Bike 601–650

Wuthering Dormice

(aka Easy As Falling Off A Bike)

Parts 601–650

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.


Winnowing Duckweed Part 601

The roast lamb was delicious, so much so that I saved four more portions from it and shoved them in the fridge, to nuke in the microwave in a day or two—it would save me cooking.

Tom knew that something was up, as Trish and I kept looking at each other over dinner and saying very little. So after I got the girls ready for bed, he took them up to read a story. I got on with clearing up my kitchen which looked like a bomb site.

He came into the kitchen, bade me make myself a cup of tea and him a coffee then asked me to sit. “Okay, Cathy, jes whit is goin’ on between ye an’ Trish?”

“Um, yeah, you noticed?”

“I may be old but I’m nae blind.”

“Um, of course—she knows.”

“Kens whit?”

“About me, my change of gender.”

“Och, is that all?”

“Is that all?” I couldn’t believe my ears, I burst into tears, “If it’s obvious to a four year old, what chance do I have of convincing anyone above that age?”

“Aye, but she’s a canny wee thing.”

“I’m being out thought by a four year old, Daddy.”

“I’m nae surprised.”

“How am I supposed to rear her if she knows more about me than I do about her? I’m supposed to be the adult in the relationship.”

“Aye, that’s true enough.”

“I so wanted her to see me as a normal female, a normal mother, so she could learn to relate to women and become one herself as she grew up.”

“Why can’t she now?”

“I don’t know, I feel a failure.”

“So yer goin’ off on one of yer downers again, are ye? Woe is me, an’ all that stuff.”

“What? No, I was just stating a fact, I failed in providing her with a normal role model.”

“How can you say that? She’s only been with us a short time, already she sees you as the most wonderful mither she’s ever had, and Simon as a functional faither, when he’s here. Both the girls have landed on their feet in coming to you; you love them as much as if they were your own, and spoil them rotten.”

“So do you,” I accused back.

“I’m allowed to, I’m the grandparent.” I poked my tongue out at him and he smiled smugly back at me. “All you need to do is control your tantrums, and you’ll be the perfect mither.”

“Yeah, sure. You know, she asked if Simon knew, because if he didn’t she wouldn’t have told him.”

“How d’ye know?”

“She told me.”

“My, she’s a canny one, that lassie. Ye’ll hae tae watch oot, or she’ll be running rings around ye.”

“She already does,” I sighed and sipped my tea. He chuckled.

“So whit difference is this goin’ tae make?”

“I don’t know, I suspect she’s been formulating it for a while now. I took her in the shower with Mima and me, this morning, she was giving my body a good look over.”

“But yer body is quite feminine in shape.”

“Yes, I know, I’m incredibly lucky, my hips actually broadened a bit when I took the oestrogen, I suppose I never had a male puberty, so it was all sort of on hold.”

“So whit’s the problem?”

“I think I’m still in shock about it all, I didn’t see it coming.”

“But ye’ve been busy with Stella an’ the bairn, not to mention Henry an’ me.”

“I suppose. I wish I knew what to do.”

“Aboot whit?”

“About everything. I feel as if my whole life is now undermined.”

“Whit are ye bletherin’ aboot? Yer life is exactly the same, except you have a deeper understanding with yer eldest bairn. So jes how is it, undermined?”

I felt the tears back, he was right, he always bloody is, and I’m always wrong. If I say that, he’ll take me to task for it. I pretended to accept everything he said, while I held my own thoughts in private. I could see how Stella could feel usurped by me, I was beginning to feel it with Trish. I don’t see her as a rival, just as someone cleverer and bolder than I am, who will keep me on my toes more than a pair of stilettos.

“Come on, lassie, away to yer bed an’ get some rest.”

“I think I will, Daddy.” I pecked him on the cheek and went upstairs, I felt totally exhausted and my legs were like lead weights. I went straight to the bathroom, washed and cleaned my teeth, then after changing got into bed only to discover a little body already in there. Thankfully, it was fast asleep although when I settled down I felt some little arms clasp itself to me like a limpet. I wasn’t sure how I felt about all of this. Really I should put her back in her own bed, mainly in case Mima should wake up in the night she has company and is more likely to stay in her own bed.

However, I didn’t take Trish back to her own bed, I was too tired and preoccupied with my own thoughts which were spinning around my brain like whirligig beetles. I was conscious of the warm little body that was tucked into the back of me, then I suppose I must have slept.

I had a horrible dream, I was in the shower with Trish and she had a fanny but somehow my willie had regrown and I was trying to hide the fact and signally failing, because she kept giving me knowing looks or dropping sharp remarks. I was quite glad when Mima got into bed on the other side of me and I knew I’d been dreaming.

We all overslept the next morning, so maybe my restlessness disturbed Trish as well. Mima our usual alarm clock slept on as well. I hoped she wasn’t going down with something.

I had sent a text to Simon, telling him that Trish knew everything. About nine, I was awoken by a diesel engine in the drive and the doorbell ringing and the dog barking. It was a bouquet of flowers from Simon, with the caption—‘So what? I know everything too, and still love you. Love Simon xxx.’ I decided not to show Trish the card.

I got us washed and dressed and eventually breakfasted. Tom took the girls out for a walk with Kiki, they seemed to enjoy his walks, I’d have to check he wasn’t giving them too many sweets. He said not, but I didn’t necessarily believe him.

I went to the hospital and zapped Puddin’ then spent some time with Stella. She seemed a little brighter and I persuaded her to have a little walk with me. We only went up and down the corridor a few times, but it was some exercise and she said she felt better afterwards. I got her to eat a hot cross bun with a cuppa and then left, calling by Henry on the way.

I told him about Trish and her deductions, he was suitably impressed. “So, she’s going to be bright and beautiful—just like her mother, eh?”

I blushed but riposted, “I don’t know, I haven’t met her mother.” He gave me a wry smile and mouthed, ‘touché’.

Welterweight Dolmen Part 602

“Do you know anything about her?” asked Henry regarding my foster child.

“Only what she’s told me and what they said at the home, which is very little. Her mother didn’t like her overt femininity and tried to beat it out of her, according to Trish.”

“I didn’t work, it never does.”

“It certainly didn’t in my case.”

“Your mother beat you, too?”

“No my dad did, quite severely on one occasion.”

“Yet you looked after him, when he was ill.”

“I went to see him, took him out, took him in treats and so on.”

“Despite what he did to you?”

“He was still my dad.”

“I don’t know if I could do the same, Cathy. Back in our ancestry, about a hundred and fifty years ago, a domineering father bullied his son and threw him out in a blizzard. The boy nearly died, however, he was found by one of the villagers who looked after him. The father assumed he was dead, until about a year later they met and fought.”

“Don’t tell me the boy overcame the tyrant?”

“No, the father was kicking seven bells out of him, when the old lady who’d been looking after the boy saw them and hit the father with a rock, killed him stone dead.”

“Good for her,” I said imagining the scene in my head.

“Not really, they hanged her.”

“Oh, couldn’t the boy stop it?”

“No his mother stopped him interceding on the old lady’s behalf.”

“Oh, what happened.”

“The mother fell own the stairs a week after the execution, broke her neck.”

“Pity it wasn’t a few weeks earlier.”

“Quite, but the story was the ghost of the old lady came back to get her, and we have a tradition that if any wife of the laird, doesn’t do her job properly and fairly, and that especially means looking after the old and sick on the estate, the old lady comes back to haunt them until they do.”

“How does Monica fare with irate spooks?”

“Very well, she actually does her job very well, in that regard, very caring towards our staff and tenants.”

“You make it sound feudal,” I said rolling my eyes.

“Futile at times might be a better description, but yes it is like a time warp back to the Victorian era.”

“I suppose it’s quite entertaining, the old ghost story and skeletons in the cupboard.”

“No, it’s quite real, she visits every wife of the laird at least once to let them know she’s still around.”

“Come on, Henry, pull the other leg.”

“It’s true, Monica has seen her.”

“I’m a scientist, I don’t go for all this crap, sorry and all that. It’s mediaeval and this is the twenty first century.”

“Just remember, one day you’ll be the laird’s wife, the Lady of Stanebury, and she will come and see you, wherever you are. Monica saw her in Hampstead.”

“Come off it, Henry, this is a wind up. If there were such things as ghosts, then she could have seen one that was a local London one, not necessarily all the way from Scotland.”

“You wait and see, it’ll happen.”

“Only because you’ve planted the idea in my unconscious—nah, it won’t work, Henry, I shall be the first modern lady of the manor and do away with all these silly superstitions.”

“Carry on like that, my girl, and she’ll be paying you a call before you get wed.”

“Let her come, I won’t see or hear her, I’m a non-believer, it’s all bunkum.”

“Ask Stella about her, she’s seen her.”

“Henry, Stella is in no fit state to comment about anything, let alone fairy stories. Has Simon seen her?”

“No…”

“There you go then.”

“The men never do, it’s only the women.”

“In which case, I should be okay then.”

He narrowed his eyes at me, “Stop talking like that, you’re as much a woman as any I’ve ever met, and better than some. You’ll see her alright, you can bet on it.”

“I’m tempted to say, how much, but as I shall only become lady muck, if I actually marry Simon, which isn’t certain, and he only accedes to the title when you croak, so you wouldn’t pay up then anyway.”

“I’ll leave in trust for you, but you will see her.”

“Don’t be so sure—unless I can count it, cut it and shove it in a test tube, it doesn’t exist. Give me a ghost I can see under a microscope, and I’ll believe; until then, I won’t. Besides, I was only going to bet you a fiver.”

“A fiver! Ha, on an each way bet no doubt.”

“Can you do that on this sort of wager?” I was totally ignorant of betting and gaming.

“No, don’t be silly.” He shook his head in astonishment.

“I thought not, pity.”

Henry shook his head again, “I think I shall have to get out of here, I’m going stir crazy.”

“Do you actually need to be here, why couldn’t you go home?”

“I can’t get upstairs with two legs in plaster.”

“So, stay downstairs, get a bed brought down.”

“Not in Hampstead, it just isn’t done, dear girl.”

“Bugger that, if you’re needing a ground floor room, then have one and blow convention, or are you afraid of the ghost visiting again?”

“Ha ha, very good, Cathy. I’m seeing the surgeon tomorrow and the plaster may be able to come off or they put a walking one on, that would give more possibilities.”

“Why not stay in Southsea? They have lifts there and you could get a wheelchair.”

“I did consider it…”

“And?”

“I didn’t think it was a good idea for the staff to see me with two legs in plaster.”

“Don’t you think they’ll all know about it anyway?”

“But that is just a rumour, which I would be confirming.”

“Henry, don’t tell me you want out of her, because you could have gone to the hotel weeks ago, you could have gone home, you’re just too stubborn to make changes, even when they’re in your favour.”

“Carry on, I like this, Cathy, I’m tempted to hire you as a management consultant.”

“Henry, you already pay me a fortune for nothing,” I whispered this last line.

“Nonsense, that’s a retainer, we do it for all our experts.”

“How many have you got?”

“Dozens, mainly legal and financial, but environmental is going to become very much more important, and we can then claim to be the green bank.”

“I think the Cooperative, may have beaten you on that one.”

“Ah they might be in the lead at the moment, but we usually win the race.”

In this mood, arguing with Henry was pointless. “Right I have to go,” I pecked him on the cheek, “So I’ll tell the hotel to get your suite ready for tomorrow onwards, then?” I ducked out of the door as he flung his empty urine bottle at me. I heard it bounce off the door. “I hope you won’t need to go for a few minutes,” I laughed back at him, then ran off.

Worming Dumfries Part 603

The journey home was slow and boring, and I grumbled at the temporary traffic lights at the road works. Why they have to dig these roads up while I’m using them, is a question many drivers have asked yet never had a sensible answer.

It’s like, why did the chicken cross the road? Why did they dig holes in the road? Just for fun, seemed as good an answer as any, and somebody tooting me from behind brought me back from my reverie as the lights had turned green. A little while later, another set of temporary traffic lights and more fresh holes in the road. Why can’t they install sewers on days when I’m not going that way? Maybe I should have asked them.

I listened to the radio; the death toll in the Italian earthquake was mounting. It sounded awful, the reports from the stricken area—didn’t they have any cats? They can apparently detect earthquakes hours before anything else, maybe I should get one—a cat, not an earthquake.

I presume it’s due to cat’s phenomenal hearing, they can hear minute squeaks and rustles from their prey animals, and also the tiniest of noises from the vibration of earth movements. Mind you, the way they used to throw black cats onto bonfires, maybe they don’t have any left in Italy to warn them, or is it a case of the cats striking back?

As I drove into our property, I mused on dormice getting their own back on humans—again it’s mainly in Italy that they eat the poor things, and that’s a different species to my breeding colony. Italy—maybe the dormice caused the earthquake, all jumping up and down at the same time. The absurdity of the image of thousands of dormice jumping up and down to cause an earthquake made me laugh out loud. Punishment for eating our families, was the moral of the story.

Mind you, if that was the case, imagine the consequences of millions of cattle and sheep doing the same for the rest of us—this little island would disappear all together—although we have five hundred or more earth tremors every year in the UK. Just goes to prove we Brits aren’t without faults. I chuckled to myself as I let myself in.

“Mummmmm—eeeeee,” screamed the smaller banshee as it wrapped itself around my legs, soon followed by a larger, but equally noisy one.

“Did you behave for Gramps?”

They both nodded and Mima even said, “Yes, Mummy, I was good. Gwamps said I was, a angew.”

“Angel,” Trish translated for me.

“Ah, but of course you were, you take after me.”

“What? the Angel of Dormice?” suggested Tom as he appeared behind the girls.

“Hello, Daddy,” I said pecking him on the cheek, “Were they good?”

“Of course, unlike you, they usually do what I tell them.”

I pouted and the girls giggled. “I’m a good girl, too,” I protested, pretending to cry.

“Yes, sure ye are, I don’t think. Oh, Dr Rose phoned, can you call him back?” he handed me a slip of paper. It was a mobile number.

I gave the girls a small apple each as a reward for being good and went off to call Sam Rose. I dialled and he answered after a couple of rings. “Dr Rose.”

“Hello, Sam, it’s Cathy Watts.”

“Hello, Lady C, how are you?”

“I’m fine and you?”

“Well, thank you. Look, I have another shrink for your little girl.”

“Brilliant, no more Dr Fliss, I hope?”

“Goodness no, she’s up to her eyeballs in complaints and investigations by the GMC and College of Psychiatrists. She’ll be struck off for sure, if not worse.”

“Worse?” For a professional, I thought being struck off was as bad as it got.

“Yes, the police are investigating, there are rumours she hit more than one patient.”

“Oops! Oh well she’ll deserve everything she gets.”

“Indeed. Now the new one is Dr Karen Nicholson. I’m having lunch with her tomorrow, could you join us?”

“That’s a bit unusual, isn’t it?” well, I thought it was.

“A little but then, so are you. We’re meeting at…” I took down the details and asked Tom if he could cope with the girls while I went gadding off tomorrow. He agreed without hearing where or why. But then, he knew I’d been talking to Dr Rose.

I went to sort out lunch, a boiled egg with toast soldiers for the girls and for the adults, the same without the military overtones. The girls went to play outside with their prams and dollies while I cleared up in the kitchen.

“It’s somebody’s birthday soon,” I mentioned to Tom.

“Aye, she keeps telling me.”

“Saturday, which I suppose is better than Good Friday.”

“Aye, I suppose.”

“I’d like to have given her a party, but she doesn’t seem to have many friends yet, I suppose we could do one with just us, especially if Simon could get home.”

“Ye could, or we could take a trip to say, Paulton’s Park.”

“Hey, that’s a brilliant idea, Daddy. I can see why you’re a professor.” I hugged him.

“Less of the sarcasm, lassie, because ye’re still no too big to go across my knee.”

I decided that simply looking shocked was enough of a response, rather than challenging him to prove it. If he had succeeded without having another heart attack, this would have become a porn story instead of the biography of an innocent.

“I’d like to get Trish, something nice for her birthday, especially as it’s the first one with us. I’ll get her a new pair of pyjamas and slippers from Mima, and maybe I’ll buy her a one of these electronic pocket games all the kids have today. They do them in pink, which should be suitably girlish for her.”

“Whit aboot a mobile phone?”

“She’s only five, Daddy.”

“I know that, but they all seem to hae them these days. I wonder how we survived wi’oot them?”

“We spoke to each other. Most kids send texts and make calls to the kid standing next to them.”

“Whilst micro-waving their brain?”

“Something like that.” I had read a bit of the research and it was at best inconclusive about the harmful effects of microwave radiation from mobile phones. However, it meant I didn’t want my two to have them for now, if not much longer.

“Mebbe I’ll buy her a cross and chain,” said Tom.

“She’d probably like that, although I’m not sure about the religious symbolism.”

“Ach, yer a pain in the arse, so ye are, with yer anti-religiosity. Yer worse than the bloody taliban.”

“That’s me, an immoderate moderate agnostic, militant wing.”

“A provo agnostic?”

“If you like, though comparing me to Irish bandits, is a bit OTT.”

“I thought that was the Tory party.”

“What, Irish bandits?”

“Aye, apparently, the name Tory related to such groups.”

“Goodness, nothing new there then. I think upon reflection, I’d be a Whig.”

“Weren’t they amongst all those puritans who went over to the States?”

“Probably, they’re straight laced enough aren’t they?”

“Dinna let them hear ye say it though, or yer visa application ‘ll be denied.”

“Don’t think they have dormice in the US, anyway,” I said in a sour grapes tone, which made him laugh.

“Aye, I think yer richt, but when I take the girls to Florida, you’ll hae to bide at hame and feed Kiki.”

“Daddy, I’m into dormice, not Mickey Mouse.”

Woolly Dishmops Part 604

The next day we all went shopping; Tom took the kids into the local sweet shop and I stole away and into the toyshop down the road. I got the Nintendo DS Lite handheld console and was back on the pavement before they’d noticed I was missing. So far, so good.

I’d also bought Mima some doll’s clothes so she wouldn’t feel left out. The weather was warming up a little and my feet felt like toast in the boots I had on, although there was a draught blowing up my skirt and keeping my nether regions cool. At least it wasn’t raining, although some was forecast today or tomorrow. I wondered if I might get a short bike ride in—that’s the only problem with children, no time for anything else.

I walked with the girls as Tom disappeared into a jewellery shop and came back nodding and smiling. Trish now had some sort of necklace. We stopped for a coffee and the girls had milkshakes. My phone peeped as in text message received and I checked it.

‘Hi, missin u. H wants 2 kno wot T wants 4 b’day.
Luv S. xxx’

I sent back, ‘How much dus he want 2 spend?
Miss u 2. Luv C xxx. T&M send love.’

“Who was that, Mummy?” Trish asked.

“Daddy, why?”

“Is he coming home soon?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart.”

“Did you tell him we miss him?”

“No, I told him you love him.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” she said.

“I wuv Daddy, too,” said Mima.

“I said you did, too.”

“I’m gwad you did, Mummy.”

We shopped a bit more and I slipped away to get the pyjamas and slippers for Mima to give her sister. I also got some new pyjamas for Trish to give Mima, who also needed some new ones.

Then it was time for me to pop over to see the two doctors and lunch. Tom was using Dad’s car and the girls went off with him with a slight reluctance. I suppose they thought they were missing out on something—but Tom had promised them pizza, so they went with him. I was happy to miss out, I don’t like eating greasy cardboard.

As I turned into the car park of the Admiral Nelson pub and restaurant, I saw Sam and a woman walking from his car, a BMW, towards the pub. I parked and after checking my hair and makeup in the vanity mirror on the back of the sun visor, I rushed in after them. I spotted them in the bar.

“Ah, Cathy, what are you drinking?” called Sam.

“Orange juice with lemonade, please.” I walked over to them. His companion was a slight, blonde woman with masses of long blonde hair. She was pretty rather than beautiful, being a bit elfin looking. She was wearing a pink jacket over black trousers with a black top, and boots with heels. I was wearing a red suit with a navy top, and my red boots.

“Cathy, might I introduce, Dr Karen Nicholson. Karen, this is Cathy Watts, soon to be Lady Cameron.” We shook hands and carried our drinks over to a table in the corner.

“Karen, I asked Cathy to come to meet you because she has been fostering a youngster, who is coming up five, bright as a button but transgendered.”

“Which way—boy to girl or t’other way round?” asked Karen.

“Boy to girl,” said Sam.

“And you’re fostering him/her?”

“Her, yes I am.”

“Oh, so you’ve allowed him to express himself as a girl?”

“It was Patricia whom I met at Sam’s clinic, she has been Patricia ever since.”

“Oh, did you insist on that?”

“No, I told her that if she considered herself a girl, we’d all accept her as that and treat her accordingly until she said otherwise. I haven’t regretted it, nor has she, as far as I know.”

“Did you find that a problem, I mean having a boy wanting to be a girl?”

“No, should I have?”

“Well some people do. Obviously, Sam knew you’d cope.”

“There were bigger issues,” said Sam, “Cathy had been duped into fostering Jemima, who’d had a nasty head injury from a RTA. She’d not been mobilising, and Cathy took her home and within a week had her walking and running again. Patrick or as she prefers, Patricia, had had a head injury which had healed as far as we knew, and yet she wasn’t mobilising. She’d been living in a local children’s home and was being bullied because of her GID. We think a kid might have pushed her down the stairs and caused the injury in the first place.

“After her miracle with Jemima, I wondered if she could do the same with Patricia. She did, within the week.”

“How interesting, how did you do it?” Karen leant her chin on her hand.

“With a pair of my shoes.”

“Your shoes?”

“I allowed Mima to find them in my bedroom, she loves tottering about in them. I let her take them downstairs and after watching her clomping about in them, Trish wanted a go. She didn’t do too well at first, but she did walk and we took it from there. I mean, what little girl can resist trying on Mummy’s shoes?”

“Quite, very clever stuff. I shall have to watch you.” Karen smiled.

“Oh, why is that?” I asked.

“In case you subliminally manipulate me.”

“I promise I won’t.”

“Thank you.” She sipped her drink, a white wine, “I still can’t get over that you accepted a GID child, with no questions asked.”

“Why not? I can’t have kids myself, so looking after other peoples’ is all I’m likely to get. I love kids, whether they are boys or girls, doesn’t matter to me or Simon.”

“Simon?” she asked.

“My fiancé, Simon Cameron.”

“Ah, the titled one.”

“Yes, I’m still not sure about that bit, seems a bit of an anachronism to me.”

“Yeah, could be I suppose, so what does he think about having a foster daughter with an extra something?”

“They took to each other like ducks to water. Trish—nor Mima for that matter, had had much contact with a male parental figure, so they love Simon, who spoils them rotten. So does Tom, their foster grampa and Henry and Monica, their other foster grandparents.”

“Wow, so you’ve got a whole family who support this girl? She is very lucky. Usually there’s someone who objects to it for some reason.”

“Why? The child is incredibly clever, and quite charming and looks and acts the little girl as naturally as her sister.”

“Oh there’s a sister?”

“No, they, the two girls decided that they would be sisters and treat us as their parents. I objected at first, trying to keep open some sort of channel for their natural parents. It felt strange to be called Mummy by someone else’s child, but she kept doing it. They both did.”

“Not more of your subliminals?”

“No, Karen, at least not as far as I know.”

“I think they needed the security of a mother and father, saw Simon and Cathy as the dream team, and latched on to them. You’d never know they weren’t Cathy’s kids, really you wouldn’t,” said Sam.

“Hmmm,” said Karen.

“I have treated them as my own, because that’s the only way I know. I haven’t encouraged them to call me Mummy, but they both like to do it and persisted with it, they did the same with Simon, and Tom. We all live with Tom, it’s his house.”

“So, Tom is your father?”

“Sort of, my natural father died last year, we had a difficult relationship until after my mother died and he had a stroke. I used to go and see him and possibly because he needed me, he changed his attitude towards me.”

“And how did you feel about him?”

“I loved both my parents, but they were a bit fundamentalist and I’m a scientist—a fundamentalist Darwinian if you like, we clashed and they didn’t speak to me for ages.”

“So where does Tom, figure in this?” asked Karen.

“I was doing a masters with him, he’s my professor. I got bullied by some male students and Tom sort of took me under his wing. He’d lost a daughter whose name was Catherine. I got my degree, had skills he wanted for a big project the University was mounting, and he gave me a job, teaching and helping with the project.”

“So he sort of adopted you?”

“Yeah, the full story is a bit longer, but yeah, that’s about it.”

“So how do you cope with teaching at a uni and looking after two foster kids?”

“I don’t, I was seconded by Defra and High St Banks, to make a film on dormice. It was during this that I found myself with first one, then two little girls. I’m contracted to make a second film on harvest mice, but don’t know if I shall. The girls come first.”

“And you can’t have any?”

“No.”

“Not even with IVF?”

“No.”

“Pity. So will you do the second film?”

“I don’t know, Simon’s sister has just had a baby but has very bad post-natal depression, so I might have to help look after her as well.”

“Crikey, you are a helpful soul, but shouldn’t you be doing a bit of what you want too?” asked Karen.

“In that regard, looking after the kids is something I love anyway, so that’s a payback for me. My PhD can wait, so can the film if necessary.”

“How lovely to see someone who is prepared to stay at home and look after their kids. If only more parents did, my life would be so much easier.”

“I’m lucky, I’m on a retainer from the bank as their environmental adviser and Simon has a good job.”

“What does he do?” she asked.

“He’s a commodities broker amongst other things.”

“Oh, I thought bankers had a bad name, these days.”

“Not all banks bought toxic assets, and the bit Simon works for is a merchant bank.”

“So you can afford to stay home?”

“Yes, I’m well aware not everyone can. I’m very lucky.” I glanced at Sam, he was smiling at how I was telling the truth, but not the whole truth and that Karen hadn’t twigged me yet.

“Would you care to order?” asked the waitress.

Whispering Dragons Part 605

Karen paused while eating her omelette, “So who is supervising the care of this new girl?”

“Ah, there’s the rub,” said Sam, misquoting Hamlet.

“What is?” asked Karen.

“We saw Dr Fliss Edwards, or Trish was seeing her. I went along once and she assaulted me.”

“You’re joking,” said Karen looking embarrassed. “You’re not joking are you?”

“No, she was a monster and frightened me let alone little Trish.”

“Am I correct in believing you might want me to take on your foster child?”

“Could be,” said Sam, chewing a piece of gammon. When he ordered it, he smirked at my raised eyebrows. He then told me it was kosher pig.

“Is this true, Cathy? Is this more of your manipulations?”

“No, Karen, this is one of mine,” Sam deflected the attention away from me. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought about her, she seemed a bit anti-TG. Did she know about me? Was I going to tell her? No chance—besides, I’m female now, not transsexual.

“Sam, all you had to do was ask or refer to me.”

“I wanted you to meet Cathy, and for her to feel happy before I made the referral.”

“Oh, so I’m under examination, am I?”

“No, of course not, but let’s face it, Cathy had an awful experience with Fliss, so I thought if she met you, she’d have much more confidence in bringing Trish to see you.”

I could feel my hands sweating, so what Sam was feeling, I hated to think. I continued to eat my tuna salad, but I wasn’t really hungry. “I came to see Dr Edwards because I’ve enrolled Trish in a school. She’s five on Saturday and will be starting after Easter.”

“You’ve certainly upped the ante here, was this a way of testing her resolve? Don’t tell me, it’s in a girls’ convent?”

“It is as it happens, partly because it was the only school who seemed to have any spaces, and when I explained our little dilemma, the headmistress had had experience of it before and so accepted her.”

“But you’re not religious?”

“No, I’m a scientist.”

“Of course. So who is paying for her education?”

“I am, though I fail to see what relevance this has.”

“So you love this child enough to spend thousands a year on her schooling?”

“Yes, what is so strange about that?”

“I find you too good to be true, in some ways.”

“I’m finding you very unsympathetic for a supposed child care specialist,” I threw back at her.

“I knew there was more than just saintliness inside there,” she practically purred. “So why are you encouraging a boy to be a girl?”

I felt more than a little cross. “Karen, I swear I am not encouraging Trish to do anything than be herself, whoever that self is. I don’t see her as a boy pretending to be a girl, I see her as a girl with a plumbing problem.”

“Is this denial?”

“No, it’s a different perspective. She looks acts and seems to think like a girl. So, as they say, if it looks like a girl, talks like a girl, walks like a girl and thinks like a girl, it probably is a girl. That this girl has a minor anatomical defect, doesn’t stop me from experiencing her as she wants me to, as a girl.”

“So she is manipulating you? She is clever.”

“Stop playing shrinks for moment, and just listen. This child is a girl, believe me, if you cut her in half, she’d have girl written in pink letters through her, like a stick of rock.”

“So has she been checked out for wrongful assignment at birth?”

“I don’t know, you have access to her notes, I don’t.”

“We ran some basic tests, didn’t find anything,” added Sam.

“You think this is classic GID?” she asked Sam.

“Yes.”

“Even though it’s relatively rare?”

“Yes,” he nodded for emphasis.

“And you agree with this, Cathy?”

“If GID means gender identity disorder, yes.”

“I must see this charming young lady, could you bring her in tomorrow?”

“I could, but I have some reservations.”

“Oh, what are they?”

“She’s been traumatised once already by some one who had more problems than she does, and who considered themselves fit to treat children. I detect some degree of scepticism in your attitude, if I think she’s in any danger, I won’t bring her.”

“Danger?” Karen blushed, “Forgive me, I’ve given off the wrong signals. I’ve dealt with this twice before. In one case the mother wanted to emasculate her son and make him a girl, partly because she hated her ex, and partly because she preferred girls to boys.

“I had to try and rescue the boy, who as far as I know, is now catching up on his masculinity. In case two, it was GID, and that was a girl to boy case, even more rare than your boy to girl. When I last saw him, he was doing quite well.

“I suppose I wanted to test you out without Trish being present. I believe you are genuine and don’t have any hidden agenda about feminising a boy.”

I blushed, embarrassed and cross, “But Sam told you the child was saying she was a girl before I met her.”

“Yes, so he was; so why were you so insistent to get Cathy to take this unusual child?”

“I told you,” he said, maintaining his stare at her,” we needed to get her mobilised; Cathy had a track record and we knew she would be sympathetic to the child’s other needs.”

“How did you know? Has she done this before?” asked Karen and I felt my stomach flip over.

“Not that I’m aware of, but you get a gut feeling about people and I just knew she would cope.” Sam was protecting me again and blushing furiously.

“You obviously profoundly influenced one of the leading paediatricians in the UK, did you know that, Cathy? Sam here, is the next head of the college of paediatricians. He’ll be nearly as well connected as Lady Cameron and her banker boyfriend.”

“What don’t you like about me, Karen?”

“I don’t dislike you, Cathy, I hardly know you.”

“But you’ve patronised me, and belittled me, accused me of child abuse and suggested I’m more pure than the Virgin Mary. What have I done to deserve it?”

“You do tend to make Mother Theresa look like a fallen woman, but actually I admire you. You’re still hiding something, which Sam knows about and I don’t. I was trying to work out what it was.”

“I have no hidden agenda, other than trying to keep custody of my two foster children. We, my family such as it is, and they have all invested loads of emotion and energy—call it love if you like—and I don’t want to see it fail. That would be catastrophic for all of us. The Camerons, for all their pomp and circumstance, don’t take failure very well. It would destroy Simon, not to mention Tom and myself. What it would do to the girls, who seem settled with us, I hate to think.

“They have both experienced abandonment before—I swore to them, I would never do it to them. They believe me and I will not break my word.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I admire that you’re prepared to put your own career on hold to raise them, very laudable, even more so that you could end up funding their education. Please bring her to see me tomorrow, I’ll get my secretary to call you this afternoon, if that’s okay?”

“I have to visit, Stella and the baby this afternoon.”

“I’ll get her to leave a message with the special care baby unit, I presume that is where the baby is?”

“Yes.”

“Good, that’s sorted. I’m really looking forward to meeting this wonder child.”

“She’s just an ordinary kid.”

“With a little plumbing problem,” said Karen, and I didn’t know if she was mocking me or agreeing with me. Tomorrow was not going to be easy.

Widget Drama Part 606

We parted amicably, or maybe that should be politely. I still have much affection for Sam Rose, he is one of nature’s gentlemen, as my mother would have said—a truly good and kind man.

Somehow, Karen seems to put my back teeth on edge, as if she’s trying to catch me out, or is she trying to work out what Sam and I aren’t telling her. Well we all know that, don’t we? If she has access to the internet, she’ll find me one way or another. I haven’t exactly kept a low profile, have I? Anyway, my judgement about her will wait until after she meets with Trish. I won’t leave her alone with the child, which I suspect Trish will find helpful.

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, when the Queen used to give Maundy money to so many pensioners, one for each year of her life if I remember correctly. Don’t know if they still do it, but the money was specially minted for the occasion and they were paid in groats and things—a groat was four old pence, which is less than two new ones.

I wonder where that came from—attending a church school; I suppose. I parked the car and went up to see the baby. “Do you know, as soon as you enter the unit, this child starts to brighten up?”

“Eh?” sometimes my power of oratory is mind boggling.

The nurse/midwife spoke again, “This child knows when you are near.”

“Yeah, like when I walk up and tickle her belly, or speak to her.”

“No, before that. She began to move about and chuckle to herself about five or ten minutes ago.”

That was about the time I parked the car. “Well, I’ve probably been in the hospital for an hour, so that shoots your theory down, doesn’t it?” It was a total lie, but I didn’t go for this ESP stuff. I thought that applied to pets not kids.

“If you say so,” she said giving me an ‘I don’t believe you, you lying bitch’ sort of look. I shrugged a non verbal reply of, ‘bugger you then’. I told you my powers of oratory were legend.

We stopped the war of attrition and she handed me the bottle of milk and I fed my little darling. She gulped it down and was promptly sick. I helped clean up the mess, changed her nappy and gave her a small second bottle. After which I talked to her and rubbed her over as much of her body as the wires and things would permit. She seemed to enjoy it.

“She’s starting to gain nearly every day, I hope by the weekend, we might be able to let you have a little cuddle.”

“Shouldn’t her mother have the first one?”

“Possibly, but I’m thinking of the baby.”

I let it go, I’d love to cuddle her as I’m sure she would to. However, loyalty and friendship demand that should go to Stella, and it might help her feel better and start the bonding process. If she declines, I would consider filling the breach on a temporary basis. Oh why does life have to be so complicated?

As I tickled and talked to Puddin’ my mind went back over the lunch, I sniggered when I thought of Sam and his Kosher ham, that man is priceless, mind you a friend of my dad’s who was in the RAF for years, spoke of Muslim house boys who used to eat any left over meat irrespective of what it was. If it was pork or ham, they called it holiday meat.

I played with Puddin for a while longer, then went off to see Stella and Henry, I was beginning to feel like a social worker or hospital visitor—which was an old term for hospital social workers.

Once again, I walked Stella round the corridor and back a couple of times. She sat down exhausted and puffing. She’d put on a bit of weight since the birth and she needed to get that off before she got well or she would top herself. She had quite a thing about her appearance, unlike me, a natural slob unless I’m trying to impress, then I can dress reasonably well. I suppose too, that I have to make myself a bit more tidy to encourage the girls to do the same—without it going crazy.

“Stella, your baby is possibly going to be able for you to give her a cuddle in a day or two, would you like me to take you up to see her?”

Stella looked at me, obviously running my message back and fore in her brain. “Can you do it for me, I feel too tired at the moment.”

“It isn’t today, Stella, it might not be for two or three days, but sometime soon. I’ll take you up to see her.”

“No, you go, I’m too busy.”

“Stella, this is your baby, baby Desi, we’re talking about, not some anonymous child dumped by a teenage mother. It’s you she needs, not me.”

“I can’t cope at the moment, okay?”

“But it might help you feel better, and I’m sure it would help your baby. She desperately needs a cuddle and who better than her mummy, to do it?”

“I want you to go now,” she pulled her hand from between mine and walked away from me. A nurse who’d been sitting nearby and overheard the conversation, shrugged at me, as if to say, ‘better luck next time.’

I walked up to her, “Does Stella get much exercise?”

“She wanders about a bit some days, usually if she’s agitated.”

“Agitated? Gosh, I hadn’t even thought of that, I thought she was just very depressed.”

“Depressed people can get agitated.”

“Oh, you learn something new every day.”

“Come back and try again tomorrow, one day you might get through.”

“Gosh, I hope so. She is one of the most vivacious people I know, or she was before this hit her.”

“Sad, innit?” suggested the nurse.

“A complete tragedy in one act.”

“Hey, that’s clever.”

“What is?”

“What you just said.”

“Nah, if I’d said something clever, she’d have leapt out of her depression and back to the sister in law I know and love so much.”

“So you’ve known her a long time?”

“Long enough to know she’s quite ill.”

“Sadly, yes she is—but it’s amazing how some people get over this sort of thing.”

“Only some?” I queried.

“You know what I mean,” she blushed.

“Yeah, I suppose I do.” I bade her goodbye and walked out of the ward, as I did so, my mobile peeped to indicate a text message.

‘Prezi cmin sat am. Wil cum wen I can. Luv S. xxx’

I replied, ’ will b here to get it. Come soon. Lol C xxx I wondered what it would be, and was it from him or Henry. I decided I could possibly find out from the horse’s mouth.

I walked briskly over to Henry’s ward, breezed in and walked into his room, to be met by a complete stranger lying in his bed. “Who are you?” he asked.

Whoring Dinosaurs Part 607

“Never mind who I am, who are you, that’s Henry’s bed.”

“Not any more, so piss off before I call the nurse.”

“Charmed, I’m sure—still, I’ll see you in theatre,” I offered him.

“What? Who are you?”

“Just your neighbourhood proctologist.” I rushed off before he could respond. I found the nursing sister and confessed my sins.

“Pity I wasn’t there, we only put him in that room because he was annoying everyone else. Oh the baby unit were looking for you, hang on.” She picked through a pile of papers, “Here, I hope it makes sense.”

It did, it gave the time of the appointment with Karen—tomorrow at ten. Well it was better than nine. I’d have to ask Tom to watch Mima again. I suppose I’d better buy him an Easter egg, one made by Glenfiddich or similar, and bottle shaped.

“By the way, where is my future pa in law?” I asked.

“He discharged himself.”

“You mean he walked out by himself?”

“No some chauffer type came and got him.”

“Okay, thanks.” I left sending Henry a text as I walked.

‘Where R U? Will initi8 search party if not heard in 1 hour.
Luv Cathy.’

I was driving into Tesco when I heard my phone beep. I parked and looked at the text.

‘Took ur advice, do come 4 dinner. H

‘What do I do with ur laundry? C’ I replied.

‘Bring it when u come 2 dinner H.’

‘Who is going to babysit? C. ’

‘Not my prob. H

This was followed by a second a moment later, ‘come 2 lunch & bring em with u. Let me know when. H.

I decided that was enough for now and went and did the shopping. Cor, the price of good booze is not cheap—still bribery never is. I got one or two other things as well and went home.

Tom had taken the girls home and they’d all fallen asleep on the sofa by the time I got there. I didn’t realise eating pizza was such hard work. I hid Tom’s bottle in the kitchen and started to get the dinner ready, not that they’d need too much, so I thought a quiche with a salad would do.

A sleepy looking Trish came out and hugged my bum—I was standing at the sink at the time. It still made me jump. “You were gone such a long time, Mummy.”

“Yes I know, sweetheart, things took longer than I thought. Anyway, I’ve found a nice new doctor to help you, and we’re going tomorrow morning.”

“Oh,” this was said with disappointment, although hardly unexpected. “Do we have to?”

“Trish Watts, of course we have to. I told you before that we need to show people that your being a girl is your idea, not mine.”

“I don’t care what they think,” she threw back with nonchalance.

“But I do, besides if they got the wrong idea, they could try to take you away from me.”

“Don’t let them do that, Mummy.” I could hear her crying and she was rubbing her face in my hip.

I sat her down at the table and discussed it with her. “Look, sweetheart, we’re going to see Dr Nicholson who’s very nice, I had lunch with her today. She’s a friend of Dr Rose.”

“If she saw you, why do I have to go?” I couldn’t fault the logic, and this child wasn’t in school yet—it was frightening in some ways.

“It’s not me who wants to be a girl, I am one, remember?”

“So am I, Mummy.”

“I know, darling, but to make sure it’s your decision and that you still want to stay one, we have to see someone official, usually a doctor of some sort.”

“That other lady frightened me, she was horrid to you as well.”

“Yes, she was darling, but we won’t see her ever again, the hospital won’t let her go there again. She was very naughty and a policeman took her away.”

“Did he bash her with his stick?”

“His truncheon? I doubt it. By then she’d have calmed down.” But it’s a nice thought, one which I didn’t share with Trish. “But, I promise Dr Nicholson will be nicer than that awful woman and we have to go and see her.”

“Okay, Mummy, will you come with me?”

“Of course I will.”

“Thank you.” She hugged me again, grateful for something I saw as my duty and obligation, but on the other hand, I never turn down a hug.

The other sleeping beauty arrived, probably hearing us talking. “Mummmeeeee,” she shrieked and jumped up on my lap. She hugged me like hybrid between a limpet and an octopus. I almost did a count at one point to make sure she hadn’t grown extra arms. When she’d finished crushing me, she looked at Trish. “Why is Twish cwyin’?”

“I’m not,” answered Trish, “I had something in my eye.”

“Are you alwight, now?”

“Yes, Meems, I am.”

“Well how’s my favourite three year old?” I asked holding onto Mima.

“I’m fine, Mummy.” I wondered who she’d heard saying that, probably me.

“Right, come along youse twose, let’s get tea finished. It’s salad and quiche.”

“What’s kees?” asked Trish.

“Quiche, it’s a French form of bacon and egg flan with some cheese and tomato thrown in for good measure. You’ll like it.”

“I don’t think I like it, Mummy.”

“Oh well don’t have any, you can have a Marmite sandwich instead.”

“I wike it, Mummy,” she said hugging my leg.

“You, Mima, like anything—you’re a bigger dustbin than Kiki.”

“Me not a dussbin, me a wittew girw—naughty, Mummy,” so saying she smacked me on the bum.

“Hoy, you can stop that as quick as you like, it isn’t funny.” With that, Meems burst into tears and for no reason whatsoever, at least none known to me, Trish followed suit.

Just then Tom walked in, “Och I should hae known it, yer mither’s hame, an’ yer baith greetin’.”

Waggling Diatoms Part 608

We managed to calm the girls down and the evening was reasonably normal. Simon phoned. “Hello, Babes, make sure someone is in on Saturday.”

“What is this mysterious gift, and is it from you or Henry?”

“You’ll have to wait and see, and it isn’t for you, it’s for Trish.”

“Duh, I know that. When are you coming home?”

“I’ll try over the weekend, now Dad is back at the hotel, he can do some work.”

“From the hotel?”

“Yes, he has a dedicated line to the office.”

“I’m not sure I’d feel safe making multi-million pound deals over a computer link.”

“How do you think I do it?”

“I’ve never thought about it.”

“Gee thanks, Babes, you really know how to stab me in the heart.”

“Come off it, you’re a big strong banker, and besides they don’t have one.”

“Damn, sussed again. I have to go, loads of paperwork to read before bed.”

“I’m taking Trish to see a new shrink tomorrow.”

“Damn, I’d have liked to be there, just to make sure this one doesn’t beat you up as well.”

“No way, this time I fight back—besides, it won’t be necessary, I’ve already sussed Dr Nicholson, she seems okay.”

“Only okay? Get a private one, I’ll pay.”

“That is really sweet of you, Simon, no wonder I love you…”

“You know me, anything to oblige. Okay, sweetheart, see you when you can get here.” I was about to put the phone down when I distinctly heard a woman’s voice say, “Come on, Simon darling, put the bloody phone down, dinner’s getting cold.”

The phone went dead and when I tried to call him back, his phone was off. I felt sick, what was going on? No wonder he couldn’t come home, if that present on Saturday is from him, I’ll shove it right up his nose—sideways! I was so cross I was incandescent.

Tom came down from reading to the girls. “Whit’s the matter wi’ye? Ye look like ye dropped a tenner and foond a bawbee*.”

“Simon just phoned, as he was putting the receiver down a woman called him to dinner. It sounded like a youngish woman, too. I think he might be unfaithful to me.”

“That’s all circumstantial, Cathy. It might be all innocent.”

“She called him darling; for God’s sake.”

“Now now, stay calm. Until you have more information you can’t do anything. So just bide a while, and calm doon. If he’s a scunner, I’ll help ye sort him oot later.” He put his arm around me and gave me a fatherly hug.

“Thanks, Daddy, and for helping me with the girls. I’m not coping terribly well, am I?” I sniffed a bit on his shoulder.

“Ye’re doin’ fine, in fact ye’re doin’ bloody brilliant. The girls love you, I’m sure that Simon does too, and then Stella thinks the world of ye, and ye ken weel how I feel.” He hugged me again, “Wi’oot ye, I’d be a dried-as-dust academic who naebody would bring tae mind wi’in a year or two. Ye’ve given me a family life as best as ever I could have imagined.”

“You say the sweetest things, Daddy,” I sniffed some more on his shoulder.

“Aye, I can be silver tongued when I’ve a mind to, but you, my angel, do the sweetest things, and deeds nae words, speak loudest.”

I made us some tea and it wasn’t until I got into bed and thought about Simon, that I wondered whose bed he was in.

I was tempted to call him, but if he answered it wouldn’t mean he was alone nor at his apartment—he has call divert. Even if he was at his place, it wouldn’t mean he hadn’t been somewhere else, earlier. I tossed and turned and read some of a lacklustre book about giant man-eating dormice from the planet Kruschev, or something, I wasn’t paying much attention.

I awoke when the man-eating dormice got into my bed, and realised I was okay, I’m a woman and went back to sleep. At seven, Messrs Naughtie and Humphrys woke me up, the death toll in the Italian earthquake was over two hundred. I shuddered inside, how could anyone get over such a trauma? Yet a day or so before they’d pulled out a ninety-eight year old woman who had been doing her crochet the whole time she was buried. Maybe, I should take it up—crochet, not being buried.

By eight o’clock we’d showered and dressed. Trish chose her clothing, which was about the frilliest dress she had. I tried to talk her out of it, but she was adamant. I think she might have been making a point. It was pink and white, she looked like a candy-stripe sheet with lace around the edges. She chose white socks, ankle variety with more frills around the top and her black patent shoes. Over this she wore her pink jacket and took her pink teddy bear back pack.

Then she practically drowned herself in scent, it was too strong to stand near her, so in the end, after much tears and tantrums, I made her change. She wore her denim skirt and a white knitted top. I let her keep the socks and shoes on. She was allowed to wear the pink coat and take her teddy bag. I wore denim too, a brushed denim trouser suit with red top and red heeled shoes.

“Well, Cathy, how nice to see you again, and this must be young Tricia?” Karen shook my hand and then Trish’s. “I’m Dr Nicholson, but you can call me Dr Karen, if you like, young lady.” We entered the consulting room and she sat beside her desk, not behind it, and we sat on two chairs next to it.

“So, Cathy, have you explained to Tricia why she’s here?”

“I have, Karen, but feel free to check with her. I’ll keep out of things unless I feel I need to make a point.”

“Excellent. Okay, Tricia, do you know why you’re here?”

“Yes, so I can stay with my Mummy.” She said this in a nervous stilted manner.

“You call Cathy, your mummy?”

“Yes, so does my sister.”

“This is Jemima?”

“Yes,” she was really nervous.

“Can I tell you something now, Tricia, I’m not going to take you away from your Mummy. I promise.”

“Thank you,” said Trish, very close to tears.

“Is that what you thought you were here for?”

Trish nodded and I passed her a tissue. Karen looked at me. “If I might explain: I told Trish who was originally reluctant to come here at all, that we needed to show that I wasn’t pushing her to become a girl, that it was something she wanted herself. She still didn’t want to come, suggesting there was little point in it, and I suggested that we needed to prove this to you or they might think I was abusing her and she could be removed from my custody.”

“But you said yesterday, she was calling herself Patricia before you ever met and that was confirmed by Dr Rose.”

“Yes, but you didn’t sound too convinced then,” I replied feeling a bit under fire.

“On the contrary, I was just probing a little, but that’s another matter. Now young lady, “she addressed her question to Trish, “How long have you felt you were more comfortable as a girl…”

The interview went on for perhaps another half an hour. On the whole the probing Karen did with Trish was gentle but incisive. She got a lot out of the child with great skill and some guile. I’m sure even someone as bright as Trish had no idea what was happening. I was full of admiration watching this woman do her job with enormous skill and tact.

At the end of the interview, Karen said to Trish, “I’d like to see you again, if that’s alright with you, I want to get to know you a bit better, and also with your attendance at school, I’d like to hear how you get on.”

“I’m really looking forward to it, Dr Karen.”

“Doesn’t it worry you at all?”

“Oh no, Dr Karen, I’m going to learn lots and make new friends, so it’s going to be fun.”

“I do hope so, Tricia. Anyway, come and see me next week and then after you start school.”

Trish nodded and shook the doctor’s hand, so did I. Then she ran out to the reception desk. “No one is going to take her away from you—so drop the anxiety, it’s not doing either of you any good.”

“I’ll try.”

“Oh, I saw the dormouse clip, very funny—and the BBC interview. You are one brave lady.”

“Is that all, you have to say?”

“Yeah, okay, so now I know why Sam sent her to you, but this time I happen to agree with him.”

“You don’t always?”

“God, no. I’m a shrink, I disagree on principle, it confuses people and gets me more work.”

“Watch you don’t bite your tongue while it’s stuck so far in your cheek.”

“Go and take your little girl home.”

“So you agree?”

“Let’s say, I don’t disagree as much as I thought I might.” We parted on that and I took Trish home for her lunch and some well earned ice cream.
_________________________________________

* Bawbee: An ancient Scottish halfpenny.
   See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bawbee

Wuthering Dormice Part 609

The rest of Thursday was fine, the kids enjoyed their ice cream, and, it being fine, we went out for a walk taking Kiki with us. Then after tea, Tom read the girls some stories while I cleared up in the kitchen. Simon was still unobtainable and I began to feel slightly paranoid.

I discussed my experience of Karen with Tom, he said Trish had liked her, or so she had told him. Oh well, some things were okay then. I went to bed and had difficulty sleeping again. At one point I got up and sent Simon an email.

“Dearest Simon,

I miss you so much, do try and come home for Easter and Trish’s birthday, it would make us all so happy, her especially.

Love,

Cathy.
Xxxxxxx”

Of course, after I’d sent it, I felt a complete idiot. It was neurotic and pathetic, not my usual style, but I felt incredibly vulnerable. Was I boring him? I thought our sex was okay, maybe it wasn’t? Oh shit, I worried myself silly. Perhaps he was with some dominant woman who spanked him or worse—I blushed simply thinking about it. Maybe he spanked her—well if he thinks he’s doing that to me…

I made a cuppa and took it back to bed, and read some more of the man-eating dormice. I was pleased to discover they weren’t really dormice, but when the mother ship had looked for specimens of Earth, they had captured a few dormice and then their entire army of invasion had been transformed into dormice. Their first problem was planning to attack in darkness—okay that bit was fine—but in January? No self respecting dormeese would be doing anything but hibernating. The other problem was not realising that humans kept cats. Well, okay, they had lots of problems, not realising there were humans in the first place, then that they kept cats. So within a few weeks the invasion was all over—end of story. I put the book down thinking how much better I could have written it. It had made me laugh, not intentionally, it was just so badly done, it verged on absurdity much of the time.

The author had never seen a dormouse, he described their ability to strip the flesh off the bone in moments. Okay, they will eat insects and other invertebrates given a chance—high in protein—but mostly feed on berries and nuts, plus buds and new leaves, little bit of bark and whatever they can get their paws on. Even old stagers like Spike, couldn’t kill and eat anything bigger than a moth.

I made a mental note to go and see Spike and the other ‘killer’ dormice. I missed having her around but with babies she was better off with the others. She must be three years old now, with luck she could live for another three or four years, as dormice can make seven. In a laboratory, she might even live longer away from parasites and predators, and full of high quality food. Part of me longed to get back to my work.

I went in to see the two dormice I have at home. They were both fast asleep although the larger one had wriggled enough to have more duvet on the floor than the bed. I hastily covered her up. I felt so proud of both my little angels, they were such lovely children, I hoped if they were still with me, that they’d be lovely teenagers.

Then as I got back into bed, I worried some more about Simon—why was his phone unobtainable? It just didn’t make any sense. Tomorrow—I looked at the clock, it was one o’clock in the morning—today, and it was Good Friday—a bank holiday, so the banks and markets were closed throughout Europe and N. America. So why wasn’t he coming home? That bloody woman. I would speak with Henry in the morning.

I did fall asleep because I woke up with a head like a bucket, one someone was hitting with a large hammer. For some reason the girls stayed in their own beds and were still there when I got up at seven. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise the red eyed old hag who looked back at me. So, I went back to bed and slept for two more hours.

When I woke up the second time, the girls were downstairs playing with their dolls and still in their pyjamas. Tom had given them breakfast but had drawn the line at washing and dressing them.

I had a cuppa and sorted them and myself out. “Are ye nae havin’ breakfast?”

“Not hungry, Daddy.”

“You eat something, or I won’t let you go and play.”

I had a slice of toast which I forced down with some banana mashed on top of it. He then said he was going up to the cemetery with some flowers. I asked the girls if they’d like to go too. They did, so we all walked up there together.

There was a bit of drizzly rain about but we didn’t get very wet and the girls and Kiki had a good run about and some fresh air. I realised I hadn’t seen the baby yesterday and asked Tom if he’d look after the girls again. One day he was going to say no, but not today. Trish asked if she could come with me, so I agreed. Meems seemed happy to stay with Tom.

We had an early lunch and set off for the hospital. Traffic was heavier than I expected, seems like tourists were heading for the coast, like lemmings, only sadly they didn’t all jump off the cliffs, they just clogged up the roads.

We parked and I let Trish put the coins in the pay and display meter. Then up to see Stella, walk her about a bit, she seemed a little better and she actually spoke to Trish, and remembered her name.

“It’s my birthday tomorrow, Auntie Stella.”

“I’ll get you a present when I get out of here.”

“That’s okay, Auntie Stella, I’m sure I’ll have enough from Mummy and Daddy.”

“I’m sure you will, and I’ll get you one too, but later.”

“Okay, Auntie Stella.”

“You’re a good girl, Tricia.”

“Thank you, Auntie Stella, I try to be.”

“Give me a kiss and off you go, up to see my baby I expect.”

“I hope so, Auntie Stella, is that all right?”

“Yes, you can take her home with you if you like, a full size doll.” Trish looked totally confused by this statement and it got worse, “I asked your Mummy to take her, but she doesn’t want her.” Trish looked very concerned.

“That isn’t true, Stella. I told you I would help you look after your baby, but I wasn’t prepared to look after for you if you could do it yourself. She is your baby and a bonny wee thing.”

“Well you have her then.”

“We’ll be off now, I’ll try and pop in over the weekend.”

“Take Desi with you, I don’t want her.”

We left the ward and Trish was holding tightly to my hand. “How can she be so awful to her baby, Mummy?”

“She isn’t well, her mind’s playing tricks with her.”

“Doesn’t she love her baby?”

“If she was well, she would, but she has a problem called post natal depression, it can do funny things to you when you have a baby.”

“Poor, Auntie Stella.”

“Quite. Come on, let’s go and see Baby Puddin’.”

“And where were you yesterday?” asked the nurse/midwife.

“I have two children to look after, this one had a doctor’s appointment.”

“Oh, nothing infectious I hope?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive. Do you think I’d bring a sickly child in here with all these vulnerable infants?”

“You’d be surprised what people do.”

“Not me, nothing surprises me,” I said with a sort of weariness that should have sounded authentic to an arch sceptic.

“I think you can have a little cuddle with the baby, today.”

“Oh, what a lovely surprise, did you hear that Trish?”

“Yes, Mummy, can I have a cuddle too?”

“We’ll see, is there a bottle?”

The nurse brought us one and she lifted the baby out of the incubator, detached the wires and after wrapping her in a blanket, handed her to me. I can’t describe the feelings that went through me. Sadness that it was me not Stella who was having this lovely treat. Delight, I loved babies and never thought I’d be feeding one this young. More sadness that I’d never have my own, and looking at Trish knew she felt the same or would do one day. Still there are some biological females who can’t conceive even with fertility treatment, and they might well feel even more cheated than I do.

Trish was giving the bottle to Puddin’, who was gurgling and smiling at her. There seemed to be a bond between them, if there was it would be really good for both of them. It would give Trish a chance to develop big sister skills even more than with Mima, who would also have a chance to do so, but to see how babies grow and how to look after them.

All we had to do now was get Stella well enough to play mothers with her baby. After I’d burped her, I sat Trish down and gently put the baby in her arms. They looked so good together, I took a picture with my phone.

As I was about to put it away, it beeped and I read the text.

‘Still busy, c u when I can, luv S.xxx’

I felt like texting back, ‘Not good enough!’ but I didn’t, instead I felt a cold sensation in my solar plexus. Then I looked at Trish and the baby, and decided that I wouldn’t let Simon spoil our weekend, and in particular, Trish’s Birthday.

Wishful Daughters Part 610

After we left Puddin’, who was gurgling to herself, we called in at the supermarket to buy some of the kiddie food that would go down for a birthday tea. I hadn’t thought to bake a cake, and I was tempted to buy one, instead I bought some icing sugar and some food dyes, along with some self-raising flour. Once Trish was in bed, I could bake her a cake and ice it later. I’d do a basic Victoria sandwich with jam and water icing on the top. I’d seen a piping set in Tom’s kitchen, in a tin at the back of his larder. It probably hadn’t been used since his wife died.

I’d never done any clever stuff with icing and certainly had never used a piping bag, but I’d watched my mother, so I had some idea and it would take my mind off Simon. Part of me was quite looking forward to it.

We bought jelly and more ice cream, mini sausages, some finger rolls and bags of crisps. I’d try and make sure they had a good lunch if we were eating crap for tea, except my lovely cake—that was home made crap!

I grabbed a few more things and we were soon pushing a trolley full of Morrison’s best. We had a long wait at the checkout, I almost goldfished at the varieties and amounts people buy for a bank holiday weekend. The shops are closed for Sunday, that’s all. I saw one woman put six large loaves of white bread on the conveyor belt—mind you, she was the same height lying down as she was standing up, so maybe she would eat six loaves over a weekend.

I thought I’d perhaps better get a loaf too, and left Trish in charge of the shopping as I dashed back to the bakery aisle. I returned just in time to see her being pushed past by some man with a basket.

“Hoy, there’s a queue here, wait your turn like we had to.”

“Yeah, what you gonna do about it, girly, set your kiddie on me?”

“The lady was here first,” said the checkout girl.

“Lady? She looks like a teenage mum, to me.”

“Actually, I am a lady, and I will not allow a peasant to pass me out turn in a queue.”

“Yeah, Lady Muck, beat it kid before I call your daddy to take you ’ome.”

“Daddy is up on his estate, shooting peasants.” I’d meant to say pheasants, although it was grouse Henry went shooting.

“Oh very funny. Well this one escaped and I’m in front o’ you.”

“Is there a problem?” Asked the burly security guard.

“Yeah, this bitch is bitching, probably needs a good seeing to,” the queue-jumper tapped his nose.

“This man pushed past us in the queue,” I said, looking at the security guard, he was looking at me strangely—no doubt was going to say something about dormice and juggling.

“Yeah, she’s got a jumped idea of her own importance, thinks she’s a lady, daddy’s up in Scotland strangling grouse or something.”

“It’s, Lady Cameron, isn’t it?” said the security guard.

“Yes, how did you know?”

“I saw your picture in the paper when you caught that bag thief. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He smiled at me, “You,” he poked the man in the chest, “can go to the back of the queue.”

“You can go…”

“If that’s an obscenity, sir, I have a right to detain you for antisocial behaviour,” the security guard stood up to his full height, he was well over six feet tall and broad with it. The annoying queue jumper backed down and walked to the back of the queue. I thanked the guard and the small crowd that was gathering, clapped his performance. He blushed and after acknowledging them, walked away. We paid for our goods and left.

“Stay close, Trish, just in case that man says something in the car park.” Trish held on to my arm as I pushed the trolley towards our car. We were yards from it when I heard a car engine rev and a squeal of tyres and a red car came speeding towards us. I scooped up Trish and we rolled across the bonnet of a parked car behind us as the speeding car—a red Toyota—smashed into our shopping knocking the trolley and it’s contents all over the car park.

Trish was trembling with fright and I was quite shocked myself, the squeal of brakes was followed by a tremendous crash and tinkling glass. People were running to us and to somewhere across the car park. Then there was a huge bang and a flash as something exploded and debris showered everywhere. I pulled Trish to me and bent over her to stop bits of glass and metal hitting her. A second explosion occurred and there were screams and yells from bystanders.

“Are you alright, sweetheart?” I asked Trish who was shaking like a leaf.

“Yes, Mummy, you were so brave, that car could have hit me.”

“Yes, I think it was the man in the queue who was rude to us.” I glanced towards the source of thick black smoke and flames. “The car’s on fire, we need to get away from here.”

People were rushing about like lunatics. We couldn’t help, so we picked up most of our shopping, the items which weren’t broken, and put them in the boot of our car. “Let’s go and get a cup of tea, I’m sure the police will want to speak with us.” We walked back into the supermarket and into the restaurant.

After carrying a pot of tea and glass of milk plus some biscuits back to the table, I poured myself a cup then found my hands were shaking too much to be able to pick it up.

The security guard and the manager—well some bloke in a suit were walking towards us. “Lady Cameron, this is John Smart, the store manager, he’d like a word with you.”

“We have CCTV film of you being harassed at the checkout plus some of the incident in the car park. They will be handed over to the police as soon as they arrive. Thank you for returning to the store instead of trying to leave.”

“I knew that the police would want to speak with us as soon as the cars crashed, how bad is it?”

“We think there was loss of life. The emergency services are dealing with it.”

“Did the bad man, die, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“It looks like it, sweetheart, rather a heavy price to pay for impatience,” I said philosophically.

“He did try to run us over, Mummy.”

“Maybe, sweetheart, that’s for the police to decide.”

The manager nodded, “Is there anything, you or your little girl need? Would you like to wait in my office?”

“No we’re fine here thank you, although we lost some items when he hit the trolley in the car park.”

“If you could give me a list of them, I’ll get someone to organise it for you.”

“I’ll need to pay for them.”

“We can sort that out later, Lady Cameron.”

“Mummy is going to make me a birthday cake.”

“Is your birthday soon, then?”

“Yes, tomorrow.”

“Here come the police, look, would you like to go with this lady and choose a birthday cake from the bakery?”

Trish looked anxiously to me, “It’s okay, sweetheart, they’ll bring you back to me in a few minutes.” I was shaking a little with shock, my legs wouldn’t stay still.

Trish went off with one of the women staff and another took down the list of items I’d lost in the incident. Just as we finished the police arrived, and I was pleasantly surprised to see PC Bond accompanying a woman inspector. Suddenly this didn’t feel quite so daunting.

A small group of people were being taken into the restaurant; presumably other witnesses, me being the primary witness—I was walked off to the manager’s office with the two coppers. At least I wasn’t being arrested although people were staring at me as if I was, and one or two were pointing. As we went up the stairs, the flashes of blue light from the emergency vehicles lit up the stairwell despite it being day time. I glanced across at the car park, another fifty yards and it would have happened at the petrol station. Geez, that would have been calamitous.

“Are you okay, Cathy?” asked PC Bond.

“Yeah, just a bit shaken up by it, he could have killed us.”

“Please take a seat, Lady Cameron, isn’t it?”

“Not quite yet, I’m engaged to Simon, we’re not yet married,” and maybe never will, I thought wistfully, “but the media jumped the gun and people do call me by the name. I tend to accept it, it’s easier than explaining things.”

“I can see that, but your current name is, Cathy?”

“Yes, Catherine Watts, and my little girl is called Patricia.”

“I don’t recall her last time, Cathy,” said PC Bond.

“No, she’s a new acquisition, I’m her foster mum, although both she and Mima act as if Simon and I were their natural parents. It seems to make them happier, so we go along with it.”

“Your foster child, so her name is, Patricia what?”

“No, Watts, same as me—quite a coincidence.”

“Indeed. So do you mind if I call you Cathy?”

“Not at all, what should I call you?”

“Oh, sorry, yes, I’m Inspector Irene Dodd and this is PC Bond, whom you seem to know?”

“Yes, we’ve met before.” I smiled back at her, if only all coppers were like Andy Bond?

“So, Cathy, could you tell us what happened?”

“Yes, a man queue jumped us at the checkouts, one of the security guards came up and he was told to wait his turn. He apparently left the store before we did. As we pushed our trolley to the car, he drove at us at speed, the tyres squealing made me see him and I grabbed Trish and we both dived over a car bonnet. We were picking ourselves up, when I heard a screech of brakes and then the crash followed moments later by the explosion. I think there was a second one. Did another car explode?”

“We’re not sure yet,” said the inspector, not giving anything away.

“Did anyone die in the explosion, I presume it was a petrol tank?”

“We think the man from the dispute might have done, and there were two people in the other car.”

“Geez, three people die because he couldn’t wait for five minutes,” I felt a tear slip down my cheek then I felt strangely cold, the voices seemed far away, and it all went black.

I came to looking at a woman paramedic, “What happened? Where’s Trish, is she alright?”

“She’s fine, she’s downstairs with a huge birthday cake and a bunch of flowers.” The paramedic stepped aside and I could see the speaker, the woman inspector.

“Seeing as you’re obviously very shocked, we’d like to take a statement tomorrow if that’s possible?”

“It’s my little girl’s birthday, tomorrow.”

“So we gather, therefore, PC Bond will call by tomorrow morning and take your statement if that’s okay, or you could alternatively call in at the station. Unfortunately, because there has been loss of life, we will have to investigate, although hopefully, the CCTV will be our best witness.”

“We’ve sent for Professor Agnew, to drive you home, he’s on his way by taxi,” said Andy Bond.

“I seem to have caused everyone a lot of trouble, if I’d let that chap go through ahead of us, this wouldn’t have happened.” I felt a tear run down my cheek again, trouble seemed to follow me around.

Wintering Dignitaries Part 611

Tom arrived with Mima while Andy Bond was telling me that none of this was my fault. I wasn’t sure of anything any more. I made a fuss of Mima and hugged Tom.

“Crivens, lassie, I leave ye fer twa minutes and will ye look at yon devastation?”

“I know, I was testing my X-ray vision, maybe I used too much power?”

“My word, that cake’s as big as Trish,” said Tom as she arrived with a woman member of staff carrying a bag of groceries and a bunch of flowers. Trish was bearing a large yellow cake, and the manager arrived with an Easter egg for each of the girls.

“Can I pay you for the groceries, Mr Smart?” I asked him.

“No, you’ve already paid once.”

“What about the cake or the Easter eggs?”

“A contribution towards your daughter’s birthday party.”

“That is so kind, thank you so much.”

“You’re very welcome, Lady Cameron. Have a safe journey home.”

We went back to the car, the area still stank of burnt petrol and oil. “Whit happened?”

“I don’t know exactly, someone tried to run us down and hit another car. Three people may have died in the crash.”

“Was it deliberate?”

“I think so. Some bloke tried to queue jump and I challenged him. The security man made him go to the back of the queue. Then as we were going to get the car, this red Toyota came from nowhere and tried to run us down. Hit our shopping trolley.”

“Somebody tried to kill ye, jes because of a queuing dispute?”

“Seems like.”

“That is—is so stupid.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

“Mummy saved me,” added Trish.

“I pulled her out of the way.”

“We rolled over the bonnet of a car, Gramps.”

“Did ye jes?”

“My Mummy is a hero.”

“A hewo,” echoed Meems.

“I think ye mean, heroine,” corrected Tom.

“Yeah, my Mummy is a heroine.” I cringed, especially round here, it sounds as if someone is trying to sell drugs.

“My Mummy, is hewin, too.” I think I got Meems message. One of these days she will talk perfectly normally and none of us will understand her.

“Aye she is that, girls. Noo, let’s awa’ hame afore something else happens.”

We negotiated our way out of the car park and homewards. “That was kind of the shop to give Trish a cake for her birthday, wasn’t it.”

“Aye it was.”

“Cann’Ive a birfdee cake, Mummy.”

“For your birthday, Meems, of course you can.”

“So, whit’s the agenda for th’morn’s morn?”

“We have to wait in for Andy Bond to get a statement done, and because Simon is sending something.”

“Like what?” asked Tom.

“I don’t know, Daddy.”

“Hae ye heard frae Simon?”

“Only a text about him coming home when he can.”

“Hmmm,” said Tom, “that sounds a wee bittee strange, tae me.”

“Can we discuss this later, Daddy.”

“Och, aye of course we can.”

“Where is Daddy?” asked Trish.

“Working at the bank’s headquarters in London, why?”

“I hope he comes home for my birthday.”

“So do I, sweetheart, so do I.”

“Me hope he come fa my birfdee.”

“Your birthday isn’t until September,” I replied to Meems.

“Is that soon?”

“Not really, Meems. I’ll tell you when.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

At last we were home, and I couldn’t wait to get home and get the clothes off me and in the wash, they smelt of smoke and death to me. Trish, could wait until the morning, although she could change into her playing clothes.

I made Trish change while I jumped in the shower. It felt really good standing under the warm water, who’d have thought how a day could turn out. The poor people who were in that other car—their day was seriously messed up. I wondered if any of the would be rescuers were hurt? I shuddered at the thought of it. It was horrible—totally and completely horrible. My mind wandered back to the incident that day on the motorway when I nearly died myself, trying to rescue the child from that car. Fire was a horrible death—how could so called Christians use it to kill people they classed as heretics?

I was seated at my dressing table clad in a bath robe combing my hair when Trish rushed up, “We’re on the telly, Mummy.” I ran downstairs with her.

‘It appears that the owner of a red Toyota lost control in the supermarket car park and it careered into the side of another car just arriving. Both cars caught fire and exploded before rescuers could get any of the occupants out. Several bystanders were hurt from the explosion and subsequent fire.

‘We’re awaiting confirmation, but it appears the driver of the red car was in dispute with another customer inside the shop, and it has been suggested he tried to run down the other customer as she and her child left the store.

‘Whatever the outcome of the police enquiry into this incident, the devastation is dreadful, half a dozen other cars were damaged or set on fire, and only prompt action by the store’s staff and a couple of fire extinguishers meant that even more people weren’t hurt.

‘This Lisa Mungo, for BBC News in Portsmouth.’

“Wait until they find out who the bloke tried to run down,” I said wondering if all this meant I couldn’t show my face again for several weeks.

“They might not find oot.” said Tom

“They will, they always do.”

“The man who caused it will be much more interesting, to thae hyenas.”

“What’s a heena, Mummy?”

“A hyena, it’s a bit like a dog and lives on the African plains, feeds on carrion and hunts weak animals. They also kill lots of lions.”

“Uch, I don’t like them if they eat lions, Mummy.”

“Me scared, Mummy—heenas is comin’.” She suddenly grabbed hold of my bathrobe and clung on to it.

“Meems, that is Kiki, who is about as dangerous as a dormouse.”

Wildebeest Dynamite Part 612

The rest of the day proved quieter and calmer, we eventually got the children up to bed where Tom read them more from Winnie the Pooh. I tried to forget the traumas of the day and did a few chores—made bread, put the washing on.

“How’re ye, lassie?” asked Tom as came back down.

“I’m okay, I’ll be a bit jumpy in car parks for a few days, but I’ll be okay.”

“Ye’re quite a wee tough nut, aren’t ye?”

“What d’you mean?”

“Well, things that would hae sent the rest o’ us tae the nut house, ye jes shrug off, like a bad dream.”

“Would you prefer it if I did a Stella, with full sound effects of renting of clothes and gnashing off teeth?”

“No, lassie, I widnae. I was paying ye a wee compliment.”

“Sounded like a back handed one to me.”

“In which case, I apologise.”

“No, it’s me, I’m hypersensitive. It’s been a long day, I suppose.”

“Aye it has, why not hae an early nicht.”

“I think I might.” I took my cuppa and MP3 player with me. I’d recently downloaded some tracks from The Who, which I remembered from my childhood. Possibly not the best thing to relax to, but some of it was quite funny, like Boris the Spider, then there was, I’m a Boy which I suspect was a favourite of the transgendered population. My own favourites were the good old rock ‘n’ roll tracks, like My Generation, Pinball Wizard, and Won’t get fooled again.

I got to bed and was listening to my MP3 when a song I’d forgotten came up. Behind Blue Eyes. I listened to it with new ears.

’No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, the sad man behind blue eyes.

No one knows what it’s like to be hated, to be fated to telling only lies…

…No one knows what it’s like to have these feelings, like I do and I blame you…’

While it isn’t about any group in particular, I could identify with some of the emotions in the song as applying to the loneliness of some transgendered folk. It seems that even though I’m now cured officially, I have actually changed sex, having been officially male and now being female; yet, it’s never quite that simple, I still carry all the baggage I had before. I’ve never been much of a member of the TG community yet at the same time I can’t seem to leave it behind entirely, which puzzles and perplexes me somewhat. I suppose with Trish, I can’t exactly leave it behind anyway.

The strident chords of Pete Townshend’s guitar distracted me and I was singing along with Roger Daltrey in, Won’t get fooled again, I switched the light off and lay down still listening to the ancient rockers strutting their stuff, and fell asleep, sleeping through even Daltrey’s scream in the same track, the second time around. The battery was flat the next morning and I had two little bodies tucked in either side of me.

At a reasonable time, I wished Trish a happy birthday and gave her a kiss, Mima gave her one too. Trish immediately burst into tears. “What’s the matter, kiddo,” I asked, hugging her.

When she’d calmed down, she explained it was her first birthday as Trish, which nearly had me in tears too. Mima was a bit confused and I had to explain.

“People thought Trish was a boy, and although she tried to tell them she was a girl, no one would listen.”

“That’siwwy, anyone can see she’s a girw.”

“I’m afraid some people can’t, Meems, so you’re going to have to be brave at times and protect your sister, because some people can be quite unpleasant about it.”

“Peopew is stupid,” snapped Mima, and hugged Trish tightly, “I’ww pwotect you, Twish, fwom those howwibew peopew.”

It was so touching, yet had a sort of dark comedic effect about it that I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. In the end I did a bit of both. Once we’d had our emotional family hug, we showered together and then after dressing quite tidily, went down for breakfast.

On the table in Trish’s place was a small pile of packages and cards, she ran to the table and the look on her face was a picture, I’d actually remembered to get my camera out and took a couple of pictures of her opening her cards and presents.

The Nintendo thing I got her went down very well—she was really pleased with it. Tom’s offering of a cross and chain in gold, was also well received even though I had reservations about the religious symbolism. Meems went and brought her sister the parcel of new pyjamas and slippers and in return, Trish gave her a similar one. Trish’s was red and Meems had a green set. They both seemed happy.

We managed to get the serious bit over, that of ingesting sustenance to break our fasts, and then Meems rushed off to try her new pyjamas on, while Trish got stuck into her little hand held game machine. Tom was shown everything even though he’d been present at the breakfast. To be fair to him, he has more patience with them I than I do.

Much of my morning was going to be involved with making jelly and ice creams, but I saw that Morrisons had been very kind in supplying not only a cake but also a trifle and some ice cream. I did some mini sausage rolls and at one point Meems came out to help me.

“Is Daddy comin’ to Twish’s party?”

“I don’t know, sweetie pie,” I said making some vol-au-vents.

“I don’t wike those,” she said looking at me and indicating my choice of fillings for the pastry containers.

“Well you don’t have to eat them, do you?”

“No, Mummy.”

“Pass me that tray please, Meems.”

We’d just finished them and were taking them out of the oven when Andy Bond arrived.

“You smelt the tea,” I teased him.

“No, but something does smell wonderful.”

“Yes, I’ve been making a few bits for Trish’s birthday tea.”

“Oh yes, this is entirely off the record, but…” he pulled a small package out of his pocket.

“Trish, come and see what PC Bond has for you.” The sound of hoof beats and she came galloping in.

“Oh wow, thanks, Mr Bond.” She tore open the paper and inside was a tee shirt with the Teletubbies on it.

“I hope it’s okay,” said the genial copper.

“Oh yes, thank you,” and she made him bend down so she could give him a kiss. Mima gave him a kiss too, then they went off to play again.

“Nice girls you have, Cathy.”

“I think so, but then I would.”

“Well the birthday girl is looking very dressed up today.”

“Yes, she’s so excited. She’s five years old today and this is her first birthday as a girl.” I blushed before I realised I just betrayed her secret and clasped my hand over my mouth. It was too late.

“You mean, she’s a boy—I mean was a boy,” said the astonished copper.

“Yes, which is partly why she’s with me. Her paediatrician sort of foisted her on me. Can you believe I didn’t want to get involved, but I’m glad I did now. She’s a delightful child.”

“I agree entirely, oh and her secret’s safe with me.”

“Thanks, Andy. Tea or coffee?”

He drank his coffee and had piece of toast from my previous loaf, which he seemed to enjoy. We did the statement and I typed it out and signed it for him. It was slightly irregular, insofar it wasn’t on police stationery, but he thought it would be just as valid. I simply thought it would save him a second visit. He also said I typed faster than he could. Well, instead of doing metal work, to which I was signally unsuited, I did typing and computers. I’ve never regretted it, much more use than being able to make a four ounce paint scraper from five pounds of raw steel.

I handed him the signed statement which he read and approved. “That’ll save you another visit,” I said.

“Actually, Cathy, this is one house I quite enjoy visiting.”

“Well you’ve been here a few times.”

“Yes, well I hope next time it will be for something more positive than this.”

“Have they identified the body?”

“Bodies you mean?”

“Oh gosh yes, there were three killed weren’t there?”

“Yes, although we’re not sure the one was the man who harassed you.”

“What? It had to be, who else would…?”

“We’ll that’s the sixty four dollar question,” he agreed.

Worksop Digital Part 613

I said goodbye to PC Bond, he however, gave me a caution; “Look, Cathy, until we get to the bottom of this, be extra careful, especially with the children.”

“What do you think happened? Surely it was an accident?”

“I don’t know, but just in case, be careful. Evenin’ all.”

“It’s the middle of the morning, Andy.”

“That was my George Dixon impression.”

“Who?” I asked.

“George Dixon, à la Dixon of Dock Green.”

“Who?”

“Gordon Bennett, have you never heard of Dixon of Dock Green?”

“Was he in it too?”

“Was who in it?”

“George Bennett.”

“Who the hell is George Bennett? I said Gordon Bennett.”

“Gordon’s brother?” I suggested, completely lost.

“I ken weel whit ye mean, George Dixon and Andy Crawford, aye, they were the days. None o’ yer smut and violence.” Tom walked past singing some vaguely familiar tune to himself.

“That’s the one, professor,” called Andy enthusiastically.

“I still have no idea who you’re talking about.”

“It was a regular Saturday evening show about the patch of London called Dock Green, with a copper called George Dixon. It was made in the fifties and sixties, I saw repeats because my mother liked it. The prof probably saw the originals, it was all in black and white.”

“Thanks, Andy, for the warning, I mean.”

“Well as soon as we have more info, I’ll be in touch.”

I determined to do some more exercise, especially my kick boxing, it was a good work out and may prove useful now my shoulder felt easier.

Andy was just leaving when a van pulled into the drive. A man walked up to me as I stood at the open front door. “Gor, finding this place was a bit of trek.”

“Was it?” I replied, I’d never heard that before.

“Yeah, I got a package for Tricia Watts?”

“My daughter.”

“Oh good, right place then.” He walked back to his van and dragged out a large box from the back. As soon as I saw him struggle with the box, I knew what was in it. I also knew what I’d be doing later on.

“Can you sign, ’ere.” He shoved one of those electronic pads under my nose.

“Does it say who sent it?”

“Sorry, luv, no idea—I just delivers ’em.”

I dragged the box into the hallway and the courier went on his way. There was no way, Trish would be able to get the contents out, and I had no way of telling if this was from Simon or Henry or even both.

“Trish, darling, come and see what’s arrived for you.” She came flying out into the hallway and when she saw the size of the box her eyes nearly came out on stalks.

“Evans Cycles,” she read. “Has Daddy sent me a bike, Mummy?”

“It rather looks that way, kiddo.”

“Oh wow, I always wanted a bike. Can we open it?”

“What’s the magic word?”

“Please, Mummy. Please, Mummy, may we open the box and get my bike out?”

“Of course.”

“Yipppeeee,” she shouted which brought Mima out to see what was happening.

“That’s a big box,” said Mima, stating the obvious.

“It’s a bike box, Meems. Either, Simon or Grampa Henry, has sent this. Sadly we don’t know which.”

“I hope Daddy can come home today.”

“So do I, Trish, so do I.” I went off and got a screwdriver to break open the cardboard box. It was stapled and taped shut. I broke the seals on it and with both girls hanging on to the box, I was able to lift the contents clear. It was a pink girls’ Trek bicycle, with white tyres and tassles for the handlebars. I’d have loved this at Trish’s age.

I had to fix the pedals and tighten up the handlebars, but that didn’t take long. Then I fitted the saddle and we adjusted for size. Trish was so pleased, the smile on her face was priceless. Now all we had to do was find out if she could ride it, or I’d be running up and down the drive for a few days.

“Have you ridden a bike before?” I asked her.

“A bit, Mummy, at the home—I used to borrow Tina’s, and they called me names ’cos it was a girl’s bike.”

“Well, they won’t call you names now, sweetheart, will they? Come on, put your jacket on and let’s see you ride it.”

I’d graduated to two-wheelers when I was about her age, so I knew it was possible for her to be able to ride or to learn. I ran up and down the drive a few times and was pretty sure she could actually ride it. It didn’t have gears, and there were stabiliser wheels with it plus a little basket to go on the front—very little girl. I’d have killed for one like that when I was five, instead I had a boys bike which my father used to make me go on long rides with him. Thankfully, I got to enjoy them otherwise I wouldn’t have gone near a bike as an adult.

She was delighted with her newest possession, and when I saw Mima looking very jealous, I suggested we could have a little ride after lunch and she could sit on the trailer bike Simon had bought her for Christmas. She seemed happier with that idea.

I made us microwaved jacket potatoes with cheese and a side salad. A condition of going out for a ride was that they ate all their lunch. They did.

I went and changed into jeans and old bike shoes, then got my old mountain bike out of the garage. I pumped up the tyres and was ashamed to think, I hadn’t used it for over a year. Then I checked the tyre on the trailer and put some air in it too. I fixed it to the mountain bike and popped the helmet on Mima’s head that Simon had bought with the bike. We needed to get Trish one, so I left mine off as well.

We put our coats on, and I made the girls wear gloves, too. The sun was shining but the wind was cool and hands get cold very quickly on bikes.
I put my back pack bag on and off we went, Trish rode on the pavement alongside me. Meems squealed with excitement as we rode along, exhorting me to go faster. I didn’t of course, Trish wouldn’t have kept up with me.

Of course, Trish wanted special pedals like my SPDs, because they clicked when I clipped my foot into them. Thankfully, they don’t make them for kiddibikes, or if they do, I haven’t seen them.

We went for about a mile, then crossed over and turned back the other way. As we got near Tom’s farmhouse, Trish recognising where she was put on a spurt of speed and shot past me. Shouting to Meems to hold tight, I chased after her. Then as we drew level, I became aware of a fast accelerating car hammering up behind us.

I mounted the pavement and pulled across in front of Trish who crashed into me, and my bike fell on top of her—simultaneously, the car also mounted the kerb and missed us by inches, screaming off down the road. If we hadn’t fallen off, we’d all be dead or injured.

None of us were hurt, although we were all shaken up and crying. It took me a couple of moments to extricate us from the pile of fallen metal. Trish had made a hole in her tights, and Meems had a dirty mark on her elbow. I had jerked my damaged collar bone and felt very shaky.

Wonderful Dorchester Part 614

“Are you alright?” asked a chap who’d drawn up beside us and helped us pick the bikes up.

The girls were howling and holding on to me. “I think so, although my shoulder hurts, I broke my collar bone a month or so ago and I don’t think this has helped it.”

“It’s a miracle you weren’t hurt, what was that bloke thinking about?”

“Murder, I think.”

“What? You think he meant it?”

“As it’s the second time in as many days, yes.”

“You must call the police, here, use my phone.” He handed me his mobile.

I dialled 999. “Hello, yes, police please. Thank you.” I was connected by the emergency operator. “Hello, my name is Cathy Watts, my address is…” Someone was obviously taking all this down at the other end, presumably on a computer screen. “What happened? Some one just tried to kill us in a car as we were cycling. No it wasn’t an accident, someone tried to run me down in Morrison’s car park yesterday. Yes, that Cathy Watts. Okay, we’ll wait for them to get here. No, I didn’t see the car too clearly, hang on I have a witness.”

I passed the phone back to it’s owner. “Well, I sort of saw it, it was one of those huge land cruiser things, silver in colour, no, I didn’t see the number. When? About five minutes ago. Yes towards Gosport. My name, John Dearlove, no, I live in Winchester. Okay, I’ll wait with them.” He switched off his mobile. “The boys in blue are on their way. Sadly, they’ll be too late.”

“What?” I gasped, and while we all looked at him, he pulled out a gun from under his jacket and went to switch off the safety. I pushed the girls to the floor and aimed a kick at him, catching him in the chest. The gun went sort of ‘phutt’ and slug ricocheted off the pavement as he staggered backwards straight in front of a passing truck.

I gasped as his body was whipped into the air and then under the wheels as the driver of the unfortunate truck struggled to control it. I ran to get the girls and face them away from the accident. There was blood everywhere. Moments later the sound of sirens filled the air.

The police called for reinforcements and Inspector Dodd was sent for. When the coppers attending realised we only lived down the road, they let me take the girls home rather than look at the gruesome picture of minced assassin.

A young copper walked me home, while another calmed down the lorry driver, who was having forty fits of hysterics. Compared to him, the girls were doing very well—mind you, I think he was French, which explained a few things.

The road was closed within minutes and police were crawling about like flies. I sat weeping in the dining room while Tom made tea for us, a woman PC was looking after the girls in the lounge.

After drinking the tea, I felt sick, so I rushed into the cloakroom and voided my stomach. So far so bad. Inspector Dodd arrived and with her was a plain clothes man, who it transpired was a detective superintendent.

I repeated my story for the umpteenth time. The DS asked why the man hadn’t just shot us? “I don’t know, unless he wanted to make sure it was me.”

“But to allow you to call us, that’s bizarre.”

“I appreciate that, Superintendent, but perhaps he needed to hear me speak about the incident yesterday at the supermarket.”

“Could be, this is a professional hit squad, who have you pissed off enough to involve organised crime?”

“No one as far as I know, I’m a biologist turned foster mum, I’m not a criminal. I don’t do drugs, I hardly even drink. Could this be about the bank?”

“Which bank, Miss Watts?”

“High Street Bank, my future father in law is the chairman and majority shareholder, and my fiancé works there too.”

“You’re marrying into the Camerons?”

“Yes, why?”

“Nothing, my dear, okay Irene, get someone to speak with the bank, see if anything is happening.”

“Shouldn’t we warn Henry and Simon, if someone is after me, what’s to stop them going after them?”

“Do you have numbers for them?”

“Um, no, they’re on my mobile, I never think about the numbers, press one for Simon and three for Henry.” He took my phone and went off into the hallway to make the calls.

“Can’t get hold of Simon, Henry is taking precautions. Right, I want you and your dad to pack enough clothes and toiletries for a fortnight, for you and the children.”

“Why?”

“We’re moving you to a safe house.”

“But my daughter starts school in just over a week.”

“If you tell us where we’ll speak to them.”

“That’s not the point, it’s her first school.” I burst into tears and felt a combination of hopelessness and anger. “Who’s the bastard who wants to kill me, and why? I haven’t done anything and my kids are innocents, why harm them?”

“It’s alright, Miss Watts, these scum bags don’t care about anything but their own ends, but rest assured, we’ll get ‘em.”

“Where are you taking us?”

“Somewhere safe and defendable.”

“I’ll go and pack. I don’t suppose I’ll need any bike gear?”

“I don’t think so.”

I ran upstairs and packed three huge suitcases and a sports bag, inside which I packed a large knife and my arrows. The bow went into the largest case along with armfuls of my clothing. I packed the girls a case each and grabbed shampoos and toothpaste, antiperspirant and perfumes. I threw in shoes and couple of towels, plus my oestrogen pills.

Two burly coppers carried the cases down as I helped Tom pack his case. He was in a daze and kept repeating to himself, “It’s a sair fecht.” I grabbed Kiki’s lead, her dish and her bean bag. We packed a shopping bag full of toys for each of the girls and my laptop.

Finally, we were loaded into a minibus, Tom cuddling Trish, while I held Meems. They were both upset, mind you so was Tom, and I was hardly happy. Kiki sat on the floor, and an armed copper climbed in with the driver. We were escorted by a police car fore and aft, a big BMW and Range Rover.

At a pre-arranged place we switched cars, getting into a dark Mercedes and it roared off into the night while the convoy went on another route, behind us was silver BMW, which contained our guards, two heavily armed police.

We headed north I think, then I dunno, I lost it and fell asleep with Meems cuddled into me and also asleep. I’d seen that Tom and Trish were similarly occupied before I nodded off.

I woke when the car seemed to stop. “Where are we?” I asked sleepily.

“A safe house, and a long way from Portsmouth.”

“Yeah, but where?”

“You’ll find out in the morning.”

Wind-lashed Dugongs Part 615

“And what am I supposed to tell my children if they wake up?”

“Whatever you like, darlin’, just get them into the ’ouse and keep quiet.” The rather large copper carrying an automatic rifle with some sort of high tech sight, stood his ground and pointed at the house.

I grumbled as I picked up Mima and carried her into the house and was directed up to a bedroom with two single beds in it. My shoulder was sore but tolerable. I placed her gently on the bed and ran down to get Trish, but met another of the coppers carrying her up to me. I nodded a thanks and he gave me a very white toothed smile. Until then I hadn’t noticed he was quite dark skinned. Ten out of ten for observation, I don’t think.

Our cases were carried upstairs for us and placed immediately inside the door. “What have you got in here?” asked the big copper.

“A portable Chieftain tank, why?”

“Yeah, feels like it, besides hasn’t that been superseded by the Challenger?”

I shrugged, “Dunno, I went round the Tank museum at Bovington a couple of years ago, can’t remember what I saw altogether, loads of tanks—seen one, seen ‘em all.”

“I don’t think so, darlin’, but it’s a good job you don’t fly Apache helicopters, or you’d be shooting up the wrong ones.”

“I’m a woman, in case you hadn’t noticed—we don’t fly attack aircraft.”

“Yes they do darlin’, maybe not in the UK, but they do elsewhere.”

“What happened to the idea that women were supposed to be the peacemakers, while men ran around bashing each other, because they were too stupid to talk to each other?”

“That bloke who tried to shoot you, he talked, didn’t he?”

“Oh bugger, go away and shoot somebody, it’ll really cheer you up.”

“How do you know?”

“I’m making a calculated guess.”

“I don’t enjoy killing people, you know?”

“I’m glad to hear it, neither do I.”

“You’ve killed someone?”

“I contributed to that bloke this afternoon, sort of helped him step backwards, I didn’t see the truck any more than he did.”

“From what I’ve heard, he stepped out in front of it, so I wouldn’t worry about it, darlin’.”

“You didn’t see the mess.”

“True, but you’ve not seen what happens when a swat team goes in all guns blazing.”

“I don’t think I want to.”

“Special forces, are even worse. If the SAS go in, no one else comes out except in body bags.”

“Well, it’s been charming talking with you, we must do it again sometime,” I smiled an artificial smile and he chuckled to himself and went downstairs again.

Tom was shown into a room just along the hallway. “Your room is actually next door Miss Watts.”

“If the girls wake up in a strange room without knowing where I am, they’ll get very upset.”

“There’s a connecting door,” the woman, who’d shown Tom up, was walking through the children’s room and opening a door into another bedroom, with two single beds in it as well. There was an en suite on the far side.

I dragged my two cases into my room and left the girls in theirs. I’d unpack it tomorrow. Looking around I found a kettle, some tea and coffee and, in a dinky little fridge, there was milk, fruit juice and yoghurts.

She pointed out all the facilities, “I do breakfast between half past seven and half eight. If you want full English, I prefer a bit of notice.”

“I won’t, but thank you. Some cereal or toast is fine for me and the girls, perhaps some fruit too.”

“We have all that.”

“Where are we exactly?”

“They haven’t told you?”

Duh, like I’d be asking you if they had?, “No, they haven’t.”

“I’d better not say anything, then.”

“Why?”

“This is a special government-owned place, they use it for high profile witnesses in big trials and that sort of thing. You must be important if you’ve got armed guards with you.”

“What’s the point of a safe house if it’s not?”

“We have our own guards here, two of them.”

“So that makes four. Okay, I like to know what the odds are.”

“Odds of what?”

“Survival.”

“Oh come on, no one has got to a guest who’s staying here.”

“That doesn’t mean there won’t be a first time.”

“Hey, the guards are very good, you’ll be okay.”

“Today, I got involved in killing someone, he was threatening me and my children. If anyone threatens my kids, I hope your guards are good, because I won’t answer for my actions, which will probably be extremely prejudiced.”

“I though you were telling your policeman friend that women didn’t fight wars.”

“Only if it’s personal. If they hurt my kids, it’s very personal.”

“They won’t. We’re as safe as houses, in fact as safe houses.”

“I do hope so. I’d better go and tuck Tom in.”

“I thought he was your father.”

“Adoptive father, but I knew him as Tom first.”

“I think he was having a nightcap.”

“Sounds like Tom, single malt?”

“I don’t know, but I think it was Scotch.”

“It was, he likes his nip every night.” I went along to his room and he was lying on top of the bed snoring, a small bedside light was still on. I closed the door quietly and went back to my own room and assembled my bow. With a forty pound pull, it was on the limit of my strength, but it would fire an arrow through an internal door, and stop a man from a couple of hundred feet, probably further. I kept meaning to buy a compound bow, except they’re bulkier than a recurve and take longer to assemble from scratch. I wrapped the weapon in a towel and placed it in the wardrobe along with the quiver of a dozen arrows.

Then I dug about in my bag and got out the image intensifier viewer and checked the battery. It was fully charged. I closed my door and locked it, did the same with the girls’ door and lightly shut the connecting door. I switched off the lights and then went behind the curtains of my bedroom. The windows had shutters and they were locked. Oh well, check them out in the morning. I suppose if no one can get in, it makes it safer. If no one can get out, what happens in the event of a fire or need to make an escape?

Wodgerwing Dorwian Part 616

I switched the light back on and bent down to get my toothbrush out of my sports/overnight bag. Inside the pocket where I thought I’d put my toothbrush and paste was a small toolkit I take with me in case I need it on the bike. I rolled the cloth open and inside were allen keys, a shifting spanner, a handful of sockets and the bar to use with them, plus a mini screw driver with half a dozen different heads.

I pulled the curtain and looked at the lock on the shutters. It was one of those circular things like they have on the bottom of shop doors. I didn’t think I’d be able to pick it if I tried all night, and it was just too small for the smallest of my sockets. I cursed. I just didn’t know whose side these guys were on. Okay so they transferred us from normal police, but somehow their behaviour wasn’t quite what I’d expect from regular coppers.

I know, they might be special service police, but I was uncertain about that, too. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but felt uneasy about the whole set up. Why wouldn’t they tell me where we were? What difference did it make? All I could think of, was if I let it slip talking to Simon or Henry, and I’d have been careful with that.

No, there was something not quite right about it all. I sat on the bed looking at the shutters. Suddenly, I noticed something else about the shutters, smiled and jumped off the bed. The shutters were screwed to the walls, or to a frame on the walls.

I grabbed the screwdriver and fitted the appropriate bit; I set to and attacked the first screw. My hands were burning as I struggled with it, then with a final last effort, it began to move. Sweat was running down my back as I quickly undid the screw and lifted it out of the hole. Eleven more to go. I took a deep breath and continued my task.

Several had me sweating and struggling, and on one I had to wrestle with using the spanner as well—but, I loosened it. I put all the screws in a cup and then switching off the lights eased the edge of the shutter back from the wall and stepped between it and the window.

The window was an old fashioned sash type which meant I’d need to lift one section up or the other down. It was screwed shut. Yeah, I know. It took me another hour to release those, then I clicked the snib and the top section started to slide down, I only just caught it and on my blistered hands it hurt.

I jammed the screw driver into the frame and it held, then I peered out of the open window at our surroundings with the image intensifier. I could hear voices from below.

“Will Cameron fall for the ransom threat? I mean it’s not as if they’re family yet, is it?”

“The boss’ll be here tomorrow, he’ll decide. If he gives the word, I’ll do the adults, you can do the kids.”

“How come I get all the dirty jobs, I hate killing kids. Why can’t we let ‘em go after we kill Cameron and his son?”

“It’s a vendetta. Cameron ordered the extinction of the boss and all his family. He’s the only one left, Cameron and all his have got to die.”

“I don’t like it.”

“You’re not paid to like it, are you? You’re paid to do things. You weren’t too squeamish about those coppers we terminated when we borrowed their cars.”

“That’s different, that was the filth, they’d have killed me given the chance.”

“I reckon the bitch would, too.”

“Nah, she looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.”

“Them’s the ones you gotta watch. I tell you, if she thought you were gonna hurt her kids, she’d become a regular tigress.” I nodded at this statement. I did know, but what could I do? I had a knife, a penknife and a bow against four men with high tech automatic weapons. The only weapon I really had was surprise, and that would only work once. Even if I could have leant out of the window and got a clear shot at them, I might have hit one before the other shot me. Tom would never get the girls away, I had to survive and I had to get a message to Simon or Henry. Shit! What do I do?

The men moved on, I heard their footsteps walking away. I struggled to get the window back up and closed the snib. Then I pushed the shutter back in place and pulled the curtain over the missing screws. I was going to put them back, but now I decided that I might need quicker access.

If we had a rope, some sort of escape might be possible. Even my magic bag didn’t have one of those, but it did turn up an old pair of cycle mitts, which could prove useful.

I unlocked my door and crept along the corridor, Tom’s room was locked now and from the snoring that came from within, if I woke him up, I’d also bring unwanted attention. I explored what looked like a cupboard and my heart lifted. It was the linen cupboard. I helped myself to half a dozen sheets, then crept back to my room and locked the door.

I started making cloth ropes and it took me two hours. It was now three in the morning, I was yawning and felt sick with tiredness, but as it could well be my last night alive, I was trying to prepare. I’d only get one shot at this, I had to make it work.

After I’d tied about twenty feet of sheets together, I undid the screws on the other side of the shutter. Quick access was now possible. The gloves had helped there, if only I’d found them before. My hands were really stinging and I washed them and dabbed on a bit of antiseptic from my little first aid kit.

I would need to push the beds across the doors: I had to get the kids out first, then come back for Tom. Before that, I had to even the odds a bit. I slept for twenty minutes, my little alarm waking me. Any longer and I’d have gone right off. Twenty minutes refreshes you and gives you another four or five hours of alertness, adrenaline would do the rest.

At four I decided to start my offensive. I found the room where the woman slept and in five minutes I’d shoved some surgical tape from my first aid kit across her mouth and a couple of cable ties secured her arms and legs. I then dragged her on to the floor and rolled her up in a carpet.

Looking through the letter box in the front door I could see one of the guards. I looked around and found a full bottle of wine, I opened the door and whistled making a come hither sign with my hand. In the poor light he wouldn’t have known who was calling him—hence the whistle. I brained him with the bottle, which amazingly, didn’t break, but something in him did. He looked at me, then dropped like a stone.

I dragged him into the kitchen and after trussing him up with his own belt and clothing, I gagged him and left him lying in the larder. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted him to live or die. I had stopped thinking emotionally, this was survival stuff, and I should have stabbed him to make sure. Too late now. One down, three to go.

I grabbed the gun and found the safety catch, it was on. I flipped it off, if necessary, I would shoot whoever I met. In another downstairs room one of the men was asleep, I smashed the butt of the gun into his head. He gave a funny groan and I hit him again, he twitched and lay still, I hit him again. Then I was sick.

Whole Diggers Part 617

My head was swimming, I had probably just killed someone, but I couldn’t bear to look who. I vomited again, dry retching on my empty stomach. I searched for another gun but couldn’t find one. There were still two others out there, despite my self-disgust at all this—I hated guns and violence—there were two if not three other lives depending upon me.

I ran upstairs, and began tapping on Tom’s door, he eventually opened it and gasped at me, “Ye look absolutely ghastly, whit’s happened?”

“I just killed one if not two of our guards.”

“Whit? Why?”

“We’re prisoners, they’re going to kill us anyway.”

“How d’ye ken that?”

“I heard them talking outside. Come on get dressed, I need your help. Have you ever fired one of these?” I handed him the gun.

“Not exactly, but I’ve fired guns in my National Service days, and shotguns since.”

“Well, don’t hesitate, if you see one of them shoot to kill.”

“Aye, I’m no too sure about that wee bitty.”

“They’ll be trying to kill you.”

“Cathy, this is tak’n an awfy lot on trust.”

“Please, Daddy, if I’m wrong, I’ll accept all the law can throw at me including anything you do as well. These men killed the police guards who should have looked after us, they’re fakes. C’mon, get dressed before they find their colleagues.”

Tom pulled on his trousers and jumper over the underpants and tee shirt in which he’d slept. It reminded me we needed to get him some new underpants. He pulled on his socks and shoes and we went to get the girls.

Things were happening downstairs, shit! We ran into the girls room and I woke them up and grabbing their clothes and the girls explained the men here were very bad and they were trying to hurt us. I made them get behind the shutters and stay there until I came to get them. They were on no account to come out to anyone they didn’t know. I gave them a pack of biscuits and a bottle of water I had with me, and a plastic bowl I found in the bathroom to use as a loo. I kissed them, told them I loved them and pushed them behind the shutters. I hoped it would offer some protection if bullets started zipping about the place.

I grabbed the bow and my quiver, pulling on my wrist and finger guards as I crept to the top of the stairs. I tucked the knife in the back of my jeans and pulled my top over it.

They’d obviously found the bodies and were shouting to each other. “I’m gonna kill ‘em, bastards.” I heard someone storming towards the stairs. Tom was in the bedroom with the girls, I heard him move away from the door. I crept back along the landing drawing an arrow as I went. The bedroom door shut, and I knew Tom was protecting the girls. I heard a bed being moved against it. Then footsteps on the stairs, which creaked under the weight.

I flattened myself against the wall kneeling on one knee to minimise the target I offered. More noises from the bedroom of furniture moving. I heard the click of a safety catch being switched off. More slow creaks from the stairs, my heart was pounding and my body wanted to shake. My mouth went dry and breathing became ragged.

A figure darted up the stairs and began to spray bullets at the door of my room. I was horrified then he turned and saw me just as I loosed an arrow. I hit him in the chest knocking him backwards against the door his gun still firing fell down the stairs and I fired a second arrow hitting him in the abdomen. He started screaming and flailing about, stood up and fell down the stairs.

The remaining gunman called upstairs saying we were all dead, if necessary he’d burn us out. I stayed still and quiet. A volley of bullets came up the stairs but he wasn’t going to follow them. Damn!

I crept along the landing and tapped on the kid’s door and then went to see Tom: a bullet had nicked his shoulder, so I dressed it for him with a torn piece of bedding. It was a superficial wound, he was very lucky. The girls came out had a wee and went back to their makeshift shelter.

We had to get out of there before their boss arrived or we just started the business all over again with the odds even more in their favour. I took the sheet rope and went into Tom’s room. I grabbed his whisky and shoved a piece of cloth in the top of it, then shook it. The cheap lighter I’d seen in the cupboard, and which I’d ‘borrowed’ gave me an idea.

Tom’s shutters opened with a few levers from my knife, so the locks weren’t that effective. I broke a pain with the handle of my knife using a pillow to deaden some of the noise. I tied the rope to the bed and after looking as carefully as I could, began to ease my way down, abseiling down the house.

I took the bow from my shoulder and the whisky bottle from my trousers—my jeans stank like a distillery. I tried to work out which of the cars had the better chance to escape, I opted for the Merc. As I crept around the house, arrow poised on the bowstring, he spotted me, and I ducked behind the house as he fired.

“Too late, Robin Hood, or is that Maid Marion? The cowboys are here.” He fired again and I ran behind a low wall, lighting the rag in the bottle as soon as I got there. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he taunted and fired again. I heard his footsteps come closer and lobbed the bottle.

I heard the bottle smash and the whoomph as the inflammable contents exploded. He shouted in pain and I popped up and loosed an arrow. It hit him somewhere—I heard the thud—the gun fired again and this time he was screaming. I fired another arrow at the human torch that was staggering around firing his gun into the ground. The third arrow took him down, and the shooting stopped. The smell was sickening.

I ran to the cars, amazingly, the keys were in them. I suppose no one here would steal them, wherever here was? We had no time to lose. I ran back into the house and gathered Tom and the girls, my handbag and Tom grabbed his wallet. Everything else we left, even my precious tool kit.

Then into the car, which had a half tank of diesel, and away. I drove fast but carefully. I still had no idea where we were, and turned right at the gateway from the drive. Moments later, in the rear view mirror, I saw a couple of 4x4s turn into the drive. I gave the accelerator loads of wellie and the car flew forward.

“See if there’s a radio, Daddy.” I said as I gunned the car along the narrow country lane.

“There was, they’ve removed it along with the sat nav.”

“Look in my bag girls, give Gramps my phone.”

He took it, “The battery’s okay, but there’s no signal here.”

“Bugger, where do you think we are?”

“Judging by the countryside, somewhere in Scotland.”

“It’s a big country, Daddy.”

“Well, the rate ye’re going we’ll be in the Hie’lands in nae time at a’.”

“How do you know?”

“Ye’re headin’north, lassie, the sun’s ahent us tae the east and south.”

“Where’s Stanebury?”

Wearing Directoires Part 618

“Stanebury? I hae nae idea, lassie.”

“Wonderful. Some bloody Scotsman you are, not even knowing your own country. Did you bring the gun with you?”

“It’s in the boot, Scotland is as big as England ye ken.”

“I know, I did geography.”

“So, how come ye’re lost?”

I sighed at him, “Look I’m doing the best I can, all right?”

“It’s fine wi’me, you smell somewhit familiar.”

“I spilt some whisky on my jeans.”

“No my malt?”

“Fraid so.”

“Ach, weel I hope it’s still there when we sort this wee mess oot.”

“I doubt it.”

“You spilt it all?”

“Not exactly, I used it to flambé one of the guards.”

“Ye did whit?”

“I made a Molotov with it.”

“That is sacrilege, Cathy, total sacrilege.”

“I’ll let him kill us next time.”

“Ye mean there’s going tae be a next time?”

“I meant it figuratively, but by now they’ll have found the mess and be looking for a chopper. At least I would if I was them.”

“Why are ye goin’ sae slow?”

“Fuel economy, all I’ve seen so far is pine trees and heather, aren’t there any houses round here?”

“I dinnae ken, dae I?”

I shook my head, I suppose he may be useful as a translator. After another hour’s driving, we came across a house. An elderly lady answered the door and was very reluctant to let us in until Trish got out of the car and walking up to the house said, “I wanna wee wee, Mummy.”

After that we were let in and she made us a cuppa—with UHT milk—I hate the stuff. I explained we needed to call the police and she showed me the phone. I dialled 999.

“Hello emergency, which service?”

“Police, please.”

“Police control room.”

“Hello, this is Cathy Watts, I was abducted by a gang from Portsmouth a day or two ago and brought up to Scotland, where they planned on using us as bait to get to Lord Stanebury and my fiance Simon Cameron.”

“Hold on please, I pass you through to CID.”

I repeated my story to a man who told me he was a detective sergeant. He was very interested in my story and told me he had a colleague contacting Hampshire Constabulary as we spoke.

“We escaped from the gang, though I’m afraid I’ve possibly killed two or three of them.”

“That sounds rather serious to me.”

“They were trying to kill me and my kids at the time.”

“I see, it’s still an offence to kill someone.”

“Look I can’t keep talking to you, they’ll catch us at this rate, and I don’t have much fuel left.”

“Where are ye?”

“I don’t know, somewhere with lots of heather.”

“According to our computer, ye’re near Glen Coe.”

“God, I hope they’re not Campbells.”

“I thought you said they were Russians?”

“Yes, but my mother’s maiden name was MacDonald.”

“Och, ye’ll be alricht. Drive onto the A82 and turn left, follow it tae Fort William, make for the Polis Station, I’ll get them tae send an escort vehicle or twa, tae assist ye.”

“Thanks, how will I know they’re real police? The lot that abducted us were dressed like coppers.”

“Dinnae fash yersel’ hen, they’ll be real alricht.”

“ I hope so.”

We set off and within a few miles found the main road and drove through Glen Coe. The scenery would have been magnificent if I hadn’t been trying to keep us alive. Every time I saw a 4×4, I wondered if it was one of the bad guys.

Glen Coe was a lonely place full of ghosts and sadness, I stuck my foot down as much as the road would allow me. Just past Loch Leven and Ballachulish we met a police car. A good old fashioned white with yellow and blue flashes on it. I flashed my lights at him, and he set of his blue lights. “Are ye, Cathy Watts?”

“I am,” I shouted back.

“Are ye alricht fer diesel?”

“I’m very low.”

“Pull over, I’ve some wi’me.”

I pulled over to the side of the road. He did a U turn and came up behind me. He had two gallon cans of fuel, which he tipped into the tank. He told us to follow him back. I found the blue lights on the Mercedes which made him smile.

Just as he was getting back into his car, a Range Rover flew past and there was a burst of gunfire. The young copper fell bleeding into the road and his mate in the Land Rover slumped over the wheel.

Miraculously, they missed us, but I could see the Range Rover pull off the road to come back at us. I opened the boot and pulled out the gun, the catch was still off. I called to Tom and the girls to get out of the car, and to lie down on the grass verge beyond it. Then I grabbed the young copper, who was still alive and dragged him back behind his car.

“Call for help, can you?” he nodded and pressed his radio on. The Range Rover came back at us and kneeling down behind the police car, I fired at the driver and tyres, the gun jumping about in my hands. Bullets zinged about me and some glass from one of the windows fell on my head. For a moment I thought I’d been shot.

The Range Rover careered all over the road and I fired another burst at it, suddenly it lurched to the left and pitched over the bank and into Loch Leven. I ran after it, ready to shoot anyone who emerged from it. When I got to it, the car was sinking into the water and no one was moving from it.

I ran back to the police car, and pulled on one of the yellow jackets, but continued to hold the gun. Minutes later, a convoy of police cars screamed into view. At this point I popped the gun back in the open boot of the Merc and began tending to the wounded

Walloping Demijohns Part 619

“Just what the hell is going on?” asked the irate assistant chief constable.

“You tell me,” I replied.

“According to your story, you’ve killed or injured half a dozen men, been in possession of an unlicensed firearm, stolen a police car…have I missed anything?”

“My bow and arrows, which I’d like back—those I did pay for.”

“Oh yes, more offensive weapons.”

“You could add preserving the lives of my children and adopted father, plus saving the lives of two of your officers.”

“Why have you got to fight this gang war on my patch?”

“What do you mean, gang war? I’m the injured party here, I’ve been abducted, unlawfully detained and threatened, not to mention actual attempts on my life.”

“It’s that no good family you’re marrying into.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The bloody Camerons.”

“What do you mean, no good?”

“Well, no one accumulates millions honestly, or a peerage on the way.”

“The bank has been up and running for over a hundred years. It’s financed all sorts of things, including some of the developmental aircraft during the Second World War.”

“You seem well informed, how come you didn’t know the mafioffski were after you?”

“I thought the boys in blue were protecting us, seeing as we’d done nothing wrong except associating with Henry and Simon. I’m a university teacher, my foster kids are innocents, Tom is a university professor. As far as I’m aware teaching isn’t illegal yet.”

“Very funny. So what do you teach? How to kill with an AK47?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The gun you were spraying the road with, the AK47…” There was a knock on the door and a young policewoman gave him two pieces of paper. “Your personal tally has risen to nine, there were three bodies in the car that went into Loch Leven, and we’re investigating the place you say they held you. We only have to wait for the fire brigade to put the blaze out, it’s apparently gutted.”

“The swines.”

“What?”

“I left a whole pile of clothes there, including my childrens’ pyjamas.”

“We suspect human remains amongst the ashes. I don’t suppose you set the place on fire to cover even more of your apparently insatiable bloodlust?”

“As a comedian, I’d get another scriptwriter if I were you, because your current lines stink. I would like to see a lawyer, or advocate I believe you lot call them up here.”

“There is one waiting to see you. This interview is terminated.” He switched off the tape. I was incredibly irritated by this man, who seemed to be intent on jailing me while the Russian mafia, or who ever it was ran amok all over the place.

I had managed to call Henry briefly as we were on the way to Fort William, he told me not to say too much and he’d send someone to assist me. It turned out to be a rather feisty woman barrister called Fiona McLeod.

Within an hour, I had access to my girls and to Tom. Another hour and I was bailed—Henry put up the dosh, or stood surety for me, which I believe is the correct term.

However, with all that had happened and could yet happen, it struck me as ironic that the mafia attacked the police station about an hour after we’d left. They were looking for me apparently, and took the ACC hostage as they left.

I’d stopped at Marks & Spencers to get some clean clothes for all of us, courtesy of Fiona. She waited in the car, a rather nice Audi, while I dashed in and bought a selection of things for everyone. I spent nearly a thousand quid, mind you, I had two shop assistants help me carry it out to the car.

Henry had reserved rooms at the Rannoch Arms Hotel, so we had somewhere nice to stay. We were booked in under assumed names to make the efforts of the mafia to bump us off a bit harder. The object was that tomorrow he send up a convoy of people to take us over to Stanebury, which is apparently near Perth. I’d always thought that was in Australia somewhere.

There is a Perth in Scotland too, so I discovered today. A wonderful thing, education, Tom was pleased with his new underpants, I got him a selection of different colours, he wasn’t quite so sure about the flowery ones. I only got them to wind him up.

The girls were pleased with their new dresses, jeans and tops and pyjamas. I bought myself a new pair of jeans, trainers and pair of heels, to wear with the skirt and top I’d acquired from the Per Una section. His stuff is gorgeous.

We’d only been at the hotel half an hour, we were actually eating lunch when the police arrived. This time they were a bit more conciliatory. Henry had spoken with the Secretary of State for Scotland and also the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, so a few things were cleared up.

However, this time the police were asking for my help. They wanted to recover their ACC who had been abducted.

“I expect they’ll want to swap him for Henry,” I said as I finished my lunch.

“No, it’s you they want.”

“I hope you’re not thinking of the exchange?”

“Of course not, but anything you can give us to help find them would be much appreciated.”

“There’s not a lot I can add to what I’ve already told you. They had these two 4x4s I saw as we left the house. One, I presume, ended up in the loch; I know nothing else. The men we met were all Brits, so I don’t know if there is a mafia connection. It strikes me as strange that they seem to be hunting Henry and Simon.”

I recalled the conversation I’d overheard. “It has to be the mafia, if I remember, when we had the attack last year, Henry told me that there were two factions who’d been vying to offer protection to his banking interests in Russia. One had been making a nuisance of itself by attacking us. The other lot offered to sort things out for him, and the next thing we heard, the one lot had dealt with the others. I learned later that meant eliminated the others. I was far from happy with this state of affairs, but if the guy who is running things lost some of his friends and family to the other bunch, he might well see it as Henry’s fault and try to do the same to him.”

“So what use is that to us?”

“I’d have thought there must be a copper in Moscow somewhere who knows what’s going on and if there was a survivor from the first lot.”

“Yes, get on that, Inspector Buchan,” barked the senior copper. A smart young man walked out briskly calling on his mobile as he went. “The Hampshire force would like your help to discuss your abduction, they lost four officers from their protection squad.”

“I’m sorry, that would concur with what I thought I’d heard, the men who killed them are probably dead.”

“Yes, if you didn’t get them, the Russians it would appear, were not leaving any witnesses for us to interview.”

“Did they actually attack your police station?”

“Yes, they ram raided us with two of our own cars.”

It was as much as I could do not to laugh.

“Then they fired shots into the air and we sort of surrendered. They pointed a couple of those rocket launched grenades at us, so heroics were out of the question, I’m afraid.”

“Well, discretion is the better part of valour,” I said using the old adage: if nothing else comes to mind, use a well worn cliché.

“Would you look at some pictures? We’ve had the Organised Crime Unit send us some photos. See if any of them were the blokes who kidnapped you.”

“Yes, if there’s somewhere safe to view them without being blown up or shot?”

“The army barracks, I’ve been told to use them, they have over a hundred men there at present, all of them armed and potentially dangerous.”

“And potential casualties. I don’t need to be told I’ve caused the deaths of dozens of soldiers, if they try to get me there.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, if a mere girl can take out nine of them, what chance a company of experienced soldiers?”

“Quite good, if they have a helicopter.” I was looking at the one flying towards us as we talked. “Run, it’s got guns on it.” A fraction after I shouted, the place was in uproar as bullets began smashing through the windows and outer walls of the hotel. These guys were persistent, if nothing else.

Waistline Drift Part 620

I sat up in bed, the sweat was pouring off me. Helicopters with machine guns was too much even for my ability to reach deep states of torpor at night. It was just a dream, but so real. Thankfully, that was too much even for organised crime. They had however, attacked the police station and kidnapped the Assistant Chief Constable, which is a serious matter in anyone’s book.

I was pleased that my dream seemed to imply an exchange with him for me, rather than real life. I wouldn’t think too much about it, in case the enemy picked up on my thoughts. Come to think of it, I’d stop thinking about helicopters too, for the same reason.

I drank a sip of water from the bottle I had on the bedside table. I could hear the regular breathing of the two girls. Somehow they had managed to sleep despite all the trauma they’d suffered. It was me who was waking up with bad dreams. Perhaps they didn’t realise just how close danger came today? I wouldn’t like to say, especially with Trish, who knows far too much for her age and her own good.

There had been talk of charging me with anything from manslaughter to premeditated murder, on several counts. I remembered the guy all in flames as I fired three arrows into his body. I shuddered. I wondered how long I’d remember that horrible sight. The smell and the screams, I shuddered again.

I eventually did get back to sleep, wondering what the day would bring—I really didn’t think I could cope with another attempt on my life or that of my loved ones. Oh how I wished I was back in my lab counting dormice, not sitting here in fear of my life. Still, what did I have to worry about—some idiot with a bomb up his jumper detonated it and killed forty eight people in Baghdad today—what a pointless act.

The girls woke me about seven, and I snuggled down with both of them. “When are we going to see Daddy again?” asked Trish.

“I don’t know, sweetheart, he’s hiding from the bad men who have been trying to hurt us. He’ll show up as soon as he can.”

“But if he was here, they wouldn’t dare come to hurt us, Daddy would bash them up.”

I wish. It would save me having to do it, “I don’t know, sweetheart. Daddy doesn’t believe in violence,” especially against him. Having said that he did rearrange the teeth of the guy who stabbed me, and helped me out against the two thugs who attacked me in the street while I was transitioning. Mind you, if I remember correctly, he had to pull me off one of them. Hmmm.

“I bet Daddy would save us, Mummy.”

“Mummy saved us,” said Meems, and gave me an extra hug.

“Well I’m really glad someone noticed.”

“Oh, Mummy, I didn’t mean it like that, you were very brave and you did save us from those horrible men in that big car.”

“The Range Rover?”

“Yes, one of those 4×4 things made by Vogue it said on the back.”

“You saw that?”

“Yes, it went past twice, didn’t it?”

“I suppose so, except I was too busy trying not to get myself shot.”

“You shooted them, Mummy,” beamed Meems blissfully unaware that my retaliation led to the deaths of three more men. Arguably they were pond life, so their returning to the water via the loch, was poetic justice. I still had to live with it. Where was Simon, and who was that bloody woman who called him darling?

“Pass me my phone, Meems.” She did and I sent another text to Simon.

‘Where r u? Had more run ins with bad guys. It’s ur turn to kill a few of them, I’ve d1 my share. Luv C xxx’

We cuddled down again and I actually dozed off until my phone peeped. I sat up and checked the text messages. I had one from Simon.

‘Soz, all will become clear soon, will b with you asap. Love S xxx’

“Daddy says he’ll be with us as soon as he can.”

“Oh goodie gum drops,” said Trish, I looked at her in astonishment. That was an expression straight out of the William stories by Richmal Crompton. This girl never failed to amaze me with her expressions or understanding of things.

“I’m gwad Daddy is coming.”

“Yes, so am I,” I responded, hoping we’d all live long enough to see the day. I cuddled the girls a bit longer and thought nice memories of Simon. I hoped my suspicions were wrong, no, I prayed they were wrong—a bit less passive than hoping, though they amounted to the same thing—wishful thinking.

“Come on, girls, let’s shower and get some breakfast.” I saved the girly clothes for a safer time, if we had to run, they’d be better in trousers, so would I, so it was jeans again, all round. Trish grumbled, she preferred skirts, Meems didn’t care what she wore. There’s an irony there somewhere.

We collected Tom on the way down to breakfast. He looked better for his new togs and thanked me for choosing them. He hated buying clothes and admitted he’d only bought what he absolutely had to since his wife died. He brought Kiki down with him, which was how we were staying in this hotel, they were happy to take the dog, lots of places won’t.

I was trying to enjoy the fact that someone else was doing the catering and washing up—a rather female thought. I recalled my mother saying it whenever we stayed in a hotel when I was younger. I ate some fruit, cereal and toast. The girls had some cereal and toast and took a banana each to eat later, while Tom ordered Arbroath Smokies—which stank like nothing on earth. Even the girls complained. He just laughed and tucked in with gusto; this was after his dish of porridge with salt. I quite liked porridge, but with cream and sugar or honey. Tom informed us, “It’s the Scots way—the proper way tae eat parritch.”

The girls grimaced and I poked my tongue out at him. I don’t care if it’s the correct way or not, I’m not going to eat it with salt, I’ll stick to cornflakes, which was what I had today. The girls had Rice Crispies.

Tom walked Kiki round the car park after breakfast and we went back up to pack. “Where are we going, Mummy? Home I hope,” sighed Trish.

“Not just yet, girls, we’re going to see Grampa Henry’s country house.”

“Does Gramps have two houses, then?”

“I believe he has more than two.”

“Gosh, does he need more than one house?” asked Trish, who was obviously a budding socialist.

“Don’t forget, I have more than one myself.”

“Oh yes. You said we could go and see them one day.”

“I did indeed, and assuming all this sorts itself out, we shall go and see my house in Bristol soon. Come on, let’s get everything packed.” With that, the girls began to bring me their clothes from the wardrobes and I folded them and placed them in the suitcases I’d got from M&S yesterday.

As I packed, I wondered how I’d recognise the people who were coming to collect us. I’d never been to Stanebury, so how would I recognise anyone? After all, we’d assumed the police who brought us from Portsmouth were kosher, and they weren’t.

There was knock on the door and Tom was standing there with his case and the dog. “I believe our lifts have come.”

“How do we know they’re the real thing? I mean with the luck we’ve had recently, it could be more gangsters.”

“Could you call Henry and ask how we know, and it has to be people not vehicles, because that’s how they got us last time.”

“Good idea,” I was on the verge of doing it, now I knew it was the best thing to do.

He was busy but sent a message via one of his secretaries, “We’d recognise the convoy people.” I relayed this to Tom, who shrugged his shoulders.

“So if we dinnae recognise anyone, we stay put and call the polis?”

“Aye, Dr Finlay,” I said in a very artificial squeaky Scots accent. The girls thought it was very funny, Tom gave me a disdainful look. Well, I’d thought it was funny.

Windward Delphiniums Part 621

Tom loaded the cases into the lift and took them down. I went down the stairs clutching hold of the girls, ready to run like hell if the need arose. Surely, no one would try anything in a busy hotel like this? No? What about a busy cop shop, then? They’d already attacked one of those. My stomach was flipping over as we got to the bottom of the stairs and the girls complained I was holding them too tightly.

Tom was talking to someone as another person picked up the cases. If they were lost, he could do the shopping next time. It would serve him right. I looked at the person to whom Tom was talking. He looked vaguely familiar. He saw me staring.

“Surely you haven’t forgotten me already, Cathy?”

“Um, sort of, I’m sorry.”

“Jason, remember now?”

“Simon’s lawyer friend?”

“Exactly.”

“Where is he?”

“Who?”

“Simon.”

“That I don’t know. Henry asked me to escort you and your family to Stanebury.”

“On your own?”

“Not quite, I have a convoy of three Land Cruisers.”

“We’ve suffered quite a lot this last few days, so you’ll understand why I don’t feel too safe about all this.”

“Perfectly.” He leant across to me and whispered, “We are armed and dangerous.”

“What with?”

“Shotguns.”

“They had Kalashnikovs.”

“Yeah, and still they couldn’t kill you.”

“I think my nine lives might be close to running out.”

“Come off it, Cathy, you’re far too beautiful and clever to succumb to some rancid Ruskie.”

“I don’t know, Jason.”

“What’s the alternative? Staying here? I don’t think so. Too difficult to defend.”

“What about Stanebury?”

“Stanebury is a fortified manor house. It was designed to be defended.”

“Against local yokels with claymores and pitchforks? Yeah fine, what about rocket propelled grenades and machine guns?”

“The walls are six feet thick, for goodness sake, it’s like a bunker.”

“Bunkers can be destroyed.”

“So can anywhere, Cathy. Unless you ask the PM to let you borrow the bunker underneath Number Ten, nowhere in this island is going to be entirely safe.”

“I don’t know.”

“Look, I have a spare shotty you can borrow.”

“I probably couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a shovel.”

“You will with this, it has a good field of fire and a pump action.”

“It sounds American.”

“It is.”

“Geez, I’ll feel like a cowboy.”

“As long as you don’t want to look at the wiring, we’ll be alright.”

“Wiring?”

“Yes, you know, cowboy electricians and so on.”

“Ah, yes, quite,” I said, while thinking something very different—like what planet is he from?

I reluctantly got into the vehicle in the front. Tom got into the second one and the luggage was in the third one. I counted three drivers plus four other souls. I hoped they gave Tom a shotgun, at least he knew which end to hold, having one of his own.

As we set off, my tummy was jumping about all over the place. “Have you seen Henry?”

“He’s on his way to Stanebury.”

“Oh, he was in plaster last time I saw him.”

“That’s off and he’s walking with a stick.”

“A sword stick, I expect.”

“Probably.”

“What about, Stella and her baby?”

“Under guard in hospital, both were fine this morning.”

“Oh good, has she bonded with the baby at all?”

“Couldn’t tell you the fine detail.”

“Where is Simon? You must know if you know about the others?”

“I don’t, it’s very hush hush.”

“I don’t like this, Jason.”

“What?”

“All this violence, armed guards and killing people.”

“Think of it like a pheasant or grouse shoot.”

“I don’t shoot things, Jason. I don’t approve of primal urges—well not the hunter gatherer type. I don’t need to kill things to feel complete.”

He blushed. “You’re not one of the anti-hunt brigade are you?”

“Would it matter?”

“I suppose not.”

“I don’t believe in cruelty. I see hunting as cruel. I take a moral stance on it. I don’t like guns, they’re designed for killing things.”

“Not always, you can shoot targets and clays. Bows and arrows are designed for killing too.”

“Originally, yes, but it’s illegal in this country.”

“I’d heard it said that someone recently killed with a bow and arrow.”

I blushed profusely, made worse when Trish said, “My Mummy has a bow and arrows.”

“Oh,” now Jason blushed. “It wasn’t you, was it?”

“Yes,” said Trish, “She shot some baddies.”

“Good lord, I had no Idea. Our very own Maid Marion.”

“Why can’t I be Robin Hood? A woman plays him in panto.”

“Yes, why not, okay, welcome to Sherwood, Robin.”

“I don’t have a bow, the police took it.”

“Did they now? I’m sure they’ll have one at Stanebury, they have most everything else, including crossbows.”

“Never tried one of those.”

“Mummy shooted the baddies with a gun,” said Mima, looking bored at our conversation.

“So you have fired a gun?”

“Not really, I fired a Kalashnikov on automatic until the magazine ran out.”

“Was it you who saved those coppers?”

“That was accidental. I was trying to save my kids and my own skin, the coppers were with us, and had been shot because of it.”

“Pity handguns aren’t legal, I could show you how to fire one, they’re a bit more portable.”

“I don’t want to learn how to shoot people, I don’t want to shoot people; I don’t want to stay in a world where guns are everyday items. I hate guns.”

“Okay, okay. Hopefully once all this is over, you can go back to your house and live happily ever after.”

“You think something is going to happen, don’t you?”

“Not here, but at Stanebury. You and Henry are the bait.”

Wilberforce Dynamite Part 622

The journey, had it been another day, could have been breathtaking. We went through part of the Grampians, so I was informed, which even I knew was where Ben Nevis lived. That’s the tallest mountain in the UK. When all of this is over, I must come back up here and enjoy it, not be looking for suspicious vehicles or helicopters. My dream still worried me.

We followed signs for Pitlochry, which I half recollected from a geography lesson. I also remember a geology teacher telling us that Scotland had broken off North America and collided with England, hence the difference in the type of geology and terrain.

It’s funny, I’d been to North Wales, then the Lake District which looked like a bigger version of North Wales and now Scotland, which looked like a larger version of the Lake District.

The weather decided things hadn’t looked bleak enough, so it clouded over and a short time later began to rain. On the floor of the car was a large metal box, inside which I presumed were the shotguns. Were the authorities aware that they were here? Why weren’t the police with us or staking out the place, or even using a military force? It puzzled me, but then I was taking the part of the goat tethered to the tree while others were tiger shooting.

I had no idea what the Cameron’s ancestral pile looked like, but I knew it would be different to castles in England, which were huge mediaeval structures usually built by the Normans to either keep the Welsh out or the local peasants down. Most were ruins or Victorian refurbishments which made the whole thing look surreal.

Suddenly we could make out a shape amongst the trees. “That’s where we’re going,” Jason told us.

http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/system/files/u3120/Castell-Coch-aerial.jpg

“What?” I gasped at the gothic building in the distance. “That’s Stanebury?”

“Yep, pretty innit?”

I pointed it out to the girls and they bounced up and down in their seats with excitement. “It looks like a fairy tale castle, Mummy. Are there any dragons or wizards?” Trish asked.

“I don’t wike dwagons,” said Mima cuddling into me.

“No, there aren’t any dragons or wizards, nor are there any witches nor anyone else bad. It’s an enchanted castle where only nice things happen.” I averted my eyes from Jason who was giving me a very strange look—the sort which suggested Armageddon was a few hours away, whereas I was about to launch into some story about the tooth fairy or a secret treasure.

“Are we really staying there?”

“Yes, we are, Trish, a magic castle for two fairy princesses and the beautiful queen, their mother.” Jason was laying it on with a trowel.

“Did you hear that, Mummy, we’re two fairy princesses and you’re a fairy queen.”

Well, I’d been called a fairy before, but never a queen, so was this a promotion up the social scale? I had my doubts. “Of course, dear, my two lovely princesses.” I put an arm around each of them and hugged them to me, praying that we’d all survive the next few days.

We eventually turned off the main road, then after a couple of miles of secondary road, turned into a driveway, through a gatehouse with gatekeeper and thence up a winding driveway into a hanging woodland. Below us in the distance was a lake or loch and a large stream or river which flowed into it. It was amazing, even in the rain, it was truly wonderful.

Finally, we drove over a small drawbridge and into the central courtyard, where we parked and from the main door came a man with an enormous umbrella. “Lady Catherine?” he asked.

“I’m Catherine, yes.”

“I’m John Dunstan, the Laird’s head of household. I run this place for the Laird.”

“Pleased to meet you, this is Tricia and this cheeky little monkey is Mima. This, girls, is Mr Dunstan.” They both said hello, and under his umbrella we walked briskly into the house, or should that be castle?

“Wow,” was all I could say. It was so ornate with painted walls and ceilings, it was just—wow!

“Visitors are suitably impressed by the décor, ma’am.”

“Mr Dunstan, please, I’m Cathy.”

“If you don’t mind, as Mr Simon’s wife, you’ll be Lady Catherine, and perhaps lady of this estate one day. I’d prefer we treated you as if you were already Lady Catherine, it will save confusion later for the staff.”

“I, um, don’t know…”

“I’ve sought the advice of the Laird himself and he agreed with me.”

“What can I say?” I asked blushing.

“Excellent, that’s sorted then.” He took the girls’ hands and led us up an ornate staircase to a suite of rooms. “These are Mr Simon’s usual rooms, I hope they’re suitable. I’ve put the girls in the dressing room, through here.” He led us through a connecting door into a room larger than my bedroom in Bristol—and this was a dressing room?

Through another door was a bathroom with shower cabinet and toilet. It was all delightful if a trifle OTT for a grammar school girl. We looked out of the small windows into the woodland beyond. The walls were extremely thick and the window sills were easily a yard long leading into the wall, although those facing into the courtyard, which were large and often with balconies beyond. Simon’s room had a balcony and I opened the French window and stepped onto it.

If anywhere felt safe, it had to be here. However, I needed to find out where the girls could hide if there was any attack. Whilst the girls went out onto the balcony, I asked Mr Dunstan where they would go?

He showed me small door next to the fireplace, “In here, ma’am,” inside was a small chamber with a couple of chairs and a table. It looked as safe as anywhere. That relieved me a little and I showed the girls where it was and made sure they could open the door.

The sound of a helicopter filled the air and remembering my dream I screamed to the girls to go to the little room and stay there. “It’s okay, Lady Catherine, it’s just the Laird arriving.”

“I’m sorry, Mr Dunstan, we’ve had a few bad experiences recently.”

“I understand perfectly, Lady Catherine, shall I get your daughters out, I’m sure you’d like to see the Laird.”

“No it’s okay, Mr Dunstan, they’ll want to come with me. Is Lady Monica here?”

“She was, she’s gone down to Edinburgh to collect some curtains she ordered, she’ll be back tomorrow.”

Good old Monica, the rest of us are expecting World War Three and she’s gone to get new curtains—one of us has no idea of the gravity of the situation—I hope it’s me.

Henry walked with sticks from the helicopter, he was making good progress seeing as he was in plaster a few days before. We hugged, and the girls gave him an enthusiastic welcome.

“Welcome to my humble home,” he said kissing me on the cheek.

“Humble, this place is fit for a king, Henry.”

“Yes, I know, my ancestors had some difficulty keeping it from the king, and various queens as well. Victoria was quite taken with it, before that one or two of the Georges nearly visited, until we were able to put them off. Well, it’s still ours, and perhaps one day, even these two little angels. A fairy tale castle for two fairy princesses.”

“Yes, Jason said that to them on the drive here.”

“Hmm, he’s pinching all my best lines, is he?”

“No, he doesn’t have your skill in delivery.”

“You flatter me, madam.”

“But of course, kind sir,” I did a mock curtsey, “I ’as to keep in wiv me betters, dun I?”

“You do very well, Eliza,” he said bowing to me.

“Mummy’s name is Caffy, not Wiza.”

Warren Destruction Part 623

After lunch, Henry took us down to the games room. A billiard table, computer games, table tennis—that table fitted on top of the billiard one, or was it the other way round? They also had a toy box and Meems found some toys she liked and Trish was content to do some colouring with some pencils they had in the toy box.

I wasn’t sure about the pictures she was drawing, they seemed full of blood and bodies—but given her recent experiences, I wondered if she was trying to integrate them and move on. I know I’d like to.

“Where is Simon?” I asked Henry, when the girls were settled.

“Not sure, why?”

“Why? I am his fiancée, or had you forgotten that, this is, of course, when I’m not playing the role of target practice or cannon fodder.”

“I don’t actually know.”

“He’s your son, and he works for you as well, so I should have thought you should know where he is.”

“He’s on leave.”

“What you decided to protect him and risk me and my two girls, how wonderful.”

“No, that isn’t it, at all.”

“I suppose it’s pure coincidence that he’s away when we might at anytime become wearers of body bags. Interesting that both your offspring are absent, while the proverbial hits the fan.”

“Stella is still in hospital, so is the baby.”

“Ah, so your line is assured, another Viscount Stanebury is possible.”

“There are three titles bestowed upon this family for past achievements. Mine is the senior, the Viscountcy of Stanebury, bestowed upon my ancestor during the Napoleonic wars. The second the Barony of Cameron, goes to the eldest child, and the third, another Barony goes to any second child.”

“So Stella and Simon have peerages in their own right?”

“Yes, seems greedy I know, but each of them was for some act of derring do for the monarch of the day, the latter two were for personal services to the young Victoria.”

“So what titles do Si and Stella hold then?”

“Simon is Baron Cameron of Pitlochry, and Stella is Baroness Cameron of Perthshire.”

“So what happens to his title when you pop off?”

“Or resign it, I don’t necessarily have to die, you know. Simon succeeds to the senior title as the eldest child, his title then moves to his eldest child. If he’s without issue and hasn’t adopted any, it moves to his sister’s children or nearest relative. The same with Stella. As she now has a baby, she has an heir for her title.”

“But Simon doesn’t.”

“Not yet.”

“Well he has no chance with me, does he?”

“You have two fine children with you.”

“They’re only on loan.”

“They could become adopted, they act like yours, and I know they love Simon and he them.”

“I’m not sure it’s that simple. Besides, aren’t you perpetuating the problem? If the elder child assumes the title, then we know she won’t have children any more than I can.”

“Yes, but you got around it. I’m sure a keen mind like hers will too. Contrary to the publicity that surrounded the April Ashley case, what, thirty or forty years ago, the Scottish aristocracy don’t necessarily have a downer on ladies like yourself—well, not unless they’ve asked for it. Your case, because of the publicity has been discussed, and as far as I’m aware no one has batted an eyelid.”

“Oh I see, I’ve been discussed and seen as suitable, have I?”

“No, it wasn’t like that at all. We fell in love with you as soon as we met you, and had no idea of your past. Simon was obviously potty about you and Stella liked you too. Monica thinks you are simply lovely and me—well I fancy you something rotten—but you know that anyway. So we’d already decided that if Simon went ahead as he said he was going to, and marry you, we were quite happy about it.

“When the excrement met the air conditioning, and it all became rather too public courtesy of the BBC, although both you and Simon did a splendid job of turning it into a positive event, we had some feedback from other peers and they all approved of you.”

“I’m so glad,” I pouted.

“Cathy, it wasn’t like that. They said things like: how brave you were; what a lovely girl; if Simon gets the heave ho, give me her phone number—no that might have been me said that. You get my drift. They think you are elegant and beautiful, and crazy enough to fit in perfectly. Once all this clears up, we’ll have a ball here and you can meet some of them, plus the locals, of course, many of whom work here normally. We’re on a skeleton staff because of the danger.”

“What happens if we’re all terminated?”

“It’s unlikely.”

“How can you say that?”

“I have plans made to defend this house and it’s occupants.”

“I don’t think bringing the children here was a very responsible thing to do.”

“On the contrary, if we hadn’t, we couldn’t guarantee their safety. If anything starts, you take them to the little room in the bedroom. The door is actually sheet steel and should stop a nine millimetre bullet or grenade. Inside, in a metal box, is a handgun with a full clip. You take them in there and you have some means of defence should anyone get that far, assuming they can breach the locks. It buys you time.”

“What about fire?”

“There is an up to date sprinkler system, fire shouldn’t be a problem.”

“I thought handguns were banned in this country?”

“Um,” he coughed, “so they are, is that the time? We should get ready for dinner, which will be a rather quiet affair. I apologise in advance, but the cook is one of those on leave.”

“How many of us, are there?”

“About eight, plus the girls.”

“Who’s cooking?”

“John.”

“I’ll go and give him a hand. you look after the girls.”

“But I …”

“No buts, Henry. Girls, look after Grampa Henry, I’m helping cook the dinner.”

Wellington Dustbags Part 624

Mr Dunstan was in the kitchen doing his best. He tried to chase me out but I pulled rank and he finally agreed we could work together. He was doing haggis. I thought for a moment he was joking, but sure enough, there were two of the things ‘bilin’ in a pan, as Tom would have said. I helped him peel potatoes and then with the neeps, or Swede as I usually called them.

In getting something from the fridge I noticed there was a large piece of beef in there, why couldn’t we have eaten that, not this traditional fare. If they do porridge in the morning, I shall scream.

I thought Burns’ night was in January not April, “Is this some strange form of St George’s day dinner?”

“No, ma’am, it was what the Laird suggested we ate.”

“I can’t guarantee my girls will eat it.”

“It’s an acquired taste, like whisky.”

“One I haven’t acquired nor intend to.”

“It’s good it’s not Burns’ night, the whisky is almost obligatory.”

“Yes, it is good. Mr Dunstan, did you see where Prof Agnew went?”

“I think he was walking his dog around the courtyard.”

“I’m surprised you don’t have a dog here.”

“We do usually, but they’ve all gone off with the staff.”

“All? How many do you have?”

“Three usually. Two labradors and a cocker.”

“If anything starts, they might get in the way.”

“I don’t know, they have better hearing than we do.”

“That’s true, but we still have Kiki,” although she can sleep through anything.

“That’s fine then, we’ll have warning if there’s anyone about.”

Between us we laid the table, a huge refectory type made of oak, I think. The dining hall, because it was a very large room was exquisitely decorated, with painted walls depicting murals of Scottish mythology and history. It could take all day to get around the whole castle and see just the ornamentation. It was so over the top it was verging on delightful.

We laid ten places. The children would sit either side of me. Then after mashing the tatties with butter and doing the same with the neeps, Mr Dunstan banged the gong and within a few minutes people were assembling for the meal.

Tom stood opposite me at the table, and Henry asked me to move up so I was next to his seat at the head of the table. “As the only lady here, you must sit here next to me. Protocol dictates it. Meems sat next to me, and Trish was seated opposite me, then Tom, who could do his granddad bit and help her with anything she needed.

Mr Dunstan walked in with a tureen of Scotch broth, my eyes must have been as big as saucers. It wasn’t cooking in the kitchen while I was out there. He smirked at me and whispered, “Microwave.” I sniggered.

Apparently, I was given the honour of ladling soup into dishes and passing them along—a variation on ‘being mother’ when pouring teas. Oh well, I could live with that. The soup was fine as was the roll accompanying it. The girls ate theirs, so they must have been hungry.

Then he brought in the salver with the two haggis on laid out side by side, like two skinned piglets. “Och hurdies,” said Tom.

“What?” I asked.

“Buttocks,” said Henry quietly.

“What are buttocks, Mummy?” asked Trish in voice loud enough to be heard in Glasgow.

“Yer bum,” answered Grampa Tom. We then had two giggling girls on our hands.

“Doesn’t look like my bum,” said Trish, which had Mima almost convulsing with laughter.

“Mummy’s bummies,” said Meems, and Trish fell about laughing.

I clapped my hands, “Right children, that’s enough.” I glanced sternly at Tom, who was pretending he wasn’t there.

“Mummy, would you care to serve?” called a voice from down the table, which had everyone laughing but me.

Mr Dunstan placed a pile of plates in front of me and I was required to spoon neeps and tatties and couple of spoonfuls of the meat and oatmeal mess that oozed from the haggis skin once it had been slit open. These were then passed down the table. To the girls I gave a small amount, because I didn’t think they’d eat it.

I tucked into mine pretending I knew and liked the taste, preparing to soldier through what I wasn’t at all sure was my idea of delicacy—the Scottish equivalent of sheeps’ eyeballs. However, I was pleasantly surprised and the savoury taste was quite nice, although I wouldn’t want to eat it very often.

Once again the girls proved me wrong, and ate theirs with gusto. The pudding, which like the soup, I wasn’t party to, was lemon meringue. I was full anyway, which was an easy get out, I don’t like meringue in any shape or form, call it Pavlova if you will, I still don’t like it.

Instead Mr Dunstan brought me some fruit, so I was quite happy. The wine we drank made me feel mellow and for a short time I began to forget the reason we were in this stronghold.

Dusk fell and I started to feel uneasy. If there was an attack, it would be by night. I still had the image intensifiers with me, but I’d try and sit this one out if I was allowed to.

As the party broke up, Tom took the girls up to bed and read them a story, when he came down, Henry was distributing flak jackets. “Do I get one?” I asked feeling somewhat left out.

“No, Cathy, you and Tom are designated to go to the hidey-hole if anything starts. Your job is to protect the girls, we’ll deal with the rest.”

“Fine, wake me up when it’s all over,” I’m off to bed.

I rose from the table and all the men stood up until I left. I kissed Henry and Tom goodnight and went up to my room. Tom’s was apparently next door to mine. I suppose they thought he was too old to fight, which tended to indicate that they didn’t know him as well as I did. He was a dab hand with a shotgun and held his own against the mafia once before. I left him with the other men to sort it out for himself, I was too tired to care.

Once in bed, I began to think about Simon. Henry hadn’t told me where he was, despite intimating he had a good idea of his son’s whereabouts.

I tried to remember the conversation we had earlier. It seemed Simon hadn’t been sent away to save his skin, he was doing something, but what and where?—I had no idea.

Then I recalled a conversation I had with Simon months ago, after the attack on Tom’s house and Stella’s kidnap. “I wonder,” I said to myself and drifted off to sleep.

I was fast asleep when there was a blinding flash in the sky. Instead of it vanishing immediately, it held for a minute or two. I realised it was a flare, there was the odd popping noise going on as well. I leapt out of bed, and got the girls grabbing their clothes and some of my own, I shepherded them into my room and thence the little room by the fireplace. Trish grabbed the book Tom had been reading them earlier.

I dashed into Tom’s room, knocking as I opened it. He was fast asleep with a shotgun across his chest, it was ‘broken’ open so I was in no danger. I lifted it off him and shook him. He was out to the world and a strong smell of whisky emanated from him. I dragged him off his bed and wrapping him in his duvet, pulled him under his bed and hoped he would be safe there. He was still fast asleep. I locked his room as I left it and took the keys with me, along with the shotgun and the box of cartridges I found by the side of him.

I shut the girls in the little room, making sure they could get in and out but to open it to no one they didn’t know. They had their bedding with them and I hoped they went off to sleep. I went out onto the veranda and in the fading light of the flare I donned the image intensifier and crouched down watching and waiting.

Winkle D-cups Part 625

I could only see over the courtyard, which would prove a killing field if anyone entered through the gates and drawbridge. I could see members of our team taking up positions and I could also see bright halogen lamps ready to shine down on any one who entered, blinding them and making them easy targets.

In the trees which surrounded the castle, there were regular and staccato pops of small arms fire, as if a fire-fight was going on between two groups. Did Henry have other men outside the castle?

I listened to the fighting outside and then heard another sound, a swooshing sound, I glanced upwards and saw someone coming towards us on a parachute, and they were armed to the teeth. They circled and fired at one of our men, unseen from above. I fired both barrels of the shotgun, which knocked me backwards off my feet but blew a large hole in the parachute. The parachutist fell probably fifty or more feet to the courtyard with a splat sound after a prolonged scream.

The gun had recoiled back into my tummy, I was winded and feeling sick. Another parachutist swooped in firing all around, I loaded the gun with feverish fingers which didn’t seem to want to work. My heart was beating faster than if I was cycling up a steep hill.

Some bullets zinged around me, so I stepped back under the cover of the edge of the roof, I aimed the gun, this time on my shoulder and leant into the stock. It jumped and jolted my shoulder, but I once again managed to hit the chute and gravity did the rest.

Henry came struggling out on to my veranda. “Cathy, it’s you, I thought it was Tom.”

I was rubbing my shoulder, “No it’s me and I’m not doing this right, the blessed gun is hitting me on the recoil. Look there’s another of their parachutists,” I pointed into the sky.

Henry snatched the gun rammed in two cartridges and fired first one then the other barrel. The recipient squealed then jerked, then hung lifeless in the harness and drifted out into the trees.

“Who’s out in the woods?”

“The bad guys,” he said smirking.

“And?”

“A contingent of Royal Marine Commandos, from Faslane.”

“I thought that was a submarine base.”

“And who d’you think protects them when they’re at home?”

“Royal Marines?”

“Exactly, as they were massing for an exercise in Norway, I borrowed some—the commander’s an old friend of mine. Once I put it to the police they might be able to help us get their ACC back, they withdrew their objections.”

“So we have commandoes fighting mafia in the woodland?”

“It would seem that way.”

“There’s another, I pointed into the sky and Henry reloaded and fired twice. The effect was similar to before.”

“How come I can’t do that?”

“You fired both barrels together, gives a tremendous kick and if you don’t know what you’re doing you can hurt yourself.”

“I did, my collar bone’s hurting again.”

“Lend me your goggle things and go in with your children.”

“Where’s Simon?”

“He’ll be here in a couple of days.”

“Where is he?”

“Where do you think?”

“I don’t know, which is why I’m asking you.”

“Think.”

“I can’t.”

“Come on, Cathy, don’t disappoint me.”

“I don’t bloody know, he could be in bloody Russia for all I know.”

“See, what was so hard about that.”

“What? He’s in Russia?”

“Cutting off the money supply. Terrorists and organised crime march on their bank cards. Cut it off. QED.”

I gave Henry the image intensifier and he kept a watch on the sky as I limped back to the bedroom and knocked on the door of the hidey hole.

I thought I heard a noise on the roof, but decided it was probably bullets from the various battles that were going on about the place. Trish asked who it was, and unlocked the door as soon as I spoke.

I hugged them both, and despite my sore shoulder it felt good to be out of the action, snuggled up safe and sound. Once again I thought I could hear something scrabbling above us, but Henry was outside with a big gun and we were locked away safely anyway. I did wonder about Tom, but he seemed so fast asleep, I hoped he’d stay that way until it was all over.

I cuddled down with the girls and they fell asleep each with my arm around them. The large knife I had tucked into my jeans dug into my back, but considering the other aches and pains I had, it was tolerable.

The noise seemed to die down and I think I fell asleep, jumping when I heard Henry knocking on the door of our hiding place. The girls didn’t hear him, so I eased away from them and opened the door.

I stepped out into the bedroom and realised the mistake I’d made. Henry was standing with his hands up and a woman was behind him holding a gun to his head—a handgun.

“Sorry, about this, Cathy, but I was in a bit of a tight spot.” I nodded my understanding.

The woman was wearing a dark jumpsuit and a parachute harness. Of course, the noises on the roof—now I realised what they were.

“This is Olga Kretchyna, it’s her friends and family with whom we’re in dispute.”

“You caused all of this mayhem?” I gasped.

She smiled revealing a broad set of white teeth and all I wanted to do was punch them.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“Shut it, byitch,” she drew back the hammer on the gun. “I’m gonna kill you both, then I’m gonna hunt down the rest of your miserable family and kill them all.”

“A woman of limited ambitions,” I said feeling a coldness building up in me.

“Shut it, byitch, or I’ll kill your children in front of you.”

I saw movement behind her and held my breath, I had to distract her.

“So this is what you think is emancipation, do you? Out killing the men?” The comment was hardly out of my mouth when she slapped me in the face.

“I think ye’d better pit doon the gun, ye scunner.” Tom stood behind her holding an umbrella in the back of her neck, presumably pretending it was a gun.

She turned, knocking his ‘weapon’ away and I threw myself on top of her. There was a shot as we hit the ground and I felt a pain in my shoulder. God it hurt! Then everything went black.

Who’s Desdemona? Part 626

I felt someone rolling me over on the floor and pulling me away, the pain was awful and I felt sick. Someone called, “Get something to pack into the wound to stop the bleeding.” I think the voice was Henry’s, and I wondered if this time I was going to die.

“Here, use this,” said Tom’s voice, but I couldn’t feel them doing anything to me.

I tried to move and groaned with the pain, “Cathy, are you okay?” Henry gently stroked my face and I opened my eyes.

“That was a damn fool thing to do, but thank you. You are one brave lady.”

I tried to smile but the pain in my shoulder was so bad. I pointed to my shoulder and felt the tears running down my face. “Your collar bone has gone again, has it?” asked Henry.

“I don’t know, but it really hurts,” Henry helped me into a sitting position. “How is she?” I enquired about our would be assassin.

“Shot by her own gun. There’s an ambulance on its way.”

“Is it safe for an ambulance?” I asked.

“The battle is over, all the bad guys are in custody and the police are coming.”

“It’s over over, or this bit is over?” I asked feeling quite sick.

“This bit certainly, perhaps altogether. Little Olga here is the link to the bad old days of gang warfare.”

“So it was her family, Simon had slaughtered.”

“Remember they attacked us first. All Simon did was help fund the other group, and that was after they kidnapped Stella.”

“Was that grounds for mass murder?”

“We weren’t responsible for that, Cathy.”

“If you funded it, surely you’re partly responsible. If you killed all her family, no wonder she wanted to kill all of us.”

“I didn’t kill anyone, Cathy. It was internecine warfare.”

“But you funded it?”

“I see it more as a donation.”

I shook my head except it hurt my shoulder and I stopped. I began to wonder if I wanted to be involved with this family. Could I live with myself if I did? Through my association with them, I had become a killer myself. Was that their fault, or mine? I had defended my children and Tom, but was that really justification? For a pacifist-by-inclination, I seemed to have some very warlike habits. I was tired, in severe pain and rather confused.

Trish and Mima came out of the hidey-hole and put their arms around me. They were quite sleepy and had slept through most of it. They were curious about the wounded Russian.

“She got hurt in the fighting. We’re waiting for the ambulance. Go back inside the little room and stay there until Grampa Tom or Henry come and get you.”

“Why can’t you come and get us, Mummy?”

“I’ve hurt my shoulder again, so I have to go to the hospital to get it checked out by a doctor.”

“Ambulance is here,” shouted someone, “and another one.”

I learned later that there were nine killed or injured, mostly those who met up with the soldiers in the woods. Two of the parachutists were dead, both those whom I’d fired at amazingly survived, although one had a badly injured spine. They were the equivalent of mercenaries, recruited by organised crime gangs and funded by the Russian group who were run by Olga. If she recovered, she’d spend a long period in prison. It was rumoured she was wanted in Russia as well, although she’d be an old lady by the time she was released by the prison system over here, let alone over there. There she’d probably die in prison murdered or in some dreadful accident and no one would mourn her. Did I admire her or despise her? I wasn’t sure, she had lots of me in her, so maybe I could only despise her, because sometimes I disliked those parts of me.

All I wanted to do was live my own little life, counting dormice and looking after my family, and perhaps helping to conserve wild animals and plants in the face of looming overpopulation of humans and climate change. I knew it was totally futile, poking fingers in the dyke, but I’m British and we love lost causes and underdogs. We do glorious failure better than anyone—we’ve had loads of practice.

The ambulances took away the badly injured, and a paramedic put my arm in a sling and I was ferried to Perth hospital by police car. I didn’t see Olga again, which was a pity, I’d have liked to have talked to her and explained why I did what I did. She somehow disappeared from the hospital and no one seemed to know anything about it.

Six of the invaders died, one of our men had a flesh wound caused by a bullet and I of course had a second fracture of the collar bone, and this time they operated on it—à la Lancie boy. It’s a tiny scar, or will be, but no cycling for at least two months.

I was in hospital for two days before being flown home to Portsmouth by helicopter with the two girls. They were beside themselves with excitement. Tom opted to be driven home, “I’ll nae go in ane o’ yon whirly things, they’ve nae wings tae begin wi’.”

The ACC was found, cringing in a cellar when some of his colleagues stormed the house in Fort William in which he was being held. He apparently resigned on sickness grounds a week or two later, and they gave him early retirement.

Simon gets back from Russia tomorrow, I’m looking forward to that. While I’m waiting, we went by taxi to see Stella and baby Puddin’. Both were doing quite well, Puddin’ can come home in a few days, as soon as my shoulder eases, and Stella is looking forward to coming home too. She goes to see her every day, and feeds her and changes her and most importantly—she holds her.

Stella made quite a fuss of Trish and Mima, that was a lovely surprise for me and I think the girls were pleased as well. Stella was nearly back to her old articulate self.

“What did they say was wrong with me?”

“They weren’t sure, post natal depression or bi-polar disorder were mentioned. Why?”

“Well, the reactive depression is the right answer, arguably with a bit of post natal, for good measure. Now they’ve got me on the right pills, I feel so much better. It’s a long haul and I’m going to need my little sister more than ever.”

We hugged, and both had moist eyes when we parted and I took the girls home. “Is Auntie Stella better, Mummy?”

“She is much better, I’m quite looking forward to having her and the baby home.”

“Me too, Mummy.”

“An’ me,” said Mima, “I wants a baby sister.”

“I want,” I corrected Mima.”

“What, you wants one too, Mummy?”

I give up with this lot.

Watts Done Part 627

I drifted off to sleep thinking about seeing Simon the next day, until I remembered the woman’s voice. I tried to put it out of my mind, but it wasn’t playing, and I tossed and turned for an hour.

I hadn’t told the girls that ‘Daddy’ was coming home so they were busy messing about with bikes and prams in the driveway when Simon’s jaguar pulled in. They rushed shrieking up to see him and he hugged each of them and walked into the house holding their hands. I felt so pleased to see the three of them together—my little family.

I hugged and kissed him, and he gave me a long kiss and very meaningful hug. “I’ve have missed you so much,” I said breathless after his hug.

“So you should,” he smirked and after another kiss he went back out to the car to get his case. He came back in with two children hovering to see what was in his case. I went and put the kettle on to boil.

“Where’s Tom?” he asked digging in his case.

“Popped into the office, so he should be back in about three weeks.”

“Pity he couldn’t have taken Pinky and Perky with him.”

I playfully swatted his arm, “They’ve been waiting for days to see you and what do you do? Wish to be temporarily disposed of them. Hmm some father figure you turned out to be.”

“Okay, okay, so I failed the test. I just wanted to be alone with my beautiful fiancée, just for an hour or two.”

“We have all night, you know?”

“Yeah, okay, if the jet lag doesn’t get me by then.”

“Oh, I think I can make you forget it,” I said winking at him.

“I’ll try, ma’am, I’ll try.”

“Oh, we saw your ancestral pile last week.”

“Oh yeah, a bit OTT, don’tcha think?”

“Maybe, but it’s rather beautiful all the same.”

“Like the women in my life—beautiful.”

“Women?”

“Yeah, you, Trish, Mima, Stella and the baby, and Monica.”

“Is that all?”

“Isn’t that enough? My birthday card fund is rapidly diminishing.” I laughed at his joke, but I was still a little anxious at the recollection of the phone call. “Ah, here we go,” he handed a parcel to Trish and a similar one to Mima. They turned out to be Russian doll sets.

“Don’t I get one?” I asked pouting.

“I thought you were a bit too old for such things.”

I pouted again, “Story of my life,” and shrugged.

“So I got you this,” he handed me a soft package. I tore open the paper and inside was a delicious short, grey silk nightdress.”

“That is so lovely, thank you, Darling,” I kissed him, “I shall wear this tonight,” I said holding it up against myself.

“Put it away, or I shall ravish you here and now in front of the children.”

“Promises, promises,” I teased, but put the nightie back in the plastic bag from which I’d dragged it.

Tom came home mid afternoon, and received a bottle of genuine Russian vodka, it was some ridiculous figure over-proof and would probably taste like industrial alcohol. I got on with the dinner while the two men played ball in the garden with the girls and Kiki. It felt good for there to be some normality in the childrens’ lives after the recent mayhem. I hoped by not discussing it, we’d be able to let it become forgotten, but I doubted it. Only time would tell.

I did a roast chicken dinner with stuffing and roast potatoes, which they all ate and seemingly enjoyed. Dessert was a simple fruit salad and ice cream. It all disappeared, so I assumed I was doing something right.

Then after a few games of snakes and ladders with their daddy, the girls went off to bed, providing he went and read them their bedtime story. He seemed happy to oblige. Seeing him as such a good family man, I wondered if it was worth risking things by asking him awkward questions—but part of me had to know or would live in fear that he was two timing me.

Tom and I had a glass of wine as we cleared the table and I loaded the dishwasher. How did I ever cope without one? Then again, most of my catering had been done for one at university, so it would have taken me a week to fill it.

My mother had taught me the rudiments of cooking, doing a basic roast dinner, making pastry, and a sponge, some stews and casseroles and a few puddings, mainly milk ones like sago and tapioca. Had she realised it had grown into acting as a housewife cum cook, she may not have been so encouraging.

When she saw me, that day she died, and said I was an angel, did she see me, I mean did she recognise me or was I just some girl who appeared as she was in extremis? I suppose I’d never know. In my visions of her post mortem, she had increasingly become seemingly tolerant of my new status—was it self delusion on my part? I thought it probably was, I didn’t go much for ghost stories—then, I didn’t go much for the blue light stuff in healing. There is a lot science has yet to explain, like dark matter and dark energy which makes up a significant proportion of the universe, apparently. Well so the theory goes. I can’t disprove it, so I accept it could well be true.

“A penny for them?” said Simon after kissing me on the back of my neck and making me jump then swoon in his arms.

“Nothing, quantum physics, that’s all.”

“Quantum physics?” he felt my forehead. “There’s no temperature, you alright?”

“Fine, why the sarcasm?”

“Well, it surprises me, that’s all—I mean you’re a biologist and they’re not supposed to be able to get their little brains around anything like quantum mechanics.”

“Okay, you can tell Schroedinger, then.”

“Tell him what?”

“He needs to get more cat food.”
“More cat food? Is this of some esoteric significance?” he asked, then mumbled, “More cat food?” to himself. “No, I can’t see it.”

“Schroedinger and his cat, you know it’s both alive and dead at the same time, so he’d need to buy more cat food.”

“How can his cat be alive and dead at the same time?”

“It’s quantum.”

“Is it? What am I thinking about then, it sure ain’t alive and dead cats.”

“I have no idea, but you can kiss me on the neck again, if you like.”

“What? Like this?”

Which Door? Part 628

Simon and Tom had a glass of wine together but I made myself some tea, I’d had enough alcohol. However, as I had some awkward questions for Simon, I didn’t want to get sleepy myself nor did I want him more than amenable to my interrogation.

I let them chat for a while. Tom brought Simon up to date on out recent activities. “You mean you actually shot someone with a bow and arrows?”

“Yes, I’m not exactly happy with the idea, but …”

“If she hadn’t, the children and we, would be rather dead,” interrupted Tom.

“I can see that, it’s just my little Cathy, barely more than a schoolgirl has turned into this avenging angel figure.”

“Lots of women aristocrats have used martial skills when the occasion demanded it,” said Tom, sipping his wine.

“I suppose they have, but it’s usually leadership rather than hands on killing.” Simon seemed to be having a problem with what I had done. I knew that I had a problem reconciling it, however, I’d hoped he would be supportive of me rather than bemused by it, which seemed to be the present case.

“I bashed another on the head, and firebombed someone too, then shot some up with a spare Kalashnikov.”

“Saving us again, not to mention twa young polis.”

“It’s like Modesty Blaise or Batgirl, not some young mother from Portsmouth. Had you added a scene with Rob Roy and claymores, I couldn’t be any more surprised.”

“You weren’t there, Simon. These people were intent on killing as many of the Camerons as they could. Cathy saved us on three or four occasions, like she did before when they attacked this hoose.”

“How many deaths did you sanction in Russia the first time?” I asked Simon, staring into his eyes and holding the gaze.

“I didn’t exactly sanction any killing.”

“Not even when they abducted Stella?” I asked.

“Not even then. I negotiated with the one group, asking how much they would need to stop the other lot attacking our interests. I didn’t say how.”

“You must have known they’d exterminate each other given the chance?”

“I tried not to think about it. When I did, when I realised how much we’d paid and how many of the bad guys died, I was horrified, except I knew we were safer as a consequence, especially Stella, who is still suffering from her abduction.”

“You must have known what would happen.” I rose from the table. Maybe I would have another glass of wine.

“What did you think about when you hit the bloke on the head?” he asked me.

“Trying not to make a noise, be sick, or shit myself while I was doing it. I was sick just after.”

“I don’t think I’d have the bottle to do that.”

“You might if you had to. I didn’t think I would, but when they were deciding who was going to kill my girls, I knew I had to do something. Sadly, as they were carrying guns, it seemed only some sort of violence would work.”

“How come you had a bow with you?”

“I knew we were under threat. I don’t have a gun nor want one. I would have taken the compound bow but it takes too long to put together once it’s packed down. I can assemble a recurve in two minutes. So that’s what I took. It also packs smaller, and forty pounds was quite enough power to do the job.”

“Robin Hood strikes again,” he said with a combination of incredulity and sarcasm.

“I suspect my accuracy was better with a recurve than his would have been with a long bow.”

“Geez, Cathy, you seem so calm about it all?”

“I try not to think about it. I need to be strong for the girls. Remember, in a few days, Trish starts her new school. She needs me to be there for her.”

“Yes, but…I mean, regular soldiers get problems after action in battle. Yet you seem relatively unaffected by it. I’m astonished, not to put too fine a point on it.”

“Like I said, I need to focus on the girls.”

“Yeah, I heard you.”

“I’m awa’ to my bed. Guid nicht,” Tom patted Simon on the shoulder as he made his way around the table for me to kiss him on the cheek. “I think ye did a grand job.”

“Thanks, Daddy.” He ran his hand across my back as he left.

“Want some more wine?”

“Okay, I have a question for you, seeing as we seem to having a confessional.”

“Yeah, fire away.”

“When you phoned me just before you had dinner a few days ago, who was the woman you were with?”

He looked at me in even greater surprise. “Woman, what woman?”

“She called you darling, and told you to come for dinner.”

“Did she?” He blushed but also seemed genuinely perplexed.

“Please tell me truthfully, are you seeing someone else?”

The sip of wine he’d taken was inhaled and he choked for the next couple of minutes.

“Why, are you going to kill me?” he said still coughing.

“Don’t be ridiculous—I just want to know where I stand. If you are, tell me and then leave. If you’re not, tell me who she was?”

“So you can kill her?”

“Simon, don’t you understand any thing about me? I didn’t kill out of revenge or anger. It was survival—them or us—nothing more. It sounds as if we’re through. I’d like you to leave first thing, before the girls are up. I’ll tell them you were called away to work.”

“Hang about, a minute.”

“No. You’ve indicated there was someone else. Here,” I handed him my engagement ring and tears ran down my cheeks.

“You’re making a mistake, Cathy.”

“No, Simon—I’ve made mistakes. It’s been a nice trip, but it’s over. It’s ironic that involvement with your family helped me become a woman. It also helped me become an executioner.”

“There is no other woman.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Cathy, cross my heart and hope to die, there is no other woman.”

“I heard her, Simon, she called you by name to go to dinner and stop talking on the phone. I heard it.”

“Oh shit!”

“Goodbye.” I got up to walk to the door.

“Cathy, you’re so wrong.”

“I was. Not any more. Goodbye.”

Won Dozen Part 629

How I made it up the stairs to my bedroom, I’ll never know. My heart was breaking and I wanted to die. Simon was saying something behind me, but I was too upset to listen. It was over—the end of a dream. I still had the girls and Tom but it was Simon I fell in love with, and probably always will love. Sadly, I just don’t seem to be able to live with him.

I threw myself on the bed and cried myself to sleep. I awoke some time in the night—it was still dark, my eyes were sore and so was my throat. I had a headache to go with the rest of my symptoms and felt awful when I went to the loo.

I hadn’t even cleaned my teeth, so I did that, then undressing and throwing on a nightdress, I crawled back into bed and tossed and turned and cried some more.

The girls came in sometime later. “Where’s Daddy?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” I said and tried to go back to sleep. I felt like an old dish rag, completely washed out. They both got into bed with me, but they kept whispering to each other over me. “Look, either lie down and be quiet or go back to your own beds, I don’t feel very well.”

“Sowwee, Mummy,” said one voice.

“Soz, Mumsy-wumsy,” said another and they lay down with me. The peace and quiet didn’t last long. They began to fidget and when they heard noises downstairs they went off to investigate. It was Tom apparently, because he brought me up a cup of tea.

“Cathy, I’ve brought you some tea.”

“Thank you, Daddy.”

“Where’s Simon?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, positive. I asked him to leave, where he went, I have no idea.”

“For whit did ye ask him tae go?”

“He was two timing me.”

“Whit? Are ye sure?”

“I think so. I confronted him last night and threw him out.”

“Did he confess then?”

“Not exactly, but near enough for me.”

“Ye can be awfu’ hasty, lassie.”

“Yeah, well, I gave him another chance last time he upset me. This was his last one and he blew it.”

“I see. Whit aboot the bairns, d’they hae nae say in things?”

“Why should they? It’s me who’s fostering them.”

“Aye, but they’re very attached to Simon, that’s all.”

“Okay, well bloody get Simon back and I’ll go. How’s that?” I threw the mug of tea into the fireplace where it shattered on the hearth. Then I pulled the clothes over my head and refused to speak with him.

I heard him clear up the mess. I was truly sorry for that, I really was, but I was too upset to say so. Why couldn’t he just have left me alone? That was all I wanted.

As soon as I heard him leave, I quickly washed and dressed and sneaked downstairs and out the door to my car. I drove off, not knowing where I was going or how to get there. I ended up on top of the Downs in a car park for a viewing point. I sat and cried for a while, then I got out and wrapping myself up tightly in my coat, I went for a walk.

I have no idea how long I was away, but when I got back some bastard had broken a window and nicked my spare wheel, along with my jack and toolkit. The boot was still open. I howled first with hopelessness, then with anger.

I drove home and called the police, then went on the internet and organised repairs and a new wheel and tools. It was going to cost me several hundred, so I called my insurance company and made a claim.

The girls were out with Tom and Kiki, where they’d gone and when, I had no idea, but my tummy began to rumble so I made some tea and a sandwich. I used up the last of the bread, so filled and switched on the breadmaker machine.

I checked my mobile: Henry had called—probably to sack me. After what had happened this morning, I was ready to tell the Queen herself, where to go. I’d be better off well away from the Camerons altogether.

“Hello, Henry, you asked me to call you back.”

“Yes m’dear, I did. I had Simon on the phone early this morning, did a chap out of his beauty sleep, ya know.”

“Is that it?” I asked feeling increasingly irritable.

“No, now I have no idea what went on between you two last night, but Simon is absolutely gutted.”

“I threw him out.”

“What, physically? With your bad shoulder—a might dangerous, in my opinion.”

“No, I asked him to leave and gave him his ring back.”

There was a snorting sound the other end and I had half a mind to put the receiver down. “Whatever for?”

“He was two timing me.”

“We are talking about Simon, here, aren’t we?”

“Of course, who else?”

“Well, quite honestly, I can’t see him two timing you if he wanted to.”

“Why not?” I demanded.

“Firstly, because he loves you to bits; secondly because he wouldn’t have the gumption and finally, because I’d kill him myself.”

“That would do a lot of good, wouldn’t it?”

“Mebbe, mebbe not. There is no way he was betraying you.”

“I heard the woman call him to dinner, called him ‘darling’, or ‘darling Simon’, I heard it on the phone.”

“Before he went to Russia?”

“Well, yes”—duh, these aristos were too thick to know how to breath and walk at the same time.

“Hmm, he did go to dinner with Lady Lancaster, before he went away; she has contacts in Russia.”

“It was another sort of contact she was after, I could tell from the tone of her voice.”

“She’s old enough to be his mother, and she calls everyone darling.”

Wall Dower Part 630

“Oh my God! I’ve made an awful mistake, haven’t I?” I felt tears form and start dribbling down my cheeks.

“Only you will know that, my girl.”

“Do you know where Simon is?”

“I could probably find him.”

“Could you?”

“What did you have in mind?”

“I need to apologise to him.”

“What if it’s too late, Cathy?”

“Then I have to accept the consequences, don’t I?”

“I’m not at all happy about all of this, but I’ll see what I can do.”

“I’m not trying to wriggle out of any of my responsibility, but he was a bit snotty about last week.”

“What, about your abduction?”

“Yes, he seemed disappointed, yes disappointed, that I’d hurt or killed people.”

“I wonder what he’d have done in the circumstances. Once this is over, I shall take him to task over that for you.”

“It did put me on the back foot, and he was so evasive about who the mystery woman was.”

“Well, unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s who I said it was. Once again, I’ll do some surreptitious investigation on that front. Does that sound too Irish? Surreptitious and front?”

Despite my sadness, I chuckled at Henry teasing himself. “You are funny, Henry.”

“Yeah, so Monica keeps telling me—only she calls me a joke at times.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Look, I’ll see if I can find out where he’s holed up.”

“Thanks, Henry, I do love him.”

“I didn’t say you didn’t.”

“No, you didn’t.”

He rang off and I put down the receiver and felt so stupid. I wanted to beat my head against a wall or something, I deserved to be punished for this. I banged my hand on the table and jolted my shoulder—a pain shot through it and made my eyes water.

I had to learn to be less judgemental—I know I keep telling myself this, but maybe it’s something Simon needs to learn as well. Loving someone isn’t enough, it takes more than that—as we both know, now.

I was deep in my reverie when the phoned peeped and I jumped. “Hello?”

“Hi, lassie, it’s Tom, we’ll be back in an ‘oor or twa. Just thought I’d best touch base wi’ ye.”

“Okay, are the girls all right?” What a stupid question.

“Aye, course they are, ye want tae speak wi’ them?”

“No, it’s okay, I’ll see them later. I seem to have made a horrible mistake with Simon and I’m trying to sort it. I don’t know if he’ll want me back now.”

“I hope so. Talk tae ye later.”

“Thanks, Daddy, and I’m sorry about this morning.”

“Ye can wash thon wall doon later.”

“Okay.”

I replaced the handset and it almost immediately rang. “Simon’s in the hospital, he’s taken an overdose of pills. They just phoned me.”

“Oh no!” I gasped. “I’m on my way.” I grabbed my bag then remembered the broken side window on my car. I ran in, got some clear plastic sheeting and some duct tape, and in twenty minutes I’d sealed it as well as I could. The garage would fix it tomorrow.

I absolutely hammered to the hospital. It was amazing that I didn’t have an accident en route, but more amazing, all the lights were at green. Maybe there is a G.., nah let’s not go there.

Henry was seated near the door waiting for me. I rushed up to him and we embraced. “How is he?” I asked after catching my breath.

“He’s unconscious, which is never a good sign, so they say. They don’t know what he took, but he drank a bottle of wine with it.”

“This is all my fault.”

“Cathy, we can deal with the recrimination after all this is sorted. Let’s get him off the critical list first.”

“Okay,” I sat next to him and he put his arm around me. I leaned into his shoulder. ZMy eyes were still dribbling tears, but I felt better for the physical contact with someone with whom I felt safe.

“You have to be strong, Cathy, we need you to help him get over this.”

“Of course, I’ll do anything.”

“I know, sweetheart, I know.” He kissed me on top of the head.

I suddenly remembered Tom and the girls. I sent him a text. ’@ QA hosp Si very ill. Will call when I can. Love C.xxx

Ten minutes later Tom texted me back, All under c’trol here. We send our love 2 both of ye. T xxx.

“Good man, Tom, reminds me of my old headmaster. Very straight and to the point,” Henry said to the top of my head, as I’d snuggled back into his shoulder again.

“Mine was a thug. Called me a pansy because I wasn’t much good at football.”

“And your father stood for that?”

“I didn’t tell him, but I won the cross country a couple of months later. Shut the old bastard up. It nearly choked him when he announced it in assembly. He had to check first when he saw my name on it. Left me alone after that.”

“Didn’t he encourage you to run for the school?”

“I told him I wouldn’t, as I was such a pansy.”

“What did he say to that?”

“He turned purple with rage and told me, I was in deep shit. I replied, ‘That’s okay, it’ll make me grow.’ He practically exploded on the spot and stormed off, probably before he hit me.”

“You do seem to have this ability to bring out the best in people,” said Henry. I pulled away and pouted, then noticed his eyes sparkling and we both smiled.

“Mr Cameron,” called a nurse.

“Here,” called Henry back to her—we both stood up and walked towards the nurse.

“You can go in, now.”

“How is he?” I asked.

“And you are?” she asked.

“His fiancée,” I said, feeling a sense of dread.

“Was he taking any tablets?” she asked me.

“Not as far as I know. No, I’m sure he wasn’t.”

“We’re not sure what he took, so we’re treating it very carefully. It’s probably paracetamol, in which case we have to wait for a liver function test. We’ve given him methionine, just in case.”

“What’s methio wotsit?”

“The antidote for paracetamol. Any idea when he did this?”

“We rowed last night, and I went to bed. I have no idea what happened after that.”

“Okay, be careful what you say to him. He might be unconscious, but we don’t know he can’t hear you.”

“Okay, I’ll be careful with him.”

I followed Henry into the room. There was my Simon, lying absolutely still with all these drips and machines attached to him. I felt physically sick. This was all my fault. I took a deep breath and walked up to him.

“Hello, Simon,” I took his hand and rubbed it between mine, “It’s Cathy, I’ve come to take you home. I love you so much, and the girls are waiting for you. Please get better, we all need you.” Then I knelt by his bedside and prayed.

Wiley Dormouse-ee Part 631

Cathy sank to her knees and still holding Simon’s limp hand between hers, she kissed his fingers and began to silently pray that he would recover fully. She prayed to the universe, to the God she didn’t believe in, to Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Did it help? She’d never know, but Henry stood at the foot of the bed astonished by what he thought he could see happening.

He was sure he could see Cathy surrounded by—well, a halo of white light—and a blue light was passing from her hands into Simon’s arm and thence his whole body.

He rubbed his eyes and the vision was still there. If it was an illusion, optical or other, he didn’t care if it gave Simon any better chance of survival. This girl was remarkable, Tom had said so, Simon had said so and now he was thinking it.

He heard footsteps approaching and a nurse bustled towards the room, Henry, thinking quickly intercepted her and took her back out again. He bought Cathy, maybe another five minutes to work her magic, if that was what she was doing.

Cathy felt as if she was in a trance, mumbling to herself a mantra of, I love you, please get better, as she felt something happening between the two of them. She didn’t know what, but it seemed something like what had happened when she stood touching Puddin. She tried not to think about it, if it was happening, then she didn’t want to influence it, so she carried on with her mantra, saying it aloud, it getting higher in volume as the moments passed.

As the nurse returned to take Simon’s blood pressure, which had been very low, she heard him cough a couple of times and the woman’s voice stopped and gasped.

Cathy hauled herself to her feet and looked at Simon, his eyes were fluttering. Then they opened and she kissed him. He recognised her and smiled, “You’re in heaven too?”

“Me, no, I’m going the other way,” I replied smiling at him, “Welcome back to earth, your lordship.”

“I thought we were through?” he said hoarsely.

“Now why would you think that? You don’t think I’d let a catch like you slip away, do you?”

“Catch? You’d be better off with a net full of herring,” he said back to me.

“Do you want a drink?” I asked him.

“Please, my throat is parched.” I poured him one and placing the straw in it, guided it to his mouth. “Thanks, that’s better.”

“What did you take?” I asked him.

“Paracetamol, about thirty of them.”

“Why, Simon?”

“I thought I’d lost you and didn’t want to live with out you.”

“Oh, Simon, you haven’t lost me, I love you too much for that. I’ll never let you go again, I promise.” Tears were streaming down my face as I hugged him, so tightly I was in danger of breaking his ribs. My shoulder was hurting like hell, but I didn’t care about that.

“Excuse me, but I have to take his blood pressure,” the nurse bustled in and proceeded to wrap a cuff around his arm. “How do you feel?” she asked.

“Awful, stupid isn’t it, all those pills and I’ve got a headache.”

“I always thought I was a pain in the neck,” I said trying to keep him smiling.

“Neck, nah, much lower than that, rhymes with farce.”

“Gee thanks, Lord Cameron.”

“Your welcome, Lady C.”

“You’re not a lord, are you?” asked the nurse.

“’Fraid so, you’re not going to throw me out are you?”

“You’re joking in ya?”

“He’s not, and the gentleman behind you is his dad, Henry Cameron, Lord Stanebury.”

“Never! Well I’ll be blowed, it’s like the ‘Ouse o’ Lords ‘ere, innit? Cor blimey, an’ there was me thinkin’ you was just an or’nary punter with an un’appy love life.”

“Yeah, well, hopefully that’s on the mend now.”

“Oh, the consultant is coming to see you later.”

“Okay, I’ll try and be here,” said Simon, weakly. He was beginning to fade and closed his eyes. I held his hand, the feeling from earlier had gone, which meant either he was getting worse or he’d taken as much energy as he needed for the moment. I looked at Henry, and we decided to wait for the consultant. Simon slept while Henry and I sat waiting trying to keep still and sane. I was worried to death.

About an hour later, a Mr Armstrong, arrived the hepatic surgeon. I hoped his first name wasn’t Lance because I’d not be able to take him seriously. Seeing that Simon was still sleeping, he spoke to us first.

“It’s not good, I’m afraid. He’s done considerable damage to his liver. I’m going to suggest placing him on the list for a transplant.”

“It’s that bad?” gasped Henry. I was too shocked to speak at all, just this coldness spreading from my solar plexus began to cover my entire body.

“Are you alright, my dear,” said the surgeon, and helped me to a chair.

“Liver transplant? It’s all my fault,” I said in a monotone.

“From what I understand he took the pills by himself, which means in my book, it’s self inflicted. So you’re not to blame, whatever you might think.”

“Oh geez, what are we going to do?”

“Well, I’m going to order some new bloods, just to see how bad the damage is, check a few enzymes. The liver has a capacity to repair itself, but from what we saw in the earlier tests, it looked beyond that. Still miracles are said to happen, mind you, I don’t see many of them. Take care young lady, get yourself a cuppa or something.” He nodded at Henry and left.

“Oh shit, what are we going to do, Henry?” I wanted to cry but was too shocked to even manage a few tears, I felt absolutely helpless. What would the girls say if he died? They’d blame me when they found out. I’d spoiled it for everyone—I’m totally useless.

“We’re going upstairs for that cuppa, you look like shit warmed up, then we’re coming down again and you’re going to put the fluence on him again.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked feeling sick to my stomach and he was babbling like a mountain brook.

“I’m talking about what you used to do with Stella’s baby. I saw the blue light going from you to Simon. Come on, let’s get a cuppa and you can zap him some more.”

“I don’t know if I can,” I said feeling even more inadequate.

“What d’you mean, you don’t know if you can?”

“Well, I have no control over it, it either happens or it doesn’t.”

“Well I reckon we’ve got maybe half an hour for you to get some control over it and get back there and zap my son.”

“And if I can’t.”

“He’s going to die.”

Wombat Drawers Part 632

We sat in the cafeteria, Henry sipping his coffee while I fretted over my tea. We each had a slice of carrot cake, mine was a bit dry, so I left most of it. How was I going to help Simon? I didn’t know if I could other than when he came home—I’d look after him like he was my baby. I envisioned myself looking after him at home.

“What are you smiling at?” asked Henry.

“I was just thinking about getting Simon home and looking after him.”

“What about your films and the university?”

“They come second to my family, as you well know.”

“They could also make you a very wealthy young lady.”

“I’m not into money, Henry, you know that.”

“If everyone took that attitude, young lady, there’d be no need for banks.”

“Would that be a bad thing?”

“From my perspective, of course it would, and I think Simon would agree with me.”

“Material wealth doesn’t make people happy.”

“Says who?”

“Oliver James for one. His book Affluenza shows his study of the of the subject for some time. He believes that the more we have the more unhappy we become.”

“What’s he, a part-time lunatic?”

“No a clinical psychologist.”

“Much the same.”

“He says that we are so busy chasing wealth that we have forgotten how to enjoy the best things in life.”

“Like what?”

“Our families and our friends. Giving children your time is the most valuable thing you can do.”

“They used to say that about education. So I sent mine off to public school at great expense.”

“Did you really believe that’s why you were sending them? Or was it because you’d been sent to one and it was the family custom?”

“Have you been talking to Stella?”

“Why? Do I detect some dissension from the party line?”

“She hated it.”

“Ah, do a I get a moral bonus point?”

“Certainly not, I’m a banker, remember? No soul, no conscience and no compassion.”

“So, I can go home now and leave your son to his fate, can I?”

“I said that related to me, not you. You’re female, you’re supposed to care.”

“That’s a bit stereotypical isn’t it? You Tarzan, me Jane?”

“Whatever, come on let’s go and find out what’s happening.” I rose from the table and we left

The nurse approached us as we went back towards Simon’s room. “Mr Armstrong said to tell you that Simon’s results look better than he thought, he’s running some more tests to confirm them.”

The first good news we’d heard, we both smiled and thanked her, she bustled off with a beaming smile that threatened to crack her face right the way across.

Simon was awake but very weary. “So what did the doctor have to say?” I asked

“He apologised but said there was a good chance I might live, sorry to disappoint you.” Simon smiled weakly.

“I expect we’ll manage to cope with it.”

“There is one thing.”

“What’s that?” I asked and he beckoned me towards him. I leant over him, and he grabbed my hand. “Will you marry me, Cathy?”

“If you promise to get better as soon as you can, and help me look after my two unruly foster children.”

“Can I think about it?” he said which wasn’t what I was expecting.

“That’s not fair,” I protested, “how long will you need?”

“About as long as it takes you to kiss me.”

“As long as that?” I snapped back at him. Then I kissed him, it hurt my shoulder, but what the hell?

“I feel like a puppet with all these wires and things on my arms.”

“That might be better than a glove puppet,” said Henry.

“Why?” I asked not getting with the joke at all.

“Think Sooty and Sweep,” said Simon. I still felt puzzled, so he pretended to ram his hand up something. It took me a moment, then I saw the funny side of it and chuckled.

Henry was watching us and laughed at my reactions, “Goodness you’re slow today, girl.”

“Sorry I wasn’t thinking along the same lines at all.”

“That I think was plain to see. Right are you going to zap him?”

“What?” said Simon looking worried.

“Why do you think you’re still here?”

“They gave me the antidote for the paracetamol, that’s why.”

“No, it’s because Cathy here zapped some of her magical power into you. That’s why.”

I blushed and shrugged my shoulders, I tended to side with Simon rather than his dad, but I wasn’t going to say anything.

“Let her take your hand,” said Henry.

“Will she bring it back?” asked Simon facetiously.

“Don’t mock those things you can’t explain.”

“What? D’you mean women?”

“Simon, shut up,” I said and took his hand and held it between mine.

“Oh, I can feel the magic already,” squeaked Simon.

“Shut up you buffoon,” barked Henry, sounding like a sergeant major.

“Yes, sir,” Simon went deep scarlet and shut up.

Witchery Draught-excluders Part 633

I held Simon’s hand but felt an urge to place my right hand over his tummy. I ignored it, but it almost demanded that I do so—so I did—if only to see what would happen next.

He gave me a strange look as I laid my right hand on his abdomen. Then a moment later he said, “Cor, your hand is getting warm…no it isn’t it’s bloody hot…geez…it’s practically on fire.” He was getting rather red in the face and sweat was beginning to bead around his upper lip.

I kept my hand on his tum, and the other on his wrist. He closed his eyes and seemed to drift off to sleep. “Is he dead?” asked an apprehensive Henry.

“No, course not, he’s just asleep.” I smirked, as much from embarrassment as anything, because I had wondered the same myself. However, I could feel the pulse in his wrist, so I knew that he was still with us.

I felt an ache in my arm and pulled it away from his tummy and I also let go his wrist. “I think he needs to sleep for a while.”

“Is that just so you can make a quick getaway?” asked Henry, suspiciously. “Remember, I’m a witness to what happened.”

“Witness, you’re the instigator, I didn’t want to try it, if you recall.”

“Hmm, instigator indeed, I’m an innocent, I tell you,” Henry could be charming, today he was proving to be a nuisance.

“Can’t you two go outside and fight, someone’s trying to sleep here?” We both looked around to see Simon with one eye open and sticking out his tongue at us. For a moment I thought he was having a seizure, instead it was merely an expression of rudeness.

“I must go and see the girls,” I said and picked up my jacket and bag.

“Yes, I’d better go too, see you later, son.”

“Bye,” said Simon and he yawned as we left.

“What was happening?”

“Nothing much, if there was any energy transfer, I couldn’t see anything or feel very much.”

“But he complained about the heat.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’m convinced you have healing powers, Cathy.”

“Whoopee doo,” I said and walked on.

“Don’t mock it, you could lose it.”

“Lose what?”

“Your gift.”

“Which gift is that, the ability to kill people with a bow and arrow, or leap over tall buildings at a single bound?”

“You shouldn’t mock it, you have amazing powers.”

“I don’t think they’d show up in a laboratory—let’s face it Henry, for a case hardened banker, you’re a bit gullible at times. I reckon Simon was taking the piss, I couldn’t feel anything getting warmer, let alone hot.”

“Here, try touching my leg,” he plonked himself down on a bench seat.

“I beg your pardon?” I said raising an eyebrow.

“I didn’t mean it like that, as you well know. Have a go at healing my ankle.”

“I thought your ankle was healed.”

“Not entirely, please, Cathy, have a go at it.”

“Okay, but don’t blame me if nothing happens. Remember what happened to the old lady who was healed at a happy clappy church service.”

“No, what happened to her?”

“She leapt out of her wheelchair, shouting, she could walk.”

“A miracle then?”

“No it wasn’t, she tried to take a step and fell flat on her face. There’s no such thing as miracles, Henry, just events we haven’t yet understood enough to explain and replicate.”

“In your precious laboratory, no doubt?”

“No doubt—don’t get all snotty with me, Henry; I told you from the outset that I didn’t believe any of it. I still don’t.”

“So how did Simon get hot?”

“Who said he did?”

“He did.”

“Henry, there could be a million and one reasons why he got hot; including an infection in his liver or some reaction to the paracetamol or the antidote. Maybe he just got excited, plus my hands are warm usually, so against his skin, it could have felt hot.”

“He was hot, I could see him perspiring.”

“He was sweating, possibly wondering where I was going to put my hands next?”

“Here,” Henry pulled up his trouser leg to reveal his bandaged ankle. “Do you need the bandage off?”

“I doubt it, because nothing is going to happen.” I put a hand either side of Henry’s ankle, on the bony bits they call the malleoli—or ankle bones. His ankle wasn’t very warm, not compared to my warm puddies. However, this time I felt something happen, like a sort of cool draft tickling the palms of my hands.

“Hot? My ankle is bloody freezing. You sure you have warm hands?”

“Yes, here.” I held out a hand for him to touch with his.

“Goodness, so it is. So why does my leg feel cold?”

“Maybe, it’s your punishment for being so pushy, you know sort of freezing to death, instead of turning into a block of salt.”

“That only happens to women,” he snapped back, “Keep going on the ankle, the pain is easing.”

“What pain?”

“The pain I always have there, since my car accident.”

“See placebo affect. It’s all in your head not your leg.” I wasn’t complying with his self delusions.

“Oh that feels so much better, can you try the other one,” he switched legs and I duly obliged while making disparaging remarks.

I put my hands on the second ankle, and played about with positioning. At one point I felt like an electric current going between my hands—weird or what? He physically jumped at that point. I tried to replicate it just to annoy him, but it wouldn’t happen again. This leg did get rather warm under my right hand. Healing or imagination? You tell me.

It had some benefit for him, he was deluded enough to reckon he could walk a bit faster and farther than he could since the accident. I wanted to run away before he fell arse over tip, but he didn’t, he walked faster and claimed he was in no pain. I decided he must have self hypnotised.

Witch Ditch Part 634

I drove back home, thinking only of the girls: I needed a cuddle with them and to reassure them that things were okay. Mima would probably believe me without too much difficulty but Trish was another matter.

Glancing in the rear view mirror, I noticed dark rings under my eyes and it wasn’t makeup of any sort, this was tiredness. I hoped I would sleep tonight. I know the hospital were being cagey, which I understood, but I had a feeling that Simon was going to be okay.

Then I suddenly thought, my God, Trish starts school in a few days, and apart from buying her uniform, I haven’t given it a single thought. I felt a hot flush of embarrassment rise up from somewhere near my big toes and rush up to my scalp. I needed to get a grip on things and I was so tired. I yawned, sleep would be wonderful—but not while I’m driving.

I hoped Tom would have taken the bread from the machine, but it wasn’t certain. Oh well, nearly home. I pulled into the drive and felt my shoulder, which was throbbing away to itself. If I had real healing powers, I should be able to stop the pain it was causing me—or was that simple hubris? Was there a goddess of collar bones—Clavicula? If so I asked for her help.

Then I tried to put two hands near the pain. It’s difficult unless you’re a rubber jointed contortionist with very long arms. I’m not, so I couldn’t. I did place my right hand over the area and held the left hand on my chest over my heart. I visualised some sort of blue light emanating from my right hand into the wound and it healing. I also visualised it getting colder, thinking cold might stop the pain.

It didn’t, and I jumped out of my skin when there was a bang on the car door. “Mummy, come on inside, Grampa Tom is getting worried about you.”

“Okay, sweetheart, I’m coming.” I opened the door and got out of my tin box, now I had to interact with the real world again, frightening stuff. I also had to explain why Simon was in hospital. Maybe I could get in the car and drive off quickly before they noticed. Trish had hold of my hand.

“We had a lovely day with Gramps. He took us to a restaurant for lunch and we had …”

“Chicken curry?” I suggested.

“Yes, how did you know that, Mummy, are you septic?”

“I hope not, I think you might mean psychic.”

“What does cyclic mean?”

“Cyclic, means happening in cycles, psychic means…oh I dunno, being aware of things other people aren’t generally aware of.”

“Like what?”

“Mood or almost appearing to read their mind.”

“Sounds scary to me, Mummy. I don’t want anyone to read my mind in case they discover what I’m trying to hide.”

“Which is?”

“My um,” she blushed.

“Oh that, yes, I take your point. I keep forgetting you’re not a girl, I mean a full girl.”

“Am I foow girw?” asked Mima.

“You are nobody’s fool, kiddo.” She looked puzzled and we all began to hug and laugh.

“I’m gwad you home, Mummy.”

“I am, too, honeybunch.” They led me into the house and towards Tom.

“How’re ye?” He held out his arms and moments later I was engulfed in a huge hug. The pain in my shoulder was awful, but for a moment I was safe in the arms of someone who loved me and cared for me, and would do his best to protect me. So despite the pain, it was delicious. Then I became aware of two set of hands hugging my legs. I began to cry—with happiness.

“Whit’s tha matter noo?”

“Nothing, Daddy, I’m just happy. Sorry, I can’t help it.” I sobbed on his shoulder, a release of tension and security—I couldn’t stop the tears. Of course it started Trish off and then like a domino effect, Mima soon followed suit.

Tom sighed and said under his breath, “Lassies—whit’ll I dae?”

After things settled down, we had cheese and fresh bread with salad for our teas. It was enough for me and hopefully for the others too. I had to read the girls their bedtime story—in case I disappeared again. I also told them that Simon had been taken ill, but they were fixing him in hospital.

Trish had asked if they could visit, I was tempted to let them, then decided it might prove counter productive and with the infections that seem to hang about hospitals these days, they’d be better to wait and see him when he got home. They accepted my ruling, but only when I said we’d make a banner to hang across the door for him when he did come home.

I was also going to make a cake tomorrow, the birthday cake that Trish didn’t get. I was tempted to make it tonight, but instead, decided an early night would be more use, and they could both help me tomorrow.

They eventually fell asleep, I don’t know how many times I’ve read them the Princess and the Pea but they never seem to tire of it. Meems argued that she’d wouldn’t be able to detect something as small as a pea under a dozen mattresses. Trish, however, felt it was possible, and that, “Mummy is a lady, which is next to a princess, she’d be able to tell, wouldn’t you, Mummy?”

Just what my life needed—more controversy. I gave an answer that was the height of diplomacy. “I don’t know sweetheart, we don’t have dried peas nor loads of mattresses, so I suppose we’ll never know.”

“So how was Simon?” asked Tom.

“I think he’s on the mend, silly fool took an overdose of paracetamol, nearly wiped out his liver. Fortunately, they gave him the antidote, so I live in hopes.”

“Whit for did he dae it?”

“He thought we’d finished and he didn’t want to live without me.”

“I think there may be three others here, wha’d think like that.”

“Oh, Daddy, I’d never leave you and the girls unless you wanted me to go.”

“Is that a promise?” he asked.

“Cross my heart,” I said and drew a cross on my chest.

“Well, a ladies’ word is guid enough fer me.”

“Even one as unreliable as me?”

“Aye, e’en one like ye.”

“Thank you, Daddy.”

“Yer welcome, lassie, noo I’m awa’ tae ma bed, I suggest ye dae tha same.”

“I think that’s unanimous, Daddy.”

“Guid.”

I called the hospital. Simon was sleeping, but he’d had a small snack to eat and seemed a little better. The nurse told me she’d tell him I rang. Tomorrow we’d make a card from the girls—a get well card. I went to bed feeling a bit better myself and seemed to sleep more easily.

In the middle of the night, I felt a small body climb into bed and cling to me. I rolled over and put my arm around Trish, who snuggled into me. “I’m not going anywhere, you know.”

She put her arm around my waist, “I love you, Mummy, and I want you to be my mummy for ever and ever.”

Wans Dyke Part 635

I slept like the proverbial log, until t’other terror joined the party somewhere about six o’clock. Holding both my foster brats, reminded me I hadn’t been to see Puddin’ for a few days. I presumed she was getting on fine without my help, but it would be good to see Stella again. She was still my sister in all but birth, and I was very fond of her—which I think was reciprocated. I know she’d tried to kill me on occasion, but then so had a few people, my father included.

Thinking about people who’d tried to kill me, and I’m deliberately excluding those who try it while I’m on my bike, I wondered what had happened to the most recent member of the Kill Cathy Club, Olga wossername, the Russian assassin. I’d been told by the police that she had either escaped or been freed by some of her gang. They had also warned me to stay vigilant. Somehow I knew I would never have to fear her again, and I didn’t really feel it was because she was dead. She felt very much alive but somehow had moved on beyond all the violence. I could be wrong, and it could cost me my life, but I just felt that I knew these things. Maybe I am septic as Trish put it, or was it cyclic?

Two more days and she goes off to school, I must check her uniform in case it needs ironing. It would be nice if Simon was home to see her go off on her first day. I know I shall cry, I just know it.

The joys of parenthood, sadly in a vicarious way through other peoples’ kids. At least I have been called, mummy, which is a term I never thought I’d hear applied to me. Maybe miracles do happen? I’m sure there must be more children out there in need of a mother or surrogate one, and I don’t mean those who carry the baby in utero for someone else—sort of ‘womb to let’.

The alarm went off and interrupted my musings, the girls were ready for breakfast, so we quickly showered and dressed. Trish made me do a double take—she had appeared not to have any genitals. Somehow she was walking with her little willie tucked between and behind her, and was walking with it in that position, with no clothes on. When I got the chance to make a discreet comment, I suggested she didn’t do that in case she hurt herself.

“If it fell off, I’d feel much better,” was her response.

“Not really, sweetheart, the surgeon will need all the material he can find to make the alterations to it. If you’ve damaged it or caused it to shrivel up or drop off, you might regret it.”

“I hate it, Mummy, I really do.”

“I know, sweetheart, I felt the same until, I realised I was going to get it recycled rather than removed. It might be splitting hairs, but it helped me to stop hating what is more or less just a flap of skin.”

“Yes, but it’s a bit of skin which makes me a boy.”

“Only in some peoples’ eyes. In reality, being a boy or girl, or even a man or woman, is much more than the shape of your genitalia. It’s much more complex, which is why I sometimes think looking for a cause and possibly a cure, is so futile.”

“Aren’t you cured, Mummy?”

“I suppose I am in some ways, I’m no longer transsexual, as far as that goes, I’m officially female—at least on paper and in the eyes of the law. I also have to send my tax affairs to Cardiff.”

“What are tax affairs, Mummy?”

“The government needs money to do what it does—build schools, roads, run the army and navy, police and so on. They get that money from us, the tax payers. They have the right to tax us on how much we earn, and on various other ways too complex to mention, but every time you buy something, you pay a tax on it.

“The home you were in probably got money to look after you from the government.”

“Ugh, I don’t want to go there again, it was yuck.” She made a vomiting noise, so I got the picture quite distinctly. I gave her a hug and reassured her, that I would do all I could to keep her with me.

“One of the boys there, got adopted, can’t you adopt me?”

“Not for the moment, it would be easier after Simon and I marry, I think.”

“Why can’t you get married then?”

“For several reasons. One is it will be a big wedding, and that takes lots of planning.”

“Are you planning it, then?” she asked quite abruptly.

“What do you mean, young lady? And I’m not sure I like that tone.”

“Sozzy, Mummy, I didn’t mean to be nasty—you won’t send me back there will you?”

“What and waste that uniform?—I suppose I could put it away until Mima was old enough…”

“No, Mummy, please don’t send me back, they hurt me there, I’d rather be dead than go back there…”

I grabbed her and hugged her, “Hey, no one is sending you anywhere except to school, the day after tomorrow.”

“You said you were going to give my uniform to Meems,” she sobbed in my arms.

“You, silly goose, I told you a moment ago that you were welcome to stay with me as long as you want, and I will be your foster mummy.”

“I want you to be my mummy for always and always. I never want to go back to that home or my old mummy—they’re horrible.” She was now getting quite upset.

“It’s okay, honeybunch, you’re staying here with me, and Simon and Tom and Mima. No one is trying to make you go anywhere but school, which I believe you wish to attend—isn’t that so?”

“Yes, Mummy, but I want to be able to come home to you as well afterwards.”

“Of course you will, you only go to school for five or six hours a day.”

“Do I have to go for all of that, Mummy? It sounds an awful lot to me.”

“Yes you do, the first day or two they might be a bit shorter days, but you’ll have to go for the required length. It’s the law, and we have to obey it or they will be taking you away from me.”

She held on to me with renewed vigour, “I’ll go to school, Mummy, don’t let them take me away.”

“I won’t, sweetheart, I won’t.” I hugged her again and she finally felt reassured enough to let go of me. “Come on, let’s go and do some shopping, we need food and stuff and I’ll buy you a few sweeties.”

“Is Meems coming, too,” she asked.

“If she wants.”

“Shall I go and ask her?”

“Yes, that would be helpful, thank you, darling.” She rushed off to find Mima while I gathered up some bags to take with us. I was trying not to use carrier bags from stores, I had a house full of them as well as dozens of ‘bags for life’ from a dozen stores. In this house they were almost as big a nuisance as the disposable bags.

“What we gonna buy, Mummy?” asked Mima as she came to see me.

“Food mostly, then we’re going to bake a cake and ice it later on.”

“Can I hewp you bake a cake?” This was all said in one breath and in a monotone.

“You certainly can help me.”

“Oh goody, we gonna make a cake, Gwamps.”

“Are ye noo, well I’d better get a slice of it, or there’ll be a michty row.”

She looked quite apprehensive at what Tom said. Mind you it might have been she didn’t understand him.

“I think we’ll be able to find Gramps a slice don’t you, Meems?”

“Yes, Mummy,” she said hanging on to my legs.

“Aye, it’s a sair fecht,” said Tom and wandered off into his study.

Whale Dentists Part 636

We did our shopping and I sent the girls into the house ahead of me while I went to collect the last bag of groceries. I bent to pick the bag out of the car and something hard was poked in my back. “Get in the car,” said a female voice.

“So you can kill me?” I spat back.

“If I wanted to kill you, I could have done so already, and also your two children.”

“If I get into the car will you promise me you’ll leave my girls alone?”

“If you don’t get in the car, I won’t promise you anything.”

Hoping that I would be able to work out an escape later. I got in the driver’s seat and the mysterious female got in behind me. In the rear-view mirror, I could see a gun pointed at my head. I swallowed and started the engine. I pulled the car up to the end of the drive, “Where do you want to go?” Presuming she wanted to find somewhere quiet to kill me.

“This gun is pointed at your spine, so don’t do anything foolish, unless you wish to die.”

She seemed to know where she wanted to go and instructed me to drive up to the downs. I felt as if I should be seeing my life flash before me, but keeping my sweaty hands on the wheel was difficult enough.

Finally, she made me turn into a small car park, I’d never seen before, which looked a bit like an old chalk quarry. A good place to shoot someone, I thought.

My mind was racing, trying to work out how to escape, except there was no way. This car would be my coffin, and she might well set fire to it afterwards to destroy evidence. If she did, I hoped she killed me quickly. I felt a tear run down my face as I realised I’d never see the children or Simon again.

I stopped the car and pulled up the handbrake. “Switch off the engine and drop the keys on the floor.” I did as I was told, it seemed to me to be a strange instruction.

“You’re Olga, aren’t you?” I posited.

“Yes, I am.”

“I’d have thought you’d want to be as far away from me as possible.”

“I have unfinished business.”

The tears in my eyes continued to flow, even though I didn’t want her to see me crying. I assumed my execution was the business that wasn’t finished. We sat there for several seconds. There was nothing I could do, belted into the seat preventing me from any rapid moves and besides I’d be dead before I’d half finished them.

“You are a courageous woman, Catherine.”

“You’re hardly short of bottle yourself,” I replied, hoping she understood.

“Two or more weeks ago, I would have taken great pleasure in killing you and all your family.”

“Even my children?”

“Yes, even them.”

“That is a dreadful thing to say.”

“I didn’t think so at the time. I wanted revenge for those of mine your family had caused to be killed.”

“I had nothing to do with it, nor as far as I know did Simon or Henry.”

“So I have since found out.”

“Why are you holding me a prisoner then?”

“Because, it was the only way.”

“Only way to do what, kill me?”

“I have not said I would kill you.”

“You did when we got in the car.”

“I did not, you made that assumption. I have come to say goodbye.”

“Then kill me?”

“If you don’t stop this nonsense about killing people, I will just to shut you up.” I took the hint and kept quiet. “You could have killed me that night at your father in law’s castle.”

“I don’t believe in killing except in self defence and protection of my family.”

“Instead of killing me or allowing me to kill Lord Henry, you threw yourself at me, with sufficient timing for the gun to discharge away from Henry. You could have been killed yourself. It was an act of selfless heroism.”

I said nothing in case I angered her, she was still holding a gun which looked very real to my unpractised eye.

“Your selflessness made me think about what this whole vendetta was about. I sent to Russia for more information, and it seemed that Henry and Simon, were not really involved in the gang war in which we had fared so badly.”

“Your English, is excellent.”

“It should be, I read English at St Petersburg and Cambridge.”

“I went to Sussex.”

“I know, I know all about you, everything there is to know, including your life as Charlie, the name of your psychiatrist and the surgeon who fixed your little problem. I think you are very brave, to have given up first class male status to become a second class female, even if you marry an aristocrat, you’ll still be female.”

“I believe some things are worth doing, that was one of them, besides as a feminist I shall fight for the cause of women all over the world, not just here. I think many women in the Middle East and Afghanistan have a dreadful lot in life. I’d like to help if I can—except the government think fighting wars is the answer, whereas I think education is the answer. It takes longer but has a lasting effect—wars just cause lots of suffering and resentment.”

“Saint Catherine, I’ve heard you called by your colleagues. I can see why.”

“I’m no saint, I can assure you.”

“I know all about you, Santa Catrina, everything. You are too good to die. This feud, it is over. Au revoir.”

I braced myself for the bullet which would end my life, I didn’t believe anything she said. A car came screaming up behind and I heard and felt the rear door of my car close with a bump. The bang of it almost gave me a heart attack. The car roared off and I sat there in stunned silence. The tears really flowed, I was still alive—and I howled the place down.

It took me maybe half an hour to get myself together. I picked up the keys and started the car. Mine was the only car in the car park. Was it some sort of trap? I drove out very gingerly, but there was no one else around. Then I put my foot down and rushed home as fast as I could.

“Where have you been, Mummy?” said Trish running out to the car.

“I forgot the cheese,” I said, crossing my fingers behind my back.

Wooden Dogteeth Part 637

“So where were you really?” asked Tom as the girls tucked into their cake.

We’d baked and iced the cake and even sung happy birthday to Trish, who got to blow out the candles. It was to make up for the fact that she’d missed out on her birthday and despite the traumas of those few days, both girls seemed to handle it rather well. It was me who woke up seeing someone covered in flames walking towards them.

“I had an unexpected meeting with Olga,” I said, shivering a little at the recollection.

“What d’ye mean?”

“She sneaked up behind me and invited me to drive us out to some car park on the downs.”

“And ye went, jes’ like that?”

“She was holding a gun on me, the whole time.”

“Ah, that makes more sense.”

“She told me the feud was over.”

“Did ye believe her?”

“I’m not sure. It sounded genuine, but who knows.”

“Hae ye tell’t the polis?”

“No point, she’s long gone and they did suggest we kept watch. They’d only say, I told you so.”

“They mebbe richt there.”

“Anyway, she seemed to be suggesting that we were honourable opponents or something. I wasn’t quite sure.”

“Well ye’re that alricht. Why couldn’t she hae tell’t ye that o’er a cup o tea.”

“Because if she’d arranged that, I’d have called the police. We have others to consider and she had made threats the last time we saw her. Despite that I hope she goes home and rebuilds her life. I bear her no malice.”

“She might hae kill’t yer bairns.”

“I could have killed her, so could Henry or you, for that matter.”

“Nah, nay me, I couldnae kill a fly. I’m a scientist not action man.”

“I’m a scientist too, Daddy,” I protested.

“Oh yes, so y’are.” He winked at me and I laughed because the alternative would have been to thump him and I abhor violence—remember?

He agreed to put the wains to bed so I could visit Simon, and I hoped, Stella, too. Driving was okay now, the shoulder had eased again, helped by painkillers.

When I got to Simon’s room, he wasn’t there. I enquired where he was and the ward sister said he’d been discharged earlier that afternoon. My stomach flipped over—had Olga’s visit been to soften us up for a quick attack?

I called his mobile, but his phone seemed to be switched off. My anxiety index went off the scale, and I literally ran to Stella’s ward. She wasn’t there either. Jesus—what the hell is going on here?

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for Stella Cameron and her baby.”

“She was discharged with the baby, an hour or so ago.”

“What, on a Sunday? And with no provision at home?”

“She said there was, that her sister in law would help her look after the baby.”

“That’s me. I’m her sister in law.”

“Oh dear. I’m not sure what to say.”

“She didn’t leave with any strangers, did she?”

“Only some man who said he was her brother.”

“What the f*&# is going on?” I hissed.

“I beg your pardon,” said the nurse blushing.

Just then my mobile rang—“Hi, Babes, where are you?”

“Where am I? Simon Cameron, you are going to need a hospital by the time I’ve finished with you…”

I steamed home, building up to committing actual bodily harm. I screeched into the driveway and slammed the car door and ran into the house, bursting into the hallway and ready to shout and yell and commit mayhem, when Simon put his finger to his lips—“You’ll wake the baby.”

With that, Stella appeared holding little Desi, who was asleep in her arms. “Want a little hold?” she said offering me the baby. In situations like this one has to prioritise—do I kill Simon, or hold the baby first? It’s a no-brainer, hold the baby, kill Simon later.

“Go to your Auntie Cathy,” said Stella as she handed me the baby, who flickered her eyes open and yawned, then snuggled down to sleep in my arms as I rocked her gently.

“Where have you been, the nurse said you were discharged an hour ago?” I said quietly but with irritation to Simon.

“Blame those two,” he nodded at Stella and Desi. “I went to see her and they said she could come home too, with the baby. Of course, typical bloody woman, she wasn’t ready was she.”

“Hoi, I was ready, they couldn’t find the baby’s spare clothes.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Blame it on the innocent and defenceless,” he spat back. It was easy to see they were brother and sister, although I preferred the days when she put his underpants in the freezer, and shouted less.

“Hush,” I said, as Puddin’ whimpered but went back to sleep. “You could have phoned.”

“If my battery hadn’t died, yes I could, an’ she’s lost her phone.”

“It was nicked when I was a bit out of my head, alright?”

“Can we finish this discussion when the baby is put down to sleep? Where is the baby going to sleep?”

“Ah, um, Tom thought he had a doll’s crib thing in his attic.”

“Oh, I know she’s small, but a doll’s crib? Really!”

“There’s always the dog’s basket,” suggested Simon, and Stella saved me the problem of hitting him, only I’d have done it harder.

“It’s nae there,” said Tom, “but I foond this—oh, Cathy, ye’re hame?” He held up a large basket. “I cannae remember whit for we had it, but whit d’ye think?”

“For one night, it’s fine,” I suggested and Stella agreed.

“I still think the dog’s bed would be better,” said Simon, dancing out of the way of Stella’s swipe, but near enough for me to kick him up the bum. “Ouch,” he said rubbing it, I smiled sweetly at him.

We cleaned up the basket and lined it with a blanket and soft sheet before I laid the baby in it. “Where’s she going to sleep?” I said meaning where would we put the basket for the night.

“In the children’s room?” said Stella. The look of shock on my face, made her smile, “Only joking, she’s my baby, so I suppose I get her.”

I sighed with relief, Stella seemed so much better; I just hoped it would last for a long time, preferably, many years.

After a small celebration, neither Stella nor Simon were able to drink alcohol, which made me smirk more than a little, as Tom and I shared a bottle of wine, we went up to bed. Stella and I had made up her bed, and put the baby on the floor alongside it. She had a bottle of formula milk ready to be warmed up when Puddin’ woke up. I thought I’d have to stop calling her that now. I also thought how two little girls were going to have a shock tomorrow.

“Hells bells!” I exclaimed.

“What’s the matter?” asked Simon.

“Trish starts school in the morning, and I haven’t put her uniform out ready.”

“Can’t you do it in the morning?”

“No way.” I got out of bed and went into the girls’ room. I saw the light under Stella’s door, she was still awake or feeding Puddin’, I mean Desi. I switched on the small light in the girls’ bedroom and got out her blouse and skirt and her school cardi. She was going to be so excited in the morning—what with school and the baby.

I went back to bed, Simon was asleep—he seemed able to sleep on a clothes line, whereas I was now wide awake. I snuggled into him and hoped I was rested enough when the morning arrived to get things organised. It looked like it would be a long night.

Wedding Deer Part 638

I think I must have slept before the aliens landed, they disguised themselves as children but their funny language, which sounded mysteriously like giggling, occurred just before their attack on Simon. I was so tired I was happy for them to let me sleep while they ate him, or whatever it was they were going to do. Of course Simon couldn’t just die quietly, he had to chat with his attackers and not only that, but he moved about in the bed too. I did begin to wonder if there was any room left in Puddin’s basket, because it had to be quieter than here. Then the alarm went off, damn it was later than I thought.

“Right you two Lolita’s, stop molesting your Daddy and in the shower—NOW!” I can be quite direct when I’m sleep deprived. The giggling pair decamped to the bathroom. We all got in the shower together—well not all, Simon stayed in bed.

“Come on, young lady, we’ve got to get you ready for school today,” I said, washing Trish’s hair.

“When can I go to schoow?” asked Mima.

“When you’re five, although I think I shall see if there’s a nursery school you can start before then.”

Mima jumped up and down in the wet and soapy environment and fell flat on her back. Thankfully she didn’t hurt herself, but she did give herself a little shock and immediately burst into tears—not what I needed, but I managed eventually, to calm her down and to promise not to fool about in the shower again. Well—not this side of puberty.

Not having any idea of the time, I whisked them out of the shower and sent Mima to Simon so he could dry her. I had told her if he was still asleep to shake her wet hair over his face. By the sounds emanating from the bedroom, I think he was still asleep. It was the first smile I’d had all morning.

I towelled Trish and dried her hair, brushing it out and putting it in two plaits, she was beginning to look like a schoolgirl. Then after her undies, a pair of panties and a cami top, I dressed her in her blouse and skirt, handed her her socks and shoes and cardi and asked her to finish dressing herself.

By the time I got back to the bedroom, Simon was drying Mima’s hair with my hair drier, which of course I wanted. However, rather than start a row, I got on with dressing. I pulled on a skirt and top and some socks, then my boots.

Simon was in the girl’s room when I emerged from the bedroom, so I dried my hair, threw on a bit of makeup and ran downstairs to start the breakfast. Part of me hoped Stella and Puddin’ wouldn’t make an entrance until later, simply because it would delay things, and I wanted to be nice and early on our first day—correction, Trish’s first day, but you knew what I meant anyway.

Tom was just bringing a tray of teas and coffees out of the kitchen when I got downstairs, I snatched a cup of tea and put some bread in the toaster. Then it was pour out two bowls of cereal and add some milk. They were both eating cornflakes at present. I buttered the toast and ate the first piece, sipping my tea in between bites. My tummy rumbled—it didn’t surprise me. By the time I’d eaten the second piece, Trish was down closely followed by Mima. Simon was apparently now in the shower—he was coming to school as well.

Trish was too excited to eat, she just wanted to talk and so did Mima. I told them to be quiet and eat several times, but I was wasting my breath. Simon arrived and possibly heard my difficulty with them, he called for hush and they shut up immediately. It obviously wasn’t going to be my day.

We finally finished breakfast without any mess over Trish’s new uniform. Her shoes, which were new, were black and shiny. She looked so smart and so grown up, I was already fighting back the tears. Tom came back down and I asked him to take a photo of the four of us—Simon combed his tousled hair—while Tom found my camera. Then Simon and I stood behind the two girls, each with a hand on their outer shoulder, and the girls holding hands. Tom took a couple of exposures by the flash going off twice blinding me temporarily. I suddenly thought of Spike and wondered if I had time to go and see her after I dropped Trish at school.

Trish started complaining that her cardigan was itchy at the back of the neck. I shrugged, telling her it was probably because it was new. However, she kept on about it and I was eventually forced to take a look—there was a problem—in my tiredness last night, I’d forgotten to take the price label off the neck. A quick surgical intervention—a labelectomy—and the problem was cured. Crikey, did I pay fifteen quid for the cardi? What a rip off.

I put on Mima’s shoes and she informed me she wanted her hair in plaits too. It was probably quicker to go along with it than to argue, which would end in tears—at this rate—mine.

It was at this point, Stella made an entrance. “Annie Stewwa,” screeched a certain pair of lungs and Trish, who was making up her satchel with pencils and pens and so on, looked up and saw Stella and the baby. She forgot her school stuff and dashed off to see the baby and her mum.

Stella was beset by the three children, one in her arms and two bouncing around her like demented joeys. I let her soak up the atmosphere of total entropy, before I intervened.

“Have you fed her yet?” I asked Stella.

“No, I was just going to do it.” She produced the bottle in her other hand.

“Can I give her her bottle?” asked Trish. It was quarter to eight. I had my doubts about it being a good idea and said so, but Stella, and Simon both sided with the new schoolgirl. I was outvoted even though I had grave reservations about the wisdom of it.

Trish sat down and I draped a towel over her, then Stella placed the baby in Trish’s arms, then finally the bottle. Trish started to feed her and it seemed my worries were just my normal paranoia, if it can be normal. I did Mima’s hair and tied in some ribbons,

Things were going too smoothly, I knew it. Trish had let Puddin’ drink down most of the bottle without pausing to burp her, and none of us adults noticed, Simon and Stella were talking and Tom was watching me do Meem’s hair. Then it happened, Puddin’ gave a huge burp and sicked up most of the bottle. It went everywhere, on the floor, the table, over Trish’s hair and cardigan—projectile vomiting didn’t come into it, this was Olympic standard.

No one moved for a moment, Trish half laughed then began to cry as she felt the warm wet sensation come through her clothing. Stella snatched up the baby and wiped her with the towel, she was crying, too—the baby, and possibly Stella wasn’t that far away from it either. Tom and Simon were sniggering and I was close to launching faster than a Saturn V rocket.

There was no point in berating the child, it was our fault for not supervising her sufficiently, but she was still crying. I grabbed her and ran her upstairs, stripped her off and chucked her back under the shower, It was now nearly five past eight. I rinsed out her hair after undoing the plaits and whipped her out and began drying her. She grumbled I was being rough; I wasn’t, I was trying to get her ready for school. She could reuse the panties, but this time I put her in a cami-slip and summer dress—the other blouses weren’t ironed.

She needed some sort of coat or top, so I got her blazer out of the wardrobe and put it on her. It was now twenty past eight and we had to run. We dashed to the Mondeo, Simon elected to drive whilst I strapped the kids in the back. Trish had forgotten her satchel, I was so tempted to shout at her because I felt so cross, but instead I went and got it. I hoped this wasn’t going to happen every morning, if so then I was going to lock the rest of them out of the kitchen even if I had to lay a mine field to achieve my aim.

Back in the car, and Simon drove like Jenson Button on rocket fuel, in fact I think we passed Lewis Hamilton en route. The girls thought driving like a lunatic was funny, I was terrified; mostly because I was waiting for a woman pushing a pram or a school kid to get scraped off the windscreen. Miraculously, we encountered no collateral damage as the military say, and arrived at Trish’s school just in time to see them lined up in the playground and walking into school, presumably in class order.

We all walked up to the teacher who was acting as officer on parade, I almost saluted her, then remembered she was probably a nun or something similar, so I kept my hands to myself.

We explained Trish was new and she smiled and promised to take her into registration. I was to collect her at half past twelve and have her back for half past one. I decided, I’d take a picnic lunch and we’d have to seriously consider her staying into school dinners, the logistics at lunch time were too tight, but for a few days I’d spoil her.

As she went through the door of the school with the teacher holding her hand, she waved and I felt a tear run down my cheek, I wiped it away before Mima saw it and asked awkward questions. Trish had looked so full of confidence as she went into the school—I just hoped it would last all day. Me, I was a nervous wreck, and not only that, but I’d forgotten my handbag in the rush to get Trish’s satchel. It was obviously going to be a perfect day.

Welding Dear Part 639

“So what now?” asked Simon, making towards the car.

I held Mima’s hand as we followed him, “Well I’ve forgotten my handbag, and we’ll need to come back to collect her for half twelve, with a picnic.”

“Can I come for a picnic, Mummy?”

“I should think so, if you behave.”

“Mima behave, Mummy.”

“So, home James and don’t spare the horsepower?”

I looked at my watch, it was only just nine. “Could we call by the uni?”

“I suppose so.”

“It won’t take long, just want to see Spike is okay.”

“Shouldn’t she be?” asked Simon, “Or is this feminine intuition?”

“Dunno to both questions.”

“Can I see dormeece, Mummy?”

“I expect so.”

Simon sat in the car while Mima and I went into the department. Pippa was pleased to see us and made a fuss of Mima, who loved it. Then I went down to the labs where Neal was doing some sort of inventory. “Well, well, look who it isn’t?” He gave me a huge hug and made a fuss of Mima. “What can we do for you?”

“I just popped in to see how Spike was.”

“Ah, a guilty conscience—pushes off to make her fortune and collect waifs and strays while abandoning her real children to a laboratory.”

“You not abangoling, Mima, Mummy?” she looked very worried and anxious.

“No, Meems, I’m not abandoning you, I’m taking you home with me, because that’s where you live—with me, Simon and Grampa Tom.”

“Not Uncle Tom, and his cabin, then?” asked Neal sarcastically.

“Well actually, Topsy has just started school.”

“Twish, not Topsy, siwwy Mummy.”

“Twish?” asked Neal.

“Tricia, my other girl has started school today.”

“Blimey, you’re quicker with litters than Spike.”

“Ha, bloody ha, where is the queen of the Muscardini?”

“This way, milady.” Neal bowed and I dropped him a curtsey, Mima bowed and curtseyed. He showed me the refurbished cages which looked exactly the same as I recalled the old ones. They were still built to my specifications as far as I could see.

“They look the same to me,” I said looking in the cages.

“They are, the new ones didn’t pass muster, so they sent ‘em back. These are your ones.”

“I suppose you can’t improve on perfection,” I said blithely.

“Don’t tell me; you say that each morning to the mirror?”

“But of course,” I said trying to be just as cheeky as he was, but my blushing probably gave the game away.

“Ah, here she is,” I went to put my hand in her cage.

“She’s got young, Cathy,” Neal cautioned.

“Give me some brazil nuts,” I said pointing at the container. He held the container while I took two or three nuts.

“Can me give her one, Mummy?”

“Just a minute, precious, let me see if she remembers me first.” I opened the cage and stroked Spike, talking to her. She was asleep initially, then she tensed up as I touched her. Eventually, she seemed to relax and I picked her up, quickly offering the nut to my psycho-dormouse.

I bent down so Mima could see her holding the nut with her tiny hands, which moved the nut around as her razor sharp incisors nibbled off bits. “Can I stwoke her, Mummy?”

“Very gently, darling.” I held onto the dormouse quite firmly but Mima’s touch was very light, and Spike hardly noticed it. Mima giggled, but not as loudly as the first time they met, I think Spike probably still has a nervous twitch from that event.

“Can I get a photo of this?” Neal took his camera out of a cupboard and clicked away, the flash not disturbing Spike, who was still munching. “It’s possibly useful in our brochures about learning biology when young, possibly for sending round schools.”

“What? You’re proposing to use me as an advertising campaign?”

“More a recruitment campaign. Let’s face it, next month when the film goes out, you’ll hardly be anonymous, will you?”

“I might not be, but why should Mima be used, she’s too young to give consent.”

“You have objections to using her?”

“I’d have preferred it if you had asked me first. Send me a mock up before you use it, and I’ll talk it over with Tom and Simon, and Mima. The last thing I need is to be seen to abusing my foster children.”

“She’s only your foster kid?”

“Yes, I thought everyone knew that.”

“So what about the other one, Trish, was it?”

“Another foster child.”

“You haven’t adopted then? I mean if they let gay men adopt kids, why not a woman and a peer?”

“It would probably be better when we’re married, but for the moment I’m not rocking the boat. As far as I’m concerned I treat them like my own, and they reciprocate. In fact, they started it by calling us mummy and daddy.”

Seeing as Spike was seeming relaxed, I let Mima hold her. She giggled a bit, saying it tickled, but she held the dormouse gently while she ate another nut. I was pleased with her, she realised she had to keep quiet and hold quite still to avoid scaring the rodent. Neal also reckoned he had more photos and snapped away. I quickly looked at the image on the back of his camera, and decided one of the images could well be my new Christmas card design for this year.

“Hey, these’d make great Chrimble cards.”

“You read my mind,” I said.

“For the department, I mean.”

“But of course. Send me copies, will you?”

“I might, if you look kindly upon the brochure idea.”

“I won’t if you mess me about, Neal, and Simon gets very heavy at times if he thinks someone is annoying me.”

“Okay, okay, I get the message—consider it done.”

“Damn, you didn’t give me a chance to use Tom as a threat, too.”

“No, I could see that one coming. He’s not as violent as Simon—I remember the stories of when the hunt got into the garden.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” I confessed.

“He laid out the Master of Foxhounds, didn’t he?”

“Dunno if it was the MF, but he laid out a couple of them. Mind you, so did I.”

“For a supposed pacifist, you sure are aggressive.”

“Yeah? Wanna make something of it?” I said smirking.

“Mummy shotted a man with buwwets, and with a bownawwow.”

“Thank you, Mima, what did we ask you not to do?”

“Teww anyone.”

“And have you?”

“No, Mummy.”

I suppose that is what they call seeing things from a different perspective?

Writing Ducters Part 640

“What? You shot someone?” Neal looked aghast at me, “I can’t believe this.” He was shaking his head, “Almost anyone but you, Cathy. I mean shooting someone?”

“They was nasty men and they was shootin’ at us. They shotted some pleecmens.”

“Who did?”

“The nasty mens. They was in a car.”

“Okay, Meems, be quiet please. We were attacked by some more of the mob who abducted Stella last year. We’d been abducted the day or so before and they were going to kill us, even the junior detachment, if you get my meaning?” Neal nodded, I continued, “We’d been taken up to somewhere in Scotland, their plan was to wipe out the Cameron clan and they nearly succeeded. Tom, the two girls and me, were taken to this old farmhouse and that’s where they were going to kill us. I managed to neutralise the guards so we could effect an escape.

We were headed towards Fort William and they attacked the two cars we were driving, they hit both the escorting young policemen. I had a Kalashnikov in the boot, I’d brought it from the farmhouse and I fired back. I must have hit something because they crashed into the loch and drowned.”

“You fired a Kalshnikov? Yer actual AK47?”

“Is that the same thing?” I asked, completely bemused.

“Geez, Cathy—that is—I don’t know—what to say, apart from, wow, girl. I’m totally flabbergasted. Our very own urban freedom fighter. Like I said, wow.”

“Well yes, I suppose I was fighting for our freedom from a nasty gang of bad guys—yet in fighting on the same side as the police—in your eyes, wouldn’t that make me an agent of repression?”

“Normally, yeah—but you were defending your children, and that’s always a special case. They say, deadlier than the male.”

“I thought it was, ’more deadly than the male’, I corrected.

“Yeah, well, Shakespeare, he did some good lines.”

“Ahem, I think you’ll find it was Kipling.”

“What the guy who makes exceedingly good cakes*?

“No, yah dummy, the man who wrote the Jungle Book.”

“Oh, that Kipling? Of course.”

If you can treat these two imposters just the same…’ and so on.”

“Oh yeah, all Land of ‘Ope and Glory, stuff. Gung-ho, me lads all the way to the Somme.”

“He was a Victorian/Edwardian, and he lost a son in the Great War. They say he never got over it.”

“How come you know so much about this stuff, I thought you were a biologist, not a literature student?”

“My father was very keen on the macho poetry stuff, he made me learn oodles of it by heart, or thought he had. My response was to commit it to very short term memory and to have forgotten it by the next day. Bits, however, still stick here and there.”

“I think it’s really cool, be able to quote poetry.” Neal was a bit too effusive in his praise and I didn’t think it was cool even though I did consider Kipling was quite a clever wordsmith, if a bit too chauvinistic for my taste.

“It saved my bacon once.”

“What did?”

“If.”

“If what?”

“If, the poem.”

“How could a poem save your bacon? Is this some trick quotation?” Neal looked a bit concerned that I was trying to trap him and prove my superiority over him.

“I had been turned down for the cycling team, but I so wanted to prove myself as better than being a wimp, which was how everyone seemed to see me. I was training on the bike every spare minute I had. I ran into a group of the rugger team out on a training run. I was on my bike, a Raleigh racer thing, and I literally ran into them, they were coming towards me. Of course I came off and my toe-clips didn’t release so I couldn’t get up and escape.

“They were about to pulp me, I’d hit their top wing forward or something, he was built like the proverbial brick erm…house.” Neal nodded at my description. “I was about to need a change of knickers, when I started reciting the thing in my head, only I wasn’t, it was out loud—God, I was frightened.

“So off I went, ’If you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs…’ They suddenly stopped in their martial intentions and made me recite it properly, then they applauded, stuck me back on my bike and told me to …erm, go—well the second word was–off.”

“Can you remember the words, now?”

“No,” it wasn’t true, but I wasn’t going to recite them for anyone.

“Pity, I really see you in a different light, Cathy, not only are you action woman, but a woman of letters as well. I am most impressed.”

“It’s Tom you want to hear, when he gets a little too much of his uisge beatha, he starts reciting Burns. It’s quite funny at times, what he can’t remember he ad libs, it can be really funny.”

“Well I’ve seen Tom the worse for wear a few times, never heard him reciting poetry.”

“Well it’s hardly something I’d make up is it? When I had Spike there for a while, he’d recite, ’To A Mouse’ every time he went past her cage. I’m sure she’d heard it often enough to come in on the second line.”

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

“Neal, would I do a thing like that to you?”

“Yes, you would, you bitch.”

“Mummy’s a wady, not a bwitch,” said Mima loudly. Loudly enough for Spike to jump out of her hands and scramble up her arm and onto the top of her head, where I snatched her up and shoved her back into her cage. Her little heart was beating nineteen to the dozen and Mima was at first shocked and then a little frightened by the rodent’s actions.

I managed to calm her down and reminded her that If she’d kept quiet, when all around her were being noisy, the dormouse would have stayed in her hands. It was only because she’d spoken loudly, almost shouted, that Spike had taken fright and flight.

By the time we’d got back to the car—where Simon was beginning to wonder if I’d been taking a class—that she found herself able to laugh about it and tell Simon. He laughed as well, although I think he was a little worried.

“Are those vermin of yours safe to be handled, I mean she doesn’t need a tetanus or worse, does she?”

“Of course they’re safe, I wouldn’t put one of the girls in danger, would I? Use your head, Simon, it’s for more than hanging your hats on.”

“Yes, Mummy,” he said back, which Mima found to be highly amusing and at which, I just glared through narrowed eyes.

*A slogan from a cake advert on UK TV.

Worsted Drivel Part 641

“We need to go home, I have to make some sort of picnic lunch for Trish.”

“Oh, I thought we’d have a morning out, give Meems a bit of an airing.”

“Simon, I need to get home, you can take Mima out if you like, but I need to get home and do a lunch for Trish.”

“Oh alright,” he threw his hands in the air and sighed.

“You could take Mima out in the Jaguar, you’d enjoy that wouldn’t you Meems? Going out in Daddy’s racing car?”

“Yes, Daddy, can we go out in the wacing caw?”

Simon gave me a filthy look and I beamed an angelic smile back at him—don’t mess with me buster—was the subtext, which would probably fly over his head, but as long as I got back to the school with Trish’s lunch, it would be okay.

The rest of the morning was a bit of a blur, I made bread—I mean I put the machine on and it made bread for me, I made sandwiches and salad and nipped to the shop and bought yoghurt and crisps, and some fruit drinks. I suspected that a school dinner at Eton probably cost less than my impromptu picnic.

When I asked Tom about lunch, he said he was meeting the Dean at their usual haunt. In other words he was sick of my healthy eating and wanted a curry. I wondered if Simon had realised he’d lumbered himself with Mima for lunch? It’ll do him good to face his responsibilities now and again.

I stood at the kitchen table packing food for the picnic imagining Simon and Mima having a great time while I waited for a little face to come out of school feeling tired and overwhelmed with the newness of it all. Novelty creates energy for a while, but it eventually crashes with a bump.

I packed the food, let the dog out in the garden for a few minutes, then drove off to the convent and to see how my little baby got on. I’d actually remembered my bag this time, and had a boot full of food—probably enough to do my own feeding of the five thousand—okay, that’s an exaggeration, it would only feed four thousand nine hundred and ninety nine—but that’s with generous portion control. I chuckled at my own joke—then sniggered, when I thought—what we don’t eat today, I’ll make the girls eat for breakfast until it’s all gone. I could just see them doing that, yet that was how I was brought up.

I can remember being made to sit at the table for an hour after I’d failed to finish my breakfast, and it was presented to me again at lunch and tea. My father would have made me look at it again for breakfast the next day, but my mother got fed up and chucked the milky mess away.

“Now, he’ll think he’s beaten us,” complained my father. So bloody what, who gives a toss. Discipline is necessary, we all need boundaries—especially children, but they have to be realistic and considered. A pair of twisted knickers shouldn’t be the criterion for introducing Sharia law. I could see from where I obtained my quick temper—my dad, at least I haven’t gone bald yet.

I was deep in my thoughts when I realised there were loads of children coming out of the school. I dashed to the entrance to wait for Trish, loads and loads of kids came out—well, at least a dozen. Then there was a pause, and some more emerged, then some more and finally after I began to wonder if I’d got the wrong convent, out she came talking to another little girl.

She eventually spotted me and ran over to me, with a grin that stretched from one ear to the other. “Mummy,” she called and hugged me.

“Did you have a nice time, sweetheart?” I said hugging her tightly.

“Oh yes, I’ve got lots to tell you.” She was so excited.

“C’mon then, I’ve got a picnic in the car, we’ll nip off to the downs and eat our picnic up there.”

“Where’s Daddy and Mima?”

“They’ve gone out together, why?”

“Well, I’ll have to tell them what I tell you, now.”

“Usually, we enjoy telling our family what excites us, over and over. If you feel strongly, maybe you can put out a news bulletin or set up a news conference if repeating it is too much bother.”

My sarcasm went well over her head and she just looked at me in amazement.

“What’s in the picnic, Mummy?”

“Oh, sandwiches and salad; crisps and yoghurt, biscuits and fruit drinks.”

“Sounds nice, Mummy.”

“Oh, and there’s a little bit of your birthday cake.”

She turned round and kissed me, “Thank you, Mummy.”

Apart from, “You’re welcome,” there wasn’t much I could say, so we drove in relative quiet up on to the downs. It was too windy to sit outside and eat, so we had to improvise in the car. I knew I’d made too much food before I left home, and I wasn’t really that hungry myself, and I knew Trish couldn’t eat a dozen tuna sandwiches. She did put away two, which was more than I did.

“So, who was your friend? The girl you came out with?”

“That was Peaches.”

I nearly choked on my apple. “Peaches, like Peaches Geldof?”

“I don’t know what her second name is, Mummy.”

“Bob Geldof, a pop singer, has a daughter called Peaches, she’s in her twenties, I think.” I hesitated to use the term grown up, because I wasn’t sure it applied. I think she worries Saint Bob to death.

“Who is your teacher?” I asked

“Mrs Cranmer.”

“Is she nice?”

“She’s okay, I guess, although I had to sort her out a bit.” This apple was going to be the death of me.

“Sort her out? What d’you mean?”

“She asked if I liked looking at books. I told her, yes, and she asked me what I was reading.”

“Ah,”—I suspect when you mentioned, theoretical thermodynamics as applied to new star formation, she didn’t believe you—“what did you tell her?”

“Secret Seven books.”

“Of course, you’ve read quite few of those haven’t you?”

“Fifteen, Mummy, can we get some more?”

“Maybe the school has a library, you could borrow some.”

“Mrs Cranmer didn’t believe me.”

“How d’you know?”

“She said so.” I felt myself blush, I hated this woman already and I’d never met the silly cow.

“What did you say?”

“I said, I wasn’t in the habit of telling lies or being economical with the truth.”

“I hope she wasn’t eating an apple,” I commented trying to dislodge the pip I’d snorted up my nose.

“No, she made me choose a book and read some to her.”

“What did you choose?”

“She had a copy of a book called, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” sticking out of her bag, so I chose that one.” I’d got the pip from my nose, now I think it was lodged in my lung.

“Could you read it?”

“Um, no, Mummy, she wouldn’t let me, so I read some of Robinson Crusoe instead.” I hoped I’d stop coughing before I got home.

Wooden Digits Part 642

I took Trish back to school unsure if I should make an issue of the teacher not believing that she was an accomplished reader for her age. “Did you actually read any of Robinson Crusoe?” I asked her as I parked near the school.

“Yes, Mummy, just a page.”

“You read her a whole page?”

“Yes, Mummy, did I do something wrong?”

“No, sweetheart, I’m just surprised she made you read that much.”

“She said she liked my reading.”

“I expect she did then.” We got out of the car and I led into the playground again. Once more the kids were lining up, and Trish followed them into school. I waved to her as she went in, and she waved back. I felt a tear in my eye and hurried back to the car. I had two hours to get home and back again. If this was going to be my life for the next few weeks, it was going to limit everything I did. It would also impinge on Mima too much. I would discuss it with Simon and Trish, but I felt she would have to stay to school dinners in future. When I collected her, I would make some enquiries.

I was waiting for the washing machine to finish and zipping about with the vacuum cleaner when Simon brought Meems back. She was a bit hyper, so I hated to think what she’d had for lunch. I did ask her but she couldn’t really tell me. She’d enjoyed herself so that was the important thing, and so had Simon.

I gave her a drink and a biscuit and went back to my cleaning. All too soon it was time to go and get Trish. Meems decided to come with me, while Simon agreed to watch the clothes in the dryer.

She told me what they’d done after they’d left me. Simon had taken her up the Spinnaker Tower, and she’d really enjoyed it. She’d walked across the glass floor and been really scared–I know I was when we visited it, but I don’t like heights.

After this he’d taken her somewhere, she wasn’t sure where, and she had a ride in some sort of mechanised ride, probably in a shopping mall, and bought her some lunch, then an ice cream. She seemed so proud to have Simon as her daddy. I hope he appreciated it as much as she did. I would try and sus him out.

We got to the school and Trish was next to last out again, once more she was talking to the same girl, ‘Peaches’ or whatever it was. I waited with Mima until she saw us and then walked her back in and caught the headmistress as she came out of her office. I asked about school dinners and she told me to let them know the next morning and pay the fee and it would be sorted. I had to let them know if she had any fads or allergies. If she did I wasn’t aware of them.

Just then, Mrs Cranmer appeared. “Hello, Miss,” said Trish.

“I take it you’re Trish’s mother?” the teacher said to me.

“Yes, how is she doing?”

“She’s settling in very well for a new pupil, and I’m very impressed with her reading skills which are very precocious.”

“Yes, I know, her overall cognitive skills are very precocious.”

“She says you study dormice at the university?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Obviously takes after you then and her grampas, one is a professor and the other a Lord and works in a bank.”

“He’s chairman of a bank, yes, Lord Stanebury.”

“Goodness, I am in esteemed company.”

“Not at all, we’re very down to earth, and Tom Agnew–the professor, and Henry Cameron–the Viscount, are salt of the earth types, really nice people.”

“If you say so, my dear, you know them better than I.”

“I’m thinking of booking Trish in for school meals, are there any organised activities during the lunch hour?”

“Oh yes, we run a few clubs in the lunch time, sewing and one or two sports. There’s a photo group and a computer club.”

“Super, thanks. C’mon girls, let’s go home and get some tea for Daddy and Gramps.” On the drive home, Trish told me how they’d been doing drawing and painting, and some counting. They were learning multiplication tables as well by the sound of it.

Mrs Cranmer was very nice but strict and she got told off for talking during the one lesson. Meems asked if she cried, but Trish told her that she didn’t, but that she wouldn’t talk again either because she’d felt rather foolish.

On the whole I felt the school was teaching her some self discipline and I approved so far. She is a bit of a chatterbox, so some help with boundaries was useful.

When we got home, Trish spent the time before dinner telling Simon and Tom what her first day as a school girl was like. Meems came out to the kitchen and helped me. She was a little fed up with her big sister hogging the limelight.

“When can I go to schoow?”

“When you’re five.”

“How wong is that?”

“Let’s see, you’re three and a half, so about a year and a bit.”

“Is that a wong time?”

“Not for me, but it probably is for you.”

“S’not fair.”

“What isn’t, darling?”

“Me not going to schoow.”

“That’s life, I’m afraid, Meems. That’s the way the system works.”

She sulked for a bit until I said she could help me wash the vegetables. She got soaking wet, but she had fun.

After dinner, Trish read to her and was trying to teach her to read. Meems struggled, she was probably a bit young for the task, but I was delighted at the patience Trish showed in helping her little sister.

I know I keep saying this but they are such lovely kids. Stella and the baby surfaced just before dinner, which created a small diversion. Trish didn’t ask to feed the baby tonight, so I got that joy. After I burped and changed her, she slept in my arms for a while before I put her down in her cot.

“Can I feed Baby Puddin’ one day?” Meems asked me.

“I expect so, but you’ll need Mummy or Auntie Stella to help you. You mustn’t try on your own because it can be dangerous to the baby.”

Tom took the girls up to bed, while I cleared up the dishes from the meal, Stella went back up to her room with the baby. I hoped it wasn’t because she felt ill or antisocial, but Tom said, he was pretty sure she was just very tired. I knew the feeling and went off early myself and was fast asleep by the time the amorous Simon came up to bed.

Woden’s Dangly Bits Part 643

“Are you awake?” asked Simon, reminding me of the joke about an Australian man’s foreplay. However, I declined to play and sighed and turned over. He sighed loudly and presumably went to sleep. Quite honestly, I was too tired to care.

Next morning the aliens landed again and spent more time snuggling with Simon than with me, which was fine. He’ll be back at work soon and then I’ll get all the attention and my sleep deprivation will rise accordingly. Don’t get me wrong, I love ’em both to bits–but when I’m awake–not asleep.

At seven, it was up and at ’em. Showers and hair drying, dressing and breakfasting, then off to school with Trish and her packed lunch–some of which was the surfeit from yesterday. I’d got her school uniform ready after the disaster yesterday, and she looked every bit the smart schoolgirl.

Simon stayed with Mima while I dropped Trish in school, although Tom said he could do it some days. He was going in for half days to the university and hoped to be back full time in a couple of weeks. I urged him to be very careful, he was too important to us all to get sick again. He promised not to overdo it. I didn’t believe a word of it.

I did some shopping on the way back home, just foodstuff as the cupboards were looking rather bare. I’d also got one or two things Stella had asked me to get. Once home again, I carried the groceries in and was pleased to see Mima helping Stella with the baby.

A little later, I made some coffee and Stella put baby Desi down for a nap, Meems decided she wanted one as well–she didn’t usually but she was up quite early. I hoped she wasn’t sickening for anything. Simon was busy on his computer in Tom’s office, using the newly installed wi-fi system.

“So what does it feel like to be doing the school run? Shouldn’t you have a Chelsea tractor to do it properly?”

“Stella, you ought to know by now, that only applies if you live within half a mile of the school and it must never be driven off road, except when parking on the pavement.”

“I thought you cyclist types rode on the pavement all the time anyway?” This was a deliberate provocation and tended to indicate she was feeling better. I played along with it.

“Nah, it makes it too difficult to run red lights from the pavement.”

“So you’re not colour blind, after all?” she teased.

“No, red green is sex linked isn’t it and affects men.” I couldn’t remember if it did or not and I’ll bet she couldn’t either.

“I suppose that let’s you out then,” she said huffily as her latest stirrings came to nought. “So when are you going to make an honest man of Simon?”

“I can’t, Stel, he’s a banker, remember?”

“Oh poo, so he is–hey, wait a minute, are you calling my daddy a cheat and rogue as well?”

She was feeling better. “No, but Henry is also a banker.”

“Yep, so he is, but he’s got more style than my bro, who is a banker with a capital W.

“There is no W in bank…oh,” I blushed, “he might have been last night, I was asleep when he came to bed.” We both laughed at that.

“Has his technique improved?” she asked.

“At what?” I asked blushing.

“You know,” she said winking.

“I know what?” I felt stupid and embarrassed.

“You know…that three letter word.”

“Like dog, or God, or…and, can’t think of any more,” I was still tired.

“No, you ninny, the sex word, s-e…oh, I said it didn’t I?”

“Did you? I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss your brother’s performance with you, Stella, it is rather personal.”

“Oh, be like that then.” She flounced out of the kitchen and I put the groceries away and started organising lunch, although my mind was on how a little girl would cope with a packed lunch and being on her own until I collected her at end of school. She had said she would cope, and I pretty well believed her. Simon said he would get her in the Jaguar, which would please her no end. I wasn’t sure if it meant she would increase her kudos in school, but it was quite a cool car in which to be seen, so it could hardly do it any harm.

Part of me knew that such stuff was rather superficial and shallow and involved all the things I was trying to teach them to avoid. Yet another part seemed happy to go for things which brought about results most quickly. I needed to stick to my standards; if I wanted to preach to my kids, then I had to practice it myself. Some parts of parenthood seem harder than others–by this I meant the practical aspects were harder than the theory–I think it probably applied to life in general, but for now I was happy to see it in terms of parenting, my most immediate concern.

I made us bacon sandwiches for lunch, using the bread I’d made yesterday. Simon hadn’t appreciated that the funny noise coming from the kitchen was the breadmaker telling us it was done and remove the bread. Fortunately Stella did understand and removed said loaf. Now I was using mine to get lunch, and another mix was going on in the machine as I cooked the bacon.

Stella seemed to have worked off her ill humour because during lunch she was fine, ribbing Simon quite cleverly at times. I do wonder if anyone could be as dull as Simon at times appears, if they were, they’d have a full time job remembering to breathe.

She teased him about the Jag as a phallic inadequacy replacement. He ignored her. She told him the same thing in a different way, “I hear you’re not to wonderful in the hidden assets department?”

“I’m not saying anything in case the tax man is listening.”

“What you mean they tax you on, you know…?”

“Of course they do, capital gains tax, as well as unearned income and so on.”

“I’m talking about Mr Happy, Si.”

“Can’t say I know anyone of that name, Stella.”

“Look, stoo-pid, what comes to mind when I say, Mr Happy?”

“A cartoon character by Roger Hargreaves.” I had to leave the table, it was so painful to watch. Either he was cleverer than I thought or he was so thick, he’d need his mittens sewn to the ends of his sleeves. I cleared up the table and didn’t go back into the room until the conversation was over.

“Geez, Cathy, is that man stupid or very stupid?”

“I can’t answer that, Stella. On one hand I let down Simon and the other, I let you down. I’m not playing.”

“Can I hear the baby?” I said pausing for a moment to listen. It was and she went off to sort her out.

As soon as she went up stairs, Simon came into the kitchen, “What the hell was she going on about? If it’s what I think it is, she ccould only have got the info from you.”

“I promise you she didn’t, I refused to play her silly games. She was speculating or just stirring.”

“It hurt, all the same.”

“I expect it could, but I had no part in it, honestly.”

“Okay, I believe you. Mind you, if her aspersions were true, I’d only have a small part in it myself.”

He sniggered and I laughed with him. At least he could take a joke against one of the average bloke’s most vulnerable areas. Maybe he did have hidden assets, and I don’t mean of the material sort.

World Doubting Part 644

Simon went off to collect Trish in his flash motor, I carried on with the housework and dealing with Mima and the dog. Thankfully, Kiki was rarely any bother. Meems and I took her for a walk after lunch and she was very good–unless you count chasing rabbits. That took a bit of effort to get her back under control, but once back on the lead she was okay, and so was the dog. Really both of them were fine, once we got Kiki back on the lead and came home.

I prepared the meal for later and Meems helped me do the veg. She is becoming quite an accomplished vegetable washer, though it might be difficult to decide who got wetter, the veg or Meems?

Simon came home with Trish and she was hyper, the combination of school and the Jaguar might have been too much. She played up and wouldn’t shut up, squabbling with Meems and ignoring my instructions to her.

I got her a drink and a biscuit and asked her to tell me about her school day, which she did. I asked about lunch and she’d swapped half of her nourishing packed lunch for a plate of chips. Finally, I got the account of her coming back in the car with Simon. If what she was telling me was true, Simon was driving far too fast with her in the car. I needed to talk to him about it. He is a bit of a lunatic in a car, not as bad as his sister, but bad enough–perhaps it runs in the family, a sort of recessive gene? I didn’t know but I did know I was going to ask him to drive more carefully or I’d stop the girls going in the car with him.

It sounds awful, as if I was talking about a child or adolescent, not someone who is closer to thirty than twenty. Boys like to show off in front of girls–maybe that was all it was. But I’m responsible for her safety, and it felt appropriate to say something to him. I hoped I’d do it tactfully.

Stella brought the baby down and Trish and Meems squabbled about helping to feed her. In the end, neither did because of all the fuss they made. Instead I asked Stella to do it herself so I could organise the two kids.

Simon was busy on his computer, presumably saving the economy, we hardly saw him that day, except for meals. I wondered if sending stuff by wi-fi was secure enough and he suggested that he could encrypt it enough to minimise the risk. Suddenly everyone had computer skills, even Simon who, normally, is not renowned for them.

I left him to it, taking him in a cuppa and then calling him for dinner, the lamb shanks were okay and it appeared everyone enjoyed them. It was a basic meal but seemed to go down okay.

Tom, who’d been at the university all day, came home exhausted, though after a little snooze and dinner, recovered enough to offer to read to the girls. I decided he was much too tired and did it myself, reading them the start of the Gaby stories by Maddy Bell, which they enjoyed enormously, especially Trish, who had more appreciation of the sub plots as well as the surface level.

At bed time for the grown ups and Simon, I talked with him about driving with Trish. He of course, denied any wrong-doing, but I knew Trish couldn’t make things up, she was too young and had no reason to. He promised to take more care in future.

We kissed and cuddled a bit but I was so tired I could barely find the energy to sleep, so anything else was undesirable, much to Simon’s disgust. I’d checked Stella and the baby were okay. We had also organised registering the baby and would do that tomorrow. Honestly, these civil servants are hardly civil, and certainly not servants. I know they can be busy, but when she contacted them to register Puddin’s birth, they couldn’t fit her in for over a week. A spate of weddings, apparently.

She, of course, made a dig at me about weddings, so I told her I organise a registry office one for the following week if she was that anxious.

“Huh, that won’t go down well with Simon.”

“Simon will do whatever I want regarding the wedding.”

“Even if he does, Daddy will be furious.”

“I’m not marrying Henry, so what’s it got to do with him?”

“It affects all the family, doesn’t it?” she said, obviously unsure of its veracity.

“Does it? Can’t see why, except the guests will expect a free meal of a certain quality. I’ve talked this over with Henry before and he accepted it was my day, well Simon’s and mine, and we do what we want. Simon is agreeable to what I want to do.”

“Crikey, no Pitlochry wedding? That’ll upset a few of the old stagers.”

“Tough. Look, I’m too tired to argue–besides it’s pointless. I’ll do what I think is best for Simon and me, and the girls of course.”

“So you’ll do them out of being bridesmaids.”

“I’m not going to succumb to moral blackmail, Stella.”

“But you are if you do it hurriedly.”

“Okay, we’ll wait for a hundred years so they can be really right it’s for them.”

“Now you’re being silly.”

“I want you to help me organise the wedding when I’m ready, please don’t keep pressuring me. It just puts me off the whole idea.”

“Okay, I’ll help you, but don’t leave it too long, I could get a better offer.”

“If you do, you must act on it. Anyone we know?” I asked.

“I don’t think so.”

“I just wondered, what’s his name?”

“No, for once it isn’t bloody Watts.”

“Oh yes, very good, Stella.” I said feeling hoist by my own petard.

Then I went to bed and zonked after a short chat with Simon. I suppose I must have been a bit tired. He said he was talking to me and I fell asleep in front of him. He woke me twice for all of half a minute. The funny thing is I can recall him waking me, but not what we talked about.

Obviously old age is taking its toll of my faculties.

[Author’s note: Life imitates art, I’m too tired to continue tonight, hopefully normal service will be resumed tomorrow when I get home.]

Warburg’s Dinosaur Part 645

I slept very deeply hardly registering that the aliens were here again. When John Humphrys went on about the Speaker of the House of Commons possibly going to lose a vote of confidence, I felt bored enough to get up. Indicting the Speaker is like doing the same to the President—not above the law, but the office is almost sacred, even if the incumbents are total a’holes.

Politics—it was a loathsome career for people of the same persuasion—loathsome chancers.

As I showered with the girls, I mused on the most reviled professions, which probably meant that estate agents were replaced at the top by MPs, leapfrogging lawyers on the way up, or should that be down?

“Mummy?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Is Gaddy weawwy a girw?

My brain took a moment to function. “I think she means Gaby, Mummy, the girl in the story last night.”

“Yes, Gaddy, is she a girw, wike Twish?”

“I think so, but she doesn’t know it yet, unlike Trish.”

“Doesn’t know she’s a girw? That’s siwwy.”

“It only seems silly to you because you know what you are—a little girl. Some children seem to be caught in a no man’s land.”

Trish laughed, “If they’re in no man’s land, they must be ladies.”

“Yes, I can see what you think, Trish, but no man’s land means land not under the control of two armies fighting a war. It belongs to no man, or woman for that matter.”

“I think my idea is better, Mummy.”

“Yes, so do I, Mummy,” agreed Mima.

“Okay, well you can write to the Imperial War Museum and tell ‘em so.”

“Will you help me, Mummy?”

“Of course.”

“Can we do it tonight?”

“We’ll see, I have to take Auntie Stella to register the birth of her baby.”

“We know her name, it’s Puddin’,” said Trish.

“Don’t let your Auntie Stella hear you saying that, or you’ll be for the high jump,” I replied drying her hair. “Go and get Daddy up, Meems, we need some help here.”

“Okay, Mummy,” giggling like some deranged demon, she ran into the bed and I heard Simon groan. She had quite possibly jumped on him or shaken her still wet hair over his face. I laughed, and after plaiting Trish’s hair I dried my own and put that in a plait as well.

“We look like twins, Mummy.”

“Like Arnie Schwarzenegger and the little chap in the film Twins, only I’m the big ugly one and you’re the small beautiful one.”

She hugged me, and said, “I think you’re beautiful, too, Mummy.”

“Well thank you, young lady, I happen to think the same about you.”

“Daddy’s up,” said Mima breezing back into the bathroom.

“Okey dokey, right, Trish, you go and get him to help you dress, your skirt and blouse again with tights, it’s not too warm. Right, Missy, let’s get this mop dried.” I tousled her hair and she laughed again.

Breakfast was livened up by Stella’s presence, she’d already fed the baby who was sleeping again. “My, don’t you two look grown up,” she said looking at the two girls. “Do you want me to braid, Mima’s hair?”

I looked at her, and she nodded, “Please, Stella.” Mima went over to her and Stella picked up her comb and began unteasing the tangles.

“You’ve got lovely hair, like your Mummy, you must take after her.”

“No, I got my own hair, Mummy got hew own, too. I don’t take, Mummy’s.” Mima was quite indignant.

“I’ll leave you to sort that one out Stella. Can you watch her while I run Trish to school?”

“Yeah course, though we might have to go and see Puddin’ if she squawks.”

“See, Mummy, Annie Stewwa’s baby is cawed Puddin’.”

I kept my gaze away from Mima, I was blushing like a tomato, a very ripe red one. “See ya later, Meems be good for Auntie Stella.” I practically yanked Trish through the door.

“Why are you blushing, Mummy?”

“It was hot in there.”

“No it wasn’t, you were embarrassed because of what Mima said about Puddin’. Do you think she’ll be called Puddin’ by the register bloke.”

“Register bloke? What sort of English is that?”

“The bloke who does the register?”

“The Registrar, not register bloke, besides it could be a woman.”

“Maybe, I’ll be a registrar.”

“It can also mean a hospital doctor who is one below a consultant.”

“Look out, Mummy,” she shrieked and I swerved to miss a car pulling out in front of us, and whose driver had obviously not looked to see if anything was overtaking it. In some ways, I’d have loved to have been driving Tom’s old Landrover, and scratched all her door. Then I thought about the paperwork for the insurance and was glad we hadn’t collided.

“Stupid bitch,” I yelled at her. If she’d stopped, I’d have slapped her one. I was so cross.

“She made a mistake, Mummy.”

“Yes, the stupid cow,” I felt like giving her the finger.

“Calling her names won’t help either of you, isn’t that what you always tell us?”

I had my second hot-flush of the morning, both induced by children. Maybe I should have stayed without issue and had fun instead of this constant masochism that are children. Nah, I’ll get over being chastised by my foster daughter.

“You are absolutely right, my darling girl. I apologise.” God it was hot.

“You look very hot, Mummy.”

“Yes, must be from the engine.”

“What is from the engine, Mummy?”

“Yes, engine’s produce watts, it’s a unit of work.”

“I don’t understand, Mummy.”

“You probably will one day, I’m not going to compromise your education for one minor thing. Here we are,” I said parking the car in what looked like the last available parking space along the kerb.

A large 4×4 parked alongside me about three inches away and I couldn’t open my door. “You stupid cow,” called Trish.

Wiltshire Dickeybow Part 646

“Trish, please don’t let me hear you talk like that again.” I gently admonished her, although in my heart I knew she’d verbalised what I’d felt.

“But you said it earlier, Mummy.”

“I know sweetheart, and I shouldn’t have; so I’m telling you not to, okay?”

“Okay,” she said blushing and looking perplexed. I took her hand and we walked into the school. Trish spotted her friend, Peaches, and ran over to see her and I spotted the woman from the Range Rover.

I approached the Sloane Ranger, clad in her Hunter wellies and Barbour jacket, although there wasn’t a scrap of mud on her car, there was more on mine. She was talking on her mobile presumably having deposited little Tamsin into the capable hands of the teacher.

“Excuse me, is that your Range Rover?” I asked politely but firmly.

“Yah, I’m on the phone…” she looked at me as if I’d just crawled out from under a stone.

“I was just about to get out of my car when you pulled alongside,” I said bristling.

“Yah, so? Sorry, dahling, one of the proles is complaining about something. Look, I don’t need any cleaners, so fack off. Sorry, dahling, where was I?…”

My gast was flabbered and I was close to Vesuvius point, the magma was at explosive levels, but I hadn’t yet given way to my legendary rhetorical skills and smacked her one.

“How dare you? You ignorant lout.” I felt like saying a great deal more but as I felt people gathering to watch, I moderated my fishwife’s tongue, not wanting to embarrass either Trish or myself.

“Later, dahling, the peasant is revolting,” she spat into her phone and was about to square up to me, possibly to take a swing, when the headmistress intervened.

“Lady Cameron, Mrs Browne-Coward, is there a problem, ladies?” The look on the woman’s face as the headmistress addressed me as Lady C, was almost worth the spat. She coloured up and stepped back.

“Yes, I was asking this person to park more carefully,” I said looking at the headmistress.

“Huh! I have to go, Headmistress,” Mrs Browne-Coward said curtly and stormed away.

I waited for her to get out of earshot, the adrenaline was still pumping and although it was anything but ladylike, I’d have loved to kick her arse for her. “Ooh, that woman!” I said through my teeth.

“You look rather upset, Lady C, would you like to come to my office for a moment and have a cup of tea?”

“I really should be getting home, Headmistress.”

“Please, I insist, this way.” She led me through the school and along the corridor to her office, asking her secretary to make us a cup of tea as we went in.

“I’m sure you have far more important things to do than entertain me?” I said feeling guilty.

“Lady Cameron, at this moment, you are all that matters.”

“I’m fine—really, and I’m not Lady anything yet.”

“I know very well, who you are, my dear, I just wanted that awful woman to know she wasn’t going to be able to trample over you. She does tend to think she is terribly important.”

“I’d never have guessed,” I said smirking and feeling a bit better.

“Ah here’s our tea, thanks, Jenny,” she said to the secretary.

“Thank you,” I echoed and got a smile for my pains.

“Unfortunately, her daughter is likely to turn out the same. She tends to throw her weight about a little, too.”

“I hope she doesn’t do anything to Trish,” I said anxiously.

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye on her.”

“Thank you,” I said quietly, “I’m sorry to cause all this bother.”

“No trouble at all, do you take milk?”

“Please, not too strong for me.” I took the cup she offered me, “thanks.” I sipped the hot fluid, it was quite a good tea. “Nice tea,” I complimented her.

“Twinings,” she replied.

“Breakfast Tea?”

“You know it?”

“I should. My mother used to buy it.”

“Good taste obviously runs in your family.”

“I don’t think so, except in matters bicycle.”

“Oh come now, Lady Cameron…” I was about to correct her again, when she raised her hand to quiet me. “…you are rather elegantly dressed for the school run.”

I hadn’t even noticed what I was wearing, I’d rushed from the moment of waking until now. I glanced down, everything was a Stella cast off, my Chanel jacket hid a silk top which was made by some Italian designer or other and my jeans were CK’s.

I blushed, it was very well coordinated, all reasonably close shades of blue, which was why I grabbed it all in haste from my wardrobe. If I’d told the truth she wouldn’t have believed me, so I changed the subject. “Who was the woman with whom I had the spat?”

“Mrs Browne-Coward?” I nodded, “Her husband owns a few garden centres and does very well from them by all accounts. He sends me bedding plants every year at a reduced price, which he seems to think will prevent me from suspending his loathsome daughter.”

“If you do hang her, I’ll pay for the rope,” I joked, feeling much better.

“Tempting though it might be, I must rise above such thoughts, it’s far from Christian.”

“Still, the offer holds,” I said winking, and the headmistress laughed.

“How is little Trish settling in?”

“As far as I know, she’s doing quite well, although she did have a bit of a run in with Mrs Cranmer.”

“Yes, Mrs Cranmer told me. She is a treasure, one of the best reception class teachers I’ve ever met. She is most impressed with your Trish.”

I beamed like any doting parent would, and felt so good about everyone, especially this woman to whom I was talking. “I’m glad they seem to have resolved their differences.”

“Oh, indeed they have. I’m expecting great things from your Trish—no pressure, of course.” Just as I swallowed hard, she laughed. “The look on your face was priceless.”

“What?”

“Seriously, I suspect your girl is one of the brightest in the school at the moment, so keeping her engaged is going to pose some challenges.”

“It is?”

“Yes, bright kids, especially girls, get naughty if they aren’t constantly tested or engaged, or they shut up shop and drop out.”

“Goodness, I hope Trish doesn’t do either of those. Sometimes I think being very clever is a curse.”

“It could be, but we’ll do our best for her, and hopefully in a few months we’ll have assessed her more thoroughly and can then plan for her needs.”

“Thank you, that sounds splendid,” I put the cup down on the tray, “I have to rush back and take my sister in law somewhere.”

“Do take care, Lady Cameron, and be careful of Mrs Browne-Coward, she can be a nasty piece of work.”

“I’m quite capable of taking care of myself,” I said, thinking I needed to do some more kickbox training.

“So I hear, Lady Cameron, so I hear.”

Wurthering Dormice Part 647

“Where have you been?” Stella asked as I let myself into the house.

“Had a run in with another parent; I need a wee, ’scuse me.” I rushed into the cloakroom and dealt with my plumbing needs. I emerged a few minutes later. “What time have we got to be at the register office?”

“Midday, the woman said.”

It was ten thirty. “Stella we have loads of time, even if we allow an hour to get there, we have half an hour to sort ourselves out.”

“I just panic that I won’t be ready in time, you’re much more experienced with kids than I am.”

“Yeah, all of about three weeks, and mine are potty trained.”

She disappeared into the lounge and picked up Puddin’, who was wearing a lovely frilly dress in a pale green colour. “Did she choose that herself or did you pick it?”

“I did, Mummy, I choosed it for baby Puddin’.”

“Ah, Portsmouth’s answer to Trinny and Susannah,” I said and Stella smirked.

“Oh bugger, I can’t get this nappy to fix,” Stella said throwing the empty packet on the floor.”

I had a look and peeled off the non-stick paper on the sticky bit and sealed it. She slapped her forehead and I shrugged. It’s so much easier when you’re not the one going bananas.

I checked Mima, she was still pretty clean and tidy, so on with her coat and she was ready to go, then she remembered her dormouse toy. It reminded me that I’d agreed to make one for Puddin’—when, I had time.

Puddin’ was gift wrapped in coats and hats, gloves and a blanket. I knew the wind was a little fresh, but possibly Stella was overdoing the insulation bit—I think the fridge had less than the baby.

She placed the now sleeping infant into her carrycot and that went on the back seat of the car, and Mima was asked not to touch her while she was sleeping. Generally speaking, Mima was quite good with direct instructions, it was Trish who wanted to know why?

We were early at the Register Office, and rather than sit in the car waiting, we went for a short walk. Stella was soon taking her coat off and I urged her to unwrap some of Puddin’s clothing or she’d catch fire.

“I can’t do that, they catch cold so easily, their thermoregulation doesn’t work when they’re very young.”

“I know, Stella, which is why I’m concerned she could get too hot as well as take a chill.”

“Oh shit, I hadn’t thought of that—see, I told you, that you knew more about babies than I did.”

She took off a layer of baby packing. “I’m sure she’ll still be warm enough. C’mon, we have to go,” I urged Stella and Mima through the door and into the offices proper.

“Can you look after the baby and I’ll go and do the paperwork.”

“If you like. C’mon, Meems, we’ll see if we can play chariot racing with Puddin’s buggy.”

“Can I drive, Mummy?”

“Let’s go and find a suitable site for our circus.”

“Don’t you dare hurt my baby, Catherine Watts.”

“Don’t worry, they bounce.” My reply was intended to sound dismissive but she twigged and laughed at me.

“It’ll be on your insurance.”

“Ah, insurance, not my favourite word; okay we’ll go carefully. C’mon, Meems.”

She was out ten or fifteen minutes later with an envelope. She stopped me as I walked past to check on Puddin’. There was a great risk that she was going to crack this baby care business.

“So how’d it go?” I asked.

“Okay, I’ve got a couple of birth certificates here.”

“Can I see?”

“Later, let’s go and get some lunch,” suggested Stella.

We drove off and parked in town, not far from a quite passable restaurant. Of course it was closed, so we walked on to the next. This one was open and I ordered a tuna baguette, while Mima had egg and chips, and Stella, soup and a roll.

“So, let’s see the docs then.”

“What?” asked Stella.

“The documents, what have you called little Petunia, then?”

“It isn’t Petunia, that’s for sure. Only a moron would call their daughter by a name like that.”

“So what did you call the baby, then?”

“Just wait and see.”

“We have waited and seen, now tell us or I’ll set Meems on you. Growl at her Meems.”

She made a snarling noise which sounded entirely too realistic.

“Oh alright, hang on, I left my handbag behind, either in the car or the Register Office.”

“Right let’s go and see.” It was in the car, fully on display, so she was lucky not to have lost it.

“Thank goodness, for that.” She seemed to become less agitated and suggested going back to the pub.

“Let’s go home shall we?” Stella was outvoted, even Puddin’ seemed to want to go home. Half an hour after we got home, it chucked it down and it was still raining after we finished lunch.

“Right, no more messing around. What have you called the baby?”

“Here, see for yourself.” She flipped the envelope towards me.

“Desirée, Catherine?” I gasped after opening it and extracting the paper from inside.

“That’s it,” said Stella, checking on the baby.

“So it’s baby Desi, then?”

“Nah, until she goes to school, I’m going to call her, Puddin’.”

“So should I feel honoured?” I asked.

“Why? I named her after Catherine Cookson, your favourite author.”

“My what?, I picked up a walking stick and chased her squealing round the house. It was a well known fact that I didn’t like Ms Cookson’s writing, which I found puerile, even though many disagreed with me on that.

Wuthering Dormice Part 648

I was busy cutting out a piece of the furry material to make Puddin’ a dormouse—mutant variety. “What time have you got to collect Trish?” Stella asked, glancing at the clock.

“In a—oh shit—gotta dash,” I grabbed my coat and bag, “Can you watch Meems for me?”

I didn’t hear her reply, I was half way down the drive and into the Golf. It started first time, as it should, I screamed off down the road towards Trish’s school.

As always when you’re in a rush everything takes forever, but I drove up to the school just as children were coming out. Mrs Snooty-Knickers was walking with her daughter to their 4×4, “Come along, Petunia, don’t dawdle so, we have to get back for our dinner with Lady Palliser.”

‘Petunia,’ I almost giggled to myself, poor little bugger, except she wasn’t so small and not the prettiest girl in the school by any means. She was a large dumpling, the colour of a dumpling with hair the colour of—without wishing to seem unkind—the colour of badger poo. It suited her, she was totally nondescript. Even my little Trish was prettier than her, and Trish was biologically a boy, but then, I considered I was prettier than the mother and I was similar to Trish—if you can remember that far back.

“Hello, sweetheart,” I called as I spotted her still talking to Peaches, I wondered if she’d been doing it all day, but she assured me she hadn’t. I gave her a hug. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” I asked.

“Um, of course, Mummy this is Peaches, Peaches, this is my mummy.”

We shook hands and said, “How d’you do?” It seemed rather formal for such an occasion, at the same time, it felt right, a little antiquated, but right.

“Where’s your mummy, Peaches?” I asked.

“She’s late sometimes, she has to get back from Southampton.”

“Does she work there?”

“Yes, she works for the BBC.”

“My mummy has made a film for the BBC, haven’t you, Mummy?”

“I’m sure Peaches doesn’t want to know about that…”

“She works for the university, she counts dormice.”

“Ugh!” Peaches squirmed, “I don’t like mice, their scrawny little tails disappearing under the skirting boards—ugh!”

“Dormice are different, aren’t they Trish?”

“They have fat furry tails, don’t they, Mummy? My mummy’s a hexpert on dormeeces, aren’t you, Mummy?”

“Goodness, Trish, let me answer the first question before you go onto the next. Yes, dormice have furry tails, and I know a bit about them.”

“Petunia’s mother said you were a lady?” said Peaches.

“Did she now?”

“Mummy is Lady Cameron, and Daddy is Lord Cameron, and Grampa Henry is Lord Stanebury, and Grampa Tom is a professor—isn’t that right, Mummy?”

“It’s not right to brag about such things, Trish. Having a title never made anyone a better person, you know?”

“Have you got a title then?” Peaches asked Trish.

Trish looked wistfully at me and shook her head, then she put her arm around my waist and buried her face in my side. “No,” she sniffed.

Before she could give anything away, I intervened, “Yes she has, it’s The loveliest elder daughter in my family.”.

“Have you got a brother or sister?”

“Trish has a younger sister, called Jemima.”

“Jemima Puddle Duck?” said Peaches.

“Not quite, we call her Mima,” I said, stroking Trish’s head.

“How old is she?”

“She’s three and a half.”

“I’m five,” said Peaches, puffing out her chest. I felt amused by the fact that only the young and the very old seem proud of their age. ’I’m ninety-five’ the old lady type, syndrome, this is usually said in a wavering voice. It never struck me why they do it, maybe at that age they have nothing else but the fact that they’ve outlived everyone else, which to me wouldn’t be a positive achievement. Perhaps in seventy years time I might have changed my mind, or still be doing time for murdering Simon.

Trish was still hanging on to my waist and rubbing her face into my side and part of me wanted to get her home as soon as possible; at the same time I felt we couldn’t just leave a five year old standing by herself in the yard.

“How long do you have to wait, usually?” I asked.

“Not very long,” said Peaches, but I wasn’t entirely convinced she had much idea of time, as not many five year olds do.

We waited for a further half an hour when a woman came running into the playground and Peaches ran to greet her. “This is my mummy, that’s Trish’s mummy.”

“Hi, I’m Cathy,” I said extending my hand.

“Laura,” she said back, “look, thanks for waiting with Pea.”

“Your mummy calls you pea?” squeaked a little voice from my side.

“I was running late and then there was an accident on the motorway.”

“That’s always the way isn’t it. Look if you’re going to be late again, let me know and Peaches can come back with us until you get here.”

“I don’t like to impose, but it’s awfully kind of you.”

“Trish’s mummy is a lady,” droned on Peaches.

“Well, Pea, most mummies are ladies and most daddies are men.”

“No, Mummy, Trish’s daddy is a lord, so her mummy is a lady.”

“Oh, goodness, I am sorry,” she blushed and shrugged her shoulders. “Sorry, didn’t realise I was in such august company.”

“It’s only May, Mummy, August is later in the summer.”

Laura mimed, ‘Smart arse’ at me, and I smirked. “Yes, dear, you know your calendar don’t you?” Peaches stood beaming and nodding in that ‘proper little madam’ mode that makes you want to strangle them, slowly. “Trouble with gifted children, is they know everything before you do.”

“I’m familiar with that feeling, aren’t I Trish?”

“No,” squeaked from my side, “I don’t know everything,”

“Yet,” I added, “but in five to ten years you’ll act as if you do.”

“No I won’t, Mummy.”

“Well you’ll be the first one who doesn’t,” I replied and Laura nodded.

We swapped mobile numbers and were about to go, when Peaches asked, “Do you live in a castle?”

“No, we live in an old farmhouse.”

“Grampa Henry has a castle up in Scotland,” piped up from beside me.

“Does he?” asked Laura half disbelieving.

“Yes, near Pitlochry, we were there a few weeks ago.”

“So you really are an aristo?” said Laura, blushing.

“Me, not really, I’m a poor working girl, but Simon’s family are.”

“Trish’s mummy is a hexpert on dormice, she’s made a film for the BBC.”

“I heard they’d found a woman to replace Sir David, so it’s you, is it?”

“First I’ve heard of it,” now it was my turn to blush.

“That’s the problem with rumours,” she continued, “I also heard she was really a bloke, if you know what I mean, one of those gender-bender sorts, but I can see you’re all woman, so it’s probably the usual BS.”

“Probably,” I agreed and tried not to blush, “Come on Missy Mouse, let’s get you home.” We waved goodbye and went back to my car.

“Does she know about us, Mummy?”

“Not yet, sweetheart, but there’s a very good chance, she’ll find out about me soon enough.”

Wuthering Dormice Part 649

“Will she find out about me too, Mummy,” Trish asked as I drove away from the school.

“I’m not going to tell her, if that’s what you’re worried about?”

“No, Mummy, I know you won’t tell anyone.”

“I can’t be that generalised, I’m afraid, but I can say that no one without a need to know, will be told.”

Trish looked at me as she processed what I’d said. “I don’t understand, Mummy.”

“I won’t tell anyone about either of us, who doesn’t need to know—usually we’re talking doctors or people in the legal system—at least about you. As far as I’m concerned it’s been on the telly, so Peaches’ mother will find out fairly soon. If she doesn’t work things out first then it will all come out when the film is shown. I wish I’d never made it.”

“I’m sure it’s a lovely film, Mummy.”

“Thank you for your loyalty, sweetheart.” I put my arm around her and hugged her quickly.

“I love you, Mummy, more than anyone.”

“I think several people in our family might be disappointed to hear that, Trish.”

“Well it was you who said I could be a girl.”

“No, you said you thought you were a girl, I just allowed you to express it. The others all agreed with me.

“Why could you do that and not my original mummy? Why did she hate me?”

“We don’t know she did, Trish. I’ve told you before that you can say what you like about her, but as I’ve never met her, I won’t say anything in judgement upon her. I don’t know what her circumstances were, so it would be wrong of me to say anything.”

“I think she was horrible and she beat me. You’ve been nice to me, like a proper mummy.”

“My circumstances are different, Trish, don’t judge her on my standards, she’s different.”

“Why not? She’s horrible?”

“Right we’re home, in you go and change before you play.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“You were a long time,” said Stella.

“Yeah, sorry about that, one of the mums was late collecting her offspring, so we waited with her.”

“It’s no problem but we were worried you’d had an accident.”

“Thanks for caring,” I felt quite good that someone was thinking about me.

“I don’t, but I’d have had to feed Mima.”

“Yes, well, thanks for your honesty—bitch!” She waltzed off sniggering.

I was getting dinner ready when Simon came into the kitchen. “Hi, Babes, how’s it going?”

“What? Dinner? Life? World peace?”

“Shall we start with dinner and work up to a new deal for Palestine?”

“Sounds good to me,” I said, almost purring as he put his arms around me and kissed me on the back of the neck. “That’s nice.” I dropped my knife in the sink and turned around to kiss him.

“Put him down, you don’t know where he’s been,” said Stella, coming in to warm Puddin’s bottle.” I gave her the finger, well my mouth was occupied, but she embarrassed Simon enough for him to pull away.

“One of these days, Cameron, I’m going to hit you with a saucepan,” I snapped at her.

“Violence in women, someone was appalled by it recently, if I recall correctly,” she gloated.

“Doesn’t apply to me, I can claim it was a behaviour imprinted upon me in a former life.”

“Objection,” she said sharply.

“On what grounds?” I asked.

“Hearsay evidence.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“We only have your word that you had a previous life, reincarnation is not generally accepted as a legal proposition.”

“Reincarnation? You silly bugger.”

“Go and play with your Barbie doll and leave the grown ups alone,” said Simon, beginning to lose patience with her disrupting his amorous moment, something she had done many times.

“Get you, Casanova, I don’t think—more like Hangover.”

“Push off, Stella, or words to that effect.”

“He always gets ratty when it comes to verbal sparring, mainly because he’s rubbish at it.”

“I freely confess that my tongue can’t work as fast as yours, but then mine isn’t fuelled by malice.”

“Isn’t that what Christopher Robin went down with?” she fired back at him. He really was outgunned and should know better.

“Go away, Stella, or I’ll get Puddin’ adopted,” said Simon, who had now lost the contest conclusively.

“That was malicious,” I said quietly.

“She brings out the worst in me.”

“Don’t let her get to you,” I said hugging him.

“So how was your day?” he said changing the subject.

“Okay, I had a spat with a woman in a 4×4, and waited with someone’s kid for them to come and get her. Turns out she works for the BBC, and has heard rumours that the dormouse film was narrated by a ’gender bender’.”

“That’s funny. I heard it was written and narrated by a woman, a very sexy one.” He hugged and kissed me again.

“As this is going to impact upon all of us, I wish now, I’d never made it.”

“Why? It’s going to save loads of dormeeces and you’ll be a new sex symbol.”

“I don’t want to be a sex symbol.”

“Tough kiddo, you shouldn’t look and sound so sexy.”

“I don’t,” I put my head on his shoulder.

“That’s a matter of opinion.”

“Oh shut up, Simon, you’d wolf whistle a bloke in a kilt.”

“Not since I was eleven and got threatened by my cousin who was wearing the kilt at the time,” he blushed.

“I’ll bet you’re sexy in one, though,” I said in a throaty voice.

“If you find kilts sexy, maybe you should marry a Scotsman,” he riposted..

“I am, stupid.”

“Oh yeah, so you are.”

Wuthering Dormice Part 650

I was waiting for Trish at the school, and people were giving me funny looks. Then the Range Rover of Mrs Snotty-Git arrived with Petunia and they sneered at me, “Lady ha! Not even a bloody woman.” Then giggling they walked past me and I felt the tears start.

Trish came out and found me sitting in the car crying. She got in and it was obvious from her eyes that she had been crying too. “They said horrible things about you, Mummy, and they said I was probably queer too. What does that mean?”

I hugged her and we cried together—the nightmare had started. Oh yeah, I was in demand, the BBC were chasing Erin for me to do the programme on Harvest Mice, but it was destroying me socially and affecting my children.

Simon came in armed with a pile of tabloid newspapers, “They all like your programme and say you’re a natural, but they all pick up on the sex change, bloody vultures, still I suppose it’s giving MPs a rest.”

“How can you be so calm?” I said to him.

“Easy, it’s not real is it.”

“What do you mean, it’s not real?”

“Well it’s all a dream, isn’t it?”

“What?” I heard someone scream, and someone grabbed me.

“Cathy, what’s the matter?” It was Simon’s voice.

“You know what’s the matter,” I sobbed.

“How do I know, we were both asleep, it’s two in the morning.”

“What? we were talking about the tabloids outing me again after my dormouse programme.”

“Maybe?”

“Hold me please,” I sobbed and sniffed. He put his arm around me.

“You’re shaking, what’s the problem?” He pulled me into a hug and I cried on his shoulder and chest. “Hey, c’mon, nothing’s that bad, is it?”

“I shouldn’t have made that film, it’s going to lose us the kids.”

“How?”

“When the tabloids and TV start making enquiries they’re going to discover the kids are only my foster kids, and will demand they re-home them.”

“Re-home them, they’re not bloody kittens,” said Simon, “besides, they’d be crossing a judge and they’re pretty powerful people.”

“What if they go to another judge who isn’t sympathetic?”

“We appeal. Hell, Dad’s beginning to see those girls as his grandchildren, so he’ll call up his legal team if necessary.”

“He’d be taking on the might of the Social Services and the county council.”

“I don’t think they’d really want to mix it with a bank, we could embarrass them quite a lot, as well as cause them to have loans called in and other little touches.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Uh uh, immoral, but not illegal—think MPs allowances.”

“Couldn’t it all backfire on you?”

“No, we have enough friends in high places to do us favours if we need them.”

“I’m not sure I like where this is going, Simon.”

“Hopefully, it isn’t going far at all. One or two newspapers could find themselves in difficult places, if they do something to offend us.”

“You can influence the tabloids?”

“They all owe us money, they may find we want it back in a hurry, which could cause them to be destabilised financially.”

“That is immoral, Simon.”

“I’m not denying it, it’s a tough old world.”

“But they’d expose you for it, wouldn’t they and then you could get into problems.”

“I doubt it, besides we are solvent which is more than most newspaper owners. Isn’t it immoral, that having exposed you once, they do so again. It’s old news and you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s not like being a criminal or a paedo, is it?”

“No, of course not.”

“You’re not even gay, you’re a woman in a heterosexual relationship and we’re going to be married—that it’s quite a powerful family is pure coincidence.”

“Sometimes I think we should have got married as soon as I got that form through.”

“Speak to your friend Marguerite, see if she can do a quickie ceremony, we can always make it up to the others with a second one.”

“It would stop people calling me Lady Catherine by mistake.”

“Nah, if they call you Lord Catherine, that’s a mistake.”

I snorted, and had to wipe his arm, I did apologise. I also called him, “a silly bugger.” He cuddled me and I went to sleep again, this time with no horrible dreams.

I don’t for one minute believe that the BBC can show my film without there being some unfortunate feedback. Maybe if they were to put it on at three in the morning, they could avoid it, but prime viewing time—there has to be interest in this woman who counts dormice.

If necessary, we’ll go abroad for a few weeks, Simon has contacts in Menorca, I quite fancy going there, they have dormice—though not my darling Muscardinus—but the girls would enjoy it, I’m sure. I wonder what we’d need to do to get them passports?

I woke up when the girls squeezed into bed alongside us, I peeped at the clock, it was six; time for another hour’s sleep. So I did, and regretted it, I awoke with a head like a bucket and felt terribly sleepy and leaden limbed. Trish’s hair was clean enough so I just washed her and dressed her and gave her breakfast. While she was eating, I washed and dressed myself and Meems. We were both in jeans and tops, Trish grumbled about having to wear a skirt or dress to school.

“It goes with the territory, kiddo. You’re a girl, right?”

She nodded, and said, “You know I am, Mummy.”

“The school has a dress code, girls wear dresses or skirts. If you want to wear trousers, we’ll have to find a boy’s school.”

“No! I’ll wear the skirt.”

“Wiww I have to go to a boy’s schoow, Mummy?” said Mima.

“Not unless you can convince me you’re a boy and not a girl.”

“I’m not a boy, siwwy Mummy.”

“In which case, you’ll go to a girl’s school as well, and you’ll wear what they say you have to.”

“I wear a dwess, Mummy.”

“Yes I know, Meems, so will Trish, she’s just having a whinge.” Trish nodded.

It has always struck me as absurd that we fight for the right to wear skirts and be women, and as soon as we get it, we wear trousers. Oh well, it’s about choice I suppose, or put another way, the freedom to choose.

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