Bike 551–600

Wuthering Dormice

(aka Easy As Falling Off A Bike)

Parts 551–600

by Angharad

This is an authorised compilation of Angharad’s story, with some minor reformatting of the synopsis areas and ending comments to make it work as a continuous story.

I have retained her beginnings and endings except where they were repetitive.

It has also received a UK spell checking and very minor editing.

I hope you enjoy not having to download a large number of parts individually.

Holly H. Hart

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


Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 551


Lunch for me was a rather quiet affair. I made sandwiches and we ate them in almost silence, save for the sounds of eating, crocks and cutlery chinking and the girls giggling occasionally. They both ended up snoozing on the sofa, so I draped a blanket over them. Unusually, Stella was staying at the table reading a newish copy of Vogue. You bloody cyclists get everywhere,” she said with contempt.

“Only where wheels will take us,” I replied thinking she’s found a picture of one of these extreme mountain bikers on top of a mountain.

“Victoria Pendleton models for Vogue, some people will do anything for money.”

“I know nothing about it, so don’t ask me. She’s a pretty girl with a super figure, so why shouldn’t she model. The women don’t earn anything like the men. So I think she’s entitled to make the odd quid here and there, and it raises the profile of cycling. I mean it’s hardly like the latest Virgin advert, which is selling sex, with its red stiletto shoes and flouncy cabin crew.”

“I haven’t seen that,” said Stella, “but it wouldn’t surprise me.”

“It’s clever, but it’s selling sex, fly Virgin, we’re sexy.”

“I suppose most of their traffic is commercial, which means it’s mainly men. So it will encourage them.”

“I’m glad I don’t do that for a living, serving dinners at thirty thousand feet, no thanks. I’ll stick to my dormeece.”

“Serving them at thirty K, no thanks, I’ll have the chicken in white wine.”

“Yeah, not much meat on them, and the fur would stick to your teeth.”

“So, do you want to talk about it?” asked Stella.

“About what?” Thinking about Vogue, Virgin or dormice.

“Tales of the riverbank.”

“Hey, that’s an idea, I could read to them about Ratty and Mole, couldn’t I?”

“I was meaning your own adventures, not the anthropomorphised creations of Kenneth Grahame, and his book was ‘Wind in the Willows’. The riverbank thing was a television series, on childrens’ telly.”

“Of course it was, yeah, I’ll have to read them ‘Wind in the Willows’.”

“Good idea, a charming story, maybe you should play them Pink Floyd’s, ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’.”

“Why? They’re a bit young for Floyd, aren’t they?”

“Perhaps, but the title of the album was inspired by the names of one of the chapters in Kenneth Grahame’s book, where the animals meet Pan.”

“Goodness, Stella, maybe you should go on, ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’.

“Why? I’m already one, so why humiliate myself on telly?”

“You are?”

“Yes, the whole family is. I mean it’s not in liquid assets-unless you mean shares in a distillery, but yes, Simon is too. The other thing is you must be quite close yourself. You have a house in Bristol, plus the other assets of your parents.”

When I thought about it, on paper and before the credit crunch, the two houses I owned must be worth somewhere in the region of six or seven hundred thousand, plus the other assets my parents had owned, which in Dad’s case must have been a few thousand on top. It’s just I’d never thought of myself as anything but scraping along. I wasn’t short of cash these days, but neither was I going to suddenly become spendthrift.

“I don’t think about it,” I dismissed her comment, hoping it had worked.

“But you are comfortably off. The bank pays you a salary; the film’ll bring in a few bob, too.”

“Can we talk about something else, Stella, I don’t want to talk about money, it’s of no great interest to me, there are more important things.”

“I couldn’t agree more, which is why Daddy has never really got me to work at the bank.”

“But I thought you were going to when you went back to work.”

“I’ll see, it’s not imminent.”

I said nothing, maybe she was mellowing towards becoming a mother?”

“What about this rescue this morning? Do you want to talk or not?”

“There isn’t much to say. If the dog hadn’t been with us, all I could have done was phone for help.”

“So, did she make it?”

“Who?”

“The woman you rescued.”

“I’ve no idea.”

“Oh, I’d have thought it was obvious, if she said, ‘Thank you’, she was alive.”

“She was unconscious if not dead. I couldn’t just haul her in, I just tried to get her closer to the bank so she could be fished out. If I’d tried to drag her in, the lead would have broken. She wasn’t floating on the water, but under it, her clothes were soaking wet and heavy.”

“I hadn’t thought of that, so can’t you call the hospital?”

“Stella, you of all people should know they won’t tell me anything.”

“Yeah, I s’pose. What about the police?”

“What about them?”

“Would they know?”

“I’ve no idea, I suppose if she died, they would want a statement for the inquest. We’ll find out in the paper in a few days.”

“You carry on like this and you’ll be getting an award from the Royal Humane Society.”

“Yeah, sure I will.”

“They give them to boy scouts every year.”

“Very funny, not.”

“I was meaning the term in a generic sense, those of a kindly disposition who feel compelled to intervene and save the day whenever the situation arises, unlike others who walk on the opposite side of the road.”

“Simon is a boy scout by that definition.”

“Okay, good Samaritan, then.”

“What’s it matter? I don’t do it for labels, I do it because there’s usually no one else to do it.”

“Of course you do, that’s what is so naively fascinating about you.”

“What is?”

“That you are prepared to risk your own life to save those of others, without any thought other than saving the others.”

“There’s another way?”

“Oh yes, enjoying the publicity, or kudos it generates, or rewards. You’d be surprised what people do. Some even create the disaster, so they can save others and become the hero.”

“What twisted minds some folk have got,” I felt quite revolted by that suggestion.

“That’s not the half of it.”

“I’m sure it isn’t, but I don’t want to hear any more, thank you.”

“So when are you going to find out about the victim?”

“When they put it in the Echo.”

“I don’t know, two accidents in the same week, you must save more lives than the local ambulance service.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Stel, the first one died, and the second one could have.”

The phone rang, and I broke off the conversation to answer it. “Hello?”

“Could we speak to Mrs Watts?”

“Speaking, who is this?”

“The Evening Echo.”

“I haven’t anything to say to you.”

“Please, Mrs Watts, could you just tell us about the rescue?”

“Did the lady survive?”

“She has so far, she’s critical, but as far as we know, she’s still alive. Could we have an interview, and maybe a photo, down by the river would be brill.”

“You have got to be joking?”

“No, show people how you did it.”

“I didn’t, the fire brigade rescued her, they pulled her out of the water; or the paramedics, they saved her life with their skills.”

“What about yours, the fire service say without your assistance, they wouldn’t have known about the accident, nor been able to reach her. She’d just have been a statistic, one more death-by-drowning victim.”

“Sorry, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“What about the sledging accident earlier on this week? Weren’t you on hand then too?”

“What are you implying?”

“You’re a danger to be near, aren’t you?”

“I don’t think so,” I put the phone down. Then picked it up and left it off the hook.

“What’s the matter, Cathy?”

“That was the Echo, they want me to pose down at the bridge.”

“I see they haven’t lost their sense of tact.”

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 552

The phone rang again, I ignored it. “Answer it, Cathy, it could be Simon or the hospital.”

“It could also be the paper.”

“Okay, I’ll answer it.” Stella took the phone and pressed the green button. “Hello, oh yes I’d love to talk to you…about the accident, no I can’t do that, I wasn’t there…Mrs Watts? No, I’m not, but I’d still like to talk to you, you have a nice voice. Can you speak to her, I’m afraid not, she’s not available, she just went in the shower, to get all the blood off her. Well when you sacrifice a goat, it tends to bleed all over you…Funny man he’s rung off.” She cackled as she handed me back the phone.

“What have you done? These provincial newspapers will believe anything.”

“So, let them print it.”

“They’ve probably taped the conversation.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that…um, surely, they won’t believe I was serious, will they?”

“How do I know?”

“Shall I call them back?”

“No, let it stand now. I need to get some washing on,” I thought if I kept busy, it would stop me thinking about it. I collected the dirty clothes and was sorting them when the doorbell rang. I carried on, loading my whites and switched the machine on.

“Cathy, it’s for you.”

“I’m doing the washing, Stella, can’t you deal with it?”

“Not really.”

I went to the door and there was a huge bouquet of flowers being held by a man. “What’s this about?”

“These are for Mrs Watts, from the family of Mrs Townsend, who she saved from drowning.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m John Jackson.”

“From the Echo?”

“You recognised me?”

“No, but it’s a pretty low trick.” I slammed the door but he put his foot in the way.

“Please, wait a moment.”

“Why should I? What’s to stop me really slamming the door and breaking your foot?”

“Your good-heartedness.”

“Sorry, I’ve used up all my good-heartedness today.” I went to shut the door again.

“Please, just talk to me.”

“Why should I?”

“Because it’s a good story and I’ll write something anyway.”

“So?”

“If I get things wrong…”

“I’ll sue.”

“What, a nice lady like you?”

“Absolutely, I employ a barrister on a fifty-fifty basis, he makes loads from me.”

“Why are you being so horrible to me?”

“I could ask you the same question.”

“I asked it first.”

“Because I don’t like being in the spotlight.”

“But you’re a beautiful lady and you’ve done a wonderful thing.”

“And you asked me if it was dangerous to be near me, it could be for you if you don’t move your foot and go away.”

“You’ve done some remarkable things, haven’t you? You’ve saved about three or four people’s lives, a regular Superwoman.

“Do I look like a comic strip heroine?”

“No, you look stunningly beautiful.”

“Mr Reporter Jackson, you are so full of poo, you could grow roses in your belly button.”

“Oh, well please take the flowers.”

“You can stick your flowers, where a monkey shoves his nuts.”

“How did you save her?”

“If you continue to harass me, I won’t save any more.”

“Are you likely to?”

“Of course, when I came from the planet Krypton, I vowed to save stupid humans, now push off or I’ll exert my superhuman strength and crush your foot to jelly.”

“I think you are trying to wind me up.”

“Mummy, wotcha doin’?” asked Trish.

“Trying to get rid of a troublesome insect.”

“I’m not kid, I’m a nice man who just wants to talk to her.”

“Why don’t you talk to him, Mummy?”

“He’s not very nice, darling.”

“I am kid, I brought her some flowers.”

Trish stood on tip toes to look out the window by the front door. “He has brought you flowers, Mummy. They are so pretty. Why don’t you take them?”

“He’s trying to bribe me into giving him an interview.”

“Oh for God’s sake Cathy, talk to him. If you keep his foot jammed in the door much longer, it’ll turn gangrenous.” Stella huffed and took the girls into the kitchen.

“Listen to her, Cathy, my foot, it’s hurting.”

“Maybe that’ll teach you to shove it so far into your mouth.”

“Please, Cathy. Look I’ll pay you for a story.”

“How much?”

“I dunno, fifty or a hundred quid, how does that sound.”

“Paltry.”

“Okay, two hundred, that’s my limit.”

“Payable to any charity I name?”

“Yeah, but we expect exclusivity and a picture.”

“Two fifty.”

“I can’t…oh, all right, two hundred and fifty.”

“Okay, you go and get me a cheque payable to the St Nicholas Children’s Home, and I’ll talk to you and you can take a picture of me, but you ask nothing about my family, especially my children.”

“But that would only be background stuff, anyway. It’s a human interest story, local heroine saves woman’s life, that sorta thing.”

“No. Now remove your foot or I shall break it and a few other bones afterwards.”

“You have a vicious side to you, don’t you?”

“Only when provoked.”

“I don’t believe you’d really hurt me.”

“There is evidence to the contrary, I put two thugs into hospital.”

“Wow, you really are a colourful character, aren’t you?”

“I am going to ease the pressure on the door and you had better remove your foot, because if you don’t, I will break your ankle. Your choice.” I eased the door open a fraction and he pulled his foot away. I then shut the door.

He of course kept banging on the door and ringing the bell. I went back to my laundry. After a while I looked and he’d gone. I half relaxed, a small amount of research would give him plenty of info, which would have surfaced before they ran the story anyway. He’d be back, and the fee would have gone up.

The phone rang a bit later, Stella answered it, but it just clicked. They were checking we were still at home. I felt shades of the attack from the Russians. I sent the children upstairs and told them to stay there. I pulled the curtains in all of the downstairs rooms, and suggested Stella stay in her room.

I watched a man, not John Jackson, approach down the drive. He had tabloid written all over him.

“Cathy Watts, I know you can hear me. I’ll pay your childrens’ home a thousand quid if you’ll give me an interview. I’ll be back in five minutes to hear your answer.”

I ran to the bathroom and filled a bucket with cold water-nothing like pouring cold water on a story, is there?. My next action was to call BBC Bristol and invite them to send a reporter. They would from Southampton, with a camera crew.

“No, on second thoughts, send me a cab with darkened windows and I’ll come to Southampton.”

“Okay, we can do that.”

“Tell the driver to come right up to the front door.”

“Okay. About half an hour?”

“I’ll be ready.” I put the phone down and went to tidy myself up. The childrens’ home was missing out, but maybe I’ll send them a donation some time in the future. Even dealing with the BBC without Simon or Des, could be a problem. I called Erin, she agreed to drop everything and get down as quickly as she could. At least I had some moral support. Finally I spoke to Simon, he told me to wait until he got there, he was calling for the chopper and would be there within an hour.

I went to ask Stella to look after the kids. She reluctantly agreed.

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 553

I changed into a skirt and top, with a jacket on top. On my feet I wore my boots, okay they have three inch heels, but they are comfortable and I feel happy to walk about in them. They also look fairly tidy if I am shown on camera. Having said that, I think the whole business is crazy and with the things that are happening in the world, I’m at best going to provide a side show or distraction.

I phoned Tom’s mobile number and left him a message on his voice mail. I thought it best in case he should see me on telly and throw another wobbly.

I made the girls promise to be good for Stella and told her what to give them for tea. Jacket potatoes with cheese, even she could sort that. I waited for the taxi, half an hour came and went. At forty minutes, my phone rang, it was the BBC to say my cab was held up but should be there in a short while. I was quite happy for the delay, it gave Simon or Erin more time to get there.

The tabloid man strode down my drive, he shouted that my time was up and I should speak with him. If I didn’t, the charity donation would decrease by a hundred pounds every ten minutes he had to wait.

His arrogance pushed me over the edge, and the bucket of cold water all over his shiny suit. He let out a yell and shouted all sorts of imprecations at me. I closed the window and pulled the curtains again.

Finally the taxi arrived, a large Mercedes with darkened windows. I pulled a scarf over my head, grabbed my coat and bag and said goodbyes to the kids and Stella. Les than a minute later, I was in the car, doors locked and heading out to Southampton as cameras flashed at my departure.

“What ‘ave you done, luv? Murdered someone?”

“No, the opposite, I saved someone.”

“Cor, who was it? The Queen?”

“Not as far as I know. Not even sure of her name.”

“Well there is a rumour that some bigwig’s wife got pulled out of the river yesterday.”

“Who was that?”

“Well rumour has it, that it was Ellen Townsend, wife of the newspaper magnate.”

Sir Malcolm Townsend was a hugely rich and powerful individual, sometimes called the Kingmaker because he had built or destroyed many local and national politicians, bankrupted two football clubs, started a run on the pound, affected the outcome of two general elections, and brought down a supermarket chain he quarrelled with over advertising costs. He wasn’t someone to tangle with, or tango with! Had I saved his wife’s life? I wasn’t sure.

“So where did she fall in?”

“Again, I dunno for sure, luvvie, but it was said to be near that park, the one about a couple o’ miles back that way, can never remember the name of it.” He jerked his thumb to indicate the park was behind us. Oh oh, it could be the same woman. Maybe the BBC would know.

“So are you the local ‘eroine?”

“I don’t honestly know, it would depend upon how many women fell in the river yesterday.”

He chuckled, “Can’t be that many, can it?”

“How do I know, maybe there was a massed suicide pact organised by the WI or something.”

“Nah, they say she fell in trying to rescue ‘er dog, who got out anyway. Is that your one?”

“Could be, dunno about the dog, though,” I lied.

“Here’s the motorway, cor it’s busy tonight.”

“Looks like Simon will be there before me.”

“Who’s Simon, luvvie?”

“My fiancé, he was flying down from London.”

“Are there any flights about this time of day?”

“He was using the company helicopter.”

“Geez, we could do with one ourselves. What does ‘e do?”

I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, if I said ‘banker’ this guy was likely to make me get out on the middle of the motorway. “He works in investments.”

“I thought all them blokes was out of work?”

“No, not all of them bought toxic US debts.”

“Silly buggers, spendin’ more than they ‘ad, and we get to bail ’em out. Bloody stupid if you ask me. If I did that, they’d be repossessing my ‘ouse not givin’ me billions.”

“I agree.” I didn’t really want to talk about it. I spotted a magazine on the front seat. My heart lifted. “So is Armstrong going to win an eighth TdF?”

“What?” He looked at me in the rear-view mirror, “You know about cycling?”

“I ride a bit, wouldn’t say I knew that much. Watched the London stages of the TdF a couple of years ago, watched the Tour of Britain a few times, watch it on the telly, the TdF and the Giro, that sort of thing.”

“Cor blimey, you princess, are the first one to ever notice it and to actually know one end of a bike from the other. What sort d’ya ride?”

“I’ve a Scott and a Speciaized, and Simon has an S-works Tarmac.”

“To go in ‘is ‘elicopter?”

“Not quite,” I laughed. “He has a rather jaundiced view of cycling at the moment, he’s still limping where a van caught him with it’s mirror and knocked him off, hurt his knee.”

“Yeah, there’s some right bleedin’ idiots about. Nearly got totalled meself a couple of years back, some stupid doctor hit me off me bike, just as well he knew what t’ do. Cost ‘im a few quid for my bike, though.”

“What did you have?”

“A Pinarello. I wanna get one of them Felt thingies Wiggo an’ Dopin’ Dave ‘as.”

“Yeah, they look really nice. They did a thing in CW the other week, didn’t they?”

“The Missus ain’t so keen on the idea, so she’s gotta ‘ave a new car first, then I can ‘ave one.”

“This is a nice car.”

“Yeah, the BBC have practically paid for it, I do a lot of their collections and deliveries.”

“Someone has to, and it’s a very comfy ride.”

“Not far now.”

My phone rang, “Hi, Babes, where are you, I’ve been here ages.”

“Stuck in traffic, we won’t be long.”

“We, who’s we?”

“Me and my driver, why?”

“Oh, nothing, it’s just I missed quite a big meeting, Dad was okay about it, but I don’t like to let him down. Who’s looking after the girls?”

“Stella, she was a bit reluctant but I got everything ready.”

“Are you wearing the dormouse suit?”

“No, they saw that last time.”

“Did they? See you in a bit then.”

“Erin said she was coming, too. Any sign of her?”

“I dunno do I? I’ve never met her, have I?”

“Okay, Julie Stevens is the contact person, why don’t you go and cadge some tea or coffee?”

“Yeah, good idea, Julie Stevens it is.” He rang off.

“This traffic goes from bad to worse. Mind you, I ‘ad to run some bigwig down to Weymouth the other week, ‘ow they’re gonna manage when the ‘lympics comes, God alone knows.”

“Well they have a year or two to go, and I believe they started the new road they’re building.”

“What sort of moron devised that, it won’t solve nothin’, just move the log jam along a bit.”

“They need to reduce the number of cars,” I opined.

“Too bloody true, maybe they’ll make you Minister for Transport, after this business is over, Ol’ Townsend is called the kingmaker, an’ it ain’t for nothin’.”

“I’m a biologist, not a politician.”

“What, you cut up rats and things?”

“Not quite, I’m a field biologist or ecologist, I count or measure things like dormice.”

“Dormice. ‘Ere, ‘ave you seen that clip on Youtube, with the girl juggling one, it goes down ‘er front. It is so funny.”

“Yes, I think I know the one.” I blushed profusely which he must have spotted because he said.

” ‘Ere, that was you, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, if you say so.” Just then we drove into the Television centre and I escaped after thanking him. Why have they always seen that bloody video?

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 554

I entered reception and said who I was, then, after signing in, I donned the visitor’s badge they gave me and was led off to see Julie Stevens, one of the producers working on the BBC News.

I was taken to the News Office by a diminutive blonde who wore a pair of very short shorts, which revealed the curve of her buttock with each step. I was surprised they allowed her to dress so provocatively, maybe she was going clubbing later?

Her French manicured fingers pointed out Julie Stevens, although the fact that Simon was engaged in an animated conversation with her and Erin, would have made her my first point of call.

As I entered the room, Erin noticed me and waved, Simon looked around and smiled. I walked over and he hugged me and kissed me. He then introduced me to Julie. We shook hands and she led me over to a corner of the room.

“Look, we’re going to go with Today in the South if that’s okay.”

“I have a camp of tabloid journalists outside my house, I’d like to know why.”

“Do you not know who you fished out of the river?”

“The cabbie said Lady Ellen Townsend.”

“He’s well informed. I have an idea which I’d like to go for, Simon and Erin say they’re happy with it, but the choice is yours.”

“What is this idea? I’m not standing by the river and reliving the rescue.”

“No, none of that, we’ve already got a film of the fire and rescue team who actually pulled her out.”

“So why do you need me?”

“Because it was you who prevented her being smashed against the bridge or lost downstream. It was you, who called the emergency services, and collected her dog for the police. You were the one who effectively saved her, and I have half a dozen firemen prepared to say so.”

“So what’s this idea?”

“Will you let Sir Malcolm Townsend thank you for saving his wife, on air?”

“You mean on your programme?”

“Yes.”

“Shouldn’t he be at his wife’s bedside?”

“He’ll be going straight back there.”

“Won’t that make it a bit like, This is Your Life? The bit where they say, ‘You thought your aunt had died in Australia twenty five years ago, but we traced the cemetery and she’s here now.’ Won’t people be a bit turned off by it?”

“On the contrary, I think it could be very powerful stuff.”

“Is it right that he should be exposed like this?”

“He’s on his way now.”

“What if he tries to kill me because he wanted her dead?”

“I don’t think he did or will try to kill you. They are well known for their devotion to each other.”

“Yeah but is it real?”

“I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t believe it’s anything but sincere.”

“Isn’t this going to look like Blue Peter? You know, badge winner of the month, sort of stuff?”

“You can say, no?”

“Okay, no.”

“Before you confirm that, we have a compilation of your previous exploits and status, which we wouldn’t have time to show if you met with him on set.”

“Hang on, you are threatening me.”

“Not at all, I have a schedule to fill, you are the lead story which means I have to say loads about you-which we have, a rescue in Bristol or on the motorway nearby, a rescue of a Russian girl from people traffickers, rescue of your sister in law from Russian mobsters, interception of a bag thief, plus miraculous cure of two children you foster, neither of whom could walk before you had them. You’re either a witch or an angel? Then, there’s the dormouse clip…”

“All right, you’ve done your homework.”

“And we haven’t yet mentioned your most unusual attribute?”

“Yes?”

“Your sex change.”

“Why is that relevant?”

“It makes you even more intriguing. I suspect it would make you a natural spokesperson for the cause.”

“What cause?”

“The acceptance of transsexual people.”

“Come off it, I represent me, I’m an ordinary woman-okay, I have a slightly different route to womanhood, I was born with a urinary defect, which has been fixed.”

“So you have never changed sex?”

“Not in my mind, no. I had a urinary anomaly sorted. I was a girl with a problem.”

“Isn’t that a little self-deluding?”

“I could just go home.”

“Would that be wise?”

“I’m beginning to think coming here wasn’t.”

“Television is the best way to get rid of the tabloids, plus Sir Malcolm owns several and could call off his dogs.”

“I cannot believe your programme would sink to such levels, just to boost ratings.”

“Cathy, this is the biggest story of the week, it even knocks the credit crunch off the lead story. It has everything, a rich media magnate, an heroic rescue by a beautiful heroine who isn’t all she seems, even an animal element. It’s perfect.”

“What do you mean, I’m not all I seem?”

“You know what I mean.”

“You can stick your bulletin as far up your stuck up little arse as you like. I’m going.”

“I’ll destroy you.”

“That remark has just cost you your career. I will speak with Sir Malcolm and ask him to do me a favour…” Julie Stevens went very pale.

“Please, I didn’t mean it.”

“Too late. I don’t take threats from anyone. I stood up to a group of Russian thugs, so you don’t even do more than irritate me. However, you are obviously not suited to your current job, so you have two minutes to resign or I shall ask to see your boss and tell him what you just said.”

“It’s your word against mine,” she said smirking.

“True, except I just happened to record it on my mobile phone.” I flashed the Nokia under her nose.

“Okay, I’m sorry I threatened you. I shall go and tell them I don’t feel very well.”

“There might be another solution.”

“Yes,” her expression changed although she still looked very pale.

“We do everything my way.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“We forget all my previous, including the dormouse clip. We go with just this story, I’ll give you an exclusive interview and I’ll meet Sir Malcolm on camera, but we film it before hand not live on air.”

“What about the footage we have with the firemen?”

“You can show that, then do an interview with me live, and then finish with me meeting her husband.”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Yes,” I said holding up my phone.

“Now, who’s threatening who?” she said.

“Yes but I’m from an underdog minority seeking public acceptance. For all you know I could be a suicide interviewee.”

“I know you’re not that.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, you have two foster-kids, and you’re a woman. QED?”

I smiled at her. “That one liner has just saved your career. Let’s do it.”

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 555

After a quick preparation in the makeup room, where essentially all she did was powder me to stop reflection from the lights, I was taken to the studio where I was seated just off camera.

The programme started, “Today in the South, this is John Highland and Lisa Buckingham.” The camera cut to Lisa.

“Yesterday in Portsmouth, a lady was out walking her dog, when the dog jumped or fell into the river, which was swollen and flowing very fast because of the recent weather, an inch of rain fell a day or so ago and the remnants of the snow made the rivers all very dangerous, with flooding in a number of areas. The Environment Agency issued several flood alerts for the area.

“When the dog seemed to be sucked under by the fast current, the owner tried to pull it out, however she overbalanced and fell in herself. She was seen by a young mother out with her two children and their own dog.

“The lady was indeed a lady, Lady Ellen Townsend, wife of the media tycoon, Sir Malcolm Townsend. The young mum who saved her, is Cathy Watts, who is with us in the studio.

“Cathy, describe what you saw and how you reacted.”

I gulped and dry mouthed said, “One of my kids saw the lady leaning over the water and pointed, as she did we both saw her fall into the river. We were standing on a bridge and although she was about a hundred yards upstream, I was worried that she could be smashed against the buttresses of the bridge.

“I called 999 and asked for help, then decided I had to try and do something myself.”

“You surely didn’t think of jumping in to help?”

“No that would have been suicidal, I don’t swim that strongly and I’d have drowned as well. No, I took the dog’s lead off her and threw it out to the drowning lady.”

“How long is the lead?”

“It’s one of those retractable ones and about fifty feet long.”

“Go on,” urged Lisa.

“I threw the handle end to Mrs Townsend, although I didn’t who it was then and dragged it past her, she somehow grabbed it and wrapped it around her arm.

“I knew it wouldn’t be strong enough to pull her out, so I just tried to keep her from being bashed against the bridge, and managed to tow her to the bank.”

“So you held her against the bank until the emergency services arrived?”

“Yes, I wasn’t strong enough to haul her out myself, so I had to take the risk that she might drown, but I couldn’t risk falling in myself, and the bank is very slippery with the mud and wet grass.”

“Absolutely, so what happened next?”

“A few moments later the fire brigade arrived and they used ladders to get down to her, then they hauled her out and the ambulance arrived.”

“We spoke to the fire crew who did the rescue, at the scene, the river was still very high.”

They cut to a clip of the three firemen standing by the bridge, they described what they did and the marks were still on the bank, including the ones where I nearly fell in myself.

“Cathy Watts, you’re a heroine, girl. You saved that lady’s life by your quick thinking and prompt action. We salute you.” The three firemen took a deep bow and I blushed. It cut back to Lisa.

“Your fan club, Cathy.” I blushed again and shrugged. “What do you think now about yesterday?”

“I don’t know, I saw the marks in the mud where I slipped and nearly fell in myself. I don’t know what I think.”

“When did you find out who it was you saved?”

“I didn’t save her, the fire and ambulance crews did that. I just helped them.”

“They think you saved her, but let’s move on, when did you find out who she was?”

“On the way here.”

“Really?”

“Yes, the cabbie bringing me told me of rumours that it was Lady Townsend. I hadn’t heard any until then.”

“You met her husband a few minutes ago, and he agreed to be filmed,” they cut to the film clip which must have been edited faster then the speed of light.

“You must be Cathy, you saved my wife?” Sir Malcolm came into the room and we shook hands. I nodded to his question. “How can I thank you?” He pulled me to him and with tears in his eyes, he hugged me and said, “thank you,” over and over.

“I don’t need thanks, I did what anyone would have done.” I tried to pretend it was an ordinary, everyday event. Unfortunately, it’s becoming that way for me.

“My dear, girl, nine out of ten people wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to do what you did. You are exceptional.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You are, and I owe you my life, without my dear wife, my life would be worthless and not worth living. I am forever in your debt.”

“Sir Malcolm, I release you from your imagined debt. You owe me nothing, just tell her to get well soon from me and my girls.”

He hugged me again and kissed me on the forehead. “Thank you, my angel.”

“As you can see,” said Lisa, “Sir Malcolm Townsend was delighted to meet our local heroine, Cathy Watts, who is a teacher at the university and mother of two little girls. He was right though in one regard, you are extraordinary, aren’t you?”

“I don’t think so,” my heart sank, what were they going to bring up now?

“You helped in trying to save a young man who crashed into a tree a few days before, while he was sledging. Previously, you saved a baby girl who was stuck in a burning car, and a Russian woman who’d been trafficked by a prostitution gang. This isn’t to mention catching a bag snatcher and making a documentary film on European dormice.”

I sat there dying of embarrassment.

“And you don’t think you’re special. I’ve got news for you, Catherine Watts, soon to be Lady Cameron, oh yes, besides all this she’s engaged to Lord Simon Cameron, you are one very special lady, and this programme in conjunction with Sir Malcolm’s media group have nominated you for an award from the Royal Humane Society.”

“Oh shit”, I mumbled beneath my breath, but at least they hadn’t mentioned my op.

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 556

I joined Simon and Erin in the green room, where they were being plied with drinks. I felt like a large something or other to get me over the shock of that news programme. At the same time, I hadn’t eaten for several hours, and a sniff of a barmaid’s apron would have had me legless-no tolerance of alcohol. Come to think of it, barmaids don’t wear aprons, and I certainly wouldn’t want to sniff one-even if they did.

Simon approached and hugged me, “So you’re going to be an award winner.”

“You knew this before, didn’t you?”

“Um,” he blushed, “Sort of…”

“Pig, you could have warned me.”

“Um, I was sworn to secrecy.”

“If I’d known about it, I wouldn’t have come.”

“Come on, Babes, you deserve some recognition for saving that woman.”

“No I don’t, anybody could have done what I did.”

“But they didn’t.”

“No, because there was no one else there.”

“See, it was fate.”

“Rubbish. Hello, Erin, thanks for coming.”

“I’m glad I did, congratulations on the award.”

“I haven’t got it yet, and I might write to the Humane Society and tell them to withdraw my nomination.”

“Whatever for?” she looked aghast.

“Why should I get one?”

“For saving a life.”

“Paramedics and firemen do it every day.”

“So, it’s their job, they are trained to do it. You improvise because it isn’t your job.”

“Everyone should try to help someone in distress.”

“I quite agree, but many of us don’t because we don’t have your presence of mind and fortitude.”

“Eh?”

“Fortitude, it means…”

“I know what it means, I think you’re mistaken, that’s all.”

“Your heart is twenty four carat, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s the same as everyone else’s. I am not special.” I was in the middle of my protest when several people from the news programme came into the room. They all exaggeratedly air kissed each other, and then came over to congratulate me. I stayed polite but felt increasingly out of place. Seemingly, Simon and Erin were having a good time.

I glanced around the room, finally my eyes alighted on Julie Stevens. I went over to her, “I hope you have a ride home arranged for me.”

“Yeah, same chap. He’ll be here at nine.”

“Nine? It’s only half seven now.”

“Yeah, so help yourself to hospitality.”

“I’d like to go home and see to my kids. Do you have his phone number?”

“This gathering is to honour you.”

“I want to go home.”

“Can’t you stay just a little longer, they want to make a couple of speeches and so on. Sir Malcolm has paid for it.”

“No, I’m going now, even if I have to walk home.”

“In those boots?”

“Watch me.” I brushed her aside and stormed through to reception. I handed in my badge, “Can you call me a cab?”

“Miss Watts, there is a car organised for you, why don’t you go back to your party?”

“Ask him to come now, please.”

“I don’t know if I can do that.”

“Do you have his number?”

“Um, yes, but…”

“Then either call him, or get me a cab-now.”

The skinny blonde shook in her hot-pants once she understood I was serious and angry. She called the driver who replied he’d be there in twenty minutes.

I asked her if there was somewhere I could buy a sandwich and a cuppa, she gave me back my visitor’s badge and pointed the way to the staff canteen.

I sat there anonymously, having instructed her not to tell anyone where I was. I didn’t want any of this fuss, so maybe marrying Simon wasn’t such a good idea, he seemed to thrive on it.

I ate a tuna salad sandwich made with wholemeal bread, and drank some BBC tea. It tasted better than all the jokes had led me to believe. Fifteen minutes later, I was waiting outside for my car. It was on time and I got in.

“You’re quite a gal, aren’t ya?” commented my driver as he sped away.

“What d’you mean?” I asked, playing dumb.

“I watched the programme while I ate me tea.”

“Which one is that then?”

“Oh come off it, you’re the future Lady Cameron, wonder-woman and general nice guy.”

“I hope the last bit is correct, if the rest isn’t.”

“I thought you were ‘avin’ a party.”

“No, I have two children under five, I want to be back with them.”

“Baby-sitter let you down?”

“No, I’d just rather be at home with my kids than getting paralytic with a bunch of complete strangers.”

“Yeah, right.” He was silent for a while and we entered the motorway. “You’re embarrassed, ain’tcha?”

“About what?”

“The award business.”

“Why should I be?”

“I dunno, but you are, admit it.”

“What if I am?”

“Nuthin’.”

I sat and fretted. I was essentially shy and preferred to be with small numbers of people I knew rather than anonymous masses. The exception was when I was teaching, then I’d happily lecture a couple of hundred. I suppose the latter is role play, whilst the other is being me-and that makes me vulnerable. No wonder Superman, sleeps up in space, I wonder if I can fly, it might be nice.

As the car sped along in the dark, I felt myself yawning and closing my eyes. Next thing, someone was touching my shoulder and calling, “Cathy, you’re home.”

I woke up enough to recognise Tom’s house, and I sleepily thanked my driver and let myself in. The corps de presse had gone, I hoped on a permanent basis.

The house was in darkness save for the hall and stair lights. I went to check on the dog; she lay in her basket and wagged her tail. I let her out in the garden and gave her a dog chew when she came back in. Then I switched the kettle on and slipped quietly upstairs to check the girls.

I stood in the doorway of their bedroom and gazed at my two little angels as they slept. How could anyone want to be anywhere but here? I hoped my unintentional celebrity didn’t cause them troubles. I tried to avoid it, but in jumping from the pan, seemed to always end up in the fire. I kissed them both and tucked them in.

As I turned from the girls’ bedroom I jumped out of my skin-Stella was watching me. “Have a good time?”

“No, it was positively awful.”

She smiled at me, “I did, they behaved impeccably and went to sleep after I read them a story.”

“Oh good, thanks for doing that. I’m making some tea, want some?”

“No thanks, I’ll be running back and forth to the loo if I do.”

“Well you can come and talk to me if you want, the tea isn’t obligatory.”

“I’m off to bed, if you don’t mind-looking after two kids is hard work, you know.” She winked at me and went back into her room and I went down to make my tea.

My phone rang and a slurring Simon asked where I was. I replied, “Home in bed,” and switched off my phone. Ten minutes later, I was there wearing out my remaining brain cell as I tried to finish the Guardian crossword before I fell asleep.

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 557

Are children like cats, who are supposed to know when you are sick or down, and come and comfort you. I was very tired after the drama of the day before and just wanted to sleep. I felt two little bodies in bed with me, but they stayed still and I slept a while longer. Eventually their fidgeting began to wake me, but it was the phone that finished the job.

“Hewo, I’s Mima, who’s you?”

I took the phone from the eager beaver who’d been lying alongside me a moment ago. “Hello?”

“Mrs Watts?”

“Yes, who is that?”

“It’s John Jackson from the Echo.”

“I don’t think I have anything to say to you, Mr Jackson.”

“Please, you spoke to the BBC, so why not speak to us? We are a local paper after all.”

“I really am, very busy.”

“Please, five minutes will do plus a photo, pretty please.”

“What about the children’s home?”

“Two hundred, if you let us have a photo as well.”

“Two fifty.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Cathy, but okay, what time?”

“Eleven?”

“You couldn’t make it ten, could you?”

“I have two children to sort out.”

“Yeah, but we have two editions to sort out, and we could still make the earlies.”

“Half past.”

“Okay, see you then.” I put the phone down and muttered, ‘Yeah, I can’t wait.’

“It was half past eight and I showered all three of us at once. Trish, who hadn’t experienced the group soaking before thought it was wonderful, and couldn’t keep her eyes off my boobs and pubes.

“Will I be like that when I grow up, Mummy?”

“Like what?”

“You know, have boobies and a slit?”

“If that’s what you want.”

“I’ve got one aweady,” bragged Mima.

“Yeah, lucky you.”

“Wucky me,” echoed Mima and she giggled.

“Will I really look like you?”

“That I doubt, because we aren’t related, but there’s no reason you can’t look like an adult female with the right sort of treatment. If it’s what you want.”

“It is, Mummy.”

“Well if it is still your ambition in a few years, we’ll start to do something about it. Just be thankful, the school is able to take you.”

“Oh I am, Mummy. It’s going to be such fun.”

“I hope so.” For what it’s going to cost me.

I dried and clothed the three of us, I thought I’d better look a bit tidy for seeing the press, especially as they were going to take my photo. I decided any mention of my previous persona would be stonewalled, and they could make what they wanted to of it. I would sue if they defamed me.

After breakfast, I put on a the bread machine and also got the laundry underway. It was nearly ten, and I tidied up my hair and did some makeup. Trish had followed me, wanting to borrow a pair of my shoes-she opted for the boots I’d worn yesterday and a pashmina. “Can I have some makeup on?” She begged me.

I put some lipstick on her, a touch of blush and a tiny smear of eyeshadow. I waited at my vanity, knowing the clomping of little hoofbeats would follow. It did and Mima borrowed another pair of my boots, this time a shorter pair and a scarf and waited for me to apply her makeup. I thought a children’s makeup set would be a useful present.

I had just come downstairs, and had warned the girls to stay put in the dining room, when the doorbell rang. It was Jackson, he was early. As the sun was shining, they took my picture standing against the front of the house.

I took them into the dining room and made some coffees. I asked the photographer not to take any more pictures, and because I’d cooperated, he nodded and put his camera away.

John Jackson thankfully kept to the local story, I agreed when he suggested the BBC had done the historical stuff, his readers were more interested in the here and now. So we talked about the rescue and he was quite straightforward in his questioning. So I was able to keep reasonable control over the interview. He asked about the award and I couldn’t say anything about it, because I knew nothing about it. I also suggested that it hadn’t been awarded yet and not to count his chickens.

They were just leaving when a young woman stepped out of a small van, she went around to the back and produced a huge bouquet of flowers. It was from Sir Malcolm and the photographer got one of me accepting it. The girls could help me arrange it later.

The laundry was dry enough to hang out on the line, which is what I did, until I saw someone peeping over the fence with a telephoto lens. I went back in and came out wearing a scarf and sun glasses. I was so swaddled, no one would be able to tell who I was. I finished hanging out the washing. Kiki barked at someone else and went flying down the garden, I saw a body heave itself over the fence with the guard dog in hot pursuit. She came back snorting and woofing occasionally.

The phone rang and it was the local radio station, they asked if I’d do a quick interview with them. I told them I would over the phone, they accepted. Again it was fairly benign, they only wanted a quick sound-bite, which they got. How celebrities cope, I had no idea, I felt irritated.

After lunch, I made some more soup-it’s wholesome and quick, with fresh bread, I took the girls to see Tom. He’d seen the piece on the telly and thought it went well. I told him about my departure from the party and he smiled. “Simon stayed, did he?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“An educated guess.”

Trish and Mima sat and ate a little bunch of grapes each while we talked, then Tom read them a story, or pretended he was, he was actually making it up as he went along, pretending to read his menu card. The girls loved it. He said they looked very grown up in their makeup-they wouldn’t take it off, though thankfully, they did wear their own shoes.

I took his dirty pyjamas and gave him some clean ones, plus underwear and some top clothes. He was sitting by his bed in his ordinary clothes. While we were there, the ward sister came up and told me he was being discharged the next day, could I arrange to collect him after ten? I had no plans for the next day, so I agreed.

“I won’t be sorry to get out of this place, they’re all sick,” said Tom when she’d gone.

“So were you when you came in.”

“That was weeks ago.”

“It was about ten days ago, Daddy, that’s all.”

“I see you got a mention in the Guardian.”

“Who did?”

“You, haven’t you seen it?”

“Haven’t had time, I had to get Barbie and Cindy ready.” He smirked at my comment and smiled at them, they’d just finished their grapes. Then they were drinking his orange squash, honestly, they were like a plague of locusts.

The man across the bay, called them over and gave them some sweeties each. Then the one next to him gave them a pound coin each. They came back feeling quite successful. I thanked the men who just waved.

“Have ye been shining ma desk, every day?”

The two girls looked at each other, “Um, not exactly,” said Trish, “we’ve been rather busy avoiding the press, Gramps.”

“Oh, alright then, but you’d better do it tonight if you want some pocket money, because I shall be inspecting it tomorrow.”

“Yes, Gramps, we will.” I was hoping they’d all forgotten, I had enough to do without looking after that as well.

“I wanna go wee wee, Mummy.”

“So do I, Mummy.”

I had the fun of pleading with the nurse to allow me to use the ward toilet instead of going down to the ground floor. What joy this parenthood business.

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 558

I stopped the car and went to the parking meter, I bought two hours, that should be enough, I thought. Then I struggled with two littlies and the shopping.

The only post had been a large envelope from Trish’s new school detailing everything imaginable, and some things not easily imagined. However, it included the uniform requirements, so we went to the shops it recommended.

She was in her element in her kilt, because that’s what the tartan skirt was essentially, and she looked so innocent. I bought her blouses, two skirts, two cardis and a blazer. Then there was gym kit, official knickers, socks and shoes. She had to have a raincoat of particular colour and style-the horrid dark green that seemed to be in everything. I’ll bet they even had recommended wellies, it was as bad as I imagined the army to be, and they provided everything unless you were an officer.

I won’t tell you how much I spent-but it would have nearly paid for the first term and bear in mind, she would outgrow half of this in a few months. So, if she doesn’t like it, the school I mean, I shall strangle her and bake her in a pie.

I had the girls wait at the shop while I made two journeys to the car to carry it all and lock it in the boot. After which we wandered more generally into town. We only had about an hour before everything closed, so I bought a couple of items for Mima’s wardrobe, new vests and pants, and some new pyjamas for both girls.

With just twenty minutes to go before everything shut, I took them into Argos the catalogue shop and while they looked at things in the cabinets, I ordered and paid for a girls’ makeup set for each of them. They weren’t too expensive, in fact, compared to the stuff I used, it was very good value. I collected them when the ticket number was called and we walked back to the car.

“What’s in the boxes, Mummy?”

“Nothing for you, why?”

“I just wondered, because there are two of them.”

“So, you have two shoes, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“They’s shoes,” squeaked Mima.

“If they are they’re different to the box my new ones are in.”

They couldn’t see what was in the boxes, the bits that stuck up beyond the edges of the carrier bag, and I wasn’t going to tell them. These would be useful for one of those days when they had nothing else to do and the dolls had lost their attraction.

Back at home and Trish’s wardrobe bursting under the mass of school clothes, I shouted to Stella, as Trish was modelling her new uniform. I wanted her to see our little schoolgirl. It seemed very quiet, maybe she’d gone out?

I knocked on her door, and entered. She was lying on the bed. I spoke to her, apologising if I woken her. She didn’t answer, she just lay very still. I switched on the light and rushed over to her.

She was unconscious, and lying in a pool of blood. For a moment I was shocked and stood looking at her. The blood was coming from below, she was miscarrying. I checked her pulse and it was present but weak and rapid.

I told the girls to stay in their room and ran for the phone. After calling the ambulance, I went down and left the front door on the latch, so they could come straight in.

Then I dashed into Stella and tried to clean her up a little. I thought I could see a little foot, but I felt so sickened by it all, that I couldn’t see for tears. We’d been out having fun and she was trying to cope with this-I’d never forgive myself if she or the baby died, although I had grave misgivings about the future of either of them, the way things looked.

The ambulance arrived with bells and lights, and it didn’t take the crew long to agree with my diagnosis. I helped them lift her onto the stretcher and carry her down to the van and off she went.

I went back to the girls, they were both hugging each other and crying. “I’m sorry I shouted, girls, but Auntie Stella has been taken very ill and I had to call the ambulance.”

“Is she gonna die?” asked Mima.

“I hope not, Meems, I hope not.”

“Was she sick?” asked Trish.

“I don’t think so. I think she’s had what they call a miscarriage.” I then tried to explain it to them.

“She’s lost her baby?” said Trish showing some comprehension of my garbled explanation.

“Can we go and find it?” asked Mima.

“It’s gone to Jesus,” said Trish. Whilst I didn’t agree with the suggestion, for the moment I couldn’t think of anything better to say.

“It’s gone fa cheeses?” asked Mima, “wike we had wast night?”

“Please,” I said, before Trish said something unpleasant to her sibling, “I think the baby has died. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. I need to go and phone Simon, so please be good for a few minutes.

Simon was in a meeting, so I asked to talk with Henry. He was in the same meeting. Not my day, it seemed. I called Monica, she was out or not answering the phone.

I sent a text to Simon, ‘Ring me v. urgent, re Stella. C.’ I sent the same message to Henry.

I really wanted to be at the hospital, but needed to be here with the girls, I couldn’t really take them with me. I did try calling Pippa, but she wasn’t answering either. Where was everyone?

Trish changed out of her uniform and back into her play clothes. I did them some egg and chips, I wasn’t hungry. Then as I was washing up, the phone rang.

Trish took it, “Hello, this is Trish, can I help? Mummy, it’s Daddy.” I ran to the phone wiping my hands in a tea towel as I went.

“Babes, what’s up?”

“Go and play in the lounge, girls.” I waited until they were out of earshot. “Stella has miscarried, I think the baby is dead.”

There was silence and I think I heard him sniff. “Is she alright, Stella, I mean?”

“I don’t know, she’d lost a lot of blood, she was unconscious when I found her, we’d been to see Tom, and I got Trish’s uniform on the way back.”

“So which hospital is she in?”

“I don’t know, I couldn’t go with her because of the kids.”

“No, course not. Okay, I’ll try and find out and get back to you.”

“Simon, I tried to call Henry, but he was in your meeting.”

“Yeah, I’ll send him a message. As soon as I find out where she is, I’m on my way.”

“Okay, drive carefully. I love you.”

“I love you too, Babes.” He put the phone down. As soon as I put mine down, it rang again. This time it was Henry.

“What do you mean, you don’t know which hospital she’s in, what are you a moron?” I burst into tears. “I’m sorry, Cathy, I’m at sixes and seven’s here.”

“I had to stay with the girls, the ambulance would take her to the nearest A&E with an ICU,” I sobbed down the phone. “Simon was trying to find out which one.”

“Okay, I’m on my way, Simon can call me in the car.”

I put the phone down and it rang immediately. “Hi, Cathy, it’s Pippa, you called me.”

“Yes, I wondered if you could baby-sit?”

“Which night?”

“Now, Stella’s been rushed into hospital with a miscarriage, it’s touch and go.”

“I’d have to bring my two over.”

“Yeah, that’s okay if you can cope with my two as well.”

“Your two are like little angels compared to my pair of demons.”

“Get a cab, I’ll pay.”

“I’ll pack a bag, if you’re going to the hospital it could be a long night.”

“Yeah, I’d better go and do that for her.”

“See you in about an hour.”

“Thanks, Pippa.”

I stripped Stella’s bed and washed the matteress cover and sheets. Thankfully, it had saved the mattress from most of the damage. I then found her pre-packed bag. I took out all the baby stuff and just packed some toiletries, knickers and nightdresses and stuff for her.

I took it downstairs and the girls looked at me with tears in their eyes. “Are you going away, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Don’t go, Mummy?” screamed Mima and they both burst into tears.

“Hey, you two, I’m going to take these into the hospital for Auntie Stella. Auntie Pippa is coming to look after you two. Come on, let’s get you undressed and ready for bed. I had just finished that when the front doorbell rang, and in stepped Pippa and her two boys. I paid off the cab.

The phone rang. “That’s Simon I expect, confirming she’s in the Queen Alex.” I picked up the handset. “Hello?”

“Mrs Watts?”

“Yes.”

“This is Portsmouth Hospitals Trust…”

I felt my knees go week.

“…can you come down right away.”

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 559

My heart was pounding as I drove to the hospital. I parked and shoved several pound coins into the parking meter and then almost forgot to display the ticket. At least I knew where ICU was, I’d spent some time there myself, however, running while worried and cycling are two different kinds of exercise, so I was puffed when I got to the unit.

I introduced myself to the nurse. “Thanks for coming so quickly. We have a dilemma, Stella is very weak and we’re going to have to remove the baby, who we think is still alive but could well be damaged. We don’t have much time, and we need the family’s go ahead to get started.”

“I thought, this was a case of life and death?”

“The mother should survive, the baby is prem and probably won’t. But if we delay, both are at greater risk.”

“Carry on, do the best you can.”

“Can you authorise the operation, seeing as the mother is unconscious.” I took the form and signed, hoping I was doing the right thing. Time was of the essence and I was surprised they’d waited for me. It transpired they were waiting for a theatre, there’d been a nasty accident on the M27. I hoped it wasn’t Henry or Simon.

I was led to a waiting room and left to sit and worry. I did think about prayers but to whom or what? I just had to believe in the skills of the surgical team and the follow up care.

It still made me angry with myself, that we were having fun while Stella was in dire straits. How could we have left her like that? Why didn’t I check her first? What is Tom going to say? Plus all the others. I felt very down and was quite close to tears, mainly of self pity, when Simon came rushing in.

“They said you were in here, how is she?”

“I don’t know. I authorised surgery, I hope I did the right thing.”

“I’m sure you did.”

“I can’t believe we were out having fun and Stella was home and in trouble.” I hugged Simon and burst into tears.

“You weren’t to know, were you?”

“I should have checked her before we left.”

“You don’t normally, do you?”

“No, not as a rule and she doesn’t always come down to breakfast. God, I hope it wasn’t having her look after the kids the other night.”

“It’s not your fault, Cathy, these things happen. So don’t blame yourself.”

“But I feel it’s my fault.”

“It isn’t, and that’s and end of it.” He hugged me, and at this moment I was happy for him to be decisive and masterful, I just wanted someone else to save the world while I had a little rest. “Where’s Dad? When I last called him, he was on the M3 not far off the M27.”

“I don’t know. There was an accident on the M27, hence the hold up with the theatres, maybe he’s been caught up in that?”

“God knows, he was ahead of me by quite a few minutes, he should have been here first.”

“Maybe he doesn’t drive as fast as you?”

“You never travelled with Dad?”

“I don’t think so, well not very far.”

“He is a total lunatic, it’s where Stella gets it from. Having said that, he is better than Stella, mind you the average blind person has more anticipation than Stel. I hope she’s all right.” He hugged me and I clung on to him like a drowning woman a straw.

We sat chatting and trying to buoy each other’s spirits a little. Simon looked at his watch. “Where is Dad? He could have walked here by now.”

“Try his mobile again.”

“Why didn’t he answer the last time?”

“Speak to Monica.”

“I can’t, she’s in France.”

“Oh, I didn’t know.”

Simon dialled again, he listened and shook his head, “According to this he’s got his phone off. I know he’s a twit at times, but even he wouldn’t have switched off his phone.”

“Perhaps he’s in a dead spot…”

“Like the morgue?” he laughed at his own joke.

“Don’t be horrid, you know somewhere that can’t get a signal, or perhaps his battery is flat.”

“What’s taking so long with the operation?”

“They can’t rush things, Si, they’re trying to save Stella and Puddin’.”

“I thought you said she’d lost the baby?”

“I did, I thought she had, so did the paramedics. The sister here wasn’t too hopeful.”

“I’ll bet Trish looked smart in her uniform,” he said with a faraway look in his eye.”

“She did, she looked so pleased with herself and so grown up.”

“Did you take any photos?”

“No, I went to get Stella to come and see her, when I found…”

“Yeah, course-I forgot. Geez, where is Dad, and what’s happening with Stella?” He glanced around the room. “I hate this place-this rotten room.”

I put my arm on his to try and offer my support.

“I spent hours in here when they were operating on you.”

“Goodness, of course you would.”

“And you’ve been here before with Stella, as well.”

“No, that was another room.”

“You sure, this one doesn’t look as if it’s been painted for a couple of centuries, and these bloody magazines were printed by bloody Caxton.”

“Simon, you are funny.”

“Me? You’re always telling me I don’t have sense of humour.”

“Do I? Sorry, I take it all back.”

“You’re not taking the proverbial are you?”

“No, why?”

“I just wondered.” He looked at me suspiciously.

“I’m not, honest.”

“Hmmm, methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

“Is this the culmination of a public school education?”

“Her name was Kate, too.”

“Who?”

“In The Taming of the Shrew.”

“I’ve got news for you Si, your quote comes from, Hamlet.”

“Eh? Nah, I’m sure it’s Shrew.”

“I did both, it’s Hamlet.

“Geez, I can’t even get my quotations right, without you correcting them.”

“Sorry.” I wished I hadn’t said anything.

“I mean, if you can’t rely on your education, what can you rely on?”

“Your friends and family, your wife and your children.” I held on to his arm.

“I don’t have a wife.”

Yet.

“Well we don’t have any kids do we? Nor are we likely to.”

I felt this remark stab me right through my heart. I felt tears form and roll down my cheeks. I know he didn’t mean it, but it had been said.

“Perhaps you’d better find someone else then,” I said and rushed out of the room.

I went out into the drive and stumbled along, “Cathy, Cathy, wait.” He came running up behind me. “Damn this bloody leg.” He put his arm around me, but I stepped away from it. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“How did you mean it, then?”

“I didn’t mean it in anyway. It just slipped out, I wasn’t thinking, I’m sorry.”

“You hurt me, Simon Cameron; doubly so because you have two children at home who worship you and call you their daddy. If you hurt them, we’ll be out of your life so fast, it’ll make your head spin.”

He looked shocked. It was entering his head that my commitment to the children in my care was greater than it was to him. At this moment, it was quite true.

“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again, please come back with me. I need you, Cathy, we all need you.”

“Mrs Watts?” a voice called from behind us.

We turned around and a nurse was calling from the unit. We hurried back. “Is there some news?” I gasped, clutching Simon’s hand.

“Does your sister in law have a father called Henry?”

My stomach flipped, this wasn’t going to be good news. “Yes,” we both answered.

“Oh dear, I thought it might be, I have some bad news for you.”

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 560

We both shared a sense of impending doom. “What about my father?” asked Simon.

“Your father?” said the nurse looking at me for some sort of clarification.

“Simon is Stella’s brother,” I said quickly.

“Oh, okay, well, he’s in recovery.”

“Recovery?” said Simon. I felt relief, it tends to mean they’re still alive.

“Yes, he’s got multiple fractures.”

“Hang on a minute, start at the beginning, please.”

The nurse looked bemused, “You didn’t know?”

“Know what?” said Simon.

“Mr Cameron senior has been involved in a road traffic accident.”

“On the M27?” I asked.

“I think so; anyway, he has two broken legs and cracked ribs, they had to repair the fractures surgically.”

“Where is he?”

“In recovery, he’ll be going up to orthopaedics later.”

“He’s going to be dopey, Si,” I added.

“No change there then,” said Simon, “what’s happening with my sister?”

“She’s still in theatre.”

“Bloody hell, it’s taking a long time.” Simon’s frustrations and worry voiced themselves.

“These things do sometimes, and we can’t rush them.”

“I know, sorry.” He looked rather sheepish and I squeezed his arm. The nurse left us and we went back to sitting on the uncomfortable seats.

“We could go and get a cup of tea somewhere.”

“I’d rather wait here, just in case.”

“Okay, we wait.”

“You could go and get one, if you like.”

“Si, I’ll stay with you.”

“I’m sorry about what I said earlier, you were quite right to get annoyed.”

“I’m well aware that I can’t have kids, it’s something I think about every single day. I was so jealous of Stella, but at least I have two loving kids I can mother and who think the world of you, too.”

“I know. I was out of line, I am sorry.”

“They so badly need a male role model.”

“What about Tom?”

“He can help, but the father figure is so important.”

“What for girls?”

“Yes, remember they will have relationships with boys or men later. Their core feelings for the opposite sex are greatly influenced by their parents. They’ve both had traumatic experiences of parenting, it’s essential we don’t compound their trauma.”

“You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you?”

“A bit.”

“A bit, that’s an understatement. It’s crazy; it takes a family crisis before we talk enough to understand each other.”

“What’s going to happen at the bank without Henry?”

“It’ll run as it always has. The deputy chairman will take over until he’s back. It will run as nearly normal.”

“What about your division?”

“It’ll be there after I’ve gone. I’ll call Eric, he’s the deputy chair and tell him what’s happened to Dad and also update him on Stella.”

“I wonder what happened?”

“The police will be putting together a report I suppose.”

“He might not remember.”

“Good chance he won’t. Still if he broke his legs, it sounds as if he hit something pretty hard, and head on, and the engine came back on to him.”

“Or the shock of the impact.”

“What inertia and so on?”

“Yeah, sorry, physics was not my favourite subject.”

“Anyway, speculating is wasting breath, maybe I would like a quick cuppa.”

“I think it might be good, we could be a long time yet. I’ll give the nurse my mobile number, she can call us if we’re needed.”

“Yeah, okay.”

We walked briskly to the hospital cafeteria, and managed to get a cuppa and couple of sandwiches. It wasn’t ideal, but it filled a gap and enabled us to keep going a bit longer. “Did you mean that bit about the children coming before us?”

“Yes.”

“That’s it? Yes?”

“Is now the time to discuss it?”

“Why not? It’s not like we can go off and watch a film is it?”

“No, but things are pretty stressful, I think I’d rather discuss things of that sort when we were both fresher and able to give it our full attention.”

“I don’t see what the complication is.”

“Si, I don’t want to talk about it now, okay?”

“Bloody women,” he let go my hand, which in itself felt quite hurtful. “You’re gonna dump me aren’t you?”

I stopped him and faced him, lifting his face to look me in the eye. “Simon, I have no intention of dumping you, neither have I any intention of pursuing this conversation.”

“I’m not good enough for you, am I?”

“Geez-us, Simon, what is the matter with you? Not good enough for me? If I remember correctly, it’s me who has the problems, you’re just a millionaire banker, with a title and an estate in Scotland, who happens to be quite good looking and with whom I am in love.”

“Without you, I’d fall apart, Stella would have died, the children would be worse off. You are so bloody perfect, we need you, girl, we all need you.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Si.”

He put his arm around me. “Stay with me, at least until all this is over. Please help me to get through it.” He burst into tears and it took me minutes to calm him down.

“I have no plans to go anywhere, besides the girls call you their daddy, they need you too. And I hate to admit it, so do I.”

“Ah, Mr Cameron and Mrs Watts, could you please come through to the office,” said the ICU sister. I clamped on to Simon’s arm and my stomach flipped again.

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 561

She led us into a small office packed with books and papers, small boxes and plastic bags. “Sorry, it’s a bit cramped. This is Mr Edwards.” At my quizzical look, she added, “The surgeon who has been operating on Miss Cameron.”

“Hello, how is Stella?” I asked, clutching Simon so tightly my fingers were hurting, so goodness only knows what his arm was like.

“She is very poorly, she seems to have lost a lot of blood.”

“Yes, I thought that when I called the ambulance. How is the baby?”

“Not good, she would have been a breech birth. One foot had tried to emerge and looks damaged. But she was severely anoxic and might have brain damage.”

I was holding on to Simon and felt his body go limp under my grasp, and he keeled over, crashing into a bookcase-I just couldn’t hold him. Between us we managed to open the door and lay him down on the floor, his feet sticking out of the door.

The surgeon examined him, “I think he’s just fainted, although that eye is going to look lovely in the morning. An ice pack might be useful, Sister.”

“Thank you for checking him over, I think the emotion is just too much for him.”

The surgeon smiled, “I thought that women were supposed to be the weaker sex.”

“Not in his family.”

“Ah, that was his sister…”

“And niece.”

“Quite.”

“Thanks for giving them a fighting chance.”

“I don’t know if I’ve done them any favours, I might have just delayed the inevitable.”

“Might we see them?” I asked whilst Simon groaned from behind and below me.

“Assuming the young man hasn’t concussed himself, once they get them to their respective units, yes you can. It might even help, oh and if you know any prayers, now might be a good time.”

“Yes, um thank you again.”

“You’re welcome, that pretty smile is payment enough.” He left, stepping over the supine Simon. Blushing I helped the sister and a nurse raise him up and sit him on a chair. He looked quite green and the sister dashed off and came back with a cardboard receiver. Holding it under Simon’s chin, she waited unmoved as he vomited into the bowl. I had to look away or my sandwich would have joined it.

After a little sit down and drink of water, I felt better, so did Simon. The ice pack on his face, we went off to the ICU where Stella was either sleeping or unconscious. I sat next to her and held her hand. She looked very pale and drawn.

“Congratulations, Stella, you’re now a mummy too. You have a lovely little girl, so now you have to concentrate on getting well so you can look after her. I also think we’re going to have to think of a better name then Puddin.” Simon spoke to her as well and told her how proud he was of her and his niece.

We were directed up to the premature baby unit. After donning hats, gowns and shoe covers, we were allowed into the unit and led to an incubator where a tiny little body lay. It looked so small and frail. I was sure I’d seen bigger dormice.

“Is that all, from the size of Stella, I thought it would be at least the size of frozen turkey.”

“It’s she, not it, Simon. If she was the size of frozen turkey, how would Stella have ever delivered her?”

“How do I know, I’m a bloke-I leave all that side of things to you women.”

“Are you the father?” the nurse asked Simon, “Oh, what happened to you?”

“I slipped and banged my head. No it’s my niece, I’m Stella’s brother.”

“Can I touch her?” I asked, desperate to tell Stella I had touched her little hand, it was so tiny. I’m sure dormice have fingers nearly as big.

“Um, well be very gentle, she is very poorly.”

“I will.” I put my hands into the gloved inserts they use for changing the babies and performing any other service to the baby. I touched her little hand and her fingers tried to close on my finger. It was so lovely, this tiny little doll was a living person. I stroked her tiny forehead and her eyes fluttered. “Grow big and strong my little one,” I said to her. I looked at the injured foot, it was wrapped in a fleecy bandage. I touched it and she moved her leg. “Let this heal and grow strong.” She whimpered a little and then yawning, went back to sleep. “Do you want to touch her?” I asked Simon.

“I’d better not, with my luck an arm or leg would fall off.”

“I think that’s enough stimulation for the moment,” said the nurse and ended our visit.

“Do you feel alright?” I asked him as we walked down from the special care baby unit.

“Yeah, why? I’m not going to keel over again, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I’m concerned for you, that’s all.”

“I’m okay, apart from a headache, I suppose I’d better see where Dad is.”

“What about telling Monica?”

“She’ll be back from France by the weekend, that’ll be plenty of time.”

“Are you sure?” I felt that if it was Simon who’d been injured, I’d want to know as quickly as possible.

“Yep, Pater’s orders.”

“What?”

“Pater, Latin for father.”

“I know, I did Latin.”

“So why did you need to ask?”

“I thought you said Peter.”

“A likely tale.”

“Suit yourself.” By this time we’d reached the hospital reception and they checked the computer for Henry’s whereabouts.

“He’s on the orthopaedics ward, level six.”

“Is he likely to be conscious? He’s only just come out of surgery.”

“Dunno, luv, I ain’t a nurse.”

“Want to go and see?” I asked Simon.

“Yeah, I’ll go, you go back to Stella.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, go and tell Stella, you’ve touched her baby.”

“Is that wise? She might feel awkward about that, I mean doing it before she has had a chance.”

“She’s unconscious. She can hardly object, can she?”

“I suppose not, but if she sits up and belts me one, you’re in deep doo-doo when I see you next.”

He looked at me strangely. “If she sits up and belts you, they’ll throw the pair of you out for fighting. So behave yourself.”

“I’ll try to, give Henry my love if he’s awake.”

“I’ll tell him you’re coming to tuck him in later.”

“That’ll finish him off won’t it?”

“You’re joking, If I told him you were going to sleep with him, he’d wake up if they just killed him.”

I blushed like a beetroot. “I hope you’re joking.”

“Don’t be silly, only a blind man wouldn’t fancy you, and even he would when you spoke.”

“Stop it, Simon, you’re embarrassing me.”

“I’m also telling you that you’re the most beautiful woman I know.”

“I’d better go and talk to Stella.”

I went and sat down beside her again and touched her hand. “Hello, Stella, it’s me again. I’ve been to see your baby, she is so beautiful. They let me touch her little hand, it’s tiny but she grasped my finger. She is so lovely, I’m so pleased for you. She is really beautiful, just like her mum.”

For a moment I thought I felt her hand move, and her eyes seemed to be flickering under the closed eyelids, but it came to nothing, just the beeping of the machines and the sound of her laboured breathing. I still felt very anxious for mother and baby and wished I’d had a magic wand to wave to make it all better.

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Wuthering Dorbikes (aka Bike) Part 562

I sat and talked to Stella for about an hour, her nurse came to check everything and I got up and walked about. I waited for the nurse to finish then walked back towards the nurse’s station. “How long is she likely to be out?”

“I don’t honestly know, it was a pretty gruelling op, she’ll be better in the morning.”

“I have two small children with a friend who’s sitting for me. If there’s not a lot of point in staying, I might as well get home.”

“Yeah, tomorrow will be much better, we’ll call if there’s any change.”

I went back and after kissing Stella on the cheek, told her I’d come and see her tomorrow. As I was leaving the unit, Simon strolled in. “Any change?”

“No. How’s Henry?”

“He did recognise me, but drifted off, so I told him I’d pop in tomorrow.”

“I have to come to get Tom.”

“Hell, is he still here?”

“Until tomorrow.”

“Should we go and say hello?”

“You can, I feel I ought to get back to the girls.”

“Yeah okay, where is he?”

“Cardiac.”

“Of course, I’ll be back in a while, want me to bring anything back?”

“No, oh hang on, can you get some milk?”

“Sure.” I kissed him and we parted. My ticket on the car had expired but no one had noticed. I drove home feeling quite tired and almost shocked. I felt I should have run Pippa back but I was so tired, and she was happy with the taxi, apparently she knows the one driver from their schooldays.

The boys were a bit dopey when they got in the car, but my two were up in bed. I went to see them. They weren’t asleep, and as soon as I walked into their bedroom they asked me how Stella was.

“She is still very ill and so is baby Puddin’.” They pleaded with me to describe the new baby, who would be their foster cousin, although in reality, she would be more of a sister-a baby sister-they’d spoil her to death, assuming she survives long enough to come home.

“When can we see her?” asked Tricia and Mima bounced in her bed agreeing with her.

“When she is well enough to come home, at the moment she is very very small and very very frail. She might still die.” I thought there was no point in beating about the bush. They both groaned and cried when I said this, so I had to calm them down. “Look, girls, she is very ill and very small-it’s not a good combination, it means she will need building up and special care from some specially trained nurses. If and when she gets well enough to come home, they will have to see how she is before they can say yes.”

“But that means she could die and we’d never meet her,” said Tricia.

“I’m afraid that could well be the case.”

“That’s not fair-“

“Life can be very tough at times, young lady, especially for a very small baby.”

“Can’t we go and see her in hospital?”

“Not for the moment, she is too susceptible to all sorts of germs, so we can’t let too many people go and see her.”

“Can we go and see Auntie Stella?”

“Yay, Annie Stewwa,” echoed Mima.

“I don’t know, I shall go and see her tomorrow, if she’s any better I might ask the sister if I can bring you two in to see her. If she isn’t they won’t let me. If I do take you in, you’ll have to promise to be good girls and not touch anything, and that especially applies to you-madam,” I said poking Tricia gently in the chest.

“Okay, Mummy.”

“We wanna stawee, Mummy.”

“Didn’t Auntie Pippa tell you one?”

“Nooooo,” they both shrieked.

“Okay then, once upon a time, in a land a long way from here there lived a beautiful princess…” I slipped away as they both drifted off to sleep and got down just as Si let himself in.

“Your milk, milady.”

“That’s not enough to fill the bath is it?” I quipped back at him and the look of shock on his face was priceless.

“If I’d known you wanted that much, I’d have asked the tanker I just overtook, to come round.”

“I’m only joking, Si.” I took the plastic bottle with six pints of the white stuff and kissed him. “Thanks for getting it.”

“‘S okay, anything to eat, I’m starved.”

“I made a new loaf today, please leave enough for breakfast or it’ll be shop bread tomorrow.”

“Oh, alright.” He helped himself to some cheese and tomatoes and wedge of bread. Seeing him eat made me feel hungry, so I got myself some cereal. “That stuff will never put hairs on your chest,” he said disapprovingly.

“Good, if I had a hairy chest my boyfriend would probably leave me.”

“Depends, if it was Rin Tin Tin, he’d probably like it.”

“So you’d like to go out with Lassie, would you?”

“Not really, because Lassie was really Laddie, it was a dog not a bitch.”

“Geez, do they get tranny dogs as well?”

“Only in Hollywood, apparently.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Some zoologist you are?”

“Hollywood has far too many strange life forms for me to be able to know them all.”

“That is perhaps the understatement of the week.” He patted his lap and I went and sat on it. “I’ve missed you,” he said kissing me gently…

Next morning and I’d slept badly; I was a bit sore after Simon tried to show me how much he’d missed me, and I was still worried about the baby and Stella. I awoke with strange life forms in the bed, who’d spoilt their silent invasion plans by yelling ‘Daddy’ as they spotted the extra body in the bed.

I did try to ignore the noise and go back to sleep, but the wriggling as they squirmed next to Simon, was too much and I had to give up and get up. The shower helped me feel a bit more awake, and when two little bodies joined me under the falling water, I wasn’t sure if I was pleased or irritated by their intrusion. Life was going to be busy that day and the moment or two of solitude and calm under the shower was precious.

After drying and dressing both girls in something fairly tidy-we had to go and collect Tom-and he’d be expecting to show them off to the nurses. Plus Si would want to take them in to see Henry and I’d love them to see Stella. Whether or not she’d be pleased to see them, was another matter.

While they all ate breakfast, I phoned the hospital-Henry was awake and eating breakfast, Simon gave me a thumbs up when I announced this. Then when I asked to talk with someone on the special baby unit, they informed me they had someone off sick and could I call back later. Stella, ‘was still quite poorly, but she had been awake and knew I’d been to see her.’ So at least things were stable, for the moment.

I made up a casserole and shoved it in the slow-cooker, after frying the meat and onions together with garlic. It would be done by lunchtime or even better by teatime. It was quite a large slow-cooker, so I was able to put the potatoes in it as well; it would all taste of everything, my favourite type of casserole.

When it came time to get Tom, I had just tidied myself up and prepared to go in the Mondeo, so I asked Simon to move the kiddie seats from the VW.

“Do you need to take the big car? Tom can get in yours without any trouble.”

“I just thought I’d give it a run, but it might need some diesel. Okay, I’ll take mine, I only filled it the other day.”

“I wanna go in Daddy’s racing car,” said Trish-I knew that kid was gonna be trouble.

“I wanna go, too” said Mima eyeing the Jaguar.

“So do I,” I said silently. “Come on, into Mummy’s car.”

“No,” said Trish, quickly followed by Mima. I’d never experienced this sort of dissention before and wasn’t sure how to play it.

I looked at Simon and he looked even more adrift and out of his depth than I was. “Trish, Mima, if you want to come with me to collect Gramps, get in my car, now.” They both ran to Simon and hugged his legs. “Now please, girls, or you don’t come.”

“I wanna go with Daddy,” said Mima.

“Me, too,” Trish agreed.

I walked over to them, “Simon isn’t going to collect Gramps, so if you want to come with me, get into the car, now.”

“Don’t look at me, girls, if I were you, I’d do what she says, she can get very angry and you’ll get no treats until you’re at least thirty five.”

” ‘Snot fair,” said Trish walking towards my car, with Mima following and muttering something I didn’t decipher, but it sounded like it would rhyme with ‘mugger’. I’d packed some more things for Stella while Simon played with the girls after breakfast, it never fails to amaze me, that I do everything for them, and they make twice as much fuss of him.

Am I jealous? Bloody right, I am.

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Wuthering Dorchimes (aka Bike) Part 563

My two obnoxious passengers became quite quarrelsome on the drive to the hospital. Why is that kids or pets play up when you feel least able to deal with it? They can sense the stress I suppose.

I stopped at traffic lights, “Look, if you two don’t behave yourselves, I’ll make you stay in the car while I go and see Gramps.”

“‘S’not fair,” huffed Trish. I was wondering if I could a part exchange her at the children’s home, trade her in for someone less demanding.

“‘S’not,” echoed Mima.

“Life isn’t fair, that’s just the way it goes.” I tried to be philosophical in the hope it would calm me down.

“Why?” pouted Trish, I could see her in the rearview mirror.

“Why what?” I asked.

“Why isn’t life fair?” she asked.

“S’not,” said Mima, who I was beginning to think was referring to her nasal passages.

“I don’t know, but it isn’t-well-some times it is and sometimes it isn’t. It’s just the way it is. Why does it rain when you want do mow the lawn or go for a walk?”

” ‘S’not,” repeated Mima, who made me think she’d got her needle stuck.

“But why, Mummy, why?”

“I don’t know, Trish, if I did, I would tell you. There is no answer, it’s just randomness, which is often what seems to be as much an influence as anything else.”

“What’s randomness, Mummy.”

“‘S’not,” said you know who.

“Happenstance-no that’s no good, coincidence-not much better, um, it just happens, without rhyme or reason.” Oh bugger, why does she always ask these things when my brain is in hibernation mode?

“What’s a happerance?”

“A what?”

“The thing you said, a happerance.”

“No, I said happenstance, it means something that just happens without a reason.” The way this is going, I’ll have strangled them both by the time we get to Tom. Why couldn’t I just say it was all God’s fault? They can hardly prove me wrong, can they? Well not a for a few months anyway.

“I wanna go wee wee,” said Mima, very loudly.

I pulled over to the side of the road and stood her over the drain cover in the gutter. I held her while she weed. As soon as she was back in her seat, Trish wanted to go. I wonder if I could plead, justifiable homicide-or is that one of those things that only happens in ‘Merican cop shows?

We finally got underway again, and a Jaguar went flashing past. Thankfully, Batman and Robin didn’t notice it, they were two busy planning their next assault on my good nature.

It didn’t come, but the waiting for the second shoe to drop meant my nerves were frayed anyway. I parked the car and only went to get the ticket, but because I didn’t take them with me, they thought I was abandoning them and they screamed the place down. That’ll teach me to make idle threats.

“What is all this noise about?” I asked angrily. They really were pushing my buttons.

“We thought you were going to leave us in the car,” said a sobbing Trish.

“You weft us,” sniffed Mima.

“I went to get the ticket to park the car, you pair of silly geese.” I got them both out of the car and wiped their faces with the flannel I always took out with me. Pippa hadn’t given me much advice about caring for kids, but she did say she always took a damp flannel in a plastic bag to wipe hands or any other bit that needed wiping. In Mima’s case, the prediction she’d been making most of the way here, had now actualised, and I wiped her runny nose.

I made Mima hold my hand and Trish hold Mima’s. In my other hand, I carried some more stuff for Stella, and one or two things for Tom. We called by the UCI. They had doctors doing rounds, so the sister wasn’t happy about me bringing the children in.

“I only want to change her nighties over. I won’t be a tick, and she’d love to see my kids.”

She narrowed her eyes, “You have five minutes. If the children cause any sort of disruption, I’ll wash them down the sluice.

“If they do, I’ll help you,” I replied, which seemed to take her by surprise.

Stella was awake. She still looked awful, but smiled when she saw my two fidgets enter her cubicle. “What does this do?” asked Trish pressing the alarm button.

I hit the reset before anyone came. I grabbed her hand, and dragging her to the chair, plonked her in it and said threateningly, “If you so much as breathe, I am going to give you back to the children’s home.” Of course as soon as I said it, I knew I’d said the wrong thing.

“You said, I could stay with you for as long as I wanted,” she said before bursting into tears.

“Hush,” I said to her while grabbing Mima, who was about to wander off. “Talk to Auntie Stella,” I said to them both. They chattered as I collected her dirty nightdress and put out a clean one.

“How do you feel?” I asked Stella.

“Bloody awful, but nice of you to ask.”

“How’s Puddin’?”

“Desdemona, is holding her own.”

“Desdemona? Is that what you’re calling her?”

“Yes, after her daddy, what’s wrong with that?”

“Okay, I only asked.”

“Well what else could I have called her?”

“Desiree, or even Elaine.”

“Elaine? What for?”

“I was thinking of a pet name of Lainey.”

“Oh I see.”

“Can we have a pet, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“We have a dog. We don’t need anything else.”

“I wanna goadfish.” I visualised a tank of piranhas and throwing them both in. Nah, they’d still find the skeletons.

After everyone kissed Stella, we moved on to Tom’s ward. He was walking with a stick, up and down the ward when we got there. The two brats rushed to hug him and nearly knocked him down. I wondered if the local zoo would take them? I’d never known them this naughty, boisterous or clumsy.

“Girls,” said Tom loudly. “Careful, you’ll have me over.”

“Miss Watts, please control your children, it isn’t visiting time, so any more disruption and they’ll have to leave.” The staff nurse read the riot act. One more thing and I was going to book myself in with a nervous breakdown and let someone else worry about the kids.

“Right. You two horrors, sit there and don’t move,” I hissed at them. I heard Tom chuckle, but resisted the urge to slap him. As I packed up all his stuff he walked round the other beds with one of the girls on each hand. Of course the other men made a fuss of them, so they stopped crying and ate their recently acquired handfuls of fruit and sweets.

We strolled back to the car, Tom spotted Simon’s car and was about to say something when I changed the subject. “He’s in seeing Henry.”

“If you want to go and take the kids to see him, I’ll happily wait in the car.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“Half an hour tops, okay?”

“Fine.”

“Come on, girls, let’s go and see Grandpa Henry.”

They almost frothed with excitement, and we walked back into the hospital again. Much to my surprise, Trish was uneasy in the lift, whereas Meems, wasn’t.

As we walked along the corridor to the ward, I asked her why she didn’t like the lift? “I got stuck in one at the home. Danny Gleeson jammed the door and I couldn’t get out.”

“Well that won’t happen here, they’re serviced regularly.” However, I made a mental note to walk back down the stairs in case I’d tempted Providence. I couldn’t find any wood to touch.

They went crazy when they saw Simon at the bedside. But he scooped them up and hugged them into submission. I wasn’t strong enough to do that. Henry was pleased to see them. He was in a side ward, which he was pleased about and he hadn’t had to pay for it.

“So what happened?” I asked him.

“Truck came through the central crash barrier, engine came back onto my legs. Took them an hour to cut me out.”

“Wow, how horrible, how are you now?”

“I’ll live, but I don’t think I’ll be racing you on a bike for a while.”

“I look forward to doing that again, but I’ll give you a week or two to train for it.”

He chatted with the children and they made a fuss of him. His legs were in plaster of Paris, and they were magnets to Trish’s wandering hands. Fortunately, he couldn’t feel her touching his toes and the edges of the plaster casts. I wondered if they did strait-jackets in her size?

I asked if there was any washing, and Simon produced Henry’s dirty clothes from the accident. I shoved them in a bag to take home and wash. “What about spare pyjamas and so on?” I asked.

“I bought some more on the way in,” said Simon, “I’ll get someone to go to the house and pick up some more stuff. Where’s Tom?”

“In the car, so we’d better go. Come on, you pair of monsters. Let’s go and see Grandpa Tom.”

“Thanks for bringing them in. Have you seen Stella?”

“Yes, she’s making slow progress, but she is awake.”

“What about the baby?”

“I don’t know, have you been up there, Si?”

“Not today, leave the kids here with me and slip up there quickly.” I didn’t need telling twice. She looked much the same, small and pale with tubes in every orifice and wires attached to the rest. I couldn’t resist touching her again, and once again stroked her head and told her to grow big and strong, then her leg and told it to, heal and grow strong. I don’t know why I did so, it was as if something or somebody was telling me to do it. I had an impression of my mother nearby, but decided that was just my tiredness and an overwrought imagination.

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Blithering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 564

Before I left Puddin’-I don’t like Desdemona, too Shakespearean for me-I took a photo of her on my mobile. I didn’t expect to be able to see much when I loaded it on to the computer, but it might shut the girls up for two ticks, and it would be something for Stella to have if it prints off reasonably well.

I collected the girls and we walked back to the car, where the ever patient Tom was fast asleep. When I first saw him, I thought he was dead for a moment-they way things were going, it wouldn’t have been that big a surprise-then I heard him snore as I opened the car door.

He woke up while I was putting the girls in their car seats. I was surprised they could actually keep as quiet at mice-what a stupid expression, as anyone who has had mice in their house will attest they run around between floors in hobnail boots or clogs-so as not to wake their ‘Gramps’. They silently sniggered, Mima to the degree of holding her hand over her mouth to stifle all but very high pitched squeaks, which only the average bat would hear comfortably.

“Oh ye’re back, och, I must hae nodded off.”

“Probably, the car gets a bit airless this weather.”

“Aye,” he said nodding in agreement. “Well hello, lassies, did you see your other granddad?”

“Yes, Gramps, we saw Grampa Henry, and Mummy went to see baby Desdoma,” offered Trish.

“That’s a mighty strange name,” said Tom.

“Try Desdemona.”

“Ach well, maybe I prefer Trish’s version, it’s a bit Moorish.”

“Oh, Daddy, how could you? That was a terrible pun.” He said nothing but smirked to himself.

The journey home was better than the outward one. I got the girls singing Ten Green Bottles, although Mima was using her own arrangement of the tune, we arrive home with windscreen intact and tempers easier than earlier.

I got some simple lunch and Tom went for a snooze and the girls I wrapped up and they played with their prams and dolls in the garden. I sat down with a cuppa in the kitchen, after doing the clearing up and fell asleep at the table. I woke when Trish came in for a drink and my tea was cold.

“Were you asleep, Mummy?”

I yawned and nodded, then said, “Yes, I was.”

“Were you tired?”

“I must’ve been.”

“Would you like me to make tea for you?”

“Thank you so much for asking but I think I’d better get the tea.” She looked a bit crestfallen. “Would you like to help me?”

“Oh yes please, Mummy.” How wonderful to hear someone enthusiastic about making a rather mundane meal.

Just then, Mima came charging in; “It’s waining big dwops.” I rushed out and brought in the two prams, the wheels would need wiping before they were taken back into the lounge, so I made the girls a drink and then wiped down their prams.

I made some more tea and took Tom a cup. He looked at me and smiled. “Ye’ve rather got yer hands fu’ whit with one thing an’ anither.”

“Just a bit, I’ll cope. It’s good to have you back home, Daddy.” I hugged him and he pulled me to sit on the bed with him.

“Look after yersel’ as well as the others, ye’ve muckle dark rings under yer eyes.”

“Tonight, I think I can get a better sleep, last night was too frantic for words.”

“Aye, well remember to do it, straight way efter ye’ve read ma bedtime story.”

“Shouldn’t you be telling me one, not the other way round?”

“Here’s one for ye: Once upon a time, there was a very pretty boy, who wis really a lassie. Anyway, she bumped into a local witch who helped her to sort that problem out. She fell in love with a handsome but dippy, prince who loved her back. The witch was his sister, and she was always in trouble, not having proper control of her broomstick or anything else-she got herself into family trouble.

“Meanwhile, our lassie, who was really a princess, was given two little angels to look after, not helped by the grumpy old curmudgeon of her adopted father, who went and got himself ill and added to her load. Just to make things more interesting, her fiancé’s father, the king, had a mishap and hurt his legs and the princess witch, gave birth to a very sma’ bairn, who will probably need the beautiful princess to help look after it.

“Because of the shortage of servants in the land, the beautiful princess had to look after the hoose as well as a whole brood of dormice, a university, make films and complete a PhD thesis-all while she does the other stuff, too.

“Because it’s a fairy story, she does it all and marries the prince and they live happily ever after. How ‘m I doin’?”

“I liked the last sentence best.”

“However, this is real life and instead, the beautiful princess looks ill and exhausted and unless she takes a break, she is going to be ill, and then who will look after her children?”

“I know, I know-but what can I do?”

“Leave me and go up to Bristol for a few days, take the girls with you.”

“What about you and Stella?”

“We’ll manage, I’ll get one of those agencies to come in and do some basic cooking and cleaning.”

“No, I can’t, Simon will give me a hand, he’s still keeping an eye on Henry.”

“If ye wait for Simon, ye’ll wait for a lang time.”

“I know, but I can’t go off and leave you all.”

“You don’t have a choice, I’ll speak to Simon, maybe he could cope with the girls for a day or two?”

“Oh no, I’m not leaving them, if I go so do they. I’d only worry so much that I wouldn’t rest. No, Daddy, it’s a nice thought, but I’m staying, I will rest a bit more though. You’ll see, a good night’s sleep and I’ll be fine.”

“Dae ye think I came up the Clyde in a banana boat?”

“No, why?”

“Why are ye treatin’ me as if I did?”

“Well you’re expecting me to drop everything and run off.”

“That is possible.”

“In your mind-yes, in mine-no, it isn’t. I don’t run away from troubles, they either follow you or wait for your return. I prefer to face them and resolve them.”

Or by opposing, end them.

“Have you swallowed the complete works of the bard?”

“No, I was just musing.”

“Anyway, methinks the old fart doth protest too much.”

“Is that the Bowdler edition?”

“Who?”

“In the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, they used a censored form of Shakespeare in schools, done by a man called Bowdler. It was awful.”

“I’ll bet.”

“So you won’t take a break?”

“No one is Bowdlerizing me.”

“Kiss me Kate,” he said smirking, and I pecked him on the cheek as he hugged me. “One day you’ll realise how special you are. We are so lucky to have you with us until you do.”

“I have no plans to leave you, Daddy, I wish you wouldn’t keep hinting at some mission I seem to have, because it’s scary. My life is busy enough now without saving the planet, or the dormouse or whatever. Besides, I don’t believe you.”

“You will one day. You are special.”

“Yeah, but only insofar as having no ovaries or other female bits, and my femaleness comes from pregnant horses’ pee-that’s how special I am.”

“One day, my lass, one day you’ll know.”

“Look, I need to drink my tea before it goes cold again and I’d better see what the girls are doing.”

When I went down the girls were playing quite happily with their doll’s house, so I downloaded the photo onto the computer while I drank my tea, it doesn’t take long with infrared.

At first I thought something was wrong with the picture, but as I tried to screen out what looked like light intrusion into the photo, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up on end-Puddin’ and I were surrounded by a blue-white light.

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Wuthering Ice creams (aka Bike) Part 565

I looked at the photo again; it showed part of my arm and hand as I held some of the tubes and wires clear, Puddin’s finger was touching mine and there was a light blue fog around us. It seemed stronger on my hand almost as if it was flowing from me towards the baby.

It had to be some sort of anomaly, light affecting something, or reflecting off something. I tried to remember if there was any source of blue light near the incubator. I couldn’t think of any, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t. I was there to see the baby not the unit.

I shook my head, it’s so easy to see supernatural or extraordinary explanations for mundane things. We see flying saucers instead of weather balloons, ghosts instead of technical errors in photos. I would take my small digital camera with me next time and see what happened then. It was probably something ordinary that would explain the outcome.

I mean the other week they were referring to a wind turbine that had been hit by a UFO, because that was the only explanation for all the damage-until some engineers looked at it, and something had sheared off and smashed into the other blades, damaging all of them. It didn’t stop the tabloids asking stupid questions, but then I’d be more surprised if they asked sensible ones.

Tom came to see what I was doing, he saw the photo and snorted. “What’s the blue stuff?”

“I dunno, some sort of reflection I suppose.”

He shrugged at my answer and felt both of my shoulder blades.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Just checking to see if you’re growing wings.” I was about to get angry with him when I saw the twinkle in his eyes; obviously, the master of the wind up, was feeling better.

“Any more jokes like that, and you get no tea.” His response was to stick his tongue out, he then walked to see his grandchildren, who had just noticed he was there.

I cooked a light meal, Simon had come home but spent two hours on the phone or his laptop. I always thought a dongle was something a bit rude, apparently not, it’s the mobile link thing on his computer. It isn’t terribly secure, so he was limited as in what he could actually do.

By the time we’d finished eating, Henry’s washing was dry so I folded it and shoved in a bag. Simon had had enough of hospitals, so he offered to baby sit if I wanted to go and see Stella. He asked if I would pop over and see Henry as well. As if I wouldn’t?

The girls were delighted that Tom and Simon were there to be twisted around little fingers, although Trish did wonder if she’d missed a chance to see the baby. She had, but I didn’t remind her of it.

I decided I would cycle to the hospital. I checked my lights, the batteries in the rear one needed changing but the front light was fine. I only had to take a small bag of clothing, so I shoved a small rucksack on my back, complete with a few things I might need, hankies, phone, lipstick-usual cycling stuff. So after changing, I went off on the Specialized to the hospital.

I had some spare batteries with me, which was just as well, because half way there my front light went. I swapped batteries and resumed my journey. I passed a small general stores and bought some more batteries, just in case.

I was quite warm and glowing when I clomped into the orthopaedic ward. I gave Henry his clean clothes, and as he had no dirties, I’d be able to take any that Stella had. I spent about twenty minutes with him, most of which we chatted about bikes.

“I do like a girl who can talk about something other than housework and babies.”

“We can talk about those next time,” I said before I pecked him on the cheek and went to see Stella. She was expressing milk and not enjoying the exercise. I felt very inadequate.

“You could do this if you took the right hormones, you know.”

“So you keep telling me.”

“Well why aren’t you? It’s not every woman who’d be happy for you to breast feed their brats.”

“No, I’m well aware of how generous an offer it is, Stella, but I think you should enjoy this yourself; after all, little Dezzie, is going to need all those antibodies to help her build herself up.” I didn’t tell her of the story of the woman whose baby died because she contracted herpes simplex, or cold sore virus from breast milk.

“There, that’s finished.” She put down the small bottle of milk. I didn’t think it was enough but then what do I know? I supposed it would improve with practice.

“If you ask them nicely, maybe they’ll let you feed her,” she added screwing on the top of the bottle.

“I don’t like to be a nuisance.”

Stella called for a nurse, who appeared a few moments later. “Can my sister in law feed Desdemona?”

“I don’t know, Stella, I’ll give them a buzz for you.” I felt so embarrassed, but envious, I’d jump at the chance. We chatted on and the nurse came back. “Yeah, she can if she goes straight up.”

“Off ya go then, don’t forget her din-dins.” So I did.

“Have you fed a prem baby before?”

I indicated I hadn’t, so she showed me what to do. She was still in the incubator, and could suck a bit. Most of her feed was going in by a line to her stomach, but she was encouraged to take some orally. I asked the midwife to take a piccie of me doing it, so she obliged and took several.

I glanced around, I couldn’t see anything that reflected blue. Probably a technical fault, camera phones are pretty basic, but the Canon the nurse was using, although compact, was a good camera.

I spent about fifteen minutes with Puddin’ before they kicked me out. I took the camera back to show Stella the pictures. They were a bit small and you couldn’t see too much of anything, but the blue light, if it was there, was very faint.

I rode home and the light on the front seemed to be much improved, shining brighter than I remembered it before. Must be better batteries. I put the bike away in the garage and took the lights off it. The front light seemed much lighter in weight. I examined it, there were no batteries in it. “What the hell is going on?” I said out loud, and switched it on, nothing happened. I took it and the new batteries indoors with me and asked Tom to check it. He couldn’t find anything wrong with it, except it had no batteries.

I showed him the old dead ones. He put them in and it worked perfectly. This was getting stupid. Where were the new ones? I’d opened them and used four of them. I couldn’t find them. I was sure I’d stopped at the shop and bought them, Duracell ones. I remembered the black and gold colours as I changed them.

“Maybe you dropped them?” suggested Simon interrupting our conversation.

“I’m going mad, here, Si, load these on to your computer, will you.” I handed him my camera. “I must have bought some.”

“Did you get a receipt?”

“No but I know how much money I had with me, because I took my little purse.”

“How much did you take?”

“I had thirty pounds, two tens, a fiver and the rest in change. The batteries cost me four quid.” I picked out the purse from my ruckie, and handed it to Tom. He tipped it out onto the table. There was thirty pounds in it.

I shook my head, how could I explain what I was sure I had just done? I didn’t mention the light working without any batteries at all. I must be going barmy. “I don’t get it at all, I was served by a young woman. I bought the batteries. I know I did.”

“It’s okay, it doesn’t matter one way or the other.”

“It’s not you who’s going crazy,” I said angrily.

“Cathy, you are overwrought, it’s easy to make mistakes.”

“Is there something wrong with your camera?”

“Why?” I asked.

“These photos, they are quite good except for the blue light reflecting from somewhere, was there an ambulance parked outside with it’s lights flashing?”

“Coulda been, I suppose, I didn’t notice it if it was.” Had Simon found the answer? Probably: it was mundane after all and I must have dreamt about the batteries.

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Wiggling Dominoes(aka Bike) Part 566

“Don’t worry about it,” cooed Simon as he hugged me in bed.

“It’s not you who’s going bonkers,” I sniffed, trying not to cry.

“The blue light could be anything. Maybe your camera’s playing up.”

“But it’s not, is it? You proved that when you took a photo of Tom, yet when you took one of me, the blue was back.”

“Does it have a built in tranny detector?”

I rolled over and leaning with my elbow in his ribs, asked, “Does it what?”

“Okay, okay, you made your point; take your bony elbow out of my lung.”

“So how do you explain it?”

” I can’t, can I? Tom seems to think it’s some sort of miraculous thing, you are the one, the chosen one.”

“Oh, come off it, Si. We all know that was wossisname, you know, the nice looking guy in the Matrix.”

“Keanu Reeves,”

“Dat’s da one.” I tickled his nipples, “Hmm, are you getting manboobs?”

“No, and that tickles, but don’t stop.”

“Maybe we should do the camera test?”

“Hmmm,” he moaned as I sucked it through his tee shirt.

“What about the batteries, how do you explain that?”

“You said yourself, you didn’t spend any money, so how could you have bought them?”

“With my card?”

“Did you have one with you?”

“No.”

“You aren’t going mad.”

“How do you know?”

“You’d have to be sane to begin with, you’re not. Ouch! That bloody hurt.” He rubbed his tender nipple after I’d bitten it.

“I’ve just infected you, you’ll be a vampire looney now, too.”

“Nah, I’m a banker, remember?”

“Damn, I forgot. Heart of stone.”

“Granite, dear boy,” he said in a John Gielguid voice.”

I tried to respond in a Richard III as done by Olivier, but sounded more like Olivia, or probably Olive Oyle. He just laughed at me, so I had to bite his nipple again. He squealed and pushed me over on my back and began nibbling mine.

We didn’t get any further in our discussion about my ‘losing it’ and I eventually drifted off to sleep an hour and a trip to the bathroom later. I woke feeling anything but rested, with little bodies either side of me. These days I didn’t seem to feel them getting in the bed.

“Mummy,” said Trish, trying to engage me in conversation. I groaned in reply and tried to ignore her. “What’s wrong with Mummy, Daddy?”

“She’s feeling a bit blue,” he said, and began to laugh. If Trish hadn’t been between us, I’d have kicked him, and hard.

“She doesn’t look blue to me,” said Trish, lifting the bed clothes as if she was performing a post mortem.

“It’s a joke,” Simon remarked, and slapped me on the bum. At that, I got out of bed and locked myself in the bathroom.

“Mummy, I wanna wee,” called Mima through the door.

“Go away,” I shrieked back, then I heard her crying. I was crying myself, sitting on the toilet seat and sobbing. I heard what I assumed was Simon’s voice. He tried the door, then shouted at me, “Cathy, open this door! Come on, pull yourself together.” It just made me cry even more. I was falling apart, and he was either making jokes about it or telling me off. I stayed where I was.

Some while later, the door was knocked gently, and Tom called through the door, “Are you alright, Cathy?”

“No, no I’m not,” I sobbed back.

“Can we talk about it?”

“What for? I’ve blown everything, haven’t I?”

“I can’t discuss this through a door, girl. Come along and open it, I’m sure we can sort things.”

“I don’t think so, Daddy.”

“Catherine, please do as I ask.” I stepped forward and undid the door. It gently opened and he held out his arms to me. He hugged me and I cried on his shoulder.

“Can we sit down, sweetie?” he asked me, leading me to the bed.

“I’m finished, aren’t I? Gone completely bloody loopy.”

“I don’t think so. You’ve had a hard time recently, and neither Simon nor I have been here to help you.”

“You were ill, and besides, all he does is laugh at me.”

“When he spoke to me, he wasn’t laughing. He was frightened-frightened you’d lose the two children.”

“Oh, Daddy,” I sobbed, “I can’t go on like this.”

“I know, sweetheart. So you get back into bed and I’ll bring you up a cup of tea.”

“I’ve got children to look after,” I protested weakly. I felt so tired.

“Simon and I will look after the girls. You have a sleep.” I did. When I woke up at lunch time, my tea was cold on the bedside table and I could smell bread cooking.

I showered and dressed, feeling quite a bit better, then went downstairs. I got a rapturous welcome from two little people. “Hmmm, who’s making bread?” I asked.

“Twish,” said Mima.

“Yes, Daddy helped a bit…”

“She showed me what to do. Hello, Babes.” He kissed me and all I wanted to do was dissolve in his arms. However, watching us intently were two young women, and I wasn’t going to pass on any trade secrets to such young competition.

“I need to get something for lunch.”

“We’ve had it. Tom and I had chicken curry, and the girls had tomato soup. There was a tin in the cupboard. So it’s only yourself, you have to cater for.”

“Oh, I’ll just have a slice of toast or something. I’m not very hungry.”

“Erm, there isn’t any bread left…”

“Which is why you got Trish to make some more …”

Simon blushed and nodded.

“Okay, is there any milk left?”

“Oh yes, plenty of that.”

“I’ll have some cornflakes, if there’s some of those left.”

“I think so.” Simon reached into the larder and pulled out the packet and shook it. “Yes, it’s half full.”

“You need more than cereal, my girl,” said Tom with authority.

“Why? It’s what I usually have for breakfast.”

“You need to charge yersel’, it’s only your energy that’s keeping that mite alive.”

“Daddy, please.” I indicated the two children and what they’d make of what he said-hopefully nothing.

“‘Tis true, what shows on the photygraphs, is what I’m talking aboot. Ye need to go in and see her again for a wee bitty longer yet.”

“I don’t honestly know if I feel up to it. I was thinking of giving it a miss today.”

“Ye canna, she needs ye tae do it, or the consequences ‘ll be dire. Ye mark my words, young Cathy.”

“Some scientist, you are,” I threw back at him. “It’s all mumbo jumbo.”

“I’ll happily tak yer scorn, but dinna stop seeing that bairn, please?”

I shook my head, “Okay, anything for a quiet life. I’ll take one of the girls with me today, and one tomorrow.” Tom didn’t look too happy, but he backed off.

“Me, me. Take me, Mummy,” shouts were heard.

“One of you can come with me to see Auntie Stella, the other can have a ride in Daddy’s racing car.” I know, I’m a pig, but I thought it would compensate the loser.

We tossed a coin. Trish won and opted to come with me. We duly visited Stella, who expressed some more milk. Trish’s eyes were out on stalks as she watched.

It took a bit of persuasion to the nurse in charge of the baby unit to let Trish in to see her cousin, but eventually, I prevailed. She watched with bated breath as I fed Puddin’. Then her gaze turned to one of concentration.

“Mummy?”

“Yes, darling?”

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Widdling Dormice (aka Bike) Part 567

“Why is there a blue flame coming out of your hand?”

“You can see it?”

“Yes, it looks as if Baby Puddin’ is on fire.”

“Does it?”

“Can’t you see it?”

“No.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t know, but some people might call it love. I’m trying to give love to Puddin’ to help her grow strong.”

“Is she still poorly? ”

“I don’t know, she’s still very small and premature babies often have smaller lungs.”

“What are lungs?” Goodness, something she doesn’t know about.

“Things in your chest that you breathe through. When we get home and have a few minutes, I’ll show you some pictures on the internet to explain it. But, essentially, they’re like two balloons inside your chest which fill with air when you breathe in, and shrink when you breathe out.”

“How do they work?”

“Can I show you when we get home, but it’s about diaphragm pressures and things.”

“Mummy, what’s a diagram?”

“Diaphragm, it’s a like a vacuum bag the lungs are in.”

“Like the one on the cleaner-full of yucky stuff?”

“No, least I hope not. Can you still see the blue light?”

“Yes, but it’s fading on your hand.”

“What about Puddin’?”

“She’s still covered in blue. Is it really making her better?”

“I hope so, but I don’t honestly know. Hopefully, Stella will be up to see her tomorrow and that should cheer her up, her own mummy coming to see her.”

“Would your magic light work on, erm, my thingamabob?”

“Why what’s wrong with it?”

“Could you turn me into a proper girl?”

“As far as I’m concerned, you are a proper girl,” I hugged her, and the phrase, ‘a proper little madam,’ went through my mind. “Being a boy or girl isn’t about what’s between your legs, but what goes on in your head.” I tapped her on the top of the head, “In here. It’s how you see yourself as well as what your body says.”

“I’d still like to be a real girl, Mummy.” So would I, sweetheart, so would I. “You are, Trish. Only special girls can see the light you saw me put into Puddin’, even I can’t see it. So you are very special, but we have to keep it a bit quiet because not everyone likes it, so it would be better if you didn’t tell anyone about it. Is that alright?”

“Yes, Mummy, I won’t tell a soul.”

“Come on, let’s go home.”

As we passed the nurses station, I asked the nurse how Puddin’ was doing?”

“She’s coming along very well, especially in the last couple of days, she’s gained a few grammes. We’re quite pleased with her.”

“Hopefully, when Stella, her mother comes up tomorrow, she’ll make real progress,” I said as much for something to say as anything.

“Oh I don’t know, she seems to react to you quite well, too, are you the mother’s sister?”

“Sister in law.”

“You obviously have the touch with prem babies. And you, young lady, how old are you?”

“I’ll be five in March,” said Trish, “and I’ll be going to school after Easter.”

“Are you looking forward to it?”

“Oh yes, if Mummy can afford the fees.” I felt myself blush.

“Oh, it’s a private school, is it-my little lad, goes to the school down the road.”

“I couldn’t get her in anywhere, except a private school.”

“I know, it’s awful, the good schools are all oversubscribed.”

“I know, we tried them all.”

“So is Desdemona, your cousin?”

“Yes, but we call her Puddin’.”

“A nick name for the bulge Stella had.”

“Oh yeah, I get it. Yeah, I like it.”

“Daddy calls Mummy, Babes.”

“Does he now, what does he call you?”

“Mummy calls me, clever clogs.”

“Are you a clever girl then?”

“Mummy says I’m special.” I felt myself blushing.

“Come on, Trish, let’s get back and get tea for Gramps and Daddy.”

“Because, I can read already.” I felt my whole body heave with relief.

“Can you now? What does that say?” asked the nurse pointing at a sign on the door.

“Do you mean the bit that says hospital or special babycare unit?”

“You are a clever clogs, aren’t you?”

“So is my gramps, he’s a professor and Mummy is a university teacher.”

“So what does Daddy, do?”

“He works in a bank.”

“That’s a bit unusual today,” she said winking at me. I just hoped she wouldn’t say he owned it.

“Daddy is a bit unusual, so is my other Gramps, he works in a bank, too.”

“Oh well, you should be alright for a loan, then.”

“I can see a dark thing near your tummy,” said Trish to the nurse.

“Yes, I’ve just come back to work, I had my appendix out.”

“Here,” said Trish, pointing to the nurses abdomen.

“That’s where I had my operation. Has she done this before?” the nurse asked me.

“No, lucky guess, I suppose. Anyway, we have a three year old at home, so we’d better get a move on.”

“Interestin’ all the same,” said the nurse, “if she has the gift, help her develop it.”

“I’m a scientist, I’m not sure I believe in any of that stuff.”

“I’ve seen too many weird and wonderful things in hospital to dismiss it all. Some people are natural healers, some become doctors and nurses without knowing it. Others probably never know that they help others to get better.”

“Mummy can do that, she’s makin’ Puddin’ better.”

“I know, sweetie, we have noticed.” I blushed as these two discussed me.

We eventually got back to the car, “I thought we’d agreed we wouldn’t tell anyone about what I was doing to Puddin’?”

“I didn’t tell her about the blue flames, Mummy.”

I felt like banging my head on the steering wheel, but that would likely set off the air bag. I can’t even win an argument with Kiki, what chance do I have with Trish?

We stopped off on the way back and did some shopping. I topped up the bread machine stuff, flour and yeast. Then from memory got a few things for the cupboard, and bought a bag of rolls to keep in the freezer. We got some fresh vegetables and some fish and meat.

I also got two small packs of sweets for the girls, unless Simon saw them first. Trish helped me carry the shopping to the house and I opened the door with my key. The house was empty. “Si, Tom, Meems, where are you?”

I closed the door and ran upstairs, knocking and entering Tom’s room, he wasn’t there. “I wonder where they’ve gone?” I said to Trish.

“To the hospital,” she said.

“How do you know?” this child’s powers were remarkable.

“There’s a note on the fridge door, can I have a drink?”

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Wobbling Doorframes(aka Bike) Part 568

I set to after changing my clothes, and began cooking the dinner. Trish came and helped me, washing the vegetables and laying the table. She seemed to enjoy the one to one with me, I’d speak to Simon later, and I’ll bet Mima was the same with him.

I assumed they’d gone to see Henry, although Simon had asked me to go instead, as he had hospital visiting fatigue, a newly classified disease, only occurring in men.

“Have you had a nice afternoon?” I asked Trish.

“Oh yes, Mummy, I’ve really enjoyed myself.”

“Okay, I’m glad, now just remember what we agreed.”

“About the blue light?”

“The whole thing.”

“Okay, Mummy, I won’t tell anyone, not even Mima.”

“Don’t tell her for goodness sake, she’ll tell everyone. Talk of the devil…” As I spoke, Simon drove into the driveway and parked. He and Mima got out of the car. “Where’s Tom?” I asked myself, and then ran to the door.

“Where’s Tom?” I shouted to Simon.

“Let me come in and I’ll tell you.” He followed me through the door. “He wasn’t feeling too good, so I called the doctor. He suggested taking him to hospital. I tried to call you but I suppose your phone is off.”

“Yes, they ask you to switch them off in hospital. How is he?”

“I had to leave him there, they were doing ECGs and things. It was beginning to look as if they were keeping him in.”

“Damn, did you take his pyjamas?”

“No, it all happened quite quickly.”

“I’ll go and pack for him, keep an eye on the dinner.” I’d only unpacked for him a day or two before, so it seemed a nuisance that I had to throw it all back in a bag for him. I grabbed the book by his bed and shoved that in as well.

We ate rather hurriedly after that and for the second time that day, I was driving to the hospital and Simon was baby sitting-it would be good for him. I parked and ran into reception, they told me he’d been admitted to the cardiac care ward, where he was before.

I rushed up to the ward and the nurse pointed me to his bed, it was opposite where he’d been before. He was sitting in his chair reading the Echo. “How are you, Daddy?”

“Cathy, what are you doing here?”

“I brought you some pyjamas and stuff.” I pecked him on the cheek.

“Thanks, but I would have coped.”

“I’m sure you would, but I preferred you have your own.”

“You’ve spent enough time here today, get off home.”

“I’ve just paid for an hour in the car park, so I’m staying.”

“Suit yourself.” He continued to pretend to read his paper. “So how was the baby?”

“She’s coming on fine.”

“That’s your healing energy.”

“Come off it, Daddy, that’s your imagination. I’m a scientist, remember?”

“As if you’d ever let me forget, if you care to cast your mind back to when you last were a scientist, and I’m not knocking you, if you can remember that far back of course, I was a humble professor of biological science. So I suspect that makes me senior to you, señorita.”

“I thought all this mumbo jumbo stuff went out with Darwin.”

“With Darwin, or because of Darwin?”

“You know what I mean, Daddy, with Darwin.”

“Course I do, so tell me, did Trish see the blue light?”

“What blue light?”

“You know damn well what blue light.”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Children often can, it’s only when they realise they’re not supposed to be able to see it, that they stop doing so.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“That’s why I’m the senior scientist,” he joked.

“Isn’t that a euphemism for old fart?”

“Probably, young pip squeakess.” We both laughed at that.

“Did you bring in your mobile?”

“Yes, it’s in my locker, why?”

“Nothing, seems odd that you remembered it and forgot a change of underwear.”

“It was all a bit of a shock, but Simon was very good.”

“He usually is if someone tells him what to do.”

“Which I did.”

“I think Stella trained him well.”

“Some men can think for themselves, some even get to be made professor.”

“Yeah, oh great one, but Simon ain’t one of them.”

“I know that, young lady, I know that well enough.

“But he’s good with the girls, so I forgive him the rest.”

“Aye, that’s a point in his favour. He also loves you, which is another.”

“I think he loves the girls, too.”

” ‘Tis a little obvious, and they love him too.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” I sighed and sat down on the bed.

“You’re not still jealous of him, are ye?”

“A bit, they make such a fuss of him.”

“Yes, yes they do, but they could live without him. They couldn’t without you.”

“Of course they could, they did for three and four years respectively.”

“Ah, that was before you fostered them. They’d be very upset if they lost you.”

“Not if Simon was about.”

“Hen, they widnae notice efter a few days, if he disappeared. If you did, they’d be upset in hours.”

“I think they would miss him. They ask for him now when he’s up in Town.”

“They ask for you when you’re in the bathroom.”

“Only because I feed them.”

“You’re much too young to be so cynical.”

“I learned it early on.”

“Was your childhood as bad as you make out?”

“Not all the time. I’d see girls and wish I could be them, then Daddy would try to toughen me up.”

“I can see that worked very well.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I was being sarcastic, Cathy.”

“It toughened up my mind, I didn’t give in to his beatings in the end.”

“No okay, how about we move on to more recent times? He seemed to make it up with you before he died. In fact he seemed very proud of his daughter.”

“I didn’t give him a lot of choice, accept me or lose me forever.” I could still feel the anger when I thought back, although instead of wanting to hit my father, I wanted to cry.

“Are you giving me the same ultimatum?”

“Eh?”

“Are you giving me the same ultimatum?”

“I thought you accepted me,” I felt rather uneasy about all this.

“I do, so I hope I’m not going to lose you forever.”

“So why are we discussing it?”

“I thought we’d best make sure there were no loose ends, or unfinished business. If my heart is playing up again, I might not be here much longer…”

“Oh, Daddy, don’t go and die on me. I need you.” I threw myself on to him and hugged him.

“Careful, Lass, you’ll finish me off at this rate.” I released my hold, but I had tears in my eyes.

“Look, I know you don’t want to talk about it, but in my folder at home, in the event of anything happening to me, check out that file, okay?”

“Only if something should happen, and I hope to God, it doesn’t.”

“For a born again agnostic, you seem to mention that three letter word you don’t believe in rather a lot, don’t you?”

“Figure of speech, that’s all,” I said sniffing.

“But of course, thank Darwin,” he said, gave me a funny look and we both laughed.

“You know what I think?” I said.

“No I don’t, but I’m sure that situation won’t last.”

“I think you’ve got indigestion-you made a curry, didn’t you?”

“Do ye think I canna differentiate between indigestion and a myocardial infarct?”

“In a word, yes.”

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Waddling Dumplings (aka Bike) Part 569

Tom sulked at my questioning his self diagnosis, so the remainder of my stay was a bit tense. I kissed him good night, and left. As I drove home, I got cross with myself for arguing with him, but that’s what kids do with their parents.

When I got home, I found Simon asleep on the sofa with both girls, who were lying either side of him. They were both in their pyjamas and dressing gowns and an open book lay in his lap.

I coughed and Simon jumped, dropping the book and making a small bump as it hit the carpet. “Oh, you’re back?”

“Yes, why are these two not in their beds?”

“Um, I was reading to them and we all nodded off.”

“Must have been a riveting storyline,” I felt irritated and shared my feeling with Simon.

“It was okay, a bit formulaic, but Trish hadn’t noticed, so I guess it’s okay.”

“Mummy,” Trish said in between yawns. This woke up the other sleeping monster.

“Mummmmmeeeeeee,” which was followed by, “I need a wee,” and she staggered off to have one.

“Don’t pull the flush, Meems, I need one, too,” shouted the second emigrant.

“You not having one as well?” I asked Simon.

“Who stole your lollipop?” he asked me sharply.

“What do you mean?” I answered defensively.

“You know damn well what I mean, you come in here and tell me off then grumble at the kids, who’ve been waiting for you to come back, so they can say goodnight.”

“Oh, excuse me for breathing,” I said and went out to the kitchen.

“For God’s sake, Cathy, bloody grow up.” I heard the cloakroom door shut, “Come on, girls, up to bed, your mother is not in a very good mood, come on up to bed.”

“What’s the matter with Mummy?” I heard Trish’s voice.

“I don’t know, kiddo, but best you go to bed and leave her to cool off.”

“May I kiss her goodnight?”

“Not tonight, Trish, leave things until tomorrow, she’ll be okay by then.”

“Why is Mummy cwoss?”

“I dunno, Meems, come on, up to bed.”

“Alwight, Daddy.”

I felt the tears run down my face. I didn’t know what I felt, angry, sad, disgusted and ashamed plus probably several other emotions which were too confused to distinguish. What was happening to me? A few months ago, I was making films for Defra. Now, I was a quivering basket case.

Simon came into the kitchen, “I hope you’re happy now,” he snapped, grabbed a glass and a bottle of wine and left me to my thoughts. They were just chasing round and round in my head. So I took a glass and followed him into the lounge and poured myself a glass of wine. He said nothing, not even noting my presence. I took my glass and went up to my bedroom.

I undressed and changed into my nightdress, then went to see the girls, they were both asleep, I kissed each one and apologised to them. I know they didn’t hear me, but I felt a little better for doing it. Then I went to bed, locking my door after I shut it. Tonight, I wanted to be alone. I drank my wine, and half an hour later, I had cried myself to sleep.

The next morning, I woke finding myself alone in my bed, which puzzled me for a moment. Then I remembered the locked door. I got up and checked it, it was still locked. It was seven o’clock. I opened the door and checked the girls’ beds, they were empty.

I slipped downstairs and Simon was lying on the sofa with two little bodies alongside him. They were all fast asleep. I went into the kitchen and switched the kettle on, then dashed upstairs for a shower. I had some apologising to do. I dressed casually, and went back down. On the dining room table I placed two wrapped parcels. Then I made some tea and took Simon a cup.

“Simon, I have some tea for you.”

“Eh, what?”

“Good morning, handsome man, I have some tea for you.”

He stared at me with bleary eyes, not really taking in what was happening. Then a few seconds later he roused himself and after blinking, said, “Oh, yeah, ta.” He sat up and took the mug I proffered.

He sipped it and it began to wake him up. I could almost hear his brain ticking over as to why he was lying on the sofa with two children and I was dressed and holding a cup of tea for him. His eyes almost lit up as I suspect he remembered what happened last night. “Feeling better?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Good, you can baby sit, I’m going for a shower.” He handed me back the empty mug and strolled off towards the stairs.

I put both mugs down and sat between the two girls. I kissed each one.

“Mummy,” said Trish, sleepily.

“Hello, darling,” I said kissing her again.

“Are you still cwoss wiv us?” asked Mima, yawning.

“Oh, Meems, I wasn’t cross with you or Trish, or Daddy; I was cross with myself. I’m so sorry I was so crabby last night, I guess I’m worried about Stella and baby Puddin’ and Gramps. It’s no excuse, but last night it all got too much for me.”

“You was a naughty Mummy,” scolded Mima.

I felt my eyes fill with tears, “I know, sweetheart, and I am sorry.” A tear ran down my face and plopped on my chest.

“You’ve made Mummy cry, you’re the naughty one, Mima,” scolded her sister.

“You the naughty one,” Mima shouted back at Trish and she burst into tears. A moment later Trish started crying as well, and all three of us were intertwined and weeping.

“I don’t believe it, what have you done to them now?” said Simon loudly as he came back down from his shower. “Why is everyone crying? What have you done?”

“I haven’t done anything. I just told them I love them.”

He gave me a look which suggested he might not entirely believe me, but his parting shot was, “Women, God preserve me from them.”

I wanted to shout at him, and also giggle at the absurdity of his request. In the end the latter won, and I had a fit of hysterical giggling, which infected the two youngsters and ended when Mima wet herself and burst into tears.

I stripped her off and cleaned up the sofa, then took her up for a bath. Trish followed and I dumped them both in the bath and waited until they had both really calmed down before pulling them out and drying them.

They had their breakfast while Simon was out washing the cars. I suspect he was using up his anger, instead of squabbling with me, he took it out on the dirt on the cars. I wondered if he would miss mine out, but he didn’t.

I was busy making up a bread mix and loading the machine with it, when I heard a squeal from the dining room. “Mummy, I have a parcel, may I open it?”

“I think that might be a good idea,” I called back.

“Mummy, can I open my pwesent?”

“Yes, Meems.”

“Oh look, Meems, a makeup set. Oh, thank you, Mummy.” Trish came dashing into the kitchen and hugged me. “Thank you so much, I always wanted one of these.”

“Well, now you have one. Just remember not to go silly with it.”

“I won’t, Mummy.”

Mima came hurtling out and hugged my legs, “I wuv it, Mummy, can I pway wiv it?”

“Of course you can, Meems.”

“Thank you, Mummy,” and she galloped back to the living room.

Maybe I should have bought one for Simon?

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Wobbling Doorknobs (aka Bike) Part 570

The makeup kits seemed to be a success, as there were lots of giggles coming from the dining room. I’d probably have to put both kids in the washing machine to get it all off, but if they were happy…

I watched Simon from the window. As he seemed to be finishing the last car-the Mondeo-I switched on the kettle and made him some coffee. He seemed quite grateful for it when he walked in.

“What are they giggling about?” he asked, nodding towards the dining room.

“They’re playing.”

“Duh! I know that, what’s making them giggle like drunken banshees?”

“Why don’t we go and look?”

“They haven’t got the telly in pieces again have they?”

“Simon, it’s boys who take things apart to see how they worked.”

“Don’t you mean work?”

“No because they don’t usually do so after the dissection.”

“Sometimes. I had an old radio I took apart and put back together, it still worked, so did the clock I played with.”

“I was only allowed to do it under supervision, so it always worked.”

“Yeah, but you’re a girl, so that’s expected.”

“I did go beyond it a bit with bicycles, changing bearings and things.”

“Ah, there you have me, I can change a tyre or fix a puncture.”

“So why do you leave it to me, to do?”

“Because you’re quicker.”

“Hmmm,” we walked into the dining room half expecting to see a couple of children looking like an explosion in a paint factory. Instead they were relatively restrained. Trish seemed to be doing most of the painting and Mima, the giggling.

“My goodness, two beauties indeed, Cathy, you didn’t say your sisters were here with you.” Simon winked.

“No, I momentarily forgot. May I introduce you to Lady Patricia and Lady Jemima.”

Simon bent down to shake hands and Trish said, “How do you do,” as if she’d been watching My Fair Lady.

Mima just giggled, then grabbed Simon’s legs and hugged him, “Daddy,” she squealed and got the makeup stuff all over his trousers. Still, they said it was washable.

The phone rang and I went to answer it. “Hello?”

“Hello, Cathy, are ye in a better mood?”

“Never mind me, how are you?”

“Seems like my indigestion is better.”

“Oh that’s good, when can you come home?”

“Anytime.”

“What like, now?”

“Aye, indeed.”

“I’ll come and get you.”

“I can get a cab.”

“Indeed you won’t. I’ll be there in half an hour, go and have a cuppa.”

He rang off and I dashed to get my jacket. “I’m going to get Gramps from hospital, who wants to come?”

I had two volunteers, who were not best pleased when I wiped their faces before we went. “You can do it again when we get back, after all most of us have to practice it for years to get it right.”

“Did you practice it, then, Mummy?” asked Trish

“It might not look like it, but yes, I did.”

“Your makeup always looks nice, will you show me what to do?”

“After lunch.”

“Wiww you show me, too?”

“Of course I will, Meems. I’ll show you both.” When I thought about it, for what I’d spent on the toy makeup, I could have bought a proper makeup set, but part of me doesn’t want to encourage them too much. Trish isn’t five yet, and Meems is only three. I had to wait until I was away from home before I could play with makeup-when I thought about some of those practices, they were pretty dire, dire being the operative word.

I had a sudden flash back to one memory, when I had used a reddish pink lipstick which stained my lips and I had exams the next day. I walked into college sucking an ice lolly, so when someone commented on my pink lips, another girl said, “He was sucking one of those ice lolly things,” and no more was said about it. I bought another lipstick on the way home, a lighter shade.

I strapped the girls into their car seats and drove off to the hospital. Tom was actually waiting for us at the entrance to the car parks, which meant I didn’t have to fuss with releasing the kids and then strapping them back in.

I kissed him on the cheek, “You look well,” I said.

“You look tired, my girl.”

“I’m okay, I slept well last night.”

“You wocked you doow, wast night.”

“You did what?” asked Tom.

“I locked my door.”

“Why? Squabble with Simon?”

“Something like that.”

“You were in a funny mood, sure enough last night.”

“Gee thanks,” I frowned, “Why not remind me?”

“I’m sorry, Cathy, but ye squabbled with me before ye left.”

“I think it was six of one and half a dozen of the other.”

“Aye mebbe, but then if that was true, would ye hae squabbled with Simon.”

“Yes, he was supposed to put these two to bed, they were still up when I got in.”

“Och, they were probably waitin’ to see ye.”

“Oh that’s right side with Simon, bloody men always stick together.”

“Mummy and Gramps, please don’t fight, there are children present,” said a little voice from the back seat. Tom and I looked at each other and sniggered. Sometimes the things she says are priceless. Anyway it broke the spell and Tom and I dropped the subject and resumed normal relations.

On the way home, I popped into Argos again and bought a proper makeup set. I would lock this up when I wasn’t available to show them how to use it. I’d nipped in a paper-shop first and got Tom a Guardian, and Trish and Mima a comic each. They didn’t know what I’d bought, which I shut in the boot. I’d also got Simon a new penknife, for washing my car and as a peace offering.

We got home with just enough time to sneak my shopping upstairs and dash down before the bread machine peeped. I made some salad which we ate with cheese and fresh bread-it was still warm and Simon managed half the loaf before I caught his eye and suggested he’d had enough. He sighed, muttered something and sipped his water.

After washing up and tidying up the kitchen, I handed Simon his present. He was very pleased with it, he’d lost his Swiss Army penknife, a month or so ago. He’d had it since he was at school, so was a bit upset at the loss. I wasn’t sure if it was the same type, but he was so pleased it didn’t matter. I think it had one of those gadgets for getting boy scouts out of horses hooves, so that could be useful.

I was then pestered by the girls to play makeup with them. We used their toy kits. They did have the advantage of being washable, that was about the only one. The lip colours hardly showed at all, the eye makeup was pathetic and the mascara like water. I was tempted to get the new one I’d just bought, but for now, I’d wouldn’t encourage them, that could wait for a rainy day-it wasn’t washable.

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Wandering Wombats (aka Bike) Part 571

I did pasta for dinner that night; everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially the girls, who spattered bolognaise sauce over anything and everything. Next time I think I’ll put it through the blender and make them suck it up with a straw.

Tom read them a bedtime story while I slaved over a spattered kitchen. I was just glad we’d eaten out there and not in the dining room. Simon was at his computer as I mopped floors and wiped down walls and furniture. No wonder the ‘Mericans eat out so much of the time.

I was glad Tom was back, at least I didn’t need to go and visit him, there was just Stella and Puddin’ and Henry to sort out now. I changed after finishing the kitchen and went off to see Stella, or more importantly, Puddin’.

I learned from Stella that she had been up to see the baby and fed her through the incubator. I wondered if she’d felt as excited as I did each time. It appeared she didn’t. Given that they were several rooms apart, and the birth had been a trifle traumatic, it didn’t entirely surprise me. For all I knew she had post natal depression-actually, I think she had prenatal depression, the post natal experience just confirmed her suspicions.

I went up to see Puddin’ and found a different nurse there. “Are you the one who visits her to lay hands on her?”

“I like to touch her, because I enjoy it and I think she needs it. Babies need to be touched or they grow up with all sorts of complexes.”

“You mean like a shopping complex?” she laughed at her own joke.

“No I mean, like inabilities to form relationships, to learn to trust others.”

“I think mine was funnier.”

“Yes, as a neo-natal nurse, you’d make a good comedienne. As a comedienne, you make a piss poor nurse.”

“I came top in my group.”

“At what? Telling jokes?”

“I thought healers were supposed to be nice people.”

“What a coincidence, I thought the same about nurses.”

“I’m a midwife.” She almost sneered this at me.

“So what?”

“So how do you heal her?”

“Heal her? I’m a biologist, I came to take her as a specimen.”

“Oh yes, very funny,” she chuckled.

“Can I see Desdemona?”

“If you like,” she shrugged her shoulders.

I walked to the incubator she had always been in, and she wasn’t there. There was a baby in there but it wasn’t her. “Where is she?”

“You know, I can’t quite remember.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like I said, I can’t recall where we put her, and as you aren’t the mother, there isn’t much you can do about it.”

“Is she still in the unit?”

“Maybe, why?”

“I’d have thought it was obvious.”

“Well I don’t always do the obvious, just like to keep people guessing.”

“So I see, inadequate as a child were you?” I asked.

“No, whatever made you think that?”

“It’s quite common amongst child abusers, having been abused themselves.”

“Oh, read some pop-psychology have we?”

“The self-help book of masturbation? Is that known to you?”

“Whatever makes you think that.”

“Because you seem like the sort of tosspot who’d have one,” I suggested.

“Nothing like getting down and personal.”

“I wouldn’t like to get down with you, no matter what the apparent advocate suggested, that song is so passé, these days.”

“Ooh, big words. It won’t make any difference you’re still supposed to be supervised at all times.

“Yeah so, I’m hardly going to run off with her now am I? Besides she’s in an alarmed incubator.”

“Do you know how we alarm them? We tell them you’re coming. Ha ha.”

“Can you show me which one she’s in?”

“Oh no, I’m much to busy for that.”

“Even if your colleague believes my visits have helped her?”

“She’s dead gullible.”

“You’re obviously not?”

“Duh?”

“She’s also quite personable, and you’re not.”

“We’re none of us perfect…”

“Do you know who’s baby this is?”

“Not yours.”

“No, it’s my sister in law’s.”

“So, who is she, Lady Muck?”

“Nearly right.”

“Um, Queen of Sheba?”

“No, Countess Stanebury.”

“Never heard of it or her.”

“Can I take your name?”

“What for?”

“I’m going to report you to the Chief Exec the next time he comes for dinner.”

“Yeah, sure; an’ who are you?”

“For your career? The Angel Of Death.”

“Bah, you can’t frighten me.”

“I know, you’re too stupid. You’re also in the wrong job.”

I walked past her and began looking at the rows of incubators, there were nine babies in the incubators, in three rows of three. I walked up and down them twice before alighting on Puddin’.

“Hello, little miracle baby,” I cooed to her and she stretched yawned and smiled.

I put my hand through the inserts and touched her finger. She immediately grabbed it and it felt stronger. I stood and closed my eyes trying to pour love into her little body. I thought I could see something in my mind’s eye, like a white light between us, flowing from me into Puddin’. I opened my eyes but could see nothing. Maybe it was just wishful thinking?

After about twenty minutes she let go and I knew it was okay to leave her. I decided to knit her a little dolly to cuddle. Normally, I’d have asked the nurse or midwife on the unit, but not the unpleasant hussy who was on tonight. I was seriously thinking, I would report her.

When I got home, I was incandescent with anger. I spoke with Simon and he agreed I should write to the head of the unit. He made some tea while I drafted a letter. It was short and sharp. He approved it, and all I needed was the name of the unit manager and I could send it.

“May I make a little suggestion?” he asked, at this time Tom had joined us and we discussed it with him too. Simon’s suggestion was interesting. “Why don’t I write the letter of complaint? That way, you get the benefit of my title.”

“I told her I was Stella’s sister in law.”

“She won’t remember that, besides you are to be Puddin’s godmother.”

“Yeah, I know.” I blushed, it still sat uneasy on me.

Tom agreed with Simon, “She is practically your sister in law.”

“We see each other as sisters, but I did make an inaccuracy in my statement to her.”

“So you can send in your original letter and see what happens, or you can send in one from Simon and guarantee it causes ructions.”

“I don’t like doing it, though, they should take as much notice of my letter.”

“You started the name dropping.”

“Okay, you send the letter, I’ll make some more bread.” I left my two conspirators conspiring to give a midwife an difficult delivery.

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Weathering Gargoyles (aka Bike) Part 572

After baking the bread, I retired to my bed with a glass of wine and the print outs from a story I’d found on the net about some nurse turned secret agent, who was helped by some ancient Egyptian goddess. It was total nonsense but quite a pleasant distraction. Even at her worst, frying enemies or wiping their minds, as a nurse she struck me as less nasty than the one I’d encountered on the special baby care unit.

Some of the writing was corny and it was in need of a good edit, but it was entertaining and once or twice I’d laughed out loud or felt a tear in my eye. It was obvious that she was the heroine, she rode a bike and drove a Mini Cooper S-a British made one, none of yer actual German crap.

I laughed as I considered our heroine had spent more time as a patient in hospital than working on the wards, she’d also tried to die countless times and been sent back. Groundhog Day, meets Harry Potter. Very entertaining.

Simon came in as I finished the chapter I was reading, “I thought you’d be asleep by now,” he said sitting on the bed to take his shoes off.

“I am, you’re just imagining that I’m sitting here reading.”

“So the light is really off, then?”

“Of course, it’s all the carrots I feed you, you can see in the dark.”

“Right, I’m glad I imagined those answers, I was gonna jump your bones, but as you’re asleep, I don’t think I’ll bother.”

I thought about the heroine in the story, forty five chapters and she’s still a virgin. “You could always wake me up,” I said enthusiastically.

“That’s funny, I thought I heard a voice. I hope it’s not a succubus,” Simon said as an aside.

“No it isn’t, you can suck your own bus, I had other things in mind.”

“Oh my goodness, Sleeping Beauty has awoken.”

“Ha bloody ha, ‘urry up before I go off the idea.”

“You’d think after a hundred years asleep, she’d want to go to the loo, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, and call her hairdresser,” I got out of bed and went to the bathroom, where I cleaned my teeth and did a wotsit.

When I got back to the bedroom, Simon was pretending to be fast asleep in bed. “I’m a succubus,” I said grabbing hold of something very dear to him, it was surprising how quickly he woke up.

Harry Potter has to cope with Dementers, I have gigglers. They attack in what feels like the middle of the night, and wake you up, making further sleep impossible, or nearly so. They don’t drive you out of your mind, the sleep deprivation does that, so it’s more subtle than young Potter’s demons.

I yawned as one of the gigglers inserted itself in my bed, either side of me. One of them kissed me on the cheek, and asked if it could play with my makeup? I was awake enough to say, “no.” It then became a sulker, which fidgets and keeps moaning, ” ‘Snot fair,” they don’t seem to have much of a vocabulary.

At seven, John Humphrys joined the assault on my ears, the clock radio came on, and Mr Humphrys was interrogating some hapless politician or banker. I could almost hear the rubber truncheons, metaphorical of course. These days, they train politicians to resist incisive interviewers, a bit like they train undercover operatives in the world of spies and spooks, to resist interrogation for a couple of days, because by then, networks can be collapsed and withdrawn.

I wondered if I could be a spy, then decided I couldn’t, I was a lousy liar and would blush and giggle if embarrassed. They wouldn’t need to torture me, just make me blush. I started to do so spontaneously, and became very hot, so I got out of bed, clambering over the sleeping sulker who was in the way. The other one was cwtched into the back of Simon and appeared to be asleep too.

I tip-toed into the bathroom and grabbing my dressing gown slipped downstairs. If I was lucky, I might manage a quick cuppa before I had company; I love them all dearly, but sometimes a few minutes in my own space is priceless.

It was not to be. I arrived downstairs and found Tom sitting at the kitchen table drinking the Thames mud he called coffee. “Morning, Daddy,” I said pecking him on the cheek.

“Hello, Cathy, where’s Batman and Robin?”

“Sleeping with Simon.”

“Oh,” was all he said.

“I’m surprised to see you up?”

“Why? In hospitals they wake you at six.”

“Yeah, but as long as it’s with a cuppa, I don’t mind. Am I disturbing you, Daddy?”

“No, I enjoy your company, daughter. Am I disturbing you?”

“No, I love to talk with you in relative peace and quiet.”

“Why don’t I believe you?”

“I have no idea.”

“Hmm, well aren’t you going to make some tea?”

“Yeah, course I am.” I switched on the kettle. “It’s good to have you home, Daddy.”

“It’s good to be home, and in my own bed-thanks for changing the bedding, by the way.”

“That’s okay, all part of the service.”

“You’re very good to me,” a warm smile lit up his face.

“Am I, maybe it’s because you are to me.”

“Am I?”

“Yes, you took me in when I had nowhere really suitable to live, you accepted me for whom I really was-with no questions asked, except practical ones, and you sort of adopted Simon and Stella, and the terrible twosome as well.”

Yeah, I did didn’t I? I am good to you, aren’t I?” I know this was asked rhetorically, but I couldn’t resist.

“Most of the time, for an old fart.”

“Hey, less of the old, you young hussy,” he playfully smacked my bum as I stood making my tea.

“Ouch!” I squealed in mock pain.

“Well take note, Missy.”

“Yes, Gramps,” I said and stepped out of range.

He glowered at me, then his expression softened, “Without you and those two miniature cruise missiles, I’d never have had anyone to call me Gramps.”

“No, nor me, Mummy. It’s a funny old world.”

“Aye it is that alright, but it’s interesting how sometimes the universe seems to correct things, I mean your infertility and so on, it provided you with some children to nurture.”

“Don’t look too far down that way, because it’s deeply flawed.”

“It is?”

“Yes, if God or the universe is so good to apparently deserving causes, why does it ignore millions of presumably equally deserving cases, sometimes even to letting them starve to death?”

“Lots of that is man-made catastrophe, like Zimbabwe or the Sudan.”

“Well arguably, so is my infertility, no one forced me to separate myself from my gonads.”

“No, that’s true, but ye’re a special case, Cathy.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Mebbe those people who suffer have to do so for a reason?”

“That is such a cop out, Daddy, the only reason they suffer is because of local politics and the failure of the west to act responsibly. We have huge resources available, but because a few people in the west want more than their fair share, the others go hungry.”

“That’s a trifle simplistic, Cathy.”

“No more than your intelligent universe.”

“I can only speak as I find,” said Tom defensively.

“So can I, but it seems we put a different complexion on the interpretation.”

“Aye, mebbe that’s a generational thing?”

“Yeah, could be.” The argument was futile, we’d both stick with our pet idea, mine of social inequality that needed sorting right across the world, and his of some supernatural guidance, which I would allocate to the nursery along with all the other myths and fables. Teach them Darwin and Stephen Hawkin, then maybe we can get on with sorting things out ourselves instead of waiting for the Man in the Moon, to come and do it for us.

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Whirring Doglice (aka Bike) Part 573

The thunder of tiny feet meant the annual migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti was going via Portsmouth, or Trish and Mima had just woken up. I waited for the kids or the lions which shadow the herds to show up. It turned out to be the kids.

“Mummy, Mummy,” squealed Mima.

“What, Meems?”

“There you are, we thought you’d left us.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You were cwoss.”

“That was a couple of days ago, and I wasn’t cross with you two.”

“We thought we made you cross,” said Trish who was standing behind Mima. Tom sat still and said nothing.

“But I thought we’d sorted all that, I even gave you a present each, remember? The makeup kits?”

“When you weren’t in the bed, we thought you’d gone…”

“We fought you weft us,” they were both crying.

“I came down to have a chat with Gramps, that was all.”

“You’re not going to leave us?”

“Not unless you want me to go. Do you?”

“No, we want you to stay forever, Mummy.”

“Stay wiv us, Mummy, awways.” I got hit by an avalanche of children, who grabbed my waist and legs and held on to them so tightly I was in danger of falling.

“Hey, come on, let’s be sensible about this. Where’s Simon?”

“He was stiww asweep.”

“Wonderful-the lazy toad.”

“He was vewy tiwed,” said Mima in between hiccups.

I thought back to the previous night, after I got into bed and grabbed Simon’s joy-stick, he could have had grounds for being tired, as I did for being a little sore this morning. I smirked, and held the two children to me until they stopped crying.

Tom looked at me holding the kids, shrugged and then getting up said, “I’ll be away in my study, if ye need me.” Then he nipped off while the going was good. Oh well, that’s men for you, show them tears and they become babbling idiots or they shoot off in embarrassment.

I sat the kids at the kitchen table, “Now let’s make sure you both understand. I will not leave you unless you tell me that you want me to go, or that you want to go yourselves. Is that clear?”

They both nodded. “Right, let’s get some breakfast while we’re at it.” I made them both some cereal and then they had a banana and some toast. I had a couple of pieces of toast.

Simon eventually deigned to show up, his wet hair suggesting he’d had a shower. “Where were you when I needed you?” I said huffily.

“I was there last night,” he said winking and yawning, “What have I done now?”

“These two thought I’d left home.”

“Why?”

“Because I wasn’t in bed when they woke up.”

“Oh, I assumed you were downstairs making me some tea, so I was wrong as well.” I felt like throwing something at him, but there’d been enough upset. Tonight if I grab his joy-stick, I shall give it a sharp twist, and see if he can bank to the right or left.

For a change, I had a bath that morning and the girls got in after the water had cooled a bit. They really enjoyed the novelty and giggled much of the time. I washed their hair with the shower and by the time we’d dried ourselves and our hair, and found something suitable to wear, it was nearly time to get lunch.

The girls went out with Simon and Kiki, I got on with a few chores and started the lunch. Just for a change, I made some chips and cooked them in the deep fat fryer. I made some poached eggs and also did some baked beans. Not the most nutritious of meals, but they all tucked in with gusto. Me, I used a knife and fork.

Making sure that Tom would be okay on his own, I took Mima to see Henry-Si had cried off, and agreed to take Trish for a spin in the Jag. She had reminded me that she hadn’t yet had a ride, which played beautifully into Simon’s hands. We would go and see Stella and Puddin’ first, then we’d pop into Henry for a short while. As he’d see his foster granddaughter as well, it seemed a good idea.

Stella was up in the special babycare unit, so we went up to see her there. The nice nurse was on and she let us sit with Stella while she fed dear Desdemona-what a handicap that will be. At last she seemed to be bonding with her baby. After she’d finished she sat down and I went to look at little Puddin’, once again she took my finger and this time she wanted to suck it rather than hold it.

“This baby is still hungry,” I said loudly. The nurse got some more milk and I gave her the bottle. “Her appetite has increased,” I observed.

“Especially when you’re here,” said the nurse quietly, “are you giving her some more of your magic power?”

“Shush, don’t tell everyone.” Once Mima had seen the tiny baby in the incubator, who was less interesting than her dolls, she chatted with Stella, which meant neither were aware of me touching the baby and giving her a quick recharge.

Puddin’ gave an almighty burp, and I said to the nurse, “She’s had enough, she’s coming to the boil.” The nurse nearly collapsed laughing.

“I hope you two aren’t laughing at my baby?” said Stella.

“Stella, I wouldn’t dream of it, were just laughing at the burp, which seemed to travel up from her toes.”

“Oh, all right then, I’ll let you off.”

“Talking of off, we have to go and see Henry.”

“Where’s he, at the hotel?”

“Didn’t anyone tell you, he crashed on his way to see you the night the baby was born, he broke both his legs, he’s on orthopaedics.”

“Oh my God, I have to go and see him.”

“I thought Simon had told you?”

“No, neither did you, ha, some family you lot are.”

“Simon and I were the only two not in hospital, Tom was in, you were in and so was Henry. Anyway, I have to go and change his pyjamas.”

“What, they let you undress him?” Stella gasped.

“No, don’t be silly-I take his dirty ones and leave him a clean pair in his locker, same as I do with you.”

“Where’s my step-mother?”

“She was in France, until today or yesterday.”

“Typical, bloody typical.”

“Stella, it was Simon’s idea to tell her to finish up what she was doing.”

“Or who she was doing-remember, you’ve met her-she’s fixed in the middle and swings in both directions.”

“Remember, the human tape recorder is here,” I said, nodding in the direction of Mima.

“Oh yeah, I completely forgot.”

“We’d better go.” We all kissed Stella goodbye and Meems also kissed the nurse. She loves kissing, she’s like a bloody catfish.

The stop at Henry’s bedside was short, Meems was beginning to get bored and tired. Thankfully he understood, and besides there was some film on TV he wanted to watch. So I did the linen change and we went home to more chores.

Sometimes I see why women wanted to change their lives away from the drudgery of the house. It can be rather soul destroying and I suspect even looking after children can be a might tedious day after day. No wonder Stella was thinking of dumping that in my lap. However, as I have a bit more experience in the matter, there is no way I’ll let her do it. I’ll help, but it’s her baby an she will be the primary carer.

“I’m gonna pway wiv my makeup.”

“Are you, sweetheart, I’d do it after tea, if I were you. Play with your dollies first, maybe you could bath them?” As soon as I said it, I knew it was a mistake.

“We don’t have a doll’s baff.”

“No, do it in the washbasin in the bathroom, that’ll do just the same.” I was saved by the bell, I just hope she didn’t flood the place.

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Whispering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 574

I finished sorting out the dinner and while it was cooking, I nipped up to see what Mima was up to. She hadn’t listened to me, rather filling the bath almost to capacity and had her dollies in there. If she had slipped, she could have fallen in and drowned herself. I felt mortified.

“I thought I told you to use the wash basin,” I said curtly.

“You told me to baff dowwies.”

“In the wash basin, that’s the washbasin,” I said pointing at it.

“Mummy cwoss wiv Mima,” she said beginning to cry.

“Yes I am, you didn’t do what I told you to do, you’re a naughty girl.” I pulled the plug on the bath. “Don’t you dare use the bath unless Mummy or Daddy are here to look after you. Now dry your dollies and comeback downstairs.”

Trish and Simon came back as I reached the bottom of the stairs. “Hello, darling, did you have fun?”

“Oh, yes, Mummy. Daddy’s car goes very fast.”

“I hope he wasn’t driving too fast,” I said aiming the remark at Simon who’d walked in behind Trish.

He shook his head, ‘no’. Trish said, “No he’s a very good driver.”

“How do you know, did he tell you that?”

“Yes,” she said naively. I glared at Simon, who gave me a choirboy smile and dodged into the lounge. Mima came down dragging a towel behind her, her dollies in the other hand.

“Wassup, Meems?” asked Simon sweeping her up in his arms.

“Mummy, teww me off.”

“What for, Meems?”

“I’s baffing me dowwies.”

He gave her a concerned look. “What’s wrong with her bathing her dollies?”

“Nothing if she’d done it like I told her to, in the washbasin-but no, she did it in the bath, filled almost to the top. She could have drowned herself.”

“Oh dear, Meems, Mummy is right, you were a silly girl, come and have a cuddle with me,” so saying he took her off into the lounge.

“Trish can you lay the table for me? after you wash your hands.” Tom peeped out of his office and then retreated back inside. I shouted after him, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” His response was to wave a white handkerchief out of the door. I chuckled as I walked back to finish the dinner.

I did salmon with watercress sauce, which had turned out quite well. We had this with new potatoes, baby carrots, and some garden peas. For dessert, I had a ready made trifle I’d bought the day before.

Meems forgot about her makeup, which was just as well, her eyes were red enough without needing further irritation from the blow lamp and paint scraper. Tom who had evaded clearing up-he had a bad heart-was well enough to read the kids bedtime story.

Simon and I sat chatting with a glass of wine when Tom came back down. He poured himself a glass of single malt, and sat with us. “They are such lovely kids, you’re so lucky, Cathy.”

“I know, I hope they feel the same.”

“Oh, I think so. They were really frightened when they thought you’d gone.”

“I can’t think why they thought that, I mean that was what, two days ago-that’s an eternity when you’re three or five years old.”

We both looked at Simon accusingly. “Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t say anything.”

“Nothing at all?” I asked suspiciously.

“No, nothing, except I started to say, she’s gone downstairs, but they didn’t wait for the downstairs bit.”

“Bloody typical, be careful next time, you know how sensitised they are. No one wants the poor little mites, so that’s all got to stop here.”

“What do you mean, no one wants them? We do, you, me and Tom. Surely they know that, we tell them often enough.”

“They are traumatised infants, they don’t operate on logic, well Trish does sometimes-then she’s like Mr Spock. They don’t see things like we do, so we have to try and make sure they know we love them.”

“Cathy, it wasn’t me who had Meems in tears, so don’t keep telling me what I should or shouldn’t do.”

“She could have drowned herself.”

“Well you were supervising her.”

“I know, I know. I got cross because I could see the danger she couldn’t.” I must learn not to shout at Simon.

“Hoy, who are you shouting at? I’m not some stupid foreigner who doesn’t understand English.”

Tom banged his glass down on the table and I jumped nearly spilling my wine. “As you’re both sitting at the same table, and there isn’t any loud noises competing with your voices, is there any need for either of ye to shout?”

We both looked away shamefacedly.

“Guid, now shake hands and apologise to each other.” When we hesitated, he glared at us, “Well, I’m waiting.”

Blushing furiously, I said quietly, “I’m sorry, Simon.”

“So am I,” he said sheepishly. We shook hands as instructed.

“Guid, I’m off to ma bed. Guid nicht.”

“Night, night, Daddy,” I said kissing him on the cheek. He nodded back to me.

“Night, Tom,” Simon offered, as Tom got up from the table. I collected the now empty glasses and put them in the kitchen.

“I’m off to bed, too,” I called as I switched off the kitchen light.

“Hang on, I’m coming now as well.” He followed me up the stairs, rubbing my bottom as we went. If he’d slapped it, I’d have slapped him, but rubbing it was okay.

We apologised properly once we got into bed, despite the shaking hands bit, we prefer the kiss and make up version, or as we tend to call it, kiss and make love. It’s the same as the other only with more exercise.

I had to go for a little clean up afterwards, while Simon wiped himself in his underpants and dropped them on the floor. I was disgusted, but given I’d already been told off for shouting at him, I said nothing, but there was no way I was going to pick them up, he could do that tomorrow, dirty pig.

While I was up, I popped in to see the girls. They were fast asleep and closely resembled somnolent cherubs. I felt a tear form in my eyes, we really had to get things right, or these kids would be irreparably damaged.

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Whistling Doorbells (aka Bike) Part 575

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By the time I got back to bed, Simon was fast asleep, snoring away to himself and lying on his back. I put my cold feet on his legs and he automatically pulled away, turned on his side and fell out of bed.

I had a nanosecond to decide either I should show I was wide awake and help him back into bed or pretend I was asleep. I chose the latter, although, the urge to laugh was difficult to suppress.

“Cathy,” said a sleepy voice. I ignored it. “Cathy,” it said a little more insistently.

“Hmm,” I grunted feigning sleep, “What?” I slurred.

“I’ve fallen out of bed,” said a rather pitiful voice.

“Yeah, tomorrow,” I said, still pretending I was asleep.

“Cathy,” said a now pathetic voice.

“What?” I said sitting up and pretending to be annoyed at being woken.

“I’ve fallen out of bed.”

“Well get back in again,” I yawned at him.

“I can’t,” he whined back at me.

“Why not?”

“I think I’ve hurt myself, I can’t move my legs.”

‘Oh shit, this is no longer funny.’ I virtually flew out of bed, and round to his side. He was all tangled up in the duvet, which somehow had got twisted around him. Each time I tried to free him he retangled it.

“For God’s sake, Simon, keep bloody still.” He whinged some more but held his legs motionless. I finally managed to free them and he was able to roll free and get up. “How do they feel now?”

“Fine, I guess I just panicked when I woke up and found my legs stuck.”

“You’re worse than the girls, oh and I think you ought to be wearing something on your bottom half if the girls come visiting in the morning.”

“What?”

“If Trish and Mima come into bed with us, they may be a bit surprised or shocked to see your, um, dangly bits.”

“Why? They’re in perfect working order, and you always seem pleased to see them.”

“I’m twenty three. Trish is coming up five. Put something on or I won’t let her come into bed with us.”

“Bloody nag, that’s what you are, a nag bag.”

“Next time you fall out of bed, you can sort yourself out.” I huffed and puffed and got back in. I could hear him rifling through his underwear drawer. He was sighing and swearing rather a lot. Then he went to the loo. It must have been after one, when he got back into bed. This time I was nearly asleep. I smirked and drifted off.

The court was in session and I was in the dock. I was handcuffed to two women prison warders and the public gallery I could sense, was hostile. The prosecuting counsel, a large male barrister, was talking aggressively to me, interrogating me.

“So Miss Watts, you were the only adult in the house?”

“Yes.”

“And you told Jemima to go up and bathe and get out from under your feet, did you?”

“No.”

“So you didn’t tell her to go and bathe?”

“No.”

“So what did you tell her?”

“To go and bathe her dolls in the washbasin.”

“So why was she found in the bath?”

“I don’t know.”

“I suggest she got under your feet and you pushed her in the bath and held her under the water until she was dead.”

“No-she’s not dead,” I screamed and tears streamed down my face.”

“Cathy, wake up, you’re having a bad dream.” I heard Simon calling in the distance and a hand shook me. I thought it must be one of the warders and pulled against it.

“I didn’t kill her,” I shrieked, and pulled away from the hands that were trying to grab me. Suddenly I was falling, then I felt a hard bump. I opened my eyes and I was lying on my back on the bedroom floor. Moments later a light was switched on and Simon peered over the edge of the bed.

“You all right?” he asked. What a stupid question.

I was sobbing.

“Are you hurt?”

I shook my head ‘no’ and the head disappeared. I lay there crying and wondering what was going on.

“Who didn’t you kill?” asked Simon.

“What?”

“You screamed out, ‘I didn’t kill her’, so what was all that about?”

“I’m not sure, I think I was being tried for murdering Mima.”

“She’s not that bad is she?”

“No, not at all. She was found drowned in the bath.”

“Oh hell, how awful. Want me to take the plugs off the chain?”

“Yes please.”

“Come on, get back into bed.”

I did as he told me, and he cuddled into the back of me. I was still feeling upset by the dream and I also felt cold. The warmth from Simon and his reassuring coos, enabled me to feel safe enough to go back to sleep.

Two giant bed bugs got into the bed just as the sky was getting light. One crawled in between me and the edge of the bed, a larger one clambered over me and got in between Simon and me. Its feet were cold and at one point pressed on my bottom, causing me to jump involuntarily and nearly knock the smaller one out of bed. I grabbed her and she cuddled into me.

As Trish settled down, I suddenly thought I ought to see her shrink sometime and discuss what I was doing. I’d call Norma later and see who I needed to consult about her going to school as a girl. I felt envious in some ways, and worried in others. Was I doing the right thing? Should I have challenged her to be more boyish? I hoped not, she was far too feminine to be a boy and apart from that one episode when the toboggan crashed, I’d never seen any boy in her.

I lay there unable to go back to sleep. “Si, fancy a cuppa?”

“Uh? Oh yeah, okay.”

“Right, you two sleep destroyers, I am going down to make some tea, I am not running away, okay?”

“Pity,” mumbled Simon.

“What did you say, Simon Cameron?”

“Uh, what, I don’t know do I? I was asleep until you started shouting like a fishwife.”

“What?” I shrieked, which probably shattered windows a mile away, and stormed out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind me.

Whirling Dorvishes (aka Bike) Part 576

I was still spitting feathers when I got downstairs. I switched the kettle on and discovered I hadn’t even stayed upstairs long enough to use the loo, I remedied that while the kettle boiled then I made and drank my tea.

While I did so, I wondered whether or not I was going to stay with Simon. In some ways he was so good and in others, he was a total nightmare. The girls loved him, but I felt that as long as they had one or other of us, they would be okay. I really did begin to wonder if staying with him was such a wise thing.

Trish came down and hugged me. “Are you sad, Mummy?”

I hugged her back and felt tears fill my eyes. “A bit, sweetheart.”

“Are you cross with Daddy.”

“Yes-no, oh I don’t know. I don’t know what I feel, except confused.”

“I hope you won’t be cross with me.”

“Why should I be cross with you?”

“My other mummy used to get very cross.”

“Why was she cross, sweetheart,” I hugged her close to me.

“She wanted me to be a boy, but I couldn’t-I didn’t know how.”

“Oh, sweetheart.” I held her tightly and felt her heave as she sobbed. “We love you for who you feel you are, not for what others think you should be. I told you before, we are happy for you to be whoever you want to be. So if that means being a girl, then you be a girl. Just be yourself and be comfortable in being you. Can you understand what I mean?”

“Yes, Mummy. I’m glad you’re my Mummy now.”

“I’m glad I’m your Mummy, too.”

“I hate my old Mummy.”

“Try not to, sweetheart. Try to forgive her rather than let it turn to hate. Hate only eats away at us, whereas forgiveness and love, help us to grow.”

“I don’t ever want to see her again, she was so horrible to me.”

“What do you mean, horrible?” I wondered if there was some abuse coming up.

“She used to beat me if she caught me acting like a girl…”

“Oh, sweetheart, no one is going to beat you as long as I’m around, or Simon, Tom or Stella. We’ll protect you.”

“…she told other boys that I was a fairy, and they would hit me and kick me. The girls were sometimes cruel to me, as well.” She started to sob again.

“If your old Mummy was sitting opposite in that chair, what would you like to say to her, knowing that I’m here to protect you and that she couldn’t say or do anything to hurt you.”

Trish looked at the chair opposite. “You’re horrible,” she spat at it. She turned to face the chair and she pulled my arms around her. “I hate you, you…bugger.”

I held her securely as she vented at the empty chair. “Now tell her you forgive her, and then tell her to go.”

“What does forgive mean?”

“If you do something naughty or bad, I might be upset with you for a while, then when I calm down, I might realise it wasn’t as bad as I thought, so I can let the anger or upset go and I can forgive you. I’m no longer upset with you.”

“Why should I forgive her?”

“Because otherwise, it will make you feel worse about yourself and her. If you forgive her, she might have thought she was doing the right thing, then you can really forget about what she did to you and just be a girl, as my daughter, not a failed boy and someone else’s son. Do you understand?”

“I think so, and I so want to be your daughter.”

“I know, sweetheart, I also know what it’s like to have parent who doesn’t understand me.”

“Did your mummy want you to be a boy, too?”

“It was my father with whom I had most trouble.”

“Did he want you to be a boy?”

“Yes he did, he was very disappointed I was a girl.” Well I was inside.

“Did you forgive your daddy?”

“Yes, I did, and he was eventually glad he had a daughter.”

“Was he?”

“Yes,” I hugged her again.

“How do you know?”

“Because we spoke about it.”

“I don’t want to see my old Mummy, ever again.” I felt her body heave with a sob, “Never, I hate her.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Do you want me to tell her to go away?”

“Yes please, Mummy.”

“Okay-I’m speaking to Trish’s old Mummy. I suspect you did what you might have thought was best for her, however, you were badly mistaken and only caused her pain and upset. I am asking you, as her new Mummy, to go away and not to come back until you can accept and love her as the lovely daughter she is. She is now under my protection, and I will protect her against you or anyone else. Be gone.” I clapped my hands and Trish jumped. “It’s okay, she’s gone.”

Trish turned and looked at the chair. “Thank you, Mummy.” I hugged her again and decided that psychotherapy was best left to the professionals.

“Come on, sweetheart, let’s get some breakfast.”

We had nearly finished ours when Simon and Mima came down. They both had wet hair, so I deduced the roof had blown off or they’d washed their tresses.

Simon put his arms around me from behind while I was making Mima’s cereal. “Am I forgiven?”

“Depends on which crime we’re discussing.”

“How many have you got against me?”

“That would be telling.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m asking.”

“Today’s accusations, which are totally incorrect, I am not married, and certainly not to a fish, nor a fisherman.”

“Um, okay, I apologise. Maybe I should have said a banker’s wife.”

“Is that a spoonerism?”

“What?”

“Banker’s wife.”

I heard him mumble as he worked out what I was saying. Then he pinched my bottom, “No it isn’t a spoonerism.”

“Don’t you dare pinch my bottom, it is so vulgar,” and with that I pulled open his jeans and tipped Mima’s cereal down inside them.

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Waddling Ducklings (aka Bike) Part 577

“What did you do that for?” asked the astonished Simon.

“Why did you pinch my bum?”

He shook the leg of his jeans and more of the cornflakes appeared. Both of the girls were silent in astonishment.

He shook all of the dry cornflakes out of his jeans and left the room. I poured another lot of flakes into Mima’s dish and this time put milk on them, then I gave her them.

“Why did you tip cornflakes into Daddy’s trousers?” asked Trish.

“Because he annoyed me.”

“It was very funny.”

“Don’t let him hear you laugh, I don’t think he thought it so.” I got the brush and swept up the mess and binned it.

Simon came down and ate his breakfast without saying anything to me. He talked to the girls, but not to me. I wondered about apologising, but then decided, if I did apologise, it would be privately.

I called Dr Rose’s secretary to ask if she knew the name of the paediatric psychiatrist Trish was seeing. It was a Dr Edwards. I thanked her and said I would call him. She corrected me, by saying, ‘him was a her’. She put me through to Dr Edwards’ secretary.

“Hello, my name is Cathy Watts.”

“How can I help you?”

“I’m fostering one of your patients, Tricia Watts.”

“Hold on,” she went to check something. “We have a Patrick Watts-oh, hang on, he’s GID and likes to be called Patricia, that one?”

“Yes, she likes to be called Patricia.”

“Quite, how can I help?”

“I’ve arranged for her to start school after Easter.”

“You’ve arranged for him to start school as a girl?”

“Please, I’ve arranged for her to start school, she sees herself as female, I’m respecting that decision. I thought, however, that Dr Edwards should be informed.”

“I see, she’s with a patient at the moment. Can she ring you back when she’s free?”

“Of course. I’ll be here for another hour or so.” I gave her my number and went off to get myself washed and dressed. I took Trish with me.

In half an hour we were presentable. I’d put her hair into bunches with blue ribbons to match her dress. She looked as pretty as a picture. The phone rang and I jumped, as it startled me out of my reverie, then I went to answer it.

“Ms Watts?” asked an educated female voice.

“Speaking,” I replied, guessing who the caller was.

“This is Dr Edwards, calling re your phone call about Patrick.”

“Patricia, yes.”

“Oh yes, he prefers to call himself that, doesn’t he?”

I wandered in to the kitchen and shut the door. “How much contact have you had with the child?”

“I’ve spoken with him a couple of times. Quite a bright child if I remember correctly.”

“Well, Trish has lived with me for a couple of months. There is nothing boyish about her at all, so I’d be grateful if you could accord her that courtesy and describe her in female terms.”

“So you feel she is genuinely gender identity disordered?”

“Very much so.”

“And you are an expert?”

“I have some experience of the condition.”

“I see, in what capacity?”

“I’m not sure if that’s any of your business.”

“I have the power to have her taken off you.”

“If you try, I’ll cross petition for contempt of court.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Trish was placed in my custody at the behest of a high court judge.”

“He…”

She,” I corrected.

“Very well, she, is resident in a children’s home.”

“She isn’t. She lives with me and my other daughter.”

“So you’re fostering her?”

“Yes, and I have enrolled her at a girls’ school. They know about her and have dealt with the issue before. She is very excited about going there.”

“I see. How did you come to foster her?”

“Through Dr Rose, whom I believe you know.”

“Yes, I asked Dr Rose to see if he could find anything organic for her insistence that she was a girl. He couldn’t as I remember.”

“He was looking in her body, not her spirit.”

“I’m afraid we tend not to deal with metaphysical aspects. We’re physicians, not priests or philosophers.”

“Oh I don’t know. Sam Rose seemed quite a philosopher to me.”

“So you know him?”

“We have met several times. He actually appeared in court for us.”

“Did he, indeed, well if Dr Rose thinks you’re suitable, then you must be suitable. I’m not at all sure about indulging the child’s fantasies as much as you are.”

“They aren’t fantasies or delusions. She really is more girl than boy. I see her every day, there isn’t an ounce of boy in her.”

“She was very effeminate, as I recall.”

“She might have been as a boy. As a girl, she is a delight and quite feminine.”

“I suppose I ought to see her again. It’s been some time.”

“Please feel free to speak with Dr Rose.”

“Oh I shall. I’ll pass you back to my secretary. Please make an appointment to come and see me before she attends school.”

“That was why I called, to keep you apprised of what she was doing.”

“Yes, thank you for that. I’m sorry to sound a bit sceptical, but true GID is very rare, especially manifesting this young.”

“Perhaps you should judge the case on it’s merits, not on statistics, which can be most misleading and subject to manipulation.”

“You have some experience of manipulating statistics?”

“I’m a scientist. We use them all the time; but they don’t invalidate the individual study, which brings a different point of view to bear.”

“Quite. Well, I look forward to meeting you, Ms Watts.” She passed me through to her secretary and I made an appointment for the following week. I also left a message with Dr Rose to call me back.

He did an hour later. “Hi, Lady C, how are my two girls and their lovely foster mother?”

“We are all well thank you. I’ve recently spoken to Dr Edwards.”

“Fliss Edwards, yes, and …”

“I’ve enrolled Trish in a girls’ school and she starts after Easter, so I thought I’d better tell Dr Edwards.”

“Ah, okay.”

“Did I do the wrong thing?”

“No, of course not, but she seems to think GID kids are rarer than hen’s teeth.”

“She seemed to have difficulty with the concept during our conversation.”

“Um, not completely surprised. Did you tell her you’re a post op?”

“No, I want to meet her and allow her form her own opinion.”

“Well unless she does a DNA analysis of you, she’ll never guess.”

“Thank you, Sam, you’ve made my day.”

“You’re welcome. I take it you don’t want me to spill the beans?”

“Um, yes, is that okay?”

“Yeah, no probs; the fact that you mobilised Jemima are grounds enough for the referral. That you managed it again should make you close to beating Mother Theresa in being beatified or whatever they do with would-be saints.”

“I’m no saint, by a long way. Are you happy with the schooling set up?”

“Where is she going?”

“The convent school, it was the only one I could get her into.”

“You’re paying for her education?”

“Yes, I don’t have much choice.”

“I see. I think you’re wonderful, young lady, I really do. Can you pop her in to see me this afternoon, say after four?”

“If you want me to, of course I will.”

“I shall see you then, Lady C.” He rang off and I felt a warm feeling perfuse my body. He was a lovely man and just being in his presence was a delight. I also knew he was a powerful ally and a useful one to have to deal with Dr Fliss.

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Weathering Woodlice (aka Bike) Part 578

I had to take Trish to see Dr Rose, which meant that either Mima had to come too, or I had to speak with Simon or Tom to ask them to baby sit. The problem was Tom got so tired after his heart attack and he liked to doze in the afternoon. So that meant talking to Simon.

I would just have to eat humble pie. He was out mowing the lawn, something I’d never seen him do before, so I suspected he was trying to avoid me. I hastily washed out one or two bits of clothing and took them out to the line.

“Si, can I ask a favour?” I said loudly as he walked towards me behind the mower. He looked straight through me. Great, this was going to be just wonderful.

I finished hanging out the washing which was dripping off the line. He walked around again and I waved at him. He stopped the mower and pulled out the ear pieces from his Ipod. “What?” he said, neutrally.

“Would you like some coffee or tea?”

“Yeah, okay, is it ready?”

“Two minutes.”

“I’ll be in in two minutes, I’ll just finish this strip,” which was effectively the last strip. I toddled back in and switched on the kettle. Mima came out looking for me, I managed to get rid of her with a biscuit and a drink for both of them.

Simon arrived just as I was returning from taking Tom a coffee. “Tea or coffee?” I asked.

“Tea, please.” I made us each a mug of tea and passed him the chocolate digestive biscuits-his favourite.

He helped himself to a biscuit and sipped his hot tea. “I have to take Trish to see Dr Rose this afternoon, could you look after Mima?”

“Can you pop some things into Dad?”

“Fair trade,” I said and nodded.

“You know how I hate hospitals.”

“About this morning…” I was starting my apology.

“Yeah, pinching bums is common, I’m sorry.” He looked embarrassed.

“My response was a tad over the top. So are we quits?”

“Yeah, okay.”

I got up and walked around to his side of the table, “Do we shake hands like Tom suggested or kiss and make up?”

“How about we kiss and make out?”

“Nice idea, kiddo, but Tom and the kids complicate things, somewhat.”

“Damn, maybe later?”

“I think I might be available, your place or mine?”

“How about our place?”

“Sounds good.” I kissed him and let my tongue explore his mouth, brushing very lightly against his lips. He held me tightly and pushed his tongue in between my lips, while gently stroking my breasts.

“Ugh!” said a little voice behind us.

“Double yuck,” said another. I saw Simon blush and felt myself getting very warm. Bloody kids…

After lunch, I tidied myself up to take Trish to see Dr Rose and also to visit Henry. I wore a suit and the pair of red heels that Trish had tried to walk in. I managed it a bit better. The suit was a grey background with a red pinstripe and I wore a matching red silk blouse. Trish was in her yellow dress, her hair still in bunches with the yellow ribbons; I had however changed her ankle socks for lacy tights as they’d be warmer. She was as pleased as punch with the tights.

I let her squirt some cologne on herself before we left, but refused to allow her to use makeup. I did permit her to wear her favourite bracelet, and she wore her favourite red duffel coat.

Meems seemed quite happy to stay with Simon, so what he’d promised her I didn’t know, nor really wanted to know. Tom had gone for his nap just before we left.

The drive to the hospital was slow, the school traffic was emerging and clogged up the already inadequate road system. We did however, have a good hour to see Henry and then get across to outpatients to see Dr Rose.

Henry was pleased to see us and as I changed his pyjamas, Monica arrived. She was delighted to see Trish and immediately whisked her off to the hospital shop to buy her some sweeties.

“See, she’ll do anything to avoid me?” said Henry with a hang-dog look.

“Never mind, I’m still here.”

“Yeah, perhaps I should divorce her and marry you.”

“Um. Henry, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I think Simon might have beaten you to it.”

“What? You haven’t married him already, have you?”

“No, but I am promised to him.”

“So, that’s nothing that can’t be changed.”

“I might not want to change things.”

“You would if you knew me better.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, Henry; besides, I still don’t have that piece of paper yet, the legal one.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, I sent off whatever bit they wanted.”

“I’ll ring the office later, speak to our legal chap, he can chase it up.”

“I’m sure they’re doing things as fast as they can.”

“A government department? Ha, don’t make me laugh-it hurts my ribs.” Despite saying this he did chuckle and then groaned.

Monica arrived back with Trish and a bag full of all sorts of treasures. “Look, Mummy, Nanny Monica’s bought Meems and me lots of sweeties and a new dolly each.”

“Aren’t you a lucky girl, I hope you said thank you.”

“Oh yes, Mummy, didn’t I Nanny Monica?”

“Yes, Tricia, you were a good girl. Our lovely foster granddaughter is going to school after Easter, Granddad.”

“Goodness, what a big girl she is. Where are you going, Trish?”

“The convent, Mummy has got to pay, so I want to get a job to help her.”

“It was the only one with places, and they seemed to accept Trish’s special requirements.” I blushed as I said this, I wasn’t seeking help, I could pay by myself, especially when the film starts to make some money.

“I see,” said Henry, “Is it one of the ones we support?” he asked Monica.

“Don’t think so, most of ours are either in the East End or up in Scotland.”

“Okay, send me the account, Cathy, I’ll deal with it.”

“I can manage, honestly.”

“I didn’t ask if you can or not, we could probably put it through as a bursary or scholarship. I’ll speak to the headmistress, maybe offer a couple of scholarships, Trish’s will be the first.”

“I really can manage, Henry,” I was blushing furiously.

“No, dear, let him help you, and the school will benefit. We’ll make some capital from it later on, in the local press,” Monica tried to persuade me. I was about to argue that I couldn’t be bought, because I wasn’t for sale, when I realised we had five minutes to get over to see Sam Rose.

Making our excuses, I grabbed the dirty laundry and snatching up Trish, ran with her, as best I could in my shoes, clacking down the corridors as we went.

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Widdling Deerhounds (aka Bike) Part 579

“Are we going to see baby Puddin’?” asked Trish as I hurried her along towards outpatients.

“That was the plan,” I was hoping that Stella had got fed up with feeding the baby and I could give her her bottle, or maybe even Trish. We arrived at outpatients with a few minutes to spare and Dr Rose was running late anyway.

“Hello, this is Patricia Watts to see Dr Rose,” I said to the receptionist.

“Patrick Watts, okay, please take a seat.”

“No, Patricia, does she look like a boy?” I asked calmly, although I felt very angry.

“It says, Patrick on the computer, and I do recall a Patrick who liked to wear girl’s clothes.”

“I think there is a mistake here, I shall speak with Dr Rose about it.”

“Please do, I only know what it says on the computer.”

Thankfully, I’d sent Trish to find something to read while I checked us in. She came back with a book for her and a National Geographic for me, one that featured something on the TdF. Had she noticed that or was it pure accident? This child was a total conundrum.

We sat and read for about fifteen minutes, at least I managed to read all the article, which was on about Lance Armstrong winning it for a seventh time, so it shows how old the magazine was. At least it was interesting. Trish was concentrating hard on her book. There wasn’t very much text but she was reading it out aloud to herself. I corrected one or two words which she mispronounced, but it was very good for someone who wasn’t yet five years old, and I told her so. She put her arm around mine and told me, that I, “was the best Mummy ever.”

“Lady Cameron and Patricia,” called Sam Rose from his surgery. I saw the receptionist’s eyebrows rise as she also heard the consultant. I shook hands with Dr Rose and Trish gave him a hug. “My goodness, two lovely ladies to brighten my room.”

He nodded to his nurse who went to Trish and led her off. As soon as she was out of earshot, I mentioned the situation with the name on her records. He nodded his understanding, “I’ll get that sorted for her. Now, regarding Fliss Edwards, I’ve spoken to her and explained that you are a scientist, and that you’d helped another patient of mine to mobilise when we were beginning to think she might not walk again. I then sang your praises because you’d repeated the miracle with Patricia. She said she was looking forward to meeting my miracle worker.”

“I took her to task about her use of pronouns concerning my lovely foster daughter.”

“You told Fliss off? Ha, I wish I’d been a fly on the wall.” His smirk nearly split his face in half and his eyes sparkled. “I’ll bet that doesn’t happen too often.”

“I used to think it was surgeons who were insufferable, I know some are, but you’d think psychiatrists would know better.”

“I dunno, some are madder than their patients,” he smirked again.

“I thought doctors closed ranks when criticism is levelled at them.”

“That’s the bad old days, I try to see where the truth lies and who I can trust, then make my decisions. I know I can trust you, hence my farming Trish out on you.”

“Where is she?” I asked, wondering how he’d managed to keep her out of earshot this long.

“I told the nurse to do every test in the book…”

“Trish is probably reading it then.”

“She is a bright spark, isn’t she.”

“Too clever by half some times.”

“Takes after her foster mum.”

“Was that a back-handed compliment?”

“It wasn’t meant as such, but I could do with your help again.”

“I can’t cope with another child, our bed isn’t big enough for one thing.”

“Eh?”

“The two girls come into us every morning as soon as they wake up. I think their favourite game is sardines.”

He laughed, then said, “No, you won’t need a bigger bed, but I have another transgendered child.”

“Surely, I’m the worst person to pass them on to?”

“Why? Have you told Trish yet?”

“No, but I suspect she’ll work it out one day.”

“Not from your appearance or voice or gesture.”

I blushed, “What about this other kid?”

“Oh yes, another boy who wants to be a girl, aged nine. The parents are supportive and encourage her to be herself, although she’s very shy of transitioning.”

“Why is she seeing you and not Fliss wotsit?”

“Dr Edwards referred her to me. She wasn’t gaining weight as she should.”

“Eating disorder?”

“Yes, I nominally manage the physical side of things, but sometimes end up doing a bit of trick cycling too. I’ve given the mother a thing on Mermaids, but they don’t have anyone local. You’re local, she’d love to talk to you as a parent of a GID child.”

“This is all getting a bit convoluted, Sam. Am I the right person to speak with?”

“You were for Trish. She looks healthier now than ever. I saw her before the head injury, she wasn’t eating and the home wondered about an eating disorder, but I had to do a physical check first. Her eyes were dull and I suspected it was environmental. Then she suffered the accident, and I had the chance to take her out of the environment, and get you to look after her. Since then she’s done so well.”

“Yeah, she’s no problem at all, but that might all change when she goes to school. You know what they say about convent girls.”

“What do they say?”

“If I told you Anne Robinson was one.”

“The Weakest Link Robinson?”

“The same.”

“Oh. Still you’re well balanced, so she’ll be okay.”

“Yeah, I’m so well balanced that I dumped a dishful of cornflakes down Simon’s trousers at breakfast.”

“What down the inside?”

“Yes,” I said sniggering, “there was no milk on them, but the look on his face was priceless.”

“Remind me not to come for a meal at your house.” He was chuckling and his eyes danced.

“Anyway,” I said snorting and giggled again for a moment, “how will I know if what I say to this other mother isn’t my stuff?”

“What like counter-transference?”

“Yeah, that sort of thing.”

“I think you’ll know.”

“Gee, that’s so helpful.” I scowled at him.

“Sorry, I’m not a psychologist, I’m sure you’ll find something on the net.”

“Okay, I’ll have a look.”

“Can I pass your number on to this other mum?”

“I suppose so, if you think it’ll help, but I’m not setting up a support group.”

“I wasn’t asking you to, maybe the others can, you could always be their patron.”

“What others? You said one.”

“I’m sure there are probably others hoping for some one they could talk to about their kids.”

“Isn’t that what Mermaids is for?”

“Yes, but someone local is so much better.”

The nurse brought Trish back. “I’m nearly half a kilo heavier and a centimetre taller,” beamed Trish.

“Must be all that fruit you put away. No wonder I’ve got no money.”

“Can I get a job, Dr Rose, to help my mummy pay my school fees?”

“I suspect, your Grampa Henry is going to interfere with that,” I added.

“What does interfere, mean, Mummy?”

“It means he’s going to help me whether I want him to or not.”

“Lucky you,” said Dr Rose, “Couldn’t point him my way, could you?”

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Wittering Dung Beetles (aka Bike) Part 580

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I left Dr Rose feeling a little easier in my mind about my care of Trish, he seemed to think it was very acceptable. I wasn’t at all sure what I thought about his colleague, Dr Edwards, as I was sure he had an ambivalence towards her himself. Still, a few more days and I’d find out what she was like.

We hastened up to the prem baby unit, and I hoped a chance to feed Puddin’. Stella was up there when we arrived, she was expressing milk and grumbling, her breasts were significantly larger since the birth and she didn’t like it because none of her clothes would fit.

She was being worked on by one of the nurses, the nice one, who was trying to convince her that breast feeding was good for her and her baby. I don’t think Stella sounded too convinced. It made me feel sad, but then I suppose I should feel grateful for what I’ve got given my route to womanhood and motherhood.

She was happy that Trish and I should feed Puddin, and by positioning a chair alongside the incubator, Trish was able to give Puddin’ some of her milk. Trish was so excited, and I thought it ironic that she seemed to be a more natural mother than Stella was.

Once again, I held Puddin’s finger, or she held mine and Trish indicated she could see the blue energy, which was more than I could. After it, Puddin seemed to yawn and sleep. She was slightly larger and seemed to gaining weight very slowly. The dark hair she’d had on her head, however, seemed to be coming out and her skin was peeling a bit as well. Most of her feeding was done by a tube which went via her nose into her tummy, but she was suckling the bottle a bit more efficiently.

When the nurse saw me touching the baby, she gave me a knowing look and smiled. Stella seemed oblivious of all of this and prattled on about how the baby was responding to her care.

Stella had some news for us as well, she was coming home in a day or two. Puddin’ would have to stay until she’d made up body weight which they felt made her resilient enough to survive in the outside world. At the moment, she was still too little.

I asked about the skin peeling and was told it was reasonably common, I wondered if it was like snakes or insects who moult their skins to grow. In insects they call it ecdysis. See an education is never wasted, all you have to do now is work out how to fit it into everyday conversation.

We stayed for a further half an hour and then walked back to the ward with Stella. She was now wearing her ordinary clothes, except they were loose tops and of course a nursing bra. She hated it all and asked why I hadn’t taken the chance to breast feed when she’d offered. I didn’t answer her question, I did enough for her already.

I took her dirty laundry and a list of things she wanted me to bring in for her. In some ways, I was pleased she’d be home soon, although I expected her to lounge about, exhausted after feeding Puddin’.

“You are not to tell anyone that you saw the blue light again, or that you helped feed Puddin’, if you do, I won’t let you feed her again. Understood?” I said to Trish as we walked back to the car.

“Yes, Mummy,” she said beaming, knowing that Mima would be jealous if ever she found out.

Back home and the drudgery continued, washing for the invalids, and cooking for the residents, with Trish who laid the table and helped me get the meal. Mima was fast asleep with Simon on the couch-apparently, they’d taken Kiki for a walk and tired themselves out.

Tom was in his study working on his computer, as soon as he knew I’d try and stop him, he locked the door. I could hear him chuckling, or maybe cackling the other side of it. I did think to switch off the mains electric to the house, but then I’d mess up the dinner.

Because of the late start, I did bacon and egg with sausages and tomatoes, mushrooms and fried bread. When Simon did wake up, just before I dished up, he was pleased to see the meal I’d cooked, it was one of his favourites.

“Next time, do some hash browns, will ya?”

“I prefer to call it fried potato and we need some previously boiled and mashed spud to do that; as you currently eat any leftovers before I can use them, it might be difficult.”

“You can get frozen hash browns,” he informed me.

“I know, I just prefer to use home produced food, the commercial stuff has too much salt in it.” Then I thought about the way Tom used to sprinkle salt on everything except his sweets. They say the Scots eat too much of it, and explains why anyone living to fifty in Glasgow is unusual. So much for porridge being good for you.

After the meal, Mima, who’d got her second wind, wanted to play with the makeup sets, so Trish happily assisted her. Then it was bed time, after steam cleaning their faces, and Tom read them a story while Simon and I chatted.

“Did you see your post?”

“What? As in mail?”

“Yep, something with a Do not bend sticker on it.”

“I’m not expecting any photos, am I?”

“You’re asking me?” He had a look of horror on his face.

“No, I was thinking out loud.” I went out to the hall and there on the side table, were a few items of mail. The one was larger than the others and had the warning about bending it clearly displayed. I looked at the sender’s address, it was from the GRP.

With excited fingers, I carefully pulled up the flap, inside was a light blue certificate, I was finally female. I whooped and Simon came dashing out to see what was happening.

I was dancing around the lounge. “What the hell is going on?” he asked curtly.

“I’m female.”

“Yeah, we know that, tell me something new.”

“No, I’m female.”

“You said.”

“Really female.”

“Damn, and there’s me thinking it was real all along.”

“No, Simon, look.” I shoved the certificate in front of him.

He read it, and then gave me an enormous hug. “Congratulations, female,” he said then kissed me. “When do you get your new birth certificate?”

“They’re going to write to me to ask what I want written on it, you know, what I want to register as my name.”

“You know what this means, don’t you?”

“Yes, I’m nearly there, complete.”

“No, you silly moo, it means I can ask you something again.”

“If it’s for a cuppa, it’s your turn to make it,” I replied tired of waiting on him.

“No, you silly cow, can I ask you again, will you marry me?”

“Do I have to?”

“No.” The look on his face was pure dejection.

“So it’s my choice then?”

“Wasn’t it always?”

“Yeah, I s’pose.”

“You gonna reject me?”

“I could do, couldn’t I?”

“Well don’t prolong the agony, get on and say no, if you’re going to.”

“No…”

“Oh well, that’s it then. I thought you were going off me, now you’ve got your kids, you don’t want me. I’ll pack my stuff and leave.”

“No.”

“No what?”

“No, I’m not going to reject you, and no, you’re not going anywhere.”

“Cathy, stop pissing me about, are we getting married or not?”

“Yes, we are and I am delighted to become your wife.”

“Shit! I suppose I’d better tell Dad and Monica.”

“Tell them what?” asked Tom as he came down from his story session.

“To get ready to organise a wedding.”

Tom looked at me and then at Simon, then back to me. “What is going on?”

“I’m officially female, my gender recognition thingy has come back.” I handed him the certificate.

“Oh, Cathy, I’m so pleased for you, this calls for a bottle of champagne, and I have one in the cellar. He hugged me and kissed me, then went off to get the bottle.

“That piece of paper doesn’t change anything you know?” said Simon.

“Yes it does, my birth certificate and my legal status…”

“No it doesn’t, all it does is make it acceptable to government what you’ve done to your body. In my eyes, you’ve always been female, and a beautiful one at that, and one that I fell in love with almost at first sight. I still love you.”

I felt the tears well up and run down my face. “Oh, Si, you say the sweetest things.” I said hugging him and kissing him.

“So why are you crying then?” I shook my head, unable to speak. He looked at me and said, “Bloody women, I’ll never understand them.”

Wheedling Dingoes (aka Bike) Part 581

“I suppose I’ll have to start saving for the wedding,” said Tom, looking anything but worried about it.

“No probs, the bank will take care of it, we always get married up in the parish church near the estate.”

“Do I get a say in this?” I asked, feeling very alienated and angry.

“Course you do, it’s your day after all,” said Tom, and Simon nodded.

“I’m being married by a lovely lady I met a year or so ago.”

“I thought you were marrying me?” joked Simon.

“The lady’s name is Marguerite, and I asked her to marry me-she’s a priest-when we spoke in her church.”

“But we have a tradition of marrying in Stanebury church.”

“Well, you go and get married there, and I’ll go and see Marguerite. Goodnight.” I went off on a strop up to my bed. I didn’t even kiss Tom goodnight, and I especially didn’t kiss Simon. The way I felt he was acting, he could have his ring back any time he wanted.

I washed and changed into my nightdress and went to see the kids, straightening up their beds and kissing them gently. These were my life now, Simon would have to learn to take second place in my attention. I also decided that I wouldn’t be making the harvest mouse film, so I’d call Alan and Erin tomorrow and tell them.

I didn’t feel like sleeping with Simon tonight, so I climbed in with Mima and held her close to me.

“What are you doing in here?” hissed Simon.

“She was restless.” I lied so easily some days it frightened me.

“Come on to bed,” he hissed again, “or are you going to act like a spoilt brat all night?”

“What do you mean?” I replied walking out of the girl’s bedroom, “You’re a fine one to talk about spoilt brats.”

“Well, you did a very good example of if we can’t play what I want, I’m taking my ball home.”

“Did I now? Well, Mr bloody perfect, you’ve obviously forgotten that I told you ages ago that I wanted to be married in Marguerite’s little church, in Gloucestershire.”

“Did you? Sorry, I’d forgotten.”

“So it seems.”

“Can we discuss this like adults in the morning?” he asked me.

“I won’t change my mind.”

“You won’t bow to five hundred years of tradition?”

“Why should I?”

“Because I’m asking you to.”

“So your bloody ancestors are more important than what I want?”

“No, this done for the living, not the dead.”

“At this moment, I wish I was one of the latter.”

“Sorry, but I am not marrying a stiff,” said Simon, trying to inject some humour into the conversation.

“Neither am I, in fact I don’t think I’ll be marrying anyone.”

“You just told me you would.”

“If this is what marriage to you would be like, where I’m treated like a child and taken for granted…”

“Maybe it’s because you act like a child.”

“Hark, who’s bloody talking,” I slammed back at him, voices were becoming raised and we were in danger of waking the children.

In fact, Tom came up to ask us to turn it down. “Look, I know you need to sort these things out, but you’re going to wake the girls.”

“Bugger the girls, this is more important …” I don’t know if Simon realised what he’d said, he was getting very very angry, and Tom’s intrusion just added petrol to the blaze.

His comment stuck a knife straight through my heart. I went to my jewellery box, picked up the ring he gave me, and grabbing his hand with my left one, shoved it firmly into his hand. “I’d like you to leave,” I said and walked out of the room.

“Cathy, Cathy, look … can we discuss this …” I ignored his pleas and shut myself in Stella’s room and locked the door. I sat on the bed feeling totally gutted, and then the tears came and I just howled.

I must have fallen asleep because I woke up sometime later feeling totally bereft and confused. It took me a moment to work out where I was. I wasn’t lying in bed, but across it and on top of it. I was cold and sitting up rubbed my arms. I remembered bit by bit; Simon and I had had an awful row and I gave him his ring back and told him to go. Why? Because I was a fool and he’d insulted my children, or as near as I’d ever have to children of my own. Also, he’d been rather insensitive in telling me where we were getting married-up in f*~#king Scotland, ‘cos that’s what his porridge eating ancestors did-the ones who didn’t get hanged for cattle rustling.

He ought to know, I’m as wilful as he is. If someone tells me to do something, I do the opposite. My father, him that was married to my mother, told me to stop wearing girl’s clothes, look where that got him and me.

Life was total shit, if it wasn’t for the girls, I’d have walked out in front of the first truck that came past the house. I felt that wonderful; but because I had two little lives to support, I had to do my duty to them. They’d both been let down by their mothers before-I wasn’t going to do that. I’d given them my word-but what was that worth now? I’d also given it to Simon, and look what happened. I felt about as low as I’d ever done.

Perhaps I’d argued with Simon because I wasn’t really a woman. They can do all sorts of amazing surgery, and I can change my birth certificate, but that didn’t really make me a woman, did it? I mean, my chromosomes are still XY and I can’t have babies or periods.

A real woman would have accepted what her husband to be wanted and supported him. That’s what women do, let their husbands take the lead and build their lives around their hubbies and kids. I wasn’t prepared to do that, so I can’t have been a real woman. Instead I was a failed man who’d mutilated his body and duped two children into believing I, an emasculated man, could replace their mothers. Ha, what stupid, barefaced arrogance was that? Typical of a bloke, that’s what. So that’s what I must still be, despite no meat and two veg and these lumps of fat on my chest, I’m still a bloke.

I lay back down on the bed and cried some more, some of it was self pity, some was self loathing, some was regret that I’d misled the children, and some was bereavement-I’d lost the one person I thought I’d be with until one or other of us died. Feeling like shit was an understatement-so I cried some more.

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Dribbling Warthogs (aka Bike) Part 582

I didn’t know if Simon was still in the house or not when I awoke at about five. I’d had a wretched night and felt exhausted. I wanted to go to my own bed, but was frightened Simon might be there. I’d said some horrible things to him and was ashamed, but was still angry with him.

I unlocked the door as quietly as I could and checked the girls, they were still asleep. My bedroom door was open and when I looked the bed was empty. It was still dark and couldn’t see very far down the drive, so Simon’s car might still be there. I crawled into my bed and was so fast asleep, I didn’t feel the two bodies cuddling into me.

I eventually woke about eight, mainly in response to someone tapping on my shoulder. “Mummy, Mummy, wake up. Where’s Daddy?”

“Wossermatter?” I sort of slurred as I opened my eyes, which felt like they’d been rolled in a sugar basin.

“Where’s Daddy?” Trish asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied and yawned.

“He’s not here or downstairs,” she stated and looked at me questioningly.

“I don’t know where he is.” I felt so guilty, I was blushing when I said, “Look, we had a row last night and he went off to cool down.”

“He is coming back, isn’t he?” asked Trish; so far Mima had said nothing but her bottom lip was trembling. I put my arm around her.

“I expect so, but I don’t know when.”

“My Daddies always run away,” said Trish and the tears began to fall. I hugged her with my other arm and soon had two crying children, soaking my nightdress as they mourned their apparent loss.

Bloody typical, he insults them and I throw him out and they miss him, not love me. I lay there feeling even more stupid and very very sad. How can I manage to cock things up so wonderfully? Destroying everything I love. I don’t know about Trish needing a shrink, maybe it was me who needed one. I would call Dr Thomas later.

Tom popped in with a cuppa and saw the three of us lying there and weeping. He didn’t stay but made sure I saw the tea. I managed to sit myself up, and sipped my tea to the accompanying sobs of the girls.

“I expect he’ll be back in a day or two-how would you like to see my other house?”

“You have another house, Mummy?” said Trish.

“Yes, in Bristol; it used to belong to my Mummy and Daddy.”

“You had more than one Mummy and Daddy, too?” asked Trish, Mima still hadn’t said anything.

“I only had one Mummy and she died, so has my first Daddy, which is why Tom is my other Daddy.”

“You’re lucky,” Trish said, adding the sting, “you still have a daddy-we don’t.”

“We don’ ‘ave a daddy,” squealed Mima and burst into tears.

I felt like saying, ‘No, but you have a mummy who loves you so much.’ I didn’t, no matter what I did, they would ignore me if Simon was about. It was a fact of life, so I tried not to get too vexed by it.

I managed to get them showered and dressed, though we all felt rather flat. I began to see the dimensions of what I’d done last night-they were huge. Having thrown him out, I couldn’t invite him back, he’d have to ask. Simon was a proud man, I couldn’t see him coming back to me. His wardrobe was empty-he wasn’t coming back. I felt empty.

With the girls, I had to keep going, I had no choice. I’d already caused them grief, so I had to compensate for it. I made us breakfast, but couldn’t eat my own. Tom came and took the girls out with Kiki. I called Dr Thomas. Her secretary told me she was away for a week. Wonderful.

Tomorrow, I was due to take Trish to see Dr Edwards. After that, I could take the kids with me to Bristol. Maybe a change of air would do me good? I didn’t know, and I certainly didn’t trust my instincts any more. I’d ask Tom’s advice.

I made up the bread machine and set it going. It would just about be ready for lunch. I then set about making some ham and vegetable soup.

The phone rang, it was Stella. “Hi, Cathy, can you or Si come and get me this afternoon?”

“Si isn’t here.”

“Where is he? Working?”

“I don’t know, we had a big fight last night and I threw him out.”

“You did what?”

“You heard me, I gave him his ring back and asked him to go.”

“I told you never to give their rings back, I’ve got several.”

“I’m less mercenary than you, Stella.”

“True,” she paused, “So could you come and get me?”

“I s’pose so.”

“Come after three, I’ll go and see Dad.”

“Don’t tell him about Si and me, will you?”

“Your troubles are for you to solve, nah, I’m just gonna say ‘bye ‘bye, ‘cos I’m coming home. He’ll be jealous as hell.”

“I’m going up to Bristol for a few days, just to get my head straight.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow, after Trish’s appointment.”

“You can’t…”

“Why not? It’s my house.”

” ‘Cos I need you.”

“When’s the baby coming home?”

“A week or two.”

“I’ll be back before then.”

“But what am I gonna do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I need you there, Cathy.”

“You’re a big girl now, Stella, you don’t need me.”

“Yes I do, if you’re going to Bristol, so am I.” My heart sank, how could I tell her she wasn’t invited? The whole point was getting some time on my own relatively. I had to take the girls, it was me they were entrusted to, so I had to take them.

That sounds as if they were a burden, but they weren’t and I wouldn’t consider not taking them, however the downside was, on my own, I’d get no respite, I’d be on duty twenty four seven. The joys of parenthood.

“Can’t you stay and keep an eye on Tom, for me.”

“Who’s going to cook and stuff?”

“I’m sure you’ll muddle through, the freezer is full.”

“Cathy, this is so selfish of you, I can’t believe you’d desert me in my hour of need.”

My jaw fell open, and before I could reply, she’d rung off. As I put down the handset, Tom came back with the girls and Kiki.

“We’s been feedin’ ducks, Mummy,” said Mima and hugged my legs.

“More problems?” asked a perceptive Tom.

“A demanding Stella, she’s coming home this afternoon, wants me to get her.”

“Want me to go?”

“No, could you watch the kids?”

“Surely, or will they be watching me?”

“Yeah. Look, Daddy, I thought I might take the girls up to Bristol for a couple of days, you know, chill out?”

“So you want me to keep an eye on Stella?”

“Am I that transparent?”

“You don’t want me to answer that, surely?”

“No, maybe not.”

“Is Simon coming back?”

I shrugged. He shook his head and went to give Kiki a drink.

Trish took off her jacket and then took Mima’s and hung them both up in the cloakroom. She was so helpful in some ways.

“Mummy, why is there smoke coming from the kitchen?”

“Oh hell, the soup!”

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Warbling Dewlaps (aka Bike) Part 583

The soup had boiled over, but five minutes of scrubbing cleaned up the mess. There was enough for us all, possibly with a bit left over as Simon wasn’t here. I felt sad again-why did I throw him out?-seemed like a good idea, or I’m incredibly stupid? And now I’ve lost him, possibly for good. I felt my eyes want to leak some more salt water, so I wiped down the cooker once more.

After lunch, the soup was okay for all it’s boiling-or bilin’ as Tom put it-I told the girls I was going to the hospital to collect their Auntie Stella.

“Don’t forget to give your special touch to Puddin’, Mummy,” Trish whispered to me.

“I’ll see if I have time, darling, at this moment, I’m more concerned that you two behave for Gramps.”

“We will,” said Trish.

“We wiww,” parroted Meems.

“Okay, I’ll see you later.” I kissed them both and got the Golf out of its parking space. I wondered if Simon would want this back? I hoped not, it’s a lovely car and goes like a rocket.

I parked near the ward on which Stella had been. But when I went up there, she’d left, an hour before. In case she was with Henry, I popped up to his ward. He was pleased to see me and told me she’d been there but had gone probably half an hour ago.

“You’re looking tired, Cathy.”

“Yeah, Mima had a troubled night.” These lies were so easy now.

“Why was that?”

“I don’t honestly know, bad dreams, I suppose.”

“What about you and Simon?”

“What about Simon and me?” I felt my tummy somersault.

“Please don’t act stupidly, Cathy, it doesn’t befit you. He phoned me to say you’d chucked him.”

“Oh,” I felt myself blushing and wanting to cry, but I kept swallowing back the tears.

“I wondered why you’d had such a sudden attack of good taste?”

“It was silly really. I got the forms back from the gender people and I’m waiting for my new birth certificate. He asked me to marry him again, and I said yes.” I felt a tear run down my face.

“Why don’t you sit down,” he said proffering me his box of tissues.

I hadn’t wanted to stay, I felt far too guilty. “I feel so stupid,” I said as I burst into tears. He waited until I’d finished crying before he urged me to complete my story. I explained about the difference of opinion over a wedding site.

“You get married wherever you want,” he said quietly.

“What about all your traditions and stuff?”

“If you’re agreeable, we could have a blessing there afterwards. I’d like it if you wore your wedding dress for that, but it isn’t essential. Then we’d have a bun-fight at the local hotel with possibly an evening disco; that sort of thing, keeps the peasants happy.”

“Don’t know about this peasant?” I said disliking his mock arrogance.

“Ah, but you’d be elevated to the Scottish Gentry.”

“You can’t make a silk purse…”

Au contraire, you are living proof of the possibilities, although I prefer to see you as a woman who had a plumbing problem.” I blushed; he could talk the birds out of the trees when he wanted to.

I patted my eyes dry again. I needed to find Stella and possibly get up to see Puddin’ although the way I felt, she could do with charging me up, not the other way round.

“So is it over with Simon?” he asked directly.

I shrugged, “I don’t know, perhaps. I chucked him out didn’t I?”

“So? ask him to come back.”

“He’d be hardly likely to do that would he?”

“I don’t know, you’d have to ask him that, wouldn’t you? Do you want him back?”

“Yes,” I said very quietly.

“Damn, that’s a great shame, I was going to divorce Monica and make a play myself.” His eyes were twinkling as he joked with me. “I thought you were beginning to show some taste at last with dumping that lump of lard.”

“He’s not that bad, Henry, just a bit out of shape.”

“I’m in better shape than him and I’ve got two broken legs.”

“Well you’re probably genetically leaner…”

“Nonsense, I don’t eat as much as that couch potato and I exercise more. You’ll have to make him do some exercise regularly as part of your taking the fool back.”

“I don’t even know where he is,” I shrugged.

“You could always call his mobile.”

“What if he won’t talk to me? I was pretty awful to him.”

“You’ll just have to talk to him directly, then won’t you?”

“Not if I don’t know where he is.”

“If I was to tell you where he is at this very moment, would you speak to him?”

“If he’d talk to me, yes I would.”

“What would you tell him?”

“That the girls missed him, that I missed him and that I loved him; I was sorry for being so horrid to him and I wanted to try again.”

“What do you think he’d say to you?”

“I don’t know, possibly, to get stuffed.”

“I don’t think so, do you?”

“I don’t know, Henry, I’ve been so stupid.” I was sniffing again as I fought with the tears. “You said you knew where he was?”

“Yes, he’s…”

“I’m here, Babes.”

“What?” I gasped, and spun round. Simon, was standing behind me, looking rather embarrassed.

“Hello, Babes.”

“Simon? What are you doing here?”

He shrugged, “I came to see Stella, but she’d gone home, so I came over to see Dad.”

“How long have you been standing there?”

“A couple of minutes, why?”

I glared at Henry, “You set me up,” I accused him.

“Believe me, Lassie, I didn’t, our missing couch potato just showed up, all by himself.”

“If I thought you had…”

“I told you, chuck him and I’ll do the same with Monica and we could make music together.” He laughed at my screwed up face.

“That would be like marrying Tom,” I said in distaste.

“Hey, it wouldn’t. He’s twenty years older than me,” Henry protested.

“He didn’t set us up, Babes, he isn’t clever enough for that,” Simon said very quietly.

“How dare you?” Henry glared at his son, but again he was fooling about.

“Can we go and talk, maybe grab a cuppa?”

“Alright, but I need to find out where Stella is, she’s disappeared.”

“She’ll turn up, like the bad penny she is,” Simon was not very complimentary to his sister.

“I’m worried about her, Si. She’s in a funny mood.”

“Oh geez, Cathy, she is a total pain in the arse, I spend half my sodding life running around for the stupid cow. It’s about time she grew up. Let’s get ourselves sorted, maybe we can help her afterwards.”

“What if that’s too late?”

“What for us?”

“No for her.” I pulled out my mobile and speed dialled home. In a couple of moments I’d learned that she wasn’t with Tom and the girls. “She hasn’t gone home.”

“Aw shit!” Simon cursed, “She’s messing us about again. Stupid cow.”

“Perhaps she’s up with her baby, come on, let’s look. We’ll see you later, Henry.”

“Let me know what’s happening with you and her, won’t you?” he called as we left.

We dashed up to the special baby care unit. “Is Stella here?” I asked the nurse.

“No, she was maybe an hour ago, did a bottle for her baby and left.”

“Can I see the baby?”

“Course,” she waved me to Puddin’s incubator.

I touched the baby’s hand and her fingers wrapped around mine and she gave me a beautiful smile. I felt my finger buzzing and she smiled again and drifted off to sleep finally letting go of my finger after a few minutes. I stroked her head and promised to come back to see her again as soon as I could.

“So where is the baby’s mother?”

“We don’t know, she was supposed to be waiting for me to collect her to take her home. She wasn’t there, and she hasn’t gone home, or hadn’t.”

“Oh, she seemed a bit preoccupied when she was here, she hasn’t got post-natal depression, has she?”

“Could be, if she comes back, could you let me know.” I gave her my mobile number.

“Yeah, course. I hope you find her.”

“So do we,” said Simon as we dashed off towards the cars.

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Waggling Dogbites (aka Bike) Part 584

I checked with Tom when we arrived at the cars. Stella had not arrived home, despite having left the hospital anything up to an hour and a half earlier. Quickly, we discussed what we should do. There seemed little point in driving aimlessly around in the hope of finding her, she could be miles away in that time.

I suggested that we go home and contact the police, list her as a missing person perhaps suffering from post natal depression. Simon couldn’t think of anything better and we kissed briefly. He stood with his back to hospital as he hugged and kissed me. I closed my eyes and felt his warm dry lips on mine.

I opened my eyes and looked into his and smiled. “I missed you,” I said quietly. He smiled. Then I looked past him as some movement caught my eye. “Oh no!”

“What?” he said.

“There she is.” I pointed and he spun around, exclaiming something about a mallard, or some sort of duck. Yes, I’m sure it was a duck. We both watched in horror as Stella, wandered along the top of the hospital roof. “We need some help,” I said, but Simon was already running towards the building.

I called the police and explained what was happening. They said they’d have a negotiator there as soon as they could, in the mean time to talk with the hospital and try to not distract her or allow crowds to form.

My stomach was churning like a concrete mixer as I ran back towards the hospital. I wondered if Henry should be informed, after all she was his daughter. As I approached the main entrance, Simon had someone in a suit outside and looking upwards.

“How did she get up there?” asked the man in the suit.

“How do I know, all I know is if she comes down via gravity, I’m going to sue.” Simon was stating his position rather too strongly for my liking, but I suppose he was entitled to feel angry or anxious. I know I felt the latter, in spades.

A police car was approaching at speed with blue lights flashing and it screamed to a halt yards from us. “Will she jump?” asked the policewoman, an inspector or something, judging from the silverware on her uniform.

“I don’t know, she’s pretty upset and possibly has post natal depression,” I replied, giving her details. Another police car arrived and they began closing off the approach, with detour signs and fencing. An ambulance was lurking nearby and I shivered at the prospect that she could throw herself off the roof.

I couldn’t count the storeys, my eyes were misting up with tears, but I knew it was high enough to kill or maim her. I felt tears run down my face. I had to accept some responsibility for this-my tone on the phone could have provoked this. I was fed up with her, but this was something different. Where was the nurse who took charge when we first met? Long since departed from the current occupant of the body we loved as Stella. She had never really got over the kidnap, which isn’t really surprising, it was traumatic. Then all the other things, attempted suicides, abortion and consequent bleed. No wonder she’s strange, I would be too. However, her baby needed her so somehow we had to get her off the roof.

I pushed past the police and Simon and grabbed the lift, taking it as high as I could. Then, I barged my way through the two security men who were guarding the stairs out to the roof. I was up the stairs like a ferret up a drainpipe with them in hot pursuit.

Out through a door and I was on the roof, boy, it was a long way down. I walked gingerly towards the front of the hospital it wasn’t intended as a thoroughfare, just for basic maintenance. I got to the rim of the wall surrounding the top. Stella was over this and standing or sitting on a narrow ledge.

I approached it carefully while attempting to be casual. “Hi Stella, what a view, eh?”

“What do you want?”

“I thought you were coming to Bristol with us tomorrow? We need to get back and pack.”

“You don’t want me.”

“Yes I do.”

“You didn’t earlier.”

“That was because I wasn’t thinking straight, I was worried about seeing Trish’s psychiatrist.”

“Why? I’d have thought you had loads of practice with shrinks.”

“Not really, just two.”

“Oh, I’m wrong again, then, am I?”

“Not really. Anyway, we need to get home, I have a meal that’s going to be overcooked and you need to pack.”

“You’d best go then, I’m staying here.”

“What for, once you’ve admired the view, there’s little reason to be here.”

“You’re a lousy liar, Cathy Watts.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you the real reason I’m here.”

“To interfere with me.”

“That sounds like I’m some sexual predator.”

“You know what I mean.”

“No I don’t, but that’s your affair. I just wanted to ask you for your help in planning my wedding.”

“Sorry, you’ll have to do it yourself.”

“But you promised me, ages ago.”

“Well I’m as unreliable as you then, aren’t I?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I heard the sound of footsteps and waved the police away.

“You lied to me, I can’t trust you anymore.”

“What about your baby?”

“You can have her, you seem to collect children.”

“I don’t want her, I’ve already got two.”

“You promised me you’d look after her.”

“No I didn’t, I promised that I’d help you to look after her.”

“If I’m not there you’ll have to do it.”

“Don’t threaten or dare me, Stella, I’m not looking after her, that’s your job.”

“I’m resigning from my job then.”

“You can’t,” I nearly added, ‘it’s for life’ and was glad I hadn’t.

“Why not?”

“It’s not allowed.”

“Says who?”

“I do for one, then there’s Henry and Monica, Simon, Tom plus loads of other people.”

“Tough.”

“Stella why can’t we discuss this over a cuppa, it’s bloody cold up here.”

“I didn’t ask you to come.”

“I needed to, I told you I have to ask you about my wedding.”

“Why? I’m not going to be there am I?”

“Of course you are, how am I going to organise it by myself?”

“Get Monica to help, she’s got good taste.”

“Not as good as yours, remember that YSL suit you gave me, it still looks good on me, despite the dormouse pee.”

“Lucky you.”

“I need your help to choose a dress and bridesmaids dresses and all the rest.”

“So, has Simon won?”

“Won what?”

“The argument, about doing it up in Scotland?”

“No we compromised, or he will.”

“Atta girl, bring him to heel. See, you know all you need, all I can teach you?”

“Well, if you’re not intending to come to my wedding will you help me decide on the style of dress I need?”

“Can’t say I give a monkey’s what you wear.”

“Stella, that is so untrue, you know you care, it’s what you do best, well after nursing.”

“Me? I’m a lousy nurse, shoulda been a doctor, too bossy to work with colleagues, can only get away with that if you’re a doctor.”

“Or a matron.”

“Do me a favour! Matron? Ha. A nurse with ideas above her station.”

“I apologise, you could still do the doctor bit.”

“Nah, too old, and besides, I don’t care any more. I’m sick and tired of people.”

“Even your own daughter, Des’s daughter?”

“Yeah, even her, I told you I’d make a lousy mother.”

“Dunno about that, but this is a piss poor way to prove it.”

“Catherine, language please.” She said and after a pause, she giggled and I wondered about her stability on the ledge.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Exactly,” she replied. I had to think for a moment, okay the old Watts and what’s mix up. Yes very funny-not.

“I can feel rain, Stella, will you take a coat if I pass it to you gently?”

“No, stay away. I’m not cold and a bit of wet isn’t going to hurt me-ha, hurt me, what a joke that is. It wasn’t the fall that killed her, it was the landing.” She roared with laughter and I felt sick. A policeman threw me his coat and I wrapped it around myself.

“What do I have to do, to stop you hurting yourself?”

“Nothing, this isn’t going to hurt, be too quick for that.”

“Can I jump with you then?”

“Don’t be stupid, you’ve got two children to look after.”

“Well you’ve got one, so what’s the difference? They’ll have to find them someone else. If I get you a cuppa, will you drink it?”

“No, ‘cos then I’ll need a pee.”

“Yeah, okay, I can see the point of that, but you’ll pee when you hit the deck anyway, very messy and undignified.”

“So, I’ll crap myself as well.”

“Can we talk about something else?”

“Sure, how about you going home and feeding your babies.”

“I will, if you will.”

“You sound like a school girl.”

“Well, that’s what I am really isn’t it?”

“Is it? I thought you were a super hero.”

“If I was, I’d have flown past and dragged you off the ledge.”

“Yeah, possibly.”

“I’m worried you’re getting wet, let me pass you your coat, I see your overnight bag is here.”

“I said I was alright, why doesn’t anyone listen to me?”

“I am listening, Stella, I’m just worried you might catch cold.”

“Not unless it happens in the next few minutes.”

“You frighten me, Stella.”

“Oh, how wonderful. The great Cathy Watts, alias ‘Supersaver Woman’, is frightened by something a mere mortal said. I like it.”

“That was pretty unkind of you, Stella. Where is the nurse who cared so much for me when she knocked me off my bike?”

“Did I care? I don’t think so, you were just a project, a life-size Barbie doll.”

“You have such a way with words.”

“Yeah, don’t I just.”

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Wallowing Denizens (aka Bike) Part 585

I kept the conversation going, but I knew that Stella wasn’t weakening. I needed help. I beckoned the policeman over to me, and whispered in his ear. He nodded and rushed off.

“Isn’t it time for little Desdemona to have her bottle?” I asked Stella.

“Yeah, why don’t you go and give it to her?”

“That’s your job, Stella.”

“I don’t want to, I don’t really want anything to do with her.”

“Why the change of heart?”

“I don’t have to explain it to you.”

“No, you don’t have to, but I’d really like you to.”

“I don’t want her.”

“What do you mean, you don’t want her?”

“Like I said, I don’t want her.”

“Why?”

“Because I said so. You wanted to know, I’ve told you, now shut up about it.”

“Okay, keep your knickers on.”

“Why don’t you go home and look after your children?”

“Same reason you don’t.”

“Mine’s damaged, I don’t want her. In fact I wish she’d die.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

“She’s probably brain damaged.”

“How do you know?”

“I heard two doctors talking.”

“Are you sure it was your baby?”

“They were stood alongside her.”

“Oh, could be then.”

“What do you mean, could be? It’s bloody obvious.”

“Okay, so it’s obvious to you, it isn’t to me.” I remembered my mother getting terribly upset when my dad was in hospital. She overheard two doctors talking and thought they were talking about Dad. It wasn’t, but for two weeks she thought Dad was dying.

I was tempted to relate this story to her, but it would probably bore her enough to make her jump. I heard shuffling feet, and a few moments later, four burly coppers carried Henry out on to the roof. I walked up to him and we squeezed hands and I pecked him on the cheek. This was now kill or cure stuff.

“Stella, I have to say I’m disappointed in you.”

“Daddy?”

“What the hell are you playing at?” While the two of them talked I sneaked around to where I thought she was. Two policemen followed me.

“I’m going to jump.”

“Are you now?”

“Yes, you won’t stop me.”

“No I won’t. Well get a bloody move on then, it’s cold up here.”

“I’m really going to do it.”

“You look me in the eye and tell me that,” Henry said, coldly.

She stood up and turned to face the wall and look over it at her father. “There, good bye, Daddy.” She put her hands on the wall and the two policemen and I pounced. The smaller of the cops grabbed one wrist and I grabbed the other. The bigger copper, grabbed her around the body as she screamed and struggled, and between us, we manhandled her over the wall to the relative safety of the roof.

I must have relaxed my grip because she pulled her hand free from my grasp and punched the one copper in the face, he fell down clasping his nose. She then kneed the other one in the family jewels, and ran back towards the wall.

I acted-or reacted-rather than thought. As she ran so did I only faster, and as she got within a yard of the wall I was right behind her and I rugby tackled her around the waist and hips, bringing her down on top of me. It winded both of us, and she struggled free again, only this time two more police officers had arrived and she was held down and handcuffed, before being led away back into the hospital.

I rolled about in agony and learned a little later that I’d broken my collar bone-a typical cyclist’s injury. Ironic or what? Stella was sedated and taken off to a secure ward where they were instructed to do a suicide watch on her.

Simon had to take me home; I had my left arm in a sling and I knew there’d be no cycling for a few weeks. My car, well it had been clamped-the parking ticket had run out. Thankfully, the hospital waived the fee to release it and a copper drove it home for me.

“Mummy!” squealed two very happy children, followed by an even louder, Daddeeeee.” Okay, so life is never fair.

“You’ve got a baddy arm?” gasped Mima, once she’d stopped bouncing all over Simon.

“I’ve broken my clavicle.”

“Mummy bwoke hew, cwavacw?” squeaked Meems, running to Tom.

“You broke your what?” asked a perplexed Tom.

“My collar bone.”

“How on earth did you do that?”

“I fell.”

“Bloody typical, you go to hospital to visit someone and end up in a sling.”

“Yeah, that’s my sort of luck.”

“I tell you what, Babes, Gavin Henson would have been proud of that tackle.”

“Who?”

“A Wales and British Lions centre three quarter, one of the best tacklers in the biz.”

“Yeah, like what’s that got to do with Nicole Cooke, the best woman cyclist in the universe.”

He looked at me in total bewilderment. “I have no idea what you’re on about.”

“No, neither do I,” I laughed and then he joined in. Mima fell about giggling and Trish soon followed.

“Did you find Stella afterwards?” asked Tom.

“Yeah, she was at the hospital all the time,” I said and looked at Simon.

“Yeah, she’d taken a walk up to a viewing point.”

“So, is she coming home tomorrow?”

“I doubt it, they thought she ought to stay close to the baby for a few more days, especially as she’s doing so well at the moment.”

“I ought to go and see them both, maybe you could run me in tomorrow, Simon,” Tom said, smiling.

I looked at Simon and thought, oh-oh.

“I think I have to go to the office tomorrow, Tom,” he lied.

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Worrying Dandruff (aka Bike) Part 586

As we went to bed the painkillers seemed to be wearing off and my shoulder hurt like hell. Simon had to help me undress, although I wasn’t in much mood to let him play with my boobs. When I got into bed, it hurt to lie down, sit up and anything else. It was going to be a long night.

Eventually, I lay on my good arm and Simon spooned around me, trying not to touch my shoulder or neck. This was going to be sore for ages-wonderful. One of these days I would learn not to interfere, then I wouldn’t get hurt. Yeah, one of these days.

I must have slept because I woke up yelling as I rolled over on my bad side. Simon jumped out of bed as if the house was on fire. He did however calm me down and after a cuppa and a wee, I did manage to snooze again. The girls were amazing in that they didn’t touch my arm or shoulder. Meems cuddled on my good side and Trish lay with Simon.

“What should we tell Tom?” I asked quietly of Simon.

“The truth, there’s been enough deception.”

“Okay, you can tell him while I bath the girls.”

“With your arm in a sling?”

“Damn, ouch…oh bugger, bugger bugger,” I said through clenched teeth as I pulled myself into a sitting position.

“Pain doesn’t improve your vocabulary, does it?” said Simon, sarcastically as I eased my way out of bed and into the bathroom.

I was tempted to hit him and see how good his vocabulary was, but resisted the urge and went down to see Tom. He was making coffee and helped with the kettle for my tea. I told him what happened at the hospital.

“Do you think she would have jumped?”

“I don’t know, Daddy. I really don’t, but I hope she wouldn’t have.”

“She came close before.”

“Oh don’t, Daddy. That is so horrible to remember.”

“Who’s going to look after the baby?”

“Well, I can’t with one hand, can I? It’s going to be hard enough to deal with my two.”

“We’ll get someone in to help.”

“I expect we’ll manage, after all, Puddin’ could be weeks from coming here.”

“Yeah, but will Stella be in the general hospital or at a psychiatric one?”

“Oh boy, I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe they’ll keep her near Puddin’?”

“Why do you call her Pudding? I though Stella called her Desdemona?”

“That’s a horrible name, if she has a second will she call him, Othello?”

“Oh gawd, I see your point.” He poured a cup of coffee for Simon, who we heard coming down the stairs accompanied by squealing children.

“I was just discussing with Cathy that we should consider employing someone to help with the kids while she’s incapacitated.”

“What about the baby?” he asked.

“I don’t think I can cope with her too.”

“Monica will have to have her then.”

“Does Monica have any experience of babies?” I asked.

“No, but neither do you, do you?”

“I used to baby sit one when I was a kid, and as a student I sat for one of my teachers.”

“What they allowed a male student to sit for them?” said Simon questioningly.

“No, I sat for them.”

“What, they knew?”

“Sort of, they do now,” I smirked.

“What did they know, Mummy?” asked Trish. We had forgotten they were listening.

“That I was a good baby-sitter.”

“I think you’re brill, Mummy,” chimed Trish.

“Thank you, darling, but whatever you want the answer is, no.”

“Huh!” said Trish and she went off out of the kitchen.

“You do seem to have an uncanny ability to annoy your children,” commented Simon.

“Well, clever dick, you get their breakfasts then. I’m going to shower.” I finished my tea and plonked the cup down with a bang. Tom jumped and I ignored it as I went upstairs.

It wasn’t such a clever idea; getting into the shower with one hand was bad enough, trying to wash my hair and the rest of me, was next to impossible. At one point, I slipped and threw out both hands to balance, the pain as I leant against the tiled wall was like a knife stabbing me. Once I’d stopped crying, I reflected on the scar I had from the attack, and it didn’t feel like a stab at all, the knife I mean, it felt more like a punch or kick. The tweak I gave my clavicle now, was more like one would imagine a stab to be, sharp and agonising. I held my injured shoulder, it was throbbing like nobody’s business.

I had to finish on my own, Simon was downstairs feeding my children, well my foster kids, and therefore couldn’t hear me anyway. I rinsed my hair just by standing under the jets of water and waiting until it felt as if all the soap was out of it. The water hitting my shoulder was unpleasant but bearable.

Getting out of the bath-our shower is over the bath-was the next obstacle and I nearly slipped again. Then drying myself, one handed-yeah, great fun, I don’t think.

I couldn’t bear a bra, the strap was right on the painful bit, so I just pulled on a tee shirt top and some joggers over my knickers. I scuffed into some mules and after combing my hair one handed, I went down.

I ‘phoned the hospital and enquired after Stella.

“Who are you?”

“Her sister in law.”

“She’s very tired and sleeping. We had to sedate her last night to help her sleep.”

“Will that affect her feeding the baby?”

“We’ll have to check on that.”

“Okay, give her my love, I might try and get into see her later.”

“Will do. Are you alright, you sound in pain?”

“Sorry, yes, I broke my collar bone yesterday.”

“Ouch, sorry to hear that.”

“Thanks.”

I called the prem baby unit. “Hello, it’s Cathy Watts, Stella’s sister in law, you know little Dessie’s mother.”

“Oh yes, how can we help?”

“How is the baby?”

“Alright as far as we know, why?”

“I just wondered if she was missing her mother?”

“Why should she?”

“Stella was taken ill yesterday.”

“Oh, I see, the one on the roof?”

“Um, I don’t think I can comment on that.” I was trying not to encourage silly rumours.

“I see.”

“So is it allowed for me to visit the baby, even if her mother doesn’t?”

“I suppose so.”

“Thank you, it’s just I thought that contact with family members might be useful.”

“You mean human contact?”

“I suppose so.”

“What do you think we are, Miss Watts? Aliens?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound like that.”

“I have to go, bye.” The ‘phone went down and I was left mouthing expletives down the empty ‘phone.

“You shouldn’t swear, Mummy, said Trish as she passed pushing her pram.

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Worrying Doorsteps (aka Bike) Part 587

Trish helped me prepare the lunch, calling Simon when I couldn’t reach things from top cupboards and so on. I wore the sling to help support my arm, and wondered how people who really break these bones cope. Mine was only a hairline fracture, which was why I didn’t feel it crack, but it still hurts like mad and I’ve had to bite my tongue once or twice while Trish has been about.

She made a loaf under my supervision and helped me do some soup, actually, to be perfectly honest, she made the soup, I just told her what to do. She was really enjoying herself.

After lunch, we decided Tom would take me to visit Stella, Puddin’ and Henry; while Simon would look after the girls and the dog. I think he was planing to take her for a walk and feed the ducks, which the kids enjoy, although he’ll have to buy a loaf, the stuff I make rarely lasts long enough to go stale.

So it was we tracked Stella down to a ward up on the top floor. The views were very interesting apart from the bars on the windows. Stella was in a side room of her own. She was lying in bed in a darkened room, she seemed very depressed, although the medication can do horrible things to people.

She wasn’t really with it, so we didn’t stay very long. I felt so sad for her and after kissing her, told her I’d come and see her again and we’d get her home as soon as we could. She smiled then drifted back to sleep. I spoke with the ward sister, who suggested from her apparent pattern of highs and lows, she could be suffering from bi-polar disorder, made worse by the pregnancy and subsequent birth.

I told the sister to make sure she let us know what we needed to do to help her recover, and we’d do it. She promised to do just that. I also reminded her that Stella had been expressing milk for her baby, and she shook her head. “I don’t think that’s going to be possible for a few days, not with the drugs she’s taking.”

“So what is the baby going to do?”

“Oh they have a bank of donors who give milk for newborns, don’t worry, she won’t go hungry.”

That made me feel a little better, but I was still concerned for our newest arrival, she was going to be vulnerable for a while yet. We made our way to see the baby, it was Tom’s first visit and he was shocked by all the wires and tubes.

“She’s doing quite well, you know. She’s a bit bigger than she was and she has a bit more colour.”

“Goodness, puir wee soul,” he said, “she looks like a wee chicken, all plucked and ready for the oven.”

“No she doesn’t, she’s beautiful, aren’t you, little Desi?” I touched her through the glove inserts into the incubator, and she smiled and cooed. I stood there for several minutes with her grasping my finger and trying to suckle on it. When I mentioned this to the nurse on duty, she brought a bottle for me to give her. I so enjoyed it, even though she’s a slow feeder, she takes a couple of sucks and goes to sleep, I enjoyed feeding her. She sighed and yawned and I rubbed her little tummy and forehead. She smiled and opened her eyes, looking at me for a few seconds before she drifted off to sleep again.

The nurses were quite pleased with her and to my delight, Dr Rose popped in while I was there. “Hello, Cathy, this is a pleasant surprise. What are you doing here?”

“Came to see Stella’s baby, and have just given her a bottle.”

“Ah, hence the dreamy look?”

“Oh, is it that obvious?”

“Professor,” he said shaking hands with Tom.

“What are you doing here, Sam? I thought your domain was after they left here?”

“Normally yes, but I got asked to have a look at someone. If they get stuck, they bring me in to kill or cure.” He smiled and I knew that he would never harm a fly, let alone a baby. “What have you done to yourself?”

“Tweaked a collar bone.”

“Didn’t fall off your bike did you?”

“Not quite no.”

“It’s a common injury amongst cyclists.”

“So I believe.”

“Well it’s nice seeing you, how are your charges?”

“They were fine when we came out, so I hope the status quo remains. Simon is in charge this afternoon, and they wrap him around their fingers-and he loves it.”

“Well, I don’t think either of them had much contact with male parental figures, so it’s probably good for them.”

“He hadn’t had much contact with children, so it’s good for him too. They all three seem to bond so well together, it’s really good.”

“I’m glad, the girls seem to love you so much, so you must be doing something right. Eh, Professor?”

“Please, call me, Tom. I think I have the best deal. I get to see two adorable grandchildren, read them bedtime stories and Cathy and Simon do all the work.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Sam, giving us a warm smile. “I’d best go and offer my genius to this young ‘un. Nice to see you both.” He went off to the nurse who’d been standing patiently waiting for us to finish, we went off to see Henry, with a lovely warm feeling I get every time I meet Sam. He exudes a sort of loving energy, no wonder his patients love him.

“How is Stella?”

“They think she could be bi-polar?”

“Is that like manic-depression?” he asked.

“I think it’s the same thing,” I answered.

“Hello, Tom, good to see you again.” They shook hands and sat chatting while I changed his pyjamas taking away the dirties and leaving him some clean ones.

“Oh thanks, Cathy, Monica should be doing that, but you seem to be much more efficient than she is.”

“Probably because I comes from peasant class, me lud.” I dropped a curtsy and Tom sniggered.

“What happened to your arm?” he’d just noticed I was only using one and groaning when I moved the other one.

“She’s broken her clavicle,” said Tom.

“Silly girl, that bloody hurts, I’ve done it twice, once in a race in Erith, came off at the bottom of that bloody hill, the one with the bend on it by the pub.”

“I marshalled near there when the TdF started in London, on the Ashford leg, David Millar was leading it.”

“I watched it on telly, you see more,” said Henry.

“Yeah, it was a bit whoosh, there they go, but it was nice being a part of it.”

“Used to go over to France and watch them do the Pyrenees and so on. Sit on the top of a mountain and watch the world go by, including a couple of hundred cyclists and thousands of nutty Frogs who’d come to watch them. They’re completely potty the French, but they do like their cycling.”

“Simon was going to take me last year, but I was ill so maybe when the girls are a bit older we’ll manage it.”

“Now there’s a thought: I could hire a villa or something and we could all go. Monica could watch the girls while we watch the race and the antics of the crowds.”

“Um, maybe,” I said noncommittally.

“If I came too, I could help with the bairns,” offered Tom.

“We’ll see, I can’t go anywhere like this,” I pointed to my arm in a sling, “and besides we need to see how Stella and her baby are, don’t we?”

“I hope by July, she’ll be okay and so will the little ‘un. I see Scotland lost again, Tom.”

“Aye, England were too strong for them, and the Irish were lucky against Wales. First grand-slam in sixty years, they say.”

I left them talking about the recent rugby matches and went in search of some tea. The nurse said the tea trolley would be through soon and it was quite drinkable. I waited with my tongue almost hanging out, listening to the two older men talking about sport-b-o-r-i-n-g. Finally, the tea trolley arrived and I snaffled two cups for myself as well as one each for Tom and Henry. I was so thirsty, and it was like nectar.

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Waggling Doggytails (aka Bike) Part 588

Simon had to help me undress for bed and I slept fitfully again, even with pain killers Co-Dydramol, I kept waking myself up as soon as I moved. Simon offered to get me a straightjacket but I declined his kind offer, then squealed as I went to slap him with my bad arm. Maybe I needed the aforementioned garment.

I was vaguely aware of an invasion of the bed by miniature aliens, but pretended I was dead-I’d heard they only took those they thought were alive. It all went quiet and I managed to snooze for a while longer. I thought I was dreaming, because I was sure that I felt the bed move but I wasn’t disturbed. I knew I was right, the aliens have taken Simon-he must have moved. I drifted off again, so obviously Simon’s well being can’t have been too important.

I was eventually woken by two voices squeaking, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mummy.” I opened and eye and they were standing waving a card and a bouquet of flowers at me. Behind them stood Simon with a tray of tea and I could smell toast.

I struggled to sit up-boy does that hurt, especially when you sit on the tail of your nightdress. I managed eventually, and they presented me with their treasures, which I accepted graciously. I opened the card and the kids had tried their hardest to sign them-actually, Trish’s writing wasn’t much worse than Stella’s, now I think of it.

Simon put the bed-tray-one of those things with legs on it-over my lap and I drank the tea he poured and even managed to eat one piece of toast, before little hands pinched it all. Why is it that other people’s toast tastes better? It must be true, it affects children as well as adults.

The flowers were lovely, and I asked Trish if she’d help me arrange them later. She beamed with pride and nodded so vigorously, she was in danger of damaging her neck.

Of course, Mima wanted a job, too. I told her she could help me dress later and I told them they could both come with Tom and me to lay some flowers on his wife’s grave. They didn’t really have much idea of what that was all about, but I asked Simon if he could acquire some in the next hour or so, which he agreed to do.

After my tea, and visit to the loo, I washed and sort of combed my hair. Putting on panties was just possible, but I was in lather by the time I’d done it. Mima then helped me slip on a strapless bra, do it up in front and manoeuvre it in place. By this time I felt like going back to bed.

I pulled on a skirt and some socks, both with Mima’s assistance, although it probably would have been easier by myself. Getting a jumper on was another matter, my arm was so painful as I pushed it into the sleeve. Finally, I did get it on and over my head, and my arm back into the sling afterwards. I slipped into boots and Mima struggled with the zips, but we got there in the end.

I combed my hair again and put on some lipstick, I was as ready as I was ever going to be; after a squirt of smellies, I was finished. I supervised the girls washing themselves, and then dressing, they helped each other-well, Trish helped Meems.

We trooped downstairs and Simon was coming in with the flowers I asked him to get. I took them and approached Tom. “I’d like to lay these on your wife’s grave, if you’re happy with that?”

“Yes it’s okay, why today?”

“It’s Mothering Sunday, and I thought it might be nice to do so on behalf of my namesake.”

“That’s very kind of you, Cathy, do you mind if I come, too.”

“No, of course not, the girls and I are waiting.”

“Oh, can we take the dog, she needs a walk?”

“Why not?”

Some five minutes later we all set off to the cemetery. Even Simon came, which meant he’d surrendered the free time he’d have otherwise had. He held on to both the girls’ hands as we walked and they seemed so proud to be with their foster daddy. I carried the flowers and Tom had Kiki on the lead.

It took us about fifteen minutes to walk there, when we got to the grave, I wasn’t sure what do next. Had I been on my own, it would have been much easier, then I’d have talked to Celia and Catherine, laid the flowers and left. With everyone else present it was much more formal and I wasn’t quite sure what to do.
I asked Tom if it was okay if the girls did it? He smiled broadly and said, “That sounds a brilliant idea, I’m sure that Celia would have loved it.”

Simon went off to fill the vase with water and, between us the girls and I managed to undo the bunch of flowers and cut off the ends with my penknife-I did that while they each held the stem. Oh to have two hands functioning again. Then they ‘arranged‘ them in the vase while Simon held it and he placed it back on the grave.

Tom was deep in thought and Kiki was sitting quietly at her master’s feet, I suppose she knew the routine when they came here. I glanced at him, there were tears in his eyes, and when he noticed me looking, he put his arm around me and after kissing me on the cheek, thanked me for a lovely gesture.

On the way back, Simon announced he’d booked a table for us at a pub restaurant, The Ruptured Squirrel or something. The girls thought it hilarious, and Tom smirked. I blushed, though I don’t know why.

We took the dog back into the house, freshened up and set off in Daddy’s old car to this pub. It was actually called the Fox and Rabbit, so again Simon managed to slip in his silly pub name and the girls giggled. He plays to the gallery, which is probably why they love him so much-his humour suits a five year old.

The meal was delicious, a straightforward roast dinner, but beautifully done. Of course Si had to cut my meat up and teased me while he did so, while Tom did the same for the girls. They had chicken, Tom had beef and Simon and I had Welsh lamb-it was so succulent and sweet, I could have eaten it all over again.

During the meal, the chef came out to speak with the diners. “Is everything okay, madam, gentlemen?”

“Did you cook this?” I asked.

“Yes, is there a problem?”

“Yes, why can’t I get it to turn out the same when I cook it?”

“Trade secret,” he said winking, then added, “I get it supplied by an organic farmer from the hills above Abergavenny. It’s killed and delivered the same day. That was running round the hills three days ago.”

“Oh,” my minds eye had a picture of a little lamb gambolling out in a field and then…”It tastes wonderful, I love Welsh lamb.”

“That is good stuff, I can sell almost as much as he can supply.”

“I wouldn’t mind some for my freezer,” I said.

“That is a blasphemy, if you freeze it, you might as well buy New Zealand lamb and save some money. That is premium meat, it’s probably better than they serve at the top London restaurants, the least you can do for the little lambs, is to serve it with respect.” He moved on to another table and I felt suitably scolded. Simon thought it was funny.

We carried on eating, it was too good to allow a little episode like that to spoil things. The pudding was lovely too, well for Tom and Simon. I couldn’t eat any more and the girls just had ice cream. However, the conversation with the chef had consequences.

As we left the pub and walked past the kitchen door, he once again emerged and spoke to me. I nodded and reached for my purse, it was expensive, but two minutes later, I was carrying a leg of organic Welsh lamb, which he told me to cook and eat within three days. Simon was licking his lips as we got in the car.

The rest of the afternoon, the girls played with their dolls while Simon sprawled asleep on the couch. Tom came and sat next to me.

“That was really thoughtful of you, this morning. I much appreciate it. Thank you.” He kissed me on the cheek again.

“Thanks for saying so Daddy, I know I never met her, but it felt the right thing to do.”

“It was a beautiful gesture, and for her to have her grandchildren do it, was even more special.”

“Can I ask you a favour, Daddy?”

“Of course.”

“When sleeping beauty wakes up, can you run me in to see Stella and the baby, and Henry if we have time?”

“What about the girls?”

“Simon can look after them, he’d have to anyway,” I pointed to my sling.

“Of course I will, I’d like to see that thing you do with the baby, again.”

“What thing?”

“The blue light, thing. How do you do it?”

I sighed, how do you answer that?

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Wronking Dogbreath (aka Bike) Part 589

Tom took me to the hospital; Stella was a little more with it-for a few moments anyway. I told her I was keeping an eye on the baby for her, and she smiled, said a very quiet ,”Thanks,” and then seemed to drift off into her trance again. I hugged and kissed her before we left, “Shoulda let me jump,” she said suddenly and cried silently.

I wiped her tears and held her, “You’re far too precious to me, to let you do something like that.”

“If I was, you’d have let me do it.”

“No, Stella, you’re ill, this will pass and when you get back to your usual self, you’ll realise that.”

“As soon as I get outta here, I’m gonna finish it.”

“Please don’t say things like that.” She slipped back into her trance and ignored me. We left, Tom gave me a tissue to wipe my eyes as we went. It was awful, I’d never seen her so sad. She’d spoken in a monotone, almost as if she wasn’t really at home. If we ever get her well again, I am going to love her to bits and try to stop these destructive urges she gets.

As we walked to see Puddin’, I recalled hearing about the son of a lecturer at Sussex, who was Bi-polar or Schizophrenic, in severe cases it can be difficult to diagnose apparently, who jumped off a roof from a unit where he was being treated. He hit some railings on the way down. The way she looked tonight, she could well be up for such a thing. Looks like I get to bring up Puddin’ unless Henry and Monica do it. If I do, it’s only until Stella gets well again.

Puddin’ had gained another few grams and they were well pleased with her. She seemed to know she had a visitor and she became a little more active, maybe she wanted her fix of energy. Goodness, I’m getting as daft as the rest of them. This blue light stuff-it’s all bunkum. I’m a scientist for goodness sake, I don’t do all this mumbo-jumbo. If the child is growing it’s because she’s receiving excellent care from experts and mother’s milk.

“How long before she can come home?” I asked the nurse in charge.

“Depends on her progress, her lungs were undersized, but she’s doing all right. So I would suggest about a month.”

“Thanks,” by then I might have two hands again and Stella might be feeling better. Even the weather might be better-actually, it hadn’t been too bad for a week or so, although it was trying to rain as we drove in and the wind had freshened. It had been some very good cycling weather, and here I am doing my impression of Nelson.

I touched Puddin’ and she began gurgling and kicking. “She only does that for you, you know.”

“I hope you’re not just saying that to make me feel better.”

“Miss Watts, my responsibility is the child, I don’t care how the adults feel unless it impacts on the child.” That was telling me. “She seems better when you visit and she becomes more active as well.”

“Is that good or bad?” I asked.

“Good, it’s very good, it’ll help her coordination as she grows.”

“Sister, Stella seemed to be of the opinion that she heard two doctors talking about her baby which suggested she was brain damaged in some way.”

“Not that I’m aware of, mind you it’s early days yet and it can happen.”

“So it could have been her baby?”

“I doubt it, we did have badly brain damaged neo-natal last week, but he died.”

“So it could just as easily been that unfortunate baby?”

“Indeed, possibly was. No this one is doing fine for the moment. Do you want to give her a bottle?”

“Yes please, how long before we can cuddle her?”

“Another month, we do stroke them regularly to keep them happy, but it’s nothing like them cuddling with their mums.”

“No, I suppose not.”

“How many children do you have?”

“I have two foster daughters.”

“From babies?”

“No, one is three and the other coming up five.”

“Have you had them a long time?”

“A couple of months or so.”

“I thought it would have been longer than that?”

“Why?”

“The way you touch and speak with Baby Cameron.”

“Why? What am I doing that makes you think like that?”

“It’s hard to say, except it’s usually easy to tell a new mum and an experienced mum from each other. You definitely appear to be in the latter category. You’re not a nursery nurse or teacher?”

“I teach at a university, and at times it feels like they could do with a nursery nurse, but no, I’m not. I do look after baby dormice, or did. I’m on secondment, or was until this happened.” I moved my arm in the sling and winced.

“Collar bone?”

“Yes.”

“Fall off your bike?”

“Something like that.”

“Painful,” she said shaking her head and left me to continue tickling Puddin’, who was chuckling to herself and moving her legs. The scene was reminiscent of a baby bird trying to develop it’s flight muscles before it tries to hop out of the nest. With a bit of luck, this one will be leggin’ it down the road any day now-I wish.

Another nurse brought me a bottle of warmed milk and after testing it on the back of my other hand, I fed the baby. I could stay here all day doing this, well maybe not in here, but I love feeding babies. Okay, when they throw up and poop everywhere it isn’t so much fun, but I still love it, dunno why. But then I don’t know why or where I got this urge to become a woman, but I sure as hell don’t regret it.

Neither do I regret looking after two kids and standing here feeding a third. I do have regrets, however-the first is not being able to use both hands, and secondly, not being able to cuddle this lovely skinned rabbit, I’m feeding. I’m sure she’d love it too.

I managed to break away from this self indulgence and go and see Henry. Monica was there and she was quite miffed that when she’d visited Puddin’ they hadn’t invited her to give her a bottle.

“Perhaps they’d just fed her?” I offered, hoping it was true.

“Ah, but you don’t have Cathy’s special hands do you?” said Tom and I wondered if I could strangle him with just one hand.

“What’s special about Cathy’s hands?” asked Monica sounding slightly miffed.

“She gives healing to the baby, which is why she’s getting stronger.”

“Tom, you’re winding me up,” said Monica, sounding a bit like Prunella Scales in Fawlty Towers. “Healing hands, come on then Cathy, shove a bit of that stuff into your father in law to be.”

I was so embarrassed, I blushed like an atomic tomato. “Tom’s just winding you up,” I said defensively, “Tell her, Tom.” I almost pleaded with my eyes.

“Aye, you’re richt, I was just teasin’ ye.”

On the way back to the car, I spoke sharply to him, “People are going to think you’ve either gone barmy or religious if you keep on about this healing nonsense.”

“Cathy, I’m a scientist, I’ve used my eyes and my ears to measure and record things all my life. I can only speak what I’ve seen, and that is a blue light emanating from your hands into the bairn.”

“I think you need your eyes tested,” I said and walked on ahead of him.

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Winking Dolomite (aka Bike) Part 590

By the time we got home, I was tired and very thankful that Simon had done his foster dad bit and put our two scruffy urchins back in their cages for the night. He was sitting with a glass of wine watching a soccer match on the telly. Did I tell you he was such a sophisticate? Okay, my sarcasm might be wasted then.

He poured me a glass of a very passable Chianti and offered some to Tom, who preferred his drop of distilled single malt. I kept telling him that whisky drinkers have higher levels of various cancers-his answer: “Look, hen, thank ye for carin’ but at my age something has to kill me.”

I respected his right to commit suicide over a few decades while enjoying himself. I suppose in a few years they’ll say the same about chocolate, but it won’t stop me eating it. Smoking? That is dumb, a tax on stupidity and I’ve never done it, well apart from trying one fag behind the bike sheds in school and being sick. It did me a tremendous favour by putting me off ever since.

The drive back had been difficult, Tom was offended by my scepticism and what he reckoned he could see. As I couldn’t see it myself, I had doubts about the objectivity of his observations. I mean, I could accept he thought he was seeing it, but was fooling himself because of his desire to believe it.

As to Puddin’s increased activity, there were probably loads of explanations including recognising my voice or something else I did or said. Who knows what babies are capable of doing, I mean we thought dogs were pretty stupid, but some can be taught to detect cancers or hypos in diabetics just by smell.

Okay the clever bit is the person who teaches the dog, but even so, the dog has to remember the smell and pick it out of many millions of others and then do what the trainer has taught it. I mean it’s a bit like doctors, they identify symptoms from many thousands and apply the treatment they were taught to do-which is one of the reasons they kill so many of us. Um, only joking, doc, honest.

Simon helped me undress again, and once I was horizontal I allowed him to touch my boobs-I mean he was beginning to feel like a monk, or was that monkey? Celibacy-now there’s a thought to conjure with, in one individual in particular, the guy in the white dress, it’s obviously turned his brain. Condoms don’t prevent the spread of HIV, my arse, or in this case his, ‘cos he’s talking through it again.

Simon did try to gently make love to me, but it was too painful. I suppose I did still have one hand that worked, and I um, relieved his, um, discomfort. Anyway, he went off to sleep and I mused over my conversation with Tom again, until I fell asleep. That lasted until I awoke in pain. I’d been fighting this awful monster, throwing balls of blue energy at it and I thought I’d won, then suddenly it struck and slashed my shoulder and I screamed…

“Cathy, it’s okay, you’ve had a bad dream,” Simon’s voice sounded a long way away.

“Oh, it got me, my shoulder…” I said thinking I was going to die.

“Cathy, nothing has got you, you broke your collar bone, remember?”
I managed to pry my eyelids open, the monster was leaning over me, I was about to throw all I had at it when it said, “Cathy, are you awake yet?”

“Simon? What are you doing in my dream?”

“This isn’t a dream, it’s real, you were squealing in your dream a few moments ago. You woke me up, and I need all the beauty sleep I can get.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” I said without thinking about the words which emanated from my silly mouth.

“Huh, well thank you and goodnight.”

“Why? What did I say?”

“Go to sleep, goodnight.” He rolled over and faced away from me. Feeling contrite, I reached over and touched his bum-well how was I to know it would have that reaction. He squealed and fell out of bed.

He lay on the floor groaning. I struggled to sit up and switch on the light, goodness, it bloody hurt. “Are you all right, Si?” What a stupid question, but we all do it. We watch someone get their head nearly cut off and ask if they’re all right? Dumb or what?

“No, I’m bloody well not all right, I think I’ve broken my collar bone.” Oops! Now what do I do? I got out of bed and walked around to his side of the bed where he was lying on the floor.

“Where does it hurt?”

“In my arse.”

“Be sensible for a moment, Si, you said you’d hurt yourself.”

“I am hurting, I have this pain in the arse, she keeps assaulting me or damaging me.”

“I see, in which case I’d better not touch you then, in case it damages you even more.” I walked back round to my side of the bed and with a few twinges from my shoulder, got back into it. “Night,” I said and put the light off.

“Gee thanks,” came a grumble from the floor. I felt like saying motions from the floor have to be recognised by the chair, and Tom is asleep down the landing. I was now wide awake.

I heard Simon, grunt and groan some more then felt movement on the bed and he got back in. “My little body will be all black and blue tomorrow.”

“It will be if you don’t shut up,” I said, stifling my giggles-I mean, I couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding, and Simon is twice my size (except brain capacity, where he’s probably the equivalent of Kiki).

“See what I mean, domestic violence, it’s a real problem in some families,” he grumbled. “My wife beats me regularly.”

“Only at cycle racing and the Guardian crossword.”

“Well, you see it proves my point; I’m a bullied man.”

“You are full of bull, my darling, and they are all lies, so yes, a bull-lied man. Yes, I accept that statement.”

“You should have been a barrister, your ability to twist logic on a whim, would earn you millions.”

“I don’t need millions, my husband is stinking rich.” I began sniffing and said, “Pwoar, well one of the two anyway.”

“Thank you, dearest. You are the most loving psychopath I know.”

“Glad to oblige, now go to sleep before I…”

“Yeah, you and who else’ army?” he said and started to tickle me. I writhed and thrashed about the bed until I moved my bad arm, then I really squeaked and the tears came. “I’m sorry, Babes, I really am.”

“Huh,” I huffed and turned over with my back to him groaning in pain as I did. If he touches my bum, I shall get out of bed and beat him to death with one of my cycling shoes-well I’ve still got one good arm, haven’t I?

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Writing Drivel (aka Bike) Part 591

The next morning, I woke up suddenly remembering I had to take Trish to see her shrink, Dr Felicity ‘Fliss’ Edwards. I checked my diary, and it was right. Damn, I was going to do all sorts of things, plait her hair and so on as well as try and appear beyond reproach myself. Either my arm was improving or my pain threshold had suddenly risen. I showered and the warm water seemed to ease things a bit, The girls came in with me and they sort of dried themselves enough to be able to go out to Simon, who helped finish them and then dress them.

He checked I was okay, which I was, before going back downstairs. I managed to dress with a little help from Trish. I wore my YSL suit and the white lacy blouse. Okay in March it was optimistic, but with only a short walk to the clinic from the car park it would be fine. I had a brolly in the car anyway.

“Are you going to drive yourself, then?” asked Si.

“Ye…oh bugger, I can’t can I?” I probably could, but if I’d had an accident, the insurance would not have been too impressed. “Could you? Please.”

“So do we take Meems with us, or leave her with Tom?”

“If you don’t mind walking her about in the hospital, she can come too.” I didn’t like the idea of her being left out because she was the baby of our family-Puddin’ isn’t our baby, and isn’t home yet anyway.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll take the portable DVD player and some kids films, just in case.”

“Post is here, Cathy,” Tom handed me a couple of envelopes. One as from the taxman-just what I wanted, and the other was from Smedley Hydro, whatever that was. I opened it and to my joy inside was my new birth certificate.

I pulled Simon into the kitchen and after shutting the door, showed him the document. “Wow, now you really are female. Congratulations, Miss Watts. He gave me a loving kiss and hugged me gently.

“Thanks, Si. Sometimes I wonder what I see in you, then you kiss me like that, and my tummy turns to jelly.”

He looked slightly bemused. “Was that an insult or a compliment?”

“It was a declaration of love, you meathead.”

“Oh, right, glad you told me. Put that somewhere safe. I’ll go and distract the girls while you show Tom.” He pecked me on the cheek, “I’m really pleased for you, end of the journey eh?”

“Well this part of it, yes. Thanks for coming along with me, it’s been a great help.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it. Now we can get married.”

“Once we can agree upon a few things.”

“I surrender, you can have your little country church as long as we do a repeat up in Scotland.”

“Okay, I accept your surrender and it’s conditions.”

He winked at me then went out to supervise the girls. He was growing up at last and turning into a very good parent. I went and showed Tom, who was absolutely delighted at my piece of paper. I thought it ironic, that a non-medical condition, has a medical treatment but a legal cure. I had now officially changed sex. I was now legally female. Part of me wanted to cry in relief, but that would have wrecked my mascara, so I managed to hold back.

“I’m going to take us out for dinner tonight to celebrate,” Tom chuckled.

“What do we tell the kids?”

“We don’t tell them anything yet, you don’t know how long they’ll be with you. If it’s long term, then it would probably be worth while, but otherwise, would they really understand anyway? I suppose Trish might, but then again, she might not. Let her see you as a female role model, rather than a transsexual one.”

“Okay, Daddy mine, I accept your wise counsel.” I opened the other one and it was a letter from the tax man stating that from now on my records would be held by Cardiff 1, and would not be available to any other tax office in full.

I found it a bit stable door, the horse had long since bolted, my local tax office new about my change of status anyway, I’d written to them two years ago, so did Social Security and all the other official bodies who needed to know. So the big secret was hardly that in the first place. Oh well, I suppose they were trying to be protective of our records, so I wouldn’t complain. Ten years ago, people were still throwing themselves on the barricades of the European Court at Strasbourg, trying to get equal rights for transsexuals, so this was progress.

I managed with a struggle, to style my hair and do my makeup. I still had to use the sling, but at least I didn’t need surgery like Lancie boy. Still this time I was leading him, I broke my collar bone first; he led they way in having his nuts off before I did. I sniggered at my own little joke. I had no idea if he had or not, but presumed he’d had to with cancer of the goolies. It wasn’t funny really, but it had caught me on the funny bone.

I tidied up Trish and she looked quite smart and presentable as a four/five year old girl. She was actually quite a pretty kid and not at all boyish in looks. “Where are we going, Mummy?”

“To see Dr Edwards, you know, your shrink.”

“Oh,” she said and her expression changed from happy to glum.

“What’s the problem, don’t you like her?”

“She made me cry last time.”

“Did she? Would you like me to sit in?”

“Oh yes, will you, Mummy?”

“I’ll try my hardest,” I smiled back at her. I squirted some of her scent on her, and did myself with my own. At least we looked and smelt presentable.

Simon drove us to the hospital and he and Meems stayed in the car, she was quite happy to watch a cartoon on the DVD player, so Trish and I braved the squally wind to walk to the children’s clinic.

“Patricia Watts to see Dr Edwards.”

“You mean Patrick?”

Here we go again. “I thought this had been sorted. This is my daughter, Patricia, if you call her anything else, I shall create such a stink the smell will last for years. Do you understand?”

“Are you threatening me?” asked the bristling receptionist.

“No, I wouldn’t dream of it. I am just stating the law of cause and effect. Piss me off and deal with the consequences.”

“I’m not sure who you think you are?”

“My family are quite important and can make lots of trouble.”

“I’m sure they are, Mrs Watts.”

“Try Cameron, as in Lords and Ladies.”

“Oh,” she coloured up.

“So if you could just amend her records, after all it should say preferred or calling name, and hers is Patricia.”

“Of course.”

“Thank you so much, you’ve been a great help.” I smiled sweetly, well like a tigress who’s just eaten an antelope and is going off for a sleep. The receptionist was furiously typing on the computer, I hoped changing Trish’s notes, but probably warning the good doctor, that Trish’s parent was a bit of a handful. But then she knew that from our conversation on the telephone. Now I was warmed up, I was quite looking forward to the next obstacle and clearing it.

Trish was sitting reading a children’s book to herself, but out loud, blissfully unaware of my campaign of attrition with the hospital records people. I would speak to Dr Rose after this, unless Dr Edwards was able to sort it. After that, all hell would break loose as I pointed Simon at them and said, “Kill.” He can write a nasty letter, and I’m sure having a title counts in this sort of thing. I had been careful not to call myself Lady Cameron-okay, a barrister would accuse me of implying it-so my conscience was clear, sort of.

I sat next to my foster daughter and let her read to me, while I waited for the next move to happen. It didn’t take long…

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Working Dogsbodies (aka Bike) Part 592

Trish was reading to me and doing very well when Dr Edwards’ door opened. She waved to us and said, “Do come through,” I watched as Trish put the book carefully back on the shelf. She reached for my hand and together we walked into Dr Edwards’ room.

“Good afternoon, now is it Mrs Watts or Lady Cameron?”

“As Trish’s name is also Watts, I’ll stick with Watts here.”

“Very well. Tell me, was it necessary to threaten my receptionist.”

“It was either that or offer to send her to charm school.”

“Perhaps you could go with her?” she threw back at me.

“I believe with the three of us we could get party rates.” This woman was not going to push me around, no matter who she thought she was.

“Yes, very quick. However, I did a computer scan of patient’s records, you came here about a year or so ago to have some growth removed. I believe you called him Charlie. I also know Dr Thomas very well.”

“Do you mind if I examine your medical records? As I’m not the patient here, I believe you are guilty of some form of misconduct. I have a very good lawyer, specialises in medical jurisprudence-especially misconduct.”

“So do you honestly think you can threaten me, Catherine Watts?”

“I’m not threatening, you or anyone.”

“Aren’t you? Telling me about your lawyer, isn’t that veiled threats?”

“Isn’t looking into medical records of people who aren’t your patients, malpractice?”

“You prove it.”

“There’ll be a trace to your computer.”

“Will there? Not if I used a neutral one with someone else’s password.”

“Very clever. Okay, do we call a truce and see what we can do to help this young lady?”

“Why should I want a truce? I have enough evidence to prove you are unfit as a foster mother.”

“On what grounds?”

“Failing to tell the authorities about your own history.”

“They know, as does the judge who allocated both children to me.”

“What about the attempted suicide?”

“What about it? ”

“Well, it could show you are mentally unstable.”

“Like you?” I threw back at her.

“Yes but unlike me, you don’t have a recognised qualification to diagnose and pronounce someone as unfit.”

“So let me understand this correctly, you are now threatening me to do whatever you want, on the grounds you’ll pronounce me as mentally unfit to look after two children, if I don’t?”

“In a word, yes.”

“That is definitely misconduct.”

“You prove it,” she said laughing. She looked at Trish, “You look ridiculous in those clothes you silly little boy.”

Trish looked at me and burst into tears. She threw herself against me and hugged me. I put my good arm around her. “Don’t worry, Trish, this old bag won’t ever hurt you again. Come on we’re leaving.”

“Sit down, Ms Watts.”

“Go and take a running jump, you old witch.”

“You talk very tough for someone with only one arm, and not a leg to stand on.”

“Yes, only one arm, a strong sense of morality, a deep love for my two kids and other members of my family, and a mobile phone.”

“A mobile phone? What’s that got to do with anything? Who ya gonna call, the Ghostbusters?” she mocked me.

“You obviously don’t use one often, then?”

“I make calls and the odd text, why?” she was puzzled now.

“Mine also makes voice recordings, up to half an hour. I have the whole conversation on tape. My lawyer will be very pleased to listen to it.”

“You don’t expect me to believe you, do you?”

“Quite honestly, I don’t give a toss if you do or not. I’m going to terminate your career. I suspect the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the General Medical Council, will also enjoy listening to it. You aren’t fit to practice. Good day.”

I steered Trish towards the door when I felt Dr Edwards standing just behind me. Trish was through the door as the incensed shrink swung at me. I ducked but she caught me on the back and I tumbled into the waiting room, “Give me that phone, you bitch.”

The few people who were present were horrified, and worse still when the doctor kicked my fallen body. “Mummy,” screamed Trish, and a man intervened and dragged her away from me. The police were called and Simon and Meems came to see where we were.

The doctor was interviewed by the police and she tried to lie her way out of things. I played my phone’s recording and Simon called our solicitor. He was there to ask that the phone be sealed as evidence, and that a transcript of the conversation be made available to us for further probable actions.

My shoulder ached abominably, I had grazes on my knees and face and Trish was traumatised. Dr Rose was summoned and he comforted her, prescribing a sedative for a few nights. He was suitably shocked by his colleague’s behaviour. I was checked over in Casualty, and thankfully, it was all surface damage.

“Dr Rose can you check who accessed my records last?”

He called the main IT office and it seemed it was he. “I’ve never looked at your records,” he protested.

“I know, but she did and used your passwords. I’d change them if I were you.”

“I will when I get back to my room. This whole business has completely shocked me. I’m sorry, I assumed she was safe to work with Trish and you.”

“She was very lucky.”

“How?”

“If Simon had come in two or three minutes earlier, she’d have been in ICU now, or the mortuary.”

“Oh, I see.”

“He may seem totally urbane and laid-back, but if anything threatens me or the kids, he goes berserk. He did it once with a group of youths who were tormenting me.”

“I see,” he nodded, “in which case she may well have been very fortunate.”

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Wittering Dalmations (aka Bike) Part 593

Simon took us home. Trish was still very upset so I sat in the back and cuddled her. Simon was very angry-he had literally missed my assault by two minutes. Even the reception staff were shocked. It transpired Dr Fliss had a bit of a reputation for her temper.

We had four witnesses from the waiting room who were happy to speak with the police. They seemed to bear out my side of the story. One actually saw me knocked to the ground and Fliss put the boot in. He was horrified and rushed to intervene, possibly saving me from further injury.

I explained to Trish that she would never need to see that woman again, and that we would all protect her against such a threat. The reality was, she would be struck off and charged with various offences, so could even end up in prison. At the very least she would be stopped from practicing again, and the hospital were likely to suspend her immediately.

I would speak with our GP and Dr Rose to find a new paediatric psychiatrist. I left it to our solicitor to bring a complaint to the GMC and College of Psychiatrists.

After dinner, I put the children to bed. I was aware that I couldn’t go and see Puddin’, my first responsibility lay with my own children, and I needed to be there all night in case they wanted me.

After I read to them, I watched them go off to sleep, and sat and thought about little Puddin’ trying to visualise her bathed in the blue light. Okay, I was pandering to other people’s fantasies, but just in case it was helping, I held the image in my mind for about five minutes.

When I went downstairs, Simon had put together a selection of cheese and crackers with a bottle of red wine. Tom sat with us and we nibbled and talked about what had happened. Tom and Simon had obviously been discussing it earlier because Tom was au fait with the basic facts.

I told them that the first and paramount issue was to find another shrink for Trish, and then to make sure that Edwards couldn’t hurt anyone else. After an, at times, heated discussion, I got the other two to agree with me. We would inform the appropriate authorities and leave them to do what they were supposed to. If they didn’t, our lawyer would chivvy them along, and if necessary seek redress.

Simon and Tom cracked another bottle of wine, I’d had enough after one glass and made some tea for myself. I checked on the girls, Trish was a bit restless so I sat on her bed and stroked her face gently, reassuring her that she was safe and that I was there for her. She seemed to calm down and lay still.

I went to bed. Simon came up later a bit tiddly after the wine, and tripping over a bedroom rug he fell into my dressing table knocking down bottles of perfume and my jewellery case. There was a general crash followed by the sound of glass and assorted objects.

I was just dozing off and therefore not best pleased. I sat up with an attitude that would not be unfamiliar to a grizzly bear after being woken from hibernation. I heard calls from the girls’ room and I stormed past the prostrate Simon and into the next bedroom.

“We heard a noise, Mummy.”

“It’s okay, darling, move over I’ll sleep with you for now.”

“What was it, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Daddy fell over the rug in the dark and knocked all the stuff off my dressing table.”

“Is he alwight?” asked Meems, showing more concern than I seemed to feel.

“I think so, why?”

“I don’t want Daddy hurted,” she said.

“He was still breathing when I came in to you. I’m sure he’s okay.”

I cuddled down with Trish and Meems also came into the bed. It was almost standing room only; even sardines have more room than this. I vaguely heard sounds from my bedroom a bit later, but stayed where I was and slept fitfully for the rest of the night.

I awoke feeling stiff and sore. Some of this would be likely due to the assault, and some from sleeping with two kids in a three foot bed. After a shower, I had some nice new bruises including one on my ribs, where she kicked me, I dressed for comfort rather than looks, so it was a jogging suit and my slippers.

Simon had a few more bruises than I did, and I informed him he could clean up the mess he’d left. He also owed me for a new bottle of Chanel No 5, which he’d broken. He smelt very nice mind you, if a bit-erm-feminine, yes that was the word.

My arm seemed easier and I felt capable of driving today, so after breakfast, I drove to the local shops and bought some milk and some sweeties for the kids. I got home quite safely, and felt able to drive myself to the hospital this afternoon.

Simon’s hangover worsened as the girls had a stand up shouting match over a doll while I was out. A quite unusual event, normally they play very well together. When I got back, Simon complained to me, so I had to investigate and resolve it. It was a storm in a teacup, possibly made worse by yesterday’s events and they apologised to each other, had a hug and went off together as happy as sandboys.

Simon, however, was hitting the paracetamol. “How many of those have you had?” I asked him.

“Why?”

“Because they cause liver failure, and with the amount you drink…”

“My arteries are in perfect condition.”

“Which will be great consolation if you die from liver failure or cirrhosis.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Drink loads of water and don’t be so silly again.” I lectured him, all the while he was pulling faces at me, and to be fair he hadn’t got plastered for ages, least not while I was there. So if he hadn’t grumbled about the kids giving him a headache, I wouldn’t have grumbled at him.

Tom seemed to have a stronger constitution, he was out digging in the garden, preparing the vegetable patch. He had seed potatoes on order plus onion sets and some beans and peas already shooting in the greenhouse. He’d had to cordon off the compost heap after Kiki rolled in the horse manure he’d dumped there. He had to bathe her, which she absolutely hates.

Dr Rose called to see how the girls were and could I meet him for lunch. I spoke with Simon and Tom and they agreed to look after the girls. They would do beans on toast or eggs for lunch and I’d cook when I got home. The girls were less than happy however, and Trish insisted on coming with me. Meems was dissuaded by a ride in Simon’s racing car.

I met the good doctor in the hospital cafeteria, where the food is quite good. He was surprised to see Trish with me, but when I said she was a bit clingy, he understood.

“Our little friend has been suspended and the hospital and the trust are organising an enquiry and disciplinary.”

“When? Next year I suppose.”

“I’m told it will be expedited pretty quickly. Your solicitor has stirred up a real hornets nest.”

“How did she get your password?”

“We were talking in here one lunchtime, and we discussed tricks for remembering things like passwords. I told her I used family names. She knows my wife and kids, she only had to try a few and well, you know the rest. How’s the arm?”

“Getting better.”

“Like little Desie.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, they say she’s doing really well. Did you visit her last evening?”

“No, I was home with my two, why?”

“One of the nurses thought they saw someone standing by her, she was gurgling and laughing. The nurse had to sort out one of the others and when she looked again, there was no one there.”

“Mysterious,” I said and shrugged, “wasn’t me.”

“Apparently whoever it was looked like you.”

Discussion about the previous day was difficult with Trish there, so we agreed he’d come round to Tom’s house one evening. He’d also check out another psychiatrist for me.

“I wouldn’t say it was really necessary, we seem to be coping, but I suppose we’d better have professional support, if only to show there’s no personal influence involved.”

“I’d be inclined to agree with you, but I’d also support you if that sort of charge was levelled against you.”

“Thanks, Sam, that’s really kind of you.”

“Well, I am kind of responsible for you two meeting in the first place.”

“I don’t think we’ll hold that against you, will we Trish?”

“No, Mummy.” I put my arm around her. It was still a little stiff and sore but improving.

“I can’t get over how quickly you three have bonded. It’s like you were her natural mother.”

“Five of us, six including Stella. We’re a family, eight if you widen the circle to Henry and Monica. They look upon my girls as their grandchildren, and the girls love them, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mummy, we love Daddy and Grampa Tom, Grampa Henry and Granny Monica, oh and Auntie Stella. But most of all we love you, Mummy.”

I felt a need to blow my nose and Sam Rose gave me a wry smile.

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Wandering Dromedaries (aka Bike) Part 594

“What about baby Desi? Don’t you love her too?” asked Dr Rose.

Trish blushed, a real fire engine red. “Oops, I forgot her, didn’t I?”

“Well she is a bit new on the scene,” I offered in mitigation.

“I love her too, she’s one of our family, even if she is a very little one.” Trish added, still blushing, but it had subsided to basic pillar box red.

“Talking of whom, I suppose we’d better get over and see her, and then pop and see Auntie Stella.” I gave Trish her coat to put on.

As she was doing so, Sam Rose leant across and whispered, “Is taking Trish into see Stella, really a good idea?”

“She’ll cope, it’ll also help her to understand if I end up taking in another waif and stray.”

“A new baby? That’s a hell of a lot of extra work. Think carefully before you commit to anything.”

“Thanks for caring, Sam, but if it needs to be done, it will be. Don’t worry, I’ll get some help in, the family can afford it.”

“Make sure they do. I don’t want to see you compromise the two you’ve already got as a consequence.”

“Do I take that as a verbal or written warning?”

“It’s concern from one who knows, and who is a great admirer of yours.”

Now it was my turn to blush. “Admirer in the sense of what you’ve done with these two children, and carrying the rest of the family. Don’t overdo it.”

“Yes, doc,” I teased.

“It’s what the doctor ordered.”

“Okay, I heard it loud and clear.” We shook hands and he left to do his next clinic. Trish and I went up to the prem baby unit.

“Hello, Cathy, come to blue light the baby?”

“I’m hoping to come to feed her, is that possible?”

“Can I help, Mummy,” Trish asked, jumping up and down.

The nurse winked and said, “I think she’s already been fed, had a bacon sandwich half an hour ago.”

“Oh well,” I sighed and shrugged.

Trish however, looked puzzled. “She had a bacon sandwich? I thought babies had bottles, my dollies do.”

“How big are your dollies?” asked the nurse.

“This big,” said Trish indicating the size between her hands.

“That explains it, if you gave ’em bacon sarnies, they be this big,” the nurse held her hands quite a distance apart.

Trish now looked really perplexed, one could almost hear the wheels whirring inside her little head. I was desperately trying not to laugh. “You are telling lies, my dollies don’t have any teeth.”

“Oh dear,” said the nurse, “well babies can be born with teeth.”

This was obviously beyond Trish’s ability and knowledge base. She cuddled into me and asked, “Do babies have teeth?”

“Sometimes, but I think the nurse is pulling your leg.”

“Are you pulling my leg?” she asked the nurse.

“Yes, and yes you can feed the baby.”

Trish’s expression went from floundering to joy and she danced around me. “Come on, calm down, there are some very sick babies in here, so don’t bounce about the place and keep your voice down.”

“Yes, Mummy,” she replied very dejectedly. I don’t like telling her off but she needs to learn to stay calm.

A bleep went on another incubator, and the nurse called to a colleague, “Warm a bottle for Baby Cameron, and give it to her auntie, I’ll see to Baby White.”

Trish and I went up to see Desi, who was starting to grumble a little. I put my hands through the glove things and stroked her cheek, she seemed to calm immediately and reached for my finger, which I gave her.

“Yep, she’s plugged in,” said Trish.

“What?” I asked.

“The blue stuff is showing.”

“Shush, or they’ll make us leave,” I cautioned.

“Oh it’s you again, where did you go last night?” said the nurse as she placed the bottle in the incubator, where I could pick it up.

“Sorry?”

“You were here last night.”

“You must be mistaken, I wasn’t here; I was home looking after this one and her sister.”

“You’re takin’ the pi..mickey, in ya?”

“No, I am not. I wasn’t here yesterday.”

“Well you got a dead ringer, didn’t hear her come nor go. She just disappeared. Poof, just like that.”

“Sorry, I can’t do that, I have to use conventional doors.”

“Well she looked juss like ya, only she ‘ad a sweat shirt thingy on. A red one, wiv a bike on the front of it.”

“You have one like that, Mummy, you wore it last night when you read us our story.”

One of these days, Trish is not going to drop me in it with her honesty and unnecessary comments. “I wasn’t here.”

“I thought I saw some funny blue light while you was ‘ere, too.”

“It wasn’t me.”

“Mummy does this thing with blue light, she’s doing it now.”

Talk about wanting to disappear, if I could do it last night, why not now. I couldn’t see this stupid light, so how come everyone else can?

“See?” said Trish pointing into the incubator.

“Dunno, maybe I can, maybe I can’t,” said the nurse.

I shut my eyes to try and hide and became aware that I could see it with my eyes shut. Okay, I wasn’t seeing it with my eyes but sort of with my mind’s eye. Now is that purely a subjective response, or simply imagination-wishful thinking variety?

“Charging her up, Cathy?” said the other nurse on her way back.

“Can you see this blue light thing?” asked the younger nurse.

“Sort of, sometimes, but you just look at that baby, she is lapping it up.” Puddin’ was gurgling and waving her arms and legs about. “That baby is happy and active, and it always happens when her auntie comes to see her.”

“Yeah, she was like that last night. You sure it weren’t you?”

“Absolutely positive.”

“Were you thinking about her?”

“Off and on, I suppose.”

“There you go then, one of them spectral people things,” said the senior nurse, “you projected yourself to be with her.”

“Look, I’m a biologist and I don’t believe in any of this stuff.”

I held the bottle with one hand while Trish steered it into Puddin’s mouth. She fed a bit more actively today.

“Does that matter?” asked the older nurse, “if it makes her better?”

“I suppose not. I won’t be running a controlled experiment, that’s for sure.”

“She’s still surrounded by a blue light, Mummy.” One of these days, I shall… No I won’t, she just has to learn when to keep her mouth shut, I still haven’t and I’m twenty four.

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Watering Dandelions (aka Bike) Part 595

We finished feeding and ‘charging up’ Puddin’ and eventually left to see Stella. She was sitting in the darkened room doing nothing as far as I could tell. The nurse had said she seemed very flat at the moment. I hoped we could brighten her up.

“Stella, do you mind if we come in?” I asked from the door. She turned and looked at me, but said nothing. I took Trish’s hand and we entered. The room seemed full of an atmosphere of doom and gloom suffused with sadness.
“We’ve been up to see your baby, she’s coming along really well, isn’t she Trish?” I had sworn her not to say anything about the blue light business.

“Oh yes, Mummy, she’s doing really well. They let me help give her her bottle today, Auntie Stella.” Trish kept hold of my hand and I felt her squeezing it. This was obviously difficult for her too.

Stella looked at her and then back again at the wall in front of her. She was practically inert. When I thought about the vibrant woman I’d met that first day, and how she was so clued up about her appearance. Now in the gloom, I could make out she was wearing a sweater and jeans, neither seemed to fit terribly well and as far as I could tell, she’d lost further weight.

“Are you eating?” I asked Stella, who looked at me and then back to the wall. “Please, Stella, you have a baby to raise, if not for your sake, then for hers.” She looked at me again, but said nothing. “Is there anything you want me to bring in for you?”

“A knife,” she said and my blood ran cold remembering what she did to herself with one before.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said, it was a lie and she’d know that from the moment it left my lips. “Is there anything else?” She stared at the wall again.

I felt sad and annoyed. She could mess me about as much as she liked, but to do so to Trish, made me angry. We left a short while later. We both kissed her, goodbye and her face was all wet, presumably with tears. If this was how she was going to be for the rest of her life, I almost felt like bringing in the knife.

“Why was she sitting in the dark, Mummy?”

“She’s quite poorly and I think the daylight makes her feel worse.”

“She was crying, wasn’t she?”

“Yes, darling, she was very sad.”

“Because she can’t see baby Puddin’?”

“I don’t know, darling, I think it’s more than that. She may have what is called a mental illness because of a certain combination of chemicals in her brain.”

“Can’t they just change the chemicals?”

“That’s what the treatment is doing, or trying to do. It’s very difficult without making her even more sick.”

“Oh, I see. I feel so sorry for her, Mummy. Is there anything we can do?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart. She is very very sad.”

“But she has a baby, Mummy, how can she be sad?”

“Some people are, it’s called post natal depression and affects some new mothers.”

“Did you have it when Mima came?”

“Mima wasn’t my baby, Trish, you know that.”

“But she is your little girl, like me.”

“Yes, but this illness only happens when you give birth to a baby.”

“I hope I don’t get it,” mused Trish.

“I think it most unlikely, darling.”

“Is that ‘cos you didn’t get it, and you’re my Mummy?”

“Possibly.” Geez this girl is hard work; she always asks such awkward questions.

“Maybe, I’ll be a nurse when I grow up,” she said as we got back into the car.

“Or a detective,” I added quietly.

“What’s a defective, Mummy?”

“I said, detective, someone who solves crimes and catches criminals.”

“Like a policeman, Mummy?”

“Some are policemen, in fact, probably most are but they don’t wear uniforms like ordinary police.”

She seemed lost in thought as I pulled out of the hospital. “Do they not wear uniforms so the crooks won’t see them coming so easily?”

“I’ve never thought of it, but that sounds like a plausible reason, so it could be.”

“If I was a detective, would they let me wear nice clothes, like you do sometimes, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart, it might depend upon how much money you have. Nice clothes tend to cost a lot of money.”

“You have nice clothes, are you rich?”

“No, I’m not. I’m a poor working girl, although the sale of my film should bring in a very useful sum of money.”

“Maybe I should make films-like you do, Mummy?”

“I wouldn’t recommend it, sweetheart, and you don’t get to make much money or wear nice clothes, counting dormice.”

“Can we see the dormice one day, Mummy?”

“Why not, let’s go and see them now.” She smiled and I hoped the detour would shut her up for a few minutes. We arrived at the university about fifteen minutes later. Thankfully my parking permit was still valid.

I walked her into the department and Pippa looked up and did a double take. “Cathy, how wonderful,” she almost leapt over her desk to come and hug me. “How is Tom?”

“He’s doing fine, I wish he’d rest a bit more, but you know what he’s like?”

“Sure do, he sends me piles of stuff by email every day.”

“He does what? I’ll shoot him.”

“That wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do, Mummy,” commented the little body whose hand I was still holding.

“No, dear, it wouldn’t.”

“Brought your conscience then?”

“Yeah, I feel like Pinocchio.”

“Hello, Jiminy Cricket,” Pippa said to Trish.

“My name is Patricia, not Jimmy. I’m a girl, not a boy.”

“Yes, I know-most of the people who walk around in pretty dresses like that are girls,” suggested Pippa.

“Sorry, I thought you were teasing me.”

“I was, but I didn’t mean it nastily. Am I forgiven?”

“Yes, as long as you don’t call me a boy again,” said Trish with some indignation. Pippa and I looked at each other and we had to look away. “Please may we see the dormice, Mummy?”

“Okay, see you later, Pippa.”

“Yeah, we must get together sometime.” We hugged again and I led Trish down to the labs.”

“Good grief, it’s Cathy and kid,” said Neal.

“Yes, I promised to show Trish the dormice.”

“Ah,” said Neal, “that might be a bit difficult.”

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Wurlitzer Donkies (aka Bike) Part 596

“What do you mean?” I asked feeling a horrible empty sensation in my tummy.

“They’re not here.”

“Why? Where are they? Who gave you permission to move them? This is my project, why wasn’t I informed?” I fired questions at him like a machine gun. “Where is my Spike? She’d better be alright or heads will roll.”

“Calm down, Cathy. As far as I know they’re all fine, and Spike has had another litter. Who’s this young lady?”

“I’m sorry, Neal, this is Trish-my foster daughter; Trish, this is Neal, one of the best technicians on the planet.” They shook hands and Trish blushed. “Now, where are my dormice?”

“The dormice are over with Ratman, we’re keeping an eye on them. We had a problem with a wall subsiding and have had builders in for the last month. They skimmed the plaster yesterday, it’s behind schedule, but it’s nearly finished. We should have them back in a week or two.”

“I think I ought to go and see them, just to check?”

“They’re okay, it’s just a bit cramped over there and no place to take little Trish.”

My anxiety just doubled. “Okay, you stay here with Trish while I pop over and check on them.”

“No, Cathy, really they are perfectly safe.”

“So why can’t I go and see them?”

“It’s just dirty and cramped, we only just managed to get the tanks in there, there’s barely room to pass between the tanks. I’m not lying to you, honestly.”

“I find this astonishing, I’m the permit holder and yet I can’t check on my animals.”

“Um actually, they transferred your permit to Brad.”

“What!” By now I was practically walking on the ceiling.

“Well, we didn’t know when your secondment was going to end. We needed someone in-house. Cathy-oh don’t be like that…”

I’d already grasped Trish’s hand and we were storming out of the building. Tom had some explaining to do, and I was in no mood to take prisoners, no matter how much I loved him-these animals were like my babies.

“You look very cross, Mummy.”

“I am, sweetheart, but not with you. Looks like someone has pulled off a coup in my absence.”

“What’s a queue, Mummy?”

“No, a coup; it’s a word used to describe someone overthrowing the boss and becoming the boss yourself. It usually applies to politics and governments.”

“Is that bad, Mummy?”

“It sure ain’t good, sweetypie.”

We turned into the drive and I parked noisily slamming the doors as we vacated the car. I strode into the house, where Tom had Mima sat on his lap singing her a song.

“I need a word, Tom.”

“In a minute,” he continued singing.

“This is important,” I said trying to maintain my already frayed temper.

“So is this.” He carried on singing and bouncing the child on his lap, she was giggling and laughing. I stormed out to the kitchen and banged pots and pans around.

He eventually strolled into the kitchen just as I was feeling like either breaking down and screaming and crying, or going in and demanding he put down the child and talk with me. “Right, what is so urgent that it takes me away from my granddaughter?”

I nearly swallowed my back teeth. His granddaughter, they are only temporary residents with us, it could be rescinded at any moment. I felt so hurt that I could easily have thrown this in his face to hurt him too, but thankfully, some self-control remained and I explained what had happened at the university.

“Oh is that all?”

“You knew about this?”

“Yes, of course, I’m still the professor of that department.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why should I?”

“I’m responsible for those animals.”

“Not at the moment, Brad is.”

“You got my licence rescinded without as much as a by your leave?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this. I can’t believe what you did, and you call yourself my father. How could you?”

“Cathy,” he said quietly but I didn’t hear him, I was crying and shouting at him. He tried again, but I was almost hysterical, I was so hurt and angry. One of the few people I trusted implicitly had betrayed me. I wanted out of there and now. I continued shouting at him when-he slapped my face. I was astonished and shocked. “Cathy, please listen to me.”

I felt my glowing cheek, where he’d dared to hit me! I was now even more angry. “Why should I, you betrayed me. Stick your university as far as you can shove it, I’m outta here and I’m taking the girls with me.”

“What about Trish’s school?”

“You’re so good at explaining things, you tell ’em why she isn’t there.” I went to walk out of the kitchen when he grabbed me and pulled me back. I ripped my arm from his grip and felt like hitting him, instead I let my caustic tongue blast him instead. “I don’t ever want to see you again.” I shrugged my arm free and ran upstairs.

I was torn between the urge to throw myself on the bed and cry and to pack all of my stuff. I started packing. I felt like I was in a frenzy, and tore my clothes from the wardrobe and threw them in the cases.

Simon walked in. “I hope you’re happy now, you’ve upset everyone.”

“Happy, here-ha. I’m leaving.”

“If you do, you go alone.”

“Okay, just me and the kids.”

“No, just you.”

“Those are my kids.”

“They are our kids, and they are staying.”

“On whose authority?”

“Mine.”

“Well that counts for nothing, the court entrusted them to me.”

“You are not taking them in a car in this mood. You’ll have an accident.”

“I am quite capable of driving.”

“Yeah, that’s what drunks say.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“Only in temper.”

“Get out of my way, I want to collect the girls’ clothes.”

“No, you’re not taking them.”

“We’ll see about that,” I pushed him and he resisted. I pushed him harder and he pushed me back. With that, I leapt in the air and kicked him in the chest, he flew backwards through the doorway like a sack of potatoes.

He lay quite still, groaning. “Oh my God, Simon-what have I done?” I gasped and rushed to help him.

“Geez, Cathy, where the hell did you learn that one?” he groaned and passed out. I worried myself to death, he looked okay but he wasn’t conscious. I felt for a pulse and breathing, he was still doing both. I slipped a pillow under his head, there seemed to be no blood or injury. What had I done?

Over the next ten minutes he recovered and I got him up off the floor. He was shaken by the experience, but so was I. I began to see that I might have a bit of an anger management problem, as they say in the States.

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Winnowing Dolphins (aka Bike) Part 597

“Oh, Simon, I am so sorry.”

“What hit me?”

“I’m so sorry.” He lay on the bed looking very sorry for himself with me, bending over him in danger of shrinking him with my tears. I gently stroked his forehead.

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“Stella showed me, it’s kickboxing.”

“Geez, I think I’ve met horses with less of a kick than that. Remind me not to annoy you again.”

“I really am sorry, Si. Am I forgiven?”

“If you go and calm down the kids and Tom, I’ll think about it.”

“Okay, let me just wipe my face. Are you going to be alright?”

“Yeah, once I get my ribs out of my lungs, I’ll be fine.”

“Oh my God, I didn’t hit you that hard did I?”

“I hope not, go and sort out the girls.”

“Yes, boss.” I wiped my face and ran downstairs where Tom was sitting with both of the children, they didn’t see me as I approached.

“Why is Mummy so upset?” asked Meems.

“Something to with her dormice,” said Trish, they were both hugging Tom, “Isn’t it Gramps, it’s something to do with her dormice?”

“Yes, girls, it’s mainly my fault, I made some changes and forgot to tell her. Then I was ill and forgot even more.”

“But you betta now?” said Meems.

“Yes, partly because your Mummy has looked after me so well.”

“She’s a good mummy,” said Meems.

“Is she going to leave us, Gramps,” asked Trish with real anxiety in her voice.

“I hope not, darling, if she did we’d all be in trouble, wouldn’t we?”

“Goodness, my mummies always seem to leave me.” Trish began to cry again; “I don’t know why, but they do.”

“Hey, wee gir-rl, I’m no leaving ye, and I doubt yer Ma is either. Hopefully, Simon will talk some sense intae her.”

“Mummeeeeeee,” called Trish and ran towards me, “don’t leave us, pleeeease. I’ll just die.”

“I’m not going anywhere, sweetheart, and certainly not without you.”

“Doan go, Mummy,” wailed Meems and she also came rushing towards me.

“I’m not going, Meems, so don’t cry.” I knelt down with the two girls. “I got very upset at the university, and with Gramps because of it. I said some silly things and I’m very sorry if you thought I was going to leave you. Even if I had, I’d have taken you with me.”

“Where would we go?” asked Trish.

“I have another house, Trish.”

“Can we see it?”

“Soon, yes.”

“Oh goody gum drops,” she said bouncing about.

“Doan go, Mummy,” said Trish, “I wanna stay with Gwamps an’ Daddy, too.”

“So do I, precious. Look I need to talk with Gramps, so how about some ice cream. You both need your pinnies on in those clothes, come along.” I led them into the kitchen and after putting a few scoops of ice cream into dishes I put their aprons on them, and left them to eat it. I went back in to speak to Tom.

“Can we talk?” I asked him.

“If we can do so in a civilised manner? Aye.”

“I’m sorry I shouted at you, but I was upset about the dormice.”

“I’m aware of that, and I meant to tell you. It got forgotten in the dramas we’ve had in recent months.”

“Yes, I suppose life has been a bit hectic.”

“A bit, Cathy, what with Stella and the courts, then my heart attack, it’s been non-stop stress.”

“I’m sorry, I seem to have brought you nothing but aggro, maybe I should get out of your life.”

“Dinna’ dare, lassie. Ye may have caused me a wee bit stress but ye’ve also gi’en me a reason tae live. Can ye no’ see that, hen? Wi’oot ye and the bairns, I dinna ha’e a life.”

He was sitting on the sofa and I knelt in front of him and put my arms around his waist. “I love you, Daddy, please forgive me for causing you so much unhappiness.”

“Ye, silly lassie, ye dinna gi’e me unhappiness, ye are my happiness, ye and Simon and the bairns.”

“I tried to be like your own daughter for you, but I’ve failed.”

“Cathy, ye big pudden, my ain dochter would ha’e caused me far mair grief than ye ever could. Ye’ve been a pure miracle for me.” He hugged me tightly, “Wi’oot ye, I’d be deid, aye, stone deid.”

We hugged each other for several minutes each of us weeping over the other. However, our catharsis was short lived. “We’ve finished, Mummy.”

“Okay, darling, just give me a moment will you?”

“Wass a momen, Mummy?” said Mima’s voice.

“Leave her alone a sec,” said Trish and I could imagine her yanking her off into the other room.

“Once the dormice are back, I’ll get your licence back, they’re still your project, after a’.”

“Thanks, Daddy. Tomorrow, I’m going to cook us that leg of lamb with all the trimmings.”

“That’ll be something tae look forward to.”

“I hope so.”

“Whit was the bump upstairs?”

“Um, Simon.”

“Simon? Whit did he do-fall?”

“Um-sort of,” I felt myself getting very hot and blushing.

“Whit d’ye mean, sort of?”

“I-um-kicked him.”

“Ye kicked him! Why?”

“He pushed me, and was stopping me going through a doorway.”

“So ye kicked him? No’ in his crown jewels I hope?”

“No, Daddy, I caught him in the chest.”

“In the chest, michty me, how on earth did ye dae that?”

“A flying kick.”

“Oh my giddy aunt, yer supposed tae be a young lassie, not an all-in wrestler.”

“I know, Daddy, I’m sorry.” I hugged him again.

“It’s nae me ye need to apologise tae, it’s that young man o’yourn.”

“I know, I did say sorry when he came to.”

“Whit? Ye’d better go and see he’s alricht, go on, be off wi’ ye.”

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Whistling Dodos (aka Bike) Part 598

When I got upstairs, Simon was seated on the bed rubbing his chest. “How do you feel now?” I asked as I entered our bedroom.

“I’ve felt better,” he said looking up at me.

“Is there anything you want me to do?”

“There might have been before you tried to kill me.”

“I did say I was sorry.”

“Yeah, I heard, unfortunately it doesn’t take the pain away in my ribs.”

“Oh dear, I hope I didn’t break any.”

“I don’t think so, but there will be some lovely colours about later.”

“There will?”

“Bruising—duh.”

“Oh, yeah.” I blushed, feeling rather stupid.

“You not going to offer to kiss it better, then?”

“I—um—didn’t know if you trusted me anymore.”

“I don’t know either.”

“Tell me what you’d like me to do.”

“Go away?”

“If that’s what you want, I will.” I began to sniff as I walked away from him he let me get out of the bedroom before he called me.

“Cathy.”

“Yes, Simon.”

“Are you going to stand there and shout back and forth?”

“Is that what you want me to do?” I called back.

“Does it look like it?”

“I don’t know? Please tell me.”

“Come back here, Cathy.” I walked back to the bedroom. I was still sniffing and feeling like dirt. “Why are you crying?”

“Because…” I blubbed.

“Come here, you silly girl,” he said holding out his arms and I went to them, where he hugged me gently and I tried not to lean too hard against him. I wept on his shoulder as he held me. “Friends?” he said quietly.

“Friends,” I sniffed back to him, and he kissed me on the cheek, which of course only made me weep even more. I felt a total mess, which seemed to be my permanent state these days.

“Come on, dry those tears,” he urged me, which caused me to produce some more. Sometimes I wonder if the same words mean different things to men and women. Eventually, I managed to control the flow before there was a water shortage in the Portsmouth area, or would that be flooding?

“What are we going to do with you?” he asked me.

I shrugged and mouthed, “Don’t know,” which made him put his arm around me—which in turn made him wince, and me blush.

“Come on, dry your eyes, let’s go and take the girls out for a walk.”

Which is what we did, and bought some chips and ate them on the way home, something I hadn’t done since I was a student in Sussex. The girls seemed to enjoy themselves, pinching chips from both of us, and of course, the bottomless pit which most spaniels constitute, doubly enjoyed herself as she walked with us. I had Tom’s meal in a plastic bag—one I’d intended using for picking up any dog poo Kiki produced, but it wasn’t necessary until we got nearly back to the garden and she pooped on the pavement. I dashed inside and grabbed another bag and cleaned it up.

Tom enjoyed his chicken curry from the take away, he hadn’t had one for a few weeks, so by the end of the day, we all seemed to have finished on an even note if not necessarily a high one.

Simon put the girls to bed and read them a story, then he did some work on his laptop until it was our bed-time. Tom sneaked into his study and sent some more emails to Pippa’s computer despite his supposedly being on sick leave. I did the washing up and also put the washing machine on. I wondered if my academic career was over, then when I checked my emails I found one from Erin.

‘The BBC are ecstatic about the re-editing of the Dormouse film and are planning a big wind up to it. It will be shown at the end of June. They’ve also agreed our price for it and their recommendation has persuaded an Irish TV station to show it, a Canadian one to seriously consider it and we’re talking to the Aussies. As yet we haven’t had any interest from the US but France and Spain could be possible takers.

They’ll want the BBC edition, so the Beeb will get a percentage, but we’re looking at over £100,000 if all the others buy in and that’s clear profit as the bank and DEFRA funded the outgoings.

Talk to you soon, oh keep next Saturday free, there’s probably going to be a party in Bristol at the Natural History Unit to celebrate. I’ve certainly earned my fees on this one.

Erin.’

I showed it to Simon and Tom. “Well you wanted to show the girls your house in Bristol,” Simon commented.

“Yes, we could make a weekend of it.”

“Okay, but the bad news is, I have to start back to work tomorrow.”

“Oh, do you?” I don’t know why I was so surprised, he should have gone weeks ago.

“Why don’t you come up to London with me.”

“I can’t can I, I have to look after the girls.”

“I meant, bring them with you, I’m sure you’d find plenty to do with them.”

“No, I need to stay here for the moment, to visit Stella and the baby, and of course your dad. Oh the machine’s finished, some of that is his stuff.” I got up to empty the machine and put the damp laundry on the airer. He followed me out to the kitchen.

“You’re going to look after this baby for Stella, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know yet, but I might. She certainly isn’t in a fit state to do so for the moment, is she?”

“No, she looked ghastly when I saw her, like something out of horror film. Is she gonna make it back this time?”

“Simon, she’s your sister, of course she’s going to make it and we’re going to do all we can to help her.”

“Yeah, s’pose. C’mon, let’s go to bed and do naughty things.”

“What about your chest.”

“I’ll bring it with me, why?”

“If you squeak too much that it’s hurting, and we should have behaved ourselves…”

“It’s usually you who squeaks that,” he said as he winked.

“Only ‘cos you bit my boob last time.”

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Warlike Durotriges (aka Bike) Part 599

“Do you reckon Erin meant this Saturday or next?” I asked Tom over breakfast.

“Why don’t you call her and find out?”

“I suppose I could, either that or have a meaningful conversation with her ansafone.”

“They often make more sense than their owners,” Tom suggested spreading thick marmalade on his toast.

“Ugh, I don’t know you can eat that stuff, Daddy.”

“Huh, I’m not asking ye tae eat it.”

“Just as well, I’d refuse and accept my three faults.”

“Whit?” he looked perplexed.

“Show jumping.”

“Ach, I cannae be bothered with such cruelty tae animals, making them sit on the backs of yon great beasts, looking terrified.”

“I must admit I’ve never been a fan of large quadrupeds, they always frightened me, although when I was a kid I fancied learning to ride like the girls of my age were doing.”

“Aye, my Catherine learnt for a while, but she got a wee bit tired of the mucking oot, I made her do.”

“You had a horse here?”

“Well where else would I keep one?”

“I wondered if she’d have learned at a stables, hiring a horse when required.”

“No, she haed tae hae her ain. We kept it for twa year, and then sold it, she’d lost interest by then, mind ye, we haed the best roses for miles aroond.”

We both laughed at his joke. I could just see a doting father helping his daughter to muck out the horse, except it would have been his son then, not his daughter, wouldn’t it? I couldn’t ask because the girls were around and I didn’t want Trish to be aware of the reasons why she had been boarded with us. I wanted her to feel that she was living with a normal family-well okay, one with monogrammed toilet paper, but otherwise ordinary, except for the psycho foster mother.

Tom went off to walk Kiki, who seemed to be getting rather fat since the arrival of the children, although they denied feeding her. Maybe they just dropped more food and she cleaned it up. Spaniels are good dustbins.

I showered and washed the girls and they dressed to play, Meems was happy to wear trousers most of the time, Trish preferred a skirt, under which she wore two pairs of panties and today, a pair of thick navy tights. Her skirt was denim and her top a red and blue striped pullover. Meems was in dungarees with a blue sweatshirt.

I was dressed for chores in jeans and a top, but as I brushed their hair and tidied them up generally, I wondered how I’d have turned out had I been allowed to be the girl I knew I was, at their age. I was so pleased that Trish could at least realise her dreams, as far as was possible.

I made bread, cleaned through and put the washing on. After lunch I did some ironing, and then went off to the hospital to see Stella and Henry and of course little Puddin’.

Henry had been taken to see Stella, he was a very concerned father when I saw him. “What are we going to do with her, Cathy?”

“I don’t know, that’s for the experts to decide, all we can do is show our love for her and keep supporting her. She’ll come through it, she’s a tough cookie.”

“I wish I had your confidence, unfortunately, I was so upset when I saw her, I lost it rather, and told her to pull herself together. The nurse asked me to leave.”

“Not the best thing to say to her, I’m afraid.”

“Quite, however, I was so frightened for her, my heart overran my head. Maybe we should send her back to that clinic, they did seem to get something going for her.”

“I can’t comment, except to ask; where will the baby be?”

“Good point, I don’t know. Monica is no good with babies.”

“She seemed okay with my two.”

“They’re hardly babies, Cathy; besides you seem much better at that sort of thing-and they say if you have one you might as well have half a dozen, it doesn’t take any more time.”

“Whoever said that was a man, and childless. It takes a good deal more time to look after two than one, and three will be a good deal harder.”

“But you’re up to the challenge, eh what, old girl?”

“Am I? Isn’t that for me to decide. If I was to agree to it, subject to the child’s own mother being involved in the decision, I should like some help with looking after all three of them.”

“That could be arranged.”

“I’m trying to keep a toe hold on my academic career. Our dormouse film is going out on the BBC at the end of June.”

“Yes, I heard.”

“How come?”

“I have friends in low places. But I always knew it would be a hit.”

“How come?”

“With you presenting it, it had to be.”

“Yeah once the tabloids check out my rather public history, they’ll have a field day.”

“The bank will do all it can to help.”

“Yeah, hiding me in your largest vault, might be a good idea.”

“Face them down, what have you to be ashamed of?”

“I’m prepared to face them myself, but with three kids-that isn’t fair on them is it. I’ve also avoided telling Trish, because I want to be a female role model for her, not a transsexual one.”

“Is that for her sake or yours?”

“Bit of both, I suppose. I just want her to grow up as normal as she can, but as a near normal girl, and to see me as her foster mum, not her tranny foster mum.”

“How is she going to feel when she finds out?”

“If she’s older, hopefully, she’ll be able to deal with it.”

“I don’t know, some young women are quite fragile, especially if it gets out amongst her peers-which it’s likely to do, especially when you make the second film.”

“I don’t know if I’m going to.”

“You will, because it’s needed, and if the BBC have any sense, they’ll be scooping you up to present as much of their wild life programming as they can.”

“You’re joking, once the proverbial hits the air-con, they might even change their minds.”

“They won’t, they know about you and they liked what they saw, a beautiful and knowledgeable woman, oozing sex appeal and information. Every man under seventy will be glued to the box trying not to show the bulge in his trousers.”

“Even when they find out the object of their lust was born a boy?”

“No, you were a girl with a plumbing problem, just like young Trish.”

“I’ve brought your clean laundry, I have to go and see Stella and the baby.”

“I went to see the baby, she’s grown a bit.”

“A little, she’s still quite frail, but she’s in expert hands.”

“What yours?”

“Mine? I barely know one end from the other?”

“That isn’t what my spies tell me,” he smiled at me, the smug smile of one who knows more than someone else.

“So what do they tell you?”

“That you give her healing every day and that she bounces about after you have.”

“No, Henry, I give her a bottle when I can; maybe it’s something they put in the milk.”

“I’ll stick with the observations I had reported to me. Please don’t stop seeing her, she needs you very much at the moment.”

“Okay, if I’ve got such wonderful healing powers, how come I can’t seem to help Stella or myself?”

“Why, you’re not sick, are you?”

“I think I have a temper problem, I keep losing it.”

“Is it appropriate to lose it, sometimes it’s okay to feel angry.”

“With Simon?”

“Could be, he drives me to it.”

“I actually knocked him out.”

“Crikey, I didn’t know you could punch that hard.”

“It was a kick.”

“Not in the proverbials, I hope?”

“No, a drop kick to his chest.”

“I expect he asked for it.”

“I don’t think he did, well upon reflection, I didn’t think he did.”

“I see, so we’ll have to watch out for the David Beckham of Portsmouth, will we?”

“Kick boxing is more Thailand than Manchester.”

“Ah, I believe Stella did some of that, don’t think she was much good at it.”

“It was she who taught me.”

“Oh, oh well, I stand corrected.”

“I have to go.” I pecked him on the cheek which made him smile. He had a crafty stroke of my bum as I bent over. I’ll have to watch him. It still astonishes me that someone who knows my history finds me sexually attractive.

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Whortleberry Droppings (aka Bike) Part 600

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As I mused on what Henry thought about me, I walked towards the special care baby unit. I reasoned that as he hadn’t seen me as anything other than a girl, that was how he saw me. Oh well, I can’t turn back into a boy just to annoy him, can I? I’m permanently stuck as a female, legally too now. Hooray!

I breezed into the unit, feeling quite good for a moment, although I knew it couldn’t last. “Look sharp, here comes Lady Muck,” said the snotty nurse/midwife.

“At ease, chaps,” I said in as plummy a voice as I could manage.

“Yes, ma’am,” she replied.

“May I see my niece?” I asked.

“You can feed her if you like, we’re running a bit behind today.” She came out with a bottle of the warmed milk; “You can change her too if you want, after of course.”

“No I think we’ll take this one home,” I joked back, today was looking up after all.

“Eh?” said the nurse, either not picking up on the joke or having no sense of humour-maybe both. I didn’t explain the joke, it’s time was past.

I gave Puddin’ her bottle and she wriggled about, cooing and laughing to herself. When I’d finished, I asked about changing her.

“I thought you said you were going to keep her?” So she had heard it, probably many times.

She handed me a fresh nappy, some wipes and a plastic bag in which to bin the dirty one. She opened the incubator, “There you go, hello beautiful, your auntie is going to change you today,” with that she left.

I talked with the baby the whole time I was touching her. It felt so good to think I was actually touching her, well through a latex glove. I undid the dirty disposable nappy and wiped her naughty bits and bum with the disposable wipes the nurse had given me. Then a bit of cream and on with the new nappy. Easy peasy, if a bit smelly. I wrapped up the dirty stuff and dumped them in the bin.

I felt so much love for this little scrap of humanity, yet she was no relative of mine except by forthcoming marriage-if we went ahead with it. Part of me had qualms about it, as I’m sure Simon must, not least because of his bruised ribs.

I closed up the incubator, wondering why I loved this little one so much. Was it just her helplessness, or that she was related to Simon and Stella, or even Des? Perhaps it was simply that I loved babies, I knew I did when one of the dormice dropped a litter. I loved babies-so what?-I’m a woman, it’s allowed. Another reaffirming moment. The day was getting better, although I still had to travel through the valley of death, where Stella was.

I blew Puddin’ a kiss and went in search of Stella. I found her and wished I hadn’t. What was she wearing? A dress over a pair of jeans and her nightdress on top of that. She hardly knew me. However, I decided I was going to make her look more normal and less ridiculous.

It took all of my powers of persuasion to get the nightie off her, then the dress. I explained I needed to wash them. Then, as she didn’t smell too sweet, I persuaded her to take a shower and wash her hair. Amazingly she did as I asked. And I helped her dry afterwards, her naughty bits were very different to Mima’s, which were different to mine. That made me feel good too. It seems we’re all different yet the same.

After she washed and dressed, I rinsed out her jeans and hung them to dry in her shower room. It was very warm in there so they’d be dry by tea time. I helped to style her hair, at which I’m no expert, but she looked a bit better, at least lived-in rather than unoccupied.

I sat looking at her, holding her hands. “Yes, just take her, I don’t care.”

“What?” I asked as she appeared to have read my mind. She went back to her distant stare which frightened me. “I’m going home now, Stella. I’ll try and come and see you again tomorrow.” She stared straight through me by way of reply, I found it unnerving and left the ward.

I did some shopping on the way back and after dropping it off began preparing for the lamb dinner I’d promised Tom. It would be just the four of us, he and I and the two girls. What a waste?

Mima had fallen asleep with Tom and Trish was glad to come and help me. She seemed to have something to talk to me about as well. I waited for the oven to come up to temperature and popped in the meat and potatoes to roast. I made a cuppa and sat down at the kitchen table with it while Trish drank a very milky tea.

“So, what’s on your mind, young lady?” I asked her. She became very shifty and looked at the floor or the table.

“Gramps said something about his daughter, Catherine.”

“Oh what was that?”

“She was a boy, she’s like me, isn’t she?”

“Sadly she’s dead, Trish, but yes, she was born a girl but with a plumbing problem, just like you. He helped her to become a young lady, just as I will help you, if that’s what you want when the time comes.”

“Of course it is, I’ll never change my mind, Mummy.”

“I don’t doubt it for one moment, darling, but just in case you do, we have to enable you to have that choice.”

“You didn’t change your mind, did you Mummy?” as my brain received these words I felt quite sick and hot.

“About what, darling?” I made light of it.

“Being a girl.”

“What do you mean?” I felt myself blushing and shivering at the same time. What do I do now? Bluff my way through it or tell the truth? Oh shit, if only I was prepared for this, but it’s like a lightning strike.

“The judge man in the court, he said about it and so did the man talking for you. Gramps mentioned you were like his daughter, and I wondered why Dr Rose asked you to look after me, when no one else would.”

“So what are you saying exactly?”

Trish began to weep and blush, “I’m sorry, Mummy,” she jumped down off the chair and rushed upstairs.

I was shell shocked, had she worked it out; had we dropped too many hints despite knowing she was very bright? Was this a good thing? Should I lie to her or tell the truth?

I reflected on what Henry had said, the publicity about the film or some other time, like the wedding-it could all come out then and others might tease her. If she knew already, it would at least give her a chance to choose what she said in response rather than be shocked by the revelation. I knew what I had to do.

I found her sobbing, not on her bed, but on mine. I sat alongside her and stroked her hair. “Do you want to talk about it?” I asked her. She nodded then shook her head.

“I was going to tell you,” I sniffed, then felt the tears roll down my face. “I wasn’t lying to you, but I just wanted you to feel like you had a normal Mummy. I’m sorry, Trish.”

She scrabbled about and wrapped her arms around me and lay her head in my lap. “I love you, Mummy.”

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

“You’re the best Mummy, I’ve ever had.”

“Thank you, sweetheart, it’s very kind of you to say so.”

“You are a lady, really, aren’t you?”

“I am now, though I started out feeling like you do, I was girl who everyone wanted to be a boy, except me-I wanted to be a girl. I had to wait a bit longer than you have, but I eventually became a proper girl and had my body fixed to match my idea, my feelings about myself. Do you understand?”

She nodded, “Yes, Mummy. Can I become a real lady, too?”

“If it’s what you want to do when you’re a little older, I’ll do all I can to help you.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

“I’m sorry if I deceived you, sweetheart, I knew you’d find out sooner or later. When they show my film on the telly, there could be some publicity about it all. Some people like to make a song and dance about what is essentially a personal matter for myself and my family and friends. So rather than you hearing it from an outsider, I was going to tell you anyway. However, you beat me to it. You’re far too clever for me.”

She hugged me close to her. “I love you, Mummy. You’ll always be my Mummy, never mind what anyone else says. You’ve been so good to me, and I love you, and want you to be my Mummy.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” I hugged her and tears rolled down my face in profusion, “of course I’ll be your mummy, it’s a privilege and an honour, even if I’m not really worthy of it.”

We hugged for several minutes. The cat was firmly out of the bag, and no amount of shoving would get it back in there ever again. In some ways I felt cheated, because I did want Trish to see me as an ordinary woman. In others, I felt so relieved that my guilty secret was out.

“Does Daddy know?” she asked after a long pause.

“Yes, and Gramps and Grampa Henry, only Meems doesn’t know and I don’t think she’d understand just yet.”

“Because, I wasn’t going to tell him.”

“You are one special little girl. Thanks for your offer, maybe we’ll just keep it from Meems for the moment, although one day soon, I shall have to tell her.”

“Okay, Mummy, I won’t tell her.”

“Thank you. Well, young lady, I can smell roast lamb, so we need to get the vegetables on. C’mon, I’ll show you how to do curly kale.”

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