Bike 301–350

Easy As

Falling Off A Bike

Parts 301–350

by Angharad

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Easy As Hauling A Pike Part 301

by Her ’n her pussy

I sat in the car and looked at Simon. “I’ll have to rent my house to them, won’t I?”

“You don’t have to, but it would be kind of you to do so. Plus it would generate a bit of income and keep squatters out.”

“It’s just the thought of someone else living in my parent’s house, feels a bit strange.”

“I can see that, but at least you know them and it isn’t open ended, they’ll want to get back to their own place, but there’s months of work there, assuming the insurance company gets their act together.”

“I hope they are insured.”

“They don’t seem the sort who wouldn’t be, but you can never tell. Most often people have problems because they are under insured.”

“What happens then?” I asked.

“Simply, if say you insured something for ten thousand and it was going to cost twenty thousand to fix, the insurance company would say you were fifty percent under insured and would therefore only pay out fifty percent of what you had insured it for, so five thousand.”

“So I’d be fifteen thou adrift?”

“’Fraid so.”

“They get you every which way, them and the banks,” oh God, I wished I hadn’t said that.

“Yep, screw every last penny out of you, we have people to pay on inflated salaries and our shareholders.”

“Sorry about that, I didn’t mean it to come out like that.”

“Don’t worry about it girl, I have to deal with it a hundred times a week. Everybody, but everybody is screwing everyone else, except me, I’m the only honest and decent person on the planet. Hypocrisy, is the new black.”

“Sometimes, Simon Cameron, you astonish and delight me with your depth of thought.” Damn, that was another backhanded compliment!

“You mean, I don’t normally come up to it?”

“No, you’re always saying thoughtful things, but sometimes you say something which shows that you don’t just think about practical things, but philosophical things too. I’m an idealist, so I dream all the time, I see you as far more of a realist, so it’s nice to hear you talking about more spiritual subjects.”

“I can be spiritual too, you know. I got an A for Religious Knowledge at GCSE.”

“Yeah, so did I, fat lot of good it did me. It was about that time I started to argue with my parents and their narrow-minded parson. My religious studies teacher was so good, I wonder what she’d think of me now?”

“Want to try and find her?”

“No, I don’t think so. Sometimes it’s better to remember things as you thought they were, rather than explore and find they weren’t.”

“Now who’s being philosophical and a realist?”

I poked my tongue out at him.

“One of these days you’ll do that and a blackbird will think it’s a worm.”

“Ha bloody ha!” I teased him.

“It’s true, my gran used to say it to me, and she’d never lie to a child.”

His eyes sparkled which indicated he was winding me up. If he wasn’t driving, I’d have slapped him one.

“I don’t believe you or your old granny.”

“Please yourself, see if I care.”

“You, Simon, are one of the biggest windup merchants I know.”

“Who me?” he sounded shocked. “I have never been so hurt in my life,” he pretended to cry.

“Simon, we have a police car behind.” We didn’t, but his demeanour changed instantly.

“You cow!” he said, then laughed when I did hit him.

“Let’s eat out tonight,” I suggested.

“Okay, anywhere in mind?”

“I don’t care as long as it isn’t a chip shop.”

“What about the pub down at Aust?”

“We can’t go there again, they thought we were loonies.”

“It’s probably changed hands by now, country pubs do.”

“Tomorrow I need to sort out what I’m going to wear to my father’s funeral. Something new, and because my aunt is coming, something expensive. Will you take me to Bath? They have some nice shops there.”

“If you like, it may be easier to catch the bus, parking is a nightmare.”

“Or the train, let’s go by train.”

“Okay, we’ll need to get to Temple Meads station though.”

“Get a bus or a cab.”

“Okay, fine by me. So tell me about your auntie.”

“My dad and her couldn’t stand each other ever since they were kids, she was a spoiled brat and he was jealous. She thought she was a cut above everyone else, including my grandparents.”

“Oh, not good.”

“No she treated them rotten, even though they’d given her so much. She is an awful snob.”

“I am so looking forward to meeting her,” Simon said chuckling.

“But you lied to her, she’ll call you a liar if she finds out.”

“What, the heir to a multi-million pound fortune, plus a bank, plus a beautiful wife. You need to get yourself off to a salon the morning of the funeral—I think your dad would love to see us take the piss, even at his funeral.”

“Keep an eye on the coffin, it may start rocking with laughter,” I said, and wiped a tear from my eye. I was sad and yet I could see the funny side too. I know my father would have done.

“Hey up, look at that,” he pointed at a sign for the Bristol Evening Post. It read, ‘Heroic Neighbours Save Lives in House Fire.’ “Want to get one?”

“Can if you like.” He pulled into the kerb and I ran into the shop and bought the paper.

I read out the story.

“Neighbours quick thinking saved the lives of a couple in the city, when lightning struck their house causing a roof collapse and subsequent fire.

Bristolian, Cathy Watts, and her fiancé, Simon Cameron, from Portsmouth, gained access to the burning house and together with other neighbours managed to get the injured couple, Greg and Margaret Soames, to safety, where they did resuscitation on the unconscious Mr Soames, probably saving his life.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer, David Raleigh, said, “The quick thinking and action of the young couple almost certainly saved both lives. We rarely suggest people should enter burning houses, but this time it was the right thing to do and we shall be nominating them for an award from the Royal Humane Society.”

Simon and Cathy are hoping to get married next year.”

“What, no mention of my title? I shall have to sue, you know.” He paused before saying, “They don’t get this paper in Swindon, do they?”

“God, I hope not,” I answered, “Auntie Do, would have a field day with us, you especially for leading her on.”

“Damn, I’m not member of the Order of the Garter,” complained Simon.

“You’re not likely to become one after marrying me, are you?”

“Dad’s a member of the Thistle.”

“What, that’s even older isn’t it?”

“What, Partick Thistle?”

“That’s a bloody football club, isn’t it?”

“Aye it’s a fitba’ club.”

“Doesn’t quite rank with the Order of the Thistle though, does it?”

“Henry is one of those too.”

“Wow,” I was truly impressed.

“Oh yes, he has some nice regalia.”

“So I’ve heard,” I said desperately trying to keep a straight face.

“Oh you’ve heard the rumours too?”

At this, I just collapsed laughing and I think Simon was glad we were at some traffic lights.

“Come on,” he said, let’s get home and get changed and out to eat, I am starving.

The meal was okay, better than fish and chips, although I’ve had better tuna jacket potatoes and I suspect Simon had tasted a nicer hotpot. But it filled a hole, and we came home full but tired. Dragging people out of burning houses is very tiring.

Easy As Falling For A Dyke Part 302

by Bonzi ’n’ ’is Mum

I slept like a log, which wasn’t terribly good because Simon made noises like a chainsaw much of the night. Actually, I slept okay, but we were up early to go to Bath.

As we arrived at the ancient city, the train announced, “Bath Spa,” which I tend to forget, it was of course a popular spa town in Roman times and an Iron Age shrine before that. It’s also somewhere that the American Anglophile, Bill Bryson likes, and he’s done a commentary on the talking guides they give you to accompany a visit to the Roman baths.

I went years ago with a school trip the first time and it seemed so much bigger than when I went as a young adult. Something that fascinated me was the jewellery they found in the drains, little semi-precious stones which had been engraved with all sorts of pictures which you needed a lens to see, yet they were made before people had invented magnifying lenses. It is quite humbling to think how craftsmen and women must have coped, I’ll bet they had eye problems if they didn’t go blind. When I think about my own cack-handedness—I’m struggling to darn a pair of socks—I am in awe of those ancient people.

However, I didn’t travel to look over ancient watering holes, however tempting they might be, I came to buy something to wear for my father’s funeral. I might as well have gone to London, except it’s a longer journey and I didn’t think I could cope with the hustle and bustle.

Bath is a beautiful city, much beloved of Americans. It’s essentially Georgian in character with some amazing houses especially The Crescent which was designed by Nash. It plays to its heritage with draconian planning laws and a continuation of dwellings and other buildings being faced with the lovely golden coloured Bath stone. It’s also full of interesting passageways and alleys with shops and fascinating buildings, the Pump Room over the Roman baths and of course the Abbey, which is something else and worthy of a visit.

We started to look around and before we’d gone far at all, I lost Simon. It took me ten minutes to find him—in the Oxfam bookshop!

“Look I’m sorry, darling, but I have to find something or this will be a wasted journey,” I gently chided him.

“Sorry,” he said and sheepishly followed me out of the shop. We went up and down the main street, looking in all the boutiques and department stores. Had I been looking for a summer dress, it would have been much easier, but I wasn’t.

We stopped for a quick refresher in Marks and Spencer, at their coffee shop and then it was back to aching feet and desperate searches.

Ten shops later, I had seen nothing which took my eye even remotely; Simon had pointed out one or two things, but I shook my head. I didn’t know what I wanted, but when I saw it I would recognise it immediately. When I told this to Simon, who’d kept asking me what was I looking for, he shook his head and said, “That has got to be female logic.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing if you’re a woman, plenty if you’re a bloke.”

“Are you getting bored?” I asked him.

“Not bored, more frustrated. I can’t help you because you can’t help yourself.”

“When I see it I will know it.”

“Yeah, but I won’t so it seems rather pointless.”

“You want to go back to Oxfam and Waterstones, I presume?”

“It is more meaningful than feminine intuition, to me at least.”

I looked at my watch. “Okay, buy me lunch and you can go, we’ll meet outside Waterstones at five.”

“Okay, let’s get some lunch.”

We happened to be standing outside a quaint cafe place where I tried yet another tuna salad and he had a baguette thing. It rested my aching feet—the shoes with three inch heels were killing me, but I needed to wear them to get some idea of how a formal outfit would look.

I’d worn navy to my mother’s funeral but that outfit was in Portsmouth, and besides I didn’t want to wear it again. I wanted something fairly dark in colour but not entirely so. I wanted something that I could enliven with a brighter colour, maybe a red or even white.

My feet were really aching when I went into a boutique. It looked expensive—it was, no prices on anything. Gee whizz, can I afford this, I asked myself? Then after an initial trawl which was fruitless, one of the assistants asked me what I was looking for.

“Inspiration, I have to attend my father’s funeral tomorrow. I want something that will look good for that, but I’d like it to be adaptable for other wear.”

“Would madam like a suit or dress?”

“A suit I suppose, in a twelve.”

She pulled one or two out and I shook my head, then suddenly, I saw it. It was a black suit with little red poppies on the skirt and around the neck and cuffs. It was a silk and wool mix. I grabbed it enthusiastically; I also took a white and a red blouse with me. The red one looked the biz. I now needed a hat and shoes and perhaps a bag, but at least we were getting there.

I nearly corpsed when the suit and blouse came to over twelve hundred quid. However, they directed me to a hat shop—do they say milliner’s these days? I also had a twenty per cent discount on any hat I bought there. Having just spent more on one outfit than I’d spent almost collectively before, I was in need of all the help I could get.

The hat shop was just around the corner and I showed my outfit to the woman there. I couldn’t say girl, she was older than I was, and obviously the proprietrix. I put on the jacket and she shook her head.

“Let me see the full outfit.”

I shrugged and disappeared into the changing room at the back. I re-emerged in the blouse and suit.

“That is absolutely gorgeous and I have just the hat, madam.” She went into the back of the shop and came back with a small pillbox with a veil which swooped down to the chin, it also had tiny sparkles on the mesh of the veil.

I’d have to put my hair up to wear it properly, which she did for me and pinned it to my hair. With red lipstick, it would look very dramatic. It was over two hundred quid, even with the discount, but I thought it would do the trick.

I had navy shoes, so I next had to buy some black patent courts. They say when you have sore feet is the time to try shoes. I certainly met the criterion there.

I found a pair with similar heels to the shoes I had on and they were more comfortable. I bought some little pad thingies to wear under the balls of my feet, and they helped too. A new bag? Why not? I added a patent leather handbag to my indulgences, and pair of thin leather gloves on the way back to meet Simon.

I bought a red lipstick and matching nail varnish in Boots the chemist, and found Simon in the coffee shop in Waterstones, where I suspect he had been all afternoon. He confessed but bought me a cup of tea and some carrot cake, so I forgave him.

“I’ve got everything but jewellery.” I slumped in the chair and dropped my purchases on the ground.

He placed the tray in front of me and took my left hand, which he pulled towards him and slipped a wedding ring on my finger. “Lady Cameron,” he said and winked.

“Wow!” I said and kissed him.

“I have had this since we got the engagement ring.”

“It’s beautiful,” I held my hand up to the light. He took my hand and kissed it.

“Thank you,” I smiled at him.

“A prezzie,” he said advancing a small box towards me.

“What’s this?” I said looking at the wrapped box.

“Open it and see.”

I did as he told me, a first in itself. I took a sip of tea and then picked up the small package. I tore open the paper, and inside was a small box. I opened the box and under a slip of tissue was a gold and diamond dormouse.

“Oh Simon!” I shrieked. Then blushed as other patrons in the coffee shop glared at me. I stood up and hugged him. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” I hugged him and kissed him again. “Thank you so much.”

“Okay, okay, calm down, maybe I should have given it to you at home.”

I had tears in my eyes, “It’s absolutely lovely, Simon.”

“I take it you got your outfit?”

“Yes, it cost an arm and a leg, but it is so nice. I told you once I saw it I would know and I got a hat too.”

“Ooh can’t wait to see all this, remember the vicar bloke is coming around this evening, to talk over the service with you. Oh and reinforcements arrive tomorrow, Stella and Tom are coming.”

“What, that’s brilliant. The funeral director chappy has arranged for the pub down the road to do a buffet after the service, so we should be pretty well sorted.”

“What’s this about jewellery?”

“I haven’t got anything to wear tomorrow, least not that I can think as suitable.”

“Stella’s got loads, borrow something from her.”

“That’s a good idea, Simon, sometimes I actually believe you listen to me now and again.”

“Hey, steady on, if I do it too often, you’ll expect it all the time and we can’t have that now, can we?”

“Why not? I hang on everything you say.”

“That’s different, you’re a woman, I’m a superior male.”

I glared at him before realising he’d wound me up again. “One of these days, Simon Cameron, you are going to push your luck!”

“Ah well, I got the bribery and corruption in first, it helps.”

I glanced at the brooch again, it was so beautiful and he’d had to have had it made, that I forgave him on the spot.

Easy As Bawling At A Wake! Part 303

I was glad for Simon’s help in getting my purchases to and from the station. I hadn’t realised how much I’d bought until I had to pick them all up again from Waterstone’s cafeteria.

We grabbed a takeaway on the way home: Simon fancied a pizza. I don’t really like them, but it made for an easy dinner.

The priest who was doing my father’s funeral came about seven and stayed for an hour. He was the same guy who did my mother’s service and of course he remembered me and we talked about my situation for some time.

“Catherine, I’m aware that your father had some issues with your lifestyle, but I’m aware that once he got used to it and knew that it was a serious departure on your part, he set about getting to grips with it. I won’t say he enjoyed it, but he did become very proud of you as his daughter. I saw him in hospital once or twice and he’d saved bits from the local paper to show me, about your exploits.”

“The crafty old sod, he didn’t tell me,” I gasped. Simon doubled up laughing, he thought it was hilarious.

“You didn’t know he kept a scrapbook about you.”

“When?”

“All your life, he obviously had to change things when you made your changeover.”

“When I transitioned,” I corrected him.

“Quite so, when you transitioned. I think he was horrified and then delighted to see what a pretty girl you actually made.”

“Did you know that he beat me up when I told him I was transgendered?”

“He told me he had beaten you, that he had lost his temper and that he regretted it, but that he couldn’t undo the past.”

“He nearly hospitalised me, I could hardly walk after it, and I tried to finish the job, I took an overdose.”

The priest fidgeted, this was obviously uncomfortable territory for him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.”

“It’s old hat now, and I’ve forgiven him, so I’m not holding him back. I loved both my parents you know.”

“I have no doubt about it.”

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

“In what context?” he frowned wondering what I was going to say next.

“I had a visitation from my mother.”

“Oh, what happened?”

“She came to seek my forgiveness, apparently it was stopping her from moving on. I thought it was an hallucination at first, but it wasn’t because she gave me a message about something in the house I knew nothing about, and which we confirmed the next day. Didn’t we Si?”

“Absolutely, made your hair curl when we found it.” He laughed again.

“Goodness, and what did she say?”

“She told me about this secret place in her bedroom, which we looked for and found and she begged my forgiveness. I gave it and she thanked me and disappeared. She told me my father was with her but very tired after his illness.”

“Fascinating.”

“I hope tomorrow you’ll avoid mention of my change and the conflict we had in the family. Some of those present like my aunt will be aware of it, but I think Daddy and I had truly buried the hatchet before he died.”

“I shall be talking about his life, his successful marriage to your mother and his loving relationship with his daughter. It’s a celebration of his life and a farewell to his body, you have enough to deal with without raking over the past. I shall see you tomorrow at the crematorium, did you have anything in mind for the reading?”

“I’d love to do it, but I don’t think I could, I shall be too tearful, could Simon do it?”

“Of course, there are several which we recommend.”

“I did a reading of St Paul for one of my student’s funeral, I rather think Daddy would approve of it, seeing through the glass darkly and so on.”

“And the greatest of these is love,” he smiled at me.

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Yes, it’s rather good isn’t it, all sorts of esoteric stuff in the symbolism too, some say he was a Kabbalist, I don’t know.”

“They say all sorts of things about him, but the language in the King James Bible is so magical, I know that Daddy would like it and it may trigger thoughts for one or two others.”

“I’ll arrange for a King James Bible to be available.”

“Don’t worry, we have one here, that we’ll bring with us.”

“Oh, okay. I shall see you tomorrow.”

“Yes, I’m hoping my aunt won’t make a scene, she only found out about me when I called her to tell her Daddy had died. She called back and spoke to Simon. She’s a terrible snob and Simon wound her up a bit.”

“Oh? In what way?”

“You don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“Simon is an aristocrat. His dad is Viscount Stanebury.”

“What? Good lord, no I didn’t know.”

“So he is Lord Simon Cameron.”

“I see.”

“We’re engaged and as soon as my legal status is changed to female, we are going to marry. However, I have another nine or ten months to go.”

“I see.”

“Well, Aunt Do upset Simon enough with her snobbery, that he told her we were already married, and he referred to me as Lady Cameron.”

The priest chuckled, “I see, so a case of the biter, bit!”

“Exactly!”

“I shall refer to you only as Catherine or Derek’s daughter. Did your father approve of your forthcoming marriage?”

“I think he did, he liked Simon quite a lot, because Simon would push him down the pub in his wheelchair.”

The priest laughed again, “A friend in need,” he chortled to himself.

“Sort of.”

“Don’t worry, I’m glad that you have found happiness both in your own situation and also found happiness in a relationship. God works in mysterious ways, so who are we to question his decisions.”

“Sadly, I’m a scientist, so it’s my job to question everything until I understand it.”

“As a mere priest, I am not burdened by such requirements and can accept things as acts of faith. But tell me, how did you ‘process and integrate,’ I think those are the appropriate words, the visitation of your mother? Can you explain that scientifically?”

“Not to my satisfaction. However, it wasn’t related to my area of study, so I can let it pass until I have time to think about it.”

“Are you sure you’re not a politician?”

“Who me?” I almost squealed, “No way!”

He chortled and left.

“I’m glad you told me I was doing the reading before we got there,” said Simon a little sarcastically.

“Yes, sorry about that, I meant to say something before, like asking you if you’d do it.”

“Woulda been nice.”

“I shall make it up to you Simon,” I said and winked at him.

“What about this ’ere outfit, I ain’t seen it yet, ’owsabout you model it for me and I’ll get us a glass of Merlot?”

“Okay with me,” I said and trotted off to the bedroom to change.

Easy As Fawning To A Tyke

Part Tri Gannoedd a Bedwar (304)

by Angharad—Stunt coordinator/

accountant Bonzi Cat

I went to the loo and then into the bedroom, where I stripped off to my undies and then put on the blouse and suit, the new shoes and sat at the mirror I’d improvised and quickly put my hair up. On went the hat, unfortunately with significantly more fiddling than the lady in the shop had done. But I got it on to my satisfaction eventually, and then popped on some of the red lipstick—it felt quite strange as I never use that colour, but the blouse drew away some of its brightness. I’d confer with Stella before I wore it to the funeral, I was still uncertain.

Finally, I added the brooch to the jacket, it looked really nice under the poppies around the neck. I heard a bottle cork pop and a few moments later Simon hove into view bearing two glasses of wine.

“You took your time,” I said, glad that he had.

“Well I knew you’d take longer than you thought, well modom, would you care for some drinky-poos?”

“Thank you Cameron, that will be all.”

“That looks cracking, Stella will be as jealous as hell that she didn’t see it first.”

“I don’t think so, not sure if it’s really her anyway.”

“Maybe not, but it’s very you, very classy. Did it cost as much as it looks?”

“Shall we say, if we sell the house in two years, I may break even!”

Simon of course had taken a sip of wine, which he then inhaled and we spent the next four or five minutes, him coughing and me slapping his back.

“How much was it then?”

“You’re not paying for it, so you don’t need to know.” I decided I was going to stand firm on this one.

“As much as a nice bike?”

“Shall we say you’d have got quite a nice carbon bike for the overall cost.”

He nodded, “I’m glad I wasn’t paying for it.”

“Of course, I suspect the brooch cost you as much again, is it safe for me to wear it?”

“Tim made it for you, I simply paid what he asked. He did give me a good customer, discount.”

“Is it insured?” I asked, wondering if it was safe to wear out of the house.

“Of course, although it is of course irreplaceable, Tim won’t do a remake if you lose it. He only does one-offs.”

“I have no intention of ever parting with it, least wise, not in this life, which is exactly the same way I feel about you.”

“Eh?” he looked bemused.

“I want to be with you for the rest of my life.” I blushed as I said it and looked at the floor.

He blushed and looked as if he was searching for words to say. I waited not wanting to disturb his concentration. He kept sneaking glances at me and then seeming to look into the middle distance, before looking back at me. Eventually he looked at me and smiling at me said, “You are crazy, but I love you.”

I giggled, which was certainly not becoming behaviour in a megabucks suit, but I didn’t care. He walked towards me, lifted the veil and kissed me.

An hour or so later, we’d pretty well finished the wine as well as getting intimate in the most animalistic way, I lay in the bed, hoping the creases would come out of the blouse and the suit, from the way they were lying on the floor, I wasn’t sure but I didn’t feel like getting out of bed to find out. Instead I drifted off into a blissful sleep, feeling emotionally and physically fulfilled and probably with a big smile on my face which equalled Simon’s.

I’d also discovered why he was so long coming up with the wine, he’d been reading the passage in the Bible that I’d wanted him to read at the service, bless him, he is a nice man, he really is.

Easy As Calling For A Mic. Part 305

by Angharad Bonzifeeder

I called Stella and asked her to bring some jewellery with her for me to look at. While Simon was still in the shower, I dressed and rushed down to the cleaners with my suit, the blouse I could press myself.

They ran one of these steam things over it, looked like a contraption that should be fitted to a vacuum cleaner, but it took out the wrinkles. I thought I’d keep it in mind for when I got older and things started heading south!

I got back to the house just as Simon was boiling the kettle for his coffee; I had some tea and toast. Then I cleaned through, while Simon read the Bible again—I could hardly complain could I, although the phrase, ‘when I became a man, I put away childish toys,’ somehow didn’t apply to him.

I eventually put away my big girl’s toys, the vac and the duster, and the ironing board and organised the soup for our lunch—enough for four—then put on a bread mix to eat with it. Fresh veg soup and fresh bread, should be good.

Finally I went up and showered and dried my hair. I fiddled with it, but then decided to let Stella do it for me, if she made it in time. They were supposedly on their way by now, and the intention was for us all to have a snack, go to the funeral at three and then to the buffet afterwards. What they were going to do afterwards, I didn’t know, but I half-assumed they’d go back to Portsmouth.

I got Simon to move the dressing table back in case I needed to put either Tom or Stella in the front bedroom. I’d have to make up beds, but I wasn’t going to worry about that until I had to.

Our visitors arrived about twelve; Stella looked really nice in a ‘Stella McCartney’ outfit, the cost of which I dreaded to think about. I was surprised she’d driven up in it, but she had. She looked much better than when I’d last seen her. Tom was as unchanging as the moon—okay, I know it has phases, but you get my drift, it’s been there quite a long time.

I was wearing a jogging suit and got the lunch ready, Stella came and talked to me, we’d had a hug when she’d arrived. “I’m sorry about your dad.”

“It’s okay, it was always on the cards, and at least we parted as friends.”

“Yeah, that was good. But we sort of did so with your mother too.”

I’d almost forgotten she was with me when my mother had died, the ‘two angels.’ I told her about my experience with the visitation and how it had been ‘verified’ the next day, by the key under the floorboards.

She shivered and said, “Ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, good lord deliver us.”

“Burns?”

“Aye hen,” she said and we both giggled.

We ate and the conversation ranged across numerous things. Stella and I washed up while the boys decided who would win the Six Nations, Wales seemed to be the team to beat, and Simon was sure the French would do it. Tom wasn’t at all sure, and fancied Wales to go all the way.

I didn’t much care, cycling was my sport and the world track championships in Manchester would be my next major sporting interest, although I was also hoping I could start to ride a bit myself. Things were a little easier in the bedroom, although I was still a bit tender in a certain place. If it came to the choice, I suspected much as I loved Simon, I’d pick cycling most of the time.

Stella came up and did my hair putting it up for me, better than I’d ever manage it myself. I’d showed her the hat. She got hers from the car while I got dressed. She wore a large brimmed hat which drooped across her eyes a little, it suited her, I didn’t think I’d be able to wear it, but then I had my little one with the veil.

“Is there something you want to tell me about Simon and you?” She asked me as she came back to the bedroom.

“We’re having some, you know,” I said.

“Conjugals?”

“Yes, that will do, conjugals.”

“What about the ring?”

“Oh that one,” I blushed and felt the band of gold on my finger. “Simon told my ’orrible aunt that we were married.”

“God, I hope he remembers.”

“You make it sound as if he may not.”

“He’s no good as a liar because he has such a poor memory.”

“Oh dear,” I shrugged. I’d put on the blouse while Stella had gone to the car and was pulling up my tights.

“So Lady Catherine, if you go in a blouse and tights, you’ll cause the biggest stir since the witches in MacBeth served up their eye of newt soup on the blasted heath.”

“Lady Stella, I may be controversial, but not that much. I shall wear this,” so saying I pulled the suit out from the wardrobe.

“Hey, that looks interesting,” said my ‘sister-in-law to be.’

“I thought so as soon as I saw it. I pulled on the skirt and then the jacket, finally putting on the hat with Stella’s help.

“I love the dormouse,” she drooled.

“That was Simon’s contribution.”

“Did his friend Tim make it?”

“Yes, it’s rather lovely isn’t it?”

“So what about some lippy?”

“What d’ya think about some red lipstick?” I asked her.

“Not a lot, a dark pink would be better.”

I used the dark pink. The jewellery we kept to a minimum, just diamond ear studs, which I already had. A spritz of perfume and a quick check of my eye makeup, and we were ready. I had remembered to use waterproof mascara.

“Goodness, who are these ladies, Simon?” said Tom teasingly.

“A couple of slappers who seem to hang around me, why?”

“Trust you to bring it all down to an earthy level,” I gently chided him.

“Lady C, you look a million dollars,” he added to rescue himself.

“What!” I exclaimed, “Only a million? In that case I require a refund!”

Everyone laughed at my retort, but Stella absolutely squealed when I reminded Simon about his Bible.

“Simon, reading the Bible? Give over.”

“Oh yes, he reads it every day.”

“What? I don’t believe it!”

“I think Victor Meldrew has the copyright on that line. Besides, he’s reading the lesson for the service.”

“I’m sure you know what you’re doing, but I wouldn’t have asked him.”

“You’re only jealous,” said the older sibling.

“Of you, fat boy? Ha!”

“Yes me, hag-face!”

“Children, children, please can we show a little decorum?” I shouted over the two of them. A few blushes later, they complied with my request.

Easy As Crawling On The Mat Part 306

by Bonzi Angharad-warmer

We arrived at the crematorium and parked up, thankfully it wasn’t too far to walk in the heels. Simon held his arm for me and I took it gladly. I was beginning to appreciate the ordeal that was about to happen, I was saying goodbye to my father. I hoped my aunt didn’t play up, but that was not a concern for the moment, she may not even arrive so I’d worry about it when it happened.

Stella and Tom walked quietly behind us, the only noise being that of our heels clicking as we walked. It felt really strange. I squeezed Simon’s arm and he put his arm around me. I was glad of the warmth.

We entered the waiting area and I was pleased to see the funeral director there, he gently shook my hand and then Simon’s, I introduced Stella and Tom.

“Your aunt is in the loo at the moment, your uncle is in the waiting room.”

“Shall we pop to the loo?” suggested Stella.

Nervously, I agreed, maybe we could do this quietly. Simon went into the waiting room to speak with my uncle. The loo had two or three cubicles and we waited for the only engaged one to open.

Out walked my aunt, she looked much the same as I remembered her, only fatter, greyer and more wrinkled. She washed her hands.

“Auntie Doreen?” I said.

She turned around and looked at Stella then me. “Do I know you?”

“It’s Cathy, your niece,” I said and smiled at her.

She looked at me then at Stella, then at me again. “Charlie?” she said quietly, as if in disbelief.

“No Auntie Do, it’s Cathy now, all legal and so forth.”

“Cathy?”

“Yes, Catherine Cameron nee Watts. This is Stella, Lady Cameron, my sister-in-law.”

“But you look like a woman.”

“I am a woman.”

“But you were a boy, I saw you.”

“Mistakes can be made at birth,” offered Stella. It was poppycock, but Aunt Do didn’t know it, “I’m a nurse specialist in genito-urinary medicine, and we see the odd one every now and again who has been wrongly assigned at birth.”

“But you’re a girl!” said Auntie Do, her stare showing she was in a state of shock.

“Yes, I am a girl. I really am.”

“Nice suit,” she said just before she fainted.

Stella and I caught her as her legs buckled, and we let her lie gently on the floor.

“You’d better go Cathy, I’ll look after her.”

I felt so guilty, “Are you sure?”

“Course I am, now go on, you know they can’t disrupt the schedule.”

I patted her on the shoulder and went out to the waiting area, “Uncle Arthur, Auntie Do has fainted in the loo, my sister-in-law, who’s a nurse, is looking after her.

“I can’t go in there, can I?”

Not unless you do the same as I did, I thought to myself, “Not really, but you could wait outside, I’ll let them know you’re there.” I nipped back to the toilets and informed Stella, Doreen was sitting up looking grey and confused.

The funeral director came and got me, “We have to go in, are you ready?”

We followed the coffin which was carried by six men and laid on the plinth from which it would descend to the fires. I walked like an automaton to the front and sat with Simon alongside me. I knew there were stares and whispers but I didn’t care, for now my only feeling was grief.

I clutched my hankie and dabbed at my glistening eyes and runny nose. I don’t remember the service except Simon’s reading, which was splendid, then he came back and put his arm around me and I just wanted to sit there and cry whilst he held me. I didn’t because I couldn’t, I had to stay strong.

The committal happened and we were led out first to deal with our grief for a couple of minutes, tears were streaming from my eyes as we stumbled out of the chapel and out into the air. The sun was shining and the birds were singing but I felt empty and in pain.

We were lined up with the priest and the funeral director who collected donations, informed people about the buffet and how to get to it. I shook hands and thanked people for coming. I was on autopilot and don’t recall anything much. I expect there were more stares and whispers but I was oblivious to them and quite frankly, I didn’t care.

Stella came over a little while later to tell us that Arthur took Do home, as she wasn’t at all well. Stella said she had apologised for me, as being unable to speak with my uncle, but he understood that as chief mourner, I had other demands on my time.

We arrived at the buffet, but I’m not sure how we got there. I drank tea and that was all, I ate nothing. Finally, we saw the stragglers off and after thanking the pub staff, we went home. Simon put me to bed with Stella’s help. I slept almost instantly, feeling completely drained; Stella stripped down to her undies and slept alongside me. Tom and Simon drank a few Guinnesses and then crashed out on the two sofas in the lounge.

The next morning, I woke up late. Stella was pottering about in jeans and sweatshirt. It was ten o’clock and I must have slept for at least twelve hours.

She brought me a drink of tea, “Come on, Sleeping Beauty, or I’ll send Prince Charming up.”

I accepted the tea and she sat with hers on the bed, “Better?”

“Hmmm,” I said, “Much better.”

“It’s all over now, and your aunt didn’t make a scene.”

“Only because you kept her quiet in the loo.”

“She spent half the service with her head down the pan calling for Hughie, whoever he is.”

We both chuckled at that.

“Did I frighten her that much?”

“No I think it was the possibility that you, a misfit who should be beneath her feet, had jumped the social ladder by several levels and held a superior position to her. Then the fact that you looked the part, rather than some bloke in drag, completely fazed her and off she went.”

“Do you think she believed any of the bull you told her?”

“What I said was all true, you are as female as anyone I know, just because you can’t reproduce doesn’t mean you’re any less female.”

“Yeah, I suppose so but you know, I still feel inferior to you and other biological women.”

“Well don’t because womanhood happens between the ears and you have a female brain up there kiddo.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve seen you do the ultimate test.”

“What, sleeping with Simon?”

“Don’t be stupid girl, that’s just an act of self-sacrifice.”

“What! No it isn’t, I love him.”

“So you’re a crazy brother fu… erm!”

“What was this ultimate test?” I asked rather puzzled by it.

“I’ve seen you shopping girl, and no man shops like you!”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 307

After showering and dressing, I felt a bit less dopey. Things had gone better than I’d imagined regarding the funeral. Stella seemed to be much better, although I was hardly aware that she had slept with me all night.

We had chatted while I drank my tea and she said she still got nightmares about the kidnapping but was dealing with them. She was having therapy and felt better about everything, however, she knew she wasn’t out of the woods yet.

I wondered if the Soames would want to rent the house while theirs was being rebuilt. The damage was pretty extensive and even with tarpaulins draped across the wrecked roof, it was damaged by the fire and the water from the fire brigade. I felt very sorry for them and I hoped they’d be okay. I needed to speak with the solicitor and ask him about letting the house out on a short-term basis. For want of a better description, it was still my family home and I didn’t want just anyone to live there.

I went down for a late breakfast and Tom and Simon were discussing the rugby again. I tried to bring up the cycling but they were too involved to listen.

I went into the lounge and sat on the settee and looked around the place. I couldn’t say I’d always been happy here, but then until the conflict which caused me to leave it, I’d not been unhappy either, just confused.

I remembered the day when I’d seen some documentary about transsexualism and it changed my life forever. I knew then what was wrong with me and what I needed to do. I was thirteen and too scared to do anything at all.

“A penny for them,” said a woman’s voice.

“Dunno if they’re worth it.”

Stella plonked herself down alongside me, “I really liked that suit.”

“Simon said he thought you would.”

“Where did you get it?”

“Bath, spent all day wandering around, then just happened on this little boutique place. There were no prices on anything.”

“Oh, one of those. I rarely enter them because I know I’m going to be ripped off.”

“Yeah me too, I could have bought a carbon fibre bike for the cost of that suit and with the rest of the outfit, rather a nice one at that.”

“What bike or outfit?”

“Bike, what else?”

“Are you a frustrated bike racer or something?”

“You guessed.”

“Well how long before everything heals and you can go back on the blessed bike?”

“It’s nearly there now, in fact if I can keep Simon away from me or a few more days, I’d say it was probably healed now.”

“So he damages it does he?”

“No he stretches me, it’s the best form of dilation, which I don’t do often enough. But however enjoyable some of it is, I am sore afterwards.”

“I haven’t seen Simon since we were kids, is he big?”

“Big enough for me. I don’t honestly know how that compares with other men, I haven’t seen any.”

“What about when you were in school, in the showers, didn’t you see any then?”

“I spent most of my time trying to avoid looking at anything that could be construed as, ‘asking for it.’ They had me down as a fairy anyway, so I actually avoided games and PE whenever possible.”

“But you’re not a fairy, you’re a female.”

“I know that but try telling it to a class of thirteen or fourteen year olds. To them I was a freak who wasn’t like them.”

“I was so lucky at school, I fitted in with the other poor little rich kid criminals so well. I spent the first three years being an anarchist then developed into a subversive.”

“Simon told me you were a handful at school,” I said, wondering if I’d broken a trust.

“Handful, I was two handfuls and a foot. They didn’t know what to do with me or how to do it. I had such fun avoiding the rules, bending them and at times, completely ignoring them.”

“Don’t they expel unruly pupils?” I enquired.

“Not the children of the school’s banker.”

“Ah, so it wasn’t Coutts then?”

“No, it was Stanebury.”

“I hadn’t heard of that in terms of banking.”

“How often do you need a merchant bank?”

“Exactly, I don’t. The high street variety will do for me.”

“Oh I don’t know, if you sell this place and you will make money as an academic maybe write a couple of books. Plus Simon is a mean investor, he regularly makes money for me.”

“I don’t know if I’m actually that interested in money.”

“Don’t tell Simon, it’s about the only thing he’s good at, turning lead into gold.”

“Maybe you should have called your bank, ‘Alchemy’?”

“There’s a venture capital group who could have got there first.”

“Oh, not that that means much to me, and please don’t explain it. I see it as very much ignorance being bliss.”

“Okay, little sister, what are we doing today?”

“What would you like to do?”

“I don’t know, what is there to see in Bristol?”

I rattled off a long list, including the city museum. She ummed and aahed. “I can’t make my mind up, what do you reckon is best?”

“Let’s have a trip around the gorge and up over the downs, then over Brunel’s bridge, Simon enjoyed that, and take it from there.”

So that’s what we did. Simon stayed at home and worked from his computer via the Internet while I showed Tom and Stella the delights of Bristol. We ended up at the SS Great Britain and the transport museum with its Concord mock up. But they had a good time and we collected Simon for dinner. Tom treated us at a local pub.

The next day, Simon left for Portsmouth with Tom, they took Stella’s car and left we girls to our own devices. I offered to make up a bed for Stella but she decided it was just extra washing, so we agreed to share. It wasn’t the first time and if it helped her nightmares, it would be a good thing.

I’d washed the bedding Stella and Tom had used on their beds, and was going to do mine before I left, leaving it to air until I came back next time. I wanted to see Margaret Soames to see how she was and if she wanted to rent my house.

She fascinated Stella and the two of them got on very well, which given their different natures and backgrounds, surprised me. But should it have done, Stella’s and mine are very different and we get on okay.

Margaret agreed to rent the house once she got out of hospital, subject to Greg agreeing. He was out of ICU and in high dependency and seemed to making good progress. Margaret had been to see him once or twice. We offered to push her there while we were there, but she declined. She’d get back to me about the house, but it was what she wanted to do. She was dreading seeing the fire damage.

“This scrap of a girl saved my life you know?” she said to Stella.

“It doesn’t surprise me, she’s saved mine twice and Simon’s once, Tom her boss, once but he’s saved her once, so they’re quits.”

“How can anyone be so prolific with their lifesaving skills?” asked Margaret, inviting me to reply, but I shrugged, I didn’t know. I recalled seeing a book on astrology called, ‘Born on a bad day.’ I suspected that it applied to me, even though I didn’t believe in any of it. “It’s all mumbo jumbo designed to catch the unwary,” said my Professor at Sussex. Mind you, he was a fundamentalist rationalist a bit like Dawkins.

We differed in that I would have been quite happy to have various paranormal things work in reality, including time travel. They rubbished the lot, which is sad because some things I suspect are just beyond our methods of measuring them. Or am I just in thrall of my visitation the other night, trying to explain the inexplicable. I was too tired to care.

We were going back to Portsmouth tomorrow, so we had a few hours to do a trip around the shops, so that was what we did. Neither of us bought anything—I was spent out from the few days before and I suspect Stella was on reduced pay or would soon be so, besides, I didn’t see anything I really had to have.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 308

I awoke with a start, Stella was hanging on to me like a limpet with fingers, it was actually hurting me. She was whimpering too, and as hot as a furnace, my back was sweltering and my nightdress was sticking to my sweaty skin.

“It’s okay Stella, it’s me Cathy, you’re safe.” I spoke slowly and gently hoping it would sound non-threatening. I tried to turn on to my back to see her more easily, but she was clinging so tightly that I couldn’t move.

She seemed to be growing more agitated and was now crying.

“Stella, it’s a bad dream, wake up now! This is Cathy, no one will hurt you, wake up now.”

I said this two or three times and she whimpered, then opened her eyes. She didn’t register much for a moment, then she saw me and burst into tears.

“It was horrible Cathy, they were going to do awful things to me.”

I held her as tight as was both practicable and reasonable, “It’s okay, I’m here and no one is going to hurt you. I promise.”

“You promise?” she said in a very little girl voice.

“Yes, I promise no one will hurt you while I am here.”

“Thank you,” she said and closed her eyes again. Within seconds she was fast asleep again. I lay awake for at least an hour, holding her and protecting her against her nightmares.

The fact that she went off so quickly, tended to suggest to me that she hadn’t properly woken up, but that enough of her was awake for those few seconds to change her dream selection or recognise my voice as one of safety. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist, but it gave me something to try and take my mind off the fact I was stewing.

I must have slept because I woke up. I felt knackered, not to put too fine a point upon it. Stella was bright eyed and bushy tailed and appeared with a cup of tea. Why couldn’t she have left it another hour?

I tried to be understanding and avoid being as crabby as I felt. She was telling me that she slept so well last night. I counted to ten before I reacted.

“Oh that’s good.” I felt like saying, I’m glad one of us did.

“Yes, I felt so much more relaxed with you here.”

“Good,” I said and smiled. I sipped the tea, at least that was okay.

The shower woke me up properly and I thought about being home and seeing Simon and Tom again, oh and being with my bikes, my wonderful bikes.

Why packing up took so long, I have no idea, but it did, so we left on lunchtime, which meant we stopped en route to have something to eat, just a snack but it delayed us half an hour.

There was an horrendous accident on the M4 and miles of holdups, so it was early evening by the time we got home. I was exhausted. Stella had chattered almost non-stop, it was giving me a headache. Her conversation was just chatter, nothing was important or interesting, some of it was preposterous. I began to wonder if she was becoming schizoid, I hoped not.

Tom helped us unload my car and I felt really glad to be home. Simon phoned to say he had to stay in town, meaning London, as he had loads to catch up. I could hardly say anything, he’d taken time off to be with me but I dreaded that it might give Stella the opportunity to ask to sleep with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her and would do almost anything for her, but losing another night’s sleep would get me down. At the same time, if she asked, I couldn’t refuse her.

I did wonder how she coped with just Tom there, but I thought I didn’t really want to know. It turned out she had Kiki in her room with her, so my nasty mind was just that!

Tom took us out for a meal and he drove us in Stella’s car. It was good of him and it saved me cooking, however, I was so tired I could barely find enough energy to chew and swallow. I nearly nodded while eating.

“You look tired, Cathy,” he said to me, I was miles away.

“Erm, sorry, Tom, what did you say?”

“I said, you look tired.

“Yeah, all the stress I suppose, I’ll be better after a good night’s sleep.”

“Talking of sleep, can I sleep with you, Cathy?”

“What, tonight?” I felt my heart sink.

“Is that all right, I feel so much better and I don’t get the nightmares.”

“I suppose so,” what else could I say?

I didn’t want that much from life, just Simon, my dormice, my bikes and time to ride them. Oh boy, fat chance, at the moment I’d fall asleep while riding one, easy as winky, easy as falling asleep, easy as falling off a bike? My mind was starting to do funny things and I was sure the lights weren’t actually flashing in the restaurant.

I was asleep in the car on the way home, but still Stella followed me to bed and cuddled up so tight to me that I felt in danger of rolling on top of her if I turned over. Despite all that, I actually did zonk, almost as soon as I switched off the light. If she had any bad dreams, I was oblivious, I was so tired.

They let me sleep on and I woke about eleven. I’d slept nearly twelve hours. I felt a little better, but not entirely back to normal. It probably was stress and I’d blamed Stella. I felt guilty as well as everything else. Maybe I wasn’t really a nice person, simply pretending to be in order to get my own way. I didn’t know and I didn’t have enough brain cells firing to think too deeply about it.

I had some breakfast and set about some chores, making bread and seeing what we had in the freezer and what we needed. I defrosted a leg of lamb and decided I’d cook that tonight. We needed more veg and potatoes plus a few other things.

Tom had gone to work so I asked Stella to come with me to the supermarket, which she seemed happy to do. We were in the greengrocery department when she began acting a little strangely.

She kept looking at a man and trying to hide behind me. I watched him, and as far as I could see, he was just shopping. I asked her if there was a problem and she shrugged.

Suddenly the man was next to her reaching for some fruit and she freaked. She screamed and shouted and slapped him. He, shocked, slapped her back, she flew at him calling him all sorts of names and he hit her quite hard. By this time I was close enough to intervene, he pushed me away and obviously he was so angry, he wasn’t listening. I laid him out with a cabbage.

There were staff everywhere and I led Stella away, a weeping mass of jelly with a nasty bruise appearing on the side of her face. Amazingly, I got her to the car and called her doctor, who by pure chance was on duty. He told me to take her home and he’d visit as soon as he could.

He’s such a nice chap, he examined her and threatened that if she didn’t do exactly as I asked her, he’d have to hospitalise her. That frightened her and she agreed to be left in my care. Somehow, a bike ride looked light years away.

I still needed veg and potatoes, so asked Tom to get some on the way home. Bless him he arrived home early, probably drawn by the prospect of a roast dinner. He also told me he could stay much of the morning the next day, which had a reasonable weather forecast and I could get in a quick ride if I wanted to. Did I want to? I kissed him on the cheek and hugged him. In loco parentis had nothing on this man.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 309

by Angharad, illustrations by Bonzi

After dinner, I shut the last item in the dishwasher and sunk into the chair. Ever since the incident in the supermarket, Stella had hovered around me, like a giant mosquito. It was getting on my nerves and I was desperately trying not to say anything I’d regret.

“Are you tired, Cathy?”

“Just a bit,” I said smiling weakly at her.

“Am I a total pain?”

“No, not at all.”

“I think I am. I caused all that trouble in the supermarket, I hope that man is all right.”

“He did hit you.”

“I know, I probably asked for it.”

“No, there’s no excuse for violence,” I sighed, knowing I’d just condemned myself.

“There was, you hit him to rescue me.”

“Okay, there’s no excuse for anyone but me to use violence, how’s that?”

“Yeah, I like that better.”

“Why don’t you go and have a little bath and then we’ll have a drink and go to bed?”

“Okay, don’t go away will you?”

“Stella, I promise I won’t leave the house tonight, okay?”

“Sorry to be a pain.”

“Go and bath,” I pointed up the stairs, and she took the hint. I uttered a silent prayer of thanks and put the kettle on.

Tom was watching something on the telly when I asked him if he wanted a hot drink. “No thanks, I’ve just poured myself a Scotch, so I’m fine. Where’s Stella?”

“I told her to go and have a warm bath, I’ll go and check on her.” I trotted up the stairs and banged on the door of the bathroom, “Do you want tea or cocoa?” I called.

There was no reply. I peeped through the crack in one of the panels, she seemed to be lying in the bath. I hammered on the door and shouted, there was no answer.

Tom shouted from downstairs, “What’s wrong?”

“Stella, she’s not answering.”

I kicked hard at the panel and managed to move it enough to get my hand in and undo the latch. Then throwing open the door was met with a room filled with steam and a bath which was turning red.

“Tom come quick, get an ambulance,” I screamed.

I switched off the taps and pulled the plug out. I grabbed a clean towel and tore off a strip wrapping it tightly around her wrist, then went to the other wrist.

“Let me die,” she said so weakly I could hardly hear it.

“No Stella, no you mustn’t die, please don’t, I need you.”

“I’m just a nuisance, let me go.”

I covered her with bath sheet to keep her warm. I had no idea how much blood she’d lost.

Tom came puffing into the bathroom. “It’s on its way.” He saw the blood stains in the bath and on the floor. “Oh, Stella why? We love you, please don’t do this.”

“I’m just a liability,” she gasped and went unconscious.

“Lay another towel on the floor, Tom,” I shouted at him, he seemed to be in a trance, but he did as I told him. “Good, now help me lift her out.”

Again he was in a sort of trance, but he helped me manhandle her out of the bath and on to the floor. I felt for a pulse, there was one but it was weak and her breathing was shallow.

“Can you watch for the ambulance, I’ll keep her alive until they get here.”

He trundled off down the stairs, completely blown away by the tragedy that was unfolding.

I kept watching her chest rise and fall, it was so slight it was almost imperceptible. “Come on you bitch, don’t you dare die on me, do you hear me! You are gonna fucking live, because we need you! Don’t you dare die!” I saw my tears dripping on her face, and I kissed her. “Don’t you dare die.”

I was stroking her face and talking to her when the paramedics arrived. They ran up the stairs and I explained what had happened.

“Much blood?” I nodded.

“Oxygen and a saline drip,” he wired her up for heart and blood pressure. He shook his head. I helped them lift her on the stretcher and followed them down to the ambulance. “You coming?”

I jumped in the back with them, calling for Tom to follow and to bring me a jacket and my handbag.

We sped away in a whirl of blue lights and sirens. I watched as the feeble bleep that indicated one of my most loved friends, registered she was still just alive. It felt as if everything was in slow motion presumably because the adrenalin was running or I was in mild shock myself.

I looked down at the trousers and top I was wearing, there were wet patches and splashes of blood all over me. I looked like some mad axe murderer. The paramedic handed me a wet wipe, “You have blood on your face.” I looked up at the reflective window and wiped my face clean. It was Stella’s precious red stuff and she’d tried to empty it from her body.

We arrived at the hospital and they rushed her into A&E, I was sent to the waiting area. I slumped into a chair and silently wept. Tom found me some time later and hugged me.

“Oh Tom, It’s all my fault,” I sobbed, “I sent her to the bath to get a few moment’s peace. I should have known what she’d do. It’s all my fault.”

“No it isn’t Cathy, she made that decision herself. It isn’t your fault, if she survives, that will be because you acted so quickly.

I wrapped the jacket he’d brought for me around me and he allowed me to snuggle into him. I didn’t really sleep, I just needed the comfort of knowing someone cared for me.

I came out of my stupor, “I’d better call Simon or Henry.”

“I did that before I left, Simon is on his way.”

“I just seem to bring this family bad luck, maybe it’s me who needs to go.” I said thinking out loud.

“I don’t think so, in fact you’ve kept most of us alive at various times and if you do go, they will fall apart. If Stella survives this, she won’t last long without you.”

“They’ll hospitalise her won’t they?”

“For now yes, she’ll be quite ill I imagine, she looked as if she lost a fair amount of blood. If that compromises her kidneys, she’s in real trouble.”

“Don’t tell me things like that, Tom, I’ll have nightmares about it.”

“You’ll be okay, remember you’re special, the universe has a purpose for you.”

“Doesn’t it for everyone?”

“Yes, but for some of us it’s to prepare for the big hitters, like you.”

“You sound like John the Baptist.”

“Yeah, some days I feel like him too.”

“That would make me… aw come on, you’re joking?”

“Yeah, the Virgin Mary, I am joking.”

“You silly old bugger,” I said and hugged him.

“I may be a silly old bugger, but that’s probably what they said about the wise men.”

“Hey, cut out the religious references. I’m a paid up agnostic, remember?”

At that moment Simon came rushing in. “Jeez, Cathy. What happened to you, you look like you’ve been slaughtering something large.”

“Stella slashed her wrists in the bath, I caught her just in time, I hope. I came in with her in the ambulance.”

“Oh shit, what is she trying to do to us?” he said, sitting with his head in his hands.

“It’s not us she’s trying to hurt, is it?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“It’s ever since the kidnapping. I wonder what those fiends did to her.”

“They’re all dead now.”

“How do you know?”

“It cost me a thousand pounds a hit.”

“What? You had them killed?”

“Let’s just say I speeded up the inevitable.”

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 310

“Why don’t you go home and have a shower and change, I’ll wait here and I’ll let you know if there’s any change.”

“I’ll be all right,” I replied to Simon.

“You look like something from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

“Gee thanks, Simon, you really know how to make a girl feel good.”

“It’s a gift,” he said and sniggered.

“I’m all right, I’d rather wait.”

“Go home and freshen up, have a little sleep if you like, I’ll wait and let you know if anything happens.”

“Who are you bossing around, Simon Cameron?”

“Who? You, future wife o’mine, now get an’ dae as I tell’t ye!”

“Oh yes, very Millfield,” I elevated my nose as I spoke.

“Simon is right, you should go home and rest.”

“Aye, awa’ hame.”

“Look here you blue blooded porridge basher, I shall make up my own mind in my own time, so there!” For emphasis I poked out my tongue.

“Suit yersel’, but yer no sittin’ wi’ me.”

“Why this sudden attack of tartanism? Did you eat two sporrans for lunch?”

“Aye, sporrans an’ tatties.”

I yawned, there was no news from the nurse’s station or the emergency room. I still couldn’t think why she did it, although it was perhaps slightly better than trying to kill me. My head was spinning.

“Okay, I’ll go home and shower and have a little sleep, but if anything happens, you will let me know?”

“Of course, look, Babes, you can’t do anything here can you?”

“Only worry in company.”

“Well I can do that for you. So just take this old bugger here with you, and leave me in peace. I always worry better on my own.”

“I’ll stay, if you don’t mind,” said Tom.

“I do, because I want you to keep an eye on her,” he nodded at me, “I can’t afford anything to happen to the other woman in my life.”

“Huh, so I’m the other woman now, am I?”

“You know what I mean, there are two women who are important to me, my Cathy and my Stella.”

“What about Monica?”

“’Fraid not.”

That puzzled me, but now was not the time to discuss it. Tom reluctantly agreed to accompany me home. I drove as he had been drinking, something I’d completely forgotten beforehand. If he’d had an accident, I’d never have forgiven myself because I asked him to drive and bring my bag and coat.

The cool night air woke me up a bit. Everything still had a feeling of unrealness about it, almost as if I was watching it on a screen rather than living it, detachment or even dissociation, the doctors call it.

The drive home was uneventful and we got home and Tom went to the kitchen to make himself a coffee and me some tea. I went and showered, then put my clothes in the washing machine, along with the towels we’d used and the bath mat. Some of the blood was still wet. I washed out the bath, a little blood goes a long way. I had a vague memory of my mother saying, blood and milk seem to spread everywhere as does broken glass. I had visions of someone dropping a bottle of milk and cutting themselves badly on the broken glass, wondering if it would all go pink?

The tea had helped refresh me and I wondered if I should go to the hospital with a flask of coffee for Simon and some sandwiches. I decided I would. Tom had nodded off in the lounge, so much for black coffee keeping one awake.

I made up the flask and did some ham sandwiches for Simon, then slipped out to the car. I did leave a note for Tom. On the way back I happened on an accident, police, fire and ambulance were in attendance, so I negotiated my way around the side streets to avoid it.

I parked up and ran into Simon with his picnic. He was pacing up and down.

“What’s the matter?” I asked seeing his worried look.

“What are you doing here?”

“I brought you some coffee and sandwiches.”

“Oh, that’s very kind of you, but I’m too agitated to eat.”

“Why, what has happened?”

“She arrested.”

“What, like her heart?”

“Yes.”

“Oh no!” I wailed and threw myself into his arms, “I couldn’t bear it if she died. Not her as well.”

“No, neither could I,” he said with detachment.

“She’s going to be all right, isn’t she?”

“I hope so, I really do.”

“Poor Stella, who’d have thought it?”

“Well this all stems from those bastards who took her.”

We sat ourselves down in a quiet corner of the waiting room.

“What was that you said earlier about something costing you a thousand each?”

“Oh that. I told my contacts in the Moscow police that I wanted all of those involved in her kidnap locked up or dead. I told him I’d pay a reward of a thousand pounds for each one. They didn’t take any prisoners.”

“So how do you know he wasn’t lying to you, only making it up?”

“I have a couple of other contacts who corroborated his story.”

“So you didn’t take out a contract on them?”

“Not really, tempted as I was, I just wanted some revenge and justice for Stella.”

“Shouldn’t the Russian police have done that sort of thing anyway?”

“Too much bureaucracy, rarely get anything done, too many interested parties.”

“Oh, so it’s as bad as they show in the films?”

“Oh worse than that. Arnie’s Governor of California.”

Somehow my addled brain couldn’t process that statement, I presumed it referred to films, but none that I could remember seeing. I decided it didn’t warrant pursuit. Besides, it didn’t matter to me who was Governor of California, although I was led to believe the current incumbent was taking some serious ‘green’ measures. Too little, too late.

“Do you know what is happening with Stella?”

“Something to do with a clot in her arm, so she was in theatre.”

“Oh!” I said without knowing why she’d be there and whether it was a good or bad thing. I hoped the doctors knew.

A nurse came out from the office, “Simon?” she asked walking towards us.

“That’s me, any news?” he said.

“Yes, your sister is out of theatre and resting, she’s in ICU and we’re giving her blood.”

“Can we see her?”

“I’m afraid not. She has a bruise on her face, do you know anything about that?”

“I do,” I explained about the incident in the supermarket and the nurse nodded.

“Is she a nurse? I have some feeling I should know the name, Stella Cameron.”

“She’s a nurse specialist in GUM.”

“Ah, I thought I recognised it, well don’t worry, we always care for our own. Look, you can’t do any more this evening, leave a phone number and I’ll get them to contact you if there’s any change.”

With great reluctance we went home, waking Tom, who hadn’t noticed I had gone in the first place.

So much for, missing me when I’m gone!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 311

by Angarad (Bonzi’s out clubbing)

We all spent a very difficult night, when sleep came, it was fitful and anything but refreshing. I awoke once crying, don’t ask me why, I can’t remember what I was dreaming about, but I assume Stella may have been involved in it.

At the earliest opportunity, we waited until nearly nine o’clock, we called the ICU and asked for a report on Stella. She was stable, quite poorly, and visiting would be restricted because of it.

“Cathy, why don’t you go for a ride on your bike?” suggested Tom.

“I don’t honestly know if I have the energy.” I sat down and felt drained.

“Isn’t exercise supposed to build energy levels if practised regularly?”

“So they say.” I still wasn’t buying it. Strange because a couple of days ago, that was all I could think of.

Simon, who had been out in the garden with Kiki came out into the room. “It’s quite mild out today, how about a walk or something?”

“I’ve been trying to encourage her to wipe the cobwebs off her bike.”

“Tom, that is an excellent idea, c’mon girl get yer lycra on.”

“I really don’t feel like it.”

“You will when you’re out.”

“What happens if you know what starts to feel sore from the saddle?” I tried the ultimate obstacle.

“I’ll kiss it better for you,” volunteered Simon, which had Tom sniggering and me blushing.

“You’re not going to take no for an answer are you?”

“Depends upon the question.” Simon was waxing lyrical despite his tiredness, and if I didn’t do something to stop him, we’d either get a soliloquy from Hamlet or a Monty Python sketch. I left the room and went to find some cycling kit. Ten minutes later he came to get his.

I wore some bib tights to keep my legs warm and hoped the chamois would protect the tender spot. I sat down to put on my shoes, the Velcro making a zipping sound as I detached it and then put it back, after which I tightened up the ratchet on the top strap. Finally, I grabbed my jacket and helmet and sunglasses; I never ride without some sort of eye protection. A fly in the eye hurts more than it does in the ointment.

I tied back my hair and popped on a bit of lippy, my face looked quite pale without my regular outdoor exploits—the paleness making the dark rings under my eyes look darker—just what I needed.

Some few minutes later we clomped out to the garage and checked over the bikes, the Specialized was closest, so I grabbed it and checked the tyres. Simon did the pumping and it didn’t take long before we were outside and blinking in the February sunshine.

It did feel good to be back on a bike, and I soon clipped in my cleats and was moving along at a steady fifteen miles per hour. Simon was just behind me. I was aware of the pressure from the saddle, but so far so good. It was nearly two months, so about time it healed.

We did about ten miles in a circular route where I avoided any steep hills or really busy roads, which is quite an achievement in Portsmouth. Simon had stayed with me, and I let him win the race back to the house, content to make it home safely.

After showering and making a simple lunch of cheese and a French stick I nipped out and got from our local baker’s shop, we went off to see Stella.

She was sleeping when we got there, I so wanted to wake her with a kiss, but common sense suggested it could also shock her, which didn’t seem like a very clever idea.

“Hello Stella,” we both said from the bottom of the bed. She opened her eyes as if too tired to be really bothered about it. It seemed to take her a moment to focus, she smile weakly then seemed to slip back into her slumber. I went and sat by the bed and reached to squeeze her hand. Her eyes opened and closed briefly.

I glanced at all the various machines and monitors around her like the interior of some spacecraft. “We went for a ride on the bikes today, it was rather nice.”

The eyes opened and shut again and the hint of a smile. Simon won the race back, but only because I let him.”

“That’s not true,” he protested, “I won it fair and square.”

“Yeah, look out, Mark Cavendish, Sprinting Simon is about.” I laughed and Stella’s mouth crinkled slightly at the corners, looked like she agreed with me.

We stayed for about twenty minutes leaving when the Sister looked at her watch and then tapped it with her finger. As we left, I spoke with the senior nurse.

“How is she doing?”

“She’s doing all right, her wrists are looking angry but I don’t think they’re infected and the heart is okay.”

“So how long will she be here?”

“At about seven thousand a day, not a moment longer than she needs.”

“Geez, you could get a Cannondale for that or a Scott Addict.”

“Whatever they are when they are at home?” said the nurse incredulously.

“Bicycles,” offered Simon, “meet the female equivalent of Lance Armstrong.”

“Who?”

“Tour de France rider.”

“Sorry Mr Cameron, but that doesn’t enlighten me much.”

“You’ve surely heard of the Tour de France?” Simon asked, looking astonished.

“Well yes, I don’t live on the moon.”

“Well Lance Armstrong has won it seven times.”

“Is that good?” she asked.

Who was this so called ‘Angel of Mercy’, and had she arrived in the last shower of rain?

“It verges on miraculous,” I suggested.

“He was never caught doping,” said Simon firmly.

“Caught, being the operative word,” I argued.

“Do you think he used performance enhancing drugs then?” asked our latter day Florence Nightingale.

“Some consider the achievement a little too perfect,” I said.

“Do you?” she asked.

“I don’t have an opinion.”

“Yes you do,” countered Simon, “You think it was too good to be true.”

“I have an open mind, Simon, as you said, he was never caught doping so we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

“Well I think he was clean, unlike some of the other winners.”

“I’m sure this lady has loads to do, rather than stand here arguing the toss about cheats in France. Oh, I’ve put her clean nighties and toiletries in her locker,” I mentioned as we were leaving.

“Good, it helps patients if they’re wearing their own clothes and using their own toiletries.”

With that we left, feeling slightly more optimistic about our favourite nurse specialist.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part Guess What, 26 Doz! (312)

On the way home we went to the university, where I checked up on my babies. Spike seemed happy to see me, or maybe it was the Brazil nut she nibbled while I held her. I was pretty sure she was pregnant again, so she was making her regular contribution to the captive breeding programme.

While I was in the lab talking with the technicians, Simon was bringing Henry up to speed on Stella’s condition. He came in to find me when he’d finished.

“Dad’s coming down tonight to see Stella, we’re invited to dinner at the hotel.”

“With Tom?”

“Of course, you don’t think he’d leave Tom out, did you?”

“No, but with you lot, it isn’t safe to assume anything, is it?”

“Well you know I love you.”

“I wouldn’t have thought that knowledge of something is the same as an assumption. I could perhaps assume something because I know you love me.”

Simon’s eyes glazed over, “Why did I have to fall in love with an academic?”

“You didn’t have to, it wasn’t compulsory,” I pouted back.

“Oh Gawd, I’m going back to the car, when you’re ready.”

“Why don’t you pop back via Pippa and leave a message for Tom about tonight?”

“Yes, okay. Will you be long in coming?”

“Depends on how excited I get,” I winked at him forgetting that Neal was standing a few feet away. He fell about laughing and I got very embarrassed, all self-inflicted.

Simon went off shaking his head and muttering to himself. I went back to talking about the breeding programme, which brought a fresh set of blushes to my face and a snigger to Neal’s.

Simon was still chatting with Pippa when I came through from the labs. “Did you tell Tom?”

“No, he’s in a meeting, but I told his boss, here.”

“Oh, okay, hi, Pippa.”

I made us all a cuppa and we chatted for a few minutes while we drank it.

“When are you coming back to work?”

“Well that depends upon whether or not Stella is sent home again and if she needs me to be there.”

“Yes, that was a bit sad.”

“It was awful. I felt so guilty,” I confessed. “I sent her up to bath to give my ears a short break, she was getting so clingy. If only I’d thought…”

“You wouldn’t know though, would you?” Simon tried to alleviate my guilt.

“I didn’t even think, Si, I was simply concerned with my own needs that I didn’t consider hers.”

“Don’t beat yourself up, Cathy, she was obviously worse than you thought.” Simon could be so supportive.

“But it was partly my fault, I sent her up to the bathroom.”

“Did you know she was going to do it?”

“Of course not.”

“So how are you responsible?”

“I rejected her.”

“You’d spent all day with her, for goodness sake.”

“I know, but I still feel I failed her when she needed me.”

“What psychotherapy training have you had?”

“None, you know all that, Simon.”

“I’m just showing you that you didn’t know, nor should be expected to know. You know more about bloody dormice than you do about anything useful! Bloody academics!”

“I know, we should all be strangled at birth,” I continued his whinge.

“And bloody Watney’s red barrel,” he continued going straight into a Monty Python sketch. I did wonder if insanity ran in his family or if he was the first sufferer.

When he’d finished his complaint sketch, we left. Pippa laughed which only encouraged him, she hadn’t seen any of them. I’d seen the lot, one of the side effects of a university education, down the union watching tapes of the Monty Python shows and the films of course. Well it was more fun than the lectures. I hoped my stuff was more interesting than the, knights who say, ‘Ne’, although the reality would be, only if you were interested in my subject, mammalian biology.

“We going home or do you need anything?”

“Could do with some stuff for the bread machine, can we stop at Morrison’s?”

“Of course we can, that’s why I asked you?”

We did stop and he nagged me the whole time. I didn’t say anything although I did notice a certain amount of unease in him, when I picked up a cabbage. He also shut up for a while. I put the cabbage in our basket.

Finally, his curiosity got the better of him, “Was it one like this you hit that bloke with?”

“What bloke?” I played dumb.

“You know damn well which bloke, the one who clobbered Stella, that bloke!”

“Oh him, nah, that was a Savoy cabbage, not a white one. These are lethal weapons, why I could probably kill you with one of these…”

He recognised my Psychopath example and behaved himself. That’s what I love about Simon, he’s totally gullible!

Easy As Falling In A Lake Part 313

by Bonzi

translated from the Miaowish by Angharad

Over the next few days, Stella, made a good recovery. Henry, took things in hand and as soon as she was physically strong enough, she was going to go to an exclusive clinic in the countryside near Hastings.

As you can imagine, Stella, was not best pleased but given that it was her father who was making the arrangements, she agreed to accept them. However, she bent my ear at every opportunity.

“I can’t believe I have to go to this nut house in Hastings.”

“It isn’t a nut house, it’s a private clinic.”

“That’s just a euphemism for a place they send druggie pop stars, anorexic models and alcoholic actors and politicians.”

“You should be well entertained then.”

“Nah, I won’t. It’s all private room stuff, so as to preserve anonymity.”

“You mean like solitary confinement?” I asked aghast.

“Yeah, maybe I can invoke the Geneva convention.”

“I think that only applies to the military, I also think they would permit some of it, but then I’m not a human rights lawyer.”

“Pity, you might have been able to get a reduction of sentence,” she said frowning.

“Stella, the length of time you’ll be there will depend upon how quickly you recover from your traumatic stress thingy.”

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, you mean?”

“That’s the one. As far as I know, dormice aren’t particularly prone to it.”

“Thank you, Doctor Dormouse.”

I shrugged, “You’re welcome.” A moment later she hit me on the forehead with a grape.

“I thought they’d stopped using grapeshot,” I quipped.

“Next time it’ll be grapefruit shot,” she laughed juggling with an orange.

“Eek, ‘cannons to the right of them, cannons to the left of them volleyed and thundered’ Ooph!” She lobbed the orange and hit me right in the middle of me Tennyson.

“I don’t remember the ‘Ooph’ in the poem,” she said laughing.

“Did you know that the Victoria Cross is made from metal taken from Russian guns captured in the Crimean War?”

“No, I didn’t. What happens when they run out?”

“I don’t know, I’m a scientist, I count dormice, how should I know anything?”

“I thought scientists knew everything, you know that Dawkins bloke seems to.”

“Ah well he’s a professor at Oxford, I’m a thicko at Portsmouth.”

“Tom’s a professor,” said Stella as if I needed reminding.

“Goodness, I didn’t realise that,” I said with sarcasm and got hit by another grape.

“I could have gone for a ride on my bike instead of having you throw fruit at me as if I were in the pillory.”

“You did get a ride, you rode here didn’t you?”

The fact that I was wearing cycling gear and carrying a helmet suggested she may have noticed. I put the helmet on to protect me from falling fruit.

“The nurses are not going to like you,” I said.

“Why’s that?”

“Because there’s fruit all over the floor.”

“I’ll tell them you were throwing it at me.”

“That would be lying, Stella, a deliberate deception.”

“Absolutely,” she said as another grape pinged off my helmet. She laughed and said, “If I get one to jam in the air holes in the helmet do I get double points?”

“Your father must have had great influence over Millfield,” I said profoundly.

“He did, why?”

“Well I can get an impression of why they wanted to expel you twice a week.”

“Nah, we used to make stink bombs in chemistry and throw those, not fruit.”

“I suspect you’re only throwing fruit because you don’t have access to hydrogen sulphide, these days.”

“Am I that transparent?” she asked innocently.

“Only to a know-it-all scientist,” I said and we both laughed. “I shall miss you,” I offered.

“Yeah, and with a sentence of being detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, I could be there for years.”

“I doubt it, I can’t see Henry spending that much, even for his precious daughter.”

“So it’s Broadmoor* then,” Stella shrugged.

“Yeah, but not for a week or two,” I pretended to reassure her.

“Oh well that’s all right then,” she said and threw another grape at my helmet.

“I have to go,” I said at last, the last being the final grape thrown at me.

“You don’t, do you?”

“Stella, if I didn’t mean it I wouldn’t have said it.”

“Why, other people do, all the time.”

“I’m not other people,” I said and rose to pull on my jacket.

“No Tom keeps saying you’re special.”

“Tom can be mistaken.”

“Nah, he’s a professor.”

“Of mammalian biology, not philosophy.”

“Trust you to bring it down to the mundane again.”

“I’m a scientist, remember?”

I ran out of the room as an orange thudded against the wall.

* Broadmoor, is a secure psychiatric unit run jointly by the Dept of Health and the Home Office, it houses several ‘criminally insane’ inmates.

Easy As Falling For A Bike Part 314

(I did last week!)

by Angharad wyth-beiciau*

(Hope it’s grammatical)

I rode home as hard and fast as I could, I had a lot to do to regain my previous fitness levels. I was hot and bothered when I got home. Tom was there working on his computer. He looked up at me and asked, “What happened to you?”

“I got attacked by a fruit salad, why?”

“You all right?” he responded to my comment.

“Yeah, I feel good, the ride back was excellent.”

“Which bike did you take?”

“The Scott.”

“Is that the one which started all this business?”

“’Fraid so.”

“Hmmm! Any news from Des?”

“He was supposed to be sending me some shooting schedules, I’ll chase him up on that, Spike is already pregnant, so we need to get some pictures of her.”

“I thought she looked a little plump the other day.”

“I didn’t know you were interested in my dormice.”

“I’m not, I wanted to see one of the technicians who happened to be shoving nuts down her throat as fast as she could swallow them.”

“I hope you stopped them,” I was quite worried.

“Of course I did, what do you think I am?”

“Can I plead the fifth amendment on that?”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, we aren’t in America yet, despite various governments trying to sell us out to them.”

“If Tony Blair played cricket would he be a spin bowler?” I suddenly asked.

“Dunno, would he?”

I shrugged, “Gordon Brown would be a slow bowler.”

“Maybe, go and shower and make us some dinner.”

“Yes boss,” I saluted him and ran up stairs. The shower was so refreshing, I was tempted to stand there all evening.

“So how was Stella?” Tom asked as we were eating.

“Better I think, she assaulted me with a fruit salad.”

“Different, I suppose!” was all he said.

“I think she was bored, so she looks to amuse herself at the expense of mere mortals like me.”

“Did you throw things back?”

“No, of course not, why?”

“I’m glad I have the sane one home.”

“I always thought I was the crazy one.”

“You are, but you are so crazy you’ve come out the other side.”

“Does that mean I’m sane?”

“I wouldn’t go that far…!” He smiled and I wrinkled up my nose at him.

“Dessert is?” he asked.

“Fruit?” I joked. He laughed and eventually so did I.

“When does she go to the clinic?”

“Tomorrow or the next day.”

“You won’t be able to cycle in to see her then, too far isn’t it?”

“Yes I know, and it’s not so much a question of too far, rather that I’d take all day to get there.”

He shook his head, “That’s what I mean.”

“Fancy coming for a walk with the dog?”

“Yeah, can I just put the dishwasher on?”

“A coat might be warmer.”

I was horrified at his pun. I liked him because he was different to most any other of my teachers and tutors. He didn’t usually do puns, that was Simon’s territory. It disturbed me.

We collected the dog from the garden and once she saw the lead she was bouncing all over the place. I felt like saying to her, “Behave or we won’t go.” It would have been pointless as she doesn’t speak any useful languages, a bit like the average student these days.

The walk was rather good, we only did a couple of miles but it helped me relax and I had a simple chat with Tom about anything and nothing. When we got home, I had a quick cuppa and went to bed, Tom was still working.

The next morning I went into the university and once the word got out, I had several students come to see me. I was able to check the data coming from the students I’d delegated the dormouse watch. They were doing a great job and that was one less worry.

I had the schedules from Des for shooting the film and was horrified to realise if we went ahead, that we would be starting in a week’s time. I’m not sure Simon would appreciate it. Tom didn’t offer to put him up even though he had a spare room, so I left him to book somewhere. I felt mean but safer.

Simon called to say he wouldn’t be home until Friday night, I told him about Des and his tone changed. “Don’t let that bastard anywhere near you without a third party, he’s a real opportunist.”

“I know, Simon, that’s why I didn’t ask Tom to put him up.”

“Good grief, don’t do that for God’s sake.”

“I’m not Simon, you weren’t listening.”

“Don’t let him in the house, he’s a real manipulator and you won’t know he’s done it until he’s had what he wants. In your case that’s you.”

“I have told him several times that I love you,” I said with conviction.

“That won’t stop him, keep him at arm’s length, I’m saying this for your own sake, that man is dangerous.”

“So why did Henry insist on using him?”

“He’s brilliant at what he does.”

It was going to be one of those days.

* wyth-beiciau: eight bicycles

Easy As Falling Off A Step Part 315

(which is 21×15 for 15 or 21 fetishists)

by Tripwire Bonzi

I went to lunch with Tom, after Simon’s rant against Des, I needed to be away from the office for an hour. Pippa came with us, so we went in my car to the usual place. Just to be different, Tom had a beef curry. He felt it showed his adaptability, Pippa had a chicken salad and I had my tuna favourite, thereby demonstrating my consistency!

Tom offered to pay, and we let him thereby showing our shallowness and lack of adherence to feminist principles. I could almost hear Germaine Greer, telling me, ‘That people died so I could pay for my own meal,’ and me replying with two words, as she is not renowned for her support of the integration of transsexuals as women. I wondered if she was one of the immigrants to this country who got the illegal ones a bad name. At the same time I suspected we were stuck with her because I couldn’t see Australia taking her back, or her front for that matter.

“A penny for them,” said Pippa.

“What me? Nah, they’re not worth even that.”

“C’mon Cathy, what were you thinking about?” urged Tom.

“Okay, I was thinking about Germaine Greer,” I blushed.

“What for?” said Tom, crossing himself.

“Who?” asked Pippa.

“An old bat who wrote, The Female Eunuch, a classic of feminist literature in its day.” Tom beat me to the answer.

“She’s an Australian academic, but lives over here now,” I added.

“Why were you thinking about her?” asked Pippa.

“Dunno, I think she must have been on the telly or radio, recently.” I was getting better at lying.

“She had a thing in The Guardian recently,” informed Tom.

“Maybe it was that, I can’t remember. Let’s talk about something more pleasant.”

Just then my nerves were shredded as a shrill squeal followed by ‘Caffy,’ blasted my auditory and other nerves. It could only mean one thing.

I turned around and this thing sprang at me wrapping arms around my waist like a two-armed octopus (a bipus?) capturing its prey.

“Hello Jemima,” I said, though it was barely discernible above the giggles and squeals. “My goodness, haven’t you grown?” I said rhetorically, but she answered me anyway.

“Mima gwowed wots an’ wots. You still pwetty, Caffy.”

“Thank you Jemima.” I waved to her mother, who came over to rescue us from the mini-tornado. I reached into my pocket and pulled a pound coin and handed it to her, “Here, Jemima, take this and put it in your piggy bank.”

“Mima no got piggy bank, me got bankicount.”

“Okay, Jemima, put it in your bankicount.”

“’kay, Caffy.”

“Is this person bothering you?” said her mother as she approached us.

“Mummmmmmmeeeeeeeeeee,” squealed Jemima, “’sCaffy.” My ears twitched as the noise destroyed my eardrums and large portions of my brain. Tom flinched and he’s losing some of his hearing. Even Pippa winced a little.

“I can see that, come on madam, let’s be havin’ you, leave these nice people in peace.” Her mother took her hand and started to lead her away. Jemima showed her the coin. “Did you say thank you?”

She shook her head no, “Pudit in bankicount.”

“Yes we’ll put it in your bank account, now you say thank you to Cathy.”

Jemima once again hugged my waist and bottom, “Fanks Caffy for der munny.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart.”

We waited until she’d gone before readying ourselves to go back to work.

“She has quite a squeal on her,” commented Pippa.

“That squeal caused Spike to somehow end up in the air conditioning,” I told her.

“How do you reckon on that?” she replied.

“She fell out of the thing on top of me. Thank goodness we don’t breed pigs.”

Tom chuckled and added, “Wouldn’t they have to be the flying variety?”

I smiled as I recalled an advert from a few years ago with CG pigs flying to the music of ‘633 Squadron’—one of Ron Goodwin’s most memorable tunes. I couldn’t remember what it was advertising, but it was very funny.

We drove back to the university and I began the first of four scheduled tutorials with first year students. Next week, apart from Des complicating the issue, I also had to do some teaching. Thankfully, it was on field biology, where I was reasonably competent and when I was a student was informed along with the rest of my class, that field biology was not, ‘having sex in the open air.’ My then teacher thought he had a sense of humour, the remarks I got on my essays showed he thought the same about me.

When we got home I felt exhausted and after making a meal, slipped off to have a bath and an early night, however, on entering the bathroom all I could see was Stella lying semiconscious in pool of reddening water. I felt violently sick and threw up in the toilet. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to take a bath again.

I went to bed thinking about her and how close she had come to succeeding in doing away with herself. I wondered how she was settling at the clinic and resolved to call her the next day, if my ears had recovered from the mini-banshee we encountered at lunch.

Easy As Flying In A Saucer

Part 300 plus all Bonzi’s toes (316)

by Bonzi (The baddest cat ever!)

“I am so sick of smoked salmon,” said the complaining voice down the phone.

“Send it to me then, I love it.”

“The bread is sticking to the phone.”

“Pity, can’t you digitise it and send it by email?”

“Nah, haven’t got a ’puter in ’ere, ’ave I?”

“I honestly do not know what you do and don’t have, Stella.”

“Well that’s why I’m phoning to keep you up-to-date.”

“I called you, Stella.”

“Did you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Well bugger me with a crowbar,” she said and of course I had just taken a gulp of tea. I spent the next few moments with tea up my nose and all over my desk, while I coughed and spluttered.

“You all right?”

“Yes, there’s no verb.”

“What?”

“In your last sentence, no verb.”

“I’m being bored to death in a loony bin and she corrects my grammar, what is this, ‘Casualty’?”

“Habit,” I offered.

“Yeah, I know; I’ve seen the size of your feet.”

“What?”

“I’ve seen the size of your feet.”

“So, they’re only a size six, hardly huge are they?”

“Is that normal size six or a Hobbit size six?”

“What are you on about?”

“You said you were a Hobbit.”

“When?”

“A couple or three minutes ago.”

“I did not!” I was good at indignation.

“You did, I wouldn’t lie to you Cathy, you know too much.”

“Is that another one?”

“See what I mean, Simon wouldn’t have picked up on it at all.”

“Have you spoken to him yet?”

“Nah, will do it later.”

“If the smoked salmon doesn’t get you first.”

“Exactly. See ya soon, byeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”

Suddenly I was alone again.

“Damn, why didn’t I give her a doggy bag?” I asked myself out loud. I wondered how long it would take to cycle to Sussex. At least I knew roughly where she was, having cycled round and about while at uni there.

I started the preparation for my lesson, ‘Starting a Survey.’ I had written so many protocols for all this that it was almost boring to give a lecture on it. However, I didn’t claim to know them all so there was room for discussion, I hoped.

“How’s it going?”

I looked up to find myself staring at Pippa. “What? Oh yeah, yeah it’s fine Pippa. Wot, no tea?”

“I came down to ask you if you’ll speak to a journo.”

“What’s he want to talk to me about?”

“The survey, oh and it’s a woman.”

“Shouldn’t Tom be doing this?”

“Probably, he’s in with the board of professors.”

“Oh bugger, all right.”

“Shall I send her down then?”

“No, make some tea and I’ll come up.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely, I want you to sit in on it.”

“Cathy, I have typing to do.”

“I have things to do, too. If I can give up half an hour, so can you!”

“Huh, how much strychnine do you want in your tea?”

“About half as much as you and the journo,” I quipped back.

She stood and poked out her tongue at me. I shook my head.

I finished what I was writing and wandered up to the admin section. I caught sight of a tall woman wandering around looking at pictures on the wall. I wondered if it was the woman I was supposed to meet.

I was sort of tidy, wearing a long denim skirt and a red jumper, with some boots and a denim jacket.

“Hi Pippa, let’s get on with it, have you made the tea?”

“Yes your majesty.” She curtseyed to emphasise the sarcasm.

“I suppose we could use Tom’s office.”

“Fine, go and get settled and I’ll bring in the tea and the journalist.”

“Who is she?”

“Dunno, she gave me her card but it’s on my desk.”

“Some bloody secretary you are!” I shook my head in mock disgust.

“Ha! Don’t think you can fill Tom’s chair just ’cos your arse is the same size, missy!”

I sat with my mouth wide open, I was speechless.

“Cathy, this is Marlene Hickman.” Pippa led in a tall woman who looked almost familiar.

I did a double take, her shoulders were quite broad and her skirt disguised how big her hips were. We shook hands and hers were bigger than mine, so were her feet. My ‘gaydar’ was buzzing, this wasn’t a natural woman.

“Pleased to meet you,” I said squeezing her hand gently.

“And I, you. You don’t know how long it has taken to track you down.”

“I beg your pardon.” This didn’t sound like someone who wanted to know about dormice and surveys.”

“Someone told me about your interview in Bristol.”

“Which one, I’ve done several.”

“The one with your fiancé.”

“What’s the purpose of this interview?”

“To talk to you.”

“About what, and for which paper?”

“I thought The Guardian might be interested.”

“I was under the impression you came here to talk to me about the forthcoming mammal survey and dormouse study.”

“I loved the dormouse clip on YouTube, that suit was exquisite.”

“Look who are you?”

“Marlene Hickman, like it says on my card.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for this, I have a class to teach.” I rose to leave.

“Charlie, sit down and talk to me, you always used to back in school.”

“What? Who are you?”

“You knew me better as Gordon Wild.”

I stopped and stared at her. I shook my head in disbelief. “I cannot believe there were two of us in one form.”

“Nor me, I knew there was something about you, but I assumed you were gay and hadn’t worked it out.”

“Pippa, can you believe I went to school with this miscreant?”

Pippa sat smiling, “Yes I can, but only because you told me.”

“You’ve done all right for yourself girl, you look a million dollars, have your hooks in a bloke and he’s loaded, plus you have a nice little niche in the university.”

“I’ve worked hard for all of it.”

“Okay, I wasn’t implying you hadn’t, and with your looks, you could have been a model.”

“Me? Too short.”

“Okay, maybe not a Caroline Cossey type, actually you’re prettier than her.”

“What! She is gorgeous.”

“So are you, girl. So, you been done?”

“Yeah, you?” I threw back at her.

“Yeah, last year in Thailand, cost an arm and a leg.”

“So what do you want to know about dormice?” I asked.

“Nothing, I’d far rather talk to you and do a personal piece on you.”

“Sorry, been there done that, got the stab-marks in my back.”

“Do you not think I’d write a sensitive piece?”

“You haven’t been very sensitive so far, have you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the deception to get an interview, for a start.”

“Not everyone wants to talk to a journalist.”

“I know, I’m one of them.”

“We need to use people like you to sell the cause to the public.”

“Do you get a fee for writing it?”

“Yeah, I’m a professional.”

“So am I.”

“What, you want a fee for doing it?”

“No, but it’s not much of a cause if you expect to profit from it, and don’t offer me a fee, not that I want it, because I’m going. Nice to meet you Marlene, I hope you’ll be happy in your new role.”

As I walked to the door she moved to block me. “I need to interview you,” she insisted.

“Make an appointment, I should be free in about 2012.”

“Charlie, you’re making a mistake.”

“If you call me that once more Gordon, or publish anything against me, you’ll find out just how big a mistake you’re making.”

“The pen is mightier…” she smiled at me.

“My lawyer’s is a rather nice gold Waterman, if you take my meaning.” I was in no mood to banter with her.

“I could make things awkward…”

“Pippa, please note implied threats, you’re a witness to this. I have declined to give an interview, that’s it. Please leave or I’ll call security.”

“You haven’t heard the last of this!” she stormed out of Tom’s office.

I sat down exhausted; I was shaking with shock and anger.

“Who is your lawyer?” asked Pippa.

“I don’t have one, that was all bluff.”

“I think you’d better get one.”

“Yeah, you could have a point.” I picked up the phone and left a message for Simon to call me back. He did an hour later.

“So who do you recommend?” I asked him.

“You could use the bank’s firm, they’d be okay.”

“Who are they?”

“Compton, Abbas and Winterbourne.” He gave me their address and phone number. “I’ve checked with Dad, it’s okay to use them.”

“Thanks, Simon.”

“Talk to Des, he might have a contact on the paper.”

“I thought you didn’t approve of Des?”

“I don’t, but why keep a dog and bark?”

“What?”

“He’s into the media, he knows his way around and has loads of contacts, so shortcut things and use him, he’s going to use you for his film.”

“If you’re sure?”

“Look, it sounds as if this woman you were in school with thought she could call in old favours by exploiting your previous acquaintance in school. If she’d gone about it the right way, I could see you granting the interview, but not the way she did it.”

“That’s exactly how I feel.”

“Well tell that idle bastard in Bristol to get off his arse and stop her.”

“If I tell him that, he’s hardly going to help me, is he?”

“You want me to call him?”

“Not if you’re going to talk to him like that.”

“I’ll be my usual, charming self.”

“Okay then, but let me know what’s happening. Oh by the by, Stella is grumbling about too much smoked salmon.”

“That girl is always so ungrateful, deal with her and I’ll speak to Des.”

“I’ll try.”

“You can do better than that Cathy, after all, you expect me to.”

“Okay, thanks, Simon.”

He rang off and I sat in Tom’s chair with Pippa looking at me and asking what we do next. I shrugged my shoulders, I didn’t really know, I’d got out of that defensive mode, everyone knows so why bother? But they don’t necessarily and could upset one or two others: and to add insult to injury, she’s intending to sell it to my favourite newspaper, what irony!

Easy As Calling On A Mike Part 317

by Ang-thingumyjig

The afternoon was a complete mess; I wasted time by being unable to concentrate on anything I needed to do. I was about to give up and go home when the phone rang. It was Pippa.

“Cathy, can you take a call from Des?”

“Of course, thank you.”

“I hope he can help,” she said as she put him through to me.

“Hi Cathy, how ya doin’?”

“Until this, okay.”

“Okay, there is no record of a Marlene Hickman with the NUJ* nor a Gordon Wild. Are you sure that was who they said they were?”

“Yes, I’m positive. I mean under all the makeup it could have been anyone, but they have certainly cross-dressed before because their mannerisms and things were quite good.”

“Okay, so we’re looking for a cross-dressing journo! Oh boy, needles and haystacks come to mind.”

“Are there lots of them then?”

“Are you kidding? They’re all weird, that’s why they parasitise others.”

“Oh!”

“Have you got the card?”

“No, Pippa had it.”

“Can she send it to me, a scanner or a photocopy and fax.”

“I’ll ask her.”

“Thanks.”

“What do I do now?”

“Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. If you have a brick to carry in your handbag, take it.”

“All right, I’ll be very careful.”

“I mean it, flower, I suspect someone is up to entirely no good.”

“I’ll be on my mettle.”

“Good girl. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.” He rang off.

So was it Gordon? Seemed unlikely. On a whim, I looked up the Internet phone directory and found three G Wilds. I called each one. On the last, I got my old classmate.

“Hello, I’m trying to find a Gordon Wild who was in school with me back in the early nineties.”

“Who are you, then?” said a voice I almost recognised.

“Cathy Watts.”

“Nah, not me although I did know a Charlie Watts.”

“That was me, Gordon.”

“What? Is this some joke, ’cos I’m gonna get bloody annoyed.”

“Gordon, it’s no joke. I just had someone impersonating you trying to get an interview with me.”

“What?”

I asked him to call me back at Portsmouth University if he was at all concerned it was a wind-up. He accepted that it wasn’t. I then gave him a quick thumbnail of who I was now and then the interview.

“So this drag queen says he was me?”

“Essentially yes.”

“Why? Why are you so important?”

“I’m not, except to Simon.”

“Your fiancé?”

“Yes, I mean there is a bit I didn’t tell you, he’s an aristocrat and his family own a bank.”

“Jeez Charlie…”

“It’s Cathy now, Gordon.”

“Yeah, sorry, that is some story, no wonder that weirdo was chasing you.”

“I did make a statement on the telly when the story broke.”

“I’ve been abroad a lot recently, I do computer installations.”

“This was a few months ago.”

“I’ve spent more time in Germany than here in the last six months.”

“Well all you missed was my dormouse juggling.”

“What, where it goes down your jumper?”

“That’s the one.”

“Jeez-zus! That isn’t you, I mean no disrespect, but she was a total babe.”

“On YouTube, that’s me.”

“Well stone the bleeding crows! And you were little, weedy, Charlie Watts the droopy drawers of the form? Now all growed up and a total babe?”

“That’s your description, not mine.”

“So you’ve had the ahem, you know, the operation like?”

“If you mean, am I now female? The answer is yes, fully functioning.”

“Well bugger me!”

“I can’t Gordon, I just explained that.”

I heard him laugh, “I don’t suppose the next time you’re in Brissel you’d care to meet up.”

“I erm, I don’t know…”

“Bring your fiancé and you can meet my wife, Barbara.”

“I’ll give you a ring next time I’m there. Oh by the way, does the name Marlene Hickman, mean anything to you?”

“No, I know a Martin Hickman, hang on I can do better, I can send you a picture of him, have you got a URL I can send it to.”

“What else do you know about him?”

“He played for the same rugby club, for a year or so anyway. Quite tall, played on the wing, I think.”

“That would be great, thanks Gordon.”

“Wow, the dormouse babe was a classmate, I can’t believe it.”

“Please don’t tell everyone, it’s bad enough as it is, what with that and the poster campaign for the bank.”

“What bank?”

“High Street Banks.”

“That’s you on the poster—Jeez, of course, there’s a bloody dormouse on it too? You are a cracking bit of totty!”

“Gordon, calm down and is it appropriate to tell a woman such things?”

“Nah, I suppose not, sorry about that.”

“It’s okay, if you could send that picture, I’d be grateful.”

“Will do, I’ll go and get it now. Be nice to meet up again, are you on Friends Reunited?”

“No, for obvious reasons.”

“But all the boys would love to…”

“Gordon, I am engaged to be married to Lord Simon Cameron.”

“Jeez, Char… I mean, Cathy, does he know?”

“Of course he does, everyone did but you.”

“Will that make you, Lady whatever?”

“Yes.”

“Jeez!”

“Not bad for the class weed, eh?”

“Jeez! I’ll go and get that photo.”

“Thanks, and bye.”

Why don’t people accept that transsexuals can look like ordinary men and women? I went and spoke with Pippa, who’d scanned and sent the copy of the card to Des. I told her of the conversation I’d just had.

“So it could have been Martin Hickman?”

“Yeah, it’s all a bit bizarre.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Why give his own surname, assuming it was him?”

“We don’t know if it was.”

Just then, I got an email alert and opened one with a photo attachment. It was near enough like our visitor, for me to recognise it. “He was using it, look at this.”

“Goodness, what’s his game then?”

“I don’t know, can you send this on to Des and also the name, see what he can dig up and if he can’t, I’ll talk with the police or get a private investigator to find him.”

“Isn’t that expensive?”

“It’s cheaper than being a victim of a crime.”

“Oh do you think he might be involved with something nasty, then?”

“Let’s say, he’s hardly come to check me for his Christmas card list.”

* NUJ = National Union Of Journalists.

Easy As Walling Up A Kite Part 318

by Bonzi trans. his Mum

I drove home wondering what this Hickman person wanted. I wasn’t exactly new news, rather the opposite. I was very old news. So why would anyone want to do an interview? I don’t live in a fabulous house, or live with David Beckham or Brad Pitt, so why would anyone be interested?

I nearly bumped the car on the way home, the one in front stopped abruptly and I only just managed to stop my Golf in time. From then on, I concentrated on the road rather than the mystery.

Tom’s car was in the driveway, and I called to him as I entered the house. He didn’t answer. I searched around the rooms and he wasn’t there. I looked upstairs, no sign of him. I began to worry, things were hardly normal these days and the universe did seem to be trying to add to my paranoia on a fairly regular basis.

I checked the conservatory, he wasn’t there but neither was Kiki. They were probably out together. I hoped so. I made a cuppa and started the dinner. I had some plaice in the freezer, so I cooked it in a white wine sauce, with sauté potatoes, carrots sticks baked in butter and some broccoli, which I steamed.

I hadn’t had a chance to tell Tom about my visitor until dinner. He listened with interest but could shed no more light on it than was already apparent. He then told me about his meeting, which I knew had been a tough one, hence his walking the dog.

When I get stressed, I get on a bike: Tom walks Kiki. I sat and listened as he told me that the vice chancellor had been at the meeting. Tom felt quite vulnerable.

“The other big science departments have landed big contracts with mega bucks, Physics have linked up with NASA to do something with the new Mars project; Chemistry, have got something with the MOD and NATO to develop some new undetectable explosive. We count rodents.”

“Yeah, they couldn’t do that,” I said this in a triumphal way, because I meant it. Field biology is not something just anyone can do.

Tom gave me a very fed up stare, he wasn’t impressed.

“But what we’re doing is far more important than blowing up Mars, what we’re doing is about trying to save this planet, not contaminate another.” I said with emphasis.

“They don’t care about that, we’re not an educational establishment, we’re a business these days.”

“Tom, we have contracts too, with the Department of the Environment and the EU, we are running the biggest survey of mammals in history, the Americans are going to use our model after we get started, Japan and Australia are coming on board too. We are at the centre of the world in trying to save it from our own folly. This is important, more important than linking with little green men or blowing them up.”

“We haven’t got the income they have.”

“We have more students.”

“Female students thanks to your exploits, they don’t usually change the world.”

“In this case they will.”

“What do you mean?”

“We are going to teach them to count dormice.”

“What do you mean? I can’t even count dormice.”

“Okay, I’ll rephrase that, I’ll teach them the techniques they require to go out and count things. This database is going to be as important as the botanical one at Kew. No one would be looking to close that down without risking the wrath of the scientific community.”

“No one is going to close us down, they’ll just be looking to change the leader for a more commercially-minded one.”

“Oh that’s okay then. What! Change what leader?”

“I think the writing is on the wall, Cathy, they want someone younger and more dynamic and with more commercial sense.”

“But they can’t, we’re in the middle of the biggest thing in the history of the university, can’t they see that?”

“It isn’t bringing in the money, if anything it’s going to be telling business what the cost of their success has done to the planet, which they don’t want to know.”

“But that’s being like ostriches! Would they prefer an American university told them, using the methods we’ve devised?”

“Maybe,” he said tiredly.

“They can’t, we’ve put in too much work on this, we have the backing of the EU, the government and Simon’s bank. I’ve invested too much, I won’t let them.”

“You won’t be able to stop them, besides, think of how much you could earn in the States running this programme. One of the ivy leaguers would snap you up.”

“I don’t want to go to the States, not yet anyway. I came to Portsmouth because I wanted to study under your direction. That hasn’t changed, if it means we need a new vice chancellor, I’ll sort it.”

“Just like that?”

“No, it’ll take a week or two.”

“Cathy, you cannot just remove the vice chancellor, the most powerful person in the university, especially to save an old has-been, like me.”

“Watch me. Now the only question is, do you want him to resign or die in office?”

“What! You are suggesting the murder of the vice chancellor, are you crazy?”

“No, I’ll just frighten him to death.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, he’s an ex-cabinet minister, they don’t frighten easily if at all.”

“When he learns just how much calumny I shall bring down upon his head, he’ll either die of shame or resign.”

“Don’t be silly, what happened to the dear, sweet girl I invited to live here?”

“She’s still here, but when threatened fights for those she loves.”

“Look I appreciate your concern, but it’s my problem not yours.”

“Tom, you are really the only family I have until I marry Simon. Even then you will be special to me, like a father. I will fight to protect you, as I will anyone else I love.”

“Shouldn’t I be protecting you, if I’m in the paternal role?”

“You did, until I came of age.”

He sat shaking his head, “The dormouse roars!” he said and laughed.

“Yeah,” I said and giggled. It sounded ridiculous, but tomorrow I would make an appointment to see the vice chancellor and explain the facts of life to him. If that didn’t work, I would then campaign to remove him and I was developing plenty of contacts in the media.

We sat drinking some wine, calming down after my tirade. The phone rang; Tom answered it as I cleared the table. I assumed it was for him and loaded the dishwasher. He called me just as I started it.

“Hello?”

“Hi Cathy, it’s Des. I have some gen on your mystery caller.”

“Go ahead, I’m all ears.”

“Yeah, dormice usually are,” he joked before he told me his gleanings. “This guy is probably a Martin Hickman, he lives near Bristol and has a mental health problem.”

“What do you mean by that? Is he a nutter or something?”

“I think the clinical term is he suffers from schizophrenia, paranoid variety. He also cross-dresses and has been done for stalking.”

“Stalking?”

“Yeah, young, attractive women.”

“That lets me out then,” I quipped.

“Sadly not, in fact it makes you a prime target, especially with your transsexual background, it makes him more interested, possibly jealous of you.”

“How could anyone be jealous of me? There’re thirty million women in this country who had an easier ride into womanhood than I did. Surely, he should be jealous of them not me?”

“Stop deluding yourself, Cathy. If you can’t see the connection, there’ll be no PhD for you, you’re too thick.”

“Gee thanks, Des, just what I needed to hear.”

“Well that’s all I have just now.”

“Okay, see you next week to start the filming.”

“Looking forward to it.”

“I may need some help on another matter.”

“Like what?”

“I’ll let you know, if and when.”

“Oh, okay. Talk to you soon.”

“Yeah, bye Des.”

I went back to talk with Tom. He was less gloomy, in fact he was still tittering about the ‘roaring dormouse.’ I let him have his fun, after all we dormice have broad shoulders. Just then Kiki began to bark and she was looking towards the back of the house.

“Cat, I expect,” suggested Tom, telling her to be quiet. But she wasn’t having it, she kept up her noise until it was nearly time for bed. Then she quieted down and I went up to my bed thinking more about vice chancellors than dogs. Maybe I should have listened to the dog.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 319

by Angharad trans. Bonzi

I went on up to bed and undressed, pulling on my pyjamas, a cotton shirt and shorts. I noted that my legs needed shaving again. Tom had let Kiki out but she’d been in and out quickly because it started to rain. It always makes me laugh, spaniels are dogs who love to swim and mess about in water yet they don’t seem to like rain. Mind you, I don’t think ducks do either. Frogs might, and so do gardeners, but who cares?

I was reading my book prior to going to sleep, when Kiki started barking again. I tried to ignore her, but she kept it up. Cats or foxes or whatever it was she could hear, I couldn’t hear anything.

I put out my light and tried to sleep, and she started barking again. This was too much. I pulled a jumper over my top and some trousers over my shorts and after slipping on some shoes, went downstairs to the study. It was nominally Tom’s but I did use it and kept some stuff there that was too valuable to leave in the shed. I picked up one of the image intensifiers, the battery was okay and it was working. I went back upstairs with the gadget.

Once up there, I slipped out of the window onto the little veranda which overlooks part of the garden. The garden was in darkness, although there were two of these halogen lamps which come on through movement, or should do. I scanned the garden, at first I could see nothing, then I saw him hiding behind a hedge. He was giving off more infra red than the hedge so I could see a vague outline of him behind the hedge. If this were a gun he’d be dead.

I sneaked back in and then slipped back out with the cordless phone and its headset. I called the police.

“Hello emergency, which service do you require?”

“Police.”

“Hello Hampshire Constabulary, how can we help?”

“We have an intruder in our garden.”

“Can you speak up madam?”

“Not really, I’m watching them with an image intensifier.”

“Oh! Who are you and where are you?”

I told them, I also told them about the previous attack, with firearms. That seemed to change their minds about response time, which went from, “We’re very busy at the moment,” to “we’ll have someone there in about fifteen minutes, please keep out of the line of fire.”

Ten minutes later I heard a helicopter overhead and saw blue flashing lights coming from two directions. The helicopter picked up on the figure in the garden and shone a light on them—they tried to run off but a few minutes later a couple of burly coppers ran after and intercepted them, none too gently. Two minutes after that, they led someone away in handcuffs to a car. A senior officer knocked on the door. By now, Tom was awake and up.

I offered the police tea, but they decided to take their captive away and interrogate them. I thanked them.

“Aren’t you the woman with the bow?” asked the Inspector.

“I have a bow, yes.”

“So you didn’t use it this time?”

“You lot told me not to, to call you instead. I only did what I was told.”

“Much safer luv, for all concerned. Your intruders don’t get hurt and you don’t get done for hurting them.”

“Who have you caught?”

“Some bloke.”

“Do they look like this?” I showed him the photo of Hickman.

“Who’s he?”

“Martin Hickman, he has a record for stalking. He’s also a mental health case, schizophrenia.”

“Do you know him?”

“Not really, he turned up at the university pretending to be a woman journalist.”

“Pretending to be a woman? Weird or what?”

“That, I didn’t have a problem with, it was that they told me they wanted to talk about the project we’re running, then he said he wanted to discuss personal stuff, like my forthcoming marriage.”

“What’s so special about that?”

“I’m engaged to Simon Cameron, Lord Simon Cameron.”

“Not the bank people?”

“Yes, them.”

“Ah, so what’s this project then?”

“A survey of mammals of the whole country, we’re coordinating it with several other universities. Then it goes Europe wide, then the US and so on. It’s a huge project.”

“So I see.” He looked at me, “Can I ask if you’re the woman on YouTube?”

“With the dormouse? Yes, that’s me.”

“That is so funny, I’ve watched it a dozen times.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“Erm, no I suppose not.” He blushed and I stayed very controlled. The next person who asked me about that clip, would get a clip—around the lughole!

The police went and I gave Kiki a hug and some biscuits. We had a drink and an hour later went back to bed. I told Tom that I intended to visit Stella if she was well enough.

“When are you going?” he asked.

“Tomorrow, well actually, later today, when I finish.”

“Okay, I’ll come with you, so you can give me a lift in.”

“Fine.”

We went back to our beds although I couldn’t sleep, not for an hour or two. I was too wound up. I awoke with the alarm, feeling as if I’d only just closed my eyes, which were prickly and sore. Breakfast was a sort of stagger through ritual of tea and cereal. I did manage to stir myself to drive us to work, but I yawned much of the journey, which set Tom off as well.

I felt too tired to go and see the vice chancellor but I did ring his office and see what the waiting time was for an appointment. I made one for next week, it was the next available, then I remembered Des was coming to film our dormice. Oh bugger!

I went instead to see the Dean, Dr Andrews. He assured me that Tom was under no threat, in fact they thought he was something of an iconic figure in the university. So why was he worried? Dr Andrews didn’t know. I did suggest that if Tom was to leave, the university would be left with a failed project and lots of egg on its face.

“You could always lead it,” he smiled at me.

“I doubt it, if Tom goes, I pull the plug on it, because I go too.”

“Oh, that isn’t very wise Cathy, your reputation would be at risk if you did.”

“Do you really think that worries me? I reckon I’m quite saleable, especially to an American uni.”

“Not necessarily, not without references.”

“I don’t think you could withhold them, I’d sue.”

“We’d counter petition that you were removing intellectual property of the university.”

“Tough, because it isn’t. You see Dr Andrews, I own my study data and methods and Tom owns his. The project is ours, although you currently get the funding, it goes with the study and you have no one to replace us at short notice, it would probably take two years to get that sorted. By which time I’d be operating from somewhere else and making sure your department went down the pan.”

“Are you threatening me, Miss Watts?”

“No, not at all, I am merely predicting the future. The project is essentially Tom and me. Leave us in peace and it will bring great prestige to Portsmouth, threaten him and we walk and bring great disaster to you. I suspect it could cost you your job and perhaps the vice chancellor too. I have an appointment with him, to put him in the picture.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary, Miss Watts.”

“But surely, I have a duty to warn him of a potential impending catastrophe?”

“It isn’t going to happen, Tom is not on any sort of restricted contract, he has potentially another two years to go. He has to retire at seventy, we all do. But even then he could be Professor Emeritus.”

“Okay, so I think we understand each other.”

“We do. Sadly, Tom was hoping you would replace him. After this discussion I don’t think that would ever be possible.”

“Who said I wanted the job, besides it isn’t available for two years. That’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge. I think maybe an Oxbridge one or even an Ivy League one.” I knew perfectly well that unless you are drop dead brilliant, you need to have been at Oxford or Cambridge to get a chair there. I didn’t, it was Sussex, but that would do. Nah, I don’t want a chair, I’m a researcher and field biologist not a pen pusher. Besides, maybe Tom was right and my mission is bigger than Portsmouth bloody uni, or any other ivory tower. I’ll have to wait and see.

Easy As Killing Little Furry Things Part 320

by Bonzi >^^<

I was eating my sandwich, catching up on some marking when Pippa called through. “Tom wants to see you.”

“Any idea what about?”

“He didn’t say but he is a little exercised about something.”

“What time does he want me?”

“Like yesterday!”

“I have a tutorial in half an hour.”

“The mood he is in, I think you’d better get here pronto.”

“Oh, wonder why?” I shook my head. I put the pen down and picked up my bag.”

Three or four minutes later I strolled into Pippa’s office, “I’m here.”

“Go straight in,” she said nodding at his door.

I knocked and entered, “You wanted me?”

“Yes, come in and sit down,” he was reading something and didn’t even look up.

I sat feeling a little uneasy.

He looked up at me and he didn’t look very happy about something. “I have just had a most interesting lunch with the Dean.”

I now knew what this was about. I blushed.

“He tells me you went to see him and made all sorts of threats.”

I wanted to interrupt, but had a feeling this would not help, so I kept quiet.

“Is this true?”

“Which part?” I asked feeling a mixture of embarrassment and shame.

“All of it you, silly woman.” He sounded very angry.

“I explained that you were important to this university as was the mammal survey project.”

“He said you threatened him, is that true?”

“I told him that if you left, so would I.”

“Why did you go and see him?”

“You told me they were trying to get rid of you. I wanted to defend you.” I now felt tears in my eyes.

“I do not need a slip of a girl defending me, I am quite big enough and ugly enough to defend myself. I fight my own battles.”

“I’m sorry, I wanted to help.”

“You have put me in a very difficult position.”

“I’ll resign, if that’s what you want.”

“It isn’t what I want.”

“It’s what Andrews wants though, isn’t it?”

“He is very disappointed in you. He thought you had more sense. You do not make threats to the Dean.”

“I’ll finish my marking and clear out my stuff.” I stood up to leave, tears were streaming down my face.

“Sit down, I’ll tell you when you can go.”

I sat down again feeling very foolish and hurt.

“You mentioned a tutorial, who with?” He asked and I managed to mumble the name of the student, whereupon he told Pippa to reschedule it and to bring in two teas.

“I’m very disappointed with you, Cathy, I thought you had more sense.”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled sobbing, this really felt like my father giving me a dressing down.

“It’s not me you need to apologise to. It’s Dr Andrews.”

“If that’s what you want me to do.”

“What I want doesn’t matter, it’s what you need to do if you want to stay here. You do want to stay?”

I nodded.

“This is such an uncharacteristic thing for you to do. Normally, you stop troubles not cause them.”

“I thought they wanted shot of you,” I sobbed, hoping it was coherent enough for him to understand.

“I think I misled you, I’m getting old and stupid… ah, here’s the tea, thank you Pippa, that’s all.” He waited for her to leave before he continued. “Look, there’s been a terrible misunderstanding, which is probably my fault. You have gone off like a cruise missile without knowing your target and now we have to try and rebuild the mess.”

I nodded and sipped my tea trying not to let the fluid running from my eyes and nose go into the cup.

“As long as Andrews is here, your chances of promotion are zilch, which is a pity as you have great potential. Sadly, he’s a year younger than me. You may have to move one day.”

I nodded and sniffed in one movement.

“I need you on this project, I also need you to keep breeding dormice and cooking my dinner. I suspect some students would also add a few other things. Now finish your tea, clean up your face and go and see Andrews. Let him gloat and have his say, just apologise and do not react under any circumstances. Take your punishment like a ma… the lady you really are. Then come back and see me.”

I nodded left my cup half-full of tea on his desk and went out to the loo. It didn’t matter what I did, it was obvious I’d been crying. So I washed my face with cold water and went off to the Dean’s office.

He was on the phone and I was kept waiting about five of the longest minutes of my life. Finally, as my stomach finished its wash cycle and began to spin, I was told to enter.

It’s painful for me to recall, so I’ll keep it brief. I apologised and he stamped all over me. After changing his shoes several times and kicking me until he was out of breath, I was dismissed. I stood there and took it all without a murmur.

I went back to Tom’s and Pippa told me he was on the phone. I waited.

“You all right?” she asked me.

I nodded, I was still very close to tears, and in no mood to explain myself.

Tom came out and called me in, making a ‘T’ sign with his hands to Pippa.

“I’ve spoken to Dr Andrews and he said you accepted his reprimand. I have managed to keep all of this off your record, but at a cost of you not pissing him off again, understand?”

I nodded and mumbled my thanks.

“You get more like my bloody daughter every day, go off half-cocked, Cathy, what am I going to do with you?”

“I’m sorry.”

“If you say that once more I’ll shoot you. Right, go off and play with your gerbils and come back at half four, we have to go and see Stella, remember?”

“What about my marking?”

“You are not marking assignments after all this, you’d only have to do them again later. Go and stroke Spike, or whatever you call that dorweiler thing you have in the lab, go on, out of here, you’re shrinking my carpet.”

I did as I was told, actually all I wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep and maybe never wake up. How could I ever undo what I had stupidly done? I felt so ashamed of myself. Go to see Stella? Oh boy, what a delight that would be in this frame of mind.

“I found myself down the labs and holding Spike, feeding her hazelnuts, we were out of Brazils. She was huge, it wouldn’t be long now. I heard the door open and one of the technicians came in carrying a pile of metal plates. I watched them waver in his hands and several fell to the floor with a crash. Spike froze, then a moment later she jumped down the front of my blouse and wet herself! It was going to be one of those days.

Easy Peasy Scratching Fleasies! Part 321

by >^^<

I retrieved my rodent and resisted the urge to strangle her. She was frightened after all. After putting her safe and remonstrating with the careless technician, a new one called Dennis—a right menace—I cleaned up the mess, which was on the front of my blouse and my bra, a little yellow stain on the white silk. I ran to the toilets and stripped off and washed the stain out—thankfully, it did wash out or that menace would have got a bill for a hundred and fifty quid. However, wearing a bra and blouse with a wet patch did not improve my temper.

Tom arrived a few moments after I’d got back, “I thought you’d be playing with your fur-balls.”

“I got weed on again.” I pointed to the wet mark on my blouse.

“I thought their pee was yellow,” he said.

“It is, I just ran up and washed it.”

“Ah, that would explain it then. Ready to go and see Stella?”

“I suppose so,” I sighed.

“What’s wrong now?”

“Nothing,” I said and burst into tears.

“Geez, no wonder I usually work with men!” He muttered to himself but still put his arm around me. I sobbed on his shoulder, the stress of the day had taken its toll on me. He hugged me and patted my back. He really was like a father to me.

“I can’t go and see Stella, like this,” I sobbed, “I look a mess.”

“Okay, you stay in the car, I’ll pop in and say hello. If she’s improving, you can go tomorrow. Okay?”

I nodded. I had a blanket in the car, so I should stay reasonably warm if he took half an hour or so. Tom drove my car, I sat silently in the front passenger seat, barely awake. I felt completely drained and only wanted to sleep.

We arrived at the clinic and Tom parked up. I made myself comfortable and locked all the doors of the car, Tom left the keys with me. In a few minutes, I’d wrapped the blanket around myself and made myself comfortable. I was asleep a short time later.

I awoke with a start, the knocking on the window alongside me made me jump. It took me a few seconds to work out where I was. Tom was standing by the car and banging the window, “Come on, Cathy, wake up, it’s raining.”

I slowly came to and could hear the rain pattering on the roof and windscreen. I unlocked the door and Tom dumped himself in the seat rather more quickly than I’d have anticipated he could.

“Sorry, I fell asleep.” I apologised, yawning.

“I’d never have guessed,” he laughed back.

“Yeah, whatever.” I yawned again, and again.

“Feel better now?”

“No, worse if anything.”

“Typical women.”

“What?”

“I said, it’s like a tropical storm out there.”

“No you didn’t.” I didn’t pursue the matter, if he wanted to tease me, it was okay, I was too tired to react.

“I get the distinct impression you won’t be doing much cooking tonight.”

“I’ll cook something if you want me to,” I yawned and had to repeat it so he could translate it.

“Nah, fancy a takeaway?”

“Not really, I’m not very hungry.”

“Tough, now do I fancy a curry or a Chinese? Decisions, decisions!”

He started the engine and once the car was in motion, I slipped into a sleep again. I awoke with him shaking me and a smell of something savory and spicy. Curry—yuck! “Come on, sleepyhead, we’re home.”

“What? Erm, what?”

“We’re home, I got a curry, a beef one for a change.”

“That’s what I can smell, I hope my car doesn’t pong in the morning.”

“Don’t be daft, this is nectar, the food of the gods.”

“Yeah, Hindu gods. I’m going to bed, I am knackered.” He opened the front door and I staggered in and straight up the stairs. I was in bed less than ten minutes later and asleep a short time after that. I awoke at about six the next morning, my eyes were a little sore but I felt so much better. A shower woke me properly and I was down before seven. The smell of coffee told me Tom was up and his absence suggested he was out with Kiki. I’d missed him while I was in the shower, not hearing the door.

“Good lord, you’re up early!” he said when he came in.

“Yeah, I feel much better.”

“How was Stella?”

“Not very good. She sat and cried most of the time.”

“Made a change from me then?”

“Just what I thought. Do you women have to cry, all the time?”

“We only cry when we’re happy, sad, upset, content, tired, excited, pleased, disappointed—yeah, we cry all the time.”

“What time are you going in?” he asked me.

“Soon, I have some marking to catch up on, and a tutorial to squeeze in somewhere, why?”

“I wondered if you could follow me to the garage and take me in to work after, I need some work doing on the Land Rover.”

“Yeah, sure.” As we were about to leave I stopped and hugged him.

“What’s that for?”

“Being you and saving my career yesterday.”

“It was n…”

“Don’t say it was nothing, because it was. Anyway, I appreciate it.”

“Good, you can cook me a proper meal tonight then.”

“Deal,” I said and smiled at him.

“Good,” he nodded, “Now just follow me and no clever dick driving, it’s foggy out there this morning.”

He wasn’t kidding, it was quite thick in places and we passed several minor accidents, mainly shunts—why can’t people drive to the conditions not their egos? We survived and I took him into the university.

One of the technicians called me to say Spike had had four babies, three girls and a boy. I was a granny for the umpteenth time.

Easy As Strangling A Certain Cat! Part 322

by not >^^<

I rushed down to see my latest babies, who were doing fine. They should: Spike was an experienced mother. However, I was wasting valuable time, I had so much to do. I would have preferred to stand and gawp at the wonder of new life, but I had to get some things done.

I got Pippa to reorganise my tutorial, the one I’d cancelled yesterday, to today. I also got stuck into my marking and by mid-morning I’d finished one of the tasks I’d scheduled.

I took the tutorial, which went reasonably well and an hour later I managed a tea break, even though it was nearly lunchtime; needless to say, I spent it admiring our latest arrivals. The ability to give birth was something I was very envious of, even in a dormouse. I tried not to think about it, remembering my small blessings and also that there were people who were in a worse position than myself. As my gran used to say, ‘The cemeteries are full of people worse than you!’

I went back up to my room and looked at the schedules for the filming next week and began to write some of the scripts we’d need. Pippa got me a roll for my lunch and I continued to work on the scripts. It was so boring, all this mundane stuff which one assumes everyone knows but the reality is, most people are as thick as two metre dense marine plywood. Do they know dormice are rodents? Maybe, but they seem to forget squirrels are. Thank goodness we weren’t making a series. No, stop thoughts like that, Des doesn’t need any encouragement.

The idea was to film a birth of a dormeece or failing that, they don’t always play ball, a very young one. Then run a programme about the development of this critter during his first year. Des already had some footage we could use which he’d bring down with him. Some would be done with infrared film at my nesting sites—that reminded me, I needed to check things out there—some at the captive bred ones in the university, and some background stuff which he would then merge. It’s all very clever stuff how they edit it all in and do the continuity.

Mid-afternoon I stopped for a cuppa and a walk around, I’d done twenty pages of script and my eyes and head were aching. I went out for a walk around the campus for half an hour before I came back and did an hour’s teaching on basic biology—the sort of stuff they should have done for GCSE or A-level, but in which quite a number of students were deficient.

I kept telling myself, “Never mind, the bright ones go to Oxbridge or London, we only get the also-rans.”

At four thirty, Tom arrived and demanded I take him to his garage to collect his car, and then go home and cook him a splendid repast. Me and my big mouth!

After taking him to collect his ancient Land Rover, I doubled back towards town and popped into a local butcher, where I purchased some venison. We had braised Bambi for dinner, with Cabernet Sauvignon. It was rather good.

I had just cleared up the debris when Simon phoned. It seemed a very long time since I’d seen him, in reality about four days, but it felt longer.

“When are you coming back?”

“Sunday, but only for a flying visit.”

“Si, that is so, not-nice,” I grumbled.

“Sorry, Babes, the cost of oil is going through the roof and the bank needs to look at its options. The sub-prime thing is also causing us some troubles.”

“I thought you were a broker?”

“Yeah, so did I, I’m also a director and the boss’s son, so I have to wear several hats. If you like I could ask for a report from our ecological adviser.”

“Don’t you dare, I haven’t got enough time to breathe now, let alone having to write reports for you lot.”

“How about I get a leg of lamb for Sunday?” I offered, knowing it was his favourite.

“How about I take you out to lunch?”

“What about Tom?”

“What about him?”

“We can’t leave him on his own, he’s like my adopted father.”

“Okay, I’ll book for three. I hope he doesn’t get to sleep with us after.”

“There is no need to be vulgar,” I said in my most priggish voice.

“You sound like my grandma.”

“A handbag!” I said in my best Lady Bracknell voice.

“Oh don’t!” he responded, “too many repressed memories.”

After he rang off, I felt very alone. Tom was in his study beavering away, like he did most evenings. He was certainly worth his salary. I read through some of the scripts and some of it got the blue pencil treatment.

I checked my emails and found one from the police, could I call by sometime soon and talk to them about our intruder? I wondered if it would all be quite as informal as they sounded. I’d ring them in the morning. However, what I felt I desperately needed was a decent bike ride, but when? That was the problem and the weather didn’t seem to be intent on helping.

So much to do and so little time, at least I didn’t get bored.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 323

After waking followed by ablutions and breakfast, I phoned the local police. “Exactly, for what do you need me to attend the station?”

“We need a statement Miss Watts.”

“I thought I’d made one to the officers who attended.”

“Barely.”

“I don’t think I could add to it.”

“We’d be grateful if you could pop in and make a new one.”

“All right, I’ll call in.”

“Thank you.”

I dutifully turned up at the cop shop and was shown into an interview room. A couple of moments later a young woman detective constable showed up.

“Miss Watts?”

“Yes.”

“I’m DC Stephanie Murdoch, thanks for coming, I wonder if you could answer a few questions for me.”

“I’ll try, can I ask what the purpose of this, is?”

“Yes, of course you can. The person we arrested in your garden was one Martin Hickman. He apparently claimed he knew you and that you’d asked him to look for something in the garden, then locked him out and called us.”

“That is not true. I met him once before when he pretended to be a Marlene Hickman and came in dressed as a woman. He also claimed to want an interview with me about the mammal survey the university is spearheading. But what he wanted was personal stuff. Our secretary was present nearly all the time and was there when I threw him out for misrepresentation.”

“Stalking is a strange activity; the perpetrator develops an obsession about someone, usually a celebrity but not always, and has a relationship with them in their head which they imagine to be real. They often think the victim is as obsessed with them as they are with the victim. Why do you think Hickman was stalking you, and why the fancy dress at the interview?”

“I don’t honestly know why, unless he saw me on a TV programme I did for a Bristol station, or the clip on YouTube.”

“You put a clip on YouTube?”

“No I did not, one of our technicians did of me juggling with a dormouse…”

“That goes down your jumper, I’ve seen that one, it’s very funny.”

“That depends upon one’s viewpoint. From mine it wasn’t, to have a dormouse pee in an expensive blouse is not at all funny. Little bugger did the same again yesterday.”

Stephanie laughed and showed a set of almost pristine, white teeth. “Is it an occupational hazard?”

“I’m beginning to wonder that myself.” I shrugged.

We chatted on a bit longer and it was obvious that what Hickman was saying was very different to my story. “He said you encouraged him to cross-dress.”

“I have only met him once and he was already cross-dressed, and I have a witness, Pippa our secretary. As for the garden nonsense, I have another witness, Tom, my professor and landlord.”

“We may need to speak to them.”

“Have you charged Hickman with anything?”

“Not yet, he’s been released on bail, pending further enquiries.”

“But he was hiding in Tom’s garden, I only saw him because I have an image intensifier.”

“What would you need one of those for?”

“Seeing dormice at night.”

“Oh!”

“Yes, they’re largely crepuscular or nocturnal, so tracking them means we have to be able to see them.”

“I see,” she smiled.

“You would with an image intensifier.”

After a little while, another copper, a young uniformed officer took a statement, then went off and typed it, and I signed it when she brought it back. “You know that Hickman has a history of mental illness?”

“No we guessed at it. Thanks for coming in, we’ll notify you of any outcome.”

I thanked them and left. Surely no one believed his cock and bull story? I sincerely hoped not. Struck me as unfortunate, that if you tell the truth no one believes you, tell the most enormous whoppers and everyone does. So much for shaming the devil!

I drove on to work and Tom looked at his watch, “Afternoon shift?”

“I have just got away from the police station.”

“Pippa, call the police, tell them we have their fugitive here,” said Tom with a twinkle in his eye.

“Shall I ask them to count the inmates of the asylum, in case one is missing?” she replied.

“Gee thanks you lot, I’m surprised I haven’t got a complex working with you two.”

“Nah, you’re too simple to have a complex.”

“Thank you Dr Fraud,” I answered back, “besides, I’m too Jung!”

“Oh very good, excellent in fact, for an escaped loony.” Some days I could happily murder my boss!

Easy As Falling Off A Bike

Part 27 Dozen (324)

by >^^< ’n her

I settled down to write some more of the scripts for the filming; I found it so difficult to pitch it at the right level. I know one should always assume the audience knows nothing, but there is a tendency to move from background to patronising. I also didn’t want something like National Geographic produce, which does a recap every two seconds in case the viewer forgot what they were looking at, I find it a total turn off. No, my stuff would tell the viewers something once, if they forgot or went out to put the kettle on, they’d miss something—serve ’em right.

To try and get a feel for how long each part of the commentary would last, I began timing myself as I read it. Why they couldn’t have got St David Attenborough to do it, goodness knows, why me? I’m incoherent at the best of times.

I was walking up and down an empty lab, reading my narrative out loud and I paused to check my watch. There was a sound of a handclap from behind me. I spun around and there stood by one of the benches was ‘Marlene.’

“Very good Cathy, are you branching into documentaries?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh Cathy, that is no way to greet an old friend.”

“You are barely an acquaintance, how dare you call yourself my friend, lurking in the garden and then telling the police a load of lies. Why are you dressed as a woman?”

“Oh Cathy, you cut me to the quick. Why are you dressed as a woman?”

“Because I am one, stupid.”

“So am I, deary, so am I.”

“Why are you stalking me?”

“I’m just giving us a chance to be alone.”

“I don’t want to be alone with you, please leave.”

“You don’t have to pretend, Cathy, or would you prefer I called you Charlie?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t talk to me at all and just left.”

“But, darling, that is so untrue. Ever since I saw your clip on the BBC and how that Simon Cameron was holding you back, I knew we were made for each other.”

“If you had any regard for me at all, you’d go away and leave me in peace.”

“Oh no, darling, I’m not going to leave you alone at all.” He moved towards the door cutting off my retreat. “You weren’t thinking of leaving were you?” So saying, he produced a large knife from a capacious shoulder bag.

“Please put that away.”

“Why, does it frighten you?”

“Yes, someone once tried to stab me, in this very room.”

“Oh dear, and what happened to them? I assume they didn’t succeed.”

“They were shot dead by a police marksman.” I recalled the detail in a horrible flashback, Tom had been stabbed and then bang. Except I didn’t see it, I was drugged. This time I was wide awake but facing a potentially more dangerous threat.

“Well that isn’t going to happen is it?”

“I hope not, but I also hope you are going to put the knife away. I have told you that I don’t like it.”

Pippa chose a very bad time to enter the lab; Hickman grabbed her and held the knife at her throat. She screamed and fainted. He dropped her. I was trying to think of some way that I could use something in the lab to overpower him, but there was nothing. The other problem was the danger to the dormice, this was one of the bigger breeding areas.

Hickman jammed a stool so the door couldn’t be opened. Things were getting more dangerous by the second. I hoped that Pippa had only fainted, maybe she’d had a heart attack?

“Can I check my colleague, see she hasn’t been hurt in falling?”

“No, but you can come and kiss me.”

“No way, not while you’re holding that knife.”

“Would you like me to put it down?”

“Yes.”

“Come and kiss me then.”

“No.”

“Your friend could get hurt.”

“Leave her alone, she has two small children. It’s me you want, you come and get me and leave her alone.” I wondered if I would get a chance to put together a couple of kick-boxing moves—in which case I needed space to move, and well away from Pippa.

“Oh, I shall come and get you, Charlie.”

“My name is Catherine, not Charlie. If yours is really Marlene, you’d put the knife down.”

“Oh mine is Marlene, all right, but I think I’ll keep hold of the knife. I can feel you sweating from here.”

“So, I’m frightened, when I get scared I sweat. Girls do that, didn’t you know?”

“Oh I know all about being a woman, Charlie.”

“Do you, Marlene, perhaps you should enlighten me then.” All the time we were moving around the lab, Hickman waving the knife in a very menacing way.

I had nearly got to Pippa who I could see was struggling to sit up, she had quite a bruise starting to form on her forehead and she looked very pale. She managed to get into a kneeling position and then vomited all over the floor, the smell nearly made me chuck up too. I quickly stepped away, at least she hadn’t inhaled it.

Hickman must have heard it happen but didn’t see it, so when he stepped around the bench following me, I made to move away quickly and he moved quickly to shadow me. However, he didn’t see the goo on the floor and his high heel skidded and slipped. He went down with an awful clatter, and I think he may have bashed his head en route. I didn’t however hear the knife fall to the ground.

He groaned, “Charlie, help me for God’s sake.”

I moved very carefully, I heard Pippa upchuck again. He was groaning and I wondered if it was a trap or had he really hurt himself.

“Help me,” he groaned and it went very quiet except for Pippa groaning and being sick again.

I stepped carefully to the end of the bench and was ready to jump back and if necessary turn and back kick. It wasn’t necessary, lying in a pool of vomit and blood was my would be stalker. His hand was underneath him and so presumably was the knife, the blood was seeping out from underneath, his head was also bleeding and the wig was lying on the floor a yard from his head.

I hit the fire alarm, and pulled Pippa to a safer distance, kicking the stool away from the door. Neal, one of the technicians came running in with a fire extinguisher. “Where’s the fire?” he called.

I pointed at the floor and he stopped and swore, “Oh shit! What’s going on?”

“Be careful, Neal, he had a knife.”

“Okay. You all right mate?” he said to Hickman, who groaned in response.”

Dan came dashing in, “Get an ambulance, Dan, we have a serious bleed here, possible stab wound. Get the police too,” I shouted to him.

“What about fire service? They’ll be on their way.”

“Oops, I hope they’ll forgive me but it was a way of summoning help. Neal, help Pippa out of here will you. I’ll watch our little friend.”

“Well, Marlene, I told you knives were dangerous, but now you have me to yourself.”

He coughed and some blood came out of his mouth, not a good sign. “I wanted a kiss, that was all.” His breathing was laboured, but I couldn’t do much. Firstly, I didn’t know where the knife was and secondly, if it was stuck in him, which it seemed to be, any movement would increase the bleeding. The smell of the vomit was nearly enough to have me showing my breakfast as well.

Sirens sounded in the distance, “Hang in there, Marlene, help is on its way.”

“Too late… Char…” there was a sigh and a gasp and it went quiet. I walked carefully amidst the various body fluids and felt for a pulse in the carotid. There wasn’t one. Do I try CPR, or would that make things worse? Would it be a waste of time? Blood from the mouth indicated either a chest or abdominal wound. If I move him, it would bleed more. Shit! Where was the ambulance?

A clatter of footsteps and in dashed a copper in a firearms unit outfit. I raised my hands and nodded at the floor, he saw the body and called through his microphone the area was safe.

A paramedic came in followed by another. They examined the body and discovered the knife had stabbed Hickman in the lung, entering at a steep angle. I was ushered out as they did their stuff to try and save him.

Tom rushed towards me and I threw my arms around his neck, “What on earth happened?”

“Hickman threatened me with a knife, he slipped and fell and landed on the knife. I think he’s dead.”

Some more police and paramedics arrived and went into the room; students were being evacuated as the fire alarm continued to sound. Finally, a fire officer switched it off. Then realising there was nothing else he could do, he left along with two other appliances.

I gave a garbled statement to the senior police officer, who told me they would need to speak to me again later. I nodded and Tom arranged for Pippa to be taken home and for someone to cover his office. When they asked why, he told them he was taking his daughter home. With that, he grabbed my arm and led me to the car then drove me home.

I didn’t cry, I suppose I was too shocked. He made me a cup of sweet tea and I refused to drink it. He gave me a shot of brandy and I drank it, against my better judgment. Then he bade me lie on the couch and covered me with a blanket. To my surprise, I yawned and fell asleep.

He was sitting opposite me when I woke up; he smiled and I smiled back. “Did it happen or was it a bad dream?” I asked him.

“It happened I’m afraid and you’ll have to talk to the police about it.”

“It was an accident, Pippa threw up and he slipped on it and fell on his knife.”

“Why was he stalking you?”

“I’m not sure, I think he had some sort of fantasy about me. Did he make it?”

“I don’t know, I’ll call the department.” He went off to his study and I sat up then discovered I needed to pee. By the time I’d finished he’d come back. He shook his head and looked very grave.

“I take it he didn’t make it.”

Tom nodded. “The publicity, ‘transvestite stalker dies in biology lab,’ is not going to be very nice, I’m afraid.”

“Thank goodness, Stella wasn’t involved,” I said feeling one element of relief.

“Good God, that would have been disastrous.”

“We’ll just have to try and ride out the publicity,” I said. Just how were we going to be able to start filming next week? I had no idea. This was certainly proving an interesting life, as per the Chinese curse.

Easy As Licking One’s Bum Part 325

by >^^<

Dolce

The next day, after a fitful sleep I called in at the police station with Tom. I gave a statement as I remembered things and asked some awkward questions.

“This man had a history of mental illness, why didn’t you know about it?”

“We were still waiting for information to arrive.”

“He was a paranoid schizophrenic for God’s sake, he should still be alive.”

“It was an accident, you said as much yourself.”

“We have a secretary who will probably need psychotherapy, and a dead body. Some bloody accident!”

“There is no need to be abusive, Miss Watts.”

“Abusive? I think I shall be contacting the police complaints people.”

“That is your prerogative.”

“Watch this space.” I turned and stormed out of the building with Tom in hot pursuit.

“Where is that going to get you?” he asked me when we got to the car.

“I don’t know, but I fully intend to find out. I’m going to Bristol, coming?”

“To do what?”

“Find out some more about our mystery person.”

“What do you want to know?”

“A lot more than they told me. All they said was he lived with his parents. I am going to see his parents.”

“Isn’t that a bit intrusive?”

“He tried to kill me. I want to know why.”

“They might finish the job.”

“Save the Dean a job, then.”

“Cathy, this can only be bad.”

“I’m going, you have two minutes to come or get out.”

Tom picked up his mobile and called the office, “I may be in later, I’m looking after my daughter, she’s a bit shocked since yesterday. Bye.”

“That’s the second time you’ve called me your daughter.”

“Don’t you like it?”

“I love it, Daddy!” I sniggered and we set off for Bristol. I handed him my mobile, call Gordon Wild and ask if he knows where Martin Hickman lived?”

Amazingly, Tom did as I asked and Gordon knew roughly where it was. Once he said, so did I. Patchway is near Filton. Filton is where the aerospace factory is, there is also an airfield there.

Two hours later, we were driving around the large council estate which makes up part of Patchway. I was looking for a red Ford Sierra, a car which is now quite rare. According to Gordon, it would be parked on the drive of a house in Conniston Road. Sure enough it was.

“You can’t just go walking in there, they’ve just lost a son,” cautioned Tom.

“Watch me,” I said as I shut the car door and walked towards the house. I rang the doorbell. Then my stomach flipped over, what was I going to say to these people?

A large man filled the open doorway, he was clad in a pair of trousers which stopped somewhere about nipple line and were held up by a pair of braces, which he wore over an ageing green striped shirt.

“Mr Hickman?”

“If you’re from the paper, you can piss off.”

“I am not, I’m from Portsmouth University.”

“What?”

“It was me Martin came to see.”

“Haven’t you done enough?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You killed my son, you bitch!”

“I haven’t killed anyone. In fact, he was trying to kill me.”

“How dare you come here to torment us!”

“Please, Mr Hickman! I need to understand why it happened.”

“Why? You’re why!”

“What do you mean, I’m why it happened?”

“You’d better come in.” I followed him into a beige coloured hallway, then into a cream coloured sitting room. A large woman sat in an easy chair, her expression was one of exhaustion and depression, her eyes looked empty and forlorn. “This girl has come from Portsmouth.” The woman’s eyes rose to look at me again.

“I was with Martin when he died.”

She looked at me, those empty eyes, staring right through me. She said nothing. Her husband sat down in the other easy chair, and I sat myself down on a settee opposite both of them and the fireplace with its glowing gas fire.

“I came here because I wanted to meet you. I’m sorry Martin died. I didn’t know him and I don’t know why he came to see me. On the day he died, he held me and my secretary hostage, he had a knife. We were in a biology laboratory and he slipped on some wet on the floor and fell on the knife. He died very quickly.”

“He saw you on ’is computer thing, droppin’ a dormouse down yer blouse. ’E fell in love with yer.”

“What?”

“Di’n’t ya ’ear what I said, ’e fell in love with yer.”

“How? He didn’t even know me.”

“’Ow the ’ell do I know? But you wan-ned to know what ’appened, that’s what ’appened.”

I gasped as I took on board what he was saying.

“’E had scrap books full of yer photos and things.”

“I had no idea.”

“We used to leave him up in ’is room. He used to like dressin’ up like a woman. Queer, but it was ’armless. He used be on ’is bloody computer all night long, some nights.”

“He was dressed as a woman when he first came to see me. He pretended he was a journalist, only I saw through him and asked him to leave. He turned up in my garden and we called the police, he was arrested, but bailed. Then he somehow got into my lab and went funny, then the accident happened and he died. I’m sorry.”

“He ’ad a mental problem.”

“I know, paranoid schizophrenia, I’m sorry.”

“’E used to forget to take his pills an’ it would get worse.”

“I am sorry, but perhaps that’s what happened, he didn’t take his medication. I’m sure he was a good man at heart.”

“’E never ’urt a fly before.”

On the coffee table was a large scrapbook, my picture from one of the bank posters was on the cover. It was surrounded by a number of pink hearts. I had learned enough.

“Thank you for seeing me. Once again, I’m sorry that this happened. I must go.”

They both just looked at me as I left the house, neither said anything or came to see me out, they just sat there in what was almost like a form of inertia. I hurried across to my own car and Tom.

“Well?” he said to me.

“Let’s go and get a coffee or something, Cribb’s Causeway is just up the road.”

“Which is?”

“A large shopping mall place. If we go to Debenhams, we’ll get a reasonable coffee there.”

We drove in silence to the shopping area or ‘retail park’ as they call it. We spotted a coffee place, so never got to Debenhams. After a good swig of dark fluid, Tom sighed and said, “So what happened?”

I had a mouth full of almond slice, so he had to wait until I could speak.

“It was awful, he was completely obsessed with me.”

“Like Simon?”

“No. Simon does have a life outside me. This guy didn’t. There was a scrapbook full of pictures of me.”

“Ugh!” said Tom, “weird or what?”

“Exactly, he used to sit up in his room in his best dress and watch me on YouTube.”

“So his parents knew about the dressing up then?”

“Yeah, it didn’t worry them, why should it? It’s not a crime. Actually, he wasn’t that bad at it.”

“I’m surprised the police weren’t here.”

“They probably were yesterday. It wouldn’t be too hard to present a case to the coroner, mental health patient, obsessional/stalker, didn’t take his medication, went a bit strange, threatened two hostages and ended up falling on his own knife. The only query is, that if the police had got their act together, he’d be in hospital being stabilised, not in a mortuary waiting for a funeral.”

“Until next time, maybe he’d have got lucky and killed you then.”

“I don’t know that, nor do you. I’m sorry he’s dead, it was avoidable and lessons need to be learned.”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

“I’ll write to the police complaints people and copy the letter to the coroner.”

“You’ll be popular.”

“I don’t care, it mustn’t be allowed to happen again. Those two people were absolutely devastated. His mother, her eyes were dead, as if she was only waiting to bury him before she died herself. It was awful, but I’m glad I met them.”

“So you understand things now?” asked Tom.

“Not really, I think I know what happened, I can’t say I understand, because I don’t. I mean how could anyone in their right mind be obsessed with me?”

“Ah, but he wasn’t in his right mind was he? So you’ve answered your own question. Obsession is not normal, it’s an out of balance thing.”

“Yeah, you’re right, Tom, as always.”

“That’s why I’m the professor and you aren’t.”

“And I thought it was just an age thing.”

“Ha! Bloody ha! Let’s get home. I have work to do even if you don’t.”

Easy As Calling For Spike

Part 3×2=6 (326)

by >^^< and she (the cat’s mother?)

Dormouse on a branch

We drove back to Portsmouth and after liaising with my group of dormouse counters, I organised an expedition for that evening. Essentially, I wanted to check out one or two of the sites for filming.

I cooked Tom a nice dinner and after scoffing my share, went off with my equipment to meet up with my group. On the whole, the dormice were holding their own, although we did come across two sickly-looking ones, which I removed to take back to the lab.

I popped them in isolation cages with a source of food. They were both underweight, which in itself can kill them. The problem with animals that hibernate is not laying down enough fat. Then it isn’t the hibernation which kills them, it’s recovery from hibernation which requires a large number of calories to bring everything up to working speed and temperature. Animals which wake and then re-hibernate are particularly at risk, especially insectivorous ones like bats, who could wake and find no food supply easily available. Small animals also lose body heat faster than big ones and need to eat more food as a proportion of body weight than larger ones. A pigmy shrew has to eat most of its bodyweight every day.

After settling in the sickly dormice, I thoroughly washed my hands and went to check on Spike. She was curled up with her babies, but soon proved herself to be a total Brazil nut slut, forsaking them for her favourite snack.

Watching her nibbling her way through the nut reminded me of the day Neal, one of the technicians, tried to examine her babies while she was still in the nest. He still has the scar and claimed we had the world’s only carnivorous dormouse. I had tried to warn him to remove her first, preferably with bribery. But he wouldn’t listen, what did I know? Erm… hee hee!

I got home about two but was very wide-awake, so I drafted my letter of complaint to the PCA*. Then I went to bed. I tossed and turned, wishing Simon was there. He’d left a message on my voicemail, but whilst dormouse hunting, phones are turned off, so I didn’t get it until I came home, when he’d be fast asleep.

He’d been to see Stella and was quite upset by the experience. She was still very unwell and that upset me, as I was so fond of her. I also felt some guilt for what had happened to her. If I hadn’t sent her away, she might not have cut her wrists.

I must have gone to sleep, because I woke up in a sweat. I’d had a horrible dream. I was back in the lab and Hickman had just fallen on his knife and died. I went to check his pulse and his eyes opened and he grabbed me, à la Glenn Close in the bath scene, in Fatal Attraction. I was trying to pull away but my feet kept sliding on the wet floor. Then I woke up, panting and sweating. I even put the light on and left it on.

I did finally go off to sleep again and woke about eleven. The sun was shining and I decided to cycle in for a change. I showered and dressed in my cycling stuff and packed a small rucksack with something to change into, when I got there. I would leave those things there for next time, when I cycled home.

I walked in about lunchtime and asked Pippa, who was back today, if she could get me a roll or sandwich for lunch and then went off to change. I had an afternoon of tutorials planned, but my morning off was covered by my ‘supervision’ of the field group last night.

I changed into the pants and top and the cheap copy of Crocs, I’d brought in the rucksack. Pippa came through with my roll, tuna of course.

“Tom told me about the trip yesterday.”

“Yeah, not the best thing I’ve ever done, but I had to try and understand why he came down here. He was fixated on me.”

“Did he know about the gender thing?”

“Yes, he kept calling me Charlie, which was one of the reasons I threw him out.”

“He wasn’t looking to get an erm… sex change, was he?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think so.”

“So how come you were as cool as a cucumber and I was throwing up everywhere, with fright?”

“I was just as scared, but I’ve developed a way to detach myself from it and keep calm, looking for opportunities to escape or reduce the risk. They always come, you just have to recognise them and the split second window they afford to act.”

“I could never do that, Cathy. I don’t know how you can.”

“When you’ve been beaten up as often as I have, you start to learn a few tricks to fight back. The only time it didn’t work was when my father gave me the beating.”

“He didn’t, did he?” Pippa looked aghast.

“Yeah, and I took an overdose.”

“What, to kill yourself?”

“Exactly that.” I felt the tension rising.

“What happened?”

“Look, I’d prefer not to talk about it now if you don’t mind, I don’t need to revisit that old chestnut and all its associated negative vibes. Thanks for the roll.”

I wasn’t as superhuman as she seemed to think, nor was I as special as Tom suggested, unless he meant as a field biologist, I was red hot at that. It was what I lived to do, that and ride my bike oh and look after a little guy named Simon.

My tutorials weren’t too arduous and I was able to get down to doing a quick write up of the sites—we’d visit them in daylight to fully evaluate them, and Des was the final arbiter, being the cameraman cum director/producer. I wrote the script and narrated it.

Then it was home time. I changed into my riding kit and passed Pippa as I walked through pushing my bike.

“It’s dark, I hope you have lights for that thing.”

“I do, and they worked this morning.” That guaranteed nothing, the world of rechargeable batteries was a separate universe where anything could happen. However, they did work and I got home safely albeit a while after Tom and his noisy chariot.

I put the Scott away and locked the garage. It was starting to rain—had it happened a little earlier, I’d have got soaked, I only had a weatherproof jacket on, so my legs would have got cold and wet.

As I went in, Tom handed me a glass of red wine. Apart from, thank you, what else could I say? I took it with me when I went to shower but didn’t drink it until I’d had a long cool glass of water to rehydrate me.

We had some steaks in the freezer, so that’s what I cooked, braising them in a red wine and tomato sauce, into which I’d added garlic and onion in moderate amounts. Then I sautéed some new potatoes after parboiling and slicing them. It turned out quite well.

I had only moments before I loaded the dishwasher, when Simon called.

“Hey Babe, how are you?”

“I’m okay, I suppose.” I told him about the incident with Hickman and how I planned to write to the Police Complaints Authority.

“You do get into some scrapes, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but I always come through them, don’t I?”

“Indeed you do, I can’t think of anyone else who would, mind you.”

“Well, just watch this scrape,” I said to him in a silly voice and he laughed.

He went on to tell me about Stella, and he was quite worried. Henry had been to see her and was of the opinion she had lost the will to live and was thus, simply waiting to die.

“What? Stella—but that’s awful! What can we do to stop it?”

“If I knew that, I’d have done it Babes, long ago.”

“There has to be something, hasn’t there?”

“I don’t know, whatever it is it had better happen soon, she is just fading away.” I could hear the emotion in his voice.

“I’ll go and see her tomorrow,” I announced, hoping in the two-hour drive, my mind might alight on an answer to her problem.

“Thanks Babes, but prepare yourself for a shock.”

“What do you mean?” I felt a shudder pass through my body.

“She has lost so much weight.”

“But she was already like a stick insect, how could she lose weight?”

“She has. I have to go, lover. I’ll see you tomorrow evening.”

“I thought you said Sunday?”

“I’ve managed to wriggle out of a few things and free up the weekend.”

“Oh damn, I wish you’d said,” I replied.

“What! Why?”

“Well, I’ve arranged to help clean the church and work at a soup kitchen, and run the marathon, not to mention catering for a royal visit.”

“Catering for a royal visit?”

“I told you not to mention it.”

“You are crazy! The last time you went near a church was to talk to that woman priest.”

“No, it was to attend my father’s funeral.”

“Oh yeah, sorry, forgot that. But you don’t normally go near them, as for marathons—huh! You just be there tomorrow evening or I shall be most displeased.”

“Huh—hark at you, my lord and master, not! I’ll remind you that I am an emancipated and self-directing, autonomous woman.”

“Wow! Can we include that in the wedding service—Do you, Simon, take this emancipated and self-directing, autonomous woman to be your wife? What am I supposed to say? Duh—would you?”

“Have you finished taking the urine?”

“Who me? What about you?” He complained loudly.

“I’ll be here I suppose, but only because you asked me nicely and promised to take me out to dinner.”

“When did I do that?”

“Just now,” I loved it when he got confused.

“No I didn’t.”

“You did, you just didn’t notice.”

“What? Are you crazy? I know what I said.”

“See you just said it again.”

“Said what?”

“Be ready to go out for a slap up meal with me when I get home tomorrow evening. Don’t you remember?”

“No I don’t, but I suppose if that’s what you want to do, we’d better do it. Can you make some reservations?”

“See, you just forgot.”

“Yeah, if you say so.”

“Now you understand.”

“Understand women, who me? Feminine logic is the original oxymoron—it arose in the Garden of Eden.”

“Without women, Adam would be still waiting for puberty.”

“Yeah, maybe. I have to go, my battery on this phone is bleeping at me. See you tomorrow, wear something, you know, sexy.”

“My cycling shorts?”

“Bah!” then he rang off. It was such fun teasing him, I only wished Stella was better, that was now a real worry.

Easy As Boiling Up A Cake Part 327

I arranged with Tom to finish early so I could go and see Stella. I worked like mad all morning, so by lunchtime apart from two tutorials, I’d more or less finished. I saw the students together after asking them first and they both found the experience useful, so did I: I got off an hour earlier.

The drive was tedious, these things always are and while I drove I tried to think of some way I could help Stella. A big fat nothing came to mind—possibly because I couldn’t forget Simon’s warning that I’d be shocked.

I parked up at the clinic and remembered how I’d sat in the car last time afraid to see her. I felt ashamed of myself now. I went in and was escorted to her room. She was sitting in a huge armchair with a blanket wrapped around her. She looked like a little old lady, gaunt and haggard as the skin drooped around her face. It reminded me of people in refugee camps.

“Hi flower,” I said as I breezed in.

She looked up at me and her empty eyes sparkled for a moment and she smiled, then the emptiness returned.

I sat alongside her, looking right into her eyes. “What are you up to?” She tried to avoid eye contact, but I made her face me. “What are you trying to achieve?”

“Why did you come?” she said in a weak, croaky voice.

“To see you.”

“To bully me.”

“Not at all. I’m a scientist remember, I need to understand things. I need to understand why you are doing this.”

“It’s my body.”

“I know that, but why are you destroying it?”

“I’m too wicked to live.”

“Of course you are, I should have remembered. What was it, public enemy number one? If that was the case, where would that put megalomaniacs like Blair and Bush who started a war and killed thousands? I don’t see them trying to starve themselves to death.”

“I did a dreadful thing,” she said and a tear ran down her face.

“You ate the last chocolate biscuit?” I kept trying to make light of things. I had an idea of what was coming.

“Why are you trying to trivialise my pain?”

“Am I, or are you just wallowing in self pity?”

“How dare you?” she said more firmly.

“How dare I what? How dare I tell you the truth, when all the others have been pussyfooting around the place? I’ll tell you how I dare it. I love you, remember, you are my big sister and I can’t just stand by and watch while you punish yourself unnecessarily with some guilt trip.”

Another tear dripped down her face and I felt close to tears as well, however, I needed to keep up the outrage to make her angry, to boost her out of her torpor. My dormice were more with it than her, and they were hibernating—with one notable exception, she who eats lab technicians!

“I am guilty.”

“Guilty of what? Of being the nicest person in the known universe?”

“Nicest person? I killed my own baby—does that make me nice?”

“Ah so now we’re getting to it.” I had to be careful about this, I was very vulnerable on fertility grounds, as I couldn’t breed or even begin to know what the feeling of pregnancy was like. She could shoot me down in flash and I half-expected her to do it.

“You and Tom are the only two who know about it.”

“Yeah, so?”

“You are treating it as something trivial.”

“I’m not, I found it sad at the time and I still do.”

“Sad, yes it’s sad all right. It’s more than sad, it’s wicked. I’m evil and deserve to die for taking a life. An eye for an eye, like the Bible says.”

“Oh, Old Testament stuff. Okay, by that standard, Deuteronomy or another such book, Simon and I should be put to death, me probably twice over.”

“What for?”

“Well according to that, I’m a man lying with another man, plus I’m wearing women’s clothes. Quite how they’d kill me twice, I’m not sure, but I think that’s the penalty.”

“Now you’re being stupid, of course you’re a woman.” There was a bit of life coming in her eyes and expression.

“Not according to the Old Testament.”

“But that was written in days before they understood Gender Identity Disorder.”

“I won’t argue with that, but it was also written before they understood a woman’s right to choose about her body and pregnancy.”

“That’s different.”

“Is it? I had surgery on perfectly healthy tissue.”

“That’s not killing a baby, is it?”

“Having my gonads removed, I might have killed a thousand babies.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, those babies were never made. They were only ever potential babies through sperm.”

“You were carrying a potential baby too. There were a hundred things that could have gone wrong and you could have spontaneously miscarried. Until it was born, it wasn’t a baby. Yours was in a very early stage.”

“I still killed it.”

“No, you stopped it living. It wasn’t capable of independent life, it needed your body to sustain it. It wasn’t murder, it was…”

“Convenience, it didn’t suit me to have it. So I killed it.”

“Isn’t there a better way to resolve this?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, instead of ending your life as punishment, why not do something to nurture life instead?”

“Like what?”

“Like getting yourself well again and going back to nursing, saving lives and healing people.”

“That isn’t a punishment.”

“I don’t know, some of the stories you told me of clinics you did, it sounded like punishment to me.”

“Some were hard.”

A nurse knocked and entered the room, “Are you going to have something to eat tonight, Stella?”

“No.”

“Yes she is,” I insisted, “have you got some nice soup and a roll?”

“Yes, cream of chicken.”

“Bring her some, I’ll help her to eat it.”

The young nurse gave me a funny look, but she popped out and returned a few minutes later, with a tray of soup and roll and butter. She put it down and left, telling us to ring if we needed any help.

“I’m not going to eat it.” Stella looked at me defiantly.

I pulled a five pound note out of my bag and put it down beside the tray, “That says you are.”

“If you force it down me, I’ll be sick.”

“I’m not going to force you, you are going to eat it yourself.”

“I’m not.”

“Okay, if you don’t eat that soup and get your act together, I am not going to marry Simon.”

“Ha ha, you think that is going to make me?”

“Yes, I’m serious, if you aren’t there, there will be no wedding.”

“Are you crazy?”

“No, I’ve never been more serious in my whole life. If you haven’t eaten that soup before I leave here, then I am driving home and telling Simon that it’s all off and he can sling his hook.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Maybe, but I promise that is what I shall do.”

“But I thought you loved Simon?”

“I do.”

“So how can you do that to him?”

“Same way you can do this to me.”

“That’s different.”

“Is it? I don’t give a toss, that is what I will do.”

“You can’t.”

“Just watch me, oh no you can’t because you’ll be dead, never mind I expect Simon and I will be with you soon enough.”

“What do you mean?”

“Died of a broken heart, that sort of thing. I think they call it depressive illness, nowadays.”

“That is stupid!”

“No more than starving myself to death would be, or you, for that matter.”

“It isn’t the same,” she protested, tears streaming down her face.

“It is to me. Your call.”

“That is so mean!”

“Who said life was nice?”

“You’re a bitch, Cathy.”

“You are telling me something I already know. Now are you going to eat this soup or do I go?”

“Pass it over.”

My hands were trembling as I passed over the tray. I had gambled my biggest ever stake and could have lost everything.

She ate the soup complaining she was full ages before she was. She also burped and farted like a good ’un. She’d eaten nothing for several days, this was going to be uncomfortable. She complained of feeling sick, which was probably wind. I gave her a peppermint and she eventually burped her way into more comfort.

“Happy now?” she glared at me.

“No, I’m happier than I was, but I won’t be happy until I see you at my wedding.”

“Who says I was going to come anyway?”

“I do, because you’ll be helping me with my dress and the other things I need to organise.”

“I might.” This time there was a little sparkle in her eye.

“I thought you might.”

“Happy now?”

“Stella, you just asked me that; my answer is the same.”

“You won again, didn’t you?”

“I wasn’t aware this was a contest.”

“A battle of wills.”

“Don’t be silly, I wouldn’t stand a chance against you,” I smiled.

“Okay, I’ll come to your stupid wedding. Just get me out of this place.”

“Only you can do that Stella, but thank you for that, I shall hold you to it.”

I hugged her, “You’ve made an old woman happier,” I said and we both started laughing. She also owed me a fiver!

Easy As Writing To Appal Part 328

by >^^<

The drive home from Stella, was easier than the outward one. I left feeling that she might recover, although I wasn’t holding my breath. I would just have to try and see her at least once a week, to keep nagging her. I couldn’t pull the stunt I’d just used again, that was for sure, but I could keep niggling at the wedding stuff to try and keep her interested. If she was well, she’d be in her element choosing clothes and decorations, so I hoped I might rekindle that interest.

I got home at six and jumped in the shower. I dried my hair and put it up—I’m not as good at it as Stella, but I managed to leave a few tendrils hanging down, which I curled with my tongs. I know Simon finds them sexy, can’t think why—too many old films I suspect.

I dressed in my exotic lingerie, stuff that Stella had given me, in black frilly and lacy silk. The push up bra gave me a bit more cleavage and I was going to wear a plunge necked top. The top was a gold and black affair with some sparkly bits and beads embroidered onto it. It was cap sleeved with a cross over plunge front. I was going to wear it with some rather tight, flared black trousers. I would wear my black velvet jacket and my mother’s necklace and earrings. My makeup, well I hadn’t worn much for ages, so any felt rather a lot. I used some lipstick, eyeliner and mascara with some blusher and a good squirt of Opium.

I went downstairs and chatted to Tom, who naturally wanted to know how I’d found Stella.

“I managed to provoke her into some response.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” he replied with a smile.

“Are you suggesting I am provocative?”

“Me? I wouldn’t dream of it,” now he was laughing.

“Talk about, give a dog a bad name.”

“You see, mademoiselle, your reputation precedes you.”

“Moi? Sacre bleu!”

“Indeed!” he couldn’t say anymore he was laughing too much.

Simon arrived as we were talking, he dumped his overnight bag and snatched me up like a feather. “I have missed you Babes,” he said and kissed off most of my lipstick. I suppose there is nothing like making an impression, and that he certainly did. After he put me back down, he glanced at Tom and said, “Oh hi, Tom.”

“Simon,” acknowledged our gracious landlord.

“You look delicious, Cathy. I must jump in the shower, any chance of a cup of coffee, I am parched?”

“I suppose so,” I said to his disappearing back as he ran up stairs. I went into the kitchen to make his drink. “Most men don’t want a wife, they want a mistress, a cook and a maid—but as they can only afford one, they settle for a wife.

“Oh dear is my little girl becoming cynical?” said Tom sniggering to himself, “she becomes wise in the way of men.”

“Now you tell me!” I squeaked.

“Well I can’t give trade secrets to the enemy, can I?”

“I suppose not, if you see us as the enemy.”

“Just occasionally, I suspect men and women are separate species.”

“That is hardly a new observation, is it? However, it’s hardly based on any scientific fact is it, a bit like that book about Mars and Venus.”

“It’s made the author a fortune,” he said, so someone found it useful.

“I haven’t read it, as I believe it’s a bigger load of nonsense than the Naked Ape.”

“Desmond Morris was a very keen observer and an astute writer.”

“So why didn’t he stick to mammals, like thee and me?”

“He was too much of a polymath, besides he enjoyed the celebrity of his television work and the notoriety of his writing. Remember, he was writing a mere fifty or sixty years after that trial in the States, where Darwin was so ably defended against the forces of regression.”

“You mean religion?”

“I suppose it was primarily. What is so sad is that they are still fighting the same battle over and over, even though science won it years ago.”

“That’s America for you, a land of contradictions.” I made Simon’s coffee and took it up to him. He showered and was dressing.

“Where are we eating?”

“I booked a table at the Pig and Whistle.”

“Oh yes, they have a restaurant there now, don’t they?”

“I sincerely hope so, or we could get rather hungry.”

“What time?”

“Eight.”

“Oops, better get a move on then.” He towelled his hair and then combed it into half a style. He pulled on a tie and turned his collar down over it, then donned his jacket.

I hugged him, “My handsome man,” I said and pulled him closely to me.

“That’s me,” he said without a hint of self-consciousness.

After that, there wasn’t really much I could say. Obviously, he was interested in my visit to Stella. “When I phoned earlier they said she’d been eating. I asked if she’d had any visitors and they told me her sister had been to visit. I knew then that you had performed another of your miracles. Tom was right, you are special.”

“Don’t let an old man’s delusions cloud your judgment,” I said and we drove to the pub.

“I’d hardly say that a professor would be someone I’d accuse of delusions.”

“What the nutty professor? Could you get a better indictment than that?”

“Cathy, I came home to have a cosy weekend with my fiancée, I did not come for a Socratic discussion.”

“Oh dear, you must have come to the wrong house then.” I smiled at him and he shot me a dirty look. “I was waiting for this mysterious man, who was going to wine and dine me and if I was still awake, take advantage of me.”

“Is there any chance of you staying awake?”

“Probably not.”

“Dammit!” he said and banged his hand against the steering wheel.

Well I could hardly help it if I always got sleepy after a couple of glasses of wine and plate of food. He should know that by now, besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say.

Easy As Falling Off A Dyke Part 329

I lay in bed and reflected on the evening. The meal had been pretty good, or mine had. The melon entrée, the grilled leg of lamb steak and raspberry roulade dessert had left me feeling very full. Simon had fed well too, and had had three glasses of wine to my one. I got nominated to drive us home, which in the Saab, I didn’t enjoy too much—don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely car, but twice as big as my Golf.

I got us home, my heart still beating fast as I recalled the drive. Nothing happened, but it was an adrenalin rush all the way. Then, helping Simon up the stairs, he hadn’t done himself any favours having a large brandy before we left. I did manage to get him undressed before he fell asleep, a state he was still in, snoring like a lawnmower. So much for my staying awake when we got home!

I did eventually manage to fall asleep, but it was hard work trying to shut out Simon’s impressions of a powerful motorbike with a damaged exhaust. I woke some hours later, needing a wee. He’d obviously turned over because his jet engine had switched off, I just hoped it didn’t go into reversed thrust once I got back to bed.

The next morning, a Saturday, we both slept in a bit. Normally, Si is up by six often earlier. Today it was after nine before we woke up. After he’d gone to the loo and dived back under the covers, he snuggled up and got romantic. I’d lost the moment, about six hours before and although more than happy to cuddle, didn’t want anything extra.

I lay on my side facing away from him, he had a hand on my breast stroking it gently—it was nice, but that was all. For him it seemed to be having a more marked affect, because something was poking me in the lower part of my back. I tried to ignore it, but he was practically pleading with me.

“I was ready last night.”

“I had a bit of brewer’s last night.”

“Did you know that it doesn’t actually mean alcohol induced impotence? It’s to do with a Dr Brewer.”

“I didn’t and I am not impotent, see for yourself.”

“I’d prefer to look at some breakfast cereal,” I said.

“You cut me to the quick, Cathy Watts.”

“Look Simon, I had to listen to you all night giving a rendition of the snoring chorus from Rip van Winkle.”

“There’s no such piece, is there?”

“Only because I haven’t written it yet, but it does go on for twenty years, which is shorter than it felt last night.”

“I’m sorry, Babes.”

“I am very tired and not interested in anything more energetic than eating breakfast, sorry and all that…” I was anything but repentant, but he didn’t know that.

When I pulled myself out of bed to go to the loo, I found him exploring my lingerie. “You wore this last night?”

“Yes, but you’d need a bigger size.”

He blushed, “If I’d known you were wearing that, we wouldn’t have got as far as the pub.”

“I’m glad we did, I was quite hungry.”

“Will you put it on again for me?”

“If you like, but not now, I want some breakfast.”

“Aw come on, Cathy, just for me.”

“If I did, Simon, you’d just want to take me to bed and I’ve already said, I’m not interested.”

He looked downcast and sighed, “Okay, go and get your breakfast.”

“If you hadn’t got pissed last night, you would have found me much more willing.”

“Aw c’mon, Babes, it was a good meal and someone had to finish the wine.”

“Even if I accept that argument, why did you also have to order a large brandy?”

“Well, you agreed to drive home, so I thought, what the hell?”

“I had to get you in, undress you and then listen to you snore half the night. That’s why I’m not in the mood. If you find my underwear such a turn on, you wear it, because I’m not, I’m going for breakfast.” I pulled on my dressing gown and slippers and left him standing there still holding my lacy bra and pants set.

“Nice evening?” asked Tom as boiled the kettle.

“Was okay.”

“Oh, like that, was it?”

“The food was good, and the wine even better. Ask Simon, he drank most of it.”

“Ah, I don’t think I’ll bother. I erm, have some paperwork to attend to, maybe I’ll go and do it.” Tom, made what could only be described as a tactical withdrawal. I didn’t blame him.

I ate my Rice Crispies, and even the whispered popping sound annoyed me this morning. Simon came down, he was dressed and had obviously showered. I said nothing to him but rinsed my dish and put it in the dishwasher. I took my tea and went upstairs. We hadn’t spoken a word.

I showered and dressed casually, I had food shopping to do for the weekend and was already late by my usual routine. I took my coat and bag and left to go to the supermarket.

I was back about an hour and a half later—Simon’s car was gone. I rushed into the house. “Where is Simon?” I shouted at Tom.

“I don’t know, I’ve been working in the study.”

I rushed into the kitchen—there was no note. I dashed upstairs: his overnight bag was gone. He’d left. At first I couldn’t believe it, then it seemed the only explanation. He had deserted me. I stood in the middle of the bedroom and burst into tears, this was the last straw. I abandoned the shopping and took to my bed, crying myself to sleep.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 330

“Sleeping Beauty, where’s Prince Charming?” Tom poked his head around my bedroom door.

“Erm,” I yawned, “Erm, what?” I was always at my best when woken up.

“Where is Simon?”

“I dunno, why?” I yawned to emphasise the point.

“Henry is on the phone.”

“What! Nothing up with Stella, is there?” Given the appropriate stimulus, my brain could sometimes fire up.

“I don’t know, he just asked to speak to Simon.”

“I’ll come and speak to him.”

“Here,” Tom shoved the cordless phone in my hand, “save yourself a walk, I’ll put the kettle on.” He shut the door and I pushed the talk button on the handset.

“Hello, Henry, it’s, Cathy.”

“Hello sweetheart, can you put my idiot son on?”

“I’m afraid I can’t, I don’t know where he is. We had a bit of a misunderstanding this morning and I haven’t seen him for a few hours, his car has gone too.”

“Oh, okay sweetheart, I’ll try his mobile.”

“If you contact him, could you ask him to call me?”

“Of course I will,” he rang off and I sat in the bed wondering what to do next. Tom called from downstairs that the kettle had boiled, so I got up and pulled on my slippers, my trousers and top were all creased, but that was the least of my worries.

I went down and made some tea—I won’t let Tom make it, as primarily a coffee drinker, he cannot make tea. Mind you, he thinks the same about my coffee. Whilst the tea was standing, the phone rang and he answered it. I quickly poured my tea into a bone china mug with milk already in it.

“She’s here Simon,” he said passing me the phone.

“Hello?” I offered, I’m always original.

“Hello Cathy, Dad asked me to call you.”

Tom had collected his coffee and made himself scarce. I loved his discretion, he was such a gentleman.

“Erm, yes, I asked him to ask you.”

“Yeah, I knew that much already.”

“I wanted to apologise for this morning.”

“Okay, and that’s supposed to make it all right, is it?”

“No because that takes two, I’ve apologised, maybe you could do the same…” I heard the phone click off. Damn! I felt like throwing the device on the floor, but what would that have gained, except the cost of a new one and Tom’s ire.

I put it back on its charger, makes it sound like a knight in armour. I could do with one to find Simon and slap him one. I fantasised two of them fighting over me. Then reality cut in, I didn’t want anyone fighting about anything, especially me. I wanted my Simon back, so we could sort it out. He sounded angry with me. Had I cocked up big time?

Where could he be? I worried all afternoon and most of the evening. It certainly didn’t look as if he was coming home. He could be anywhere, the hotel in Southsea, in London, anywhere; for all I knew he could even be back at his old house. That idea grew on me and found myself wanting to check it out.

I told Tom I would be out for an hour or so. We’d eaten, well he’d eaten, I wasn’t hungry, so he should be fine with that. If Simon called, I asked him to tell him I loved him and for him to come home tonight.

I jumped in the car and steamed off to the cottage. As I drove up the drive, I could see Simon’s car parked in front of the garage. There was Nissan Micra next to it. I parked mine up and walked towards the cars.

The Nissan looked like a girl’s car, it was pink to start with, and full of soft toys on the back parcel shelf. My stomach did a somersault. I checked my keys, I had a door key which should open the door, if it wasn’t locked from inside or on the chain. I walked up to the door and turned and walked away again.

I did the same thing, three more times, I didn’t want to do this, but I had to know. My hand was shaking so much, I had to steady it with the other. The key slipped into the lock almost silently. I turned it and the door opened. I could hear music, Simon’s voice and that of an unknown female. My stomach flipped again and I felt really sick.

The female voice laughed loudly and my anger began to fizz. I slammed the door shut and heard confused noises, eventually Simon appeared from a doorway to the lounge.

“Cathy? What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same question, and with whom?” I snarled at him.

“What do you mean?”

“You have a woman here, who? Where is she, putting her clothes back on?” I pushed past him and into the room. I stopped, rooted to the spot, “Monica!”

“Hello Cathy, this is a nice surprise.”

“What’s going on?” I asked glancing from Simon to his stepmother and back again.

“Nothing is going on; Monica needed somewhere to sort out Dad’s birthday present, where he wouldn’t find her.”

“You could have done that at Tom’s.”

“He’d have looked there, he phoned you there.”

“He was looking for you, not me,” I threw back at him.

“No, he was looking for Monica and I hope I threw him off the trail.”

“So why couldn’t you be honest with me?”

“Why don’t you two lovebirds sort this out, while I pop down the pub,” Monica said as she slipped past me.

“What is all this bullshit about, you know I don’t believe a word of it, so what the bloody hell is going on?”

“Monica has left my father.”

“What?”

“They had a mega-fight and she stormed off without her purse and any clothes. I could hardly not help her, could I?”

“You shouldn’t take sides,” I cautioned, our own fight temporarily forgotten.

“I’m not, I’m trying to get them back together.”

“So why couldn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t have time.”

“You’ve had all day.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know if I believe you, Simon.” I foolishly said what was in my heart.

“Well tough shit!”

“If that’s your attitude, I’m going home.”

“Don’t tell Henry about this.”

“Talk to your family? Huh, with the exception of Stella, I don’t care if I never see any of your bloody lot, ever again!” I stormed out of the house got in the car, slammed the door and drove off. I stopped half a mile down the road and burst into tears. This time, it looked as if it was over.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 331

“Where have you been?” Tom looked at me, “You’ve been crying, is everything all right?”

“No it isn’t.” I slumped on to a chair in the kitchen and held my face in my hands.

“Are you going to tell me about it?” he sat down opposite me.

“I’ve blown it.”

“Blown what?”

“My chance of a happy ever after life.”

“Why, what happened?”

“Simon and me, we’re finished. Kaput, finis.”

“Oh, a lover’s tiff?”

“Yeah, a terminal one.”

“Come on have a cuppa, you’ll feel better.”

“Not if you make it, I won’t.” I think I’ve mentioned before that Tom should not be allowed near a teabag.

“There’s gratitude for you! Huh! Make it your-bloody-self then!”

“I will, do you want one?”

“Well as you’re asking, no. I have a glass of a perfectly good Merlot here, so I shall just sit here and listen to your latest crisis while the antioxidants unclog my arteries.” He sipped his drink while I switched the kettle on.

“I had a hunch about Simon.”

“And…”

“For some reason, I don’t know why, but I felt he might be at his cottage. I drove there and he was, with Monica.”

“His stepmother?”

“Yes, the very same. He told me she had left Henry and I wasn’t to tell him if he rang, that I’d seen her. According to Simon, the only reason his father rang earlier was looking for Monica.”

“All sounds a bit OTT to me,” said Tom.

“Yeah, but they’re like that plus I suppose the gossip columns would love to get wind of it.”

“I suppose so, but it still seems a bit too much for me. If they got wind of your split up, it would make even more noise.”

“Oh hell, I hadn’t thought of that, plus Des is coming next week.”

“Do you have to tell him?”

“No, but I can hardly wear this, can I?” I pointed to my ring.

“Why not, he won’t know.”

“Am I not by tradition, supposed to send this back to Simon?”

“I thought Stella told you to keep it if that happened. Now more importantly, what is she going to think? Remember the wedding was supposed to be her lifeline.”

“Oh no, I’d forgotten all about that…”

“I think you’d better try and patch things up with Simon or devise some way of not telling her for some time.”

“Oh pooh, what do I do, oh father figure?”

“How should I know?”

“You’re the professor, profess something!”

“Okay, I profess that I don’t have a clue.”

“That was a great help, thanks for nothing.” I sipped my tea.

“I shall consult with Simon, stay here and behave yourself.” With that he upped and left me sitting in the kitchen feeling queasy with worry. If Stella had been well, she’d have sorted us out, without her we were a bit like an uncontrolled experiment in relationships, failed variety.

I finished my cuppa. I could hear Tom’s voice droning in the distance and I wondered what they were saying. He was easing into the paternal relationship with me more than my own father ever had.

I thought back over the last twenty-four hours, we were both such fools and as it says in the old saw, pride comes before a fall. Certainly, it did for me, but would Simon feel the same? I’d never know unless I asked him and I couldn’t do that. At the same time, I worried about Stella. I did love her so, and having her as a sister was so special for me. I know that even if Simon and I parted, she and I would have a special relationship anyway. We really had bonded as sisters.

What was going on with Henry and Monica, or Monica and Simon? Surely, Simon wasn’t doing anything with her was he? Ugh! What a thought—a horrible one—blurgh! I almost felt sick for a moment until I rid my mind of such blasphemies.

Yet niggling in my mind was Monica’s reputation and the pass she had made at me, it did not invite a sense of calm, rather the opposite. I was still playing these silly mind-bending games with myself when Tom returned with two glasses of wine, one of which he placed in front of me.

“Are you fortifying me for bad news?” I said looking at the glass.

“No lassie, just sharing my largesse with you.”

“So, what happened?”

“I poured myself another glass and there was one left for you.” His eyes twinkled, and I sighed at him. “Oh that, yes, that was more complicated.” He stopped and sipped his wine, “Well aren’t you going to try some?”

“I would like you to stop messing about and tell me straight what happened.”

“So you can drink it all down at once?”

“Maybe, yes!”

“That is an eight pound a bottle, wine; savour it don’t guzzle it!”

“Just tell me what is going to happen, Tom.”

“Who do you think I am, Mystic Meg?”

“You know what I mean.”

“I cannot predict what will happen, that is between you and Simon to sort out. He is coming over tomorrow to see you and talk it over, with me as referee.”

“I thought we’d do that between just him and me.”

“You did that earlier, didn’t you?”

“Erm, yeah, so?”

“It got you a long way towards sorting things by the look of it.”

“Well that was his fault…”

“Cathy, it takes two to tango, relationships need give and take on both parts, you are both acting like children. If you don’t change things and quickly, it isn’t going to work.”

“But Simon is the one who walked off and…”

“And nothing, he felt you walked off on him, twice. Once this morning, and again this evening.”

“But I went shopping this morning.”

“Did you tell him?”

“No, he should have known that.”

“Maybe you could have told him all the same?”

“How could I, we weren’t talking.”

“Is that how you think adults usually act?”

“Yes, my parents did!” I pouted.

“That explains a few things.”

“Such as?”

“Never mind. You will meet with Simon tomorrow morning and I will be there to make sure neither of you act like spoilt brats. Now drink your wine and calm down.”

I sat and sulked, not touching the wine. How dare he insult my parents, neither of whom were able to defend themselves against his accusations. Maybe he wasn’t such a good father figure.

“I think I’m going to have an early night,” I said sulkily.

“What about your wine?”

I felt like saying, what about it? Instead I said, “I’ll take it with me, it might help me sleep.”

“Okay, good night Cathy, sleep well.”

“Thank you.” I turned to walk away, then doubled back and kissed him on the cheek, “and thank you.”

He smiled at me and put his arm around my waist, “I really do want to see you happy you know.”

“I know, Tom, I just feel so upside down at the moment. Nothing makes sense, and whatever I do makes things worse.”

“Your intuition led you to Simon, because you are close to him. Just allow it to work for you, do nothing, just be.”

I was completely confused by what he was saying, “What do you mean?”

“There is an old saying which goes something like, ‘Men do—women are.’

“What is that supposed to mean, the sound of one hand clapping, huh?”

“Go off to bed and think about it.” He patted me on the bum and pushed me towards the door. Are all men crazy or just the ones I know?

Easy As Flailing On A Bike Part 332

Dormouse on a branch

I went to bed and after cleaning my teeth, changed into my nightie and sat up in bed. It felt so empty without Simon, I hoped he wasn’t doing anything with that crazy nympho of a stepmother. After all, in the fairy stories, the stepmum ‘done it!’ I sipped my wine, with the taste of toothpaste, it was pretty ghastly. Then I thought, ‘Oh pooh,’ I’ll have to clean my teeth again! Then I thought, who will know if I don’t, let alone care? Nobody, so there! But I will and I won’t be able to sleep until I do it. Why do I bother? I am obviously completely barking!

I drank the rest of the wine and tried to contemplate one hand being. Maybe the wine was better than I thought, or I was more tired. Get it right, think about the sound of being clapped—nah, wrong again. My head was reeling as I went back to the bathroom and cleaned my teeth again. I still couldn’t remember what Tom had been on about, so I thought about being Mrs Simon Cameron, or Lady C or whatever. It felt good, until I realised it might never happen.

I felt a tear escape my eyes, what if Simon and I couldn’t get it back together? The thought of that was so awful, I couldn’t even contemplate it. Had he changed that much? Not really, he was still a twit, but I loved him, so it must be me who had changed.

Well of course I’ve changed, my body is different, my hormones are different, my attitude is different, everything is different. No wonder he can’t cope with me—I’m no longer the woman he got engaged to, I’m different. Ergo, it’s my fault.

I cried myself to sleep and had several horrid dreams, all about losing Simon or Stella or even Tom. I awoke in a sweat more than once. Tom let me lie in but roused me at nine to say that Simon was coming at eleven.

If Si had been in touch, then he must have slept better than I did, which confirmed my disaster reading of my situation last night. I still felt it was my fault, almost exclusively, well only about one hundred per cent anyway, which would allow a margin for error of nil per cent.

I would just have to throw myself on his mercy and hope that Tom could stop him killing me on the spot, or worse rejecting me! Oh my giddy aunt, what was I going to do? If in doubt, shower.

The distraction of making myself as attractive as I could for Simon, took some of the worries off my mind, which was simply a vacant space somewhere between my ears. I actually knew more about how dormice did things than I did humans! Is than an indictment or what?

I have seen dormice bonking, giving birth, dying and so on. The only human birth I know anything about, is my own and that is only that I survived it. Wow! Maybe I didn’t! Maybe I’m the only fully adult, independently living placenta? Nah, my skin is too pale, I’d look like a walking liver.

What did I know about Simon? Only that I loved him and that he was kind, generous, protective, loyal, hardworking, wonderful and, and sleeping with that oversexed trollop—I’ll kill him!

I did some deep, slow breathing and calmed down enough to only want to maim him. I dried my hair and dressed casually in a top and trousers. I did squirt a spot of eau de toilette in various places before I went down.

It was ten o’clock, a whole hour to wait. Tom greeted me and hugged me, I kissed him on the cheek, maybe I should marry him instead? Simon could give me away instead, nah, Simon would sell me, he’s a broker. Maybe I could ask Stella, or even Kiki? I think I’m over-reacting.

“Breakfast?” said Tom in a loud voice.

“No, I couldn’t eat a thing.”

“Not even a bacon sandwich?”

“Yuck, no.”

“Some toast?”

“Not really.”

“You have to eat something.”

“Why?”

“Because you should. Breakfast is the most important meal…” he droned on.

“You sound like my mother,” I offered, which shut him up for a moment.

“If you don’t eat something, you’ll be full of wind and be farting all the time.”

“I beg your pardon! I do not fart all the time.”

“That’s not what I heard.”

“When did you hear me fart?”

“I didn’t say I had actually heard you fart, I said that it wasn’t what I had heard.”

“I don’t believe this!” It was true, I didn’t.

“You sound like Victor Meldrew, and I’ll bet he farts too.”

“What!”

“Your face is a picture,” he said and began chuckling.

“You, you horrible old man!”

“Hee hee, it got you going didn’t it?”

“I hate you!”

“Do you?” he looked so sad, even though I knew he was taking the urine!

“No, I love you, you silly old fool.” I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re a better father to me than my own dad ever was.”

“Don’t think badly of him, he did his best, I simply have less baggage and I knew you before I liked you. He had no option but to love you, which is sometimes difficult as you may well find out one day.”

“Ha fat chance, I can’t have babies, remember?”

“There is more than one way to be a parent, look at me. You are not my child in a biological sense but we interact like father and daughter, we have adopted each other. So it can happen.”

“Okay, I surrender, I’ll eat some toast.”

“Good choice.”

Easy As Falling Off A Dormouse Part 333

by Angharad & >^^<

After breakfast, I cleared up the dishes and the toast crumbs. While putting the dishes away I noticed I wasn’t wearing any makeup. Did I have time before Simon arrived? It was about five or ten to eleven. Not really, not to do it properly and besides, if I cried it would look a mess. I didn’t always wear it to work, so why should I now? I decided I’d give my skin a rest and I did use some moisturiser after my shower.

I was wiping down the worktops in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. I left Tom to answer it. I switched on the kettle and made some fresh tea and coffee. I also put out a plate of biscuits.

I carried the tray into the dining room. Tom and Simon were both seated at the table, although they both rose when I entered the room. I nodded acknowledgement of their good manners. The next few moments were taken up with pouring tea or coffee. Anything I suppose, rather than get started.

“Stella would probably have banged your heads together, but as she isn’t available, I get the job and violence isn’t my scene. However, this is a bit ‘beer and sandwiches’ because as far as I am concerned, we keep going until you two have sorted this out.”

I looked at Tom and smiled weakly, Simon nodded.

“From my understanding, it seems you have both been doing lots of talking but not necessarily to each other or on the same wavelength. My purpose here, is to try and remedy that.” We both nodded at him agreeing his role.

“Right, who wants to go first?” Tom looked at each of us, “Ladies first?” Simon nodded and my stomach flipped so much I had to run out to the cloakroom and be sick. A great start, not!

I sheepishly returned and apologised for my sudden departure. My voice was weak and watery, this really was so important to me. I was about to speak when my stomach revolted again and I spent the next few minutes in the loo.

“I’m so nervous, I have so much to lose,” I said with a body that was trembling and a voice which wavered with emotion. “I love you Simon and I’m sorry for my part in messing this up.”

“Is that it?” Tom looked perplexed.

I sat still, as still as my trembling would allow at any rate, and nodded.

“Okay, Simon, it’s all yours.”

“Okay, I accept your apology and proffer my own, I’ve messed up too. I love you too, Cathy, so I hope we can work this out.”

“Do you want to comment, Cathy?” asked Tom.

“Other than to say that I too accept the apology, not really.”

“This is all fine and dandy, isn’t it? You spend the last few days building up to a crisis and then when you get the chance to sort it, you turn it down.” Tom glared at both of us, “What sort of idiots are you?”

“I beg your pardon?” said Simon.

“Okay, I’ll say it in simpler terms as neither of you seems capable of understanding that you have spent the last week maligning each other and now you have a chance to challenge or confess, you don’t do it, instead going for a generic apology which does absolutely bugger all in putting things right.”

“I’m sorry, but I said all I needed to,” I offered.

“Oh, so it’s okay to act like a lovesick schoolgirl who moons about the place when the object of your affections wants something and you don’t: only instead of talking it out, you go off on one of your sulks not telling anyone where you’ve gone but expecting us to know. Is that really acceptable behaviour from the future Lady Cameron?”

My face got really hot as I filled with a sense of shame and anger. But he was right, and I felt tears start to wind their burning course down my cheeks. “No,” I said quietly. I noticed Simon was blushing too, but I wasn’t sure if that was because he felt bad for me or if he was embarrassed by what Tom was likely to say about him.

“And you, Lord Simon Cameron, some representative of the family you are!”

“What do you mean?”

“If you shut up for a few moments, you might learn something.” Tom was really in control here.

“You sulk as well, when you can’t get your own way. Oh sure, you tell Cathy what you want, but not what you feel. You expect her to know, sometimes she does but sometimes she gets it wrong. You also disappeared without telling anyone where you were.”

Simon looked as if he was going to challenge but changed his mind.

“It’s sad because you both have loads to give to a relationship. Cathy, you are faithful, hardworking, intelligent and loving. Simon, you are generous, kind and courteous. So why is it that you can’t show these good points to each other? Why is it that you can’t sit and discuss these things that beset your relationship? You clearly love each other, but that isn’t enough, you need to develop a way to express what you’re each thinking…”

Tom went on and on, I glanced at Simon, he was trying to listen but I was bored. I’d heard some of Tom’s sermons before, they were so mind numbingly tedious, that I switched off before I realised it.

Simon caught my glance and smiled back; after that we played footsie under the table, neither of us listening to Tom, but we nodded every now and again.

At last it was over. Simon and I kissed and made up. We promised to talk to each other more about how we felt and to use Tom to mediate if we felt it was needed. Simon said he felt hungry and thirsty. I vacated to the kitchen whilst the boys ended up staying in the dining room, where I insisted they lay the table.

Simon and Tom had a glass of beer together whilst I prepared a chicken and shoved it in the oven. I basted it with garlic puree and sprinkled chicken seasoning all over it. I shoved an orange inside it, having pricked the orange all over. I then got on with the vegetables. I thought, Tom deserved a decent Sunday lunch for all his hard work, Simon deserved one because I loved him, and I got one for being the cook.

Things would never be the same again, we had come close to messing things up big time. However, we had survived it and had a chance to learn from the experience and thus make things even better than they were before. Perhaps we’d both been cursed with, ‘may you live in interesting times,’ it was hard to tell.

Easy As Calling On A Hike Part 334

by Parker Pens & Bonzi’s Bum

I went off to sort out the dinner while the ‘boys’ were chatting—they were laughing and joking with each other so I assumed things were okay. After taking in the chicken for Tom to carve, I went back to the kitchen for the vegetables.

While Tom carved lumps of meat off the chicken carcass, Simon took the empty bottle of claret they had been drinking off the table and replaced it with another, which he opened with a ‘pop.’

“Have a glass, Cathy,” he urged me. I refused, I didn’t want one. He poured me one all the same. Tom of course swigged down what was left in his glass and held it out for a refill. I wasn’t sure what I felt, but happy wasn’t the operative word.

I ate without saying anything; they both nearly fell over laughing when Simon said, “Poor chicken, I can see what he had for his last meal,” referring to the orange I’d stuffed it with.

“Her last meal,” I corrected him.

“That’s what I said, didn’t I?”

“No, you said his last meal. Chicks are sexed at a day old and the male ones are gassed.”

“Ugh! That sounds terribly sexist, if you ask me,” he quipped back. I hadn’t asked him, but at this very moment it seemed it might be better if they did it to humans too! Then I contemplated all the female children who are killed or aborted in countries like India and China. That seemed like an abomination to me.

I didn’t drink the wine, I didn’t fancy it, just not in the mood. I finished my dinner and cleared the plates. The men stayed at the table finishing the bottle. I loaded the dishwasher, and then returned to the dining room,

“I hope you brought some clothes with you,” I said to Simon.

“No, I didn’t. I’ll go and get shome from the cottish in a minute.”

“You’ll be well over the limit if they breathalyse you,” I cautioned.

“It’sh true, Shimon,” confirmed Tom, “You’ll have to borrow shome of Cathy’sh.”

“Nah, I’ll be all right, where did I put my keysh? Have you sheen them, Cathy?”

“Yes, they’re little metal things which open doors.”

“Ha bloody ha, where are they?”

“If I knew I wouldn’t tell you, you are too drunk to drive.” I knew perfectly well where they were. I’d hidden them in the garage, along with my own. “Anyway, I’m off for a bike ride.” So saying, I left them and went to change. I’d poured my wine down the sink and I was fizzing with anger. I needed a ride to calm down; sadly it was the wrong time of day, straight after a meal.

I returned an hour later. I hadn’t pushed my luck, just a gentle ride out to the cottage to see if Monica was still there. If she was, she had moved her car because that was missing and it wasn’t in the garage.

I wiped down the bike and locked her up again. Inside, the men were on their third bottle of wine. I was livid. However, I decided I wasn’t going to say anything then. I would wait until the next day and hopefully they’d be sober.

After a shower, I discovered they were both asleep and the television was on. I switched it off and neither of them moved. I had work to do to check some stuff over before Des arrived the next day. Maybe I should get him to run off with me?

At eleven, I went back to the dining room, Tom was asleep on one side of the table and Simon the other. I left them to it and went to bed with my book. At half past I put the light out and went to sleep.

I was awoken by somebody bumbling around the bedroom and walking into the bed and swearing, then hushing themselves, it was pathetic. This pathetic mess then got into bed with me at the second attempt—he fell off the first time. I pretended I was asleep and lay with my back to him. He kissed me on the back of the head, and fell asleep in moments. That’s when the snoring started and my frustration began.

No matter what I tried, I could not get back to sleep. At about two in the morning, I gave up, took my pillow and a blanket and went downstairs to the lounge. I curled up on a sofa and eventually went to sleep.

I awoke at six, with Simon staggering about the place. “Oh hello Babes, I wondered where you were.”

“Are you fit to drive?” I asked, wondering if his blood alcohol level would be safe now.

“Yeah, course, why?”

“I just wondered.”

“What are you doing down here?”

“I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to disturb you.”

“You are so good to me, Catherine Watts.”

“Not really, I’m concerned by the amount you are drinking.”

“Nah, it’s okay. I mean Tom is as bad.”

“I’m not marrying Tom.”

“Oh, back to that are we?”

“I thought we were supposed to be trying to communicate better, I’m trying to communicate a worry I have, but you keep pooh-poohing it!”

“It’s all right, okay?”

“No it isn’t, how can it be?”

“It’s under control, all right?” He walked out of the lounge and a few minutes later I heard him start his car. The ball was back in his court, which was just as well, because I was so angry I’d have knocked it off the planet and him with it!

I went and made some tea and started some coffee for Tom, I heard him walking about and groaning.

“Morning, Tom,” I said loudly and he cringed and held his head.

“Please be quiet, my head hurts.”

I shrugged and walked away with my tea, “I take it you don’t want bacon and eggs for breakfast then?”

“No, not this morning.”

Easy As Handling A Spike Part 335

by >^^<

Dormouse asleep

Having showered the evening before, I washed down, not needing to wet my hair again. I tied it in a ponytail, and dressed very casually. I had no idea what Des would want to do—I mean with regard to the film.

In a couple of hours, I’d doubtless find out. I finished my breakfast and drove off to work. I sat in my office, but work was not entirely the only thing on my mind, it was the wandering hands from Bristol that occupied me.

I recognised what I was doing and wondered if I would like him to try it on? It would certainly boost my ego, which was feeling a bit below par after the weekend. However, it wasn’t really the kind of attention I wanted. I just wanted Simon to revert to the charming gentleman he’d been when I first met him. Maybe he wanted a return of the shy and gauche little girl he’d first dated. Was that what was wrong with us, we wanted the other to stand still and not change? If so, it was impossible—everything changes.

A knock on the door was followed by Pippa ushering in Des. “Hi Cathy, how are you?” he embraced me and I pecked him on the cheek.

“I’m okay, didn’t sleep too well, Simon snores like a turbo charged Flymo, but otherwise fine. Tea or coffee?”

“Either, I’m sure you make an excellent cup whichever it is.”

“You flatterer, I’ve seen enough of you in action not to be taken in Des Lane.”

“It’s always the same, give a dog a bad name…” he pretended to look distraught, all I could do was laugh as I switched on the kettle. We chatted a little more as we waited for the wretched thing to boil, then I made us each a drink.

Once we sat at my desk, it was pure business. “I liked the narrative you’re working on, but I’ve made a few suggestions how I think it might sound better.”

I looked them over, and he had improved things quite a bit. I was most impressed. “Yeah, that’s fine,” I agreed.

“Good, now we’re going to look at the captive animals and possibly try and get a birth on camera.”

“Always happens at night, bloody things!” I complained, but they were nocturnal animals.

“They’re still hibernating?”

“Yes, we keep the cages cool to let them sleep. Except Spike, she’s got a litter at the moment.”

“Oh, you have to show them to me.”

“They’re ugly little things, very little fur and eyes closed, but sure, we can look. Spike is the one you already know.”

“The erm, bra diver,” he said smiling broadly.

“The same.” I blushed though it wasn’t through the YouTube clip, I was pretty well beyond embarrassment from that.

We walked along to the lab and after a few moments, I had Spike in my hands munching on a hazelnut. Des was taking still photos of the nest and the babies. Of course, he had to have a little hold of Spike and gave her a nut.

“She is so gorgeous, she tickles your hands,” he said laughing quietly as he gave her back to me.

“If she catches you touching her babies, she bites and hard, ask Neal, he still has the scars.”

“You’re joking, a carnivorous dormouse?”

“They eat insects as well as nuts and shoots.”

“Yes, I know that, but humans are a bit big aren’t they?”

“Yeah, I doubt even you could eat a whole one.” I laughed back at him.

“I can think of one I’d like to try it with, and she’s not a million miles from here.”

“Des, let’s keep our attention on the work in hand shall we?” I put Spike back and we discussed how he might film the dormice. He viewed several of the hibernating ones and took the odd picture.

“So we have a couple of months before they hatch?” he asked.

“In the wild they wake when the temperatures rise. The babies are born around May.”

“Crikey, that’s three months away.”

“Des, it’s March next week, and Easter a few days after that. May will be here before we’re ready.”

“Yeah okay.”

“I suggest we get some lunch and head out to the nesting sites in daylight, so you can get some idea of the terrain and what equipment you’re going to need to bring with you. I have an endoscope we can use to look into the boxes.”

“So biology goes high-tech?”

“Sort of, we have a couple of image intensifiers and the endoscope, but no electron microscope or any such really big technological equipment. We link with Cambridge and their department of microbiology.”

“If you managed an electron microscope I’d have been well impressed, but the endoscope is good enough for now.”

“Have you used one before?”

“Sort of, when I was filming puffins off the West Wales coast.”

“I’ll bet that was fun?”

“When it didn’t rain, yes, but we got damp a few times.”

“We?”

“Yeah, I had a sound recordist with me and erm, wotisname?”

“Wotisname?” I repeated, “Who?”

“Oh yeah, David Attenborough.”

“You had Sir David Attenborough with you?”

“Yeah, he did the narrative, he’s a dream to work with and very fit for an old man.”

“I’m impressed, he was one of my heroes and one of the reasons I wanted to study zoology.” I was practically drooling.

“We’ll have a party to launch the film, I’ll see if I can persuade him to come, if you want?”

“If I want? Omigod, I’ve got nothing to wear, look at my hair…”

“Cathy, we won’t have finished filming until the autumn, then we have to edit and dub the soundtrack and so on. That can take months, so it may be this time next year before we complete it. All I know is that the BBC have agreed to show it and have coughed up half in advance, so has the bank.”

“I’m glad you have some capital to work with,” I said naively.

“You get paid too.”

“I do?” I wondered what for.

“Of course you do, you get three fees.”

“Three?” I squeaked.

“Yes, one for fronting it and doing the narrative; a second for writing the script and the third for acting as consultant adviser.”

“If I’m doing the first two, do I need the third?”

“Yes, because that’s how we base the costings, the fact that you are doing several things means you get several fees.”

“Sounds like a scam to me.”

“No, we have to cost on the basis that a different individual fills each role, just in case we need to do that.”

“There is so much I don’t know anything about.”

“Isn’t that why you’re a scientist?”

“I suppose it is, silly me.” With that, we went off to lunch.

Easy As Hauling A Pike Part 28 Dozen (336)

by >^^< the baddest cat in Dorset!

“So how are things with Simon?”

“Fine,” was all I said.

“So why don’t I believe you?” he said very quietly.

“I don’t know, maybe you don’t understand English.”

“Ha ha. I don’t believe you.”

“That’s your problem, now are we going to order or discuss my relationship?”

“We could do both.”

“I came here to eat, not dissect my personal life.” I was in no mood to have him know about the troubles we were having.

“Your hostility tends to indicate that you’re having some problems with Lord Cameron.”

“I’ll have a tuna jacket, what are you having?”

“So what is it? Is he drinking again or is it other women?”

“What part of ‘NO’ do you not understand? I do not want to talk about this, okay? Topic over!”

“Okay, received loud and clear. I’ll have a chicken Korma jacket.”

A waitress arrived and we ordered. As she took our order I became aware of the music on the tape machine playing in the background—it was Abba, Take a chance on me. I felt my eyes moisten up and a moment later a tear escaped, which Des noticed.

“Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bully you.” He was most apologetic.

“You didn’t, I’m just being silly.” I blew my nose on a tissue and tried to change my mood. Another Abba song came on the tape. It almost felt as if the universe was tormenting or mocking me. As if Simon was there, daring me to spill the beans to his rival.

“Hey come on, there must be something happening if you’re crying.”

“It’s my hormones, that’s all.” I sniffed and blushed.

“I thought you took the same amount all the time.”

“What does it matter what I take?”

“It doesn’t, but I always thought that PMS or whatever they call it these days was caused by differing levels of hormones.”

“If I told you that I get almost cycles of moods, would you believe me?”

“Dunno, I’d need evidence.”

“Can’t you take my word for it?”

“On one level yes, on another no because it could be an illusion you are creating to fool yourself.”

“I’m not delusory!” I snapped.

“Okay, I apologise, maybe you do get hormonal cycles with horse pee.”

“Do you mind? I’m about to eat.”

“Okay, maybe we could talk about the cycling world championships?”

“Fine, talk.”

“Is Chris Hoy going to get a medal?”

“Yes, but whether he will for the sprint is another matter. Pendleton should get a couple if not three and Wiggins in front of a home crowd could do anything.”

“So you don’t think Hoy could beat the Flying Dutchman?”

“Theo Boss? I don’t know. On his day, Chris Hoy is as good as anyone. It would be a suitable reward for him though, and very popular.”

“And Pendleton?”

“Always a good bet and she’s in form.”

“So I hear. She reminds me of you.”

I nearly choked on my tuna! “What?”

“Yeah, a bright and attractive young woman who likes to win.”

“She’s dark and I’m fair, to start with!”

“Maybe you’re more ruthless than she is.”

“What! How can I be ruthless?”

“Quite easily. You cut my heart to shreds with ease.”

“What are you on about?”

“By choosing his lordship over poor old plebeian me. I was mortified.”

“What a load of dormouse poo! I fell in love with Simon before I ever met you.”

“I believe you fell in love with the idea of being with Simon until you met me, pure unadulterated passion in person.”

“Conceited, Rambunctious, Adulterous Person,” I offered as mnemonic.

“Ouch, pull those claws in will you?”

“I’ll leave them out just in case any other passing alley cat fancies their chances.”

“You cut me to the quick.”

“Yeah, and that’s without trying, so be warned.”

“What have I done to deserve such treatment?”

“You know perfectly well, now how about a change of subject? Do you think it will rain tonight?”

“If it does, we could always share an umbrella.”

“You just don’t give up do you?”

“What did I say now? I’m only talking about the bloody weather like you told me to.”

I shook my head, how was I going to cope with him for the duration of the filming of this documentary?

Easy As Falling In A Lake Part 337

by Her

Dormouse on berries

“I have to go back to Bristol, for a few days. I’d be grateful if you could let me know if any of your captive meeces look like birthing.”

“I can try, they don’t give massive notice.”

“Do what you can.”

“Of course.” I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. Dancing with the Devil is dangerous but fun, a word which seemed lacking in my current vocabulary.

“I’ve got some work to do on sorting out the equipment I need to hire for the filming.”

“I thought you had your own?” I was surprised at this.

“Good lord, no. I can’t afford that sort of stuff. I have a nice video camera or three and some reasonable sound stuff, plus what I need to mix and edit, but some of this is very specialist—like the infrared, that is worth a fortune. So I hire it. The insurance for a few days is exorbitant.”

“I’d never even thought about all that.” It was true I hadn’t. Does Steven Spielberg hire his equipment? I’d never thought about that either.

Des went off back to Brissel, and I decided to play hooky and go and see Stella. It wasn’t the nicest of drives, but I got there as it was getting dusk. She seemed quite pleased to see me.

We embraced and her hug was stronger than last time. “Careful, you’ll snap me in half,” I joked.

“I’ve been down the gym.”

“What, they have a gym here?”

“Yes, it costs an arm and a leg, so yes and I am bloody well using it.”

“Wow! I’d never even thought of that.” It seemed today was one of revelations.

“Yeah, it helps depression, and that’s what they mostly treat here, poor little rich kids who’ve got a bit fed up; well that and drugs.”

“Yeah, I suppose they would now I think of it.”

“I’m surprised they don’t have a liver transplant unit next door. Some of these kids drink or used to drink, like the proverbial fish.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, talking of which, does Simon always drink quite a bit?”

“Why?” She seemed to mentally kick herself: “Why? Of course he is, I’m a silly cow, or you wouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“If you were a silly cow, you wouldn’t have picked up on it, would you?”

“Noo,” she said sounding a bit like a sick Jersey, and we both smiled.

“I don’t really know what constitutes a problem with drink.” I was admitting my naivety, “Because I don’t drink very much, as you know.”

“He’s had periods when he sinks more than is good for him. Since he’s had you, he’s been much better.”

“Not any more, last night, he and Tom sank three bottles of red between them.”

“A bottle and a half each, not that much. He’s done double that.”

“I thought the limit was a couple of glasses a day, not a couple of bottles?”

“The only ones who take notice of that are pregnant women with their first baby.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Nah, I just made it up on the spot.”

“I don’t believe you,” I said like a pantomime character.

“Tough, it was a calculated guess.”

“Don’t you mean, educated?” I enquired.

“No, calculated. I worked out the number of pregnant women by the number of weeks of the pregnancy, divided by the bottles of wine sold in supermarkets every day, multiplied by the number of helpers Santa has.”

“You’re taking the urine, aren’t you?”

She shook her head and giggled, “Sometimes, Cathy, I wonder how you manage to cross the roads on your own.”

I blushed bright scarlet. “How do I let you get me every time?”

“You trust me and I abuse it every time. See next time you have the option of saving my life, maybe you’ll think twice?”

“I doubt it. I’m too fond of you.”

“Therein lies the weakness, Simon and I are fond of each other but we are still deadly rivals.”

“I have seen you both in action, taking no prisoners.”

“Yes, I’d forgotten that. Anyway, have you got your phone with you?”

I handed it over to her. She dialled up someone and held it to her ear.” There was a short pause, “Oh you are there? What? Yes, who else? Stupid man! Look here piss-brain, cut down the booze okay? Yes, I’ve had Cathy here, she’s gone to the bathroom, poor girl was very upset at your drinking habits. I don’t care what Tom does, he’s not marrying my baby sister. Don’t take that tone with me, Simon Cameron, or I’ll make you spend your own credit cards. Yes you apologise to her, oh, oh, she’s coming back, gotta go. Bye.” She shut off the phone.

“If’I’d said that to him, he’d have killed me.”

“Pleasures of being a sister, you’ll find out it’s a mixed blessing.”

“Find out from whom?”

“Life and experience of it. Remember I’m a tad older than you are.”

“Yeah, about two years.”

“Two years is two years, don’t mock it, you’ll see eventually.”

“Okay, I’ll take your word for it.” I resigned myself to not challenging too much at this stage of her recovery. She was doing so well, it was heartwarming.

My drive home was one of optimism, despite the traffic. My mobile rang so I used my hands free set. It was Simon calling to apologise and to offer me dinner one night soon. Stella is an ace at blackmail.

Easy As Stepping On A Rake! Part 338

Ruby

Listening to Simon offering to behave himself in future almost had me laughing out loud. He was unaware that I had heard Stella’s call to him, telling him to pull his socks up, or else.

I mused on the effect these two had on each other. They clearly loved each other as siblings sometimes do, but there was also a substantial amount of rivalry, too. I was fortunate that I had missed out on that, being an only child, or was I fortunate? I suppose I’ll never know.

I now had a sister in Stella, and felt immensely proud of that fact. We loved each other like sisters and because the relationship had begun as adults, we didn’t have the usual childhood jealousies to work through, which must be a pain. Cooperation, not competition—that was us. I suddenly thought, what if she had ridden a bike? Good job she didn’t.

Tom was home long before me. “I wondered where you were?” he said offhandedly.

“I was out with Des initially, then I popped up to see Stella.”

“Cathy, I have to remind you that you have been released duties for filmmaking not visiting relatives.”

“I did spend quite a lot of my time writing scripts and things, so I don’t think they should begrudge me an hour or two.”

“Des called while you were away, he’s sent you some emails.”

“Oh, thank you.”

“Don’t push your luck with work.”

“Okay, thanks for the warning.”

“It’s only because I’m fond of you and don’t want to see you in trouble. After your interview with the Dean, you need to keep out of the way and just do the mundane stuff well. I’ve got Pippa to schedule you some classes and tutorials for the rest of the week.”

“Okay, I presume then that any work I do on the film will be in my own time?”

“Unless it’s scheduled, looks like it will be.”

I went off to the kitchen, Tom had made himself a curry. My appetite was zilch, I felt quite angry although I knew he was trying to protect me. When I thought about the time I’d had off, I really couldn’t complain. But I still felt irritated. I took an apple and some cold milk and went to check my emails.

Tom has the study, it is his house after all, so I plug my laptop in on a point in the dining room. We have Wi-Fi so the Internet is no problem. Des had sent me pictures of the dormice photos he’d taken. They were quite impressive. I decided I needed to get a new camera sometime and take some of my own. Usually I leave such things to the technicians, but if ever I move on, it would be nice to have some of my own, with my own copyright.

I sent back and thanked him for the photos and apologised if I had seemed a bit PMS to him. He must have been online because he wrote back a few moments later.

‘PMS—protecting my Simon? He’s big enough and ugly enough to look after himself. Glad to hear Stella is coming on, she always was a nice type—barking—but nice.’

I smiled at his reply and decided against further exchanges that evening, I felt quite tired and had an early night, falling asleep over my book. I woke up when it fell off the bed and bumped on the floor.

The rest of the week went by with some degree of normality. I taught and tutored as required and spent spare time discussing by email, the ideas and plans that were necessary to do the film. Des had booked the equipment and was excited that he’d managed to get the infrared camera. Certainly, things were coming together.

I spoke to Henry, to explain the progress with the film planning and he was pleased. He’d also asked me to write a short report on the advice I had given the bank regarding its environmental policies. So that kept me busy.

As the evenings were drawing out and the Easter break advancing, I managed the odd bike ride too. During the holiday, I was going to do a ride every day if it didn’t rain. I hoped to get back to my two-hour training rides by the end of March, which meant a forty-mile ride. At present, I was capable of half that.

I also made an appointment to see Dr Thomas after Easter, not for any specific reason, more a sort of touch base with her, type of thing. I seemed to be coping with most things reasonably well, given the things that had happened.

Simon came home and we went out to dinner, then we got home and after a chat with Tom, we went to bed and made love. It was nice and we both enjoyed it. Okay, it still hurts a bit, but I don’t have much time to dilate and Simon being away doesn’t help in using other methods to stretch a point, if you see what I mean.

Finally, the world championships came on and wow! Nine golds, which should have been ten, Pendleton wobbled and that nasty American pushed past, so rude! The ‘Pocket Rocket’ never quite recovered. Wiggins and Hoy were amazing, truly so, and the Madison with Wiggins and Cavendish-was out of this world. How did they do it? I nearly wet myself with excitement and Simon was nearly as wrapped up with it as I was. Tom just laughed at us, he’s an infidel, doesn’t believe in the god of cycling—the Boardman and his chief prophet Brailsford.

Simon and I did get a couple of rides in during the Easter weekend, him on his Allez, and still complaining that he wants a carbon fibre bike. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that until he gets fit, it’s not going to improve his ride. Having said that, I used the Specialized and with its external bottom bracket bearings, the power transmission is better and I had to hold back to let him stay with me. I told him he needed to ride more often if he wanted to get better at it. He just grumbled about where would he ride when he was working? I’m sure he could if he wanted to, and maybe involve Henry as well, he’s still quite useful on a bike.

I saw some sand martins which means the summer migrants are arriving, which probably means it will get colder. Bloody weather!

Easy As Riding Up A Hill Part 339

Tarmac

Simon was only off for a few days before he had to go back to make the bank money. Things were relatively tight due to the mess in the financial markets. He’d said before he left, “Things really are bad Cathy, we may have to start making economies.” I thought this meant they were going to dispose of me as their ecology adviser, but it didn’t. “We’ll have to make do with lumpfish, not beluga.”

“Lumpfish what?” I asked in honest confusion.

“Oh, Cathy, you’ve just destroyed my joke.”

“I have no idea what you are on about.” Sometimes he worried me, now was one of them.

“Caviar, old girl, lumpfish is for any old peasant, we patricians eat beluga.”

“Don’t you know, old boy.” I added in my snottiest accent.

“Now, now, grammar school girl—don’t get all uppity!”

I felt my eyes narrow, I knew he was just messing about but it was beginning to annoy me. “Look here, fatboy, Lard Cameron, when you can beat me on a bike, I’ll listen to your cultural arrogance with all its anachronistic relevance on modern life—until then, shove it!”

“Them’s fightin’ words, Miss Ellie,” he said in a very poor Osark accent.

“Are yuh calling me out?” I drawled at him.

“Yeah, I’s callin’ ya out?”

“Bikes at twenny miles, y’all?” I said back to him.

“Huh, I don’t ’ave much chance, do I, with an inferior machine.”

“Go ahead and get something better, I’ll still whomp yer arse!”

“I might jes’ do that!”

“Say goodbye to yer lumpfish, then, ’cos a carbon-framed bike is gonna cost yuh a grand or two.”

“Dear lady, I know how much they cost, I bought you one, remember?”

“Oh I remember, old sport, that’s the one which is going to prove what a lardy-cake you are.”

“When is this going to happen?” he asked.

“Whenever you are ready, sweetums,” I smiled at him. “Next week, next month, whenever; I care not one little jot!”

“In two weeks hence,” he said firmly, obviously calculating feverishly how many hours practice he could get by then.

“Word of advice, it’s all about cadence,” I offered.

“Never mind trying to put me off with your jargon, I shall speak to my personal trainer.”

“Ooh, get you! I shall simply carry on my training regime, see you at the start line in two weeks, wherever that is?”

“You choose dear lady, and prepare to be destroyed.”

“Words are cheap, Little Lard Fauntleroy.”

“You want to put some money on it?”

“You know I don’t bet, Simon. Gambling is a tax on stupidity.”

“Chicken!”

“Call me all the names you like, I shall take solace in simply beating you, that is reward enough.” Especially if it stops the silly names.

“Very well, two weeks then.”

“Very good, I’ll work out an interesting route.”

I knew exactly where we were going, up the steepest hill I could find, and I knew where to locate one. As soon as he was gone, I was out on the bike to get as much hill training in as I could.

I was sweating, my breathing was ragged and I felt like chucking up my breakfast. What I didn’t feel like doing was any more of this hill! It had got steeper, I was sure of that. I kept at my task and crawled up the slope which formed part of the downs. At the top, I nearly fell off my bike as my legs were so tired. They were like jelly, yet at the same time felt stiff. They were burning, too, or the muscles in them were. Two weeks of this and I’d spontaneously combust!

At the same time, part of me was pleased that I was trying to get back to something approaching fitness. I knew that oestrogens do not help with muscle development, but I couldn’t stop taking them. Simon therefore had an advantage in the muscle game. However, women do compete quite well in endurance sports.

Over the next week, my climbing did improve a bit. It wasn’t as spectacular as before and then it wasn’t brilliant. Maybe Simon was going to win? It spurred me on and I trained for four hours a day for week two, an hour’s climbing and three for distance. My legs were beginning to firm up, no great muscle definition, but then being a woman, I didn’t really want to look as if I had Chris Hoy’s legs. Mind you, his speed would have been helpful.

The day before the race, as had happened every day since the challenge, Simon phoned to try and wind me up. It didn’t work because I reckoned I still probably had the edge. I’d also lost about five pounds in weight and my waist was an inch smaller, sadly, my bust was also smaller.

Simon said he was half a stone lighter, and his body was purring like a Jaguar engine. That was fine with me, mine was accelerating like a 911, but he wasn’t going to know that until tomorrow. He said he was on the way to the gym; I was sorting my washing—no training today, just a little run around the block with Kiki.

We arranged to meet at the university leisure and sports facility, where we could both park. I knew he would turn up with a top of the range bike—I just hoped he couldn’t ride it. I unloaded the Ruby from my rack and checked the tyres and brakes. She was in fine fettle.

Simon arrived at the car park and took off the S-works Tarmac SL. I was in understandable awe. “That bike was developed for Tom Boonen,” I told him.

“Yeah, and ridden by Petacchi, I know, I’ve seen the ads.”

“It’s a lovely bit of kit, pity about the rider,” I said dismissively as I walked back to my own bike.

I checked the items in my tiny saddlebag, some basic tools and a spare tube. I didn’t see Simon with any sort of repair kit on his bike. I slid the mini pump into the pocket of my cycling shirt. The weather looked quite good and I wouldn’t need the jacket I’d been wearing. I took it off to reveal the team GB skins.

A small group of bystanders could see something was going down and hung about for the off. I showed Simon the route and he nodded his recognition of it. I also thought he winced a little when he remembered the gradient. We would do a circular ride so the trip down the hill should be a bit faster than the ascent, that would be his advantage, he was heavier. Mine was in the climb.

I did ten minutes of stretches and bends Simon watched and waited. Then we shook hands and mounted our steeds. His was absolutely stunningly beautiful and mine was pretty good too, but the Tarmac is something special.

He shot off like a rocket against my more sedate start. I wondered if he planned some sort of treachery, like being pulled along by a car or paced by a motorbike. But a mile further on, he was two hundred yards ahead and staying there.

On the first bit of a hill, I began to close on him, my lighter weight telling. As we headed out towards the downs, he was definitely slowing. I hadn’t pushed it, the object was to keep something in the tank for the major climb and for any sort of sprint home.

He pulled away again on a slight downhill and I began to wind up, clicking up a gear and getting ready for the major challenge. As we started the hill, he was still about two hundred yards ahead and I was beginning to hope I hadn’t underestimated him. He was as red as his shirt when I pulled level with him and he was panting like a very warm dog.

I was also pretty warm, and my breathing was hard, but better than his. I pulled past him and on up the hill. He was in too high a gear, I had tried to warn him, I was spinning in bottom on the twenty eight ring.

Over the top, I had a lead of probably a hundred yards, not as much as I’d hoped. I cranked up on the descent and halfway down was doing about fifty miles an hour. I kept pedalling, cranking up the gears into the eleven ring. I prayed I wouldn’t need to brake, because the bike wouldn’t have a chance.

Somehow, the gods of cycling heard me, and I reached the bottom a lot quicker than I’d gone up, overtaking three cars in the process. That in itself is pretty hairy, they’re not looking for a bicycle to come past them except in slow-moving traffic.

I knew that Simon would be absolutely flying down the hill, and prayed for his safety too. I wanted to beat him, not kill him. The return was a blur as I rode in a higher gear than I usually did. I was easily meeting racing standards, zinging along at twenty-five miles an hour, darting in and out of traffic hoping that no one opened a door on me.

In about an hour from the start, I flew into the driveway to the car park; I was doing thirty as I pulled past the cars and applied the brakes. As I turned towards the entrance, I saw Simon hurtling down the drive. He had improved beyond recognition, maybe it was the bike after all?

I got off and took a long draught of my water bottle. He stopped his bike and nearly collapsed. Some man who’d been watching ran to grab him. Later, I learned it was his personal trainer. I parked up my bike and my jellied legs carried me over to Simon. He was still in respiratory distress. The trainer bloke pulled out an oxygen cylinder from his car and we sat Simon down with the mask on his face.

“That was some ride, young lady,” said the trainer who introduced himself as Ken.

“Thanks, I’m astonished at Simon’s improvement. Two weeks ago, I could have gone home and had lunch before he finished.”

“Sadly, two weeks wasn’t enough to complete the job of training him, but we did improve him a bit.”

“A bit! Wow, what an understatement! If you’d had him any longer, he’d have beaten me.”

“I don’t know, I suspect you’ve been hill training?”

“A bit, why?”

“I had someone watching the hill, both up and down. You did exceptionally well on both. Keep it up and that Great Britain shirt might be official.”

“I don’t have time, much as I’d like to ride better,” I also don’t want the fuss that would occur as soon as my name cropped up, certainly not before my gender recognition thingy.

Simon recovered and followed me back to Tom’s. We parked up, he had a long cold drink and fell asleep. I went for a shower and then started the washing—as they say, a woman’s work is never done!

Easy As Falling Asleep Part 340

by Bonzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzi

Dormouse on a branch

Simon seemed rather subdued for the rest of the day—perhaps the bike ride had taken more out of him than I’d thought. He had given me a bit of a fright, riding far faster than I’d anticipated and for longer, however, two weeks wasn’t quite enough to build him up sufficiently to beat me. It did, however, make me want to get back into riding regularly and to do so as fast as I could.

I know that legally I wasn’t yet eligible to change my birth certificate to female, I had nearly a year to go, and how that would affect my status for racing I didn’t know. I did think about contacting the Gender Recognition Panel to ask for their advice. I didn’t want to talk to British Cycling, because I didn’t particularly want to spread this information around too widely. The most I’d ever be able to do would be to ride at club level and quite honestly, I didn’t think it was actually worth mentioning to them, just join as a female rider and see what happened. I’m not that fast anyway, just faster than Simon! Hee hee.

He remained comatose in the chair until I did some lunch, which he forced himself to eat—it hardly touched his throat, so I guess he enjoyed it. He chatted with Tom for a bit, had a glass of beer and zonked again. Some weekend this was going to be.

The washing dried on the line and I ironed it while my lord and master looked on with eyes closed and snoring! He’s great company, maybe I’ll get a dog or a cat instead. He awoke while I was getting dinner, a lamb casserole which cooked itself while I did the ironing. He did offer to help do the spuds, which were half-cooked by then. Men—don’t you just love ’em?

Tom opened a bottle of red to go with dinner and both Simon and I had one glass each, so Tom had to have two. Maybe Stella had had some effect upon her big brother, I hoped so.

We actually played Scrabble that evening and I got the only seven letter word out—‘cycling’— Tom still won. I think he cheats and he did the scoring, hmm!

That night after we went to bed, Simon was like an animal—a dormouse, he fell asleep and stayed asleep. I’m beginning to think he is like one of my little friends, not that he has a hairy tail, but that he seems to spend half his life asleep.

In some ways, I wasn’t too worried. My exercise had caught up with me too and I went off pretty quickly, and managed to stay asleep until about seven the next morning. I awoke with the sound of church bells which reminded me it was Sunday. There is something so British about church bells, I hope they never stop ringing in this country, because something of immeasurable worth would be lost. I quite fancy learning about campanology, but can’t see how I’d have time to fit it in at the present.

“Hello sleepy head,” said a voice from my left.

“Sleepy head? I’ve been awake for ages listening to the church bells,” I retorted.

“Bloody racket, don’t they know it’s Sunday?”

“Duh! Simon, do you not know about Sunday being the Sabbath and all that?”

“Nah, I’m a heathen porridge scoffer.”

“So I’d heard.”

“Who told you such things?”

“You did,” I laughed.

“I did? I did, did I? Well it must be right then.”

I was losing the will to live while he was sorting this irrelevant fact out. “I actually like the sound of bells on a Sunday.”

“What? You’re a bigger sceptic than I am!”

“So, I can still enjoy the sounds of my native land, it’s better than traffic noise.”

“True. So are you contemplating a church attendance?”

“No, why?”

“I just wondered.”

“Wondered what?” I asked.

“Wondered if you were going to church. If you were I wouldn’t be able to make mad passionate love to you all morning.”

“Is that still on offer?” I asked.

“Which, church or passion?”

“I think I’d probably opt for passion.” I wondered if this was wise, he’d probably sleep for the rest of the day. “Unless of course you’d prefer a bike ride before the roads get busy?”

“Maybe later, if you have any energy left.” He smiled at me, a bit like a baby with wind, remembered he hadn’t been to the loo yet and went to remedy it. I nipped out to the toilet across the landing, just in case he wasn’t joking.

He wasn’t and his stiffness from riding—maybe I should rephrase that? Anyway, he didn’t seem to be lacking in stamina for the next hour or so, and it was me who needed a quick snooze afterwards. I did however wander about for the rest of the day with a smirk on my face, even Tom remarked on it. I was also too sore to ride, so we went for a walk instead.

Then it seemed it was Monday morning again: Simon was back to town and I was back at the uni, teaching or writing. The bank had liked my latest effort and had asked me to do a piece for the shareholders magazine. I didn’t really mind except that it took up precious time.

I wrote about the dormouse project which they were sponsoring, and included a few pictures from the university library. Annoyingly, I had to get permission to use them—huh! Our own technicians took them and I bred the bloody animals! Honestly, the red tape at times! It’s enough to hang you but not strong enough to hold your knickers up, a total waste of time and effort.

Des sent me some copies of his latest photos, so I used them instead, with his permission of course. They were after all employing him too, splitting the bill with the BBC.

I chatted with him about how the weather was cooling off and that was unlikely to be much help to hibernating dormice. He suggested creating sets based on the real sites and filming with my captive animals. I thought that was cheating, but he reassured me most filmmakers do it. The object is the finished product, how you get there doesn’t matter as long as you don’t fake what the animals are doing. I could see his point, the overall reason for the whole thing was to tell the story of a dormouse or two, so how we did that didn’t matter too much, as long as we didn’t distort the facts. In other words, as long as my scripts accurately reflected the life of a dormouse, how we illustrated that story didn’t matter so much. Obviously, if we described them as able to fly and then faked them doing so, that would be deception and would bring down upon our heads, all that the powers that be could throw at us.

It was my turn to feed the dormice and do the cages, so I had ample opportunity to observe how they were. Another female had dropped a litter, so we had two lots now, which were out of synch with the natural world, but gave us further chance to release more later in the summer.

I got Tom to take in a couple of outfits for me and then cycled into work every day. I was determined to get fitter and to improve my speed, strength and stamina. I would talk to the local cycling club or see what the uni had to offer in a few more weeks, and take the risk about not disclosing my history.

Easy As Calling Me A Tyke Part 341

by >^^< & 8)

“Nice bike,” said the young man who stood by the entrance to the department.

“Yeah, it goes well,” I said and went to wheel the bike inside.

“Are you Dr Watts?”

“I’m Cathy Watts, can I help?”

“I got word that you were asking about the cycling club, is that right?”

“Yes, I was asking about it. You must be Geoff?”

“Yeah, sorry. Geoff Bannister, president of the cycling club,” he held out his hand which was much larger than my own and I shook it. “So, do you fancy riding with us?”

“I might do, look I have a lesson in a few minutes and I have to change, can we talk about it later?” I was running late.

“Yeah, course we can,” he handed me a piece of paper with his email and mobile number. “Give me a shout, next ride is Saturday morning.”

“Thanks, I’ll be in touch. This is road stuff?”

“Oh yeah, the off-roaders meet on a Friday evening. Nice bike,” he said again and left.

I scurried through to my room and grabbed the bag from the cupboard, breaking a nail as I did so. The blessed things had been rather more brittle since I’d started taking the oestrogen, and I was always breaking them. This one hurt a bit and I sucked my finger as I walked to the toilets.

I changed, trying not to catch my nail again. I cursed my sports bra, which had rolled and I had difficulty grabbing hold of it with my sore finger. It meant I was late for my first class, arriving hot and bothered and completely flustered.

“You’re late,” called a voice from the back.

“She was wrestling a dormouse—and lost by the look of it!” answered another voice. The whole place erupted with laughter and it took me a few minutes to take control back.

“Thank you ladies and gentlemen, my apologies for keeping you waiting. Could I please ask the comedians not to practice their stand up routines here, nor their sit down ones either. The Student’s Union has a comedy club on a Saturday night, perhaps they should try their luck there. Now, I’d like to run through the citric acid cycle…”

“Does it have Mavic wheels?” called the first comedian.

“Can we please concentrate on the matter in hand…” As soon as I said it, I knew I’d given them a chance to cause more disruption. “Although I suppose that’s as close as you get to a meaningful relationship!” The class roared again, especially the girls, one or two of whom shrieked with laughter.

“At least I’ve got something to grab hold of,” came the reply.

“Just as well you have small hands then. Now, about the citric acid cycle…”

“I hear you had some rowdies in your class this morning?” Tom was standing behind me as I gulped down a cup of tea.

“It was okay, I gave as good as I got.”

“Don’t let them get too irritating, if you need help, let me know. One mention of your situation and we remind them of the diversity and equality legislation, with rubber truncheons.”

“Like I said, I gave as good as I got. Those who want to play rough will find that I’m a lot tougher than they think.”

“I know that, Cathy, but I don’t want bodies all over the place.”

“We could sell them to the anatomy school, live specimens would have to be a novelty.”

“What a lovely idea, vivisection,” he went off sniggering to himself, obviously thinking of one or two students he’d recommend for such a programme.

After lunch I had an hour’s hiatus and emailed Geoff Bannister.
‘Hi Geoff,
Can you send me details of your rides and subscription charges etc.
Cathy Watts,
Dept Zoological Science.’

Before I left for my tutorials, he’d replied.
‘Hi Cathy,
Saturday, Petersfield. 9.30am start from the University Sports club.
Geoff.’

I suppose the return ride would be getting on for thirty-five or forty miles, so within my range. What I wasn’t sure about was the fitness of my fellow riders and their likely performance times. If Simon came home we could go together. Hmm, it felt like a nice idea and the forecast was of a fine weekend. I’d text Simon and see if he was interested.

He sent me back a text,

‘Comin home fri nite, U’ll B 2 saw 2 ride! Si.’

Sometimes he made me smile, sometimes he made me laugh. This caused the latter to happen. He really does fancy himself. Oh well just one more comedian to deal with, I was sure I’d cope.

Easy As Trawling The Bight Part 342!

by Beautiful Bonz & Awesome Angharad

(or should that be awful?)

Dormouse

The rest of that week flew by, or it seemed; probably because I was so busy marking or teaching. I also went out with my field group to see how my meeces were doing. They were still fast asleep, so they weren’t doing much at all.

Friday came and I cooked a nice dinner for the arrival of my lord and master, but Simon came instead. He tucked into the pork spare ribs I’d cooked and seemed to enjoy them, so did Tom. Neither opened a bottle of wine, although they did have a bottle of beer each—Bass, which I’m told is a good one. I don’t drink it so I wouldn’t know.

I asked Simon if he wanted to try the ride the next morning and he rather impetuously said he would. I smiled but was secretly pleased. I cleared up the dishes from dinner and shoved them in the machine, Tom made some coffee, which I declined—it would keep me awake, well he did make industrial strength fluid! I made my own tea, and we sat nibbling cheese and biscuits and talking.

When we went to bed, I knew what Simon wanted when he helped me up the stairs by caressing my bum. I wasn’t entirely averse to his suggestion or should that be suggestiveness? So after the nightly ablutions, we cuddled and chatted and kissed and… you don’t really need to know all the fine details, save to say that we both fell asleep feeling satisfied and exhausted.

At seven the next morning I woke and took myself off to the shower, I was a little tender in a personal place, but considered I would probably cope with a forty-mile ride. I would after all be wearing a decent pair of cycling shorts with a reasonable chamois in them.

I roused Simon, no I said roused—I woke him up, not the other—that would have sent him to sleep again! He showered whilst I went down and shoved some coffee on and boiled the kettle. He came down and we had a nice quiet breakfast, until Tom appeared and turned on the radio to listen to John Humphrys barbecuing some politician or other.

I went and dressed, sports bra, cycling shorts—ah, but which ones, I opted for the yellow, Saunier Duval ones. Then my vest and finally the yellow shirt. Okay, so David Millar doesn’t ride for them anymore, and I look about as much like him as Kylie Minogue would, only she’s even shorter than I am and Australian.

I sat down and pulled on my socks, would you believe proper, kosher cycling socks, and then my slippers. I didn’t want to walk about in cleated shoes. Simon came up and dressed in his cycling stuff, he looked quite athletic, cutting a fine figure, as they say. Why didn’t I notice when he was naked last night? I suppose I had other things on my mind, well one thing anyway—enough of that, there might be children watching!

I popped on a bit of makeup, not sure why, but I did. I also rubbed in a bit of moisturiser to protect my skin against the wind. After tying back my hair in a ponytail, I collected my bum bag and shoved in all the necessary things I was likely to need, lippy, money, hankies, mobile phone, energy bars and the kitchen sink. I’d tucked my arm and leg warmers into my back pockets, but decided I needed to wear them. Simon had put on his bib-tights, I suspected he’d be too warm but that was his problem.

We quickly checked over the bikes, they were fine and after donning our jackets, gloves and helmets and some eyewear, trundled off, waving to Tom as we went.

We used the ride to the sports club as a warm up, really only riding at about ten or twelve miles an hour, taking it very easy. We arrived at about nine fifteen and were greeted by Geoff, who was pleased to see Simon come as a guest rider. He introduced me to Tony, who was leading the ride. They showed us the route they were going to use. Simon simply nodded, he knew the roads reasonably well, but I felt a little anxious. The roads would be reasonably quiet but they were quite a rambling way to reach Petersfield, so we’d be doing more than forty miles.

“How far are we actually riding?” I asked Tony.

“’bout fifty somethin’, why, you okay with that?”

Rather than be labelled a wimpish female, I nodded, “Yeah, fine.” It wasn’t what I was thinking. “Are you going to be okay with that sort of distance?” I asked Simon.

“Yes, of course I am, why?” he responded and I felt rather small.

“Just checking, I don’t know how fast these guys are going to ride.”

“I’m sure we’ll be okay, so stop worrying.” He seemed confident enough, maybe I was being a bit neurotic, it wasn’t as if we were doing a hundred miles or more, and I used to regularly ride forty, so why was I worrying?

I had bought Simon a saddlebag for his new bike, a Specialized one to match his bike. I’d also put together a puncture repair kit and one of those multi-tools, so at least he should be self-sufficient. We were both carrying mini-pumps, so all foreseeable disasters were accounted for.

There were fourteen of us riding, three of us were girls, the two others Tina and Jackie were social-work students and rode together every week.

Simon’s bike had attracted a bit of attention, “Not taking your best bike out on a club ride are you?” “Nice bit o’kit.” “What a pretty bike,” were all comments he received happily, the latter one from Tina. I was on my Scott as befits a Saunier Duval Scott, team outfit.

We set off and despite the traffic, went at quite a pace, rarely dropping under fifteen miles an hour except when up against traffic congestion or red lights. Once out of the city, I thought I’d stay with the girls and have a comfortable ride—duh! Wrong!

Tina and Jackie, weren’t the fastest riders in the group, but they were nowhere near the slowest either. The pace was upped to a steady twenty and I was okay with it until we started climbing: they dropped a sprocket and kept up the speed, I dropped two gears and slowed down. Even Simon was ahead of me, this was embarrassing!

I made up the distance on a downhill and used the momentum to ease up the next rise, then over the downs. Despite my climbing training the week or so before, I was struggling. How quickly fitness can be lost. I lost count of everything except keeping up the cadence and just pedalling along with everyone else.

I took a drink, an energy one, and it helped a bit. Well, about an hour and a half later we got to Petersfield and stopped at a cafe, one that bore the CTC—Cyclists Touring Club ‘approved’ sign, so I knew we’d be welcome. Sadly, not everywhere wants the custom of sweaty cyclists. This place did. We stopped for a drink and a cake, then we were off again, back to Portsmouth.

Refreshed, they upped the pace and I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Simon seemed to be doing okay, so why was I so anxious? I didn’t know, maybe it brought back memories of my previous attempts to ride in a club, when I was told rather snottily, ‘to join the girl’s team.’ I did, but not in the way they meant.

Eventually, I began to relax and let my body do the riding. We were doing twenty-five and I was coping. The front of the group pushed us a bit harder, touching thirty at times on the flatter sections and I stayed with them. The two women had dropped back and so had Simon, and when we coasted into the car park of the sports centre, the slower group were nowhere to be seen.

“You ride well Cathy, have you thought about racing?” asked Geoff.

“Yes, I’ve thought about it, but that’s all.”

“I really would think about it, I think you’d enjoy it.”

“Dunno, at the moment too many commitments to get the miles in.”

“Well, think about it some more, we’ll get you a licence and then pop you in some easy starters.”

“Yeah, maybe; I’ll see.” I worried a little as there was no sign of Simon. “Where are the girls?” I asked Tony.

“Oh they often run out of steam, I’ve tried to tell them about pacing themselves to leave something for the end, in case they need to sprint, but they never do. Looks like your bloke has done the same.”

“It does, doesn’t it? We have a five mile ride to home yet, so I hope his legs haven’t gone.”

Tony looked at me and sniggered. I knew what he was thinking, posh bike and kit, can’t ride for toffee! Which probably summed Simon up, and me to some extent.

The stragglers finally arrived over ten minutes after the rest of us. “I was beginning to think you’d got lost,” I said to Simon.

“No, Tina had a flat tyre, so we had to stop and pump it up,” he replied.

“Oh, okay, ready for home?”

“Yeah, when you are.” He got back on his bike and after we waved to everyone, we set off for home.

Tom took us out for dinner, when I could persuade Simon to wake up and shower! Otherwise it was a nice day out.

Easy As Mauling Out Of Spite Part 343

by >^^< the disgraced one!

It was Sunday again, the weeks go far too quickly and weekends even faster. Because we rode yesterday, I had chores to do today. It struck me as rather sexist, that in Stella’s absence, I was the only female in the house and seemed to be expected to do most of the household chores.

I was busy chasing dust with the vacuum cleaner when Simon asked if I could do it more quietly as he was trying to read the paper. I was about to explode with twice the power of Krakatoa, when I remembered how close we’d come to splitting up. I contained the high explosive, and told him that, “No, this needs to be done, if it’s annoying you then give me a hand and we can both settle down with the Sunday Times.”

Obviously, he didn’t need it to end that urgently, because I was left to it. I had the joint busy roasting in the oven, and a line of washing out, so I hadn’t done badly for my day of rest. He had managed to eat his breakfast and read the business section of the news.

Tom was out with Kiki, and tended to stay out until I’d done most of the chores, no wonder he liked me as his ‘daughter’, free slave labour. I wonder what would have happened had I not changed over, and I suppose I’d still be sitting in my bedsit, wearing my few female garments, when I thought it was safe. My previous life didn’t bear comparison with what was now, all because a lousy driver knocked me off my bike. I wonder if that is a comparable cause and effect to the butterfly wing in the Amazon causing a hurricane in Africa. I think mine’s better, but I’m not sure Stephen Hawking—‘the wheelchair guy’ according to Homer Simpson—would agree.

After a roast lamb dinner, Tom and Simon snoozed while I loaded dishwashers or did the ironing. It kept me awake and hopefully kept some calories from leaving deposits of adipose tissue in various bits of my body.

I had just finished my chores and got fed up with the assorted snores arising from the lounge, that I decided I’d go for a ride. There were about two hours of daylight left, so I could do a twenty miler if my legs felt up to it.

It was really good to get out in the fresh air. I’d been cooped up all day working in the house. I’d have preferred to have been fiddling with bikes but that’s life. I had decided I was going to strip down my old mountain bike and rebuild it; the forks had never been the same since I’d ridden it over the bumpkins who roomed in the same complex as me before I moved in with Simon and Stella.

Today, I was on my Specialized Ruby and enjoying every moment of it, although I was half-thinking if I could squeeze an hour of tinkering in during the evening. It was relatively mild and the garage had reasonable lighting, so it might be possible. The only query, did I want oily fingers for the rest of the week?

Back from my ride, the two sleeping beauties were still zonked in the lounge. I changed into a pair of jeans and sweater and went out to play in the garage.

Simon came out to look for me when his stomach started to rumble. “Oh there you are, what are you doing?”

“What’s it look like?” I snapped back.

“Tinkering with an old mountain bike.”

“So that’s what I’m doing.”

“Is that your old mountain bike?”

“Yep, this bike (a Muddy Fox for those interested) and I have done many miles together.”

“What are you doing?”

“Stripping the back axle to look at the bearings, why?”

“I just wondered.”

“Didn’t you do that sort of thing when you were a teenager?”

“Good lord no, if any one did it, it was my father, he was the bike nut.”

“Oh, you missed out on hours of fun.”

“Are you serious, Cathy? I don’t consider getting my hands dirty and my nails chipped for something someone else could do better.”

“Yeah, but what if you were miles from anywhere and your back wheel broke or some spokes in it, did?”

“I’d walk to the nearest phone and call for help,” Simon had completely missed my point of self-sufficiency.

“Yeah okay, I’ll be in, in ten minutes my hands are getting too cold to grip the spanners.”

“I’ll put the kettle on for you, don’t be too long.”

I muttered something rude under my breath, how dare he tell me what to do! Then, I counted to ten and calmed down. It was much ado about nothing.

The boys wanted something to eat, I wanted a shower, they lost. I told them they were big enough to get their own supper. I’d baked a new loaf, a fact they hadn’t realised. They sat down and ate most of it before I finished my shower. Once again, I came close to exploding.

“Boys, I am getting the distinct impression that you are taking me for granted. I am not the head cook, housekeeper and chief bottle washer. Next weekend, you two can give me a hand with the chores or I will go on strike.”

“Aw come on Cathy, be reasonable. I slave for five days a week for the bank, I need a rest over the weekends.” Simon was putting a very old case.

“I work too, Simon. Sometimes it’s long hours as well, I shall be filming soon, most of it is in my own time, certainly the writing of scripts and things are done then.”

“I work too,” said Tom, “harder than you pair.” It might have been true once upon a time, but not so much now. He forgot I knew what happened in his office.

“Right, I don’t care who works the hardest, I am not going to do all the housework and cooking until Stella comes home, because that won’t make much difference, she doesn’t cook much anyway.” She did help with the laundry and the ironing. In fact, Simon used to help back at the cottage, so what had changed? Tom used to look after his own house before I came along, was I that stupid? Not anymore!

They looked at each other and grumbled.

“I’ll do the cooking, most of the time, but I want you two to make a rota to help me out. If you don’t, you’ll lose loads of weight, because I’ll stop cooking. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I like doing this stuff anymore than you lot.”

From the looks on their faces they got the message but didn’t much like it. However, Simon made some tea and Tom did some sandwiches while I looked at the newspaper and tried not to appear too smug.

Easy As Falling For The Hype Part 344

by Angharad llaw dost*

I was trying to finish the Observer crossword, the cryptic one, when Simon put down his book with a sigh and began rubbing my thigh. I should perhaps mention we were in bed. I ignored him, so his hand moved higher up and sneaked under my arm to gently stroke my breast.

“Hmmmmm,” was all I said.

Actually, that was all I said for about an hour and I never did get to complete the crossword. He had also learned that if he wanted to ‘get me going’ he had to work for it. His technique was improving and I wasn’t complaining.

Next morning, the sun shone and I was tempted not to take my bike owing to being a little tender in the nether regions, however, I decided I needed to keep the fitness thing going. I was really pleased that I could now store two or three gigs of data on a memory stick, and which could be carried in a relatively small bag. This was so much better than carrying a laptop back and fore.

I got to the university and went to park the Scott in my office as usual. “You shouldn’t really bring bicycles into the building,” said one of the security guards.

“If it disappears, and it has once, have you got four thousand to replace it?” I asked.

“Don’t be daft, it’s only a bike.”

“Only a bike, yeah, top of the range is nearly eight thousand.”

“What, for a bloody bicycle?”

“Yep, and a Cannondale top model is getting on for ten grand.”

“They seen you coming, didn’t they?”

Ignoring his grammar, I replied, “No, I’m well pleased with it, I have another one which is four grand’s worth, too.”

“More money than sense, if you ask me.”

“Good job I didn’t then, isn’t it?”

As I walked on a student ran up to me, “Lady Cameron, can you spare a moment…?”

“Oh, that explains it all, bloody finishing school for the rich, in we?” said the burly bigot.

This last comment left me feeling very irritated, but I said nothing, well not to him. “Certainly, Sophie, isn’t it?”

The girl’s face lit up, “Gosh, you remembered my name,” then she blushed.

“Don’t expect it every time, I can’t remember my own some days. Now how can I help you?”

“I need to ask for an extension on an assignment.”

“Come to my office,” I said pushing the bike towards the broom cupboard I called an office. I then lifted the bike onto two hooks and locked it there.

“Gosh, you lifted that like it was a feather,” commented my companion.

“It is like a feather, it’s plastic.”

“Plastic?” she looked bemused.

“Okay, carbon fibre. It weighs about seventeen pounds, or eight kilos to you.”

“Goodness, and you’re not afraid of it snapping?”

“No, why should it?”

“If it’s plastic?”

“It’s very strong stuff, they make golf clubs from it and sports cars.”

“Goodness, how amazing.”

I was rapidly forming the impression that Sophie wasn’t the brightest of my students. “Yes, isn’t it;” duh! “Your assignment, you have a problem?”

“Yes.” She blushed and her expression changed to that of a small child. “I have a problem.”

I took off my helmet and jacket and asked her to sit down. “Your problem?”

“It’s a bit embarrassing.” She sat with her hands squeezed between her legs, which were clamped tight together.

“Well, whatever you tell me is confidential, although I have to warn you that I might have to reveal some of it if questions are asked about your progress at a later time.”

“I understand,” she said her hands stayed between her thighs and she was looking at the carpet.

“Take your time,” I said wishing she’d get a move on, I had dozens of things to do, including a class in half an hour.

“I erm, don’t know where to start,” she said blushing and I thought her eyes looked a bit moist.

“The beginning,” I suggested.

“Yeah, silly of me. I think I might have cancer,” she suddenly said and then burst into tears.

Oh shit! What do you say? Was this a genuine thing or a try on to get in a late assignment, you’d be surprised what students will say. “That sounds pretty serious, how do you know?”

“My mother died of cervical cancer, so did my grandmother. I get a smear test every year, I just had the results on Friday. I have abnormal cells, they want me to go and see my doctor.”

“I see, have you made an appointment?”

“Yeah, I see him this afters.”

“Good, you need to act as quickly as possible.”

“My assignment, I…”

“I think that can wait until we know what’s happening, don’t you?”

“Thank you, Lady Cameron.”

“Who else have you told?” I asked, she was still weeping despite the brave face she was showing me.

“No one, I mean who can I tell?”

“There’s a student counselling service and health centre on campus.”

“I know, but they aren’t always the best people to talk to.”

“They’re all supposed to be trained to deal with medical problems, including potentially serious ones.”

“I’d rather talk to you?”

“Me, why? I don’t have any special skills in that direction.”

“I heard how you helped Stevie.”

“I didn’t do very much for him, I’m afraid.”

“That isn’t what I heard.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Just be there for me,” she started to sob.

“What about your dad, shouldn’t you tell him?”

“No, I couldn’t face him, not yet. He’s still mourning my mother.”

“When did she die?”

“About five years ago,” she sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with the tissue I offered her.

“We don’t know if it is cancerous yet, only that it’s abnormal. Maybe it’s some other anomaly, they do get specimens wrong.”

“With my family history, I doubt it.”

“I see, so when will you know?”

“Today, I hope.”

“Have you got someone to go with you?”

“No, that’s why I’ve come to you.”

Oh shit and double shit, I don’t need this, not right now! How do you tell someone who can’t be more than nineteen that you’d prefer that they found another person to help them. “Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility, Sophie.”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.” She stood up and went to march out of my room.

“Sophie, please sit down.”

“What for? You don’t wanna know, do you?”

“I didn’t say that,” I was blushing.

“Not with your mouth…”

Oh shit, why can’t I learn to control my non-verbals? “What time is the appointment?”

“It doesn’t matter, you’re too busy.” She went to get up again.

“I asked what time it was.”

“Four.”

I looked at my diary, if I switched something around, I could make it. “Where is it?”

She told me, it wasn’t too far away, but I’d need to go home at lunch and get my car, it was too far to walk.

“Come and collect me at half past three and I’ll come with you. Do you have transport?”

“No, I usually take the bus.”

“I’ll bring my car in.”

“You don’t have to, I’ll go on my own. Yeah, maybe that’s for the better?”

“Sophie, please don’t mess me about. I’ve said I’ll come with you, be here at three thirty! Now wipe your face and clear off, I have a class to teach.”

Sophie stood up and threw her arms around me, “Thank you, Lady Cameron. Thank you so much.”

I got Pippa to alter a tutorial I had for three thirty, to two thirty. I told her to explain to Tom that I had another Stevie type incident and needed to leave early.

My ride home at lunchtime was my fastest yet. I dashed in, washed and changed, put on some lipstick and combed my hair. It was a bit greasy from my helmet, but I didn’t have time to wash it. I grabbed a few biscuits and a banana and drove back to work. Thank goodness I didn’t have a class that afternoon.

At three thirty, I got rid of my tutorial student and waited for Sophie Clark to turn up. She was late, it was nearly three forty when she walked in.

“Are you all right?” I asked, she looked very pale.

“No,” she burst into tears, “I’m frightened… I don’t wanna die,” she sobbed. I held her as she sobbed onto my shoulder.

“Hey, come on, we don’t know that yet. If they catch it early enough they can do wonders. Come on, dry your tears and let’s go and find out what we’re dealing with.”

“We?” she said.

“Well, you asked for my help didn’t you?”

“Yes,” she sniffed.

“Well, you’ve got it, we’re in this together now.”

“Lady Cameron, you’re so kind.”

“It’s, Cathy, and don’t tell everyone, they’ll all want to hand in their stuff late.”

She laughed as we walked to the car.

* llaw dost: hand toast

Sneezy Calling Snow White Part 345

by Angharad & >^^<

We entered the health centre at two minutes to four, and Sophie signed in. I went and sat in the waiting area, picking up a two-year-old National Geographic as I went.

“Will you come in with me?”

“I’m not sure if that’s appropriate, Sophie.”

“Oh please, Cathy, I won’t hear half of what he says.”

Why do people always know how to push my buttons so that I comply with their requests? This child needed a mother—I was at best a poor substitute. “See what the doctor says, if he objects, I stay out, okay?”

“He won’t.”

“We don’t know that yet, do we?”

“He’s nice.”

I put the magazine down on the chair next to me, it didn’t look like I would need it as Sophie was intent on chattering all the time. I suspect it was nerves—and it was certainly getting on mine.

About ten minutes later, she was called. She grabbed my hand so I had little chance of evading the issue, and we trooped off to the doctor’s room.

“Is it all right if my friend comes in with me?” she asked the doctor, a balding man in his forties, who’d eaten a few too many dinners.

“Sure, come on in.”

We followed him into his lair, and he positioned himself at his computer. “Hmm,” he said to himself as he clicked through several screens, “ah, here we are. Oh yes, abnormal pap test.”

Sophie squeezed my hand and I gently squeezed back to acknowledge her. “What does that mean?”

“The Pap test, oh it stands for some Greek, Papanicolaou, or something similar, he devised it,” said the doctor.

“No, the abnormal test result?” asked Sophie.

“Oh that, yes. It’s a CIN1.”

“A CI what?” gasped Sophie.

“A Cervical Intra-epithelial Neoplasia. In other words odd cells, however, they are relatively few, so it’s low risk at the moment. Because of your family history, I shall however refer you to the gynae clinic for a coloscopy exam.”

“A what?”

“A coloscopy exam, they have a microscope thing which they use to have a peer up your cervix and see what’s happening. They may well be able to treat any abnormality there and then.”

“Oh, I see. So I don’t need to worry then?”

“No, not at all. You’re obviously at a slightly greater risk given your family history, but as long as we keep an eye on it every six or twelve months, we shall minimise that risk. You’re not getting any other symptoms, are you?”

“I don’t know, what should I be looking for?”

“Dyspareunia…”

“What’s that?” asked Sophie, and I must admit, I was curious too.

“Pain during sex?” He looked at her, and she shook her head. “Good, watch out for genital warts, they have been implicated in cervical dysplasia and cancers.”

He finished the interview and we left. Sophie gave a great sigh as we left. “Phew, that was better than I expected.”

“Good, let’s get back, can I drop you off somewhere?” I asked and was able to drop her at her house—she shared with a couple of other students. As she left I said, “Don’t forget to watch out for genital warts.”

At this, she pretended to grab something roughly and pull it up and look all around it. “Nah, it’s clear.” I laughed at her antics, if she handled her boyfriends like that, they’d all need hernia repairs on the second date!

I drove home, not sure if I was glad I didn’t have a cervix or not. Certainly, I wouldn’t like the extra risks it could entail, but then it also meant I couldn’t have kids and that was an even bigger pain. So by the time I got home, I was sad I didn’t have one. However, I suppose I could still get prostate problems although the ’mones meant that was pretty minimal, and let’s face it the risk of testicular cancer was now zero. Ah, the joys of modern medicine!

I was home first and started the meal, which was in the final stages when Tom arrived. “Hello, daughter substitute,” he said winking at me.

“Hello, surrogate dad,” I responded.

“That smells good, what is it?”

“Liver and onions.”

“Oh boy, I haven’t had that for ages, I’ll go and wash.”

“Don’t take too long, it’s nearly ready.” I drained off the potatoes and veg while he was cleaning himself up and by the time he returned five minutes later, I was dishing up.

He poured himself a glass of Guinness, I settled for one of water and we dined. “So what was all that about one of your students needing some mothering?”

“Oh it worked out all right in the end.” I explained what had happened.

“Why do they always come to you? We have a student health system on campus which costs a fortune to maintain.”

“I don’t know.” I continued eating my dinner.

“You’re too soft, that’s why? They know what a pushover you are.”

“No, I think she needed a mother substitute. I was the best she could get at short notice.”

“And you’re how much older than her?”

“About four or five years, why?”

“Yeah, real maternal syndrome. You can’t mother them all, they’re supposed to be human, I mean adults when they come to us. It’s not our job to change their nappies and replace their dummies.”

“You did some of that with me,” I said quietly.

“I did not, I only supported you because you were an outstanding student and didn’t want to see your career go tits up.”

I looked down at my chest, he saw me and laughed. “Okay, I might have chosen a better expression,” he conceded.

“Do you think people ever talk, because I live here with you?”

“I don’t know nor care a jot, besides, they all know you’re engaged to Hooray Simon.”

“I’ll tell him you called him that,” I said jestingly.

“Go ahead, I’ve called him it to his face.”

“You haven’t?” I gasped.

“Look, Cathy, I fear for you as a scientist if you don’t listen properly and then ask questions.”

“What do you mean?”

“Exactly that.”

“I don’t understand.” I felt confused and I wasn’t sure if he was teasing me or being serious.

“I just told you, I called him Hooray Simon to his face. So you ask if I had, when I just told you I had.”

“I’m sorry, I was just confirming, running parallel tests.”

“Very good. I asked for that.”

“Tom, I don’t claim to be a good scientist, but I do the basics reasonably well.”

“More importantly, you’re a good person and we can train you to be a better scientist. Sadly, we don’t seem to be able to do the reverse.”

“Oh, the woes of society,” I said with mock emphasis.

“No it’s true, we can teach these so called adults that we get, how to measure and record things in a scientific way. Sadly, we can’t teach them to think for themselves, nor can we teach them how to distinguish right and wrong—all that should have been done before they came to us. We should be polishing off the rough edges, not trying to mould them, their parents should have done most of that, helped by the schools. Instead, the parents are too busy with their own issues and then prevent the teachers from controlling them enough to educate them. None of these kids have any self-discipline any more, it’s all just self-gratification.”

“What, like me?”

“No, you’re much better.”

“They’re contemporaries of mine, okay a few years younger, but that’s all. Remember, I took someone four years younger to the doctor today. Four years, I’m one of them, Tom. We’re not all a waste of time, so full of ourselves so as to be ignorant of anyone else.”

“I told you, you were different. You are.”

I shook my head and cleared the table, I wasn’t going to win this argument, the generation gap was just too big to leap across, for both of us.

~~~~~~~~
To the best of my knowledge all the medical information used is correct, however, if you have any medical problems, always seek advice from your doctor (or vet where appropriate), and do not rely on fictional representations. >^^<

Easy As Mauling With Some Mice Part 346

by >^^<

I was just about to leave for work, using my bike as per my plan to get fitter, when Tom stopped me. “Be careful, some cyclist using the cycle path got attacked last night.”

“Any reason why?” I asked.

“Not that I know of, I heard it just now on the radio.”

“Whereabouts?”

“Down near the harbour.”

“I’ll stay clear of there anyway, too many lorries.”

“See you in the office, I need you to look at a submission from York about the mammal survey.”

“Fine, what time?”

“See Pippa when you get there.”

“Okay.” I left him to lock up as he would theoretically get there first. However, that depended upon the traffic and it had been awful recently. I sped off on my Scott and had done over a mile before his Land Rover passed me, belching diesel fumes.

A mile later, I passed him in the gridlocked traffic, even managing to bang on the side of his car as I passed. “Bloody cyclists,” followed me down the road, I nearly fell off laughing.

The grumpy security guard must have made some enquiries about me, because when he saw me pushing my bike through the corridor, he said nothing, in fact he removed himself, so I didn’t have to deal with his snotty banter, which suited me fine.

When I got to my office, there was a bunch of flowers from Sophie waiting by my door. Thankfully, they were in a plastic wrap thing which also contained a bulb of water at the bottom. I decided they could stay in my office instead of me taking them home. I locked up my bike and changed quickly in the loo.

I went up to Pippa’s office, which was bigger than mine! “Grumpy wants to see me sometime this morning.”

“Cathy, I think you should show some respect to your elders and betters, Professor Agnew, deserves…”

“Lots of respect, he’s worked hard at being a grumpy old sod, now when should I see him?”

“He’s free at eleven.”

“Nah, I’ve got a tutorial then,” I glanced at my Blackberry.

“Could do twelve, but he’ll be wanting his lunch.”

“Hopefully it won’t take too long.” Famous last words, I thought to myself as I said it.

“Don’t you two ever talk to each other?” said Pippa.

“All the time, but we don’t talk shop, if we can help it. Any chance of a cuppa?”

“Go and make yourself one then,” she frowned at me and I skipped off to the ‘kitchen’ and switched on the kettle. It always tastes better with fresh milk than the UHT stuff I have to buy, but they have a fridge, I don’t—not since health and safety found my milk in one we use for storing dissections. So, it tasted of formalin, you can get used to anything in time.

I checked my emails, only work ones, mostly from Des. Then a text, from Stella.

‘Doing gr8, can come home 4 wkend. Can U get me. Stella.’

I immediately sent one back.

‘U bet. Wot time? C.’

A little while later my phone beeped indicating a text.

‘Fri eve, N E time. Let me no, when UR on UR way. Stel.’

I replied,

‘OK, C U fri. LOL C.

That was something to look forward to, I sent a text to Simon who offered to take us out to dinner. Can’t think why I love that man, hee hee.

My tutorial was very tedious. How can someone who can hardly spell ‘amoeba’, let alone ‘meiosis’ or even ‘haploid’ be doing a degree? I suspect they have difficulty spelling their name. Of course, they always mention dyslexia, yeah sure, yet I’ll bet they can spell Stella Artois! If they used some punctuation, it would be easier to read, but one long sentence lasted four pages. I gave it back to them as unreadable; it isn’t my job to teach them English.

“Who’s stolen your lollipop?” said Tom when I went into his office.

“David Flynn, that boy can hardly read and write. How did he get any A levels?”

“He got them, and we accepted him and we get funding for him and he owes a lot of money, I suspect, like they all do.”

“Wouldn’t he have been better suited to becoming a carpenter or a plumber?”

“Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to enrol or die!”

“Ha ha, you’re not teaching the morons, stuck away up here in your ivory tower.”

“Well if you hadn’t pissed off the Dean, you might have had one foot on the ladder yourself. Still, to business.” He passed me a letter from York University and some submissions they had made about deer on the Yorkshire moors.

“This looks very good, I wonder if we should put them in touch with Exeter, because this should work on Dartmoor, too.”

“I did think about that, but I’ll leave it to you to sort out. I have my lunch to think about.”

“Oh, meeting the Dean are we?” I asked sarcastically.

“Yes, pity you and he don’t like each other, you could have come too.”

“I’m quite happy with a sandwich from the canteen, it also helps me to keep my weight down.”

“What weight, Jesus, girl, if you get any thinner, you’ll be worse than Stella.”

“Oh, that’s a point; she’s coming home for the weekend. I have to go and get her, so I wondered if I…”

“If you shot off early, like after lunch you mean?”

I smiled at him, “You are so kind as an employer.” I kissed him on the cheek and dashed out before the startled look on his face turned to, ‘NO.’

I’d had time to clear my Friday afternoon, I’d only had one tutorial, which I switched to the morning, so things were looking up.

I looked at my flowers and smiled, they were really nice. I sat eating my wholemeal roll, although the cheese salad would have been suitable for lactose intolerant diners, there was so little of the Cheddar, when there was a knock at my door.

I shouted, “Come in,” then coughed as the lettuce, which I suspect was really cactus, stuck in my throat.

The door opened and in walked Sophie. “I wanted to say thanks for your help on Friday.”

“You did, already,” I nodded to the flowers.

“I hope you like them.”

“I do, very much, thank you.”

“I’ve done my assignment,” she handed me her folder.

“Thank you. I’ll see you on Friday morning then?” This was her usual tutorial time. I’d now have to find time to mark her work before then.

“Yes.” She left and I went back to my search for the missing Cheddar.

The rest of the week went in a blur, Des came down and built a set for filming the baby dormice. He showed me the rushes and they looked as if he was in the woods somewhere, this would be especially so once he edited in some shots of trees and things which would distract the viewer.

I was so busy, that Friday morning was on me before I knew it. Instead of riding, I drove in and was ready then to go and get my favourite sister-in-law. So a quick lunch after my two tutorials and I set off for Sussex and Stella’s clinic.

I listened to the radio as I went along. Radio Solent, the local BBC station had a good signal and it was background noise. The news came on at 2.00 pm and the top story was, ‘Cyclist attacked near Portsmouth University.’

My stomach flipped as I listened to the report of some young man who was hit off his bike and kicked several times by a man, who was described as six feet tall, thickset and wearing a hoodie. The attacker escaped through Victoria Park. No reason was given for the attack.

Easy Over Eggs Or Sunny Side Up Part 347

by Angharad (Bonzi prefers scrambled eggs)

It struck me as astonishing that no one seemed to see the assailant of the cyclist near the university, so it would appear he got clean away unless some CCTV picked him up from the description given by the victim.

I discovered it was a reddish haired young woman, that description could fit me. She was also riding a road-type bike, in other words one with drop bars on it.

Okay, I know I’m paranoid but there are times when there have been people out to get me. They have come mighty close to succeeding too. Quite what it is about me that attracts these homicidal types, is beyond me. It isn’t my looks, I suppose I’m reasonably attractive with a modest figure, a bit small in the hips and boobs but I do have a waistline and I’m relatively narrow shouldered and I have a good head of hair. A bit like a skinny girl-next-door type, and I’m sure they don’t get attacked just for that; ergo, it must be some other reason.

I do make enemies, possibly because I tend to say what I think or feel, I’d be useless as a politician or diplomat; or a poker player for that matter. My face would give me away every time. Oh well, we all have our crosses to bear, mine is an honest face.

According to Tom, I am one of the most popular teachers in his department—can’t think why, there must be better teachers, with more experience and better technique, but my classes are always full.

It took him to point it out to me, before I registered the fact. I mean, I knew my classes were full and simply assumed everyone else’s classes were too. It appears they aren’t.

Maybe it’s because I liken teaching to drama, it’s a performance art where you attempt to engage your audience with your subject. Occasionally it flies straight over their heads, but once in a while it is an absolute bull’s-eye and they go away buzzing and wanting more. If they have that sort of experience, they come back for more and suffer the misses hoping for another hit. So do I, because I buzz as well. Maybe I should have been a theatre actor, although here they allow me to write, direct and star in my own little plays—wonderful!

I’m beginning to wonder if the world is made up of those who like me and those who seem very hostile. Surely, I can’t have pissed them all off, can I?

I know I did the dean, and I wrote to him and apologised for being out of order. I did jump the gun more than a little. Tom did tick me off about it, but I suspect he was secretly pleased that someone loved him enough to have a tilt at a windmill. My model of womanhood is somewhat proactive, rather than the passive variety—which could explain the enemies. They expect the latter and are nonplussed by the former. Good, serves ‘em right.

I collected Stella and all these thoughts went from my minuscule mind and were replaced by ones of pleasure at seeing her looking so well.

“Goodness, Stella, you look as if you’ve been down in the Med for a couple of weeks.”

“No this is good, old fashioned, English weather. Pity that we’re probably having more sun now than we will in June.” She looked at me, “You look tired.”

“Perhaps I am, finding time to do the film for the bank is hard work and I’m probably not sleeping as well as usual. Mind you my hot water bottle is up in Town most of the time, so sleeping on my own isn’t so good, now I’ve got used to the decibel levels.”

I drove for some while and we exchanged the merest of pleasantries, when Stella said, “They want me to take early retirement.”

“You’re joking?”

“No, they’re looking to cut back on Nurse Specialist posts.”

“Can you challenge them?”

“I don’t know if I want to, sometimes the thought of early retirement feels good.”

“I can imagine, but they are such bastards to kick you when you’re down.”

“That’s the NHS for you. Big on PR, poor on delivery.”

“Sounds like higher education, come one come all—get a degree—and a huge debt.”

We both laughed, though neither of us felt what we had said was at all funny, save in the darkest of humours. But the alternative was to get upset, and we neither wanted that.

“When have you got to decide what you want to do?” I asked Stella.

“I already know. I’m going to stop and after a holiday, I’ll go to the bank, assuming the sub-prime mortgage thing hasn’t wiped us out.”

“I thought you were quite safe as these things go.” This was more a statement of faith than one of knowledge.

“We probably are, but you know, it all places a strain on the bank and its staff. What does Simon say about it?”

“Very little, we’ve had our ups and downs in recent weeks, as you know, and it nearly all went pear shaped.”

“That would have been very unfortunate.”

“Exactly.”

“So is Simon behaving himself?”

“More or less. No, he is since you gave him that talking too.”

She smiled and said quietly, “Sometimes he needs one.”

“Well thank goodness you did because it did make him see my point of view and he began to respect it a little more.”

“I’m glad, full stop, but also glad to see I can still influence him.”

“We both listen to you.”

She smiled and after thinking about what we had just said, the smile became broader.

We approached Portsmouth and she smiled at the familiarity; she was nearly home. She must have noticed my concerned look and read my mind because she suddenly said, “Don’t worry, Cathy, I will go back on Monday.”

“How the hell did you know that was what I was thinking?”

“I didn’t, I just felt a need to say it.”

“Showing how close we are.”

“We are though aren’t we.”

“Like sisters,” I added and we both smiled.

Tom greeted us both like two, long lost children. While Stella was freshening up, he said to me, “Simon isn’t going to make it tonight, some crisis at the bank. He asked me to take you both out to dinner, which I’m delighted to do.”

“Yeah, that’s fine with me,” I said while inwardly screaming with rage that he could do this again.

When I told Stella, she told me she wanted to sleep with me, she felt a need to have some human contact, however, platonic that contact was. I felt sad for both of us, but at least she could cuddle with me without Simon complicating things for once. And that cuddle would be sisterly and non-sexual and she didn’t sound like Concord landing and taking off.

Easy To Bed—Calling You The Bike!

Part 29 Dozen (348)

I woke in the night, a hand gently grasping my boob. I was about to say, “Not now Simon,” when I remembered he wasn’t there. I shrugged slightly and the hand slipped down my body. I sat up and looked at Stella, she was fast asleep. I felt a little relieved, it was innocent, an unconscious movement in her sleep.

My movement had possibly unsettled her and she turned over and now lay with her back to me. I lay down again and pressed my back against hers. I was soon asleep again.

I woke up to discover she was sat up and watching me. “Morning, sleepy head.”

“Erm, what? What time is it?” I groaned feeling in need of at least another couple of hours.

“Six, why?”

“Oh, g’night,” I rolled over away from her.

I heard her laughing, and the bed shook.

“What’s so bloody funny?”

“You.”

“Thanks,” I said and tried to get back to sleep.

“You look so innocent when you’re asleep.”

“I am innocent, until proven guilty. Now I need my beauty sleep.”

“Will you teach me to ride a bike?”

“What, now?” I rolled over on to my back.

“No, it’s only just light, but this weekend?”

I opened one eye, “Yeah, if you like. Can I go back to sleep, now?”

“Of course you can,” she went off to the loo and then picking up a book, got back into bed. I could hear her flicking over pages and I couldn’t relax enough to sleep.

“Can’t you ride a bike?” I said lying on my back again.

“I used to be able to, but I mean ride a proper bike, like yours.”

I yawned as if I needed to demonstrate my fatigue. “All bikes are proper bikes if they’ve got two wheels and pedals; it’s just some are nicer to ride than others.”

“Will you teach me to ride a nice bike then?”

“Yeah, course I will.” I lay there thinking for a moment. “Erm, what size shoe are you?”

“Five, why?”

“I’m a six, dunno if my spare shoes will fit you.”

“I’ve got loads of shoes of my own.” She sounded almost indignant.

“Cycling shoes with cleats?”

“No.”

“That’s what I meant, even my MTB has SPDs on it.”

“Is that code for something?”

“Yeah, for finding you some shoes or a different bike.”

“Oh, is that a problem?”

“I dunno. We’ll find out later.”

“Find out what?”

“If it’s a problem.”

“Oh. Forget I said anything.”

“How can I forget something like that?”

“Easy, just stop remembering it.”

“Duh! That is impossible, besides after my loved ones, and my job—bikes are the next most important thing in my life.”

“You sound like you need to get a life, Cathy.”

“Yeah, cycling.”

“Doh! I mean a proper life, meet a guy and fall in love…”

“Done that bit, promised to teach his sister to ride a nice bike.” I didn’t see the pinch on my bum coming. “Ouch, God, you have bony fingers!” I vacated the bed rapidly, rubbing my bum.

Stella lay helpless with laughter. I picked up my pillow and threw it at her. She pushed it off and giggled herself silly.

“I’m going to get some breakfast,” I pulled on a cardigan over my nightie and went downstairs.

Tom was in the kitchen, “You’re up early,” he remarked.

“Yeah,” I lifted up the nightie and viewed the red mark on my bum cheek.

“What’s that, a flea bite?”

“No not quite, but just as annoying. I’ve been star struck.” I switched on the kettle again.

“Star struck? What are you on about?”

“Star—Stella, struck—as in pinched.”

“She pinched your bottom?” he roared with laughter.

“Yes, it’s not funny!” I said indignantly, “And she’s left a mark.”

“I think it’s funny,” he said in between snorts of laughter.

“What’s funny?” said a new voice, as Stella joined us in the kitchen.

“Cathy thinks a bed bug bit her,” said Tom, bending the truth just a little.

“Yes, a giant one,” she said snapping her fingers together at my rear end and laughing as I jumped out of the way.

“You’re like a giant crab,” I said from the other side of the kitchen.

“Better that than a crabby giant.”

“Don’t meet many of them round her, unless you count the one that fat bloke rides,” I said, and both Tom and Stella looked at me in bewilderment.

“Giant,” I said, and they both remained confused. “It’s a make of bike, team High Road use them, so they must be okay.”

The moment of the joke had passed so I tried to change the subject. “Tea or coffee?” I asked Stella.

“Yes,” she said.

“Which?” I asked exasperatedly.

“Either.”

“Which one do you want? Tea or coffee?” I snapped.

“I don’t mind, whichever you’re making.”

“Right, it’s tea then.”

“Fine.”

“It will be as long as Tom doesn’t make it,” I joked.

“I demand a retrial,” said Tom loudly, “I’m innocent until proven guilty.”

“Tom, you have been found guilty of this heinous crime.” I picked up the tea cosy and put it on my head.

“You look like Napoleon,” shrieked Stella.

“This is supposed to be my black cap.”

“I thought that was a songbird, warbler isn’t it?” Tom added to the general confusion.

Just then the kettle boiled, clicking to show it had switched itself off. I made some tea.

Breakfast eventually finished and my ribs hurt from laughing, Stella was certainly much better. “When do you come home for good?” Tom was sitting at the table reading my Guardian.

“I don’t know, but it will take a bit longer yet.” Stella looked a little uncertain as she shrugged her shoulders. “I suppose when they say I’m ready. I feel so much better, so I think they know what they’re doing.”

“Looks like,” I offered, “Only tell ’em to hurry up, we need you to keep Simon in order,” I joked.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 349

1st Anniversary Episode—Celebrating One Year of This Story!

We set about sorting out a ‘nice’ bike for Stella. Whilst mine were suitable as far as size was concerned, she didn’t like the idea of clipless pedals. I admit it took me a while to get used to them and they can cause you to fall off if you forget to ‘unclip’ before you put your foot down.

For the uninitiated, clipless means—without toe clips, (sometimes called rat-traps) which are cage like things which attach to the front of the pedal and your foot goes into them. There are a number of variations on them. The clipless, don’t have this toe cage, and work on cleats which are attached to the sole of a cycling shoe, which is suitably hard enough to hold them. The cleats then ‘clip’ into spring-loaded pedals which hold the shoe secure and in the optimum position for maximum efficiency. They do however, need to be ‘clipped’ in, and out, before you try to put a foot down.

Nearly every cyclist has stories of falling off because they couldn’t get their foot out, or of clinging to walls, lamp-posts and other suitable immovable objects, when they couldn’t get the shoe to release. Usually, they do eventually, it’s just that if you’re riding up a hill and they stick, it’s difficult to stop without either grabbing something or falling off. Grabbing something is definitely less painful!

So, we ended up down the bike shop and looked at a range of hire bikes that she could rent for a few hours riding and hopefully decide she enjoyed it. I was actually in favour of her using a mountain bike or hybrid rather than a road bike, because they are generally easier than the drop handlebars of road bikes. However, Stella had other ideas and chose a road bike, thankfully with a triple chain set. The guy at the shop had to change the pedals, but that didn’t take long.

A triple chain set, just means that the gearing on the front mech, that’s the one by the pedals, has three cogs or rings, instead of two. Serious roadies, think that triples are for wimps, but they do give a greater range of gears, especially the lower ones and are useful for hills. Mountain bikes almost always have triples.

Stella chose a Trek pilot, which is a basic road bike but is fine for what she needed, and it has the advantage of inline brakes, or extra brake levers in the middle of the handlebars.

I stood outside the shop while she found her ‘sea legs,’ slowly riding up and down, getting her balance as she moved slightly faster each time. “How am I doing?” she called.

“You’re doing fine,” I called back, what else could I say?

Half an hour later, we actually went for a ride. I took her off on a relatively flat route, utilising cycle paths where possible, to keep off the main roads as she felt nervous. I hoped we didn’t meet the miscreant who’d been assaulting cyclists—with two of us, I felt it was unlikely. I didn’t say anything to Stella, keeping her mind on the cycling was going to be engaging her brain enough as it was.

By the time we got back to the bike shop we’d done about ten miles, enough to warm me up and finish her off. She’d had enough, but she wasn’t finished by any means and arranged to keep the bike for the whole weekend—I’d take it back on Monday. I had to admit, she was certainly a trier.

With the bikes de-wheeled and locked in the boot of the car, we went shopping, something she hadn’t done for several weeks. It was interesting to notice the change in her. She had less staying power than previously. In the old days, she’d explore anything and everywhere, now several times she ‘couldn’t be bothered’ to enter a number of shops we’d have previously gone into. I didn’t mind, I wasn’t in a shopping mood, and I didn’t need anything. I was also conscious that with things possibly happening with the bank, I would try and save some of my salary, while I was getting one, rather than spending it.

We went for lunch in a pub near the town centre, it was adequate but nothing to write home about, however, these places change hands so frequently, the next time it was under ‘new management’, it may prove to offer gourmet meals. But not today. I coughed up for the meal, considering that Stella, who was officially on sick leave, was worse off than me.

We did end up in one or two boutiques and she did reach for her credit card, yes, her credit card, remember, Simon was stuck in London. She spent more money than I would have for the skirt and jacket she chose. I was about to ask where she’d wear them, then recollected she was possibly going to take up a position at the bank instead of returning to nursing. It was her decision, even though I thought it was the wrong one. I did however, implore her to maintain her registration as a nurse, in case she changed her mind. She actually agreed without any dissent.

Finally, we ended up in a bookshop and I bought a book on the Tour de France and a fiction book, a whodunit. Back at the car, we went home via Morrison’s where I bought a large chicken and enough vegetables to do for two good meals.

“Does Tom ever allow you to make him a curry?” asked Stella as we walked back to the car, she knew of his addiction to chicken curry.

“No, he keeps the curry powder locked away to stop me using it.” I pouted in semi-disgust.

She laughed and shook her head, “Poor, Cathy.”

“So, I do the same with the teabags, he is forbidden to make it.”

“How can anyone make a mess of tea?”

“Arrgggggggghh! An unbeliever,” I wailed, which made her laugh helplessly and two bystanders to give us very odd looks as we walked arm in arm to the car.

“That couple thought we were gays,” said Stella, indicating two women who were walking across our path.

“So what, I don’t care, let them think what they like,” I said rather rashly.

“I thought you didn’t like the idea of being accused of lesbianism?” she challenged back at me.

“I still don’t, why?”

“Aren’t you being a bit contradictory, saying one thing just now but actually being the opposite?”

“Probably. I’m not gay and have no leanings that way—hey, that rhymes and that bit too. Gay, way, hey,” I repeated to myself, “I hope you weren’t meaning something else there, were you?”

“Like what?” she said as we got into the car.

“I’m not sure,” I said, although I was absolutely sure what I meant.

“You mean, am I propositioning you?” she held my eye contact despite my wanting to look away.

“Yeah, I’m sorry.” I wanted to cry with self-loathing.

“Don’t, I was,” she said quietly.

“I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to insult yo—what?”

“I’ve done some real thinking over the past few weeks and decided that I’ve been in denial, I’m a lesbian and I fancy you!”

Oh shit! We should have stayed on the bikes, I could have outrun her on that—now what do I do or say? “There’s nice for you,” I said weakly, sounding like someone from the other side of the River Wye.

“You’re not shocked or horrified?” she asked, staring deep into my eyes.

I felt like a rabbit being hypnotised by a weasel, “Erm, me of all people, shocked or horrified, I don’t think so. Why?”

“So you don’t have any objections about me sleeping with you again tonight, then?”

“Erm… not really,” what else could I say. I was speechless.

She held my eyes in her gaze totally in control of the situation and me, then I noticed the edges of her mouth crinkling and the same at the edges of her eyes. Suddenly she burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, not sure that I wanted to hear the answer.

“You are, or your face is.”

“Gee thanks, now you’ve given me a complex about my looks.” I pouted and felt very strange.

“You look beautiful to me, Cathy.”

“Yeah, but if you’re gay…”

“I’m not, but I couldn’t resist it,” she roared with laughter until tears were running down her cheeks.

“What?” I was confused. “Are you or aren’t you?” I asked, not that she was obliged to tell me as it was none of my concern.

“No, I’m not, but the look on your face was priceless.” She was still laughing.

“I don’t think that’s funny, Stella. You just put me on the spot, for no reason other than self-amusement. That’s tantamount to abuse, especially given my background.”

Her expression changed immediately. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. I wouldn’t hurt you for the world, you know that.”

“Do I, on what grounds?”

“Oh, Cathy, we’re sisters. I love you. You know that and I thought you loved me as a sister.”

“I do, you silly cow, but see how much you like it?” I said smirking. I didn’t really feel amused but I thought she might get the message of, the biter bit.

“You bitch! She said, slapped me on the arm and giggled, “I’ve been well and truly outplayed, haven’t I? You’ve learned well.”

“Maybe,” I said and drove towards home.

Easy As Falling Off A Bike Part 350!

I felt on edge that evening, while I was cooking the dinner and later, when eating it. The conversation with Stella kept reverberating in my head. I felt annoyed with myself, what did it matter if she was gay? Who was I to judge anyone?

Was I judging her? Was she winding me up? I really didn’t know but I did know that come bedtime she would turn the screw a little tighter. I didn’t know how I would react, which worried me. Would I have the nerve to call her bluff, if she started something? I had no idea.

When I thought about it, I actually knew very little about sex or relationships for that matter. Until I met Stella and Simon, I didn’t have any idea of sex, other than male or female or in the sense of genetics: X and Y chromosomes. If you recall, I was under the impression that I was asexual, until my nascent desires were awakened by the garage mechanic, the rough Kevin. Hmmm thinking about him still did something to me, forbidden fruits I suppose.

Thinking about Stella did absolutely nothing. I’d seen her naked and in her lingerie and even before I had been converted from an out-ie to an in-ie, I had no sexual feelings for her or any other woman.

I suppose, I’d have been quite content to continue my life without any passion until it all got stirred up and I discovered that I was actually attractive to men as a female, and to Simon in particular. He grew on me, I wasn’t at all sure about him at first.

I nearly laughed out loud when I thought about my first encounter with him at their house and I ended up lying on top of him having poured a glass of wine all over him. It was however, much later when I discovered it was more fun for him to be lying on top of me—enough of this, I think you catch my drift. Now back to Stella and how to deal with her games.

Perhaps I should have felt pleased that she felt well enough to indulge in her practical jokes and mind games, and on one level, I did. It was the rest of the time I felt uncomfortable with them. I don’t get much fun out of playing such games, they make me feel embarrassed. However, I do retaliate now and again to prove I’m not defenceless, as I did earlier. Unlike her, I don’t enjoy it at all.

Tom was in fine fettle and his accounts of exam papers he’d marked had Stella laughing much of the evening. I did when I listened, but I was wrapped in my own little world listening to my internal dialogue. I noticed Stella looking at me occasionally and smiling. I would smile back and I hoped I wasn’t giving off the wrong signals, one of the problems of suddenly developing a role in months rather than decades.

I cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. Stella brought stuff out to the kitchen—”Are you deliberately avoiding me?” she asked.

“Not particularly, why?”

“I thought I might have shown symptoms of leprosy.”

“I hadn’t noticed if you had,” I said in as matter of fact tone, as I could. I was trying to avoid showing how animated the whole thing was making me.

“Do dormice catch it?” she asked.

“What?” I asked completely missing the joke she was attempting to make.

“Leprosy,” she said almost in a punitive tone, as if trying to berate me for not listening, but my mind was wandering.

“As far as I know, none have been seen walking round with little bells calling ‘unclean,’ but that could have changed since I last looked in the journals.

“Do you take everything I say at face value?” she looked irritated.

“Usually, why? Isn’t it meant to be, then?” I showed my naiveté .

“Oh, Cathy, do me a favour.”

“What’s that?”

“Cheer up, I’m not going to eat yo-perhaps I should rephrase that! Oh you know what I mean, dammit.”

“Do I?” I said and left her in the kitchen.

Back in the dining room, Tom, who’d had two pints of Guinness, was waxing lyrical about previous students. “Never had one as good nor as pretty as young Cathy, mind you…”

I felt like telling him to shut up, except he was a nice old man, who’d had slightly too much to drink and who was saying nice things about me. So why on earth was I so irritated by it? I didn’t know, so escaped up stairs after pecking him on the cheek and wishing him goodnight.

I was undressed and in my pyjamas in a few seconds flat, they were about the safest nightwear I had—blue with little yellow teddy bears all over them. They were also winceyette so hardly sexy by any stretch of the imagination. By the time Stella appeared, I was in bed having cleaned my teeth and applied a face pack.

She walked into the bedroom and did a double take. “Good grief Cathy, have you hurt your face, because it’s in plaster of Paris?”

“No,” I said hardly moving my lips, this thing was very stiff and I hoped I wouldn’t have to wear it all night; “Gut I was getting some spots on the gridge of my dose.”

She heard what I said and processed it. “You lying toad! I have more spots than you, your complexion is amazingly clear. You’ve done this to avoid any more piss-taking by me, haven’t you?”

“Gourse dot,” I said defensively.

“You are a very poor liar, even through that gunk on your face, I can see you’re blushing. Gee whiz, why are you wearing jimmies? You never wear them. Where did you get them, a charity shop? Now go and wash that stuff off your face and then we can have a little cuddle and maybe, who knows what…”

“It’s subbosed to ge there all dight,” I lied.

“I don’t believe you,” she waltzed into the bathroom and rummaged around in the bin emerging two minutes later with the instructions. “Apply to clean dry skin, then leave for twenty minutes before removing the mask. You may need to apply a moisturiser.”

“I suspect that twenty minutes has elapsed since you concreted your face, has it not?”

“Dunno, didn’t look at the clog.”

She laughed at me, “Cathy, you can’t possibly see how ridiculous you look, now go and wash it off before you do yourself some damage. It will dry your skin terribly.

Reluctantly, I left the relative safety of my bed and went into the bathroom, of course Stella wolf whistled at my pyjamas. I washed off the face pack, it was horrible and my face was quite sore by the time I’d finished getting the stuff off. I applied a rich moisturiser to my skin afterwards. Then I stood there, a sense of dread hanging over me like some sword of Damocles.

“What’s taking so long, Cathy?” was called from the other side of the bathroom door.

I stood there and trembled.

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