, ‘Lead ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds soon follow.’ I sort of knew what it meant, but that was in a literal sense; I’ve just had a second insight into what it meant.”

“Oh, so she didn’t lead you around then?” He asked gently rubbing my breast and squeezing my nipple.

“No, she was just a friend, more an acquaintance, probably thought I was gay anyway.”

“Why would she think that?” he continued massaging my chest.

“Because I didn’t date anyone. I didn’t know how, does that sound awful?”

“No, unless you have actually tried something, how can you know how to do it? I think I commented on your gauche efforts the first few times.”

“Probably, I was running on so much adrenalin the first couple of times I met you, that I probably would have tested positive for something in a drugs test.”

“Why was that?” he continued to stroke my nipple and then before I could answer him, he kissed me.

I wanted him so badly, I was almost twitching with lust. Then when he leant over and sucked my nipple through the cotton, I almost squeezed his appendage right off! He had to move his hand to mine to get me to relax my grip.

“Sorry,” I squeaked and sniggered.

“It’s not funny,” he groaned, “I didn’t realise you had so much strength in your fingers. Coo!”

“Would you like me to kiss it better?” I asked coyly.

“Not just at this minute,” he said lying on his back, and putting his arm under my neck.

I turned to face him, and started kissing his nipple.

“I can’t believe you were frightened of me, looking at you now,” he observed.

Recalling my fear of the first few times we met, I shrank back from him. “I was terrified, like I said, I’d never dated anyone before.”

“Frightened of me, how could anyone be frightened of me?”

“Simon you are twice my size. My experience of men finding out about me usually resulted in violence.”

“Why, who else knows?”

“I mean my dad.”

“Oh that. Have you forgiven him for it yet?”

“I try not to think about it, he’s apologised and he returned my dolly.”

“Returned your dolly?”

“Yeah, when I was about eight, I swapped a football for a doll with a girl in school.”

“What did she want with a football?” he asked.

“She was a tomboy and probably had more use for it than for a doll. After Christmas, we were asked what Santa had brought, and I said a football. Actually what I said was this long list of things like pencils and colouring books, and a stupid football.

She came up to me at break time and said, ‘What do you want to swap for your football?’ I asked her what she was offering and she said she had a new doll she didn’t want. We swapped surreptitiously the next day.

Daddy found me playing with it, some weeks or so later. By that time I’d swapped my football kit, Chelsea I think it was, anyway it was blue, for a few different outfits for my dolly.”

“What happened when he found you with your dolly?”

“He got very red and demanded to know where I’d got it. I told him I bought it off a girl in school, who had too many. Then he snatched it away and all her clothes and told me he’d smashed her and chucked her in the bin. I went to run to the bin screaming, and he caught hold of me and…” I felt a tear escape.

“I think I can live without the details, hey,” he kissed my tears, “no need to cry, you can have as many dollies as you want.”

“Thank you,” I sobbed, and he held me tightly, whispering sweet nothings. Suddenly my lust and nerve had deserted me, and I was back to the gauche schoolgirl again.

“You’re safe now, no one will ever hurt you again, I promise.” He spoke gently but with enough edge to let me know he meant it.

I nodded feeling even more stupid and embarrassed than usual. I was never going to be a seductress, so I might as well give up now and enter a convent.

“I love you Lady Kate,” he said, and kissed my tears again.

“When you sent that Paddington,” I sniffed, “the bloke who delivered it was a real moron. He couldn’t read the address.”

“Well, how did it get to you then?” he asked, suddenly getting all rational.

“No, he couldn’t make out the addressee. He asked for Lady Stane something or other.”

“Oh yes, my little joke,” Simon sniggered, “just trying to get you used to it, that was all.”

“Well, I said to him, Stain remover is it? He said, ‘could be,’ so I took it.”

“It’s an old joke. They used to call me ‘Dabitoff’ at school.”

“Why, you’re not Russian?” I said innocently, whereupon he fell back on the bed and convulsed with laughter.

It was some minutes later before he could control himself, and I felt more stupid than ever. “What did I say?” I asked and he curled up with laughter again. I was laughing too, because you do, even though you have no idea for what.

“You have never heard of a solvent you could get for spot cleaning, called Dab-it-off?”

“No, why.”

“I think they’ve probably withdrawn it now, stop kids sniffing it.”

“I don’t understand?” I was genuinely perplexed and embarrassed.

“Stain remover, Dab-it-off, was I Russian?” He fell back and once more laughed like a drain, only this time, I could understand why, and laughed with him. I was still embarrassed, but it was acceptable now.

We spooned together, and I felt his warm body pressing against mine, only now he was asleep. It felt good, I was safe with him, in all senses and I felt a tear roll down my cheek and drip onto the pillow. I was crying because I was happy, stupid isn’t it, but I couldn’t help it.

The next morning, I arose early and went off to shower; Simon was still asleep. I wanted to pop into the office to see Pippa about a few things. I dressed and dried my hair; I was in jeans for the drive back, so I didn’t bother with makeup. Besides my eyes were sore, I hadn’t slept too well, I was too warm to be really comfortable and I had thoughts and memories rattling around my brain most of the night. Simon also snores when he lies on his back, so I had to keep poking him too. I think I shall buy some earplugs when I get the chance.

I took him his breakfast and kissed him goodbye. He gave me a hangdog look and I nearly cried again, but I think my lachrymal glands must have run dry.

“God you look rough!” exclaimed Pippa, quickly putting her hand up to her mouth. “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound like that…”

I gave her a Paddington hard stare, and said, “Simon snores, enough said?”

She nodded and sniggered, “Tea?”

“Yes please.”

I did an hour’s work and passed the results on to Pippa to type and send off. I was beginning to see that working for the government was more of a curse than a blessing. But as the professor said, it was how we funded the things we want to do, rather than they want us to do, which benefits the most. I remember him joking once that he called his reports to the Department of the Environment, his ‘periods,’ they came monthly and were a curse! I could see what he meant.

At ten, I set off for Bristol, yawning like mad and hoping it was a straightforward drive.

Easy As Getting Back From My Party

Part 140 + Dozen (152)

by Angharad Houdini

The drive back to Bristol was as tedious as ever, it always seems that way when you don’t feel in the mood for delays. The problem with motorways is that they are fast when they are moving, when they are slow, they become stationary. The latter happened three times, at one point I was sat for ten minutes without moving an inch.

I sat yawning and listening to the car radio, mostly radio four, which is primarily talk radio, news and drama and documentary. There was something on about pandas and I suddenly fancied going to China to see them in the wild. Then I remembered some picture I saw on the Internet of a domestic cat in a Chinese market, whose fate was to be killed and eaten. How can they eat moggies? That would be worse than eating dormice—I shuddered as I thought about it, and the pandas lost their appeal.

I called in Morrison’s on the way in to Bristol and after filling up the tank, which almost required a mortgage, I did some shopping for food as well and crawled into the house about half past one, exhausted.

I defrosted some soup I’d frozen and also some bread, and got them ready to take to my dad. I meanwhile ate a pasty I’d bought in the supermarket, as much for quickness as anything else.

I changed into something more presentable and slapped on some makeup, then I tidied up my hair and swapped the cars over, taking my little Mercedes to the hospital. It felt so small after the bigger Ford.

Daddy was pleased to see me and ate his soup and bread without a murmur. He also seemed happy to listen to me explaining how things were for me. I showed him the ring and he called the nurses to see it. They ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ quite a lot, so I suspect they were suitably impressed. Certainly Daddy appeared to be, especially when I told him that it had been modelled around Mum’s jewellery. He kept telling me that Simon was a ‘vood ban.’ It sounded like some decree from Brussels, but I discovered it meant, good man. I wasn’t going to disagree.

Eventually I got home and fixed myself something to eat after setting up the bread machine, and putting a load of laundry in the washer. I do love the glamorous female role, yeah, don’t I just!

I had just sat down with a cuppa when Simon rang; he’d seen the physio who said he could start driving again in a few days depending upon doing his exercises. That was incentive enough, I could see him driving Stella up the wall rather than out in the car, plus she was going to resent giving up the Saab for her old banger.

He told me he was going to get her a newer car for Christmas, but not to tell her, because he was going to enjoy the month’s wind up first. I am really surprised that either of them has lived as long as they have, I half expect to come one day and find they have killed each other. I hope they are insured.

He told me that the markets were very volatile and he’d lost five million by lunch but had recouped it all by tea and turned in a profit of another million, this time playing with oil and gas markets. I had no idea how he could do any of this—the stress must be horrid, coping with what I had to do now, was bad enough.

I checked my emails: there was nothing that needed urgent action, thank goodness. Finally, I changed and went to bed, and this time I zonked in no time. In my handbag were some earplugs I’d bought in the supermarket pharmacy, I was ready for Simon next time.

The next morning, I was still eating my toast when Stella called. “Hi Sis, your appointment with Michael is next Monday at three o’clock.”

“What, oh my goodness, I’ll not get any work done that day at this rate.”

“It is your birthday, dear.”

“Oh hell yes, but that is three appointments now. Two quacks and a nutty academic.”

“Four if you count dinner with Simon, John and me.”

“Oh no, I’ll be as fat as a pig.”

“Get the bike out girl, burn some carbs.”

“Yeah, I wish.”

“Why can’t you?”

“I have to see them at the university then make some food for my dad and go and see him.”

“Why can’t you go on the bike to the university?”

“I’ve got to take my laptop with me.”

“Haven’t you got a rack and saddle bags?”

“On my road bike?” I screeched, “That’s like holding a drugs party in a cathedral, it’s a sacrilege.”

“Oh, I was just trying to help.”

“Yes I know. I have to do a presentation to them, I suppose I could download it to a disc and just take that. I could I suppose.”

“Do you absolutely need your lappie?”

“No it’s just the way I’ve always done it.”

“Well, now’s the time to try something different Sis.”

“I’d better not go in cycling kit.”

“Is that the yellow one we replaced?”

“No that’s in my room, this one is a GB racing team copy.”

“Ooh, I’ll bet that’s pretty.”

“It is actually, red white and blue, but not for a presentation. I’d need to take a change of shoes, possibly clothes. Nah, it’s all too much bother, I’ll take the car.”

“Hypocrite,” she snapped.

“What do you mean?” I felt very defensive and hurt by her attack.

“Well, you’re doing all this stuff about global warming and using a car when a bike would do.”

“Okay, I’ll go by bike and do the presentation in cycling skins, happy?”

“Don’t be like that, I’m just your conscience, like the cricket in Pinocchio.”

“Sure, I can see your nose growing from here.”

“It’s like these international agreements to cut CO2, it takes a hundred jumbo jets to ferry all the government odd-bods, and they can’t agree anyway, having put thousands of tons of muck into the air for no reason.”

“You won your point Stella, leave out the overkill. I’ll go by bike, but I need to get ready because it takes longer.”

“Oh okay.”

“Thanks for organising the appointment with your friend, I do appreciate it.”

“That’s okay, see you on Saturday, which may be the last time you need to babysit anyway, if he can drive again. I’m back to work on Monday, so he can do the same.”

I did my disc and got it and the other stuff I’d need into a small backpack I had used before with the bike. I’d also arranged to take the bike into the office to keep it safe—I wasn’t going to lose it twice.

I cycled in a top and jeans, with a cycling jacket on top of that. It wasn’t the most comfortable gear, but it worked and I got there safely and in good time.

Bob Smart, my liaison, was impressed that I’d cycled. “I try to practice what we’re preaching here.” Ever the hypocrite, but with Stella’s coaching, I was getting better by the day.

The presentation was to about thirty or forty students and teachers who were running the survey. We at Portsmouth had agreed a system with Natural England and their counterparts in Scotland and Wales. This had been backed by government, so it was how things were going to be done.

I’d contributed a small part to the original draft, and Prof Agnew had included some of my survey work. Now I was selling it, like a politician on the stump. Talk about change of role, this was bigger than my gender change, coming from being a backroom boy to a frontline girl.

I know I got some stares from the men in the audience, they were expecting a professor and instead of the organ grinder, here was the monkey!

Bob introduced me and pointedly asked how many had arrived by car. All but two had. He then told them, I had cycled, practising what we were all preaching. I reckoned I’d saved about a couple of grams of CO2. One cow fart would neutralise that, but I suppose his point was to get them thinking.

Then it was my bit, oh boy, was I nervous and sweating more than I did on the bike. I went through the chapter and verse, then fended questions.

“Where is Professor Agnew?”

“He’s unavailable,” countered Bob.

“Yeah, playing golf, while we get his Saturday girl.”

I decided to intervene. “Yeah, that’s about it. I didn’t write the protocol for the system, that was Prof Agnew with a colleague. I did however, prove the system, it’s based on my survey techniques, which we’ve honed over two years. The interim results have been published in the Journal of the Mammalian Society, and therefore peer reviewed. So I’m not quite the Saturday girl, Girl Friday, perhaps.

Professor Agnew can’t be with us today because he was attacked and stabbed while trying to disarm someone who had a mental breakdown and threatened one of his students with a knife. He is recovering and hopes to be back in harness again by New Year.”

“Miss Watts, how do you know that what works with dormice, a relatively sedentary species, will work with say, foxes and badgers?”

“We’ve tried it, so have you. One of your leading Professors has used my system and found it worked in these larger mammals, it’s also been piloted with roe deer.”

“What do you need us for then?” called some wag from the back.

“Several reasons, firstly, my expertise is with rodents, particularly the Common Dormouse, you are all experts in your own specific area, either of geography or species. Nothing is written in tablets of stone, but we need to make any tweaks to the system pretty quickly. This is going Europe wide, or at least EC wide within two years, and unlike the politicians, we are going to be a major factor in controlling it. This is the biggest survey ever undertaken in Europe, having mention of it on your CVs is going to be very useful. Finally, I can’t get everywhere on my bike, so I have to ask you to get on yours.”

The combination of kudos and humour seemed to work and I got a standing ovation. I was nearly in a swoon after what seemed like a hostile period. Then several came up and chatted with me afterwards.

“Well, Batgirl, I think you sold it as well if not better than Tom would have done. If you’d come in in your riding lycras, they’d have hung on every movement and gesture and not taken on board one word of it. So you’d have had loads of emails tomorrow. Good job done, I’ll make sure Tom gets to hear.”

“Thank you, but don’t make it too glowing, or he’ll send me instead of doing his share.”

“Okay I won’t, how about some lunch?”

“I can’t I’m afraid Professor, I have to dash back and see my dad in hospital. If he knows I’m in town, he won’t eat hospital food; I have to cook something for him.”

“That sounds like hard work.”

“It is, but he knows if I cooked it or not. I even have to make the bread, using one of those machines.”

“Yeah, they’re really good, my daughter has one. It used to be ours but we were eating too much bread, so we gave it to her.”

I made my goodbyes and rode home as fast as I could, to make him a sandwich and then dash off to the hospital, in the car and wearing a skirt.

Easy As Falling Under A Bus Part 153

by Angharad Llaw Euraid (see The Mabinogion)

At the hospital, Dad played up. He wouldn’t eat his sandwich and he wanted to go to the pub. I didn’t. I was tired and I had work to do. When I told him I was expecting to go for surgery around New Year, he got quite cross with me.

“Why are you doing this to me, you knew what was going to happen once I told you? I am not playing at this, this,” I pointed at myself, “What you see is what you get.”

He didn’t want to discuss it. But I did.

“You seemed to accept that I was going to marry Simon, but you didn’t contemplate I was going to have to alter something first? Did you think I was joking about Simon?” I played with my engagement ring.

“Daddy, this ring is real, it’s probably worth over a thousand pounds knowing Simon, I don’t know and sometimes I’d prefer to stay ignorant. It isn’t a joke, it isn’t some civil partnership ceremony. I shall be married as a female to a male. I would like you to give me away—I mean, as my father at the ceremony. Would you do that?”

I looked across at him, and he was sat very still, a tear was running down his face. I didn’t know what to do. I was caught in that dichotomous tension of wanting to slap him and love him at the same time. He seemed to be able to do this at the drop of a hat.

“Will you at least think about it, because if you don’t I know someone who would be pleased to do it.”

He glanced at me, another tear followed the first one, then he looked away.

“I’m going Daddy, I love you, but some days you make it very difficult.” I stood up and walked out; I had tears of frustration in my own eyes by the time I got to my car. I didn’t know if this was deliberate, or his strokes or unconscious. I suppose because I was vulnerable to him, he pushed my buttons. I did the same to him. The only difference was that he needed me—I didn’t need him anymore. Yet I knew I couldn’t abandon him, not without him giving me great cause.

I drove home, whimpering and when I got indoors, I had a real bawling session. Of course, Simon called before I’d got my breathing back to normal.

“You’ve been crying, what’s the problem?”

“Nothing, just tiredness.”

“Don’t give me that, what is it?”

“Daddy played up, he wanted to go to the pub and I said, ‘no, I was too tired.’ I was going to do a whole mass of work, but I’ve done nothing except cry. I might as well have taken him to the damned pub.”

“Let it go Babes, he’s probably had a naff day too. Let’s face it, he doesn’t do anything does he, so the highlight of his day is when you visit.”

“And I let him down, is that what you’re saying?”

“No, not at all. I suspect it was a miscommunication, that’s all.”

“Maybe. I’m exhausted, so I’m going to bed with Paddington.”

“If he makes one move on my fiancée, tell him he’s an ex-bear!”

“Before or after the move?”

“I’ll let you decide.”

“I think I’ll pass on that, the idea of being seduced by someone wearing a duffel coat and wellies, is just too much.”

“Oh damn,” he paused for effect and I half suspected what was coming, “I’ve just bought new ones, why do ya think I sent Paddington to smooth the way?”

“Simon, if I thought for one moment, that any of that was true, I would show you where you could stick your ring, and it would be somewhere above and between your wellies, at speed!”

“Ouch!” was his only retort.

“Before you say it, ‘Yes I am a cruel woman,’ but I meant it. I am too tired to think, so I am going to have a cuppa and go to bed. If you wake me up for any reason, then I will personally grind your bones to make my bread! Goodnight.”

I unplugged the phone and went to bed. It was about eleven by the time I’d taken my makeup off, cleaned my teeth and washed. I decided I wouldn’t call into the hospital on the way down to Simon’s, I would give Dad some space, and take some myself. If he saw it as punishing him, tough, I didn’t give a shit. I was in a no compromise mood. If someone upset me tonight, annihilation would follow, kneejerk fashion. Good job I wasn’t PM or US President, because if one of our soldiers got shot in Afghanistan, the way I felt, I’d have nuked Kabul, or maybe just Southmead Hospital.

I got cross with myself for such a silly attitude, maybe I should just nuke myself, except I was too big to get in the microwave. I slipped into bed and then couldn’t sleep. Life’s a bitch… and then you get insomnia.

It was two thirty, the computer had just won its first game of Scrabble, but only because it cheats. It wouldn’t allow me a two letter word, then played it itself and went out. I checked out the window, it wasn’t a full moon.

After another cuppa, only this time a milky coffee, I went back to bed and finally slept. I woke hearing lots of traffic noise—when I looked at the clock it was nine thirty.

I showered, packed, dressed and threw on some lippy—at half ten, I was on the road. I’d not prepared anything for my father so I went straight to the cottage as I’d planned. I felt very guilty, but I’d live.

Simon was out when I got there, he was driving his car. Fortunately Stella was there, so I unburdened to her.

“I’d just let it go Sis, it’s not worth the effort of the upset. If you knew if he was playing you up deliberately, then you could take action to thwart it, because you don’t, you can’t. Let it go and see what happens.”

How come everyone else was a better expert on my life than me? We had some more tea and I went for a walk in the garden to get some air. The garden to the cottage is large, as is the cottage, a misnomer by any standards.

Near the French windows, is a patio giving way to a lawn and flowerbeds. Beyond that is a pond with small fountain, one of those solar-powered things. Past the pond is a vegetable patch, with some sprouts and leeks still in situ, the rest had been dug and spread with manure.

Once past the smelly element, there was a large garden shed plus compost heap and water butt, and so on. There was more lawn, then a wild bit, with apple and pear trees and a hawthorn and hazel hedge, with various other trees and shrubs growing in it. The hedge was probably ten feet high and almost as deep. I could just about see though it, bearing in mind it was autumn/winter time. Then I saw something I could not believe.

I ran back into the house to get my camera, and called to Stella. She came rushing out, “What’s the matter?” she asked thinking there was an emergency.

“Who does the garden?” I asked.

“Why?”

“Who does it?”

“An old boy called Sam, why?”

“Tell him to do minimal work on this hedge.”

“He chops a bit back each spring or winter or some time, I don’t know, Simon arranges it all. Why, what’s the problem with the hedge?”

“It isn’t a problem, see this green leaved stuff, ouch!” I pricked my finger, “this is hawthorn, very good hedging material. Properly laid, nothing will come through without armour plate. This really needs relaying, but there could be a problem.”

“Oh why is that?”

“The other dominant growth here is hazel, it’s been coppiced in the past by the look of things, that provides firewood and stuff for hurdles, bean sticks and so on. It also provides catkins and hazel nuts, favoured fare of…”

“I don’t know, squirrels, we get them in the garden fairly regularly. Even had one get in the house few years ago, what a mess.”

“Quite, no not squirrels.”

“A bird of some sort?”

“The hedge presumably gives food and shelter to dozens of birds at different times of the year. No, look there,” I pointed.

“What am I supposed to see?”

“See that clump in the hawthorn?”

“Oh yes, bird’s nest is it?”

“Yep, Muscardinus avellanarius, to be precise.”

“What bird is that then?”

“A dormouse bird.”

“What? A dormouse, we have dormice in our hedge?”

“Yes.”

“Hooo-weeeh, wait till Simon finds out. How did you spot that?”

“See the footprints?”

“You can identify them from that?”

“Pretty well, plus the gnawed hazel shells, then look for the nest. There it is. The shells are jagged not round like mice eaten ones.”

“Oh wow, this is brilliant, you really are an expert aren’t you?”

“Sort of,” I blushed.

Easy As Killing Things! Purred 154

by Black Hearted Bonzi

The girls go shopping with consequences neither could foresee!

With Simon out, I wished I’d brought my bike down with me, however Stella suggested we went shopping instead. “Let’s get some Christmas prezzies,”—not my favourite phrase.

I tidied myself up, if I was going out with a glamour puss, I’d better not let the side down. I pulled on a knitted woollen dress in a silver grey colour, and my red boots. The dress was another Stella cast off, but as the forecast was for cool weather, I thought I’d be ready. The material was very fine cashmere, and probably cost an arm and a leg. It was as soft as snow, and emphasised my growing breasts, helped by a booster bra—well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

I pulled on my black cord hooded jacket and grabbed my bag and gloves; my make up was simple, mascara and lip-gloss.

“That dress!” exclaimed Stella.

“Is there anything wrong with it?” I blushed back.

“Only that it looks better on you than it did on me, s’not fair.” She gave me her best pout and I began to giggle.

“Oh damn, now I have to go for a wee,” I declared running off to the cloakroom.

We went to Portsmouth and joined the throng, it was absolute mayhem and I held tightly to my bag, so many thieves about in these large crowds.

An old lady fell down a few yards in front of us. Stella decided she had to assist, and while she was doing so, her bag went. I spotted the bastard who took it and racing after him jumped on his back knocking both of us down. A policeman, coincidentally happened to be strolling by when I brought off my rugby tackle, and he came to see what was going on.

Thankfully he listened to me and on searching the guy, found Stella’s little handbag in his poacher’s pocket, a deep pocket inside some sporting coats.

He arrested him on the spot and after taking my name and address, instructed me to call by the police station to make a statement. A colleague of his took the thief away and the arresting copper came back with me to where Stella was dealing with the paramedic. The old dear had had a MI—myocardial infarct—heart attack to you and me. Stella had given CPR and kept her alive; the paramedic was giving her a hearty thanks as they took the old lady away in the ambulance.

“Have you lost anything?” asked the policeman to Stella.

“Oh my goodness, where’s my bag?” she had a look of near panic.

“Can you describe it madam?”

“Yes, black, small, fold over top with button fastener and internal zip, shoulder strap. Inside a black leather purse, my car and house keys, my ID badge.”

“There’s an ID badge in it?”

“Yes, from Portsmouth General Hospitals Trust.”

“Your name?”

“Stella Cameron, Nurse Specialist, Urology.”

He opened the bag and found the card. “It seems to be in order, your friend stopped the guy who took it. Maybe she should try out for fullback now Jason Robinson has retired from the England team?” He smiled at me.

“That’s my future sister-in-law, soon to be Lady Catherine Cameron.”

“You’re not related to Viscount Stanebury?”

“My dad, soon to be her pa-in-law.”

“So you’re actually Lady Stella Cameron?”

“If you must.”

“Well, I can see your breeding wasn’t lost on you two, one catches a thief and t’other saves an old lady in the street. Maybe there is a future for the House of Lords after all.”

He had a good chuckle while I blushed like a beetroot; it appeared someone had captured my apprehension on a mobile, the copper asked to borrow the phone to download it. I had just given the press free rein to go to town on me. Oh hell!”

I persuaded Stella to go and do our statements immediately, I wanted to get home and hide there. She seemed slow on the uptake.

She got back into the car in less than a good temper. “Right, now tell me the real reason why you want to run off.”

“My escapade was captured on camera, so was yours. The copper only shouted out who we were. Once the press gets wind of it, they’ll link with my past and we’ll be under siege by tomorrow.” I began to shake.

She pulled out her mobile, and speed dialled. “Daddy, we have a little local difficulty.”

I listened as she described what happened and then listened to her father’s advice. They talked for five or so minutes. Then she passed me the phone, “He wants to talk to you.”

“Hello, Lord Stanebury,” I said in a tremulous voice.

“Look dear girl, it’s Henry. We’re practically kin ya know.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I hear they want you at Twickers*,” he chortled.

“I doubt it. If I broke a nail, I’d be livid.” I tried to talk down the moment by being silly.

“You’re not convincing anyone, my dear girl. Go back and do your shopping, I’ll leave this to our legal department to sort out, if they run a story, it will be a minimal one. So don’t worry, we’ll deal with it.”

“But isn’t that like, erm…”

“Corruption, absolutely. Don’t tell the proles anything more than they need to know. Works every time.”

I wanted to say I didn’t approve, but I did. “Thank you.”

“Thank you for saving droopy drawers’ bag.”

“She was saving somebody’s life.”

“I keep telling her she has her priorities all wrong, money first and second, self-preservation third, then the others.” He laughed after he spoke probably at my shocked silence. “I wish I could see your face, mainly because you’re such a good looker, and secondly because I’ll bet it’s a real picture.”

“I don’t know what to say,” I managed to splutter at last.

“Say ‘goodbye Henry,’ and pass me back to bossy boots.” I did as he bade me.

Stella talked to him for a few minutes longer then, rang off.

“Feel better now?”

“Dunno, this time next week, I might.”

“You realise you saved the credit card?” she said, emphasising the last bit.

I looked blankly at her.

“Simon’s spend me one. You know, we spend, he pays.”

“Oh,” was all I could say.

She persuaded me to go back shopping with her, which I did reluctantly. I didn’t buy anything, neither did she but we looked and then had some lunch.

We went to the police station and made our statements. Then back to the cottage. Simon was snoozing on the couch when we got there.

“Hello, Sleeping Beauty,” I kissed him.

“Oh Princess Charming, what a nice surprise.” We kissed again and I snuggled up with him.

“Hoy, the cook is missing,” said Stella loudly.

“She’s on strike for better pay and conditions,” I called back.

She came in with mugs of tea and we told Simon what had gone on. He sat up and asked if we’d spoken to his dad. Stella crowed with pride as she said it was the first thing she had done.

“So now we wait and see what happens. I think I’ll go and lock the gate into the drive, just in case.”

I adopted a very low profile for the rest of the weekend. Cooking, doing some prep work for the course I had to teach and when I had a moment, cuddling with Simon.

Suddenly, it was Monday morning and I was awake hours before I needed to be. I was showered and dressed and drying my hair before seven. Makeup on, I wore the smart suit I’d used for the meeting with the project team.

I was eating my cereal, more for something to do than appetite.

“You look nice,” offered Stella.

“Thought I’d better look tidy for Dr Winthropp, or whatever his name is.”

“Where do you have to go to see him?”

“The hospital.”

“He’s not with Dr Thomas then?”

“Not according to the note she gave me.”

“Oh, fair enough. Parking is a pig, I’ll give you a lift in, get a taxi to the uni and I’ll pick you up on the way home.”

“Girls!” Simon announced his presence. Then he broke into song, “Happy Birthday to you…” eventually he stopped assaulting my ears and kissed me, giving me a card.

I opened it, and gasped, “I can’t accept this Simon.”

“Why, is it not your birthday?”

“No, but this is ridiculous.”

“Why, have I put the wrong date on it or signed it Mickey Mouse?”

“It’s for a thousand pounds; I can’t accept this amount of money from you.”

“Why not, I’d only have bought you a Rolex or something equally ostentatious, this way you get to choose instead.”

“It’s too much.”

“Just stick it in the bank, if you haven’t needed to spend it by next birthday, I’ll have it back. How’s that?”

I pouted then nodded, then kissed him, “I love you.”

“I love you too, but you are far too middle class at times, far too moral.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” I felt he was mocking me.

“Absolutely, but I already have a conscience if the money is good enough.”

“Are you saying I’m not good enough for you?” I began to feel very undermined. “Do you want this back?” I started to take the ring off.

“No I do not, that stays there until you die, got it?” He almost snapped at me. He saw my bottom lip quiver and held me. “Cathy, you are too good for me, not the other way round. I love you and don’t want to lose you. Banks operate in a twilight zone, perhaps I need some of your moral rectitude to make me human again.”

“I doubt it Simon, you are one of the nicest people I know, all your family are.”

“Even Monica?” he grinned.

“Yes even Monica, she was terribly nice.”

He laughed and his face lit up. “Accept your prezzie in the spirit in which it was given.”

“I will,” I said and kissed him again.

“Another card,” Stella handed me a card and a box. The box was covered in gold-coloured cardboard and had a gold ribbon around the one corner. I opened it and inside, wrapped in tissue, was a beautiful silk blouse, in cream with thin gold pin stripes and gold edging on the seams.

“Oh Stella, that is so lovely. I can’t wait to try it on.”

“Go on then,” she sniggered at me.

“We have to go, I’ll do it tonight, maybe wear it if, and I repeat if, we go out.”

“Yeah, it’s not really yours till you get dinner on it,” said Simon chuckling behind me. “I have to go kiddiwinks, see you tonight.” He kissed me on the neck and left.

Not long after, Stella and I left too. The drive wasn’t heaving with paparazzi, although I was so keyed up with my appointment with Dr Winthropp, I had momentarily forgotten.

As we left the car, Stella asked me to let her know what the good doctor said, and I promised to text her. She wished me luck and I set off for the mental health department. What a lovely start to my birthday!

* Twickers is a diminutive of Twickenham, the home of the Rugby Union and thus English Rugby.

Easy As Starting A Diet

Part After Eight Thin Chocolate Mints (155)

by Angharad Chocolate Chomper

Do they really make doctors that big?
How does the blood get all the way up to his brain against gravity?
Poor Cathy gets her knickers and her tongue all twisted!

I entered the automatic doors of the Mental Health Unit, and my stomach started to churn. I had so much riding on this interview, my whole claim to being female. It seemed farcical, that I had to convince a man I was a woman. Oh well, if I had to convince a hungry tiger I was a cabbage to get my surgery, I would.

I showed my appointment letter to the receptionist; she logged me in and asked me sit in the waiting area. In most hospitals, you get a chance to see the clinician you are waiting for, when they come out to get their ‘next one.’ In this, there was a bleep and the receptionist called your name and told you to go to door number so and so. It felt more like a bank than a hospital.

I was in plenty of time, and I didn’t feel like reading ten year old Sunday Times magazines, so I pulled out my Blackberry and worked through a few more functions. It was really good, I was checking my emails from Pippa, when my name was called. Of course, I didn’t hear it.

“Miss Watts, please go to door three, there’s a good girl, put down your toys and see the doctor will you?” The receptionist could obviously see me; I blushed and went to the appropriate door.

At least until that moment I had been oblivious to my worries, getting engrossed in the little electronic device. Now I hurriedly shut it away and dumped it in my bag. I didn’t want him thinking that playing with gadgets was a boy thing.

My butterflies came back, a whole squadron of them and I think they might have been dog-fighting with moths or something, several were shot down in the time it took to walk thirty or forty feet to the door of the consulting room. Then there must have been a collision and the butterfly-moth exploded causing me to burp. Bloody insects!

“Come in,” called a male voice from inside the room. In fear and trembling, I opened the door, and stepped into the room.

“Miss Watts, do come in.” He stood up and towered over me, he must have been well over six feet tall, maybe closer to seven. Did I feel intimidated or did I feel intimidated? No, I was just scared shitless!

He held out a hand and it swallowed mine, well not in a literal sense, but it dwarfed mine by a factor of several. He pointed to a chair in front of his desk, hmmm, he needed barriers? Were they to protect him or me?

“I’m Dr David Winthropp, in case you didn’t know, and yes I am very tall, six foot seven inches.” He said smiling.

“Sorry, was I staring that much?” I blushed.

He smiled and shook his head. He was probably fortyish, greying at the temples, with a big face and large intelligent, grey eyes. He was wearing an expensive suit—I suppose he’d need to get them made for him. His white shirt was immaculate as was his Daffy Duck silk tie. It looked incongruous with his otherwise perfect appearance.

“You’re staring again, tell me at what and why?” he said gently but firmly.

“Sorry,” I blushed even more profusely. Talk about embarrassed, the word didn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

“Please, I’m intrigued.”

“Your tie…” I was tongue tied I was so nervous, “I erm…, this is so silly.”

“No do go on, please, my tie is what?” He leant forward on the desk.

“Oh this is so silly,” my eyes were starting to go bleary as moisture collected in them. “Your tie doesn’t go with the rest of your clothes.” I gabbled this out quite quickly. “I’m sorry, that’s very rude of me.”

He smiled a very warm smile. “Only a woman or a gay man would see that. I take it you are the former.”

“Yes, I am.” I decided to be decisive about that.

“But not quite a complete one yet, I understand?”

“Erm, no.”

“Hence your visit here, today?”

“Erm, yes.”

“Well, I have to say you look every part a female to me. I love the outfit, did you choose it?”

“I did to wear today, but my fiancé’s sister gave it to me, she’d finished with it.”

“Very nice. She has good taste.”

“Very,” I emphasised.

“But so must you if you chose to dress to impress me, it works, I am impressed.”

I noticed he had no wedding ring on his hands, but a small-stoned ring on his left little finger. I wondered. He saw me looking at his hand, and smiled again.

“Yes I am,” he said.

I looked him in the eye and think I went white. This man could read my mind! Shit, this was dangerous!

“The tie was a present from my secretary’s daughter, and as I am going to dinner there tonight, thought I’d better wear it. Several people have noticed it as out of character, but not on first meeting. You are very perceptive of appearance and your ‘gaydar’ is on.”

“How long have you wanted to be a woman?” he asked me after a small pause.

“Can I answer that differently, because I don’t think the question is very well phrased?”

He looked taken aback at my effrontery, but he nodded for me to continue.

“Ever since I was a small child I wanted to be like my mum rather than my dad. It was only when I went to nursery and discovered that boys and girls were different, that I realised I should have been a girl. Then I wanted to be a teenage girl and finally a woman. So with regard to your question, a lot less than I wanted to be a girl. Does that make sense?”

“Perfect sense, I apologise for my poor question. How long have you lived as female?”

“Only a matter of months, six at maximum.”

“That’s below the guidelines, you realise?”

“Are you pointing this out so you can refuse to confirm my referral?”

“No, I’m simply pointing out the guidelines, I haven’t decided what to do just yet.”

“Oh,” I sat and worried.

“You said you had a fiancé? I presume he knows?”

“Yes, he has for about a month now. He didn’t initially and fancied me as an ordinary female.”

“I doubt you’ll ever be ordinary Miss Watts, you make, no let me rephrase that, you are a stunningly beautiful woman.”

“Do I take that as a compliment?”

“I should hope so, because as an insult it would be rather counterproductive, don’t you think?”

I nodded and felt a smirk happen on my face.

He looked at me and smiled back. I liked him, even though he had this huge power over me, and I could make him smile. It didn’t exactly even things out, but it did give me some hope.

“Are you having sex with your fiancé?”

I blushed and looking at the floor answered, “Not penetrative sex, we mess about, petting that sort of stuff.”

“Has he seen you naked?”

“Yes.”

“And your appendage doesn’t put him off?”

“You can’t see anything, I glued it up inside me and used the scrotal skin to hide it.”

“So what does it look like?”

I hoped he wasn’t asking to see it, because I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to show him. “It looks like a pudenda, unless you start to poke around beneath the outer ‘labia’.”

“Does it indeed, and you did this yourself?”

“Yes, I saw it on the ’net and decided that it was worth a go.”

“Doesn’t it hurt?”

“Initially, and sometimes it isn’t too comfy when riding a bike.”

“I’ll bet,” he said, “You cycle?”

“Yes, for pleasure and fitness.”

“You won’t be able to once you’ve had surgery, not for several weeks.”

“I’ll live with that.”

“What if you couldn’t cycle again because of surgery, would that worry you?”

“Yes it would, but I’d have to adapt, try several saddles and so on. If I still couldn’t, then I’d wait and try again sometime later, if it was obvious I still couldn’t, I’d have to find another way to exercise. I’m a woman who cycles, not a cyclist who wants to be a woman.”

“What if I said, you weren’t suitable for surgery?”

I felt myself go red and at the same time felt cold. “I’d say you were wrong and I’d want to know your reasons. I’d also want to know how as a man you can know what it feels like to be a woman?”

“Couldn’t I ask you the same question, as you don’t have all the necessary bits, do you really know, or is it all about clothes and makeup and sex?”

“I can only speak about how I feel. If you think it’s some outrageous role play, where I get off on wearing pretty clothes and makeup, and dream about being shagged, then either I’m not communicating things very well or you have absolutely no idea of what women are about.”

“As a gay man, I probably don’t, so enlighten me.” The eyes weren’t smiling now, this was life or death stuff.

I stopped, allowing my heart—which felt as if I was cycling up Mont Ventoux—to slow a little. He kept watching me, had I blown it by being too assertive?

“I don’t know if I can, lots of it isn’t hard data, it’s almost nebulous stuff.”

“Okay, try your best and take your time.”

“I’ve never liked boys’ things, football and sports, until I saw a programme of cycling on telly, they showed that women could do that well too. I felt I’d like to try it. So I did, I wasn’t very good and couldn’t compete with men, they told me to go play with the girls.”

“And did you?”

“No, least not until I was actually transitioning. I’ve raced once for the university against Southampton uni.”

“How did you do?”

“I came sixth.”

“Not bad, but then you have an advantage, men have bigger hearts and lungs, more muscle per body mass.”

“I’d been on hormones for some time, so I don’t think I had much if any advantage. One woman I’ve trained with is an international level triathlete, she left me for dead.”

“Doesn’t this make you a failure as a man rather than making you a woman?”

“I can see why you said that, but that is a small thing. When I think about my fiancé, I feel all gooey inside and I wish I could have his babies. There is this deep longing, this yearning inside me that wants to carry his children, yet I know I can’t.”

“So you fancy him then?”

“Yes, it’s funny because until I met Simon, well just before that, I was out with his sister and I got kissed by a man. Until then I thought I was nothing, asexual, no libido at all. Then suddenly I discovered, maybe I wasn’t.”

“So on the basis of one kiss, you went from being asexual to being a fully heterosexual woman?”

“No, I went from being uncertain about anything, to being even more uncertain.”

He looked confused and I felt completely tied up in knots.

“I discovered I was perhaps a sexual animal after all.”

“You didn’t have crushes on boys or girls at school then?”

“No, I was just so uninterested it was untrue.”

“And this whole thing just released itself with a single kiss?”

“No, it caused me to think. When Simon asked me out the first couple of times, I didn’t want to go. I hadn’t transitioned very long and was so nervous he’d find out.”

“What, that you were a man?”

“No because I didn’t see myself as such, but that I wasn’t a complete woman either.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Dreadful. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have sex, because I didn’t want it without something more meaningful anyway.”

“So he proposed and gets his leg over?”

“No, he has to wait as long as this takes. He wants me to marry him, he says he loves me. I love him and I want him so much…”

“In a sexual sense?”

“Yes, but not until I can make love as female.”

“So if I say ‘No, comeback in a year,’ he has to wait another year?”

“Yes. I won’t have sex until we’re married.”

“Goodness! Okay, so how long will that be?”

“I don’t know.”

“Best outcome scenario?”

“Were I able to get this done on New Year ’s Day, I have at least two years to go for my PhD, more likely three.”

“So poor old Simon has to wait for three years, why are you bothering me now, come back in two and we’ll discuss it.”

“It isn’t about sex, it’s about me. It’s about something I feel inside, my body is malformed, I need to sort it. If you won’t help, I’ll have to find someone who does understand. I know I’ll never be female in a literal sense, but I’d like to be as near it as I can get and that means sorting my body to reflect what I feel inside.

Whenever I see a beautiful woman, I am jealous, I want to be her, to know what her body feels and how she feels, is it the same as I feel? Whenever I see a woman who is pregnant or with children, I am green with envy. I can never have children, yet I yearn for them, do you understand that? I can never have a family.”

“You could as a man.”

“No I couldn’t. I don’t want to be a father, I want to be a mother, to experience all the things about carrying a baby, feeling it kick, giving birth, watching it grow up and become a child, an adolescent and then a young adult.”

“Isn’t this all a bit unrealistic, even if they give you a fanny, you can’t have kids.”

“I know that,” I rolled my eyes, “You asked me what I felt: that’s what I feel. Yes, I love the man who gave me this,” I flashed the ring, “but as a woman. I want to look after him, and have him look after me, to share all the things couples share. Look, it is obvious that you aren’t going to support the referral so why am I wasting both our times? I have loads of work to do, I could have been doing it.”

“Whoa, hold your horses. Sit down Miss Watts. There are so many contradictions in what you say, that you haven’t done your research in GID have you?”

“I’m a zoologist not a psychologist and no I haven’t researched anything, I’ve told you how I felt, if that’s confused, then that is how I feel. I don’t believe it is black and white being male or female. I am me, that’s all I can ever be and that me, is female. I’m sorry if you disagree.” At this point the dam burst and the tears came.

Passing a box of tissues across his desk, he said, “That’s all I needed to hear. You’ve got your supporting referral, even though I would have preferred a bit longer for the life test. You are a stunningly beautiful woman and it’s a crime that nature didn’t complete the job, let’s see if the NHS can do better, eh?” He winked at me and I burst into tears afresh.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part Twelve Thirteens (156)

(one for the trisdekaphiles)

by Usual Suspect

Everything is coming up roses,
so why does Cathy only see the greenfly?
Read the next exciting episode of this enthralling saga…
(You’re not supposed to laugh! Pout!)

I sat in the taxi, my mind in complete turmoil. I felt as if I’d had my soul pulled out and shoved back in. I got what I wanted, my second referral, just the last two stages, seeing the surgeon and getting it done. Shit! I was seeing him this afternoon—Oh hell, I’m still all stuck up!

I got the taxi to stop at a pharmacy where I grabbed a large bottle of nail varnish remover and cotton wool, then continued my journey to the department.

Pippa noticed my mood immediately and rushed off to make me a cup of tea. I didn’t notice, I went straight into Agnew’s office and sent Stella and Simon a text.

“You seem upset about something, not bad news?” said Pippa handing me my tea, “Oh and Happy Birthday.” She handed me a card.

I burst into tears and she closed the door to the office, standing inside it. “Wanna tell me about it?”

I wondered if it was wise, but then surely by now the grapevine would have told her things about me, I took a long deep breath and sipped some tea.

“Have you heard the rumours about me?” I said, looking at her from watery eyes.

“I’ve heard some gossip, but I don’t take notice of that, I go with my own experience of people.”

“What did the rumours say?”

“Two things, one that you’re a man, which clearly you’re not, and that your boyfriend is Lord Somebody or other.” She shrugged her shoulders.

“Sit down Pippa, this could take a few minutes.”

She did as I asked and I told her my story, edited highlights only and now my confusion.

“Thanks for telling me, I only know the woman I’m seeing now, so as far as I’m concerned you’re going for a gynae op. I think it’s the right thing for you.”

“I think so too, so we have a majority verdict. Must be right then.” We both laughed.

“You don’t have any doubts, do you?” she asked.

“No, just the trauma of having my head turned inside out. The problem is that rationally there is no justification for wanting to change my body, it’s all emotional stuff. I tried to mix the two with the good doctor this morning and it seems to have upset both.”

“That’s a bit deep for me, I’ll make some more tea.”

“I’m going to pop to the toilet—might be a few minutes, so don’t hurry.” I grabbed the pharmacy bag and went off to try and recover something.

The place stank of nail varnish remover, and I suspect I’d stripped the polish off the floor in one or two places, where it had dripped. I got the skin free and just about managed to get all the debris off it. Then a wash in lukewarm water and towelled dry with paper towels, this was like a torture. Finally, I took out the little tube of hand cream and applied it gently to my now abraded skin. I tucked my bits between my legs, what shrivelled bits there were left.

It was eleven o’clock when I got back to the office for the second time. “Hi, I’ll make the tea. Oh Simon rang, he said he’d booked a table for tonight. Is he the Lord…?”

I nodded.

“He sounds really nice, hasn’t got a friend, has he?” she giggled as she went back to the ‘kitchen.’

I looked at a few letters, but my head wasn’t in it, neither was my heart. I wanted to get on my bike and ride away from everything, especially Portsmouth, and not stop until I was on another planet.

“Don’t forget you have a lunch appointment, and another medical appointment this afternoon at three.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m going to walk to Grainger’s, clear my head a bit.”

“Okay, I’ll hold the fort here, there’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow. Have a nice rest of the day.”

“Thanks Pippa, I’ll try. I suppose so far it’s been okay, just exhausting.”

She smiled her response and waved as I pulled on my coat and walked out the door.

The restaurant was further than I thought. I’d never been there before, although I knew where it was. I turned things over in my head until it felt as if the whole thing would become detached at the neck and fall off. I actually walked past the restaurant, jumping when someone knocked the window. It was Prof Agnew.

“Where were you going?” he asked when I joined him at his table in the window.

“Sorry, a bit preoccupied.”

“Is that business or personal?”

“Personal.”

“Everything okay with Simon?”

“Yes, he’s as good as gold.”

“And your dad?”

“Crabby as usual, but yeah.”

“So is this the medical stuff?”

“Yes, I saw Dr Winthropp this morning.”

“And?”

“He was nice enough, but he challenged me.”

“Isn’t that his job?”

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

“Not having second thoughts are you?”

“No, not at all, just I feel so traumatised by it all. I feel as if I’ve been turned inside out.”

“Oh, in what way?”

The waitress arrived with the drinks, and I had a glass of wine. We ordered, mine a tuna salad, his another curry. Predictable or what?

“I felt he was trying to get me to rationalise something which is purely emotional.”

“To make sure you have thought it through?” he offered.

“Yeah, I can see that, it’s just so difficult to do trying to grasp smoke or air.”

“And you struggled?”

“That’s an understatement: struggled, it was like knitting with water.”

He chuckled at my analogy. “Did he support the referral?”

“Yes, yes he did. He’s gay and I spotted it. He told me only women or other gay men pick up on it.”

“Well, as you’re not a gay man, he got his answer.” Said the professor, “What gave him away?”

“His tie,” I said and smirked.

“His tie, why was it pink or something?”

“No it was out of step with the rest of his clothes, they were immaculate and his tie didn’t fit. If it had, I might not have noticed, or maybe I would have done. I don’t know. He was too tidy for an average bloke, and I noticed.”

“Women do, didn’t you know that?”

“Yes, erm no, I didn’t, I only knew that I noticed these things.”

“Cathy, your naiveté is at times so refreshing.” He put his hand on mine on the table and squeezed gently, I blushed.

“Why do I find everything so hard?”

“Do you? You are the most natural person I know, it’s dealing with the schemers and plotters, the hidden agendas, the double dealers which is difficult. At times you are too honest.”

“Honest, me? Ha! Look at me, I’m a walking deception, pretending to be something I’m not.”

“Is this the last vestiges of Charlie, trying to cling on?”

“I don’t know, excuse me.” I grabbed my bag and walked quickly to the toilets, where I locked myself in a cubicle and sobbed silently to myself for several minutes.

Was Charlie fighting back inside me? Was I doing the right thing? Oh God, why do these things happen to me?

I imagined Charlie was stood in front of me, and asked him for his cooperation and help. He asked what was in it for him, and I told him nothing except seeing me happy, he would grow fainter and fainter but would never disappear from my heart, nor would I forget his sacrifice.

He looked back at me and we hugged, “Okay,” was all he said and vanished.

“Are you okay Miss Watts?” called the waitress knocking on the cubicle door.

“Yes, I’m okay, I’ll be out in a moment.”

“Very well, I’ll tell the professor.”

I waited until I heard her leave then went out and tried to restore my makeup once again.

I apologised when I returned to my meal. I was glad it was a salad, only eating the tuna and the tomato. I did drink the wine, which the prof had refilled. I asked for water as well to dilute it.

“Okay now?”

“Yeah, had some things to sort with Charlie.”

“And?”

“He’s okay with it.”

“Good. Here’s to Charlie,” he said raising his glass, “A nice boy.”

I felt the tears run down my face again, and nodded my agreement.

“He was the cygnet from which the beautiful swan is emerging, his sacrifice was inevitable, he was incomplete, a stage in your development or evolution. He knew that, which is why he’s gone, his part is fulfilled, his legacy is your freedom. It was his decision as well as yours.

“Each decision we make has consequences, they follow each other like day and night, intertwined in spirals of life, each affecting the other.”

Easy As Writing Two A Day

Part 100 + Heinz (157)

by Verbal Diarrhoea

I left the restaurant at half past two; the professor and I talked about many things, most of them concerning me. He tried to reassure me that everything was going so well, except my father’s attitude, in which case he’d just have to lump it. Had I got to such a state that I couldn’t see all this?

It appeared I had, was I becoming a depressive? Oh boy, I thought of Mary and felt a shudder. Depression wasn’t catching was it?

“Come on I’ll give you a lift to the hospital,” said Prof Agnew and we set off towards his Land Rover. The ancient four-wheel drive clanked into life. It was so noisy it was impossible to have any sort of conversation, so he was unlikely to be done for using a mobile phone whilst driving.

He dropped me at the main entrance and I looked over the plan to find the Department of Urology—so this was Stella’s realm, bladders and prostates and the rest of the urinary apparatus. Fancy spending all your time looking at men’s… oh gross! Well, okay, Simon’s was rather nice, but it did come with the rest of the package. But then, worse, dealing with women’s ugh!

I was glad I wasn’t a gynaecologist either, mind you, I’d have had difficulty operating on myself anyway. Obstetrics, they could be fun, helping folks make babies, but then I remembered, I’d need a miracle rather than an obstetrician.

“I have an appointment to see Mr O’Rourke,” I told the receptionist.

“What’s the name please?”

“Watts, Catherine Watts.”

“What time was it?”

“Three o’clock.”

“Please take a seat, he’s running a bit late.”

I sat down on a scruffy plastic stacking chair, designed to give work to the spinal surgeons. I pulled out my Blackberry to check my emails.

“Catherine Watts,” a nurse in white top with red edging and red trousers called my name. I stood up, and walked towards her, closing down my little electronic wonder. “Are you Stella’s sister-in-law?”

“Nearly,” I said, my answer being multi-levelled.

“We all like Simon, he’s such a brick. What a lovely suit?” She led me into a consulting room with desk, computer and examination couch, a screen to obstruct views from the door, and a second room or cupboard off to the left. “Have a seat, someone will be with you in a few minutes.”

I put my coat over the back of the chair, this time a slightly more expensive stacking chair, but padded enough to be comfortable for up to half an hour’s sitting. A bit like some bike saddles I’d encountered.

Stella had told me this guy looked like George Clooney, which could be true or he might look like Shrek: Stella and her jokes. Quite honestly, I didn’t care what he looked like if he could do the job I wanted him to do, and she seemed to think he could, as did my shrink.

“No sugar in mine,” said a voice that came louder along with the soft footsteps of rubber soled shoes. “Hi, you’re Cathy, Oi’m Mike O’Rourke,” this was accompanied by the most amazing smile I think I’ve ever seen. It was an Irish George Clooney, with a slightly deeper voice and sparkling blue eyes.

He was talking but I wasn’t taking on board the words, I was simply looking at this beautiful man in front of me. He suddenly clapped his hands.

“Cathy Watts, you have not listened to one word Oi’ve just said, have you?”

“No sir,” I blushed.

“Why not?” continued the soft brogue, I felt all woosy inside.

“I was thinking of Dr Thomas.”

“Why wouldya be t’inking of her now?”

I shook myself and tried to concentrate. Thank goodness, I’d be unconscious when this demi-god was playing around with my genitals, otherwise I’d be asking him to road test it before I left the theatre.

“It was her who referred me, with a supporting referral from Dr Winthropp.”

“D’at was t’day?”

“Yes,” I checked my mouth in case I was drooling. Those eyes were dancing a tango with me.

“Right, so you’re Stella Cameron’s sister-in-law?”

“Not until you correct the plumbing,” I smiled, “but that is one of the desired outcomes.”

“Well, you certainly look d’part. Oi am obliged to ascertain d’at you understand what’s involved, and for me own satisfaction, to ensure you are truly transsexual.”

“I’ll do my best,” I smiled at the twinkling eyes now doing a samba.

“Okey-dokey, how long have you t’ought of having a sex change?”

“Since I discovered girls and boys were different, and mine were the wrong ones. Since I was about four or five, although in those days, I believed if I wished hard enough, they would change spontaneously. They didn’t.”

He smiled. “So plan B?”

“Find a nice, understanding surgeon, who can do it for me.” I gave him my best smile, usually reserved for Simon.

“Roight, assume ya just found him, what d’en?”

“To convert what I have into something more appropriate for my life style, and which I hope will allow me to live fully as female.”

“You realise d’is involves cuttin’ off bits, which won’t grow back.”

“God, I hope not,” I shuddered at the thought.

“It’s amazin’ what some people t’ink.”

“Basically we remove most of d’ penis and your testicles, create a cavity and turn it into a vagina, we then use part of d’penile tissue to make a clitoris. Until Oi’ve examined ya, Oi can’t be sure how we’ll do it.”

I nodded, wondering when that delight would happen.

“Oi can’t guarantee anyt’ing, because even your own body parts can be rejected, and d’ transplanted clitoris, doesn’t always give you much sensation. D’ere can also be urinary problems as well wi’d d’e operation.”

“I appreciate that Mr O’Rourke,” I kept it respectful.

“Okey-dokey, let’s have a look d’en. Hop on d’couch, skirt up an’ panties ’n any toights, down.” As I was undressing and hopping onto the couch, he called in a nurse, who stayed out of the way but was, I suppose, a chaperone protecting both of us.

He pulled on some latex gloves, like the ones I used in my lab, why did that surprise me?

Then he began pulling and prodding my genitals about, feeling the area behind my genitals and in front of my anus. It suddenly occurred how different things were going to be. Cycling could prove to be uncomfy for a bit.

“Okey-dokey, d’ere is just about enough tissue t’ do it, I mioght have t’graft skin from elsewhere if d’ere isn’t.”

I nodded, although I think he was talking to himself as much as me.

“Roight, if ya loike to get dressed again,” he went off and I heard the removal of rubber gloves and washing of hands.

Dressed, I returned to my seat, he took his the other side of the desk. He pulled out a photo from my file, and showed it to me. I blushed.

“How on earth did ya do d’is t’yerself?” he asked.

“With superglue.” My throat felt very tight and dry.

“Whoy fer goodness sakes?”

“To hide something I was ashamed of.” I hung my head and stared at his shoes.

“Cathy, please promise me ya won’t do d’is again, if ya do, Oi won’t have enough skin to work wid, you understand?”

I nodded, “I’m sorry.”

“D’at’s alroight, it looks quoite convincin’ at a glance.”

“Oi have to ask again, are ya sure, ya want me to do d’is to ya?”

“Yes I am.”

“Roight, we need to do some bloods. Are you havin’ or had sex recently wi’d anyone?”

“I’m still a virgin,” I blushed, God it was hot in there.

“Good f’you,” he smiled, “Oi knew Oi’d meet one one day.” He started to chuckle and so did I.

“We test everyone for HIV and Hepatitis, and we swab for MRSA. Oi’ve done yer groin, Oi need to do yer nose.” With that he wet a swab and gently poked it up my nostrils.

“Assumin’ all is well, Oi’ll expect t’see ya on New Year’s Day.” He looked at my notes, “Oh, Happy Birt’y. Wait outside, ’n d’nurse’ll do yer bloods.”

I thanked him and we shook hands; he winked and said quietly, “Oi wouldn’t ha’ known until y’ dropped yer panties. Oi’ll do me best for yer.”

“Thanks.”

I waited for only a few minutes before the same nurse came and led me into a different room and took half the red stuff I had circulating around my body.

“So what do you think of Mr O’Rourke then?”

“He’s very nice,” I allowed.

“Only very nice, haven’t you fallen in love with him yet?”

“I love someone else, but I fell in lust within twenty seconds,” I joked.

She laughed, “I thought this blood felt hot.” She continued removing it from me and labelling the little vials. “So you’re Stella’s little sister?”

“No, I’m her brother’s fiancée.”

“Ah, sister-in-law.”

“Not yet,” I insisted.

“You will be, she doesn’t give up once she’s fixed an idea in her head.”

“I’d have thought, that was for Simon and me to decide.”

“You have a bit to learn regarding Stella, Cathy, she always gets what she wants.”

“Well, that is mutual, so I don’t foresee a problem.”

“You are so fortunate.”

“What with Simon? I know, he’s lovely.”

“So is all that money, and a title. Wow, talk about the jackpot!”

“It may sound odd, but I find the money an obstacle rather than an incentive and titles are anachronistic. Have you ever heard Stella use hers?”

“You strange girl.” She shook her head at me, and walking off said, “If you go back out into the waiting room, I’ll tell her ladyship, we’ve finished with you.”

“Okay.” I pulled my jacket back on, making sure the plaster stopped any blood getting on my sleeve, not that there could have been much left. Since when did they collect it in buckets?

“Hi Sis,” came a familiar voice somewhere behind me. Once more, I put away my electronic toy.

“C’mon girl, we’ve got to beautify ourselves and paint the town red.”

“I think a shade of pink would be sufficient for me Stella, it’s been a long day.”

“It’s your birthday, we can’t let that pass without a celebration.”

I’d have preferred a quiet night in with a nice book or a cuddle with Simon, or both.

“Where are we going?”

“Home, you silly goose.”

“No, tonight?”

“God knows, and I hope Simon does too, ’cos he’s arranged it.”

“If he’s done anything stupid like a kissogram, I will kill him.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll forgive him eventually.”

“Oh geez, he hasn’t, has he?”

“I don’t know, he’s organised it. Just be thankful he remembered, he usually doesn’t.”

I thought back to the last night out with the demonic siblings—I hoped they wouldn’t drink as much tonight. I really did.

We had a cuppa and a biscuit, then went upstairs. Stella helped me decide what I was going to wear: a greenish floral-patterned shirt dress, with a collar and dropped waist. It made my hips look bigger and gave me some extra shape. I opted for black shoes and a small bag which nearly matched them. I would use my pashmina instead of a coat.

I showered and washed my hair again, glad to wash away the cares of the day, emerging a little refreshed. Stella was doing my hair when we heard Simon come home.

“Hi girls, everything okay?” he poked his head around my bedroom door.

“Yes, shouldn’t it be?” asked Stella.

“Of course, but only because I organised it.”

“You couldn’t organise a pair of clean underpants,” she retorted.

He blew her a raspberry and left. Shortly afterwards we heard the shower running and I felt Stella sniggering.

“What have you done?”

“Wait and see,” she sniggered.

“S-T-E-L-L-A!” boomed his voice, “Where are my underpants?”

“I thought you were organising them.”

“What have you done to them?”

“We’ve only just come in, wasn’t us.” She was sniggering almost to giggle point.

He came in wearing just a towel, “Okay, you’ve had your laugh, where are they?”

“It’s not my problem,” she shrugged.

“You can borrow some of mine,” I offered and his expression just set us off giggling even more.

Easy As Falling In Love

Part 13.17 Dozen (158)

by Shhhhhhhhh You Know Who

“What have you done with them?” Simon fixed the giggling Stella with an icy stare.

“They’re in the wash.”

“What all of them?”

“All except the ones in the freezer!” That set us both off again. It was cruel really, but I had now caught infectious giggles from Stella.

“Sod you then, I’ll do without.” Simon turned smartly and went to leave the room, when Stella grabbed the towel and his bare buttocks were exposed. Actually quite nice buttocks, we both wolf whistled, well sort of, it’s difficult to whistle and giggle at the same time.

I checked my makeup, as Stella finished my hair; we both had to touch things up, the tears of laughter smudging things a little. Then some smellies and my mum’s jewels and we were ready.

Simon walked down the stairs a little awkwardly. I tried my hardest not to giggle. Stella just lost it and nearly fell down them after him, she was laughing so hard.

“Bitch!” was all we heard as a response, yet we knew there would retribution, even Newton knew about equal and opposite reactions.

As far as I was concerned, the joke was over and I wanted to make my peace with Simon—he wasn’t too interested. “Her I understand, you I am very disappointed.”

“Ooh Simon lover, don’t be cross with me, I didn’t know about it until you were caught by her, and it was funny.”

“The fact that this bloody zip is chaffing the skin off me isn’t bloody funny.”

“Well, borrow some of mine.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, you are several sizes smaller than I, so if I did borrow them, I’d end up singing bloody soprano. Besides, what if we had an accident? No thanks, I’ll stick with the chaffing.”

“I’ll kiss it better for you,” I said suddenly realising what I had said.

“You’ll what?” His face positively lit up.

“Erm is it time to go yet?” I said, picking up my pashmina.

We ended up at the Yacht Club, they had a dinner dance on, and who should be waiting for us, but John, as in Stella and John. She seemed as surprised as I was.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded of him.

“Simon invited me, why? Oh happy birthday Cathy,” he passed me a card and small present.

“Thank you John,” I pecked him on the cheek.

Stella and he went off while she presumably got the thumbscrews out and tortured him for not telling her. A waiter led Simon and me to our table. He ordered a couple of bottles of champagne.

“I got your first text, how did the second quack go?”

The music was quite loud, so I had to lean over and shout in his ear, “It was okay, he thinks he has the technology to rebuild me,” I smiled parodying the bionic man, or Six Million Dollar Man, whatever it was called. It would probably cost him that to get his teeth fixed these days.

Simon smiled and nodded, good. “Once you are healed, we are going away for a holiday.”

“Are we?” I said whilst thinking, don’t I get a say in anything?

“Assuming you want to go of course,” he must have read my expression better than I thought, or it was a lucky guess. On the other hand, maybe he’s psychic? Nah psychotic maybe, not psychic.

John and Stella arrived back just in time for the champers to come and we each had a glass. Of course, they had to toast me. God, I was embarrassed, but nothing compared to what happened later. If I had known that, I’d have died.

Simon disappeared ostensibly to go to the toilet. He’d wondered if a condom would help. Seemed a good idea, two might be even better in the protection stakes.

“Have a good day so far?” John shouted over the noise.

“Tiring but satisfying.”

“Has the Echo been to see you yet?”

“What about?”

“Being a one woman crime catcher.”

“They haven’t run anything have they?”

“Yeah, a short piece entitled, ‘Lady Cate catches robber’, or some such rubbish, and a picture of you with a dormouse? Is that right?”

“Oh no! I’ll never live this down.” I felt physically sick. I should have let him take Stella’s purse.

Simon came back and I asked him if he’d seen the Echo—he shook his head, but he’d organise a copy for tomorrow. I did think about looking online, but I’d left the Blackberry behind.

“Does that feel better?” I asked Simon.

“Loads, why?”

“I was worried about you.”

“What, in case I took you up on your very generous offer?”

“No,” I lied and blushed at the same time—more multi-tasking—“I worry about you.”

“Oh!” Now he blushed.

“Cor, thanks a lot!” I humphed and sat with my back to him.

I felt his hands on my shoulders and he kissed my neck; I melted. “Come on let’s have a dance.”

He led me off to the dance floor and we smooched to a slow one. “Can you ballroom dance?” he asked.

“Not really, why?”

“Just follow my lead,” he said and kissed the side of my neck. He apparently then did a slow waltz with me, without stepping on my toes once—I did his several times, but he didn’t complain.

We did two or three dances and then the dinner gong rang, and he escorted me back to our table.

It was a set menu. Stella cussed because there were no scallops—you’d think she was paying for it!

I didn’t, I tucked into my French onion soup, my fillet of sole, and raspberry roulade, then coffee and mints.

We were just enjoying the afterglow of a reasonable meal when the DJ walked up with his radio microphone. I assumed he was coming to see someone; he was—me!

“Ladies and gents, we have a birthday girl here today, who has also just got herself engaged. Before I ask everyone to join me in singing happy birthday to Cathy, I suddenly realise where I’ve seen her before, she’s on the front page of the Echo, our very own crime fighting dormouse queen, soon to be Lady Catherine Cameron.”

“Stand up,” he hissed at me off mike.

‘Fuck off!’ I mouthed back at him and smiled a completely false smile.

“Stand up or I’ll make it worse for you!”

“Fuck you!” I snarled as I reluctantly stood up.

“Please do,” he smiled back. “Wave to them,” he hissed, so I did. The whole room applauded and then the bastard launched into “Happy birthday to you …” and to make things worse, the maitre d’ brought in a large cake with candles on.

I felt like running away, instead I glared at Simon, who shrugged then grinned.

I felt like shoving the cake in his face; Stella was smirking.

Then I had to ceremonially blow out the candles, then they all sang, ‘For she’s a jolly good fellow,’ I tried to cringe under the table.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I was presented with a huge bouquet of flowers by the Commodore of the yacht club.

All night, I had people come up and wish me happy birthday, or congratulate me on my engagement and ask to see my ring. I wished I’d left it at home and brought my Blackberry.

Afterwards when Simon dragged me back to the dance floor, the bloody DJ played the anniversary waltz. What was so embarrassing was the rest of them cleared the floor while Simon whirled me around with a fixed smile on my face.

Several times, people called out, “Lady Catherine,” or “Look this way Lady Cate,” each time there were flashes of digital cameras.

“I am going to kill you when we get home, and your father is next on the list—leave it to me he said, we’ll get them to keep it to a small story! It’s on the front fucking page!”

“I’m sure it’s a very nice photo,” he said and shrugged his shoulders.

“What happens if someone from the uni says anything?”

“We brazen it out.”

“Can’t we run away now?”

“What and leave your professor in the lurch?”

“He’d understand.”

“I thought you were made of sterner stuff Cathy?”

“Yeah but they’re cutting it off in three weeks.”

Simon chuckled, “Come on,” he said, “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we deal with scraping the shit off the fan!”

He held me closely and kissed me on the neck, and we danced like Fred and Ginger: that’s Fred Astaire and a ginger snap biscuit!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 159

by Angharad The Angry

Simon pulled in at a supermarket, some of them stay open all night. I dashed in and saw they still had some of the evening papers. I grabbed a handful and a can of cat food.

The woman on the checkout saw the five papers and gave me a peculiar look. “The cats like to read something when they’re eating,” I offered superfluously.

“Why can’t they share one paper then?” she shot back.

“Can’t have that, they are so spoiled, each one has a separate litter tray with basin so they can wash their paws.”

She looked at the paper and then at me. “Here, that’s you in the paper. Hey girls we have a real live celebrity, here in the shop. Lady Muck, crime fighter and dormouse lover.”

I blushed and pulled the purse out of my little bag. I slapped the five pound note in her hand and pushed past the group of store workers.

“Lady Catherine, you forgot your change.”

“Piss off,” I growled, as I nearly trampled a young couple who were coming in, an echo of cackling followed me from the store.

“I shall never shop here again,” I said slamming the car door.

“Why, what happened?” asked Simon.

“Cheeky bitches!” I fumed.

“Report them then.”

“Let’s just go, take me home please Simon,” I pleaded.

He was ready to go and play hell with the store’s duty manager, and I suspect the woman would have lost her job. Maybe she deserved it, but I doubted she was there for the social life. I would just avoid adding to their profits in future.

Simon took us home, and I placed my purchases on the kitchen table.

“Why have you bought cat food?” asked Stella, “We don’t have a cat.”

“It was on special offer,” I said defensively.

“We still don’t have a cat.”

“So, if ever we do, we have food.”

“It can eat dormice, there’s a hedge full of them out there,” countered Stella.

“Well, you can have it for dinner tomorrow, I’ll make cottage pie.”

She groaned and Simon, who was reading the paper said casually, “I like cottage pie.”

“Aaarggghhhhhh!” yelled Stella going off to make tea.

Simon and I went into the sitting room. “Nice picture,” he said.

I was about to interrupt when he added, “You can see why they call her Spike,” I threw a cushion at him.

I sat down with the paper, ‘Lady Catherine Catches Crook’ said the headline; I groaned inwardly. The story had to be awful too.

‘22 year old Catherine Watts, soon to be Lady Catherine Cameron when she marries her fiancé Lord Simon Cameron, son of Viscount Stanebury, caught a bag-snatcher whilst Christmas shopping with her sister-in-law, Lady Stella Cameron.

According to eyewitnesses, an elderly woman collapsed with a heart attack, and Lady Stella, a nurse specialist, rushed to attend. While she was saving the elderly woman’s life, a sneak thief attempted to steal her handbag. Unknown to him, Lady Catherine tailed the offender and apprehended him with a rugby tackle. Community constable, PC Bob Dixon, who was nearby at the time completed the arrest. A 25-year-old man has been charged with theft.

“I told her she should try for the England fullback position now Jason Robinson has retired,” joked PC Dixon, “Was as good a tackle, as I’ve ever seen on a rugby pitch.”

“I seen the whole thing,” added Kevin Merchant 24, “I seen the bloke running away, and this young woman chasing him, then she jumps on his back and knocked him down in front of the copper. I think she was lovely, she could tackle me any time. I filmed it all on my mobile, but the police have lost it.”

Asked what he thought of his soon to be daughter-in-law, Viscount Stanebury said, “We are enormously proud of Cathy and look forward to having her join the family. She has loads of bottle, and as a racing cyclist, is very fit. The thief would never have outrun her.”

Lady Catherine, is a leading researcher at Portsmouth University, and is helping to run the forthcoming mammal survey of the United Kingdom, one of the biggest projects ever to look into populations and global warming, then in two years time, it enlarges to include the European Union, which will be the biggest European survey of all time. Portsmouth University will be leading the survey coordination.

Lady Catherine is also, one of the world’s leading experts on dormice, which she breeds at the university, for release into the wild. The picture shows her with Spike, one of her breeding females.’

“Leave it to me,” said your dad, “they have a bloody quote from him.”

“It is a nice quote though, he is immensely proud of you,” said Simon, before I threw another cushion at him.

“I’m still deciding who I shall kill first,” I said, “you or your dad.”

“Gee thanks, some reward for organising a birthday treat,” said Simon his expression very down.

“If that was a treat, I’d hate to see what you’d do if you didn’t like me.”

“How was I to know the DJ had seen the Echo and was going to recognise you? I was up in Town.”

“He was still going to embarrass me, singing bloody birthday songs, and what about the cake and the flowers? You organised them didn’t you?”

“Prince Phillip and Dad are the patrons of the yacht club, so when I phoned them up, I asked them to make it a memorable evening for you.”

“Oh it was that okay, I shall have nightmares for years to come.”

“You can never please some people.”

“Going for a meal down the pub would have been sufficient, staying home and me cooking us a dinner would have been enough. I don’t need to be spoiled.”

“I like to spoil you,” he said and kissed me, “Especially on your birthday.”

“Tea’s up!” yelled Stella, just as life was getting interesting, she’ll have to go.

“Can’t you pay her to marry John?” I asked quietly.

“The bank only has about a hundred billion, it won’t be enough!” he shrugged his shoulders.

“I heard that, I know you two are plotting, bloody Batman and Supergirl. The caped crusaders, ha!” She slammed down the teas and went back to the kitchen.

“I’m developing a nervous tic, living with her,” I joked.

You are. Imagine what it’s like after twenty seven years of living with Tigger.”

I liked the analogy: I could see Stella bouncing up and down filled with enthusiasm, ‘’cos that’s what Tiggers do best.’

“What did he say?” asked Stella returning with her tea and the paper.

“He was saying how much he’d enjoyed living with you?” I tried to say innocently.

“Usually he only says things like that when he’s thinking of getting rid of me.”

“Who me?” said Simon.

“Did he tell you he tried to have me sectioned one year, because he wanted his girlfriend to stay?”

“Oh come on Stella, it was a joke, I was only sixteen at the time. You did get your own back.”

“What did she do?” I asked—they were serious practical jokers.

“Tried to enlist me in the Parachute Regiment. Dad had to sort it out, she got a bloke who looked a bit like me to go in and sign up, he’d been practising my signature.”

“Yeah, but then you forged a letter from me to the Pope, saying I wanted to join a nunnery and take holy orders.”

“He wrote you a nice letter back,” beamed Simon.

“I’m going to bed, don’t forget your knickers are in the freezer or they could be a thaw point tomorrow!” With that, Stella wandered off to bed.

Easy As Feeding A Donkey Strawberries

Part 2×triple twenty & double tops = erm! (160)

by Her Wot Writes ’Em

My birthday ended with a kiss and a cuddle with Simon, although because of the surgeon’s advice, something had to be left dangling; I very much kept my knickers on. When he fell asleep, I slipped back to my own room and bed. I had loads to do and needed to get some rest.

Tuesday morning arrived and I dressed casually for work, then had a text message as I was about to leave, from Pippa.

Press r here, ring me, Pip.

My stomach flipped. Stella and Simon had gone to work already—I had little option but to call Pippa.

“Hello, Professor Agnew’s Office.”

“Hi Pippa it’s me.” I could hear voices in the background.

“Can you hear the noise?”

“Yes, what should I do?”

“Don’t ask me, speak to Prof Agnew or the Dean. I just thought I ought to warn you.”

“Yes, thanks. I’ll text you back when I decide what to do.”

“Okay Mrs Smith, she is very busy at a meeting at the moment, I don’t know when she’ll be in again…” Obviously Pippa must have been in a position to be overheard and pretended to talk to someone else. She was good at her job.

I dialled the professor’s home. No answer then ansafone. I decided to leave a message. “Sorry to bother you Prof, but we have rather a lot of the press at the department following the article in last night’s paper. Should I go in and face them or lie low? Advice please.”

I then tried the Dean’s office—he was constantly engaged. I decided to go and face them, but first a quick makeover. I ran up to the bathroom and stripped off my jeans and top, put on some makeup, not a lot but enough to make me look half-tidy. Then I grabbed a blue suit and a white blouse, and some fairly low court shoes. I kept the jewellery simple and then called a taxi. I didn’t want them recognising my car. It was going to be expensive, but probably worth it.

I packed up my lappy while I waited. I looked more like a civil servant than an academic. I wanted to look professional but not sexy just in case there were cameras about. One photo had got me into enough trouble. The sun was shining and I got my sunglasses from the car. I heard the car approach and pulled on my coat.

The taxi driver pulled up outside the department—there were quite a few bodies milling around plus a van with BBC on it. Oh hell! I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and slipped on a scrunchy.

The taxi driver noticed me, “They waiting for you, or something?”

“’Fraid so,” I adjusted the scrunchy, the ponytail high on my head.

“Was that you in the paper last night, caught the sneak thief?”

“’Fraid so.”

“You gotta get through that lot?” he indicated the throng blocking the doorway.

“Yes, no, take me round the block will you, there’s a side entrance.”

He did and although I was spotted, I was in the building before anyone could get to me. I virtually ran to my lab, almost knocking Neal over.

“Hi Cathy, how did you get past the lynch party?”

“Side entrance. Can’t stop need to call Pippa.” He nodded and went off.

“Hello Professor Agnew’s Office.”

“Hi Pip, it’s me. I’m down the lab.”

“How did you do that Mrs Smith?”

“A secret map and a good compass, oh and the side door.”

I heard her chuckle, “Professor Agnew will be here for a press conference in one hour. So I should wait till he gets here Mrs Smith.”

“You think I should stay here for the moment then?” I repeated to her.

“I think so Mrs Smith, the professor won’t be long.”

“Where are they holding the press conference?”

“In lecture theatre three.”

“Okay, thanks Pippa, sorry I left you to deal with it all.”

“It’s my pleasure Mrs Smith, maybe next time.” She put the phone down and I wondered what the last bit of the message was about, and decided it meant nothing other than the pretend conversation.

I went and looked at the dormice: Spike was pleased to see me, well she was for the Brazil nut—tart! I wondered if I should produce her for the press conference, if the Professor wanted me to attend, and her too. I just thought, she would steal the show, an exhibitionist dormouse, whatever next?

Some ten or so minutes later, my phone rang. “Cathy, how are you?”

“I’m fine,” I lied. I’d been to the loo twice.

“Okay, this is what we’re going to do…”

“Should I bring Spike?”

“Great idea, see I left a place for you to make a contribution, as I knew you would.”

“I have a suit on, is that okay, or should I wear a lab coat?”

“What, make it look as if you’ve just been interrupted dissecting dormice?”

“Okay, I’ll leave off the lab coat.”

“Look as sexy as you can, I don’t want anyone questioning what you are, other than a beautiful young woman. Is it the same suit as you had on yesterday?”

“No.”

“Pity, because you wore that one for the government visit.” Yes and the bloody photo that’s caused all this.

“You know the staff entrance to the lecture room?”

“Yes Prof.”

“I’ll go in the student entrance, which should draw off the hounds while you sneak in like a technician.”

I agreed and we arranged to meet in twenty minutes. I had just about enough time to go to the toilet another fifteen times before then.

I slipped out of the labs and down the corridor carrying my favourite rodent in a small darkened cage. Actually, it’s a Perspex box with air holes in it and a carry handle. I had a supply of nuts with me.

There was hardly anyone at the tradesmen’s entrance, just a technician in a lab coat, who passed me as I got to the door. I slipped it open and went in. Professor Agnew emerged from the door to the podium a low murmur following him in. He closed the door.

“Not as sexy as before, but it will have to do, let your hair down girl.”

I untied it and brushed it out.

“That’s better. The Dean should be here in a moment or two, he is going to chair it. There will be nothing personal asked, except the robbery and the forthcoming marriage. I’m afraid that’s already in the public domain. So what we try to do is to hijack it for free publicity for the project.”

“Okay,” I agreed shaking from fear. “Thanks for coming in and taking over.”

“It’s my job and allows me to show off my department and my life’s work, also one of my very talented team, who is also so beautiful she will captivate them all.”

I began to blush and looked away, “Not you, the bloody tree rat,” he said and roared with laughter.

Dr Andrews arrived and the murmur if anything was louder than when Agnew had come. “If you’re ready, let’s get it over and done with. Oh by the way Cathy, you and Spike have appeared in about twenty newspapers here and on the continent, and led to a hundred enquiries by young women thinking of doing biology or zoology, since last night. If we handle this well, there could be another thousand by the end of the week.”

“How many do you usually get?” I asked.

“One or two from girls, more from boys.”

“Coo!” I was overwhelmed, were people that ill informed, or just looking for inspiration? Obviously, they thought it was all about wearing YSL suits and handling dormice! It isn’t, this suit came from ‘Next.’

The Dean went out and was greeted by a round of applause. He asked for the noise to be kept down as I had brought a dormouse with me, who could actually die from fright. It would probably be true for most of them, but not Spike. She’d performed at a conference of six hundred delegates who cheered and clapped her. She just chomped away on her Brazil nut, unconcerned, while I held her and kept my buttocks clenched. Gosh, I was multi-tasking even before I transitioned. I tried not to laugh, I was in danger of wetting myself.

“I should like to introduce Professor Tom Agnew, who is head of this Department of Zoological Science and leader of the Mammal Survey of the UK and eventually Europe. This is an enormous honour for the university and is only possible because of the reputation of Professor Agnew and his team, which is internationally renowned.

Finally, I would like to introduce Cathy Watts, soon to become Lady Cameron, a postgraduate member of the team, with responsibility for collating data on rodents, and one species in particular. I think without any shadow of a doubt, she is one of the world’s leading experts on the common dormouse, and she has brought along one who is called ‘Tyke’ I believe. She is also now well known as a local crime fighter.” A ripple of applause went around the room.

Agnew grabbed his sleeve, a roar of applause erupting as I stepped onto the podium. The Dean did his best to quieten things down.

“I stand corrected, our esteemed colleague’s name is Spike.” He chuckled and the room rumbled with laughter. I slipped a Brazil nut into the box and tiny pair of hands accepted it.

Tom Agnew and the Dean fielded most of the early questions, which were about the project. I was invited to comment on two, which related to the problem of global warming and rat populations.

“There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that numbers are increasing with environmental change. But whether the two are related, we don’t know for certain, which is one of the reasons for the survey, remember as well that we are changing the environment with development through increasing populations of humans, with all the complications that brings—food production and waste disposal, plus places for them to breed more effectively. Rattus norvegicus is a very successful and adaptable animal, perhaps second only to some insects, oh, and humans.”

Then one about dormice, which I answered without being too technical. I’d forgotten all this was being filmed until I was asked to show them Spike.

We have a CCTV system worked by a technician, so I could hold her on the tabletop and she would be seen on a large screen behind me. I carried the box over to the bench. I’d used the system before, so it wasn’t too worrisome. Of course I got a round of applause for just walking across the podium. Spike was still munching, she was practically bombproof and I loved her to bits.

She sat quite happily in my hands for the CCTV; there were offers of a DVD for anyone who needed it for a TV station. Of course, the photographers came up and started snapping away. Spike did not like the flashes and began to get agitated. I reached for her box and as I did so, she shot out of my hand along my sleeve and down the neck of my blouse.

The laughter was deafening as I felt the little furry body working its way down inside my blouse towards the waistband of my skirt. The technician came to assist—I grabbed the moving lump and he then held it while I turned away from the tittering crowd and reached inside my blouse and grabbed our escapee. To make life even more embarrassing, she peed while she was in there.

Finally, the Houdini of dormice was safely recaptured and after being put back in her box, Dan, the technician took her into the prep room.

Once the rumpus died down and I returned to my seat, the Dean asked if there were any further questions. A hand shot up: a woman journalist near the front. “When are you and Lord Cameron getting married?”

“We haven’t set a date, we’re both very busy and haven’t had a chance to sort it out yet.”

“When did you decide to catch the purse snatcher?” called a man from the back.

“I didn’t really think about it, I saw him grab Stella’s bag and move off, and I just chased after him. I think he saw me, so I had to try and stop him. I just jumped on him and he fell over.”

“Are you going to play ladies’ rugby?”

“I don’t think so,” I smiled back, blushing.

“Was it Lord Cameron who was shot by poachers a while back?”

“Yes we were out surveying the dormice, I do regular checks on numbers and weights of individual animals.”

“So this survey work is potentially dangerous.”

“All field work is. In the dark you can fall into holes or over tree roots, into rivers and so on. We do have guidelines to minimise risk and fieldworkers are expected to gain a knowledge of their site in daylight if they do night work. Also no one goes out alone, and they have emergency equipment which they are trained to use.”

“Viscount Stanebury said you were a race cyclist, who do you ride for?”

“I have ridden for the university once in a friendly, I don’t race for a club at the moment, not enough time to get race fit.” I was praying the Dean would call a halt.

“Did you enjoy your birthday party at the yacht club last night?”

“Yes thank you.” What a silly question I thought, then realised it was the DJ, he obviously worked for a radio station as well. He winked at me and I blushed.

“Right that’s it ladies and gents, I think Cathy and Professor Agnew have been very helpful, not to mention Houdini the dormouse.” There was a round of applause.

A man about twenty-eight or thirty ran to the podium and accosted me. “Hi I’m Des Lane, I’m an independent film maker who does stuff for the BBC natural history unit, I’m interested in doing a film on dormice for them. Would you be prepared to help? There’d be a consultant’s fee for you or the university, not a lot but a couple of thousand I expect, depending upon how they want to do it. Personally, I’d love to see you present it.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know do a David Attenborough, help me write the script then film it then do some bits walking about the countryside while reciting the script.”

“Gosh, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d have time. Can I get back to you Des?”

“Yeah course,” he handed me his card, “Check with them, the Beeb I mean, I am kosher, and I think it could do lots for your survey.”

“I’ll need to speak to my Prof.”

“Okay, thanks for your time, give me a ring anyway, especially if you’re ever in Bristol. Oh, I cycle too.”

“Who was that?” asked Agnew.

“Some film maker chap, with the BBC natural history lot.”

“And? God it’s like pulling teeth!” he said exasperatedly.

“He wants to do a film on dormice and he wants me to help him, including presenting it.”

“What about this project and the little matter of a doctoral study?”

“If I handled it correctly, the film could become part of both.”

“Cathy, you’re a hopeless romantic, be careful you don’t over commit yourself, and remember you’re going to be unavailable for a couple of months from January.”

“Yes, I hadn’t forgotten.” I became aware of the cold air on a wet patch on my blouse. I loved that little critter, just couldn’t think why?

Easy As Falling Down A Hole

Part The Latest One (161)

by Her, that’s the one

Managing to contact her mother to look after her children for lunch, Pippa agreed to accompany the Dean, Prof Agnew and yours truly, to lunch. Amazingly, the Dean agreed to treat us—Tom Agnew nearly fainted. “Thirty bloody years I’ve known him, first time he’s ever paid for anything, I’ll bet the university is paying,” he mumbled, “Tight as a duck’s arse.”

We went by taxi to a pub half a mile away, we could have walked there, although the time factor was something which was against us.

The dining room of the pub was clean and welcoming and I was torn between a jacket potato and a salad, either with tuna of course. In the end I opted for the salad, Pippa had one too, Dr Andrews had Chicken Kiev, and predictably, Agnew had his curry. Maybe biologists are boring?

“Well, that was a good morning’s work,” said the Dean, “you all handled it really well.”

“David Attenborough here,” Agnew nodded at me, “wants to make a film about bloody tree rats.”

“Squirrels?” asked the Dean looking mystified.

“No, her ruddy dormice.”

“Why not, could get all of us lots of publicity.”

“Haven’t you had enough?” I asked, because I had.

“Can’t have too much. Do you realise how many prospective students who’d never heard of Portsmouth University before, are now thinking of coming here, especially females.”

“They all want to hunt dormice!” winked Agnew, “make fur coats.”

“Don’t listen to him, Cathy, if it wasn’t for Daubenton’s bat, he’d probably be working in Tesco.” Dean Andrews smirked and Agnew shot him an evil look.

“That sounds interesting,” offered Pippa, obviously waiting for more.

Having heard the story before, I tried to put her off. Thankfully, she caught my eye. “So, how many applications will you get from all this?” I asked changing the subject.

“Far too many, but the more we receive the more we can look at getting funding to improve and expand our departments. Sadly, chemistry and physics are the victims; their numbers seem to be falling, which is a pity because we still need those disciplines to help us understand everything else.”

“So the dormouse thing has helped then?” asked Pippa.

I nodded, but in mid munch was too polite to say anything. Tom Agnew wasn’t. “Yes, I have to admit that Cathy’s vermin have helped raise the profile of the department, and the university.”

“Yeah, how about we have a rampant dormouse on the university’s logo?” I mocked.

“Or someone wearing a dormouse fur coat,” countered Agnew.

“Can’t. They’re protected. I mean, even that foreigner in Tring, is protected,” I snapped back at him. He loved verbal sparring—it had taken me nearly two years to appreciate it.

“Who’s that?” asked Pippa.

“Rothschild,” quipped the professor.

“The edible dormouse, Glis glis,” I explained, “A different species introduced in about 1902. Native of Italy, it’s protected too both here and in Italy, but they still eat it there, albeit illegally.”

“Introduced by Lord Rothschild, to Tring Park, as Cathy said, about the turn of the last century, apparently they escaped from the house and now occupy the surrounding countryside,” added the Dean.

“They’re not as interesting as the common ones,” I opined.

“Are they common then?” asked Pippa.

“No, and getting scarcer,” I informed her.

“You seem to be able to find ’em all right,” Agnew said to me.

“Only because I recognise suitable habitats, but the vandals who farm these days, with their bloody flail cutters, make it harder and harder.” I was on my soapbox. Normally, Agnew would light the blue touch paper and enjoy the fireworks, but in front of Pippa, the Dean was not going to let that happen.

“I think farming and the effects on wildlife is fascinating, but now is not the time and place to debate it.” So saying he closed down the subject, and Pippa looked almost disappointed.

“I’m learning such a lot from you three brain boxes, I’m a real townie, wouldn’t recognise a dormouse if I fell over it.”

“Sounds like you need Cathy to introduce you to Spike,” said Agnew chuckling.

“Our show stealer,” laughed Andrews.

“I hope they got that bit where she hopped down your blouse on camera.” Agnew and Andrews were now laughing enough to draw attention from other tables.

“What?” gasped Pippa, so they recounted my failure as a mouse trainer interspersed with pauses for helpless laughter. I blushed like a toaster and unconsciously felt that the wet patch on my blouse was now dry and stiff.

“The dormouse went down your blouse?” she asked looking at me. I nodded.

“You should sent it to that TV show that uses clips like that, it could win you a couple of hundred,” said Pippa.

“I’ll bet Dan has already done that,” I thought was a reasonable response, still feeling rather warm despite it being winter. This was not helped by my consumption of a glass of Chablis—well I wasn’t paying for it.

“I’m thinking that I’ll detail someone else to teach that school stuff Cathy, how do you feel about it?”

Relieved was probably the main emotion, but I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. “Why do I think there could be an ulterior motive here?”

“You can do some extra tutoring and project work, especially if you’re going to be replacing David Attenborough.”

“Ooh a real celebrity!” squeaked Pippa, “Just think in a few years time, I’ll be able to watch your documentaries and when the titles show, no pun intended,” she giggled at her own joke, “I’ll be able to say, Lady Catherine Cameron, I know her.”

“The acceptable face of dormice,” said Agnew, then catching Andrews’ eye, the two cracked up again.

“Bah!” I said sounding like a depressed sheep.

“They’re only jealous,” comforted Pippa.

“Wait till the posters and leaflets go out.”

“What!” I gasped, “but we hadn’t agreed on that, had we?” Obviously he decided we had. “I’m far from happy about that.”

“Sorry Cathy, executive decision.”

“You sound like George Bush invading Iraq,” I said which I knew would annoy him, we’d both marched in the anti-war demonstration in London.

“Not at all,” he shrugged it off, “With the newspapers gobbling up the story, we went ahead using the same photo, to maximise its impact. You are officially our page three girl.”

At this Andrews choked on his wine and sprayed it all over the floor, he began coughing and went very red. This was not helped by my response.

“I see so for the next one, you want Spike and me posing in just bikini bottoms?”

“Good idea, now you’re thinking,” teased Agnew. Andrews nearly expired and even Pippa choked on her drink.

The taxi back was relatively quiet, I felt sleepy as I always did after drinking at lunchtime. “So are you back to work now?” I asked Agnew.

“I suppose I’d better stay this afternoon and see what mess you two have made of my office. Mind you this one makes a mean cup of coffee, better than you.” He indicated Pippa then me respectively.

“I don’t make you coffee,” I said indignantly, I was about to say, I’m a research scientist not a bloody lackey.

When Agnew ended the conversation with, “See, no respect for an old man. Good job you were there,” he said patting Pippa on the knee and she wasn’t moving it away. Hmmm!

Easy As Falling Down A Lift Shaft

Part (32ft/sec)² (162)

by Gravity Girl

We got back to the office and Pippa went off to make coffee and tea and I followed the professor into his office. “Nice girl,” he observed of his temp secretary.

“I think she is married,” I said and looked away.

“Don’t worry Cathy, I’m too bloody old anyway, I’d probably need Viagra which would give me a heart attack, and serve me right. So, then you’d have to run the project on your own and I couldn’t leave you to do that.”

“Thank you for that,” I smiled back.

“Well, I don’t want it cocked up, do I? My reputation is riding on this.”

“Gee thanks, and there was me beginning to think you cared.”

“Well, if you can’t look after a bloody field mouse…”

“Dormouse, please!”

“All bloody vermin,” his eyes were twinkling and I kicked myself, he’d done it again.

“You are a tw…” I was interrupted by Pippa entering with the drinks.

“There are loads of phone calls, some of them are about dormice, there’s one from Simon saying, ‘He saw the clip with the dormouse and was on his way to help you find it.’ One from Des Lane, saying ‘He has an outline proposal which the BBC seem happy to go with.’ Someone wants you to do a talk to a school, and take a dormouse if you can. There are one or two from other universities as well regarding the project. I’ll type them all up and you can decide who deals with what.”

“Just like old times, eh Prof?” I smirked, “Being bossed around by a woman.”

“Don’t you start, you’re not practising the black arts on me, so you’ll be an expert by the time you get married. Practise on Simon, then he’ll have a chance to protect himself.”

“Huh!” I pretended to be ignorant of what he was saying, “Li’l ol’ me, black arts?” I batted my eyelids at him.

“Bugger off!” he said back, “Go and do some work.”

“Yes boss, straight away boss, what would you like me to do?”

“Go and feed those tree rats of yours,” he waved me away.

“Der’s more dan tree of dem,” I said in a poor Irish accent, and he spat coffee all over his desk. At this point I fled, taking my tea with me.

Spike was fast asleep, doubtless exhausted from this morning and her ordeal with the cameras and my deodorant. I examined my blouse, there was a definite stain, I hoped it would wash out, bloody dormice!

Dan had left me a DVD of the dormouse episode; yes it was as awful and funny as I dreaded it being. Oh well it will get replays all around the world, whenever I do a talk or give a paper, I’ll be the woman the dormouse hopped down the blouse of. Still if it stops them thinking, I’m the transsexual who had a dormouse looking for my nuts! Oh God, I hope no one thinks of that—I’ll just curl up and die.

I was doing some emails when Pippa came down to my lab. “I’ve brought you your list and some more tea. I’ve never been down here before, can I see the dormice?”

“I don’t know, you have to be vetted by the RSPCA and the college ethical committee, these are extremely valuable animals who are kept in a sterile environment, so they are uncontaminated by humans.”

“So that’s a ‘no’ then?” she shrugged.

“Don’t be silly, just joking. They’re probably all asleep, they’re nocturnal, and the only one who is used to handling is Spike, the one who starred in the press conference this morning.”

“Did it really jump down your blouse?”

I nodded, “Not only that but she left me a little message too,” I showed Pippa the stain. She of course laughed and I made a thing of frowning.

“If you’re not careful, I’ll tell her to attack. One of the technicians only has three fingers, where she savaged him.”

Pippa looked at me as I told this blatant lie, it was total nonsense but she wasn’t sure about it at all. Dormice can nip you, but I haven’t met a carnivorous one yet.

When I took Spike out, Pippa was a little nervous about holding her. “Here, give her a hazel nut, she’ll be too busy to eat you.”

“She is so small, I always thought they were bigger. Ooh she’s tickling my hand. Coo, look at her tiny little hands.”

People who are not familiar with animals which have hand-like paws—many of the rodents do, holding food up to their mouths like we do—so all sorts of arthropomorphic comments get made. And yes, dormice are very cute, unless you get some of the edible ones in your house and they eat through your wiring or strip wallpaper, then householders don’t find them quite so cute. Mind you that’s only near Tring, elsewhere you have to rely on grey squirrels to do it, or the odd house mouse or even a rat. Would people make such friendly comments if the animal sat on their hand was a brown or black rat? I very much doubt it.

Spike made short work of getting at the kernel of the nut, and I put her back in her cage, she felt quite fat, she should be on her diet, I would be!

I held the empty shell for Pippa, “See the way it’s rough on the outside edges and smooth inside?”

“Oh yes!”

“A failsafe way of identifying dormice in the area.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely, here you can have that, show it to the kids, now you’re an expert.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever be that,” she said blushing, “and having seen you in action, I know I won’t.”

“What do you mean?” I was puzzled.

“I saw the video of you talking to the press, you’re a natural.”

“Natural what, though, that’s the question?”

“Don’t keep on about that, it’s being sorted. You should be on telly doing animal programmes, like what’s his name Attenborough?”

“Yeah, someone said that this morning.”

“Des somebody or other, he’s phoned again—wants you to call him urgently.”

“What for, most sensible dormice are fast asleep in hibernation now. So he can hardly film them, they sleep half the year away.”

“What about, Spike, is it? How come she doesn’t?”

“She’s adapted to living in an artificial world where there is plenty of food and constant temperatures, she wouldn’t survive in the wild, too imprinted on humans.”

“So are all these here for their naturals?”

“The ones in here are, but the babies they have we move and they are handled as little as possible, and allowed to act naturally. They have been going out into a site which lost its dormice about four years ago. They’ve been doing all right for the last two, plenty of food and cover, as long as we don’t have any weasels or squirrels find ’em, they should do okay.”

“Squirrels kill dormice?”

“Grey ones will and eat small birds or steal eggs. Real pests, but very cute looking ones. But then so are deer, they can damage trees and eat as much grass as a sheep. Bambi is a pest in numbers.”

“I’d never thought of it like that, gosh working here is so interesting.”

“It can be, sometimes it’s boring too, like dealing with Grumpy’s project. I’m a field biologist pushing bits of paper around.” I shrugged my shoulders; the project was after all a huge fieldwork exercise.

“Can I ask you something?” Usually when someone asks that they want to know about me. I prepared myself for an embarrassing question. I nodded. “Can I bring my kids in to see the dormice one day? They’d love it.”

I hope my sigh of relief wasn’t too audible, “Yes of course you can. Have a look at the rota, and when I’m in on a weekend, come in then. If Spike is okay, they may be able to have her sit on their hand, that’s when they remember.”

“Oh great,” she said excitedly, “thanks so much for the guided tour.”

Part of me felt good, I love showing off what I do, but I also love showing people the animals that they never see because they aren’t looking for them. When you see their faces light up, then you know they’ve really learned something they won’t forget. Oh, they’ll forget the data I give them, size 6–9cms, weight, that sort of stuff, goes in one ear and out the next. But they remember Spike sitting on their hands, and it tickled.

I picked up my list of jobs. I dialled and held the phone to my ear, “Hello, can I speak to Des Lane? Yes, Cathy Watts from Portsmouth Uni. Thanks I’ll hold.”

I listened to the overture from the Marriage of Figaro, I’d heard worse on phone lines.

“Hello, Des Lane here.”

“Hi, it’s Cathy Watts, we met this morning.”

“Oh yeah, great you could call back. Can we get together sometime? When I saw my overlords at the Beeb, they were excited by the campaign you’re going to be running and think it’s a brill idea to have you fronting the prog.”

“They do?” I croaked in shock.

“Yeah, I showed them the DVD your technician did, which is brilliant plus the film I shot, for their news bulletin. I’m afraid you’re gonna see that dormouse hop down your jumper a bit longer yet, it’s on the news tonight.”

“I’m not doing fancy tricks with them, if that’s what they want they can prosecute someone else. I’ve got a licence to handle them. They’re protected you know?”

“Don’t worry Cathy, I know. Look can we get together sometime?”

“Yes, I’ll be in Bristol on Friday.”

“What this coming Friday?”

“Yes.”

“Wow, ask and it shall be given,” he said to himself. “Fancy a bike ride?”

“What sort of bike are we talking?”

“Road, MTB, unicycle…”

“I’ll settle for the first if that’s okay, I need the exercise.”

“Okay, I’ll look forward to it. Wow!”

“I’ll call you Thursday evening or Friday morning,” I offered.

“Great, yeah, great.” He sounded so excited, couldn’t think why.

Easy As Falling Off A Kite Part 163

Simon and Stella teased me rotten when I got home. I’d asked her to pick me up. It got so bad that I threatened not to cook dinner if they didn’t behave, which just meant that every time I went into the sitting room from the kitchen, they both sniggered. I was in half a mind to poison both of them.

I did a stroganoff, and while it and the vegetables cooked, I sorted some more emails. I had another one from the bloke in Bristol, ‘Looking forward to seeing me again.’ I wondered if he was as interested in dormice as he was in me? If so did he know something from my past, well I spent quite a lot of time there, and until very recently, it was all as a boy.

If he did his research, or somebody at the BBC did, they may find that my degree at Sussex, was awarded to Charles not Cathy Watts. I had contacted them, and they had agreed to alter it, but I knew they’d have more important things to do, and it would take time.

We ate and drank a bottle or two of red wine—it always leaves me feeling heavy, so I only had two glasses, the rest being diluted with lemonade. Then it was straight lemonade on the rocks! I’m such a hardened drinker, I thought a screwdriver was something for putting screws in things and Tequila sunrise, is something that happens in Mexico every morning.

Simon was merry and fell asleep on the couch, Stella helped me, or rather she tried to help me clear up, but she actually got in the way more than assisted. I sent her off with a flea in ear, assuming she could locate her ear, which was doubtful as she’d missed her mouth twice and had gravy and red wine on one of her favourite tops.

She finished her meal sat in her bra, the top was in the wash—we needed to do one anyway, and Simon kept sniggering at her. I sat in the kitchen, the sound of the dishwasher and the washing machine was preferable to Simon’s snoring, which sounded like wild boar on heat—probably regulo five!

Stella went to bed before the two machines finished. I left the dishes but took the laundry out and folded or rolled it. I was too tired to put it in the tumble drier tonight.

I think Simon spent most of the night on the sofa, from the noises he was making it sure wasn’t the tonic sofa! I went to bed and read for a bit, I was asleep by eleven. I was awake early too.

I had woken to hear Simon staggering up the stairs sometime in the middle of the night. I simply turned over and zonked again, until I had the dream.

I was back in school and handling a pet rat I had in those days, when it hopped down my jumper. It was in front of an audience of the entire fourth form, about a hundred and twenty kids.

I appeared to be doing a talk on rats, or keeping them, mine was a lovely champagne colour called, Goldie. She ran up my arm when someone frightened her and hopped down my jumper. I should have been wearing a shirt and tie under my sweater and a blazer on top of that. Instead, I was wearing an open necked dress under a cardigan, the girls’ summer uniform.

Suddenly, someone noticed, “Here sir, Watts is wearing a dress and his rat’s gone down his bra!” This was followed by noisy laughter and the rat bit me on the breast. Yes, I had breasts, and it hurt, then I saw the blood spreading over my dress and screamed in horror.

I woke up sitting bolt upright in my bed with sweat pouring off me, and it took a few moment for me to orient myself. Had I screamed? I couldn’t hear any movement outside my door, so the inebriated siblings were still asleep. I went for a pee and eventually fell asleep again, hoping it was just my own cooking that was the problem.

Stella called me, just before she left. Simon had gone already How could they manage it? They’d drunk enough to float a battleship and were fully functioning—I was still sleepy and had drunk very little, it seemed ironic.

I showered and dressed, and after a piece of toast and a cuppa went to work. Agnew was already in. I checked my watch. I wasn’t late—I began to wonder if the clocks had changed last night, but knew they hadn’t and mine was showing the same time as everyone else.

I spent half an hour with the prof. He assigned me a group of first year students to tutor in a group! Oh boy anarchy will reign, maybe I could go sick, yellow fever! Yeah that’s it I’m too yellow to face a group of first years. I had to see them this morning, oh shit!

“You are a household name Lady Catherine,” said Pippa when she brought in a coffee for his nibs and a tea for me.

“How do you figure that?”

“Seen this?” She handed me a copy of ‘The Sun’ with a caption of, ‘Now you see me—now you don’t.’ There were three photos, one of me holding Spike, a second of Spike running up my arm, and the third of the tail and hind legs disappearing down my blouse. In the Mail, it was, ‘Ready, steady, gone!The Guardian, described it as the ‘Disappearing Dormouse trick’ ‘Don’t try this at home kids, they are a protected species and need a special licence to handle them, or in the case of Dr Watts, wear them!The Daily Express had a further picture of Dan the technician helping me to remove Spike, captioned, ‘gotcha.

The same pictures were in most of the London papers, the tabloids all called me Lady Catherine, The Guardian called me Dr Catherine Watts, and The Times called me Lady Catherine Watts. The Independent didn’t mention the story at all.

We had calls about cruelty to hamsters, hamsters I ask you! The RSPCA were visiting my unit this afternoon—who invited them? Somebody wanted to know if the dormouse was real, and another wanted to hire me to perform for their kids’ party. The last one had the professor and Pippa almost on their knees laughing. I enjoy a joke but this was fast becoming unfunny.

I finished my tea and the mince pie Pippa had brought from home. Maybe I’d make some of those for Dad, when I went home on Thursday evening.

I had arranged with Agnew to finish on lunchtime on Thursday, I usually take stuff with me anyway, and as I was meeting this filmmaker bloke, he thought I deserved the time off. He also asked me do an extra tutorial with a young man from the first year that afternoon. “He was doing very well, but we think he has some issues he’s not telling us about. He was seeing Dr Perris as his tutor, but I wondered if your lighter touch might get answers quicker.”

Dr Perris was a cold fish, which was his specialty, sea fish. He’d worked at Southampton for some time helping with their oil spills team, studying the effects upon fish stocks and so on. He’d managed to transfer a grant from the government to continue his study on breeding stocks of fish and environmental change, from Southampton to Portsmouth. As there was money on offer, Andrews grabbed him with both hands. He could be a bit gruff by all accounts, and maybe frightening for younger students, especially girls.

I went off to do my group tutorial; there were six of the monsters waiting for me, two boys and four girls. I was in jeans and trainers with a polo-neck jumper and cardigan.

“Hi I’m Cathy Watts and I’m going to be doing this group for the foreseeable future.” That was a lie, because I wouldn’t be with them after Christmas, but they didn’t need to know that.

They introduced themselves, Tim, Ivan, Siobhan, Louise, Sharon and Lesley. They seemed a nice enough bunch, although we had to get the disappearing dormouse joke out of the way.

All of them were having a slight problem with course work, in particular practicals. We spent an hour running over dissection of the rat and its anatomy. If only they knew how squeamish I was. I hated chopping up things that resembled animals, but once they’d been made small enough to go under a microscope, I could play all day.

It turned out two of the girls had similar problems; the boys were either thick or lazy, probably both, and the other two girls didn’t like their lecturer. Takes all sorts I suppose.

I ate a sandwich while doing some more emails, another of Pippa’s lists which Agnew had delegated to me. Thank God we weren’t doing an entomological survey, with my luck I’d get to supervise beetles, of which there are more species than any other group.

I was still busy at the ’puter when there was a knock at the door. For some reason I didn’t remember my afternoon tutorial. I was so involved in sending snotty replies to stupid professors in different universities, of which Oxbridge seemed to have their share.

“What now Pippa?” I growled and turned around to see a trembling student.

“Lady Catherine?”

“Dat’s me, who are you?”

“Steven Naylor, I was told to come and see you.”

I looked blankly at him, “Why?” Then my brain cell fired, “Tutorial?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“My students call me Cathy, are you a Steve, or Steven or Stevie?”

“I like Stevie,” said this very quiet almost mouse-like voice.

“Shut the door and pull up a seat.”

He walked over to me and gave me the limpest handshake I’d ever had. It made mine seem butch.

“Tea?” I asked and made us each a cup. “Okay, I hear you’re having problems with keeping your work up to scratch?”

“Yeah, it’s nothing, it’ll pass.”

“But you won’t according to the marks I was shown.”

He went pale and looked at the floor. I gave him a few moments. “I’ll be okay, I just got behind a bit.”

“Why was that?” I was trying to give him a chance to open up.

“It’s personal.”

“Okay.”

“Is that all you’re going to say, okay?”

“Yeah, if it’s personal, it’s personal. I can get the thumbscrews and rubber truncheon if you like.”

“I’d prefer you didn’t.” He blushed.

“So would I. They made me clean the blood up last time.”

“Ugh,” he answered. We paused for a few minutes and I decided to test some hunches.

“So how long have you known?” I asked him.

“Known what?” he said.

“About yourself?”

“Jesus, is it that obvious?”

“What’s his name?”

“Fuck! How do you know?”

“Have you had blood tests done?”

“I’m scared.” I watched tears roll down his face.

“So would I be.”

“They say you used to be a boy, is it true?”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know, I can recognise another gay from across the street, but you seem to be giving out straight girl vibes. You’re also too pretty to have been a boy.”

“Nah, that’s just the makeup.”

“You’re not wearing any, are you?”

Oh shit,’ I’d forgotten to put any on I was in such a rush. “So are you going to tell me about it?”

It turns out that Stevie is gay as I suspected and has had a fling with a sailor, who has now gone back to his ship and someone told Stevie, the guy has HIV. How did I know? I didn’t, it was a guess.

“How did you know?”

“Female intuition, I don’t know, it struck me as a possibility and I tested it.”

“They say women are good at picking up on gay men.”

“I suppose you’re quieter than most young men of your age group. Also you didn’t make any comments about me or my juggling trick with a dormouse, which the papers liked. It was at a press conference.”

“I didn’t see it.”

“So are you feeling ill?”

“Not really just shit scared.”

“They have counsellors at these clinics.”

“Yeah, I know but how can they prepare you to die. I’m too young, I’m only eighteen.” He sobbed and I moved to hold him.

“Careful, you don’t want to catch anything,” he snapped pulling away.

“From tears? I don’t think so. But if I was in your position, I think it might be nice if someone simply held me for a moment, just so my body knew I wasn’t entirely alone.” He allowed me to hug him and he sobbed in my arms, I wanted to cry too.

I held him for a few minutes before it suddenly occurred to me that Stella may be able to help him. “I have someone who works at the GU unit. Like me to give them a call?”

“I dunno, once they test me, if it’s positive, my life is over.”

“No it isn’t, with the drugs they have now, you’ll be able to live a normal life for years.”

“I won’t be able to have relationships, huh! Relationships, first one I have and it fucks me up big time.” He sounded angry now.

“Until you have the tests, you won’t know. So you’re running around in circles. If you have the test, it might be negative and you can just get on with life as before.” I felt like saying, ‘but use protection.’

“Would you like me to come with you?” I offered.

“I dunno, dunno if I’m gonna go yet.”

“If you wait until you get ill, it’s probably going to make things harder, surely the thing to do is to deal with it as soon as possible, and that’s assuming you are positive. It might just be malicious gossip.” I almost said, you know what gays are like for that. Thank God I didn’t.

“Would you come with me, to the clinic I mean?” he asked.

“I said I would, so yes I will.”

I made the appointment there and then, for tomorrow afternoon—my early finish! Oh bugger, but I suspected Stevie’s need was greater than mine. And I thought I had problems.

Easy Come Easy Go

Part 100 + 4³ (164)

by She’s gone!

The drive home was subdued. I decided I’d better visit my rooms and check any mail. There was a handful: I snatched it up and chucked it in my bag. I decided that the next time I was there I’d need to clean out the fridge. I took my wet weather riding gear, too. The forecast was not good, and it had already become colder in the last day or so.

I was tempted to take my MTB to Simon’s too, but decided there wasn’t room in the car and I wasn’t going to take wheels off, it was too cold. I grabbed a few more things and left.

It was sleeting when I drove home, and my mood remained subdued. Stella asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t tell her. Her department and the GU clinic are different, although the clinic may refer on to Urology.

We went for a meal. Simon was stuck in London on business, so Stella and I drove to a local pub. I was still in my jeans, and no makeup. Okay so my overall body shape was female-ish and I had long hair.

“Cathy, seeing you without makeup reminds me of the first time we met. You’ve come on a little since then, my girl.”

“Yeah, it’s all your fault,” I joked.

“Omigod,” she said, “I created a monster, à la Frankenstein.”

“Yep, soon to be the Bride of Frankenstein,” I said giggling.

“Hey that would be a good theme for the wedding. When you have your op, I wonder if they can stick a bolt through your neck.”

“Eh!” Sometimes she was weird, and sometimes she was very weird.

“Well, we could get it gold plated.”

“Are you mad or just stark staring bonkers?”

“Maybe silver would look better, could do it in solid silver.”

“Earth to Stella, no one is sticking anything in my neck. Marrying into your family is going to be crazy enough.”

“Yes, quite possibly. We’re distantly related to the old Queen Mum, something about descendants of MacBeth, the real person, not the Shakespeare character.”

“Oh well that explains the lunacy,” I said casually, “next time I hear you saying, ‘Out damned spot, out I say!’ I’ll…” There was a round of applause from others in the lounge bar. I blushed, bowed and sat down quickly. I hadn’t really realised that I’d stood up to do my Lady Macbeth.

“You’ve done that before, haven’t you?” she gloated.

“In school. We used to read bits of the plays to get a feel for the words and their meaning. We had a good English literature teacher. She used to make us take all sorts of parts, so although I went to a mixed school, she picked on me to read Lady M., one of the girls did Macbeth.”

“And…”

I blushed thinking back to the memory, “I apparently did so well, she made me read it all the time, well with the help of a large group of my classmates who thought it was good fun to belittle me.”

“Looks like you had the last laugh,” she said smiling.

“Yeah, I suppose it does.”

We ate; I suspect it doesn’t take much to guess what Stella had for her meal, scallops? Yep, and I had a tuna pasta bake. I must get checked for mercury poisoning one day.

“So you’re off early tomorrow?” she said as she finished her meal.

“Sort of.”

“You haven’t got yourself lumbered have you? You said you wanted to get finished to drive up in daylight.”

“I promised someone a favour.”

“Not that old grump of a professor?”

“No, a student. He has to go to the hospital and has no one to go with him.”

“So he asks Auntie Cathy to go with him, poor widdle boy.”

“Not quite, he could have a life threatening complaint.” I was in danger of saying too much and Stella given half a scent would be off on the trail like a bloodhound.

“What’s the problem then?”

“I’m not sure, but it sounded pretty awful.”

“Tell me then,” she commanded.

“Can you give me chapter and verse of your patients today?”

“Don’t be silly, I’m obliged to maintain confidentiality.”

“So am I with student information.”

“Well, you’re hardly identifying them are you?”

“Not if I don’t say anything at all, no.”

“Spoilsport!” she poked her tongue out at me. Then she smiled, “You are absolutely right not to say anything. What time is the appointment?”

“Stella, I am not saying any more, period!”

“Talking of which, I have mine, just going to the loo.” She disappeared and I paid the bill ordering two coffees while I did so.

Back at our table, I remembered my post and pulled the sheaf of envelopes from my bag.

Most of it was the usual stuff: do I want a double glazed credit card, for which I’d won a new BMW if I would only ring this premium rate number for two and half hours at four pounds a second, it would be mine. There was letter from an old friend who wanted to visit Portsmouth—oops, that could be awkward. A letter from Mr Potter thanking me for helping his daughter with her assignments, which was most unexpected, plus twenty five quid worth of Marks & Spencer vouchers. I didn’t know if that constituted bribery or what? I’d have to check.

Stella came back and thanked me for the coffee. “What ya doing?”

“I called by my room, lovely, my student loan statement.”

“How much do you owe?”

“About eight grand.”

“Not too bad then.”

“Not if you say it quickly.”

“I’m sure Simon could get the bank to do it for less.”

“It’s okay, I can do things for myself. He already gave me a thousand pounds this week, remember?”

“He’s got plenty.”

“Stella, it is okay. I am capable of looking after my own debts, end of conversation.” I felt quite angry, I know she was trying to help, but spending other people’s money and meddling were not things which I enjoyed in others.

“Okay okay, I get the message.”

“And you are not to tell Simon, okay?”

“You make your rules, I’ll make my own,” She said quite sharply.

I shook my head, if he did anything, I would insist he took it back or he’d get a ring he’d never be able to wear, and neither would I again.

I opened the last letter, it was from Mary’s mother.

‘Dear Cathy,
I have learned a great deal more about what happened that fateful day and more about you. I think you are a very courageous young woman and I wish you every happiness in your new life, especially in your forthcoming marriage to Lord Cameron. I’d be pleased if you could come and see me before you get married, please don’t leave it too long, remember I am getting on a bit.
Yours sincerely,
Cynthia Mallory.’

I showed the letter to Stella, “Who is she?”

“Mary’s mother, the woman who was shot by the copper.”

“Oh her, oh right. So how does she know you?”

“I went to see her at the funeral, pay my condolences, you know.”

“Oh right, and…”

“We hit it off and I walked her back to her car.”

“Just like that?” she made a Tommy Cooper gesture, as this was one of his catch phrases.

“More or less.” I shrugged my shoulders.

“Cathy do you realise the gift you have?”

“What gift is that then?” Obviously I didn’t or I would have known, wouldn’t I?

“This ability to put people at their ease, you should be working with people not bloody dormice, who only jump down your cleavage and pee on your best blouse.”

“I am quite happy with my dormice and remember I do work with first year students too.”

“Taking them for medicals.”

“Stop fishing.”

“St Catherine,” she said smugly.

“Well, at least we have wheels in common, only mine are on a bike.”

The conversation petered out and we went home. Simon texted to say he wouldn’t be home. I sent one back reminding him I’d be away for the next two nights. He sent one back, it was just four letters beginning with ‘D’ and ending with ‘N.’

I slept well and was up with Stella. I was in work before the nutty professor, and drinking my tea when he arrived.

“I don’t pay you to drink bloody tea, go and make my coffee,” he ordered.

“Bugger off, I’m still in my own time, make your own.”

“Okay Miss Watts, but don’t say I didn’t give you a chance to avoid it.”

“Avoid what?” I asked but he’d gone to the kitchen.

He declined to tell me anymore so I assumed he was pulling my leg. We spent the morning sorting out admin stuff, having got well into it before Pippa arrived, apologising that one of her kids was sick and she had to wait for her mother to come.

The joys of parenthood, which were never likely to happen to me. Oh well back to work. I went off to my lab with a list of things to do and finished them just in time for Stevie to arrive.

“Ready?” I asked.

“I dunno, I’m frightened,” he said.

“So am I, maybe you’d better give me a hug to comfort me.”

He smiled and squeezed me half to death.

“C’mon, let’s do it,” I said thinking of the final moments of the Butch Cassidy film. I found out later that it didn’t happen, when I saw a documentary on him. He didn’t look like Paul Newman either! I suppose Thelma and Louise would be more my style, but Stevie might have found it insulting.

We parked up and I paid for two hours. Then we walked into the clinic and waited for twenty minutes. It was a pleasant enough place, but I couldn’t help thinking about the numbers of people who’d been here and received bad news. The place felt heavy in atmosphere and I couldn’t wait to get away.

Stevie was eventually called and I went outside for some fresh air.

“If that’s your girlfriend, we’ll need to speak to her as well,” said the nurse counsellor.

“She’s my tutor at uni, I don’t have girlfriends, I’m gay.”

“Oh okay.”

I wandered about for an hour, the light was fading fast and the trip to Bristol was going to be horrible, there was talk of sleet and snow showers with drifting on hills.

I’d packed my walking boots, and over trousers and in the cupboard in my lab, I had one of those folding shovels, sort of military type. I’d grab it when I took Stevie back.

He appeared with red eyes. I didn’t ask why, I knew. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I have to go back in two weeks for the results.”

“Want me to come?”

“Could you?”

“I suppose so. Yes, of course I can,” I had no idea whether I could or not, I just decided I would.

He hugged me again, “Thank you so much Cathy, you’re like a big sister to me.”

“Hang on a minute, if that were the case, I’d have to buy you a Christmas present. No way, Jose!” I winked.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 5×33 (165)

(Well ya gotta keep your brains active,

especially reading this mush.)

“Why did I have to study so far from home?” I said to myself as I tried again in vain to overtake the milk tanker. It was still sleeting, and making visibility worse than usual, but the car was warm and I had all the emergency things they tell to take.

Well, a variation on them: I had walking boots instead of gumboots or wellies as we Brit’s call ’em. I had gaiters and waterproof trousers if I needed them, plus a warm weatherproof coat and gloves, a hat and scarf. I had the folding shovel and something to eat and drink.

I kept a torch and spare batteries in the car, one of the Mini-Maglites, so I could deal with darkness to some extent too, and there was a travel rug on the back seat.

The boot of the car carried my wet weather riding gear and the overnight bag of clothes I might wear or needed to wash. I was going to be too late now to see my dad, so using my hands free, called the hospital and asked them to tell him I’d see him tomorrow, weather permitting.

I ended the call and managed to get past the tanker. It was a pyrrhic victory, because once past him I couldn’t go much faster, the sleet was thickening to snow, just what I needed. I noticed that the concentration of seeing where I was going and keeping the speed and direction safe, was making me grasp the steering wheel much harder than usual. My wrists were aching, and I relaxed my grip, but a few minutes later, I was doing it again and the tension across my shoulders was aching too.

I stayed with motorways as much as I could and ‘A’ roads after that, of which Dorset and bits of Somerset have loads, with poor surfaces and lighting. Finally, I got to the M5 and headed north for Bristol.

I find motorway driving a pain, it can get very boring unless you are belting along above the speed limit. I tend not to do this too often now as they have speed cameras all over the place and the traffic is often too heavy. On a night like this, I was lucky to be moving at the forty miles an hour that we were doing. The traffic was solid on both sides of me, and in front and behind. We moved like a gigantic organism, a giant linear amoeba, the protoplasm made up of hundreds of cars and trucks.

Then it stopped altogether, and hazard lights came on, then people were getting out of cars, and then I saw the flames. I grabbed the extinguisher, and locking my car as I ran towards the fire, I began to get an idea of what had happened.

Somehow a 4×4 had gone off road and up the bank, rolling and catching fire; there were screams coming from inside the car. People were stood around looking helpless. Jesus, what are they waiting for?

“Switch the engine off,” I shouted at the driver who was banging on the window. I gestured the cutthroat gesture to him. For a moment he carried on banging then turned off the engine. It was diesel, so there was less chance of it exploding, and the wind was blowing the flames from the car, although both front tyres were blazing and the stink was awful.

I emptied my extinguisher into the engine compartment—it wasn’t going to stop it but at least it would buy time. Two men had brought their wheel braces and were smashing at the windows of the inverted car, and I helped them to pull out the three adults, all of whom were very dazed.

I heard a baby cry, just as the fire regained its intensity. “Oh no, there’s a baby in there.” I screamed and ran to the back of the car.

“Come back, wait for the fire engine,” called a man’s voice, “It’s too dangerous.”

“Yeah whatever,” I knelt down and began to look inside the car, the smell was awful, the fumes would get the baby in no time. Everything was upside down, and at last I could see the child stuck in its seat by the harness. It was crying bitterly, really frightened, something we had in common.

The mother had now regained enough of her wits to be screaming behind me. I hoped my arms were long enough. I rolled onto my back, bumping my head on all sorts of bits that had been shaken on the ceiling of the car, which was temporarily the floor.

I could see flames now coming through the dashboard. I wriggled as quickly as I could, pulling myself along on the tops of the headrests of the front seats.

I could hardly breathe and the baby went quiet, “Shit, I have to move faster,” I told myself.

“Get out,” voices were shouting at me interspersed with screams from the anguished parents.

The harness wasn’t anything I had seen before and my eyes were streaming from the smoke, I couldn’t see much at all. I pulled at the clasp in all directions, my head was spinning and I felt sick and almost blinded.

I don’t know what I did, but the baby suddenly dropped into my arms and I tried to move back the way I’d come. I was slipping on the rubbish in the car and the wet from the sleet and a broken water bottle. I began to think I was going to die, as things started to go black, when somebody grabbed my feet and started pulling.

I felt them pull me out onto the wet grass and the rain felt wonderful on my face, I coughed and after sitting up, was sick. Someone who seemed to know what he was doing was administering CPR to the baby, while others were reassuring the parents. Ten yards away the car was burning fiercely. Someone helped me up and we moved further away.

A fire appliance arrived, and I was given oxygen after the baby. Because of the traffic pile up, the ambulance had difficulty threading its way through, but finally, the baby and its parents were taken away. By now, I was breathing okay and the nausea had gone. I accepted the water that someone offered and went to go back to my car.

“My keys!” I felt around for them, I felt completely gutted, I’d dropped my keys somewhere, and my car was blocking the road, or one lane of it.

“But I need to get my keys, they must be in the car.” I pleaded with the fire chief.

“No way love, You are not going near that until it is safe.”

“But my car,” I pointed at it.

“Sorry,” he shook his head. I was glad we managed to get the baby out, but this I did not need, besides my coat and things were in my car and I was getting cold and wet.

Then I spotted something on the grass, I dipped past the firemen and checked it out. “Phew,” I sighed picking up the metal and plastic item, with the three legged Mercedes logo on it.

The police eventually arrived and for some reason took my name and address. I gave them the Bristol one. I slipped off the wet sweater and turned up the heater, and finally managed to filter into the moving traffic and get on my way. I got home at after eleven—I was knackered and my throat hurt like hell, plus I was coughing.

The phone was ringing, it was Simon. “Where have you been?”

“I stopped to help at an accident, helped to get a baby out of a burning car.” I said all this interspersed with coughs and wheezes.

“Have you been checked out?”

“No, just got home.”

“Get yourself to hospital and have them check you out.”

“I’ll go in the morning.”

“Go now, or I’ll call for an ambulance.”

“You would too, wouldn’t you?”

“Hell Cathy, where you’re concerned I send for the SAS.”

“That’s sweet,” I said in between coughs.

To avoid the ambulance, I drove to Southmead, yeah the nearest casualty unit, ironic or what? I waited and was eventually called and seen by a doctor.

He made me sit with an oxygen mask, whereupon I fell asleep, I was so tired. He woke me an hour later. “Are you the woman who pulled the baby out of the car?”

“What?” I mumbled trying to wake up.

“Did you pull a baby out of a burning car?”

“Why, did I do wrong?”

“No you saved her life, she’s critical, but she’s alive in the ICU. Her dad wants to thank you. Can he speak to you?”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” I coughed and he handed me a receiver to spit into, it was horrible grey muck, no wonder I couldn’t stop coughing.

A young man, perhaps twenty seven or so came into my cubicle. His eyes were red and wet with tears. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“It’s okay.”

“No it isn’t. It’s all my fault, I must have nodded off and next thing we’re upside down and on fire. I panicked.”

“So would I,” I admitted, coughing.

“You told me to switch off the engine and helped to keep back the fire.”

“I did what anyone would have done.”

“No you didn’t. You took charge.”

“Not really, it was just the others had to get something to break the windows with. I already had the fire extinguisher in my hands.”

“You saved my baby.”

“Only just, I think you have to thank whoever it was pulled me out, they saved both of us.”

“But you risked your life for my baby girl.”

“I didn’t think. There was a baby crying in a dangerous place and I was the smallest one to be able to wriggle in and grab her.”

“No the rest were moving away, they were too frightened. Only you and the bloke who pulled you out stayed.”

“I think I need to thank him, myself.”

“We don’t know who he was.”

I shrugged, maybe I’d find out later, from the police or something. “Thanks for coming to see me, but hadn’t you better get back to your wife and baby?”

“Yes, I’m Brian Ford,” he said shaking my hand.

“Cathy Watts, what is your baby’s name?”

“Meredith,” he said, beaming.

“I hope she’s okay soon.”

“Thanks again,” he said and went.

I spat out some more of the crap from my lungs, coughed and spat some more.

“How’d’ya feel now?” asked the doctor.

“A bit better.” I did, I only felt half-dead now.

He gave me an inhaler and some expectorant tablets; he also gave me antibiotics. “If it doesn’t feel any better tomorrow come back here. See your own doctor as soon as you can.”

I calculated that would be Monday, assuming I wasn’t dead. It suddenly occurred if I’d buggered up my chest, the surgery might not happen. Oh great! But then, I couldn’t live with myself if I’d let the little girl die without at least trying to save her. Wasn’t sure about the choice of name, but there ya go!

I got home at five, and called Simon—he was up and relieved to hear me speak. I was still coughing and spitting, but it did feel easier. He went off on one about calling a favour in and getting me to see the Queen’s chest physician on Saturday. I managed to tell him I was okay and would be fine by the time I got back down to him.

I crashed on my bed and zonked out until the phone rang—it was nearly midday.

“I thought we had a bike ride booked.”

“Oh yeah,” I croaked, my throat sore and dry, desperately needing a cuppa.

“Hey what’s the problem, you sound rough,” said Des, sounding concerned.

“Yeah,” I croaked, “smoke inhalation.”

“What, like in fire?”

“Yeah,” I croaked and coughed, spitting into the tissue. It wasn’t quite as dark.

“Can I come round, we can talk, it’s a bit cold for a ride anyway.”

“You’ll have to give me an hour to get myself ready.”

“I’ll bring some lunch, how about some French bread, cheese and a bottle of wine?”

“I can’t drink, tablets,” I said before a bigger eruption of coughing stopped me. More gubbins in the tissue, this time it was dark grey, and I frowned at it.

“See you in about ninety minutes, is that okay?”

It was, I made up some sponge mix and bunged it in the oven before dashing into the shower. I don’t know why I wanted to make an impression on Des, I mean he needed me more than I did him. But I had this frisson inside me, I couldn’t explain.

I wanted to appear girly, but my chest and head felt differently, I ate some fruit and had some tea, then took the sponge out. “Let him eat cake,” meaning my father, I said to the fridge, but it wasn’t impressed.

The coughing had largely stopped by the time the doorbell rang, and I had managed to put on some mascara without removing an eyeball—you try it when you’re coughing! I’d also dressed in some embroidered jeans and a mohair top—with a tee shirt underneath, otherwise it itches.

“Wow, you look good for a fire survivor, here, these are for you.” He handed me a bunch of flowers.

“Thank you,” I said accepting the roses and carnations, all in yellow, “You shouldn’t have.” Why do we women say that to someone who gives us flowers? If they said okay and took them back, we’d kill them!

“I got some fresh soups too, is that okay.”

“Yes super.” I laughed realising my unconscious pun, super soup.

“I heard on the radio that someone pulled a child out of a burning car on the motorway last night.”

“Let me take the food,” I said putting the flowers down on the hall table, I was also blushing.

“They said it was a woman.”

“Shall we sit at the table?” I ignored him laying places at the kitchen table, the two soups were the same, great, I could save some for Daddy, he may not notice, and pigs will fly!

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

“What?” I feigned ignorance.

“Pulled the little girl from the car?”

“I can’t remember, what time did you say it happened?”

“Cathy, it was you,” he said loudly. I shrugged at him, I couldn’t lie at the best of times, well I could but I didn’t want to.

“So, let’s eat, I’m starving.”

We did and he asked me about the fire. I told him what I could remember, thinking I was going to die with the baby was the worst bit.

“Can I do an interview for the BBC, it would be a nice scoop and I’ll get you a fee.”

“What for?” I was genuinely appalled.

“It’s what they call human interest, it makes people feel good because everyone survived, and that sort of thing must be everyone’s worst nightmare.”

“How much?”

“I’ll see if I can get you a hundred. Most people do them for free, but I’ll say you’re a special case.”

“And if I say okay, I’ll have the press around tomorrow.”

“Not if we have an exclusive, and I’ll give a copy to the agency to distribute, it tends to take the impetus out of things.”

“Okay then.”

“I’ll go and get my camera.”

What had I got myself into this time? Maybe I should just go round in my Superman tee shirt. Nah, don’t have the red cape.

“For the exclusive, they’ll give you two hundred and fifty.”

“What?” I gasped, “Just for talking to you?”

“Ah no, they’d like you to come into the studio and do a formal interview with one of the news team.”

“Don’t mention the disappearing dormouse,” I said quickly.

“They already know, and your engagement, and the bag snatcher.”

“Oh shit! Why can’t you do it and we’ll forget the money?”

“I can’t, I said I’d take you to the studio.”

“What if I’ve changed my mind?”

“They’ll still run some sort of story, but the tabloids will be around sniffing for something, especially with your other form.”

A sense of panic flashed through me, “What do you mean?”

“Well, the dormouse and the bag snatcher and your engagement.”

“Why is that interesting to anyone?”

“Oh come on Cathy, in the last week you’ve done more than most people do in a life time, you’re like some superhero.”

“But I don’t want to be, I’m just an ordinary woman doing what anyone would do.”

“Your modesty is quite charming, but it isn’t deserved.”

“I have to go and see my dad at Southmead, if I don’t take him food, he won’t eat. He refuses hospital meals.” I looked at him, “Don’t you even think about it.”

“I wasn’t, look I’m not some chancer, it was just coincident that I put two and two together and realised you made them four. You’re an amazing woman, and I feel privileged to know you.”

“I need to get some things ready to take to the hospital; I’ll follow you in your car.” I looked at my watch. “I am leaving that place to go and see my dad at four whether or not they’ve interviewed me.”

“Okay, I’ll tell them.”

“I mean it, Des. I walk at four. No matter what!” I said firmly.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part (14 Dozen Less 2) (166)

I followed Des’s Land Rover into the BBC car park, finding a visitor’s space. He led me into the studios holding on to my arm. To say I was terrified was an understatement, like Pearl Harbour was the Japanese being unkind!

I was introduced to the producer of the programme, who was a woman. I always thought they were men who went around in beards and sandals shouting ‘cut’, or was that directors? Shows what I know. Well, Des had a beard and sandals, even in the rain. I was wondering what Simon would look like with a beard. Hmmm maybe I like beards?

Polly, the producer took me into an office and we had a quick chat; she asked me if I was worried about anything?

Nah, just the rest of my life.

“Don’t worry, we’re only going to look at the car rescue, although the other bits may be mentioned. But we won’t have pictures of dormice jumping down your cleavage.”

“Okay,” I said taking a deep breath.

“We’ll pop you into makeup, and then Helen will do the interview, it’s not a live one, and we’ll be mixing it with the footage of the burned out car and an interview we did with the father.”

I nodded, “Do you know who pulled me out of the car?”

“No, not as far as I know.”

“Okay, can I thank him anyway?”

“Course you can.”

“Thank you.”

“That’s okay, now because we’re paying you an expenses fee, Des told me you lost a day’s work to get here, I’ll need you to sign here and here,” she pointed at a form. “Do you want a copy of the interview?”

“Yes please.” I don’t know why, vanity I expect.

I was in makeup for two minutes, she just wanted to make sure my skin wasn’t too reflective of the studio lights. I brushed my own hair, and was led through to the studio where Helen would do the interrogation.

They wired me up, with a small microphone attached to a power pack transmitter around my waist at the back. I was still in jeans and jumper.

“Can you say something, love?” called some bloke.

I looked around but anyone else seemed to be busy, so I pointed at myself and mouthed ‘me?’

“Yes you love, need to do a sound check.”

“Oh right.” Of course, my mind went blank until a nonsense rhyme came to mind, and then sort of fell out of my mouth assisted by my lips.

“The boy stood on the burning deck
His legs all covered in blisters,
He didn’t have his trousers on,
So he had to borrow his sisters.”

“That’s great love, thank you.”

I sat there feeling like a spare mmm mmm at a wedding. Eventually Polly arrived with Helen. Ah, I’d seen her doing the main news, gosh a real live celebrity.

We were introduced, and we talked for several minutes then she asked me about the accident, so I told her. She asked if I was frightened and I told her only when I thought the fumes had got me and the baby. Then the real hero, the man who pulled me out, saved us both and I’d like to thank him. She asked if I knew the baby was going to be okay?

I didn’t but I did now, and felt a tear run down my face, I thanked her for telling me.

“That’s a wrap,” called a voice and I started.

“Thanks that’s it,” said Helen and shook my hand again.

“What, you filmed that?”

“Yes, why?”

“I wasn’t ready, I mumbled and rambled and cried.”

“You were fine, and natural. We’ll tidy it up, splice it with the father’s interview and it will go out for six on the main news bulletin and probably again at ten.”

“Cathy, can the local news people have a word?” called Polly running into the studio.

Another reporter person, this time a man called Toby, came and talked to me. I was much more self-conscious this time aware that they would be filming as soon as he sat down. However, once we got talking I forgot about the camera and the mic I was wearing. He asked me about the bag snatch, and I told him like I remembered it, then he asked about Simon and my engagement and we talked for a couple more minutes. Then he thanked me, and Polly led me back out through the maze of studios and technical rooms to a bathroom where I could take off the makeup and wash my face.

“Des is waiting for you through there, we’ll send you a cheque if that’s okay?”

“Yes, fine.”

I looked and there was my own bearded collie wagging his tail, okay, well he is an outside sorta guy, a bit like me, except for the beard.

“That was great Cathy, now we can put, ‘as seen on TV’ next to your name.”

I nearly said, that I had been on telly before, then realised it was as someone else. So I stumbled into, “Erm, how do you know it was okay?”

“I watched it with the producer.”

“You did?” I blushed.

“You were great, so natural. Every man I know will be wanting you to marry him and have his children. Well, maybe not the marriage bit, but certainly the procreative bit.”

“You are joking?” I gasped.

“I’m not, you are one of the most natural, sexy women I know. You don’t just talk to your audience you seduce them, men and women, they love it.”

“What!” I exclaimed, blushing so red and so hot, I’m sure I was giving off gigawatts of energy.

“Some women have it, most don’t, you are something else girl.”

“I have to go,” I said, actually registering that the clock I’d been looking at for the past few minutes was telling the time. It was quarter past three. “To the hospital… my dad… feed him… bye.”

“Don’t I get a… obviously not,” he said to my fleeing body.

I was still breathing deeply when I got to the ward, “Hi Cathy, loved the trick with the dormouse,” offered the ward sister laughing.

Damn, I knew that was going to haunt me. “Hi Daddy,” I purred trying to take my mind off things.

“’Affy,” he exclaimed and started smiling. Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder?

“I have some soup and fresh bread, I didn’t make the bread okay?”

“’kay,” he grunted, but smiling.

I warmed the remains of the soup and took the bowl into him, he ate it without a murmur and the bread disappeared too. Finally, he had a piece of the sponge I made with a cuppa.

I sat and talked to him holding his hand, and he smiled and made the odd remark or question. Before I knew it, the news came on the television; I wasn’t listening until the nurse called, “Cathy, you’re on the telly.” Excusing myself, I ran to watch.

“I dunno what happened,” said the driver of the car, “I must ’ave nodded off and next thing we’re like upside down and everyone is screaming. People were stood around and I couldn’t get the doors open. Then someone shouted fire, and I panicked.”

“That must have terrifying?” asked the interviewer.

“It was, I really thought we were all gonna die, there was smoke and stuff in the car and the smell was ’orrible. Then this woman runs up with a fire extinguisher and tells me to cut the engine. I didn’t even know it was still on. She starts putting out the fire and some men arrived and broke the windows and she and they helped to pull us out.

“We were all so dazed and so glad to be safe, we forgot about my baby daughter Meredith, she started to scream, and the woman goes back to car and starts to climb in to rescue her.

“I couldn’t like believe it, the car is on fire and she wriggles into it to save my baby. My wife was screaming and I was just paralysed with fear. Then it all went quiet and some bloke grabs her feet and starts pulling her out, and she has the baby.”

“And how is baby Meredith?” asked the interviewer.

“She is doing just great, thanks to our rescuer.”

Back to the reporter, “We managed to track down the mystery woman rescuer, Cathy Watts, who was able to talk with Helen in the studio.”

The picture cut to me, looking like a nervous squirrel, “You arrived on the scene with your fire extinguisher, was yours the only car with one?”

“I don’t know nor stopped to ask. It was more a morale booster for the rescuers and a lifeline for the passengers, they were looking very anxious. I called for him to switch of the engine, and shouted at the people watching not to just stand there. Then I began hitting the windows with the empty extinguisher and two men appeared with wheel braces or some other tools and we managed to get them out.”

While we were talking they did a split screen with a fire brigade video of the actual car. ‘Jesus, I didn’t go into that did I?’ I felt the colour drain from my face.

“Your heard the baby and climbed into the car to rescue her?”

“I wasn’t thinking other than the baby would die if I didn’t do something. I suppose I didn’t think too hard and just went for it.”

“You went into that,” asked the interviewer as they showed the car consumed with flames.

“The biggest problem was the smoke, I couldn’t see and the baby who was screaming suddenly went quiet, I managed to undo her harness and then I started to black out with the smoke, and some chap grabbed my legs and pulled me out, thankfully I had the baby in my arms.

“That man is the real life saver, he saved two of us. I’d like to thank him if I could.”

The camera panned back to Helen, “This is the same woman who last week captured a bag snatcher in Portsmouth and got engaged to Lord Cameron, I wonder if he knows he’s marrying a superhero?”

“Oh shit!” I flopped into the chair by the side of Dad’s and felt awful, the tabloids were bound to be around now.

“Ossamarra?” said my dad as if he’d just spotted a famous terrorist.

I processed what he’d said. “I just did somethin’ very dumb.”

“Oh?”

“I helped get a girl out of a car on the motorway that turned upside down, no big deal. The BBC wanted an interview and for some stupid reason, I gave one. Now the whole bloody world will be knocking on the door.”

“No big deal!” exclaimed the nurse, “She forgot to mention the car was on fire at the time.”

“No No No,” said my father.

“Yes, she is a regular girl scout. You must be very proud of her?”

“’Essss,” he said beaming, and dribbling just a little.

“Cathy, you’re on again.”

“Oh no!” Some morbid curiosity drew me to the screen again.

They showed the pictures of the dormouse diving into my bra, ‘How do get from this to this?’ the pictures were replaced by the fire brigade video. “The answer, via one very special lady, soon to be literally a Lady, as in Lady Cameron, I mean our very own down to earth and sexy superhero, Cathy Watts, dormouse expert extraordinaire.”

They cut to the interview and with tears welling up, I walked out of the ward and stood out in the cold. Life was never going to be quite the same again, but what options did I have?

Could I have let the bag snatcher go? Yes I could, but I knew that I wouldn’t not with Stella’s bag. As for the car fire, how could I have walked away and left a child to die? Again, I could have done but I knew inside I wouldn’t, I’d rather die attempting to save her, why? Because, that’s why, that’s who and what I am. Now I’m likely to have to pay for it. Who said life was fair?

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 167

I drove home from the hospital after a teary farewell to my father—he understood my position I think. I simply told him, that if I was interesting then the press would be looking to do features, which would mean research. He nodded. Whether he understood the full implications, I don’t know, but I did. I almost felt like applying for a shotgun licence for killing vermin, but I don’t think tabloid journalists are covered, or lawyers.

Driving home, I tried to feel positive, I wanted to accept that I was living the dream and in a month’s time, I would have achieved something I’d wanted for many years, to match my body and mind. Maybe my prayers were being answered or my wishes granted—it had taken a bit longer than I’d wanted.

I was suspicious as I turned into the road, thankfully there seemed to be no unusual cars about. I thought about hiding mine away from the house, but then it could get stolen or vandalised, so I left it.

I dashed into the house and after making a cuppa, checked my emails.

Hi Cathy, several requests for interviews from press, have told them you are unavailable. Can you call Prof Agnew? Stay low, Pippa.

Cathy please call me, Tom Agnew.

Saw the news, what can I say? My heroine! Simon.

I’d still like that bike ride, Des.

“Haven’t you done enough damage?” I asked his email. I felt like writing back ‘Foxtrot Oscar!’ But I didn’t, I didn’t want to sink to his level.

Thinking about preparing for a siege, I checked the store cupboard and freezer. I could do with some stuff. I grabbed my bag and rushed off to Tesco. I was back an hour later with a car full of fuel, a freezer with enough in it to last for a couple of weeks, and supplies to make fresh bread or soups. I hoped my dad would understand if I went to ground.

I called the Professor. “Hi Prof it’s Cathy.”

“Hello young lady, how are you?”

“Wondering if I did the right thing.”

“About the interview?”

“Yes, everything else was right.”

“I agree, I think too that sometimes it’s better to give them some words than let them make them up. You’re welcome to come and stay here if necessary.”

“That’s very generous of you,” I felt almost moved to tears.

“Well, they’ll find Simon’s place, they’ll do the same with your parents, and your college rooms. Stay away from the university until we have some idea of the interest of the media. Students have been asked to close ranks, and to be fair, they see you as being hunted for something you haven’t done. Some were actually quite incensed for you.”

“Wow, I’m impressed by your levels of persuasion.”

“Me, it wasn’t me, it was your tutorial groups and Pippa who organised things. They got everyone to agree to refer people back to the university press office, who have a prepared statement. It mentions nothing about your history. I’ve also taken the liberty to speak to Sussex, who sounded supportive and have asked their press office to make a similarly bland and gender neutral statement, they said you had asked for your records to be amended, they have been.”

“That is brilliant, thank you so much. I’ll try to do what I can on line to help with the project. I’d like to see my dad tomorrow and warn him about my going to ground.”

“Well, I’ll leave a key under the large flower holder on the right hand side of the front door. The burglar alarm code is the same as the STD code. You have fifteen seconds to punch in the numbers and press ‘off.’

“But the STD code is only three numbers,” I stated worried I was missing something.”

“From abroad?”

“Ah, got you, so is that five or six numbers?”

“Five, anymore and this ageing brain would forget them.”

“I doubt it.”

I clicked in the number on my mobile, purely as an aide-memoire of course. Well, in the heat of the moment, who knows what my brain would do?

“Right, wait to hear from us before you turn up at work, and park your car around the back. The big gates open from the inside, go through the house to open them, and don’t let the dog escape, will you?”

“No of course not. I’ll contact Pippa when I expect to be down there. Would you mind if I have visitors?”

“I presume you mean Simon and his sister?”

“Yes.”

“No problem, as long as they don’t bring a tail with them.”

“I’ll tell them to be careful.”

“Okay, well see you soon, take care and drive carefully.”

“I will, thanks so much Prof.”

“It’s about time you called me Tom.”

“Yes Prof.”

“I don’t know why I bother, bloody women!” He put the phone down, and I roared.

Next stop Simon. He wasn’t in, but I did speak to Stella.

“They’ve been around looking for you. I told them you didn’t live here and to ask the university, so hopefully they are staking out your rooms and getting very bored.”

“Very good Stella. I’m going to stay at the professor’s house for a bit. I can work from there and hopefully will be able to see you two as well. Please make sure you aren’t being followed and tell Simon the same.”

“Cor, this is like cloak and dagger stuff. John le Carré isn’t about is he?”

“Who?” I knew perfectly well who she meant, I just wanted to play her up.

“The Soldier, sailor, spy blokey.”

“That was Alec Guinness.”

“No he was the star of it.”

“George Smiley.”

“Yes, two series and he barely moved a muscle. Now that is acting,” she offered.

“Think I prefer George Clooney to George Smiley,” I joked.

The doorbell rang and I froze. I looked at my watch, it was nearly ten, who would be calling at this time? With my stomach churning, I asked Stella to hold. I nipped upstairs and looked out of the bedroom window. Somebody was standing about in what looked like cycling gear. The bell rang again.

“I think I know who it might be, if it isn’t I’ll call you back.”

“Why don’t I just wait, and if there’s any problems, let me know and I’ll call Daddy and get him to send some reinforcements.”

“Or the police.”

“Yes okay, I’ll wait until you know who it is.” Stella hung on the phone and I put the receiver down on the table.

“Hello Cathy,” greeted me when I opened the door.

“What are you doing here?” I wasn’t hostile just not friendly, “It’s ten o’clock.”

“I know about Charlie,” he said.

“My brother? What about him?”

“Come on, Cathy. I’m not stupid.”

“I’m not doing any more interviews, with you or anyone.”

“I’m not asking for one, I’m hoping I can help you avoid some.” He smiled disarmingly.

“I thought what we did was supposed to do that?” I felt a tear run down my face.

“That was my intention, I just didn’t expect to find anything unusual about you. Except you didn’t exist last year, but somebody called Charles Watts had an article about dormice in Hampshire, in the ‘Proceedings of the Hants Natural History Society.’ So maybe we’d better talk?”

“You’d better come in.” He took his bike around the back of the house and locked it, then came in through the back door. He dumped his coat, gloves and helmet in the kitchen, and also took his cycling shoes off.

While he was doing this, I told Stella it was a friend.

“What sort of bike is it?” I asked him.

“Colnago,” he replied.

“Good?”

“Excellent. Goes like the proverbial off a shovel.”

“Okay, tea or coffee?”

“I brought the wine we didn’t have earlier,” he held up a bottle of red wine.

“Is that wise when you’re riding?”

“Yeah, do it all the time.”

I got some glasses and a bottle of water. He looked quizzically at me. “If I drink water and wine, I don’t get sick.”

“Not together, I hope?” he pleaded, “cause then I’d know you were weird.”

“Separate glasses.” I answered laughing.

“Sounds like a follow up to Separate Tables.”

“Is that a book or something?” I risked showing my ignorance.

“Dunno about book, but there was a film, couldn’t tell you who was in it, saw it about a thousand years ago, when I was a nipper.”

We sat down in the lounge and he opened the bottle with his own corkscrew. I brought out some cheese and biscuits and necessary crocks and cutlery.

I sipped the wine which was good even though it hadn’t ‘breathed.’ It was from Chile, which surprised me.

“So how do you know about Charlie?”

“I did some research on the ’net, looking for material to use with the dormouse prog. I googled you and got very recent stuff, and then dormice and found three things by C. Watts. I opened them and the name was Charles Watts. I checked that out and found a reference to an old school reunion and there was a photo. To be fair it didn’t look much like you, then I saw it was a Bristol school. I made an assumption and you confirmed it. The coincidences were too strong, it had to be you.”

“So you’re a clever dick. So once you push off from here, you sell my story do you?”

“No, believe it or not, the last thing I need is for the excrement to hit the air con. I want to do the dormouse programme and I want you to present it.”

“Why?” I asked dumbfounded.

He loaded a cracker with some Brie and crunched it around in his mouth before he responded. “I could say that you are a beautiful woman with a television friendly voice and a lovely, natural manner of seducing an audience.”

“You told me that before.”

“See, I’m a consistent liar,” he said and ate the rest of his cracker, chuckling as he did so.

“Liar, you were lying?” I blushed with anger.

“Yes, I’m madly in love with you and want you to have my babies.”

“Very funny, besides Simon is half as big again as you and has a violent persuasion. He is also very jealous.”

“Yeah, and stinking rich. I know, I googled him too, and his sister, the nurse and his father the fourth richest man in England.”

“What Henry? He isn’t is he?” I gasped, then took a good shot of the wine.

“Depends on which list you look at, but it’s fourth or fifth.”

“I had no idea. He’s a lovely man.”

“I’ll bet, lots of old money are, let me film on their land and so on. Then if they get anything interesting I get calls to come and film it. Not all of them shoot birds of prey.”

“Including a certain royal, who of course knew nothing about the hen harriers,” I spat.

“Well, without evidence there is no proof, pity though.”

“Why can’t the press go and piss all over him?” I asked feeling spiteful.

“They do, especially when he’s pissed. Just look at any tabloid. He lives in a goldfish bowl.”

“Yeah I suppose, but he’s such an arsehole, I can’t find any sympathy,” I confessed.

“Yes, but which came first, the arsehole or the pressure.” How could he sound so reasonable? Hen harriers were rare birds by any standards and whoever did it got clean away, even though loads of people suspect they know who did it. Such is the law.

“Look,” he said, “how about we concentrate on your problems rather than trying to condemn an heir to throne, because he’s of questionable intelligence.”

“How can we do that?” I was just getting on my soapbox and he was changing the subject.

“Well, let’s look at possible scenarios…”

We talked for two hours; at times he was very serious at others we fell about laughing. We ate all the crackers and cheese and drank all the wine, I also drank some of the water. The more wine I drank the funnier he became, or his jokes did.

I went off to make coffee while he popped to the cloakroom. He was back in the lounge by the time I walked in with the tray and some sponge.

“Hey that looks homemade,” he said, licking his lips.

“Yeah, well make the most of it, because Daddy has the rest of it.”

“You made it?”

“Duh! No it was the scullery maid, but because I knew you were coming I gave her the night off,” I answered sarcastically.

“Hmmm,” he said after taking a bite. “If I get you to elope with me, will you make me cakes like this?”

“Look stop the silly questions, I’m engaged, see,” I flashed the ring at him.

“Yeah, but we could be in Gretna Green by daylight,” he said, his eyes dancing.

“Don’t be silly,” I chided him.

“I’m being deadly serious. I fancy you like mad.” His eyes showed something other than a sparkle.

“You realise you’ve just killed your dormouse programme?”

“For one night of passion with you, it would be a fair trade.”

“Sorry. I’m spoken for.”

“He wouldn’t have to know.”

“No. I’m not interested.”

“Damn!” He drank his coffee.

“Maybe you’d better go,” I suggested.

“Okay, tell Simon you passed with flying colours.”

“What?”

“I bet him I could get you to go to bed with me. He said you wouldn’t.”

“You know Simon?” I asked appalled that he had indulged in such nefarious activities.

“Yeah, we were at school together, and I know Stella, a bit. She is lovely but crazy.”

“So tell me about this bet?” I asked him.

“I said, I’d met you at the university and wanted to do a programme with you. He told me to keep my paws off you, that you and he were an item and going to get married. I told him that no woman could resist my charms; he told me that you would. He was right. I owe him a rather nice case of Scotch.”

I stood and fumed. “Please go.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 14 dozen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (168)

“Simon!” I said sharply into the phone.

“What? It’s one o’clock.”

“Were you asleep?” I asked almost biting my tongue.

“Yes, yes I was, why?” He yawned sleepily.

“Well, I am not and I have just sent that that snake in the grass packing.” I had just turned my temper up to simmer.

“What are you on about?” but he sounded more awake now, by the time I was finished he’d be on higher alert than the military in Afghanistan.

“Your bosom buddy, Desmond, that’s what!” Part of me wanted to cry but not before I’d vented my wrath.

“Oh fuck!” was said quietly but distinctly, at least to my hyped up senses.

“Your little friend will be sending you a case of Scotch. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be sending you a certain piece of jewellery, just thought I’d warn you in case it gets lost in the post, or out in my garden because that’s what I FEEL LIKE DOING WITH IT, YOU BASTARD!”

“Cathy I can explain,” he tried to say.

“DON’T YOU TALK TO ME YOU, YOU BASTARD…  what did you say?” I suspect I might have impaired his hearing as I ranted in a semi-screech. God, I sounded like my mother, on the one or two occasions she’d let rip at my dad. I blushed.

“What!” I snapped down the phone, not having heard it because I was lost in my own thoughts about my mother.

“I had nothing to do with it.”

“You could have warned me you knew him, you, you PIG!”

“He said he was going to see you to help avoid the press, he also said he would flirt mercilessly with you.”

“He did the arrogant arsehole.”

“I wondered if he was just trying to wind me up, about you I mean. I told him he was wasting his time, that could have been a mistake, he saw it as a challenge.”

“You should have told me.” I was calming down a little, but still angry or maybe just hurt. I couldn’t decide, my emotions were all over the place.

“I didn’t really have much chance. I sent you the email but it was in between meetings, it’s been hell the last few days.”

“All you had to say was you knew Des,”

“I know, I know, or at least I do now.”

“What would you have done if I had gone to bed with him?”

“Been very surprised and disappointed.”

“Now you know how I feel, goodnight darling.” I put the phone down and unplugged it. I made a cuppa and went to bed.

I suppose I was living on adrenalin, because I was awake some four hours later and taking the wheels off my bike. It was still dark when I packed the car, with all the clothes I had with me including my cycling kit.

Then I made some soup. I would have to buy bread, but that couldn’t be helped. I cleaned up everything and did a machine load of washing, then tumbled it dry.

I checked every hour—there were still no strange cars near the house. That almost disappointed me. I suppose I was spoiling for a fight and the enemy hadn’t arrived. I hated to think what free radicals were swishing about inside me, set off by the stress and the adrenalin.

I packed the remaining stuff in the car, including the food for the hospital. Ten minutes later I was on my way. As I pulled out of our road, I spotted a car pull out from the kerb and follow me. The adrenalin rushed again.

I let it follow me, making a mental note of the make and model and the number if it got close enough. It was likely to be faster than mine, being an Audi A4. There were two people in it.

I deliberately went the long way to Tesco, anyone who then went into the car park behind me was likely to be following me, not making a three mile detour—unless they really were Bristolians, who have to be some of the worst drivers around.

I indicated and turned into Tesco, so did the big Audi. Oh shit!

I wrapped my scarf around my face and pulled up the hood on my coat, then sunglasses: I wanted to look inconspicuous. I ran into the shop and bought some sandwiches and a drink, plus some chocolate for me and some bread for my dad to have with his soup. I also bought an aerosol of furniture polish. I paid for my items and walking back to my car spotted the occupants of the Audi getting restive.

There was no doubt that they were tailing me. I got in my car and drove off towards the exit, which is a like a single lane onto the major road. They followed me. Once I saw they were stuck behind me with another car behind them, I got out of my car and advanced towards them as menacingly as I could, waving the claw hammer I still had in the car. I heard the door locks of the Audi click.

I then sprayed their windscreen with enough polish to clean a complete dining suite twice over. I then removed a valve from their front tyre and ignoring the horns hooting behind, got back in my car and drove off in the opposite direction to the hospital. Round one to me.

If they went for criminal damage, I would go for stalking. I also had the number of the car.

About an hour later, I got to the hospital and parked the car where it wouldn’t be seen except from within the car park, alongside another A class Mercedes, although a different colour to mine.

I saw my dad and gave the soup to the nurses. I explained why I was there early and couldn’t stay. He was clearly sad but he said he understood, or tried to with his limited capacity to speak.

“’Affy,”

“Yes Daddy,” I said knowing the conversation was coming to an end and I had to go and play with the traffic and the press.

“Avooo unny?” he said to me.

“Have I honey, what for the bread?”

“Noooo, no no. Unny.”

“Money?” I asked and he nodded. “You need some money, sure how much do you want, a tenner?”

“No no no, vuuuu unny.”

“Do I need money?” I asked and he nodded.

“I’m okay at the minute, but thanks for asking.”

“Noo, vuu ake some.”

“You want me to take some?”

“’Esss,” he smiled and nodded.

“Why?”

“Nnn case vuu etaway.”

“In case I need to get away?” I guessed.

“’Ess, otle.”

“Otle? Oh hotel. Yes got you.”

“’Ess.”

“Look Daddy it’s awfully kind of you but I’m okay.”

“Noo, no, vuu ake unny.”

“I don’t need…”

“Noo vuu ake,” he interrupted me.

“Okay I’ll take fifty quid, how’s that?”

“Noo,” he shook his head, “mmm-or,” he nodded.

“More?”

He nodded.

“Okay I’ll take more, a hundred.”

“Mmm-or, a ousan,” he said.

“A thousand Daddy? Crikey, for that I could go abroad for a month.”

“Ess, vuu gggo.”

I didn’t know where to look, my eyes were filling with tears and all I could do was hug him and cry against his shoulder. He put his good arm around me and hugged me.

He was weeping too, “I an’t rotec my ddor-or.”

“What?” I said sniffing.

“He’s upset because he can’t protect his daughter,” said the nurse who’d obviously come to see what I was doing to her patient.

“I’m a big girl now Daddy, I can take care of myself.” I tried to pretend, hoping if I said it enough I might start to believe it.

“Mmmy gob,” he said and pointed at himself.

“My job, he thinks it’s his job and he’s letting you down.”

“Thanks Sister, I wouldn’t have got that one.”

“You okay Mr Watts?” she knelt down and asked him.

“’Ess, ’ell ’Affy ’ake ’unny.”

“I have to tell you to take the money, is that right.”

“’Ess,” he nodded, and so did I.

“Okay Daddy, I’ll come and see you as soon as I can.”

We hugged and, he squeezed me. “I love you Daddy,” I said breaking the embrace.

“I uv vuu ooo.”

I kissed him and left.

Over the next four hours, I made my way slowly to Portsmouth and to Professor Agnew’s house. I achieved entry with the key he had left for me. It was a Saturday afternoon and neither he nor the dog were there. It wasn’t hard to work out where they were.

I unpacked and went to the room I’d used before. I took the milk and tea bags I’d brought from home and made some tea, I also put away the cornflakes I’d brought. Sitting in the kitchen, I called Simon.

“Where are you? I tried phoning your father’s place,” he sounded concerned.

“I’m safe, in Portsmouth or nearby.”

“Keep away from here, they’re watching it.”

“I expect the same at the uni, although I wouldn’t be there anyway on a weekend.

“I feel we need to talk, and I want to apologise for not warning you about Des.”

“Okay, where do you suggest?”

He named a pub I knew and I agreed to meet him there, I would take a taxi.

Agnew came home shortly afterwards and made quite a fuss of me, as did his silly dog. Spaniels love people and this one bounced all over me, or tried to.

We had a long chat and we decided that if I kept low for a week, the news-worthiness would probably disappear. It meant that any pretensions I had about doing the documentary, except in a consultant’s role, were now zilch. I suppose if that was the price I paid to be me, I would have to pay it, I just hoped there was no tax to pay on it as well.

Easy As Forgetting My Welsh

Part Cant a’n drigain’n naw (169)

by Angharad llaw euraid

I had asked Simon to be careful he wasn’t followed to the pub. To make sure—well it is Simon after all—I got there early and watched from a park opposite. He had taken a taxi too, which I saw go past and then return two minutes later. It barely stopped and he hopped out and it flew off again. He ran into the pub, the quickest I’d ever seen him move.

I watched and waited. No one seemed to be tailing him. Then I nipped across the road.

He was stood at the bar watching the door. I slipped in and closed it quickly. I had a scarf tied around my head to keep my head warm, disguise my hair and hide some of my face. I was also wearing my Barbour coat with jeans and trainers. I suppose I looked more like a dog walker than the photo with Spike which had appeared in the press.

Simon hadn’t immediately recognised me, but then as I took the scarf off he rushed up to take my hand. “What do you want to drink and do you want to eat?”

“Tom Agnew is coming in an hour, we’re going to eat then. Are you going to stay?”

“Yeah, I can wait an hour. You know since the cook left, I don’t think I’ve had a truly decent meal.”

“Why do you think she left?” I asked as we found a table which enabled us to keep an eye on the door and yet be relatively private. I sipped my wine as he thought of an answer.

“I’m not sure, she said they were after her, which we put down to paranoid delusions.”

“And now?” I prompted.

“We are satisfied she is paranoid, but that they are out to get her.”

“Can’t you think of a better line than that?” I whined, shaking my head.

“Give me a chance, I’m a banker, not a comedian,” he said tetchily.

‘That’s a matter of opinion,’ I thought to myself. I sipped the wine again.

“So what happened with Dirty Des?”

“He made a move after I produced some cake.”

“Not your famous sponge cake.”

“Ha ha!” I said sarcastically.

“I’m not joking Babes, I love your cake. So there was Dirty Des with my girl and eating my cake and, well what happened?”

“He asked me to elope with him, which I assumed was just a joke.”

“It is, he asked me once,” snorted Simon, “I told him he’d have to shave his beard off, if I did. He refused, as I knew he would.”

“Oh, I thought his beard might be his only saving grace.” I blushed when Simon gave me a filthy look.

“So then he made a real move?”

“Yeah, told me he fancied me and wanted to make passionate love to me.”

“THE SWINE!” Simon said loudly and everyone looked at us. “Sorry,” he whispered.

“I told him, he’d lost his dormouse programme, but he said it would be worth it for a night of passionate sex with me. I tried to tell him I don’t do passionate.”

“Fibber, you have passions about all sorts of things, including me.” Simon smiled clicking his front teeth together, to indicate it’s falseness.

“But of course, darling,” I said smiling back as artificially as he had.

“Marry me, Cathy. I can’t live without you.” He fell down on one knee holding my hand. The woman on the next table snorted cider all over her husband.

“I can’t, Heathcliff. I’m already promised,” I said back as sadly as I could.

“Cathy, but I can’t live without you,” he pleaded, and I was very close to losing it in a fit of giggles.

“Even if the cook comes back?” I said.

“Erm, maybe not,” he said.

“Look next time you come round while my fiancé is away, I’ll teach you some easy recipes. How about that?”

“Will we have time Cathy? I mean you are so demanding, four times a night, it leaves me exhausted the next day.”

“We can always put something in the oven,” I beamed.

“What like a bun?” asked Simon innocently, and the woman snorted more cider, nearly choking herself.

“I was thinking more of a casserole,” I said digging deep to maintain self-control. Simon had obviously done amateur dramatics or something because he was totally unruffled.

He took a sip of his Guinness, “So when does he come back then?”

“I don’t know. It’s classified. I saw him cleaning his automatic, so it looks dangerous.”

“Not another assassination job?” said Simon in disgust.

“Well, that Russian president is becoming a pain. One word from P and my Scott will pop him.”

“Should we be talking about this in a pub? There could be enemy agents anywhere.”

“I had to give two the slip earlier; I think the same two who tried to kill Scott with the snowplough.”

“Not the snowplough?” said Simon.

“Yes, it was a trifle obvious in June.” As these words left my mouth, the woman on the next table snorted the last of her cider, and still coughing, was led away by her husband.

As soon as they left, we both lost our restraint and giggled like two schoolgirls.

“I had two creeps follow me in Bristol in an Audi. I gave them the slip.” I then explained what I’d done.

Simon shook his head, “You read too many spy novels.”

“I don’t read any of them. Too ludicrous, I prefer my whodunits.”

“So the Siamese cat who solves murders isn’t ludicrous then?”

“Hmmph!” I folded my arms, “Of course not. Koko is just wunnerful and he has extra whiskers, so there.”

“What’s it called Pickax City and Brrr, aren’t they just names to conjure with?” He shook his head.

“Well, I like them, and I have a new one once I can find time to read it.”

“Which one is this, ‘The Cat who solved the Kennedy Conspiracy’?”

“Ha!” I said.

“Can I get you youngsters a drink?” announced the arrival of Tom Agnew.

“Really Tom, I should be buying you one,” I said blushing.

“Don’t worry you can earn your keep, I fancy a stew tomorrow, how about you make one?”

I felt his forehead, “What are you doing?”

“I thought you might be ill, Tom. No chicken curry?”

“I’ll have one tonight and another for lunch tomorrow.”

“It’s Sunday tomorrow,” I reminded him.

“God, so it is, okay, do a roast tomorrow and the stew on Monday.”

“Your wish is my command, oh master,” and I stood up and curtseyed.

“You training her up for me?” asked Simon.

“Why? Do you want to make an offer? I believe the transfer market is open again.”

“Boys, please. I have had it up to here with being objectified, either sexually or for my domestic skills.”

“Maybe not,” said Simon shaking his head, “She talks too much.” At which Tom spilled half his wine and nearly fell off his stool.

The meal was nice, I had a tuna salad with new potatoes, Simon had lasagne, and I think you can guess what Tom had. I had loads of tuna with my salad, so I think they must have opened a larger can than pubs usually do.

“How long do you think this harassment will go on?”

“Only until I die.”

“Hey it’s the dormouse girl,” someone shouted to his friend. I cringed.

“Yeah that was some trick. I’m pretty sure it’s on YouTube.”

“Oh, great, I’ll check that out tonight.”

“And I have it on DVD,” whispered Tom, chuckling.

“I’m never going to live that down am I?”

“Probably not, but it isn’t everyone who can juggle with dormice so erotically.”

“Oh no, they want my autograph!”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 170

The next morning, I awoke in the strange bed and once I remembered where I was recalled the last time I had slept here, with Simon. I felt really warm thinking about the past, it distracted me from the nuisance of the present. As I lay there and reflected, a less happy thought assailed me.

I had come very close to telling Simon that day, but didn’t. I wonder what would have happened if I had insisted and told him. Life could have been very different. It might have been impossible.

I tried to shift my mood by reminding myself that these things didn’t happen so why worry? Deal with what is happening, it’s bad enough.

My thoughts were interrupted by a tap on my bedroom door, and a familiar face popped around it. “Simon is on the phone. Would you like to speak with him?”

“I suppose I’d better,” I said with mock annoyance.

“Here ya go,” he handed me the cordless handset, “press the green one.” The door shut and I pressed the button.”

“Hiya Simon,” I piped down the phone.

“Hello Babe, so you got back all right?”

“Yes, no problem. Are any of them around today?”

“Just one strange car.”

“Do you think anyone has put two and two together like Des did?”

“I don’t know, I’ll go out and get all the tabloids later and see.”

“Would Des sell his story to one? I mean my story?” I hoped Simon could reassure me.

“I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t.”

“I mean he wouldn’t want to get his own back for my rejection?”

“Good lord no, he gets about twenty rejections to the acceptance. It doesn’t stop him asking mind and he rarely goes without.”

I sat there for a moment wondering how someone could be that sexually motivated, it was such an alien concept to me, then I wondered what it would be like making love as a woman. I hoped it would be good. Then I wondered what it would have been like making love to Des.

“Is that okay?” asked Simon.

“Sorry, you broke up there,” I lied, “I’m on a cordless and it goes faint every so often.”

“I said, I’ll get the papers and Stella and I will check them out and call you if there is anything.”

“Oh yes, thanks that would be great.” The very idea of appearing in the News Of The World, a tabloid which we used to call, News of the Screws, because of its frequent sexual content. It had outted many a seemingly innocent transsexual just for the titillation of its readers. “The bastards!”

“I beg your pudding?” said Simon to my outburst.

“Sorry darling, I was just thinking about all the poor people that have been needlessly exposed by tabloids.”

“Yeah, okay I’ll agree with you on that one. We had a master at school who was gay; I mean we all knew about it, but no one took any notice. He wasn’t camp or anything; in fact he was a nice guy much liked. He was caught at a gay party and exposed; he was suspended by the trustees and topped himself. Hanged himself in his room. Never allowed The Sun near me ever since.”

“I wonder how many times that has happened?” I speculated.

“Dunno, a few times I’ll bet, I mean that was like fifteen years ago, so things are a bit better. It’s only because you’re marrying me that there’s a story.”

“Maybe, or the fact that I rather foolishly get involved in other people’s lives.” Was I rueing what I’d done?

“Oh come off it Cath, you could hardly let the guy nick Stell’s bag could you, and as for leaving that kid to burn? Well, the question answers itself.”

“What about the dormice?”

“They could have burned.” This was a wind up to change the subject.

“You what? How dare you torment my babies like that…”

“I was only joking Cathy, I just wanna wring the neck of that little bugger who jumped down your front.”

“Why? Spike is adorable.”

“Why, if I did that in front of half the world’s press, you wouldn’t accuse me of being adorable?”

The image flashed through my brain making my toes curl, “No I doubt I would think you were adorable, but you’re not small and furry.”

“Part of me is,” said a quiet voice.

“What!” I gasped and nearly fell off the bed laughing.

An hour later, I was dressed and breakfasted and out with Tom and his hound. We walked over some fields and it felt good to get some fresh air and exercise, without fear of being identified.

We entered a woodland and I was able to show Tom a few things he’d have missed. Mainly birds and plants, I couldn’t find any dormice, well signs of, but his dog found some badger poo and rolled in it. It stinks, even in the fresh air.

“You’re quite a good naturalist aren’t you?” said my mentor.

I shrugged, “Depends on who you’re comparing me with.”

“A lab rat like me?”

Before I could answer, his spaniel jumped up at us and we had to jump aside to avoid being rubbed with the smelly mustelid droppings. I know dogs do it to disguise their scent, but really! She couldn’t understand why no one wanted to fuss her, thank goodness we hadn’t come by car.

“I was going to go and get us a roasting joint,” said Tom, pushing the dog away, “but I think someone needs a bath.”

I sniffed under my armpits. He roared with laughter, “You silly bugger!”

We both walked on, making silly conversation to each other and laughing, while avoiding the efforts of Kiki, his spaniel, to jump up at us. I felt like being out with a father, except when I’d been out with my dad, we tolerated each other rather than indulged each other like Tom and I were. I could speculate until doomsday as to whether or not my dad would have come around to my change, if he hadn’t become crippled by the stroke, and I’d still be none the wiser. So I enjoyed this piece of fun while it lasted.

By the time we were walking back to the house, Tom had his arm around me in a protective way, and I found myself enjoying it. He noticed.

“I might seem like a dirty old man, but I’m not, you remind me of someone, that’s all.”

“Mary told me all about it.” I smiled at him, “And I don’t mind, in fact it’s nice, it’s like being out with my dad.”

He beamed at me and yet there was a hint of sadness in his eyes which he hid as soon as he saw me notice. “Long time ago, I should let it go.”

I put my arm around his waist and we walked on, his arm around my shoulder.

“Sunday joint,” I said.

“Oh yes, can you nip out and get one plus all the bits we need?” he asked at my prompt.

“Yes, for how many?”

“You, me, do you want to ask Simon and Stella?”

“Can do, anyone else?” I asked.

“Pippa and her boys?” He suggested.

“Might be too late for that, she probably organised what they were having a week ago.”

“It looks like a good day, give her a ring, the kids can play with Kiki.”

“Yes boss,” I said curtseying.

I did as he asked and phoned around. Pippa said she’d love to come but the boys were at her mother’s for the weekend. So I invited her by herself. Simon and Stella were happy to pig out on my cooking, and they agreed to collect Pippa, well Stella agreed for Simon, he was out collecting newsprint. I set lunch for two, a little late, but to enable me to get it ready.

I dashed to the shops and picked up a piece of silverside, some spuds for roasting, some flour to make Yorkshire puds, and assorted veg. For sweet, I decided I’d do an apple sponge, that is stewed apple with a sponge on top. I got some fresh single cream to pour over it.

Driving back, I detoured two or three times up cul-de-sacs—no one was following me. Daddy had my mobile number and so did the hospital, so I wasn’t too worried about staying in hiding. No one was tailing me when I hid my car around the back of Tom’s house.

When I carried all the shopping in, two journeys were necessary, and a rather damp dog greeted me.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 171

by Angharad & Bonzi Kiddle

I organised myself in the kitchen, checking utensils, knives and things and put the oven on to warm. Prepared the meat and put it safe on top of the cooker, hopefully too high for spaniels with ambition.

I got on with preparing the various veg I’d bought, starting with the potatoes. I peeled a whole saucepan full and quartered them. I parboil mine before roasting they should then be nice and soft inside.

Tom was fiddling in the house, doing something, I don’t know what. I made the batter for the Yorkshire puds and greased the tin. I’d bought rapeseed oil, it doesn’t form transfats on heating like some do.

Then, after a cuppa, I took one to Tom who was checking his wine collection. By the time I’d drunk it, the spuds were half cooked and went in with the meat, though not in the same tin, I would want to crisp them later and shove them in the top of the oven, after the Yorkshires were done.

Then it was peeling carrots and slicing, taking the kale off its stalks and doing some mushrooms. I also sliced an onion. These last two items went in with the joint along with the garlic I’d spread over it first, but not enough to taste other than as a hint.

It was all cooking by itself, so I found the vacuum cleaner and whizzed around with that, then checked the toilets and washbasins. Tom sniggered and shook his head.

“What’s tickled you?” I asked.

“I haven’t seen anyone do that since I had a woman living here.”

“Meaning?” I asked assertively.

“It seems to be a woman thing.”

“I didn’t know it was gender selective, to clean the toilet.” I wasn’t sure if he was complimenting me or taking the piss.

“Cathy, I am trying to say that I appreciate a woman’s touch around the place, that’s all.”

“Oh,” I blushed. “I thought you had a woman who cleans for you.”

“She does an hour or two a week, only keeps the worst of it down. It’s just nice to have a female living here again, even if it’s only temporary.”

“Erm… I have to check the roasties,” I scrambled to the kitchen, blushing furiously. They were of course fine. The clock showed one: I had an hour to finish everything.

“Are you happy to carve, Tom?”

“Yes, there’s one of those spiked carving dishes somewhere.” I found it and wiped it over, then began laying the table. I opened the horseradish sauce and also some English mustard, although I don’t like either—too harsh for my little gob. In fact, I’d just as soon have a tuna jacket potato as all this cholesterol.

I warmed the tin for the Yorkshires and spooned in the batter when it was hot enough, then whipped it back at the top of the oven. They may well be a disaster, but I was pretty sure about everything else.

Tom had changed, so I ran up and showered very quickly, threw on the first skirt and top that matched, some socks and my red boots.

I checked everything, and despite my fears the Yorkshires looked to have risen and browned, and weren’t all gooey and uncooked in the middle. The veg was cooked and waiting and the roasties were browning nicely.

I ran back up to my room, did the quickest makeup job I think I’ve ever done, squirted some smellies, and was putting on my earrings, some dangly ones as I came down the stairs. Then I combed my hair in the cloakroom, it would do, it was mostly dry.

The door bell rang and I wrapped a tea towel around me to act as a pinny—well I doubted Tom would have any—I put it on my mental list to get some more for me anyway.

Tom answered the door, whilst I stood back and kept an eye on the kitchen.

“Cor, something smells nice,” said Simon, handing Tom a couple of bottles of wine. He then walked up to me and embracing me said, “Yes something smells very nice.” Finally, he kissed me.

I missed the other two coming in, as the dinner needed me. I refused offers to help and began dishing up veg and carrying it through. Tom was already carving the beef which had ‘rested’ for a short time. Everything was coming along beautifully, when the relative peace was shattered by a commotion somewhere at the back of the house.

We all rushed to the French windows just in time to see a fox flying across his yard and into the woodshed. Shortly behind were a dozen or more large dogs, at which Tom called in his barking spaniel, before the foxhounds chewed her up instead of the fox.

Tom’s house is an old farmhouse, with a rambling yard and huge garden, well a couple of fields really, which has prevented developers from building around him.

The arrival of the dogs was soon followed by the riders, breaking down hedges and fences. Hunters are big horses and quite intimidating to people like me. I may be a Sagittarian but I am shit-scared of large horseflesh, but not of the small brained twat on its back.

Tom charged out swearing and threatening, whoever was in charge of the hunt, which is supposed to be a drag hunt, as killing animals with dogs is currently prohibited, although no one has told the dogs. So if they get a scent of a fox, it’s business as usual.

I felt this total conflict within me. I despise hunting and wanted to get out there and shout and scream at the fools on the horses which were shitting all over Tom’s yard and garden. The horses I mean, although the way Tom was ranting, the riders might also be filling their pants.

My conflict was my anger with the hunters and my fear of the horses. I stood back with Stella and Pippa as Simon tried to calm things down, pulling Tom off the one rider who had dismounted. The dogs were going bananas around the woodshed but were too big to get in after the fox.

Another rider dismounted and was now jostling Simon, not a good idea. I told Pippa to call the police, and began to join the fray. Anger was now stronger.

The third rider, who was about to grab Simon who had just whacked the second one, didn’t see me coming, or the brush I had in my hand. I whipped it up hard between his legs from behind: he squealed and turned around and I laid him out with a second whack to the chin.

Those on horseback who didn’t retreat got whacked and they did after that. Someone grabbed me and the brush, but Stella hit him on the behind with the small whip dropped by the one the one I’d knocked down. He turned around and my elbow met his solar plexus and a moment later Simon’s knuckles gave him breathing problems. “Leave her alone you bastard,” he said or something like it.

Tom and the first rider were still arguing furiously when the sound of police sirens got everyone’s attention.

Two police crews arrived and after an hour of furious claims and counter claims, of affray and trespass, criminal damage, assault, grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, cruelty to animals, high treason and blasphemy, the hunt withdrew and promised to pay for the damage caused.

We all retired back to the dining room, where a certain spaniel was asleep and the carved, roast joint had disappeared.

“Your dinner is in the dog,” I said, and the place erupted with laughter. The veg had stayed warm, although with a tin of corned beef, wasn’t quite the same.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 100 + 6 Doz. (172)

This episode is dedicated to Erin’s Mum who passed away
January 8, 2008.
The date this was published would have been her 61st anniversary.

The meal was okay I suppose, and I accepted help in clearing it up, although I had tried to do some as I went along.

“There are aprons in the bottom drawer,” called Tom, settling down to chat with Simon. It was too dark to try and do temporary repairs to the fence, so they resolved to empty the wine bottles instead.

Sure enough, Stella pulled out a pinny from the drawer and handed it to me, “Here we are, hostess with the mostest.” It was one with a bib so I slipped it over my neck and tied the waist ties.

I gave Stella the tea cloth, although there was nothing to dry with it as yet. Rinsing everything off, I put most of it in the dishwasher, keeping the glasses out. I prefer to do glasses by hand.

“Is life always this exciting?” asked Pippa.

“Only when Cathy is around,” said Stella. “I mean I only got to meet her when she crashed her bike into my car.”

“What!” I shrieked dropping a large pan with a clatter.

Stella roared and I realised I had been ‘done’ again. Don’t these two ever stop?

“Is that how you met?” asked Pippa.

“Yes,” I said asserting control of the conversation, “I was happily riding along and your assistant there,” I indicated Stella, “knocked me off and into a hedge.”

“I reckon you wobbled into me,” she replied, “and she had no lights on.”

“It was the middle of the afternoon,” I insisted. Pippa looked horrified: I was winning the argument.

“It was as dark as night and torrential rain. I only found you lying in the hedge because of a flash of lightning.”

“I was wearing bright yellow cycling skins.”

Pippa’s head went from one to the other as if she were watching us playing tennis.

“She was in dark colours and wobbling all over the road,” said Stella, winking. “Little did I know that the caterpillar I collided with was going to transform into such a lovely butterfly.”

Pippa looked confused at Stella’s statement.

“It was a boy who fell off the bike,” offered Stella.

“You have completely lost me,” said Pippa.

“It was Charlie, not Cathy who fell off the bike.” Stella’s attempt to explain looked as if it had had the opposite effect.

“What? He changed into a girl afterwards? Did he bang his head or something?”

“No that was later in the pub, and that was Cathy.” Stella was really confusing things, but I was having so much fun seeing her screw it up even more that I kept out of it.

“You have confused me even more.”

“She was still a he, officially then, but because he had no clothes on, he had to borrow some of mine and became a she.”

Even I was having difficulty now.

“How can someone become the opposite sex just by wearing their clothes?” Pippa asked a reasonable question.

“And Simon fancied her immediately, and she fell for him in a big way.”

“Who did?” Pippa shook her head.

“Only because I got my foot caught in a rug and landed on top of him,” I added to the confusion.

“Covered him in red wine, his best shirt too, lying on top of him as bold as brass,” Stella said and Pippa’s eyes widened.

“I couldn’t get up, my heel caught in my skirt,” I pleaded.

“A likely tale, ya floosie, I saw ya rubbin’ yer body against him.”

At this point Pippa went into overload and began giggling. “This is like a joke isn’t it?”

“Then he took her on her first date and she locked herself in the loos and banged her head, then she burns out his clutch or something and flirts with the repair man.”

“What?”

“Stella shut up.” I instructed. “Now what really happened was…” and I explained the whole first day of my transition.

“So you were already on hormones?”

“Yes, but hadn’t had the time or courage to start the process.”

“So I jump started her!” smiled Stella and we all fell about laughing.

“How long ago was all this, a couple of years?”

“July.”

“What? Last year?” Pippa looked confused again. Stella shook her head. “Not this last July?” asked Pippa, and Stella nodded. “You are joking?”

“No, it’s true, 16th of July.”

“That is incredible,” said Pippa her hands up to her mouth.

“What is?” I asked, closing the dishwasher.

“Well, you, that’s what.”

“Me?” Now it was my turn to show confusion. I looked from Stella to Pippa and back again, it offered no help. “Explain, if you will.”

“I thought you were a natural woman until you told me otherwise. There is no way you could achieve that in five or six months.”

“Well, it’s been more of a lifetime’s journey, but only officially and publicly since July.”

“Jesus, that is amazing. I saw you talking to the press the other day. You had them enthralled with you and that little furry thing.”

“Nah, that was Spike, one of the world’s great exhibitionists.” I smirked, then blushed when I remembered how it ended with a frightened, furry flurry flying down my front.

“That was a woman, all woman, who commanded that crowd.”

“What? What did I do?” I implored her because I didn’t have a clue what I had done.

“You seduced every man, and showed solidarity with every woman, even those who were jealous of your youth and good looks.”

“I did?” this was news to me.

“You are just a natural communicator, and sensual with it.”

At this moment I was a tongued tied, blushing mass of confusion.

“Where’s the cloakroom, Cathy?” asked Simon poking his head into the kitchen, “You hot or something? You look rather red.”

“Just been bending down loading the dishwasher.” It was a lie, but a white one, and I escorted him to get me out of the kitchen. As they say, I couldn’t stand the heat, so I got out.

“No, I don’t believe she was ever really a boy, either,” I could still hear the two women discussing me.

“Did you really bash her head with the toilet door?”

“’Fraid so, but I was actually trying to help her,” Stella recounted. I felt my skull, the lump had disappeared now, and I had wondered if there might be lasting brain damage. Maybe there was.

“Anybody want a cuppa?” I asked loudly.

“What, tea?” Tom shouted from the dining room.

“What else?” I shouted back.

“Coffee?”

“Where do you think you are, The Ritz?”

“If I was, I’d have complained about the food. Now make some coffee woman.”

In a huff, I re-entered the kitchen, and boiled the kettle. I found Tom’s ground coffee and made a pot when the kettle boiled. The two women were now sat in the lounge still talking about me, except Simon had also become part of the topic of conversation.

“…What like love at first sight?” said Pippa’s voice.

“Oh I think so for both of them,” added Stella’s.

I shook my head and poured the coffees, delivering them to both men and women. Both pairs were busy chatting.

“So you’re fed up with the cook then?” said Simon, slyly glancing at me.

“Well, yes, she led me to expect great things, but I mean, fancy letting a dog eat the main course.”

“The pudding was okay,” said Simon, “and personally, I think the owner of the dog is to blame.”

“Do you think so?” asked Tom. I was convinced the conversation was entirely for my benefit. At the least the women thought they were being honest, or as close to it as Stella usually managed.

I went back out to the kitchen and made myself some tea and leafed through The Observer.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 173

I waited until the dishwasher had finished, then emptied it, checking everything as I did. I have known them miss bits, but it was all sparkling clean. The glasses I’d collected were washed and dried long since.

The kitchen having been restored to a state of order, I went off to see what the others were doing. “Grab us a bottle of red will you Babes?” asked Simon, otherwise deep in conversation with Tom about cricket and England being humiliated by Sri Lanka or India or someone.

I went off and got them some more wine. I felt like protesting, but they were both ready to drink it. Obviously Stella would be driving.

I checked on the girls, “More coffee or tea?”

“Tea would be nice,” said Stella and Pippa nodded. “Come and sit and talk with us when you’ve made it.”

“Yes ma’am,” I curtseyed, then dashed out before she threw something at me.

Taking the pot of tea and some biscuits in, I poured us each a cup and then sat down to listen to the conversation.

“Where have you been?” asked Stella.

“Emptying the dishwasher, checking around the kitchen and reading the paper.”

“So any mention of anything?”

“There was mention of the film clip on YouTube about the dormouse, as being one of the funniest press conferences ever. But nothing about me per se.”

“Nah, we went through the tabloids and none of them had anything.”

“So what does that mean?” I asked.

“Could be no one has noticed or that it’s no longer newsworthy, which it isn’t.”

“If Simon wasn’t involved or that ruddy dormouse, I would agree. But unfortunately, the two of them mean there is a story,” I said.

“It’s pretty pathetic though isn’t it?” Pippa said it as if she was annoyed. “Can’t they find real stories to write about?”

“Transsexuals tend to be vulnerable and cheap to hit,” I suggested, “plus they use the excuse of, ‘public or human interest’ to justify their intrusion.”

“I spoke to Daddy this morning, and he has had a statement prepared, which says something to the effect that, ‘He isn’t worried what you may or may not have been, only that you are a lovely young woman now of whom Simon is justly proud, and deeply in love’.”

“Awww that is just so sweet,” said Pippa.

“Perhaps a trifle overcooked,” I observed and Stella winked at me then smirked.

“I said much the same, but he was happy with it. Anyway, he’s showing solidarity with us but not starting anything. He had another one prepared in case they ask for a statement for something else.”

“What do you mean ‘something else’?” asked Pippa.

“Well, if they just get wind that something is in the air but don’t know what. I mean Cathy stopping a carload of journalists the other day is not going to ingratiate her with that crowd. So they may decide that they can wheedle it out of Daddy, except they don’t understand him, if they think they can.”

“Oh, well that must be good to know,” said Pippa.

“Yes, Henry’s a good sort,” I said, “apart from wanting to use that bloody photo.”

“Well, it’s out in the public domain now, so there isn’t much point in complaining, is there?” suggested Stella and she had a point, but then she wasn’t in the photo.

We continued drinking our teas and talking until we were interrupted by a shout of anguish. I jumped up and ran out into the lounge.

“What’s happening?” I asked.

“Kiki, she’s rolled in horse shit and gone belting out through the hole in the fence.”

“Well, you knew it was there,” I chided Tom, I could have added silly man.

“I did, but not at the moment I let her out.” He wobbled by the French window.

“You are drunk,” I accused.

“Yes madam but you are beautiful, and tomorrow I’ll be sober. No that’s wrong…” he muttered to himself, mixing up a quote from Winston Churchill.* I knew what it was, but I let him work it out for himself.

I grabbed my coat and told the girls I was going to look for Kiki. Pippa decided to come with me. We found the lead in the kitchen and a torch and set off in the direction the silly spaniel had taken.

We must have looked rather stupid, calling out the dog’s name and peering into drives and gardens. About half an hour later, I spotted something, “There she is, look down there,” I pointed.

“Cor, you’ve got good eyesight,” said Pippa.

“Maybe, it could also be I am more practised at working in the dark.”

“Oh doing the dormouse thingy?”

“Yep, come on or she’ll run off.” We trotted down the road and sure enough, it was our smelly, greedy spaniel. I slipped the lead onto the collar and we walked her home. Once on the lead she was quite good, walking to another bath she knew nothing about.

We walked back to the hole in the fence and found the two men there with shovels, I presumed trying to clear up the horse droppings, but they were so drunk, they were spreading it more about than shifting it. Stella was watching killing herself laughing.

“Wouldn’t it have been quicker for you to do that?” I asked her.

“I offered but neither of the silly buggers would let me.”

“Oh no!” shrieked Pippa, and I turned around just in time to see Tom sit in the biggest pile and laugh himself silly.

“And I thought I was strange?” I said to myself.

“Another one for the bath,” called Stella. She and I helped him up—his trousers and back were plastered but otherwise he was okay, and was unhurt, the most important element. He was still laughing when I ran upstairs and grabbed his dressing gown, while Stella helped him disrobe in the kitchen, at least down to his undies.

Then she helped him upstairs and waited while he showered. Meanwhile, I had ordered Simon indoors like a naughty schoolboy, and Pippa and I shifted the shit in about ten minutes. The dog was tied up and barking at us the whole time.

Finally, I changed and found the tin bath that Tom used for spaniel shampooing. Seeing this, the dog tried to hang herself in escaping. But there was no escape, and once I found a pair of rubber gloves and the dog shampoo, she was in the warm water and scrubbed closer to godliness. I dried her with an old towel I found and shut her in the utility room, where she normally slept. It was quite warm in there and she’d dry soon enough, stupid dog.

When I got back in, I discovered Simon was zonked on the sofa in the lounge and according to Stella, Tom was similarly so in his bed.

“What are we going to do with him?” I asked.

“I’ve tried waking him but he’s really gone,” Stella spoke loudly over Simon’s snoring. “Look I’ll take Pippa home and then we can decide what we do—feel free to try and wake him.”

“Is it worth it?” I asked.

“Doubt it, put the kettle on, won’t be long.”

I said my goodbyes to Pippa who promised to phone me the next day and let me know if the press were still about. Stella took her home.

I was seated at the table in the kitchen when she rang the doorbell. I got up from the unfinished crossword, and clicked the switch on the kettle again.

We drank the tea and between us finished the crossword, congratulating each other on teamwork. Then we tried to wake Simon. He wouldn’t budge.

“I suppose I’d better go home and come back for him?” said Stella.

I looked at the time, “It’s past twelve Stella, wouldn’t it be easier to stay here and try to shift him in the morning? There is another bedroom.”

“Yeah okay, I shall kill him slowly tomorrow,” she said.

“Unless I wake first,” I smiled and we high fived each other.

I showed her upstairs, and went to get a spare nightie for her. The spare room had a bed but it wasn’t made up. “Look Cathy, yours is a double, I’ll share with you.”

“Erm okay,” I gulped.

* Churchill is reputed to have been seen by one of his constituents when he was totally rat-arsed, a common occurrence, as he was an alcoholic. She said to him disdainfully, “Mr Churchill, you are drunk!”

He replied, “Yes madam, I am, but you are ugly, and I shall be sober in the morning.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 14.5 Dozen (174)

“Which side are you going to sleep?” asked Stella.

“I erm, don’t mind.” I was not sure this was a good idea although I scolded myself. We were both girls so what was I worried about? I felt my skull, the lump had gone the memory hadn’t. I had run away from Stella at the pub, I couldn’t now. I hoped that it was just my imagination, I mean she goes out with John and she sleeps over with him, I presume it’s him anyway.

“Okay, well I’ll have this side, nearest the door.” She said throwing the nightie on the pillow, and began to strip off.

I had seen Stella naked, okay, nearly naked in her bra and pants, and she had seen me in all my glory, so it should be all right. Shouldn’t it? I thought then of Monica the nympho, then blushed before I recalled she was a stepmother. Phew!

“You going to stand there all night?” Stella was now down to her undies.

“Erm, no, I was just hoping Simon will be all right. You don’t think I ought to go and sleep with him, just in case, do you?”

“What in case he catches bird flu and they have to shoot him?” She laughed at her own joke.

“No in case he was sick and inhaled his own you know?”

“Vomit, the word is vomit. I doubt it, this is not the first time he has passed out through alcohol and probably won’t be the last. So I wouldn’t worry.”

“I erm do, I worry that he drinks too much.”

“He does but his liver function tests were okay last time I got them done.”

“Oh, I’m glad to hear it.”

“Hopefully when he’s under your thumb properly, you can curb his erroneous ways,” the cackle that came with the remark made me doubt she meant it with any seriousness.”

“Are you coming to bed tonight?”

“Yes of course I am,” I don’t know if my voice wavered as Stella stripped off completely.

“What’s your problem, haven’t you ever seen a naked woman before?” she asked.

“Erm, not really,” I blushed like a flash bulb and didn’t know where to look, but wished the ground would swallow me up.

“No of course you wouldn’t have would you?—unless it was a photo or porno film.”

“I don’t see either of those as other than demeaning women,” I said getting all feminist.

“I agree, but it helps a lot of schoolboys find their way around their dates.” She laughed again and I went off thinking about fruit, then realised she was talking about another sort of date.

“Do you want to look or touch, purely educational, of course?”

“No thanks, I’ll live with any uncertainties,” I said still averting my eyes.

“Okay, cor when it’s cold doesn’t it make your nipples stand up, have you noticed?” She was continuing to tease me.

“Yes I am aware of it,” I answered turning around to undress when I got to my bra. I left my panties on to hide my dangly bits, then hurriedly threw on my nightdress.

“I think it’s back to front old girl,” said Stella laughing again.

When I’d managed to turn it around without removing it she said, “That’s better, but it’s still inside out.”

“Oh sod it,” I said loudly and tore it off, pulled it right way out and put it on again.

“They’ve grown a bit,” said Stella, pointing a finger at my chest.

I blushed and said, “Have they, I hadn’t noticed.”

She roared with laughter, “If you haven’t noticed then your bras must be awfully tight.”

“Oh that’s what it was,” I slapped my forehead, “duh!”

She laughed again and I saw her still naked breasts bounce and quiver as she did so. My eyes were probably out on stalks.

“It’s warmer than I thought, I don’t think I need a nightie after all.” With that, she pulled back the bed clothes and got in, “After all, I’ve got you to keep me warm.”

I nearly fell over.

She was almost rolling about laughing, “Cathy, the look on your face is priceless, come on you silly girl, I’m not going to eat you.” She patted the bed and as I sat down, added, “Unless you eat me first.”

“I’m not hungry,” I said, and the bed shook with her convulsions.

“You are safe, honest,” she sniggered.

I got in and thought, ‘Sod it!’

“What time will you want to get up?” I asked picking up my small travelling alarm clock.

“Oh, between five and six.”

“Are you sure, that’s like four hours from now.” It was already nearly one.

“It was enough for Maggie Thatcher,” came back her reply.

“Yeah but she was only Prime Minister, you have a proper job to do.”

“That’s true. Well, aren’t you going to kiss me goodnight and read me a story?”

“No.” I said it and lay down.

“Okay, well I’ll kiss you and tell you a story.”

“No thanks, I’m fine,” I rolled over with my back towards the centre of the bed. “Goodnight.” I switched off the lamp my side of the bed.

“Oh all right, goodnight to you too.” She switched off her lamp, then pushed her back against mine. She felt cold against me.

Somehow we both managed to fall asleep, well I did anyway and I awoke conscious that she was curled around me with her right hand cupping my breast.

I listened to her breathing: it was regular and slow. I reckoned she was asleep, and I moved her hand a little down to my belly. I started to drift off again, only for her hand to cup my breast again. I moved her hand three times and it floated back up to my boob. In the end I gave up, it was nearly three o’clock, I needed some sleep.

Suddenly a voice behind me said, “What the hell was that? It wasn’t a ghost was it?” And the owner of it squeezed hard on my tit, waking me instantly.

“What?” I said pulling the hand off my right breast.

“That, can’t you hear it?” said the voice, I recognised as Stella’s, and presumed the hand squeezing my breast again was hers, too.

I sat up and listened, “It’s probably Simon crashing around downstairs.”

“No it wasn’t, it sounded like an unearthly wail.”

I sat listening, only wanting to go back to the slumber from which I had been so rudely awoken.

“Oooh, there it is again,” Stella shot towards me shaking.

I certainly heard something. I listened again. Sure enough a couple of minutes later, there was a horrible, “Woooooooooooooooo” sound. I started to laugh.

“What is it, a ghost?” she asked, still shaking and her body clamped to mine.

I was tempted to say ‘yes,’ but didn’t, she’d keep me awake the rest of the night if I did. So I told the truth. “It’s the dog, probably howling in her sleep.”

“Dog? I thought they only barked.”

“Spaniels howl sometimes, usually when they’re asleep, so God knows what they dream about.”

“How do you know that?” she asked.

“I’m a zoologist, trust me.” I lay back down and went to sleep, with her clamped to me in terror.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part One and Three Quarter Hundreds (175)

by Her with the Red Hair

We were surviving, the meteor storm was all around us but the force field around Tardis held. I looked at the Doctor again: he was so dishy and so commanding. He was calling instructions to me and I just pushed buttons or pulled levers.

Suddenly bells started ringing and I felt things moving, a meteor had struck the Tardis and the Doctor was being sucked out into space. I felt something grab me, a hideous alien. I struggled then I felt myself falling too.

I screamed, opening my eyes as I hit the carpet on the bedroom floor. The alarm was still beeping, bloody thing and the ‘alien’ who’d tried to grab me was looking over the bed at me giggling.

“That was so funny, the alarm went off and you started to fall off the bed squealing, something about a doctor. When I tried to grab you, you shrieked and pushed me away.”

I was as yet still lying on the floor, the duvet half on and half off the bed, and I felt about as energetic as one of the zombies from ‘Shaun of the Dead.

I was wanting to say something witty back, but my brain felt as if it had been put into cryogenic storage, and the only retort which came was a yawn. I was too tired even to laugh.

“I hope your squeal about doctors doesn’t mean you are getting cold feet?”

“It’s not just my feet which are cold,” I said.

“Oh dear, does that mean you are having second thoughts?”

“No, it’s the lack of duvet and winter temperatures.” As I tried to untangle myself, Stella fell back on the bed laughing. Is there anything which doesn’t make this woman laugh? A room full of Stellas would be the ideal audience for a comedian, mind you he’d probably be deaf when they’d finished.

I stood up and shivered, finally reaching the alarm clock and shutting off its irritating noise. I was now wide-awake but had a head like the proverbial bucket, so how Simon was going to feel completely baffled me.

Most of me wanted to get back into the bed before it cooled down too much, the rest decided that I needed to act as the hostess and help my future husband and sister-in-law, get some breakfast. Duty won, doesn’t it always? I grabbed a sweatshirt and some pants and pulled them on over the nightdress, then I scuffed into my slippers. It wasn’t elegant, but it was warm and I was too tired to even think about breathing let alone about fashion.

I got downstairs; there was no sign of Simon. Where was he? I rushed into the kitchen, the kettle was hot to the touch. I raced around all the downstairs rooms feeling tired and weepy, where was he?

As I went into the dining room for the second time, he was just coming in through the French window with Kiki on her lead. “Hi sweety pie, the dog needed to go somewhere.”

“How do you feel?” I asked waiting for him to confess to a headache or palpitations, or something. Because that’s how I felt.

“Great,” he grabbed me and hugged me, “Love you.”

“I love you too, don’t you feel at all hung over?”

“No, why should I?”

“Because you had at least a whole bottle of wine yesterday, that’s why.”

“Nah, doesn’t worry me. I take it Stella is still here?”

“Yes, we decided it was easier for you both to sleep here than try and get you home.”

“Sorry about that,” is what he said but I doubt he really meant it.

“The amount you drink worries me Simon.”

“It’s okay, so you don’t need to worry.”

“Okay with you or with me?” I asked wishing I hadn’t started this conversation.

“Just okay, I haven’t got time to debate the issue now. Where is that bloody woman?”

At that, Stella appeared in the kitchen. “Good morning brother,” she addressed to Simon.

“Get your coat on girl, we’re late.” He handed her her coat and bag.

“What, no coffee?”

“Move,” he said angrily.

“Hey, just a minute,” I said the irritation showing in my voice and body language. “The only reason you are late is because you got yourself drunk as a lord and then unconscious.”

Simon roared at the ‘drunk as a lord’ element of my statement and it is very difficult to stay angry when someone is laughing, but I managed it.

“So don’t you dare take it out on your sister for your own mistakes!”

“Finished?” he asked.

“Why?” I asked fuming.

“Boy you are so lovely when you are angry.”

He ran off when I started throwing things at him.

I heard two voices call, “Bye,” and the door slammed shut. It was half past five. I didn’t know what they were on, but I could have done with some.

I went back to the kettle and made a pot of tea and poured myself a cup. Then I had to rest my head a moment, so I sat at the kitchen table with it resting on my forearms. I was still there an hour later when Tom found me complete with cold cuppa.

I heard the kettle click on again and with difficulty, I rose up. “Oh hi,” I said yawning.

“Simon and Stella gone?” he asked making coffee.

“Yeah about half five.” I yawned again.

“I think you need a bit more sleep, so go back to bed.”

“I can’t, I have things to do.”

“Such as?”

“The project.”

“You are not going anywhere near the project like that, it will take too long to undo any mistakes you make. Go to bed, NOW.” The instruction was unmistakeable, even in my zonked out state, so I stopped arguing and went back to bed.

I took a while to get off to sleep, but I managed it eventually and awoke about half past ten, feeling much better. I showered and still wearing only a towel, called Pippa.

“There’s been one suspicious character hanging around but nobody much.”

“See you later.” I hung up before she could respond, and dressed in my cycling gear. I was so muffled up against the cold, I could have been anyone, which was how I got into the university and got them to notify my tutorial students I was open for business.

“Is that your bike?” asked Tim.

I nodded my response.

“Cool,” he said and took his seat with the rest of the group.

It wasn’t the best tutorial I’d done but they seemed satisfied that we had looked at the issues that concerned them.

“Thanks for your solidarity over the last few days.”

Ivan chose to respond for the group. “Prof Agnew said the press were after you and that he’d appreciate our support in not talking to them. We just encouraged everyone else to do the same.”

“Well, hopefully it’s cooled off a bit now.” Did I believe what I had just said, or was it wishful thinking?

“Don’t matta,” said Ivan, “anyone who says anything is in big bovver.”

“Please don’t threaten anyone on my behalf Ivan,” I urged him.

“It isn’t a threat, no one will talk to anyone who breaks ranks.”

“What an old fashioned shunning?” I asked amazed.

“It works, or has done so far.”

“Until they offer money,” I suggested.

“Nah, they won’t enjoy it if they do, we’ll make sure of it,” said Louise.

“Crikey, don’t ever let me fall foul of you lot. Is that why you’re seeing me for tutoring?”

“Don’t ask questions then no one will tell lies. But no it ain’t, you just happen to be da best.”

“Ivan, you look far too nice to be a gangsta.” I smiled at him.

“Look bitch don’t mess wid me or I’ll tell my mummy.” His voice got higher at the end and we all fell about laughing.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 12×14.66666666666666666’ (176)

by Wassername

I had just finished the tutorial and was having a quick cuppa before I started on some letters for the project, when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I said into the hand piece.

“Is that Cathy Watts?”

“Speaking, who is that?” I didn’t recognise the voice, but that was nothing new, could be someone from a uni up country.

“You don’t know me…” Why was my stomach flipping over?

“I work for a well-regarded newspaper and would like to speak with you regarding your forthcoming marriage to Lord Cameron.”

“Sorry, I don’t do interviews,” I snapped.

“But I think you’ll talk to me?” said the voice full of its own conviction.

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” I said and was about to put the phone down.

“Does Lord Cameron realise he’s going to marry a boy?”

“I beg your pardon?” I said meaning, ‘what the fuck?’

“Does he know you’re a boy?”

My head was spinning and I felt sick. I wanted to run screaming, but I needed to know if he was bluffing or if he knew something.

“If I was, I don’t think Simon would have asked me,” I bluffed back.

“Well now, perhaps he doesn’t know.”

“Perhaps neither do you.”

“Oh I know all right.”

“Good for you, even if you are wrong.”

“You realise how embarrassing this could be for your fiancé?”

“What, when he sues you?” I felt so angry.

“I like you Charlie, you’ve got balls! Oh dear I shouldn’t have said that, now you won’t like me.”

“Go to hell,” I suggested very loudly.

“No, I think that’s where you’re going to go tomorrow if you don’t talk to me.”

“What do you mean?” I was feeling very sick at this point.

“Unless you tell us what is going on, we shall go with what we have and that is interesting enough to make the front pages.”

“Of what?”

“Oh that would be telling.”

“Fuck Off!” I said very loudly.

“Very ladylike I’m sure. Will Viscount Stanebury be impressed? I don’t think so.”

I said nothing, desperately trying to find a way out of this nightmare.

“I did so enjoy your dormouse juggling,” continued the voice.

I put the phone down and burst into tears. Then pulling myself together, I called Pippa.

“I’ve just had some seedy tabloid journalist on the phone, they seem to know and they’re going to do a story.”

“Oh sh… ugar!” she said back. “Prof Agnew has gone to a meeting, what can we do?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” I said, tears rolling down my face.

“Have you spoken to Simon?”

“I can’t he’s working.”

“Send him a text and tell Stella as well.”

“Good thinking Batman,” I managed to squeeze out in between sniffs, texting while crying makes it much harder to see the letters on the small screen.

‘Press seem 2 know about my past. Have sum1 snoopin now, wants i/view. Gonna do runna, back 2 Toms. LOL C.xxx’

I pressed send and then repeated it for Stella. Both were working, so I didn’t expect any response. I was in the shit and didn’t know what to do. Then I had an idea.

I punched in the digits, it rang the other end. “Hello?” said the male voice.

“Hi Des, it’s Cathy Watts.”

“Oh yes, we never did get that bike ride.”

“If you promise not to try and seduce me, we could yet.”

“Erm, that’s a big promise.”

“I need a favour.”

“That’s a very big promise,” he said with emphasis.

“Simon would kill you.”

“True, but it was a nice thought.”

I shook my head, here I am going out of my mind and he’s playing sex games!

“So what’s the problem, gorgeous?”

“The press are after me again.”

“Still, you mean?”

I’m at my wits end and he wants to discuss semantics? “Still, again, it doesn’t matter. Some guy just phoned me and asked me if Simon knew he was marrying a boy.”

“Wunnerful, the old blackmail stuff, talk to me or we’ll fuck you up, yes?”

“Pretty well I think. What should I do?”

“That my sweetheart is a good question. Essentially, you can go and talk to him, or you can refuse and see what he has got when he publishes. If you do speak to him, then make sure you have someone in authority who has some experience of dealing with the press, or he’ll shaft you royally. How much did you say on the phone?”

I tried to remember, my mind was blank. “I don’t remember, not a lot. But he did mention Charlie, my old name.”

“Okay, let’s assume he has the basis of a story, he’s either checking it out or he’s not sure enough to go with it. Did you deny it?”

“I can’t remember, I sort of did.”

“Well, if you called up some woman and asked her if she used to be a boy, what would you expect in response?”

“I don’t know, she’d either laugh or swear at me.”

“Exactly, what did you do?”

“I swore at him eventually.”

“Eventually, what does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” I sobbed sniffing and snorting into the phone.

“Come on girl, pull yourself together, you have to fight back not go all girly on me.”

“How can I fight back? I don’t even know who I’m fighting,” I sobbed, “I’ve done nothing wrong,” I wailed.

“Yeah, just different, Simon is the attraction and the fact that you are so damned pretty.” He paused. “He didn’t tell you who he was working for or who he was?”

“No, he didn’t tell me anything about himself.” I was sobbing more quietly now.

“Okay, do you want to really shaft him?”

“Yes, what have I got to do?”

“Give an exclusive to someone else, someone you trust, or at least a paper or TV channel you trust.”

“WHAT!” I shouted probably damaging his hearing for several weeks.

“I think you heard what I said, it’s the only way you can stop him. If you’ve gone live first he has no story, plus you may get to control the content a little more.”

“What, you mean talk to you?”

“If you really wanted to, I suppose I could see you tomorrow, but I’m busy really. Is there a newspaper you trust?”

“One of the heavies, Guardian or Independent, Times or Telegraph at a push.”

“I know someone on The Guardian, or you could talk to the Beeb again, same news team.”

“Oh God, I don’t know Des, oh I feel sick…” I dropped the phone and rushed to the prep room sink and brought up the soup I’d had for lunch.

“Hi I’m back, sorry, I was sick.”

“Okay beautiful, I can appreciate how you feel. Can you get up to Bristol and I’ll set up an interview?”

“God, it’s a long way to go to commit suicide on telly.” I felt really negative.

“No, that’s a good thing. It will mean it goes out on a national bulletin, so impact locally will be reduced, you’ve stolen their thunder. Look I’ve got to go, I have an appointment. Ring me in a couple of hours and if you want, I’ll set things up. Don’t talk to anyone without someone with you, okay?”

“Thanks Des, I’m sorry I was so horrible to you.”

“I was an arsehole Cathy, you responded appropriately. Give me a ring.”

“Okay, thanks Des.” I put the phone down. It was three pm. I had no lights on my bike, so I needed to go in case I had to detour. Shit, this was not going to be much fun.

I changed into my cycling gear and told Pippa I was going home. She warned me to be careful, and to remember what happened last time I fell off a bike. She had a point.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 177

I wheeled my bike to the rear entrance and clipped into the pedals. If I was followed, I would head for traffic, the more the congestion the better.

I was still wrapped up against the cold, so I wasn’t sure if I was recognised or not. Part of me wanted to see my opponents: it would make them more physical and thus more beatable, not some nebulous, nasty voice on a phone.

I wondered how they had found me, but that was fairly obvious—I had hardly kept a low profile. If I hadn’t got involved with Simon, I’d probably have been allowed to remain in relative obscurity except in maybe professional circles.

Well, no good crying over spilt milk, even if Simon and I finished tomorrow, the press would still find me interesting as Dormouse Girl, or the Thief Catcher, or Child Rescuer. I should have stuck to something like stamp collecting. That made me laugh, stick to stamps.

I zipped past the front of the university and was spotted—how do I know? Someone dashed to a car. That suggested an inside source. The car he got into was a Chelsea tractor. Good, they were going to enjoy this—not!

I trundled on watching them faffing about in the traffic; these were probably different creeps to the ones I upset in Bristol. I had a thought. If I went to Bristol, then I’d have to avoid Dad’s house like the plague: they know about that, so I either stay in a hotel or drive up.

The 4×4 had got a little closer. The darkened windows meant I couldn’t see who was in it. ‘Bugger, oh well, so long suckers.

I had about a mile of flat, busy road to negotiate. I was actually heading away from Tom’s but I was giving them a wild-dormouse chase. I made sure they could see me, then I waved to them and stepped on it.

I’m not as fit as I might be, but I wasn’t in too bad a condition, so winding my way between traffic and pedestrians shouldn’t prove too challenging. I hadn’t counted on a pedestrian with a brain smaller than an amoeba’s testicle.

The aforementioned road hazard was in the form of an old lady who was threading her way through the cars as they were moving. In America, she’d have been guilty of jaywalking. Over here, she was just using up the patience of her guardian angel and some of my nine lives.

She was busy, head down darting, perhaps an exaggeration, but moving purposefully if erratically between cars and buses. I was sprinting down the middle of the road at nigh on thirty miles an hour—it was flat.

We met about ten yards from a crossing, hence my questioning her nervous system. We didn’t actually collide, thank God, but it was enough to make me swerve and end up sitting on top of the bonnet of a car. I also called her a few names. She dithered some more and wound in between some more cars.

The sooner she was locked up or run over, the better for other road users. I was so angry and shaking, the man on whose bonnet I rested my bum, wasn’t too pleased either.

“You were going too fast,” he grumbled.

“I have two assassins chasing me, and why was that stupid cow walking in the road? There’s a crossing down there?”

“You have a vivid imagination young woman. Assassins, very funny.”

I shook my head, there was no damage and at least with him stopping, the traffic flow did the same, until I spotted the four-wheel drive coming down the middle of the road.

Oh shit,’ I jumped back on the bike and rode back up the pavement against the traffic—not something I would ever condone, but I was in a hurry.

Of course they spotted me and turned round, tyres screaming and set off in pursuit.

“Maybe she was telling the truth?” said the strange little man whose bonnet had been blessed with my bum, noticing the antics of the large Toyota Land Cruiser.

I knew that one of the roads to my left—I was now cycling on the road again—was a cul-de-sac with a footpath at the end. ‘I’ll lead them up there,’ I thought to myself.

I did just that, and they saw me go down the footpath flanked by two fences of larchlap boarding. I was just at the far end when I saw the car come crashing through it. Shit, these guys don’t take no for an answer. To start with, there could have been pedestrians the other side of the fence or kids playing. They were nuts, they had to be.

I was now getting quite hot and feeling the pace more than a little, and I had a hill to climb yet. I had thought of going around and approaching Tom’s house from the fields at the back. What stopped me were two things. They could follow me, and my wheels would be unsuitable for real off-roading, being race-type tyres.

I twisted and turned in the side streets with the big car following, bullying and intimidating other road users, until he met one of cyclists’ traditional enemies: white van man.

I squeezed past his Transit van in the narrow street, made worse by cars parked on either side. The big Toyota honked and beeped at him, and I laughed at a meeting of my ‘enemies’ until I saw the man dragged from his van and the van being reversed. ‘Bloody hell, they are ruthless.’

I came to a crossroads and turned back towards the university. Ten minutes later, I was back there—in tears.

“I’m going to call the police, this is ridiculous,” Pippa raged.

“No, I’d love for them to be arrested but I’m not sure that would happen. I called Stella.

On the third attempt, her mobile was answered. She obviously excused herself from a patient and tore into me.

“I’m with a patient, what is so bloody important it couldn’t wait?”

“There are two guys who have just chased me all over Portsmouth in a big Toyota, including driving through someone’s fence and dragging a van driver out of his van and moving the van themselves. I am shit-scared.”

“Who are they?”

“I don’t know, I’ve come off my bike once already.”

“You’re on a bike? You silly girl!”

“Well, in traffic, they’d have caught me already in a car.”

“Call Daddy. He’ll do something.”

“What if he’s in a meeting or something?”

“Erm, I’ll call him and get him to call you. Where are you?”

“Back at the university.”

My mobile began to ring, “Hello?” I said praying it was my future father-in-law.

“Hello Cathy, I hear you’re in a spot of bother?”

“Yes a little local difficulty,” I joked back. Then I explained what had happened. I described the car, and sent Pippa out to see if it was nearby. She couldn’t see it.

I went to the back entrance and there it was, down the road—too far away to see the number.

“Okay, this what you’re going to do…” He described a very basic plan.

I was to ride in my skins—Team GB, so very noticeable red, white and blue—and to go towards Cosham. He would arrange an interception they couldn’t ignore.

I was to leave in ten minutes; I could hear someone talking in the background.

“Whatever you do Cathy, do not look back or stop. Keep going in case we can’t stop them for long.”

That didn’t give me much confidence. But I didn’t have any better ideas. I waited then took to the road again.

Sure enough, Big Brother was watching, and set off after me. Once again, I made the most of the congestion, hoping the light would last. Ten or so minutes later, I was on the Cosham road, and so were my shadows—they were gaining on me at a rate of knots, even though I was giving all I had.

Suddenly a police car came screaming out of a lay-by, lights and sirens flashing, another was hammering up from Portsmouth, and a third was blocking the road up ahead. He waved me through but stopped everything else. I carried on for another half a mile and turned back towards Portsmouth and the back road to Tom’s house. I was exhausted and very tearful.

I got home in the dark some half an hour later. Tom was there already and standing by with a large brandy. I didn’t argue, I took a good slug of it and started coughing.

I finished the brandy and waved Tom away, I needed a shower and to relax for five minutes before I spoke to anyone. I drank a large glass of water and went to shower.

Half an hour later, I came back down and Tom seated at the kitchen table, was preparing to pour another shot of brandy. I told him no, I needed a cuppa.

I told him the story, as I knew it. He shook his head. “I could understand it if you were really important, like Princess Di, but you’re not.”

“Which means, there is something going on we don’t know about. This wasn’t just paparazzi. These guys were like the secret service in spy films.” I was very tearful.

I called Stella to ask her to thank her father. “What is going on?”

“I’m not telling you this, all right, but there is a hostile takeover attempt on the bank. Daddy reckons they are trying to link it with you to create maximum bad publicity, to weaken his hand.”

“I thought he owned the major share of the bank.”

“He owns forty nine per cent.”

“Well, that is pretty well fireproof isn’t it?”

“Normally yes, but the hostiles already have thirty percent and are buying shares like no one’s business.”

“I thought that once someone did something like that the shares were frozen.”

“So did I. Anyway, that’s what some of this is about.”

“What do I do?”

“Daddy said to publish and be damned. He believes that you should go back to the BBC and charm everyone like you did before.”

“But isn’t that giving the bad guys what they want?”

“No, because you have some control over what is said. Try and do it live. It’s risky, but then you have the most control you are going to get.”

“I don’t know if they’d wear that.”

“For an exclusive to talk to you, they’d sell their grannies.”

“But I am not important, I’m a biologist trying to do my job and get on with my life.” I began to cry, “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

“You are important Cathy. Now talk to Des, he knows what’s going on, Simon has briefed him. He’s ready to set the terms of the interview to suit you. Oh, and if you go, Simon is on his way to take you. Oh, and wear the dormouse suit.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 14 Dozen + 10 (178)

I called Des—there was no reply. Just what I needed. Tom was on about food, I wasn’t hungry.

“But you have to eat to keep your strength up,” he remonstrated with me.

“Tom, I know what you say makes sense, but if I ate anything now, I should be sick.”

“It might be wind you have, that can make you feel sick. Have some milky coffee.”

I was astonished he could operate the microwave all by himself. Not only that, but he made me a hot milky coffee and I drank it and then ate a banana. I did have wind or methane.

I tried Des again, “Why do people always ring when you’re on the frigging toilet?”

“I checked with your neighbours first and as soon as the bathroom light went on, I phoned.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” he asked rhetorically.

“So what do you advise?” I asked hoping for miracles.

“What do you want to do?” he threw back at me.

“Wake up and find this has all been a bad dream.”

“Oh dear, I was hoping you’d talk about fighting back.”

“I don’t want to fight with anyone, it’s so passé.”

“Oh, fine, then let them set the agenda and you end up dancing to their tune.”

“Have you seen me dance, not a pretty sight.”

“Personally, I’d take the risk and whisk you off your feet anyway.”

“If ever I want to be whisked, I know where to come.”

“Oh yes, I’m a dab hand with a whisk. Now to business, you appear to be dealing with ruthless characters, with all the hallmarks of organised crime.”

“You’re joking, the mob?” I gasped and felt sick again, I did not want to tangle with them. “Can’t I simply disappear?”

“What under a motorway?”

“No, I mean flee the country for a few weeks?”

“Sure, while Simon’s dad loses his bank and you lose all credibility.”

“You mean I had some to lose?”

“Oh Cathy, don’t give me the false modesty trip, you know what you’re good at as well as I do. Why do you think I wanted you do make a film with me?”

“So what do I do?”

“Get your beautiful arse up here and talk to the Beeb, they’ll be the most sympathetic audience you’ll get.”

“What do I say?”

“They’ll discuss that with you, but it’ll be about having a sex change and marrying Simon. These days it should be no big deal, but the fact that you are so damned sexy, and marrying a total moron is news. There’s still time to elope you know?”

“Des, will you think with your brain instead of your dick?”

“Damn, that gives me most of my best ideas.”

“So what do I do Des?” I decided to bring him back on track.

“Be ready with an overnight case and change of clothing. Wear the suit you wore for the press conference and the boots, I love women in boots. Simon is going to be with you anytime now, get him to wear something tidy too. You will be picked up at exactly seven, be ready. You will be taken to Southampton and flown from there to Bristol, from there to the studios where Helen will talk with you, she’s flying down to Bristol on the off chance I can persuade you to come and talk with her. After the studios you’ll be taken to a hotel and put up overnight and they will have you driven back tomorrow.”

“What do I have to say?” I felt very nervous about the whole thing.

“You’re asking me? You are one of the best communicators I have ever seen, say what comes in your head to the questions they ask. Look beautiful and sexy, but innocent, you know chaste and virginal.”

“That won’t be hard, I am.”

“You are what?”

“Chaste and a virgin.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me. It should in this day and age, but with you it doesn’t. Look it’s coming up to Christmas, your middle name isn’t Mary is it?”

“Ha bloody ha, if the hotel is full and I have to stay in the stable, watch out!”

“These days it would be the underground car park.”

“Yeah instead of the ox and the ass, it would be amongst a row of BMWs and the odd Mercedes. With the three wise men from Ace Car Parks Ltd.”

“Cathy, instead of redoing a surreal nativity, go and get changed and tell that moronic fiancé of yours to get himself tidied up too.”

Simon arrived moments after I put the phone down; he had rushed from London and looked hot and bothered. I told him what Des had said and he agreed, rushing up to the shower.

I went up and changed into the blouse and suit I had worn for the meeting with the EU team and the press conference. I packed a nightdress and my toiletries. Simon had met Stella on route and she’d given him a case of clothes. We were ready by six forty five. As we weren’t driving, Simon and Tom had a stiff brandy. I spent most of the time trying not to chew my nails.

The doorbell rang and Tom went to answer it. He admitted a tall policeman. “I have to collect Lord Cameron and Miss Cathy Watts.”

I wasn’t expecting this and felt completely disoriented by it. “Can I see your warrant card please? I’m sorry to be so rude, but I’ve had people trying to kill me all afternoon.”

“Sure,” he said, he pulled out the required object and I thanked him.

I pulled on my coat and gloves and picked up my handbag, Simon collected the cases and we went out to the waiting police car, a huge BMW.

“Why are we being taken by the police?” I whispered to Simon.

“Because there is a risk involved, if the guys who were chasing you earlier knew you were going to the BBC, they’d try and stop you.”

“Oh!” I gasped and fell silent. I didn’t need to know the facts, my imagination was bad enough.

The car absolutely flew along, blue lights flashing much of the way. The roads seemed to clear for it and we were in Southampton airport about half an hour later, which is very good going. We were taken to a small hangar/warehouse on the edge of the airfield and the police waited until we went in, then went haring off again. This was bizarre, like something from a spy film; all it needed now was James Bond to appear.

We were met by two men inside the building and after shaking hands, they took our cases and asked us to follow them. We emerged at the other end of the building and there waiting for us was a small helicopter.

“You don’t expect me to get in that do you?” I said feeling very apprehensive.

“It’s perfectly safe Miss Watts.”

“I expected something with wings on it, not a flying teaspoon.”

“Oh yes very droll.”

“Look sweetheart, just get in the fucking thing all right?” said Simon and practically lifted me inside it. Well, the noise was horrendous once the engine started up and the whirly bit on the roof began to go around.

Then we were airborne and in a few minutes the lights of the airport were quickly disappearing beneath us. We had ear defender things which also had a microphone and speakers attached, it was the only way you could hear anyone speak. I sat hugging Simon’s arm, which he wrapped around me. I was genuinely uncertain about the wisdom of these things, especially one which looked to have a smaller motor than a sit and ride lawn mower.

Amazingly, we were at Bristol airport in under an hour, where a large Mercedes scooped us up and took us to the BBC.

We spoke to the producer and editor of the Ten O’clock News. They wanted to do a recorded piece they could edit. I refused.

“How badly do you want to interview me?” I asked.

“After what it’s cost to get you here, I’d should very much like you to appear on the news and then on Newsnight afterwards.”

“No one mentioned that to me,” I said indignantly.

“Oh, well as you’re already here and Jeremy is on his way down now, we hoped you would speak with him.”

“He’ll eat me alive,” I gasped, Jeremy Paxman is a ferocious interviewer who doesn’t give a toss who he upsets with his badgering questions. He was also no fool, and likely to ask me things I didn’t understand, let alone know the answer to.

“I don’t think so luv. He wants to get the best out of you, and you have no reason to lie to him unlike politicians. We’ll give him instructions to be gentle with you. So will you do it?”

“If he roughs me up then I will…”

“Don’t worry luv, he’s a sweetie, really he is.”

“That’s what they used to say about Joe Stalin.” I huffed and walked back to Simon who put his arm around me protectively.

They ordered some coffee and sandwiches and we were taken to a small room and asked about what would be too sensitive to talk about. To me, everything was too sensitive. I let them think I was post op and Simon picked up on it quickly.

“When are you getting married?”

“When I’ve got my PhD.”

“Why not before?”

“Do you know how much work is involved in one?”

“Oh is it? Still couldn’t you do that as a married woman as easily as a single one?”

“I don’t know, am I not allowed to decide for myself?” I countered.

“Of course you are. Look, have something to eat and drink and we’ll talk when Helen gets here.”

“She had a point,” said Simon.

“So do I, so eat your sandwich!” I snapped at him, “It’s not you they want to interview and dismember on television.”

Easy As …

Part 15 Doz.-1 (179)

by A…

I sat eating sandwiches and glowering at Simon. For two pins, I’d go home and sod the lot of them. Sensing movement, and expecting Helen Brody, the newsreader, I was surprised to see Des walk in the door.

“Hi Simon,” he said. Walking over to me he added, “Hi gorgeous.” It was a wind up for Simon, but as usual he wasn’t playing.

“So what’s going down?” he asked of me.

“I find it a very curious coincident that they have just rubbed me up the wrong way and you appear. What are the odds of that happening?”

He looked momentarily guilty, but he soon recovered, let’s face it he had more neck than the average giraffe. “I warned ’em that you were temperamental.” He winked at Simon but I saw it.

“She’s got a temper and I’m mental,” said Simon.

“Don’t I know it,” said Des, “on both counts.”

I glared at him, “If you’re here to get me talk to Jermey Paxman, you’re wasting your time.”

“Nah, he’ll talk you into that himself. He is extremely charming in person. You’ll love him. I’m here to talk Simon into going on as well.”

Simon did a double take, then visibly paled. “Why?” then added, “The bank?”

Des nodded.

“I can’t, I don’t have the authority to do that, they have proper spokespeople.”

“I have an email from your dad.” He showed it to Simon.

“How do I know it’s genuine?” he asked.

“Call him up if you don’t trust me, while I have a quick snog with your girlfriend.”

Simon pulled out his mobile and hit a rapid dial, “Hi Dad, did you send an email to Des? I can on the points mentioned, just push the attempt to malign and disrupt the proper takeover and mergers protocols. Okay, yes, I’ll tell her.” He looked over to me, “Henry says break a leg or something.”

“I’m not going on the stage tell him.”

“You tell him,” he handed me the phone.

“Hello Henry, it’s Cathy.”

“You sound as sweet as ever young lady.”

“As do you kind sir,” I could flannel too.

“You flatter me.”

“Why do you want Simon to do Newsnight, or me, for that matter?”

“Because I think it’s the best way to break down the prejudice and it also gives us a chance to fight back against these thugs who are damaging my bank.”

“Do you really think it will do either?”

“It’s got to help your case for a beautiful, intelligent and articulate woman to charm the viewers out of their seats. And Simon can get the jump on the bandits after the bank. Will you do it?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“If we get through this crisis, there’s a job for you as environmental advisor.”

“I don’t have time Henry. I want to finish my degree.”

“It won’t require you do very much at all, but it will make us look good and put 50k a year into your pocket, before tax, of course.”

“That is tantamount to bribery Henry. Aren’t you as bad as the guys you’re trying to fight?”

“No, it’s something the board has been looking to appoint for some time. I mean you can do it for free if you want, and donate the money to charity, but I’d have thought, what with a car to run and a wardrobe to maintain, it might be useful and it also gives you independence from Simon.”

“It could compromise other things later on,” I suggested.

“Don’t do it then, but at least speak to Professor Agnew before you decline officially. I’d like you to do it because you have more charm than Bill Oddie or David Bellamy. They don’t turn me on like you do.”

“What is it with you lot?”

“Oh I come from a long line of hot-blooded ancestors.”

“You are a rogue, Henry Cameron.”

“Yes but a classy one, don’t you think?”

“Undoubtedly. I have to go.”

I handed the phone back to Simon, who looked surprised at my conversation.

“I don’t know who is worse, your dad or Dirty Des here?” I said smirking. Des protested his innocence vociferously and Simon sat laughing.

“So you gonna do Paxman?” asked Des.

“When it comes by Lordly decree, do I have a choice? Besides, he said he’d sack Simon if I didn’t.”

“He wouldn’t dare,” riposted Simon, “I know too much.” He smiled smugly.

“I can believe that,” quipped Des at which Simon gave him a Paddington hard stare.

Helen Brody arrived and we shook hands, I introduced her to Simon and Des.

“Are you sitting in on Cathy’s interview as well to reinforce your acceptance of her as a female?”

“I find that patronising,” he said. “Anyone can see she’s female. If they can’t they need glasses.”

“I agree entirely, Lord Cameron, but it’s not me you need to convince. When I met her before I had no idea of her past, and I still have difficulty believing it. I also don’t consider it newsworthy any more, except for the marrying into a noble family.”

“Her family is possibly more noble than mine. Mine are a long line of twisters and crooks who made friends in high places.”

“Wow, a deconstructionist peer! Have you been talking to Tony Benn?”

“Not recently. Besides, he chose to give up his peerage to sit in the commons. I’d prefer the benches in the Lords, were I to take an interest in politics.”

I thought Simon handled himself very well, but it would be nice to have him there. If I asked him he’d do it, but I don’t want that responsibility. He has to make up his own mind.

“Cathy, you’re still happy to talk to me on the programme?” asked Helen.

“Yes but live, I won’t do a recording.”

“Okay, as long as you stick to the agenda we set?” she said looking me in the eye.

“My thoughts entirely,” I stared back.

At this she nodded, and laughed. “Deal?” She proffered her hand.

“Deal,” I agreed shaking it.

Easy As Falling On A Bike

Part 15 Doz. (180)

“You realise you are going to be going from one studio straight to another, do you?” said Des.

“What do you mean?” asked Simon.

“These programmes clash for air time, Newsnight goes out on BBC before the news bulletin finishes. Did you remember that?”

Frankly I hadn’t, but the alternative had been to record the interview, which means they can then edit it. Although I have great respect for these people, I don’t know how much I can trust them. My story is so old hat these days, there are so many transsexuals in the world, it isn’t really news anymore, so it’s the Simon connection which is the draw, and through him, the bank story.

It’s a journalist’s dream really, Russian doll stories, starting with the smallest first and the biggest for the finale. The time rolled on, Paxman was cutting it fine. Then at just before ten pm, I was led to the studio. Simon came along with me. We had both been in makeup and were ready for the Newsnight interview afterwards.

We were led into the studio and settled down. It suddenly struck me that Simon was still with me and was being fitted for a mic. He was staying; he looked like a frightened rabbit. I squeezed his hand, he looked at me and smiled. They did a very quick sound check and the news bulletin started. They did four stories, then suddenly we were led to two chairs on the side of Helen’s console.

“Last week we saw dramatic pictures of a rescue of a baby from a burning car on the M5 motorway, and we spoke to our unlikely heroine, only to discover she had caught a sneak thief the week before, which was captured on camera and we have that clip now.”

I looked at the monitor and saw a very poor quality picture of me, jump on the thief’s back and bring him down to the floor, and the policeman intervene. It was the first time I had seen it, I wish they had prepared me for it. Simon’s eyes were out on stalks. He squeezed my hand.

“We reported then,” continued Helen, “that this special woman was engaged to be married to Lord Cameron. We have since learned that special, isn’t quite a special enough word to describe her. For this thief catching, baby rescuing, dormouse juggling, planet saver has another special quality. She was born a boy.”

My stomach tightened and I’d felt tense since they’d shown the same film of the car fire and the dormouse dive, that they had before.

Helen swung around to face me, “Cathy, when did you realise you should have been a girl?”

“As soon as I realised there was a difference between boys and girls and I was in the wrong group.” I felt myself blush.

“So from a very early age?”

“Yes, in nursery.”

“And how was life growing up as a boy?”

“Difficult. It’s very hard when you know that everyone has expectations of you but you don’t share them. It is very difficult with parents and family.”

“I’m sure, what about school and university?”

“I’m pretty sure there were lots of people who thought I was gay, I was called it often enough, but I wasn’t, I was transgendered or transsexual.”

“Then you changed sex?”

“Yes. The university has been a tremendous help and support, I can’t thank them enough for that.”

“I don’t know. You looked after their Mammal Survey Project when Professor Agnew was ill.”

“It’s part of my job. The prof looks after me, I help him as I can.”

“We spoke to Professor Agnew a short while ago,” the image on the monitor changed to show Tom.

“When did you know Charlie wanted to be Cathy?”

“Cathy confided in me a long time ago.”

“And it has made no difference to your department?”

“Why should it? We employ expertise. She is one of the brightest stars in biological fieldwork I have seen for many a year. Her reputation is growing exponentially. She is also one of the prettiest girls in Portsmouth.”

“How do the students feel about her? We asked a couple.”

Bugger me,’ I thought. They had found some of my tutorial group. “What do you feel about learning your biology tutor used to be a man?”

“That is total bollocks, no one that pretty has ever been a man. Use your eyes!” The next time I saw Ivan, I was going to hug him to death.

“Yes,” agreed Louise and Lesley, “I don’t care what she had on ’er birf sistificate, she’s a woman, always ’as bin. She’s a good tuta too, betta van the uvver one.”

I was cringing.

“With us in the studio is Lord Simon Cameron, Cathy’s fiancé. How did you feel when you learned of Cathy’s secret?”

“Probably about as surprised as she was when she found out my dad was a Viscount.”

“So you both had secrets?”

“Yeah, and I think we were both surprised, but by that time we were in love with each other. I couldn’t believe that anyone who was naturally as beautiful as she is, has ever been a man. I agree with the students, I think she has always been female but just had the wrong tackle.”

“What did you think, when you found out Simon was a peer?”

“I wanted to end the relationship, because I thought it would create lots of negative publicity for him and his family.”

“But I wouldn’t hear of it, and my family once they met her fell in love with her too. My ancestors had some pretty awful characters amongst them, murderers, thieves, traitors—you name it, they probably did it. Nowadays, that’s only of interest to historians. Cathy’s past is only of academic interest. What we all love, me, my family, her family and her colleagues and students alike, is now and the future. She is a beautiful and beautifully natured woman, and we all love her to bits. Her history is just that, history.”

“There is talk that your father’s bank is the subject to a hostile takeover bid, and that the group after it have been rumoured to have some unsavoury connections.”

“It’s because of them this story has become such news. They have been trying to use Cathy’s relationship with me to besmirch the reputation of my family and their position as trustees of the bank. In my opinion, that is like trying to use the Virgin Mary to destroy the reputation of single mothers.”

“So this story has broken to try and denigrate your family and influence a shareholders’ meeting?”

“Absolutely.”

Cut to Jim Doble, finance correspondent. “Cameron’s bank is Merchant Bank, which recently took over the High Street Bank, at a suspected cost of 20 billion pounds. The combined bank now holds assets of somewhere in the region of 600 billion. It is this which the hostile bidder is after, primarily to launder money.

“According to rumours from a reliable source, the bank in question is an Asian one with interests in both China and Russia, both areas where the shadow of organised crime has led to huge profits from ruthless marketing of drugs, sex and illicit arms supplies. These people don’t let anything much get in their way, and both Lord and the future Lady Cameron are under police protection, an attempt being made on her life earlier today.”

Back to Helen, “What happened with the attempt on your life earlier, Cathy?”

“I cycled to work today, and on the way home was pursued by a large four-wheel drive car, they had several goes at running me off the road and one or two other road users. I only escaped when the police intervened and stopped them.”

“So they chased you and tried to knock you off your bike?”

“Yes, they chased me all over Portsmouth. They also made threatening phone calls during the day.”

“Do they realise they’re up against Wonder Woman?”

“No, but they will when she beats them,” joked Simon and I blushed, poking him in the ribs.”

A studio manager led us away as the next item was shown, and we met with the producer again and Des. “Got you a DVD of the interview. Newsnight will have to be postponed, Jeremy’s train broke down somewhere in Wiltshire in the middle of nowhere.”

“’ere get this,” commented the producer, and pointed at a monitor.

“News is just coming in of an attack on Viscount Stanebury, which the police are treating as an attempted murder. His car was riddled with bullets as he drove from the bank’s head office in the City to his home in Hampstead. Reports are that he was unharmed but shocked by this attack.” They showed the Audi and a policeman pointing to bullet holes.

Simon went white and I felt my own stomach flip over. This was far too serious for me. But I couldn’t just disappear, I had to take Stevie for his results next week. Oh boy, what a day!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 181

“Oh shit!” said Simon and bit his lip.

“Call him Simon, I’ll call Stella.”

I punched in her code and got her voicemail. I tried the cottage, there was no answer. I felt my blood pressure rising. She was probably out with John, at least I hoped so.

Simon was still talking to his father. I sent Stella a text message to call me as soon as she could.

“He’s okay, thank goodness, said I did okay on the interview.” He almost puffed out his chest with pride.

“Okay, you were wonderful.” I hugged and kissed him. “I can’t get hold of Stella. Was she going out?”

“I don’t know, she could have been.” He shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of hopelessness. “She tells me very little.”

‘And you don’t listen when she does,’ went through my mind. “What do we do next?”

“There’s a limo coming to take you to your hotel,” offered Des. “Least that’s the plan.”

“So do we wait out front?”

“No, you stay here until we decide it’s safe. The attack on Henry means you are possible targets.” Des then went towards the main entrance.

“Won’t it be dangerous for him, too?”

“Dunno, he’s not easily frightened. That guy did a documentary about crocodiles, he swam with them.” Simon was obviously impressed with his friend.

“He probably told them if they ate him it would be on camera and everyone would know what rotten reptiles they were.” I tried to lighten things up a little.

Simon laughed rather more than I thought was warranted. “You’ve got him summed up.”

I smiled as enigmatically as I could, not sure if I had summed up Des or just made a joke.

My phone beeped for text. I pulled it out, then cursed.

“What was that?” asked Simon.

“My mobile supplier offering me cheap rate calls abroad.”

“Oh, could be a good idea.”

“While some sunshine would be brilliant, I have an appointment in a couple of weeks with the plumber, remember?”

“Oh yes.”

“Otherwise you’ll never get your connubials.” I smiled again.

“Oh yes ma’am, I do want them.”

“Thought you might.” I smiled enigmatically again. It was a look I was trying to perfect, the problem is without a mirror, you can’t tell how it looks.

“You keep giving me funny smiles,” said Simon.

“Do they puzzle you?” I asked.

“Only why you keep doing it.”

“Oh,” I said blushing, back to the drawing board.

“Your car is here,” Des said, returning, “and he’s kosher.”

The hotel was the same group as the one at Southsea, ‘Travellux.’ So did Henry own this one as well?

“We’re booked in as Mr and Mrs Simon,” whispered Mr Simon as we entered the place.

“You’re Paul and I’m Art, don’t tell me?” I answered back.

“Art isn’t a girl’s name is it?”

“Duh! Simon and Garfunkel.”

“Who are they?” said Simon looking puzzled.

“Two huge American pop…” I looked at him and he was holding back a laugh.

“You pig!” I scolded him.

We registered and were taken up to the top floor, it was a penthouse suite. I wondered who was paying for it, then thought, ‘Blow it, I’m not, so I’m gonna enjoy myself.

While Simon tried to call Stella, I went and ran a bath, used up the sachet of bath salts and sat in the wonderfully warm water, where I relaxed so much I fell asleep, until Simon hosed me down with cold water from the shower. I will kill that man one of these days!

“Your wine is getting warm,” he said when I stopped coughing.

“What wine?”

“I ordered you some when you first got in the bath.”

“Did you?” I didn’t know what day it was, leave alone anything else.

“Yes, plus a snack meal.”

“Food? You’re not hungry are you?” I didn’t feel particularly so.

“Yes, since the cook left, my eating habits are all a bit upsy-downsy.”

“Poor you,” I said, wondering what he’d ordered.

I waited for him to leave before getting out of the bath, very aware of something dangling that I didn’t want anyone to see. I wrapped myself in the towelling robe hanging on the back of the door.

“Can I get my nightie on?” I asked.

“Hurry then.”

I threw it on quickly and pulled on the matching panties, tucking the obtrusive bits back between my legs. I was going to be so pleased for those to be sorted. Just two or three weeks to go.

“Here,” said Simon, handing me a glass of champagne.

“You didn’t order this, did you?”

“No, it’s complimentary, they give a bottle of Bollinger to everyone.”

“Oh that’s all right then,” I said feeling relieved.

He started to roar with laughter.

I knew I was the cause of it and blushed. “What did I say that was so funny?”

“This stuff at hotel rates is a couple of hundred quid a bottle.”

“Oh,” I felt really stupid. “Who is paying for it?”

“My dad, I reckon we earned it.”

“Does he know?” I asked feeling less positive about it than Simon did.”

“He’s got other stuff to worry about. Besides we got him some good publicity tonight, so he won’t mind.”

It felt strange to be drinking a wine that I couldn’t distinguish from a Marks and Spencer one. They did champagne too and I’ll bet it was better value than this bottle. It tasted like any old champagne to me.

The snacks were a ‘cold table,’ a selection of cold meats, cheeses, salad and fruit, plus some bread sticks. It was delicious and I certainly ate my share.

“Let’s take the rest of the wine to bed,” said Simon.

“Shouldn’t we be trying to find Stella?” I asked feeling guilty.

“I’ll try and ring her again, but what else can I do?”

“Has she spoken to your dad?”

“He didn’t say so, so she could have done, but I doubt it. I can’t ring him and ask because all it will do is worry him?”

“Where else is she likely to be?” I asked.

“She’s probably out getting as pissed as a fart and screwing John till he begs for mercy.”

Declining to take any hints from this conversation, I tried calling her mobile again. Only voicemail, I left a message, again. Simon called the cottage, there was no answer. We had tried.

The problem was we couldn’t do anything until morning, and then we still had to get to Portsmouth. By then anything could have happened. We needed someone closer. I phoned Tom.

“That was one sneaky interview you gave, and how did they find some of my tutorial students?”

“They volunteered and Pippa volunteered me.”

“A likely tale,” I joked.

“Simon did well.”

“He was brilliant, and I thought he handled the bank stuff well, too.”

“Yes, he was quite good, you looked nice, that suit really suits you.”

“Thanks Tom, I need a favour.” Before he could ask what, I started. “We can’t seem to get hold of Stella, could you check out the cottage tomorrow morning and make sure nothing has happened there?”

“I’ll go now if you want?”

“No, she might just be out with friends and either return later or whatever, she isn’t answering her mobile, so she might be out clubbing or something.”

“Okay, I’ll pop over there first thing.”

“Thanks Tom, and thanks for your kindness with the interview.”

“Got to keep my cook happy.”

What is this about men and cooking? Or is it men and their stomachs? “I’ll cook you the best curry you’ve ever tasted, when I get back.”

“You don’t eat curry, Cathy.”

“So?”

“So how can you know what is a good or a bad one?”

He was being logical, I just wanted to thank him. Damn! “Okay, if you can keep that mutt of yours under control, I’ll do you another roast dinner.”

“On Sunday?”

“Probably, I’ll have to check I don’t have anything else to do.”

“Okay, you have a date.” He put the phone down.

I snuggled up with Simon. He gently stroked my breasts and I felt something twitching in my knickers. I’d stopped the oestrogens after seeing Mr O’Rourke, to reduce thrombosis risk. It possibly made me randier—debatable— but it certainly meant something was trying to reach an expanded state. I felt very embarrassed by it and turned my back to Simon, snuggling into him, hoping he wouldn’t see or feel my bulge. At the same time I reached back and felt his, and began stroking it. I felt his breathing increase and also his hands stopped stroking my chest. Moments later he groaned then rushed out to the bathroom. I just lay back and smiled.

I was snuggled into Simon when the phone rang. My mobile. I was tempted to let voice mail take it when I realised where we were and that we had been worried about Stella. That was probably her now.

I rolled over and picked up the phone, “Hello,” I said sleepily.

“Cathy, it’s Tom, I’m at the cottage. No sign of Stella and the door is open, I’ve called the police.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 182

“Tom, do not go in until the police get there?” I said loudly down the phone.

“Wassup?” asked Simon.

I waved him to be quiet. “Tom where are you?”

“It’s a bit of a mess, stuff all over the place.”

“The cottage has been broken into? No sign of Stella so far?” I said to Simon, who paled visibly.

He went on muttering something, but I was listening to Tom who was calling Stella and saying who he was. Then I could hear police sirens from the phone, so presumed the cavalry had arrived.

“I have to go, Cathy. The police are here, I’ll call you later.”

“Jeez, what more can happen?” said Simon. He looked very angry.

“Look Si, neither of us has had much sleep. Go and shower while I call room service and have something sent up.”

“I’m not too hungry,” he said.

“Neither am I, but I have a feeling this could be a long day.” I put my arm around his waist. “We can call the hospital later and see if she’s turned up for work. She might have stayed with John?”

“Yeah okay, order me some coffee and a bit of toast,” he said and went off to the shower.

I called room service and ordered two full English breakfasts plus tea and coffee. I also asked them to be as quick as they could.

The food arrived while I was showering; Simon tipped the waiter and was busy pouring tea and coffee when I emerged in the towelling robe.

He seemed to eat with gusto, I had to force mine down. I don’t like big breakfasts but I had this feeling that food would not be a priority for the rest of the day.

“Where else could she be?” I asked Simon who was busy on his fourth piece of toast and marmalade.

“Search me?” he shrugged and reached for another slice of toast. I’d had one and left half my bacon and egg. The tea was good.

“What happens next?” I asked with regard to going home.

“A car is supposed to arrive about nine, to avoid the M5 rush hour.”

“Oh, so we won’t be there until lunchtime.” It wasn’t even eight yet.

“Sod it, I’m gonna hire a chopper.” He picked up his mobile.

“Can’t we do fixed wing?” I asked not wanting to get in another helicopter for a while, not longer than say, a lifetime.

“No, you come down by car, I’ll meet you later.” He picked up the service phone, “This is Lord Cameron, get me a motorbike taxi, I need to be at the airport in half an hour.”

“A what taxi?”

“It’s a motorbike not a car, gets through the traffic easier.”

“Oh!” I didn’t even know they existed. “Please be careful,” I hugged and kissed him. “I don’t want to be widowed before I’m married.”

“They can’t hurt me, I’m an aristocrat,” he smiled.

“Erm, what do I do about the bill for this place?”

“Oh that’s taken care of, just sign out, it automatically goes to the bank.”

“I can’t sign it, I don’t work for the bank.”

“Yes you do, Environmental Consultant.”

“But I haven’t agreed to that yet!”

“No but I have, your first paycheque should be in the bank by now.”

“What!” I was about to argue with him, when my mobile rang and so did the service phone.

“Yes?” I snapped into my phone.

“Hey, don’t take that tone of voice with me.”

“Sorry Tom, getting a bit tense.”

“Okay I’ll forgive you. The good news is no Stella, the bad is, they trashed the house.”

“Well, thank goodness for small mercies.” I was relieved there was no body.

Simon mouthed, ‘Tom?’

I held the phone to my chest, “Yes no sign of Stella and the place has been trashed.”

“Fuck that, I’ve gotta go, bring my bag with you?”

“Course I will,” I kissed him goodbye and he grabbed his coat and was gone. He would be quite cold before he got to the airport.

“Okay Tom, do they know what happened?”

“No idea. Can’t say she was or wasn’t here.”

“Damn, there’s a car supposedly bringing me back later this morning.”

“You have a key to get in?”

“Yes, in my bag.”

“Good, I’ll see you later. If you dash off somewhere, tell me.”

“Okay Tom, I’m not likely to do that, that’s boy stuff.”

“Yeah, yeah, I remember Emma Peel and her bike leathers, how do I know the updated version isn’t a lycra ladette?”

“Erm…” before I could reply he was gone. I went back to dress, ‘John Steed’ had packed his bag and left it on the bed.

I took my time and called Stella several times. She wasn’t at the hospital, for some reason she didn’t have a clinic booked today. It gave me a little hope that she was simply away somewhere, but why didn’t she tell anyone?

The phone rang—it was my driver. A bellboy came up for the bags and took me down to the reception desk. “If you could sign here please, Lady Cameron.” I was going to protest but thought, ‘what the hell.’ “I trust everything was to your satisfaction?”

“Yes it was fine thank you, I was quite impressed with the room service last night and again this morning.”

“You’re very kind, but if you could relay that to Lord Stanebury, we’d be most grateful.”

“But of course.”

“Did you want to inspect the kitchens or anywhere else?”

“No thank you, I have to dash off.”

“Thank you for staying with us.”

I nodded, or I was going to be here all day.

I made a little small talk with the driver, but he seemed more interested in the radio, so I found myself nodding off. I’d asked him to drop me off at the town centre, where I gave him a fiver and walked round the corner to a taxi rank. From there I went to Tom’s house.

Once in a pair of jeans and trainers, I felt more action minded. I again tried Stella. No answer, even her voice mail was off, which puzzled me.

I drove over to the cottage, now less than worried about the press. It was a mess, it had been searched. Thankfully, they weren’t vandals, so whilst they ripped out the back of wardrobes and things, they didn’t rip up the clothing. I took several more items down to the car. I didn’t think I’d be coming back for a while.

I tidied up Stella and Simon’s clothes, but left everything else. The young copper on the door was bored stiff, but he had his job to do, so after making him a cuppa and some sandwiches, I left.

My phone received a text as I was driving back to Tom’s. I pulled over as soon as I could. It was from Stella, or at least from her phone.

‘Wot is goin on?
Stel.’

I called back her phone. This time she answered it. We talked for a few minutes. When she heard about the attack on her dad and the house break-in, she was shocked, and then cried. She asked me to come and get her. She was at a private clinic on the outskirts of the city. I knew where it was, because I sometimes cycled out there going to the downs. I was puzzled to say the least.

I drove there as quickly as I could. She was sat inside talking on her mobile. I waited, picking up the overnight case she had with her. She looked the same. Well, she looked pale and drawn, so she hadn’t had any plastic surgery as far as I could tell, I mean she didn’t look like Jordan or Anne Robinson, the former with basketballs for boobs and the latter with a face like botoxed ferret.

“I think you’d better come back to Tom’s. They’re waiting for a locksmith to secure the house, new front door etc.”

“Oh, did Simon authorise that?”

“No I did on your behalf. I hope that’s okay.”

“Sure, I’ll need more clothes.”

“I’ll drop you off at Tom’s and go get some for you.”

“No! Let’s go to the cottage now, sort it in one go.” She paused as if getting her breath. “You won’t tell Simon where you found me will you?”

“Where did I pick you up then?”

“John’s house.”

“Okay, but I don’t understand the need for secrecy between us. I mean it’s not as if you just had an abor… oh shit! You didn’t did you?”

I glanced at her, she was nodding and the tears were streaming down her face.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 183

I pulled over into a lay-by and switched off the engine. “Want to talk about it?”

She looked straight ahead through the windscreen at the back of a petrol tanker parked in front of us. The tears continued to flow.

“Please don’t tell Simon and please never tell my father. He’ll be heartbroken.”

“It’s not my job to tell anyone, but if you had trusted me, I would have tried to help. You helped me, Sis.” I wanted us to stay friends. I really liked her and cared for her.

“I did think about it, then all this business about your exposure happened and I didn’t have time. I wanted to get the termination over as quickly as possible; I’m trying to see this as only a collection of cells rather than a little person. But I’ve still killed my own baby.”

“It isn’t a baby until it’s born.”

“I know that officially, and I know loads of things could have happened between now and delivery.”

“So maybe what you did has saved it some suffering.” I was trying to be upbeat about it.

“Come on, Cathy. I killed it for my convenience.”

“If that’s what you think?”

“Yeah, it’s not what I think, it’s what I know.”

“You are upset, and tired. Let’s go and collect some clothes and get you back to Tom’s.” I was quickly becoming convinced that this was beyond my capabilities to deal with on my own.

“You wouldn’t have done it would you?”

“It would be rather difficult,” I said, blushingly aware of my shortcomings in the breeding department.

“Wouldn’t you like to bear a child?”

“Of course I would, but it isn’t going to happen. I try to live within what is possible rather than dream the impossible.”

“It may be possible one day,” she said almost abstractedly, as if she was looking into a crystal ball.

“It won’t be in time for me, besides there will be loads of woman who are better qualified anatomically than I am, to carry a baby. I’m a bit small in the hip department.”

Stella nodded almost as if she was in a trance. The tears were still dropping into her lap.

“When did you decide to do it?” I asked her.

“Last week. John will move on, he’ll get his registrarship somewhere else and that’ll be that. I don’t have time or inclination towards motherhood. I made a mistake, forgot the pill one night.”

“Isn’t there a morning after pill?”

“Yeah, but of course, chances of catching are very small, so I decided to risk it and now I’m a baby killer.”

“I don’t think so. Can I be a witness for the defence?”

She didn’t answer, so I pitched it anyway. “You are an amazing woman who has looked after me like a big sister, and Simon, like a second mother. You have a very busy and important job, to which you are dedicated. In doing it you are helping hundreds of people every year. You are one of the kindest people I know. At this moment, your world is under threat of change, especially if I marry Simon. There is also all sorts of things going on affecting your father and his commercial empire. You are under a lot of stress and I think you have to accept that things you do might be seen out of perspective. You did what you thought was for the best. I think it would be a good idea to let it rest there until you have had some time to recover and a chance to talk it over with someone better qualified than I am. So stop crying and give me a hug.”

She looked at me shook her head and I pulled her towards me. “I don’t deserve you, Cathy.”

“Rubbish, you’ve done enough bad things to deserve at least several years of me.” It wasn’t the brightest thing to say but I felt like saying something nonsensical.

It took her a moment to process what I had said. Then she smiled. “You are silly, but I do love you, Little Sister.”

“I love you too, Big Sister.” We hugged again. “Come on, let’s go get you some more clothes.”

We did just that. I was surprised the front wheels were still touching the ground, there was so much in the back of my little car. I took it carefully back to Tom’s house all the time checking we weren’t being followed. While we were loading the car, the workman with the new door arrived and started to fit it. Stella signed his worksheet and told him where to send the bill. He gave us several keys.

Tom’s eyebrows nearly went off the top of his head when he saw how many clothes we were bringing in. However, he had seen the mess and knew how long it was going to take to repair everything.

Stella seemed a bit withdrawn and I suggested she go to bed for a bit. I told Tom she felt violated by the break-in, which he seemed to accept. I made her up a tray with a light meal on it, while our jacket potatoes were cremating themselves in the microwave.

She was dozing but woke when I entered the room. I explained what I said to Tom which she agreed was okay. She burst into tears again saying she was unworthy of my love, and I reassured her that I had felt like that towards her not so long ago. She smiled and nodded.

“If you want to talk, or just be with someone let me know. Anytime if I’m here.” I made her agree to it and went to feed Tom.

I made a fuss of him, saying he was wonderful to open his house to all us waifs and strays.

He beamed back, “It’s wonderful to see the place alive again. It almost makes me pleased to live here.”

“You are so kind Tom, to take us all in.”

“Isn’t that what friends are for? Besides I get to keep the cook for a bit longer.”

What can you say to anyone who hits you with an answer like that?

We sat down to eat and he asked me to stay home tomorrow because the builders were coming to fix the fencing. That suited me fine, all I had to do was persuade Stella to have a day off as well and I could look after her while I was at it.

I went up to get her tray, she hadn’t eaten much. I wasn’t too surprised. She was awake and I told her that she was staying home tomorrow.

“Okay Cathy, I had taken a few days off anyway, but you can mother me if you like.”

“I like,” I said and hugged her again.

I sat with her for a little while and she went off to sleep. She was precious to me and I wanted to do my utmost to make sure she got over this incident.

I checked on her when I went to bed, she was sleeping properly then and I tucked her in and whispered goodnight. Then went to my own bed.

Simon was staying at his parent’s house. His father was okay but still quite shaken. We had spoken briefly on the phone, it wasn’t a secure line. I told him Stella was okay, but badly upset about the house. He was genuinely pleased she was safe.

I didn’t know what to believe about the story he had told on TV. I had always thought that money laundering was one of those insidious things that organised crime did, drawing as little attention to its activities as possible.

I wondered if he’d ever tell me what was really going on.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 184

I went to bed with the events of the day buzzing around inside my head, it didn’t make for easy sleeping despite the poor night before. Exhaustion eventually took over and I did sleep, but I was concerned about what was going on.

Tom had kept copies of papers which had mentioned the stories of my personal circumstances. I had looked on the Internet and there were arguments about, ‘How can someone who was born a male become a lady?’ With a response that, ‘Under non-discrimination laws, it was perfectly possible.’

Some of the comments were reasonable and well thought out, others were dreadful and full of prejudice. Rants, rather than arguments. Some were from ‘wimyn’ who sounded like feminist activists, and they sparked answers from other women, one presumes, who argued it was wrong to judge others.

‘How can these effeminate men call themselves women, let alone Lady Muck? (It’s a male dominated system anyway which grants titles for marrying men!). No matter what pills, potions or surgery they have, they’ll just be eunuchs with tits! Sista Eileen, Real Active Wimyn.’

‘How can you be so sure who is what, such certainty is surely borne of a juvenile regard for black and white views on a grey subject. I don’t have a problem seeing these people as female any more than I do you. Fundamentalism is standing so close to the bark, that you can’t see the trees for the tree. Karen X, just an ordinary woman.’

‘So if I don’t want to work no more, all I need to do is get my d*ck cut off and marry a arsticrot? Sounds good 2 me. Gotta pay better than benifits. Darren won’t work.’

‘I think it takes more than that that Darren, besides if you did that your one hand would get no exercise at all! 😉 Odd sod.’

‘If you go through with this sex change Bill, you’ll be no son of mine! Heehaw.’

‘A friend of mine went through all the assessment and surgery to change her sex. She was attacked and raped by a gang of teenage thugs. She killed herself three months later. It’s not transexuals who need condemning, it’s those little bastards who roam around in gangs wearing hooded jackets. Too ashamed to show their ugly faces to the world. Scum bags! A Bereft Friend.’

‘Shoot the bloody lot of them, bloody perverts! Sergeant Major.’

‘I find your proclivity to violence more frightening than going on a date with someone who’s a had a sex change! Chancer.’

And so on and so on. I saw there were ninety-four responses. Do normal people visit the Internet? Possibly not. I also assumed anyone who called themselves ‘Sergeant Major’ had probably never been closer to the army than watching Trooping of the Colour on TV.

Maybe the one which upset the most was that of the radical feminist. I’m a feminist in wanting better pay and conditions for women, and for supporting things like crèches and child facilities. However, I’m also in favour of enabling men to become more family oriented too.

Most GID sufferers are accused of having very stereotypical gender roles. In some ways I do, in others I don’t. Fiddling with bikes is hardly a femmy thing to do, but spoiling someone by nurturing them isn’t very butch either. I’m just me, confused of Portsmouth.

I pulled myself out of bed when I heard Tom moving around. My eyeballs felt like they’d fallen in the sugar bowl or sand pit. I had got some sleep, but not as much as I’d liked to have had.

I showered, not because I was dirty, but because I was trying to wake myself up. I dressed in jeans and a tee shirt and went down to see if Stella was up. She wasn’t. I made her some coffee and went up to her bedroom.

I knocked and walked in, she was still asleep, although something didn’t feel right, and she looked very pale. I drew the curtains, she didn’t move, and she did look pale. I felt her, she was cold and clammy and her pulse was racing—oh shit she was in shock.

“Stella,” I called trying to wake her. She was unresponsive.

I pulled back the bedclothes and there was a pool of blood soaking into her nightdress and the sheets.

I ran screaming for Tom, “Call an ambulance, now! She’s haemorrhaging badly.”

“What?” shouted Tom.

“Call an ambulance! She is dying from blood loss, hurry.”

He was running up the stairs and dialling 999 as he ran, he handed me the phone.

“Hello emergency, which service do you require?”

“Ambulance, quickly please my friend is bleeding to death.”

“What’s happening?”

“She had a termination yesterday and is haemorrhaging badly, she’s unconscious in shock.”

“An ambulance is on its way. Where are you?”

I gave them the address and directions, my name and anything else they wanted, I just wanted them here as quickly as possible.

“Stella, hang in there kiddo, you’re gonna make it, the cavalry are on the way, just hang in there!” I was crying as I spoke to her, squeezing her hand and rubbing her forehead.

“Don’t give in, Stella. Come on, you’re matron of honour at my wedding. How am I going to plan it without your help? How is Simon going tie his shoes? Come on, girl, hang on in there.”

A siren sounded in the distance, Tom ran downstairs to let them in.

Moments later two breathless paramedics and a stretcher were entering the room, I drew back the bedclothes and showed the blood loss. The senior paramedic shook his head, but set up a drip on each arm. Then the four of us manhandled her onto the stretcher and somehow got her downstairs. I jumped in the back of the ambulance, grabbing my coat and bag en route.

They fixed her up to various monitors which showed she was in real trouble. Then telling me to hang on tight, his mate put his foot down and with sirens wailing, we hammered through the streets of Portsmouth at goodness knows what speed.

Her blood pressure was so low, but it was stabilising with the drips. I kept talking to her, telling her keep going, that she was going to be all right, just to hang on. The paramedic in the back with me kept monitoring and shaking his head.

I refused to believe this could happen. I was crying and trying to be helpful. Stella didn’t need negative messages, she needed hope. She was still alive, but only just.

The ambulance screamed to a stop and the two paramedics ripped open the doors and pulling the stretcher out on its wheels ran with it through the flap doors to Accident and Emergency. She was taken straight into a cubicle and with one look at her, the duty doctor ordered four units of O neg blood. Even I knew it was universal donor. They would cross match and then fill her up with her regular group later.

I was led out to the office to give her details to the nurse. I couldn’t help Stella now, the experts would do that, so I tried to help the experts.

“So what happened?”

“She had a termination yesterday or the day before. I picked her up from the clinic. She went to bed after a light meal last night and she was okay, I think she was when I checked on her when I went to bed, about eleven or so. I went to take her a cuppa about half seven and found her unconscious, cold and sweating. I pulled back the sheets and saw the blood, she has lost a great deal. Then I called the ambulance.”

She took Stella’s name and address. “This sounds familiar, she’s not a nurse is she?”

“Yeah a nurse specialist in urology.”

“Are you the woman who was on the TV the other night with her brother?”

“Yeah, that was me.”

“Good luck, I think you’re very brave.”

“Erm, thanks, but right now, I’m more worried about saving my sister-in-law to be.”

“Yeah of course, we’ll do all we can. Go and have a seat in the waiting room.”

“I need to call her family, can I use my mobile?”

“Can you do it outside?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I called Simon’s mobile, his voice mail cut in. He could be anywhere. “Hi Simon, it’s Cathy, Stella is critically ill in hospital. Call me urgently.”

Then I called her father. “Hi Henry, it’s Cathy.”

“Hello Cathy, to what do I attribute this pleasure?”

“Stella is very ill in hospital, I just arrived with her in the ambulance.”

“What happened?”

“She has haemorrhaged down below, I found her unconscious when I went to call her.”

“Where is she?”

“Queen Mary.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Have you told Simon?”

“I left him a voicemail, he’s not answering his mobile.”

“Okay, I’ll page him. Can you stay there?”

“I’m not going anywhere until she’s okay.”

“Good for you girl, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Thanks Henry.”

“No Catherine, it is I who should be thanking you.”

“See ya soon.” I blushed and rang off.

I watched doctors and nurses rushing back and fore like scalded cats. At one point three of them arrived at once. I learned later it was the ‘Crash Team.’ She had arrested and they managed to start her again.

I was in a sort of dream, or it felt like it. I was sure I’d wake up in a moment, except I knew this was real. I was too worried and scared to do anything other than worry and pray. I thought of Marguerite, and wished she were there to hold my hand and talk me through this, praying to a God I wasn’t sure existed.

On a whim I phoned her. “Hello vicarage,” said a female voice.

“Is that Marguerite?”

“It is, who is that?”

“It’s Cathy Watts. You may remember we talked a while back.”

“I saw you on TV the other night.”

“I need your help.”

“Why, what has happened?”

I explained through tears what had transpired that morning and my need to believe in something, if only the cleverness of the emergency team. She comforted and consoled me and together we said the Lord’s prayer, which was ingrained in me.

“I have to go Cathy, but I’ll go straight down to the church and light a candle for her.”

“Will it help?” I asked.

“It will help me,” she said. “God doesn’t need gestures, just love.”

“Okay,” I agreed, “light one for me, too.”

“I will do. Come and see me sometime, whatever happens today.”

“Okay, I will.”

As soon as I ended the call my phone peeped and a text message appeared. ‘On my way, Si.

Now I had to work out what I was going to say to him and to her father—both of whom will be upset if they find out about the termination. ‘Do I need to tell them? Oh shit, why is it always me?’

Easy As Falling Over A Bonz

Part 200-15 (185)

I stood outside the hospital knowing that support was on its way, and that in a sense, that support was as much for me as Stella, at least until we knew she was all right.

I went back inside to look for a tea or coffee machine.

“Any news on Stella Cameron?” I asked the nurse I saw coming from the treatment area.

“And you are?” she looked me up and down.

“Her sister-in-law.” Okay it was a fib, but a necessary one.

“She’s gone down to theatre.”

“Oh!” Was that good or bad?

“She won’t be back for a while and I suspect she’ll be taken up to a gynae ward.”

“Do I have time to get a cuppa?”

“Good lord yes. Use the cafeteria, it’s much nicer.” She gave me directions.

I went to the reception desk. “If Lord Cameron or Lord Stanebury ask for me, could you say I went for a cuppa.”

“Who are you?”

“Cathy.”

“What no princess or majesty?”

“The two people I mentioned are hurrying here as we speak. My sister-in-law, Lady Stella Cameron is down in theatre having emergency surgery. I’m not messing about, but in bringing her in here I missed my breakfast.”

“Okay Lady Catherine, I’ll make sure they get the message if you’re not back.”

“Thank you very much, would you like me to bring you back anything?”

“Oh wow. A chocolate croissant if they have any left.”

“If they have one, you shall get it.”

“Thanks, Lady Catherine.”

“You’re most welcome.”

“Who was that?” asked a male voice behind the glass panel.

“A nice lady, I mean a proper Lady, who offered to get me a choccie croissant.”

“Slut! I wouldn’t touch my foreskin for anyone.”

“You idiot! It’s forelock. You’d touch your foreskin at any opportunity.”

I chuckled as I walked up to the cafeteria. I thought I’d have an hour if not a little longer. All I needed was about fifteen minutes.

I got myself a cuppa and some toast, a croissant for the girl in reception and a bottle of water for later plus some chocolate and a pack of sandwiches. This could be a long haul.

I was back to ‘Ac-Em’ in about twenty minutes. I gave the girl her croissant. She did offer to pay, but as I may need another favour, it was worth the one pound fifty it cost.

I went and sat in reception and checked my mobile. No news.

I tried to think positive thoughts of my relationship with Stella. She was a lovely person and although she had a wicked side, she was a genuinely kind and compassionate woman. I loved her to bits, like a real sister. If anything happened to her I would be very upset, it would be like losing a sister.

I suspected Tom would have to stay at home for his fence repairs, either that, or cancel them. I tried his home number and he answered it. I brought him up to speed and he conveyed his horror at what had happened and wished her a speedy recovery. I asked him to keep confidential anything he might have heard this morning.

“Me, I’m an old man, didn’t hear anything.”

“Thanks Tom, I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“You have your key?”

“Yes I do.”

“Fine, if I’m not here you can let yourself in.”

“I’ll try and sort out the mess on the bed when I get there.”

“All done and dusted, there’s a new mattress on its way, and the bedding is in the machine drying.”

“I’m impressed,” I said genuinely.

“Why? I’m quite independent, just lazy when I can get someone half my age to do it instead, especially when they have as pretty a bum as yours.”

“I shall pretend I didn’t hear that sexist remark,” I said blushing.

“Want me to repeat it?” he laughed.

“No thank you, you dirty old man.” He just laughed at my reply and I rang off.

Finally, Simon and Henry walked in together. I stood up and they each hugged me. I looked at my watch. “You did really well to get here this quickly.”

“We hired a chopper. How is she?” asked Henry.

“Last I heard she was in theatre.”

“What happened?”

“She haemorrhaged from down below.”

“Why?” he asked shaking his head.

“It can happen, spontaneous miscarriage all sorts of things.” I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t want to lie to him nor betray Stella’s confidence in me. Caught between a rock and a hard place again, I felt I should be used to it, but I wasn’t.

“You women have such complicated bodies,” Henry shook his head, “I wonder if there’s any more news.” He strode over to reception and asked.

I stood with Simon who had his hand around my waist. “You going to tell me what really happened?”

“I just did, I found her in bed unconscious in a pool of blood which was apparently coming from her genital area.”

He gave me an unconvinced look, then shook his head.

I watched Henry talking to some doctor who had come out to him. They shook hands and he came back to us.

“She’s still in theatre. A massive bleed from her womb.”

“And?” said Simon.

“It’s touch and go.”

I hugged Simon and felt uncontrollable tears force themselves out of my eyes. It seemed all wrong. Rotten people never had anything happen to them. It was always the nice people. How could I believe in a God who let this sort of thing happen? Then I thought about Marguerite, she was no one’s fool and if she believed in something, maybe I should think again about it, or perhaps talk to her sometime. For the moment, I was a captive of my emotions and having Simon there meant I could be the weak woman and let them rip.

Henry had got them to call his mobile when Stella was out of surgery, and we were able to retire to the cafeteria and have some coffee. We were there an hour when his phone spluttered into life. Our stomachs flipped, but it was Monica asking how Stella was.

Simon went and got more coffees and cakes. Another hour passed. I was practically asleep. Henry’s phone bleeped again and this time it was the hospital. She was being moved to ICU, we could see her in an hour or so.

She was still alive, so far so good.

“If she pulls through, I’ll give them a cheque for something they need in this department,” Henry pledged to us as witnesses.

“Doesn’t that depend on Russian mafia and associated nasty types?” I asked.

“I think I’ll be all right,” said Henry.

“What was all that that Simon said on TV the other night, money laundering etc.?” I asked.

“Let’s go for a walk and I’ll tell you,” said Henry.

We walked around the grounds and he spun me a story about a hostile takeover bid. The group were actually crooks but were trying to do it in a surreptitious way.

The publicity I could give was negative so the bidders were trying to defame the Cameron family and undermine their position on the board by exposing me. So that was genuine enough. However, it all went wrong for them because the publicity was about them not just me. So I was actually providing the family and the bank with a sympathy vote. It had backfired.

Trading had ceased days before as in accordance with the law, or should have done as the bidders were trying to acquire shares illegally. That put them in a unfortunate position because the bank found out about it and notified the Financial Services Authority (FSA) who then started to investigate the bid.

Who broke up the cottage? Probably the same lot looking to incriminate or find any compromising material they could. There was nothing to find. I suspected that Henry would sail close to the wind now and again, but wouldn’t be stupid enough to leave the evidence anywhere it could be found. As a banker, he was a professional crook.

“So what was said on the telly was rubbish?” I asked.

“Oh no, it was quite correct except in some aspects of emphasis,” said Henry smiling at Simon. “See he is of use occasionally.”

“Gee thanks Dad!” Simon shook his head.

“Come on let’s go and see my girl,” Henry strode off towards ICU.

We found Stella attached to all sorts of machines and drips. Simon went and kissed her and told her he was there, he made me do the same. Then we left while Henry went and sat alongside her.

“Let’s give him some space with her, then if he sheds a tear, no one will see it.”

I wasn’t sorry, I was terrified for Stella, she was still very ill and being connected to all those things didn’t reduce my fears. They might have even made them greater, like something out of a science fiction film, Dr Who or some other nonsense, except this was real.

Simon held me tight as we walked. I looked up at him and I could see tears in his eyes too. I steered us to a relatively private spot and told him it was okay to cry.

Easy As Forgetting What It’s Called Part 186

by Erm…

I sat with Simon for about an hour. We didn’t say much, we were both upset, he cuddled me and I fussed him. We both cried. We both held each other. We both spent several minutes staring into space, or found the leaves of a dandelion suddenly very attention holding.

Finally, we had dealt with our immediate emotional needs. “Let’s go and see how she is,” I said to Simon who nodded his agreement.

The walk to ICU took about ten minutes. Henry was sitting next to the bed, Stella hadn’t moved. The machines were still bleeping away. Henry looked to have aged about a hundred years since I last saw him, he looked grey.

“Any change?” asked Simon.

Henry shook his head. He looked so sad, I just wanted to scoop him up and hug him to death.

“Henry, why don’t you and I take a little walk, just to keep the circulation moving?”

He looked up at me and shook his head, no.

Simon went over to him. “Go on Dad, I’ll stay with Stella. I have some dirty jokes to tell her anyway, which I can’t tell Cathy because she’s too young, and I can’t tell you ’cos you’ve forgotten what it’s all about anyway.”

“I’m not that old,” Henry said indignantly, “ninety three isn’t that old these days.”

It wasn’t that funny, but given the stress of the situation we all fell about laughing, tears rolling down faces. I glanced at the bed and Stella was smirking. I gasped and pointed at her. She had heard the joke and tried to laugh at it.

Suddenly the walk didn’t seem like a good idea. We all sat and talked to each other and to Stella. The nurse came and changed her drip, she was still receiving blood, this was now the sixth unit, if they had used all four the original doctor called for. That is a lot of blood.

“I think Tom is going to have a car boot sale with all our clothes,” I said trying to sound funny.

“Tell me about the visit of the hunt,” said Henry.

Simon and I related the story, making it deliberately funny, especially the punch up at the end.

“So Simon thumped someone who grabbed you and you hit someone who grabbed him?” said Henry verifying his understanding.

“Hit someone, she laid him out with a whack to the chin with a yard brush,” Simon emphasised a little too loudly. The nurse came and asked us to be quiet.

“Are they going to repair Tom’s fences?”

“Supposedly, but you know what they’re like?”

“Yes I do, I used to ride to hounds myself.” Henry asserted himself, “So did little boy blue here. Stella didn’t, never did really like horses and killing things.”

“Well, that’s something we have in common.” I was blushing but stood my ground. “Killing for sport is morally bankrupt.”

“A woman of strong opinions eh?” said Henry nodding at me, “I like that in a woman, don’t I Stel?” I gasped again as she nodded in answer to his question.

“Can you open your eyes Stella?” I asked.

She moved her head from side to side. Obviously she couldn’t. I leant forward and gripped her hand.

“Can you squeeze my hand Stella?” she moved her arm but seemed unable to carry out my request.

I held on to her hand. “Squeeze my hand now, Stella.” She did as I instructed.

“Open your eyes, Stella.”

For a moment, nothing happened as if she was still downloading the instruction, so I repeated it. Her eyes moved from side to side. Then one fluttered open but closed almost immediately.

I ordered her to open them again and finally after several false starts she managed to do so. At first they didn’t seem to be connected to her brain, they were largely unseeing eyes not recognising us immediately. Finally they did, because she smiled at her father.

“Stella you can talk, talk to your father.” I issued the instruction and she eventually managed to garble a message to Henry. He was crying the whole time. She squeezed his hand and he wept with joy. Maybe she was going to make it after all.

We stayed with her and had a very rudimentary conversation during which she fell asleep every few minutes, then she’d wake, say something unintelligible and go back to sleep.

We left her to sleep about half an hour later, she was obviously very tired. Henry wanted to stay but we persuaded him to come with us for a late lunch.

“So how is the Dormouse Queen?” asked Henry, “How is the project going?”

“Unless Tom is moving it, it isn’t going very far or fast. There is just so much paperwork to accept any sightings, especially those of unusual sightings. I’m expecting one of a unicorn any day now.”

“Are you trying to tell me they don’t exist?” said Simon, pretending to cry. “I saw them in Harry Potter, they exist you know. Just ’cos you’re a bloody expert on dormice, don’t mean you know everyfink like wot I does.”

“I’m afraid they only exist in enchanted forests and we have very few of those in the United Kingdom.”

“If you’re such a bloody expert why can’t you make more forests enchanted?”

“That needs a special permission from the Queen herself.”

“Which I suppose is why there aren’t too many enchanted forests.”

“Absolutely right,” I congratulated Simon for his total support during this week.

Stella said something in Double-Dutch that not even Tom Boonen would understand, then went off to sleep moments later.

Easy As Getting the Number Wrong

Part aneirif (187)

We returned to the hospital and the nurse there was pleased to report Stella was making good progress but was now sleeping. Henry opted to sit with her, we decided to go back to Tom’s house to bring in some clean nighties and other things she may need in hospital.

As we drove in the taxi to Tom’s, Simon asked me if I’d got my stuff ready for January. Of course, I hadn’t given it a thought. I would have to and decided I would do it at the next weekend. The problem then was I started making mental lists.

“How did you think of getting Stella to open her eyes?” asked Simon.

“She seemed to be having trouble coordinating things, I wondered if telling her what to do would enable her to do it. It seemed to work. If it hadn’t, I’d have been stuffed.”

“Now there’s a thought,” Simon had this very satisfied grin on his face.

“It’s true what they say about boys then?”

“What is?”

“They only ever think about three things: the other two are cars and football.”

“If that is the case Miss Stereotype, you have a huge section of your brain devoted to shopping?”

“Absolutely,” I said grinning.

Simon shook his head, “What am I going to do with you?”

“I thought marriage was the plan?”

“Yes but dormice seem to get in the way all the time.”

“All the time? I can’t think why,” I replied to his exaggeration.

“Leave me to do the thinking, you just count the vermin.”

“They are not vermin, they are protected.”

“Okay, protected vermin.”

“Grrr!” I growled at him, “You’re as bad as Tom—he sees everything with large front teeth as a pest.”

“Like Ken Dodd*,” he said.

I tried not to laugh, but it was a funny line, so I cackled for all I was worth. I knew it would only encourage him.

Saved by the bell, we arrived at Tom’s house and I let us in. Most of the fencing appeared to have been repaired or replaced.

Tom wasn’t there, but he’d left a note to say he’d gone into work for a short time. He’d also eaten chicken curry by the smell of the kitchen. Some leopards never change their spots.

Simon borrowed my car to go and get some of his clothes from the cottage. While he was gone I got some stuff together for Stella, some clean nighties, her sponge bag and other toiletries, plus some clothes to wear home. I had no idea how long she’d be in hospital, at least a couple more days. I also had to remember I was going to take Stevie for his results from the GUM clinic. Poor kid, I’d hate to be in his shoes.

While I waited for Simon, I called the hospital in Bristol. Daddy was okay and understood why I wasn’t seeing him. I sent my love to him and said I’d be there as soon as I could.

Next I called the university and spoke with Pippa.

“How is Stella?” she asked.

“Getting there I hope. Is Tom there?”

“He was, he was called into a meeting.”

“Oh okay, I’ll speak to him later.”

“You haven’t heard the gossip?”

“What gossip, I usually am the gossip, or the subject of it!” I replied indignantly.

“Well, it isn’t you this time, big head.”

I poked my tongue out at her, which was a complete waste of time but I felt better. “So are you going to tell me or do I wait until the drums down here pick up the message?”

“Tom has got funding for a new lecturer in mammalian zoology, to start after Easter.”

“Lets me out then.” I said.

“How come?”

“I’ll only just be coming back from ‘you know what’.”

“So?”

“Well, there will be better qualified people than me, plus I’m trying to do my doctorate.”

“It’s a part-time post.”

“Oh is it?”

“Yes, so you’d have time to do all you do and get a proper salary for it.”

“I’ll speak to him about it.”

“Make sure you do.”

“Yes boss.”

I rang off and had barely time to put the kettle on when Simon arrived. I made us some tea and then he went and changed. I looked down at my jeans and realised I had some of Stella’s blood on them. I went and changed too, into a skirt and my red boots.

“Wanna go and see Stella or stay home and make mad, passionate love?” he asked me.

“Can’t we go and see Stella and make mad, passionate love there?” I asked grinning.

“They do have beds,” said Simon nodding, “but they also have CT TV.”

“If we got the film we could sell them as porno flicks.” I was getting suddenly entrepreneurial in my old age.

“Now you’re thinking, Batwoman,” he said, “Just make sure you take your sunglasses, unless you want to be recognised.”

“My tattoo would give it away,” I sighed.

“What tattoo?” gasped Simon.

“What, you have seen me starkers, and didn’t notice my tattoo?” I said pouting.

“No I haven’t. What is it?”

“A picture of the SS Great Britain and the caption, ‘Property of the Great Western Steamboat & Package Co.’ It cost me a fortune.”

“You are joking?” he said smiling, but he wasn’t at all sure. He was wondering how he could have missed it.

“Don’t be silly, I wouldn’t joke about such things.”

“Where is it then?”

“You haven’t seen it have you?”

“No, but I’d love to.”

“Too bad, we have to go out and relieve your dad and his Stella sitting.”

He was busy looking at me, trying to figure out where such a tattoo could be where he hadn’t seen it. There was one place, but I wasn’t going to tell him.

He carried Stella’s overnight bag to the car; I grabbed my coat and bag and went with him. He drove and I got the car parking ticket. This is a real rip off, seven quid for four hours!

When we got to ICU, Stella had been moved to a ward, so we traipsed around to that. Fortunately, she had a private room and when we got there, she was fast asleep and so was Henry. Simon and I both laughed.

“Good afternoon Father,” he said loudly by Henry’s ear. He nearly fell off the chair. “Some visitor you are,” was his next comment to his dazed parent.

Stella stirred with the noise and I went to sit alongside her bed, gripping her hand gently. Her eyes opened, she looked at me for a few minutes, smiled and went back to sleep. If only there was room in the bed for two!

“So where’s this tattoo then?” said Simon, having sent his father off to their hotel in Southsea.

“Where’s the one part of me you can’t see?”

“I dunno, never mind the riddles just tell me.”

“Why should I?”

“Don’t then, I’ll find it later.”

“Will you now?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Only if I let you.”

“You’ll let me.”

“You have a lot of confidence in your powers of persuasion, pity those of observation are so inferior to them.”

“What?” he demanded.

“You heard me Simon Cameron.”

“I always get what I want.”

“I think that should read, ‘You always get what you want—when I say so’.”

There was a snort of laughter from the bed, we both turned and Stella was giggling to herself. “You two,” she laughed, “should hear yourselves.”

“You’re feeling better?” I said kissing her.

“Yes, can I go home now?”

*Ken Dodd, a British comedian who has prominent buckteeth (from an accident when he was a kid—fell off a bike would you believe!) creator of Tickling sticks and the Diddymen. Also done for tax evasion!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 188

I went and spoke to the sister on the ward and she told me that Stella would have to stay overnight, the consultant wanted her to rest some more and he would see her in the morning.

I went back to relay the information, “Sorry Stel, you have to stay. The big man wants to see you tomorrow.”

“Well, why can’t I get up then?”

“They say bed rest.”

“And take these stupid stocking things off,” she poked a leg out of the covers and displayed a greeny blue elastic knee-high stocking.

“Very sexy,” said Simon predictably. In fact, if he hadn’t, I think I would have checked to see if he was still awake.

“I’ll bring you in something to match them,” I said grinning.

“Don’t laugh too loudly,” she said, “you’ll have your own in a couple of weeks.”

“Oh!” I said. Shit they are ugly things, and look like they should be worn with a plaid, pleated skirt and a blazer, like a convent school uniform.

“You’ve gone very quiet,” she said.

“Yes, I was wondering if I’ll be able to wear jeans when I go home from here.”

“I think they may feel a bit hard, so better bring your school uniform.”

“How did you know I was thinking of that?” I asked in astonishment.

“It’s about the only thing I can think of that would match it.” She had paralleled my thinking.

“Ooh, can I see you in your school uniform,” Simon said winking at me, “you can show me your tattoo while you’re at it.”

“Tell you what Simon, I’ll dress up as a schoolgirl, if you will.” I smiled at him.

“Don’t be silly, I’d look stupid.”

“So would I.” I folded my arms which should have signalled an end to the conversation, but Simon hadn’t read the manual.

“No you wouldn’t, I think you’d look rather sexy, what do you think Stel?”

“I agree she’d look better than you in a girl’s school uniform, but I hate to say it, I don’t think I’d find it sexy.” Stella winked at me.

“Mind you, I think she’d be sexy in a black bin liner,” he said smiling.

“I am not wearing one of those either.” I was standing now with my arms still folded and tapping my foot.

Simon suddenly got the message I was not very happy with the conversation.

A nurse arrived with Stella’s evening meal, so we were able to escape and I promised I’d phone in the morning and find out if they were discharging her, in which case I’d take her back to Tom’s house.

“What do you want for dinner?” I asked Simon.

“You.”

A flashback to my original meeting and thoughts of him being a cannibal went through my mind, but I didn’t find it amusing. I was tired and his constant referral to sex was irritating me.

I was driving this time and pulled into a lay-by. “Simon, I love you to bits and I want you to make passionate love to me. However, I don’t have the bits to enable that and I find your constant reference to sex very frustrating. I’m sorry I can’t oblige, but I am doing my best.” The tears started and I wanted to be alone, so I got out of the car.

He waited in the car possibly taking on board what I had said, possibly switching his brain on, or whatever men do when they have embarrassed their girlfriends. I didn’t know and I didn’t care.

I wiped the tears with a tissue and walked back towards the car. I hadn’t resolved anything, but I had stopped crying. “You can drive,” I said opening the passenger door. He got out and went around to the driver’s side.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t think.”

Instead of agreeing with him and biting his head off, I nodded acknowledgement. “Can we go now?” I asked and he drove us back to Tom’s in silence.

“What’s the matter with the lovebirds?” asked Tom as we walked in.

“Nothing,” I snapped and went up to my room.”

I heard Simon talking with him as I went up the stairs, so I expected he was telling him what I said. Probably adding, I was premenstrual or something. Certainly, I felt irritable. I was in half a mind to go to bed, maybe it was tiredness, but I owed Tom a meal for his generosity to us.

I washed my face and hands and gave myself a good talking to, telling myself to stop being stupid and to accept that Simon was a normal bloke and they thought of sex thirty-six hours a day. I was the odd one, not even being a normal woman. I didn’t know if I should get randy after surgery. I did now, but that was just a source of frustration for me, all I could do was relieve Simon by means other than penetration, which did nothing for my frustration.

I tried to wipe it from my mind and went downstairs. Simon and Tom were having a glass of beer; I went to the kitchen and switched on the kettle. Cuppa in hand, I went to join them.

“Tom was suggesting we went out for something to eat.”

“Oh,” I said, not sure if I could be bothered. I wasn’t so much hungry as tired.

“So what do you think?” he asked me. I looked at Tom and he shrugged.

“It’s up to you Cathy.” Simon looked at me as he said it.

Now I felt guilty. I’d already chewed him up for my own frustrations, I couldn’t deny him some food. “Okay,” I said, “but somewhere quiet, I’m not going to change again, I’m too tired.”

“You look fine like that,” smiled Tom, telling white lies.

“We don’t have to go out, I can order a pizza or go and get a take away.” Simon was trying to humour me, but it was irritating me again.

“I said I would come with you, I will.” I stood up and walked out of the room.

“What’s the matter with her?” asked Tom.

“Dunno, if I didn’t know better I’d say she was on.” I heard Simon’s answer.

That pushed some more of my buttons and I went upstairs before I started to cry again. What was wrong with me? Once more I told myself off in the mirror and applied minimal makeup. Thank God, the mascara was waterproof.

When I went down again, Simon hugged me and apologised.

“I think it’s me who has to apologise,” I countered.

“No, I was out of order earlier and you’ve had a trying day.”

“So have you, rushing back from London.”

“Yeah but you had a shock when you found Stella, Tom has been telling me about it.”

“Look let’s go and get dinner and get home to bed.”

“You don’t have t…” I pushed my finger to Simon’s lips and hushed him. He nodded and we called Tom who had been discreetly seeing to his dog.

We ate at the same pub we had used a few nights before, when we were hiding from the press. I felt relieved that I could now walk about normally.

“It’s that dormouse woman,” said the same idiot we had seen last time.

“She ain’t a woman though, is she? She’s one of those sexchangers.”

“I don’t care, I’d still shag her, she’s prettier than my girlfriend.”

I’m prettier than your Janice,” said wag number two.

“Can I shag you then?” said number one.

“Fuck off!”

“I’m trying to, but you’re playing hard to get.”

Thankfully, Simon didn’t hear their conversation or it could have ended in some unpleasantness and the funerals of two oiks. He was significantly larger than them. I went and sat in the corner and asked for a fruit juice. I knew I would be driving back but I wasn’t going to allow Simon and Tom to get pissed. Tonight, I didn’t think they would argue with me.

We ordered, I went for a tuna salad, what a surprise? Simon had a steak and so did Tom, which threw me.

“No curry today then Tom?” I asked.

“Had one lunchtime.” He ate more curry than I did chocolate!

We talked about work and he told me he needed some input from me. I told him I would do what I could, but I might have to collect Stella and had to take Stevie to the clinic for his results. Tom shrugged and nodded, asking me to do what I could.

“There is one other thing, the local rag wants to talk to you about your change of lifestyle.”

“Why?” I shook my head in disbelief.

“Because it interests people and you happen to be more successful than most.”

“So that makes me interesting, does it?”

“Maybe, don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger.”

“It’s only because I’m engaged to Simon. If we broke that off, they wouldn’t be the least bit worried about me.”

Simon’s face showed alarm, with the mood I was in, he was worried I might just do it to see if the Echo would leave me in peace. He kept very quiet perhaps worrying that if he spoke, I’d react badly.

I leant forward and stroked his hand. “I’m not going to dump him just to get rid of the press.”

His face brightened up.

“If I dumped him it would be for other reasons.”

His face fell and he almost choked on a chip.

“But not tonight,” I added and Tom smirked mouthing ‘bitch’ at me. I winked back.

They only had a pint of local brew each, so I couldn’t nag them for that. Quite how they get some of the names for these ales baffles me. I don’t really like beer or lager, although I will drink a little on a hot day, then it is thirst quenching. They were drinking something with a name like, ‘Spotty Stoat’ or ‘Wily Weasel.’ Maybe I misread it, could it have been, ‘Weasel’s Willie?’ I didn’t know and thinking about it was using up too many of my stressed brain cells.

We drove home and I made us all a cuppa, after which Simon and I went to bed. To give him his due, he offered to sleep separately, but as Stella’s bed was waiting for its new mattress, the other bedroom wasn’t made up, and I didn’t think he’d want to sleep with Tom, so I let him into our room. His clothes were in the other wardrobe to mine.

We washed and then after brushing our teeth, went to bed. I was still nervous of getting excited because something was wont to move if I did. I tucked it back and wore a firm pair of panties, but…

Simon seemed surprised that I wanted to cuddle with him. I was tired but felt I owed him, and I did love the man. I needed to explain something which was difficult. It was a good job the light was off, because I was blushing like crazy, when I explained the change in my external anatomy, and why.

“Look Cathy, I know it’s still there but not for much longer. I think I can cope anyway, and besides, if you can get some pleasure from it, well…”

I did try not to cry, and managed to do so silently and he hugged me until I stopped. Then he kissed me and touched my breasts. I touched against his manhood and he whimpered, so I touched it some more.

We slept well that night, even if we both had to change our underwear and the tension that had been building in me for days, felt much easier.

’N Esmwyth Fel Yn Adfeilio Off Beic

Pennod 189

Gan Angharad

Simon had showered and gone before I really came to. I didn’t sleep that well and woke worrying about Stella, Stevie and my own forthcoming ordeal. I was and wasn’t scared of getting the plumbing job done, but I knew it wouldn’t be that pleasant and dilation afterwards would literally be a pain.

I got myself showered and dressed, and went into the university. I called the hospital—Stella wouldn’t be seen until later that morning and the decision to discharge her or not would be made later. I asked if they could phone me. I felt as if I was asking for something very unusual or difficult because of the sighing and humming and hawing at the other end. Eventually, the sister agreed. Wow!

I texted Stevie to remind him we had the appointment that afternoon and he replied, ‘How can I forget it?’ I suppose that summed things up.

The morning flashed by, calls to other organisers of the survey and recruitment of more supervisors to run the survey volunteers. I had produced a protocol for the training of supervisors and volunteers, most of whom would be looking for all signs of mammals in their squares. They’d have two kilometre squares to survey, the hardest would be the inner city ones, although foxes and badgers turned up in many of them, the odd deer and of course rats and mice. Things like squirrels could happen if there were trees or parks, and they may need to do live trapping to see if voles or shrews appeared.

We had a grant to supply up to two thousand live traps—a plastic or metal box with a supply of food and water and a one-way door. The only problem is if you get two animals which might fight or eat each other. Rats were one such possibility.

Pippa kept us topped up with coffee or tea as well as knocking out several letters and one report. She also answered the phone, one of which was for me.

“Hello, Cathy Watts Mammal Survey Coordinator, how can I help?”

“It’s Sister Roberts, you can collect Lady Cameron after lunch providing there will be someone to look after her for a couple of days.”

“I think we can arrange something,” I said, meaning I’d have to do it.

“Okay then anytime after two.”

“I have to take one of my students to an outpatient’s appointment at three, so I’ll call after that, if it’s okay.”

“Yes, fine.”

Pippa got me a sandwich for lunch and I sat at my desk and ate it. I checked on how my dormouse counters were doing, and it seemed okay from the data they were collecting and they were enjoying it. Mind you, I used to myself—a forest at night is an amazing place providing there aren’t any gun toting poachers around.

At just before half two, Stevie turned up looking as if he hadn’t slept for a month.

“Are you okay?” I asked worrying if he’d already started losing his immune system.

“Yes, I just didn’t sleep very well.”

“For a week by the look of you,” I smiled at him and I could see tears in his eyes.

“I am so fucking frightened I’m nearly pissing myself,” he said and I saw a drop of water run from his eye.

I opened my arms to him and he fell into them and sobbed on my shoulder. I felt so sorry for him, whatever happened this afternoon, the next hour or so were going to be torture for him.

Once he’d regained his composure, we set off for the hospital. We drove in silence except for the CD player in my car playing a Madeleine Peyroux record. Stevie seemed to enjoy her bluesy-jazz and relaxed a little. (Well, it was either that or Abba—no contest).

I managed to park reasonably easily, though at a fiver for two hours—I thought it was a rip off. I walked into the waiting room with Stevie and he asked me to book him in as he rushed to the toilet. I did and waited for him. He was some little time coming out: he’d been sick and had also had the squits. I hoped it was just nerves because the way he was going, he’d be dead in three months.

He was called and he went off like someone going to their execution. It was cruel to watch. I sat there worrying, if he was positive would it be a good idea to have him in the car with Stella, two traumatised individuals in one car—not a good idea, but I seemed stuck with it.

I sat, stood and walked about and still he didn’t show. “Miss Watts,” called the same voice which had summoned Stevie.

I walked towards the woman who was calling me, “Is everything all right?” I asked.

“No,” she hissed and took me into a separate room.

“What’s the problem?” I asked quietly.

“I’m going to admit your friend.”

“What?” I gasped.

“You know why he’s here?”

“Yes once he confided in me, I made him come here.”

“How is he?”

“Not at all well, mainly dehydrated. He’s also very depressed and distressed.”

“Not particularly surprising given what he’s been through for two weeks. So that’s it then?”

“Yes someone is coming over to take him to the wards.”

“I’ll let the university know he won’t be in for a few days,” I offered.

“Yes,” she gave me a very strange look.

“Longer?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Look I know you can’t tell me anything, but is there anyone he wants me to notify that he’s ill?”

“I’ll go and ask him, please wait here.” She disappeared through a connecting door. Moments later she called me in.

He was crying and when he saw me, he threw himself into my arms and wept bitterly. “I’m going to die,” he said and I sobbed with him.

It took me several minutes to get myself together, how can these things happen? He was only a kid. “Is there anything I can do?” I asked.

“Come to my funeral.”

“Stevie, come on you could live for years yet, with the retroviral drugs and all.”

“I lied to you Cathy, this was my second relationship. The first one was three years ago. I’ve got AIDS, have had for a year or more.”

“So did you give it to that sailor?”

“Nah, we used protection. I just needed to tell someone and you were so kind to me and I thought you’d understand better than most. The drugs aren’t helping anymore and I have something on my liver, probably a sarcoma.”

“Jesus Stevie, why didn’t you get help?” I wanted to hug him and hit him at the same time. “Why didn’t you tell someone?”

“Can you tell them at college that I won’t be coming back?”

“Look, you have to keep fighting, new drugs appear every day.” I wasn’t sure who I was trying to convince.

“I’m tired of fighting, tired of everything especially being a fucking queer. Why couldn’t I have been a normal man with a wife and one point eight kids, working in an office?”

“I don’t know Stevie, I’m probably the last person you should ask.”

“I dunno Cathy, you seem to have life sussed pretty good, a career and a partner.”

“And a disabled father, plus in-laws like the Addams Family.”

He laughed for a moment.

“I have to go; I have to collect someone from one of the wards as well today. Pity you’re not coming you could have met my crazy sister-in-law to be.” He laughed at my description of Stella.

We hugged again. “Is there anyone you want me tell you’re in hospital?” I asked.

“My family don’t know.”

“Oh.” I waited for further information.

“We have someone who could speak to them at the hospital,” said the nurse counsellor.

“That may be best,” I agreed trying to sidestep the awful task.

“They don’t know me, you do, will you do it?”

“What do want to me to tell them?” I asked wishing I was anywhere but here at this moment. Then realised what a privilege it was he was passing to me.

“The truth. My dad’s homophobic so I could never tell them.”

“What makes you think I can?”

“Because you’re a beautiful woman and people believe you, you have a way with people. I trusted you as soon as I met you and you also read me like a book.”

“Did I? If I did I must have missed half the pages, Jesus Stevie, what a God-awful mess!”

“Yeah.” He hugged me and cried some more on me. The porter arrived to take him to the ward. “Come and see me, you’re like my big sister.”

“Of course I’ll come and see you.” I said as he was pushed off in the wheelchair.

I was left dabbing my face with a tissue and even the nurse counsellor had wet eyes.

“How bad is he? I mean how sick is he?” I asked not really wanting to know the answer.

“About as bad as it gets, he has a fast growing tumour according to his notes.”

“You mean you didn’t know?”

“We go on what people tell us and our own tests and observations. Two weeks ago he looked much better, but his bloods showed there was lots wrong. We tried to call him to come earlier, but he didn’t answer. We wrote to him and he wrote back saying he’d keep this appointment. When I asked him why, he said it was because you would be with him.

“I don’t know what your relationship is with him, but he thinks a great deal of you.”

“I’m his tutor at university. That’s all. I only met him a two or three weeks ago.”

“Well, Miss Watts, he’s given you an unenviable task. If you like I could try and get someone to go with you.”

“Where do his parents live?” I asked.

“In Bristol.” I nearly fell over.

She gave me the address and I knew it well, I have cycled past there dozens of times. “Okay, I know where this is, I used to live in Bristol, my father still does.”

She handed me a card, “If you need help, give me a call.”

I thanked her and wandered in a daze to find Stella, then get her down to the door before I got the car. Pick up points were very limited and seemed to have hospital car service vehicles or ambulances parked in most of them. The fresh air felt good I was still alive, I had to hang on to that fact. I was still alive.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 190

“I can carry my own bag,” insisted Stella ripping it out of my hands.

The words of the ward sister were echoing in my head, “Please don’t let her relapse, my nerves won’t stand it.” Here we were outside the ward fighting over her bag.

“Stella, you have been really ill.”

“Yeah, well I’m better now.”

“You lost pints of blood.”

“Yeah, well they topped me up, so I’m okay.”

“You had surgery to stop a haemorrhage.”

“That was then. I’m fine I tell you.”

“Stella, I have just brought someone here is who is very much sicker than I thought. He is dying. I am really not in the mood to fight with you.”

“What have I got to do to prove I am well, race you to the car?”

“No you stay here, I’ll go and get the car.”

“In which case, I’ll come with you.”

“No you won’t, Stella.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

Very quietly I said, “I am going to get the car. You are staying put. I have had a bad day and am going to kill the next person who upsets me.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

I walked away my temper was up to my scalp and I was fit to burst. She doesn’t usually play up like this, whose blood did they use—mine?

By the time I was sat in the car, I wanted to burst into tears. Now I had agreed to go to Bristol and tell Stevie’s parents. Oh what joy! What was wrong with me, why can’t I say no? But then how can I refuse a dying boy’s wish?

I started up the car and went to collect Stella. She was silent all the way back to Tom’s. She tapped her foot in time to the music I was playing, but no other sound was made by either of us. Had I upset her or was she playing safe and not risking provoking me. I didn’t know and didn’t have the energy to care enough to ask her.

I parked up and we went in. Tom was there. He hugged Stella and asked how she was.

“I’m fine, a bit tired but okay. I have to take two weeks off.”

“Well, if you get bored you can help Cathy and me with our project.”

“Can I let you know on that Tom?”

“Of course you can.”

I was in the kitchen making some tea, I badly needed a cup of its life giving waters. I took us out a tray of tea. We sat in the lounge, Tom and Stella jabbering away and me trying to calm down after the afternoon’s trauma. I closed my eyes and what seemed like minutes later opened them, it was dark

Tom walked in with a cup of tea. “Hello sleepyhead.”

“Oh, erm, what time is it?” I asked.

“A quarter to seven.”

“What, I’ve been asleep for two hours?”

“Yes, you looked dead beat when you got in.”

“Maybe I was then. Where’s Stella?”

“Lying on her bed. The new mattress arrived and I’ve put it on her bed.”

“Thanks Tom,” I accepted the tea and the mattress with the same acknowledgement.

“What happened at the hospital?”

“This is confidential, okay?”

“I’ll be the judge of that if it concerns one of my students,” Tom asserted himself and I was too tired to argue. “You took Steven Naylor to the hospital, what happened?”

“He’s got AIDS, full blown syndrome with a possible liver tumour.”

“Okay, I’ll see what charitable concession I can wring out of the Dean’s paws.”

I looked as if I was confused, which was just how I felt.

“We have some hardship funds, I’ll see if I can squeeze some money out of one of them, make things easier if we can.”

“That’s lovely Tom. I have to go and see his landlord and see if I can get him a change of PJs and take his toiletries in.”

“When?”

“Now. Can you watch Stella doesn’t go to any mad parties?”

“What about sane ones?”

“She’s safe there, no sane person would invite her.”

“Hey, that’s your future sister-in-law you’re talking about.”

“Yes, so I know what I’m saying.”

“Don’t you want me to come with you?”

“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll be okay. I’ll be back as soon as I can, want me to bring in something?”

“Nah, I’ll order some pizzas.”

“Okay, don’t save any for me, I don’t particularly like them.”

“Okay, your loss.”

“Tom you don’t fancy a trip to Bristol tomorrow, do you?”

“Why is your dad playing up?”

“No, I agreed to tell Stevie’s homophobic parents that he’s dying of AIDS.”

“Oh shit! That’s not your job, surely?”

“He asked me to do it.”

“Is that wise given the publicity in Bristol about you?”

“Dunno, but your company would be appreciated.”

“Who’s going to babysit her ladyship?”

“I asked Pippa, told her I’d pay her.”

“I’ll go halves on that bill.”

“You don’t need to.”

“I know what I have and haven’t got to do, and this comes in the first category.”

“You’re a nice man Tom Agnew.” I threw my arms around him and hugged him.

“Hey what happened to the nutty professor you told Pippa about?”

“Me, nah, that must have been my evil twin sister?”

He laughed but held me until I let go of him. He had a slightly musty odour about him, as if he didn’t wash often enough or change his clothes, both of which I knew were false I did his laundry and saw him shower regularly. Do older men smell a little? I’d always assumed it was of stale wee, if they did. This was definitely not that.

I drove to the address I’d got from Stevie and spoke with his landlady. She was horrified to hear he was very poorly, but told me she was worried he’d looked so thin for the past week.

“They think it might be something with his liver, but I don’t have any other details to give you.”

“That’s okay, I’ll go and see him, such a nice young man not out chasing girls or drink and drugs.”

“No,” I agreed.

She took me to his room and we sorted some clothes for him and his toothbrush and toiletries. I thanked her and went to the hospital.

I parked and took his stuff up to the ward—I had to ask which one and they looked it up on the computer. He was fast asleep when I arrived and rather than wake him, I left his stuff with a nurse and asked her to tell him I’d been in. He looked very young and vulnerable, more like a child than a young man. I had to leave it was upsetting me.

I called by the shop I’d used from my rooms. Raj and his wife were pleased to see me and made me stop and have a cuppa with them. I bought some wholemeal rolls and cheese from them and went back to Tom’s.

“Tom has been telling me about your afternoon, I’m sorry I played up.”

“It’s okay, Stella, but I’m so tired all I want to do is go to bed.”

“Aren’t you going to eat something?”

“I’m not hungry, but I am shattered.”

She hugged me, “Thank you for saving my life.”

“I need someone to advise me on clothes when I get married.”

“Ah, I knew you had a hidden agenda.”

“That’s me,” I said yawning, “right now it’s to get some sleep.”

“Tom said you were going to Bristol tomorrow.”

“Tom has a big gob at times.”

“This boy has AIDS right?” I nodded, “I’ve nursed people with AIDS, I might be able to help.”

“It’s a long drive, you’d be better off resting.”

“I can rest on the way up and back.”

“That isn’t the same.”

“Who’s the health professional here?”

“There isn’t one, you’re on sick leave.”

“Damn!”

“We can talk about it tomorrow, but I’m not saying yes now.”

“All right, I might change my mind just to spite you.”

“Feel free, I’m going to bed. Goodnight. Goodnight Tom,” I called and he answered from his study.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 191

Despite my worries about meeting up with Stevie’s parents over the weekend, I managed to fall into a deep sleep. It was nearly seven when I awoke to a strange noise in the bedroom and nearly crapped myself when a hand touched my hip.

“Simon, you frightened the proverbial out of me then,” I said loudly and slapped him on his shoulder.

His snore turned into a snort and he rolled over and opened his eyes. “Damn!” he exclaimed, “I was just going to get it together with Angelina Jolie.”

“Oh excuse me for breathing!” I said feeling slightly inadequate compared to the screen siren.

“She was just going to show me her tattoos while Brad was out.”

“And I thought that was a table leg sticking into my bum!” I grabbed his morning woody and squeezed gently.

He jumped and let out a little mewing noise, “Oh don’t, I need a pee.” Then he disengaged himself and dashed into the loo. I had a feeling it was going to take him a few minutes without an ice pack, so I nipped out to the main bathroom. Actually without the ’mones, I had a small erection myself, but I was still back before Simon.

“I hope you’re not doing anything naughty in there,” I called.

“Would you believe I can’t go?” he called back.

“Serves you right, Angelina Jolie, huh!”

I heard him running the tap to aid his difficulty. Then I thought I could hear him managing to go, so I called, “If you’d hurried, you could have seen my tattoo, but it’s too late now.”

When he came back in, I was giggling and rolled up in the quilt.

We wrestled for a few minutes, tickling each other, then we kissed. I was very glad something was well hidden.

“So when did you come home?”

“Just before midnight, Tom was locking up. You were so fast asleep, I don’t think a military band would have woken you. Tom told me about your new problem, wondered if I should come too.”

“This is assuming they will speak to me,” I added to his comment.

“Duh! Well, of course otherwise it’s a waste of time.” He shook his head and tickled me again. He was kneeling over me, I was still wrapped in the quilt and unable to move, he was looking at me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked blushing.

“I’m just looking at the woman I love.”

I blushed and closed my eyes aware of something in my knickers which was very unwomanly.

“Even without any makeup, you are still beautiful and I fancy you like mad.”

“I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a while longer yet,” I said without opening my eyes.

I felt his lips touch mine and I kissed him back, drawing his tongue into my mouth…

After I showered and dressed, I went downstairs where Tom was brewing a pot of coffee. “Would it be better if you phoned his parents?” I asked.

“I can if you want, you afraid of doing it?”

“No, I just thought it may get them to agree to an appointment sooner.”

“I suspect they’ll be the same as any parents once you mention their child, they’ll want to know what’s what.”

“Yeah but if I phone they may think he’s got me into trouble or something.”

Tom choked on his coffee and I had to pat him on the back to help his coughing, I of course was giggling.

“Okay,” he croaked and coughed, “if you don’t kill me first, I’ll phone them.”

I looked at my watch, “May be a good idea to do it soon in case they go out.”

“Slave driver,” he said holding out his hand for the paper with the number on it.

He dialled and it took a couple of minutes for someone to answer it. He was just about to give up when someone obviously did pick up. “Hello, Mrs Naylor?” he paused for an answer.

“This is Professor Agnew from Portsmouth University, that’s right Steven’s head of department. Look I need to speak to you about Steven and wondered if you were going to be in later today? Yes, it would be good if your husband were there as well. No, he hasn’t done anything wrong. No dear lady if he was deceased, the police would have been knocking your door. Yes, I have to drive up with a colleague, this afternoon at two would be very convenient. We’ll see you later, my colleague? Yes his personal tutor. No it’s ‘she,’ it’s a woman. Yes we do have women teachers, we even have some women professors, indeed very emancipated. We’ll see you at two. Goodbye.”

He put the phone down, “Next time Cathy Watts, you can do your own dirty work.”

I hugged him, “She’d have wheedled it out of me over the phone.”

“Hmm,” was all he said, hugging me back.

“I could do you some bacon and egg if you forgive me?”

“Erm, that’s bribery.”

“Of course it is.”

“All right.”

“Let me just see if Stella wants some.” I ran up to her room with a coffee—she didn’t fancy a cooked breakfast, just some toast. She was going to shower and come down once she’d drunk her coffee.

I did a fry up for Tom and Simon and a bit for myself. I figured that if I ate now, missing lunch wouldn’t be so important. My bit turned out as big as everyone else’s.

We agreed that Simon would follow me up with Stella in his car, then after we’d spoken to Stevie’s ’rents, I could go and see my dad and Simon would bring the others home and I’d come back on my own, probably the next day after seeing dad again.

I quickly made some carrot and onion soup, which Tom asked me to save some for him, then Simon said the same and so did Stella. I had just enough veg to make another batch!

I packed a case and put it in the car along with a pile of other things, including my laptop and Daddy’s soup. I asked Simon if he minded me seeing Des, if he was around. Simon shrugged and nodded.

A couple of minutes before we left, I sent Des a text, ‘In brissle 2nite r u? Cathy.

I hadn’t got to the car when my phone beeped with a text. ‘Yes, c u @8 ur place. D.

I replied, ‘ok, just 2 talk. C.

ok. bring ur bike.

“Shit!” I had to put on the bike rack and load my bike, then collect all my cycling gear, which took another twenty minutes. Tom stood chuckling the whole time I was swearing at the bungies on the rack and getting oil on my hands. Then I had to go and scrub them—it was not going to plan.

Simon and Stella were ready to go before me, which miffed me. In his Swedemobile he’d pee past my little girlycar. Oh well he could wait for us. I locked the bike into place and Tom shut up the house.

“See you at the M4 services then, last one there pays,” called Simon as he screeched out of Tom’s drive.

“Hope you have your purse with you?” said Tom as we finally got in the car.

I concentrated on coping with the traffic, which was heavy. Christmas was fast approaching and the shoppers were in a frenzy. Sadly, they all have cars.

Once on the motorway, I could relax a little and discuss with Tom how we were going to run our little meeting.

“Stevie thinks his dad is homophobic, so this isn’t going to be easy.”

“When is it ever easy to tell someone something like this?” he replied.

“Yeah, shit happens, usually to me.”

“Cathy, someone has to save the universe and as Flash Gordon isn’t available, it’s fallen to you.”

“Damn, I was counting on help from Superman.” I hit the steering wheel in mock frustration.

“I think Wonder Woman will manage it on her own,” said Tom smiling.

“What’s the opposite of, ‘Oh ye of little faith?’ As in, ‘ye of too much confidence’.” I said answering my own question. Tom sniggered.

“How about I introduce us and then hand over to you? I’ll back you up and watch in case Pop Naylor gets funny.”

“Okay, although I’d prefer you tell ’em and I’ll sit in the car with the engine running.”

“It was you to whom the task has fallen.”

“I know, I know, oh shit!”

We pulled off the motorway and up the A34 towards Newbury, from there it was a short drive to the M4 and about half to three quarters of an hour later, we were turning into the Leigh Delamere services. I even managed to pull up alongside Simon.

“Do we have to eat here? Surely there’s a pub in Bristol we can use?” asked my future hubby.

They all looked at me. I nodded and we drove off to a pub about five minutes’ drive from my father’s house. I left the three of them at the pub with a request to order me something with tuna in it, preferably a salad or sandwiches, then I dashed off to leave the bike at home. I had unloaded the car and was back just as the food was being served, a tuna baguette, yummy.

After lunch we set off for the Naylor’s house—Simon and Stella insisted on coming too and waiting outside in his car just in case they were needed. I was wearing a denim suit and agreed to have my phone in my pocket ready to speed dial for help if necessary.

The house was a 1950s semi with a neatly kept front garden and a BMW parked in the drive. My stomach flipped over and I began to question the wisdom of eating lunch.

We walked up to the front door and Tom pushed the bell button, a ding dong chime sounded in the hallway behind the door, I felt quite sick. I kept thinking, the police have to do this sort of thing quite regularly—which probably explains why they’re all so bitter and twisted when it comes to dealing with motorists, passing on the grief.

“Yes,” said a young woman of about seventeen.

“We’ve an appointment with Mr and Mrs Naylor,” I let Tom open the batting.

“About Steve?”

“Yes,” said Tom.

“Come in.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 192

The young woman I took to be Stevie’s sister led us into the lounge, where a man and woman in their late forties, were waiting. They were both standing as we entered the room.

“Mr and Mrs Naylor, I presume?” said Tom, “I’m Professor Tom Agnew and my colleague Cathy Watts.” We all shook hands. He was Andrew and she was Debbie.

They offered us tea or other drinks. Tom accepted tea so I decided to show solidarity, a real sacrifice as you know I never touch the stuff. Mandy, the daughter, went off to make it.

“So what brings Steve’s Professor and personal tutor all the way to Bristol?” asked Andy Naylor.

“I think I’d better answer that.” I took a deep breath and dived in. “We noticed Steve wasn’t doing as well as he should have been doing with his previous tutor and Prof Agnew asked me to see him. I could see he had a problem although I wasn’t sure what it was. But I got him to trust me and eventually he opened up to me.”

“What sort of problem?” asked Debbie, she looked very concerned.

“It’s a very personal thing. Steve has AIDS and I took him to hospital yesterday, he is quite ill with a possible tumour on his liver.”

There was an almost palpable silence, where the only noise was Mandy in the kitchen and the fridge buzzing in the background somewhere.

“My Steve has AIDS?” asked Debbie, “Surely there is some mistake?”

“It would be wonderful if there was, but he’s known for a couple of years.” I tried to avoid the gay element although I knew it would happen eventually. In my mind, the fact that he was so poorly was the important thing.

Andy looked at us in total horror but said nothing. He put his arm around his wife who was now crying.

Mandy came back into the room carrying the tray of tea. I stood up quickly to take it from her and laid it on the coffee table. “What’s going on?” she asked her distraught parents.

“Steve’s got AIDS according to these two,” said Andy.

“What? No! No that can’t be true, it’s just flu,” she threw herself on the floor next to her parents. “He can’t have, he can’t have,” she called in rebuttal of the truth.

Tom looked at me and with lips pressed tightly together watched the distressed family. There was nothing we could do.

“Is he going to die?” asked Debbie getting some composure.

“I’m not a doctor, but he is very poorly,” I offered.

“We should be on our way to see him,” she replied, “my little boy.”

“He asked me yesterday to come and tell you, the hospital did offer to phone you, but Steve said no. I could hardly refuse him, he looked quite ill.”

“How long has he got?” asked Andy.

“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I suppose it depends upon how serious the thing on his liver is.”

“I thought only queers got AIDS,” said Debbie.

“Anyone can get it from unprotected sex,” said Tom, reminding me he was still there for me.

“Is he queer?” Debbie said looking at me.

“I erm,” I hesitated, “he told me he was gay, yes.”

“Jesus Christ all bloody mighty!” shouted Andy. “You tell me my son is dying and then you have to tell me he’s a fucking pansy.”

“Irrespective of what his sexuality is, he is still your son and he is still a lovely human being.”

“Oh shut up with your bloody platitudes. Do you know what this means, do you know what people around here are going to think when they find out?”

“Is that more important than your son’s love?” I asked. I was trying to keep my temper, I’ve been there got the scars and come through it. Stevie wasn’t going to be able to fight for himself, but I could. All that was saving Andy from me stripping him layer by layer like an onion was the fact that he was in shock. But if he wanted to fight, I’d eat him alive.

Oh he was twice my size, but I had the secret weapon, I had survived attacks from arseholes like him and grown stronger. I had been exposed to the world and survived. I had been into the pit and climbed out. He was teetering on its edge, I only had to nudge him and his prejudice would carry him down to its murky depths and maybe drown him there.

He stood up as if to challenge me and I saw Tom tense ready to intervene. But Andy checked himself. “My son a fucking queer,” he groaned and dropped to his knees tears streaming down his face. “Why, why?”

“Where is he?” asked Debbie.

I handed her a slip of paper with the hospital address and telephone number. I suggested she ring before they went to make sure which ward he was on.

Mandy was looking at me. I knew she recognised me and sooner or later the penny would drop. What degree she would remember was anyone’s guess. I hoped we would have left before then.

“I know you from somewhere,” she said looking at me.

“You might have seen Cathy around the university or even the town when you came to see Steve,” said Tom.

“No, it’s not that.”

“I used to live in Bristol,” I said.

“Could be, but I dunno.” She looked away thinking hard, her pretty face was red-eyed and her makeup was all streaked. “You were on the telly. You pulled that baby out of the burning car.”

Now I really wanted to leave. I looked at my watch, we’d only been there half an hour. It felt like three lifetimes.

“You’re gonna marry that Lord bloke, aren’t ya?”

I nodded. I was just waiting for the final hammer blow to fall before I got ready to defend myself. It didn’t happen. I almost held my breath in anticipation, I could feel the injection of adrenalin coursing through my body as I got ready for fight or flight. I was almost twitching with tension but nothing happened.

“Thank you for coming,” said Debbie anticlimactically.

“I’ll see you out,” said Mandy showing us to the door.

As we got to the door, she said quietly, “I knew Steve was gay, I just wouldn’t believe it. You’re very pretty for a boy.”

“I’m not one anymore,” I said back a little defensively.

“I know, don’t worry I won’t tell them. Is Steve gonna die?”

“I think so,” I said quietly and saw fresh tears run down her face.

“You were brave to come and tell us.”

“Stevie asked me to come, I couldn’t refuse him, he looked so sad.”

“Thank you. Can I come and talk to you some day about all this?”

“If you want to, although I can’t say I know too much about it.”

“But you know a part of Steve I don’t.”

“I’m not sure I do. I only met him two weeks ago as his tutor and he confided in me. I got him to go to hospital and we went back again yesterday. They admitted him. He also told me he knew what was wrong and asked me to come and tell you.”

“Oh, I wondered if you and him, sort of moved in…”

“No, I’m an ordinary woman who came to womanhood by a more tortuous path than you, but my world is as boring and mundane as yours. I’m not into any secret worlds except that of The Mammal Society and Portsmouth university cycling club.” It was a slight fib, but I felt my cowardice wouldn’t allow her to tar me with any brush, except that of normality. Okay, so I’m a hypocrite in some ways, although mostly what I said is true. I live a boringly normal life.

“Okay, I believe you, but I’d still like to talk to you some day.”

“Okay Mandy, contact me via the university and I’ll see what I can do.”

“It was you with the hamster down your jumper?”

“Dormouse,” I corrected her, “yes that was me and Spike.”

She laughed, releasing her tension and I laughed too, then Tom put his hand on my shoulder and we walked back to the car.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 193

Tom and I went back to my car and drove out of the road, Simon and Stella followed us in his car. We went back to my father’s house, where I made us all a good cup of tea. Tom reported on our meeting with Stevie’s parents.

Simon felt angry, “How dare he criticise his son like that, the poor bugger is almost breathing his last and all his dad is concerned about, is what the neighbours think. What an arsehole!”

“There are plenty of people like it, Si,” said Stella picking up a chocolate hobnob. “These biscuits are my favourite, Cathy.”

I winked back at her, they were amongst mine as well, but the rate at which she was eating them meant I might not get a look in this time.

“We did what Stevie asked me to do. I hope I did it gently. I didn’t want to fight it out with Mr Naylor because there could be no winners. He can only win if he learns to see beyond his prejudice, as my father is trying to do now, but only because life has forced him to. Prejudice ultimately destroys those who hold it.”

“You did okay Cathy,” said Tom squeezing my shoulder. “It’s never easy to tell a parent something like that, especially a double whammy.”

“That is a horrible expression, Tom,” I groaned at my esteemed colleague and mentor.

He looked at me and chuckled.

“I do hope they get to see him before he becomes any sicker.” I thought this was the most important thing.

“Yeah, but dear old dad arriving and performing could make him worse.” Simon was still angry, maybe because in being a man himself, he felt Andy Naylor was letting the side down by acting like a primitive.

“Don’t worry, the ward won’t let him perform and I suspect the boy’s mother won’t either. She won’t want her last hours with him to be remembered for infighting between Steve and his dad.” Stella seemed to have a very moot point.

“But by then the damage is done Stel, the boy will be stressed and his immune system will worsen, not to mention his desire to live.” Simon also made a valid point.

Simon then looked at me, “Right my beautiful, angelic messenger, what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to see my dad and have a chat with Des. Then travel back down tomorrow and hopefully will pop in to see Stevie sometime tomorrow.”

“Won’t the family be there then?” asked Simon.

“I don’t honestly know, why?”

“Well, apart from the numbers around the bed, won’t it risk your own position in terms of being detected or them remembering where they saw you?”

“The daughter Mandy did, remember.”

“Well, she might blab.”

“She said not.”

“You don’t believe her do you?”

“Simon, just because her father is an arsehole doesn’t mean she is. He is still a student of mine and we never did finish the tutorial.”

“I find your adherence to duty commendable if unfeasible,” smiled Tom.

I looked at the time, do you need me for anything, because I’m going to change and pop and see my dad.

“I thought you were going to cook us all dinner before you went.” There were times when I could cheerfully thump Simon. This was one such.

“No way, I have to save my energy for Des,” I smirked back at him; the look on his face was probably more satisfying than a slap.

Stella giggled then said, “I hope you have your sexiest lingerie.”

“Gonna put it on as soon as you’re gone,” I replied and she giggled even more.

“Am I to be cuckolded by my good friend?” Simon stared at the floor.

“Only if he’s a very lucky boy.” Stella was really getting back to normal.

‘More than lucky!’ I thought to myself, recalling the stupid car insurance advert and the dog called Lucky.

I went up and changed into jeans and a top to go and see my father, the others took the hint and set off for their return to Portsmouth. I was sad to see them go, the house seemed very lonely without them. Someone had washed up the cups, for which I was grateful.

Daddy was really pleased to see me, he’d seen stuff on the news including my interview on the news. He’d also kept one or two press cuttings for me. The one in the Daily Mail surprised me by not denigrating my marriage to Simon, playing instead upon my recent exploits with burning cars, bag snatchers and jumping, incontinent dormice.

The Torygraph wasn’t so pleased, suggesting that as I couldn’t produce an heir, there should be some law preventing it. It surprised me, I know it represents rather conservative views, but it seemed to excel itself in the stupidity stakes this time. I was pleased to see a letter criticising the editorial in the next edition. I decided they wouldn’t get an interview, except to talk about dormice or other British mammals.

Daddy ate up his soup with gusto. I had to buy some bread on the way in, I’d also bought some cheese and bread for later, wondering if Des would bring more wine. The forecast for the next day wasn’t too bad, so a ride might be possible. Better to wait and see.

I reminded Daddy that although I’d be up to see him over Christmas, I was going to hospital on New Year’s Day. He nodded his understanding.

I also realised I had loads of shopping to do for presents and food. Oh boy, life is a pain at times.

I excused myself and drove back home and changed into something a bit more interesting for Des’ visit. Just because I wouldn’t or couldn’t have sex with him, didn’t mean I couldn’t flirt with him. At least that was what I told myself as I adjusted my push up bra.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 194

I stood in front of my mother’s dressing table mirror and gazed at my body. In the tight black lace knickers, nothing could be seen of my dangly bits. My hips looked a reasonable shape and my slim waist was in good shape too. Above it stood my breasts, perky and exaggerated by the matching black booster bra.

A black lacy suspender belt completed the set, but I opted to leave that off, after all no one but me was going to see it and my stay up stockings were more comfortable, at least for a few hours. After that, the rubbery stuff that gripped the skin made me itchy and brought up a red weal. Some of my cycle shorts had similar rubbery strips on the hems of the legs—wearing them for any length of time had a similar outcome.

So there I was dressed like a courtesan in sexy undies and high heeled black shoes, feeling pleased with myself. My makeup and hair looked good too. I slipped the slinky dress with its wrap over top carefully over my head so as not to disturb my hair, then tied the back ties into a loose knot behind me, pulling the material taut around my toned waist.

My jewellery was the necklace and earrings my father had given me from the modest collection my mother had owned. I wasn’t sure that it was appropriate to wear it while flirting with anyone other than Simon. Mum would not have approved of my behaviour, although I think she would have liked the dress.

It had a large paisley design in white on a black background, with the odd bit highlighted in silver, so it caught the light. It fitted like a glove and was comfortable to wear, it also washed easily and I was doubly pleased when I bought it for half price.

My pink painted nails shone in the light from the main lamp in the room as I clasped first my watch to my left wrist and then my silver bracelet to my right wrist. A couple of squirts of Coco and I was ready for my visitor.

It was about ten minutes to eight, I stood in the kitchen and made up a tray of bread and cheeses, with pickle and assorted salad stuff. I nearly died when there was a knock at the kitchen door.

“It’s me Des,” he called through the glass. He’d ridden his bike again and wanted it hidden from view.

“You frightened the life out of me,” I said as I let him in.

He sniggered putting down his helmet and gloves, and continued doing so while he removed his shoes and jacket.

I watched him as he undressed and my body kept telling me it wanted him. I felt myself blushing and I returned to my salad. When I sneaked another look at his body, well through his cycling shirt, I saw he was standing grinning holding a bottle of Rioja. I smiled and handed him the corkscrew.

I heard the pop of the cork and placed the glasses on the tray. For some reason my mother always kept her wine glasses in the sideboard in the lounge. I had just removed two and placed them on the tray on the Parker Knoll coffee table.

Des swaggered in, handing me the bottle of wine and a box of chocolates. Damn, now I had to thank him. I accepted the gifts and pecked him on the cheek. With both my hands full, I couldn’t prevent him from gently gripping my face in his hands and kissing me on the lips.

I pulled away gasping and blushing. He just laughed.

“You look lovely when you’re angry,” he said chuckling at my discomfort. The bastard knew I fancied him and also that I wouldn’t allow myself to do anything about it, except flirt.

My body now richer in testosterone than it had been for a year or so was randy as hell. I felt something twitch in my groin but my panties held it safe. In two weeks, things would be different down there, but for now they had to stay hidden and disguised.

He complimented me on my appearance, adding, “I hope you look as good in cycling togs, because we’re riding tomorrow morning.”

“Oh are we?” I said blushing with excitement and irritation. Nobody tells me what to do unless I let them, and I had just let him take the initiative.

“So why did you want to see me, other than to torment me with your luscious body?” he asked, settling down with a glass of the Spanish red wine.

“I wanted to ask for your help,” I said blushing.

“What again?” he pretended to affect indignation.

“Yes again.”

“Okay, what do you want?”

“In a couple of weeks I’m going to be tied up for a few weeks and won’t be able to see my dad. I wondered if you could pop in to Southmead once or twice with a bottle of Scotch for him. He doesn’t get too many visitors. If you’re okay with it, then I’ll introduce you before my admiss…, erm my indisposition.” I blushed furiously.

“You’re going into hospital?”

“Erm,” blushing still redder, I took a sip of wine, which made me even hotter. “Erm, yes.”

“Nothing serious I hope?”

“It is to me.”

“Oh, the um,” he whistled and made a scissors action with his fingers.

He knew, what the hell! I nodded.

“Good luck, if ever you need to test drive it, give me a shout.” He winked and if it wasn’t for the risk of staining the leather suite with wine, I’d have thrown a cushion at him.

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay what?” I asked puzzled.

“Okay, I’ll go and see your dad.”

“Oh thanks. There was something else.”

I explained about my ordeal earlier with Stevie’s family. He looked angry.

“I was in college with a guy who got AIDS, it was awful. We were learning the art of documentary filmmaking and he made one about dying from AIDS. It was a beautiful piece of work. He lived long enough to get his degree and an award for the best biographical film and best promising newcomer, but not long enough to see it shown on Channel Four.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Oh maybe five years ago. I have a copy on DVD, I’ll copy it for you.”

“Thanks.”

“I get the impression that there’s a shopping list.”

“The Portsmouth Echo wants to do an interview with me. I don’t know whether or not to do it.”

“Do it, it’s better to have them like you than dislike you. You can set up some parameters for your cooperation.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like we did with the BBC, ‘I won’t talk about this or that, or if it’s too personal or intrusive, I will refuse to answer. If it continues, I walk.’ You need to assert some editorial authority or they’ll do what they want.”

“I don’t know if I can, I get so nervous.”

“You want me to set it up do you?”

“Well, you are rather good at it,” I batted my eyelashes at him.

“It’s going to cost you.”

“What, like an agent’s fee?”

“No nothing as crude as money.”

I wondered what he was talking about, then suddenly thought and blushed once more.

“I don’t know…” I blushed even deeper and felt an embarrassed excitement. What was it with this guy that I couldn’t get out of my head? I truly loved Simon and found him desirable too, but Des was something else and I didn’t understand what it was.

“I’m an engaged wom…, well engaged anyway.”

He seemed to enjoy my embarrassed confusion, grinning at me like a Cheshire cat.

“You’re a woman all right Cathy, I wouldn’t have a bulge like this in my pants for a boy, that’s for sure.”

I blushed redder still, if I got any hotter I had visions of my polyester/viscose knickers and bra, melting. A little rivulet of sweat ran down my back making me shiver involuntarily. He was loving every moment of this.

“You’re a bastard Des.”

“It’s taken you a long time to work that out,” he grinned.

I huffed as my response.

He tore off a piece of French stick and cut a triangle of cheese. I grabbed a stick of celery and began licking it before biting it savagely. Then blushed at what I was doing, geez, sending out strong signals that I can’t fulfil, all the while the strength of the gusset of my knickers was being tested.

The rest of the supper was equally symbolic, although I found myself trying not to up the ante, tempting though it was. I suspect if anyone had been watching us, they’d have thought we were either in some corny comedy sketch of a poorly made French sex film.

I found my second glass of wine made me feel mellow and I began to relax rather than feel sexed up. I knew it would also make me less inhibited, but in the end as nothing happened, I suspect Des was teasing me as much as I was him.

“So what time are we riding tomorrow?” he asked.

“Who said I was riding at all?” I asked.

“I did, and you said you’d bring your bike. Did you?”

“Did I what?”

“Strewth Cathy, don’t you listen? Did you bring your bike with you?”

“When?”

“Don’t piss me about girl,” his face changed a little, time to stop teasing.

“What did you have in mind?”

“An hour or two’s ride, why?”

“On our own?”

“Yeah, as far as I know. I can try and see what the club is doing.”

“No thanks. I usually have time keeping up with slugs and snails.”

“Okay, we are not racing, just a nice ride and a chat, get a coffee somewhere.”

“Okay. I have to warn you, I haven’t ridden much for a while, so you’ll have to be easy on me.”

“Course I will.”

We chatted some more. He told me stories about when he was at school with Simon and Stella. She was a bit later and they didn’t have much contact, but she nearly got herself expelled when she was found out to have put glue in the gym shoes of her PE teacher, with whom she’d had an argument. The poor woman couldn’t get them off for a week.

He went to the back door, and dressed in all but his helmet. Then he grabbed me suddenly and kissed me hard, forcing his tongue into my not too unwilling mouth. Then having taken my breath away, he grabbed his helmet and left.

“Bastard!” I said loudly, savouring his kiss.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 195

I went to bed with my head buzzing and a certain moistness in my panties. Why did Des turn me on so much? It was ridiculous. I had a lovely man already, who doted on me and of whom I was very fond. In fact I think I can safely say, I loved. Yet this ne’er do well comes along and sweeps me off my feet and leaves my heart racing like a Geiger counter at Sellafield*.

I tried to go to sleep but all I could see was a certain face and I could still taste his kiss.

He was coming by at nine and it was nearly two already. I got my MP3 player and finally managed to get to sleep with the help of some music.

I awoke at eight and after washing and breakfasting got myself organised for my ride. I wore the imitation GB strip, it was the only one I’d brought. I just hoped I could keep up with my would-be lycra lover.

I got my Scott out of the garage and checked the tyres and brakes, put a small amount of lube on the chain and everything seemed in working mode, except perhaps the rider.

My modest mammaries were extremely noticeable in my racing skins. I had taped a certain appendage so it wouldn’t be seen, yet at the same time would be comfortable to sit on a racing saddle, which is smaller and narrower than a touring or MTB saddle. The weather was actually very mild and fine, a strange combination for middle December, but who was complaining?

Des arrived as I was wiping off my chain. The ideal in lubrication is as little as possible, but with the proviso it is enough. It can take practice and a few chain sets. I have heard commuters squeaking along on gears and chains that were crying out for oil and they don’t oil them. I have also heard of more serious riders who get through a chain set a year and a can of lube about every ten years.

It reminds me of an advert I saw when I was a kid. It was displayed at the garage my dad used to use. It was very simple, ‘We sell replacement engines for people who don’t change their oil.’

“Hello gorgeous, oh wow! Been picked for the national team have we? I surrender now.”

Without looking back, I was squirting WD40 down inside my cable covers, I said, “Hi Des.” I continued, bent over my bike.

“The view from here is terrific.”

“Ha bloody ha. Does my bum look big in this then?” I jibed back, still playing with my gear and brake cables.

“No it looks absolutely perfect.”

I felt myself blushing, then I squeaked and jumped dropping the can when he touched my bottom. “Just what are you doing?” I snapped.

He smiled in an embarrassed way, and I thought it served him right. “No VPL then?” he said.

“What?” I gasped.

“VPL you know, visible pa…”

“I know what it means. Of course there isn’t. You’re supposed to go commando.”

“Oh, are you?”

I turned and gave him an old-fashioned look, “You know damn well they are supposed to be worn with no underpants, so if this was just a ruse to stroke my bum…”

“You’ll what?”

“I shall think you are a dirty old man,” I huffed and folded my arms.

“That looks like a useful bit of kit,” he said looking at my bike and conveniently changing the subject.

“I think so.”

“So you’re gonna kick my butt, are you?”

“Des, you are half as big as me again, I somehow don’t think I have much chance against you, were we racing, not to mention that oestrogens break down muscle mass.”

“Well, you have two very nice muscles from where I’m standing.”

I groaned, “Don’t you ever think of anything else?”

“I do when I’m working, but this is play time.”

“Yeah, and you should be in a schoolyard.” I turned and placed my drink bottles in their racks, then shut up the house and garage. It was twenty past nine before we got to start our ride.

We rode up onto the downs and over the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a C19th bridge built by Brunel over the Avon gorge, a fitting tribute to a master engineer. The ride went very well, we did do some sparring and he was certainly the stronger sprinter by some margin, but my smaller bodyweight helped me match him on the climbs. I reckoned if I’d managed to get back to the level I was at a few months earlier, I’d have given him more competition, but effectively, he was riding more and in better shape.

We got back two hours later and had covered nearly forty miles, not bad given that some of it was quite lumpy. I half-expected that he’d come back to my father’s house again, but he rode off at the end of the road saying he had a meeting he needed to plan for.

So I rode the last hundred or so yards to the house by myself. I felt relieved and at the same time disappointed. As I put my bike away, I recalled his playful touches to my bottom and realised that it was all just flirting.

I hoped it was because he found me attractive, and restrained because he respected me and also his friendship with Simon. What would I have done if he had come on more strongly? I didn’t know. Thinking about it made my heart race in a very pleasant way and for some twitches to occur quite a bit lower. At the same time, I was relieved that my fidelity wasn’t really questioned. I felt myself blushing. Would I have let both myself and Simon down by indulging in a fling? I didn’t really know.

The phone was ringing as I got in, it was Simon. “Where have you been? I’ve been calling for a good hour.”

“I was out for a bike ride.”

“What on your own?”

“No, with Des.” I felt myself blush and he went quiet for a moment.

“Oh, have a good time?”

“Yeah, it was a good ride when I could keep up with him, he is so powerful, thrusting away. I did try to match him in rhythm.”

“What sort of ride are we, erm, talking about?”

“Bikes, what did you think I meant?”

“Oh that’s all right then.”

“What is?” I decided that he needed a wind up as it would guarantee his attention when I got home.

“Erm, nothing. You going to see your father?”

“Yeah, on the way home. Feel a bit pooped now. Des was so demanding last night.” I nearly sniggered and gave it away.

“What do you mean?”

“Like last night, he is an animal, so full of energy. Think it must be all that cycling he does.”

“What did you do last night?”

“You know. Look, I have to go, need a shower, see you later. Kiss Kiss.”

He was shouting, “Cathy,” as I put the phone down. I trotted up the stairs with my knees and thighs knowing they’d had some exercise, but my chuckling was because Simon’s curiosity had also had some exercise.

*Sellafield—a nuclear complex which houses a power station and fuel reprocessing centre. A nearby site was also the scene of the most serious nuclear accident in the UK (Seascale).

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 196

I visited my father and took him the soup I had hurriedly made—he seemed to enjoy it, and there would be enough for the next day. The journey back down to Portsmouth wasn’t too bad either. I had taken my bike back with me, just in case I had a chance to ride it, although it looked pretty remote.

I popped in to see Stevie but he was sleeping. I left some fruit and magazines for him with the nurse. As I was leaving I bumped into his sister.

“Lady Catherine,” she said, and I didn’t know if she was being genuine or taking the piss.

“I’m not yet. It’s just plain Cathy.”

“Oh, sorry. I thought you were engaged.”

“I am, but titles only transfer on marriage. Actually I think it’s a load of old tosh, but it may help with restaurant bookings.”

She laughed.

“How is he?”

“Very poorly.”

“Has your dad been to see him?”

“Yes, they held each other and cried.”

“And your mum?”

“She’s gone for a coffee while he sleeps. Dad had to go home for work tomorrow, Mum and me are staying down here for a few days.”

“I’m glad Stevie and his dad were able to make up some ground.”

“Yeah, look, can we talk?”

I looked at my watch, I didn’t really have time but I didn’t feel like seeming rude to a youngster. “Can I make a quick phone call?”

She nodded and I called Simon. “I’m at the hospital, just seeing Stevie. Won’t be long.”

“Okay, see you later?”

“Want me to bring anything in with me?”

“Des’s balls on a plate.”

“Boiled or baked?”

“Don’t care.”

“See you later.”

We walked out of the ward and strolled around the hospital grounds.

“I still can’t believe you used to be a boy,” started Mandy.

“I’m sure you haven’t brought me all out here to say that.”

“No, but I was complimenting you for being so, like female.”

“Thank you, now what did you want to talk about?”

“My boyfriend likes to borrow my clothes,” she said and even in the evening twilight I could see her blushing.

“How can I help with that?”

“Well, is he que… I mean gay?”

“I don’t know, I presume not, if he is going out with you.”

“We don’t have sex or anything, but he likes to wear my underwear.”

“Does he wear it or just take it home to fantasise over while he erm… releases his tensions.”

“No, he puts it on.”

“He might be a number of things, fetishist, transvestite, or he may be just exploring his relationship with you. What is important, is how you feel about it, and how much you like or love him.”

“Yeah, I suppose so. If I could arrange it, would you talk with him?”

“About what, Mandy? There are loads of people better qualified than I am to deal with psychosexual issues. I’m a biologist, not a psychologist.”

“But if he is transvestite, you’d know what it was like wouldn’t you?”

“Not really, I have seen myself as female since I discovered there was a difference between girls and boys, so I didn’t cross-dress. I felt skirts and things were my natural wear.”

“What if he’s the same?”

“He needs to talk to an expert, not me. I’m sorry, Mandy, I have enough of my own issues to deal with, I don’t actually need someone else’s. Besides, it has to be his idea to see someone, not just for your benefit, because it’ll be his records any such stuff will be written on, not yours.”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“Look, I’m not trying to be unhelpful. I just don’t think I’m the right person for him to speak to. The problem is, if he is transgendered, whatever that means exactly, and he meets me, it might encourage him to do something he wouldn’t have thought about before. I have seen it happen.”

“What, like want a sex change ’cos he saw someone else who’d had one?”

“Exactly that.”

“Yeah, maybe you are the worst person for him to see then.”

“Maybe I am. I have to go Mandy. I’ll try and pop by tomorrow and see Stevie.”

“Why do you call him Stevie?”

“That’s what he wanted me to call him.”

“Oh! I always call him Steve.”

“I’m sure he’s fine with that.”

“Yeah, course he is.” She paused for a moment then said, “He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is. He is very poorly.”

“Thank you for helping him and us.”

“I only did what he asked me to do. I could hardly refuse a dying wish, could I?”

“You’re a very nice lady, Lady Catherine. It suits you like the expensive clothes you wear.”

“I bought this lot in Marks & Sparks*,” I said indicating the jeans and top under the coat. “I’m just an ordinary girl at heart.”

She threw her arms around me and hugged me. “Come and see Steve again, he still needs you.”

“I’ll do my best.”

She went back to the ward and I went to my car. I checked the bike was still inside the car under my other luggage. If Simon was looking to buy me a nice Christmas present, a hard bike bag would be good, except I didn’t like the idea of him spending hundreds of pounds on me.

I arrived home with a takeaway, an Indian. I didn’t want any, I don’t like spicy food, but Tom’s eyes lit up when he smelt it. The others ate it while I did myself a boiled egg. I was tired.

“So what is this between you and Des?” Simon stood in the kitchen while I washed up.

“There is only one thing between Des and myself, and that is my love for you. Now I am sorry I wound you up, but sometimes you ask for it, and you did introduce us.”

“Not really. He saw you at the press conference, the one with the kamikaze gerbil.”

“Dormouse, you’ve been talking to Tom far too much.”

“One pest is much like another.”

“You are not going to wind me up just because I got you earlier. I am not Stella, I don’t really enjoy these silly games.”

“How about we just go to bed and do what the Welsh do?”

“What, play rugby, or sing?”

“We can if you like, but I was thinking of having what they call a ‘cooch’.”

“I’ve heard that expression before, especially around Cardiff.”

“It means a cuddle, I believe. Cooch b’there like, look you,” he sounded like a cross between Max Boyce and Fluellen from Henry V, with a preposterous Welsh accent.

“Aye all right like,” I said in my best (Bristol) Welsh accent, and we went off to bed together.

*Marks & Sparks = Marks & Spencer a very large chain of shops in the UK also in some other European countries.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 197

I went to bed with the best of intentions, then undressing reminded me of my imperfection, and I lay with my back towards Simon.

“Gone off me have you?”

“No, I’m just content to cuddle with you,” I pulled his hand around to my breast and he gently rubbed my nipple with his thumb.

“Prefer Des do you?”

I rolled over, “Don’t be silly. Des and I went for a bike ride, that was all. You’re the one I go to bed with. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

I was fuming but at the same time recognised I’d brought some of it on myself. I’d hoped he’d understood I was just teasing him. If he did, he was teasing me back or punishing me. I felt the tears forming in my eyes. I did not want to cry and show my weakness.

“So why are you turning your back on me? That to me signifies you’d rather not be here.”

“Simon, don’t be so paranoid. I enjoy spooning with you, it’s really nice.”

“But I can’t kiss you like that.”

I sighed and lay on my back hoping that something would remain behaved. He kissed me and of course it excited me, so you know what happened next.

He didn’t notice for a bit, but he put his hand down towards my crotch and pulled it back as if he’d pressed it on a sharp spike or even some fresh dog poo.

It wasn’t just his hand that pulled away, so did the rest of him. I knew exactly what had happened. He sat on the edge of the bed. I lay on my back crying silently. In sixteen more days it would be gone, they couldn’t come fast enough.

I rolled onto my side again and cried myself to sleep. I don’t know what Simon did, I didn’t feel him get up from the side of the bed, so I assume he sat there until he got fed up or cold.

I woke once during the night and he was lying with his back towards me, that hurt too, and I cried some more. I began to wonder if my life had peaked early and that my relationship was in decline.

He’d said he was okay with it, knowing that I was off the hormones and also that it wasn’t stuck out the way. I could have quite happily cut it off there and then and had done with it. It had never been any use to me, I couldn’t even win peeing contests when I was a kid, all the other boys seemed able to pee further or higher up a wall than I could.

Normally, I’d have cuddled into Simon’s back, but with things as they were, I didn’t dare. If I woke up with a woody, it could seriously threaten our relationship.

I got out of bed and taking the case I used in Bristol, went into the bathroom. I pulled out the sticking plaster I had used when I went for the bike ride. I cut two long strips and taped it around my appendage and back through to my buttocks, pulling the dangly bits back through my legs. It wasn’t very comfortable, but with Micropore, a very thin paper tape, it was unnoticeable through anything save the skimpiest of material. I limped back to the bed and after warming up, cuddled into Simon’s back.

I woke up with his hand stretched behind him around my buttock, something tied back between my legs was straining but it was holding. It hurt like no one’s business, but it kept me flat in front.

I held him around the waist and kissed him on the shoulder. Then my hand began to descend lower towards his groin. He suddenly grabbed my hand and pushed it away. I got the message and rolled over onto my other side. I cried silently, but he must have felt the bed moving with my sobs. He knew what was happening. I began to feel that it was all over.

He got up and went to shower. I took his ring off my finger and laid it on his clean underpants, I threw on some jeans and a jumper and grabbing my shoes, I ran off to hide.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 198

I dressed in the main bathroom and ran down the stairs, my eyes blurred with tears made the journey a little more precarious than usual. Then I was out the door, pulling on my coat as I went, making sure my key was in my bag.

From there I simply walked and cried. My phone rang a couple of times but I ignored it. It would only be bad news. If I could have relived the previous twenty-four hours, there were several things I would have done differently. It was too late now.

I had destroyed the future, my future, my happiness. I really questioned whether I wanted to live any more. It struck me as ironic that Stevie wanted to live and was dying, and I felt like dying, but would live. If there is a God, he’s a bastard!

I hoped Simon had found the ring, for several reasons, one being he would understand the messages he’d given me, another, the fact that I didn’t want it lost. It was far too beautiful. I suddenly missed my mother, she could have advised me or at least comforted me. Effectively, I had no one.

I would have liked to explain to Simon but it was too late for that, he had rejected me. I had no intention of giving him a second chance to humiliate me. It was sad, but I had my pride, too. I was doubly sad that I would lose Stella as a sister-in-law, but that was the way these things happened.

I trudged along in my misery running all sorts of scenarios in my mind. In one, I could see Simon talking with his friends at some time in the future, where he related his escape from nearly marrying a boy.

I had to stop at one point, I got so upset that I couldn’t even walk. I wanted to fall down and cry hysterically, but I knew it would do me no good. If only I could go back a day or even twelve hours.

I was walking across fields and hadn’t noticed how wet my feet and legs were from the grass and weeds. I wanted to go to a place where no one would disturb me or my misery, preferably ever again.

I was finished with men, they just hurt me. I couldn’t go through any of this again. From now on, I would never let anyone close to me ever again.

In the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere, I found a large stone to sit on and screamed and sobbed for probably an hour. When I’d finished my throat was sore and so were my eyes. I was soaking wet, it was raining and I hadn’t noticed. Worse than that, I had no idea where I was.

The rain was becoming heavier and I was now getting cold as well as wet. I already felt numb emotionally, now I was beginning to feel it physically too. I was also beginning to fret about where I was. ‘Can people die from hypothermia walking in the countryside?’

The rain intensified and I couldn’t see much nor hear any traffic, only the rain, lashing into the ground and my hood and face. Was this how my story would end, like it began? In a rainstorm? I did wonder. In a way it felt complete that it should end like this, I’d gone full circle found acceptance, love and happiness. Then like a fool, lost one after the other like dominoes. Dying seemed a natural conclusion to my fuck up. It was what I deserved. God I felt cold. I started to shiver.

In the poor visibility, I couldn’t work out which way I’d come. I couldn’t really see the edges of the field and for all I knew I was wandering around in circles. I began to get frightened. Silly isn’t it? Here I am half-thinking about killing myself and I feel frightened because I’m lost. If I was telling a story, it’s so preposterous that no one would believe me, except maybe a psychiatrist. It would also be ironic if I got pneumonia and died instead of having the surgery.

No I needed to stay fit and well, I had to complete on this, to get my body changed. If I died afterwards, it wouldn’t matter, but I had to die a woman, not a man or all my suffering for so many years would be in vain. I started crying because now I felt frightened that I had messed that up too.

I don’t know how long I staggered around the field, the rain still sheeting down, I was soaked right through and very cold as the icy wind whipped around me. Eventually I found the gate and got through it. I was shivering violently.

I tried to run to warm up, but my clothes were heavy with water and the ground was slippery with mud. I fell and fell again, trying to get up. Where the hell was I?

I sheltered under a holly tree. It didn’t afford much respite, but I could call for help. I pulled my mobile out of my bag, somehow the rain had got into it and it wouldn’t work. I felt like throwing it away in disgust. My purse was wet, so was everything else in my bag, it was raining that hard.

I had to keep moving, I was feeling sick with the cold and my shivering was getting worse. I really was heading for hypothermia. Not being sure of where I was going, I had to try and avoid retracing my most recent steps, although I didn’t know if I was heading towards or away from Tom’s house.

The rain started to ease off but I was feeling befuddled and sleepy. I knew I mustn’t go to sleep, keep walking, I told myself. I fell again and it was so hard to get up again in the mud. I was filthy now as well as cold, wet and hungry. Abject didn’t even begin to describe how I felt. My skin was beginning to sting with the cold and my hands were numb as were my feet.

I spotted a farmhouse and walked towards it. A dog barked at me but I didn’t care, there may be people or a phone I could use to call help. I got to the door and banged on it. It opened just as I collapsed.

In the distance I heard voices, “Don’t touch her, she may be on drugs or drink.”

“Get the police.”

“Looks like an ambulance may be more use.”

“Quick help her up, she’s cold.”

To cut a long story short, they pulled off my top clothes and wrapped me in a blanket, I have a vague recollection of that. I also felt the hot-water bottle, it was burning but beautifully so. I was shoved alongside a roaring log fire, and a woman held out a cup of hot sweet tea. I sipped it from her hands, my own were still shaking. I couldn’t speak but she seemed to understand.

“Can you understand me?” she asked.

I managed to nod a yes.

“I’m going to try and get you warm enough to stop shaking, then take you up for a bath in warm water.”

I nodded again.

“Then you can tell me what you were doing out in the rain, okay?”

I nodded again.

I did start to warm up. She came and checked on me every half an hour.

“Thank you,” I said the shivering was gone.

“Oh good you can talk, what’s your name?”

“Cathy.”

“Okay Cathy. Come with me up to the bathroom. I’ve shoved your clothes in the washing machine, to get the worst of the mud out of them.”

In the bathroom I managed to convince her a shower would be sufficient and she provided me with towels and shampoo. She was quite a bit larger than me so she suggested she loan me some of her son’s clothes as he was nearer my size.

If my phone had been working I could have called Stella to bring me some. But it wasn’t, and I couldn’t remember her number or that of Tom’s house. I felt extremely foolish to say the least.

The shower was bliss and I scrubbed myself from head to foot, the water eventually running clear of the mud. Then I shampooed my hair and rinsed it. At last my body and mind were starting to work again.

I wrapped up in the towel and worked another into a turban around my hair. The woman knocked on the door and handed me the clothes. A pair of jeans and polo shirt, with some Y fronts and socks.

Nothing fitted. It was all too small. She took it all back and came back with a nightdress and dressing gown. They were big, but wearable.

We went down stairs and she made some more tea, this time I asked for no sugar.

“Okay Cathy, now what were you doing wandering in our fields in a storm?”

I told her about breaking up with my fiancé and just running about in my distress. I also told her where I was staying.

“That’s five miles from here,” she said in near astonishment.

“I had no idea where I was,” I confessed, “but I think I owe you my life.”

“It was nothing,” she said blushing, “just a nice distraction from the hoo-ha of Christmas.”

“Could I borrow your phone, and I hope I can get a friend to collect me? I may need to make a couple of calls to get the number.”

“Of course you can. It’s through here.”

I looked up the number for the university, my brain was beginning to work again.

“Professor Agnew’s Office.”

“Hi Pippa, it’s Cathy.”

“Oh thank God you’re safe. Prof Agnew was worried sick.”

“I need to get hold of Stella. Can you give me Tom’s home number?”

She did, but then put me through to Tom; I didn’t really need a fatherly lecture, but I knew I was going to get one anyway. I wasn’t disappointed. He told me that Simon was beside himself with worry, and Stella was anxious for me too. I told him that I was going to call Stella to come and get me. He agreed it was a good idea.

I phoned Tom’s house and spoke to Stella.

“Oh my God, you are all right?”

“Yes, I got very wet and cold, can you come and get me?”

“Course I can.”

“Can you bring me a complete set of clothes and shoes?”

“Yeah, I’ll go and pack some up for you.”

I explained where I was, the farmer’s wife, Anne Smith, had given me directions to the farm. Then I had to sit and wait.

I thanked Mrs Smith for her help and offered her some soggy money for recompense. She refused and so I didn’t push the issue.

It was probably half an hour later when the dog barked again and she went to the door. I had managed to dry and comb my hair into some semblance of order. I stood waiting for Stella to come into the room with my clothes.

The door opened and in walked Simon, carrying an overnight bag.

“What are you doing here?” I gasped.

“I could ask you the same question,” he replied and I felt myself blush.

He handed me the bag and I asked Anne if I could use her bathroom again. Ten minutes later I was back down, dressed in skirt and top, my red boots and cardigan. It felt good to be back in my own clothes. I placed the bag of still damp stuff that had been washed for me in my bag.

Simon handed me my coat, and took my bag out to the car, then he returned with a small case of wine and handed it to Mrs Smith.

She tried to refuse it, but he just plonked it on the table. She thanked him, but was obviously embarrassed at the same time.

I hugged her and thanked her for her help.

“Goodness you look so different to when you knocked on the door,” she said, then she looked at me again. “I know you, it’s Lady Catherine isn’t it?”

I was about to say no, because I thought that had long since faded, but Simon interrupted. “Yes Mrs Smith, that’s her, Queen of the dormice.”

“I saw you on the telly, the dormouse went down your jumper, now I remember.” She laughed and I blushed and nodded.

Back in the car and heading to Tom’s, I took issue with Simon for the dormouse story.

“Would you have preferred I told her, yes she was on telly talking about her sex change?”

“No, I s’pose not,” I said and looked down at my feet.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 199

The drive back to Tom’s was one of the longest I can remember. Simon said nothing and I sat there feeling extremely stupid. Why couldn’t Stella have come? Perhaps he insisted, but why? Was this some form of power play—men don’t lose it like that, only hysterical women! No men don’t lose it like that, they go out and smash things or hit people.

In reality, the drive back probably took about twenty minutes or at most, half an hour, but my mind and real time were on different settings. My mind was whirring like a demented clock, ideas and pictures kept flashing through it, none of them were nice.

Was I finally cracking up? It felt like it. Perhaps I should call Dr Thomas? She’d really go to town on me and might even cancel my surgery. I had to have that surgery, I really did, so I could die complete. That caught me on the funny bone and I had difficulty not sniggering. What was so funny? The idea of cutting something off to make me complete, sounded totally Irish!

We arrived at Tom’s and Stella held the door open as Simon followed me in. He repelled my attempts to deal with my wet clothes, shepherding me into the lounge. Stella followed him in a few moments later with a tray of coffee. Nothing was said as we sipped silently on our coffees.

Finally, Simon put down his mug and said, “We need to talk. I’d like Stella to stay to make sure we keep it relevant and not start on each other. Is that okay with you?”

I nodded and felt myself filling up.

“Why did you run off like that?” he asked me.

“I thought you had changed your mind about me. You rejected me in bed.”

“I didn’t reject you Cathy, just the remnants of Charlie.”

“It’s still part of me for another two weeks. You knew I was off hormones and that I wasn’t glued up inside.”

“Yes, but I hadn’t considered what those consequences were. Now I know and I didn’t handle it terribly well.”

“You rejected me last night, and again this morning. I decided not to give you a third chance.”

“So you took off like an angry schoolgirl?”

“I needed to be alone, to think.” Tears were streaming down my face.

“You could have done that here, not gone rushing out into the cold and dark. Didn’t you know it was going to rain?”

“No, I was too upset to think, besides, I’m allowed to go out if I want to, I don’t need your permission.”

He stood up and threw up his arms in frustration. Then he walked around the room and sat down again.

“Are you going to do this every time we have an argument? Run off and hide?”

“Why, are you going to bully me and treat me like a six year old?”

“I don’t think this is getting either of you anywhere is it?” asked Stella. I’d almost forgotten she was there.

“Clearly we have some problems with the past. What about the future? How does Cathy see her future?” Stella tried to assert some control over the proceedings. “Do you still want to marry Simon?”

“I don’t know?”

“Do you still want to marry Cathy?”

“Not if she’s going to act like…”

“How about a simple yes, no, or don’t know?”

“I’m not so sure any more.”

“Why not?”

“She’s changed.”

“Has she?”

“Yes.”

“In what way?” I was going to speak but Stella hushed me.

“She rejected me; she gave back my ring and seems to think I don’t want her any more. She ran off like a spoilt child. She seems to have been getting more irrational over the last few weeks.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“I have no idea.”

“None at all?”

“She’s known about the surgery for weeks, I suppose her dad might worry her. The press business was a bit of a pain but it seems to have died down.”

“So perhaps she’s under a bit of stress?”

“A bit, but no more than me at the bank.”

“Yes, I can see your point, it is a stressful job, and with the hostile bid, things are a bit more hectic than usual. And of course you do have Cathy to worry about as well.”

I wanted to jump up and hit both of them, but under Stella’s withering glower, I shrank back in my chair.

“Yes, I know she is under a bit of pressure, but you get used to it.”

“So, she is under a bit of pressure?”

“Yes.”

“But no more than you are?”

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

“And you think she should cope?”

“I suppose so.”

“Is that it?” asked Stella.

“All I can think of for the moment, why?”

“I was just wondering.”

“Wondering what?”

“Why she’s stuck with you this long?”

“What?”

“Look, big brother, sit down and shut up and maybe you’ll learn something.” Stella stood up and Simon shrank back in his chair.

Stella spoke as she walked around the room. “I want you to consider something, Simon.”

He nodded back to her.

“Imagine you have spent the first twenty years of your life being confused about who and what you are, and when you start to reveal it, you get hostile and angry answers from those you trust.”

“We’ve been over this,” he protested.

“Just humour me!” she snapped.

He shrank back again.

“Okay, so you fought the system because the system tells you you shouldn’t feel like this, it’s wrong or weird. So you get defensive and hide how you really feel. Occasionally it slips out and you get the odd hiding and rejection from those who should love you, but it seems only on their terms.

“You escape and live away from them, well sort of live, because you still haven’t resolved anything, except escape from home and some autonomy. You don’t have the money, strength or maturity to do what you want.

“More abuse occurs in the place where you should feel safe, so you escape again and by sheer bloody coincidence meet up with someone who accidentally causes you to face up to your issues. Then, by a series of further coincidences, others encourage you to confront and overcome your issues.

“It seems to be working until you get into a relationship, and despite trying not to make it work, it does and you get seriously fond of your partner. He doesn’t know your true status and although you keep confiding in his sister, who advises you against it, you want to tell him because the deceit is hurting you so much. The sister advises you not to, because his track record is poor and natural wastage may save you having to humiliate and embarrass yourself and him.

“However, you go ahead anyway and amazingly he copes after a bit of thought. Then once he takes it on board and truly thinks about it, he actually says it doesn’t worry him, especially as you are intending to sort out the little problem as soon as you can.

“Things seem to blossom, and you confide to the sister, that you are so happy and so in love you can’t believe your luck and are waiting for things to go wrong, because they always do.

“But for the moment they don’t. Meanwhile your mother has died without being brought on board and your father seems to be vacillating, then has a stroke. The pressure starts to rise and he demands attention from you.

“Not only that, but work is becoming more pressured as you begin to be appreciated by your boss who keeps throwing extra work and responsibility at you. You have the odd up and down with your boyfriend, but things go well enough for him to introduce you to his loony family, who all love you for yourself. They’re crazy but genuine, unusual for bankers. Your boyfriend becomes your fiancé and makes life even more risky for someone with a past.

“Then you get threatening notes and someone tries to kill you. It’s someone you liked and trusted and also your boss gets hurt saving you, and you end up under even more pressure of work. Then the press gets to meet you without suspecting your past until one of your fiancé’s friends digs up some mud, and although he doesn’t cast it, others are soon on the trail because of your fiancé and his employer.

“Pressure is now all around, not helped by your boy scout approach to life—can’t avoid helping old ladies across roads, catching purse snatchers and saving babies in burning cars, not to mention juggling dormice and getting your fiancé shot by poachers. Okay that was earlier, but it doesn’t really matter.

“The press begin to chase you and you are advised to go public. You do, having been exposed on TV with jumping dormice and burning rescues. You are a B list celebrity because you are cute, caring and charming and engaged to one of the richest families in Europe.

“Suddenly everything gets hostile, strangers are trying to discredit you if not injure or kill you because of your connection to the bank. You are pursued and threatened and have to go into hiding, so does your fiancé and his know-all sister.

“More pressure from work, the sister sticks her oar in and helps your shrink refer you to a surgeon. Suddenly, the chance to become the real you, the one you’ve always wanted to be happens, out of the blue. It puts you under even more pressure, plus you come off the hormones you’ve been taking for the past year or two, which fuck with your body and mind.

“Then, just in case there isn’t enough stress, a student of yours confides a medical secret which turns out to be a really bad one and you are drawn into a family in turmoil over a similar sort of problem you had. It’s bound to push your buttons, but you soldier on when you should have been winding down to cope with the stresses and strains of surgery.

“Instead of that, your fiancé sulks when he remembers your imperfections and you, stressed out of your little brain, run off screaming, frightening the rest of us to death. Oh you also give him his ring back, even though his sister told you never to do that, just to sell it.”

“You told her that?” said Simon with a look of total astonishment.

“Course I did, what do you think I am, stupid?”

“No, you’re a total bitch, but not a stupid one.”

I sat there weeping silently; Stella had summed up my wretched existence pretty well. And it appeared to have washed over Simon without making him even damp.

“So what do you think?” she asked him.

“About what?”

“Jesus Aitch Christ, Simon, are you fucking stupid or just deaf?”

“What do you mean?”

“I just explained why Cathy ran off; I’m only amazed she didn’t have a total breakdown, the pressure she is under.”

“We’re all under pressure, Stel.”

“Go away, get out of my sight!” she said loudly and angrily at him. “And don’t come back until you switch your stupid brain on!”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 200

Simon sloped off from the lounge, his shoulders sagging. I didn’t know what to say, so I kept quiet. My eyes were still red with tears, and I felt as if the happiness I had considered my future wasn’t going to happen.

The woman who had summed up my recent madcap past stood fuming in the centre of the lounge floor. I was sad that she wouldn’t be my sister-in-law after all. I wanted to go to sleep and wake up realising it was all a bad dream.

“Men,” Stella kept saying to herself, over and over and I began to wonder if she’d somehow got her tongue stuck like records sometimes do. Then she began pacing back and fore, waving her hands about and still muttering, ‘men.’

I wondered if I could sneak out of the room without her noticing me, I needed to wee.

“And where are you going?”

I almost stopped and wet myself, “Please miss, I need to go to the loo,” came out of my mouth. I felt myself blush with embarrassment.

“Well, hurry back and don’t fraternise with the enemy.”

I dashed out before I had an accident. Whilst sat on the loo I thought about what she had said. It was a bit biased towards me, and I knew that Simon was not as selfish as he appears, having loads of good qualities as well as bad ones.

Then, I felt irritation at the way Stella was bossing me about. She might be older and even wiser than I am, but it’s my life, and I have a right to make my own mistakes. As for fraternising, I don’t think Simon would want to anyway, but I certainly don’t see him as an enemy.

I went upstairs and stretched out on the bed. I felt exhausted and my eyes closed of their own accord. I suspect I was asleep in minutes.

I don’t know how long I slept. Simon had gone off to see his dad, and Stella was pacing about miffed that I had disappeared again. I awoke at about three in the afternoon. I felt a little better but not much. I was still aware that I had lost my happiness.

I was wondering if I should go shopping and make us a nice dinner when the phone rang. Stella answered it and called me. I stumbled down the stairs to get it.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello Cathy, I’ve some sad news. Stevie died this morning about eight o’clock.”

“What? But he can’t have. It’s much too sudden, he should live for weeks yet.”

“Maybe he decided he didn’t want to.”

“Yeah okay, was his family there?”

“His mother and sister were.”

“Do we know when the funeral is?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay, thanks Tom.” What a wonderful day this was turning out to be. “Oh Tom, what would you like to eat for dinner tonight?”

“Let’s go out somewhere, my treat.”

How can you tell someone who has just offered to buy you a tasty meal that you don’t want to go out tonight? I didn’t know so I didn’t stop him.

I’d just put the phone down when it rang again. I picked it up and said, “Hello?”

“Is that you, Cathy?”

“Henry?”

“Yes dear girl, ’tis I, patriarch and ladies man.” I could hear the self mockery in his voice.

I chuckled down the phone, though I don’t know why because I felt quite sad.

“It’s good to hear you laugh girl. I have just had Simon inform me that your engagement is off.”

“Erm.”

“Well, he said you gave back the ring. Isn’t that the classic way of ending an engagement?”

“Erm,” I had this massive vocabulary.

“Have you really thought it through?”

“Erm,” scintillating, isn’t it?

“I know he’s a bit of a prat, but he’s a good lad really and he’s extremely upset about this.”

“But he rejected me, Henry!”

“I’m sure that was a mistake.”

“It might have been, but he repeated it about twenty minutes later.”

“He told me why it happened.”

“I know why it happened. He was reminded of what I was at a physical level.”

“Indeed, very well put darling girl. He is sorry about it.”

“So am I, but I can’t cope with a man who thinks I’m neurotic. It would get on my nerves.”

Henry began laughing loudly over the phone, “Neurotic, get on my nerves! Oh how funny. You should be on telly dear girl.”

“I was, which is part of the reason we’re in this mess.”

Henry roared with laughter again. I didn’t think it was very funny.

“Look, can you two get together and iron out your differences and get back to where you were?”

“How do I know?” I said loudly.

“Well, I’ll give you the name of a good pub and you can talk things over with him.”

I didn’t want to, I needed some peace and quiet and here was another Cameron telling me what to do. “Erm, Henry, can we leave it a few days?”

“Of course you can, but indulge me, and tell me there’s no one else.”

I felt quite wounded and angry at this remark. “I have to go Henry, goodbye.”

I had just told a very wealthy peer of the realm to effectively piss off. I went to find Stella, albeit with mixed feelings, her whole family seemed set on running my life, or should that be ruining it?

“Tom is taking us out to dinner, he told me that Stevie died. Oh and I told your dad to take a running jump.”

“Sorry about Stevie.”

“Yeah, I only met him two weeks ago and already I feel part of my life has been torn away from me.” I bit my bottom lip.

The phone rang again and Stella rose to answer it. “If that’s Henry, tell him I went out.”

I heard her talking for a few minutes, then she came back with a piece of paper in her hand. “Can you ring this number?”

“Who is it?” I said looking at the number which was for a mobile phone.

“Mandy? Stevie’s sister.”

“Oh shit!” Not exactly the person I would have chosen to talk with. It felt like I was doing a tutorial the last twice. “Can you make some tea?” I asked her.

I picked up the cordless phone and wandered to the dining room. I punched in the numbers and eventually I heard it ring. I hoped it would be answered by voicemail and I could escape with a message. Instead, a very human voice answered it.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mandy, it’s Cathy Watts.”

“Oh Lady Catherine, thanks for ringing back.”

“No Mandy, not lady, just Cathy.” I tried to explain but she wasn’t interested.

“Did you get my message?”

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry to hear about Stevie.”

“Yes, but he asked me to call you.”

Oh oh! The red lights began to flash. “Well, I shall be at the funeral if I possibly can.”

“He wants you to read the lesson.”

“Oh!” ‘Why does this happen to me?’ I was just going to stand at the back and get away quick once it was over. Now I couldn’t.

“When is it?”

“December twenty seventh. They can’t do it before Christmas.”

Well, I could cope with that. I still had shopping to do. Although I wondered if I should buy Simon something or not, I decided I better had.

I accepted that I would be around for the funeral and agreed to this request, not that I could refuse, anyway. ‘Oh boy, I do find myself in all sorts of bother for no obvious reason.

I tried to think about presents I had to get. Daddy, Tom, Simon and Stella. I also thought it would be nice to get Pippa something and perhaps her two kids. Oh and some fresh hazel nuts for Spike.

“I’d like to get Simon something for Christmas, what do you suggest?”

“A tin of humble pie,” she replied.

“You’re a lot of help.”

“He’s my brother, I love him but I don’t have to like him. You’re my sister, I love you too, and I like you loads more than I do him.”

What do you say to that? I blushed instead of speaking. I wasn’t her sister, and if Simon and I stayed apart, I wouldn’t be so.

“I love being thought of as your little sister Stella, but if Simon and I don’t get back together…”

“Oh sod that, I know when I’m related to someone, and I know you were meant to be my little sister.”

I wasn’t going to argue with her. It was pointless, and besides, I felt I needed a big sister, possibly even more than a fiancé or husband. “Okay Big Sis, what say we hug on it?”

She stood up and threw her arms around me and nearly crushed me with her enthusiasm. “I need a little sister, so from now on, whatever happens to us, we are sisters. Agreed?”

I hugged her back but not as fiercely, I wasn’t strong enough for one thing, but I didn’t need to. I was the baby sister and it suited me fine. “Agreed,” I said and we hugged tightly again. I was rather glad she didn’t have some public school ritual for the occasion, because it was the sort of thing I could imagine them doing in the dorm after lights out and before the bun fight, or pillow fight.

“So, what about a prezzie for Simon?” I asked again after we had parted.

“A fountain pen, he likes that sort of thing. I gave him one a few years ago and he lost it. I don’t think he’s got one since.”

“Okay, I’ll have a look online and see what’s about.” I knew what I was going to buy her, a new mirror. The one in her bedroom was smashed, and I’d seen one in an antique shop near the harbour some while ago.

Tom, I was tempted to get a catering box of frozen chicken curries, instead I’d get some red wine. I also needed some new nighties for hospital and a dressing gown and slippers.

I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing for Christmas, possibly staying here or dashing up and down to Bristol. I wanted to see my dad, and I had to get him something, a bottle of Johnny Walker black label would be a start. Maybe I should make him a Christmas sponge and ice it. He didn’t like fruit cake or Christmas pud, neither did I, so a sponge, some soup and some homemade bread, would have to do.

I noticed the envelope addressed to me on the side table in the hall. I opened it; it was a payslip from the bank. I gasped at the amount. The sum I was paying in tax and National Insurance was more than I usually had in the bank. How could they justify paying this to me as their ‘Ecological Consultant’? I hadn’t done anything yet. There was two and a half thousand in my account.

I wondered if they would ask for it back if I didn’t marry Simon and spoke to Stella about it. She seemed to think not, it was a post they needed, and if they got some sticky issues to deal with, I would be expected to sort it out for them. I hoped that wouldn’t arise but I knew I was deluding myself. I tried to promise myself that I wouldn’t compromise my principles for those of the bank’s if they clashed, but already I knew I was compromised in accepting the post, not that Henry had given me much chance and Tom had also put on the pressure.

Why was life so complicated?

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