Bike 201–250

Easy As

Falling Off A Bike

Parts 201–250

by Angharad

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Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 201

I managed a short bike ride that afternoon—short being the operative word. But ten miles of sweat and panting seemed to clear away some of the other things from my mind.

I was back before the dusk developed and wiped my bike down, then I went and showered after topping up my own fluids with a glass of isotonic drink. I had heard that drinking too much water after exercise dilutes the electrolyte balance and can cause collapse and even kidney damage. I wanted neither: I had enough problems at the present.

I dried and dressed, wearing a dress Stella had given me. “Sis I was going to offer to do your hair, but you look better in that dress than I ever did, so you can do your own.” To emphasise the fact she poked her tongue out at me and gave me a raspberry.

“I love you too,” I said and picking up my brush and dryer, began to do my own hair.

“I’m only joking Cathy,” she reached for the brush.

“I can do my own, so why don’t you go and shower?”

“Okay, I know when I’m not wanted,” she pretended to sulk and went off to change.

I finished drying my hair, then decided I would put it up, it was now well below my shoulders and in pretty good condition. I brushed it for a few minutes to make it shine some more, then gathered it and twisting it round a couple of times drew it up on top of my head, where I fixed it with a scrunchy and some hair clips. A bit more fiddling and I had a nice series of wisps of hair all around it, and some tendrils down the sides in front of my ears. I went and put on my makeup. The effect was okay. I suspect Stella would have done it better but then she has had training and lots more practice.

One of these days, when I have finished my degree and discovered what I’m going to do with my life, I shall have to do a course in hair and beauty. Then I might look a bit tidier some of the time.

“Oh you put it up!” exclaimed Stella when she saw me.

“Yes, it was a put up job,” I said and winked. She giggled and then I did too.

“It looks okay.”

“Of course it does, I had a very good teacher.”

She laughed again. “Do I look okay in this?” She was wearing a Laura Ashley dress in a peach base colour with black and grey roses all over it.

“You look fabulous as always Sis. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.”

“Well, I thought I’d wear it once before you get your paws on it and look even better in it.”

“I don’t think so Stella, you look lovely.”

As we were talking, Tom arrived and whistled at us both. “Wow! The boys are going to envy me tonight with one of you lovelies on each arm.”

“How do you know we’re not lassies, and go in on each other’s arm?” I said winking at Stella whose jaw had dropped.

“You can pay for your own meal then,” he said, walking into the kitchen.

“Maybe I’ll stay heterosexual,” I said, “it might have its advantages.”

“Make your bloody mind up,” said Tom. “Do I have to change my underpants this month or not?” He chuckled and I groaned at him.

“That is enough to make any woman want to be gay,” said Stella, making sick faces.

He went up and changed and did change his underpants even though he had no chance of displaying them to either Stella or me. I saw his dirty ones in the clothes hamper, it relieved me no end, although I knew he was a clean. I’d done the washing often enough.

We went to a pub down by the old harbour. There were loads of people about and thankfully, no one commented on my dormouse juggling, so maybe they were beginning to forget.

I was driving, so I ordered a soft drink while Stella and Tom started a bottle of red wine. While we were waiting to order the food, I asked Tom if he had a Bible.

“A Bible, what do you want one of those for?”

“No it’s not for a shoogly leg on a table.” My comment made him snigger. “I have to read a passage for Stevie’s funeral. I’d like to see it before I read it.”

“What is it?”

“St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I think.”

“Oh, faith, hope and charity.”

“Is it? I had a feeling I knew it.” I tried to recall anything of it, but it was a lost cause.

“I don’t know if Paul actually wrote any of the stuff attributed to him, but he did have a wonderful way with the pen, pure poetry.” Tom and I looked up at Stella. “I did scripture too.” She sniggered then said, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…”

“Gosh Stella, maybe you should be reading this, not me,” I said in true humility.

“Letter to the Corinthians 13:1, I had to learn the frigging thing by heart because I threw a tampon at Maisie Plummer.”

“You what?” I gasped before erupting with laughter.

“You heard me, otherwise you wouldn’t want me to repeat it. She’d been annoying me all afternoon, bloody know it all, and while the teacher was writing something on the board, I bent down and borrowed a tampon from Gail Gilbert who was sat in front and whose bag was hanging on the back of her chair. Well, her Lillets were poking out a bit, so I borrowed one. Then while Mrs Arthur was writing on the board again, I threw it at Maisie. Scored a direct hit on the side of her head. She squeaked, and the Lillet bounced off and landed at the feet of the teacher.”

Tom and I were nearly wetting ourselves laughing, too helpless to ask what happened next.

“So she stopped writing on the board and asked who’d thrown it. I didn’t own up but some cow grassed on me when she threatened to keep us all in detention until someone owned up. I had to learn that piece by heart and be able to recite it to her the next morning. I was up half the bloody night and the more I worried the harder it got to memorise anything except the feeling of panic.”

“Did Gail ever get her tampon back?” I asked and roared with laughter again.

“She decided she didn’t want it after all that.”

We ordered. Stella had Dover sole and so did I. Tom had roast beef, but he’d had his curry lunchtime. I suspect his gut must be either burnt to shreds or absolutely pristine with no bugs whatsoever.

The meal was good and we each recited bits of poetry we could remember. In my school it was Masefield and Browning, Stella did a quick chorus of Daffodils and another Wordsworth, while Tom recited a great lump of Longfellow and capped it with almost all of the Charge of the Light Brigade, ‘Half a league, half a league, half a league onwards…’

Someone on the next table started quoting bits of Shakespeare, so I just had to do my party piece, the Hamlet soliloquy, ‘To be or not to be, that is the question…’ I made the mistake of standing up to do it, and the whole restaurant applauded when I’d finished. I’d kept my eyes closed to help me concentrate. I blushed like a billiard ball.

A woman walked up and spoke to us. “Thanks for a lovely entertainment. Your Hamlet was lovely, although I can see you more as Ophelia than Hamlet.”

My response was to blush again.

“Look, I help to run the local am-dram, if ever you decide you want to have a try out for one of our productions, please let me know. We have some good youngsters playing our female leads, but I think you could give ’em a run for their money.”

“I played Mary in the Christmas Nativity Play,” I said trying to keep a straight face.

Tom sprayed wine all over the table and choked for half a minute when I said this. The woman, Alison Mann, was horrified at his table manners. But then she didn’t know what he did about my being one of the first boy Virgin Marys in the UK.

When she’d gone, I said to Stella, “I don’t know about acting. You should have been a stand up comic.”

“Yeah, maybe one day.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 202

I came down to breakfast a little late, having been disturbed by a nasty dream. I was juggling dormice for a living and was being pursued by a nasty tabloid reporter who rode a bike, too. He was faster than I was and each time I tried to escape, he chased me down. He also threatened Spike, which was when I woke up crying. It sounds silly I know, but at two in the morning, it seemed genuinely scary, especially as his bike was total crap compared to my Scott, and he still outrode me!

I washed and dressed and went to breakfast. Tom and Stella were deep in discussion. “Here’s our resident expert,” said Stella.

“On what?” I asked yawning.

“On being transgendered or however GID people want to describe it these days,” Stella sounded irritated.

“I’m no expert on it,” I declared.

“Read this,” she passed me a short article in the local paper.

‘Portsmouth Man Wants To Be A Woman.

Ken Young(46) claimed that doctors in Portsmouth were not taking his desire to be changed into a woman seriously. He claimed that, ‘It’s okay for young and pretty things like Lady Muck the ‘dormouse woman’ (We featured a story on this several weeks ago) to get sex changes, but for older and ‘uglier’ men, the doctors actively obstructed his treatment and right to have the operation.

A spokesperson of the local NHS trust, said, “This is the first I’ve heard of this case and I can categorically assure people in this area that those patients who are diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, receive the treatment concomitant with the diagnosis and recommendation of the doctors involved. However, the numbers of genuine transsexual people are relatively small.”

A spokeswoman for Transgendered Britain, a charity and pressure group for ‘trans’ people, said, “As far as we know, People in Portsmouth get a reasonable service from the NHS regarding reassignment and assessment, though things could always be better. There are lots of people who feel transgendered but who don’t want to do anything about it for all sorts of reasons, not that changing over or surgery are the only options. There are also quite a few who think they are transsexual and are either deluding themselves, because it’s part of some other mental problem, or who are failures in their original sex and they think life would be easier on the other side of the equation. They are invariably wrong.”

Ken, who wants people to call him Kendra, still feels he’s been hard done by and will be writing to his MP to protest.’

“So the ‘dormouse woman’ is alive and well, I see,” was my only comment.

“He looks about six foot five and the proverbial brick shithouse comes to mind,” Stella was very critical.

“Yeah but how can you diagnose someone from a newspaper article?” I asked.

“I’ve seen them in Casualty, where they start to do the job themselves, see a bit of blood, discover it hurts more than they thought and call an ambulance.”

“Well, I suspect some might get desperate enough to try a bit of DIY.”

“Cathy, most of them were pissed or barking. Surely they realise that someone who tries a self op job is going to be seen as unstable by their trick cyclist anyway, so will probably never be referred.”

“I suppose I hadn’t thought about that.”

“I see one in clinic now, has had three operations since he mutilated himself. He lost one testicle and has massive scarring on his penis, which has now developed a kink to the one side.”

“Like the Old Man of Kent?” offered Tom.

“Who?” I said.

“There was an old man of Kent,
Whose tool was exceedingly bent,
To save himself trouble
He stuck it in double,
Instead of coming he went!”

“I wish I hadn’t asked now,” I said after groaning.

“The man from Devizes is better,” suggested Tom.

“I think I can live with the uncertainty,” I reassured him to prevent more rude rhymes.

“It was a young woman of Devizes we used to sing at the rugby club,” said Stella.

“Oh God, these aren’t rugby songs?”

“Of course, how do you think Tom knows them?”

“I’m more concerned how you know them,” I said to Stella.

“Simon played rugby, he’s also my brother, ergo I went to the rugby club as a visitor. Some have women members anyway; some even run women’s sides. Remember, there is talk that they are going to make bicycles for women one day.”

“Ha ha, okay point taken. Now what about this article?”

“Well, he’s a waste of time isn’t he?”

“I don’t know, he may feel the same as me.”

“He might, but whereas you pass as an ordinary woman…”

“I object to that, Cathy is a rather beautiful woman,” interrupted Tom.

“Okay, Cathy passes better than most real women. That man mountain in the paper won’t. They can’t lop a foot off his height or make him less wide, and he’d need a head transplant. He looks like a pig who met a bulldozer at speed, head-on.”

I was blushing, “I think you’re being very hurtful to him.”

“Cathy, I’m being realistic. He hasn’t got a prayer of making it.” She looked at the date on the paper, “No, it isn’t April first.”

I looked askance at her.

“I wondered if it was an April fool’s thing.”

“I still think you are being mean.”

“He referred to you as, ‘Lady Muck’, which makes him a toad in my book. He also looks the part, assuming a toad could actually have that much hair on its face.”

Tom sniggered. Then he pointed at the sideboard behind me, “Bible,” was all he said.

“Make sure you read the King James Version, the more modern ones aren’t as poetic,” said Stella.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 203

I had some tutorials to do and I also thought it wise to see Dr Thomas before I went for surgery. I wasn’t in any way unsure about things, but quite a bit had happened since my last appointment.

“What shall I tell Simon if he calls?” asked Stella who was still home from work.

“That he’s still your favourite brother.”

“What! He’s my only bro…”

“Gotta go, Stella, or my landlord will report me to my boss.”

“Eh?”

While she was still puzzling things out I left for work. After my previous experience with the bike and the nasty people in their 4×4, I decided to take the car.

Sat in slow moving traffic, I began to wish I’d cycled, especially when I saw several cyclists making faster progress than I was. I just made it before nine. However, Pippa was there first!

“Hi Pip.”

“Do we know you madam?”

“It’s me Pippa, Cathy, queen of the dormice.”

“Gosh so it is, I thought you’d retired.”

“No such luck.”

“How is Simon?”

“Dunno, haven’t seen him for a few days.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good, the way you said it.”

“It isn’t good,” I waved my ringless finger.

“Have you lost it?”

I shook my head ‘no.’

“Oh dear, want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“Oh, okay,” said her lips, but her eyes said, ‘be like that then,’ so I was.

I went down to the labs and fed the dormice, those that weren’t hibernating. In some of the cages, we keep the same temperature as is happening outside. Those critters usually hibernate, except it was mild so they weren’t. In real life, they may have found it difficult to forage for enough food. Plus waking up and then going off again uses a lot of their fat stores, so it’s not a good thing for them to do.

When I had more time, I wanted to see what would happen if we kept the cages cooler, or some of them. I’d have to check with my field workers and see what the wild ones were doing.

It felt good to be back working—well to be thinking about work. However, I called Dr Thomas and made an appointment for the following day, apparently she had a cancellation. What I didn’t know was that she also had a list of vulnerable patients and I was on it. This meant as soon as my name was typed in to the computer, a note flashed to tell the reception staff to make an appointment fast. It was because I’d dabbled with suicide once before, even though I didn’t think I was a current risk.

A short time later, I was seeing Judy ‘Harry’ Potter and looking at her recent assignments. They were improving and so was her grasp of biological principles. She thanked me for my input, which was very small, but it seemed to give her confidence. She also told me that her father, the solicitor, sent warm regards and a bottle of Cabernet, as it was the Christmas break.

Next were the group, and we had the usual fun. By the time I actually get control over them, it’s time for them to go. However, they were all up to scratch so I wasn’t worried.

I knew that I would be off for between six and twelve weeks but I didn’t want to warn them, as it may put them off attending tutorials. Besides, I hoped I might be able to come in while on sick leave and take my students. After all, I didn’t do much moving around and Tom could bring me in, or with my salary from the bank, I could afford the odd cab. I certainly wouldn’t be cycling for a few days.

The department shut down for two weeks from that evening, so I checked the roster for feeding and cleaning the dormice. I’d agreed to do Christmas and Boxing Day, but after that I wasn’t available. It was a very poorly kept secret, they all knew where I was going, so I stopped pretending.

I was sat in my little office in the labs, when my mobile beeped for a text. I checked it.

‘Cn we strt agin. Need 2 tlk 2 U. Si’

‘Dunno. will talk, say when & where. C’

I had barely sent it when it rang. It was Simon, hardly a surprise.

“Hello Babe.”

“I didn’t think I was your babe anymore.”

“Oh,” I could hear the pain in his voice. “Oh okay, can I take you out to dinner tonight?”

“That’s very short notice,” I wasn’t feeling helpful.

“Oh, yeah I suppose it is. What about another night?”

“I could do tonight, I suppose. Nowhere too fancy. Is it a gay bar?”

“What?”

“Well, somewhere for you to take a girlyboy?”

“Cathy, I’m sorry about the other morning. I never think of you as anything but a beautiful woman.”

“Except the other morning.”

“I don’t know why I reacted like I did.”

“Neither do I, I did warn you about it, or tried to.”

“I don’t think I took on board what that meant.”

“Obviously.”

“I am sorry.”

“So you said.”

“Where would you like to go?”

“As I shall be paying for my own meal, somewhere inexpensive.”

“No the dinner’s on me.”

“It will be if you don’t listen, quite literally. I said I would buy my own.”

“Okay, whatever you say.”

He gave me the name of a pub and how to get to it. I knew roughly where it was. Not too far from Tom’s, so I’d get a cab, not so I could drink, but in case I was upset. I honestly didn’t know what the outcome would be. Either way, our relationship had changed quite fundamentally.

As soon as I ended the call with Simon, Stella called.

“Simon called looking for you?”

“What in person or by phone?”

“Phone.”

“Yes he called me.”

“I wondered if he did, you were engaged.”

“Yes but I gave him his ring back.”

“Duh! I meant your phone was engaged.”

“Oh did you?” I wound her up. It was payback time all around.

“Cathy, you are a bitch!”

“You noticed.”

“So what did he want?”

“To meet.”

“And?”

“I agreed.”

“Is that wise?”

“I think so. I’d like closure on this one way or another. I have enough on my plate.”

“Yes I suppose you do. I’ve bookmarked the passage in the Bible for you.”

“Thank you.”

“When does the department close?”

“Now. They’re all going for lunch, but I’m coming home and doing some shopping.”

“Oh, can I come with you?”

That wasn’t what I wanted her to say, but I could hardly refuse. I thought if I dashed to the antique shop on the way home, I could get the mirror. Then I had to secrete it in the garage. It was all a bit of a nuisance, but I wanted to get it for her.

The roads were in chaos as the Christmas spending frenzy began to ratchet up to reach a climax over the next weekend.

I needed to get my gift shopping done so I could nip up to Bristol and see Daddy. I also had to talk with the others and start to organise food. I felt more like cancelling, than celebrating Christmas.

I began to think life was looking up. I found a parking space outside the shop, then discovered it was closed for lunch. I went off in search of a sandwich and found a small café, which was busy, but not heaving.

I ordered a tuna sandwich and some tea. It took half an hour and I was glad I’d picked up a copy of New Scientist from the newsagent next door. The only problem was, I couldn’t concentrate on reading it, my mind was on this evening. By the time my food arrived, I’d decided what I was going to wear and changed my mind about a dozen times.

One moment I was going to go as smart as possible, next I was going to downplay it. Then I was going to go for middle smart, then downplay. In the end, I decided I’d wear what felt comfortable for me after I’d got home and showered.

I ate my sandwich and looked at my fellow diners. I couldn’t believe it, the bloke from the article in the paper was sat on a table opposite. I’m sure it was him.

“Hey Ken, saw you in the paper. Didn’t know you were one of them gender benders.”

“I ain’t. It’s part of a campaign to show how them twats is wasting tax-payer’s money. Let ’em have their nuts off if they want, but they can pay for it themselves. I ain’t paying for it.”

“Nah, me neever.”

Damn me, it was him and Stella was right for the wrong reason. At this moment, I felt like giving him a bilateral orchiectomy and vaginoplasty on the table at which he was seated. Sadly, my cutlery wasn’t sharp enough.

I called over the waitress and ordered a double portion of trifle. I paid for my meal and gave her a generous tip. Ken and his friend were still chatting about people like me, mostly in a derogatory fashion.

I walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, Mr Young.”

“Yes darlin’.”

“I saw your picture in the paper.”

“Oh yeah,” he winked, “I’m prettier in the flesh inni?”

“Not really, I think you’re pretty ugly, full stop. I have a message from the dormouse queen.” I tipped the dish of trifle over his head. “And this is from Lady Muck,” I poured his glass of water over the rest of him. “Good day to you.”

While he was still shocked I quickly left and thankfully, found the antique shop was now open.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 204

I had fled the little café with the noises of laughter behind me. I had to snigger as I trotted to the antiques shop, especially when I thought Ken had trifled with me, or was it the other way round? It didn’t matter, justice had been done.

Now to get the mirror and get back to Tom’s house. The price for the mirror was more than I’d have happily paid, but without it, I didn’t have a second option. I did manage to beat him down a tenner, but it was still over two hundred quid.

He wrapped it up for me in brown paper and cardboard. While he was doing it, I saw the victim of my custard attack walk past with his friend. I managed to duck behind a Victorian screen. Five minutes later, I was out of the shop, had carefully stowed the mirror and was driving home to Tom’s.

I managed to get the garage key and hide the mirror before Stella came to see what I was doing. I suppose under my bed would have been another place, but there was more risk of someone seeing it there than in the garage. I had also labelled it, ‘Stella’s Christmas present from Cathy’ in case Tom did enter the garage.

When I got in, she was a bit cross because I was so late. I had to tell her about my encounter with the man mountain from the paper. She laughed so hard I thought she was in danger of busting something, like a gut or her lungs. She was nearly sick, the giggles really got her.

Then she made me tell her again, and once more she was seized with paroxysms of laughter. This time she was sick, but she did make it to the cloakroom, just about in time.

I looked at my watch—it was half past three, too late to do much in the way of shopping. I suggested I take her tomorrow and we could spend much longer at her favourite pastime.

“That depends on what happens between Simon and you tonight,” she said.

“I don’t see why. Simon should be working, so I don’t see how that’s going to have an effect.”

“If he keeps you up all night talking or snogging, it will.”

“I’m not some lovesick teenager, I’m a mature woman,” I said waiting for the riposte.

It wasn’t long in coming. “So mature women go around assaulting complete strangers with bowls of trifle?”

“Absolutely,” I replied trying not to start laughing. It was a vain exercise. She gave me a little snort and we both fell about laughing. This time I had to rush to the loo, the tea I had drunk at lunch was seeking egress.

“Okay, we’ll go tomorrow. It’s about time you had something done to your hair Cathy.”

“Is it? I thought it looked okay.”

“I’d have thought you want something special for tonight.”

“Why? Why should I go trying to impress him? I’m going to talk, not seduce him.”

“I’d have thought you’d want to remind him what he was missing.”

“Hadn’t really thought about it. I tried to decide what to wear but couldn’t.”

“I know just the outfit, but to make the total impact, you need something done with your hair, and as I’m not going out, I could do it for you.”

“Did you bring your hair dressing stuff then?”

“If I hadn’t, I’d hardly be offering to do yours, would I?”

“I suppose not.”

She washed my hair over the bath and sat me in a kitchen chair while she trimmed it. She didn’t actually do much cutting except to tidy it all round. Then she began playing with it, putting in highlights.

Last time it was blonde streaks, this time as I found out later, it was more blonde streaks with some auburn ones as well. Then she put my hair in rollers and took me off to my bedroom and pulled out the outfit she wanted me to wear.

It was an apricot plunge-neck dress in cashmere. It was one she had donated and I had never worn before, except for try-ons. I thought it made my stomach look too big.

But she made me try it again, and with a booster bra, it did look rather nice. A loose belt hid the slight bulge from my tummy and made me look as if I actually had some hips. It was rather a nice effect. With it I wore a dark red velvet jacket and my red boots, which I had to polish with a scuff cover polish.

Then she did my nails. I never paint my nails, well, hardly ever. They probably needed a trim, but she added the acrylic stuff and made them all longer and more elegant, then she painted them a rust-red colour. I did wonder about the suitability of this with the red jacket, but she hushed my questions.

“If I do you red nails, you’ll look like an old tart.”

“Gee thanks Stella, that’s really made my day.”

“Believe me, this will be okay. Use your black jacket if you want.”

“Yeah, I think I will.”

The nails felt so strange. Apart from the length, I could actually feel the plastic on my fingers, my own nails seemed thicker, as well as more clumsy. How can women really wear these things? I mean I could quite easily impale a dormouse!

She produced the matching lip gloss from L’Oreal and sent me off to change properly and do my makeup. I almost curtseyed, being dismissed like the maid.

I came back to her about an hour later, and she undid the rollers and combed my hair through. It was very different, the colour went well with the dress and the curls in my hair seemed to increase its volume significantly. I had to admit, Stella knew what she was doing.

Some hairspray and I was finished, except for my jewellery. I chose some pearl drop earrings that were my mum’s and a matching necklace. It looked really effective, plus a good squirt of Opium in all the usual nooks and crannies. If Simon did get to explore any of them, he’d enjoy the smell, as well as the view.

But before we got to that, he had a lot of smooth talking to do to convince me to give him a second chance. I still loved him. What I didn’t know, was if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

Why the change of heart? I wondered if I was simply outgrowing him, moving on. There was some attraction in the safety of his knowing my situation, so I didn’t have to go through all the bother of telling someone else, but then at times, the idea of being unattached was equally attractive.

Then there was his drinking. It worried me. I knew that bankers and insurance people did drink too much, it was a way of doing business, but I didn’t like it and I would mention it to him. If he gets angry, I’ll call a cab and come home. If he agrees to cut down then I’ll think about getting back together. I did miss his ring on my finger.

At half past seven I called a cab. Stella was pretending to be domesticated and cooking bacon and egg for Tom and herself. I almost felt like cancelling my dinner and sitting down with them to eat the bacon. The smell was making my tummy growl.

Sadly, they wouldn’t give me any and sent me off to meet Simon, wishing me luck. Stella also added, “Get the ring back. You can always pawn it!”

I doubted any pawnshop would appreciate the real value of the ring, being a designer-made item. Besides, I could never get that mercenary, however low my finances got.

I arrived at the pub and failed to see Simon’s Saab anywhere in the car park. I entered the lounge bar, but he wasn’t there. He’d said eight, it was ten to. I bought myself a diet coke and went into the restaurant. I asked the waiter if they had a table booked in the name of Cameron. He replied that they did, a table for four.

I sent the following text.

‘Where R U? Who else is coming?
C!’

A few minutes later, he replied.

‘Where R U? This table is just 4 2. Me n U. Si.’

I went to the bar man, “Is there another Antelope Inn?” He just shrugged his shoulders.

This time I called Simon. “Look I’m at this bloody pub, where are you?”

“I’m at the Antelope Inn.”

“So am I, are there two of them?”

“Dunno, this one is down by the harbour, where’s yours?”

“Out towards Cosham.”

“You have the wrong pub. I’ll organise a taxi, wait there.”

I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t pay any attention to where the taxi was going, I assumed there was only one pub. Oops!

Fifteen minutes later a large Saab arrived, Simon was too mean to pay for a cab. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi, thanks for coming to get me. I asked the taxi driver to bring me to the Antelope Inn, this was what happened. I’m sorry it will have made you late.”

“No problem. They’re holding the table for us, but I did order for you.”

This immediately irritated me. “Why?”

“So they could start preparing it.”

“How do you know what I want?”

“I don’t, it’s a wild guess, but I thought you’d love suckling pig stuffed with olives and chillies.”

“Oh gross, and to think I missed out on bacon and egg. You can cancel that pig thingy, I don’t want it.”

“I’m only joking, I wouldn’t dare try to second guess you.”

I pouted feeling a bit silly and very irritable. If he wanted reconciliation, he wasn’t exactly making progress.

We parked up and went straight to the dining room. “Lord and Lady Cameron, how nice to see you.”

I was going to say something but I didn’t. Not for a moment, I didn’t, then I got my own back. The waiter brought the wine list. I sent it away saying Simon would have a pint of Guinness and I’d have a still water. Simon’s face went puce.

“We need to talk about your drinking.”

“Oh do we?” he said quite aggressively.

“Yes, unless of course you don’t want to get back together. Then you can drink yourself into oblivion for all I care.” It wasn’t true, I just wanted to hurt him.

“If we don’t get back together, I will, don’t you worry.”

“Give me your car keys.”

“No.”

“Then call me a cab.”

“I will when we’ve finished.”

“We have.”

“You might have, I haven’t.”

“Goodnight,” I started to get up from the table.

“Please sit down, I have some things I need to say to you.”

“I don’t know if I want to hear them.”

“Maybe you don’t, but I need to say them to you, so I’d be much obliged if you would sit down and hear me out. I’ll happily call you a cab afterwards.”

“Do I have to eat?”

“No, but I think it’s a shame to waste a tuna salad, especially fresh tuna steak.”

“Oh!” I sat down.

“You look really nice, if I may say so. I love your hair.”

“Thank you.”

“The red in your hair and the dress makes the green of your eyes sparkle.”

“Simon that is absolute bullshit.”

“True, but it sounded good, and I do like the way you look tonight.”

“What is it that I have to hear?”

“Are you in a hurry?”

“Not especially, but I don’t intend to get caught in a campaign of attrition.”

“For a scientist, you have a healthy vocabulary.”

“You mean for a grammar school kid?”

“No I mean for a scientist. Many of them are into their jargon but little else.”

“I don’t think Tom is.”

“No he isn’t.”

“Nor are most doctors I know.” Hell! I thought, I had an appointment with Dr Thomas tomorrow and I’d promised to take Stella out shopping.

“You okay, you look a bit worried?”

“I have a clash of appointments tomorrow, and will need to sort them out.”

“Okay.”

“Let’s have dinner and then we’ll talk, agreed.”

“Reluctantly, yes.”

We made small talk until the food arrived. Amazingly, he had ordered the same for himself. It was delicious too. Tuna steak, fresh salad with new potatoes and a dessert of profiteroles. If he was after something, he was going about it the right way.

Finally the coffee and once this was drunk, the talking would begin. I had missed him.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 205

We sipped our coffees and I don’t know if it felt like UN negotiators about to enter a meeting, or two cowboys sizing each other up for a gunfight. I didn’t want to fight with Simon but at times I felt this irritation with him which I was now venting. We seemed to have developed this cycle where he would say or do something a bit dumb and I would seethe and scold him for it. It never used to be like this. Could it be my hormones? Cold turkey from the oestrogen withdrawal?

I suppose it might be like the menopause for some women, some of them have all sorts of mood swings. I hadn’t noticed hot flushes, except the one I’m having now and that may be caused by having drunk a hot cup of coffee and being a bit embarrassed.

“Do you want anything else before we start?” asked Simon. He was wearing an Armani shirt and some cord trousers. It looked okay, with his CK leather jacket, posh casual.

“Hmm, could I have some tea in about quarter of an hour?”

He called over a waiter and ordered another Guinness for himself and asked for a pot of Earl Grey for me in a quarter of an hour. The man nodded and disappeared. Not in a puff of smoke or anything, I mean he just stepped out of my view in a very short time. He was back three or four minutes later, with the Guinness.

I’ve never known how anyone could drink that stuff, but lots of people do. I suppose there is the odd—in my book very odd—sort who doesn’t like tea. I almost sniggered to myself.

“Do we want to set any ground rules for this?” I asked.

“Wow, like what?”

“That neither of us insults the other and that if we are feeling upset or uptight, we pause for a moment.”

“I came here to tell you how much I love you, not insult you.”

I blushed with a degree of shame, like a real hot flush. I waited for a few moments before I could actually speak, and my eyes were wet when I did.

“I love you too, Simon. Your love for me I never doubted, as I hope you didn’t doubt mine?”

“I don’t know, in recent days or weeks, you’ve been like a different person.”

“I’m sorry, I’ve felt everything on top of me this last week or two.”

“Yeah, I understand you have such a lot happen, not helped by the bank thingy.”

“What is going to happen there? Am I going to live in fear of reprisal from some Russian hit man?”

“No I don’t think so. You were only useful to them as negative publicity. When we went public, it actually went against them. The UK police cleaned up some of them and their agents, and deported them. We negotiated with them not to press charges and they agreed to annoy someone else.”

“Goodness, I thought once they were after you, death was the only escape. I was wrong.”

“I think some money changed hands.”

“You bought them off?”

“Not quite, the big cheese in Russia suddenly found his wife and kid missing.”

“What?”

“We asked a rival organisation to help make this one see our point of view. They kidnapped the aforementioned family, for which Dad was able to negotiate a safe release.”

“Wouldn’t that be a bit obvious?”

“No, they were in the UK at the time, taken from The Dorchester, although you’ll never hear anything about it. Money was needed in UK or US currency and we guaranteed it, as merchant banks do.”

“But you weren’t directly involved?”

“I knew nothing about it until it was all over. The family of the mafia boss were released unhurt and he and the other gang went off back to Russia to sort it out. I believe a few of them have ended up in body bags since on both sides. They are ruthless and once we were able to get them out of this country, we just hoped they’d be too busy with each other to leave us in peace.

“The Russian government have since become involved and I suspect have added to the body count. They’re bigger crooks, and even more ruthless than the gangsters. They also have access to all sorts of intelligence and technology, including intel sharing with other countries’ agencies, like MI5 and the FBI.

“It’s a huge counter culture where they are all pretty nasty to each other, sort of dog eat dog. I hope the bank will manage to keep clear of them from now on.”

“Yeah so do I—I’d take a dim view of being killed or kidnapped just to piss off my father-in-law.”

“So would I. Does that mean you are still going to marry me?”

“Erm, it was a hypothetical case.”

“Oh, I see.” His face seemed to droop a little.

He sipped his drink and after appearing to savour its flavour or coldness said, “I really am sorry for the other night. You had every right to be upset with me.”

“I was very hurt. The one person whom I never thought would reject me, did so.”

He blushed and looked away. I think there may have been a tear in his eye. He nodded, then had to blow his nose.

I gave him some time to recover and my tea arrived. It made a welcome break point. I poured myself a cup and offered him some, but he declined.

“Cathy I have been such a fool, will you ever forgive me?”

“Will you promise never to reject me like that, ever again?”

“Of course.”

“Then I will forgive you on one condition.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a toughie,” I paused and watched him swallow. “I need you to forgive me for my stupid behaviour over the last week or two.”

“I already have.”

“Then I do too.”

“Can we drink to a new beginning?” he asked looking for a waiter.

“I don’t think we have completely sorted things out yet have we?”

“Haven’t we?”

“No, we need to think about the future, are we going to be happy together or are we going to be destructive towards each other after a while? What about where we’re going to live? Are we going to live together from now on or after we’re married assuming we get that far?

“Are you going to hold Des over my head for ever more, are you going to continue drinking excessively, you know it causes me a problem, or you do now?”

“I see, if was to change to suit you more, what would you give in return?”

“Tell me what you want me to give you, and I’ll answer honestly if I think I can.”

“Will you give up your degree?”

“No, I need to have a career. I can’t have kids and I couldn’t just be a housewife, it would drive me crazy. Besides, Tom and the dormice need me.”

“How about the cycling?”

“Why do you want me to give that up? Do you want me to be fat?”

He shook his head, “Will you give up your independent streak and allow me to spoil you now and again?”

“I have so far, although I admit it sometimes rankles me.”

He smiled, “Big question, will you let me pay for dinner tonight?”

“No, we agreed to go dutch, but if it pleases you, you can pay for some drinks in a little while, with one proviso.”

He shook his head, “What is it this time?”

“I drive home, I don’t want you losing your licence.”

He said nothing, but pulled out his car key and passed it to me.

“Thank you.” I put the key in my bag. “I have something for you.”

“What’s that?”

I put my hand in his. He squeezed it and we both felt our eyes become wet and blurry.

“Thank you,” he said and kissed my hand.

Then the silly bugger knelt down before me and said, “Catherine Watts will you marry me?”

“I will if you get up off the floor, you romantic loony.” He laughed and so did I. I had to help him up, his knee still gave him a bit of trouble after the poaching incident. Once up, he put the ring back on my finger and we kissed briefly.

Someone on an adjacent table sent the waiter over with a small bottle of champagne. We invited them over and spent half an hour explaining that we’d fallen out over a misunderstanding and had made things up.

The older lady had a tear in her eye, “Ooh it’s soooo romantic, I do hope you’ll be happy together.” Then she whispered in my ear, “Always let him think he thought of your best ideas, and let him be right occasionally.”

I giggled and nodded.

“I know you from somewhere, don’t I?” she said.

“I don’t know, I’ve been in the paper about the mammal mapping scheme.”

“You’re the dormouse lady!” she squealed. “That clip was so funny, it’s on YouTube, I believe.”

“Probably,” I said, “I don’t think I’ll ever live it down.”

“There are worse things to be remembered for,” she said, as if she had remembered my other airings in the media. “That is relatively benign. I do hope the dormouse was unhurt.”

“She is okay, or was this morning. She’s quite an old lady by dormouse standards.”

“So am I by human standards,” she laughed, “compared to a pretty young thing like you.”

I blushed and muttered an embarrassed thanks.

“Look, you must both come to dinner with us one night. I’m sure we won’t be as exciting as some of your exploits, but we can serve a pretty mean Italian.”

“As long as he’s not in the mafia, I don’t mind,” I joked in response to her invite.

She looked at me for a moment, then saw the joke and chortled, “Yes, very good.” She asked her husband something and then said to me, “Here’s our card, we are away until the beginning of March, but would be delighted to see you sometime after that.”

“Yes, I think I’m going to be tied up for the next couple of months with my project work. We have to be ready for April.”

“Is that when it starts?”

“That’s when the major funding becomes available, so officially, yes.”

We passed the time away for another half an hour and I made an excuse to leave, I had other things to do, including hiding, after telling Stella I had an appointment first thing tomorrow.

Before we left, I asked Lady Butterworth… he was Brigadier Sir Reginald Butterworth, why she had sent the champagne over.

“You two were so romantic, Reggie proposed to me in a pub like this forty years ago.”

“Goodness,” I smiled.

“Yes, he was just a poor captain in those days.”

“Still, I’m sure you could see his potential.”

“Oh yes, my father made sure of that, he was a colonel. What about your father?”

“He was a surveyor until he had a stroke a few months ago.”

“Oh dear, poor man. How does your mother cope?”

“She died suddenly a little while before that. We think it was the shock of it that brought on his stroke.”

“Oh how sad, so you’ve lost your mother before your wedding?”

“Yes, but I have a very able sister-in-law who will help me organise everything. It’s not going to be for some time yet. I have a degree to finish.”

“Good for you gel. I wish I’d had the opportunity that you young gels have today. That is a beautiful ring.” She took my hand and called her husband, “Look dear, Catherine has a beautiful engagement ring. I’ll bet that metal is platinum.”

“I believe so. Simon had it made to match some jewellery my mother left me.”

“Oh how romantic.”

“That’s me,” beamed Simon and we all laughed.

I drove us back to Tom’s house, Stella had gone to bed and Tom was working in his study. He looked up and saw Simon’s hand around my waist. He nodded and smiled, such a warm smile, I could have sunbathed in its light.

“So are you two back together, all fixed and forgiven?”

“Yes,” we both said together.

“This calls for a twelve year old single malt I have, which I have been saving for such an occasion. “Cathy, some glasses if you would.”

I came back with two and he looked askance at me, “Where’s your glass?”

“I don’t like whisky, I’m afraid.”

“What, a Scottish surname and you dinna like whusky?” he sounded like a poor man’s Dr Findlay.

“’Fraid not, a cuppa is fine for me.”

“Philistine!” he declared.

“Worse,” said Simon, “a Sassenach.”

“Not entirely. My mother’s family was Evans, and they were Welshmen who could swim, and my paternal grandfather was a Scottish engineer who moved down to Bristol when my father was quite small, so he’s actually a Scot too.”

“Well, ye canna be all bad then,” said Simon in an accent that might have been Scottish, but then I queried Mel Gibson’s in Braveheart and was assured it was like a Highlander of that period.

“No, I believe the Welsh bit is worth keeping!” I said before dashing off.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 206

Simon and Tom were in deep discussion as they drank their ‘wee drams.’ To be honest it’s the same colour as wee, and to me would probably taste as about inviting as Eau de bladder, but they were enjoying it.

“I’m going to bed,” I said. They either didn’t hear me, or chose to ignore me. I poked my tongue at both of them and then went up to bed. A short time later, I was in bed and asleep.

I had half a recollection of someone else getting into the bed, but went back off to sleep. I don’t know what time it was, but my next recollection was Simon waking me up to say he had to go to work. I think he kissed me but I fell asleep again. How he manages on such a little amount amazes me.

I finally woke up at seven and staggered into the loo and then the shower. Then I threw on some clothes and went down to breakfast. Stella was apparently still in the shower. I asked Tom to tell her not to rush, and I’d be back as soon as I could. I ate very quickly and rushed off to see my shrink.

I was early for the appointment. I’d grabbed a local newspaper and read of the confrontation between some woman and this bloke in a café and she poured trifle over his head. I wondered who that could be!

‘Ken Young confessed that his appearance in the paper a few days before had been a hoax and that he wasn’t seeking a sex change. He said he perpetrated the hoax to draw attention to the money the NHS wasted on such treatments.

The paper had been deluged with calls from readers supporting him in getting the operation. An anonymous businessman even offered to pay for it. There were also some against it, suggesting he would be a very ugly woman.

However, direct action was taken when a young woman in a café called him names and tipped her dish of trifle over his head, followed by his glass of water. We are not sure why this happened, although the owners of the café suggested it might have been because Young was bragging about his anti-transsexual line, although they were also sure the woman concerned was a genetic one.

Maybe she’d like to get in touch and tell us why she did it.’

I smirked as I read it. I’d said all I wanted to in my actions. That they thought I was a genetic female was flattering, but also suggested to me that no one had looked at me properly.

My name was called and I went off to the door labelled for Dr Thomas. I knocked and entered; she was pouring coffee and offered me a cup. I was honoured.

We sat by her coffee table, “Not long now,” she said to me.

“Yes, I’ll be glad to get it over and done.”

“Any second thoughts?”

“About that, none whatsoever.”

I showed her the paper and explained my part in it. She looked at me and then roared with laughter.

“Serve him right, the moron.” Then she looked at me. “I don’t think Charlie would have had the nerve to do such a thing, would he?”

“Probably not, although Charlie would have got thumped. Cathy didn’t.”

“Yes, the confrontation would have had a different dynamic were it between two men. So what else is new?”

“Simon and I had a little difficulty.”

“In what way?”

I explained what had happened over the last days, plus the events leading up to it. Amazingly, she had missed all the media references to me. I wondered if she been on the moon, then remembered her thing with my surgeon and thought, I should probably prefer to be with him than watching telly.

“So it’s all hunky dory now?”

“More or less. I don’t think you can ever go back to a previous position because you are changed by the events. So we are different people now than when we first met.”

“Not having met Simon, I can’t comment on him, but you dear girl, have matured enormously since I first met the real you.”

“Does that mean I was very immature?”

“Yes, but not in a childish way, more an undeveloped shyness, which you have turned into a vibrant and confident, young woman. I am delighted to see it happen.”

“You were the midwife,” I suggested.

“Oh I wish,” she said, “sadly, I think that epithet must pertain to your soon to be sister-in-law.”

“As a nurse specialist, if I tell her she’s a midwife, she’ll kill me.”

“Oh dear, in which case maybe it had better remain our little secret then.”

“I think so.”

I told her about my involvement in the last weeks of Stevie’s life.

She shook her head. “That is so sad. Still you say he and his father affected some sort of reconciliation before he died.”

“So his sister said.”

“Good, otherwise he would be wracked with guilt for a very long time.”

“When I first met him, I would have thought he deserved every bit of it, but I know Stevie would not have wanted it that way.”

“Any more than you would have with your father.”

“Erm, no.” I felt myself blush. She had this knack of hitting me between the eyes, simply by showing me how something else could be interpreted. I had obviously seen the parallels myself. Anyone with a negative parent pushed my buttons, especially a loud and aggressive father. So it would be easy to empathise.

“So you’re going to read the lesson?”

“Yes, I’ll honour his request.”

“You have a very strong sense of honour and duty, don’t you?”

“Yes, is that not a good thing?”

“Oh it’s fine as long as you remember to only apply it to things which really matter.”

“But I was brought up to believe if I gave my word, I was bound by it.”

“And so you should be, however, don’t give that undertaking too freely, because sometimes those you give it to wouldn’t do the same for you.”

“I don’t see what difference that makes.”

“When someone gives a promise and then cannot fulfil it for whatever reason, those who genuinely meant it become very upset and often go off on a guilt trip. You are best to moderate it with some rider, such as, I will do it if I possibly can.”

I looked oddly at her, I almost felt as if she were telling me that pledging my word was an unwise action.

“Okay, this is a bit of counter transference; I am disclosing something which I hope you treat with the same degree of confidentiality as I do the things you tell me.”

“But of course, Dr Thomas.”

“Many years ago, I was engaged to a young man. I was a junior houseman, he was a registrar in a surgical speciality. He promised a patient he saw that he would perform a particular operation the next day. He was a brilliant surgeon, much better than his then boss. We went over to the Isle of Wight to a meeting of some sort or another in which he was very involved. There was a storm preventing the ferries sailing which blew for two days. When we got back, the consultant had operated and the patient developed complications and died. Colin, my fiancé never forgave himself for that man’s death. He hanged himself a month later.”

“Oh no! How awful!”

“He left a note saying he’d given his word and not honoured it. He’d let everyone down and caused a patient’s death. So you see, I have a thing about making promises. It’s also why I became a psychiatrist instead of a cardiologist, which was my original intention.”

“I’m glad you did, Dr Thomas, although I feel sad about the reason. Thank you for telling me. I will think carefully about it when I promise anything in the future.”

I left her thinking that I had made a promise to Stella, which was now an hour late. I would apologise and offer to pay for lunch as recompense. However, given her occasionally explosive nature, I entered the house in fear and trepidation awaiting the firestorm.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 207

I opened the door very quietly and slipped inside the house. It sounded very quiet, what a dumb thing to say? How can something sound very quiet? But it did. I tiptoed into the lounge and dining rooms, there was no one about. I looked in the kitchen, no one there either.

This was a little worrying. I ran upstairs calling Stella and Tom, but there was no response. I looked in the bedrooms, they weren’t there either. Thinking, ‘disappeared’ = mafia, I rushed downstairs like a whirlwind, nearly falling in the process. Then outside, Tom’s Land Rover was still there. So where were they?

I called, I went out to the garden and called and still no reply. What do I do? Make a cuppa. Whenever in doubt have a cup of tea! I turned on the kettle, but then it had a very low threshold and was easily pleased. Two or three minutes later, I made the tea and it was only when I went to get some milk from the fridge, I saw the note:

‘Out with Tom & Kiki, will deal with you later!
Stella the Impaler!’

Not the kind of note to instil calm. I sat and drank my tea wondering what sort of revenge she would take. Maybe just sitting here worrying was enough.

I wasted the whole morning, well, not quite. The fountain pen I’d ordered for Simon arrived and so did Tom’s wine. In between receiving deliveries—I know I sound like a cricketer—I vacuumed the house from top to bottom and then set about making a beef casserole for dinner.

One o clock came, and went. I made myself a sandwich and checked on the casserole. I did the vegetables, well, potatoes, the rest were either going to have to be frozen ones or I’d have to go shopping. I waited until two and then went out to the supermarket.

It was getting dark around half three, when I got back with kilos of fresh veg and few more bits of food. They still weren’t back. I made some more tea and then I put on the bread maker for tomorrow.

They finally arrived at nearly five o’clock, covered in splashes of mud and that dumb dog walked dirty foot prints all over my clean kitchen floor. Kiki had rolled in something horrendous again, sheep poo or some such mess, so Tom dragged her out to wash in the yard while I made him some coffee and Stella opted for a cup of tea.

“What did you have for lunch?”

“Chicken tikka.”

There’s a surprise! Now let me guess did Tom have the same? I asked and he did. Cor, was I becoming psychic?

“Sorry about the shopping, I had to see Ann Thomas.”

“It’s okay, I’ve had a brilliant day walking with Tom and Kiki.”

“We could go tomorrow,” I suggested.

“Nah, got things to do.”

“Oh, okay I’ll go on my own.”

“Why, what have you got to buy?”

“Christmas presents, some stuff I’ll need for hospital, new nighties and so on.”

“Oh, I might see if I can change my arrangements.”

“Don’t on my account,” I said almost in a confrontational way and then modified it with, “but if you do, I’ll be glad to have you along.”

“You can buy lunch then.”

“Okay, I’ll buy lunch.”

“What’s for dinner?”

“Beef stew with dumplings.”

“You’ve done dumplings?” she squealed, her eyes brightening up.

“Yes, why?”

“I looooooooove dumplings.”

“Oh good.” Personally I didn’t like them, but I though others might and as I wasn’t sure if Simon would be back for a meal tonight, I wanted to make enough, just in case.

I picked up my phone and sent him a text?

‘R U home 2nite?
lol C.xxx’

About ten minutes later came:

‘no, wot is I missn?
Si. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx’

‘bf stew & dumplns
luv C. xxxx’

‘damn! CU 2moro nite.
luv Si. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
ps. save me sum.
pps, watch out 4 Stella & feeding frenzy.’

I showed it to her and she laughed.

Tom had drunk his coffee and had the dog out on the line or in the microwave to dry her coat. I suggested skinning her and doing it in the washing machine. She simply came running over to me and plonked wet footprints all over my clean jeans. ‘Bloody dogs! I wonder if you can tumble dry spaniels?’

Not much else happened that night, I did the veg and finished the dinner, saving Simon a portion before I dished up the rest. I also took out the loaf and started a new bake, a cake this time. Can you believe we also had bread with the stew? Actually, it was quite good, although I suspect I may have been a trifle heavy with the garlic, in the stew, not the loaf.

I showed Tom and Stella the pen I’d got for Simon. She nearly fell over. “That is the same model in the same colours I bought for him, years ago.”

“It’s a Parker 51.”

“Nice pen,” said Tom, “I have one in my study somewhere.”

“I’m told it’s the classic Parker.”

“I should say.” Tom went off to look for his.

“As soon as you give it to him, can I kill him for losing mine?”

“Let him give you your prezzie first.”

“Good thinking, Batman.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 208

I slept well that night, no interruptions. I wasn’t sure what was happening with Stella and Tom, they seemed as thick as thieves, even though he was twice her age. It wasn’t for me to say anything however, but I was intrigued.

The next morning I was up and showered ahead of Stella again. She’d got proper lazy since her little mishap. I think she was off until New Year, like many Christmas holidaymakers.

It was Thursday the twentieth of December, and I wasn’t sure how much I was looking forward to going shopping with the range of lunatics who would be blocking my progress equally distributed across the High Street.

They come in all guises, men, women and children of all sizes, tongues and nationalities. What they have in common is their obviously practiced ability to get in the way. No matter what you want to do, pay for something, reach for something off a counter or from a rack, and they are there, blocking your access or your view. Or worse, occasionally taking the very thing you’d absolutely have to have, and of which it is the only unsold specimen in the entire universe. They grab it while you are daydreaming and, knowing that your time is limited, take it off to the changing rooms where they hide while you stamp up and down outside wanting to kill them.

Most of the shopping I needed to do was food, and it was too early to buy Christmas food. It would be stale or gone off before the day. The dried stuff like flour and yeast I could get, and the odd tin of tuna, but not much else.

I knew Stella wouldn’t be interested in food shopping. She prefers High Street stuff, if not haute couture, which is a little lacking in Portsmouth. There are one or two quality department stores and some quite nice boutique type shops, but there’s more of the chain store type like everywhere else. I’m quite happy to wear chain store clothes, Stella is not. She does ‘exceedingly good taste,’ so I forgive her, especially if I get first refusal on the castoffs.

Do men do this unofficial recycling, like women do?’ I hadn’t noticed Simon and Tom swapping clothes, but then I wasn’t looking for it. Maybe it’s just a girl thing?

I had dressed fairly tidily, and was putting on my makeup when I heard Stella in her bathroom. I went down to have some breakfast. Tom was busy administering a percussive anaesthetic to a boiled egg before he tore off part of its shell. It looked like he was doing brain surgery on Humpty Dumpty.

I sat down with a bowl of cereal and my cup of tea. He always managed to eat twice as much breakfast as I did, habit I suppose. It also explained why he was somewhat more rotund than I was.

Stella had just a cup of coffee and a slice of toast. I thought she usually ate more than that, but not today.

“So are we going shopping?” she addressed to me.

“As soon as I can get my body armour on,” I smiled back at her.

“Watch out for pickpockets,” commented Tom.

“Why, do you want one for Christmas?” I asked.

“No we haven’t finished the one you caught earlier. They are a bit chewy.”

“Okay, I won’t intercept anymore.”

“Not unless you want to get your name in the press again?”

“No way!” I said loudly.

I did think of taking a security purse I had, which you looped around your neck and under clothing. But it was too fiddly. You almost had to undress to pay for anything.

Stella had one of the body belt sort, but it didn’t look as if she was wearing it.

Eventually, Tom shooed us off and agreed to do the dishes while we got ready and left. I put on some lippy and a squirt of smellies and was ready. Stella took a little longer.

Parking the car was a nightmare. Everyone within a hundred miles who owned a car had brought it to Portsmouth. I was beginning to think it was personal! Finally, we found a space. For what they were charging, we could have rented a cabin on the Queen Mary. Rip-off didn’t half cover it.

Still, maybe fate was still causing things to happen. As we walked past a particularly dark part of the building, we saw two large men harassing a woman.

“Come on Cathy, let’s even things up here a little.” Stella started trotting towards the trouble. “Hey you, leave her alone!” she called at them.

“Is this a good idea?” I asked no one in particular, trotting along behind. This didn’t look like trifles at three paces, more like fists and feet.

One of the men struck the woman, the next moment Stella was on him, well next to him, and she did one of her kicks and knocked him down. His mate threw off the woman he had been holding and turned to face his attacker. He had done some martial arts, because Stella and he walked around each other like two tomcats sizing each other up. He’d obviously seen what befell his pal and wasn’t going to take any chances.

Finally, in slow motion, they attacked and counterattacked. His strength told and I saw Stella buckle and fall as he landed a kick to her abdomen.

I had been a bit wary of getting involved, seeing the odds as too one sided against us. They were still that way; I was certainly no match for the remaining thug.

Size does matter, so does surprise. I had blown up when Stella got hurt, I saw everything through a red mist, I was so angry. I ran in, somersaulted over a car bonnet and brought both feet into contact with his chest. He flew over the bonnet of another car.

I stood up and he came raging back, he swung at me. It was rather wild and I ducked stepped inside him, turned and caught him under the heart with my elbow, turned again and using the same elbow caught him under the chin. He lost some teeth and went down like a stone.

I went to see to Stella, she was propped up and shaking her head. “Where did you learn to fight like that?”

“I learned a thing or three in school, but most of that was improvised. How are you?”

“Sore, check out their victim.” Despite her protests, I helped her to her feet. She sat on the bonnet of my car getting her breath back.

“Are you okay?” I asked the frightened looking woman, who shook her head and kept saying, “Nyet.” Her face was bruised and her mouth looked like it was bleeding.

“This is Lady Stella Cameron, please send officers to the multi-storey car park. We have interrupted an assault by two men upon a woman. She is foreign, probably East European, perhaps Russian. We have detained the men. Please hurry, they look violent.”

They both lay groaning on the floor of the car park and the sirens were heard getting closer. The Russian woman looked to hobble away but I restrained her. Finally, the police arrived and Stella took command.

“These two men were assaulting this lady, whom we think to be Russian or from a Baltic state. We asked them to desist and they attempted to assault us. I knocked the one down before his friend did the same to me, and Cathy took him out after shouting a warning to him to stop and desist.”

“Gee whizz ladies. How the hell did you knock them down? We know these two, they are real sleaze bags.”

“Kick boxing,” said Stella, and pointed to groaner number one.”

“Bristolian Street Fighting,” I said and shrugged my shoulders.

“I thought that was usually with a bottle?” said the copper.

“Couldn’t find one, had to improvise. Cor my elbow is sore.” It was, too.

“Can you call by the station a bit later to give a statement? These two are really nasty, we have warrants out on them for skipping bail and so on. I suspect this lady is one of the human traffic they bring in from Eastern Europe.”

“What, for prostitution?” I asked not even wondering what they were squabbling about. For all I knew it was over the colour of Christmas crackers.

“’Fraid so, madam. It’s big business. Little Olga here is recruited for a hostess job, thinking it’s about rubbing shoulders with rich businessmen, instead it’s sexual slavery to a gang of pimps. They make millions out of it. The girls get all sorts of nasty diseases or become druggies to cope with the violation from the gangs and their customers.”

“How can men have sex with women if they suspect it’s under coercion?” I asked.

“For some it’s a turn on.”

“That is disgusting!” I spat.

“I quite agree, Lady Catherine.”

“How do you know who I am?”

“You were in the paper the other week catching that bag snatcher. I saw the footage. You two are like Batman and Robin, but I think you’d better scoot now and leave it to the professionals.”

We didn’t need telling again. However, instead of shopping, we went home. Stella was sore and I was concerned for her after her previous problem.

We drove home, my elbow was really hurting and Stella looked quite pale.

“Where did you learn to do that?” she asked, intrigued by my burst of aggression.

“Told you, Bristol Street Fighting. Years ago, they had race riots and things in St Paul’s in Bristol. Then it calmed down but the troubles were replaced with gangs. I regularly watched them in school fighting each other. It was all about speed and agility.

“Then my father wanted me to be a man and kept trying to force me to do boxing or judo or something. I did something, I enrolled for a crash course in Street Fighting.

“It follows one rule, ‘Your Survival is all.’ After that anything goes. They teach you how to use your environment to your advantage, how to get in close make a few shots and get out again.”

“Which was exactly what you did. You must have practised all this many times.”

“You’re joking, I made it up as I went along, and I only did it because I was seriously pissed when they hurt you. I don’t go around hitting people, ugh! Horrid!”

Stella sat there with her mouth wide open in surprise.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 209

“You mean to tell me, you went at that gorilla without any practised moves?”

“Yeah, why?”

“So how do you know they’re going to work?”

“You don’t, but neither do you when you practice them. If they always did, you’d have taken out both of them and I could have stood there swooning at my hero.” I batted my eyelids.

She punched me on the arm.

“Bloody hell Stella, that hurt.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“What don’t you believe?”

“That you don’t do any training for martial arts.”

“I ride a bike when I can. I don’t like hitting people. It’s about head stuff. You learn how to make the best of any situation. It’s about belief, self-belief.”

“So did you believe you were going to take out that bloke?”

“I dunno, I didn’t stop to analyse it.”

“You are bullshitting me, aren’t you?”

“What about?”

“Bristol Street Fighting.”

“Took you long enough to work that out.”

“So what was all that then?”

“All what?”

“Cathy, stop answering questions with a question.”

“Why?”

“Aaaarrgh!”

“Stella, those were my eardrums you just shattered.”

“This isn’t the way to Tom’s, this is the hos… I am not going into a hospital.”

“Unless you really want to see what street fighting is all about, you’d better do as you are told.”

Stella looked startled as I spoke with deliberate menace. “You have only recently come out of an emergency situation, you took a blow to the guts, I want to make sure it’s okay.”

She opened her mouth to speak.

“No, it was MI5 who trained me, along with a whole pile of dolphins who can neutralise bombs, tap telephone lines, open tins of tuna and do the Times crossword.”

I saw her visualising each of the stupid scenarios I had just described. “That is ridiculous.”

“What is?”

“Dolphins being able to write the answers in the Times crossword.”

“They have a special waterproof copy, or do it online.”

“Oh, that’s different.” She kept a straight face until we got out of the car then she nearly fell over giggling. Her tummy was hurting as she laughed, so I felt vindicated in bringing her to the hospital.

We sat around for three hours while we waited for different people or tests to be carried out. I sat around for three hours, Stella was whisked off every so often. They all knew her by name of course, so I hate to think how long it would have taken if we were just ordinary punters.

I found a copy of a Sunday supplement which mentioned our mapping project and why we needed to do it as thoroughly as possible. However, my reading was disturbed by some kid standing to the side of me and staring at me.

It is unnerving to have someone stare at you. It is doubly so when it’s a kid, they don’t filter what they say. They just say it, usually very loudly. Did she realise my original gender?

I could feel my blood pressure rising as I pretended not to notice her. My heart was thumping. Was she going to say anything? Could I slide across and strangle her without anyone noticing? Nah, they have CCTV.

I read the same paragraph for the ninth time, her eyes were still boring into me. Was she one of these autistic kids who stare at things for hours?

“Mummmmmmmmmmy, dat wady has dirty mark on her face, her jacket has a hole in it. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy?”

“I don’t know darling, perhaps she fell over. Come along and stop bothering her.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” she squealed so loudly I wondered if the fire alarm was going to come on.

“Come along Jemima! Do as Mummy tells you.”

“Nooooooooooooooooo,” she squealed, at only ten thousand decibels, as her mother eventually grabbed her and dragged her away.

“Sorry about that,” she said as she grabbed the noisy brat.

However, Jemima had other ideas and held onto my chair, which in turn was fixed to the floor, presumably to stop drunks throwing them at each other. She also seemed to have more hands and arms than normal children, because each time one was prised off, its neighbour grabbed hold. All of this was accompanied by her mother remonstrating with her and her squealing like an enraged fire engine.

A nurse and one of the admin staff came to help shut her up, she was waking up patients in the mortuary.

The kid was like superglue: she held on and held on. Finally, they shifted her and I breathed a sigh of relief. A second later the sound of small hoof beats was accompanied by something jumping onto my lap, which then clung to me.

“Jemima, please come with Mummy and leave this lady alone.”

“Noooooooooooooooooo!” she shook her head and damaged my remaining auditory nerves. “Stay wiv wady.”

“I’m sorry about this.” The mother tried to separate her from me, but Jemima was having none of it.

“Why me?” I said silently to myself.

“Why you gotted dirty mark on you face?” she said looking at the side of my face.

“I fell over and my head touched the ground,” ‘Courtesy of some gorilla who has an even bigger headache.’ I smiled as I thought that.

“You need wash.”

“Yes Jemima, I probably do.” I could see her mother standing and shaking her head as she wondered what to do next.

“Shall we go to the toilets and wash it off?” I asked her.

“Yes, Jemima wash it doff for you.” She jumped down off me and grabbed my hand. Then we went to the toilets and I knelt down while she wiped a wet paper towel over the mark on my face. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt, so I probably did it with a dirty hand rather than bashing it. Once she’d wiped it off, she dried it with another paper towel.

Her mother stood and watched from the doorway. I don’t know what she thought. Finally, Jemima was finished and she took my hand and led me out.

“I’m sorry about this erm… I’m Samantha Cole.”

I was just about to say my name when the tannoy announced, “Would Lady Catherine please come to reception.”

“Sorry, that’s probably me.” I excused myself as the woman’s mouth gaped wide open, and I deftly transferred her troublesome child to her rightful carer.

“We’re sending her up to gynae for the night. We think she’s okay, but just in case.”

“Can I pop up and see her?”

“The way she was swearing at you, I’d let her calm down a bit first.”

“That’s Stella.”

“Yeah, I knew her when she was a ward sister. Don’t go there,” she said winking as I was about to ask.

“I’ll come back tonight.”

“Yeah, might be safer.”

I went off to the police station and gave a statement. I explained why Stella couldn’t and they asked if she could as soon as possible. Life was not getting any simpler.

“What happened to the woman those gorillas had?”

“She’s at a detention centre while immigration sort out if she’s legal or not. If not, they send her back.”

“I hope someone notifies her family.”

“If she gives them her name.”

“Why shouldn’t she?”

“If you were forced into prostitution would you be happy to talk to anyone in authority?”

“Well, the police would be all right.”

“Would they? Who knows what they told her, and she believes. Some Russian cops are as bent as a four pound note. She might think the same about us.”

“Surely not!” I sounded indignant even to myself.

“Lady Catherine, you’re lovely woman, but you are so innocent. If it had gone wrong out there, you could have ended up dead or in the same boat as the woman you rescued.”

“What!” I gasped.

“So in future, leave the crime busting to the police.”

I left feeling about two inches tall.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 210

“Where’s Stella?”

“In hospital.”

“I thought she wasn’t working until after Christmas.”

“She’s a patient, Tom.”

“She didn’t haemorrhage again?”

“No, we had a little contretemps with a pair of thugs in the car park.”

“Trouble seems to follow you around, Cathy.”

“She got involved first.” I explained how she switched into Girl Guide mode and went to help the woman the thugs were assaulting, and then I had to help her.”

“So you had to rescue Stella?”

“Yes, sort of, I mean I could hardly let her get hurt anymore than she was, and I did try to restrain her. She just went for it, took out the first guy, and the second one got her.”

“And you took out someone she failed with?” Tom looked at me with astonishment.

“Yes. Yes I did.” I felt indignant.

He started to laugh and shook his head.

“What is so funny?”

“You knocking anyone down.”

“I caught the bag snatcher.”

“And the dormouse,” he chuckled, “don’t forget the dormouse.”

“I surprised him…” I tried to continue.

“It surprised me, it must have shocked him.”

“Ha ha. Look, I have to get some stuff for Stella, we can talk about this later.”

“Why don’t I take the stuff in to Stella, and you stay home and cook us a nice dinner.”

“She’ll think it’s cowardice on my part.”

“No she won’t. I’ll say I made you stay at home. Besides, Simon will be here soon. He might appreciate having you to himself for an hour or so. You go and make up the bag and I’ll take it in.”

He wasn’t going to take no for an answer, so I gave in and went off to pack up an overnight bag for her. He’d made me some tea when I came back down. Then he shot off to the hospital.

I know he likes Stella, which is fine with me, but he is at least twice her age, so I’m still trying to understand his relationship with her. He dotes on me like a spare father, so is he doing the same for her, I don’t know. Hmmm! Nor am I sure what I think of it.

I went to see what was in the fridge with which I could manufacture our dinner. A pile of pork chops and some veg. I went out to the pantry and found a bottle of white wine. There was some cream in the fridge too, so I started pork in a wine and cream sauce.

The vegetables were potatoes of course, carrots, celery and asparagus. Tom must have bought the latter, I wouldn’t until it’s less expensive, but I’m happy to eat it!

I had just finished preparing the veg when Simon came in. He walked in, put down his case and picked me up in a monster hug.

“I’ve missed you,” he said.

“I’ve missed you too, Simon.”

We kissed and then hugged and then kissed, you know like he’s just come home from the war! Well, I hadn’t seen him for a couple of days.

“Hmm, that smells good.” He looked around, “Where’s Tom and Stella.”

This was the bit I wasn’t looking forward to telling him. “Erm, they’re in hospital.”

“What visiting someone?”

“Sort of.”

“Hey, this wine is okay… what do you mean, sort of?”

“Tom is visiting Stella.”

His eyes widened and I knew it wasn’t a good sign. “Honestly Cathy, how come you two can’t look after each other?”

I told him what happened. His eyes widened again.

“You broke up a Russian prostitution ring? Gee whizz, Cathy, you’re like um, um bloody Wonder Woman.”

I was tempted to ask him for the bracelets and belt, but the belt he might have given me could have been something less welcome. “Stella started this one, not me.”

“But you two should look after each other.”

“We did, sort of.” I shrugged my shoulders, I’d done my bit anyway. The veg were boiling too fast so I turned them down.

“So is she okay?”

“As far as I know. Tom should be home soon, they kick you out at eight, so I’m cooking for half past, is that okay?”

“Yes fine, I’m going to shower.”

“Want me to wash your back.” I wasn’t sure if I’d said the wrong thing.

“I’d love you to, but I think one of us had better stay ready to speak with Tom or answer the phone, don’t you?”

I nodded, feeling ever so slightly rejected. My experience of the other night was still very strong. He saw the change in my expression and walking over to me, kissed me with some passion.

“I’m not rejecting you. I love you, but I am concerned about Stella. I still don’t know how she had the haemorrhage. I don’t think she’s telling me everything, what do you think?”

I was saved by two things happening, Tom came in and the veg began to boil over. Perhaps the veg had seen our kiss!

“Hi Tom, how is my sister?”

“She’s fine. They’re going to do a scan tomorrow, and assuming the consultant says so, she can come home. I said I’d go and get her.” He caught sight of my surprise, I’d thought I was going to get her.

“You’re forgiven for taking her in.”

Oh wow, big bloody deal!’ I didn’t care if she forgave me or not, I’d do it again if were necessary. “Yeah, thanks.”

“Hey kiddo, that smells good. I knew I did the right thing by getting you to stay here and cook. I’ll get us some wine to drink with it.”

Simon and he had finished the half a bottle I’d left from the dinner. I went off to lay the table, Simon dashed up for a quick shower. It was quick, he was back down in about twelve minutes, dressed in a shirt and trousers and looking a little ‘poached.’

Not long after, I dished up. The pork was delicious, fell off the bone of the spare rib chops. As we sat down to eat, Tom proposed a toast to the cook.

I countered, with one to absent friends. We all drank to that.

If Tom was going to collect Stella, I could do some last minute shopping and start to plan what we needed for food for the coming holiday. It was likely that it would be going mad everywhere as the feeding frenzy of the spendfest grew closer. I’m sure people think that the whole world is coming to visit and look to feed them. The wastage must be enormous.

It was Friday tomorrow and nearly the last shopping days before Christmas. Tom had told me over dinner that he’d organised a whole salmon for Christmas day, could I cook it?

I’d never done a large one but I’m sure it was the same as a small one. I’d certainly have a go. I agreed to buy a bacon joint, and Simon said he’d provide the drink. Then we had a whip round for vegetables and desserts. Profiteroles, went through my mind, I’d sort of gone off trifle.

We all drank a glass too much and after I put the dishwasher on, I said I was going to bed. I saw Simon wink at Tom and he came up the stairs behind me.

We kissed at the top, rather sloppily, then went to bed after cleaning teeth. Some more kisses and no matter how passionate I felt in theory, I still nodded off a few minutes later. That’s alcohol for you. I either get sick or sleepy. I don’t think Simon was too pleased.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 211

I slept like a log, so the alcohol did have one benefit. Simon said I snored, but I didn’t hear it, so I don’t care—he can talk anyway. He didn’t even wake me when he left for work, so I slept until after eight when Tom woke me with a cup of tea.

I was dreaming about something when a male voice called, “Cathy,” and I was dragged back into real life with a jolt.

“I brought you a cup of tea, seeing as you otherwise look to be sleeping around the clock.”

“What, what time is it?” I squinted at him with eyes which didn’t quite focus.

“It’s after eight. I thought you wanted to go shopping?”

“Uh, oh yeah, I don’t exactly want to, but I thought I better had. Start getting food in, that sort of thing, plus we’ll need to clean right through as well, ’cos I won’t be able to do much after New Year.”

“Why’s that then?” he laughed.

I poked out my tongue at him.

“You on dormouse duty?”

“Oh shit, yes, and over Christmas, then that poor boy’s funeral. Sometimes it feels like life is just too much.”

“Are you all set for the hospital?”

“I thought you were collecting Stella?”

“Not Stella! You, you nit!”

“Oh, no I haven’t. I need to get some nighties and such.”

“Come on then, up you get.”

I grumbled but sat up. I’d probably had more sleep in the last twelve hours than I’d had for ages. The problem was that I felt more tired than usual. All I really wanted to do was sleep.

Tom eventually left and I somehow managed to fall asleep again.

“Cathy, wake up girl.”

“What! Oh God, I fell asleep again.”

“Your tea is cold, it’s ten o’clock.”

“Oh bugger. I’m sorry, Tom, I don’t know what came over me.”

“I think it’s called life, girl. Now get your arse in gear and I’ll put the kettle on. Oh, you have some post, too.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said yawning and shivering as I stood up. He went and I staggered into the shower, and thankfully, the water woke me up a bit.

I dressed very quickly and combed my hair, then trotted downstairs to the kitchen.

“I’ve phoned the hospital, the consultant hasn’t seen the scans yet. So I don’t know if your future sis-in-law is coming home today or not.”

“If you have things to do, I’ll go and get her.”

“Cathy, you have things to do as well, you can’t keep deferring to everyone else. Your life is important too. It’s very female, but not desirable.”

“Okay, let me have some brekkies and I’ll get off to town.”

“I’m half-tempted to come with you and then we could have some lunch together. If you and Stella are my substitute children, I ought to try and see both of you.”

“If Stella and I are what?” I was surprised to put it mildly.

“My surrogate daughters. Why, does that worry you?”

I blushed to the roots of my hair. “No I’m very flattered that you feel that way about us.” I wanted to say, ‘But we both have fathers!’ although thinking about it, maybe we didn’t in an active sense. Or at least I didn’t.

He held out his arms to me and I allowed him to hug me. I knew he had lost his daughter and that he treated me a bit like one. During the embrace he spoke quietly, “Since that day when I bumped into you and rescued you from those silly boys, I have watched you grow into a lovely young woman. I know you told me about yourself while you were still living as Charlie, but it didn’t really resonate until I saw you as Cathy and knew that Charlie was the illusion.

“My own daughter would probably have been twenty years older than you, but you remind me of her so much, and when you came to stay here, it was like having her here again. Then with Stella and Simon, it was like the family I should have had. Life became so much richer albeit more complicated.

“I’ve become fond of all three of you, but especially you, young lady. So I want you to know that as long as I live here, you are welcome to consider it as a second home, no questions asked.”

“Gosh Tom, that is so kind of you. I don’t know what to say, I erm feel a bit, (sniff), overwhelmed.” I felt tears run down my face. “I like having someone as wise and funny as you are as my surrogate dad.”

“Good, now we know how we each feel. Come on eat your breakfast and I can take you out for lunch.”

Eat and go out for a meal? The man was crazy, but I knew that. It appeared that everyone I’d met in recent months was crazy, but most in a very acceptable way, if not always a likeable way. Was it because I was barmy too, and attracted them to me? ‘Who cares?’ I had a cup of tea and couple of digestive biscuits plus a banana and then went to get myself ready.

When I came back, Tom had phoned the hospital and arranged for them to call him if they needed to discharge Stella. We went off in my car. He would get a cab if necessary to collect Stella. I suggested that maybe he needed to get a runabout for driving around town instead of the monster he used at present.

“What! Get rid of me Land Rover? Are you mad, woman?”

I began to wonder if he’d already decided to derogate my role to ex-surrogate daughter. To be fair to him, he traipsed around the shops with me for an hour while I bought nighties and dressing gowns and slippers. In fact, he helped carry most of them.

I saw a dress I had to have for Christmas. It was red velvet with a collar and vee neck, and long sleeves, It had a dropped waist and two slit pockets on the side. It was eighty quid, but it was just the look I wanted for Christmas.

I took it to the check out and Tom thrust all the bags in my arms and before I could say anything, he paid for it. “That’s your Christmas present sorted.”

“You can’t spend eighty pounds on me!” I gasped at him.

“I can spend what I like on whoever I like, so there!”

How do you respond to that, except to feel guilty? “Thank you, very much.”

“You’re welcome. You’ve done so much for me Cathy.”

“Meeeeeeee? I haven’t done anything, it’s all what you’ve done for me.”

“You see, you’ve enriched my life so much in so many ways and you’re not even aware you’ve done it. That is true magic, you’re like some miracle-working angel.”

Talk about embarrassed, I wanted to die then and there before he said something even more outlandish. Was he going senile and imagining I’d done all these things?

We dropped the stuff at the car and went off for somewhere for lunch. We had just ordered, Tom having a curry for a change, and I had a tuna jacket spud with salad, when I heard a voice which was recently familiar.

Wady, I wike you.”

I turned around and cringed. Running at me was Jemima the decibel queen.

“Are you all bettered now, wady?”

“Yes, thank you, Jemima,” I noticed other diners turning around and sniggering.

“Does you face hurt, wady?”

“No it doesn’t, Jemima.”

“What does she have for lungs, hydraulic pumps?” whispered Tom, “I’ve heard quieter jet engines.”

She came and jumped up on my lap.

“Wady, I wike you.”

“Thank you Jemima, I’m sure you are very nice too. Now where is your mummy?”

“In da toi-wet.”

“Why aren’t you with her?”

“Me done wee wees all-weady.”

My ears were beginning to adapt to her stentorian tones. She can’t have been more than three, with a pretty good vocabulary and a mouth like a megaphone.

Finally I spotted her mum, and waved to her. She saw me with Jemima and came rushing up to us.

“Jemima, you must tell Mummy when you run off like that. Mummy was very worried.”

“Me sawed wady Caffrin, me came to say eh-woh.”

Life! I suppose it beats dying.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 212

It took twenty minutes to rid ourselves of the mini banshee and her mother, during which time Tom was nearly wetting himself.

“You look quite good with children.”

“That was a child? I thought it was a goblin.”

“Oh you cwuel wady,” he joked at me. “So how do you know her?”

“She was at the hospital, and latched onto me. I’d somehow got a dirty mark on my face and she wanted to wash it off. In the end I had to give in to her, because she seems to have a one track mind.”

“Like a spaniel?”

“Yes or a cat, but they have the excuse that it’s acceptable in small furry things, it isn’t, or shouldn’t be, acceptable in children. Her mother seems totally ineffectual.”

“So many are, and because we want them to have more than we did, we give them too much. They have no boundaries and believe they are entitled to everything without any effort whatsoever. No wonder they behave like spoilt brats at twenty. No one has taught them any other.”

I nodded, this was one of Tom’s favourite soapbox topics and I wasn’t going to let him bore me all afternoon with it. His phone rang and it turned out to be the hospital.

“Stella is going to be in for at least another twenty four hours. She has some nasty deep bruising on her liver.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“Can’t be very good news, she’ll be livid.”

“I suppose we’d better tell Simon and then go and see her,” I said as I picked up my mobile.

‘S still in hosp, bruised liver.
C U 2nite.
Lol,
C. xxx’

We popped into a large pharmacy near the pub and I bought her a whole pile of toiletries, plus some chocolate and some drinks. Tom popped into the supermarket and got her some fruit.

“So if Jemima turns up again, you have to adopt her, don’t you?”

“Ha! Bloody ha! If she turns up again I think I shall slash my wrists. There is a real possibility that having her at distances of less than a kilometre could seriously affect one’s hearing.”

“Didn’t you buy some earplugs while you were in the chemists?”

“No I forgot. Plus I don’t intend to see her again.”

We parked up at the hospital and checked which ward Stella was in. It was closer than the previous one. A shortish walk and we were there. The nurses were stood around her bed talking to her.

“Oh, hi Tom,” she called, then she saw me. “You, I have a bone to pick with, young woman.”

It’s nice to be popular, pity I’m not!’ “Hello Stella, I brought you something for your liver.”

“If it’s onions, I shall beat you to death with them.”

Damn, she’d heard that one.’ I produced the designer cleansers and moisturisers, which had cost me a fortune, complete with shower mitt and shampoo, all in their own designer bag. I gave her my peace offering.

She smiled and hugged me, “Next time you bring me into a hospital, I am going to put you in intensive care, with enemas every day!”

“I’m so glad you liked my decision, Stella. It makes it all so worthwhile. I’m overwhelmed at your gratitude.”

Tom stood between us, Stella lounging on her bed, me standing at the side. “Calm down now, ladies.”

We chatted and Tom told her what had happened at the pub. Stella thought it was hilarious.

“She sounds perfectly charming. I wish I’d been there.”

Just then there was the clatter of little hoof beats and I visibly shrank, trying to wrap myself up in the curtain screen. Surely lightning couldn’t strike three times, could it?

“Aunty Fi, Mummy’s coming, I wan on ’head of her.”

That voice was familiar, lightning could strike three times! I just hoped she wouldn’t see me. I got Tom to bring his chair around to shelter me from her gaze.

We could hear every word. It was her, there can’t be two Jemimas with voices like a foghorn on steroids. I shrank back some more. Stella was in danger of falling off her bed she was laughing so much.

“Any trouble from you, girl, and I’ll call over the banshee,” she threatened. I promised to be extra good, including making some chestnut stuffing for Christmas dinner.

I was on tenterhooks the whole time Jemima was there, plus it was easier to hear what she was saying than it was to keep up a conversation with Stella, I was so distracted.

My luck ran out when Jemima was sent to get some paper hand towels from the holder by the wash basins. She turned around, saw Tom and smiled, then came over. Then she saw me and her face split with a huge smile.

Wady Caffrin,” she said in volumes probably audible three floors up. She ran over to us and slipped on a small spot of water on the floor, going down with quite a bump.

I was up and over to her almost before the first tear appeared. I scooped her up and holding her to me, carried her sobbing little body over to her mother.

“Oh dear, Mima, what have you done now? She’s always falling over or running into things. Thank you, Lady Catherine.”

“It’s just Cathy, honestly.” I explained as I deposited the weeping bundle into her mother’s arms.

“But you’re married to a lord.”

“Not yet, we’re just engaged.”

“Oh… Still, it won’t be long will it?”

“I don’t know, nor do I know if I will use any sort of title, except doctor. All the others aren’t earned.”

“Ooh, I dunno,” said Samantha Cole. “I wouldn’t mind it, could open doors and things.”

I wished Jemima well and went back to Stella.

“She is good with children,” said Stella to Tom.

“Who is?”

“You are.”

“Roast potatoes go better,” I suggested trying not to snigger. “I’ll stick to dormice.”

“What? That vicious furry thing which attacked you on telly?” Stella challenged.

“Attacked me? She was running away from the cameras. Poor little thing was frightened out of the few wits she has.”

“It was funny though,” said Tom chortling, “a big favourite on YouTube by all accounts.”

“Can we talk about something other than that event? It only lasted about a minute and I have a few hundred thousand other ones in my life.”

“Wady Caffrin, fank you for pickin’ me up.” A subdued Jemima appeared at Stella’s bed, nursing quite a large bruise on her forehead.

“Oh, poor Jemima. Does your head hurt, sweetheart?” I opened my arms to give her a hug.

“Yes, Mima’s head hurts,” she said beginning to cry again. I hugged her and lifted her on to my lap. Tom went off and collecting some paper towels soaked them in cold water and brought them back. Jemima let me hold them against her bruise.

“There, sweetie pie. Does that help?” I cooed to her.

“Yes,” she sobbed.

“Don’t want to adopt her, do you?” said her mother standing at the edge of Stella’s cubicle.

“I don’t think so,” I said, rocking her on my lap and sponging her bruise.

“You look a natural,” laughed Samantha, “better than me.”

“That’s what I keep telling her, but all she wants is more dormice.” Stella had to open her great gob and give everything away.

“Dormice? Did you hear that Mima? Lady Cathy has dormice.”

“Do you, Wady Caffy?” came a little voice from my lap.

“Yes I do, Jemima, at the university.”

“Can Mima see vem?”

“Can you see them?” I asked, hoping she’d asked for something else, like the crown jewels.

She nodded.

“I don’t know. They are very shy animals who sleep all day and run about at night. This time of year they are hibernating, do you know what that means?”

She shook her head.

“It means they are all fast asleep until the warmer weather comes.”

“Can Mima see vem, if Mima keeps vewy quiet?” she asked very quietly.

“I don’t know Jemima, you’d need to get permission from my professor and he’s a crusty old bloke.”

“Oh that’s a shame,” said Samantha, “where do I find this crusty old b?”

“Sitting right here,” said Tom, “Professor Tom Agnew at your service.”

“Oh!” squeaked Samantha.

Stella once again rocked with laughter on the bed.

“So what do I have to do to get permission for Mima to see the dormice?”

“It’s a bit difficult because of the risk of accident and the fact that small children are not usually allowed into laboratory areas, makes it more so.”

“Oh dear, so she can’t see them?”

“I didn’t say that. What I said was, it is difficult, not impossible. It would have to be at your own risk and I’d have to insist that she would only be able to see them through the cages. She can’t touch them because they’re asleep and it’s dangerous to wake them.”

“Why do they bite?”

“No, they can die from shock or hypothermia.”

“Oh! Gosh are they that fragile?”

“Yes they are. They are also scared by noise, so Jemima would have to keep very quiet. But the person you need to speak to is Cathy. They’re her babies.”

“You have baby ones too?”

“They were babies a few months ago, now they’re pretty well grown up.”

We talked, and as Tom had dropped me in it, I offered to take them straight from the hospital, so he would have to come too. He gave me a filthy look, but his fate was as sealed as mine.

Easy As Falling Off A Dormouse 213

by Angharad & Bonzi

We drove to the university followed by Sam and Jemima. Tom grumbled most of the way there, I ignored it, in some ways he was worse than Jemima.

They followed us into the department and I took Jemima aside. “The dormice are very nervous creatures, so you need to be very, very quiet.”

“Mima be vewy quiet, shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” she put her finger to her lips.

We went into the lab and I put my finger to my lips and Mima copied me and hushed everyone. Her mother and Tom were talking and Mima hushed them very loudly. She actually made more noise than them, which made us all smile.

We tiptoed up to the cages, which are really special tank like structures with controlled temperature and humidity. They also have darkened glass which means the animals are less troubled by people passing all the time, although they can be viewed without knowing they are being watched. We use red light when we need to see into the tanks, because that doesn’t disturb them. There is also an artificial day light period each day to make sure the plants growing inside get some photosynthesis but the air quality is computer controlled, with a backup system. This is why it is so expensive, but we’ve put quite a few little furry things back into the English countryside, so I think it’s worth every penny, but I would, being the architect of the scheme.

We have nesting boxes in there too, but with glass, or rather Perspex sides, so we can see into them. It’s important for counting babies and so on. Most were hibernating, and by lifting Jemima up, she could see into the nest boxes and was giggling softly.

We went round all the tanks and at the end one, Spike was munching on a hazel nut. This was when I made the mistake: I opened the cage and picked Spike out, grabbing a fresh hazel nut.

I asked Jemima if she’d like to give Spike the nut and she nodded. She gave the nut gently to the dormouse, who gladly accepted it. It tickled her hand which made her laugh, then when she saw how Spike opened the nut, she shrieked with laughter and the dormouse disappeared.

I knew I should have left well alone. I was cross with myself, but Jemima thought I was cross with her. Her mother was cross with her because she had been told to be quiet, but you can’t tell a three year old something like that and expect them to do it.

I didn’t see where Spike went, she sort of leapt into the air and Jemima made another squeal and I took my eye off the flying dormouse. In an instant, she was gone.

Samantha took her daughter home and Tom and I searched the lab high and low, with no sign of our furry escapee. He walked over to the pub for something to eat, while I stayed and searched desperately trying to find my favourite rodent.

I’d even got a red lamp and an image intensifier, which was no use indoors. I sat at my desk feeling really stupid and quite tearful when something fell from the ceiling, catching my hair as it fell.

I shall never know how I didn’t stand up scream and knock whatever it was off my hair, but I didn’t. Had it been a spider, I think I should have fainted, but it was of course a low flying dormouse which scurried up onto my shoulder and down the neck of my jumper. Instead of grabbing her I just let her nestle into my bra, which she did a few moments later.

I sat very quietly with her snug in my underwear. Tom came back with a sandwich for me. “Any sign of the little bugger?”

I hushed him and pulled the neck of my jumper down a little and he could see the tail and the nose sticking out of the centre of my cleavage.

His jaw dropped and then he started to laugh, he laughed so much he began to cough and had to go off and get a drink of water.

When I told him how she had parachuted in from, presumably, an air conditioning duct, having found me in the whole area of the lab, which is hundreds of square feet, he had to go and get another drink.

I almost felt like having a photo taken to show it wasn’t my imagination, but so little of her showed, the picture would have been a semi-pornographic one of my breasts. Tom did offer, but I declined.

To my mind it set off many strange thoughts. Spike was different to most dormice and was used to being handled and fed by me. That she had sought me out and then got to me was quite a feat in itself, if that is what happened. Maybe it was just a random event and she fell out of the duct and just happened to land on something soft—me!

For once I allowed my sentiment to rule me and I decided she had come looking for her mum, and not only that, had found her. Well, it was Christmas after all, a time of magic and miracles.

It was some time later when we had an engineer in to clean out the ducts that he declared some mice had been using them: there were some droppings, part of a hazel nut and some footprints. ‘I wonder how they could have got there.’

I finally managed to pop her back into her cage and went home. Tom still didn’t believe me, neither did Simon, although when we went upstairs, he wanted to play ‘dormice!’

Simon went to get Stella from hospital. I went to the university to check the tanks and feed and clean as necessary. When I got back they were home.

“I gave Samantha my mobile number, she is going to call you on it to see how Spike is. I hope that’s okay?”

“Yeah, that’s fine.”

“Simon told me how she turned up, looking for her mummy.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” I said feeling far less secure with the idea in the cold light of day.

“Well, it was quite a coincidence then.”

“That might be all it was, I have no idea how she got into the duct in the first place, except they are nimble climbers.”

“She came back safe, that’s all that matters.”

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

Stella’s mobile rang and she answered it. “It’s for Wady Caffrin,” she said passing it over and giggling.

“Cathy, hi it’s Samantha Cole, did you find the dormouse?”

“Yes, she turned up later, safe and sound.”

“I am so sorry that Mima frightened her.”

“It’s okay, no harm done.”

“She wants to apologise to you herself.”

“It’s not necessary, she didn’t do it on purpose.”

I heard the phone fumbled and a familiar voice said loudly, “Mima is vewy sowwy. Did you catched Spiky?”

“Yes I did, so don’t worry, she is quite all right. Did you enjoy seeing the dormice?”

“Oh yes,” she squealed and I felt part of my brain turn to mush by the high frequency of her voice. “Goodbye Wady Caffrin.”

“Goodbye Jemima.” I said at the same time thinking, ‘I’m sure that isn’t the last time I will see her’ and being a little hopeful that was the case.

Easy As Falling Off To Sleep

(and more interesting than this)

Part 17.8333’ Dozen (214)

by Wassername ’n her cat

“You quite like her don’t you?” said Stella.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been looking out of that window quite wistfully since you spoke to her.”

“I was wondering if it would stay light long enough for a bike ride,” I lied.

“I don’t believe you. You’re looking as broody as an old hen.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re thinking about children.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I can’t have children. Besides, I can’t stand children.” I turned and walked briskly out of the room, then ran upstairs to my bedroom and flung myself on the bed.

Stella was absolutely right, the bitch or should that be witch? Damn her, how can she read my mind like that? Then my irritation turned to sadness. I don’t know what sort of father I’d have made, so what sort of mother is a non-starter. No matter how clever the scientists and doctors get, I still won’t be able to have kids, I don’t have ovaries nor a womb. I can’t even produce sperm anymore after taking hormones for so long.

I felt a tear form and run down my cheek, then one formed in the other eye and copied the process. Before long, drips of scalding salt water were running down my face and I was howling.

Until recently, I was so involved or consumed by avoiding anyone guessing about me that I hadn’t much thought about anything else. Now I had time to begin to plan beyond becoming as female as I could, and something important was lacking.

I began to question what I was? I patently wasn’t much of a man, and it began to look as if I wouldn’t make much of a woman either. I was so envious of Samantha Cole having Jemima, and she had been envious of me because I was marrying a title. I felt so angry, she was so superficial, why should she have children and me not? Life was so unfair. I did the only thing any self respecting Victorian heroine would do, I howled some more.

“You all right?” asked Stella’s voice.

I was too full up to say anything, but nodded, my back towards her.

“I don’t believe you,” I heard her walk around the bed too quickly for me to be able to turn and face away from her. “You’ve been crying. What’s wrong?”

“You know what’s wrong,” I sobbed at her.

“Well, I might if you tell me.”

“I’m not a real woman,” I sobbed.

“Oh, back to that are we? Why not this time?”

“You know why.”

“Oh the kiddiewinks business?”

I nodded, feeling a fresh batch of tears run down my face.

“I don’t have kids, so doesn’t that make me less than a real woman?”

“Don’t be silly,” I sniffed, “you just choose not to have them.” I felt myself blush very hard when I thought back to Stella’s recent termination.

“Yes I suppose I did. How wise that was remains to be seen. Ironic I suppose, here you are wishing you could get pregnant, and I killed a baby. Oh poor Cathy.” She rubbed my back.

Maybe life was ironic, or even moronic. I knew that lots of real females couldn’t conceive or carry a pregnancy for a multitude of reasons, so what did I have to complain about?

“You’re entitled to do what you want with your body,” I offered as non-judgementally as I could. “After all, you’re not telling me what to do with mine.”

“You’re merely correcting an oversight,” she said to me.

“Perhaps you were, too.”

“Yeah, some oversight that was,” she said bitterly. “Stupidity, it’s my middle name.”

“That would make you SS Cameron, sounds like an old boat,” I said and chuckled.

“Old boot,” she laughed, “is more like it.”

We sat together for a little while comforting the other, which was nice.

“You could always have some sperm frozen.”

“What?”

“You know in a sperm bank, they freeze it and it could be used at a later date.”

“What for?”

“Making babies.”

“What?”

“In vitro stuff, you know test tube babies.”

“Where are they going to get the sperm from?”

“Didn’t you do lessons on the birds and the bees? For a biologist you don’t seem to know much about it, do you?”

“What! I do tutorials on reproductive cycles. I also know my goolies don’t produce sperm anymore.”

“Ah, that could make sperm storage a bit difficult.”

“How about impossible?”

“That too.”

“So there we are, I’m destined to be a simulacrum.”

“Isn’t that book by Tolkien?”

“No, that’s the Simarilion, or something.”

“Oh,” she looked at my feet. “I wondered if I was going to have my very own Hobbit.”

“Very funny! Your feet are nearly as big as mine.”

“Yes, don’t remind me.” She paused for a couple of minutes, “So how do you feel about the surgery?”

“Okay, why?”

“No second thoughts?”

“No, none.”

“Good.”

“Why, did you think I was having some?”

“Not at all.”

“Or did you think it could be a mistake?”

“No, why should I?”

“No reason. I’m sorry I fell apart earlier.”

“All things considered, it doesn’t seem incongruent with your life as it is.”

“Yeah, congruence, wonderful word isn’t it.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 215

by Angharad, dialogue coaching by Bonzi Cat

It was Saturday morning the shops would be heaving with just three more days to spend money before Christmas. It was all so stupid. Okay so it’s nice to celebrate a religious festival if that’s your bag, or a pagan one, or just a family time, but do we have to spend like money’s going out of fashion?

We have a culture where is seems success is measured by the amount you can waste. Given that half the world subsists on less food than is needed for good health, the Western system of opulence is indefensible.

It makes me weep that all the great religions promote charity and generosity to those in need, so why are there still people dying of hunger or dirty drinking water? Simple, our greed.

Okay, so greed may have some biological origins but humans have taken it to new heights. We are the only species, as far as we know, with the ability to forecast the future. I don’t mean à la Mystic Meg, but rather climate change, pollution, disease epidemiology that sort of thing, so instead of trying to make things better for everyone, we grab as much as we can for ourselves.

I know I’m a hypocrite being paid a good salary for doing very little for a bank, plus I could be marrying into the family which controls said bank, so I can afford to be critical of others. I’m all right Jack!

Actually I’m not, my conscience is in turmoil. Here I am lying in bed with the man I love, yet I’m not sure I believe in the same system he does. It could lead to difficulties between us, which obviously I don’t want but I don’t know how to broach the subject with him.

I don’t know what’s the matter with me, I’ve been awake half the night. My miseries about not having children continued after dinner and after bedtime too. Then I got an attack of ethics—that was an hour ago. Since then I’ve been sat up in bed watching Simon sleep.

It seems ironic that he is such a good man but that he works for a system which leeches assets from the poor to pay the obscenely rich even more. I don’t know what to think anymore.

Maybe it’s the hormones or lack of them which are screwing with my head. My boobs are getting smaller, too. Thank goodness the surgery is only a week or so away. If my voice breaks or I start growing a beard I shall shoot myself. More things to worry about.

Simon looks so peaceful sleeping. He’s actually stopped snoring since I put my hand over his mouth—he nearly choked. As my hand was cold, I’m surprised he didn’t wake, but he didn’t, he rolled over onto his side. I cuddled down into his back. I now wear tight control panties to bed, so we don’t have any more misunderstandings—that was so awful I thought I’d lost him.

I suppose I could go for a ride on my bike, except it is probably icy and I don’t want to get my bike all salty from the roads. It takes ages to clean it. I have to do some shopping, get some food and the stuff for my dad.

I decided some cakes and soups, plus a bottle of Glenfiddich or one of those expensive malt whiskies. I have my new dress to wear and presents to wrap for the others.

My plan is to go to Bristol on Christmas Eve, see Daddy first thing on Christmas morning and then drive down here to cook dinner in the evening.

I seem to have sent fewer cards than usual and received fewer. I must pop into my room and see if there’s anything there. I must clear it out and give it back to the university. I suppose there are others who could make use of it.

It’s seven o clock, I’m going to get up and shower and get my shopping done. I wonder if Stella wants anything? I must check if that Russian woman is still in custody? Maybe I could get her a present if she is. I wonder how I find out?

I showered and dressed; as I did so Simon discovered I was no longer in bed. “What are you doing up?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” I said and yawned.

“Why not? You’re not worried about anything are you?”

“Yeah, Christmas is getting to me.”

“Why?” he patted the bed, “Come and talk to me about it.”

“I have so much buzzing around my head Si, that if I stop it will escape like a swarm of killer bees.”

“I’ll take my chances,” he patted the bed again, “Come on Babes, come and talk to me.”

“I haven’t got time Si, there is so much to do.”

“Like what?”

“Shopping, the food has to be got, you know. The house has to be cleaned, the laundry has to be done, I have to make some cakes and soup for my dad. It’s just too much.”

“Have you got everything you need for the hospital, I mean your stay?”

“Yes, I think so. Tom came with me yesterday before the dormouse freefall competition.”

“Do you think she came looking for you?”

“I don’t know, who knows what goes on in the mind of a dormouse?”

“It’s a nice thought though, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is, she is like a pet with me and one or two of the other regulars, she gets fed regularly by us and so associates us with food and safety.

“Do you kill them to examine their brains and guts and things?”

“Certainly not! They are protected, although we could get around that if we needed to. Most of the measurements we take are weight or activity; we can also get some info from their urine or faeces, or even taking a tiny amount of blood.”

“Take blood from a dormouse?”

“Yeah, it’s fiddly and a drop to us is a legful to them.”

“I suppose it is. Look Stella tells me you were broody yesterday.”

“Stella has a big mouth.”

“I understand, and we can always adopt kids if you want some, from babies if you want to do the whole motherhood thing.”

“You make it sound as if we can buy the kids off a supermarket shelf.”

“No, I don’t mean it like that, but let’s face it, we could offer children a great deal.”

“Money perhaps, but otherwise we’re both out all day working. That’s hardly going to be looked at sympathetically by an adoption agency. My past may also be a problem.”

“We can get some advice if you want?”

“Simon, I’m really pleased you are happy to talk about it, but not today, please? I have too much to do. I have to go, sweetheart.” I went to stand up but he moved quickly and pulled me on top of him on the bed.

“Let me go, you big lump,” I shouted at him.

He rolled over on top of me and kissed me. “I wuv you Wady Caffrin,” he said kissing me. I just collapsed in tears and laughter.

“What are you crying for?” he asked stroking my face.

“I don’t know. I seem to be so emotional since I stopped taking the Premarin.”

“Ah, you are menopausal equivalent, for a few more days. It screws loads of women up, don’t worry about it, you’ll feel better soon.”

“Gee thanks, maybe you should try it sometime.”

“Sure Cathy, I always wanted boobs and a big arse.”

“I don’t have a big bum, do I?”

“Yeah, it’s huge. Any bigger and you’ll need planning permission to go out of the house.”

“It’s not is it,” I felt myself blush and tears weren’t far away.

“Of course it’s not, you have a perfect bum.” He held me tight while I sobbed in his arms.

“Who’d have believed you could get cold turkey from stopping hormones?” Simon shook his head, “Women, I’ll never understand them.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 216

Despite the need for me to get up early and get things done, I succumbed to Simon’s embrace and we kissed and cuddled for an hour. It was hard to believe that this was the same man who had reacted so badly to me barely a week before. I had forgiven him for it, but I had not forgotten, hoping in time, the memory would fade. If it didn’t, it was going to influence and undermine my confidence in myself as a woman and possibly our relationship.

I knew that I easily passed as female, and inside I mostly thought of myself as that, but there was this little niggle inside my head, that I wasn’t and never would be the genuine article no matter how clever the surgeons got. I’d be a good facsimile physically, but never perfect.

It’s funny that for most everyday things it didn’t matter, neither did the surgery, or eventually getting full legal status, and I acted as if I were as female as Spike. But just now and again, the thought would enter my head and make me feel a bit down or inferior, sort of substandard goods.

If it bothered any of my friends or family, they didn’t say. In fact, they would say the opposite, that they regarded me as female in every way, sometimes claiming that they’d had forgotten I wasn’t. That was nice, but I don’t know if I entirely believed it.

Anyway, that morning we had a late breakfast and I even had Simon doing the laundry. Okay, I had to explain exactly what he had to do while I went shopping. Stella wasn’t very well at all, and I did contemplate calling the doctor or the hospital, but she protested.

Tom decided he would come with me shopping. It was a mistake, he bought loads of stuff we would never use and he slowed me down no end. He did pay for much of it, but it was time I was most short of, and after it took us until lunchtime to get the food, I was even shorter of tempus.

The afternoon was spent cleaning and cooking. I made bread and cakes and soup, which I froze. I also worked out a menu for the whole holiday period, as I was likely to be head cook. It would save me having to think too hard on the day.

As I had the oven on, by that I mean the Aga cooker, I made us a liver and bacon casserole for our supper, while sorting the ironing and supervising Simon’s dusting. He meant well, but he had very little idea.

At suppertime, I was just about to dish up when I went to check on Stella. She was sweating, and the whites of her eyes were turning yellow. I called the emergency doctor, it took some time to get hold of anyone and I got fed up. So I called the hospital and spoke to the nurse in charge of the ward Stella had been on. She told me to call an ambulance and have her admitted as it sounded like hepatitis. Stella also appeared to be in some pain, and between us we agreed it could be a blocked bile duct.

The paramedics arrived within twenty minutes and agreed it was a hospital job. Stella protested, but rather feebly, and she was taken off in the ‘van.’ I went with her while Simon followed in his car.

In A&E we wished we’d brought some of my casserole with us. We were both very hungry, and could do nothing until the doctors admitted her or sent her home.

After three hours, they admitted her. We saw her on the ward and she looked quite poorly, now looking jaundiced all over. I felt very worried. She was in some pain and they hooked her up to a drip to help. We left at about half past ten.

We did eat some of the casserole, but more out of need than desire. It was tasty and my homemade bread went down very well with it, but we were beyond hunger and after eating a very small plateful, I went off to bed with exhaustion.

Simon came up shortly afterwards. “Do you think she’s going to be all right?”

“Of course she will. Hopefully it will resolve itself, and if necessary, they can intervene. So yes, I expect her to make a full recovery.” My argument didn’t feel half as confident as I hoped it sounded, I was very worried.

“This is the second time she’s been in hospital in as many weeks. If anything happens to her, I don’t know what I shall do.” In the dim light of the bedroom, I could see clearly enough to notice tears in Simon’s eyes.

“She’ll be okay. They’ll look after her, I mean she’s one of them, so they’ll give her the best care they can.”

“She’s nearly always been there, telling me what to do, bossing me around. What am I going to do?”

“Simon, she is going to be all right. Besides, you have me now as well.”

“Dear Cathy, this is the second time you’ll have saved her life, how can I thank you?”

“I need thanking for looking after my sister?”

“No, I didn’t mean it like that, but without your help, she might have died two weeks ago.”

“Nah, she’s far too tough for that.”

“She pretends she’s tough, but she’s like you, soft on the inside.”

“Humph! Hark who’s talking, Mr Tough-guy Cameron, Lord Softy. I’m just one of the battle-hardened serfs.”

“What!” he laughed, “You, a serf? I’m as much a wage slave as you are, in fact more so. You love your work, I do mine because I’m good at it and it pays so well, but I despise it.”

“Why do you do it then?”

“I just told you.”

“Okay, tell me why you despise it?”

“It’s amoral at best, immoral at worst, enough said?”

“So why don’t you stop?”

“Because I’m saving.”

“For anything in particular?”

“Yes, I want to buy a farm and raise organic dormice.”

I sat up and said, “You lying toad, Simon Cameron,” and hit him on the shoulder.

“Ouch, that hurt.”

“Good, you deserved it.”

“I do want a farm and I hope there’ll be dormice on it.”

“Where do you want this farm?”

“Somewhere in southern England. Haven’t seen the exact spot yet, but near the coast if possible.”

“What Hampshire or Sussex?”

“Yeah, or Dorset or even Devon.”

“Gosh, you’re a deep one, Simon.” I cuddled into him.

“I want to raise organic foods and animals, free range carrots that sort of thing.”

“I’d never have thought of you in terms of, ‘free range carrots’.”

“You don’t see too many of them, they tend to leg it when people are around.”

I lay back trying to imagine carrots running off with Bugs Bunny in hot pursuit. I started to giggle.

“What’s so funny?”

“Just the idea of you in a tractor chasing down carrots.”

“I plan on introducing some Scottish things too.”

“Like what, a porridge plant?”

“Porridge comes from oats, not a porridge plant.”

“Duh! I think even I know that Simon, so what else is there? A distillery or are you going to plant neeps*?”

“Oh, done your homework have you?”

“No, I used to read ‘Oor Wullie’ and ‘The Broons’**.”

“Oh, so you’ll know all about haggis farming then?”

I giggled. “I know enough to know when someone is taking the piss,” I offered, knowing full well that a haggis is minced meat with oatmeal and herbs tied up in a sheep’s stomach, and an acquired taste.

“Would I do that to you?”

“Yes you would, Simon Cameron.”

“Oh I am so wounded by that remark.” He lay back and pretended to cry.

I hit him again, only not quite so hard. “Ow, you bugger, that hurts. I thought women weren’t supposed to be so violent.”

“Nah, we only claim that so we can take men by surprise.”

“Now you tell me!”

“Well, yes. If I’d told you before it wouldn’t have been a surprise would it?”

“I can’t fault your logic.”

I glanced at the clock, it was after one in the morning. “Perhaps we should try and get some sleep,” I said, “We have plenty to do tomorrow.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right.”

I rolled over onto my side and he cuddled into the back of me. We were just dropping off to sleep when the phone went. Simon was out of bed and through the door like an Olympic athlete, I followed sleepily after.

“It’s the hospital, they’re taking Stella down to theatre, pulled the consultant out of bed. I’m going down there. Oh God Cathy, I’m really scared.”

*Neeps—a turnip, a root vegetable.

** Oor Wullie & The Broons—two comic strips in the Scottish Sunday Post.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 217

I decided that if Simon was going to go to the hospital, then I would go too. But first I had to calm him down. I hugged him and kissed him, he was crying and trembling.

“Hey, come on now, pull yourself together.” I spoke with some firmness and his demeanour changed almost instantly. “I shall come with you, but there is no point in running around like headless chickens. To start with, we are going to get dressed and eat before we go. Stella will be in theatre for at least an hour, we have plenty of time. So come on, let’s do this properly.”

“Oh I couldn’t eat anything, too anxious,” he replied.

“You will eat something or I won’t let you go!”

I expected an outburst from him, telling me where to go; instead he hung his head and nodded his assent. I nearly fell over. “Come on, let’s get dressed,” I urged him.

“Do you need me?” called Tom from his bedroom doorway.

“No you go back to bed, Tom. We’ll ring if anything untoward happens.”

“Aye, okay.” His door closed.

We dressed in relative silence, slipping on jeans and sweaters over casual shirts. I pulled on some teddy bear socks and my trainers. Apart from the bra, in reality my clothing wasn’t that different today from what I was wearing before my transition. Okay, my sweater also has teddy bears on it and my jeans have some embroidery and my trainers, my girly ’boks have pink flashes on them, but apart from that, I used to dress like this before. No I didn’t, who am I trying to fool? I used to wear baggy grungy stuff to hide my body shape.

I popped in some earrings and shoved on a bracelet as well as my watch. Simon was sitting on the bed waiting my next instruction. He was dressed, but still looking lost.

“Can you put the kettle on, love?” I asked him.

“Yes, sure.” He rose off the bed and went downstairs.

He seemed to be in a state of shock, understandable perhaps, but it concerned me that he was also susceptible to bossy women when in such states. Stella had taken advantage of it often enough, now I was, but I wasn’t comfortable. At the same time, I didn’t like being bossed around myself, and if Simon was the strong, masterful sort I’d have left him long ago.

I reconciled myself with the fact that someone needed to take control and I did that, perhaps he could do it next time, especially if I’m the headless chicken then.

I squirted some scent and applied some lippy, then combed my hair. After deciding I was tidy enough—after all rushing to the hospital would just mean we sat there longer worrying—I was determined to try and make us as comfortable as we could be.

Downstairs, Simon made some tea while I did us some toast. I ate some cheese with mine, he opted for just marmalade. After breakfast was finished, I washed up. He was pacing the floor, but we had still only taken half an hour or so since the phone call.

Finally, making sure we had mobile phones and some sweeties with us, we pulled on our coats and drove in my car to the hospital. At least at this time of day, there is no problem parking although one still has to pay to park. I let Simon drive, doing something seemed to calm him down.

It took a little while to discover where we should wait to speak with the surgeon for his assessment of the prognosis. But we got there and there was still no word from the theatre.

We sat in very uncomfortable stacking chairs. It was warm so I rolled up my coat and shoved it behind me, then opening my capacious handbag, I pulled out my book and offered Simon one. He shook his head, so I gave him my MP3 player with about three hours of Abba on it. He accepted it and sat back listening to it, holding my hand and squeezing it every so often. His eyes were closed as he tried to forget where he was, using the music to help the illusion, but his foot occasionally moving in time to the beat and his squeezing of my hand, meant he was far from asleep.

I read my Tour de France book, just about managing to turn the page with the one hand holding it. I’d bought it as a remaindered copy in the pre-Christmas sales some shops seemed forced into, although Waterstones, who dominate the high street booksellers, always seem to have some sort of sale books available. Anyway, I was happy to have picked it up for forty per cent less than the cover price.

We’d been there for about an hour when I felt in need of a visit to the toilet—my early cuppas had worked through me. I went off to the loo and when I came back, Simon was pacing up and down. He looked really worried.

“What’s the matter?” I asked fearing that he’d received some awful news.

“You were gone a long time,” he said, “I just got anxious.”

“Well, I’m here now.” I gave him a hug.

“Sorry for being such a baby. You must be wondering what you’re taking on.”

“No, I know what I’m taking on, a lovely kind and caring man, who at the moment is worried because his sister is in trouble, and thus rather vulnerable. If the positions were reversed, I’m sure you’d be looking after me.”

He nodded and a drip of a tear ran down his cheek. “I am so frightened, Cathy.”

“I know Si, I know. I’m sure she’ll pull through.”

About another hour later, a woman in theatre scrubs came out to us. “You’re Stella Cameron’s relations?”

“Yes we are,” I said emphatically.

“Okay, it went as well as expected. She’s gone to ICU and hopefully will be there for no more than a day or two. The surgeon will be out to speak to you in a few minutes, just doing his notes.”

We thanked her and she waddled off, possibly to go back to bed.

I think it was about ten minutes later, that a smart looking man appeared. “Hello, I’m Mister Campion, I just operated on your sister.”

“This is her brother, Simon Cameron, and I’m his fiancée, Cathy Watts.”

“Didn’t I see you on telly with the dormouse?”

“Yes, I don’t think I shall ever live that down,” I said blushing.

“It was really funny.”

“The dormouse’s latest escapade is even funnier, but it wasn’t filmed,” said Simon.

I wish he hadn’t mentioned it, because now I had to tell that story before we got to hear about Stella. Mr Campion thought it was hilarious, and told us so at length.

“What about Stella?” I asked eventually.

“Yes, of course, sorry about that but it relieved the tiredness for a minute. Yes, Lady Cameron. A very fortunate woman. If she’d waited until tomorrow, she may not have been here for Christmas.”

“What happened?” I asked feeling my face going as white as Simon’s.

“She somehow managed to get a small tear in the hepatic portal vein. This caused a haematoma and blocked the bile ducts. Finding the bleed was the problem. It has now been repaired and she is on a transfusion. The ducts are clear again and I hope she will be okay once she gets over the anaesthetics and blood loss, say a day or two. Then at least a month to recover, so nothing in the way of vigorous exercise, or lifting and carrying.”

“Can we go and see her?”

“I don’t see why not, but erm, have you been to an ICU before?”

“Yes,” I answered, being aware of how bizarre a setting it is.

“She should be installed by now.”

“Thank you, Mr Campion.” Simon shook his hand vigorously. “Do you have a favourite tipple?”

“I quite like the odd single malt, why?”

“There’ll be a case on its way to you before Christmas. If you can give me the names of the other theatre staff as well, I’ll send them a case of wine each.”

“That’s jolly decent of you, but I can’t give you colleagues names, for obvious reasons, but there were ten of us altogether.”

“So if I send them courtesy of you, you’ll distribute them?”

“I will indeed.”

They shook hands once again and we went off to ICU. Stella had been installed, with all sorts of drips and monitors attached. We sat and talked to her for about half an hour before Simon became so overcome that I had to take him outside to control himself. How much she heard, I have no idea. She was either asleep or unconscious the whole time.

“Let me take you home, Simon. You need some rest.”

“No I can’t go until I see she’s going to be all right.”

“But this is killing you. You need some rest.”

“Please, Cathy, I need to see she’s okay. Until then I won’t rest.”

“Okay, but any more of these outbursts and they are going to ask us to leave because it will have a detrimental effect upon her.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll control myself, it’s just she looks so weak and defenceless.”

“I know sweetheart, but she will get better, you watch and see.”

“How do you know?”

“Women know these things.” I said and hugged him in reassurance.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 218

We sat around for several hours, talking to reassure Stella, and yet were unsure she could hear us. We knew she was alive, the machines were monitoring her vitals. Simon nodded off a couple of times, and once or twice he had to go out and walk around as he found the tension unbearable.

I stayed at my post, my vigil of watching and waiting, and sometimes talking to my silent companion. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when an alarm went off at a cubicle across the way. It was a false alarm, but boy, those nurses can run when they want to.

I think it was about eight in the morning when Stella opened her eyes and then closed them again. A moment or two later she opened them again.

“Hello sleepyhead,” I said to her.

“Where am I?”

“ICU.”

“Why?”

“You had a bleed in the liver apparently.”

“I feel awful.”

“Sorry, but to do that you have to be alive.”

“I couldn’t feel this bad if I were dead.”

“Can’t comment on that, never been dead, as far as I know. I think one of my examiners at Sussex asked if I was brain dead.”

“Can I have a drink?”

“I shall check with the nurse, don’t go away.”

I did and she could. So I gave her some iced water.

“Simon will be back in a moment. He went off to the toilet. He was also going to phone Henry.”

She groaned, “He’ll say, not again.”

“Perhaps, but he’ll also come to see you as soon as he can.”

“Yeah, I suppose he will. A softy really.”

“Could have fooled about half the earth’s population who think he’s a stony-hearted monster.”

“He’s a softy to me.”

“I know, ah, here comes Simon.”

He’d brought me a cup of tea from the cafeteria. His eyes lit up when he saw Stella was awake. He practically dropped the cup in my lap, then bent down to kiss her. He was crying when he told her how pleased he was she was recovering.

“Anyone would think I was at death’s door.” Stella asked for more water.

“You’d stepped over the threshold girl, that’s how close it was. Mr Campion sorted you out.”

“Oh God, you didn’t let that cowboy play with my liver, did you?”

“Yeah, but he had some Indians assisting,” I suggested.

“Ha bloody ha, ooh, it hurts to laugh.”

“Well, stop doing it then.”

Our conversation lasted about ten minutes and I could see she was very tired, so when she drifted off to sleep, I made Simon come away and go home with me. He was reluctant, but his bloodshot eyes tended to agree with me.

“Come on, she’s hopefully on the road back now, so let’s go home and allow her to rest. I suspect we could do with some ourselves. I need to check on the dormice, so do you mind if we pop in the lab on the way?”

“Yeah, okay.” He was practically out on his feet.

When I came back to the car from the lab, he was fast asleep inside it. He looked so peaceful, that I almost felt like leaving him there, except I felt pretty tired myself and only my bed would solve the problem.

Tom was delighted with our news and made a cuppa to celebrate. I drank it, had a few rich tea biscuits and went off to bed. Simon came up a short time later and we slept for about four hours. He then went off to see Stella with Tom, and I went to do some last minute shopping. Then I started the evening meal, a steak and kidney stew in the slow cooker. Kiki apparently had most of the liver and bacon casserole!

Being a Sunday, the shops weren’t open too long anyway, so it was just as well that I had most of what I wanted. It had been a bit of a rush. By the time I had packed some nightgowns and undies for Stella and sorted out any other toiletries she might need for the boys to take with them, I had about two hours to flit around the shops.

I did some ironing while I waited for things to cook and the boys to come back for their dinner. Kiki kept me company, sniffing around for any fallen particles of food, despite the fact that she was stuffed full of my casserole. Spaniels give greed another dimension!

Henry had apparently arrived just before the two men were about to leave, so Tom invited him back when visiting time was over. Fortunately, I had made enough food for an extra portion.

Simon was quite subdued all evening, I suppose dealing with the trauma of the past twenty-four hours. I was quiet because I was knackered, and Tom was quiet because he was busy working in his study.

Henry arrived at nearly ten. Personally, I’d have thought it was too late to eat a cooked meal, but he was hungry and glad for the meal. Tom opened a bottle of Chilean red, and even I had a glass.

“Did you cook this Cathy?”

“Yes Henry. Why, isn’t it okay?”

“It’s delicious. Does my son realise you can cook?”

“Well, he’s eaten food I’ve prepared often enough.”

“Why hasn’t he married you already?”

“I think you know of my little erm, medical problem. That’s being sorted in a week’s time. But I want to finish my degree before I marry him.”

“I thought you had two degrees already.”

“My doctoral one. Besides, a girl can’t have too many degrees!”

He laughed, “I thought that was usually shoes.”

“Well, those too.”

“She’s sleeping soundly.” Simon had obviously phoned the ICU.

“Oh good,” I offered. “She’ll pull through, she’s a fighter.”

“Yeah, I expect so.”

“Simon, come on lighten up. She’s going to be okay.”

“Dad, you weren’t called out of bed in the wee sma’ ’oors.”

“I appreciate that, but Cathy was with you.”

He put his arm around me, “Without Cathy, I’d have fallen apart.” He kissed me on the neck. “Thank you, Babes.”

“Without you, life would have been tougher for me in many ways. We’re partners, play for each other and of course, our star centre forward, Stella.”

“I’d have thought she was more of a goalkeeper, as nothing much gets past her,” offered Henry.

“Wrong blessed game, Henry, wrong shaped ball.” Tom’s opinion of soccer was not very high. He was a rugger man.

“In which case, she’ll make a splendid fullback, with Simon as the forwards and Cathy as our standoff half, orchestrating the game.”

“Could be,” agreed Tom.

“Do we know how she got the ruptured blood vessel?”

“Yes,” my head dropped a little and I felt myself blush, “fighting.”

“Fighting! With whom, for God’s sake?”

“We weren’t introduced, Henry. They were two thugs who were accosting this woman. Before I could stop her, Stella ran over, decked the one but was a bit slow with the other. He caught her in the abdomen.”

“What happened to him?”

“He met an enraged dormouse wrestler,” said Tom snorting at his own joke.

“He what?” Henry looked perplexed. Then he obviously went through what Tom had said word for word. “You fought with him?” he said to me.

“I was lucky, or I caught him with a lucky blow.”

“That isn’t what Stella said,” offered Simon beaming with pride. “She said you jumped over the car bonnet and took him out with a straight one, two.”

I rubbed my elbow, then shrugged, “Does it matter? I can’t actually remember it was all over so fast. The police came and that was that. The woman was an eastern European who had been trafficked over here. I hope she’s okay.”

“You’re worried about an illegal immigrant?” asked Henry.

“Of course! She’s in a foreign country, probably doesn’t speak much English and has been run as a prostitute by a gang of thugs, so yes, I am worried for her.”

“Do we have an incident number?” he asked.

“I do upstairs somewhere.”

“If you give it to me before I go, I’ll speak to my contact in the immigration office and see if I can glean anything.”

“Thank you Henry, could you find out if I can send her a small Christmas present?”

“Geez girl, you nearly get yourself killed rescuing her, haven’t you done enough?”

“Look, if I were in her position, I’d be grateful for any support I could get.”

“What do you want to send her?”

“Some toiletries and a soft toy.”

“Give them to me before I go, I’ll do my best to see she gets them.”

I jumped up and kissed him on the cheek, “Henry, you are a star!”

He actually blushed. “Be careful girl, or I could get the wrong impression.” He winked and Simon laughed.

“I need to get back to Southsea.” He picked up his mobile and issued an instruction for them to send their limo to come and get him. I ran upstairs, made a note of the incident number the police had given me and popped the prezzies for the Russian girl into a carrier bag.

We all hugged Henry, and I kissed him again.

“You are all to come to the hotel at Southsea on Boxing Day for dinner as my guests.”

“What are you doing down here at Christmas? You usually go up home?” asked Simon.

“I have some business to deal with on the Thursday. We’re meeting at the hotel.”

“I have that funeral on the Thursday.”

“Funeral?” queried Henry.

“Yes one of my students died from a chest infection and complications.”

“What, a youngster?”

“Yeah, nineteen I think.”

“Geez that is sad.”

“I promised to read the lesson.”

“I hope it goes well, but I shall see you before then. Twelve for one?”

“Yes, okay. I’ll make sure these two are ready.”

“I’ll send the car over for you for half eleven.”

“Oh good,” said Simon and Tom almost in unison.

“I could have brought them, I don’t drink much anyway, so it doesn’t worry me.”

“Dear lady, please enjoy my hospitality and stop being so reasonable. I pay the driver whether or not he’s busy, so he might as well earn his keep for once.”

“Fine,” I said and busied myself with the dirty dishes. I still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of servants and things.

Easy As Falling Off A Recycle

Part The Latest One (219)

by Angroanad

I went to bed while Simon and Tom chatted and finished off the wine, yes there’d been two bottles but it had been shared between the four of us, well I had two glasses. Consequently, I went to sleep literally minutes after I got into bed. Did I mention a very low alcohol tolerance?

I think I felt Simon get into bed, but I might have dreamt it. However, he was snoring away when I dragged myself out of bed at seven the next morning to start getting things ready to take to Bristol. I put the bread machine on and started preparing vegetables for soups.

Tom came down before Simon, and I made him some fresh coffee.

“Are you still going to Bristol?”

“Yes, I know it will cheer my father up no end, and let’s face it he hasn’t seen me for a while and he won’t after New Year unless someone pushes his wheelchair down here.”

“I don’t think I’ll be volunteering.”

Once Simon had risen and while he was having his breakfast, I took Stella’s mirror and placed it under my bed. I told Simon what the package was, i.e. Stella’s prezzie but not what was in it.

His was wrapped and hidden in my knicker drawer; Tom’s was hidden in the top up woodshed. I had left instructions for Kiki to savage him if he went anywhere near it—savage? Well, okay, lick him to death.

I’d given Pippa a small gift and something for the kids too.

Just for a change, I did bacon and eggs with mushrooms and tomatoes and sausages for lunch. By the time it was over and I had the dishes put in the washer, the bread was baked and I had difficulty keeping Simon away from it.

I packed up the cakes, bread, soups and whisky in the boot of my car then my overnight bag. Finally, I bid tearful farewells to Simon and Tom and set off north to Bristle.

It was Christmas Eve and the traffic was awful. I suppose all six billion of the world’s population were on the same road as me. If they were walking, they’d pass me in no time, yes it was that bad.

It was well dark when I got there. I decided I would just tidy around, watch some telly and go to bed. At least the heating was still on.

The pile of mail was far greater than I expected, and even after removing what I assumed was junk mail, the rest took me until eleven to sort through. Five needed some sort of reply, which I’d show Daddy tomorrow.

I did tidy around, although it was pretty clean. I shoved the food in the fridge and took my clothes up to my room. I read for a while in bed, but I was missing Simon and I sent him a text saying so. He replied similarly. I told myself I was silly, because it was only for one night. But that’s how life is.

I thought back to Christmases as a kid in this house. Then I’d be so excited that I was sure I wouldn’t sleep. I always did though. I never saw Santa bringing me my presents. But then he never did bring me the things I wanted, a doll and a tea set, or a new dress, some smellies or makeup or even jewellery.

I did get a watch one year, which was a minor coup. It was a Minnie Mouse one, which my mother had mistaken for Mickey Mouse. So I got the girls’ one and got ribbed in school for it. Secretly, I was delighted.

I got cricket bats and footballs and boy’s annuals, which I read because that was all there was. I played with one or two cars, but they didn’t compare with dolls. However, the year I got an Action Man, I finally got my doll and loads of outfits, but they were all men’s things, so I made some feminine ones, which was when he disappeared.

Apparently we had lots of burglars in Bristol who only stole Action Man dolls. In those days I believed my father.

Then the year I got a desk, which I painted pink. When I got up the next day, it was back to white again.

Couldn’t they see the writing on the wall? I wrote it large enough?’ I suppose parents only see what they want to. My father never understood why I cried when I opened the box and found boxing gloves in it. Nor could he understand my indifference to a football, even an expensive one.

Sure, I ate all the sweeties and chocolate money that filled my stocking, plus the nuts and fruit and that was usually before lunch. I always managed to eat the meal, except the sprouts—wasn’t too keen on them.

I thought about the books I’d had and drifted off to sleep. It was after midnight, and I wished myself and the universe a Merry Christmas.

I awoke about three, my face was wet with tears. I’d had this dream which had upset me. From what I could recollect, I’d woken up in my nightdress on Christmas morning and rushed down to open my stocking presents.

I knew which was mine because there was a dolly sticking out of the top, and I had some toy jewellery—a princess tiara and bracelets, and some kiddies makeup too.

My main presents were a tea set and a doll’s pram, plus one of those hairdressing heads and a set of brushes and combs to play with. I couldn’t believe my luck, my most earnest wishes had come true, I was a girl. I was so happy I began to cry and my mother came and asked why I was crying. I told her because I was so happy and she laughed and told me not to be such a silly girl. It made me cry some more, which was when I woke up.

I was now twenty-three years old and this was going to be the first Christmas when I would receive girl’s presents. I lay there thinking it’s all a bit silly, because any cycling stuff I wanted was likely to be male or neutral stuff, which would be very welcome. I needed some more tools, and one day I was going to be able to afford a proper workshop bike stand. I’d see what was available after Christmas. One of the online shops might have one reduced in the sales.

I drifted off to sleep and slept until about eight. I got up and showered, washing my hair while I was at it. I had my breakfast and dressed, then did my makeup and my hair. I wanted to look a little special for my dad. I’d brought a nice dress with me and some heels. So by ten, I was looking quite decent. I packed all the food and drink for Daddy, emptied the fridge of perishables—only the milk and I drank that—then off to Southmead.

The look on my father’s face was priceless. I popped on a silly red and white Santa Claus hat just before I went into the ward. He went from looking a bit down to beaming in one easy stage.

“Merry Christmas, Daddy,” I said, giving him a huge hug.

“Affy!” he shrieked, and burst into tears. It took me a few minutes to calm him down. Essentially, he was upset because he thought I wasn’t coming. Then when I did, he wept for joy.

I gave him his bottle of Glenfiddich, which made his smile even wider, then I told him I’d baked him cakes and bread and made him soups. He was overjoyed.

A little later we dealt with his post and I learned what he wanted me to do with certain things. I put up the cards he’d been sent, and gave him my own to him. We put that as pride of place, followed by one from Simon and Stella.

I reminded him that the irrevocable was happening in a week’s time and that I was certain it was what I wanted. He nodded and looked far away. I suppose it made absolute, his loss of his son, although Charlie had been gone for a long time. He looked even sadder when I told him I couldn’t come for several weeks while I was recovering from surgery, but I had some nice notelets, and would drop him the odd line.

Then it was time to go. It was sad. Part of me didn’t want to leave him, at the same time, he was like the Ghost of Christmas Past, and I was waiting to celebrate my real Christmas with my favourite people. The sad thing was Stella was probably still in hospital. That was life, I suppose, and at least she was still showing signs of it. I smiled to myself and set off south.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 220

I’d told Simon I was on my way as I set off down the M4. The traffic was heavier than I anticipated but my little Merc was chugging along quite nicely. I loved my little car and even more the person who had given it to me.

I was thinking warm thoughts of Simon and cooking Christmas dinner. I felt sad that Stella was still in hospital, but we’d go and see her later, she was out of ICU and on an ordinary ward, essentially she needed to rest and recuperate. So things were moving forward.

I felt as well that in another week or so, I’d have had my bits remodelled and could begin the legal process of changing my birth certificate, and perhaps even more importantly, I could consider having a full relationship with Simon.

That was something I wasn’t sure about. Part of me was scared of the idea of sex because it might hurt, part of me wanted to wait until we were married, and part of me wanted to go for a test drive as soon as I could.

Life never seems to provide answers, just changes the dilemmas, or that was my experience of it.

At least having all these thoughts mulling around my head made the journey seem to pass quicker. I didn’t particularly enjoy motorway driving, but today I seemed to be getting along just fine.

The morning had started off overcast but dry, now came the rain and I switched on the wipers. The spray from other traffic was a nuisance and I switched on my lights, hoping that I was visible, although sometimes the spray was like a screen.

I dropped my speed from the legally permitted maximum of seventy miles per hour to nearer fifty. Cars and vans were still belting past me at ridiculous speeds, if they needed to stop, they wouldn’t have a prayer.

I cringed each time someone flew past me, the curtain of spray making visibility very difficult. “It just takes one clown and we’ll have a disaster on our hands,” I said to myself, “it only needs one.”

As if the universe had heard me, I saw someone in front of me brake suddenly and start to skid slightly into the outer lane, when the car zooming up behind also tried to brake and skidded into the very outside lane, the car overtaking him hit him at enormous speed.

I somehow managed to pull over onto the hard shoulder, unscathed, but cars were bashing into each other at speed and within as many moments twenty were involved. Several had very nasty impacts from the speed and surprise involved. One had rolled off the road and down the embankment.

I sat shaking in my car not knowing whether I should sit still or try to help. I switched on the hazard lights. I then called 999.

“Emergency, which service do you require?”

“Police and ambulance.”

“Who are you and where are you calling from?”

I told them and tried to give my location as best I could. I was crying, it was so frightening. I heard another bang and glass smashing and knew someone else had hit the stationary vehicles. I stayed in my car, knowing I should be helping the injured, but at the pace they were travelling, I could get myself killed, for nothing.

I called Simon.

“Hi Babes, where are you?”

“I’m on the motorway and there is an awful accident, cars are still running into each other and I’m frightened.”

“Have you stopped?”

“Yes,” I sobbed.

“Get out of the car.”

“But it’s the only protection I have, and it’s raining,” I sobbed down the phone.”

“Are you on the hard shoulder?”

“Yes.”

“Get out of the car, now! Do it now. Please, get out of the car and get away from the road.”

“Okay, but I’m scared, Simon.”

“I know, Babes, but do this for me.”

“Okay, I’m getting out now.”

I picked up my handbag and stepped out into the rain and mayhem. There were cars all over the carriageways. In the distance I could hear the sirens. I ran around to the boot of the car and grabbed the waterproof jacket I kept there. It was also bright yellow. I pulled it on, and walked away from the car and the road.

Moments later a car came from nowhere and smashed through two others, hitting one into mine on the driver’s side. A minute longer and I’d have been dead. I felt myself feeling sick and vomited onto the grass. My little car was destroyed.

I could hear groans and screams. I called 999 again, and advised they send a fire engine—we now had someone stuck in a burning car. Then it exploded. The blast knocked me to the ground and set fire to two other cars. Despite the rain, the cars were burning and so was the road as petrol spilled from an upside down car.

Jesus, they were still inside it, and the flames were spreading towards them. I ran to the wreck of my car and reached in through the broken window for my extinguisher, then throwing caution to the wind, ran towards the car leaking petrol.

I got to it just as the flames did and somehow my little dry powder extinguisher worked first time and to my astonishment, stopped the flames. A man ran up and began trying to wrench open the upside down door, it was jammed shut. One of the occupants was dripping blood from their inverted body onto the roof of their car.

The first police car arrived, followed by two more, then the ambulances and the fire tenders. I kept out of the way, helping freed motorists walk to the side and get out of the danger area. The police had closed the road, but there were still risks from petrol tanks or cars falling over, or just getting in the way of the emergency services.

Some children were released from a car. I didn’t think their mother was so lucky. I took them to the side and hugged them. They were shocked and confused and crying pitifully. I tried to act like an adult and comfort them, but inside I felt like I wanted to scream and cry myself.

There had to be some fatalities, the exploding car had at least one person in it. The car which had turned upside down had someone bleeding heavily. The car which had rolled off the carriageway could have seriously injured, if not dead occupants.

I stayed with the children, keeping them close to me, two little girls aged about eight or ten. I hoped their mother was okay. The confusion was awful.

The police and firemen were trying to make the area safe for them to work releasing the injured and trapped for the paramedics to get away to hospitals. The paramedics were working on injured people still stuck in their cars, while the walking wounded stood around in the rain, dazed and confused.

Eventually, by the time the seventh police car had arrived, a policewoman came up to me and said, “Can you give me your name and address and car number?”

I pointed to my car and gave my name and address.

“Are these your children?”

“No, this is Pattie, and this is Gemma. Their mummy is still in that car, I pointed to a badly damaged Seat.”

“Okay,” she said, looking rather sick, “Can you keep them with you a little longer, and I’ll try and get someone to look after them.”

I saw a paramedic examine their mother and he called for the firemen to cut her out. She was still alive, but unconscious.

We were invited to sit in a police van which was parked at the rear of the mess. At least it was dry in there, and I sat hugging the two girls. They were still crying.

“Is my mummy dead?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart. I don’t think so, the paramedic was working on her.”

“I want my mummy,” sobbed Gemma, the younger of the two and I tried to comfort her. I knew how she felt, I wanted mine, too, or just to wake up from this awful nightmare and see the world as safe and warm. But I knew that the stupidity of a small number of fools in cars had spoiled the Christmases of many, some forever.

Easy As Viagra Falls Part 221

It was dark by the time Simon came for me, I had stayed with the two little girls until the police took them off to social services. I hoped they had a father to look after them.

My car had been taken away, although I had managed to take all my stuff out of it. I was waiting where the police had dumped me, at a motorway services on the M4.

Simon hugged me and held me tight while I dissolved in tears in his arms. My Christmas had been completely spoilt. I could have been killed, and my car was wrecked because some fools couldn’t drive to the conditions. They keep making cars faster and faster. What we need are cars that won’t go faster than their drivers can think, which means walking pace for most.

I fell asleep in the car, holding Paddington, who was my regular and uncomplaining passenger. Somehow he’d lost a wellie and that set me off crying again.

We met Tom at the hospital, where he was entertaining Stella with tall tales. She looked much better, and we hoped she’d be home by New Year, not that I was after her bed of course.

We decided we would postpone Christmas until Stella came home. If that was after New Year’s Day, then it would be postponed until I got home. I’d have been happy to cancel it altogether. I didn’t think there could have been a worse one in my short history, and then one thinks to a few years ago and the tsunami.

Tom followed us back to his house, his Land Rover chugging along behind producing more pollution than a Chinese power station. Parked in the drive was a brand new Ford Fiesta. I presumed it was Stella’s Christmas present from Simon. It had a big pink bow tied in the huge ribbon around it.

I saw it, thought of my own little car, now destined for a breaker’s yard and burst into tears again. Simon hugged me and muttered something about insurance.

“What?”

“We’ll get you another with the insurance money.”

“I just feel sick that some arsehole could wreck it without a thought, just because they were driving too fast. I hope they died.”

“That’s not very charitable, is it?”

“I don’t feel charitable. Some moron has completely spoiled my Christmas and killed other people, and you expect me to be charitable? The way I feel about them, I’d switch off their life support systems.”

“I don’t believe I heard you say that, Cathy. You told me that you stood around with two little ones until someone in authority took them off your hands, and now you want to go around killing people.”

“That accident was caused by one bad driver.”

“No Cathy, it was caused by several drivers reacting badly to the weather. One driver couldn’t have caused that many to crash. It must have involved several doing stupid things.”

“Even I did, staying in the car.”

“If that was the case, you’d be one of the casualties, not just your car.”

“Only because you told me to get out of the car.”

“I have heard too many stories of people being killed while sat in vehicles on the hard shoulder. I remember some old lady telling me she went on a coach trip up to the Lake District. They went to Blackpool as one of the trips, on the way back to the hotel while driving on the M6, their coach broke down.

“Eventually, a relief bus arrived and they transferred to it, except the driver, who had to wait for the breakdown truck. While he was waiting, an Asda truck ran into the back of him. It was dark, but clear. If a supposed professional driver couldn’t see a coach, probably lit up like a Christmas tree, on a clear night, what chance your little car in the rain?”

“They need governors on cars. They go too fast.”

“The cars are neutral. It’s the nuts behind the wheel which are a problem.”

“Yes, but people can’t be trusted to drive carefully, especially young men. They shouldn’t be allowed to drive until they are thirty.”

“How long have you been in the Taliban?”

“What?”

“You heard me. You’re talking like those self righteous monsters in Afghanistan.”

“Am I? Oh, sorry, but someone did nearly kill me this morning.”

“Come on, it’s Christmas, let’s not fight.” He pulled me to face him and I apologised, I felt absolutely overwrought. He hugged me and we kissed.

“I love you, Simon Cameron,” I said, then I kissed him again, “Merry Christmas, light of my life.”

“Wow, Merry Christmas to you, the woman I adore,” he kissed me, “and with whom I intend to spend the rest of my life.”

“Come on, you two lovebirds,” called Tom, “and shut the bloody door, it’s freezing in here.”

“My boss has such a way with words,” I said and we both laughed as we entered the house.

“We have a slight problem, I’ve left your present in the lounge,” said Simon.

“No Simon, it can be my present, my present is out here.”

He looked at me, what are you talking about?”

“You said you’d left my present. That would actually be past tense.”

“What? Are you mad?”

“Completely. Apparently it’s a requirement to be engaged to you.”

“Absolutely,” he said and laughed. “I don’t get some of your jokes, too clever by half.”

“Yes, I remember the first time we went out, you didn’t get half of them then.”

“Didn’t I?” He frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Completely, ask Stella if you don’t believe me.”

“She’d say yes anyway.”

“Thanks, that does a lot for my credibility.”

“Are you two going to argue until Easter, or are you coming in having a drink and watch the telly?”

“We’ll be in, in a moment Tom.”

“Are you going to clear up this mess, or are you going to give it to her now?”

“She can see it now, but she has to wait until Stella comes home to play with it.”

My stomach churned, I hoped it wasn’t a computer, much as I could probably do with another, I wanted to buy my own.

“Close your eyes and keep them closed,” said Simon, taking my hand. He walked me a few paces, then said, “Okay, you can open them now.”

I looked around, there before me was a complete bike repair centre, two stands, a full tool kit, a wheel building and truing set, and everything you could think of, all made by Park Tools. Hundreds of pounds worth.

“Simon, I can’t accept all this,” my eyes filling with tears.

“You’d better had, because I’ve lost the receipt.”

“It’s too much, Simon, you spoil me.”

“I got it cheap, special deal, looks more than it is.”

“Simon, don’t tell such fibs.”

“Don’t you like it?”

“I love it, it’s absolutely wonderful.”

“So where’s the problem?”

“The pair of socks I got you is going to look so inadequate in comparison.” I looked very sad, and Tom snorted red wine all over himself. He knew about the pen.

Simon looked suspiciously at him, then at me. “The thing I need most in the world right now, is a new pair of socks.”

“Well, they are candy pink.” I was lying, they were actually plain black except for the word, ‘Pringle’ embroidered on them, and the pen set shoved down inside them.

“My favourite colour,” he said, calling my bluff.

“Oh good,” I said and smiled smugly at him. ‘Wow, Park Tools, there’d be no end to the damage I could do dissecting bikes with this lot!’ I’d have to get on a course now, to learn how to take Campag’s apart and put ’em back together, and also the flight deck changers for Shimano. I knew what I’d be doing once I was semi-mobile from my op!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 222

I went out to the kitchen to make some tea, my head was still spinning at the prospect of all that workshop kit. Then I opened the fridge.

“Oh no!” I wailed.

“What’s the matter?” said Simon rushing into the kitchen.

“Look at all this food. It’s going to spoil before we cook it.”

“Cook it tomorrow.”

“We’ve got to go to your dad’s, remember?”

“Oh shite, yes.” He shook his head, “And my over-friendly stepmother.”

“Oh no!”

“Can’t we just freeze it all?”

“No it’s been in the fridge for too long. It’ll go off.”

“Not in just a couple of days, surely.”

“You’d be surprised how fast it goes off. I suppose I could cook it now.”

“You’ll be up half the night.”

“Two hours.” I switched on the cooker, and pulled the chicken out of the fridge and washed it before covering it in basting mixture I made up of fresh crushed garlic, black pepper, mustard, lemon juice and vegetable oil.

Simon stood and watched me. I then peeled an onion and shoved it up inside the bird.

“Hey that’s a good idea. My mouth is watering just watching you.”

“Watching me or the food?”

“Okay, you make me crave something else. It’s the food that’s making my mouth water.”

The oven came up to temperature and I popped the chicken in. Two hours from now it should be ready. I washed my hands and made some toast.

“That’ll spoil your appetite.”

“Simon, I haven’t eaten since breakfast. It’s ten o’clock, my tummy thinks my throat’s been cut.”

“Oh yeah, sorry I didn’t think.”

I made some tea and he had a cup with me, helping himself to a piece of my toast.

“Why does it always taste better on someone else’s plate?”

I smiled and shrugged my shoulders.

“What are we going to do with all those tools you bought me?”

“I have a couple of boxes they’ll go in, and we can put them in the garage.”

“You realise that Christmas is going to be the middle of January by the time I come home from hospital.”

“So, you’ll just have to wait to play with all those won’t you?”

“I was feeling more in terms of your present and the food an’ stuff.”

“We can eat this lot now and get some more in a month’s time if necessary.”

“Just seems an unfortunate extra cost.”

“That’s life. I thought I was supposed to be the penny pinching Scot?”

“Yeah, sure looks that way from my Christmas present.”

“Look, I went along to the bike shop down by the uni, the one which repaired your bike. I asked him what stuff would I need to put together a complete bike workshop. He recommended Park.”

“They are probably the best, but they are so expensive.”

“So, I got a special deal, the bank bought them at cost and I bought them from the bank.”

“You mean you didn’t pay VAT on them?”

“Something like that.”

“I’ll bet they still cost a fortune.”

“If that’s what you want to believe…”

Instead of arguing I kissed him. It shut him up. “Thank you for a wonderful present. It does make mine to you seem very small.”

“My socks?”

“Yes. Maybe I could get you a second pair.”

“I only have one pair of feet.”

“That is true.”

“So two pairs could be seen as wasteful.”

“Indeed.”

“You know what this means?”

“What?” I asked.

“I’ve just talked myself out of a second pair of socks.”

“Indeed,” I nodded and smirked.

“So did the gerbil get a Christmas treat?”

“Spike is a dormouse,” I punched him on the shoulder, “As you well know!”

“Simon is not a punch bag,” he said and began to tickle me around the neck and collar bones.

“If you mark me, I’ll tell them in the hospital you beat me.”

“Good, it’ll enhance my reputation with the women there. They think I’m a wimp.”

“Why do you need to enhance a reputation? You are promised to moi!”

He blushed.

“Come on, spill the beans,” I hit him again to emphasise the point.

“Ouch, you punch too hard, you’re as bad as my sister.”

“Worse than her, I can bash you in bed too. So unless you want me to bash you in bed, tell me about this reputation.”

“It’s more of a non-reputation.” His tall body seemed to shrink as he remembered his story. “Of how not to date your sister’s friends.”

“What do you mean?”

“Stella arranged some dates with her nursing friends for me. I stupidly went along with it because I was too shy to ask them out myself. She was plotting and scheming, totally in control of what happened and she wasn’t even there. They went from disaster to disaster as she goaded them into making a mockery of me.”

“Why did she do that?”

“Dunno, payback for some real or imagined sin on my behalf. Cor, that chicken smells good.” I nodded my agreement, it did.

“So what did you do to retaliate?”

“Nothing, she won game, set and match. I told her what a bitch she was and we didn’t speak for a while. I don’t think she realised how much she had hurt me.”

“Ohhhhh, poooooooooooooor Simon,” I cooed to him, stroking him.

“Didn’t going out with me count for anything then?”

“Oh yeah, didn’t it? It gave me new credibility, of the ‘what’s a nice girl like her out with a prat like him?’ type of school.”

“Is that good?”

“It’s been wonderful.”

“Won’t they know when I go into hospital? I mean, about my, ahem, my little inadequacy?”

“I’ve been told that it shouldn’t happen for two reasons. Only a couple of people beside the surgeon will actually know why you are there. The rest will be told you had some sort of rebuild needed. They won’t be told what sort. So if anyone starts to make an issue of it, we’ll trace it back to source and they’ll be disciplined under breach of confidentiality.”

“Isn’t that going to be a waste of time?”

“Not according to Stella, they could get struck off.”

“If you can prove it?”

“We will.”

We chatted a bit longer then Tom came out. “God that smells good. Cathy, you have bewitched us, how long have we got to wait for it?”

“About twenty minutes. I haven’t done any veg.”

“Some of that in a sarnie will do fine.”

So that’s what we did, we had chicken sandwiches for Christmas dinner. Mind you, the bread was home baked and the chicken was absolutely delicious.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 223

We decided the dishes could wait until the morning, morning that is, as in after sleep. It was nearly one when we got to bed. I felt rather too full and of course, after eating also felt rather too warm to want to cuddle very much. I did because Simon wanted one, but as soon as he was asleep I rolled away to cool off.

I lay watching the clock, two came and as did three, so it must have been sometime after that when I did fall asleep. I dreamt about the cars crashing on the motorway and woke up trembling and sobbing, I was also cold. Simon put his arm around me and pulled me to his warm body, where I calmed down and slept again.

It was nearly nine when I did wake up, and then only because Simon sat on the bed with a cuppa for me. I really wanted to go back to sleep, but thought better of it.

“Come on sleeping beauty, wake up and drink this tea which your humble slave has made for you.”

“Any more trouble out of you, slave, and I’ll take you down the auctions,” I mumbled at him, although I knew they didn’t hold them in Bristol any more.

He slapped my bottom, “Come on, Cathy, remember we have to go out, so get up and make yourself delicious.”

“I always knew your family were cannibals.”

“Damn, you’ve twigged what we’re up to.”

“Having a friend for dinner? Yes.” I sat up and rubbed my eyes. “God I feel tired, can’t you two go and say I wasn’t well?”

“No, so get your lovely arse off that bed and into the shower.”

“I don’t remember Henry saying we had to be clean to go to dinner.” I was trying a wind up.

“Fine, you can sit on your own, or better still with the lovely Monica.”

“No way!” I gulped down my tea, and pushing him out of the way, walked to the shower cubicle. He lay back laughing.

When I emerged from the shower with a towel draped around my chest and another around my hair, he’d gone: I was willing to bet it wasn’t to do the washing up either.

I looked through my wardrobe. I chose the black dress with the large paisley pattern, plus the new black boots I’d bought. As the dress came to well below knee length, I could get away with wearing socks rather than tights. I hated tights and avoided wearing them when I could, although I did accept at times they were necessary or useful, and they did keep the nether quarters a bit warmer under skirts.

I was doing my makeup when Simon turned up again, “New boots?” he asked.

“Yes, got them for half price.”

“Nice.” He stood and watched me as I did my eyes. Amazingly, my hand didn’t start to shake nor did I get mascara up my nose or anything silly like that. I did the very dark green lines around my eyes, added some brown shadow with green and gold sparkles in it, then darkened my lashes with mascara.

“Want some?” I goaded holding out the mascara wand.

“If I do, I’ll get my own, it’s not good to share eye makeup,” he said, watching my jaw gape.

“Where did you learn that piece of wisdom?”

“I saw it in Cosmo while at the dentist, oh ages ago. Stuck in my mind for some reason.”

“Very true, nonetheless, so we’ll have to get you your own.”

“Thanks very much, but I’ll pass on that. Save the money for socks instead.”

“What is it with you and socks?” I asked, pausing to paint my lips.

“Nothing, just a boy can never have too many of them.”

“You have loads of them, takes me ages to pair them up when I do the washing.”

“How sweet of you.”

“Yes it is, come to think of it.” I glanced at my nails, tidied up one or two uneven ones and shook the bottle of nail polish. The colour was a pearlised pink, not very noticeable but made my hands look a bit more elegant.

“Don’t forget I have to check the dormice,” I said, blowing on my fingers to hasten the drying process.

“Okay,” he stripped off and went to the shower. Ten minutes later he was back, damp but not dripping. He finished towelling himself as I popped on a bracelet and sprayed myself with some perfume.

“No Opium today?” he asked, his mouth drawn down at the corners.

“It’s a bit heavy for daytime, sweetheart.”

“What’s that then?” He sniffed a couple of times then came closer and sniffed me, “It’s quite nice.”

“Coco.”

“Oh okay,” his curiosity sated he went and finished dressing.

We went downstairs together and Tom was just emptying the dishwasher, “Don’t tell me you’re finally ready?” he said looking at me.

“Yes, why? Don’t I look all right?”

“You look fabulous, but why does it take so long?”

“I don’t think an hour is that long.”

“Hmm, I’ve been waiting here over an hour and a half.”

“No one told me, sorry and all that.” I apologised although it wasn’t by any means sincere.

“Should we take anything, wine etcetera?” asked Tom changing the subject.

“To a hotel, nah, he’s got loads of it already. Just coming is enough.”

“Come on,” I said picking up my handbag, “I’ve got dormeece to check.”

Tom’s reply wasn’t very polite, so I’ll pass on it. I had agreed to do it until New Year and he should have been aware of it. I’d have to cycle tomorrow unless I got a lift or a cab. I really missed my little blue car. It was also the funeral tomorrow, so someone would have to take me or I’d get a cab. Could hardly cycle to that.

The lunch with Henry and Monica was very good. It was actually roast beef with all the trimmings and I ate my share. The driver hadn’t been too happy about coming early to take us via the university, that was until he came in to the labs and fell under Spike’s spell. She sat on his hand and ate a hazel nut. He was transfixed by it: the look on his face was like a child who’d just been given a new toy.

“An’ these things live in the wild?”

“Yes, they hibernate all winter and are very shy almost arboreal creatures.”

“Ar—what—all?” he queried.

“Arboreal, tree living. It isn’t quite true, because they live more in hedgerows than trees, but they can scramble about in the branches like miniature squirrels.”

“She’s lovely, what’s she called?”

“Spike, from the couple of hairs that stick up on her head.”

I took her and popped her back in her cage, then showed him our breeding programme. He was impressed.

“You breed ’em to stick back in ’edgerows?”

“Yep, we feed them for a few months to give them a chance. After that it’s up to nature.”

“Geez, I didn’t even know that they existed.”

“You do now.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Spike has another fan?” said Tom as we got back in the car and I nodded.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“The silly look on his face.”

“Oh,” I smiled and added, “How do you know that was why he had the silly smile?”

“Because he’s gay,” said Simon and went back to watching his DVD.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 224

After showering and dressing, I went to get my breakfast. Simon was busy on the phone, he waved at me to get him some more coffee, which I did.

I had described the accident and he’d made notes, however because it was a complicated incident, the insurance company was suggesting that it could take some time to settle. This was partly because of the possible prosecutions arising from such things, which could affect insurance validity. I was glad Simon had apparently volunteered to deal with it.

As I breakfasted I listened to him get ever more frustrated, “So why can’t you supply a hire car? But I keep telling you, she was a victim in all this for goodness sake. She was stationary. Please do, and send me the claim forms, yes, to Lord Simon Cameron care of my bank.”

He threw up his hands, but before I could interject, he picked up the phone, so I blew him a kiss and went off to do my makeup. When I came back he beamed at me, “A car will be here within the hour.”

“Simon you are wonderful. Do you know what sort it is?”

“Something reasonable, or I’ll get the bank to call in his mortgage,” he winked.

“You wouldn’t, would you? Don’t answer that, I don’t think I want to know.”

He chuckled and went off to finish dressing.

“Are you not working today?” I’d assumed the banks were open.

“I have the week off, and besides I’m coming to this funeral with you. So is Tom.”

“That’s at two o’clock, who’s going to see Stella?”

“We all will, after the funeral, she does know about it.”

“I need to go and check the dormice, do I need to get my bike out?”

“What, right this minute?”

“No, but in time to be able to go to the funeral.”

“Obviously. Have you looked at the piece you have to read?”

“I will after I’ve done the dormice.”

“Why not do it now, while we wait for the car to arrive?”

“Okay, okay, keep your hair on.”

“Well, I don’t want to be associated with a poor reader, and I’m sure you can do it very well.”

“I’ve read the lesson before.”

“Go and read it again.”

I considered myself dismissed and went off to find Tom’s Authorised version. I was so enthralled by the language that I didn’t hear the doorbell. Simon came in and whistled to me, I looked up just in time to see him throw me some keys which of course went straight through my hands and onto the floor. He rolled his eyes and tutted.

I simply blushed.

“Come on then, don’t you want to see the new car?”

“Of course I do, but let put my coat on first.” I grabbed it and followed him out to the drive.

There stood before me a black VW Golf dti. It was immaculate, but then so was my Mercedes until a day or two before. I unlocked it and got in, arranged the seat and the mirror for comfort, and went through the gears before I switched on the engine, then checked out the lights and wipers. Then at his exhortation, I took it for a spin. It went like a rocket, even though it was a diesel. I was very happy with it.

“How long have I got this for?”

“As long as you need, if you really like it, I’ll try and get the insurance to cough up for it.”

“I hope Paddington will like it.”

“If I see bits of marmalade sandwiches anywhere near this, you will be back on your bike!”

“What, even after my op?”

“Especially then!”

“You’re a hard man, Simon Cameron.”

“Make your mind up, yesterday I was wonderful.”

“So, I’m fickle. I’m a girl, it’s allowed.”

“Right, go off and poison your rats, I need to send some emails.”

“I need to get my bag.” I ran into the house and picked up my handbag, then back out to the car. I hugged him and kissed him, “Thank you Simon, you are wonderful.”

“Make your mind up, you fickle female!”

“I have, you’re wonderful!” As I spoke he pretended to doff his cap and took a bow. “For the moment anyway.” I laughed and he poked out his tongue at me.

As I parked up at the uni, I realised I’d need a new permit, the old one was stuck to the remains of the windscreen of the old car. I would have to ask Tom to organise it for me when the Christmas recess was over.

Spike was about the only one of them awake, so we had a little cuddle and I gave her a Brazil nut, which she wolfed down so fast I was worried she’d choke, but she didn’t. I cleaned out the cages and left.

I was back about an hour after leaving and organised some lunch. I made some soup and we finished off the loaf I’d made the day before. Simon decided he would drive and I was happy for that. Doing the lesson was enough. I was pretty sure I had the sort of tempo organised so that they were able to hear what I said, yet it was fast enough not to lose the meaning.

We washed up after lunch and I went and changed into the navy suit I’d worn to my mother’s funeral. I checked my hair and makeup. Some of the mourners may well recognise me so I didn’t want to let the side down. I had tissues shoved in various strategic places just in case my eyes began to water.

We arrived at the crematorium and I was introduced to the priest who would do the service. He told me he would give me a nod when it was time to do the reading. So we sat fairly close to the front.

The coffin arrived, and so did his family. I felt myself start to choke up, it was pitiful to see, they were all so distraught. Simon put his arm around me and hugged me. I was grateful for his support and rested my head against his shoulder.

I’m afraid I went into trance mode. The priest spoke and we stood, then we sat and he spoke some more. We sang a hymn, he offered some prayers and nodded to me. Simon gave me a little push and I tottered out to the lectern. I placed Tom’s bible on the lectern and opening it began:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Here endeth the lesson.”

I staggered back to my place and Simon hugged me with one arm again. I felt the tears run down my face. This is probably the most beautiful set of verses in the whole Bible, certainly the most poetic and the poor person who had chosen them was the only one here unable to hear them. It seemed so wrong.

Stevie’s parents, particularly his dad was in an awful state, his sobbing was heartbreaking. I wanted to go to him and hug him until all his pain had stopped.

The priest began his eulogy. As usual, it showed he’d never met the boy and it also showed he didn’t have the courage to say more than a fleeting hint at the cause of death. I accepted that might be for his family’s sake, but I also had this guy in the fancy dress down as a coward.

The longer he went on the more angry I became. Simon sensed my anguish and hugged me again. It helped to calm me. Finally after the committal, when a curtain moves across in front of the coffin, the priest told us that we could make donations to the Terence Higgins Trust, the leading HIV AIDS trust, in lieu of flowers. I had fifty pounds in an envelope in my purse and I knew Tom and Simon would do similarly.

The priest asked us to leave the chapel and respect the privacy of the family. We filed out and Stevie’s sister Mandy, came and hugged me. “That was a beautiful reading, thank you.”

I nodded, too choked to speak. I briefly squeezed the hands of his parents and avoided the priest who proffered a hand at me. I didn’t want him near me.

I gave my envelope to the undertaker, and saw Simon and Tom do the same. Outside I recognised several students, and we hugged, especially those from my tutorial groups. Tom spoke with one or two lecturers and then we left that place of sadness.

We stopped at a pub on the way to the hospital. I made do with a soft drink but Tom and Simon sank a brandy apiece. I then drove Simon’s car to the hospital and we went to see Stella.

I was delighted to see she was out of bed, seated by the side in an armchair. I rushed in and hugged her.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“As well as those things can go. Cathy’s lesson was beautiful.” Tom stood behind me. “It always strikes me as bizarre that an old fart like me goes to the funerals of children. It’s all upside down, they should be coming to mine.”

“Such is life, Tom, such is life. But if you play your cards right, I might just have the perfect lesson and reader for your funeral,” said Simon, squeezing me on the shoulder.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 225

I sat in a chair in the lounge, the tea beside me was cold when I woke up. It was also dark and dreary, a drizzly rain was falling made thoroughly unpleasant by a strengthening breeze. I glanced at my watch—it was nearly eight o clock, I must have zonked for nearly two hours.

I stretched and rubbed my stiff neck. I had a foul taste in my mouth and my head felt quite fuzzy. After staggering to the kitchen and wetting my whistle, I found a note on the fridge.

‘Cathy,
Tom & I have gone to see Stella.

Seemed a shame to wake you. C U later.
luv
Simon
xxxxx

ps get the dinner on.’

I shook my head and huffed, the cheek of it! One of these days Simon, one of these days!

I busied myself with doing some veg and fumed silently. There was cold chicken in the fridge, so I’d do a cold meat dinner. Not very enterprising, but adequate.

To be honest, I felt shattered. The funeral had taken more out of me than I cared to admit. It also brought back memories of the two funerals I’d attended recently, that of Mary Miller, and of course, my mother’s. I did miss her.

I laid the table and waited for the two boys to come back before putting the greens on, it was broccoli, and I hated that when it was overcooked, like green slime. If I wanted to eat algae, I’d have been a fish.

My mind went off thinking about our rescheduled Christmas, it would be something to look forward to, but I hope they weren’t expecting me to cook when I came home from hospital, surely not? Well, Tom I’m sure wouldn’t, but Simon can be a true aristocrat at times, and seem unable to work out which foot goes into which shoe. Stella of course would be home but hardly likely to be well enough to run a kitchen, not that she seemed to do much before she was sick. I definitely seemed to be the domesticated one, although Tom was self-sufficient, which is fine if they are as fond of curry as he is.

The door slammed and in walked the two hospital visitors, “Brr,” said Tom, “cold as a stepmother’s breath!”

“I’ll have you know my stepmother is quite a warm individual!” said Simon deadpan.

“A little too warm for my taste,” I offered, returning to my kitchen and turning up the gas under the greens.

I’d already carved the meat and plated it up, so I shut the kitchen door to stop them picking. Maybe I’m getting to know them too well!

Tom went to find some wine and Simon went to wash his hands. By the time they were ready, so was dinner. I plated everything up and took it through. They seemed to enjoy it well enough, helped down by Tom’s very palatable Chablis. Even I had a glass or so. Then after clearing up I wished them both a good night and went to bed. It was ten o’ clock and I was knackered, the tiredness probably helped by the wine.

I don’t recall Simon coming to bed, nor did I wake during the night. I did finally open my eyes about seven, it was of course still dark but the alarm clock was clearly visible on the clock radio. I felt the need for a cuppa and slipped out of bed without waking the snoring Simon.

Down in the kitchen I boiled the kettle and made my tea, then some coffee for Simon, I also made Tom a mug of the strong smelling brew. I like coffee, and normally the smell of it, but for some reason that morning it made me feel queasy.

I carried the drink upstairs on a tray, never having mastered the art of carrying two mugs in one hand—I always burned my hand. Tom was surprised I was up. Apparently, Simon and he talked for several hours after I left them.

“What about?”

“All sorts of things, from holidays to hurricanes.”

“The aeroplane or the storm?”

“Oh the storm. He was talking about taking you to the Caribbean after you recover.”

“Might be nice if he asked me if I’d like to go.”

“I think he was sounding me out if I thought you’d like to go.”

“I believe they have a place on Minorca.”

“Do they?”

“I quite fancy that.”

“Yes it is nice, quieter than the other Balearics.”

“They have dormice.”

“You and your dormice.”

I smiled, “I’m consistent.”

“Aye, true, lassie, you are that.”

“What’s with all the Scottish dialect?”

“My accent has faded in recent years and some even have difficulty believing I am Scots.”

“I did at first.”

“But then you’re half guid yersel’.”

“Aye,” I replied in my best Bristolian haggis accent. The thought that Dave Millar was Scots came back to me. I’d heard him interviewed on telly and didn’t especially notice an accent. Maybe I was going deaf!

I escaped, suggesting Simon’s coffee was going to be cold. I woke my lover with a kiss, chickening out from various less pleasant ways I could have improvised upon with a cold wet flannel.

He sat up and after wishing me a good morning, drank his coffee.

“What’s this about asking Tom if I’d like the Caribbean?”

“Very Miss Marple,” he said and snorted.

“Ha ha, if you want to know anything about me, try asking me.” I felt nearly cross with him.

“It was just a thought, but as you mention it, would you like to go there?”

“Maybe, I suspect I’d prefer Minorca.”

“Minorca! Are you mad? We can go there any time, we have a villa there.”

“That’s where I’d like to go.”

“Why? I mean it’s nice enough but hardly compares with St Lucia.”

“I’d rather watch dormice than cricket.”

“Dormice? I didn’t know they had them on Minorca.”

“Well, they do, and the only ones I’ve seen are in books. I’d like to compare them to ours.”

“Fine, I’ll take you to Minorca if that’s where you’d like to go.”

“It is.”

“Okay, let me know when you fancy going, and I’ll check if the villa is free. Dad likes it quite a lot, and it is sort of his.”

“April some time. Then we can see all the spring flowers.”

“Probably, I’ll ask him the next time we chat.”

“Thank you, I’d really like that.”

“You wish is my command, dear lady.”

“I know, brave knight, so maybe I’d like to see what happens if I command you to kiss me.”

“I think Madam would enjoy it,” he moved across to me and kissed me on the lips, then on the neck, then on the… nah you wouldn’t be interested in that.

After breakfast, I stripped the chicken carcass and boiled it for a soup stock. Tom made a curry for himself and Simon, whilst I had a chicken sandwich with the fresh bread I’d made. For supper we had chicken soup and bread. It was pretty good if I say so myself.

Tom went to see Stella in the afternoon while Simon and I did the sales. I bought a new laptop through his bank, which saved me quite a bit on the VAT. I wasn’t sure it was either legal or morally correct, but he insisted it was both. Next time I’d be able to claim it against my own tax bill, as my being advisor to the bank was considered self employed. This was all new to me.

We saw Stella on the evening visit and she told us she was allowed to come home tomorrow if the consultant agreed. That was great news, we could finally have our Christmas.

Easy As Falling Off A Train Part 226

The next morning we were all buzzing with the prospect of Stella coming home. I cleaned her room and changed her bedding and Tom came home with some flowers for her. I got the job of arranging them—why? ’Cos I’m a girl! The logic of men sometimes drives me crazy.

Anyway, I did arrange them and was very pleased with the result, now it was only a question of getting her home before they died!

Tom and I went to the supermarket and bought another chicken. “You don’t think this is tempting providence?” I asked him.

“About what?”

“Well, we don’t know for sure she’s coming home today, do we?”

“It’s Friday.”

“I know that.”

“She will.”

“How can you say that?”

“How can I say what?”

This is the man who accuses me of being obtuse! “That she’ll be home today.”

“Because it’s Friday.”

“Aarrrghhhh! We’ve been here before. What has Friday got to do with it?”

“They kick ’em out on Fridays if they can, reduces staff need over the weekend.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” it kind of made sense.

“That is obvious, women, ha!” He walked on down the aisle of the supermarket.

One of these days Tom Agnew! I turned around and suddenly realised he’d gone plus the trolley, damn this ice cream was cold!

He was in the dog and cat food aisle stocking up on tins of food for Kiki.

“You spoil that dog.”

“Of course I do. She’s my pet and she doesn’t talk back.”

“When I get a place of my own, I want a cat.”

“So it can kill all the dormice?”

“Very funny. Cats are very unlikely to do that, the dormice are more at risk from stoats or even rats.”

“Bloody things!”

“Which?”

“All those bloody bucktoothed things. Da, What’s up Doc?”

“Very funny. How did you manage to get the funding to lead this mammal survey, you’re not even into field biology?”

“No but I know a woman who is, plus I’m a better bullshitter than the others.”

“You got the contract because of…”

“I have two, well one good and the other reasonable field workers.”

“Who’s the other one?”

“You are.”

“What?” I stopped in my tracks.

“So who is the lead one?”

“She isn’t now, she went to the States, but she was when I put in the bid.”

“Oh!” I felt very dejected, I thought I was on the payroll because I was a competent field worker, surely my dormouse survey had shown that.

“Cathy, sometimes you are so gullible. You are my lead fieldworker, now dry your bloody eyes and let’s go pay for this stuff.”

“Sometimes you can be quite horrible, Tom Agnew!”

“I’m the grumpy professor, got to keep up my appearance, so stop sniffing. Women!”

“Make that, sometimes you aren’t horrible.”

He looked at me and shook his head, “What’s the difference?”

“Baseline state.”

He rethought about what I had said. “Bitch!”

I smiled my response, even more so when he paid for the groceries.

“Simon’s car has gone,” I announced as we turned into the drive.

“I can see that, there’s actually room to park now.”

“I thought there was room before.”

“For a diddy little thing like this there is, not for my Land Rover.”

“Maybe some people are better parkers than others.”

“I think everyone is compared to the Camerons, couldn’t park a flea on a dog’s back.”

All I could do was laugh, though sadly it was true.

Back in the house, we saw Simon’s note, he’d gone to collect his sibling. I continued putting the shopping away. It suddenly struck me the drive had looked empty.

“Where is Stella’s new car?” I shouted rushing out to the drive.

“Round the back,” said Tom, “Do you have to shriek in my ear like that?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Women!”

“Tom if you say that once more I am going to stuff you in the chicken!”

“Ho ho, fighting talk!”

“Yes. I can’t help what I am anymore than you help being a grumpy old git. I know what I am, I don’t need reminding.”

“Only a woman would say that.”

“Aaarrrrggggggggggghhhhhhhh!” I screamed and banged my head on the door, several times.

Once I had calmed down, I got on to prepare the lunch, parboiling the potatoes for roasties and preparing the chicken with my magic anointment. Then I popped the spuds in the oven, stuffed an onion inside the chicken and put that in the oven too. Then prepared the other veg, carrots, broccoli, mange tout, celery and some parsnips. I can’t stand the latter, but the others seemed to like them.

Simon came back with Stella and Tom trotted out to help her in. It was near enough midday so the chicken had another hour to do. I put the kettle on, I knew Stella would like a cuppa.

We hugged and she said she was glad to be home. Simon carried her bag.

“Hmm, something smells good.”

“That’ll be Cathy’s chicken, she’s doing Christmas dinner, the practice on Christmas Day was quite good.” Simon kept Stella between us so I couldn’t hit him.

“Cuppa?” I asked her.

“Oh yes please.” I went off to make it.

We drank our tea and by then it was time for the veg to go on and I was kept busy for the next hour cooking. Then I called Tom to carve the fowl while I put the veg in dishes on the warming tray. I’d laid the table earlier. Simon went off to get some wine and came back with two bottles of Moet & Chandos which made a loud noise when they popped.

“Here’s to Christmas and to being all together,” said Simon when we all had a glass of the champagne.

The dinner was okay and so was the champagne, or it was to my uncultured palate. Stella grumbled, but Simon’s sharp glance shut her up. To me champagne is champagne, it’s fizzy and over rated. We cleared the meal and got the dishes in the washer. Then it was present time.

I gave Stella her mirror and she was delighted. Simon loved his socks and even more the pen. Tom loved his wine, so all-in-all I felt quite good.

Tom gave Stella a bracelet and to me he gave a silver bangle. It was diamond cut and very pretty, I put it on my wrist immediately, the safety chain tickled my skin.

Tom gave Simon a bottle of port and Simon gave Tom a bottle of single malt whisky. They both seemed very pleased with their presents. Then Simon took Stella outside to her new car, she squealed with delight and hugged him.

When they came back in, she said, “What about Cathy, didn’t you get her anything?”

“What for?”

“Christmas, you dipstick!”

“Nah, she said she didn’t want anything.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Okay, it’s in the garage, she’s seen it once.”

“Well I haven’t,” she said, “Come on Cathy, come and show me.”

“It’s only a complete bike workshop outfit.” I said, “Worth a small fortune, many shops have worse set ups.”

We put on coats and went out into the cold, I unlocked the garage door and opened it, then switching on the light saw my bike on the main stand and a second bike on the other stand.

“What the hell!” On the second, portable stand was a Specialized S Works Ruby.

“I didn’t know you had two bikes,” offered Stella.

“Neither did I. SIMON!”

“It came with the set,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

“Don’t be stupid, that’s near enough four thousand quid worth of bike.”

“It’s the same size as the other one and we have the same pedals and everything. The chappy from the bike shop set it up for you.”

“But why, the tools and things were enough.” I was crying with a mixture of emotions, including frustration.

“I thought you might need another bike to ride if you have the one in pieces.”

“Oh Simon, I don’t know what to say.” I hugged him and cried all over him.

“You’d better give it a ride tomorrow or it might be a while until you can again.” Trust Tom to get to the nitty-gritty, but it made us all laugh.

We went back in and Stella reached out some small packages for the boys. Tom got a ride on a steam train from London to York, he was pretty pleased with that, especially as it included a guided trip around the railway museum and a flight back. Simon had a day trip to Brands Hatch and a driving lesson in a F1 car. His eyes lit up.

Then Stella gave me mine, a small envelope. I opened it and inside was a voucher for a weekend pampering at a spa, with a whole list of treatments included. “Don’t worry, I’m coming too,” she said and we hugged.

I suddenly remembered my father had given me an envelope before I left the hospital. I ran up to my room and fished it out of my bag. It was a cheque for a thousand pounds. This had to be the best Christmas I had ever had and with my day of judgement just three more days away, it was going to be the most eventful for some time.

Easy As Falling Off A Thingy Part 227?

by Wassername

The day after our rescheduled Christmas dinner, I decided I needed to start organising myself for hospital, so I laid out nighties and dressing gown, slippers, toiletries etcetera. By that time, it was midmorning and I was fed up. I decided as it was a dry day without too much wind, to give Ruby a quick ride.

I thought ten or fifteen miles would be enough to decide how much I liked it compared to the Scott. They are both carbon fibre frames and gave a similar ride, I suspect the damping on the Ruby felt a little better and the steering felt a little sharper, but in terms of performance they were comparable. In other words, it’s a nice bike.

Simon kept saying, ‘he’d have to get his bike out.’ It never materialises though, and I don’t recall seeing one at the cottage, and neither of mine are big enough, he is quite a lot taller than I.

He said it once too often today. I called the bike shop and asked if they had a bike we could hire for him to ride. They did, he he! I informed him in front of Stella who backed me up.

“I’ve got too many chores to do to go bike riding, it’s okay for the chattering classes,” he looked at me as he said this, which made me more determined to make him ride.

“You did say you’d have to get your bike out,” I reminded him.

“I don’t have one anymore, so I can’t.”

“I’ve arranged to hire one for you.”

“I don’t have any cycling kit.”

“We can sort that.”

“Nah, I haven’t got time.”

“Yes you have,” said Stella, “You’re just chicken because you’re afraid she’ll beat you.”

“Cathy cycles fairly regularly, I don’t. She will certainly beat me. It worries me not one jot.”

“Yes it does, I know you brother o’mine, you do not like to lose.”

“I wasn’t aware we were supposed to be racing.”

“If you thought you could win, you would.”

“That makes me sound tremendously shallow.”

“Simon, you are tremendously shallow. Shallowness is the only thing you have in depth.”

“Oh how could you? You’ve cut me to the quick.”

“Rubbish, you are so thick-skinned I’d need a harpoon, unless the bike saddle does it for me.” She laughed at this thought.

In the end with two of us at him he agreed to use the bike if he deemed it suitable. I laughed at this. I offered to buy him a pair of cycling pants, and Stella coughed up for a helmet. They would loan him some shoes.

He drove to the shop, I rode there. Due to the traffic going to the sales, we got there at pretty well the same time, which annoyed Simon. I wondered if he’d had some plan for the guy to say he didn’t have a bike, but my turning up stopped it. It also acted as a nice warm up for me.

I suppose it took about half an hour for them to measure up a bike and fit him out. He ended up buying a jacket because the one he had in mind was a bit too loose and would flap.

The bike was another Specialized, an Allez, with aluminium frame. I didn’t tell him it would be a hard ride. The bike shop owner chucked in a pair of gloves as Simon had spent nearly two hundred on a Goretex jacket.

Eventually we were done and then it was time for Simon to try and get used to the bike, especially as he hadn’t ridden for years and certainly not with clipless pedals.

We walked over to the university campus and I had him riding around the car park, engaging and releasing his shoes from the pedals. He was doing okay, except I knew the problem occurs when you have to disengage at very short notice. I tried to make him aware of this in the car park by almost getting him to do emergency stops. Each one was perfect, maybe he had the hang of it, but I doubted it.

Anyway, Simon decided he was competent enough to go for a ride. I wasn’t as sure and asked him again and his reply was of confidence. He was getting some speed up too, although I doubted he’d be able to sustain it for long and I knew the perfect place to call his bluff. I was beginning to enjoy this.

We set off, having agreed a route beforehand. He knew the way well enough by car, I had cycled it. I also knew there were two long pulls on it as well as a long downhill. The ups in a car are fine, on a bike it is very different. The route would be about ten miles, he seemed momentarily to get smaller when I mentioned the difference.

“Are you sure you’re up to this?”

“Are you?” he replied.

“I’m okay, but I’ve ridden it before, on a good day I can do it in the even half an hour.”

“So I should be able to do it in an hour then?”

“I don’t know, it’s not a race, we agreed that. So time is irrelevant except to say there are no lights on that bike, so we need to be back before dark. It’s just past eleven, you have four hours.

“I could just about walk it in that,” he said sounding more confident.

“Not in those shoes,” I retorted.

He clomped about a bit and agreed.

We set off and within a mile met the first climb, a long pull up a rise rather than a proper hill climb. He was having difficulty staying with me on the flat and I was going slowly to try and avoid demoralising him.

“Don’t wait for me,” he said and when I queried it, he was adamant I should cycle at a comfortable pace for me. I shot off and waited for him the top of the rise. I’d only cycled about two miles, he arrived ten minutes later. I have no idea what he was doing, but it wasn’t riding on my wheel as he’d suggested he would. Just because he’d read Lance Armstrong’s book didn’t mean he could cycle like him.

For the next part, I sent him on ahead. I would wait ten minutes before starting to give him a chance.

I did wait too, but had caught him half way up the next rise, no more than two miles ahead. I shouted at him to unclip a shoe. He waved two fingers at me. So I put on a bit of a spurt and shot past him. I waited for him at the top of the rise, he was exhausted and he’d come off. He had run out of steam on the climb and couldn’t get his foot out quickly enough.

I think he understood why I kept him practicing the technique of release although he didn’t say so directly. He had discovered that there aren’t too many things easier than falling off a bike.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 19 Dozen (228)

Thankfully, he hadn’t hurt himself nor damaged the bike in his fall. “Hey this is good fun,” he gasped puffing his way to the top of the hill.

“So they tell me,” I replied.

“Hmm I might have to get myself a decent bike,” he said to no one in particular.

“What’s wrong with that one?”

“Well it’s an entry level, isn’t it?”

“If you’re going for the Tour de France, you really need to get a bit better on hills, or the mountain stages are going to crease you.”

“What?”

“That is a good bike, until you get fitter buying a more expensive bike isn’t going to make your ride much better or faster.”

“I thought if I got a machine like yours, then I’d be a bit quicker up hills and things.”

“It would be such a slight help it wouldn’t be worth it sweetheart. If you get fitter and develop a better technique, then it would be worth it. But that is a nice bike, better than my first one.”

“Oh it’s better than the last one I had,” he said obviously trying to recall what it was.

“The thing is, it depends upon what sort of riding you want to do, if you’re not wanting to do race-type riding, effectively going somewhere as fast as you can, then maybe a mountain bike or a hybrid would be better or even a tourer.”

“What’s a tourer?”

“A bike designed for riding for long distances on touring holidays, so they’re pretty robust, have slightly wider wheels and lower gearing than a road bike, which you are on at the moment, they usually have steel frames and are more comfortable.

Mountain bikes are designed for climbing, sometimes off-road, may have suspension, usually have thicker tyres, and tend to be lower geared, so called granny gears. They have smaller diameter wheels than road bikes, tourers and hybrids.”

“Mountain bikes have smaller wheels?”

“Yes for manoeuvrability, although cross bikes often manage in the same sort of terrain.”

“Cross bikes? Just how many types of bikes are there?”

“Loads, and we haven’t touched on fixed wheels or folders yet.”

“I just want one that I can sit on and pedal and go for rides with my fiancée. What about those two seater things?”

“What, a tandem?”

“Yeah that’s the one.”

“Dunno, never ridden one, but I believe they are very different to an ordinary bike.”

“Maybe we should get one of those.”

“I think I’d need to borrow one first and have a long look at it.”

“That way you’d get us up the hills,” he beamed at me.

“I think that is why I wouldn’t suggest a tandem would be any use. You need two good riders who both know what they are doing, otherwise they can be dangerous.”

“I’m sure we could soon learn.”

“I hadn’t finished…”

“Oh!”

“Dangerous to a relationship, a bit like teaching your wife to drive.”

“Oh!” he shook his head. “Maybe we won’t get a tandem after all.”

“I’m happy to get one but only when I know you are as strong as I am.”

He looked a bit downcast.

“How long have you got this bike for?” I asked.

“For a week I think and if I buy it he will take the rental cost off the price.”

“It’s pretty well brand new by the look of it. The guy who ran the bike club at Sussex had an Allez, he used to fly on it.”

“So could you catch him on that?” he asked.

“Doubt it, it might cost the price of four or five of those, but he was a better rider, end of discussion. I mean Nicole Cooke would beat me if she was riding a penny farthing. She is good and I’m mediocre.”

“So what does that make me then?” I could see disappointment written all over his face.

“The nicest man I know. Come on the light’s fading, last one home is a pumpkin!” So saying I clipped in my pedals and slowly rode off towards home, along the top of the ridge, then when we started to descend, I shouted, “BYEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” and cranked up the gears. At the bottom of the hill I was doing over fifty miles an hour, Simon was way behind. The buzz was terrific although my face and fingers were frozen and my toes weren’t far behind.

I slowed down, freewheeling for some minutes before he caught me up again.

“That was fun,” he said when he got alongside.

“Yeah it was, come on let’s get home.” Back on the flat, I started building up to my cadence and once more Simon was well behind. I got back to Tom’s house about ten minutes ahead of him and he was puffing like a steam train.

“Geez, you are so much fitter than I am.”

“I’ve also ridden with one or two better riders who have shown me how to improve my technique, gear changing, not riding in too high a gear and all that stuff, developing a cadence and keeping to it.”

“Once you’re fit again, you can show me all this.”

“Simon, in a week’s time I am going to lose fitness so quickly it’s untrue. Now is the time for you to practice, because once I’m back on a bike, I will be looking to recover my fitness.”

“That’s not going to be for a week or two.”

“Probably two months, but I will get fit again.”

“Maybe I could do it with you.”

“You’d be better doing it now, it will motivate me to catch you up.”

“Do you need to wash the thing down after one ride?”

“Simon, you paid nearly four thousand for this bike, you can see my Scott is in mint condition and clean. I keep them clean because until now, I have never been in a position to have a second race bike, so I look after them.”

“Yes good idea, can you look after this one too while I go for a shower?” he leant the bike towards me and strolled out of the garage. I was speechless.

I went in about twenty minutes later and Stella said, “I put the kettle on, wondered what had happened to you.”

“I got the job of wiping down the bikes.”

“What, Simon has one as well?”

“He’s rented one for few days.”

“I don’t believe it, I must get a photo to show Daddy, he’ll laugh himself silly. Is he any good?”

“What do you mean? I think he’s the most wonderful man in the world.”

“On a bike, I meant.”

“No he’s crap, but don’t tell him I said so.”

“Nah, I need to get a bike and show him up.”

“You are riding no bikes for a couple of months.”

“Yes mother!” Stella kept a dead pan face for several seconds then her eyes gave her away and she smirked then giggled. So did I and we were like helpless schoolgirls by the time Simon came down from the shower.

Easy As Falling Down The Stairs Part 229

by Angharad glin blin*

“I hear you fell off your bike?” Stella said to Simon.

“Yeah, a relatively gentle tumble.”

“So you’re not badly injured then?”

“No, but thank you for your sisterly concern?”

“I’m not concerned, just wondering why you didn’t help Cathy clean the bikes.”

“She knows what she’s doing.”

“She could have shown you if you’d waited. She isn’t the chauffeuse you know!”

“No she’s the cook,” he winked at me, but I ignored it.

“I’m going for a shower,” I said, “I’ll leave you two to exchange sweet nothings.” With that I walked out and went up to my bedroom.

I came down expecting to have to cook for all of us, so I was relatively scruffy, in jeans and sweater.

“Put your glad rags on girl, Simon is taking you out for dinner.”

“What?” I do a great line in sparkling retorts.

“Go and change into something nice and put on some slap, ’cos big bruv is taking you out for dinner.”

“Why?” you can see the glitter from there can’t you?

“Because it was remiss of me to firstly, not help wash the bikes and secondly, to suggest you are the cook. You are my fiancée and I am sorry.”

“That’s okay, no offence taken and you can wash the bikes next time.”

“I’d also like to take you out to dinner.”

“Just me? What about the others?”

“Tom’s out somewhere, and I’m not that hungry. I’m sure I can find something in the fridge or freezer.”

“Why don’t you come with us?” I asked Stella.

“Nah, I’m quite tired, so I shall have a snack and go to bed.”

“I’m not sure I can be bothered getting all dressed up at this time.”

“Hey, you haven’t been a woman long enough to use that excuse,” said my future sister-in-law.

“Headache?”

“No, it’s food not sex.”

“Oh, erm, period pain.”

“You what?”

“I suppose pregnancy is out then?”

“Honestly Cathy, you are funny. Now go and change and be quick about it.”

“Come on Babes, I’ve made a reservation.”

“Oh bum! All right.” I ran up the stairs and took off my jeans and sweater and the tee shirt underneath. I had a black pair of panties and bra on, so unless I changed those too, I needed something dark. I had a black top, which I pulled off the hanger, then the red and black skirt and the red boots. I finished it with a red scarf and then did my hair and makeup. I think the whole thing took about fifteen to twenty minutes.

“Hmm, I may have to throw you out of the girl’s club,” said Stella.

“What have I done now?” I asked not even sure what she was on about.

“You managed to look presentable in less than two hours.”

“You told me to hurry.”

“Oh all right, I’ll let you off this time.”

I shook my head and looked at Simon. “Will I do?”

“I think you look splendid. I always like that skirt.”

“You’ll have to lose some weight if you want to borrow it,” I said and smiled at him.

He blushed and laughed. “Come on Missy, your carriage awaits.”

I grabbed my coat and bag and off we went. He took me to a nice Chinese restaurant. I like some Chinese food but not enough to make it worthwhile ordering a full menu for two, I’d much rather pick particular items, so that’s what we did. I had chicken fried rice and beef in mushrooms while Simon had about six other things, including birds nest soup. As that is made from the saliva of cave swallows, I decided I didn’t want a taste! Sometimes I’m too clever for my own good.

Simon also finished half of my stuff, it was too much really but it was a nice way to spend a Saturday evening. Tomorrow was my last day of freedom, on Monday, I wasn’t allowed to eat anything after lunch and I had to use a suppository to try and empty my bowels. Apparently, things like enemas happened when I got to hospital. I wasn’t looking forward to that.

“A penny for them.”

“I don’t think they are worth that.”

“Can I be the judge of that?” asked Simon.

“I was thinking about Tuesday.” I blushed as I said it.

“Not having second thoughts?”

“No, but I’m a bit scared.”

“It’s a big step to take, an irrevocable one.”

“Yes I know, and I hope it’s irrevocable, ’cos I don’t want it to grow back, having it the first time is a nuisance!”

“So what are you scared of?”

“Pain, the unknown, that sort of thing.”

“Haven’t you spoken with anyone who’s had it done?”

“Not for a long time, I tend not to hang around with others.”

“Why not, don’t they have support groups and things?”

“I’m sure they do, but it’s not my scene, okay?”

“Okay, don’t bite my head off, I’m only trying to help.”

“I’m sorry sweetheart, I’m just a bit edgy, that’s all.”

“That’s okay, no problem. Do you want to do anything?”

“Just go home,” I felt my eyes filling and I ran off to the toilet and shut myself in a cubicle where I sobbed to myself. I was frightened and angry with myself for being a scaredy cat. But I couldn’t help it.

I was there for some time and eventually someone came in and called my name. “Cathy, are you all right? Simon is getting worried.”

“Yes, I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Are you okay, really?” asked the pleasant female voice.

“Yeah, I’m on, got a bit of tummy ache.”

“Oh poor you, I think I’ve got some painkillers here, if you want one?”

“No, it’s okay thanks, I’ve just taken one.”

“I always find evening primrose oil helps.”

“Thanks, I think I have some at home, although I usually take starflower oil.” I was getting better at lying, but I had seen an article on it in some women’s magazine, or maybe the paper.

“I don’t know that one, does it help?”

“I think it does a bit,” I lied unable to be more specific.

“I’ll have to try it then, thanks. I’ll tell Simon you haven’t fallen down the hole.”

“Yeah, tell him I’m having a hot flush.”

“Oh, very good. Bye then.” I heard the door close and I emerged from my cell and took a look at my makeup. Much of it was down my cheeks. I washed off what I could and went back out into the restaurant, collected my coat and allowed Simon to give me his arm as we left.

Back in the car, he asked how I was.

“I’ll be okay, I’m just tired.”

“Yeah me too, that bloody bike ride I think and my bum is sore, well stiff rather than sore.”

I smirked, yes smirked. “We’d better go again tomorrow then.”

“What!” he sounded horrified.

“Well hair of the dog and all that,” I said smirking again.

* glin blin = sore knee (been cycling).

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 230!

by Angharad Coron Driphlyg*

I was fast asleep until I heard the groans as Simon limped off to the loo. I giggled so much I woke myself up. Then thinking he might ask me to kiss it better, I pretended to be asleep as he groaned his way back to bed, muttering something that sounded like, ‘bloody bicycles.’ Come to think of it, it sounded a lot like that, I giggled some more.

“What are you laughing at?” he snapped at me.

“Nothing why?” I snorted and then lost it once more.

“You cruel, cruel woman,” he accused.

“Wasn’t me who fell off my bike.”

“All you did was laugh when I told you.”

“Ooh, that is not true, I was concerned for you. It was you who laughed about it.”

“Well it was funny then, it didn’t hurt very much. It does now.”

“Oh my big, brave baby,” I said stroking his leg.

“Sarcasm does not become you.”

“Well come on, you’ve woken me up groaning like Marley’s Ghost, let’s see this terrible injury.” I leant across and switched the light on, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust. “Well let’s see it then.”

Simon was lying on the bed in his jammies. “No it’s all right, I’ll probably live.”

“You won’t if you wake me up again, so let’s see it.” I got off the bed and walked around to his side. Before he could protest I had pulled his jammie trousers down below his knees. Another tug and they were off completely. “So where’s the injury?”

He put his hands over his groin. “That isn’t hurt is it?”

“No, I’m just being modest.”

“Thank goodness for that.”

“What?”

“Well, there wouldn’t be a lot of point in me going through the pain of surgery, if that dropped off, would there?” I nodded at his hands.

“Ha ha. I thought you were having it done to feel more complete?”

“I am, but I might as well kill two birds with one stone, mightn’t I?” I winked at him.

“We’ll see, when you’re staggering around looking for a soft seat you may change your mind.” He poked out his tongue at me.

I looked at his left hip, there was a nice colour change happening, with a combination of greens and purples. “I’ve got some arnica cream here somewhere.” I went and got it, then went to rub some on his hip.

“Ouch! Owwww! Geez that is cold.”

“What a wimp!”

“I am not a wimp, it was colder than I anticipated.”

“Well here you do it then,” I offered him the tube of cream.

“No, you can do it, just be gentle with me.” He batted his eyelids at me.

“What!” I snorted, then fell about laughing. Simon started to laugh as well.

“You could always kiss it better,” he said suggestively.

“What kiss your a…?” I shook my head. “No way Jose! If you’d been bitten by a poisonous snake, well I might suck the poison out, but…”

“That’s what happened.”

“What did?”

“A poisonous snake slithered up and bit me on the…”

“Yes, of course he did, in which case I have to make a large incision to let the poison out or shove ice cubes on it to prevent absorption.”

“Maybe it was a twig.”

“A twig slithered up to you and bit you on the bum, did you bang your head as well?”

“I might have done, I was trying to keep up with two of you.”

“What?”

“Well I could see two of you.”

“You could?”

“Yes.”

“Can you still see two of me?”

“I can see two of those,” he touched me gently on the breasts, “Is it concussion?”

“No, stereo.” I roughly rubbed some more cream on his bruise.

“Ouch, you callous hussy!”

“That’s me, one more word of complaint and I shall get the ice cubes.”

He seemed to go quiet after that, with just the odd grimace to show it was hurting. I knew that, I was making sure of it although I also knew it would make it feel easier later.

“Right,” I said and slapped his leg, he jumped and squealed. “Can I get back to bed now?”

He nodded. I went off and washed my hands. When I came back he was still grumbling.

“We could always try some distraction.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like this,” I said kissing him gently, then more passionately. His groans were of a different sort until I accidentally leant on his bruised leg, when he jumped and squealed. “Now what’s wrong?” I said curtly.

“You knelt on my leg.”

“I’m going back to bed,” I sighed and got back in and switched the light off. As I tried to go off to sleep again, I did think it was probably just as well it was me who was going for surgery not Simon. The problem there was it started me worrying again, so maybe I was as big a wimp as my bedmate.

“Simon?”

“Umm.”

“Are you still awake?”

“I am now, why?”

“Will you hold me?”

“Okay,” I edged towards him and I felt his arm come around me accompanied by several groans. “You’re shivering.”

“Am I?” I replied knowing I was trembling like an aspen in an earthquake.

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m scared.”

“Scared? What, Wonder Woman is scared?”

“Yes.”

“Scared of what?”

“What if the surgery doesn’t work?”

“Don’t be silly, the surgeon knows what he’s doing.”

“But what if I can’t have sex with you?”

“We’ll deal with that if and when we come to it. If necessary, we’ll consult another surgeon. There are bound to be others, if necessary we’ll go to the States.”

“I can’t afford that sort of thing.”

“No but I can.”

“I can’t expect you to pay for that.”

“Why not, I see it as an investment, like opening a deposit account.”

“Deposit? Simon you are so crude at times.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of it like that, hey that’s quite funny.”

“For you, I suppose it is.”

“What, you cheeky mare.”

“Simon, shut up and just hold me.”

“Yes dear.”

* Coron Driphlyg: Triple Crown
(Wales won the Triple Crown in 2008, beating England, Scotland and Wales at Rugby Union.)

Easy As Falling Off A Cloud Part 231

I did not want to get up and turned away from the alarm. In doing so, my flailing arm caught Simon on his buttocks—he was lying face down, and there was a squeal of agony, which was far louder than the clock radio.

I sat up with a jolt, “Wassamaatta?”

“You hit me,” he whimpered.

“What?” I wasn’t aware of much at all.

“You hit me on my sore bum.”

“What?” I asked again, thinking it ridiculous that I should hit him.

“You turned over and your arm hit me.”

“Aw diddums,” I said feeling anything but sympathetic, “has babba got a nappy rash?”

“It’s all right for you to laugh,” he said disgruntled.

“Laugh! I’m not laughing Simon, I’m ready to burst into tears. I hardly slept a wink all night and you are now accusing me of assaulting you. I will if you like—no, don’t tempt me.” I leapt out of bed and went to the loo. If I’d stayed there a moment longer I may well have done him some real harm.

I walked back into the bedroom, he was still lying on his front. I was about to go down to calm down with a cuppa and he called to me.

“Cathy, can you help, I can’t move.”

“Bloody hell!” I said loudly and jumping on the bed pushed him off. He rolled and landed on his bottom.

“Ouch! That was unnecessary…”

I didn’t listen, I was out the door and down the stairs. Now I really knew what someone with PMS was like, the way I was feeling I could pull the head off a grizzly bear with one hand behind my back, while eating my cereal with the other.

“Morning Cathy, are we doing a roast today?”

I ignored Tom’s question and boiled the kettle.

“Did you hear what I said?”

“My hearing is fine,” I snapped back.

“Oh, who stole your lollipop?”

I chose to ignore it and walked out of the kitchen into the dining room. Wisely, Tom decided not to follow me. I was not good company.

Stella wandered in, doubtless sent by Tom. “Hi Sis, how ya doin’?”

“I’m not, I’m going to drink this then I am going for a ride on my bike. You can tell that stupid brother of yours that he is welcome to come with me, but he’d better keep up because I won’t be waiting for him.”

“Oh, like that is it?”

“Yes it is, why, what’s it to you?”

“Are you going to tell me what all this is about or do I have to beat it out of you?”

“Ha, what makes you think you can do that? If I remember correctly, I had to save your arse last time.”

“You did indeed, for which many thanks and this!”

I didn’t see it coming, the slap I mean. It actually knocked me off my chair. Thankfully, I had just finished my tea.

I was sprawled on the carpet clutching my face. God it was stinging! “What was that for?”

“You asked for it remember?”

“I didn’t.”

“Get up!” ordered Stella.

“You’re not my mother!” I sneered back at her.

“No I’m your sister, now bloody well get up or I shall hit you again!”

Sullenly I obeyed then sat in the chair from which she had recently deposed me.

“Now are you going to tell me what’s up or do we do another round?”

I stared at the table, with tears forming in my eyes, “No.”

“No what?”

“No you don’t need to hit me again.”

“So talk.”

“I am tired, I’m not sleeping.”

“Why not?”

“Dunno, maybe it’s because I’m a bit scared.”

“Scared of what?”

“All sorts of things.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t really know, everything and nothing.”

“Like surgery and hospitals?”

“Yes,” I nodded as well and the motion dislodged a tear which was quickly followed by another and then a stream of them.

“Are you having second thoughts?”

I shook my head ‘no,’ now sobbing.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

I nodded as emphatic a yes as I could, which only made the tears flow faster.

“Oh Cathy,” she put her arm around me and I allowed her to hug me before I completely lost it. Lost was a good word, I felt completely and utterly lost, even in her strong arms I felt as if I was adrift in an ocean of emotion.

I cried my heart out and she held me and stroked my back. “I’m sorry I slapped you, but I had to shock you out of this state you were in, or you were going to hurt yourself.”

“I’m sorry I was nasty to you,” I sobbed.

“That’s okay Sis, I understand. You have a lot of pressure on you at the moment and a very big day approaching. You know that we’re all here for you, don’t you?”

“I don’t know, I pushed Simon off the bed and hurt him, and I snubbed Tom, so why should they be nice to me?”

“Because they love you.”

“I don’t know if I deserve it.”

“Oh you silly girl, of course you do. We all have moods like this from time to time and you have been so strong for so long, dealing with car crashes and the media and then Stevie’s untimely death. You have had so much on your plate recently. A mere mortal would have broken down long ago, but even you super heroes have the odd bad day.”

I pushed away and looked her in the face, “What?”

“Well you zap about the place like Batgirl on amphetamines, performing miracles or saving lives, mine in particular; healing broken families so they could say goodbye to a dying child. Want me to continue?”

“No, I suppose not,” I sniffed, “I didn’t do anything.”

“That’s your estimation. I wasn’t going to say anything to you, but I know the Royal Humane Society is putting you forward for an award after you saved that baby from the car fire.”

“What for? I only did what anyone else would have done.”

“I don’t think so Cathy, it would be nice if we did or even if we could aspire to it, but you are special.”

“No I’m not, I’m just plain ordinary Cathy Watts, dormouse watcher.”

Stella laughed, “You don’t get it, do you?”

“Get what?”

“You have a bigger heart than a blue whale.”

“Is that what is causing these lumps on my chest,” I said pointing at my breasts.

Stella laughed loudly, “You silly bugger, gi’s a hug.”

We embraced each other and laughed, then we giggled for several minutes and by that time we were both exhausted.

Eventually we went to get some breakfast, Simon was in the kitchen and stepped back from me. “I’m sorry I was mean to you,” I said.

“I should think so, do you realise…”

“Enough Simon,” said Stella firmly.

“But she could have…”

“I said enough,” I suspect she shot him a withering glance and he stopped as if someone had removed his batteries. He went on making his toast.

Stella sat me at the small table in the kitchen and began to make me some toast, Simon sat opposite me, looking at me strangely.

“Have you been crying?”

I nodded and felt some more tears in my eyes.

“What’s that red mark on your face, it looks like a hand prin… Stella, did you have anything to do with this?”

“Why, do you want one too?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, why did you hit Cathy?”

“’Cos I felt like it.”

“Look here, you can’t go around hitting people…”

“Simon, it’s okay, I asked for it.”

“Here hold these against it,” she passed me a bag of frozen peas, which she wrapped in a tea towel.

“Women, if I live to be a hundred, I’ll never understand women!” Simon exclaimed and limped out of the kitchen. His movement was so unnatural that we both sniggered.

“I heard that,” he called from the hallway. Of course, that made us laugh louder. “Don’t go in there,” we heard him advise Tom, “there’s a couple of frenzied females in there.”

“Sounds like my kinda place,” replied Tom who burst into the kitchen singing, “New York, New York.”

“You’re all barmy,” called Simon, “If I had the strength, I’d call for the men in white coats.”

“You’d be the first one they’d take,” riposted Stella, “then the poor man’s Michael Ball.”

I snorted and Tom stopped in mid-song, “I’ll have you know my voice was much sought after.”

“What by the FBI or the Noise Abatement Society?” quipped Stella.

“You cruel, cruel woman.” He looked at her for a moment, “No it neither of those, it was a local farmer. His bird-scarer had broken down.”

I snorted again and somehow managed to have something go down the wrong way because I started to cough and choke alternately, enough for Stella to start whacking me on the back and Tom to get me a glass of water.

I began to wonder if the hospital may actually be safer than this madhouse?

Easy Come Easy Go Part 232

The rest of the morning was taken up with chores like the laundry and some cleaning, also I did start a roast joint, lamb for a change. To save time I part cooked the spuds in the microwave and then shoved them in the oven. The rest of the veg was relatively tame, carrots and broccoli.

Stella helped by doing some ironing and Simon helped by keeping out of the way, while Tom took his dog for a walk. I did suggest that Simon go with him, but that was met with frowns and rude gestures, and that was just the dog!

I took some underwear out of the drier and took it to Simon, “Here you aren’t paralysed, you can put your drawers away.”

“You are a cruel woman,” he retorted.

“Better you know it now than later.”

“Here what do you reckon, ‘Where hurricanes hardly ever happen?’ is?” he showed me the crossword he was doing.

“Hampshire.”

“What? How do you get that?”

“Liza Doolittle, in Hampshire, Hereford and Hertford, hurricanes hardly ever happen.”

“Oh yeah, you are a clever dick, aren’t you?”

“Only for another day or two.”

“Ha ha.”

“It’s hardly a laughing matter, is it?”

“Why are you being so horrid to me?” he sounded pathetic.

“I’m not, you are a bit stiff and sore because you don’t exercise enough. You know what the solution is but you’d rather sit and moan. I’m sorry but I don’t have time to baby you.” I turned and walked back out to the kitchen.

Stella was making some tea for me. “Here, sit down and drink this and relax for five minutes.”

“If I keep on the go, I don’t think of other things.”

“I know Sis, it’s a big step but you’re up to it.”

“I know Stella, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I am scared.”

“They’ll take excellent care of you or deal with me.”

“That isn’t the issue.”

“What is?”

“This is the first time I’ve ever had an operation, they’ve told me what they’ll do and all the rest of it. It terrifies me, but at the same time I have to do it or…”

“Or what?” asked Simon’s voice as he wandered into the kitchen.

“Or I’ll never be able to look myself in the mirror again.”

“Oh, is that all?”

“Simon don’t be nasty to Cathy, she’s stressed enough as it is.”

“I came out to ask her if we had time for a quick ride before lunch.”

“It’s raining,” said Stella looking out of the kitchen window.

“Tom is going to get wet then,” I offered.

“Back to my crossword,” Simon said as he went back to the lounge.

“Oh no, we’ll have dirty footprints all over my nice clean kitchen floor.”

“So what, the dirty bits will show how clean the rest is.”

“Stella you are mad.”

“Guilty as charged. Hmm, the mark is fading,” she said as she looked at my face.

“I’m still going to tell them you beat me up.”

“Carry on, it’ll add to the list of other outrages I’ve performed on patients and family, enhancing my reputation as a big hitter.”

I sniggered and so did she, then I laughed and so did she, then she giggled and I had to run off to the loo. When I emerged from the cloakroom, Tom was back and hadn’t brought the dog into the kitchen, he’d come through into the conservatory and left the dog there.

I checked on the meal, everything was just about done and Tom went off to get some wine. I suspected I might end up sleeping half of the afternoon.

Despite the plainness of the meal, it went down well and so did a glass or two of the wine I bought Tom for Christmas. We cleared up, Simon went back to his crossword and I sat and zonked in an easy chair. I slept for two hours and felt awful when I woke up.

Stella made some more tea and that helped take the foul taste from my mouth. I was rather pleased she had. I felt too uncoordinated to do much at all. I drank it and did as she suggested and went up to my bed.

I was going to have another nap when I saw a package on my bed. It was addressed to me and when I opened it found inside some delicious lingerie with a card saying, ‘for when you get home.’ I didn’t know what to say—it was expensive and very sexy, all frills and ruffles and so soft. One look at me in this and Simon would mess his pants.

I put it away in my undies drawer and wrote a little note of thanks and left it on her bed. Stella was a really nice person at heart so was Simon and I had been nasty to him.

I lay on my bed but this time I couldn’t sleep, too much guilt. I had been horrid to everyone I love and who seems to love me. Was I a bad person? It began to look like it. I wondered how I could make it up to them but nothing came to mind except apologising, so that was what I resolved to do.

The three of them were sat in the lounge reading, well Simon was still trying to solve the crossword, Tom was reading part of the paper and Stella was reading her book. I walked into the centre of the room and said, “I think I owe everyone an apology. My behaviour has been less than acceptable over the last few days and I am very sorry. I’ll try to be better company in the future.”

Simon stood and limped over to me. He kissed me and said quietly, “Apology accepted.” I kissed him back and we hugged.

When he went back to his puzzle, Stella came and hugged me, “Nothing to apologise for Sis.” She hugged me again and went back to her seat.

“If you are apologising because you forgot to sort out the dormice, it’s too late.”

I gasped and put my hand over my mouth, I had completely forgotten them. “I’d better go and see to them.”

“I’ve already done it.”

“What?”

“Kiki and I walked into the university and back this morning.”

“Thank you, it went completely out of my mind. I’m sorry.”

“No problem. You spent the whole morning slaving in here, so I thought I’d save you a job.”

“Thanks Tom, it’s much appreciated.” I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

“For a kiss, it was worth the effort.” He winked at me and left me blushing still in the middle of the room.

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Part 233

“Swab,” the surgeon was sweating as he worked on me.

I could feel everything he was doing to me, but I could neither move nor speak. The agony extended from my groin to the rest of my body. I could hear the tissue squishing and smell the burning of the electrocautery as he cut through my flesh.

“Retractor,” the surgeon began to push and shove at my body, which was balanced on a lithotomy stool to make my groin more accessible. I wanted to scream, the pain was so bad, each push sent new agonies through my body.

Then I heard the scream. At first it seemed a long way off, but it was getting closer. Then I realised it was me that was screaming, I felt hands grab me and I tried to fight them off.

“Cathy, it’s me Simon, wake up, wake up it’s just a dream.”

His voice seemed hard to understand I was so frightened, but I was held so tightly, I couldn’t move. Finally I opened my eyes and Simon was lying beside me holding me tightly.

The door burst open and Stella’s voice asked, “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, Cathy had a bad dream.”

I was still breathing hard and my nightdress was wet with sweat. “I’m okay, it was horrible.”

“What happened?” asked Stella.

“I dreamt I was on the operating table and they hadn’t anaesthetised me properly and I could feel it all but I couldn’t tell them.”

“Ouch! Don’t worry, the anaesthetist who will be looking after you is very good, that won’t happen. Even if it did, they would know because your heart rate and blood pressure would rocket and that is being monitored all the time.”

“Phew!” I sighed, “it was really scary.”

“Are you sure you want this surgery, because if you have any doubts you need to say so now.” Stella sat on the side of the bed.

“I don’t think I have any doubts, I’m just terrified of the operation.”

“Don’t have it then.”

“What! I have to.”

“Why do you have to?”

“Because…”

“Because what?”

“Because I want to be a woman.”

“And this operation is going to make you one?”

“Yes.”

“Cathy, being a woman happens between the ears not the legs. No operation can make you a woman, you already are one. It might make you more female, but it won’t make you more of a woman.”

“But I need it,” I felt myself starting to cry.

“Why do you need it? If you are having such worries about it, is it worth it?”

“Yes, I’ve wanted this for so long.”

“But why have you wanted it?”

“To feel complete.”

Simon continued to hold me, “You don’t need to have it if you don’t want to.”

“But I do want it, I want to be your wife. I know I can’t have your children but I want to be your wife in all other respects.”

“I know you do Babes, but the surgery seems to scare you so much.”

“I’m such a coward,” I sobbed.

“No you’re not, anything but,” offered Stella.

“I could still sort of marry you without surgery,” said Simon.

“No you couldn’t, I wouldn’t agree to it. I’m having this surgery if it kills me.”

“If it does that I should be very cross,” said Simon.

“I wouldn’t be too pleased either,” I added before realising the absurdity of what I’d said.

“Oh dear would that mean you’d be rushing about the place knocking on tables and things?”

“Oh yes, rapping on anything, keeping you awake with unearthly wailings.”

“You do that now,” said Stella.

“Oh, that is very dispiriting to hear.”

Stella looked at me then at Simon and began to giggle, then she fell off the bed. I looked down at her, she was lying on her back still giggling unable to get up.

Simon was snorting partly at my unconscious joke and partly at Stella falling off the bed. That started me off and we all roared with laughter for several minutes.

I did eventually get out of bed and try to help Stella up, each effort setting off her giggles again. Finally, she did rise and then suggested a cuppa. It was two in the morning of New Year’s Eve, but I agreed, I felt less sleepy than I would were it midmorning. Simon opted to stay in bed.

I changed my damp nightie and then threw on my dressing gown, Stella had gone on ahead and I joined her in the kitchen where the kettle was singing.

We chatted about all sorts of things. “Oh thanks for the note,” she said.

“Thanks for the lingerie, I don’t think I shall wear it for a few weeks.”

“Oh no, it’s meant for when you want to get Simon going, so anytime in the future after it’s all healed up. I saw it in this boutique weeks ago and decided I’d get it for you then. I just thought you needed some cheering up.”

“I suppose I do. This thing is really getting to me and I don’t know why.”

“Sometimes we get like that when we close in on a big ambition, as if the longing for it was more important than achieving it.”

“Oh no, I really do want it.”

“Who are you trying to convince Cathy, me or yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well I believe you, you don’t need to convince me.”

“Oh, shades of Hamlet.”

“What, get thee to a nunnery?”

“No, the lady doth protest too much.”

“Or how about, To chop or not to chop, that is the question?”

“Ha bloody ha!” I said and stuck my tongue out at her.

“You started the Shakespeare stuff.”

“Okay, I surrender.” I held up my hands.

“Okay, point taken,” she said and smirked.

“What was that about ambition?” I asked.

“Sometimes we stymie ourselves because the longing for something seems better than its attainment. How many times have you been longing for a holiday and found the reality was less than fantastic?”

“What you mean like, you’re in Spain and your luggage is in Taiwan?”

“Or the promised hotel is still a building site, or the weather is awful or you get food poisoning.”

“Can we talk about something else?”

“Back to the ambition thing, sometimes we seem to see ourselves as someone who wants, whatever it is, you want. Like some patients who are chronic pain patients, say they want rid of the pain but resist every attempt to help them.”

“Why on earth would anyone do that?”

“Because they see themselves as Mrs Bloggs with the back pain or Mr Buggins with the bad hip. If you threaten to change that, it undermines their sense of themselves, even their identity.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well because I have a certain bit that’s going to vanish in a day or so, that I can’t adjust to the changed image?”

“I don’t know, I hadn’t thought that, why do you think it could be the reason you’re having nightmares?”

“I don’t know Stella, it hadn’t occurred to me before. When I see myself in my mind’s eye, I’m always a bit fuzzy anyway as if the image hasn’t coalesced yet. So maybe I do have issues.”

“Do you want me to cancel things?”

“No way, if I have issues, I’ll work through them afterwards.”

“Is that wise?”

“Stella, I have waited years for this to happen. It is just over a day away, nothing is going to stop me.”

“Even if it isn’t what you truly want?”

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe your unconscious is trying to tell you it doesn’t want this to happen.”

“I don’t care what my unconscious wants, my conscious mind does want it, so I am going to have it done.”

“Are you sure, it’s too late for regret afterwards.”

“I am well aware of that, and yes I am sure, as sure as I am of anything. I am a woman, I am female, all that is lacking is sorting out a bit of my body so I can live completely as I feel I should. Then I will be complete and content.”

“Erm, Cathy, you shouldn’t need an operation to feel complete or happy and according to my research, most post operative transsexuals go through a depression within a few months of the surgery.”

“What! Why they should be happy?”

“I think it’s probably a reaction to the anticlimax of reaching long term goals.”

“Oh is that all?”

“Exactly,” said Stella and smirked. I looked at her, wondering what I had said again.

Easy As Falling On A Spike Part 234

We went back to bed about four, Simon was fast asleep and tempting as it was to put my cold feet on him, I resisted and just cuddled into him. Before I dropped off, he’d spooned into the back of me and had his arm around me. It was very comforting.

I had no further bad dreams and slept until eleven. When I awoke, I noticed Simon was up and I hadn’t noticed his absence. I washed quickly and dressed. I had no idea what we were doing for New Year, except I couldn’t indulge in food or drink after six. I hoped the surgeon didn’t indulge too heavily either.

I went down and found Simon wiping down the hire bike. “Have you been out?”

“Yeah, only did about ten miles according to the computer although it felt like twice that. That blessed wind is really cold.”

“You should have woken me, I’d have come with you.”

“No, I need to do this myself, especially if I’m going to kick your arse when you start again.”

“That may be a good attitude for a racing cyclist, but I’m not sure I approve of it in a fiancé.”

“It was you who showed me up, I’m just giving you some back.”

“Oh, if that’s how you feel, I suppose it’s all right. It wasn’t my intention.” I was lying, who could resist the temptation to shame someone into taking more exercise?

“Hmmm,” was all he said.

“I suppose extra exercise will do you good, ward off heart attacks and so on.”

“I hope so, I shall do some more at the bank’s gym, they have some of these spinning bikes.”

“Won’t that make you dizzy?” I asked not knowing what he was on about.

“No you daft cow, they are static bikes linked to a computer so you can have interactive races.”

“Oh, so you’ll be much better than I am then.”

“I’m going to give it quite a go.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Part of me was happy he was considering exercise and part of me was irritated by the competitiveness. Was it just a boy thing, being able to outdo your woman in physical exertion? I didn’t know and I didn’t want to discuss it further.

“Are we going out tonight?”

“Only over to Southsea to the hotel.”

“Are your parents going to be there?”

“Yep, that’s why we have to go.”

“I don’t have to kiss Monica do I?”

“Kiss of the Spiderwoman!” He laughed. “But of course, just watch out for her fangs.”

“You don’t mean palps do you?”

“Do I, I don’t know?”

“It’s what spiders have, although in a hybrid like a Spiderwoman, there could be previously unknown mutations.”

“Oh boy, remind me not to encourage you clever dick.”

“I did quite a bit on insects and spiders before I got into dormice.”

“Now you tell me!”

“At least I am telling you.”

I went indoors and left him to finish cleaning his bike. Making some tea, I poured Simon and Stella a cup. Tom had walked into the university to sort out my dormice and give Kiki a walk.

That was twice I owed him. I pulled out the letter from the hospital and reread it for the umpteenth time. It appeared they were going to operate on me tomorrow and I needed to use the suppository and not eat or drink anything after midnight. I was asked to refrain from alcohol.

I decided I wasn’t going anywhere tonight. I had to shave myself down below, a pain if ever there was one, goodness that would be itchy when it grew back. I also had to be at the hospital at no later than eight in the morning. I looked over the list again, I had it all and it was all packed or ready for packing. I hoped Simon would take me, although that might not be such a good idea. Stella or Tom might if they were home and not too wasted from the New Year party.

Simon came in and I poured him a cuppa. “I’m not going to the party.”

“Don’t be silly, of course you are.”

“Simon, I go into hospital tomorrow morning, I can’t eat or drink after midnight. There is little point in going to a party with those restrictions.”

“Don’t be daft, it’s New Year, everyone parties.”

“I’m not. This surgery is far too important to jeopardise for a bit of my old life.”

“Oh, be like that but don’t ask me for ride into the hospital.”

I felt so cross that I turned and fled the field without giving battle. If I had stopped, there would have been no survivors on the enemy side.

Easy As Going Off A Bloke Part 235

I was sitting on my bed feeling sorry for myself and anger for Simon. He had come up once and I had thrown him out, not literally, he’s too big for that. But he didn’t stay to hear my tongue lashing, can’t say I blame him.

Stella came up a little later, “I am not going to change my mind, so don’t start,” I said before she could say anything.

“I only came to see if you wanted a cuppa. Do you?”

“Oh, erm sorry.” I blushed, “Yes please.”

She disappeared reappearing some ten minutes later with a mug and some biscuits. “Here, oh there’s no Rohypnol in it either.”

I thanked her and took the tray.

“What was all the fireworks about?”

“Simon not told you?”

“Simon took the dog out for a walk, with a face like thunder.”

“Ah, that could be my fault. I bawled him out when he came up to me.”

“So are you going to tell your big sister or not?”

“As you know I go to hospital tomorrow.”

“Yeah to get your vagina invertus sorted.”

“The same, well seeing as I have to be there for seven thirty, and not being able to eat and drink after midnight, I thought going out tonight wasn’t a good idea.”

“Oh, of course Papa’s party. Would have been nice for you to show your face.”

“I have to remove hair from you know where and also shove this,” I showed the suppository, “into a small space.”

“Sounds like you have your own fun filled evening in prospect.”

“Maybe, but I’d also like to be in bed before too long. I hope the surgeon does the same.”

“No he’s got a reputation for partying all night and operating afterwards.”

“Stella you are not encouraging me.”

“It’s a joke Cathy, a joke. Dear Michael is a very conscientious surgeon, one of the best I’ve met. You will be perfectly all right.”

“I hope so.”

“How are you going to shift the hair?”

“Shave I suppose.”

“I have some cream which will shift it, or I could wax it for you.”

“No thanks to the waxing, the cream might be an idea.”

“I’ll go and get it.”

She came back with a bottle of hair removing lotion and left me to it.

Over the next half an hour I used the depilatory lotion and showered it off. The only downside was cleaning the hair out of the plughole afterwards. Then came the bit I wasn’t looking forward to, shoving a torpedo up my you know where.

As soon as I’d done it I wanted to go, but I knew I had to hold it in order for it to work. I suspect the anxiety I was feeling meant the need for laxatives was minimal but I sat with my buttocks clenched for twenty minutes before the urge became too powerful.

After that, I decided I would change into my nightdress, go through my list once more and retire to bed with a book. I was reading Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, not the super model but well known author. It wasn’t exactly relaxing, the Cathar’s being chopped up during the Albigensian Crusade, when ferocious cruelty was shown by the Catholic church in its bid to remain dominant in Christian denominations and for the wealth of those in the Langue D’Oc to be shared by the victors.

I couldn’t reconcile myself with Christianity because of this preponderance for murder and mayhem. We hear such horrid tales of what Islamic extremists do to victims, but no one mentions Richard I (Lionheart) and his execution of Saracen prisoners in front of the watching Moslem army. It was hundreds. Maybe the French crossbow bolt that killed him did everyone a favour? Although he was more French than English.

Somehow, I fell asleep—perhaps the attrition of the last few nights had caught up with me. I awoke at midnight with bells and fireworks sounding from several sites. It took me a moment to remember where I was. Thankfully, I managed to drift off again. Finally, I awoke at five and normally would put the kettle on, but of course, I couldn’t do that.

Simon wasn’t in bed with me, so I got up and showered again making sure none of the depilatory remained on my skin from the night before. Then I dressed in a skirt and my boots, plus of course a top with required underwear. I kept myself busy, it stopped me thinking.

I went down an hour later and discovered Simon fast asleep in the chair. He was wearing the same jeans and sweater he’d had on the afternoon before. He’d presumably changed back after his party. I didn’t really want to talk with him, but my switching on the light had woken him up.

“Hello girl, Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year to you too, how was your party?”

“You’ll have to ask Stella that, she and Tom went.”

“What, you didn’t?”

“No, I have an early ride to give someone to the local hospital.”

“You’re going to take me?”

“Duh! Isn’t that what I just said, they couldn’t do a brain enlargement while they’re at it, could they?”

“No Simon, they couldn’t operate on you and me at the same time.”

“You cheeky mare,” he shook his head.

“Why didn’t you come to bed?”

“I didn’t know what sort of mood you were in.”

“I calmed down afterwards.”

“Glad to hear it, but I wasn’t going to risk it again.”

“Thanks for waiting up to take me, it means a lot to me. Would you like a cuppa.”

“Have we got time?”

“I think so.”

“Okay then.”

I went into the kitchen and filled the kettle, switching it on afterwards. He followed me into the kitchen and grabbing me from behind held me tightly to him.

“So today’s the day?”

“Yep,” I said as he cradled me against him.

“My little girl becomes a woman.”

“Allegedly,” I said smirking.

“You’d better had matey or I shall have something to say to your little Irish friend.”

“I’m sure he’ll do his best.”

“I’ve told him you’d better turn out looking like Keira Knightley or else.”

“He isn’t a plastic surgeon, he’s only working on my groils.”

“I didn’t say which part of Keira I wanted you to resemble.”

“Ah, kettle is boiling,” I changed the topic and made his tea.

“Worried?”

“About what?”

“The surgery.”

“Not now, I’ve done the condemned breakfast, now the walk to the gallows is just a last stroll.”

“Strange comparison,” he said, giving me a funny look.

“Well I was as scared as I might have been awaiting execution, but now I feel okay about it.”

“Good.” He drank his tea. “It’s seven, I suppose it’s time to go.”

“Thank you for staying with me last night, even if I didn’t know you were here.”

“It’s okay, you needed a lift and I need to keep my licence.”

I kissed him, then kissed him again, “I love you, Lord Cameron.”

“I love you too, Miss Watts, shall we go?”

I felt my stomach somersault as we drove through the dark towards the hospital. The traffic was as light as I’ve ever seen it. He stopped outside the admissions block and then carrying my bag, walked in with me.

I handed my letter to the clerk, she yawned and checked me in against a list. She gave me directions and we proceeded together, my bag in one of Simon’s hands, his other held my sweaty palm.

Finally we were up on the ward. “Good luck Babes.” He kissed me and I went through the double doors.

I won’t go through the boring details of what was done to me before and after surgery. I was second on the theatre list, so obviously wasn’t top of the bill! I think I went down about ten or half past, I didn’t have my watch on. Before that several doctors and nurses checked out different bits and pieces, took blood and blood pressure, then gave me a gown after one of those identity bracelet things.

Finally I was lying in my bed and being transported to the theatre, I’d had a premed, a jab in the buttock, so everything felt a bit dreamlike. Then I saw the surgeon who looked as handsome as ever. I did manage to wish him a happy New Year, at which he smiled.

“It will be an auspicious start for you my dear,” he said smiling. Then everything went, well I don’t know, a jab in my hand and I was back on the ward feeling very sleepy.

“It’s all over madam,” said a cheeky nurse.

“Thanks, phew I feel so tired,” was all I think I said. The rest of the day was drifting in and out of sleep.

“Simon is coming to see you later, he sends his love,” said a voice from somewhere near. I felt myself smile before I slipped out of it again.

I felt someone kiss me, and I opened my eyes, it was Simon.

“Hi,” I said and felt my mouth smile.

“Hi Cathy, now you’ll have to marry me.”

“Why’s that?” I asked sleepily.

“I’ve kissed you.”

“What?” it didn’t make sense.

“I kissed you, so you’ll have to marry me. Remember I come from an old fashioned Scottish family.”

“I’m going to marry you anyway,” I said, my mouth very dry.

“Just as well then.”

“Can I have a drink please?”

“What would you like?”

“Water or juice please.”

He held my head up and placed a cup to my lips. I sipped the cool liquid.

“I’m proud of you my girl.”

“Why?” my mind was not in a fit state to deal with riddles.

“Because I am, I love you and want to show you off to everyone as my wife.”

“We’re not married yet,” I managed to recall, “are we?” Now there was an element of doubt.

“Not yet, but I have someone engaged to sort out the legal niceties with the Gender Recognition people. Mr O’Rourke has agreed to submit a letter for them detailing what he’s done. So as soon as you are legit and up to it, we can tie the knot.”

“What about my degree and Tom’s project?”

“We’ll talk about those when you feel more alert.”

“Don’t rush me Simon. Besides we don’t have to be married for you to do a road test.”

“Yes we do, I want to marry a virgin.”

“Like Richard Branson?” I said before coughing, everything felt numb down below, goodness I hope some sensation returns otherwise my sex life is going to be rather boring! ‘Have you started Simon? Have you finished?’ Oh boy!

Then I think I went off to sleep again.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 236

I had spent a night getting used to the sounds of hospital. I was still dozy and drifted in and out of sleep. My groin didn’t feel much different, in fact I couldn’t feel much at all, which I hoped was just down to painkillers, morphine and friends.

I had nearly forgotten about enemas and bowel washes, which had been my entry into this artificial world where people were born and died. I wondered what the nurses thought of me. It wasn’t that important, but I preferred to be liked rather than disliked.

In one of my more lucid moments, I actually felt my groin, it was all wrapped up with a catheter emerging which I presume went into a bag somewhere. I just had to remember in event of a fire take the bag with me or leave my bladder behind with it.

Actually it wasn’t entirely numb, I had all sorts of strange twitches and tics from down there. I began to wonder if there was such a thing as phantom willie syndrome. I hoped not.

I still had a line into the back of my hand with some sort of clear fluid going into it, presumably dextrose or something similar, making up any fluid I’d lost, at least there was no blood transfusion, so maybe I hadn’t lost too much.

I became aware I was hungry, yet it was only five in the morning and I had a horrible feeling I wasn’t to be allowed solids for at least a week. My stomach rumbled, obviously irritated by such a regime. I understood the reason, no solid food or as they put it, non-residue food means no faeces and less risk of infection, plus the vagina that is formed is made to lie quite close to the bowel, so they don’t want bowel movements. If only I didn’t feel so hungry.

I reached over to my locker and managed to grasp the glass of water and drink some. If I was full of water I might not feel so hungry, a trick I believe anorexics do. I thought for a moment, if I drink too much I’ll keep peeing but then that’s all taken care of.

I was still in a hospital gown. I’d be glad to get into one of my own, then I might feel less of an object and more like a human. However, I wondered how they’d get it over the drip. My mind was fuddled, perhaps the anaesthetic or perhaps simply my body had suffered a major trauma and was dealing with it. I thought I felt something move down my catheter—was the sensation returning?

At six they appeared with a drink for me, tea without milk—yuck, or black coffee. I settled for the latter. I was also allowed to semi-recline. Later I would be encouraged to sit up and use pressure of sitting on my surgery to help stop bleeding. In which case maybe I should ask Simon to bring a bike in, that would really put pressure on things, especially with a race saddle.

Breakfast was apparently a cup of Bovril. Oh boy, this was not going to be easy. Frustration nearly killed me before, now it appeared starvation was going to finish the job.

I drank my Bovril and thought about things. Finally, I had managed to sort out something which had felt wrong since I was a kid. I was now to all intents and purposes as much a woman as anybody else. Okay, I couldn’t have kids but then neither could a significant number of genetic females.

Life is what you make it, and I had made mine more to my liking than it had been. I was in a private room and was listening to the radio when I met my creator.

“How are we this morning?”

“Mr O’Rourke, thank you for helping me realise a dream.”

“Well now young lady, I wish all my patients could say that, instead they tend to grumble at me for long waiting lists or playing with their prostates. So, you have made my day.”

He beamed a toothy smile at me and part of me wished the raw flesh down below had healed some months before—owww, there was a twinge! Something was working.

“Are there any questions?” he asked.

“How long did it take?”

“Five or six hours, it took some time with the clitoroplasty, but it looks quite a good job. I think you’ll be pleased.”

“When do I pay you?”

“Pay me? This is NHS.”

“Goodness, wow! Can I get Simon to bring you in a bottle of your favourite tipple?”

“Now dat sounds interesting, some Oirish Whiskey if you please.”

“Any particular brand?”

“No, surprise me.”

“Okay, I will. When can I get up?”

“Not until the graft has taken, at least a week, which is when you can eat normally again.”

“What about the catheter?”

“About ten or twelve days, you need to be able to pass urine before you leave.”

“When can I ride a bike?”

“What, a push bike?”

I nodded, “A race bike.”

“Not for two t’ tri months. But sex, sometime after six weeks.” He smiled at me. I smiled back wishing I could reverse the figures.

The next week was bit of a blur, everyday seemed the same. Simon would visit when he could; Stella came in everyday, often with Tom. Once or twice, some of my students came in. I even did a sort of tutorial with one of them who was stuck with her assignment.

Then after several days, I was given an injection and was told my packing was out. Then came the joys of dilation, the nearest thing to self-flagellation I can think of. How anyone in their right mind can shove a bullet shaped piece of Perspex into a fairly new wound, defeats me, but that is what I was doing. It hurt too. I won’t dwell on the details, it may put you off your dinner, but it certainly gives new meaning to picking scabs or spots as an activity. It was like some mediaeval torture of impaling, maybe Mr O’Rourke’s middle name was Vlad.

At last I could eat real food and was also allowed out of bed, for salt baths. These help to heal the wound but dry the rest of your skin to hell. I was still on the catheter, so that complicated things a little. I was walking up and down the corridor to try and get my leg muscles back, when who should I bump into but Vlad O’Rourke, himself.

“Please thank Simon for the gift.”

“What did he get you?”

“A whole case of different whiskeys, an amazing selection.”

“You are pleased then?”

“Oi am over da moon, young lady.”

“I shall tell him.”

“How’s da dilation?”

“Sore, I can’t believe this is going to become pleasurable.”

“Oh Oi tink you’ll foind it does, but it takes toime.”

“Okay, I’ll persevere.”

“You do dat, an’ take me word for it, it gets better.”

“Okay, I will, what about the catheter?”

“Oh dat can come out in da morn.” He wished me good day and set off at a pace down the corridor.

Stella came in that afternoon and brought me the latest Cycling Weekly, the bike tests had me almost pining for one of my two bikes, it didn’t matter which.

I used a mirror to plunge the Perspex into the hole, actually the hole was covered by a muscle which acted as the inner labia, and which had to be negotiated carefully. However, whilst I had been dilating, I hadn’t actually examined myself, I felt quite shy about it all, which was silly, but was how I felt.

This afternoon after Stella had gone, I did the necessary with my KY and plunger! Afterwards I actually had a little explore with the help of the mirror. It was very clever stuff, and although swollen and discoloured, looked like the real thing. If it could eventually receive the corresponding device, it would certainly make Simon happy.

If I could get some pleasure too, so much the better, but I was quite pleased that at least I now resembled the woman I really felt I had been for a long time. For me that was the reward of all this pain and discomfort. I was complete now, another chapter was over. However, I knew this wasn’t the end of the story, rather it went to a new level and began again, with more things to learn and experience.

I looked forward with some enthusiasm and not a little trepidation.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 237

by Angharad ’n fawrreddog chlepia*

I was discharged after two weeks of hospital hospitality, I couldn’t wait to get home, well back to Tom’s house. Simon collected me in the Saab and I was glad he’d somehow managed to acquire an air cushion.

Somehow, the world had survived without me for a few days, much to my surprise, not only that but Simon had occasionally done the washing up. Correction, he’d learned to load the dishwasher—it was progress, I was planning on showing him how the washing machine worked too. If Tom could manage it, then so could he.

I was glad to be home, although it was obvious the three of them were hoping I’d be well enough to cook something. I promised I would after I’d done my stuff with the plastic and had a little nap.

Stella was now pretty well recovered from her liver problem, so I sent her out to get some chicken portions. I was asleep before she came back.

Did the stretchingmefanny get any easier? A little, it still hurt like bug…, come to think of it I hadn’t tried that, so I couldn’t compare it. However, I didn’t think I’d bother. Coping with one orifice was enough.

I was keeping a log of how often, how long and what depth I achieved, okay a bit anal, erm I’ll just rephrase that. It was recorded so I could compare or measure progress. I am a scientist after all and used to keeping records of all sorts, this was just one more. However, at the present rate, Simon would have a long wait before I was prepared to take the risk of more pain.

I woke up mid-afternoon and after showering and dressing, went downstairs. Simon was working online, Tom and Stella were playing cards. To be fair Stella stopped when I arrived and went to make me a cuppa.

I followed her into the kitchen and saw the chicken portions she bought. I made a wine sauce and popped them in the oven, they’d do in an hour or two. Then I went back into the lounge and sat on my soft cushion. Ordinary chairs were a bit sore still, although I could cope at a push.

I had been put on oestrogen patches by the surgeon, which I would have to see my GP about to get a new prescription. I wasn’t sure as I’d heard they can cause skin rashes and you have to move them each time you put on a new one. Seemed a lot of trouble compared to popping a pill.

I’d obviously lost some weight since the op, and Stella was jealous of my reduction in a dress size. I half-wondered if I’d keep it up, but the probability was that my shape would change a little after the change in my hormone status. Since the op, my body would produce only small amounts of testosterone, so the oestrogen might have more effects, although I had reduced the amount of that too.

I felt so tired, which was the big surprise. My fitness levels went through the floor and I knew that I needed to do some exercises soon. I made an appointment to see my own doctor the next day and sort out one or two things. Stella had agreed to take me, Simon would be back at work and so would Tom.

Stella helped me with the vegetables as Tom and Simon were both working. I hoped that I’d be able to help Tom quite soon, even if it only meant doing something online for him. Once the spring arrived we’d need to be ready to start the survey, I still had some protocols to finish writing. I also needed to see how my dormouse project was going and discover who was taking my tutorial students.

My dormouse project was going to be the basis of my PhD, the success or failure of the captive breeding and release into the wild. I already had nearly two years of data, I needed another two years and I could write up the preliminary research and submit it to the university.

Once that was done, I know Simon would be chasing me to marry him, assuming he hadn’t got fed up with me by then. In other words, our engagement was going to run for two more years. I was still thinking about a honeymoon in Minorca—did I mention they have dormice there?

I have already been invited to visit there and study them, they want to do something like my project, captive breeding and release. I’d like to help but for the moment, I obviously can’t. It seems I’m starting to develop a reputation for dormice. Could be worse I suppose, at least it isn’t for doing silly things like rescuing babies from burning cars or catching crooks.

Dinner was okay, not one of my better meals, but it was edible and apparently better than the curries they’d been living on for two weeks!

I had asked Simon to take me to see my father the next weekend. I had let him know I had survived the op, and was doing okay. This meant I had to organise some baking before I went, and also making some soup. This time I was going to try some broccoli and Stilton, if I could get a recipe. I knew Simon had some Stilton, so I only had to persuade him to donate it to my experiments—hopefully there would be enough for him too.

Apart from the dilation and tiredness, I was almost back to normality. Correction, I wasn’t working, so it was a little different. Nor was I riding my bike, apparently Simon was doing a bit of riding although it had been rather wet, so he didn’t go far or often. I hoped he’d keep riding, it would do him good and encourage me to get fitter faster. Seeing as I couldn’t drive for a couple more weeks let alone ride a bike, I’d have to do something else to improve my strength and endurance.

That night, with Simon’s arms around me, I felt secure and loved as a female. I know I had felt all this before, but this time it seemed to have transcended something, as if before it had been a pale imitation of what I was now and how I hoped our relationship would develop.

As I lay there I felt a tear roll down my cheek, it was one of joy and contentment, as if all my past experiences had helped to get me to where I was now, which was where I needed to be and that felt good. I snuggled back into Simon’s arms and fell asleep.

* ’n fawrreddog chlepia: A Grand Slam—In 2008 the Welsh Rugby Union team won the Grand Slam in the Six Nations Championship.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 238

The next morning of the rest of my life dawned eventually. The nights were drawing out slightly as were the mornings, but they were still not very light very early. I was alone—Simon had already gone to work. I looked at the clock, crikey, it was nine o’clock. Tom would be gone too. I yawned, I could just as easily have gone back to sleep as got up.

I rose and went to the loo, washing my bottom in the process, while everything was so swollen it can spray anywhere and does. It felt good that I had to sit to pee now whether I wanted to or not. Although I had been doing so for some time, it was still something of a novelty. I washed, and still in my nightie went downstairs.

Stella was doing her ironing and we talked as I ate my breakfast. I decided I’d get the discomfort over first and went off to dilate. I won’t dwell on it, save to say it didn’t seem to get much easier. I was getting greater depth but it still bloody hurt. I was also keeping it inside me longer, well until I coughed and then it shot out like a bar of soap, I just managed to catch it or it would have gone off the end of the bed. That made me smile, then chuckle as I envisaged myself explaining to Tom, why he had a dent in the wall. He’d never believe it. Neither would I before.

After showering and dressing I caught up with Stella and told her about my erectile ejectile—she nearly dropped the iron on her foot.

She took me to the doctor for my eleven o’clock appointment. The doctor gave me my prescription and a sick note for the university. I’d get Tom to take that in tomorrow.

I was the first post op he’d met, so I allowed him to have a little look. He was suitably impressed and gave me some cream to ease the swelling. I told him about my flying dildo and he blushed but laughed. He did tell me which muscle they had used to act as labia minor, but I was chuckling too loudly to hear it properly.

Stella was sitting in the waiting room, wondering what was taking so long. I explained as we drove towards Southsea. We were nearly there before I noticed.

“Where are we going?”

“Daddy asked to see you, and as he’s here for a meeting tonight, I thought we’d cadge some lunch.”

Who was I to argue? I wasn’t that hungry but I’d reserve judgement until I saw the menu.

Henry was his usual charming, predatory self. I tried not to see him as predatory. Surely he wouldn’t try it on with his son’s fiancée, would he? Was he only talk and trousers or was there something more sinister behind his flirting. Not being sure and with Simon not present, I didn’t flirt back.

He smiled when I sat rather carefully, “Not saddle sores?” he said.

“No Henry, no bikes for me for a while. The doctor said about two months.”

“Poor you, never mind it must be nice to have it behind you, so to speak.”

“Yes it is,” I smiled thinking about what he’d said, yes there was a joke but it was a weak one.

“I think you’re very brave young lady.”

“What, coming here?” I joked back.

“That too,” he smiled.

A bottle of champagne arrived and three glasses were poured. “To celebrate Cathy’s completion.” I thought for one horrible moment he was going to add, and all who sail in her, but thankfully he didn’t. Stella and he touched glasses and then I did with each of them. Blushing I thanked them.

After a few more embarrassing moments, the conversation turned to more normal topics. I listened to Henry and Stella talking about family things. Then while I was half-listening and half-dreaming, Henry said, “I want Simon’s friend Des to make a film about your dormouse unit.”

“What?” I asked not sure I’d heard him properly.

“I want the bank to fund a short documentary about your dormouse breeding. You’ll need to feature in it too of course.”

“Why this sudden interest in dormice?”

“They’re cute and very photogenic. We’re going to introduce a dormouse saver account. As our eco-spokeswoman, it will be for you to arrange with the university and Des. I believe you’ve met.”

“Yes, I know Des.”

“He cycles a bit, I believe.”

“He does.”

“Maybe you can ride together, when you’re better of course. This would be scheduled for next year to start the campaign, so just after Christmas would be the best time. It’ll get it shown on TV and we’ll start our savings campaign a few days after.”

“Will you get away with such blatant symbolism?” I asked horrified at his lack of subtlety.

“Not on the beeb we wouldn’t, but with one of the cable or satellite stations we will. Anyway that’s our problem, yours is to organise the making of the film. The university will get say five thousand for cooperating, tell Tom I shall be in touch about possibly sponsoring the dormouse programme. Naturally, it would have to become the High Street Bank captive breeding unit or something similar. So we’ll need a business plan say for five or ten years.”

“Daddy, Cathy is on sick leave.”

“I know darling, I’m just giving her a chance to think about it before she goes back to work.”

Stella looked at me and rolled her eyes. I smiled back at her. Henry was charming but ruthless and he was paying me rather a lot of money for doing very little.

“What about her expense account?” said Stella, tweaking his tail.

“Of course she has one, you can use up to a thousand pounds per month for things like entertaining or purchase of necessary equipment, new computers, that sort of thing.”

“A thousand a month!” I gasped.

“Yes, is that too little?”

“No, no that’s fine,” I said finally managing to breathe.

“We’ll need receipts,” he smiled.

“Obviously,” I answered, thinking these people live on another planet.

“Do you need a car?”

“No, my little Mercedes got smashed in that motorway accident, but I’m using a Golf at the moment, it goes quite well. Simon arranged it; I think we have a purchase option on it when the insurance claim is settled.”

“Good, now what about food?” he called for menus to be brought.

I opted for a tuna steak with salad. Stella had an omelette and Henry a duckling. While we waited, I asked something which had been bothering me since Christmas.

“Henry, what happened to the woman Stella and I rescued?”

“Oh yes her, I got your present sent to her. She’s in a detention centre near Bristol or leastways was there. She’s applied for asylum, silly cow, who in their right mind would want to live here, rains all the time.”

“In Eastern Europe, it snows a lot of the time,” I countered.

“Yes I suppose it does.”

I asked Henry how I could find out if she was still near Bristol and if she was, how to get permission to go and see her.

“It’s up to you young lady, but if I were you, I’d keep well clear of it.”

“Why?”

“You upset some organised crime people. If you recall, the bank had a run in with some of them some weeks ago, probably a different mob, but it’s better not to remind them you exist. Remember, you work for the bank, your fiancé does too, and the family are majority shareholders. So all of us could be targets in the future if the Russian mob sorts itself out. Obviously, we help its rivals to keep it in a state of disarray.”

“Is that legal?”

“As far as the Russian authorities are concerned, it is. The F.O. don’t want to know, so I assume it is.”

I began to wish I hadn’t asked. I had two vivid memories come to mind, the first was of being pursued whilst on my bike and how scared I felt. Then of the look on the woman’s face when the police arrived, she didn’t look entirely enthusiastic about their involvement.

Thankfully, the food arrived and I tucked into my tuna steak, it was really good.

We stayed for another hour but I was beginning to fade and Stella noticed. We left and I fell asleep in the car on the way back.

Easy As Falling Asleep Part 239

I cuddled up to Simon in our bed, actually my bed, but he seemed to spend more time in it than his own. I told him about my concern about the Russian woman and what Henry had said.

“I think he’s right. Remember, as my fiancée you are part of the family, plus an employee of the bank.”

“I’m a consultant,” I huffed, although it was meant as a joke.

“Yeah, course you are,” he patronised back, “like the tellers are account advisors. If they pay you, they own you.”

“What!” I gasped, genuinely shocked.

“Let’s face it, they are paying you a good screw for very little work. Even when you make this film thing with Des, you’ll still have been well-compensated.”

“I know, it’s just that I don’t know if I want to make a film.”

“If the bank wants one, you’ll make it. Just put in lots of expenses claims.”

“How can I do that if I’m not spending it in the first place?”

“Duh!”

“Simon, that is fraud, it’s dishonesty. I won’t do that.”

“Fine, okay. I’ll get them to sponsor your trip to Minorca to talk with the University over there about the captive breeding program.”

“Won’t I have to pay tax on that?”

“Not if we set up the university programme as a charity.”

“But the charity commissioners have tightened up the criteria.”

“Look, we have people who do this sort of thing for a living. I’ll speak to them. We’ll go for say, five trustees, two from your university, two from the bank and one from somewhere important, maybe Tom has an idea of someone we could ask.”

“It sounds a bit dishonest to me.”

“I suspect the bank would want to do it anyway, it helps with their tax bills, and you also get extra from government for it. Besides, think of it later, when you’re on their board as Dr, The Lady Cameron. Titles can impress some people.”

“Yes, but I’m not one of them, Simon Cameron.”

“Are all women as hard to please as you are?”

“Dunno.”

“Hmm,” he said followed by, “Come here wench,” and he began to tickle me. This of course ended in me squealing and when he’d got tired of tormenting me, he began to kiss me. I shut up, except for the odd sigh, especially when he stroked my chest while he kissed me. Then the sighs became moans. And despite how much I knew it would hurt, I wanted him inside me.

He declined, saying he would wait until we were married.

“But, Simon, you’re a man.”

“I wondered when you’d notice,” he smiled at me.

“You’re only supposed to think about sex, cars, football and more sex, then sex in cars, sex at the football and cars at the football and…”

“Yeah, and you’re a woman, all you’re supposed to think about is shopping.”

“You won’t believe this, Simon, but I saw this lovely coat…”

“Oh shut up, you daft female.” With that he kissed me some more and I wriggled and writhed under his attentions.

Finally, I felt something pressing against me and gripped it firmly but gently. His body went rigid for a moment. Then I squeezed it rhythmically. For a moment, he forgot about kissing me.

“Is that nice?” I asked, knowing full well what the answer was.

“Oh God yes!” he said breathing hard.

“Would you like me to continue?”

“Don’t you dare stop,” he said desperately.

“Now I have your attention…” I laughed, “only joking.”

After he’d changed his underwear and I’d had a wee, we settled back down in bed. “Now it’s your turn,” he said.

“I’m tired,” I said. The initial passion had gone out of things now, and only the memory of the discomfort remained. I’m sure in time I’d be happy to let him play down there, but for now, I didn’t. I turned over on my side and he put his arm around me, his hand resting on my breast, which he stroked and tweaked every now and then. It was nice and I fell asleep in very good spirits and probably glad he’d not taken up my offer.

I’d just come out of the bank and I spotted two of them. They looked like Russians and they also looked as mean as it’s possible to look without your face actually turning inside out.

I knew they’d made me. I could dash back into the bank and call the police. I turned, there was a third one behind me cutting off my retreat.

For some reason I was wearing ridiculously high heels, so running was out of the question. They were closing on me. My tight skirt meant I wouldn’t be able to kick them. I stopped and took off my shoes, they would make effective weapons, the heels were like needles.

The first thug came at me, I ducked and belted him between the eyes with my right shoe. It stuck in his forehead and he fell backwards gurgling. I swung at the second but he grabbed me and I screamed. He grabbed me and I struggled and kicked…

“Hey Cathy, cut it out, that hurt. Cathy wake up, you’re dreaming, ouch stop it.”

Somehow, Simon’s voice penetrated my dreaming mind. I awoke, my throat was sore from shouting or screaming, my face was wet with tears and my heart was beating like a fast revving engine.

“Hey, come on Babes, it’s all right, hush it’s okay. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” He cuddled me tightly as I wept into his arms. It was only a dream, but so vivid. I decided, I would do nothing more about the Russian woman. I was too scared of what could happen.

“Can’t you two have sex a bit more quietly?” said Stella’s voice from just inside the door.

“Ha bloody ha,” said Simon, “Cathy’s just had a bad dream, I think she saw you in it, hence the screams.”

“Bleh!” she said sticking out her tongue, then the door closed.

“I wonder if she shut the door on her tongue?” said Simon.

For some reason, my reaction to that was hyper and I nearly giggled myself into a choking fit. I also came close to wetting myself and had to run off to the toilet. As I peed I had a picture in my mind of Stella shutting the door on her tongue and I giggled again, only it hurt down below. That stopped me immediately, the giggling, I mean. A few minutes later I limped back to bed with shooting pains down below.

Easy As Falling Off A Bed

Part 20 Dozen. (240)

I limped back to bed.

“What’s up with you?” said Simon noticing my shuffling gait.

“I think I pulled something weeing.”

“What like the flush?” he chuckled to himself.

“Ha bloody ha, no a bit of me.”

“I thought you had the bit you used to pull, cut off.”

“Simon this isn’t funny, it hurts.”

“Oh, do you want me to look?”

“Well I can’t see it myself, except in a mirror.”

“Keep your hair on.” He went looking in the bedside cabinet for my mirror passing it to me a few moments later.

I pulled down my panties and there was a small bloodstain on them. “Either I’m having a period or something has happened.”

“Wow, that is very different to the previous arrangement.”

“How do you know, you didn’t see the previous one.”

“I know but I have some familiarity with the usual set up of meat and two veg.”

“Is there something you want to tell me, Simon?”

“Yeah, I can see where the blood is coming from.” He pointed at a tiny blob of blood. Looks like you’ve popped a stitch.”

“I hope that isn’t important.”

“Ask Stella in the morning.”

“I mean, I don’t want it all to fall out.”

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to.”

“Since when are you an expert on gynaecology?”

“I’ve done the odd examination, if you must know.”

“You’ve done exams in gynaecology?”

“I have given exams, rather than taken them.”

I stopped to think about what he’d said. “Ha ha! So in your expert opinion, does this look like it’s supposed to?”

“Doesn’t it just, a bit swollen still, but yes. I’m itching for it.”

“If you’re itching, you’re not coming near me, I don’t want to catch anything.”

“Sometimes you are so funny, Cathy. Alas that wasn’t one of them.”

“I’m not taking any notice of you and your total lack of a sense of humour, Simon.”

“Ouch! That was below the belt girl.”

“So is where you are still looking.”

“It’s still bleeding slightly.”

“Oh sh—ugar!”

“Hang on, I have a styptic pencil in my shaving kit.” He scurried into the bathroom, returning with a leather zip up case, from which he extracted a funny looking stick thing, a bit like a crystalline lipstick. He pressed it against the spot of blood and I felt it sting.

“Ouch, cor that stings.”

“Yeah, but the bleeding has stopped.”

“Thank you.”

“I’d kiss it better for you but I suspect you’d complain.”

“When it’s healed I won’t.”

“I might hold you to that. I suppose it feels better than the glue job?”

“Now it’s beginning to settle down it does. The nerves and the repositioning aren’t quite in sync yet.”

“What d’you mean?”

“I mean a few minutes ago it felt like I had an erection.”

“You what!” A look of astonishment suffused his face.

“That’s what I mean.”

A moment later he began to laugh and at that point I pushed him off the bed.

A little later, as I cuddled into him, I asked him a question. “Simon, am I female enough for you now? I mean you’ve seen it now, so will it do?”

“You were female enough for me before. Now you are simply beautiful. Is that enough compliments or do you need more?”

“I wasn’t fishing for compliments, Simon, I’m dealing with my inadequacies, or trying to.”

“Go to sleep girly, I have to go to work in the morning.”

“Will you still take me up to see my dad on Saturday?”

“If I haven’t collapsed with exhaustion from lack of sleep.”

“Sorry.”

“Go to sleep.”

“Simon?”

“What now?”

“I love you.”

“For God’s sake go to sleep.”

“Don’t you love me?”

“Not anymore, you won’t let me sleep.”

“Oh…”

“Will you shut up woman?”

“Oh okay.” Seemed like I needed to have the last word. As he pulled me tightly to him, I held his hand in both of mine and smiled to myself.

I woke up and was alone again. It was eight o’clock, I weed and washed and went downstairs. Stella was reading the paper. “Hi,” she said without looking up.

“I popped a stitch last night.”

“What sort of stitch?” she asked looking up from the paper.

“Can you look and check I don’t need to see Mr O’Rourke again?”

“Sure.” We went upstairs and she gave me a good look. “I think it’s okay, it’s very superficial anyway. Just be careful when you play with yourself later.”

“Should I leave it off for a day?”

“Certainly not, thinking about you having to do that every day, is about the only consolation I get these days.”

“That’s not very nice,” I said pouting.

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“How did you mean it then?”

She blushed and said, “Well at least one of us is getting some action.” She was lying and we both knew it.

“Be my guest,” I said reaching for the plastic dilator and offering it to her.

“I’m trying to give them up!” she said and hurriedly left my room. I know I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did and enjoyed it.

“If you tidy up my hair, I’ll pay for us to go and have some lunch.” Stella looked up from her newspaper again.

“Go and wash it then, I’ll get my stuff.”

I went off and showered and after dressing quickly, I met her in the kitchen. She put a cape thing around me and began combing and snipping. Then she dried it and although I couldn’t see it I knew it would be good, it felt good.

“Thanks,” I said as I pulled off the cape. She got out the vacuum cleaner and sucked up all the mess from the floor. “Where do you want to go for lunch?”

“How about that pub Tom goes to most days?”

“Yeah, it’s quite good food. You okay to drive?”

“Guess I’ll have to be, you can’t yet.”

I put on some makeup, jewellery and my watch and grabbing my coat and bag followed Stella out to her new car. I’d had one or two rides in it, and thought it was really nice. So did she, Simon had hit the bull’s-eye in his choice. Mind you, I was quite pleased with my little Golf, even if it was only on hire pro tem.

“So is the hair okay?”

“It looks great, thanks again, Stella.”

“You realise I’m going to have the dearest thing on the menu?”

“I hadn’t but it doesn’t entirely surprise me. Do you like a ten ounce steak then?”

“Is that the dearest item?”

“I think so.”

“Oh bum! I was hoping it would be something exotic.”

“What like chilli con carne?”

“That’s hardly exotic!” she laughed.

“It is for the pubs round here, one place I went to thought lasagne was a foreign language.”

“I wonder if they do veggie chilli con carne.”

“How can they do that?”

“They use soya instead of meat.”

“Wouldn’t that be chilli sans carne?”

“Oh, I see what you mean, of course, con carne is with meat.”

“’Fraid so. You going veggie?”

“I do occasionally, just for a change, too much meat isn’t good for you.”

“So how come the Dutch are the tallest nation in Europe? They eat meat.”

“How do I know? Let’s go and eat. Oh, look, there’s Tom. Yoo-hoo Tom,” she called changing the subject.

Easy As … (you decide)

Part Something which is less than a whole (241)

by Wassername

Tom pretended to shrink upon seeing us. “My God,” he said. “Can’t a fellow get away from these pestilent women to eat in peace?”

“Apparently not,” said a male voice behind us, “but if you’re fed up with them, you can send them over to me anytime.”

“But Tom, you said you’d stay with me even after it’s born,” I said pouting. His face was a picture.

“That is absolutely true Tom, you did give your word.” Stella was such an accomplished liar, even I believed her.

“But your husband isn’t going to like it,” said Tom winking.

“Yes, I know he did threaten to kill you, but I’m sure he didn’t really mean it. Oh, I can’t think why he took his shotgun to work?”

“Pest control? In which case he should be shooting you two, not me.”

“But you said you loved me Tom.”

“So, I did then, today it’s different.”

“What’s so different?” I pouted again, I was getting good at this.

“Well you’re up the spout to start with, eating for two and in the pudding club. Will that do for starters?”

“Tom, there is no euphemism for pregnancy which involves starters or entrees,” said Stella authoritatively.

“Would rape be forced entree?” I asked.

“He didn’t, did he?” asked Stella.

“Ever since the Viagra, nothing is safe.”

“Cathy, it’s him who’s supposed to take it not you.”

“Oh!”

“So it was you who raped him?”

“Erm! He’s so irresistible, those manly good looks,” I said enjoying watching Tom blush and squirm.

“And the pot belly,” said Stella.

“We’ll have a matching set in six months,” I offered.

By now the pub was in uproar. One of the entertained patrons came over, “Can I buy you ladies a drink?”

“Ladies! They’re both blokes in drag,” said Tom.

“Have you got a brother for me?” called some wag.

Eventually it calmed down and we followed Tom to his usual table and ordered a meal. He had a chicken curry with chips for change. I had a tuna salad and Stella went exotic and had a jacket potato with prawns and coleslaw. It takes all sorts I suppose.

“I like prawns, it reminds me of chess.”

“Stella, I think you mean pawns not prawns.”

“No I don’t, I mean the musical. Simon took me to see it and we went out afterwards to dinner and I had a prawn cocktail and got food poisoning.”

“Aren’t you put off them then?” I asked, thinking if I got food poisoning from something, I’d never eat it again. Well tuna may be an exception to that rule and possibly chocolate, and ice cream, oh, and… perhaps I might eat it occasionally.

“Nah, I like prawns, they remind me of Simon.”

“Because of the experience you just mentioned?” I suggested.

“No because they’re all pink and dumb.”

“Hey that’s my fiancé you’re talking about,” I protested.

“See, even you got the analogy.”

“Stella, are you implying I’m stupid?”

“Would I do a thing like that?” she looked so innocent, but then psychos always do, at least in the movies.

“In a word, ‘yes’.”

“Damn!” she said and looked at Tom who was chuckling away to himself.

“You two ought to be on the stage.”

“What, sweeping it?” I asked.

“Certainly not, starring in something comedic, but preferably about five hundred miles from here.”

“Gee thanks, Tom.” I really did pout then.

“Kiki chased a squirrel in the garden this morning,” Stella informed us.

“Bloody tree rats, did she catch it?”

“No, it scrambled up a tree and hopped over the fence.”

“I want a tom cat called Elvis,” I said loudly.

“Why?” asked Tom.

“I just think it would be cool, that’s all.”

“If it was a Siamese, Simon would probably buy it for you.”

“No, just an ordinary moggie.”

“Would he have to be able to sing?” asked Tom.

“Yeah, I could just imagine him singing, Blue Suede Shoes,” I offered.

“Or, ‘Been Spayed Blues’,” suggested Stella. We convulsed at that.

We dropped Tom off at the university, giving him my medical certificate, which euphemistically referred to, ‘post-operative recovery’ rather than anything more explicit.

I chatted with Pippa for a few minutes, just about long enough for a cuppa to go down. Stella wanted to see the dormice, so I took her along to the labs, where we were met by some of my students who hugged us both and told me they wanted me back ASAP! I always thought I was irresistible, it appears they meant irreplaceable.

“So that’s the famous Spike,” said Stella stroking the dormouse’s head.

“It is, wanna hold her?”

“No thanks, she’s not jumping down my vest.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 242

“Cathy can you help me with this?” Lesley approached me with an open A4 binder.

“She’s supposed to be on sick leave,” shouted someone else.

“It’s okay,” I said. The problem was of biological distribution of a species and the pressures upon it. Stella went off to talk with Pippa. It took me about half an hour to help her sort out her difficulties.

“Where is Stella?” I asked returning to Pippa’s office.

“She’s gone.”

“Gone? Gone where?”

“I don’t know, what is this—the Spanish Inquisition?”

Tempted to go into a Monty Python sketch, I hesitated before deciding it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go on about Cardinal Biggles.

“No, it’s an English enquiry. She is my lift home.”

“Doesn’t Tom live there anymore then?”

“Stella’s car is more comfy, remember I am still a bit tender in the nether regions.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot,” she smirked.

I gave her a hard Paddington stare, but she ignored it. I obviously need to practice it—Stella has it off to a tee.

“I take it you won’t be riding your bike for a week or two then?”

“No I won’t, but did I tell you Simon bought me a rather nice new one, a Specialized Ruby.”

“I haven’t seen you since Christmas, have I?”

“I suppose not. Yeah, he gave me a bike stand as well.”

“What, a stand to park your bike in, or one that you kick down when you leave it outside the Co-op?”

“No, my mistake, a workshop stand and loads of tools. You know, one that means you can lift the bike off the ground to play with the gears and things, with a clamp on it.”

“Oh I know, so you can turn the pedals without having to lift it yourself.”

“That’s the sort of thing.”

“I suppose for a hardened bikie like yourself, it’s a nice prezzie, but I’d have killed him if he’d given it to me. Hardly, Calvin Klein is it?”

“No, it’s Park tools.”

“Oh well, that’s okay then.” She shook her head and I was well aware she had no idea who Park were.

“They make some of the best workshop equipment for bikes there is.”

“Well duh! As if I didn’t already know that.”

“Did you?”

“Course I didn’t, I was being ironic or something.”

“Something,” I muttered under my breath.

“What?”

My phone gave the beep of a text message:
‘Pic U up in 10.
Stella.’

Saved by the beep, I thought. I quickly texted back:
‘Ok.’

Sometimes I’m quite inspired in my communication skills. However, today wasn’t one of them. My doodah was beginning to hurt from perching on the stools in the lab while I explained what Lesley had to do to complete her assignment. Thank God she wasn’t stuck on the mathematics of biochem. I’m better at finding Talpa europaea than mini mols.

I wished Pippa a good afternoon and went to wait outside. It was cold standing around but I certainly wasn’t going to sit down on the hard pavement.

Stella pulled up a few moments later. “You look tired.”

“I am,” I replied, then yawned. It was as if I only needed someone’s permission to feel exhausted, which I did. I was nodding off before we got home.

“Cathy, we’re there.”

“Wwwwwwwhat?” I said, trying to rouse myself.

“I think you need a little nap, girl.”

“Affirmative,” I said trudging to the door. I went straight up the stairs and to my bed. It felt very different to when Simon was there to cuddle with me. I need to get my Elvis, I thought to myself then giggled at my recollection of the conversation earlier.

It was dark when I awoke and I could smell cooking. I wondered if I’d gone to sleep in the wrong house, but I looked around my bedroom and it was the one I usually slept in. I sniffed again and could definitely smell the aroma of cooking food. Not only that, but it smelt good too. Surely Tom wasn’t home yet, because Stella is rather limited in her culinary abilities, at least as far as I know.

I dressed and went downstairs. Stella was in the kitchen singing to herself and pottering.

“Fancy a cuppa?” I said quite loudly, and right behind her.

She jumped and shrieked, then turned around blushing and frowned at me. “I could have had a heart attack, sneaking up on me like that!”

“You have to have a heart first, and I didn’t sneak up on you. You were making so much noise you didn’t hear me. Wotcha doin’?”

“Making a casserole, from this.” She pushed a slip of paper she’d cut out of a newspaper or magazine.

“Hmm, looks good and smells brilliant.”

“Oh does it?”

“You know me Stella, I could make George Washington look like a habitual liar.”

“He won’t be president for much longer.”

“George Washington not George Dubya.”

“Yes.”

“Stella, George Washington has been dead for two hundred years.”

She looked at me as if she wasn’t computing it.

“Oh, well who was I thinking of, then?”

“George Bush?”

“Oh yes, that’s the one.” She went back to her recipe and I went off to the conservatory and let Kiki out to the garden.

Tom came home and smelling the aroma said, “Hmm that smells good Cathy.”

“Doesn’t it, but tell Stella—she cooked it.”

“Under your supervision?”

“No, I didn’t know anything about it. I went for a nap and woke up to these lovely smells of lamb casserole.”

“Amazing, so what has made Stella suddenly want to cook?”

“Some recipe she found in a magazine. At least I think that’s what it was, you’ll have to ask her. But if it tastes as good as it smells, I can’t wait to eat some.”

Tom declared his interest in her cooking project and Stella was suitably flattered. She’d seen the picture in a magazine, looked at the recipe and decided she could do it herself. She did and it tasted wonderful.

Now if only Simon can develop an interest in the laundry…

Easter Falling Off A Bike Part 243

Stella’s cooking was well received and I cleared up the dishes, popping them in the dishwasher. She was talking with Tom, or was that flirting with Tom? He was old enough to be her father, but that was between them.

Simon phoned a few minutes later so I became busy with talking to him. Apparently, some business with US banking was messing up the system for everyone and he was having to work harder to achieve the sort of profits he usually produced.

Some UK bank was in trouble as well and had to be helped by the Bank of England. I was so glad I didn’t work in that environment, although presumably the situation would affect everyone in time. Within a few days, everyone was going to understand what sub-prime mortgages were, although up till now I’d never even heard of them.

Then a French bank went down seven billion Euros, through one trader—a phenomenal amount of money. It seemed the system was going down the pan. I was worried more for Simon than anyone else. I appreciated it could mean that I lost my rather generous salary, but I’d lived before it and doubtless would after.

That Friday evening as I snuggled with Simon—I had missed him—he told me about how tight things were. I asked if we could still afford to go to Bristol to see my dad.

“Oh God yes, I mean I won’t be able to change my car twice a year or buy you one for your birthday. It’s just the big things we’ll have to watch.”

“Maybe I should resign my job at the bank, that would save them loads.”

“No you carry on, you have a film to make, maybe give Des a call and see if he’s around this weekend.”

“I can’t believe you are so casual with him.”

“Why? He’s all mouth and trousers.”

That wasn’t the impression I got but what did I know. Maybe he doesn’t fancy Simon quite so much. I would call him in the morning and just before we left for Bristol. I’d spent the afternoon making soup and bread to take with us. I was looking forward to seeing Daddy.

I slept better having Simon there, felt safer I suppose. However, we were up at six and after showering and making myself as attractive as I could, we breakfasted and left at eight, the back of the car full of cakes, soup and bread.

We went back to my old home and checked the mail. There were a few things we needed to sort out. Simon agreed to help me with some of it. Despite the fact we describe him as a buffoon, he isn’t, he knows his way around the banking and finance laws like no one else. This gives him some knowledge of general property and tax laws, so he is quite useful to me at times and in this case, to my father.

We drove to the hospital; thankfully they are very relaxed about visiting times. Simon walked in carrying the food and Daddy recognised him. He perked up then seemed to droop when he didn’t see me.

“Vere Affy?” he kept saying.

“Cathy is coming don’t worry, she is all right.”

I was actually talking to the ward sister, who told me that he’d missed me and had relapsed a little. She knew I was having an operation, but not what. I chose not to enlighten her, but told her I was recovering well.

“You look really smart today.”

“Thank you, I like to look good for my father.”

“I’m sure he appreciates it,” she said smiling.

I don’t care if he doesn’t, he’s going to get it anyway, I thought to myself. I’d prefer to keep him on board but it isn’t essential and he now has more to lose than I do.

I walked in and Daddy’s face lit up, he started calling, “Affy, Affy.”

I hugged and kissed him. “Now according to the sister, you have been awkward over food and drink, plus you haven’t always taken your medication. Now we’ve brought some food for you, but I have a deal to make. If you promise to behave in future, then once a month, depending upon how well you are and providing I’m actually physically able to make it, I’ll take you out. Today, we’re going to take you over the pub because it’s such a nice day.”

He held out his hand to me and he cried, I hoped with joy.

“Mmmisss vou,” he said.

“I’ve missed you too Daddy. Are you happy to agree with our little arrangement?”

“’Ess,” he said and nodded.

“Remember, if you play the nurses up and don’t eat and drink enough, or take your medication, the deal is off. Do you understand?”

“’Ess,” he nodded.

“Are you happy with it?”

“’Ess,” he nodded.

“Right, let’s get you wrapped up for the great outdoors.”

We put a warm coat on him and smothered him in blankets. I was delighted to see Simon helping in a very caring way, lifting him and tucking the blankets in very gently. I knew he’d make a wonderful father, except I’d never be a mother.

After we deemed he was lagged sufficiently, we took him out of the ward, Simon calling, “Hold on tight pop,” as he pushed the wheelchair.

We went to the pub near the hospital and ordered a round of drinks.

“Are vou etter?” Daddy asked me.

“Am I better?”

“’Ess,” he nodded.

“I’m recovering quite well. I can’t drive yet, let alone ride a bike.” He laughed at the last bit.

“Are vou appy?”

“Yes, Daddy, I am very happy, thank you for asking.” It meant a lot to me that he had thought that much through.

“’Ampin,” he said to Simon.

“’Ampin? Sorry pop, don’t understand.” Simon looked at me and I didn’t catch it either.

“Ubbly, ’ampin.”

“Ubbly?” I looked at him, was he calling me ugly?

He made like he was drinking something, “Ubbly, dink, ’ampin.”

Simon suddenly beamed, “Champagne?”

“’Ess!” said Daddy, clapping his hand on the arm of the chair.

“To celebrate Cathy’s completion?”

“’Ess, Affy’s ole.”

As this could mean a number of things, none of which I wanted to discuss, I didn’t ask for clarification. However, Simon had no such worries.

“Do we mean Cathy’s now whole, or just Cathy’s hole?”

I blushed while Simon and Daddy laughed their socks off. Simon went off to the bar while I went out to the loo before I thumped one of them. When I got back, there was a bottle of Moet on the table and three fluted glasses.

I sat back in my seat and said quietly, “If anyone mentions hole or other homophones, I am out of here and I won’t be back.”

“I’m not a homophobe,” said Simon, “and I’m sure your pop isn’t either are you?”

“Simon, I didn’t say homophobe, I said homophone, words that sound the same.”

“Ah gotcha!” he smirked: he had heard what I had said.

“Simon, don’t wind me up or patronise me ’cos I didn’t go to a public school.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it my darling,” he said still smirking.

“Simon, don’t push your luck, my skin is feeling quite thin today, so I don’t need the aggro.”

His expression changed immediately and he apologised.

Daddy picked up his glass and said, “Do Affy.”

“To Cathy,” Simon added.

I blushed some more and thanked them before drinking a little of mine. I think I’ve said before, I don’t especially like champagne, to me it’s like fizzy cider only rather more expensive.

“So are you paying for this then?” I asked my father as I held the glass of bubbly.

“’Ess,” he nodded.

“We have sorted that out between us,” said Simon.

I said nothing but gave him an old-fashioned look. I had some idea how much a bottle of champagne would cost over the bar of a pub. Part of me was pleased that my father was making gestures of support, but when Simon deliberately misheard me and said, ‘homophobe’ and excluded my father from the term, I almost felt like correcting him. Until I forced him to accept me as I was or lose me, he was definitely homophobic.

We ordered a meal and I got the job of helping my father to eat his. I didn’t really mind it, playing the loving daughter bit, because it was largely true, he was my dad and despite his behaviour in the past I still loved him. In some ways because he seemed to be trying to change, I possibly loved him even more than before.

He seemed to enjoy his curry, a smell I seemed unable to avoid with Tom’s predilection for them. Simon had salmon, and I had Dover sole which was delicious when I wasn’t feeding Daddy.

When we pushed him back, the fresh air and alcohol sent him off to sleep and I pushed him back while Simon walked alongside me, his arm around my waist.

“I love you Cathy Watts,” he said, “and I’m getting quite fond of Popsicle too.”

I smiled back at him and managed a peck on his cheek as we walked. He made to stop for a proper kiss but I nodded at Daddy and we carried on walking. He was still asleep while we slipped away and back to the car. Once there, Simon pulled me to him and kissed me passionately.

“I wuv you Caffy,” he said.

“I wuv yous toos,” I replied and kissed him again.

“What was that about your dad back there?”

“Just some previous, you know leopards and spots.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to let that go. That was Charlie not Cathy.”

“We shared this body, I felt the beatings he got.”

“I know, I’m sorry, in my simplistic way I want us all to live like happy families, and he does seem to be trying.”

“Gestures are cheap, if he didn’t need me, I wonder what he’d really be feeling, probably contempt or shame.”

“In which case he’d be missing out from knowing the most wonderful woman in the world.”

“What, Stella?”

“Stella! No you, you nit.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 244

On the drive back to Dad’s house, I called Des—fortunately he was there. I’d meant to do it the day before but got sort of sidelined.

“Hi Des, it’s Cathy Watts.”

“Oh, hello darlin’ to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“Simon and I have been up to see my dad and thought it would be super to say hello this evening if you’re free.”

“Dunno, I’m supposed to be out this evening.”

“High Street Bank have asked me to talk with you about making a dormouse film.”

“What?”

“You heard me. Are you still busy tonight?”

“Not anymore, where and when?”

“Where and when?” I asked Simon.

“Let’s meet at a pub or restaurant, you can buy us dinner on your expense account,” Simon replied.

“Can I do that?”

“Duh! That’s what it’s for stoooooooooooopid!”

“Can you think of a restaurant where we can talk and eat?” I asked Des.

“Who’s paying?”

“I am.”

“Why not that wealthy boyfriend of yours.”

“No, this is my project.”

“I thought you said the bank was involved.”

“Look can you find us somewhere to meet and eat?”

“Okay, I’ll call you back.”

“What’s happening?” asked Simon.

“He’s getting back to us.”

Simon and I chatted until my phone rang as we turned into the road in which I used to live.

“Hello?”

“Hi sexy, do you know the Harvester down by Parkway?”

“A Harvester?” I said catching a glance of Simon shaking his head.

“Don’t complain, you said you were paying.”

“Okay, what time?”

“Eightish?”

“Yeah okay, we’ll be there.”

“I’m not eating in a Harvester,” said Simon pouting.

“Okay, you can watch Des and me eating.”

“Bugger that for a game of soldiers.”

“Look it could have been worse, at least he’s made a reservation and their food is okay, just a bit basic.”

He huffed and hawed as he parked the car, but eventually agreed he would deign to eat with us. The sacrifices some people make for others!

We spent the rest of the afternoon sorting out Daddy’s paperwork—actually Simon did—I did some housework and washing, trying to get it dry enough to take it back to the hospital tomorrow. Then we watched some telly and drank tea until it was time to freshen up before going off to meet Des.

“You looked really nice today,” said Simon kissing me and smudging my lippy.

“Thank you, I try to look tidy for my dad.”

“You don’t have to reinforce the image, I think he’s got the message by now.”

“I’m confused,” I blushed, “You tell me I looked nice then tell me off about it.”

“Oh Babes, I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just jealous that you dress up for him but not me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. What do you think this is for then?” I indicated myself with my hands.

“For Dirty Des.”

“Don’t be silly, it’s you that I love.”

“I know presh, but I’m still jealous.”

“What would happen if I dolled myself up in my sexiest lingerie before bed?”

“I’d get very frustrated.”

“And why is that?” I asked with mock innocence.

“You know damn well why, which is why you’re asking me. I am going to marry a virgin and that is you.”

“Well in six weeks, the new arrangement is available for test drives, so perhaps you’d better marry me soon.”

“You’re the one who keeps saying she wants a career before marriage.”

“True, but a girl can change her mind can’t she?”

“So they say. Does this mean you want to get married sooner than later?” His face began to light up.

“Look, dilating is a total pain, so sex has got to be better, hasn’t it?” As I said it, I realised what I had just told him. I was about to explain when I decided, when in a hole stop digging.

“So is that all I am, a replacement for a dildo?”

“Erm, not exactly, that didn’t come out quite the way I meant it.” I was now blushing at several thousand degrees warmer than the surface of the sun. Or it felt that way.

“I think we’d better get going or Dirty Des will think we chickened on him.”

I sat and said nothing, reminding myself that it was better to stay silent and be thought a fool, than to open my gob and prove it.

Des’ Land Rover was in the car park and we parked well away from it. I suspect Simon would prefer we sat that far away from Des when we ate. My blush had subsided as we walked through the cool night air into the restaurant.

Des was sipping a pint when he saw us enter. He greeted us, shaking Simon’s hand and hugging and kissing me, much to Simon’s discomfort. The blush returned especially when Des asked, “So how is the world’s most beautiful biologist?”

“I hope you get your facts more accurate when we make this film,” I chided him.

“But it is accurate, isn’t it Simon?”

“I happen to think so, but have to declare a vested interest.”

“Me too, but then she is going to star in one of my films. See you’re going to make her into Mrs Cameron, I’m gonna make her a film star.”

“I’m going to make her Lady Cameron as you well know. I’m also going to make her happy. How is anyone going to be a film star from a documentary about bloody rodents?”

“Ah well, that would be telling, but I hope you have a nice bikini Cathy.”

I felt my blush get a lot hotter.

Galling As Falling—Appalling! Part 245

I assumed mention of bikinis was just a wind up because there was no way I was wearing one to play with dormice, especially on film. Simon and Des were still sparring.

“You want a drink presh?” asked Simon.

I wasn’t really listening, thinking about bikinis and Des. “Erm, what?”

“Do you want a drink?”

I’m not driving, so I opted for a glass of red wine, thought some of the antioxidants might help protect me from the chemicals in the food. Or was that antifreeze?

While Simon went up to the bar, Des leaned over to me, “You look absolutely gorgeous tonight. Leave Beetle juice and elope with me.”

“I think the correct pronunciation is Betelgeuse and it’s a first magnitude, red super giant in the constellation of Orion. Besides he bought me a Specialized Ruby for Christmas.”

“I have a friend who could be selling a Pinarello which would probably fit you.”

“Tempting, but not enough,” I flirted, “besides Simon’s Saab is more comfortable than that scruffy old Land Rover of yours.”

“Yeah, but can you lie down in the back of his Saab?”

“I have a bed for lying on.”

“Yeah, but just think, lying out in the open air, looking up at the stars…”

“Getting eating alive by blood sucking insects,” I continued, “remember I do fieldwork, I’ve met just about every midge, mosquito and gnat there is in this country.”

“Oh, how I envy them their intimacy,” he said with this pained look on his face.

“What, before or after I squash them?”

“Oh how kinky!” he chuckled.

I thought of the erectile projectile as I said the word squash. I wondered for a moment what would happen to a willie if those muscles spasmed. I saw Des being thrown out of the back of his Land Rover. It caused me to smirk, he thought at his joke, typical man.

“So how come you know so much about astronomy?”

“Who said I did?”

“Did what?” asked Simon returning with drinks.

“We were talking about astronomy and Cathy was giving me a lecture on the constellation of Orion and its Alpha star, Betelgeuse.”

“Belt up,” said Simon and began laughing.

Des and I looked at each other and shrugged.

“Belt—Orion’s belt, belt up, geddit?”

“Ha ha,” said Des.

I began to laugh, but more at Simon’s explanation than the joke or even Des’ response. It really was so weak.

“Well Cathy thought it was funny, didn’t you Babes?”

“Absolutely,” I said laughing some more, this was getting sillier by the moment.

“You don’t call her ‘Babes’, do you? How patronising!”

“What’s it to you what I call her?” Simon began to sound aggressive and he was probably big enough to do Des some serious damage.

“Come on you two, you’re old school chums, come on don’t fight over little me. I’m already spoken for, which you both know anyway.”

“He was like this in school too, big bully,” said Des, as if he was calling names in front of the teacher.

“Big bully? I saved your scrawny neck a few times at school, remember the time that Lampard was going to seriously hurt you?”

“Oh bugger yes, I’d only borrowed his bike, talk about overreaction.”

“His bike was rather valuable if I remember correctly and you forgot to return it after borrowing it.”

“Wasn’t my fault, some bastard stole it while it was outside the Coach and Horses.”

“What were you doing inside the Coach and Horses?” I asked although I thought illegal drinking was probably the answer.

“You don’t want to know dear…”

“He was screwing the landlord’s missus, while he was down in the bar playing skittles,” Simon said triumphantly.

“You bastard!” Des accused

“Is this true?” I asked.

“My parents were married before I was born, how dare you question them? So it isn’t true,” said Simon obfuscating.

“Will the two of you behave?” I said firmly.

“He started it.”

“Did not.”

“You did so.”

“Shut up, shut up both of you. Now stop this silly bickering.” I felt myself getting very hot and bothered.

“But…”

“No buts, we came here to talk about a legitimate project, that of a film about the work we’re doing at the university on captive breeding of dormice. Let’s keep it to that and ordering our food, shall we?”

“Yes Mummy,” said Des smirking.

“You just don’t listen do you? If necessary, I’ll find another filmmaker.” As I said this, his face changed from amused to angry.

“Yes maybe you better had.” He got up and walked away.

“Oh!” I felt myself blushing. “Can’t you stop him Simon?”

“What for? Bloody moron, good riddance.”

“But the bank wanted him to do it.”

“It isn’t my project; you want to stop him you go after him.”

“Okay, I will, you realise he asked me to elope,” I dropped as I walked past him.

“Wait Cathy, I’ll go…”

Simon came rushing past me. I stopped and turned back to our table where a very confused waitress was waiting to take our orders.

“A misunderstanding,” I said to her, “hopefully they’ll both be back in a minute or two.”

“Men!” said the waitress.

“Well you know, they’re probably hormonal at the moment.”

She started to laugh and so did I.

A few minutes later Simon came back to the table alone.

“Where’s Des?” I asked anxiously.

“It’s all right, he’s gone to the toilet, he’ll be back in a minute. Now to food, hardly inspiring as a menu is it?”

“I know what I’m going to have,” I said.

“They don’t have a tuna salad here,” Simon scanned the menu.

“I’m not having tuna today.”

He touched the back of his hand to my forehead, “You don’t have a temperature, do you feel all right?”

“I shall be fine as soon as we can sort out some details with Dirty Des.”

“I heard that,” he said, “I’ll have you know I spent an hour in the bath this afternoon.”

“Takes you that long to play with yourself?” Simon teased.

“I wasn’t on my own.”

“Nah, you had your rubber duck,” said Simon.

“You saw me!” accused Des and we all fell about laughing.

“To order,” I said as the waitress returned.

Simon opted for the steak and Des for the gammon. I looked at her and said, “Could I have just egg and chips?”

“Course you can, how many eggs?”

“Can I be greedy and have three?”

“Course,” she went off with the order.

While we waited for the food, we actually began to talk sensibly. Des promised to look at how he would produce a film and what sort of shooting schedule he’d need, some in the labs some in the field and some in the bank.

In return, I would give him some idea of the process of breeding and releasing the dormice. He wanted to film some being born if he could so we could appear to do a complete life cycle of the animals.

The food arrived and we ate talking more like adults, even Simon said useful things although it wasn’t his field at all. He was obviously interested in costings and how many would be involved, who was going to write the script and so on.

The night ended much as it had started with Simon and Des shaking hands and Des kissing me and hugging me an instant too long to be comfortable, but his beard did tickle, which stuck in my mind longer than the details of the film, good job I’d written them down.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 246

by Bonzi typed by Angharad

“I’m not at all happy about this film,” Simon opined as we drove back to my father’s house.

“Neither am I.”

“For different reasons, I suspect.”

“Okay so you don’t trust me with Des, and I don’t want to make it full stop.”

“I trust you, it’s Des I don’t. He’s been a Casanova since he was about fourteen.”

“Fourteen, at that age I didn’t know which way was up!” Actually I was feeling very frustrated because all the girls I knew were starting to sprout breasts and I wasn’t.

“I think you might have been a late developer Cathy, which given your problem, is understandable.”

“So don’t you think I’ll be able to deal with Des?”

“You are an ingénue compared to that rake, he’ll play you like a violin and you won’t be able to stop him. I’ve seen him in action, it’s frightening, he almost seems to hypnotise the girls into going along with him. A short time later he dumps them.”

“So what’s his interest in me, has he never shagged a tranny before?”

“Oh I suspect he has, he’ll tell you if you ask.”

“What?”

“Yeah, it’s like a collector, you’re his next item. He’s proud of his collection and will talk about it. If he knew you were a virgin, he’d be knocking on the bedroom door.”

“You make him sound like a vampire,” I said feeling a chill creep up my body.

“Yeah, that about sums him up. A vampire, maybe I need to get some silver bullets.”

“I don’t think shooting him would do any good, unless it was below his belt.”

“What a lovely idea, Cathy. Hmmm, I wonder.”

“Simon come back to real time, he is your friend.”

“If he makes a play for you, he’ll move to enemy very quickly.”

“He already has and I turned him down, remember I told you about it.”

“Did you? No, I don’t remember. I wonder if Tom knows a good gunsmith.”

“Simon I love you, but if you hurt Des, I shall never forgive you.”

“I knew it—you have feelings for him don’t you? Why am I asking you this, you’re a woman so you’re bound to fancy him.”

“It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that I love you and I know if you hurt Des, you’d have to pay the consequences.”

“Could be worth it.”

“If you lost me as one of them?—and it has nothing to do with any feelings for Des, but about mine for you. I love you because you are kind and generous to everyone. You spoil me and make me laugh. I care for you and would hate to see you hurt for harming Des. But it would also show that the compassion I love, is flawed. I don’t know if I could cope with that.”

“What do you mean my compassion is flawed, of course it is, I’m a bloke, an ex-rugby player. Compassion my arse! I’m an ordinary bloke, well once you remove the silver spoon, I am. I’m not some saint.”

“Simon, I’m not going to argue with you, perhaps I have it wrong, in which case I apologise. To me you’ve always seemed kind and gentle.”

“You didn’t see me play rugby.”

“No I didn’t, but that’s a game for juveniles who need to express aggression. Adult men sublimate it, use it for positive things.”

“What? Adult men enjoy beating the crap out of each other, it’s old men who don’t.”

“I think we’d better stop here Simon. You are describing sub-adult behaviour, sorting out the alpha male in social groups, assuming it’s a patriarchal group.”

“What? Thank you Dr Desmond Morris.”

“Can I take that as a compliment?”

“Take what?”

“I think Desmond Morris is brilliant, a polymath.”

“Oh, do you? I was just thinking Naked Ape.”

“Were you? Oh!” I thought for a minute we were on the same wavelength.

“Never mind. Here we are, Chez Watts.”

“Chateau Watts, if you don’t mind. Remember an Englishman’s home is his castle.”

“What about an Englishwoman?”

“Even a part Scots one?”

“Aye, even that, I knew ye weren’t all bad lassie.”

“Come on, let’s go in, I’ll put the kettle on.” I left the car and ran to the house.

Later we cuddled up in my old bed and chatted. “Can we call a truce?” I asked Simon.

“That implies we were engaged in some form of hostilities.”

“We are engaged,” I said jokingly.

“But the hostilities don’t occur until after marriage.”

“You would appear to have a very strange model of marriage, Simon.”

“I come from a very long line of strange models. Compared to them you are very normal, even with your different evolution.”

“I’ll take your word for that, Simon, I don’t think I want to hear about your bizarre ancestors tonight.”

“When you finally agree to visit the country seat, I’ll introduce you to them all personally.”

“I assumed your ancestors were deceased, and I am not walking round a mausoleum shaking hands with some skeletal remains. I’m a biologist not Indiana Jones.”

“You silly goose, we have dozens of portraits on the walls. There is a mausoleum too, we could…”

“No way!” I shouted and slapped him on the shoulder.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 247

by Bonzi translated by Angharad

I was in a bed, it wasn’t my own. It was night, well it was dark, so I assumed it was night. My fanny was so sore. I wondered if I’d been too enthusiastic with my dilation. I switched on the light on the bedside cabinet—there was blood on the sheets, my blood.

I heard the shower running, then it stopped and a few minutes later Des emerged wearing a robe, the sort you get in hotels.

“So how was it for you?” he asked.

“I’m bleeding, and it hurts.”

“Bit off more than you could chew, eh girl?”

“What do you mean?”

“You were a bit tight to start with but you loosened up eventually.”

“You have had sex with me?”

“Of course, what did you think we’d been doing, riding bikes?”

“I don’t know. I feel as if I’ve just woken from a deep sleep.”

“Nah, just the effects of the alcohol wearing off.”

“Did you put something in it?”

“What me?” he said trying to act innocently.

“Yes, you, you pig, you’ve taken my virginity, do you realise that?”

“Yeah so?” he shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal.

“I was saving myself for Simon.”

“Well I’ve done you a favour then. Now you know what the real thing feels like, not some plastic rod.”

“I thought he was a friend of yours, I thought I was.”

“Things change.”

“You are sick. For personal gratification you have destroyed my life and your friendship with Simon.”

“Looks like.”

“Just for a few more notches on your belt.”

“I don’t put notches in my belt anymore.”

“But you do keep records?”

“So!”

“So, how do I get recorded, as your first transsexual eh?”

“Don’t flatter yourself, I had my first one in Thailand visiting my dad maybe twelve, fifteen years ago.”

“So why, why me?”

“Why not? You’ve got one, I just tested it, it works fine.”

“So what number was I then, hundreds or thousands?”

“Four thousand, six hundred and seventy three.”

“You are sick, you must be.”

“No I’m actually very well.”

“I want to go home.”

“There’s the door,” he pointed towards the end of the room.

“I need to shower. Did you use a condom?”

“No, it inhibits my pleasure. You can hardly get pregnant now can you?”

“No but I could catch some horrible disease.”

“Not from me darlin’.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, you are a disease.”

“If you don’t like the heat get out of the kitchen,” he said, and pointed to the door again.

“When I tell Simon about this, he is going to be very angry.”

“With you maybe.”

“Why, you raped me.”

“Prove it darlin’, you prove it.”

“I hate you, you pig.” My shock, now anger was quickly turning to despair. I felt myself dissolve into tears, screaming, “I hate you.”

Strong arms held me, “No, leave me, you’re not going to hurt me again,” I screamed fighting against him.

“Cathy, Cathy wake up. It’s me Simon, wake up girl.”

His voice sounded so far away, was he coming to rescue me, I felt so weak and defenceless.

“Cathy, wake up.” The voice was louder.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” I screamed, then opened my eyes, “Simon, you came, you saved me.”

“Cathy, you were asleep, you’ve had a bad dream.”

“What? No it was Des, he raped me, he got me with a doctored drink, there was blood on the sheets, I saw it.”

“Cathy, it is two in the morning, on a Sunday morning. You are sleeping in your old bed and have just woken me up.”

My heart was pounding and I was bathed in sweat, it had been so real and went on for so long. I remember reading somewhere that the brain can’t distinguish between a real and an imagined event. A lucid or powerful dream would feel the same as the real thing. Was this some sort of psychic warning or just my fertile imagination? Was Des as black as painted by Simon? In my dream he was.

I apologised to Simon and kissed him. He rolled back on the bed and went to sleep again. I got up and went to the bathroom. I ran a bath and washed myself clean of the taintedness of my dream. I dried myself and pinched some of my mother’s deodorant and talc—it wasn’t as if she needed it anymore. Then I pulled on another nightdress and went downstairs to make myself a cuppa.

I got back to bed at four and even then I had difficulty sleeping. The dream had had one useful point, any attraction I felt for Des had evaporated. I was now seriously frightened of him. I decided that I would speak to Henry and ask for them to appoint an assistant to be with me at all times that Des was about. The blood looked that real and the pain was still with me.

I lay awake for some time wondering if I should employ a male or female assistant. Another woman would be at risk as well, but then with a male assistant, would I be under even more risk? I need to talk with someone. Stella and Tom, they’d have some ideas, I’d speak with them as soon as we got home. I’d mention it to Simon as well, I was sure he’d support it.

I awoke at ten. Simon arrived with a cup of tea and some toast. This was about as close to breakfast in bed as I was likely to get from him.

“Ah, Princess Sleeping Beauty, your breakfast awaits you, ma’am.”

“You are too kind Cameron, please take the rest of the day off.”

“Thank you ma’am, I will.” He shoved the tray on my lap. “That means you’ll have to wash up yersel’,” he said.

“What does?”

“You just gave me the day off.”

“Oh did I? Obviously, you misheard me Cameron.”

“I did ma’am?”

“Yes, what I said was, you can have a rest on your day off.”

“No ma’am, I distinctly heard you.”

“Don’t correct your betters Cameron.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but my ears are working fine.”

“I’m sure they are Cameron, it’s the bit between them that worries me.”

“How very droll ma’am.”

“This toast is very good.”

“I’m glad Your Royal Highness is pleased.”

“Can we return to normal Simon? I have loads to do before we go to the hospital.”

“Letters of State to deal with?”

“No you dozy peer, the washing and making something for Daddy for his lunch.”

“Ah, can’t help you there Missus.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, “in which case we’ll be late returning home then won’t we and the rugby is on this afternoon.”

“Ah! Good point, maybe I could just help a little then.”

That’s the problem with staff, getting the balance between carrots and sticks, just so.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 248

by Bonzi Cat & his Mum

We got the chores finished and shot into the hospital to see my dad. He understood Simon’s need to leave quickly for the rugby. Me, it wasn’t my game, but Wales had beaten England at Twickenham and from what the pundits were saying, Scotland were going to be lucky to avoid the wooden spoon. Simon was supporting Scotland, given he was supposed to be Scots. Me, I was looking forward to the bike track worlds in March at Manchester velodrome, so as far as I was concerned Wales could win the Six Nations or the World Cup, we were defending seven golds in the cycling better than anyone had ever done before, yet it barely gets a mention in the papers or on the telly.

I sulked all the way home. Simon thought it was because he’d cut short the visit to see my dad, it wasn’t but I didn’t tell him, the guilt would do him good.

“I’m sure your dad understood how important the rugger is to me.”

“I doubt it, we were barely there long enough to tell him. Do you have to drive so fast?” I managed to keep a straight face; there was enough anger about the share of airtime cycling got to keep me from laughing.

“I’ll make it up to you Cathy, and your dad.”

“You did sort out his financial stuff, so I suppose I should be grateful.”

“Yes I did, didn’t I? I knew you’d see reason.”

“Simon, that speed camera just flashed at us.”

“I didn’t see that.”

“Trust me, you’ll get a nice surprise within two weeks.”

“What d’you mean?”

“A summons for speeding.”

“Wonderful, just what I need.”

“I did tell you to slow down, but oh no you had to keep going.”

“Shut it Cathy.”

“What! You can’t speak to me like that.”

“I just did.”

“That’s it, let me out, I’ll walk home.”

“Cathy, this is a motorway, no pedestrians, no stopping and you can’t walk sixty miles in those shoes.”

This was true, but why should I humour him? I sat and refused to talk to him at all, which seemed okay with him—grrrrr!

We arrived at Tom’s and I couldn’t believe it, we had a power cut. It lasted two hours—after half an hour Simon drove off into town to find a pub with a TV showing the rugby. As soon as he’d gone I giggled and when I explained to Stella, she laughed too. Tom of course was out anyway probably watching it down at the students’ union.

I cooked for just Stella and myself. I did Beef Stroganoff—there was enough for absent friends, but just us girls ate it hot. Simon had not returned by bedtime and I was a little worried about him.

I had actually gone to bed when my mobile peeped to indicate a text message:
‘C, 2 p’d to drive home.
C U 2moro.
S. xxx’

I was relieved but angry. For all I knew he was staying with a prostitute or some other malefactor. To some extent, I’d brought it upon myself with my sulking. I hadn’t heard the score but I assumed the worst otherwise he’d have crowed about, ‘Bring on Wales’ or some such thing, although common sense told me if Wales had stuffed England, world cup runners up, at Twickenham, then Scotland might be equally at a loss to beat them.

Like I said, it wasn’t my sport, so I didn’t care. Actually I did, but Simon had acted so heavy-handedly, I pretended I didn’t. He had lots to learn about handling me, and staying out because he got the worse for wear was not a good follow-up to his first mistake. These things didn’t add up, they multiplied by geometric progression (you know the way they charge for overdrafts!).

I did eventually go to sleep although thoughts of my dream the night before did assail me for a while. Without Simon there, my bed felt a very lonely place. Then I got angry with myself.

“What am I, a man or a mouse?” I said out loud, then after a moment’s reflection decided I was neither of them. I must stop thinking in clichés.

I awoke—there was a noise. I breathed evenly and shallowly. There it was again—a rustling noise. It came towards the bed and I screamed, loudly.

Nothing happened except Tom came lurching into the room asking what was wrong. I explained about the noise. He switched on the light just as Stella arrived.

“What’s going on, I heard screams?”

“Nothing, Cathy had a bad dream, thought she heard something.”

At that moment, I was getting out of bed to go to the loo when my foot moving against my slipper disturbed a mouse. I jumped and screamed again and Stella fainted. Fortunately, Tom caught her.

“What a pair,” he said after he’d sorted her out and caught the mouse. “What will Simon say when I tell him, my rodent specialist is frightened of mice.”

The problem was it was true. Dormice I could handle and did, frequently. In the wild I could cope with mice because they didn’t usually surprise me. That one had and I couldn’t deny it, I’d wet myself in the panic. I wasn’t as bad as Stella, but then she didn’t breed dormice for a living. Tom had me by the proverbials.

“How much is it going to cost me?” I addressed my blackmailer, “your silence I mean.”

“Oh I haven’t thought about that yet, but it’s not going to come cheap.”

“I didn’t think for one moment it would. What about Stella?”

“Stella is excused.”

“Why, because she’s a biological female?”

“I thought you knew me better than that Cathy.” The look he gave me was one of hurt.

“I’m sorry Tom, it was uncalled for.”

“Bloody right, don’t you ever accuse me of thinking of you as anything but an attractive female.”

“I’m sorry.” I hung my head and blushed.

“It has nothing to do with you being anything other than my rodent expert, who is apparently afraid of mice. How do you manage if you live trap things?”

“With difficulty,” I answered, my breathing getting more rapid as I recalled an incident where I’d trapped a rat in one of my live boxes. There had also been a dormouse in there, but the rat had killed and eaten most of it.

I’d let it go before I knew all that, realising it was too heavy for a dormouse. Had I known what had happened, I’d have drowned the rat or killed it some other way. Thankfully it didn’t happen again, but if it had I’m not sure what I’d have done. Had there been a rat in my room, I suspect I’d have fainted too. I also know Tom would have killed it rather than releasing the mouse in the garden. He marked it with a felt pen first, if it came in again, he’d kill it.

Instead of going back to bed, I ended up sitting in the kitchen drinking tea while Tom regaled me with stories about his undergrad days. He was a bit of a lad by his account at least, doing awful things to women students with frogs and other doomed lab animals.

His funniest one, unless you happen to be the frog in question, was demonstrating the knee jerk reflex as an electrical stimulus of the nerve. I recalled reading about it rather than doing it. The current to get the leg to twitch is minute and comes from a battery. He connected his up to the mains.

I expected him to say, ‘it jumped off the bench,’ but no, it caught fire and fused the entire lab. So much for experimental work—now you can see why I prefer fieldwork, except for the rat incident. No boiling tadpoles in test tubes or frying fruit flies for me! I’d rather watch and count things or understand what I’m observing. Okay there’s lots of time involved and sometimes the statistics can get fiddly, which is why we have statisticians to check the maths, mine can be ropey at best, chi squares and so on. Yuck!

It turned out I had to cook him Sunday dinner next week. As I should probably have done it anyway, it was hardly a forfeit. I agreed to his terms and he promised only to mention that he’d helped me catch a mouse.

Simon arrived at teatime on the Monday—he looked awful. I had no sympathy, neither had his father, he docked him a day’s leave for calling in sick.

When Tom told him about the mouse incident, his response was, “I hope Stella wasn’t there, she fainted the last time we had one in the house.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 249

by Bonzi Cat (an’ ’er)

I managed to get Simon into the kitchen alone. “Just where were you last night?”

“Erm, yeah, sorry about that, I did text you.”

“When I was in bed. It frightened the death out of Des.”

“Did it?” he laughed, then obviously re-ran what I said, “It what?” He laughed nervously, “you are joking aren’t you?”

“Am I? You should have been with me, not getting drunk because Scotland lost at rugby, you should be used it by now.”

“Ooh that is so cruel.”

“Wait, it gets worse, I’m going to bet on Wales beating them next week.”

“Nah, we’ll get our act together.”

“It’s in Cardiff.”

“So?”

“Well seventy thousand Welshmen does tend to give them a bit of a lift.”

“Nah, it’s about them trying to play a running game in front of their home crowd, and we just spoil it a little, they get frustrated and start making mistakes. We kick the penalties and win.”

“Just like that?”

“More or less.”

“You are going to take on a team which has just beaten England at Twickenham, in their home stadium, and beat them?”

“Yes why not?”

“How much?”

“How much what?”

“How much would you bet that I’m wrong?” I was gambling twice here, he could wipe me out in seconds, but I was gambling on him being more interested in the moral victory.”

“How much can you afford to lose?”

“Why does it have to be money?”

“Because that’s what bets usually are?”

“Okay, let’s do something different. If you and Scotland lose at Cardiff on Saturday, then you will do the laundry for the next month.”

“Laundry? What sort of bet is that?”

“Too steep for you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said loudly, then clasped his hands to his head. I laughed gently, serves him right.

“Okay, you’re on,” he said when he felt the room stop spinning.

“What is my penalty, not that I am going to have to pay one?” I sounded quite nonchalant, but it was very superficial.

“You have to wear sexy clothes for the next month.”

“What do you mean, sexy?”

“You know, turn me on stuff.”

“You mean dress like a whore?”

“Erm,” he blushed, “Ye… erm, no, just sexy. You know what I mean.”

I knew jolly well what he meant, I was just enjoying his discomfort which was made all the worse by his hangover.

“So are we talking top clothes, or underwear?”

“Erm, bbboth?”

“Isn’t that two forfeits?” I was winding him up no end and he deserved it.

“NO! Ooh my head,” he sat down at the table, looking very fragile.

“It’s your own stupid fault,” I berated him.

“I know, I said I’m sorry.”

“Words are cheap Des… I mean Simon.” My slip was deliberate and it had an immediate effect.

“What do you mean? Oh my bloody head.”

“Nothing,” I pretended to act innocent.

“If I thought there was anything between you two, I’d…”

“You’d what Simon Cameron? I have news for you Lord bloody Cameron, I was in my bed alone last night, where the hell were you?”

“I was unconscious on Tim’s floor, which I decorated with pavement pizza.”

“I hope you cleaned it up.”

“No, but I offered to cop for the bill. It was on a polished block wood floor and a Chinese rug.”

“Sounds expensive?”

“Oh don’t say that Cathy.”

“The corrosives in your stomach plus the tannins in the wine or beer, a nice mess.”

“Oh hell!” he actually wailed.

“Don’t you ever do this to me again, because you won’t get into my bed again for a month, if you do. DO YOU HEAR ME?” I bawled him out without any concern for his fragile state.

He scurried from the kitchen whimpering. I’m not sure where he went, but he kept out from under my feet for a couple of hours.

This time we’d watch the rugby together next weekend and I’d be rooting for Wales and enjoying teaching Simon how to use the washing machine and the other finer points of sorting the washing and doing delicates on a different cycle, or by hand. That would get him! Come on Wales, I sent them positive thoughts for Saturday.

I began to organise the evening meal, assuming that Simon probably wouldn’t want to eat very much. So I scaled down the quantity a little. I was tempted to cook up a greasy pan of bacon or fish to punish him some more, but I didn’t want to eat that either. Did I really want to punish him? Not really, I loved the silly fool, but I wanted him to act more responsibly. I would keep up the bet, but I made a relatively bland meal of corned beef hash, which I knew he liked.

Stella came breezing in as I was doing the spuds. I told her about our bet—she laughed. I wasn’t sure she knew much more about the laundry, but stopped myself from thinking it. Who did it before they met me and absorbed me into their lives? It must have been her, because I know it wasn’t Simon, or perhaps she took it to the laundrette or something.

I carried on making the meal and thinking how I’d find out, even if I did seem to be getting rather petty about life.

Easy As …

Part Quarter of a Thousand

or lots of dozens! (250)

by Angh…

The next morning, despite his fragile condition, Simon made it to work—his father was taking no prisoners! I had planned to do some stuff on the mammal survey, tidy up the criteria for recording after some feedback from other universities.

I’d showered and dried my hair and was deciding what to wear when Stella knocked and entered my room. I was only wearing my bra and pants and blushed as she entered.

“You decent?” she asked, blithely waltzing into my room.

“Not exactly,” I blushed.

“Oops! That’s a nice set,” she said indicating my maroon lingerie.

“Yes and they’re all my own work.” I cupped my breasts as I spoke.

Stella did a double take then burst out laughing, “You silly mare!”

“Nay lass, nayyyyyyyyyyy!”

“Oh shut up you silly bitch!”

“You obviously think I’m barking.”

“What are you on about?”

“You keep calling me different animals’ names.”

“You lying toad!” she replied.

“See what I mean.”

“No you pig!”

“Geez Stella! Listen to yourself.”

“What are you on about, fish face?”

“What do you want?”

“I beg your pudding.”

“Why have you come bursting into my boudoir?”

“What?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

She looked at me completely bemused by my comment. “What?”

“That’s me, Cathy Watts.”

“I know that you silly sod.”

“Well it’s you who keep referring to me.”

“No I don’t.”

“Okay you don’t, see if I care.”

“That’s not very friendly,” she huffed.

I pulled on the lacy maroon top and then my jeans.

“You’re not wearing that with jeans?”

“No this is a divided denim skirt,” I said sarcastically.

“Cathy, that top deserves to be worn with a skirt not bloody jeans.”

“These happen to be designer jeans.”

“They do? Could have fooled me.”

“Well somebody designed them.”

“Ha ha, very funny, now take them off and wear something decent with that top.” Before I could stop her she walked up to my wardrobe and began sorting through it. “Here,” she said, handing me mid-calf, maroon, corduroy culottes.

I felt like a six-year-old and blushed with anger rather than embarrassment.

“Now put your black boots on, and let’s go.”

“Go where?”

“Didn’t I tell you?”

“Stella, you batty old git, if you had told me I wouldn’t be asking now would I?”

“I don’t know, you could have forgotten.”

I sat on the bed pulled on some socks and then my black leather boots.

“I haven’t forgotten, where have we got to go?”

“To the university and then to my cottage to see how the renovations are going.”

“Why have we got to go to the uni?”

“Pippa sent you a text about Spike.”

“What? Where’s my phone?” I rushed past her and down the stairs. I picked up my phone and checked the inbox of my texts.

‘Come quick, Spike is ill. P.’

“Why have we been messing about come on, let’s go.”

I grabbed my coat and bag and car keys. I jumped in the Golf and started the engine, Stella came trotting out and got in beside me. Before she could shut the door, I had stuck it in gear and was screaming down towards the university.

In ten minutes we were parking up. Stella looked a bit ashen, I didn’t know why, she drives like that all the time. I grabbed my bag and began running towards the zoology department. I felt frantic with anxiety about my pet dormouse.

As I reached the doorway, a large man stepped out in front of me and with one hand in his pocket, the other on my shoulder said, “How nice you could come, Miss Watts.”

“You sent the message?” I gasped.

“But of course.”

“So Spike is okay?”

“I neither know nor care.”

“Thank God!” I gasped, “I do care.” I looked at the hand he held in the pocket of his jacket. “Either you have a gun in there or your anatomy is stranger than most other apes.”

“Very droll, Miss Watts. If you don’t believe me, please try running away, it would give me great pleasure to prove that it is a weapon.”

“What do you want?”

“Me, to have sex with you, then kill you, but my superiors, they want to talk with you.”

“I think I prefer them to you.”

“They are equally ruthless.”

“Why can’t we just go in and have cuppa and discuss this like civilised beings? I’ll make Russian tea.”

“I prefer good French wine.”

“Okay, I’ll get my secretary to nip down to Tesco and get some, how about a nice Merlot?”

“You have plenty of nerve for a girl, but then you aren’t one, are you?”

“So that makes you a poof, then.”

“How dare you!”

“You must be, you wanted sex with me. If I’m not female, that makes you as queer as a quail!” I was beginning to realise my days were numbered, possibly this was the last one. I was going to die a virgin, but more annoyingly, I hadn’t yet changed my birth certificate, so I would die officially as male. That really irked me.

He was pushing me back towards the doorway through which I’d just stepped. I shrugged off his hand.

“Get your filthy hands off me, you bastard,” I spat at him.

I saw the hand in the pocket tense and waited for the shot. It didn’t come. He pushed me back outside. Without thinking I swung my heavy handbag into his face, he fired the gun as he staggered backwards. Somehow the shot missed me, smashing glass somewhere behind me. Instead of running I jumped and kicked, the first caught his groin, the second, my right foot his chin. He went down like a sack of coal, I also fell.

I jumped up as he tried to rise and without any compunction, I kicked as hard as I could at his head. He fell backwards and lay still. I heard a car driving off, the smashing of glass as per an auto accident, and more squealing of tyres.

People came rushing from the university.

“Stella,” I shouted, running out to car park.

The passenger door of my car was open… and Stella was gone!

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